Saturday, March 2, 2013

3/2/13 by Geoff Bryan

Is it possible that "focus" is a two-way street?

In this post I answer, "Yes, it is possible." Here's some background.

Lee Cook has remarked that, despite the wide variation in his sermons, they all boil down to a single question: "What are you going to do about Jesus?"

To me, as I embarked some two years ago on the journey that has brought me from the Church of Sleeping In on Sunday to active membership at LCPC, a more crucial threshold question was: "What are you going to do about God?"

Prior to that time I had accepted uncritically the assertions of people like Richard Dawkins that life just kind of happened one day, and that humans were no more than a happy accident of natural selection acting on the progeny of tadpoles, meerkats, and caterpillars.

Then in 2011, an unlikely series of events caused me to reexamine (and ultimately reject) these assertions. Indeed, I was caught completely flatfooted by what I found. From the breathtaking complexity of the DNA molecule to the unbelievable fine-tuning of the cosmos, evidence of a supreme Creator -- of God -- surrounds us in every aspect of existence. Clearly there is a God.

Well, okay-- but now what?

Michael Novak pinpoints the problem in No One Can See God:

[O]ur senses cannot touch God. Neither sight nor sound, scent nor taste, nor touch, either. Our imagination cannot encompass Him, nor even bring Him into focus. . . . Our minds can form no adequate conception of Him; anything the mind imagines is easily ridiculed. The God who made us and out of his infinite love redeemed us and called us to His bosom is divine, not human. As such, He cannot be found using human perceptual equipment.

Yet I could not let the matter rest. Something -- what I now believe to be the Holy Spirit -- tugged relentlessly on me. I ached from what Barbara Brown Taylor has described as "the God-shaped hole inside of us" which "only God may fill."

Having been raised in the Presbyterian faith (though I wandered astray as a young teenager), I turned again to Christianity for answers. I read extensively in the literature known as "apologetics," writings designed to persuade and justify Christian belief. This process spanned many months. I came away from this literature with a profound conviction in the truth of Scripture and the reality of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, a conviction far more genuine than anything I had felt as a youth.

Now here's where the focus part comes in.

In the course of my reading I came across three verses from the book of John that rocked my world. They form a sort of chain that has astonishing implications. In John 14:6, Jesus states, "No one comes to the Father except through me." In John 6:44, Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him," and in John 6:65 Jesus adds that "no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." My mind boggled then, and it continues to boggle today. Could this actually mean that the Father himself is drawing me to Jesus? Me? Insignificant, unworthy me? Yet I can think of no other explanation for my journey of the past couple of years, and my insatiable thirst to know more. Talk about a humbling concept . . . the idea that God, himself, might choose to focus . . . on me!

Meanwhile, I have discovered that this journey involves asking "now what?" over and over again. R.C. Sproul puts it nicely in Chosen by God:

When we are converted to Christ, we use the language of discovery to express our conversion. We speak of finding Christ. We may have a bumper sticker that reads I FOUND IT. These statements are indeed true. The irony is this: Once we have found Christ it is not the end of our seeking, but the beginning. Usually, when we find what we are looking for, it signals the end of our searching. But when we "find" Christ, it is the beginning of our search. The Christian life begins at conversion; it does not end where it begins. It grows; it moves from faith to faith, from grace to grace, from life to life. This movement of growth is prodded by a continual seeking after God.

The more I explore and learn about Christianity, the more it seems there is yet to explore and learn, the more layers left to peel from the onion. Sometimes the complexity and the subtlety seem insurmountable. Yet I sense God's continued focus, drawing me forward. And I take some comfort in Søren Kierkegaard's musing in The Sickness Unto Death as to whether we shouldn't often hear this prayer:

"God in heaven, I thank you for not requiring a person to comprehend Christianity, for if that were required, I would be the most miserable of all. The more I seek to understand it, the more incomprehensible it appears to me . . . . Therefore I thank you for requiring only faith, and I pray that you will continue to increase it."


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