Yesterday I had the privilege of listening again to a brilliant Jewish man who has a mind for the things of God but does not even realize the source of his wisdom. Gabor Maté talked about the need to show compassion to the messed up people in society because it is compassion alone that can redeem them. This man, a doctor who works with those who have addictions, speaks of biblical principles, yet claims he is not at all religious.
In chatting with a young Christian man sitting next to me, we agreed that the speaker was so close to the truth that God speaks, yet not quite there. This I noticed when hearing this man speak a few years ago. He has an amazing heart for people, great insights into how we respond to trauma and pain, and wonderful ideas of how to change the world. Yet he missed using important words like “choices” and “sin” and “forgiveness” even though he did talk about “redemption” and “restoration.”
How is it that the heart of God can be seen even in those who don’t acknowledge Him, and others are totally blind to His presence and power? How can a child believe and a university professor cannot? What is different between a tribal nobody who has faith and a religious somebody who is merely faking it? Why can I see God and people far more astute than I cannot?
Paul gave the reasons in 1 Corinthians 2. First, he says that what we cannot see, He reveals: “’What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”
God’s power is such that it can open blind eyes, physically as Jesus proved, and spiritually as the Holy Spirit continues to prove. The Spirit can do it because He “searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”
I’ve also studied Greek this week. Part of the lectures and readings were about the task of Bible translators. Actually, it is the same for other linguistic challenges. How can the words from one language and culture be accurately conveyed to another language and culture? This is no easy task.
The difficulties are multiplied when the two cultures are separated by a couple thousand or more years of history, but what about the separation between me, a sinner and mere mortal, and the God of the universe who is perfect, who created all things, and who knows all about everything? How can I possible understand Him? If left to my own devices, this is a total impossibility. However, God understands me, and He didn’t leave me to my own devices . . .
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”
He does the translating work — I don’t. He gives me the Holy Spirit so I can be receptive, then when He talks to me, I can understand what He says and accept that those words and those truths are from Him. That is so awesome.
The Bible also says why some cannot grasp these things. It is because “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Without the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is gibberish, even offensive to their mind and heart. Without God’s translating work, whatever He says is unintelligible.
However, “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. ‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’”
As I read this, I think of Maté, the speaker with an incredible grasp of truth, but not all of it. Obviously, God has given this to him. He talked about his efforts to “not shut down his heart” and he even quoted Jesus Christ, but he also said that he was still seeking answers. As I listened, I wondered if God would one day give him the rest of it, the missing parts that make a grand wholeness to the insights and wisdom he already displayed.
As for me, I could have been intimidated or envious or even smug, but was not. This passage from 1 Corinthians ends with a humbling declaration of what I know to be true. Even as I struggle to give Him the priority in my thoughts, the Bible tells me, “But we have the mind of Christ.”
To that, I must agree — only God can do such a thing, and bow my head before Him.