October 22, 2013

Always learning but never knowing?

Imagine this week a young man suddenly arriving from an obscure village. He is a carpenter who has never been much farther than his hometown. He speaks with an accent familiar to those in his area. Imagine him telling us that our accredited teachers are generally wrong in what they have been telling us, and that our religion is largely obsolete. He says he came to show us a more excellent way, a truer faith. He even claims he will die to prove it is true. How would we react?
None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:8)

Would I listen to the first man described any more than people listened to the second, Jesus Christ? How am I at listening to new ideas? I know myself. I’m a hard sell. Many time, the more someone tries to convince me, the less inclined I am to believe them. I have this, “I must prove it for myself” quality, which isn’t always a bad thing for it keeps me from buying into false schemes, and makes me investigate thoroughly.

But if that way of thinking keeps me from accepting new discoveries, our home would not have a telephone, much less computers, or an e-book reader and an android. Worse, every time I read the Bible and saw something that I’ve never noticed before (which happens daily), I’d throw that new idea out without considering its authority and relevance to my life. I would be stuck in the mud of my old ways and Christ would have no positive effect; I would not change. I have to admit that this happens far too often.

When Jesus sends new light, those upon whom that light shines must be willing to experience it and reflect it. Otherwise, all we do is balk at it until the light goes out and leaves us in the dark. That happened to the rulers of that age who crucified the Lord of glory. They would not listen, and soon they could not listen. It also happens over and over in this age until much of the population even denies there is a Lord of glory, never mind listens to what He says or believes in Him.

An early Christian called Tertullian said, “Christ did not call himself the custom, but the truth.” People love custom, even those who determine not to “get in a rut.” Custom is easy, the flow is downstream and others happily go along, making the ride pleasant. Truth has few real disciples and encounters many more hostile minds. The lovers of custom are distrustful and suspicious of those who go upstream, who think innovatively, who claim their new and grand ideas will change the world.

Jonathan Edwards, another Christian of a more recent era (1703-1758), wrote in his diary, “I observe that old men seldom have any advantage of new discoveries, because these discoveries are beside a way of thinking they have long been used to. If ever I live to years, I will be impartial to all pretended discoveries and receive them, if rational, how long soever I have been used to another way of thinking.”

I don’t know how old he was when he wrote this, but today’s devotional author says that if such an entry had been recorded in the diary of Caiaphas or Annas (the religious rulers during the time of Jesus) and lived out, Calvary would not have happened. They would have seen that this Man who came out of obscurity had really been sent by God to seek and save those who are lost in sin and they would not have crucified Him.

Today, I see all around me evidence of how the power of sin can destroy lives. Even though Jesus rose again, the sin of the world had power enough to kill the eternal Son of God. It also blinded the minds of those who determined that custom and habit were better than truth. We are definitely living in that age where people are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

This motivates me to pray that if I am still here at the end of this age when Jesus returns, my mind will be so eager for continued revelation from Him that I will still be learning, and will easily recognize Him when He comes.

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