Friday, December 12, 2008
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Every person is on a quest to find God. It does not matter whether they acknowledge it or not or what words they use to express it. They may or may not mention "God" and they may even say that they are atheistic or agnostic. It makes no difference. We all want to find that something, and in reality, Someone, who is above and beyond us. It is part of the fact that God himself has, "set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). And, in our search, if we cannot find what we are looking for, then we might just create it.
When the apostle Paul went to the great city of Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols (Acts 17:16). This doesn't sound all that much different from the cities in which we live, although our "idols" may not look at first like typical graven images. An idol is in reality anything that takes precedence over the one true God or becomes more important than he. It should come as no surprise that the first two commands given to the people of God are:
"I am the LORD your God . . . You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth below or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God" (Exodus 20:2-5).
Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection, but it did not make sense to the people of Athens. And our message to the world may still seem like foolishness or an offense (see 1 Corinthians 1:18, 21, 23). Paul remarked that the people of Athens were so religious, that, as he had walked their streets, he had even come upon an altar with the inscription: "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD" (Acts 17:22-23). Paul proceeded to preach to them the revelation of "what you worship as something unknown" (Acts 17:23). The fact that only a few believed does not matter. Paul spoke to the hunger and the quest that is in every person to find what they are looking for even if they don't know what it is.
Our world is looking for something. Can we see it in the insatiable hunger to discover new things and to have the latest this or that? As Christians, we have what they are looking for, even if we ourselves are still looking for more of God or the fullness of who he is or more evidence of him in our lives. Just because we are not totally there yet or know that we still have questions without answers shouldn't keep us from sharing where we are and what we have found.
A number of years ago now, the band U2, which definitely has some Christian influences, sang a song in which they spoke the heart's cry of our world. They talked about all of the things that they had done to find it — to find the "what" — but in the end, it was still illusive. Notice the last verse:
I believe in the Kingdom Come
When all the colors will bleed into one, bleed into one
Well, yes I'm still running
You broke the bonds and you loosened the chains
Carried the cross of all my shame, all my shame
You know I believe it
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
Have I found everything that I am looking for or believing for? No, I know that I have not. I am still pressing forward to take hold of more of that for which I have been taken hold of (see Philippians 3:12-14). At the same time, I have found much that I am looking for. Yes, we may be still running. But the kingdom is here to some degree and there is more to come. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In my life. In my church. In my family. Jesus has done something for me and I do believe it. I may still have struggles and trials and times when I don't understand. Know what? So do all of the others in the world who are trying to make their way. If I have found something, no rather Someone, who makes a difference, can I not share that?
I have found God. Some days I know that it is actually more that he found me. And I am finding more of God and discovering that there is always more. And, just when I think that I have it, he surprises me in some new way. And invites me to say, "Yes Lord, I accept that too as being from you and part of who you are." Leaving idolatry behind means taking God as he really is and not the way that I would make him to be. As we approach Christmas, remember that wise men still seek him! And shepherds still encourage others along the way to come and see this thing that has happened that God has shown to us!
"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you" (Jeremiah 29:12-14).