2 Corinthians 4:8-10 “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.“
There is a ridge of moral bankruptcy that is fraught with peril on every side, one step off and the tumble toward the bottom seems to have no stopping point. The enemy wants nothing more than to corrupt the way of God’s people and obstruct the work of His hand. Before I go any further and portray a doom like scenario, I have to lay the foundation for what this ridge symbolizes; a balanced view of God and our responsibility toward Him. The way we view God, the manner in which we respond to God’s leading, and our practice in demonstrating His love and power is affected by the way we see God’s revelation to us. There are two forms of thinking I want to center on, apophatic and cataphatic theology. You may be thinking, what on earth is he talking about, but bear with me and see if it becomes more clear.
Apophatic theology is a form of theological thinking or religious practice that attempts to approach God by negation. It is this via negativa form of thinking that focuses on what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God.
Cataphatic theology approaches God by affirmations or positive statements concerning who God is or the quality of His nature. This via positiva form of thinking in the affirmative focuses on what we know of God and His goodness.
Meditation, fasting, simplicity, solitude, submission, and confession are focused disciplines that drive the follower of Christ toward practices of neglect and personal control. By stressing God’s absolute transcendence and unknowability the practitioner recognizes that God’s divine essence is beyond our ability to know or fully understand.
By recognizing our position before an unknowable God, we diminish ourselves in the hope that He will lift us up and reveal His glory. This practice is not unscriptural, you can find all forms of scriptural doctrine supporting this lifestyle.
Job 22:21 “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.”
Isaiah 58:5 “Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the LORD?”
Numbers 5:6-7 “Speak to the children of Israel: ‘When a man or woman commits any sin that men commit in unfaithfulness against the Lord, and that person is guilty, then he shall confess the sin which he has committed. He shall make restitution for his trespass in full, plus one-fifth of it, and give it to the one he has wronged.”
Balance is key when considering any position before God. Although there is a negative element in respect to our relationship with Him, hope is always presented to the one who recognizes their shame or simply low position before an exalted God.
Incarnational disciplines such as prayer, study, service, worship, guidance, and celebration are practiced in light of a cataphatic approach toward God.
1 John 4:7 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
1 Chronicles 16:23 “Sing to the LORD, all the earth; Proclaim good news of His salvation from day to day.”
Psalm 139:9-10 “If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.”
God is love, recognizing this positive affirmation of God’s nature is to see God in the light of His countenance. Knowing that He is worthy to be praised and His love is expressed day to day in our lives is a recognition of His goodness. To take a negative approach to God’s revelation would be to say, “God is not hateful”. How we see God should be reflected by how God has revealed Himself. God does reveal His goodness, His mercy, His favor, His blessing, and His love but if all we do is focus on one aspect of His nature, we miss the complete image He presents.
Does God reveal Himself in the positive and the negative?
Malachi 2:16 “For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with violence,” says the LORD of armies. “So be careful about your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”
Then just a few verses later a revelation of God’s grace to come….
Malachi 3:1 “Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the LORD of hosts.”
The law of the Lord is and was a practice in futility. Attempt to follow God’s law in the flesh and find out how difficult the practice entails. The law reveals sin, it shows us our depravity, it demonstrates our weakness, and establishes a standard that has proven impossible to follow for every man and woman on earth apart from One, who is Christ.
Grace abounds from from this One because He recognized our depravity and weakness then so took our place. This act of the Messiah wasn’t new to God, it has always been in His nature to reveal His standard of righteousness and then provide a way to abide in that righteousness. The reminder of judgement precedes the promise of hope.
Deuteronomy 11:13-17 “So if you carefully obey the commandments I am giving you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will provide rain for your land in season, the autumn and spring rains, that you may gather your grain, new wine, and oil. And I will provide grass in the fields for your livestock, and you will eat and be satisfied.
But be careful that you are not enticed to turn aside to worship and bow down to other gods, or the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you. He will shut the heavens so that there will be no rain, nor will the land yield its produce, and you will soon perish from the good land that the LORD is giving you.”
Maintaining a proper perspective is crucial in having a balanced understanding of our position. Elevating man is a predominant trend in human history and in large part, our error has risen from a false understanding of our relative position before a superior God who exceeds us on every level.
How we then relate to God can be in light of our perspective. Mankind is evil in nature, when we relate to God from a perspective centered on us it is centered on the via negativa. We bring nothing good to the table when it comes to bargaining for our souls, there is simply nothing we have to offer. Even our lives are not ours to give, we didn’t create them, we can’t sustain them apart from God’s creation, and we can’t determine our fate based off our actions.
When we relate our position before God in light of His countenance, the via positiva is in order.
- He is good
- He is light
- He is merciful
- He is love
- He is faithful
- He is gracious
- He is kind
I could go on all day long of the positive attributes of the Lord, praise God we will have all of eternity to relish in these truths. The Lord brings everything to the table of our surrender. He holds our lives in His hands. He created us and therefore controls our destiny. He won the victory over sin and death and holds life as a gift to all who submit to His authority.
Can we come to Him under His rules of engagement? Humility is the key, a contrite spirit is the heart and an acceptance of who God is will determine whether you are found acceptable in your day of reckoning.
For those who walk in His Spirit of power and love, regardless of the attacks of the enemy and the peril on every side, He remains faithful to the end.
The Lord will not forsake His anointed. That is worth celebrating.