July 3, 2016

God gets to the point . . .

Occasionally I meet people who never answer a direct question. Regardless of its simplicity, repetition or any other tactics, getting a plain yes or no is even difficult. These folks make me realize how black and white I am. I want specific correct responses, clear lines drawn, and the bottom line of where people are coming from.

Last night I started reading a spy novel by a famous writer. The story takes place in a country where the people are prone to speculation. If they see a man and woman talking in a mall, they start assuming the relationship is this or that, without any evidence and a lot of supposing. I tried to keep reading, but unlike my usual manner, I stopped and put the book back on the shelf. I could not stick to the grey speculation and lack of concern for what is true and what is false.

Reading Chambers this morning reminded me that Satan is vague too. When he accuses me of something, he is never specific. He suggests things that produce a depressing sense of being a bad person or that I’ve done something wrong. This is frustrating because there is no way to get at a definite problem, or even to know for certain that there is a problem.

In contrast, Isaiah came into the presence of the Lord and experienced the conviction of the Holy Spirit about his life and the life of his people. It came out crystal clear . . .

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

Years ago, we were at the home of elderly friends, both with a strong faith and a good reputation. However, when the man prayed before dinner, he said, “Forgive us our many sins . . .” and to this day I remember how odd that sounded. A blanket confession is something like “God bless the missionaries” yet even more vague. He may have had something specific in mind, but it didn’t come out. Was this a vague accusation from Satan? Or one of those ‘just in case we did something wrong’ kind of prayers? It seemed to me that God wanted clarity, not blurry prayers. Besides, God has already forgiven all our sins.

Chambers says when he is into the presence of God, there is no “I am a sinner in an indefinite sense” but the realization of a particular sin in his life. He says that we might say we know we are sinners, but we “cannot get off with that statement.” The Holy Spirit is always specific.

I’ve noticed that God sometimes starts with symptoms. For instance, I become angry when a telemarketer calls. I need to confess and repent of my rude anger. However, the deeper problem is eventually uncovered — I want to govern my own life, not have it interrupted, and not have to bother with those who invade my privacy. Even deeper — I am not trusting the Lord with what others do, or seeing those calls as opportunities to show the love of Christ and to glorify God.

The Spirit of God is always definite. Isaiah’s vision of the holiness of the Lord brought to him the realization that he was a man of unclean lips. As soon as he agreed with God said, then God did what He promised to do for all such responses to conviction . . .

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6–7)

From this, I’m wondering if offering a vague response to God concerning a vague sense of guilt is actually a conversation with God anyway.

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