Can you remember the song 'what if God was one of us?' I don't know if it even made it over here - it was big in Australia when I was at Uni – it tried to imagine what it would be like if God was just like one of us – I think the chorus went – well I looked it up, the chorus went:
'what if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home…'
In a lot of ways it was a bit of a silly song – mostly because it misses the point that God was one of us, he did live among us, his name was Jesus, and if they'd had busses in first century Judea, he would have been catching them.
But, aside from that it does highlight an issue that for some reason people seem to miss.
If God was one of us then we wouldn't be able to pretend that we knew him on the basis of assumptions and guess work – we'd have to actually listen to him if we wanted to know him.
That's pretty obvious, but for some reason people think of God as some sort of philosophical question, or a puzzle to solve – so they imagine they can work out what God must be like. People do it all the time – try and work out from their own heads what God is like: well I like to think of God as…
But you can't do that for a person can you?
And if God is a person – do you think you can work God out more easily than anyone else?
What if God was one of us – could you imagine that you knew him just from stuff you've assumed, or seen or read about - or would you actually need to get to know him to know him? Would you need to listen to him to find out what he's like?
That's where Paul's going in our passage of 1 Cor this morning – he's continuing in his argument about wisdom and today his point is that no amount of wisdom will bring us to a knowledge of God – we can only know God if God makes himself known to us – just like you can only know me if I make myself known to you, and I you.
Paul makes two big points here which flesh that out:
1) Like any person we can only know God if God reveals himself to us vv 9-13
2) God does reveal himself to us by the gospel and his Holy Spirit vv12-16
1) We can only know God if God reveals himself to us, vv 9-12
This doesn't need a lot of explanation - God needs to reveal himself to us if we are to know him.
Read with me from vs 9:
9 However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"-- 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no-one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
If you remember we saw a couple of weeks ago Paul argued that God's wisdom – in particular his plan for salvation – was hidden from the rulers of the world. They didn't know it and couldn't work it out in advance. Now he explains why – because God is personal, you can't work him out, you need to get to know him.
Paul says there's an analogy to us and our own personal relationships. We're personal, we have an inner world that only we know. There's things going on inside my head that you don't have access to – my thoughts, my fears, my memories, my feelings – all the things that shape me and make me who I am;
And you have no access to what's going on in my inner world unless I tell you about it, unless I let you in.
You probably know what it's like when you think you know someone and then they go and do something you could never have imagined them doing – and you think 'I thought I knew you …
I don't know, maybe your Father goes off and buys a sports car when he's never once shown the least interest in cars all your life…; or your Mum gets a tattoo; or your friend packs their job in and goes travelling to 'find themselves'
Where did that come from? I guess they had it in them all along, they just didn't let on…
Or you could think of the people you see on TV when a mass murderer or a child kidnapper is arrested and they interview the neighbours – they say: 'he seemed like an ordinary guy'… 'we spoke sometimes, he was nice'… They had no idea about the terrible things going on, on the inside.
The point is we never know what's going on inside of someone else, unless they choose to reveal it to us. We can't think our way into their heads; we can't work out what they're thinking or feeling from first principles, or formulate a mathematical formula, or work it out by forensic science.
We can't get inside someone else's head to figure them out.
So why would we ever think that we could get inside God's head to figure God out?
The wise philosophers with all their theories suddenly don't look so clever.
God's personal. He has his own thoughts, his own plans and purposes, his own personality and character.
And unless he chooses to reveal it to us, we can't find it out. So all those great minds trying to work God out without reference to what God has revealed about himself – the celebrity scientists; the philosophers arguing about the existence of God; or the religious gurus and spiritual mentors – they're never going to find out what God's like because they're not listening to his revelation of himself.
We can only know God if God chooses to reveal himself.
But; on the other side of that equation we can know someone if they choose to let us in, if they choose to reveal what's going on in their private world.
We can know God if he chooses to reveal himself.
And God does choose to make his inner world known to us. God has revealed himself – in the Lord Jesus he made himself known. And in the person of his Holy Spirit he makes Jesus Christ known to us now. He gives his spirit to live inside us so we can know him.
Taking the analogy further The Holy Spirit has access to God that is as close as the access I have to my own thoughts and feelings – there is no distance between God and his spirit, they're one. In fact the Holy Spirit has better access to God than I do to myself! There's nothing about God that the spirit doesn't know, nothing that's beyond him, nothing hidden, no unconscious thoughts or subconscious emotions. There's no deceitful sin confusing the issues.
The Holy Spirit explores the very depths of God's being, all of him. And the spirit makes him known to us.
So we're not stumbling around in the dark trying to find something that's hidden, we don't need to be brilliant, we can know God because God makes himself known to us.
If you hear theologians or philosophers banging on about the mystery and otherness of God, how he can't communicate with us because he's so different – well you know you don't need to listen any further – because God has no trouble revealing himself to us. Remember what Jesus said – 'if you've seen me, you've seen the Father'… 'If you know me, you know my Father'. And this is the reason we can know God like that – because God the Holy Spirit makes him knowable to us, takes what belongs to God and makes it available to us – the deep things of God, his rich inner world.
Now of course I'm not saying that we know God exhaustively – so that there's nothing more to God than what I know – don't be daft… But we can know things truly without knowing them exhaustively – we can know God and be certain that what we know of God is true, without claiming that we know everything there is to know about God. Paul's not claiming to have perfect knowledge – but true knowledge, enough to know him.
So how do we know God truly? The place all this is revealed is in the message of the gospel – that's Paul's second point. But it goes further than that – because to know God we need God to make sense of the gospel for us!
2) God does reveal himself to us by the gospel and by his Holy Spirit vv13-16
Look at verse 13 again:
13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.
This takes us back to the message of the gospel. This message that Paul's been speaking – the message that wasn't with wise and persuasive words, or superior wisdom or eloquence – that message is the revelation of God.
That's why Paul goes back to talking about it again. It didn't sound impressive and compelling. But it was spiritual, of the spirit, taught by the spirit to make sense of spiritual truths. The gospel expresses the deep things of God, the spiritual realities.
We've already seen that Jesus Christ and him crucified was Paul's message and the great plan and purpose of God that no one understood or anticipated. Now we see this is the great revelation of God that shows what he's really like, in his depths, in his essence. In the person of Jesus Christ he has made himself known.
But it's more than the person of Jesus, as if we could understand who Jesus was without looking at what Jesus did – Jesus can't be understood apart from his life, and in particular Jesus can't be separated from the death he died. The heart and centre of the gospel is not the incarnation – God becoming man; but the crucifixion – God dying for man. Jesus' death is the crux of the whole story of God's revelation. It's at the cross that the very depths of God's character are revealed.
Let me explain by looking at one of God's attributes – love. Jesus displayed God's love every second of his life. But he showed the depth of that love, the full extent of it when he died for us. His love is most clearly, most richly, most compellingly displayed at the cross, when he deliberately and willingly gave himself up to the most terrible torment, in order to spare us from having to suffer it. And that torment was no less than punishment that we deserved, and deserved because of the terrible way in which we'd treated him.
Do you see how that makes his love known in a way that nothing else can? John says that we wouldn't know what love is if we didn't have the cross – 1 John 3.16: 'this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us'. God's love can never be understood and appreciated in it's depth and strength and glory until we come to grips with Jesus death for us. And the more we examine the cross, the better we understand the nature of the exchange that took place there, the better we understand God's love.
And so it is with all of God's attributes, all of the characteristics that God reveals about himself come into sharpest focus at the cross – it's at the cross where love and mercy meet, where justice and patience and compassion and power and judgement and infinite wisdom and depths of glory and grace and all of God's goodness are revealed.
In the gospel God makes himself known to us.
But we haven't gone far enough. Not only does God need to introduce himself in the gospel, but God needs to make that message make sense to us by his Spirit.
Read with me from verse 14:
14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
We need God to open our eyes if we're going to see. We need God to unstop our ears if we're going to hear. We need God to enable us to understand if the gospel is ever going to make sense to us.
Is this because God is cruel and keeps people from finding out the truth? No, it's because we're sinful and we've turned away from the truth and our own sin keeps us from understanding it. In sin we exchange the truth for a lie. Having rejected the truth we're enslaved by the false reality we chose to believe. The truth no longer makes sense to us, even though it should be plain from reality all around us. We need God to clear away the lies or we can never see the truth.
It's a bit like night vision goggles… you know how they work – our eyes only see some of the full spectrum of light – there's spectrums that we can't see, including infra red light. So night vision goggles work by using lenses that detect infra red light and then showing it on a screen in our visible spectrum. Then they have an infra red lamp on the front. Put the goggles on and you can see the infra red.
This used to be military technology but now its common place - you can even buy baby monitors that have night vision so you can watch your baby sleeping.
Sin effectively makes us blind to the things of God, as if they're on a whole different spectrum that our eyes can't see. We need God in his mercy to give us his holy spirit 'night vision' or 'God vision' if you like.
So what does this mean for us?
Firstly, don't be intimidated by people who look down on your Christian beliefs. They're wearing the emperor's new clothes, they can think they're wise all they like, we know God, we know him – God. Don't let anyone else' opinion put you off!
Secondly if you think I'm talking nonsense, please stop for a minute to consider that you might be the one who's been brainwashed into believing something stupid. Take the time to listen to God, to get to know him, not as a philosophical puzzle, but take the time to get to know the man Jesus. Ask God to make himself known to you – and read the gospel, come to Christianity Explored, read the Case for Christ.
Thirdly if you're trying to share the news of Jesus with people don't give up if it doesn't seem to be working, and certainly don't change the message to make it more appealing. Pray and ask God to make himself known.
And finally don't come to the Bible, to judge it, but to listen to it, not to decide which bits are right and which wrong, but to allow it to judge you and show you where you're wrong.