Repost from December 20, 2008.   And coming soon:  A guest post by Taylor Riden (from The Verity—that’s my son ya know),  and Painted Patio Furniture Linky Party on Monday June 22nd.   Get busy now!

Caiti (now 16) at age 4
I’ve been reading a lot about the topic Christless christianity and how our inborn sinful nature is always bent towards self. We are by nature self-centered, self-focused and our perspective is always self oriented and is always distorted. Man’s natural theology is, in Lutheran circles, called a theology of glory. The rich man and Lazarus would be a good example. The rich man seemingly had ‘it all’.   He wore the finest garments, drank the finest wine and ate gourmet food. Lazarus, in contrast, is a poor beggar who waits for the crumbs to fall from the rich man’s table. Based on just what you know on the surface, who is favored by God? We would often naturally conclude that the rich man must be favored by God.    And we would almost always, at least in our minds,  say  “Well, surely Lazarus has done something to deserve this”.

A theology of glory likes to ‘figure God out’ and likes to use logic to determine how things are between God and I.  Don’t we often think this about those who do not seem to have God’s favor in this life? “Well, God must be trying to teach them something.”   If we’re blessed and making moral improvement, we must be ‘right’ with God.  And if not,  the opposite must be true. But as you know, in death the rich man finds himself in hell and Lazarus is comforted in the bosom of Abraham.   So can I look at my circumstances in life and tell how it is between God and I? How does God show His favor to those He loves? And how can I know if I have His favor? God hides His glory behind the weakness of the cross. And he shows His favor to us through the death and resurrection of His own son for our redemption. And I know I have His favor because I receive the gifts He has given in faith and thanksgiving. I am favored by God because of Jesus. Thus, a theology of the cross……interprets everything in my life……the blessings, the suffering, every circumstance through the perfect suffering of Christ on my behalf.

God’s ways are hidden and paradoxical:

1. God hides His glory in the mundane elements of bread and wine. Jesus has withdrawn His visible presence from the earth. He is now the hidden God and we must depend on His word to know what He is about. So when God says “Take eat, this is my body”, He is hidden, in-with-and under the bread. We don’t ‘see’ Him there and it seems impossible to me that He is there. So I must trust His very own words and find comfort in His hidden presence in His Word and sacrements.

2. He hides His glory in the weakness of a baby. When He comes to earth, He does not come in glory but in the flesh. The very incarnation of Christ is so incredible to me. How can this be? It was scandalous then and seems scandalous now and so unlike how I would have chosen to reveal myself to the world. The smallness of God in a lowly manger on a lonely night greeted by mere animals and born of the travail and sweat of childbirth. This is God? Yes, this is the very essence of the truth of God. Humbled. Lowly. With His glory hidden. To bring to us our very salvation.

3. He hides Himself in our vocation. God achieves His means of serving and taking care of us through the hiddenness of others doing their vocation. So God hides himself in : a mother making dinner for her family; a father going to work everyday to provide; a doctor using his skills and knowledge to effect healing; a teacher teaching multiplication to her students; the garbage man collecting the trash. It all ‘looks’ and ‘seems’ so mundane…..but that is God at work in the world. Serving and taking care of His people.

So we must take heed to let the theologian of glory in all of us be crucified with Christ. We must accept God’s ways as mysterious and hidden; as not yet revealed. Whether our circumstances bring us joy or suffering, our posture to God should be one of repentance.   We must learn to view our lives through the lens of the cross.  For in him are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col. 2:3)    He will come in glory someday and we await that day with great anticipation. But until then, He has hidden Himself in things that might seem ordinary and even mysterious to us: words, water, bread and wine.

Luther said that Our Lord does not want to be found outside Christ….so he hides Himself in order to be found only in the grace and mercy of Christ. He seldom comes where we expect or look for Him: in victory and glory and glitz. He comes where we do not expect him: in suffering, in shame, in humility, as a baby, in His word, in the water of baptism, in the elements of the Lord’s Supper. God wants to be found in the words of the promise in Christ that give new life. If we find Him outside of Christ, we find Him in wrath.

The ‘hidden’ God is hidden in Christ….come to us in the flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior and who says “I am the way, the Truth and the life and no man comes to the Father except through Me.”

Much of what goes on in modern Christianity seems very Christ-less; alot about ‘me’ instead of Christ ‘for me’. We are favored by God because of Christ alone.

I credit the rare and sound doctrinal teaching of Issues, Etc, its’ host Todd Wilken and an article he wrote on this subject,  and their many scholarly guests.  I can’t seem to find the segment where these ideas were presented but I think the guest was Pastor Bill Cwirla.  I listened to this segment just this morning on Children and Worship and it was quite enlightening.  Bookmark their site and listen ‘on demand’ while you do your morning chores! I’ve been listening to this internet radio show for 3 years now and there is nothing else like it. They cover current issues in the news, current trends in christianity and sound Biblical doctrinal teaching.   Maybe you could listen while you paint your patio furniture!! Just a thought.

4 comments on “The Hidden God”

  1. Loved your post! So deep, true and good. I especially loved, "God hides His glory behind the weakness of the cross." Thanks for the post.

  2. You are so right on in Christ hiding himself in vocation. Every time I am wiping a poopy bottom or a dirt covered face, I am so humbled because I know it's because of the love from our Father that these tasks mean something.

  3. Love this post! Have you read "The Fire and the Staff" on Lutheran theology? It's a great book worth reading. V.

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