My house in Montvale, NJ growing up was located at the bottom of two hills. The hill to the left turned into Maple Avenue, which lead to the very busy main street in Montvale called Grand Avenue. The hill to the right led to Prospect Avenue, which eventually connected with Grand Avenue as well. Now, I was allowed to ride my bike on Maple or Prospect and of course on the street in front of my house. But it was clear that I was not to ride my bike on Grand Avenue because it was too dangerous.
Well, one day, my friend David and I rode our bikes to the end of Maple and we wanted to get to Prospect to go to his house. We didn't want to have to ride our bikes all the way back down Maple and then all the way up Prospect to get there. If we just rode a little ways down Grand Avenue, it would connect with Prospect and that would sure save a lot of time.
So we disobeyed our parents and turned down Grand Avenue. After about a minute, I found it hard to stay in the narrow shoulder governed by the white line and my bike swerved a bit into traffic. The horn blast from the car behind me was so loud, I nearly fell of my bike. My heart jumped in my chest. I wasn't hit, but I still remember that moment to this day not knowing just how close that driver really came to hitting me.
It could've been the day that changed my life forever and my parents knew it. That's why I wasn't supposed go down Grand Avenue. But it was just this one time and it was quicker and I was going to be careful. At least, that's the logic I used to give me the permission I needed to disobey my parents, the authorities God had put in my life to protect me.
See, there is always this human tendency to want to go beyond a boundary. We think just because we can, we should as if we were not supposed to, well then it wouldn't be possible. Adam and Eve went beyond God's Word in the Garden when they ate of the fruit of the tree of which God commanded them not to eat. Those who built the tower of Babel wanted to exceed earthly bounds and ascend to the heavens, the priests at Dan and Beersheba built religious Temples when God had specified only one to stand in Jerusalem.
We think we know better than God, just like we think we know better than our parents at a younger age. But behind our logic, there is an arrogance to our thinking. Even when we are young, we think we know better than those in authority over us. We somehow believe they don't understand or that they're being too protective or that they just want to boss us around. So we ignore them and cross their boundaries believing that our way will be better.
In our reading today from 1st Corinthians, Paul talks to us about human limitation. I would point you to verse 9 of chapter 2. Here, Paul says, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him." What Paul is saying here is that there is much to God and His universe that we do not know or understand. Our wisdom is limited. We have not apprehended this wisdom by our senses. It is beyond us. In fact, the things of God of which Paul speaks even exceed our ability to imagine them.
That, however, doesn't keep us from trying. For the most part, we don't really believe there are things about the mind and will of God that we can't imagine. In fact, we do it all the time. When we witness certain events, we believe we can explain what God is doing or what God intended by those events. This is especially true when these events happen to us or to people we love. When you lose your job, someone will be there telling you what God intends by this. When you lose a family member, someone will be there with an explanation of what God is doing. When you suffer a disease or you go through a hardship, someone will be there to give you explanations of why God permitted this. But do any of us really know?
Most of the time, people are just trying to give one another comfort and we feel explanations do that. But then are explanations a substitute for faith? Wouldn't that be the unintended result?
Verse 11 says, "No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." When we look to explanations, we are making an attempt to discern the mind of God. In some ways, it is to say that we are not satisfied with what we know of Him. There must be more. And so, we try and connect the dots and discern God's reasons for life's events. But will our speculations be true? How would we know? Would we feel it in our hearts? Some people say so. Some people say that God is guiding us there and that the feeling you get is your proof. Maybe we're not really looking to be satisfied by explanations then. Maybe we just want to feel in our hearts that God is out for our best interest because what's happening in our lives makes it not seem that way.
If you think about it, our quest is really not one of information; it is one of certainty. We want to have feelings of certainty. In today's world, feelings equal certainty for many people. It's just human nature to trust yourself over some outside authority—regardless of your age or your experience in the matter. It may be that we've seen too many outside authorities let people down—the government, the school system, even the church. But as human beings, our record in knowing what's best for us isn't any better, is it?
But when it comes to God, certainty is definitely something God wants you to have. And the place where we go for certainty is not our hearts or minds, but it is God's Word. In verse 2, Paul says, "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." It's a very simple verse, but a very profound one. Jesus is God's revelation of Himself. Jesus was flesh; He was real; He was historical. He was an actual person who lived and was witnessed by others. Further still, He gave promises and words that were recorded. When I see these words and hear them, I see God. I see God as He wants me to see Him and I know God as He wants me to know Him. There is nothing speculative there. It is certainty.
Your comfort in times of trial does not come from creative explanations that attempt to discern the mind of God or from feelings that change one moment to the next; it comes from knowing what God has revealed to you – that He sent His Son for you to die for you and to give you the promise of everlasting life. This is God's act of love meant to bring you His self-revelation. Know nothing except that, Paul says. Know nothing except what God reveals to you.
It is certain because it comes from outside of you – from an authority who loves you and has your best interest at heart. Unlike the authorities in this world (including yourself), God is not subject to sin. He is not subject to bias or politics or financial gain or popularity. His words to you are not influenced by any of those things.
You are like a precious child to him; a child whom He wants to keep from places that are dangerous, a child whom He seeks to protect. After all, Love is not saying yes to all things, is it? Do you say yes to all of your children's requests? Sometimes, love means saying no. Sometimes, love means placing boundaries in your children's lives – and this is what God does, not to restrict, but to protect.
Because boundaries define what is certain. Outside the boundary is uncertainty and even danger. Outside the boundary, you are on your own and you might be hurt or misled there. But inside the boundary is God's revelation; it is the Word of God made special just for you. That word points you to Jesus and says know nothing else except for Him. He will save you; He will give you the forgiveness you need; He will make your life with Him certain. Explanations go outside the boundary into speculation and you have no certainty there. Feelings can be wrong. But at the cross, you stand in the place where death has already been and suffering has already come. It will not come back there again.
It is tempting to go beyond that, I know. Explanations entice; shortcuts make life easier; building towers to heaven seems more sure and erecting temples how and where we want them makes religion more relatable. But the God of heaven provides one place for you. That place is the cross of Christ. Sometimes, it is a difficult place to stand because most other people aren't standing there. Sometimes, it is a difficult place to stand because you feel like you would know an even better way.
This is where God is certain. This is where you receive what God gives and flourish from what He provides. If you know nothing except Christ and Him crucified, you have everything you need to live for eternity with the God of heaven and earth. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Chris Bramich