“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:9-11 . . . where the apostle Paul repeats the Old Testament prophetic observation / indictment of all humanity (Psalms 14:1-3), describing for the church at Rome the universal, rather bleak and hopeless human condition (barring divine intervention).
From the above, it appears there is nothing one can do to prepare oneself to begin this all-important journey that alone culminates in the endless, direct experience of that glorious being we call God as we unable to pull ourselves up out of our guilty, cursed, sinful state and into Christ’s glorious kingdom by our own bootstraps (our will & efforts). We need outside help, we need to be raised from the dead!
Why? Because in our natural state we are powerfully disinclined, even unable, to know or acknowledge the God that actually is, doing what we can, often unconsciously, to ignore Him, pervert His character, worship inferior things, wallow in willing ignorance, unbelief, or subjectivism, confuse or distort the clear revelation of His will, and / or pretend He does not exist so that we can imagine ourselves as free, independent, wholly self-capable agents, ultimately unaccountable for our conduct in this life, thereby living a life of dangerous, ultimately destructive self-delusion. In short, we have an overwhelming natural tendency to deny the ultimate truth and reality of the God Who is.
According to current psychological insight:
“In psychology, we talk about the phenomenon of denial. Denial does not mean that a person is willfully denying something in the usual sense of the word ‘deny’… The term ‘in denial’ as used in psychology, refers to a person being unaware of some aspect of reality. The person is not consciously lying. He will swear on a stack of Bibles to what he believes is the truth. Somewhere, deep down in the hidden recesses of his subconscious mind, there is an awareness, but since the person has no access to this awareness, it is as if it is non-existent. Very often, the reason for the unawareness of reality is that a particular aspect of reality is too painful to accept. To protect the person from the distress of knowing the reality, the mind turns off the awareness. Telling a person who is in denial of reality that he should recognize what the reality is, is similar to telling a blind person to look at something. He is simply not capable.” – Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD
Sad but true, but denial of ultimate reality (God) is our natural-born condition, the reality of His being hidden away from our conscious minds; His holiness, power, perfection are too painful for our self-willed, sin-weakened minds to access without supernatural aid and even compulsion. A pervasive part of our natural condition, as anyone who has cared for a two year old can testify is “My will, not thine, be done”, where the clear assertion of self-willed, childish autonomy in rejecting (hopefully) wise, protective authority is clearly seen.
Given that profound truth, entrance on this journey must be fully dependent on His eternal, free, perfect, loving, gracious, and wise selection of those He savingly draws, fundamentally reorients to a love of truth & Himself, and then welcomes as He adopts those into His family. That essential, fundamental reorientation can happen subtly as with a child raised in a godly family 2Tim 3:14-15, or suddenly and dramatically as with Paul’s conversion on his way to violently confront Christians Acts 9:1-5, Acts 9:15,
Even so, there are still some basic truths and philosophical concepts that are helpful in knowing the God that actually is and for understanding the existential realities of the situation in which we find ourselves.
That’s what this section is for.
And importantly: What we truly love, we pursue with great intensity, whether the God that actually is (even if only weakly grasped) who properly commands us to love Him supremely Ex 20:3-4, Mt 22:36-38, or some secondary, inferior, temporary thing (work, pleasure, prestige, power, wealth, intellectual / athletic / artistic pursuits, subjectivism or any other idol we make, worship, and love above all). So it’s vital to actually know what or who is our supreme love, passion, and object of pursuit and then adjust when wrongly focused on inferior, secondary things.