God Obeys His Own Laws

 

There are some things that cannot be forced into being. Belief, respect, trust and love are four of them. Our chance to authentically experience these is lost, the moment anyone tries to force them. Guilt, shame, fear and intimidation can never produce what is real, only their empty counterfeits.

This is an immutable law built into the fabric of reality.

Could it be any other way?

It was a long time before it occurred to me that the all-powerful, sovereign God who spoke creation into being lives under the constraint of His own laws.  

But think about it. Can God — as all-powerful as He is — force us to believe, respect, trust or love Him without destroying the very thing He seeks in us? No. By His own design, these things cannot be forced; they can only be cultivated by love.

As we gain a reverence for how reality works, we cannot help but be awed by the character of God that shows through. He is self-limited by the immutable laws He has built into our being. . . in order that our belief, respect, trust and love can be real. . .  and not empty counterfeits.

But we live in confusion

“If God wants it to happen, it will happen.” How many times have you heard or thought this, assuming that God’s sovereignty and power will bring about whatever He wants, no matter what we do or don’t do?

This is a false premise totally out of touch with how reality works. In our confusion we wrongly assume that everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) is because God wanted it that way. . .

  • we have eyes to see Him or we don’t
  • we have ears that hear Him or we don’t
  • because God arbitrarily decided that we would experience His Presence . . .  or not

This is not how reality works at all.

God is pouring Himself out in a divine dialogue to each of us, because He wants to be seen and heard, believed and known, trusted and loved.

 

Isa 65:1-2

I’ve made myself available to those who haven’t bothered to ask.

I’m here, ready to be found by those who haven’t bothered to look.

I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’ to a nation that ignored me.

I reached out day after day to a people who turned their backs on me,

People who make wrong turns, who insist on doing things their own way.

THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language

 

God wants to be heard and seen, but He chooses to remain hidden, when He could blast us with His presence . . .  because He refuses to overcome us forcefully.   He is self-limiting in order to guard, protect and insure what is real.

Jesus could call a dead man out of his tomb, he could drive out leprosy, he could still the wind and sea. He lacked NO power.  But He would not do anything to force the people of His own hometown to honor Him, or believe in Him,  lest in doing many miracles among them, He should gain only the empty counterfeit instead of the real respect and belief, which they were incapable of giving him then, as offended and unbelieving as they were.

 

Matt 13:54-58

He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?  “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? “And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

 

Offense and unbelief not only shut down our ability to recognize God’s hand, His voice, His heart, and His presence with us . . . but they  also shut down God’s activity in our midst

Jesus grieved over the effect of offense and unbelief upon his people in his day, because these kept them from recognizing His presence with them . . . but we miss Him for the same reasons  in our day. . .

  • We ignore him because we want to do things our own way (Isaiah 65:1,2 above)
  • And we take offense at him out of unbelief (Matt 13:54-58 above)

God cannot force us to see what He wants us to see, when these things are at work in us. . . not for lack of the power to overcome them (for that is exactly what the power of the redemption does) . . . but because of what would be destroyed if He forced it.

Luke 19:41-44

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.

The word Luke uses to describe Jesus’s weeping is klaio (klah’-yo), which means to wail, to sob aloud with wrenching pain.  [1]  Jesus saw the coming destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, coming upon those he loved. His response reveals two things in tremendous tension: the certainty of something dreadful coming  and His agony that they were rejecting the means by which they could have been spared.

We are not willing that God saves, protects, and delivers us His way: by the redemption of His sacrificial love.  We demand a god that saves us the way we want to be saved: without consequences, without stipulation, without relationship. We don’t understand what an empty mockery this would be of the authentic love relationship that He is after above all things.

This picture of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem is the all-powerful, sovereign God who spoke creation into being. . . who loves, who saves. . .   living under the painful but absolutely necessary constraint of His own laws.

“If God wants it to happen, it will happen.” How many times have we thought this, assuming that God’s sovereignty and power will bring about whatever He wants, no matter what we do or don’t do?  To think this way is to be out of touch with the immutable laws at work in us and around us. . .  not understanding God’s heart or priorities . . . or the degree of restraint He has placed upon Himself in order to insure what is Real.

 

Aslan

Few men have seen more deeply into the immutable laws of the unseen realm than C. S. Lewis, who brought them to life by story and allegory in The Chronicles of Narnia. These children’s books reveal so many of the principles at work in the unseen, that it takes several readings for most adults to grasp.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader God opened my eyes for the first time to God’s self-restraint out of reverence for His own laws.  In those pages I dimly grasped that we have a part in what shall and shall not come to be.

I had already begun to see the interaction of the divine dialogue, the collaboration that makes God’s heart rejoice when we respond to His initiatives, the relationship that He seeks with us . . .  without which, nothing that He wants-to-be can be . . .  real.  But for the first time, I saw that

 there is something we do that makes God’s presence real to us.

Aslan, The Great Lion, who comes and goes as he pleases, is a picture of Jesus. And Lucy, a brave believing child, is a picture of who each of us is meant to be.

Lucy has discovered The Magician’s Book, whose stories are more wonderful than any she has ever read, and whose pictures become more and more real the longer she reads. Some of the pictures she loves. Some of them scare her, causing her to turn the page quickly. The Magician’s Book is full of lessons and spells, each of which Lucy is drawn to try, some of which she will later regret. But then she comes to a page, where to her surprise there are no pictures at all;

but the first words were A Spell to make hidden things visible.  She read it through to make sure of all the hard words and then said it out loud.  And she knew at once that it was working because as she spoke the colors came into the capital letters at the top of the page and the pictures began appearing in the margins.  It was like when you hold to the fire something written in Invisible Ink and the writing gradually shows up… They were odd pictures and contained many figures that Lucy did not much like the look of. And then she thought … There might be lots of other invisible things hanging about a place like this.  I’m not sure that I want to see them all.”

At that moment she heard soft, heavy footfalls coming along the corridor behind her; and of course she remembered what she had been told about the Magician walking in his bare feet and making no more noise than a cat.  It is always better to turn round than to have anything creeping up behind your back.  Lucy did so.

Then her face lit up… and she ran forward with a little cry of delight and with her arms stretched out.  For what stood in the doorway was Aslan himself, The Lion, the highest of all High Kings.  And he was solid and real and warm and he let her kiss him and bury herself in his shining mane.  And from the low, earthquake-like sound that came from inside him, Lucy even dared to think that he was purring.

“Oh, Aslan,” she said, “it was kind of you to come.”

“I have been here all the time,” said he, “but you have just made me visible.

“Aslan!”  said Lucy almost a little reproachfully.  “Don’t make fun of me.  As if anything I could do would make you visible!”

“It did,” said Aslan.  “Do you think I wouldn’t obey my own rules?” [2]

 * * *

As I read the description of Aslan’s appearance to Lucy, assuring her that there was something that she did that made Him visible to her my spirit leapt within me. A shaft of light shot through my inner landscape transforming the air.

There is something we do that makes Him visible

What is it?

I assume that “The Magician’s Book” is The Bible, because Lucy’s response to the pictures and figures that she “did not much like” reminds me of my own sometimes, when I come across something tucked in here or there that bothers me.  C. S. Lewis must have felt the same way, to have described it so well.

What happens when we read this book . . . or any book, for that matter . . . is that we begin with our own very strong idea about what is real. And we recognize everything that supports our view, receiving it fully. But when we come to something that challenges the way we want to see things,  something we “do not much like,”  we go blind and deaf. Our eyes are kept from seeing what God has put right in front of us.  We don’t hear what would show us is wrong in our thinking.  We become unteachable.

So very often something that makes us bristle, something we “don’t much like” is being brought to us, because it holds a truth that is going to do something new and wonderful in our thinking, opening our eyes and heart to a truth bigger than we have been able to hold before.  (see my post from last week)

Lucy didn’t much like what she saw, but she didn’t allow the offense to shut her down.

Most often, our very strong idea about what reality is like . . .  is not all wrong, but out of balance. . .  where we are not giving proper weight to something else that is equally true. In every argument, each side is holding on hard to that one aspect of  “the truth” we value above everything else. . . while our opponent is vigorously defending that aspect of  “the truth” we are unwilling to grant with the same validity. We move into balance having a better grasp of the whole truth, when we refuse to become polarized, willing to learn the value that lies in the other argument. God is always teaching us through those who see differently than we do.  When you face opposition, listen for what God is telling you.

It is a little like being a gymnast on the rings.  The Olympians do the most amazing feats, powering themselves gracefully high above the floor, for as long as they maintain their balance between the two opposing rings.  But the moment the gymnast loses his grip on one ring, he hangs limp and helpless, having lost the dynamic source of thrust and control that was only his as long as he held on to both rings.

 

All truth is a dynamic poised in balance between two paradoxes

  • Jesus is utterly and completely a man.
  • But He is also utterly and completely God.
  • God is sovereign and all-powerful
  • Yet Jesus wept, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. . .”  (Matt 23:37-38)
  • God is able, and He wants to
  • But we have to be willing

 

 our willingness

Many Christians hold hard to the truth of God’s sovereignty and power, because that makes them feel safe.  It is all up to God. We don’t have to worry, because there is no way that we can mess up what He had decided will be.  They are not wrong, but they are out of balance, because they have lost their grip of the paradox . . . By His sovereign choice God has placed Himself  under the constraint of His own laws.  Jesus’ weeping was real. God’s disappointment, sorrow and grief for what we might-have-seen, might-have-heard, might-have-understood from Him . . . but didn’t . . . is real.

In matters of truth, as in gymnastics, when we hang from one ring only, we hang limp in the matter of knowing God’s heart.  When we lose the dynamic thrust of being in balance, hanging from one ring only, we do not understand Him as much as we think we do.

Each time we learn something about God’s heart that we never saw before, there is a rush of His presence that fills us . . . we make Him visible.  But this takes a willingness on our part . . . a willingness to learn.

 

The willingness God is looking for in us is NOT  our willingness to have a God encounter, to be spoken to, loved on, healed and protected — who is not willing for this?

The willingness He is looking for, that grows us in our knowledge of Him and His ways is our willingness to be open to what we “don’t much like.”

Every time we learn what He is trying to teach us, we make Him visible. But we don’t learn unless we become willing to see what we don’t want to see, to hear what we don’t want to hear, to be shown where we are wrong, to acknowledge where we are out of balance, to acknowledge what God is showing us that we have discounted because it threatens us, to yield to what God wants to show us instead of staying rigid.

As we become willing to be taught, our Teacher’s Presence becomes visible.

 

John 6:45

It is written in the prophets, “AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.

 


[1]  Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

 

[2] C.S. Lewis The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the fifth book from The Chronicles of Narnia. Harper Collins Publishers, New York.  1980  p.168-170

 

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