"[Jesus] said to [his disciples]: 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority" (Acts 1:7, NIV).
Dear ICB family,
Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1 that it simply wasn't their business to know when God would restore the kingdom to Israel (verses 6-7). Such secret things belong to the Lord (Deuteronomy 29:29). And instead of answering the disciples' question, Jesus gives them a clear directive that, as Pastor Phil reminded us, is for us today, too: "[Y]ou will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
At least for me, this was a stark reminder of the fact that God puts a higher premium on our obedience to his unambiguous commands than he does on our figuring out the great mysterious of the universe, and for a guy who likes to spend considerable time up in the clouds thinking about just such mysteries, such a reminder strikes me as both humbling and as a huge relief. It's humbling because I'm a servant who's been given orders by his Master. Servants obey. It's simply not our job to understand the Master's business dealings or his timetables for running his estate. He'll tend to all that just fine. And he'll do so whether I have the foggiest idea of his plans and methods for carrying out those plans or not.
And it's a huge relief because it takes so much pressure off. God doesn't demand that his servants perfectly grasp the exact nature of the relationships between the members of the Trinity. He does, however, demand that we love him with all our beings and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. He doesn't demand that we fully comprehend how his sovereignty interacts with man's free will, but he does command us to stand as lights and witnesses of his power and his love to those around us. We don't have to have plumbed the deepest depths of the significance of the atonement of Christ on our behalf for us to very simply declare, with tears in our eyes, that Christ died so that we could come home to our heavenly Father. And even if we did understand "all mysteries and all knowledge" but failed to obey his command to love, we would be nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). That means that despite all my unanswered questions, I can start living faithfully to my Master right now, and I can barely think of anything that I want more.
Yes, it's true, the King James translation of 2 Timothy 2:15 reads "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," and yes, loving God with all our beings includes loving God with all our minds, which at least means that we are to exercise every last mental muscle we've been given to know all that we can about the God whom we love. But any knowledge gained, any insight given, or any truth better understood is only worth something to the extent that it aids a person in being a more faithful servant.
For example, we strain with all our mental might to better understand the nature of God as he's revealed himself in the pages of Scripture and ultimately in the person of his Son because the more we know about him the more about him there is for us to love and adore—that is, our knowledge of God aids us in being more obedient to the command to love him. And we labor with detailed precision to better understand Paul's arguments through the book of Romans, for example, so that we can sit down with another person and walk him or her through those same arguments so that his or her faith might be built up—that is, our understanding the Bible better helps us to obey God's command to love and build up other people.
In the end, we will live every last one of our days on this earth straining to see "in a mirror dimly" (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV). And remember that the guy who said that about himself and us was also the one who was "caught up to the third heaven" and who "heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter" (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), meaning that our greatest, clearest glimpses of the glory of God this side of eternity are faint reflections in darkened rooms compared to what will one day be revealed to us. Until then, there's no need to fret about our limited, blurry vision. We have enough to be obedient to his clear and direct commands right now; we have the Holy Spirit after all, as this passage also reminds us!
So as we look into this upcoming year and continue to wonder at the vastness of our great God and all those things about him and his plans that ultimately aren't any of our business, may our limited understanding not in any way impede our obedience to his clear and simple commands, specifically, from Acts 1, that we live our entire lives as Jesus's witnesses to the very last ends of the earth.
Asking for grace along with you to continue witnessing even as I wonder,