If we take our doctrines into our hearts where they belong they can cause upheavals of emotion and sleepless nights. This is far better than toying with academic ideas that never touch real life. The possibility at least exists that out of the upheavals will come a new era of calm and confidence. ~John Piper, Desiring God, Chapter 1
How are you doing in your Bible reading, studying and meditating? How’s your wrestling? Have you come across anything that does not set well with the way you see things, or the way you want to see things? All of us come to God’s Word with deep seated ideas of how God and the world works. However God says,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord .For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8,9)
These thoughts and ideas of ours do not always line up with how God and the World really work. Some of our preconceived ideas of who God is needs correcting. This correction does not happen merely by going to church and occasionally reading the Bible. It comes through studying the Bible along with much prayer and wrestling.
We learn as kids that just because we don’t like something does not make it wrong and us right. Presently my daughter is rebelling from sitting down with her mother for today’s school lesson. She sees the world as together and just fine the way it is. Why study? Why learn through books, and why learn so much right now….can’t we just learn as we move along? Can’t we just learn how to color, swim, dance and be happy? Can’t I just make beautiful bracelets for my friends and sing songs? It would not be wise for us to give in to these desires, however well intended and sweet they may be.
The gospel of Jesus is a simple message of good news that can be grasped by young and old as it grasps them. However, much of the doctrines of salvation, sin, substitutionary atonement, redemption, imputed righteousness, forgiveness, and adoption are not doctrines that come easy to understand….at least for me and most of my honest friends. God teaches many doctrines to us through hard work, trusting faith, patient study and difficult wrestling.
Around my second year of study at the university, my roommate and I were studying Ephesians along with our discipleship group(D-group). We came to a few passages on election and both agreed we were not going to talk about this elephant in the room and just moved on. We were both OK with that, but the Lord was not, and deep down we weren’t either. Later that semester I begrudgingly agreed to read a book called “Chosen by God”. I did not want anyone to know I was reading it because I thought it went against who I believed God to be. So I read it alone in the city library each day for a few long days. I wrestled hard with this man’s book in one hand and God’s Word in the other, I cried a few times, often tears of amazement. There were “upheavals of emotion and sleepless nights” but I did not want to let God go. I needed to see Him. I needed understanding. And he gave it to me. I spent a great deal of time reading the Bible with a thirst that needed quenching. I can now say with Jonathan Edwards, “Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so”.
If you are thinking my goal is to “reform” you, you are missing the point. My goal is to talk about wrestling with truth. To help us see that simply saying we take God to be who He says is in the Word is often incorrectly tainted with who we think He is. We know from our own experience that we often judge the character and motivations of people incorrectly. We do this with God also. My encouragement would be to embrace the wrestling. Embrace the journey to better understand the God we worship so that we can better understand His great Name….not our idea of His great Name. That our passion would not be rooted in wanting to know what He can do for us, but wanting to know Him and His good, acceptable and perfect will.
The Lord is gracious! He will transform us and renew our minds as we submit.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
And as we stand face to face before Jesus one day, we will then see Who He is and will be grateful for His patience with us often misidentifying Him and even stubbornly misplacing our worship. But may that future grace not lead us into present laziness but into a deeper pursuit of our loving Lord.
As you wrestle, let God’s Word and prayer be your primary tools. Secondary tools include outside sources and wise men and women. The Lord loves to teach us through His Word and His people. The Lord is happy to wrestle with us for His great glory and our good.
“Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:2,3)