“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” —Jeremiah, Old Testament Prophet (Jeremiah 29:13)
What we think about God says a lot about what we think about life in general. And what we think about God fits in with the “journey” theme of this blog as our understanding of God is a journey in getting to know Him.
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
So is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”
I read a short devotion this morning in a devotional titled, “100 Days in The Psalms,” published in 2016 by the B&H Publishing Group editorial staff. The devotion is found on “Day 14” (pages 29-30) and it reads as follows:
Depends on Your Perspective
With the faithful You prove Yourself faithful;
with the blameless man You prove Yourself
blameless; with the pure You prove Yourself pure,
but with the crooked You prove Yourself shrewd.
Everyone has an opinion on God. He’s either gruff and easily irritated, like the get-off-my-lawn neighbor next door. Or He’s silent and distant, untouched by what concerns us, unfazed by the extent of our pain. Or He’s sweet like Santa Claus, hearing our “I wanna” wish lists and handing out gifts. Or He’s strong and loving, fiercely loyal, protective of His family, while also astoundingly patient toward his enemies.
There are other opinions too, of course. almost as many as there are people to have them. But the main input that informs these ideas–whether in agreement or disagreement with how God describes Himself in the Bible–is the heart of the person who’s doing the interpreting. Because two people can look at the same set of circumstances, good or bad, and arrive at two entirely different takes on what God has done in the midst of them.
“The faithful” continually see His faithfulness, even in situations where others would accuse Him of being cold and uncaring. Faithful believers can stare into the teeth of crisis, or balance the small numbers on their bank statements, or try out a third type of medical therapy after the first two have failed to produce results, yet still testify to His daily, faithful love and provision.
The “pure” and “blameless” can walk through seasons of challenge and temptation, and rather than seeing them as excuses for giving up on God, they see afresh the beauty of holiness. Others who are not so pure and blameless rush back to old sins and escape patterns, stuffing themselves at the fast-food pantries of rebellion, sick of making all these hard sacrifices for apparently nothing. And yet the upright, having tasted the deeper pleasures of purity and obedience, see love and protection in His calls to virtue. The little feel-goods their sins used to give them, only to steal from them with the other hand–they now see the utter stupidity in it all. Better to trust in a God who will never do them wrong, and who will come forth with blessing at just the right time.
The faithful see faithfulness.
The blameless see blamelessness.
The pure have come to love His purity.
So those who claim that God is capricious and arbitrary, heartlessly cruel, grossly unfair–they’re actually saying a lot more about their own heart than His. The “crooked” man or woman is already bent toward seeing God through a faulty lens. They think they’re conning Him with their well-timed acts of religious showmanship or their occasional soft spot for a worthy cause. But that’s because they imagine a God who’s similarly shallow and shady, whose character can’t be trusted. They don’t really want to be faithful, blameless, pure… and it shows in what they truly think of the One who called them to it.
Want to see God differently? Follow His Word… and watch it all come consistently true as He comes into clearer view. (Quote source: “100 Days in The Psalms,” pp. 29-30)
As I read that devotion I was thinking about who among us are totally faithful, blameless, and pure? The answer to that question is “none” (see Jeremiah 17:9-10).
Our ideas about God are often like what is expressed in the first two paragraphs in that devotion. However, it gets a bit harder when it comes to determining how faithful, blameless and pure we might think that we are in comparison to others we might think are less so. Often our real life circumstances are not as cut and dried as they might sound a bit like in that devotion but are dicey and emotional as we go through them. In other words, there are no perfect saints among us especially when we go through challenging times and situations. And it is God who is faithful, even when we waiver.
Two people from the New Testament come to mind in this regard. The first person is the Apostle Paul when he was still a Pharisee named Saul, who no doubt thought of himself in his service to God as a prominent religious teacher and scholar as being “faithful, blameless, and pure” in God’s eyes; yet when Jesus met Saul on the road to Damascus, Saul discovered just how wrong he was. And the interesting thing about Paul’s (then Saul’s) experience with Jesus on the road to Damascus was that he wasn’t even looking for Jesus, and he never thought he was on the wrong path, either. In fact, he was sure he was right, and he persecuted, even to the point of murdering, the early followers of Jesus wherever he found them. However, it was Jesus who showed himself to Saul/Paul after his resurrection, and in doing so Paul’s conversion changed him in remarkable ways for the remainder of his life. The story of Paul’s conversion is found in Acts 9:1-31.
The second person that came to mind is the tax collector found in the “Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector” in Luke 18:9-14. Tax collectors were despised back in Jesus’ days. Here is that parable from Luke:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
As Christians, we have to be careful not to think of ourselves as being better than anyone else (see Romans 12:3). It’s too easy to start rationalizing just like that Pharisee did in the parable above, thinking that all of our “acts” or “outward appearances” qualify us or make us in some way “superior” to others–as in being more “faithful, blameless, pure.”
At the heart of the Gospel is love, and that’s the bottom line. Jesus made that clear in what he taught and by offering his own life as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The most well known verse in the Bible makes it clear, too, and that verse is John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Whoever believes…. In the parable above it was the tax collector who went home justified by God and not the Pharisee. It is too easy for us as Christians to fall into the same trap as the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day who couldn’t see how wrong they were even when they had Jesus standing and teaching right in front of them for three years during his earthly ministry. And the Pharisee in the parable above couldn’t see how wrong he was in his judgment of the tax collector.
The devotion brings out some points worth noting; however, we need to be careful and let God be the one who determines who is “faithful, blameless, and pure.” God alone sees into the heart of every single person on earth and knows what is in each heart (see Proverbs 16:2, Jeremiah 17:10, 1 Kings 8:39, and other verses at this link). Our responsibility as Christians is to love others and not judge them like the Pharisee judged the tax collector. It is love that is at the heart of the Gospel.
“1 John 4:8 describes one of God’s primary attributes as love. ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.’ This verse does not define God as love; it describes God’s love as permeating His essence in all He is and all He does.” That quote is found in an excellent article titled, “God is Love: 5 Implications of This Amazing Attribute,” published on BibleStudyTools.com and available at this link.
And speaking of love, I’ll end this post with the words from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects…
Always trusts . . .
Always hopes . . .
Always perseveres . . . .
YouTube Video: “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love” – Jars of Clay: