As Daddy to three beautiful daughters, I worry. Now that 2 of them are teenagers, one of whom is driving, I worry a LOT. I’d probably worry less if they looked like me, but unfortunately for me (and very fortunately for them) all three got my wife’s good looks.
While the role of Father has always been that of protector, these days we don’t get much call to bar the door and ride out on horseback to meet the coming threat. No, we perform the mundane heroism of “waiting” and “picking up”. Knowing when an event ends and when and where I need to be waiting in my truck to pick them up is a big part of what I do now. And I’m glad to do it. And all goes well as long as…
1. I tell them where to find me.
2. They come to where I’ve told them I’ll be.
3. They get in my truck.
That’s pretty simple, right? This is a text exchange I think most of us can relate to:
Me: “Be there in 10min”
Girls: K 🙂
Me: “I’ll be in the parking lot to your right when you walk out.”
And it works. I mean, how could you mess that up? But what if, Lord forbid, they decided to “meet me” somewhere else? Somewhere I never said I’d be? What if they decided to look for me in the alley behind the restaurant? What if they somehow got into the wrong car and rode with someone else? What if the intentionally got into another vehicle because they were promised something, like candy?
What if they got into a creepy white van?
If the thought is chilling, good. I want the weight of this subject to rest heavily on you. What we’re talking about here is no less serious, or dangerous.
As we look around, we see many in the church lined up to climb into an endless stream of creepy white vans, to their peril.
See, God is, well GOD; Completely beyond our comprehension. Yet, he has revealed Himself to us and agreed to meet us. But we can only meet Him where He’s told us He would be found, and on His terms.
Where has God told us that He would meet us? What are some of the creepy white vans we have chosen to climb into instead?
God has graciously condescended to be found among men. (Notice that He CON-descended and DE-scended.. we never, ever, ever A-scend.) and He’s told us he could be found…
In the Word:
God has revealed Himself to us in His word. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. And the means by which we come to be changed by the Holy Spirit is through the spoken words of the Gospel:
John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken
to you are spirit and life.
John 15:3-5 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me,
and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can
you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I
in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
Acts 10:44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the
Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to
everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of
God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through
wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
Galatians 3:2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by
hearing with faith?
Galatians 3:5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by
works of the law, or by hearing with faith–
Ephesians 1:13 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your
salvation; in who also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
James 1:18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind
of firstfruits of his creatures.
1 Peter 1:23-25 …since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable,
through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the
flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains
forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
He meets us in the Waters of Baptism, and the Bread and Wine of Communion:
Baptism is water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word; or as St. Paul says in Holy Scripture, “The washing of water with the word.” Through Baptism, we are made partakers of Christ’s death and resurrection. Since Baptism is connected to the Word and promise of God, it is truly a life-giving water, rich in grace—a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. – John 3:1-8
3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit – Titus 3:3-5
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyonewhom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. – Acts 2:37-41
In Holy Communion God offers believers His body and blood under forms of bread and wine for Christians to eat and drink (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
And at the table of Communion, where we receive His Body and Blood:
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” – Matthew 26:26-29
54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” – John 6:54-58
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[e] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
So God has told us, clearly, where He would meet us; The Word, The Waters of Baptism, and The Communion table. As long as we meet Him there, in the Christ-instituted, objective, means of grace we’ll find Him. Let that sink in.. God has CON-descended to be found by us. He’s told us where he’ll be, not through an oracle on the top of a remote mountain, not in a remote temple, but with us in the common means of word and water, bread and wine… and He’s there. We will FIND Him. What grace!
There’s nothing “magic” or “mystical” about these things. Words. Water. Bread. Wine. Nothing in and of themselves that makes them special, except… that God has promised to meet us there. The same dark parking lot which would terrify my daughters when they walk out of a restaurante becomes a place of safety when I flash my lights to let them know that I’m there. I’m where I told them they would find me.
Now, my girls are about as obedient as a Dad could ever hope for. Sure, they’re still battling their sinful nature just like the rest of us, but what if in complete disobedience they decided to reach their destination by riding with a stranger? What about someone who offered them candy in the old “creepy white van”? How crazy would one have to be to make that decision? To trade the safety of their Father for the danger of a stranger, simply on the offer of something “more”.
Yet we see it every day. Rather than the simple means of grace, rather than meeting their Father in the assigned location, people chase something “better” by climbing into the creepy white van of…
Mysticism is the belief that you can find God inside yourself through “feeling” or “emotion”. And that God has agreed to meet you “immediately”. (By immediate, I mean without a mediator; A direct, internal connection with God without the mediation of Christ or the means of grace.) God has not agreed to meet you as you jump around and work yourself into a frenzy. Sorry. I’ve done it, and frankly it’s fun, but God never agreed to meet you in your emotion. You can put yourself into an emotional state and be open to subconscious suggestion, but those “voices” you hear? Are they wrong? Even once? Then guess what, it might be a lot of things, but the Holy Spirit it is most certainly not.
And we climb into this van because rather than listening to our Father, we’ve listened to someone (or in this case, something) trying to lure us away… our heart.
“God laid this on my heart.” “I feel in my heart that….”
Your heart? You mean this heart?
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery
He that trusts in his own heart is a fool – Proverbs 28:26
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5
That heart? That’s where you’re looking for God to speak? For His voice?
God has revealed himself to us objectively, in things that are real, that we can see, hear, touch, and taste. They are unchanging and concrete, regardless of your changing heart or emotions.
Are we to respond to His grace in worship? YES! I’ve wept over the beauty of the Gospel and the grace shown to me, but when I attempt to work into this state and THEN hear from God, i’ve gotten it completely backward!
God objectively works from outside of us to change us inside. We can’t start by closing our eyes, making a constipated face, and feeling our way to God. When we do, we’re attempting to climb toward God on the ladder of mysticism.
Word, Water, Bread and Wine? Yes.
Rolling around on the ground or sitting quietly in a chair and waiting to hear voices? No. That’s straight-up mysticism.
Yes, God has in general revelation shown His wonders in the beauty of His creation. The problem is, the gospel isn’t there. What you see is, even in it’s beauty, fallen… and it’s all law. You may “feel at one” with God on the lake or hiking in the mountains, but nowhere there will you discover Christ crucified for your sins. For the gospel you need the Word.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll stop here. I’ll spend the next couple of weeks working through how we attempt to climb various ladders to A-scend to God. For now, let’s focus on not climbing into those two creepy white vans. The promises are empty lies.. there is no “candy”, just very real danger. If it’s worse to lose your soul than your life, the white van of mysticism is worse than any creepy white van the movies have ever shown us.
Don’t talk to strangers!