If you have never seen an elephant before, and you were blind, how would you describe it?
Picture this: you and a team of learners are presented with the task of describing an elephant. But instead of looking to an encyclopedia or a zoo exhibit, you are each blindfolded and guided to a real elephant. Each of you touches a different part of the animal: one, the soft and delicate tip of the elephant's trunk; another, the hard tusk of ivory; and a third, the wrinkled hide around the elephant's belly.
Based upon what each of you learned, one thinks an elephant is smooth and soft, another would say an elephant is smooth and hard, while the last would conclude that elephants are rough and soft. What's the truth? When we study complex topics, we are often like the elephant examiners: there's usually a lot more to a topic that we don't learn about after only a quick exploration.
By Hugh Peebles
Terry Scott Taylor of Daniel Amos fame and other entities of musical artistry related a story about Koko the gorilla. Koko was taught sign language by her handlers. One day there was an earthquake. When the handlers asked Koko what she was thinking she signed to them “Darn Floor. Big Bite.” We in our limited capacity are like Koko. How can we describe an infinite God with our finite knowledge? He has revealed Himself to us through His Son. He has made Himself accessible to us through Jesus. Jesus is the Door. He is The Way. He is that final Word from God. But we see through a glass darkly. Jesus saves us. But to say we have God figured out, we’re only fooling ourselves.
Sound bite and bumper sticker theology is a fascinating thing. We throw a gospel quote here and line there. We put it on bumper stickers. I like a good quote like the next guy. Sometimes all we have are a few moments of time.
I would like to share my observations on God. Someone once said, “If you think you’ve got God figured out, your god is too small.” So many of us think we have it figured out. Of one thing I am sure, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Jesus is THE Way…Jesus is the Door. Jesus is God incarnate. God is Love, therefore Jesus is the embodiment of Love. We have One Way to God, and that is through Jesus Christ and Him crucified. This is what makes us acceptable to the Father for there is no other way. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that “The preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are saved, it is the Power of God.” Jesus’ death on the cross is the only acceptable and final sacrifice that God recognizes. Our works and good deeds won’t save us.
There is a song we sing in the church called “Amazing Grace.” We’ve all sang it at one time or another and there are different versions that I have been recorded. One of the lines in the song says, “When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun/We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we first begun.” Why is that? Because, after 10,000 years, we still would have so much to learn of the greatness of God. Time is irrelevant in the Kingdom of Heaven, but still, you can understand the concept of the infinite God.
Paul said in Romans 8:8-9 “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew the letter of the law, but knew not the spirit behind the law. Why did God lay down what is considered the law? What was His motive or reason? It was His love for us. Because you do ‘good’ in the name of Jesus, does that make you ‘good?’ Are you willing to love your enemy? John said, “If you say you love God and hate your brother, you’re a liar.” Then people start accusing you of “wanting the church to just ‘run wild’ with sin.” Because I say the law cannot save you, does this mean I’m saying you can do what you want? What do you want to do? Is it harmful to your fellow humans? That’s not love. If it’s not in faith, it’s sin.
The concept of licentiousness is a concern within the church also. When God came before Moses He made this declaration, “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6 and 7. NIV) We are saved by grace through faith.
Do we have faith? Really? Do we?
I can’t see your heart. You can’t see mine. We struggle and we stumble and sometimes we fall. But faith knows that God has not abandoned us. Faith doesn’t dwell on it and neither does faith point the finger and condemn, for that is too easy to do. I know. It’s too easy to look down our noses at those whom we deem as “sinners” and say to God, “I thank you Father that I’m not like that person.” When Jesus told the parable, He said the Pharisee prayed “thus with himself.” We think ourselves good because we are not like “that person.” Do you really think that God is impressed with our “I’m good because I’m not that bad” defense? Rahab, by faith, hid the Israelite spies. Her actions were in faith and her family was saved.
The New Testament does condemn those who “practice” sin or make it a habit and don’t have a problem with it. All of us are guilty of being tempted. Some of the time we may fall.
"You shall not take (to accept, extol, put on) the name of the LORD your God in vain (empty, void), for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7
Jesus said to his disciples “"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Matt 7:21. There are so many people that use Jesus’ name as some sort of magic incantation. I sometimes wonder if that is what God was talking about “taking His name in vain.” There’s the story about the guy who tried to use “in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches” against an evil spirit, but then got his butt kicked.
Life seems to have pendulums. We go this way, we go that way. We argue with each other because we want to be ‘right.’ “My side is correct and if you don’t agree with us, then you are just evil.” The rock group Extreme have an album (CD for you literalists out there) called Three Sides to Every Story. What are those 3 sides? Your, mine and the Truth. Like the elephant descriptions, each description was true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
There are those who don’t like the book of James because there are those who use it as a tool to push the “faith PLUS works” doctrine. But James is trying to make a point. He is trying to remind his readers, “You say you have faith? But if you have faith in God, is not God love? So if you have faith in love, doesn’t that mean you will do what you can to help those in need? But what are you doing? You’re playing favorites. You like those with money and give them the best places while pushing back those you don’t think can help your cause. Where’s the love in that?” Love doesn’t play favorites. Love sees a need and does what it can to help. This is the bottom line of what James is trying to get across. He says “If you love, you do well.” James 2:8
Those are all thoughts from my finite mind. My own part of the elephant. I can't know it all. All I do know is that I am saved by faith and not by works, so therefore I can't boast about how good I am. It's not me but Christ who lives in me.
There is so much to know about God. May we loves Him with all our hearts, minds and strength.
Be blessed. Be a blessing.