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Reasonably Unhappy

A.W. Tozer suggested that Jesus was either perfectly loved or perfectly hated, but that He never provoked indifference. No doubt, it was statements like the following that fueled Tozer’s observation:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV).

With this proclamation, Christ effectively removed the middle ground. Was He really the only way to the Father? If so, what of the other ways and those who walked them? And if not, if He was mistaken or blatantly misleading, could anything else He said be trusted? 

The Bible’s full of thorny verses, statements that force us into a corner, resist spin and minimize wiggle room. Recently, I’ve been contemplating one such verse, brought on by a very unlikely person.

One of my co-workers, a good-natured, fun-loving but crude, alcoholic fella whom we shall call Dick, approached me the other day and said, “I’m going back to church.” Well, I’ve been praying for and witnessing to Dick for the longest. So you’d think I would be ecstatic, right? The problem is, Dick has returned to the Mormon church.

Though The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints professes to be a Christian group, its central beliefs veer radically from historic Christianity. Among the offending LDS doctrines is the belief that God (more commonly referred to as “Heavenly Father”) is an exalted and glorified man, and that he has a physical (albeit immortal) body. Furthermore, it is also taught that qualifying Mormons can become gods, just like the Heavenly Father, in the next life, and produce spirit offspring (presumably to populate another earth.).

Here I’ve been encouraging Dick to seek God, and he does . . . by going back into a false religion. Question: Can a person find God — the real, biblical God — in the Mormon church? In fact, the question’s much broader: Can a person find God in any false religion?

And this is where said thorny verse draws blood.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV).

The principle riddles Scripture: God is not a respecter of persons; if anyone, anywhere at any time seeks Him with all their heart, they shall find Him.

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:11-13 NIV)

Everyone? Shouldn’t there be some qualifiers to this? It seems far too . . . liberal. Don’t they need to give up drinking, smoking and heavy metal to be saved? Shouldn’t they attend catechism or receive training in Christianese? And musn’t they leave the Church of the Poison Mind?

Pascal suggested that there are only three kinds of people in the world:

  • Those who have sought God and found Him
  • Those who are seeking Him and have not yet found Him
  • Those who neither seek Him nor find Him
  • Pascal called the first class “reasonable and happy” – reasonable because they seek and happy because they find. He calls the second class “reasonable and unhappy” – reasonable because they seek and unhappy because they have not yet found. He calls the third class “unreasonable and unhappy” – unreasonable because they do not seek and unhappy because they do not find. Peter Kreeft writes, “The greatest difference is not between those who have found God and those who have not. This is only a temporary difference, for all in the second class will get into the first; all seekers will find. The greatest difference is between the seekers and the non-seekers, for that is an eternal difference.”

    If this is true, it means there is hope for Dick. Of course, as he seeks God, I will trust that God will guide him to truth and away from error. And it appears this process is beginning because, these days, Dick is irritable, unfulfilled and reasonably unhappy.

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    { 5 comments… add one }
    • janet September 18, 2006, 2:34 AM

      Hi there, Mike. I love hearing how Muslims often have visions of Jesus during Ramadan. Imagine some Muslim, trekking miles to get to Meca, fasting, praying, fasting, praying. But this guy, he’s not just performing ritual. He’s seeking. Really seeking. And Jesus shows up. So cool.
      This morning we read Dueteronomy 18 in church, where God warns the Israelites about imitating the practices of the heathen in the promised land. He warns them about fortune tellers and false prophets. When they ask how they can know if a prophesy spoken in the name of God is true, God tells them, “If it’s from Me, it’ll come true.” (Janet paraphrase.) So our God claims 100% accuracy and He delivers it. Nope, nothing middle-of-the-road about HIm!

    • Linda Gilmore September 18, 2006, 1:01 PM

      In Sunday School we’re studying Luke and it becomes clear early on that Jesus is set on turning the world upside-down. He’s calling fishermen and tax collectors and healing people and telling the synagogue crowd what’s what — and that’s only the first five chapters! And it’s a reminder to me that God draws the most amszing variety of people to himself. (When I read Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, I was also reminded of that.) It’s a good thing we’re not the ones responsible for saving people — we probably wouldn’t even make it ourselves!

    • Rebecca LuElla Miller September 18, 2006, 6:08 PM

      Thing is, we don’t know people’s hearts so can’t really know what they are seeking.

      We studied John 10 yesterday in church. Talk about divisive! Here Jesus says He and the Father are one. Later He says the Father is in Him, and He in the Father. The reaction? At one point, they took up stones to stone Him, then sought to seize Him.

      But all this was preceded by this request: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

      Seems like such a simple request, from someone seeking.

      But Jesus, who knew their hearts, said in essense, I already told you. You didn’t believe my words and on top of that you didn’t believe my works.”My sheep know my voice and follow me.”

      I guess my point is what a person does with what they know will be a way of seeing just how much seeking they are doing.

      I think this is an important topic especially in this day of “seeker friendly” this or that. I don’t think Jesus was so seeker friendly.

      Becky

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