Wait, what if my heart’s desires are for something not Him? What if I want more money, more sex, more work, more security, more of anything out of God but not God himself? Why in all of creation would God give me something not God when my heart desires not God. Logically and theologically, that does not make sense.
In one true sense, God is a pragmatic God. That is, if he has given me His soft heart and now my heart’s desires are for Him and His glory. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you.“ 1 Okay, I am going to ask God for God and His glory. Guess what, He will not say, “No”, to me. He will give me exactly what my heart desires.
Likewise, God may be pouring His blessings on you, in you and through you despite you. Jesus said, “God shines the sun on the evil and good and pours rain on the just and unjust.“ 2 When someone close to you, be it your wife or your best friend, calls you out on your crap, we cannot dare think that just because everything is going awesome doesn’t mean it is awesome in your soul. Pragmatism should be the alarm, not the process, that something might be going on in your heart.
“I would say to Luella (and this is embarrassing, but important to admit), ‘If I’m such a bad guy, why is God blessing everything I put my hands to?’ God was acting as he was not because he was endorsing my manner of living but because of his zeal for his own glory and his faithfulness to his promises of grace for his people. And God has the authority and power to use whatever instruments he chooses in whatever way he chooses to use them. The success of a ministry is always more a picture of who God is than a statement about who the people are that he is using for his purpose. I had it all wrong. I took credit that I did not deserve for what I could not do; I made it about me, so I didn’t see myself as a man headed for disaster and in deep need of the rescue of God’s grace.” 3
“I will assert that serious theology cannot expect to get anywhere until we knock off the urbane silliness that characterizes so much theological discussion today. The Scriptures say the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; some have taken this to mean that unbelief and autonomous rationality must be the beginning of knowledge. In light of this, the ache that some conservative scholars have to be taken seriously in the unbelieving academy is a pitiful thing indeed, and so I would like to take this opportunity to give the whole thing the universal raspberry. What Princeton, Harvard, Duke and all the theological schools in Germany really need to hear is the horse laugh of all Christendom. I mentioned earlier that proud flesh bonds to many strange things indeed, and I forgot to mention scholarship and footnotes. To steal a thought from Kierkegaard, many scholars line their britches with journal articles festooned with footnotes in order to keep the Scriptures from spanking their academically-respectable pink little bottoms.”
Douglas Wilson. “A Pauline Take on the New Perspective“. Credenda/Agenda. Vol. 15. Iss. 5. 17.
Studying Philosophy, I am wrestling with the meaning and understanding of telos as in teleological arguments or teleology.
For several weeks, I keep running into the Gk. root telos- and for weeks, I had to keep looking it up on my iPhone to remind me what it means and more importantly, “what the sentence is actually saying“.
And the cement becomes bone-dry when I read this little quote:
“Moses declared that the law was not too hard for Israel to keep. This passage is applied by Paul to Christ Himself (Dt. 30:11-14; Rom. 10:6-11). This is because Christ is the telos of the law for everyone that believes (Rom. 10:4).” 1
Because of Romans 10:4, I get it now.
What is our purpose? What is our chief end?
Never stop asking this question.
I have lived my life boiled down to one simple quote: Nicolaus Zinzendorf’s ‘Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten’ as to shine light on the meaning of 1 Corinthians 2:2 in my life. All of my studies and all of my toiling and to a much larger, unavoidable influence, the way that I love and live my life, are all wrapped in up that one little quote. It is a quote that I have mediated much on and it is a now philosophy I cannot let go. I am shaken to the core by it.
Often I ask myself, ‘What else am I suppose to do? Not preach the gospel? Not die? Not be forgotten?‘ To which I always answer myself, ‘Impossible!’.
Then I run into this quote:
My question—that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide—was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man… a question without an answer to which one cannot live. It was: “What will come of what I am doing today or tomorrow? What will come of my whole life? Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?” It can also be expressed thus: Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?
If I allow it, I could be haunted by Tolstoy. Let me think about when I am fifty—less than 13 years from now. Dying and be forgotten out of my control. But preaching the gospel? Let me mediate on the distinct possibility of never getting to preach, week in and week out. Let me dwell on the fact that I will never get to preach even just once. Let me think about never getting to teach and thus, never getting the opportunity to present the gospel of Christ.
It would be weird to go 13 more years and not be there. However, the sheer fact is that I have nothing else I can do. That is all I want to do. Day in and day out. Just do that.
So what if I don’t. Ah, but I have. A few times. God was so good to me and so loving to others that I got to do a little. And I will remember those times fondly. And I will look forward to the day when we won’t have to proclaim the gospel because I will be joyously satisfied seeing my Lord and God face-to-face.
The question might get asked, ‘How will you feel 13 years from now?’ To which I have to confidently answer: it won’t matter how I feel because I will have the Spirit of God dwelling in my heart and in my soul. He will always be with me from now until eternity no matter I how I feel, think, or do. My hope is not in my life, success of my marriage, the raising of my kids, or the success of my career but my hope is in perfect Christ alone. Because I hope in Him, I have hope for my life and loves.
Is it enough? Absolutely.
Upon this pinnacle stands Abraham. The last stage he loses sight of is the infinite resignation. He really goes further, and reaches faith; for all these caricatures of faith, the miserable lukewarm indolence which thinks, “There surely is no instant need, it is not worth while sorrowing before the time,” the pitiful hope which says, “One cannot know what is going to happen … it might possibly be after all”–these caricatures of faith are part and parcel of life’s wretchedness, and the infinite resignation has already consigned them to infinite contempt.
Abraham I cannot understand, in a certain sense there is nothing I can learn from him but astonishment. If people fancy that by considering the outcome of this story they might let themselves be moved to believe, they deceive themselves and want to swindle God out of the first movement of faith, the infinite resignation. They would suck worldly wisdom out of the paradox. Perhaps one or another may succeed in that, for our age is not willing to stop with faith, with its miracle of turning water into wine, it goes further, it turns wine into water.
Søren Kierkegaard. Fear and Trembling, 2012. Kindle 388.
On those who possess actual faith in God:
“It is supposed to be the most difficult task for a dancer to leap into a definite posture in such a way that there is not a second when he is grasping after the posture, but by the leap itself he stands fixed in that posture. Perhaps no dancer can do it–that is what this knight does. Most people live dejectedly in worldly sorrow and joy; they are the ones who sit along the wall and do not join in the dance. The knights of infinity are dancers and possess elevation. They make the movements upward, and fall down again; and this too is no mean pastime, nor ungraceful to behold. But whenever they fall down they are not able at once to assume the posture, they vacillate an instant, and this vacillation shows that after all they are strangers in the world. This is more or less strikingly evident in proportion to the art they possess, but even the most artistic knights cannot altogether conceal this vacillation. One need not look at them when they are up in the air, but only the instant they touch or have touched the ground–then one recognizes them. But to be able to fall down in such a way that the same second it looks as if one were standing and walking, to transform the leap of life into a walk, absolutely to express the sublime in the pedestrian–that only the knight of faith can do–and this is the one and only prodigy.”
Søren Kierkegaard. Fear and Trembling, 2012. Kindle 448.
If this had not been the case with Abraham, then perhaps he might have loved God but not believed; for he who loves God without faith reflects upon himself, he who loves God believingly reflects upon God.
Søren Kierkegaard. Fear and Trembling, 2012. Kindle 385.
But what did Abraham do? He arrived neither too soon nor too late. He mounted the ass, he rode slowly along the way. All that time he believed–he believed that God would not require Isaac of him, whereas he was willing nevertheless to sacrifice him if it was required. He believed by virtue of the absurd; for there could be no question of human calculation, and it was indeed the absurd that God who required it of him should the next instant recall the requirement. He climbed the mountain, even at the instant when the knife glittered he believed … that God would not require Isaac. He was indeed astonished at the outcome, but by a double-movement he had reached his first position, and therefore he received Isaac more gladly than the first time.
Søren Kierkegaard. Fear and Trembling, 2012. Kindle 342.
I have seen the dreadful before my own eyes, I do not flee from it timorously, but I know very well that, although I advance to meet it, my courage is not the courage of faith, nor anything comparable to it. I am unable to make the movements of faith, I cannot shut my eyes and plunge confidently into the absurd, for me that is an impossibility … but I do not boast of it. I am convinced that God is love, this thought has for me a primitive lyrical validity. When it is present to me, I am unspeakably blissful, when it is absent, I long for it more vehemently than does the lover for his object; but I do not believe, this courage I lack. For me the love of God is, both in a direct and in an inverse sense, incommensurable with the whole of reality. I am not cowardly enough to whimper and complain, but neither am I deceitful enough to deny that faith is something much higher. I can well endure living in my way, I am joyful and content, but my joy is not that of faith, and in comparison with that it is unhappy. I do not trouble God with my petty sorrows, the particular does not trouble me, I gaze only at my love, and I keep its virginal flame pure and clear. Faith is convinced that God is concerned about the least things. I am content in this life with being married to the left hand, faith is humble enough to demand the right hand–for that this is humility I do not deny and shall never deny.
Søren Kierkegaard. Fear and Trembling, 2012. Kindle 321.