Many find the gospel to be somewhat mysterious and hard to understand. The reason, in part, can be attributed to the vast gulf that exists between us finite beings and God’s infinite character. Literally, his “…thoughts are not (our) thoughts, neither are (our) ways (His) ways,…” Is. 55:8 And then there are times when he appears to go out of his way to make things difficult – or does he? Scripture specifically depicting Jesus as speaking in parables, which occasionally simplified divine wisdom in down-to-earth terms. That mode of conveying his gospel fulfilling a prophecy from Psalm 78:2 that declared, “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” (As noted in Matthew 13:34) But they just as often seemed to cloud the message in secrecy.
Being simple creatures, we usually want things easily achieved and effortlessly understood; as did Jesus earliest disciples, who asked “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” To which he replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” Why? Doesn’t that contradict his assertion in John 3:16 that “whosoever will may come”? As is the case with much of scripture, we have to dig a little deeper, as he continues by saying, “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused, they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Matthew 13:10-15 It’s not that he hides himself from us, but he doesn’t make his discovery cavalierly easy either; which discourages some in their search.
Again – why? Why not make the knowledge of salvation as easy as possible? What practical purpose do “hard teachings” have in conveying the gospel? (See John 6:60) To start with, Jesus did indeed come, “…to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10 But we have to be willing to be found, to hear the message he has for us, to follow his instructions, to fulfill his expectations – to diligently seek him in return. The problem being that some don’t want to see or hear, they’ve already made up their minds about God and salvation; crafting their own version of who he is and what he expects according to their own preferences and comfort zones. (See John 8:42-47) Paul accurately describing the source of some of the difficulties in witnessing to unbelievers and furthering the enlightenment of believers alike. “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3,4
Beyond that, many often value things according to their cost, even philosophical and “spiritual” things. And while not wanting to take this idea too far – and yes I do know that salvation comes to us free of charge, so that no one can boast – I don’t believe it came about cheaply; for Christ or us. For if the gospel of Christ and the doctrines of faith were so easily grasped that it took no effort at all, many would more than likely view it as having little value as well. That’s why scripture repeatedly admonishes us to seek the Lord our God with all our hearts and souls; assuring us that he can be “found” when we do. God explicitly saying, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 (See also Deuteronomy 4:29 & 1 Chronicles 28:9) Jesus both warning and encouraging us to develop that relationship by saying, “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has (or thinks he does) will be taken from him.” Matthew 13:11,12 & Luke 8:18 Further instructing us to, “...seek first (God’s) kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things (or needs) will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
In the end, it comes down to faith, as”…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 Even when we’re not sure of everything, we must believe that we can learn and understand more as he reveals it to us. As with the father who was asked to believe the unbelievable about his son – exclaiming, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 At issue as well is an element of trust, scripture encouraging us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5 (See also John 14:1) Because, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12 Paul’s abbreviated formula for salvation in Romans 10:9,10 speaking to the issue of belief manifesting itself in a proclamation of faith as, “…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it’s with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (See also Romans 3:21,22)
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