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Sermon 117: What Do You Know?
Author: Mark Spencer

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I overheard an argument, not long ago, between a “Christian” and an Agnostic. After listening for a while, I chimed in. The argument had quickly evolved into a battle of insults…with an occasional “You’re going to hell!” thrown in. I asked the combatants to share what they knew about their respective paradigms. The Agnostic seemed grateful for the reprieve.

She said: “All I know is what I can see, hear, touch, smell and taste.”

I asked if she had ever read Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave.

“In college.” She replied.

“Then you know that Plato likened the world to the interior of a cave.” I offered. “He also compared you and I to bound prisoners, staring at shadows.”

“I remember.” She said.

I asked her how, after reading that allegory, she could still believe her five senses. After all, the five senses only gather data; it’s the brain that processes the information. The Matrix movies were modern examples of Plato’s Cave. They illustrated how the brain can be fooled into believing just about anything. Neo was an average guy, doing average guy things, when all the while, his body was encased in a pod. His brain was jacked into a computer that painted his cave wall with beautiful illusions. And though the Matrix remains in the realm of science fiction, the technology is less than fifty years away. In one hundred years, people will be able to study everything in a virtual classroom. And if science succeeds in developing other technology, designed to record the memories stored in the human brain, we will be able to experience history as one of it participants. So I asked her again: “What do you know?”

“Well, if I can’t trust my senses, I don’t KNOW anything.” She responded.

Meanwhile, all this talk about science had painted a picture of me in the mind of our “Christian” friend. He leaned in on the two of us and said:

“When Jesus comes, and I’m in heaven, and you two are in hell, there’ll be plenty of time to discuss science.”

I was acquainted with the lad through my regular work…outside of church. He had no idea about my spiritual life, or my minister’s credentials. I put my hand on his shoulder and asked:

“What does the bible teach us about judgment?”

He quickly responded, quoting Matthew 7:1-2. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

“Haven’t you passed judgment on us?” I replied. “What do you know of the path that I walk? What do you know about my relationship with God? Have you put on my shoes? Have you looked through my eyes? What do you know about me, that gives you the right to judge my soul?”

His response was surprisingly humble. “You’re right, I don’t know you, or the road you walk. It’s just that, you were talking about science, and I thought you were both atheists.”

I quickly reminded him that Adolph Hitler was a Christian who could quote the bible cover to cover. I reminded him that Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee, and persecutor of the disciples of Christ; who, by the grace of God, was converted through miracles on the road to Damascus. When God restored his sight, through His servant Ananias, of Damascus, Saul of Tarsus was no more. On that day, Paul, the Apostle was born.

I told him: “God chooses whom He chooses, and rejects whom He rejects. To say unto your brother or sister ‘you are damned, and I am saved’ is a presumption that you know the will of God! Not even Jesus knows God’s complete plan!”

A puzzled look washed over the lad’s face, and I could tell he took offense at that last statement. “Jesus is God!” He argued.

I reached into my desk drawer and produced a bible. I opened it to Mark 13, verse 32. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

“Not even the Son knows when the final prophesy will be fulfilled.” I showed him the verse. “Only the Father knows. And if His own Son, whom John described as the Word made flesh, is in the dark about certain things, what can you possibly KNOW?”

He paused for a moment, searching for an answer. “I know what the bible tells me! I know that, if I believe in Christ I will be saved! And anybody who doesn’t believe will be cast out!”

“So then, how do you explain the conversion of Saul?” I asked. “Do you believe Adolph Hitler is enjoying the bliss of heaven? He believed in Christ. In fact, he probably dedicated more time to spiritual pursuits than you do! He actually believed he was an instrument of God! As a young man Hitler wanted to become a priest! Saul, on the other hand, rejected Jesus, and everything he stood for! He participated in Stephen’s death! He was so entrenched in his anti-Christian beliefs that it took extreme measures, on our Savior’s part, to turn Saul into Paul. Jesus took his sight, spoke to him from within the blinding light, and instructed him to find Ananias in Damascus, through whom, his sight would be restored! This is an example of the measures God will take to save even the worst non-believer. Meanwhile, Hitler is an example of how our interpretation of belief falls short of what scripture intended.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“What are the tenets of belief?” I replied. I could see that my question confused him. “Let me explain it this way: Let’s say that I’m a philosopher, and I BELIEVE in the philosophies of Plato. First I must accept that that these philosophies were, in fact, the works of an actual living person; that Plato did exist, and these were his teachings; not the works of anonymous philosophers attributed to some fictional figure. So I believe Plato was a real person, and these philosophies belonged to him. Is that enough? By acknowledging Plato’s existence, can I now be called a Platonic Philosopher? Of course not! Do I know his work? Have I applied his philosophies to my life, and let them shape my paradigm? To BE a Platonic Philosopher, I must learn to see the world the way Plato saw it. I must apply his principals to my life, and make them MY principals! These are the tenets of belief! To acknowledge, accept and apply!”

A serious look washed over his face as he asked: “Who’s Plato?”

“He’s just an example.” I responded. “The point is this: it is not enough to simply acknowledge the existence of Jesus. Hitler did that. As a Christian who aspired to become a priest, he even accepted Christ as his savior. He had the first two tenets covered. He acknowledged Christ’s existence, and accepted His sacrifice. However, there’s one more tenet. This is the tenet that is most often overlooked. Hitler did not apply the principals of Jesus to his own life, his own philosophy. Hitler did what HE wanted to do, judged whom HE thought was guilty! The bible doesn’t teach us how to fix others, it teaches us how to better ourselves. But when we THINK we’ve learned something, and start to look down on others as less spiritual, less righteous, we only prove to God that we haven’t learned a thing. How can God teach penitence to someone who aspires to be a teacher? Anyone who seeks to become a shepherd has missed the point. And they certainly have not applied the philosophies of Jesus to their own lives. Jesus came as a servant, he washed the feet of sinners! He spoke to each and every soul as a friend would speak…not a judge! He never pointed His finger in a condescending way, or made someone feel like a fool! If He spoke to an astrologer, He spoke in the astrologer’s language! If He spoke to an atheist, He spoke in the atheist’s language! He did this so the atheist and astrologer would not immediately take a defensive posture! To apply the ways of Jesus to one’s life, we must learn to see what Jesus saw. He could see inside the soul, feel the beating of each heart, and understand the mind of everyone He touched! And he told us that we would be able to do these things as well; even if our faith is as small as a mustard seed. But to see our brother, we must care about him, and empathize. We have to WANT to see inside our brother’s heart. We have to apply the third tenet of belief to our philosophy!”

By this time, I had his full attention. “How do I do that? Where do I start?”

I smiled back and said: “A good place to start would be to stop asking other people to guide you. These questions you have aren’t for me to answer. I’m not your shepherd. There is only one shepherd, and He’s the one who’ll guide you to your answers. I can share what He taught me…but you’re not me! I don’t see the world the way you do. No one does. We all have our own experiences, our own perspectives. What led me to the waters of life may drive you away. God knows you. He’s named every molecule that forms you. Only He knows the path to your enlightenment…and eventual salvation. He has given you everything you need to find your way. All you have to do is let Him have the wheel. Forget about being a soldier of God! Forget about becoming one of His shepherds! Let all of these proud aspirations go, and just be one of His lambs. Not one of His LAMBS, or even Lambs, just be one of His all lower case lambs. Because only a lower case lamb can be led. A lamb with even one upper case letter aspires to be more than what God intended him to be. We fell from grace because we doubted God’s word, because the fruit of knowledge of good and evil puffed us up. It made us THINK we know something. But what do we really know? What part of our flawed mortality can we trust with our eternal destiny? STOP TRYING TO STEER THE SHIP!! If you can’t see EVERYTHING, how can you possibly navigate the hazards?? As Jesus might say: ‘Let he who is perfect chart the course; let she who sees everything lead the way.’ And by Christ’s own admission in Mark 13, there is only ONE who sees EVERYTHING. That is God, the Father! Only He knows who is and isn’t saved…what the value of every human heart is…where the river will take us…and when the measure of our deeds will be called to account. Human knowledge is an illusion, fortified by vanity and pride. We…know…NOTHING.”

I left both the Christian, and the agnostic with a great deal to ponder. Where they go, and what they do is up to them. God has already planted the seeds. Only He knows their ultimate fate. My ministry isn’t about leading anybody anywhere. It’s about sharing what God shares with me, and letting that be enough. God sees it all. Nothing escapes Him. He knew every one us, before Creation’s first pillar was set in place. If the lessons He shares help me to grow, I will share what I learned with you. What you do with it is not my concern. Only pride needs to see the fruits of its labor. This latest period in my spiritual journey has been about submission. God is teaching me to accept my limitations, and to overcome my pride. I’m just a lower case lamb, like everyone else. I can’t save anyone, not even myself. I need Jesus to wash me clean. And we all need that. We all need a good cleaning, because this world, and its petty desires, has made us filthy.

Isaiah 64:6
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

We are ALL unclean. ALL of our righteous acts are like filthy rags. And when you put it into its proper perspective, you realize that we are all the same. Filthy is filthy. Can one filthy rag say to another filthy rag “go away! You’re too dirty for me!”? We’re ALL too filthy to enter into the kingdom of heaven, on the merit of our works alone! We all need redemption! And most of all, we ALL need to let go of our delusions of knowledge! To KNOW something is to have a total understanding of EVERY ASPECT of that something, down to the last molecule. Knowledge is complete. The best WE can do is theorize and assume. And these assumptions are the building blocks for our illusions. You’re all trapped behind one pair of eyes, unable to touch the soul of anyone else. You’re alone, disconnected from everything but your five senses! And you can’t even be sure, as Plato illustrated, that they are showing you anything even remotely resembling the truth. So if certain things are beyond even Christ’s power to see; If God the Father is the ONLY one who sees the whole truth, what do you know?

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