Sunday, June 29, 2008
Unable to Understand
'But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.'
1 Corinthians 2: 14-15
For some silly reason lately, I find myself surprised by the naturalness of the natural man. When I say 'natural,' I'm not referring to any exhibited naturalness of character that is intrinsic to all of created humanity (eating, sleeping, etc.) I refer entirely to the state of mind and heart that is exhibited by those who have not been transformed by the Spirit of Christ.
I have noticed this everywhere lately: the media, internet, literature, even amongst those with whom I am surrounded. It characterizes itself in subtle and blatant ways, from the overtly arrogant comments of hostile unbelievers, to a news article parading the erroneously held presumptions of one who is merely uninformed and untaught. It's everywhere. And it surprises me.
I don't know why I'm surprised. God is not surprised by it. He isn't worried about it, either. So why should I find myself so shocked at such attitudes and opinions?
The answer is easy: I shouldn't.
Scripture is very clear about the reason our world is riddled with such a gross misunderstanding regarding the nature of God. In his first letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul writes that 'the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' (italics mine)
It is impossible for an unsaved person to comprehend anything about the nature of the God from whom he or she has been separated. If the Spirit of God is not present, neither is discernment. Not only this, but the things of God are foolishness to him. An individual without the Holy Spirit truly believes that the things of God are, to be quite blunt, absolutely stupid. Only the Spirit of God can shed light on the glorious and lovely truths of God.
Please understand that I am not purporting to be better or more spiritual than any other person. I'm not writing from an attitude of idiotic self-righteousness. There was a time for me when the things of God sounded completely foolish. Apart from the grace of God I would have remained in my deafened and deadened state. And so it is with those who do not yet know Him. They are, quite sadly, unable to understand.
In pondering these thoughts, I have realized something very sad about myself, too. Instead of harboring tender compassion in my heart, I often find myself annoyed and angered by a spiritually lost world. The subtly snide comments. The erroneous assumptions. Even the passive indifference. Each manifestation of spiritual death in the world should fill my heart to overflowing with gracious, compassionate love. Far too often, though, my selfish nature (the 'natural' me) takes offense at the fact that, as a believer in what the world misunderstands, I will be misunderstood as well.
Paul touches on this very thing when he tells the Corinthians that the spiritual person (an individual with the indwelling Holy Spirit) 'is rightly judged by no one.' John also comments on this in his first letter: 'Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.' (1 John 3: 1) Finally, Peter understood our sojourning in a foreign, lost world when he states that debauched unbelievers 'find it strange' that we no longer enjoy our sin, 'speaking evil of (us).' (1 Peter 4: 3-4)
The truth is, though, that it's not about me. At all. And if it's not about me, then it's not important what assumptions people may have of me. It is important, though, what assumptions people have of God. If those assumptions and ideas are wrong, then there is no place for anger or annoyance in my heart; only sublimely humble compassion. The kind that comes from God. The kind He had for me when I was unable to understand.
I shouldn't find myself surprised by the naturalness of natural man. I should be brokenhearted over it. I should be grieved. I should be compassionate. But I shouldn't be surprised.
Lord, please fill me with love for a spiritually lost world. Fill me to overflowing with humble, selfless love for a deceived and blinded generation. Help me to live in a way that makes Your true nature known. And thank you that Your Holy Spirit lives in me, not because of anything good I have done, but because You are a supremely good God.
** Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible. The MacArthur Study Bible proved a valuable resource on Scriptural comments.