Be Present: Know What You Don't Know

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Be Present: Know What You Don’t Know

Be Present: Know What You Don’t Know
The Gospel for today presents us with what I think is a lesson that is at times too subtle to be noticed.
Not so subtle that it isn’t one of the obvious intended takeaways, mind you, just one that we happen to look past sometimes - or rather, one we would rather not confront.
That said, it is easy to look past it, especially in our modern times. It is easy, I think, because we have become so conditioned toward self-satisfaction. Along with that, as a society, we have tended to rely on narcissism and self-aggrandizing as a cheap and frankly easy replacement for much-needed self-actualization.
[pic of SA]
Now I know, you all came here today hoping for some social sciences, right? But seriously, what is self-actualization?
Well, self-actualization is “the realization or fulfillment of one's talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.”
And what that means, essentially, is that we all have a need for growth and development throughout our lives. And self-actualization is the point when we have finally reached our full potential as an individual. Our Zenith, if you will.
That is what we drive towards as humans. And if we aren’t careful, we can try to shorten the trip, and by so doing, miss the mark entirely!
The climb towards this highest of human needs can lead us to try to fool, or convince ourselves that we are right about certain things - and for some people, that can be all things - just so that we will feel safe and secure within what we are doing. Even within those things that we believe to be true
And it is when the desire to actualize is greater than the understanding of our place in life - when we are looking way ahead or always looking back to check on others - even ourselves - when we do that and aren’t present right where we are, we can develop a sort of habitual daydream that prevents us from achieving self-actualization.
[pic of old trade worker]
Here is an easy way that I see this at work in the world.
It’s like those people who do something for so long that they know everything about it.
You just love talking with them. Whenever I get around Jeff, or Dennis, or the countless others I am blessed to be around, I always want to know something more about what they do. And it is just amazing what they can tell you! But the best thing about them - the thing that has taught me the most about how I look at what I know the most about - is one simple but unbelievably important idea:
They know what they don’t know
Don’t hear me wrong, they know essentially everything about their crafts! But if you speak with them, you will almost hear a willingness to say “I don’t know.”
Bigger than that, you hear a willingness to try things a new way. To accept where they are and use what they know to get them to where they need to be!
They don’t get stuck in place, or hang on principles! They are wholly present within themselves and their situation. And because of that, they offer this world wisdom and bring solutions where none might otherwise be present.
And for us today, that is the focus of this text. To do our jobs as Christians, we must know what we don’t know, we must lay down this desire to be thought well of, or to be held up as faithful or even right! We must stop looking behind and far ahead and just be present with God.
Pic of John baptizing
But when we think of John, surely he was present! After all, the story even guides us towards that very truth when we read in a close fashion. Here in the third chapter of Matthew, just before our text for today, we see another parallel, just as we have the past two weeks, of the Hebrew story. John is out in the wilderness - out where Moses and the chosen people wandered - John is out there and people are willingly leaving their reality to go “wander” with him and be reborn!
It is a striking parallel to draw. One that leads us to believe that John, this man who has sacrificed a “normal” life and now lives off of locusts and honey, who is admonishing even the rulers of all the Jewish people; this man must have it all together!
And don’t hear this wrong, he was every bit a prophet - and more - as Jesus reminds us. There is no greater person to have been born, Jesus says, but even the least in heaven is greater than he.
But in this moment of our text, John displays the tendencies that we all have from time to time. A\You see, at this moment, he forgets who he is talking to. He forgets that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know!
God made flesh comes to him to be baptized, and what does John do?
Matthew 3:14 ESV
John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Essentially, he tells him no.
Don’t miss the message here. John is being a bit self-deprecating and deferring to Christ’s lordship as well. But there is a passive questioning going on here as well. A sort of double-checking that God knows what He is doing. And that, church, is us! We doubt, we question, we ask God why. We even see what God wants, understand what His word says, but still will do what we want in our faith and in our lives! I mean, after all, we know what we need right? Some would even say that we are just claiming our blessing!
Sure that homeless person might need a meal, but so do I! Not to mention, I am saving up for my vacation this year! God might want me to slow down and take time to work on me, but I would rather stay busy! After all, I am doing work for God. So it must be the right thing to do! And sure, those people over there at that church seem nice, but they don’t believe as I believe, they don’t act like I act, so surely they aren’t Christian at all!
Always looking away, at the horizon. Always looking into other situations or trying to justify our wants, and never just staying in the moment. Being present with God, and listening to what He needs.
Opportunities are presented to us every day to be present with God. Not to look too far ahead or behind, just to be right where He is and to understand what He wants us to do, and we miss it because we - like John - think we know better than Him.
And in those moments, we don’t know what we don’t know.
[pic of peter blanket]
[talk through it]
Peter, like John and us, sees what God wants him to do and tells God nope. Not eating it. Sure you just told me to eat it, but this other time you said don’t, so I’m not.
By the way, don’t confuse God’s changing what you can experience for Him changing His mind. Nothing has changed. But for a time some things are good for us to think, or do, or experience. So God encourages us to go them. Eventually, though, He might call us to go another direction. Just like children growing up, when we can handle it, maybe He will bring us back.
Everything has a season, but it isn’t for us to decide what those are or when they happen.
Of course, Peter realizes that, and so - eventually - He listens. But what is important for us in that text is that when Peter was faithful - or better put when Peter valued God more than he valued himself - God was then able to convince him of a greater truth. One that is built on that idea of being present, and knowing what he doesn’t know! Because of that, Peter becomes convinced that Christ came for the Gentiles just as He had for the Jews!
In short - because Peter was present with God, God’s righteousness was revealed to him and to the world!
Matthew 3:15 ESV
But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
That is the trick, it turns out. We all have opportunities every day to do what we think is best or to do what God wants us to do. And when we can tap into God by just being present in that moment alone, we can better see what we need to do!
And for Peter and John, that meant that they had to humble themselves enough to admit that perhaps God knew more than them! And lest we laugh at them too much, know that they are us!
Every time we make those comments about other people, every time we think our way is best, every time we fail to see God working around us because we are too busy doing our own thing or trying to be noticed, every time we do that - and more - we forget that we don’t even know what we don’t know. And by doing that, we tell God no!
But church, it is so much easier to tell God yes!
After all, just like John He usually isn’t asking something of us that we aren’t capable of! And like Peter, He usually isn’t asking us something that wouldn’t actually be beneficial to us! All He really ever asks of us is for us to be present in Him! To be faithful enough to consider what He needs of us to be more important than what we want for us!
Every moment in which we find ourselves. Every good or bad situation. They all will ask us to be distracted. To look ahead for better times, or look behind for better times. But Christ asks John, and us, to be present so that His will and His righteousness can be brought into the world!
[without you]
After all, without you, someone won’t see Christ. Without you being present with Christ, and in turn with them, the world might not understand and experience the peace and Spirit of our God! Without you slowing down, and just staying present where God has you at that moment - taking it for what it is and not looking ahead or behind - God’s righteousness, God’s plan, God’s desire for our situations, it all lies waiting; waiting for you.
And the good news, church, is that all He wants is for us to slow down and be present. Be present in prayer. In your moments. In yourself. Never looking too far ahead, too deep, or too long. Just let every be as it is, and allow God the room He needs to do it all His way.
That is true worship, church. Going to Christ not with a list of petitions, or with our idea of what is right, but with a heart and mind fulling present with - abiding with Him.
Just be present church, and Christ will be present in you.
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