Monday, September 22, 2008

Disillusioning Illusion

"...we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18.
Seeing, in the sense that it is used in 2 Corinthians 4:18, is important. It is important where and how we look. This raises questions. What is true and not an illusion? What is reality? What is lasting? How do we decide? I took this picture a year ago and each time I look at it, I have to think about it. Am I looking at water? Am I looking down? Which way is up? And the big one is what kept me from falling into what ever this is? If I look at it long enough I start to get disoriented. It looks like several pictures mixed into one. Life can be like this. Things that are seen or experienced through our senses can be illusive. People speak of being "disillusioned." If that describes the undoing of illusions or discovering that something we thought, incorrectly, was true then that could be good. It might be painful. Even then it is better to deal in truth.

When I look at this picture, I have to remind myself that I am looking down into a very deep part of the Frio River. I took this picture one afternoon during a break from a conference that my wife and I were attending. We got to spend several days at Laity Lodge and were privileged to hear J. I. Packer. He autographed a book that I have about worn out - Knowing God. That book has had a powerful impact on my life. It is worth reading. It is saturated with Scripture. But, back to the picture. If I had not been the one who took the picture, I don't think I would really know what it depicted. Much of life is like this picture. It is illusive and so are many of the solutions we resort to for understanding. Finding the right authority for answers can be even more confusing. Many people turn to their minds, emotions and conscience as the source for guidance and understanding. The problem - all three are flawed and defective and we end up filling them with equally flawed and defective information.

There is only one real authority and source for true understanding - God's Word. The psalmist speaks of God's divine disclosure in terms of the "wonderful things in the Word of God." Of course, the most wonderful thing of all is His self-disclosure. When we open the pages of God's word, it is meant to be much more than an academic exercise. We are really getting to meet and understand the living God. We find Jesus. We can study and study; but if we miss Jesus, we will not have life and we will not understand life. Life will remain an illusion. Study is important. In God's Word we discover many things concerning His wisdom and knowledge; but keep this in mind - truth is Jesus. Our pastor, Matt Chandler, spoke about this in his message entitled "Family Traits: Truth" on June 12, 2005. He spoke about the importance of studying God's Word. He stressed how important it is to study to find Jesus.

There are many helps to aid us in serious study. I came across this information from TheResurgence. Just "click" the following link: Six Study Essentials | TheResurgence. You will be directed to a page that gives both printed and on-line resources as well as some steps for Bible study. I would add also the site-address for our church, The Village Church. Just "click" on the highlighted name. The homepage contains a link to the sermon/music library.

As I look back over the years of my journey with God, I have found extremes when it comes to the study of His Word. It ranges from intense study to very little study. There were times when I gained knowledge through my intellect but not through my heart - in other words I had not asked God to open my heart to hear His Word. There were times, especially in the early years when my study was very shallow or nonexistent. It was either a "baby food" diet or starvation. A large part of the time, it was mainly about studying and gaining knowledge. To a large extent I was missing out on being brought face to face with Jesus. The flames of devotion to Him were not being kindled. I was missing the "wonderful things in the Word of God." I was missing the force that would drive me beyond self and lead me to live for God's glory. God is gracious. He is giving me another opportunity to get it right.

It is painfully obvious to me that I cannot make it without a daily intake of God's Word to feed my mind and heart. I know that is true for all of us. I have tried to coast; but that is dangerous for at least two reasons. First, because of the world in which we live. The world has achieved new heights in presenting lies dressed up in truth or even worse making "truth" whatever one says it is. Second, it is dangerous because we will be deprived of the life giving flow of Jesus Christ - the True Vine. We will not be abiding in the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus Christ.

The only thing we have to counter these dangers and assure our "abiding" attachment to the flow of life is to study God's Word - to dwell upon it and meditate upon it; to obey it and have it abide in us. We need biblical content and we need the Holy Spirit to give us illumination - to enlighten the eyes of our hearts. We need apprehension and appropriation. We need Spirit-filled and gifted teachers.

We need motivation - that is, we must have a desire to study, learn and appropriate God's Word. We need to see that it is relevant - that it relates to us and the world in which we live. There must be a sense of readiness to study and to turn to God's Word. This aspect will vary with each person. There have been times in my life when God created such conditions or circumstances that I could not get to the Word fast enough. God will do that. He will arrange our circumstances to cause this to happen. We all have different rates of growth - both physically and spiritually. That will be a factor in readiness. Readiness can be affected by other things - like not being yielded to the Holy Spirit or spending time in prayer as we study.

We can learn from the psalmists when it comes to the importance of prayer as it relates to the study of Word of God. In Psalm 119:36 - 37 the psalmist prayed, "Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways." In Psalm 119:18, the psalmist prayed, "Open my eyes, that I may behold the wonderful things from Your law." We must pray for the type of commitment and seriousness in our study as expressed in Psalm 119:147, "I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words."

We desperately need insight and understanding - the full knowledge of God. We are walking in a minefield. We need constant transformation to live in this harsh environment. We need God's Word. It is the answer to our cry for help. Here is the promise of Proverbs 2:3-5, (just one of many) "yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God."

So let us be about disillusioning illusion. Look to Christ - the Wisdom and Power of God and the Word of the cross.

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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