Yesterday, I wrote on our fear of the afterlife. A quote had been in my mind that I neglected to put in and so I figured I’d state it tonight and write more on the topic. C.S Lewis said that in his days as an atheist, he did not understand the idea of “Man’s search for God.” It made as much sense to talk about the mouse’s search for the cat.
In Hebrews 12, God is presented as a consuming fire. The old Mt. Sinai is safe compared to this place. In coming to the new Zion, you are not approaching a flaming mountain, but rather an entire assembly of angels waiting and the one on the throne is said to be a consuming fire. He is the one who will shake the world so that all that contradicts him will be removed. God is the consuming fire indeed. He is by no means safe.
This can make us ponder on religious expression in the past. Were a lot of the ancients really seeking God? When Abraham is called out, he’s not called out among a righteous group. He is called out as one among the pagans. It is indeed not man seeking God. It is God seeking man.
Had God not made the initiative, would there have been a Jewish nation? Doubtful. Even the philosophers missed much with their reasoning. Aristotle’s God is the type that seems to only be able to think of himself and he simply moves the world by being the object of the world’s desire. (One wonders though if man knew that that was what God was like why man would desire him.) Plato’s God is a mystery, though some think his idea of the good might have been his God. He does have an idea of a demiurge in the Timaeus.
I find this quite a powerful evidence of Christianity in fact. It seems if we were creating a god, we would not create the God of Christianity. As a single guy, for instance, I do not like the idea of a God who has me control my sexual urges and tell me that I have to wait til marriage, especially considering how much guys, and yes, that includes Christian guys, think about sex. If I was choosing a religion based on what I like, it would not be Christianity.
Why would the Jews create such a God who made demands of them? Other religions had frequent fertility festivals for instance. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob condemned them and the holy books of the Jewish people actually record their failures before this God. One wonders why a people would count a collection of books as holy if it presented them as anything but.
We find this God has revealed himself in Christ. Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost, but we are still afraid of the concept of God. Why? Because of two reasons I think. The first is that what we know of who God is. God is absolutely holy and perfect and pure and add in to that all-powerful and can do what he wants.
Secondly though is that we know who we are. We are fallen creatures. If we were totally pure and holy, we would most likely not be afraid of God. We would still hold him in awe, but would we have terror at him? I do not think so. I think terror and awe are quite different things.
When I look at myself, I see that fallenness. When I am tempted with a sin for instance, it really is a battle. I know that there is something I want or want to do but ought not to do because I am a servant of a holy God. It is nothing pleasant to go through as there are two sides looking. One seeks to please God and the other to please self. (Those two aren’t always mutually exclusive.)
When I think about God then, I realize that coming into contact with him would mean that that fallen nature will die. Unfortunately, I still have some of me, and rest assured, you do too, that wants to hold on to that. I think that if I come into contact with God, that this valuable part of me will die. I will not be able to be me without it.
The truth is the opposite, and please note I think that in my fallenness. Rationally and theologically, I know otherwise. I know that if I truly do approach God, God will not destroy me. He will destroy that which is not me. I will not cease to be myself when I approach God. I will, in fact, become myself.
That is why I think we have a paradox in fact. We fear approaching God because we don’t in fact know as much about him as we think we do. We also fear approaching him because we don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do. It is he who wants to make us into ourselves. We wish to pull away and become actually less than ourselves. We are constantly practicing theological suicide.
Our attempts at defining ourselves end up destroying ourselves. The only place we will find our identity is in the mind of God. It is when we are what we were created to be. Unfortunately, none of us knows what that is. It is knowledge hidden in the mind of God and so we must trust him with our sanctification. We must step off the throne and let God be God.
This means going against those sinful desires. This means letting God be God and realizing that we are not. It means surrendering control and stepping off of the throne. Our #1 desire is still the desire of Satan. We wish to be God and sit on the throne. Satan said “You shall be as God” and we are still trying to meet that desire.
In fact, it is only when we cease to become God, that we do, in essence, begin to be gods. Not in the sense that we are deity, but that we are reflections of him. The early church referred to this as perichoresis. We become that which reflects God and we become ourselves as well.
Now as I write this, there is an excitement to it, but I will also admit that there is a fear. We fear the hands of the surgeon. We know he cuts to heal, but we fear the cut anyway. We are like the patient that goes to the doctor and has to have the shot. We know that it will be temporary and we will be the better for it, but none of us really relish the thought of the needle going in us.
What do we do? Serve anyway. The Christian life involves learning to get past those desires and learn self-control. (This is mentioned as the last fruit of the Spirit, but this one seems to be abundantly lacking today.) When I am tempted with a sin and the struggle seems great, I must think of self-control. Normally a few minutes later without sinning, the temptation is gone, but for the time being, a temptation can seem too intense to resist. It is though, and we must do so.
The more we do so, the more we will become ourselves and reflect him. Draw near to God. It is not for your hurt that he wants you to draw near but your blessing.