This week in our review of Isaiah Decoded we’ll continue with our topic of religious truth that we see in the Introduction. The next points that Dr. Gileadi presents in the Introduction are persecution and responding to truth. Both of these points can be evaluated under the broader context of man’s natures. Though as human beings we all have great similarities, but what defines each person is our own motives, desires and attitudes that is based on how and what we think and feel, and then act.
Dr. Gileadi spends the next few paragraphs in the Introduction discussing how humanity has responded to religious truth. We see that in the persecution of believers, in the abandonment of religion when God allows horrific events to occur and in the creation of religious sects – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. When we consider the whole of humanity, we must ask why some people are religious and others are not.
Religious Truth and Ultimate Questions
In our last post, we introduced the concept that religion is supposed to answer man’s ultimate questions, which can include where did I come from, why I am I here, and so forth. Again, Abraham Heschel wrote in his book God in Search of Man,
“Religion is an answer to man’s ultimate questions. The moment we become oblivious to ultimate questions, religion become irrelevant, and its crisis sets in.” p 3
So what we see in those who embrace religion are people who are attempting to find deeper meaning to their lives, which influences how self-aware we are of our own existence.
Self-awareness is our ability to perceive and understand the things that make us who we are as an individual, including our personalities, actions, values, beliefs, emotions, and thoughts. Our self-awareness grows over the span of our lives as we have new experiences and acquire knowledge about our world.
Religious Truth and Self-Awareness
Without some sort of belief in an existence beyond this world, humans limit their understanding of who they are and in their self-awareness. While many have been successful in life without a deeper understanding, are they really that self-aware. And even among believers there are degrees to this self-awareness. The knowledge that comes with a belief in God is not a single dimension it is multi-dimensional. Some believers are satisfied to be “saved” while others desire “everlasting life” and yet others want “eternal life”.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
For those who reach eternal life, these comprehend all things and are self-aware in the fullest.
Self-Awareness and Carnality
Those who failed to ask these ultimate questions are not only not fully self-aware, but by and large are driven by their carnal nature. They become concerned with meeting their own physical appetites, desires and passions. This focus on self is associated with the concept of Individualism. This focus on self to satisfied one’s own desires, appetites and passions can come into direct conflict with the greater good of society. Individualism is what led to ancient Israel’s down fall as people did right in their own eyes – Judges 17:6, 21:25.
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes; And clever in their own sight!
Strass and Howe, in their book The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy, came to the same conclusion that what has led and will be the end of America is Individualism.
Moreover, this focus on self can lead to the persecution of believers as individualism threatens the stability of society, the rights of believers; and as religion conflicts with worldly power structures.
Self-Awareness and Spirituality
For those who seek a deeper meaning to their lives and a greater self-awareness, they turn to religion for answers. The god of the Bible places answers to these questions in the context of having a relationship with Him. These relationships with God are expressed in the Spirit, the Son and the Father. Moreover, theses relationships build on one another.
The Gospel of Isaiah expands these relationships and our spiritual self-awareness to seven.
Challenges to Greater Spiritual Self-Awareness
We might ask ourselves why don’t we all reached the highest level of spirituality since we all have the same text as our guide? Generally, we see two challenges in developing greater spirituality or spiritual self-awareness – a failure to evaluate what we believe and being emotionally driven.
Failure to Evaluate
Dr. James Fowler in his book Stages of Faith found that only fifty percent of people of faith critically examine what they believe. What that means is that those who fail to examine what they believe religion has become a ritual of habit. Going through the same motions and never progressing in their knowledge and in their spiritual self-awareness. Isaiah calls this plowing the same ground.
24 Will the plowman be forever plowing to sow seed, disking and harrowing the same ground?
And yet, as individuals, we can be guided into all truth through the Spirit.
Probably the biggest factor in a failure to examines one’s beliefs can be connected to the three types of thinking. Oliver DeMille in his book A Thomas Jefferson Education outlines that education systems are tailored for people who are told what to think, there are those who know when to think, and finally there are people that know how to think. It tends to be the people who know how to think who progress in their knowledge of God and in their spiritual self-awareness. Fortunately, for us, God has built into His Gospel plan a path to grow in knowledge and spiritual awareness as we keep the Law (what to think) and then receive the Spirit and are taught (how to think).
A second primary reason we are stifled and derailed in our spiritual growth is that we are emotionally driven in our decisions rather using reason and, then, spiritual guidance through the Spirit. We see this most evident in “Born Again” Christianity where believers see being “Saved By Grace” as full acceptance by God, focus on the emotional aspect of faith, interpret their own emotions as the Spirit and believe nothing more is required from them to be in a fuller relationship with Him. We see this same sort of thing in “Restored” Christianity that earthly relationships can be perpetuated into eternity and then provide little details, specifics, and standards. This emotionalization of linking faith with being with our loved ones in eternity is a powerful emotional draw. We must consider these ideas with Paul’s statement that each one of us must work out our own salvation.
12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Persecution from Other Believers
We saw previously that persecution can come from non-believers, but we also see persecution coming from other believers. This usually occurs when those seeking greater spiritual awareness push against the limits of tradition. Indeed, Yeshua was ostracized and killed by His own people.
Spiritual Self-Awareness and the Endtimes
One of the primary goals we see in the Gospel of Isaiah is to help us realistically know where we stand with God and what we need to do to grow in our relationship with God and in our spiritual self-awareness.
Another important goal that we see in the prophecy of Isaiah is that men need to become saviors especially when we look at Endtime events. Originally, I thought that it would be prudent to just live the best I could and wait for the arrival of God’s Endtime Servant who will restore all things. But when I read the account of the Brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon, my paradigm shifted. What I saw in the Brother of Jared was a family man of faith that wanted to save his loved ones from calamity. This also made me recall Lehi who fit this same profile and linking these ideas to the Book of Mormon as a prophetic writing – I believe this an Endtime message for fathers of faith to do likewise!