How We Turned Into a Bunch of Jesus Stalkers

June 5, 2013

PSA: Thank you for your patience, my friends.  I continue to take a much needed respite from the thrice weekly posts you have become accustomed to.  The weekly Wednesday posts will continue for the time being while I refresh my mind with lots of reading and rest.

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

stack-of-booksAnd with that, Jesus speaks what I consider to be one of the most frightening verses in the Bible.  I mean, really, how can these guys get so many things right, and yet Jesus says He never knew them?

We are terrifically modern people.  As average people, we are able to know more than at any other time in history.  We have a world of knowledge available to us.  We are able to endlessly study the Bible, read countless commentaries, even learn the original languages…

…and yet, despite all of the wonderful things we know, I wonder if any of us will be the ones saying “Lord, Lord.”

Why?  Because we have the same problem that people did two millennia ago:

We’ve confused knowing God…with knowing God.

How Do You Know Her?

Just like there are different kinds of love, there are lots of different kinds of knowledge.

Let’s say I wrote a book about my wife, Cheri.  Let’s say the book was very long and included innumerable facts about her.  Many facts would be quite generic by nature (she is beautiful, she is kind-hearted.)  Other facts would be much more specific to her (she’s a veterinarian, she enjoys decorating cakes.)

At the end of the book, after learning everything there is to know about her, would you know Cheri?

No, of course not.  This is the mistake people make when they decide to stalk celebrities.  Crazy people think that just because they pick up a People magazine that they “know” Jennifer Aniston.  They don’t know her.  They just know about her.  Not to mention that Jennifer Aniston has never heard of them.

Dr. Know-It-All

In our culture, we absolutely value the first kind of knowledge – knowing about things.  We place a high priority on education.  We emphasize Bible study.  We want to break down the mysteries of God into systems that we can argue over.

And we are so quick to take up the mantle of “expert.”  As bloggers, it’s terribly easy to pass ourselves off as “authorities” and “teachers” because we’ve read a few books.  We love those virtual pats on the back when people tell us how smart we are.  Don’t worry, it’s not just you.  It’s me too.

So why do so many of us balk at guys like a Driscoll or a Piper or a Robertson?

There are probably lots of reasons, but I think a big one is that to many people, guys like them come off as know-it-alls.  There are no questions they cannot answer, no eternal mystery they cannot answer with authority, no gut-wrenching tragedies they cannot explain.  They know exactly how God works, exactly what everyone should do, and and exactly where Anne Frank went when she died.

I can’t judge any of their hearts, but frankly, acting like an authority on everything is downright annoying.  It wouldn’t hurt anyone’s PR to say “I don’t know” once in a while.

Lord, Lord, Did We Not Write Blogs In Your Name?

The problem is that there is a huge gulf between the knowledge we can show off about God, and how much we actually, internally know God.  There is a difference between winning a trivia contest, getting a degree, writing a blog, being a teacher, being a know-it-all, being a stalker – and knowing God, being God’s friend.

True, we need some knowledge. But there have surely been many people who were far less educated than you or I, and yet knew God much more intimately than I ever have.  Why can an atheist read the Bible cover to cover, get all the facts, and still not know God?  What did Abraham know about God?  Not much at all.  Yet, it seems that Abraham knew God enough to trust, to obey, to be considered God’s friend.

The words that Jesus uses that cut right through my heart are, “I never knew you.”   When we pray, how often do we ask God for answers?  We want the why and the how and the when.  How often do we tell God we want to know answers, instead of asking to just know Him more deeply?

What do you think?  Does more knowledge actually equal a deeper relationship with God?  Or have we substituted facts for love?

21 responses to How We Turned Into a Bunch of Jesus Stalkers

  1. Those words have scared me too! Thank you for speaking to that verse!

    Some of my rambling thoughts: I don’t think God looks for head knowledge – “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart…” I think it might be important to seek to know more about God because we love Him, as we would seek to know more about a friend (or spouse), but not to pursue knowledge for the sake of saying we know the answers. I do believe God wants us to ask questions, to seek Him – not just answers, and trust when we might not get the answers we are looking for.

  2. My desire to go into theological studies has more to do with apologetics than believing it would bring me closer to God. I often worry it can have the opposite effect, but maybe I’m just scared to approach something this important and fundamental. I don’t want to be a know-it-all, but I’m looking for reconciliation with the rest of the world.
    Alessia recently posted..Jam & Dram

    • It’s a tough balance. I think more knowledge can lead to more intimacy with God, until knowledge becomes an end to itself – an idol as it were. To truly know God himself, we have to be comfortable with some mystery.

  3. Some random thoughts–

    1) Isn’t it also striking that the “evildoers” in the post are doing all kinds of amazing stuff–prophesying, performing miracles, etc–and they STILL miss the point? That part has always stuck out to me because of all the times I had heard in church about how you can accomplish pretty much anything if it’s done “in Jesus’ name”. These guys are doing their thing “in Jesus’ name” and therefore should be doing it right–and yet they aren’t. What are we to make of that?

    2) Your mention of atheism reminded me that I have heard more than one person (in blog comments and such) actually becoming an atheist AFTER reading the Bible cover-to-cover. Which, I think, should make any Christian rethink the whole “convert an atheist by quoting scripture at them” tactic.

    3) “It’s not bad PR to say ‘I don’t know’ once in a while”. Great googly moogly is that ever true! I think the problem is (at least it was for me in my more evangelical-y days) is that saying “I don’t know” is so darn frightening. I used to worry that I’d inadvertently condemn someone to hell if I wasn’t able to provide the “correct” scripture-based explanation for everything. The other frightening thing is having one “I don’t know” open up a whole can of other unanswerable questions–and then what do you do? In a way, it’s easier to build up a tidy scaffold of rote answers than it is to face your doubts head-on. It’s really more of a form of denial than anything else.

    • Abby – as usual, you say everything that was on my mind that I left out of the post. Yes – the evildoers must have some sort of knowledge, some sort of faith, and even some sort of “good deeds!” But Jesus dismisses their “miracles” as not being miraculous at all. Maybe it has to do with the fact that “they” performed the miracles, not God…

  4. Matt, I agree with you completely. This message needs to be said as often as possible, because it’s such an easy mistake to make. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thank you James! The challenge is that our churches and faith communities are so ingrained as educational centers. If we teach our children enough, if they memorize enough scripture, then that will translate to a deep spiritual experience, which obviously isn’t the case.

  5. This is one of my favorite posts you have ever written. I’ve been trying to find the correct words to articulate the points you have made so wonderfully right here. Great job.

  6. As a doctor, this its hard. To be honest, despite it being the year 2013, we know less about the human body than we think. There is much more to discover. I think it is likely the same with God. He has revealed some of himself to us, but not everything. This is why the Bible is stories and not doctrine. Because it leaves room for us to discover. And it leaves room for us to love.
    Jeremy Statton recently posted..On Becoming: Part 2 Don’t Stop Being You

  7. Good stuff, Matt. I think it’s a placebo. The knowledge we gain about God we put in place of the relationship where we could know Him. I think the reason is fairly easy to explain. The gaining of knowledge about is much easier and less personally costly than forging the intimate relationship with Him.

  8. This is my first time on your blog. And boy did you speak directly to me. I have been so angry at my church, at a Bible study I attend, and everything “Christian” and I thank you for your words of wisdom, ( much better than words of knowledge) I truly believe when we search to take the mystery out of God, we only take the Majesty out. Thanks for your words.

  9. These verses terrify me. I can so easily imagine myself to be one of those who missed out. I imagine their utter shock. They thought they were doing things right. They thought they were good Christians. They thought God was pleased with them. After all, in His name, miracles happened. We are told to judge a tree by its fruit, yet they were so very wrong. I wonder, how could they have known? How can we know where we stand before God?

  10. I too, am guilty of trying to, claiming to know (too much).

    We are saved not by our knowledge or good doctrine…but by Christ Jesus and His great love for sinners.

    That said, good doctrine is important. And we ought try and keep the message squarely on Christ and what he has done, is doing, and will yet do for sinners. And correct those that would place us on a religious treadmill or self-ascendancy scheme.

    Thanks, Matt.
    theoldadam recently posted..‘Feeding the Poor’

  11. I really like this post and want to share it on Facebook, except the scripture cited at the beginning doesn’t say, “you never knew Me.” It says, “I never knew you.” And I know my Lutheran pastor would jump on that!

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