Monday, February 25, 2019

The Necessity of Revelation. . .

Over and over again in Scripture we are confronted with the limits of reason, intellect, and experience.  From the questions of Job and God's answer to the coming of the Christ in flesh, Scripture points us to the wisdom that is formed by faith and kneels in holy fear before the awesome wonder of God's mystery revealed.  God does not explain Himself to us or even ask for our understanding -- only for our faith.

It is a curious thing how dissatisfying we find this call to faith.  It is not what we want -- this life of faith dependent upon the Lord to reveal Himself and make known the plan of salvation.  We want an easier path -- logical development, reasonable answers, and for God to wait for our approval.  We reduce faith to truth propositions to be dissected and learned with the mind.  We check off doctrines like boxes on a to do list.  We think that we can think ourselves into God's presence.  We reduce God to a certain kind of feeling.  We build towers of Babel designed so that we might approach God on common ground. We think that if we ascend to the heights of reason or the ecstasy of experience, we will meet God.  But God refuses to treat us as equals.  He does not give us places to ascend but has descended to us.  He makes Himself known to us so that we may apprehend Him solely by faith, planted by the Spirit, working through the means of grace.  And this is enough.

Nowhere are we less satisfied than with this dependence upon the Lord's revelation than when it comes to matters of heaven and the life to come.  How many pious platitudes are offered to the grieving about what the dead are doing and how much better off they are and what they would have wanted!  How many sentiments are offered in place of real hope -- the trouble the dead are causing God (as they caused us in life!) or how they are rearranging the furniture or redoing the schedules of the heavenly beings or flapping their arms with angel's wings!  Why is it so difficult for us to take God at His Word, to believe what He has said and let it be His Word, approached with holy faith and fear?

We fear the words of God are not enough and so we invent words to comfort and console, to bring a smile to the mouth and tears of laughter where tears of sorrow flowed -- as if this were enough to make the longing of our hearts go away and heal the deep and gaping wound of grief we wear over the death of those whom we love!  God does not invite speculation.  God calls us to faith, to trust in what He has said and to believe what He has promised --- all because of what He has already done in His Son, revealed as the fulfillment of the prophetic promise and the mighty deliverer who alone can release us from the prison of our sins and the death sin has caused.

Even Christians, the faithful who meet the Lord every Sunday in the Word and Meal, are gravely tempted by sentiment to speak where God is silent and to be silent where God has spoken.  It does not serve us well.  We too easily choose the feel good of the moment over the hope that endures, the sentiment that seems to comfort over the consolation that is Christ crucified and risen, and the Word of the Lord that endures forever.

My friends, let us not presume except that which God has said nor guess about what God has not.  Instead, in life and in death, let us joyfully affirm that our lives are hidden with Christ in God, in the future now unfolding but hard to see with mortal eyes, and in the revelation given not for us to understand but for us to believe.  It is not simply that God is not knowable apart from His self-disclosure, it is that we do not know who we are unless and until God Himself discloses that revelation to us.  This He has done, not by an appeal to be understood but by the solemn declaration of His Word, enfleshed for us and for our salvation, mounted on the altar of the cross, laid in the cold darkness of the grave, and risen in glory to raise us up with Him!  

Beloved, we are children of God, and it doesn’t yet appear what we shall be. But we know, that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1John 3:2)  You are dead, and your life is hid in Christ in God. (Col. 3:3)

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