Monday, June 29, 2009

Give Us a Sign.

A man I met at work recently read Stark Raving Obedience. After a few minutes of conversation, he made it known that he believed in God and worked as a missionary. A week later, he handed me a slip of paper. “These are some questions I have about your faith,” he said. Since my shift had not yet ended, I told him that I would read his questions later and write my answers. I planned on writing him a note, but after I read these questions, I decided to write a post.

The note reads, “If God really speaks to you, some questions.

1. My middle name.
2. My father’s middle name.
3. My grandfather’s names (father’s father and mother’s father)
4. Grammatical use of “dad and I” & “dad and me”
5. Where did you get a story of a woman standing on her head?”

When this man told me he wanted to ask questions about my faith, these were not the questions I expected. However, this is not the first time someone has asked me to prove that I hear God speak.

I want to make it clear that hearing God’s voice leads to a closer relationship with Him. The purpose of this dialogue is to develop intimacy and ultimately for God to glorify Himself. When God tells me to pray for a complete stranger’s healing, it can seem strange at first. But when it so happens the stranger has an ailment or injury, I’m excited by the confirmation. Then, if we see healing occur at that moment (which has happened on a few occasions), God gets the praise and I learn to trust His voice even more.

On the other hand, for the man who wants me to recite his genealogy, what does he hope for? If I give him incorrect answers, does that supposedly prove God’s silence and my delusion? If I answer correctly, what would that accomplish? Would it bring him closer to God? To be honest, I don’t want to treat my conversations with God like a game of Mind Reader.

Some Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign in Matthew 12:38-40. “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’” A chapter earlier, they questioned His divinity and now ask for a sign as proof. Jesus refuses to perform tricks and says, in essence, that His death and resurrection will have to do. As if that weren’t enough, right?

Four chapters later in Matthew 16, the text tells us that the Pharisees approached Jesus with some Sadducees and again asked for a sign as a test. In fact, the text in Stern’s translation from the Hebrew says they did this in order to trap Him. Again, Jesus rebuffs them and repeats himself in verse 4. “‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.’ And He left them and went away.”

The Lord brought two things to mind as I thought of these passages in Matthew. First, Pharisees and Sadducees were theologically opposed to each other much in the same way that we see opposition between Armenians and Calvinists today. I had to laugh. Isn’t it funny how Jesus can bring people together? Even if it’s to oppose Him? Just a thought.

Second, I wondered how they intended to trap Him with their request. Jesus, as God, had the power to show them His divinity. Hadn’t He performed signs and wonders throughout His ministry? Then I remembered some passages in John. First, in John 6, Jesus miraculously fed five thousand people then told them to seek Him and not the sign. Most of the people didn’t like this rebuke. In fact, even the disciples found it hard to swallow at first. Then in John 7, the Jews question Jesus’s education as He teaches in the temple. He responds in verses 16-18, “So Jesus answered them and said, ‘My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.’” Now in John 8:12-13, “Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.’ So the Pharisees said to Him, ‘You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true.’” In the following verses, Jesus explains how His relationship with the triune God allows the three parts to testify and glorify each other. They missed the point about His relationship with the Father, how He only said what the Father told Him to say, how He sought to bring glory to God.

I’m not Jesus. I don’t deserve the honor and glory and I shouldn’t do anything to seek praise due to Him. I want to point people to Jesus. I don’t want to waste time defending myself. When I read this man’s list of questions, I felt so much disappointment. Were these questions about my faith, I would have gladly answered them. But they seemed like a test of my truthfulness, sanity, and grammar. So, I respectfully decline to answer all but one of His questions. He asked where I got a story about a woman standing on her head. Fifteen years ago, a woman in a mid-Michigan church heard God and obeyed. My father came in contact with her through a friend of his, her pastor at the time. Since then, the story has grown legs and unfortunately suffered from a game of telephone. We are certain of the story’s accuracy as we tell it. If that isn’t convincing enough, we have fifteen more years of stories like hers.

I tell these stories in hopes that they will build people’s faith and come to understand more of the one true God who is both infinite and personal. Jesus forgive me for any other motive.

3 comments:

Ted said...

Exactly

Jamal said...

This is beautiful! You should give this guy the post that you wrote. Seriously, I think it would be good for him to read in writing the totality of what you said in this post!

Isaiah Kallman said...

Jamal,
I gave it to him the next day. He hasn't said anything about it.