Deliberately Flunking Our Ultimate Truth Exams

With a quick nod to my childhood hero Rod Serling, I’ll ask you to please bear with a brief Twilight Zone-like interlude. (For aesthetic purposes, try to limit your visual imagination to black-and-white, and if you can recall Serling’s clipped delivery style as you read, that would help, too.)

“Consider, if you will, a drab, cold classroom in which nearly every student labors furiously over what might otherwise appear to be a simple and straightforward exam. Row after row of wooden desks, neatly arranged, their occupants carefully alphabetized by last name. Particularly striking in this seemingly-ordinary classroom, however, is the vivid contrast between most of the students…and a select few. While several have begun absentmindedly pulling their hair or chewing on their pencils in frustration, there are those few students who, outwardly calm, have long since turned their papers upside-down on their desktops, waiting for the instructor to collect them whenever time runs out. The difference? The pupils in anguish are doing whatever they can to fail the quiz…and this in spite of the fact that the instructor has already given them the correct answers in advance.”

Trying to speak biblical Truth to unbelievers (or believers “acting like” unbelievers) can be a bit like entering a spiritual Twilight Zone; to maintain a position of unbelief, so many seemingly-obvious facts have to be ignored, so many lines of evidence not even given a hearing.

In the course of several recent conversations with believers and unbelievers, the overarching truth of Romans 1:18-25 has risen up in my soul time and again, both as something I quite readily see “out there,” hard at work in our American culture, and as something I reluctantly find still lurking within the shadowy places of my own heart. One of the more logically consistent of these conversations led to a statement that went something like, “You know, I really don’t want to be a Christian, because I know what that will eventually mean for the way I am living my life right now.” I’ll give that person points for honesty and admit that they aren’t alone in their logic; many others have said as much, me included.

In one of his sermons several weeks ago, Keith Simon mentioned a well-known quote from Aldous Huxley, the “Brave New World” novelist who famously said, “I want this world not to have meaning, because a meaningless world frees me to my own erotic and political pursuits.” While we can also admire Huxley for his astonishing level of honesty, we should also have pity and compassion for him and all those like him, as they deliberately set out to destroy the signposts of eternity that God has mercifully and graciously placed everywhere (Romans 1:19-20). Just like those imaginary Twilight Zone students, doggedly determined to fail their quiz, those who would deny the Lordship of Christ over all humanity and all of history have constrained themselves to always look downward at their own work, never once allowing their “spiritual eyes” to drift away from their presuppositions, or look up, where they would clearly see the exam answers posted plainly.

In many ways, I feel a real kinship with those who would choose to ignore the obvious and deny God’s existence. To acknowledge an all-powerful Creator God threatens our own autonomy. This is what Huxley was saying – a world without meaning gives us freedom to be our own gods, determining what is good and right in our own eyes.

On the other hand, to embrace the truth of the Bible is to willingly give up independence and ruling authority over everything in our lives. Christ wants my heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:29-31), my sexuality (1 Corinthians 6:18-20), my finances (Matthew 19:16-24), my waking thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5-6), my work life (James 4:13-15), my relationships, my children and my single-minded allegiance (Matthew 10:37-39).

Prior to my own conversion, I recognized that kneeling before Jesus and accepting Him as my Savior also meant that I had to accept Him as my Lord. However, it is a simple fact that I did not surrender all to Christ in that moment; instead, I foolishly chose to wrestle with Jesus over a few areas of my life which, as self-appointed ruling king, I wasn’t ready to give up. Let’s just say that His discipline of me was infinitely loving in both its swiftness and severity; He brought me quickly to a place where, while I was still holding on to things I did not want to give up, at least I was all done arguing with Him that “these things” somehow belonged to me. (After all, what part of the word “everything” was I confused about?)

I have recently run into several people who are, just like Huxley, very deliberately laboring to flunk their Ultimate Truth exams. Having been a Deliberate Truth Test Flunker (DTTF) myself, I can well understand the attitude of heart that basically says, “No, I do not want to accept Jesus; He would cost me too much right now…maybe later.”

Ironically, despite my common history and ability to sympathize, I still find myself being tempted to respond to this dizzying form of blindness and blatant intellectual dishonesty by writing that person off as “lost” and not worth any further effort. I have to remind myself of how many people have been patient with me, sowing seeds on a heart made out of concrete. It was the faithfulness of other believers demonstrating patience in my life, just as Jesus Himself demonstrated enormous patience amongst His inner circle of disciples, that slowly opened my eyes to the truth of God’s Word.

I want to be clear; we can be highly skilled at Christian apologetics and/or quote Bible verses to someone ensnared in their sin until the sun comes up, but our best efforts will not crack that heart open without the help of the Holy Spirit…and a lot of prayer. But given the mountains of mercy heaped upon me and the evidence in my own life of the way the Holy Spirit works through the love, patience and Truth spoken in the words of other believers, how can I not do the same for others when I encounter another soul blinded by sin? How can we not all carry compassion for those gripped in their own sin and straining with all their might to fail the Truth test?

God is so very gracious in that He gives us quiz after quiz as we make our way through life; a close friend here or there who shares the gospel…only to be rejected; the evidence of God’s goodness and care in all of the created order…only to be ignored; an internal longing for something bigger and better than we find anywhere in the world…only to be suppressed by the pursuit of riches or sexual exhilaration. All of these attempts at intervention – and more – are God’s loving way of giving us yet another sheet of paper and urging us to take the quiz again, in His unfathomable mercy not wanting anyone to fail “the final exam.”

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