Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Letter

Dear __________

You wrote this below:

"I know from experience that a person can't give themselves inner peace no matter how hard they try. The devil can't give it either because he doesn't have it to give....Some people think that we humans are able to ignore God even when he has been trying to speak to us. I think some people can and those are the ones who have somehow walked away from God and who don't bring their desires subject to him. I don't believe that Christians who are in constant prayerful communication with God can ignore him. I think that the God of all the universe and of every living thing has the unquestioned ability to give us a message whenever he wants. In other words, if God wanted to tell me to behave a certain way, he could do it in a million different ways and i would see it. My ability to "tune off" to God doesn't override his ability to get through to me one way or another...."

As I think about what I excerpted from above, I would say that Scripture is filled with examples where God communicated His will to Godly men and women, persistently even, and yet they chose to ignore Him. God's promises to Abraham come to mind.

As to this,

My ability to "tune off" to God doesn't override his ability to get through to me one way or another.

I would have to say that because God loves us, we do have the ability to "tune off" God, despite constant attempts to communicate with us. We know that,

A) God is all powerful,

B) God is all good,

C) God continually is working to draw all men and women to Him, i.e., communicating with them,

D) A vast number of men and women neither believe in God, believe in another god/goddess, such as Hindus do, or blatantly have jettisoned Him from their lives, or choose to believe in a modified version of Christianity, such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses do.

If these men and women do not have the power within them, from their free will given them by God, to "tune off" to a God who is constantly pursuing them, either God is not as powerful as we believe Him to be, or else God does indeed give us the freedom to tune Him off, even though we believe we are listening to Him.

This speaks to our human nature, more than anything else. If we didn't have the power to "tune off" to God, then we'd be mere automatons, incapable of making any other choice than that which God dictates for us. But God loves us enough that he desires for us to choose, freely, to follow Him.

I think daily we are confronted with the challenge that Joshua gave to the Israelites, "Choose this day whom you will serve." Joshua chose to follow the God of Abraham, while others chose to "tune off" God, and followed another path.

All this to say that I don't believe that it's justifiable, both logically, nor from Scriptures to say that "God wouldn't allow us to be deceived." It would be evil of Him not to allow us to choose for ourselves. It is a good and benign and loving God who allows us to choose what we believe about Him, even if they are was love that stayed His hand in the Garden of Eden, for He wanted his children to be completely free. What gods of the Old Testament would have ever allowed this? That we have a choice in the matter points to His goodness!

You address this in a particularly poignant portion of your most recent reply:

God doesn't mislead and if we're truly searching with all we have, it would be evil to allow us to be deceived if we are trying so hard to hear from him. That isn't God's characte

You are so right: God cannot deceive. However, how do you explain all the instances in Scripture where men and women were deceived into believing something that was a lie? Clearly God didn't deceive them, and clearly, in every case, those who were deceived, (such as Adam and Eve) were seeking hard to find the truth. In the case of the Garden, they believed the lie of the Serpent that was so compelling, and believable. They were not seeking to be deceived, were they? They were seeking what they perceived as good and right, knowing the difference between good and evil. I don't think anyone in the history of the world truly ever seeks after things that they think will bring them harm, or that they think are falsehoods, particularly in religion, yet we know emphatically that men and women do choose falsely, even though they are "trying very hard" to see truth, or to do what is in their best interest.

Ultimately, what you are relying on is the ability of your heart and mind to determine what is true. Is that the most reliable source, and are your feelings of peace the best arbiter of what is true and right?

Christ was in the middle of the will of God in the Garden of Gethsemane, but from a subjective human standpoint, Christ wasn't having a "peaceful" experience, since He sweat blood! He was engaged in a great internal battle. His peace was a peace that "surpasses all understanding," because it was the peace of knowing that He was completely and fully within the will of His heavenly Father, but I don't think the human side of Him felt peace at all. To run from the Cross would have been the path of peace, from his human perspective. The "peace that surpasses all understanding" can often be a peace that the world would never call peace, because they cannot understand it! The peace of Christ is often found in a place where we are dueling with the two natures within us, just as Paul speaks about. He describes an internal battle between his flesh and spirit, in terms that speak of warfare, more than of peace, yet all Christians would say that Paul was living in the peace of Christ. Therefore, as Christians, sometimes feeling "at peace" isn't necessarily the same as experiencing the "peace of Christ." Perhaps our "feeling" of peace is a sign that we're not actually experiencing the peace that surpasses all understanding.

I think Jeremiah 17:9 has much insight to give us on the reliability of our heart, and of the peace we "feel" sometimes about the decisions we make:

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

In light of the stories of Scripture, and of your knowledge of human nature, I urge to consider the reliability of the human heart to tell us what is true, if that is the basis upon which you are choosing to live your life. I know I can't trust myself very well to tell me the truth about the way to live my life!

May God bless you as you continue to pursue Him!

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