Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Why of God

What we have to be mindful of when using the Scripture to draw us back to the heart of God, however, is that we do not twist the Scripture to discover the God we were looking for all along. In a world where truth is relative and "close enough" is "good enough," we are prone to misinterpret the Scriptures in favor of a most palatable faith.

For example, yesterday, I quoted a passage in Romans - "God works all things together for good." Even that is a bit off in its interpretation, but it gets much closer than the way that this verse is often quoted - "All things work together for good." The difference may seem subtle, but it is incredibly profound. In the first, God is actively working all things together; in the second, things just happen to work out. The second doesn't actually require God at all. It says nothing about His nature, nothing about His character, nothing about His heart. Things just work out, all on their own. God said it, but it is not He who sees it through.

That's a problem. 

And it happens more than most of us realize. We know only half-verses or some twisted version of them, and then we use those to try to get back to the heart of God. But it doesn't work. The sorta-kinda-word of God can never get us there; we have to know what He actually said. Word for word. Heart for heart. 

Most of us know, for example, that "all Scripture is God-breathed." And it is. But that's only half a verse. The rest is "and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) It's not enough to say that all Scripture is God-breathed; that only tells us what God wants us to know. The question of His heart is why He wants us to know it - and that is because it is useful. He wants to equip us for the work He's set before us. If we know the word is God's, that's great, but it doesn't tell us anything about Him. What tells us about Him is knowing why God has given us His Word. 

Most of us know that the "Lord is my shepherd." And He is. But that's only part of a verse. Many of us also know that we "shall not want." Again, great. But why? The heart of God is revealed in the rest of the Psalm - He leads us by still waters, lies us down in green pastures, protects us with His rod and staff, prepares for us a table in the midst of our enemies. It's not enough to say the Lord is our shepherd; we have to know the tender care that that implies. And that is given by the rest of the verse. 

Nearly everyone knows John 3:16, but who among us knows John 3:17? It's great that God loves us so much that He sent His son. But if that's all it is, it's nothing more than a neat party trick. There has to be a why that draws us into the heart of God, and the why is in verse 17 - for God did not send His son to condemn the world, but to save it. The heart of God is a saving heart. You don't get that from verse 16; it's in verse 17. 

So we have to be careful about how we use the Scriptures. If we want them to draw us back into the heart of God, we have to take them as they are, in full context, and keep reading until we get to the why. Most of us are too content to stop at the what, but this leaves us empty. There are a million different reasons why a man might put his shoes on in the morning, so knowing that he's put them on does not tell us anything meaningful about the man. But knowing why he has put them on tells us much, much more. 

The same is true of God. We have to keep digging through the Word until we find the why, for it is what will lead us back to the Who that we are looking for. 

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