What Is Real?

I’ve been thinking about reality lately, for several reason. I recently started a new job where I’m tutoring younger kids than I’ve worked with before, and one of the things taught alongside reading skills is how to identify clues that let you know whether a story is realistic or fantasy. As a writer and avid reader, though, I know how easy it can be to blur those lines. You might do tons of research to write a very accurate, realistic setting (for example) then throw a dragon or werewolves into the story. Also, people can define “realistic” differently. A flood covering the world or a dead man coming back to life seem like fantasy to many, but for Christians the Bible is realistic and it’s non-fiction.

The question, “What’s really going on here?” is one that the Bible asks and answers, mostly indirectly. Satan started out his attacks on both Eve and Jesus by questioning the nature of reality. To Eve, he said, “Has God really said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” ( Gen. 3:1, WEB, emphasis added). To Jesus, he called the reality of who He is into question by saying, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matt. 4:3, 6, WEB, emphasis added). In sharp contrast to the adversary’s scheming and questioning, God is very open with us about the nature of reality. He tells us how things are, what will happen in the future, what the consequences are for different choices, and which things will endure forever so we know where to put our focus and energy. In other words, God shares truth with us about what is real.

The Best Place to Find Real Truth

Truth, and along with it the notion of an objective reality, has largely been rejected by modern society. Faced with the realization that there are an infinite number of perspectives and ideas, the world has made the terrible decision to try and act as if they were all equally valuable no matter how contradictory or crazy they seem. We can’t even agree on a “fact” anymore. There’s no need for such confusion, though. There is such a thing as reality and truth and the Bible, along with the holy spirit, is the key to figuring out what that is.

This notion doesn’t sit well with many people. Even some believers might balk at the idea at times. We all want so badly to be right. We want our take on things to be real. We’ve been told for years to follow our hearts and trust ourselves. And yet, “the human mind is more deceitful than anything else” (Jer. 17:9, NET). The inside of our own heads is a terrible place to look for truth. According to psychological studies, we can’t even trust that our own memories are accurate. Spiritually speaking, we might even be dead, “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” without realizing it! (Rev. 3:1, 17, NET). If we want to know how things really are and what truth is, we need to look to God.

Focusing on What is Most Important

I feel like I’ve been spending a lot of time in 1 Corinthians 2 over the past few months (both in blog posts and for the double-minded scripture writing theme), and we’re back here again today. In this section of scripture, Paul talks about the difference between worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom, showing us how God transforms our spirits, minds, and hearts with His Spirit. Much like the spirit (G4151, pneuma, spirit, soul, life, breath) inside us understands us better than we understand other people, the Spirit in God knows “the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-11).

But we received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God. … Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned. … “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him?” But we have Christ’s mind.

1 Corinthians 2:14, 16, 18, WEB

We can only understand the Truth behind perceived reality through God’s spirit in us. Specifically, what we see physically only hints at what is the most real. This creation will pass away, replaced by a new, more enduring creation. The battles we fight today are not as they appear; they are really “against spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12, WEB). Even the Law possesses only “a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself” (Heb. 10:1, NET)–“The reality is Christ!” (Col. 2:17, NET).

The physical seems very real, and in many ways it is. We’re not living in a fake world, but one that God created and gave to us. And yet, when we start to perceive things with the mind of Christ it changes how we look at reality. We start to understand why it makes sense for Jesus to tell us we shouldn’t worry about things like food and clothing and should instead focus on seeking “God’s kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:25-34). It’s not the things we can see and touch that are most important, but the spiritual things which God invites us to take part of.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18, NET

Making Time for Our Real Lives With God

The Bible never tells us that this physical life doesn’t matter or that God doesn’t care about how we choose to live these lives. God’s word does, however, tell us the physical matters less than the spiritual. We must not let temporary things distract us from the true riches that can be found eternally with God.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21, NET

Investing in the spiritual ensures that our hearts are in the right place (i.e. with God) and that the things we spend our time on are real, true, and lasting. In today’s world, there are many possible distractions. We might be distracted worrying about bad news or the threat of future troubles. We might loose ourselves in entertainment like movies, books, and video games (something I personally find very tempting). Or we could just be so busy with our daily lives that we push spending time on the spiritual off until later. But we need to commit ourselves to prioritizing our relationship with God and investing in what will really, truly last beyond this physical life.

Featured image by Anggie from Lightstock

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