~ Agathos Church is a non-denominational Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio. This blog post is an adapted excerpt from a sermon by Peter DeWitt. You can hear the whole sermon, Discipleship (part 8), by clicking here.
Our relationship with God is a two-way street, but you do not want to be the foundation of your walk with God. He’s the Rock, not us! BE CAREFUL that you do not become the focus or the epicenter of your relationship with God. We want to be God-referenced people, God-referenced thinkers, not man-centered thinkers. Proverbs 2:9 (ESV) says “Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path;” Notice the order of those three “good paths.” The way of God is to lead with righteousness and end with true equity. The way of man is to lead with equity and to end with unrighteousness. You can’t have a just judge who is unrighteous. Righteousness allows for justice and justice allows for true equity. It’s righteousness first! The world tries to lead with equity, but if you start with equity you lead to unrighteousness.
Being known by God is wonderful, but it is not a relational auto-pilot experience. As it relates to our personal relationship with Him, God, Our Father, as omniscient as He is, generally chooses to make Himself dependent upon our invitation to be known by Him. We have to invite Him in! It used to be one day out of year for one man out of one nation, for one nation out of the whole earth that someone could come into the presence of God. In the New Covenant, every believer has access to the Holy of Holies any day of the year, any time, any place in the whole world. The opportunity to step into His presence is completely available to us at all times, but it is a pro-active process. We bear responsibility for our intimacy with God. Moses went on dates with God. Special time, special place, no interruptions. Moses would talk with God face-to-face as a man talks with a friend! Moses saw God in the old covenant! How could that possibly be unavailable for us in the new covenant?!? That sort of intimacy with God is totally available to us! We have to be careful that we do not get lulled into a complacency – riding on the coattails of someone else’s intimacy with the Lord. He wants you to have a special thing with Him – to make your own history with Him!
If you were single and on a blind date, what would you do to get to know the person as you had dinner together? You would ASK QUESTIONS of course! Allowing God to ask us questions is a great way for Him to get to know us. Let’s look at what sort of questions God asks. A great place to see that is by looking at the questions Jesus asked people because Jesus said “if you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” Now, some teaching from scripture sets boundaries or delineates certain topics in the Word, another type of teaching more so is about inviting people into new territory. Both are good, but let’s not consider this list of 4 effects of God’s questions to be exhaustive (or in other words a “delineation teaching”) but instead see them as an “invitation teaching.” OK? Here we go!
One of the effects of our Lord’s questions in our life is that they cause us to reflect or self-assess. Here’s an example: “Why did you doubt?” That sort of a question causes us to reflect or self-assess. When we are learning something new, we need new teaching to fix the issues we are encountering in the new experience or territory. And after we really grasp the teaching, we can started to just get reminders. Now, he didn’t need to give me a 5 minute teaching / demo, we just needed reminded. Eventually, at some point, we self correct and our teacher doesn’t have to say anything now. As a teacher, at that point, you realize “I don’t have to say to them anymore because they just beat me to it!” We have become self-governed in that area! And this is exactly what happens with the Lord. God asks us questions. He gets to know us through asking us questions. The questions have good effect in our life and one of those effects is His questions cause us to self-assess or reflect on our actions, our heart stance, our words, etc. and it can actually produce a dramatic change in us. If you have new territories in your life you are going to need new teaching from the Lord – and He will often start that process by asking you a question! We may think “if you are self-governing, then why do you need God?” For the next territory, Amen! We’re not supposed to be babes in Christ forever. Offense should be a teaching we get and implement pretty early in our walk with God! We should not perpetually struggle with offense! So long as God has to do all the thinking for you, you are not operating in the mind of Christ. When we really are able to self-govern about offense, not only can we move on to the next territory with God, but we can also help train and teach and equip others! God’s questions can cause us to self-assess to great effect.
Another function of God’s questions is that they will challenge us. For example “where is your faith?” That’s a challenge question. Or this one (Luke 6:46) “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” Those are the sort of questions that you really don’t want to answer right after someone asks them! “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” It’s not really meant to be a conversation! You quickly see yourself straddling the fence and realize that God Himself is telling you to get yourself onto one side of the fence or the other. Elijah told to the people of Israel a similar message on the mountain with the prophets of Baal (1 Ki 18:21) “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” Are you going to serve God or not? All in or all our. Not lukewarm. This is big boy talk. Big girl talk. That can be helpful! Sometimes we just need someone to draw the line, tell us to “kick it into gear” and pull us up by the bootstraps. Having a coach that pushes on you is a good thing! When God challenges us, it helps us recognize that there is an important choice ahead of us! You have to be decisive in life. We need to realize sometimes that we have a definitive decision in front of us and we need to chose! And that’s often what the Lord is getting at when He challenges us with “Where is your faith?” You can respond “I don’t have any today!” That’s fine. But make a decision. Are you going to have faith for this or not. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” Challenge!
The third thing God’s questions do is they test us! Jesus asked Philip“Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” These questions that test us or assess us help us see blind spots in our thinking. David invited God to test him. Jesus is testing Philip and Philip did not pass this test! Jesus knew what He was going to do and He wanted to see if Philip had faith. Philip failed this test for now. Sometimes we resist God’s questions because we don’t like the quality of the answers we have to give! Let God ask you questions even if you don’t have a good answer. Here’s why: God’s tests are always for your increase! God designs tests for you to have victory in them. If he asks you a question that tests you it is for you to get it right! BUT His tests will actually test us, so we actually have to increase in order to pass the test. God is not in the business of giving you test after test that you can get 100% on without needing to change or grow in some way. If you are scoring a 100% on each test, it is time for you to move on to the next class! The enemy, on the other hand, gives you temptations; he never gives you tests. Temptations are designed to cause you to stumble. The difference is clear. A test is good. A temptation is bad! God will test you! But it is to cause you to be built up – it’s to cause you to increase! We should not be afraid of tests. Every area of your life or my life where we have developed some capacity, that capacity has come through the gateway of challenge! Don’t run from the test; run to the teacher! His tests are for your promotion. Good teachers give you tests for your promotion. “No way!” you say “Tests are things that hold me back!” Wrong. The tests were what grew you!
The Holy Spirit is a wonderful Counselor! He asks questions – let Him ask you questions! Talk it out with Him! Let Him ask you questions! God’s questions can invite us to draw on Him in faith. Here’s an example: “do you want to be well?” Do you see what that question was for? Jesus was coming up to that person and saying “you have an opportunity right now. I can make you well. Do you want to be well?” It was a chance for them to say “I want to be well” and to express their faith in that moment so that grace could be released to them. That’s an invitation for faith. When the Lord asks you questions like this, He is trying to help you have a slight change in focus! Sometimes we are invited to faith in God but we fail to seize the opportunity because we only think in worldly terms (Jesus of Nazareth) not “I am!”
Great teachers ask transformative questions. God could give you all the answers, but so long as He’s the only one in your relationship that’s doing Godly thinking, you are not operating in the mind of Christ! God asks us questions because He wants to develop our ability to house that wisdom! When God asks you questions, it causes you to own the answer. Instead of just giving you the answer, His questions invite you to search out the answer with Him. God’s questions invite us to be a student. And then our questions invite Him to be a teacher. And that’s where we’ll pick this teaching up next time – about asking questions of God.