Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Why We Must Think of God Rightly

I've never read the Shack. Nor do I have any plans to do so. But it has certainly been causing a stir lately as the movie comes out in just a few weeks. 

Personally, I didn't think there were any serious Shack supporters within the circles that hang out in but I noticed the comment below on Facebook: 

"I have read the [Shack]. I did not think it was blasphemous. I thought it portrayed the Father Son and Holy Spirit in a way that this man could relate to them in his time of pain and definitely not that they would appear  in the same way to anyone else. Just my point of view."

A few issue there but here's the one I'd like to focus on: it's not ok to think of God in any way we want. Whether we are in pain or joy. Sadness or jubilation. It's not ok to portray God in a way that makes Him more 'relatable' to us. 


Primarily for the reason that He has already revealed Himself to us in the one way we can relate to Him. Our Triune God has set the parameters for which we may think of Him in His Word and has shown us that the way to Him is through the person and work of Christ. This doesn't 'limit' God's 'godness' but rather shows us who He is as He is. For example, Jesus says "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). It's not ok to worship God in anyway that is not 'truth'. And you or I don't get to define truth. Truth isn't just 'whatever feels true to me today,' rather, truth is objective. Truth is truth and that's the truth. Truth is the Word of God. 

To worship our 'ideas' of what God is like separate from what the Bible actually reveals God to be like is idolatry. Time and again God scolds His people for not thinking of Him rightly (see Psalm 50:21 for example). 

"Yeah but the Shack is fiction." Well, we've already seen how it causes people to give acceptance to 'any view of God goes as long as it works for you.' So, it maybe fiction, but it doesn't take away from its danger in making us think wrongly about God. 

This Sunday we are beginning a new sermon series at our church on God's holiness. It didn't click with me until today just how closely this is connected to the current hubbub over the Shack. You see, God has revealed Himself to us as the Holy One. One eternal God in three co-equal and distinct persons. We didn't make up thinking about God this way. Instead, this is who God is and we know so because He has told us. So, I don't get to define God in such a way that 'works for me.' I don't get to say God's holiness means whatever I'd like it to mean today. I am obligated to define Him the way He defined Himself. Furthermore, I am only hurting my joy in Him when I seek to define Him in ways I think are more convenient for my circumstances. Only the eternal, Triune, holy God of the Bible can grant me life, satisfy my deepest longings, and pardon me of my sin against Him. 

And if at this point you still don't see the big deal, consider what Jesus says the essence of eternal life is: "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3). You don't have eternal life if you don't know God. Yes, this isn't merely intellectually, but also gloriously relationally. However, it's impossible to be in a true relationship with someone you don't also actually know intellectually. Does this mean we must be able to exhaust God before we can have a relationship with Him? Of course not! For you cannot exhaust the inexhaustible! Our knowledge of God now barely scratches the surface of who He is. We will spend an eternity knowing Him and growing in our knowledge of Him. So, let us not think lightly about how we think of God. To consistently and consciously think of God in such a way that is wrong or contrary to Scripture suggests that we do not have eternal life. Again, that's just what the Bible says "this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God." There aren't many versions of the only true God as if we are ok just because we use the term 'God' and 'Jesus'. No. There is One God and this God must be thought of the way He as told us to think of Him. 

Let Scripture be your plumb line. But let it also be the hammer that smashes faulty thinking into dust. Let it be the chisel that conforms our mind and heart. Let it be the fire that burns obliterates all idols. Let it be the sword that protects us against any false teaching on the character and nature of God. Let it be the anchor that keeps us from drifting away. Let it be the light that shines on all that God is for us in the person and work of Christ. Let it be our treasure in the morning and our solace in the evening. Let us love it, not because it is an end in and of itself. But because it shows is the one true God. In Him and to Him be the glory alone. Amen. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017


I read Exodus 28 in my bible reading today. Sometimes I think people get bogged down in these latter chapters of Exodus with all the meticulous details about the tabernacle and various procedures. I know I have before! 

But, upon further reflection, these chapters reveal to us that God is a God of order and detail. And in the 1st 15 verses of chapter 28 the word 'skill' pops up 5 times (in the ESV). It begins in verse 3:

"You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron's garments to consecrate him for my priesthood."

If you've seen pictures of the priestly garments then you know some of the intricate detail. And so, what I want to focus on today is 'skill'. 

If the Lord cared about skill in Exodus 28, and particularly blessed people with certain skills in the making of priestly garments, it's right to think that God still cares about skill today. Here's a few thoughts I have:

1. Worship -

Particularly our corporate gatherings. I certainly think their can be room for spontaneity- a testimony, prayer request, or the like. But my point here is it's not 'unspiritial' to be prepared. To lead in song with skill. To teach and preach with skill. To pray with skill. 

I'm not saying we can't involve people who are new or learning - we most definitely should! But what I am saying is that God has gifted people in the church. And we should carry out these gifts with the skill the Lord has blessed us with. Don't settle for haphazardness in worship. It's not ok to treat Sundays as a tack on to your week and so settle for unskillfulness. If you're a Sunday school teacher - prepare. A song leader - prepare. A pastor - prepare. If all you think you do is 'show up' then you can still prepare. Pray for your own heart and those leading. Pray for how you can be an intentional and skillful blessing to someone else even if you're not sure what that may look like. 

2. Work - 

While the passage in Exodus is not speaking directly to our jobs, I still think there is some application. Work is not a product of the Fall.

No matter what sort of work you are doing today - flipping burgers or building skyscrapers - you can do it with skill. Not lazily. Bring glory to God in your effort and intentionality of doing the best job you can. Even if you're not in your 'career' job yet. Prepare for your career job by being skillful in the work you're doing now. 

3. Home -

There's a lot of blogs and memes today about having a messy home because we are more concerned about time with our kids. I get that. And there's definitely some truth there!

At the same time, let us be skillful in our homes. This is for moms and dads and children. No, we won't have perfect homes! But we can be intentional about doing things around the home with skill. 

We must also be intentional about using the skills God has blessed us with as parents to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I want to be careful here because I know parents feel so inadequate. However, God has entrusted you with those kids! So pray to Him for help in rearing them faithfully. Make the effort to intentionally point them to Christ. 

Grateful for God's Word this morning. I hope you've been edified. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Providence - A Baptist Heritage

Grey Bricked Flooring

If you remember back to American History then the name 'Roger Williams' will sound somewhat familiar. Williams came to the New World in 1631 and wasn't fully on board with the pervading idea of the day of a state ran religion. This got him into trouble and in the kind providence of God led to the formation of a new colony. A colony where freedom of religion was woven into its very charter.

This colony, of course, was Rhode Island. And what city would be the capital of this new colony? Providence would play a key role here as well. Literally, Providence. A most fitting name. During his Providence, RI days Williams was, for a brief stint, a Baptist and it was during this time that he was instrumental in the formation of the very first Baptist church on American Soil - First Baptist Church of Providence in 1638.

I share this neat little bit of history to just remind my fellow baptists that we have always been people of Providence. Perhaps we've never even visited Rhode Island, but that's not necessary to appreciate our heritage. It was only a few more decades later when the 1689 London Baptist Confession came out. It has this to say about providence:

CHAPTER 5; OF DIVINE PROVIDENCEParagraph 1. God the good Creator of all things, in His infinite power and wisdom does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created, according unto His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will; to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy. 
Paragraph 2. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; so that there is not anything befalls any by chance, or without His providence; yet by the same providence He ordered them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently. 
Paragraph 3. God, in his ordinary providence makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them at His pleasure.  
Paragraph 4. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in His providence, that His determinate counsel extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also He most wisely and powerfully binds, and otherwise orders and governs, in a manifold dispensation to His most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceeds only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin. 
Paragraph 5. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does often times leave for a season His own children to manifold temptations and the corruptions of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself; and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for other just and holy ends. So that whatsoever befalls any of His elect is by His appointment, for His glory, and their good. 
Paragraph 6. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as the righteous judge, for former sin does blind and harden; from them He not only withholds His grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understanding, and wrought upon their hearts; but sometimes also withdraws the gifts which  they had, and exposes them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, under those means which God uses for the softening of others. 
Paragraph 7. As the providence of God does in general reach to all creatures, so after a more special manner it takes care of His church, and disposes of all things to the good thereof.

Some of that may be difficult to read in 21st Century vernacular but suffice it to say that Baptists throughout the centuries have viewed God as the one who is control of all things. A healthy understanding of the providence of God is this: That God works all things after the counsel of His will. That in the universe there is not one rogue molecule floating around. Every atom, every proton, and electron, every single thing in the universe is under God’s sovereign hand and is used by Him to bring about His own eternal purposes for His own eternal glory.

This does not make God the author of evil, nor does it make men unresponsible for their actions. Can we not see God as big enough to uphold the universe by the word of His power, and to order and direct all things after the counsel of His will, and simultaneously hold men responsible for the choices that they make in accordance with their own desires? This is the God of the Bible.

I am finishing up Jonah this week. We've spent a few months now walking through this great book together (sermons here). In the final portion of Jonah, we see that God brings things into Jonah's life that are both comforting (the plant) and discomforting (destroying the plant). The point being that God is willing to do things in the lives of Believers in order to get to our hearts. Not because He is punishing us, but because He loves us. Because He refuses to leave us in a state of callousness, He will go to great lengths to prune us of remaining sin, sometimes even sin we didn't know we had!

This does NOT mean that you must see every negative thing in your life as God trying to ‘get you’. That’s a sad view of providence. Rather, it is to see that God is in control of all things and that even the crazy, painful, and difficult moments in your life, God is using for a good purpose.

He is at work in the chaos and the pain. When the kids are crazy and the house is a mess and the bills are late and the washing machine is broken: trust God’s unwavering love for you and His uncompromising commitment to your holiness in Him.

When the pink slip comes in or the checkup doesn’t go as planned or the tornado hits your house but not your neighbor's you must believe in a God who is not just up there wringing his hands, but who is in total control.

This doesn't mean we always have every answer to situations that arise. But it does mean that He is not through with you. He is not done with what He started in you. You see, God didn’t save you from discomfort. He didn’t save you from not getting your feelings hurt. He didn’t save you from bad days. He saved you in Christ from His own holy wrath against your sin.

And while that sin was paid for on the Cross, it’s still something that we struggle with and it’s still something God is pruning in us. God was willing to proactively bring discomfort in Jonah’s life to reveal his heart issue and to show him a clear picture of who He was and His compassion for the Nations. And because God loves us, He brings things into our life, or via secondary means allows things into our lives, for a higher purpose.
So, let us drop words like 'chance', 'luck', and 'coincidence' (and 'mother nature'). And let us recover our Baptist heritage. Let us be sound in our doctrine of providence. And let us give God the glory for all that He brings or allows into our lives knowing that His ultimate purpose is our good and His glory.