He Isn't Safe But He's Good

Text: Romans 11:33-36

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

Several years ago when studying the Athanasian Creed in a Bible Study, a lady shook her head in disgust and said,         

“This creed makes no sense! It sounds like a bunch of legalistic garbage.” 

In other words, after we had read the Athanasian Creed, she found herself bewildered and confused. And so, she lashed out. She attacked the creed to diminish it. But why?   

Dear friends, all of us have this desire to try and figure things out in life – to make sense of things in the world. It is how we are built as human beings. And so, when we can’t make sense of things, it can drive us to fear, or worse yet, it can make us feel small and powerless. 

And so, this lady’s reaction to the Athanasian Creed had more to do with the creed standing above her. Reading the creed made her feel small; she couldn’t make sense of it. And so, she lashed out against the creed. She rejected one of the pillar creeds of the Historic Orthodox Christian Church. 

Now, it might be easy to toss this lady under the bus; however, her struggle is found in all of us. Her struggle is our struggle. In other words, we humans have this tendency to want to fully know God’s mind, plans, and actions. But why is this so?  

From the very beginning, mankind has had this deep desire to penetrate God's mind, plans, and actions. Adam and Eve, for instance, wanted to be like God, so they ate the fruit of the tree. They invaded the realm of God to make sense of things on their own terms, which is why the rest of humanity has followed suit. But again, why do we do this? Why do we want to penetrate and invade God's mind, plans, and actions? 

Simply stated, we want to know God's mind, plans, and actions so that we can understand God and then put God to work for us. In other words, if we can understand God's mind, plans, and actions, we can write up a detailed flow chart to handle and manage God to our advantage. For example, if God does ABC, then we can know how to respond to get the best outcome for ourselves. Like a meteorologist, we want to be able to predict the plans and actions of God so that we can respond in ways to prop ourselves up. Like a stockbroker reading the stock market, we want to anticipate the signs of God to put God’s actions to work for us. Frankly stated, we want to make God small so that we can put God on a leash and tug Him around to do our bidding. If we can figure out God's mind, plans, and actions, we can box God up and then manipulate Him to our advantage. 

Dear friends, our reading from the Epistle of Romans tells us something otherwise. In the Epistle reading, the Apostle Paul tells you and me that God's extravagant generosity and wisdom are deep. That is to say, it is way over our heads. We will never figure it out. Paul then asks us the following questions: do we truly have access to the mind of God; are we smart enough to tell God what to do; have we done God such a huge favor that God actually owes us; are we so grand that God has to ask you and me for advice?   

The answer to these questions is very clear: No. We do not have access to the mind of God. We are not smart enough to tell God what to do. We have not done a huge favor for God, so that He owes us. We are not so important that God has to ask us for advice.   

Dear friends, please remember that we are the created, not the Creator. We are sheep, not the Shepherd. We are clay, not the Potter. We are servants, not the Master. And so, we are completely and totally incapable of tracking, comprehending, understanding, and directing God. All of our best efforts to penetrate God's will to exert our influence are futile at best.  

When thinking about all of this, I am often drawn to C.S. Lewis’ book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In Lewis’ fictitious world, there is a Lion named Asian that represents Christ. And so, in the story, there is a great little dialogue between Mr. Beaver and a character named Susan regarding Aslan the Lion:    

[Mr. Beaver said,] “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh," said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ... "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

Dear friends, beware of versions of Christianity that have claimed to tame the depth and riches of God’s knowledge and wisdom. Beware of religious teachers who assert that they have an inside corner on God’s mind, plans, and actions. Beware of those who have made God small – those who have put God on a leash. Beware of those who believe that they have the capability to barter and negotiate with God’s mercy. Beware of those who have made God into a domesticated cat rather than seeing Him as an unsafe but good Lion. 

So, if God cannot be bought, tamed, or domesticated, how shall we respond to such a God? The answer is quite simple – we give Him glory. Indeed, when we give God glory, we walk with reverence before the Lord our God. We close our mouths and listen to the Lord God. This is what our Small Catechism means when we are told that we should fear, love, and trust in God. We fear God because He is bigger and wiser than us. Yet, we love and trust Him because even though He is not tame, He is still good to you and me.  

There is another aspect to this as well. If the Lord is above us and we cannot invade His mind and if we do not have control over the Lord’s plan, and if we cannot negotiate with God, is there anything that we can know about God? Are we blind followers? Are we ignorant fools? Is there anything that we can know about God’s mind, plans, and actions? Yes, there is.  

Baptized Saints, we know the mind of God not by us climbing to the heights of His majesty. We know the plans of God not by infiltrating His holy will. We know His merciful actions not by our pious negotiations or holy manipulations. But instead, by His Son, God speaks to us directly. By His Son, Jesus Christ, the world was created. By His Son, Jesus Christ, we see the reflection of God’s glory.  By His Son, Jesus Christ, we see the exact imprint of God’s very being. And so, if you want to know the mind of God, listen to Christ. If you want to see the plans of God, look at Christ. If you want to receive the mercy of God, trust in Christ.  (See Hebrews 1:1-ff) 

Baptized Saints, you and I cannot dictate to God how He should dance for us, how He should act for us, or how He must treat us because we have no authority over our Creator. However, at the same time, the Lord God has made Himself known to you and me on His own terms through Christ's life, death, and resurrection. 

The Lord God – on His own terms – has chosen to reveal His will, deliver His mercy, and fulfill His plans through the Word put on Flesh, Jesus Christ.   

We often hear about discontent Christians who have been on a lifelong journey to discover the mind, plans, and actions of God. Perhaps they are always searching and never finding because they have failed to realize that they have everything inverted. In their chasing of God, they are actually running away from a God that stands right behind them. 

Listen up! You are not on the hunt for God; it is God who hunts you. He is like a stalking lion. He pursues you. He sniffs you out. He comes to you on His own terms to reach you and claim you as His own. He came to humanity long ago in that manger to bleed and die, and He comes to you right now in His Word and Sacraments to grant you unmerited mercy, wisdom, and assurance.   

And so, repent of trying to put God in your debt and instead receive God on His terms for you in Christ. Repent of your attempts to storm the castle of God’s wisdom and walk in holy worship as you receive the Wisdom of God in His Holy Word. Repent of trying to make God small and instead find contentment in holy reverence – standing under the plans of God and being recipients of unmerited grace and mercy in Christ.  

Baptized Saints, you have Christ, and Christ has you. And so, in Christ, you have the mind of God, the fulfilled plan of God, and the mercy of God. Rest in what has been given to you while giving glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forever.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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