What we know we don’t know…or do we?

Words that draw me closer to Jesus, and to His cross

After the LORD your God has driven them out for you, do not say to yourselves that he brought you in to possess this land because you deserved it. No, the LORD is going to drive these people out for you because they are wicked. It is not because you are good and do what is right that the LORD is letting you take their land. He will drive them out because they are wicked and because he intends to keep the promise that he made to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You can be sure that the LORD is not giving you this fertile land because you deserve it. No, you are a stubborn people. Deut, 9:4-6

The two most essential truths we need to know are the two things God said to St. Catherine in a mystical vision, the two things that summarize all of divine revelation: “I’m God, you’re not.” My favorite sermon, the shortest and the funniest. The joke’s on us. What’s so incredibly funny (and also incredibly tragic) about that short sermon is that we keep forgetting that second point.

I often wonder how so many people can live with a continuing hope that they will in some way be able to commune with God through their intellectual capacities. When will they realize that if they could possibly “discover” God they realize that with the intellect, they would be equal to God?

After a few years of this, I noticed how different my teaching was from that of early generations of pastors. My secularized schooling had shaped my educational outlook into something with hardly any recognizable continuities with most of the church’s history. I had come into the parish seeing its great potential as a learning center, a kind of mini-university in which I was the resident professor.
And then one day, in a kind of shock of recognition, I saw that it was in fact a worship center. I wasn’t prepared for this. Nearly all my preparation for being a pastor had taken place in a classroom, with chapels and sanctuaries ancillary to it. But these people I was now living with were coming, with centuries of validating precedence, not to get facts on the Philistines and Pharisees but to pray. They were hungering to grow in Christ, not bone up for an examination in dogmatics. I began to comprehend the obvious: that the central and shaping language of the church’s life has always been its prayer language

We hear it often, “we are saved by grace, through faith,”  Most of us have the concept memorized, especially among us Lutherans.

We know it is not by our own reason, our own strength, or anything that we do that God saves us. He justifies us, He sanctifies us, He empowers us to do His will.

Yet we still struggle with it. Peterson notes that in his “confession” –that he needed to learn to teach his people to pray. He wanted them to know everything, to establish his school of teaching. ( I would also maintain that a university’s mission is not just that of downloading data into its students – but to assist in shepherding them into their vocations in Christ) In this age, the church isn’t as focused on salvation by works, as salvation by knowledge. Teach theology, teach doctrine, teach exegetically, teach Socratically, didactically, without asking…are we teaching about Jesus… or are we helping people explore and experience their relationship with Jesus?

Kreeft’s insight gained from a four word sermon reinforces this – God is God, we are not, is just as important as the sermon. We keep forgetting that we aren’t God! That is why we pursue knowing about God, as if we can be equal with God. Experiencing Him is far different, it is humbling; it is awe-inspiring, it leaves us not knowing what to say.

We can’t know enough about Him, and that curiosity is good, unless it replaces our walking with Him. But  in that giving of knowledge has to be the experiential as it is formative.

This is just as amazing as it must have been for Israel. TO be in the presence of the Almighty, Omnscient God. And to remember – that its isn’t because we are perfect, or sinless, that we are simply loved.


Kreeft, Peter. Ha! (p. 26). St. Augustine’s Press. Kindle Edition.

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 96.


About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on February 4, 2023, in Devotions. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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