For God there is no limit in his ability to conceive, not only of possibilities, but what his own hand is capable of (which is beyond the realm of natural physical possibilities). On the other hand, we cannot conceive even what will happen hour to hour.
God not only knows possibilities but what will and will not, he both decrees, causes, allows, and judges, and all while allowing responsibility amidst those involved — rightfully he does it. This is exactly what his righteousness implies, he is faithful to rightness, and beyond this he defines what is rightful. He handles all sin, entirely. In the end, all sin is punished either in hell or on Jesus’ own personal brow.
His conceptions move beyond mere awareness, but also in wisdom and in understanding. He knows how he does it, why he does, for what end and what cause. Nothing is random.
By contrast, humans cannot conceive beyond patterns and from those drawing conclusions. We utilize our emotions, our experiences, and what is seen around us to analyze what is conceived to be known or unknown.
Knowledge is based on conclusions from patterns. This is in part why in Proverbs 3 we see God challenge the listener to not rely on their own understanding – as God is capable of breaking the pattern, and if we trust his character, then we know He is sufficient for making our paths straights.
Our ability to conceive of, project a scenario in our mind and consider it, or in other words, to consider a possibility is often limited by both our trust and comparisons. God tells us rather to think on heavenly things, and to reshape our comparisons, to shift our sense of normal, and to gaze upon God and His character and heart.
In Corinthians, Paul talks about how our wisdom in comparison with God’s is absolutely wanting, and our reasonings are backward and upside down due to the warping of sin and Satan’s wiles. He laments that we are ‘merely human’ in our thinking, and rather should think with the ‘mind of Christ,’ and through the power of God’s spirit.
Three implications in utilizing God’s metrics and not our own:
1. Earthly thinking and comparisons rob our joy/contentedness
In the story of the “The Handsomest Drowned Man in The World” (a magical realism short story written by the Columbian writer Gabriel García Márquez) an island village is forever changed by a dead body that is found beached. They begin studying why or how he had been so handsome, and because he became the talk of the town, the village began changing their clothing to be like his.
The village had never seen someone so tall, so they began to build their homes taller and wider. The women were no longer satisfied with the same type of men, and the men were no longer satisfied with being as they were.
The story appears to be a play on the impacts of colonialism, but yet, beyond this, the story is a tale about the nature of how we take in information as humans. As created beings we tend to compare with one another, and perhaps it is our desire to belong and be appreciated or noticed that begins to control our ability to enjoy what is given us. God on the other hand, is the highest comparison possible.
In Ecclesiastes, the wizened preacher teaches us how these human comparisons alongside human desires turn into a perpetual cycle of envy based on others. The preacher explains in verse 4:4,
“Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.”
How often do we hear of stories of shock when someone from the United States goes and visits a place like Haiti. People are often shocked most by the ability of people to be grateful amidst such vile circumstances and lacking in so many common luxuries. The verse in Ecclesiastes 4 shows us how we will often judge our careers, our accomplishments, our goals and desires, and just about all of our ways by our neighbors and a desire to belong amidst them.
I am not insinuating that we should not work hard or enjoy accomplishments, as Ecclesiastes goes on to talk about enjoying one’s work. Rather, the idea is that our contentment should be in what God has given us and in the love of our most holy God.
Think of a lover who cannot accept a compliment about her looks because she feels that others find her to be not sufficient in her appearance. How does he feel? She, in the end, accepts that their opinions matter more than his own. So we also ought to accept the compliments and love of our God who loves us and dies for our sins, in spite of us, and says,
“you are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Songs 4:7, NIV).
2. Earthly thinking and comparisons stunt or outrightly kill our growth
We, as christians, are told (in Colossians 3) to keep our minds on things above, and to strive after the things above. This is due to the deceitfulness of sin and the king of this world, Satan. Consider my meaning in this way, Satan, who is called ‘the great deceiver,’ make all things that are up seem down, and down seem up. He takes a concept like self-pity and makes it appear humble, he takes suicide and make its appear life-giving (when all it can do is destroy).
He takes the concept of obedience to God and turns it into a self-righteous project to make ourselves look better to others all whilst attempting to warp its purpose. He takes love and redefines it to whatever suits the beholder’s desires. Ultimately, absurdity and madness swallow up reason, because the wiles of the cravings of our spirits takes rule and is given fodder.
Growth or sanctification is instead described by John the Baptist, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, the apostle John, and James as quite a different way of orienting our minds.
John the Baptist says we grow by letting go of ourselves, and having more of Him.
The writer of Hebrews says we endure the race and our faith is perfected by the author of that faith, Jesus, fixing our eyes on Him and setting our hearts on the joy set before us (meaning intimate union with Him).
Paul states that we grow as the eyes of our heart “behold” the glory of God (faith in His character and person) and gaze upon him, as we do, we are transformed. This beholding is described as like a mirror, reflecting like Moses’ face with light in the presence of the Lord.
John records Jesus stating that we are sanctified in the truth, and says His word is truth. Meaning, through truth (again, Jesus IS the truth), we are changed.
And, James states the same idea that we grow as like a mirror, looking upon and gazing upon the ‘perfect law of liberty,’ in other words, the character and person of Jesus who brings freedom.
Each example describes a person who mainly has a fixed gaze and looks outward, and not esoterically inward, for help, answers, and change. The individual grows as their mind and heart is renewed in God’s presence and his highest character as the standard of our comparisons. We begin thinking spiritually instead of earthly – with greater possibilities.
There’s something about this Jesus in which you cannot truly encounter him, life itself, without being changed in his presence.
3. Earthly thinking and comparisons block our ability to trust God’s graciousness
God’s ability to conceive and project his imagination and thinking (to which we, as created things, are a result of) also allows him to press something from his mind or pause something in his mind, or change something in his mind. He is the ultimate definer of all things.
If a cop says, ‘you are in the wrong,’ there is some power there. If his commanding officer says he’s wrong, there may be more power; and if a judge says they’re wrong, perhaps more! And if then a supreme court judge, or a president, or then a king, or emperor steps in – it is defined differently.
But if the one who makes stars with a mere pinky finger’s flick, then, looks at a tomato and says it’s an orange – then folks, I don’t care how we feel about it, it’s an orange now. Molecules and beach lines and orbits all obey his very law of nature that he commands; if he says: ‘water be wine,’ it is done and finished.
God, the ultimate definer of all things, also defines what is love and grace (as he IS it).
When King Jeroboam’s arm is shriveled by a prophet to whom he rebuked, God says he was able to restore the arm as it was, exactly as it was, before it had been shriveled. So it is with us. God takes us, at some level in this life, and fully in the next – and restores wholly. He is able to, to the very molecular structure, conceive of every tiniest detail of what you were and make you even more “yourself,” if you will.
God is able to conceive of realities far beyond ours. Trusting this idea helps us to embrace impossibile beyonds.
Sometimes, the idea that in heaven, God will be my proverbial “husband” gives me fear and makes me fear that in this life all is not only vain but that my relationships are as well. But instead of merely giving up on everything, I think back to a reality long ago, a memory I have from when I was a kid in my bedroom. My older brother saw me playing legos and stopped by and caught me venting about how terrible girls were at school outloud.
He said, “Casey, you know…. One day, you’re going to be crazy about girls!” I said, “no way! Girls are disgusting! I will never!” In my young heart, I was unable to conceive of a reality where girls were desirable and a blessing from the Lord above. Now that I’m older, I look back and can barely understand my childish mind at that time – how could someone not love how special or beautiful or sweet women can be?
This memory encourages me because it is like our current life before God. In His wisdom, he knows our desires and he knows how to give them and how to fulfill them to the uttermost.
He is building us a story in this life and more than that has prepared a perfect one in the next. Let us trust that his imaginative conceptions are enough for us, and compare with those possibilities rather than mere 2-dimensional earthly conceptions.