“For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine . . . and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4 This week’s assault on Facebook is 2 Timothy 4:3-4, with assorted memes and photos (one is a shot of the verse, in situ, […]
Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. (Psalm 32:9)
I’m sure you’ve heard the term, “The Perfect Will of God.”
As used within Christian circles, it sounds like it’s written, with capitals at the head of each word. Generally, it’s uttered with a sense of fear — not the reverent kind — because the primary impression is that if we don’t do things exactly right, if we don’t hear and obey God’s every personalized word (which aren’t audible to the majority to us, incidentally; nor does He write Post-It notes and leave them on our refrigerator door), then we will miss this Perfect Will of God for our lives and will Mess Up.
And God will be angry with us — as He frequently is in 21st century conventional establishment Christianity. As punishment for our not following His words that we begged to hear but couldn’t quite catch, He’ll not bother with us, or turn His back on us, or leave us to struggle through the ramifications of our lamentable decisions.
The general result, for many Christians facing a decision — big or little — is that they don’t do anything at all, because, they reason, it’s better to make no decision than the wrong one.
We all have known more than one Christian who has agonized between A? or B? or B? or A? prostrating themselves on the floor in tormented prayer begging God to speak to them, please, and let them know which way to go. This perversity on the part of their god is inexcusable in light of Christ’s encouragement in Matthew 7:7-12 that we ask, seek, and knock and we will receive, find, and have the door opened to us:
“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” Christ asks rhetorically. “Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?”
Or if he asks a question, fervently and anxiously, will pretend to not hear him at all? Such is the behavior we attribute to God — who is justified in doing so, we say, because He is chronically offended by us — but this attitude is at variance with Christ’s conclusion,
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
The quote at the head of this chapter is from the 32nd Psalm by David, who begins the work with the ringing praise,
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
One wonders how many Christians would feel free to stand up and say, “I’m that man! (or woman) God does not count my sins against me!”
Accepting God’s Acceptance
It’s a promise we have difficulty believing, especially because we have a lamentable habit — as humans — of not being perfect, something that we hold against ourselves but God does not, any more than we reject a three-year-old for being too selfish to purchase for us a birthday present.
When we hyper-focus on The Perfect Will of God, a concept that is not found, in the Bible, the way we misapply it (nope, not Romans 12:2 — read the verse, and the one before it along with a few after it, without the prescriptive attitude concerning TPWoG), then we are frozen into inaction, dependent upon step-by-step, moment by moment directions, for everything we say and do.
In short, we are asking to be like a horse or mule, unable to think for ourselves based upon information we are given, choosing, instead, to let God do all the thinking without any input on our part. It reminds me of the Hebrew people in the desert during the Exodus, when they saw and heard God’s might on the mountain and they trembled in fear:
“They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.'” (Exodus 20:19)
Looking Anywhere but Toward God
Lamentably, we can have much the same attitude today, when we look to our pastor to interpret Scripture for us, or follow an author’s every piece of advice because he “speaks for God,” or worship, literally worship, another human being because of his “godliness.” It’s much easier to look to someone else, more “in tune with God,” to lead us than it is for us to turn directly to our Father Himself, and trust that, in His guidance of us, He takes into account our frailty.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” This verse of comfort is the one prior to the horse sentence, and it is an assurance that,
1) God won’t abandon us to depend upon our own limited ability to understand, because He does and will teach us,
2) In His teaching of us, the goal is that we learn, and in learning, we are able to participate more fully in the decision-making process. Every first-grade teacher has the goal that his or her students will take the alphabet and the phonics and eventually turn them into reading, and only a very bad, impatient, and insecure teacher would punish a budding reader for messing up on a word.
God is far and away the best first grade, high school, and post collegiate teacher any of us could ever dream of having. And He isn’t teaching horses.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. One of the most damaging misconceptions we battle as Christians today is the concept that God really does not like us, and is constantly finding fault with everything we think or do. That’s pretty lousy parenting.
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