No longer captive

John A. Braun

Our human minds are wonderful and fascinating organs. Creative thought lives in even the most humble of humans. Great works of art, medical breakthroughs, and computer technologies cause us to marvel. They are not the products of common, ordinary humans. But I can marvel at the way my neighbor, after careful thought and planning, landscapes his yard or the way a family manages its finances to squeeze out enough for vacation or education.

As fascinating as it is, there is a ceiling to all human effort and creativity. We are captive to the here and now. Well, it might be better to say that we are captive to the horizontal. That doesn’t mean we can’t explore the heavens above and the universe that surrounds us. It only means that we are bound by what we see, know, and understand.

We can add to our knowledge as we explore, imagine, and experiment, and we can come to new understandings and thinking. But like those who explored centuries ago, we go off in a ship or vessel designed and made by a human mind. We still venture out into the unknown as horizontally limited humans. We want to poke holes in the ceiling to know God, heaven, and what is beyond human horizontal thinking, but we are limited by the way we think.

I know some will object to my suggestion that we are captives of our own human thoughts, and I can understand the objection. I’m not saying we cannot expand our horizons. We absolutely should explore, experiment, and imagine, but it will only be an expansion of our horizons, not a vertical breakthrough. By our own efforts, no matter how creative and interesting, we cannot know God, who exists beyond human horizons.

God himself must reveal what we cannot possibly know. And he’s given us a peek, even through our horizontal world. Paul says it this way, “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

Yet when we speculate about God, even as we see his majesty in the sunset, the oceans, or the mountains, we cannot conceive anything beyond what we have seen, heard, or observed. We are captives in the ship we sail—horizontally limited. We watch the sky but are unable to penetrate the heavens and know fully about the God who made us.

God’s wisdom concerning the horizontally limited is a mystery—but it’s not unknowable. Paul reminds us, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived—the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9,10).

While we cannot penetrate the ceiling from below, God himself has penetrated the ceiling from above by the revelation of Jesus Christ. God has sent his Spirit to bring us understanding beyond anything we will know on our own. Paul again reminds us the Spirit is from God, “so that we may understand what God has freely given us” (v. 12). How did God do that? We are not taught by human wisdom, “but in words taught by the Spirit” (v. 13). We understand God’s gifts of love, joy, peace, grace, forgiveness, and eternity only in Christ because God has opened our minds by his revelation—the Scriptures—to see and understand what human thinking can never imagine.

Let’s not forget to take his Word along with us on our journey. We are no longer vertically challenged.


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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 103, Number 11
Issue: November 2016

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