I can’t shake this thought:
“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (Romans 9:16 NAS95)
As much as I appreciate good doctrine as laying out the proper map for the journey, beyond certain essentials, I don’t care what factoids about God I know if they take my attention away from knowing God. I don’t care what little family doctrines one person has, and I don’t care about how good of a ‘behaver’ another person is… I don’t care about my intentions, motivations, excitement, exuberance, passion, zeal, knowledge, etc…
I just wanna know God – this God of Mercy, who I can trust and depend on in my life and beyond.
I know factoids about my wife, daughter, mother, brother, sister, and all my family… I can tell you what they look like, how tall they are, a little about their personality. Yeah, those are necessary facts perhaps, to make sure we’re talking about the same people, but that ain’t the same as *knowing* them. I know them, I talk to them, and I love them because they belong to me and I belong to them. They are mine and I am theirs. As time moves along, we grow in knowing each other because we *interact* with each other and *share* ourselves with each other.
So – after a certain time of day, I’m done with the factoids. They serve their purpose and I love them… but I’m convinced that for myself and much of Christianity, we confuse ‘doctrine and knowledge‘ with ‘knowledge of God‘. And I have this sneaking suspicion that knowing God must happen both with *and apart* from doctrine – that real ‘knowing’ goes beyond ‘knowledge’, so to speak.
I want to look at God. I just can’t shake this thing about Him and His mercy and how great He is. Paul talks about this mercy in Romans and goes on later to say that God has wrapped up all the nations in disobedience so that He can show mercy to all. This just blows my mind. As much as I – with my new self, having abandoned the old ways – want to do God’s will, from His working inside my mind and heart, I find also that I’m stuck in futility along with all creation. There’s no way I can bring my own personal righteousness to the table with the Lord. It has to be Jesus’ righteousness given to me – that gift that comes on the basis of faith, not my own merit (and not from how many factoids about God I know).
I see the nations whenever I get in front of a TV and turn on the news. I see complete and utter rebellion toward God. From Muslim ISIS in the Middle East to Hollywood ISIS in the USA, and I cringe at what I see and ask God to open up a can o’ whoop-ass. Then I remember this passage. I remember that God has designed it this way, and that He has big plans for His mercy. And I check my own heart. What are my plans for His mercy?
When I consider God’s mercy, and that it is He Himself who has locked up all in futility and disobedience for the express purpose of showing mercy, I find myself better able to show compassion and kindness, even to those who are violently opposed to my Father. And I know beyond a doubt that this is God’s heart in me, so I must be on the right track. How do I know this is God’s heart? Easy – I know Jesus.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NAS95)
“and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19 NAS95)
“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,” (Philippians 3:8–10 NKJV)
“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”
(James 2:19 NAS95)
“For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:30–33 NAS95)
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20–21 NAS95)