Monthly Archives: March 2013
For the past few days, I have been lingering over a simple question: Do Christians really believe what we say we believe?
No deep theology here, just a question.
In every other area of life I can think of, a question like this is silly. As human beings, we unfailingly act in a way that is consistent with what we believe (or know) about the effects of either acting in a certain way or not acting in a certain way. For example, here’s the same question focused on a different subject. Do you as an automobile driver really believe what you say you believe about seat belts? Well, I don’t know, but all I need to do is monitor your use of a seatbelt to find out. If you wear it, you really do believe that you are more likely to be seriously injured in an accident if you’re not wearing it; or you may believe that you will get a ticket if you choose not wear it. Either way, your beliefs are directly influencing your actions. You can apply this same line of thinking to everything we do in life.
So for Christians to say that we believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ as man’s only hope of salvation, how do we not make every effort to spread this good news? If we really believe that God sacrificed His perfect son as a ransom for sinners, in order that He might become our supreme treasure and all-satisfying joy, how do we not share Him with others? If we really believe that an eternity of torment awaits those who reject Christ, how do we sit idly by and watch the world, including our loved ones, shuffle over the edge of death? Do we really believe that the gospel is the power of God to save sinners?
Or are we more concerned that it may be ‘awkward’ to tell someone Jesus died for sinners like me and like you?
How self-centered are we to think that someone else will take care of spreading hope to the lost? How prideful am I to think being embarrassed may not be worth laying an offer of ever-lasting joy before a soul destined for hell?
Do we really believe what we say we believe?
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” Romans 10:13-14
I hate sin. I hate the tempting promises it makes, all the while keeping its hidden blade of terror out of sight. I see its effects and weep at the wake of death and destruction it leaves behind. But as much as I hate sin, God hates it more… much more. And therein lies a problem, THE problem.
Too often though, I fear that we present an unbalanced gospel – one that is heavy on the “God is love” and light on the “wrath of God.” Each truth is an integral part of the gospel, but neither by itself is the gospel. We dilute God’s act of sovereign rescue if we sentimentalize Him to some unbiblical form of sappy love. A quick way to gauge your understanding of salvation through the gospel is to ask the question “Saved from what?”
Read the Psalmist’s words:
God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. (Psalms 7:11-12)
Some people have a hard time thinking about God like this and instead have created in their minds a very different version from the God in the Bible; one that I would submit is no God at all. The God of ancient Israel who’s “wrath burned hot” against sin is the same God of today. God’s perfect justice demands that He be this way and His immutability demands that He remain this way.
Lest I present a skewed picture myself, let me offer in fact, that God is love… and therein lies a solution, THE solution. The transcendent truth of this reality is mind-boggling. What in the world does it mean that God, in His very being, is love? As difficult a question as that may be to answer, it might be helpful to see this love in action. As a matter of fact, it might be helpful to see both His wrath and His love in action, simultaneously.
But where can we go to see such a thing? Where is the one place where God’s love and God’s wrath are observable and merge in a way that both are perfectly and completely displayed for the world to see?
And here lies the cross, the cross of Jesus Christ.
When you look at the cross, with Jesus hanging there, His weight tearing at the flesh held in place by spikes, blood flowing freely from His wounds, suffering unimaginably, dying – when you see that… see God’s wrath being poured out. See God’s anger and hatred of sin. See God’s utter contempt and condemnation of sin in the flesh of His perfect Son. And see Christ Jesus drinking God’s wrath to the very last drop.
When you look at the cross, with Jesus hanging there, the infinitely Undeserving paying the penalty for the infinitely deserving, freely laying down His life at the will of His Father, suffering our death and judgment, bearing our sin, dying – when you see that… see God’s great love for His children. See God willing to sacrificially intervene on behalf of unworthy guilty sinners, because He loves us. See God not only offer, but finish His eternal purpose of bringing glory to His name and saving a people to himself.
We do no justice to the fullness of God’s love by dismissing God’s wrath. In fact, we empty the cross of its power and cheapen the price Christ paid through His death and suffering if we try to leave it out of our understanding of the gospel. The reality is that we are all in trouble before a perfectly holy and righteous God because of our sin.
And here lies the gospel… the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
By my sin and yours, we built the cross that God hung His Son on to die. Even still, we can have an assured hope that our guilt will not be counted against us if we recognize Jesus as our Savior, as the supreme treasure that He is, as our one and only path to reconciliation with God. That really is good news.
“There is therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
*The title question came from Mr. Ed, an older and wiser saint from my church.
I know lots of folks say that God is sovereign, but do we really mean sovereign? Or do we mean He is in control so far as we’re comfortable allowing Him to be in control? Just a thought, but it seems to me that the Biblical definition of God’s sovereignty is mighty big, all-encompassing actually.
So I thought I would share how I arrive at my understanding of the subject, meaning the actual Scriptures which support it. I offer the list of verses below, which is nowhere near exhaustive, to let God’s Word speak for itself without comment. Every passage, when taken in full context, I believe demonstrates some aspect of God’s overall sovereignty.
But before the list, a word of caution against fatalism and/or accusing God of evil. The Bible is clear that God is holy and is not culpable of evil. The Bible is also clear that humans are all morally accountable for our actions. Let us not then distort the Bible’s teaching with our fallen and sinfully-tainted sense of things. These truths are not be minimalized or apologized for, but are to cause worship for a God who can and does work all things for good for His children, even amidst a sinful world.
Lastly, our thoughts regarding this subject are so easily swayed by our preconceptions. Often times, without realizing it, we allow our views to be influenced by things other than God’s infallible Word. Accordingly, let us turn always to Christ and God’s redemptive purposes through Christ for true orientation. Thus, I start with the cross, which was to fulfill God’s ultimate and eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:11).
this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23)
For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27-28)
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief… (Isaiah 53:10)
The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. (Psalm 33:11)
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring… Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. (Proverbs 16:33)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)
A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way? (Proverbs 20:24)
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)
I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:15-16)
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. (Deuteronomy 32:39)
The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. (1 Samuel 2:6-8)
Then the LORD said to [Moses], “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11)
Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it? (Amos 3:6)
[God] works all things according to the counsel of his will. (Ephesians 1:11)
I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45:7)
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3)
The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. (Proverbs 16:4)
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:10)
Behold, he snatches away; who can turn him back? Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ (Job 9:12)
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. (Job 12:10)
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)
The Lord will reign forever and ever. (Exodus 15:18)
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)
and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. (2 Chronicles 20:6)
For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:28)
The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, (Isaiah 14:24)
and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.” (1 Kings 22:20)
And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. (Exodus 4:21)
Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel. (Judges 14:1-4)
And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. (Genesis 45:5)
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)
who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’” (Isaiah 44:28)
Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the Lord. (Jeremiah 8:7)
And I will cast you on the ground; on the open field I will fling you, and will cause all the birds of the heavens to settle on you, and I will gorge the beasts of the whole earth with you. (Ezekiel 32:4)
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:39)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)