Why, What, or Who

In the third chapter of Exodus when Moses first encounters God we read –

“I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” Exodus 3:3-4

Moses wanted to discover the WHY behind the WHAT and encountered a WHO. He turned aside to learn the reason for the phenomena and met with a Person.

The Psalmist cries out “WHY?” and is directed to a WHO in Psalm 42:5. “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.”

Peace isn’t found in knowing the WHY of the WHAT, but in the WHO of the WHAT. When the Psalmist’s mind cries out, “WHY?”, he is met by Hope and Presence. For the philosophically minded, this is less than adequate because “reason is everything.” Yet in Christianity, those seeking reasons aren’t first given them. Rather, they are invited into a relationship. The one looking for answers is called to abide. The peace of God doesn’t come through understanding the WHY, but in knowing the WHO. You don’t have to understand the WHY of the WHAT in order to know the WHO. The WHO, the LORD, gives a peace beyond understanding. If there is a peace that is beyond understanding, that means that understanding can never attain it. Reason will never lay hold of it. Understanding is like a train. It can take you many places and you will see some wonderful things. But even as the train has to stop at the ocean’s edge, there is a point beyond which reason cannot take you. Faith is like the airplane that can take you well beyond and above the ocean’s edge. The WHAT and the WHY have limitations. The WHO is infinite. An ounce of WHO is worth more than a pound of WHY.

In Christianity, the truth isn’t a proposition or a statement. The truth is a Person. Truth isn’t a WHAT, it’s a WHO. Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life. Truth is a WHO. Truth is a Person, not a proposition. You can memorize the entire Bible and never know the WHO. Truth, life, and salvation are in the WHO and not in the WHAT and WHY. The soul is satisfied by a WHO and not a WHAT or a WHY.

Jesus chose the Twelve Apostles. Their authority wasn’t in their ability to know the WHATS and the WHYS of life and religion. Their authority was in the WHO who chose them. I am not the pastor at Calvary Chapel Fremont because I know the most WHATS and WHYS of the Bible and life. I am the pastor because of WHO chose me to be the pastor. Therefore, I do not need to be insecure in the presence of someone who knows more WHATS and WHYS than I. My authority isn’t derived from my education or my knowledge, it comes from Christ, from a WHO and not a WHAT. I do not need to be insecure if someone can preach and teach better than I. My authority isn’t derived from ability, but from calling, from a WHO and not a WHAT. It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know. And WHO knows you.

This blog is not meant to communicate that once you know Jesus, you can put your brain in a baggie and go through life with a wise stupid grin on your face. Knowing the WHO does not eliminate the need to learn the WHATS and WHYS of life and Christianity. I love reading theology and philosophy and apologetics and Bible commentaries and history. I want to know as many WHATS and WHYS as I can. Yet the WHATS and WHYS can never substitute for knowing the WHO. My preaching and teaching is filled with WHATS and WHYS but they are all in service of the WHO. The WHATS and the WHYS are all meant to lead to the WHO.

Why does the Good Shepherd lead us into the Valley of the Shadow of death? What lesson does He want us to learn? That He is enough. We are so preoccupied with discovering the WHATS and WHYS of our suffering (that never really satisfy the soul) we miss WHO is offering Himself to us. We Evangelicals are good at studying and thinking and reasoning, but not so good at communing and abiding. Someone has said that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail. If our dominant tool is thinking and studying and reasoning, then we will think that every problem will yield to reason. We are foolish to think that a problem that calls for a WHO can be resolved with a WHY or a WHAT. Reasoning runs out of track while faith soars.

For the philosopher who loves the world of the mind, reason is enough. For the materialist who loves the world of physical objects, happiness is enough. For the Christian who loves God, Christ is enough. The illogic of postmodernism reigns in the West today precisely because reason is not enough. Happiness is never enough because you can’t get enough of that which is perishing. Yet in Christ, the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form. Christ is eternal God. He is not going anywhere. Christ is enough. The philosopher is on an eternal quest to know the WHY. The materialist is breathlessly pursuing the WHAT. The Christian is known by the WHO and knows the WHO.

4 thoughts on “Why, What, or Who”

  1. Judy Campbell

    At present, I feel like I am going through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Everything seems impossible and I am all alone in this walk. My family are not believers in Christ and I so grieve for them. I recently had major back surgery and can do very little: anything that involves bending, lifting, or twisting. Other than cooking and doing dishes, those are my limitations.
    My greatest concern is for my family. My older daughter said she would never become a Christian because so many are hateful. I think in part her aversion to becoming a Christian is that she stands for abortion, homosexuality life style, etc. She sees Christians who believe these are against God’s laws are hateful, although some do take it way to far.
    My husband believes strongly in evolution, my brother-in-law is strong humanist and his wife believes in Buddhism. Any mention of Christianity gets them all in extreme anger mode.
    I know that the Lord can work in their lives whether I am living or gone home to heaven. Please know that, although depressed, I am not suicidal.
    I apologize for just going on and on. This is a way I can vent. I have no one else I can vent to.

    1. Judy,

      I am sorry that you are going through the physical difficulties you describe, and the relational challenges that you face. A couple of things come to mind as a word of encouragement.

      First, as Paul encouraged the Colossians, “set your mind on things above, not on the things of the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1-3). Paul writes (also) in Philippians 4 that such an outlook (setting your mind upon, or thinking/meditating upon such things) brings a peace that surpasses understanding. I have little doubt that Paul had in mind Isaiah’s words, “You will keep in perfect peace, the one whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts You” (Isaiah 26:3).

      Second, find and stay in fellowship with other believers and faithful followers of the Lord. It can be discouraging to be bombarded by the anti-faith sentiments of others (as you describe from your daughter and husband). There is great encouragement and strength in the fellowship of the saints. Additionally, it is an awesome thing to witness the power of communal prayer. Many times I have seen hard hearts softened by the consistent and faithful prayers of those gathered together in intercession.

      Praying with and for you.

  2. Judy, thank you for being so candid. And Miles, thank you for seeking to comfort and strengthen Judy.

    Judy, I get it – depressed, but not suicidal. When I read your post, I thought of Jospeh in the Bible who had a condo in The Valley of the Shadow of Death. Hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, wrongfully accused, left to rot in prison – exalted to the right hand of Pharaoh! Here’s what Psalm 105:18 says:

    They afflicted his feet with fetters,
    He himself was laid in irons;

    That last phrase could be translated literally, “the iron came into his soul.” Like you, Joseph felt the bite of his bondage and the sting of alienation from those around him. But God never forgot Joseph. And God will never forget you, Judy. As you faithfully endure, the character of Christ is formed in you and the light of Christ issues from you. May the love of Christ be more deeply formed within you. Love believes all things, hopes all things, bears all things, endures all things. I urge you to consider Miles’ encouragement to be part of a Christ-centered, Bible-believing church and surround yourself with brothers and sisters who can walk with you on this challenging journey.

  3. Tim,
    Another solid post from you. Your essays are insightful and compelling.
    Was I read them, I find you articulating things I’ve thought but lack the ability to give voice to. Thanks for helping clarify things the Spirit of God has been leading me to.
    You are blessed and anointed teacher of His Word and Ways.


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