Sunday, October 11, 2009

Small Understanding, Bigger God

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” "It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing! (John 9:1-7, NLT)
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Eugene Peterson starts Jesus’ response with the mild instructional rebuke “You’re asking the wrong question.” In this brief passage, I believe we get a unique glimpse into the epic story God is unfolding around us and an opportunity to expand our understanding and our field of vision regarding our lives, our world, our place in eternity, and most of all our redemption.

For the longest time, I found myself in the position of believing teaching that spoke of, essentially, a dualistic God. We were told about His “perfect will” and His “permissive will”. As I’ve studied that concept more and embarked on a journey to increase my own understanding of my Creator, I just can’t buy into that line of thinking anymore.

I’m not casting stones here. I know there are many sincere Christians who believe this as a way to explain things in their own lives. And, effectively, that is what it is … a human explanation (or an attempted explanation) of an infinite God. But as I talk with fellow believers and then turn again to a passage such as this one, I’m convinced that isn’t the right explanation.

In my regular men’s group recently, my friend Billy challenged me once again on this subject. I was talking about God’s original creation of a perfect, sinless world and people with the soul imprinted design of the Almighty. Sin comes into the world via the first temptation, mankind falls, and God enacts his plan of redemption.

But, as Billy put it, God knew all along the world He created would be corrupted. He had planned before the beginning of what we call time to create the world and man fully knowing Satan would confound and corrupt the whole thing. Adam and Eve’s action of rebellion didn’t somehow take Him by surprise and leave Him scrambling to formulate a plan. God had intended it all to happen right from the start.

This is where the passage in John really came into focus for me. Our need for redemption is just another way for God to show His glory to everyone. Just like Jesus’ answer to the disciples, it isn’t about some particular identified sin. It is because of SIN … the universal evil product of the first rebellion … that God shows us His glory and power. This isn’t about a single act of redemption or healing. Everything represented in the restoration of the blind man’s sight, my own salvation, or anything else of that nature we witness is because the Creator God of the entire universe is showing us just who He truly is and what He is capable of doing.

I came back to Billy shortly after our discussion and told him he was absolutely correct. To believe anything else, to even think that God created a plan “on the fly” as a result of something we did or that He is somehow sitting there waiting to act based on what we do or do not choose to do, would mean that God I claim to worship is basically unstable at best and a schizophrenic at worst. I can’t speak for you, but I’m thinking that is not the case.
If I can trust that the Holy and Infinite God of the Universe is absolutely in control and will reveal His own glory and power on His terms and in His timing, it makes my life much easier. The Crooked Path doesn’t seem as tedious, and the “momentary trials” I experience all feel lighter. God is actively, personally interested in me and He is working it all out on a much grander scale. That’s a concept I can grasp and rest on. After all, He is a much bigger God than I can possibly imagine.
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  1. Do you find yourself trying to look for reasons and explanation for everything that happens to and around you? Has your vision and concept of God been narrowed by your own experience or by somebody else trying to “sell you” an explanation?
  2. Can you trust God to be good even when “good” doesn’t look the way you envisioned it?
  3. Is your God one of single-minded purpose … to proclaim His glory, or is He much smaller and sometimes confusing? How would you expect the “bigger God” to act in your life?

NLT – Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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