Do you have questions? God has answers
I suppose we have all thought about what it will be like in heaven – to be in the presence of the Lord, to talk to him directly. I have often thought about all the questions that I will finally be able to ask. Yet, it hit me this week that some of my questions have already been asked and answered.
In the Old Testament, God talks to us mainly though the Prophets. In most of the New Testament, the Holy Spirit uses people like Paul, John, Peter, and others to teach us. Yet, in the Gospels Christ spends most of His time just answering questions. Sure, from time to time Christ stops and delivers a sermon but most of the time, He responds to questions: questions from the disciples, questions from people, and questions from the Pharisees. Even 2000 years later, the questions are fresh – they are the questions that we still ask of God. What will it be like in heaven? What will happen at the end times? What does it mean to suffer? How can we live in a world of sin?
If you have spent any time on the World Wide Web, you have probably come across what is called an FAQ site. Well, I think that the Gospels are the FAQ site of the Bible: the Frequently Asked Questions. Consider Christ’s encounter with the Pharisees found in Matthew 15. The questions asked of Christ in this passage are important and the answers are as surprising as they are powerful.
In this passage the Pharisees ask Christ why His disciples do not wash their hands when they eat bread. By tradition such a practice defiles them. Of course the Pharisees where not interested in an answer they only wanted to trap Christ. But the multitude and the disciples wanted an answer and Christ provided one. But it is not an answer to the silly question of the Pharisees rather Christ answers the broader question about remaining pure in a dirty sinful world. In response to Peters request to provide a detailed answer, Christ tells us in Matthew 15: 17-20: “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man”
In general, the answer here is - it is not what you take in from the world that defiles you, it is what you do that defiles you. All the evil around us can pass though us and be eliminated without having any affect on us. What really makes us impure is the evil in our heart. Now this answer may sound obvious. We may all say, Jesus You are right, I do not have to fear the evil around me, I only have to deal with the evil in my own heart. But, the reality is that we live in a world that rejects this idea outright. Think about it for a moment. How often is criminal behavior excused because of the circumstances of the criminal? How often do you hear excuses like: “…but he was abused as a child . . .” or “. . . her poverty drove her to do it . . .” Yet, it is not just the world that uses this excuse for sin, I’m afraid we all do. When was the last time you hurt someone and said “ . . . I’m sorry, I am just having a bad day. . .” or you explained away your behavior with the words: “. . . if that person just had not acted that way then none of this would have happened. . . “ or you told someone, “ . . . I’m just to tried or to sick to put up with this . . .” We live in a world in which no one wants to take responsibility for their actions. We are too quick to blame the external world for our sin. What Christ is telling Peter is that it is not what others do or don’t do that defile us, it is what we choose to do in response to the evil around us that defiles us.
To remain pure in an evil world, we must remain pure in our hearts. We must understand what God wants of us and we must act accordingly. That means, if you have questions do not let them go unanswered. If you have questions, remember that God has answers. And one of the best places to find them is in the FAQs segment of the Bible.
Imagine, if you well, that you are in heaven and of all things to be doing while in heaven, you are playing a game of Jeopardy. The categories are The Life of Christ, The Road to Salvation, Church Leaders, Difficult Tasks, and Cartoons of the 90s. You are chosen to start the game. After looking over the categories, you make your selection. “I’ll take Difficult Tasks for 500 please”. The host, reads the answer – Take responsibility for your own behavior. Your mind races though a list of possible answers, time seems to be frozen, out of the corner of your eye you see that one of your competitors is about to hit their buzzer. Then it comes to you and you slam your hand down on your button. Your buzzer rings first. All eyes are on you as you respond with the question, and remember it must always be in the form of a question – “How do you remain pure while you live in an evil world?”