Reading through Scripture is like backpacking across the country every so often. It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, you always see something different in the same places. At least, we should. If I don’t I know something is wrong with me.
An old saying says that familiarity breeds contempt. I understand that and know it’s sometimes true. But I think that saying should be amended to say surface familiarity breeds contempt, not true familiarity. When we’re familiar with something on a surface level we think we know that person or thing completely so that there’s nothing left to know; no surprises left. But others have felt this way about us, and we knew they didn’t really know us. We knew there was more depth to us then these hasty folk perceived. I have made this mistake before.
Some thought they knew Jesus in this manner, prompting Him to say that a prophet had no honor in his own country. Today, some think they know God this way. Because God has revealed some things to us that we’ve become very familiar with on the surface we can feel that we’ve got a handle on God. It might be a Pentecostal handle, a Baptist handle, a Catholic or non-denominational handle. It might be a scholar’s handle or a layman’s handle.
Whatever handle it is, we’ve become so familiar with it that it fits us like the shape of the sock we wore all day. In our familiarity we forget that a handle is an aid to leverage, balance and stability. But handles are not those things in themselves. We forget that God hasn’t, nor can He, reveal everything to us.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. – Deut. 29:29
Currently there is a lot of hostility against Christianity in large part because people are reacting to versions of it that have been drained of life through excess familiarity. That’s not the only reason for the hostility, but it is a big reason. We should fear being the type of Christians who promote a wooden image of a living God because it appears that God takes this as a serious offense.
You thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes. – Psalm 50:21
The apostle Paul was amazingly flexible and always able to use anything as a starting point that led to God. The ancient Greeks built an altar to Agnostos Theos, the Unknown God. The Unknown God was not a deity. He was more of a place holder that represented a deity whose nature the Greeks didn’t as yet know of. Paul used the Unknown God to proclaim the God of Scripture (see Acts 17).
I think one of the problems with today’s church scene is that it proclaims a God it has become so familiar with that everybody knows in their bones that it can’t be the living God, because when you come into contact with the living God something changes. It has to. We should be able, like Paul, to start at any point, from any subject, and proclaim the Unknown God. The Unknown God would breathe life back into the known God, the one we think we know.
Proverbs 6:6 says we can go to the ant as a starting point to gain wisdom. That’s because there is no place we can look in creation and not see evidence of God and how He works, leaving believer and unbeliever alike without excuse (Rom. 1:20).
The world scene, the work scene, the family scene, etc.; all these arenas sometimes become so predictable that they weary us with their drab familiarity. As Ecclesiastes 1:8 says all things are full of weariness; man cannot utter it…
During war, pilots who fly above the clouds say they momentarily forget the madness below as they come into contact with the heavenly peacefulness. Astronauts who look down on the earth from an even higher vantage point cannot help but be astonished by a breathtaking beauty that eclipses all their opinions and whatever pictures of Earth from orbit they’d previously seen when what had been unknown became known.
I wish the church would come to desire the Unknown God that Paul preached so that God would heal what we’ve put asunder.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says 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. – Isa. 55: 8-9
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