There’s a popular adage that’s been the chorus of at least a few good songs, which goes like this: “Everything you know is wrong.” That’s not entirely true, obviously (I think), but there’s still a lot of truth to it.
On the one hand, we put way too much stock in our own opinions and experiences, however true they may or may not be. On the other hand—and sometimes even simultaneously—we allow ourselves to become paralyzed by our lack of knowledge, lack of wisdom, or just plain lack of confidence. By doing so, we end up acting in a way that betrays what little real knowledge we do have.
So with all this in mind, allow me the grace to put an absolute statement out there anyway: Just about everything you know might be wrong. In fact, most of what we know is some entangled mess of right and wrong. But God is never wrong.
And now, allow me to undercut even that: Because of our own fallenness and self-deception, we often don’t even get our understanding of God’s perfect will totally right.
If all of this sounds confusing, it should.
A big part of the problem—but also, the solution—lies in the connection between our minds and our hearts. There’s a refrain in Jeremiah that captures this well—“the imagination of their own heart” (Jeremiah 9:14, et al., KJV). In fact, Jeremiah often throws in “evil” before “heart,” lest we miss the point.
So often, we believe what we want to believe because we want to believe it, as if our desire by itself—or even more often, our pride—makes it all come out right. I suspect that God is far more offended by our arrogance than by our “going off the deep end,” but both miss the mark badly. Both are about us.
So where do we turn to get it right? Facts? Nope. Facts are good, but facts aren’t always the truth. Surf between news channels reporting on the same story on any given night, and you can readily see how easily different networks bend the facts to fit “the imagination of their own heart.”
Conscience? Better, but not perfect. Our conscience testifies that something’s wrong— that we’re somehow already disconnected from God—even as it potentially points us in the right direction. But though our conscience might alert us correctly, we often do wrong things in response to what it tells us. We take shortcuts. We run the other way. We do everything we can to avoid the problem we know is there. More often than not, we’re more concerned with easing our consciences than we are with trying to address the disunity in our souls that our consciences have correctly perceived.
So let’s cut to the point: Our conscience tells us something’s wrong; the Spirit tells us what’s right. To receive what the Spirit’s telling us, we need to lay down our “heads”—our thought lives—before God. We need to humble ourselves enough to let God work, and to allow our convictions—or lack thereof—to be replaced by his.