Major Beliefs Day 11 – God’s Sovereignty
Acts 17:28 – “for in Him (God) we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children’.”
The culture in which Paul shared the message of Jesus is much like our culture today, very religious yet worshipping an unknown God. Our culture tolerates all types of religion and loves the thought of pluralism and tolerance, yet the fact remains it is religious but not God fearing and in fact does not know God. Paul speaks into that culture and reminds his listeners of the power and the Sovereignty of God, and then he gives them the good news, you can know God and have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.
Let that truth sink in for just a minute, the God who created the world and everything in it, is accessible by us as human beings. We can know Him and have a relationship with Him. Amazing isn’t it? Even more amazing when you consider the power of God. Paul gives us a pretty detailed account of who God is and the attributes of God in Acts 17, he says that God is:
Creator (v. 24)
Uncontainable (v. 24)
In need of nothing (v. 25)
Personal in that He gives us our very breath (v. 26)
Our provider (v. 26)
In total control (v. 26)
Close to us (v. 27)
Our Father (v. 28)
Divine and Holy (v.29)
Judge (v. 31)
Righteous (v. 31)
Able even to raise the dead (v. 31)
God is that magnificent and amazing, and Paul wants us to see the big picture of who God is. And in the midst of that big picture He gives us the amazing news, this God who is totally Sovereign, who we are wholly dependent on (whether we know it or not), this God is knowable. We can know Him and have a relationship with Him! How? Through the cross and the resurrection of His Son Jesus. Jesus is alive and well, His life and His sacrifice was validated by God when He raised Him from the dead, which means that His sacrifice on the cross was sufficient to take our sins away, to cleanse us, to make us able to stand before this Holy God, to give us a relationship with Him, and to make us His children.
Our culture, like Paul’ is religious, in that it worships many things. Sadly enough however many in our world today do not know God, the good news though is that He is knowable, people do not have to worship in ignorance any longer. We can now know God through His Son Jesus, the one who holds all things together (Colossians 1) and the one in whom we live, move and have our being.
What’s On Your Mind?
Psalm 145:5 – “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.”
What do you spend most of your time thinking about? When you finally get a quiet minute what thoughts come to your mind? For most of us the answer to the last question is fairly easy, we spend time thinking about family time or about vacation or about our favorite hobby. Or maybe we fill up our “free minutes” thinking about things that we need to do. The psalmist however had a different approach, he probably spent time thinking about a lot of the same things that we do but he also said, “I meditate on your Glorious majesty, Lord and I think about all of your wondrous works.”
In other words as he contemplated the ways of God and the works of God, he couldn’t help but think about God more and more. He thought about God’s kingdom (v.1) and about God’s unsearchable greatness (v. 3). He spent time dwelling on God’s awesome splendor, he focused on God’s majesty. He thought about God’s might and His power (v.6), and he was speechless as he came in contact with the love and the mercy of God (v. 8). He thought about God’s faithfulness, His provision to His children, and His righteousness. He did exactly what Paul told us to do 100s of years later when he said in Philippians 4:8 “finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
The psalmist dwelt on the things of God, and the ways of God. He meditated on them. But he didn’t just spend time thinking, his thoughts drove him to action, as the Bible says, “as a man thinks in his heart so he is.” The psalmist spent time thinking about the power and the splendor and the grace of God and it drove him to have a Godly fear and reverence. It drove him to trust God more and more. As he thought about the ways of God, he had to praise to God (v.1). He had to declare God’s greatness to other people (v. 6), he had to sing (v. 7), and he had to humbly depend on God (v. 15-16). As he mediated on God’s greatness it also motivated him to be obedient and to follow the ways of God (v. 20). He also realized the responsibility that he had to declare the works of God and the ways of God to the next generation (v. 4).
In other words he saw the greatness of God and he wanted other people to know about that greatness as well. So he made it a priority to tell others, and he made it a priority to tell the next generation. When we come face to face with the power of God, the righteousness of God, and the love of God, it compels us to do the exact same thing. It compels us (or at least it should) to praise, to trust, to humble ourselves, to sing, and to walk in obedience. And it compels us to share the good news of the love of God with the world around us, especially with the next generation. After all since God is so great, so holy, and so loving, why would we want anyone to go through life without Him.
Like Sands Through the Hourglass
Psalm 90:12 – “So teach us to number our days, That we may present to you a heart of wisdom.”
Time waits for no one, as the title reminds us our days pass quickly. When you are young it seems like it takes forever for summer to get here once school starts or from January 1 until Christmas seems like an eternity. In fact it seems like it takes a year from the first of December to get to December 25. But its just an illusion because in reality time passes very very quickly.
The psalmist of course recognizes this as he contemplates the majesty and power of God, and he proclaims that time means nothing to God. He is not bound by it at all. “From everlasting to everlasting you are God.” In other words there has never been a time when God wasn’t and there will never be a time when God ceases to be. Our minds cannot wrap around that, but it is a wonderful truth. Wonderful because since He is eternal, and since He is unchanging as the writer of Hebrews says “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” He is the anchor for our soul. And as a great Christian song says, “the anchor holds in spite of the storm.” God is eternal, and because of that He is our unchanging refuge at all times and in all situation, when time seems to be moving rapidly or when it seems to just creep along.
The psalmist reminds us not only of the permanent nature of God but he also lets us know that God is omnipotent and omnipresent. He sees all of our days and He knows even our secret sins. Because of that He is justly angry with us (90:7), but of course we know that He is a God who offers forgiveness to us. He is a God of mercy and a God of grace as well. He doesn’t give us what we deserve, which is His wrath, and He gives us blessings (such as salvation) that we certainly don’t deserve. That is the God we serve. All knowing, eternal, omnipresent, and omnipotent. A God of holiness and wrath against sin. But also a God who loves us and gives us the chance to partake of His love, His mercy, and His grace.
As the Psalmist contemplates all of this, he utters a very heartfelt cry in verse 12: “so teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.” In other words let me realize that life is short and because of that let me have a relationship with you and let me concentrate and focus on what is important in life. But not only that give me a heart of wisdom. Where does wisdom come from? It certainly comes from the Lord but more specifically the Bible lets us know “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
So fear Him, reverence Him, respect Him. See Him in His majesty and His strength and His power. Be reminded of His wrath but also of His love. Realize what He has done for you, especially through the cross of Calvary, and because of that “fear Him” and His enjoy His gift of wisdom. And remember that life is short so treasure those things that really matter.
Major Beliefs #6 – God………
Deuteronomy 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”
We all live our lives with an overarching theme don’t we? It may be “do good to others” or “Promote peace” or “don’t worry be happy” or “do what you feel” or “judge not”, but we all live our lives with a theme and in many cases that theme defines our lives. Well God says to His people in the book of Deuteronomy, listen up your relationship with me should define your life. He said earlier in the 10 commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me,” and now He says, “you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your mind, all of your soul, and all of your strength.” This should be the overarching theme of your life. This should define you.
Jesus of course repeats that command for the church and lets us know that it is the first and most important commandment. God must be our priority. He must define us, our relationship with Him must be preeminent. Why? Because He is the one who gives us life. He is the one who sustains us, Paul says in Colossians 1 (He holds all things together), and He is the one who gives us the opportunity to be redeemed. He must be the theme of our lives as much as I enjoy the hymn, “Love is the theme,” and as much as I remember singing it and enjoying it at my home church, love isn’t the theme, God is. Yes we are to love other people, but our lives must be about more than just loving other people, they are to be about God and glorifying Him.
After all He is our creator, our sustainer, and our redeemer. As is alluded to in the book of Deuteronomy, He is in Sovereign control. He was the one who gave the Israelites the land, He was the one who redeemed them from slavery, He was the one who sustained them and provided for them, He was the one who gave them life. It is all about Him.
God is sovereign, He is in control (that’s good news when you look at the world around you), but we have a responsibility to Him. What is that responsibility? To love Him, to put Him first, to do as the hymn says, “and crown Him Lord of all”. But that isn’t our only responsibility, we are also told to let others see us living out this commandment (Deuteronomy 6:2), so that our example might point them toward Him. Of course just living it out isn’t enough, our responsibility goes further as we are commanded to teach the things of God to our children and our grandchildren. We must make sure that they know. We must make a concerted effort to let them know about the ways of God and the way of salvation. We must tell them about Jesus, we cannot afford to assume that someone else will. It is our responsibility, it is our calling, it is our privilege.
I love how one wealthy person put it years ago, “if I give my children all my worldly goods but I don’t give them Jesus I have really given them nothing. If however I give them Jesus and nothing else I have given them everything.” How true that is. He is our everything. We must tell our children about Him, not just so they will be saved, but so that God will be glorified as well.
Blood Work by Anthony J. Carter, a book review
Matthew 26:28 – “This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Blood Work by Anthony J. Carter was a book that I highly anticipated reading and it certainly did not disappoint. In this work Carter shows us the need that we all have for the blood of Christ, and he also shows the Christian what the blood has accomplished on their behalf.
Carter shows that we are purchased by the blood of Christ. We become children of God by Jesus’ blood. But not only that, God’s wrath is also propitiated by the blood of Christ. We are justified (declared righteous), redeemed, cleansed, sanctified, ransomed, and set free by the blood of Jesus. We are also brought near to God and can have peace with God only through the blood of Christ.
It is a very powerful work in which each page drips with the truth of the Gospel. Jesus had to die, Jesus had to shed His precious blood so that we could become children of God. One of the chapters that I enjoyed the most was the chapter “Propitiated by His Blood.” Many people in our world today don’t see God as a God of wrath. They believe that He is a God of love and they leave it at that. The Bible certainly affirms that God is love, but it also reveals to us that God is holy (in fact He is thrice Holy in Isaiah 6), and that God is also a God of wrath. Since God is holy, He hates sin and sin must be punished. Carter does a fantastic job of showing that Jesus took that punishment on the cross so that you and I don’t have to face God’s wrath. Jesus became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), and in doing so took God’s wrath against sin while He was on the cross. Because of that Carter says, God’s anger has been propitiated, and that you and I no longer have to face the wrath of God. “God is not angry with you, nor will He ever be again. This is the amazing propitiating power of the blood of Christ. If you are a Christian, your mother or father may get angry with you but not God, your husband or wife may get angry with you but not God. You may get angry with yourself or worse yet find yourself in the senseless position of being angry with God. Yet this does not and will not, move God to be angry with you. That is why we can come to God without fear of condemnation (p. 29 ).” Those are powerful words, in fact those are hope filled, life changing words. That is what Jesus has accomplished for us through His blood.
And as Carter points out Jesus is the one who has accomplished it on our behalf, we cannot earn God’s approval on our own. He says a person can “live right, eat right, give right, and die right, (p. 75)” and still be lost. Only the blood of Jesus saves us, as the song says, “nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Carter’s work is short and easily readable but it is very powerful and it lets the Christian know the extent of the atonement and what Jesus has done for us. When you consider that the only proper response to what Jesus has done is worship. We worship Him and we love Him because He first loved us. Throughout the book, Carter included various hymns that deal with the blood of Christ, and there was several times as I read the words that I wanted to break out into song because of what Jesus has done for me.
This book is a book that can be used for personal edification and worship, but it could also be used evangelistically to show a person who is unsaved just how much they need the blood of Christ. It would also make a great small group study or text to use for a new members class. It is a book that I would highly recommend.
(9 out of 10 stars ********* )
Major Beliefs 5: The Bible – “By Whose Authority?”
2 Peter 1:21 – “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
I can remember very clearly spending time with my friends when I was a little child, whether it was at their house or my house we loved to be together. I can also remember though not as clearly a time in which one of us got in trouble at the other’s house and as the parent was telling us what to do and not to do, the inevitable happened, “you’re not my mom (or dad) you can’t tell me what to do.” After that everything got a little blurry.
It is a statement that I’m sure teachers hear a lot. “You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not my dad (or mom).” In reality it is a question of authority isn’t it? It is a question that says who do you think you are? You don’t have a right to tell me what to do, I’m master of my own life. At least that is what we like to believe as we grow into adolescents and perhaps even more so as adults. It has certainly become the motto of our society. “Don’t judge me.” “Who do you think you are trying to tell me what to do?”, or even the more passive, “just leave me alone I’m not hurting anyone”. All of these statements say the same thing, my life is my own now just let me live it. Just like a 10 year old we think no one has the right to tell me what to do.
That however isn’t the case is it? There is one who has a right to tell us how to live, God our heavenly Father created us and He has the right to tell us how we are supposed to live. He is in sovereign control so He has the right to tell us what to do and what not to do. How do we know though? How can we be sure of what is right and what is wrong? Simply put He has revealed it to us in His word, the Bible.
Some people read the Bible and say those are nice sentiments, but they are just the words of men, and what right does another person have to tell me how to live? (Sounds a lot like that statement we made as children). And so we many people question, “by whose authority do you say these things?” Peter gives us the answer in 2 Peter 1:21, “for no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” In other words when the Biblical authors wrote, they wrote under the authority of God, and they were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit. He carried them along, He controlled their writing instruments even as they put the words down on paper.
So when we read the Bible, we are reading the words of men, but they are words that were directly inspired by God. He gave them the authority to write, He told them what to write, and He “carried” the pen along as they wrote. Make no mistake about it, the Bible really is the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God written with the authority of God. A God who created us and because of that He has the authority to tell us how to live.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 –” All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be fully equipped for every good work.”
Good news stories are few and far between. In fact if you spend a lot of time reading or watching the news a recent study suggests that you may be depressed. Why? Because what we hear about on there can truly be frightening.
Well the first few verses of 2 Timothy 3 could be ripped from today’s headlines because they are truly frightening. Paul writing to Timothy details how the world is going to be in “the last days,” and he says that people are going to be lovers of self and pleasure rather than lovers of God. He adds that people will become arrogant, unashamed, given to violence and basically unsatisfiable. What he describes is a frightening time made even more frightening when you realize he is describing our world today.
Paul however doesn’t seem to be fearful about it, in fact he only addresses it by basically saying that we as followers of Jesus aren’t supposed to live that way. We are to be as Jesus said ,”in the world but not of the world? ”
So the question has to be “where do we find the strength not to be like the world? ” And not only that but “how can we be strong and courageous in the midst of a world that is so opposed to God?”
Paul gives us the answer to both questions in the last 2 verses of the chapter, “all Scripture is breathed out by God……” Do you want to find strength to say no to the things of the world and yes to the things of God? You find it through the grace of God in the word of God.
Do you want to find courage in the midst of a world where fear is so prevalent? Again you find it through the grace of God in the word of God.
Paul’s earnest plea to Timothy is, in the midst of worldliness, sin, and fear saturate your life with God’s word. That’s wasn’t just his appeal to Timothy 1950 years ago, it’s the Holy Spirit’s appeal through Paul to is today.