Looking in All the Wrong Places

If you have ever lost something, then you know how frustrating it is to try to find something when you have no idea where to look.  Knowing where to look for something is of vital importance to success. In spiritual matters knowing where to look is even more important. Satan knows the value of misdirection as a tool to lead people astray. His misdirection is furthered by our own spiritual blindness apart from God. 

Our blindness and tendency to look in the wrong places works itself out in two ways today—looking for God and looking for who to blame in the wrong places. How you answer these questions reveals a lot of what you believe about God, yourself, the world, and salvation. It should come as no surprise that the popular answers in our age stand in stark contrast to Christian belief. 

Looking For God Within

In his book, Above All Earthly Pow’rs, David Wells tells of the rise in popularity of spirituality in our relativistic world. While this may sound like good news for Christians, this new thirst for spirituality is decidedly anti-Christian. Wells demonstrates that most people in the west believe spirituality and connection with God comes from within, not from external revelation like Scripture. In other words, if you want to have a relationship with God, if you want to know him, all you have to do in turn inward and get to know yourself better. Salvation comes by looking within and becoming more self-actualized. The spiritual search begins and ends with the self. 

According to this spiritual search we find God in ourselves. By turning inward we search for an experience of a spiritual nature, whatever that means, which confirms that we are connected to God naturally. Basically we are one with God.  Each of us can have our own subjective experiences with “God” within ourselves which no one is allowed to judge.  Of course, when we turn within to find God we are in fact making ourselves into gods. It is our intuitions, our experiences, our desires, and our imaginations that come to define who God is. In the end, we have turned the self into our idol to be worshiped by ourselves. 

The God of Scripture, though intimate with his creation, is separate from it. Moreover, mankind is separated from God by our sin. If you hope to find God by turning to yourself, who happens to be a sinner, you will never find God.  The God who is there, is found outside of us. He is an objective reality, a personal God who really does exist. If we want to know him, it cannot come by you reaching up to him; rather, it comes by him reaching down to us in grace. This is done chiefly in the person and work of the God-man—Jesus Christ. If you hope to find God by turning inward, you will never find him because you are looking in the wrong place. 

Looking Outside for the Problem

It should come as no surprise when we make ourselves into mini-gods, that when we look for the chief problem in mankind that it must be outside of ourselves. After all, if we are divine, we cannot be at fault. Paul Tripp points out this reality in his work, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, that when something goes wrong we are quick to assign blame anywhere but with ourselves.  When we get angry it is someone else’s fault we are angry. When we treat someone with disrespect, it turns out it is their fault because they were mean to us first!  Where do we look for the source of our problems? Externally we are told. If we are gods, the problems must come from the outside. 

The flavor of the day is that everyone is a victim and nothing is anyone’s fault. This clashes headlong with the testimony of Scripture. Jesus tells us we do what we want to do and our actions reveal our hearts (Luke 6:43-45; Matt. 23:25-26; Matt. 6:19-24). What Christianity asserts is that our chief problem is our individual sin as sinners. My chief problem is my sin. Your chief problem is your sin. We are sinners and we must start our search of what is wrong by humbly looking within. Not only am I the problem, I cannot be the solution. I need someone greater than myself. 

Looking in the Right Places

We look within to find God and we look outside of ourselves to assign blame. Both are futile searches because they are looking in the wrong place. We are told to find God within and to always assign blame elsewhere.  Scripture’s message to us is that we are full of ourselves and that we are digging in the wrong field. 

These searches also display our extreme self-righteousness.  We make ourselves primary to accessing God thus making ourselves out to be divine. Then we arrogantly shift all blame away from ourselves. We have a very high view of ourselves, one God does not share.

The gospel of the age says I can act first by reaching inward to find God. But the gospel of Jesus Christ shows us God must act first, he must grant us grace. We cannot find him by searching within, there is only sin, blindness, and death found within.  We must know God on his terms, as he revealed himself to us in his Word and in the person of Christ. He must reach down to us and reveal himself to us and grant us eyes to see. 

The Bible tells us that we must look within to find the problem. We are sinners, not gods. We need a savior who is God. This is what Jesus did. He came as the God-man to save us. And his call to us is not about self-realization, but for us to repent and believe in him (not ourselves). 

We must flip the script. We are to look within to see our sin and thus our need for a savior. Then we must turn and look outside of ourselves to the God of the universe. Only in him is there salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ.  He has revealed himself to us, and he has told us where to look. In order to find God we must first realize we are not him and that we are the problem.