Our hearts come locked, stuck in some form of unbelief. As I’ve said many times before, this is because our default is to only perceive the “fishbowl” we’ve been swimming in. So, God must reveal mysteries previously hidden to us in order for us to see this prison of unbelief we’re stuck in. Of course, this doesn’t happen all at once. It’s unveiled to us “from glory to glory” (2 Cor.3:18).
A mystery, in Scripture, is something previously hidden that God wants to reveal to us. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t mean something you can never know; it means ever knowing—always growing in revelation knowledge not available to us any other way. And it’s the condition of our heart that determines whether we will ever know it.
I was thinking about this as I was reading Romans 11 this morning and came upon this particular rendering of verse 32:
32 Actually, God considers all of humanity to be prisoners of their unbelief, so that he can unlock our hearts and show his tender mercies to all who come to him. (Rom.11:32 TPT)
I couldn’t help thinking that God is taking the role of Morpheus here, explaining the same thing to Neo in the following iconic scene from the first Matrix movie:
“That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind…. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”
In Romans 11:32, God is basically saying that we’re Neo.
And we do have to see this for ourselves. The Jews stumbled because they could not see outside of the religious box they had put themselves in concerning God and their relationship to Him. It had nothing to do with how good or smart they were. What mattered was, and is, were they open to something more than they could possibly think or even imagine with their finite minds?
Some were, some weren’t…
And this has been true for everyone ever since.
Paul is telling us that Israel’s failure should be a cautionary tale for us here:
19 You might begin to think that some branches were pruned or broken off just to make room for you. 20 Yes, that’s true. They were removed because of their unbelief. But remember this: you are only attached by your faith. So don’t be presumptuous, but stand in awe and reverence. 21 Since God didn’t spare the natural branches that fell into unbelief, perhaps he won’t spare you either! (Rom.11:19-21 TPT*)
Here’s what I think we should learn from this. As I’ve said before, the heart is the gatekeeper to revelation and growing as a human being. As Proverbs says, the course of our life will be determined by the condition of our heart (Prov.4:23). So, when I think I already know something with my dogmatic conclusions and certitudes, I close my heart and my growth.
As a ministry friend of mine is fond of saying, “Pride is a showstopper.”
God says it this way:
6 Though the Lord is on high,
Yet He regards the lowly;
But the proud He knows from afar. (Psalm 138:6 NKJV)
6 “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 NKJV)
4 “Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith. (Hab.2:4 NKJV)
The truth is, we all find ourselves a bit like Alice in this world. The deeper we go down the rabbit hole, the more we see that there’s something wrong with this construct.
Like Neo discovered, the truth is, we all live in a “Matrix” of sorts. “It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” (2 Cor. 4:4). We should be learning we don’t live according to reality, but according to our perception of reality.
The truth about us, about God, and about this reality beyond our natural knowing is only found in union with Jesus Christ, for He holds the cosmos together:
6 Jesus explained, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life. No one comes next to the Father except through union with me. To know me is to know my Father too. (John 14:6 TPT)
15-17 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. (Col.1:15-17 MSG)
Growing in wisdom from maturity makes me agnostic when it comes to thinking I know all there is to know about reality; but growing in faith like a child makes me more and more confident of the One who loves me and knows me better than I know myself.
Let me put it this way: in this world, we won’t believe unless we see it; but we cannot begin to perceive the greater reality that frames this world until we believe (John 3:3; Heb.11:3).
Only God can open the prison door of our unbelief—remove “the splinter in our mind”—and see the reality beyond our mental grid. This is how we grow beyond the echo of our own thoughts—escape this Matrix, if you will. We keep our hearts open to the mystery so that “he can unlock our hearts and show his tender mercies to all who come to him.”