Sermon Illustrations

“Comfortable Out-On-A-Limb!” Romans 11:33-36 Key verse(s) 11:“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

Get real! When as a youth I heard this phrase, it often gave me reason to pause. If someone was insisting that I was caught up in a fantasy and needed to bring my thinking back into the realm of the “real,” the “thud” as I came back down to earth was almost audible. If there is anything that will sober me up pretty quickly it is the rebuke of a peer when my thinking has become flawed and largely out-of-step with the rest of humanity. While I don’t mind being different even in the way I think, and in fact often enjoy the risk of pushing the envelope as far as it can go, being accused of unrealistic, even irrational thought, is the exception. This is not being different; this is contentious and disruptive. Disruptive thinking has no purpose or goal other than to cause friction and perhaps fuse an explosive argument.

There is an exception however. All reasonableness is out of the window when we are talking about the triune nature of our God. When we seek to understand how this can be, that three can be one and one can be three, there is no way that I know of to explain the unexplainable without being, well, far out-on-a-limb of thought where there is no reason or logical argument to support the concept. Indeed, the concept that we are able to worship a God that is triune ranks among the greatest of all illogical thought. That three can be one or one can be three is impossible to explain. This kind of thinking has been the cause for much division, even hatred and bloodshed on this earth. The early Christian church was divided several times on this issue. Certainly the concept separates us from all other religions on this earth. There is no religion that embraces a triune concept or anything like it. Christianity is alone in that thinking.

All other religions without exception are focused on what can be explained in earthly terms of thinking. In man’s search for faith, the fact that he is searching seals the matter. Searching the here and now with nothing but a simple mind and reason as tools can lead to only one conclusion: belief is a matter of understanding, not faith. The irony is that while mankind has been so busy searching for God, God has been searching for mankind. The former is futile and the latter is essential to faith. C. S. Lewis writes: “Looking for God––or heaven––by exploring space is like reading or seeing all of Shakespeare’s plays in the hope that you will find Shakespeare as one of the characters or Stratford as one of the places. Shakespeare is in one sense present at every moment in every play. But he is never present in the same way as Falstaff or Lady Macbeth . . . If God . . . exists, mere movement in space will never bring you any nearer to Him or any farther from Him than you are at this very moment . . . A fish is no more, and no less, in the sea after it has swum a thousand miles than it was when it set out.” (Christian Reflections, “The Seeing Eye” [1963], para. 10-11, 14-16, pp. 167-168)

Searching the entire universe, within the realm of reality, will never get you to a “real” understanding of who or what God is. Explaining the unexplainable is neither worthy of our thought as Christians nor conducive to a fruitful existence here on earth. The nature of God is beyond our reason and we should, therefore, not concern ourselves with His nature but rather with His Word. We will discover God only when the “reality” of this present life is exchanged for that which cannot be known now in the next. This is one instance when we must be comfortable to be out-on-a-limb.

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