January 29, 2013

The Uncomfortable Conversation

Responses to friends or family, or even strangers, who talk to us about spiritual matters tend to result in knee-jerk reactions trying to avoid hearing or openly discussing what they have to say. But why is that?

Why do we feel so uncomfortable when someone close to us wants to talk to about the very things we all know matter most in life?

Doubtless, we all know what its like to be scolded by someone unnecessarily, or to be in the room with the person who is overly critical but will not listen to anyone else's opinion. I'm not referring to that particular kind of uncomfortable conversation. There are good strategies for dealing with people in such situations, but that's a topic for another time.

It would take quite some time to describe in detail all the answers that could be found in the Bible for why we tend to feel stressed in conversations regarding spiritual realities. Some natural reasons, of course, may be that we believe there is too much disagreement among various religious points of view. However, I believe the answer lies in questioning why we believe so strongly that agreement is unattainable.

The Bible teaches that we tend to avoid uncomfortable discussions about spiritual truth because we naturally do not like to be in the light. Just after telling Nicodemus about God's love for the world in John 3:16, Jesus also said that people hate the light and will not come into the light because they are afraid of having their sinful behavior exposed (John 3:19).

We usually react to statements like that by thinking it does not apply to us, but must be referring to other people out there somewhere. That kind of reasoning is called self-justification, which the Bible also points out as sinful. King David wrote that he wanted to be rebuked for his sin because it would help him avoid what was evil (Psalm 141:5; see also v. 4). David's son and heir to his royal throne, Solomon, wrote that people who hate correction are stupid (Proverbs 12:1) but that a wise man will love you if you rebuke him (Proverbs 9:8). Solomon also said that the prayer of the person who will not listen to God's Law is an abomination, and if they continually refuse to listen to correction, they will come to ruin suddenly without any hope (Proverbs 28:9; Proverbs 29:1). Jesus taught that unrighteous thoughts spring from a corrupt heart (Mark 7:20-22) and the apostle Paul, quoting from Psalm 14, explained that there is no one who is righteous and without sin. But when someone openly brings up similar things in a conversation, we may feel annoyed, or worse, angry.

We do not like to be judged, and so we often respond with the notion that "only God can judge our hearts...and he loves everybody anyway," so we tend to avoid talking about it. But what we forget is that God's Word is judging our hearts openly already, because that is its purpose (Hebrews 4:12). We do not need to run from that judgment like running from a fiery explosion, but we should step into it like stepping into the warm sunshine where all our blemishes can be seen for what they are, and can be healed as well.

So the next time anyone talks to you about the uncomfortable truths of the Bible, instead of shutting them down or turning away, engage with them openly and tell them how much you appreciate it, even though it may make you feel uncomfortable or you may disagree. Usually the best things in life make us feel uncomfortable at first, until we are trained by them. Exercise is never comfortable at the beginning, but we all know how much better we feel and look in the long run when we endure it. Endure the pain of those tough conversations for your own good and for the good of your loved ones. If they lead you to a deeper relationship with Christ, then you will be eternally blessed and happy for it.

December 27, 2012

Creator and Creation in Genesis 1:1

© 2011 Penn Tomassetti
Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This verse sums up all things that exists as having been created in the beginning by God

The heavens and the earth did not always exist, they were created. God created them, but God was uncreated. God simply is what he is. 

In the beginning indicates a starting point. I take this to mean the beginning of everything, including all spiritual creations, as well as physical. God is the origin, the source of the existence of the heavens and the earth. Though they have a point of beginning, God has none. He simply is.

The heavens and the earth are dependent for their created and sustained existence, but God is independent. If we were to say that God is dependent on something, he would depend on himself. He is self-existent. That is to say, God's existence depends on God. Another way to put it is to say that he is ultimate. He is the bottom line, so to speak.

God acted in creation. He performed a work. Power, which is the ability to do something, was exercised by him, through him, and for him.

Creation was ex nihilo, or from nothing. God, who is, made something to be that was not until he caused it to be.

In speaking of reality, God is the ultimate reality, for only he simply is. All reality besides him is from him and depends on him for it to be real. All reality is therefore God's reality. In looking at this verse, it seems that all dependent reality is contained in two levels:
1) the heavens
2) the earth

Both levels exist as creaturely, that is, they are created. There is a distinction of essence between the Creator on the one hand, and the created on the other. The Creator exists apart from and independent of the created, and the created exists from and dependent on the Creator. Nothing exists apart from God, though God exists apart from everything besides himself. Therefore God is holy, separate, different, wholly other than his works of creation.

On account of this doctrine, God is to be regarded by us as sovereign, that is, he is supreme and authoritative. We look to him for all that we are and can be.

The subject of science often enters into discussions about creation from Genesis chapter one. But we must keep in mind that science, which comes from a latin word meaning knowledge, is the study of the natural world through human observation. When we speak of a natural world, we are speaking of the creation that depends on God for its existence. When we speak of human observation, we are speaking of created beings capable of knowing things by virtue of their created existence. So when we talk about science, we are talking about creation and what we can know about it. Such things are only possible because God has made them so. That is why the person who wants to separate his knowledge of God from what he can know about nature, studying it independently from him and calling that 'science', is badly mistaken. We depend on God in order to do even that. Therefore we must acknowledge our dependence on God as our Creator and Sustainer in order to know anything at all as it should be known, and by doing so, honor and glorify him.

Note, a fuller treatment of epistemology cannot be treated here, nor can a refutation of atheism, other religious traditions, or an in depth study of what other ancient cultures thought about creation be dealt with here. Those are topics for another occasion. However, I should mention that this verse comes down to us as part of God's revelation of himself and his works to us, his creatures. God communicated the knowledge of himself and his act in creation in order that we might know something about it, and therefore the message of verse one of Genesis chapter one is dependent on God's revealing it, which we believe and confess he has done.

September 23, 2012

My Thoughts on Genesis 1:1

As an exercise in faith seeking to understand all that God has provided for me in His written Word, I began writing some thoughts down as I read Genesis 1:1. There is a lot that could be written on this verse, but my aim was simply to look at what it says and what I can learn from it. I also included a note about the first book of the Bible, of which this verse is the opening one.



In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 
(Genesis 1:1 ESV)


Moses began this Genesis story with a statement of fact, the fact that Elohim (God) created the heavens and the earth. The heavens and the earth include everything. The only uncreated thing is God, who alone is Creator. The beginning was when and where it all started. Nothing created is without a beginning in space and time. This verse presents some of the qualities or characteristics of the God of Israel as eternal, powerful, creative, and beyond space and time. But creation is presented as temporal and dependent. There was a time when the heavens and earth did not exist, so we say they were made from nothing.

Some clear and logical observations from Genesis 1:1 are that:
1. God is the creator.
2. The heavens and the earth are his creation.
3. The beginning was the time of creation.
4. Which leads us to understand that our existence depends on God.
5. We belong to God as his workmanship.
6. We may naturally feel awed by God when we are in awe of his created works, and so direct our worship to Him.
7. As God's creatures, we are dependent on him for the right knowledge of him and for the right knowledge of ourselves and how we ought to live.

A little about the book of Genesis:
The first book of Moses, or Genesis, was written to people who naturally were descendants of Adam and Eve, God's first created human couple. That would include all of us.

It was also written more specifically to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, three of the most prominent characters in this story. They were the Hebrews, or Israelites. Here, Moses instructed the Hebrews about their God and their beginnings. This is why Genesis is called the book of beginnings. It tells of the beginning of creation, as well as the beginnings of nations, languages, kingdoms and culture. The beginning of creation is followed by the beginning of rebellion and death, which leads to the beginning of redemption and the promise of a new creation to come.

Additionally, it is important to note that the New Testament plainly teaches that Jesus Christ created all things. In fact, the Trinity - God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, each had a role to play in creation. This is a topic for another post, but nevertheless cannot go unstated.

September 4, 2012

Jonathan Edwards' Directions for Getting Christian Knowledge

Currently, I'm studying a sermon by Jonathan Edwards, titled: "Christian Knowledge", or, under its full title: "Christian Knowledge: The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth".

Hopefully you are already convinced that it is both your privilege and duty to read the Holy Scriptures and learn to understand their message, I offer you these wise directions from Jonathan on how to do so:

Directions for the acquisition of Christian knowledge

1. BE assiduous in reading the Holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived.

Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected. Every man of common understanding who can read, may, if he please, become well acquainted with the Scriptures. And what an excellent attainment would this be!

2. Content not yourselves with only a cursory reading, without regarding the sense. This is an ill way of reading, to which, however, many accustom themselves all their days. When you read, observe what you read. Observe how things come in. Take notice of the drift of the discourse, and compare one scripture with another. For the Scripture, by the harmony of its different; parts, casts great light upon itself.--We are expressly directed by Christ, to search the Scriptures, which evidently intends something more than a mere cursory reading. And use means to find out the meaning of the Scripture. When you have it explained in the preaching of the word, take notice of it; and if at any time a scripture that you did not understand be cleared up to your satisfaction, mark it, lay it up, and if possible remember it.

3. Procure, and diligently use, other books which may help you to grow in this knowledge. There are many excellent books extant, which might greatly forward you in this knowledge, and afford you a very profitable and pleasant entertainment in your leisure hours. There is doubtless a great defect in many, that through a lothness to be at a little expense, they furnish themselves with no more helps of this nature. They have a few books indeed, which now and then on sabbath-days they read; but they have had them so long, and read them so often, that they are weary of them, and it is now become a dull story, a mere task to read them.

4. Improve conversation with others to this end. How much might persons promote each other's knowledge in divine things, if they would improve conversation as they might; if men that are ignorant were not ashamed to show their ignorance, and were willing to learn of others; if those that have knowledge would communicate it, without pride and ostentation; and if all were more disposed to enter on such conversation as would be for their mutual edification and instruction.

5. Seek not to grow in knowledge chiefly for the sake of applause, and to enable you to dispute with others; but seek it for the benefit of your souls, and in order to practice.--If applause be your end, you will not be so likely to be led to the knowledge of the truth, but may justly, as often is the case of those who are proud of their knowledge, be led into error to your own perdition. This being your end, if you should obtain much rational knowledge, it would not be likely to be of any benefit to you, but would puff you up with pride: 1 Cor. viii. 1. " Knowledge puffeth up."

6. Seek to God, that he would direct you, and bless you, in this pursuit after knowledge. This is the apostle's direction, James i. 5. " If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not." God is the fountain of all divine knowledge: Prov. ii. 6. "The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." Labour to be sensible of your own blindness and ignorance, and your need of the help of God, lest you be led into error, instead of true knowledge: 1 Cor. iii. 18. " If any man would be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise."

7. Practice according to what knowledge you have. This will be the way to know more. The psalmist warmly recommends this way of seeking knowledge in divine truth, from his own experience: Psal. cxix. 100. " I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts." Christ also recommends the same: John vii. 17. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." 


Quoted from: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/sermons.knowledge.html

August 24, 2012

God's Word is full enough to occupy our minds forever

"The word of God, which is given for our instruction in divinity, contains enough in it to employ us to the end of our lives, and then we shall leave enough uninvestigated to employ the heads of the ablest divines to the end of the world. The psalmist found an end to the things that are human; but he could never find an end to what is contained in the word of God: Psal. cxix. 96. " I have seen an end to all perfection; but thy command is exceeding broad." There is enough in this divine science to employ the understandings of saints and angels to all eternity."

- Jonathan Edwards, from his sermon: Christian Knowledge

August 16, 2012

A Grace Quote from Calvin and the Law

As I read and study the Holy Scriptures, I'm struck at how much I find myself seeing in them exactly what John Calvin saw 500 years ago as he studied them. Here he describes the way the Law of God leads us to depend fully on mercy in Christ:

"But while the unrighteousness and condemnation of all are attested by the law, it does not follow (if we make the proper use of it) that we are immediately to give up all hope and rush headlong on despair. No doubt, it has some such effect upon the reprobate, but this is owing to their obstinacy. With the children of God the effect is different. The Apostle testifies that the law pronounces its sentence of condemnation in order “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom 3:19). In another place, however, the same Apostle declares, that “God has concluded them all in unbelief;” not that he might destroy all, or allow all to perish, but that “he might have mercy upon all” (Rom 11:32:) in other words, that divesting themselves of an absurd opinion of their own virtue, they may perceive how they are wholly dependent on the hand of God; that feeling how naked and destitute they are, they may take refuge in his mercy, rely upon it, and cover themselves up entirely with it; renouncing all righteousness and merit, and clinging to mercy alone, as offered in Christ to all who long and look for it in true faith. In the precepts of the law, God is seen as the rewarder only of perfect righteousness (a righteousness of which all are destitute), and, on the other hand, as the stern avenger of wickedness. But in Christ his countenance beams forth full of grace and gentleness towards poor unworthy sinners."
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II.8

Note how one of the purposes of God's Law is to testify to our guilt and deserved condemnation before the absolutely Holy God. But this knowledge should not lead us to "give up all hope and rush headlong on despair." Instead, recognizing that the Law is just and true, and that we are guilty and helpless, we may find a reason to cling to Christ. Because now the cross and empty tomb make more sense to us, since it is there that Jesus paid the penalty of the Law for us, making us free.

The Law shuts mouths, so that nobody can justify themselves before God who knows all things. It forces us by its divine authority to accept a guilty verdict. But this is so that we may obtain mercy if we repent and confess our sins to God now. We may obtain mercy and find grace through faith, because Jesus Christ provides our righteousness, apart from works of the Law, as a gift which we depend fully on Him for, and not ourselves.

So next time you are tempted to despair from the high standard set by God's Law, look to Jesus. And if you do not have a high enough regard for God's Law yet, let it shut you up and show you just how much you really do need mercy.

Χάρις και ειρήνη
Grace and peace

May 19, 2012

The Sovereignty of God and Human Government

Why is it important to know what God's opinion is about governments and their rulers? Because God is sovereign. And this doesn’t just mean that God controls all beings and all things, but also that He possesses full rights over all things, including over the civil authorities.

This is why God presents Himself in the Holy Scriptures as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Those who rule the nations are under His authority and derive their authority from Him, even when they do not recognize it.

That is what Paul teaches in Romans 13: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (vv. 1-2). Earthly governors possess authority because God invested it in them. In John 19:11 the Lord Jesus says to Pilate: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” Pilate’s authority, ultimately, is not derived from Caesar, but from God Himself. This scriptural truth has far-reaching repercussions.

First, it implies that God alone has the right to define the function of rulers and to limit their authority.

What are human governments supposed to do? How far does their authority extend? What standard of justice should they cause to prevail? How are rulers supposed to to behave? The only one who can respond to these questions is God Himself, since it is He who instituted civil authority.

Second, this means that national rulers do not possess absolute power, since their authority is delegated, subordinate to the authority of God.

One of the most powerful rulers of antiquity was Nebuchadnezzar, the great Babylonian king; but when this king started to be overcome by his pride, Daniel had to remind him of this truth from the Scriptures: “You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory” (Daniel 2:37 NKJV). The authority that rulers possess is an authority which has been delegated to them.

But this also implies that national rulers are responsible before God for the exercise of their authority and one day will have to give an account before Him for the stewardship with which they were entrusted. In Romans 13 Paul refers to magistrates as “servants of God.” Even though they do not recognize themselves as such, that is what they are, servants of God Almighty, called to perform a specific task for the common good.

That is why the first duty of a ruler is to submit himself to the authority of God. In Psalm 2:10-11 David says: “Now therefore, O kings, be wise [the idea is to act with discretion, instead of opposing God, submit to Him]; be warned, O rulers of the earth [allow yourselves to be taught]. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (ESV).

The God of Scripture is sovereign; He possess full rights over everything created, including human governments. His sovereignty even extends to the kings of the earth. And as His ministers, we have the responsibility to proclaim what He has revealed in His Word concerning these things.

In our next post we will look at the common grace of God and human governments; in order to consider what a ruler should be like, according to the general principles of God’s Word.

 © by Sugel Michelén. Originally published on the author’s blog Todo Pensamiento Cautivo, as La soberanía de Dios y los gobernantes humanos. Translated into English with permission by Penn Tomassetti. You can reproduce and distribute this material, as long as it is without charge, without altering its content, and with recognition of its author and origin.

May 18, 2012

Facing the Next Election as a Christian

Considering all the talk about presidential candidates and future elections, this post is fitting for any concerned citizen to consider.

Facing the Next Election as a Christian 

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Russian writer who won the Nobel prize of literature in 1970, on one occasion announced these words: "More than 50 years ago, when I was a child, I remember having heard many older people offer the following explanation for the great disaster that had fallen upon Russia: 'Men have forgotten God; and that is why all these things have happened.' Since then I have dedicated a little less than 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and contributed up to eight of my own volumes in the effort to clear the ashes left from the catastrophe. But if you asked me today to give the most precise formulation possible for the main cause of this ruinous revolution which has devoured more than 60 million of our own people, I could not express it more precisely than to repeat: 'Men have forgotten God; and that is why all these things have happened.'" (J. S. Feinberg & P. D. Feinberg; Ethics for a Brave New World; chapt. 14)

Solzhenitsyn saw a direct relationship between the established politic of the Soviet Union as a root of the revolution's Bolshevik triumph, with all the consequences the revolution brought with it, and the atheism which sustained the ideology of those who promoted it.

Ideas have consequences. How you think will determine how you live, the decisions you take, the things you value; it will determine the course of your life. That’s why Solomon said in Proverbs 23:7 that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. We have all spent years acquiring, consciously and unconsciously, a collection of ideas that we assume are good and valid; and it is this collection of presuppositions which form our "worldview", the view we hold of the world and the point of reference we use to interpret data from the world surrounding us. Even though not everyone is crucially conscious of it, everyone has a point of reference formed by their most basic beliefs, and which influences every area of their lives, including their perspectives on politics.

That is why we insist on the fact that Christianity is much more than a message about the salvation of sinners through the person and redemptive work of Christ; Christianity provides an adequate point of reference for interpreting things as they are and for interacting with them consequently.

Christians behave in a distinct way from those who are not Christian because they have a different worldview, another perspective on things; and that distinct Christian perspective must govern us during the next election day when we go to exercise our right to vote.

It is lamentable that many Christians relate their Christianity only to that which fits within the “spiritual life” compartment. They behave like Christians when they go to church, when they meet with family for times of devotion, or when they read the Scriptures in private. But when they involve themselves in business activities, when they are having fun or when they go to the polls to vote for a candidate, they do so as any other unbeliever would do. These people suffer from a very common illness: lack of integrity.

The word “integrity” comes from the Latin “integritas” which means “quality of the whole, entire, soundness, to be complete”. A person with integrity does not divide their life into compartments: “I act like a saint, as a Christian, in this area over here and in that other area over there, but everywhere else I act like a pagan.” No. The man of integrity is the same wherever he goes, he is not double-minded. The very principle that guides his relationship with God and his spiritual life is the very same principle that guides him when it is time to choose a candidate.

In the next article, I would like to focus on the profile the Lord gives us in His Word for a good governor. However I do want to say beforehand that I do not intend to tell you which of the current presidential candidates you should vote for. If you begin to read between the lines you might seem to find indications here and there that reveal the “hidden message” that we supposedly would like to get across in this article; but there really is no hidden message to unveil. What we want to say is what we are going to say and no more.

We are expounding this theme because we have the scriptural conviction that we should teach the church the whole counsel of God, in such a way that Christians learn to act as Christians in every area of life. God has left us an abundance of information in His Word about governors and governments. Our duty as pastors is to pass on to you that information so that each one of you can exercise your right to vote in this next election with an informed conscience.

© by Sugel Michelén. Originally published in the author’s blog Todo Pensamiento Cautivo, as El Cristiano frente a las próximas elecciones. Translated into English with permission by Penn Tomassetti. You can reproduce and distribute this material, as long as it is without charge, without altering its content, and with recognition of its author and origin.

May 16, 2012

God's Children Don't Sin

4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
(1 John 3:4-10 ESV) 

Earlier in this letter, John explained that speaking the truth about knowing Jesus Christ means having the actions to back up such a claim. Nobody who merely says they are Christian should be regarded as one if they do not do what Jesus commands.

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
(1 John 2:1-6)

The reason Christians do not sin is that they are God's children, children of light and not of darkness. If they were still in the world of darkness, unbelief and sin, they would have no problem living a sinful, self-righteous, or licentious lifestyle. But now they belong to God and have His seed within them through the work of the Holy Spirit in them. They will not do as the apostates do, who turn from the truth to practice lawlessness. Even if they do sin, they confess it and continue to repent. They cannot sin in the sense of ultimately turning from Christ. He guards them as His own. He set them free from Satan and made them new after the image of God, who loves righteousness.

Obedience is the sign of true and saving faith, not the root of it. It is the fruit that grows out of the tree planted in the soil stained with the Lord's blood. Those who do not have the works to back up their faith, simply do not have faith. But take heart if this worries you, God gives faith as a gift to all whom He chose for salvation before the foundation of the world.

Jesus Christ is the advocate in the sense that He appeals to the Father on behalf of sinners who repent and trust in Him. He has been raised to everlasting life, so His appeals will always be accepted before our God and Father. He is also their propitiation in the sense that His life was given over to death in exchange for sinners who repent and trust in Him. All of their sins are propitiated by His blood, so that they are completely forgiven forever and ever. Whoever does not repent and trust in Him is not forgiven through His blood. Not yet...

But if you turn to Jesus and repent and submit to Him as your Lord and God, doing what He says and not hearing it only, then you have faith and your life will begin to change. And when you commit errors and do not live in perfect obedience to the Lord, your confession of those sins to Jesus, your sadness and willingness to change and obey, will show that you are not sinning in the sense that John described about those who are not genuine. Seek the Lord and do what He says, but remember that He saves by grace as a gift through faith alone. Your works of obedience are simply His power in you causing you to live out your salvation in real life.

God bless!

February 15, 2012

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer:

That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

~ Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1

February 1, 2012

Proclaiming the Triune God

The following is a little tract I'm working on as part of a series of very brief evangelistic messages that I've been producing. During the long period of time I have spent not blogging, I have not stopped writing. Much of my writing has been in the form of making little tracts or doing personal Bible study. Here is one of my newest tracts titled:

WHAT IS THE TRINITY?

GOD has not hidden Himself from people so that they cannot know Him, but has revealed Himself in history and in the Holy Scriptures. In the Bible, God speaks of Himself as three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We read God saying, “Let us make man in our image,” in Genesis chapter one. We also read the Shema, a Hebrew confession of faith, which says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This confession tells us that God is one. Yet God speaks of Himself as “us,” and also reveals Himself as Father, Word, and Spirit. In John 1:1 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word refers to Jesus, the Son. In verse 14 it says, “And the Word became flesh.” That is, the Word, who is called God, became a real, physical man. Jesus is both fully God and fully human. Jesus also spoke of another Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit. At His baptism, the Father spoke of His beloved Son and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove. Jesus also sent His disciples into the world to teach and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). God is three, yet one, which is why we use the term Trinity. While we may not understand everything about God, we can and must understand what He has clearly revealed about Himself. God has told us what He is like in the Bible, and the Bible shows that He is three distinct Persons in unity and harmony as one God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. See the New Testament for more.

January 17, 2012

Psalm 107:1-16 For the Homeless

Psalm 107
Let the redeemed of the Lord speak of his steadfast love.

I. This psalm starts off with a call to praise and worship God.

Why?

Because he is good and his steadfast love endures forever.

How do we know that?

Because he redeems people from trouble. He saves people. He saves all kinds of people. People from all places. He gathered them from the east and west, north and south.

Where are you right now? Wherever you are, God knows what you are dealing with. He can take you from any place.

II. Some of those he redeemed were homeless. They didn't even have a city to live in. They were in a desert where there is nothing. No food. No water. Nada.

What did they do?

They cried to the Lord in their trouble. You know, you can cry to the Lord. You can tell him all about it. He understands you better than anyone. Even better than you do. He made you. Don’t be mad at him for your troubles, he can save you out of them. Maybe that’s why he allowed them to happen to you, so that he can show you how much he cares for you?

He heard their cry. God hears. He knows. Remember, Jesus went through it, too. He was homeless, hungry, thirsty, rejected, tired, betrayed, beaten, murdered. He understands all pain, all betrayal, all mistreatment, all heartache.

God delivered them. He led them on the straight way. He gave them a permanent place to stay. This is why they thank him. He worked when they prayed. Some say, “Prayer works.” Well, God works. He satisfies the longing soul. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” God loves to satisfy those who are in need. This may be one reason why he allows trouble in our lives. Do you feel dissatisfied? Are you hungry for what is right and good in your life? Look to God. He doesn’t have the answer, he is the answer!

They thank him for his “steadfast love.” Love that keeps on keeping on, no matter what. God doesn’t stop loving. He loves those he redeems. There are those that God does not love. Just read Psalm 5 if you don't believe me. God will punish sinners for their sins in Hell. Hell never ends. Israel was God's chosen nation, a people he redeemed out of slavery for himself. he certainly wasn't going to let them starve in the desert, especially when they cried to him for salvation. The soul who seeks him will find him. God never let's anyone down who genuinely wants to be saved. He will redeem everyone that he chose from before the foundation of the world. That's what Ephesians chapter 1 says.

Are you redeemed? that’s the question.

Maybe you think your situation is different. So many say that for them, Hell is here on earth. It's not. Christ went back to heaven to prepare a place there for you if you follow him. Cry to him. Talk to him. Trust in him. He’ll show you.

Let’s move on...

III. Some were criminals. Stuck in prison. They rebelled against his word. They lived their own way. They didn’t listen to God’s counsel, his word, his instructions. You know, God gave us everything we need to know about living his way right here in the Bible. They ignored that. They did their own thing, and paid for it in chains and slave labor. Nobody cared for them.

Then what did they do after that?

It says in verses 13 & 14, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.”

That’s why they should thank him. He loved them enough to pardon them. He loved them enough to set them free. It says he burst their bonds apart. He loved them so much he destroyed everything that held them captive.

What is holding you captive? Have you been rebellious against God’s Word? Are you sitting in darkness and bound by the chains of sin? Don’t fear. Don’t be downcast. Don’t be discouraged. You can cry to the Lord in the midst of your distress. He’ll set you free. Jesus said that only the truth will set us free. He is the truth.

Conclusion:
I wish I had more time to expound the rest of this Psalm. I could say a lot more about it. There is something here for everyone. Not all of us have the same problems, come from the same backgrounds, have had the same experiences, felt the same pain, cried the same tears, had the same anger or frustration. But all of us have one thing in common. We have a Creator who loves us enough to save us from our troubles when we call out to him.

Jesus didn’t die for nothing. He died to pay for the sins of his people. Everyone who comes to him will never be cast out. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know him. How can they come to him? Oh, certainly many people say they believe in him. They say they have a personal relationship with him. But how do they live their lives? Do they live as if their life depended on him? Because it does. Do they see him as their Lord who tells them what to do? Or do they see him as the one they get to tell what to do? See prayer is first about our submission to God, our love, delight and praise to God. We ask him to give us what he knows we need. Sometimes he gives us what we want. Sometimes he doesn’t. Most of the time it is because we ask for the wrong things and we have the wrong motives. But he loves to save. We see that from this Psalm. He loves to redeem people from every walk of life. He loves to help those who recognize they truly have a need for him. See, if you need God, then God is there for you. If you don’t need him, don’t expect to be blessed by him. Many people live as if they don’t need Christ. They live as if they don’t need anyone or anything but themselves. They tell their girlfriends that they need them, until they find another girl. Likewise, many women are just using men to get what they want. True love is not getting as much as you can from others, it is giving yourself away for the sake of the one you love.

God gave everything. He gave his Son. Shouldn’t we gladly give ourselves to him? Our desires, hopes, dreams, aspirations, needs, wants, sins, burdens, troubles, hurts, fears, anxieties, angers, frustrations, complaints, love, affection, obedience, loyalty? He is waiting to hear us cry to him. Pour out your heart to him. You may not feel relief right away. It may take some time. You might not see your full reward until you reach God’s heavenly throne room. Remember, he raised Jesus from the dead. We must die also. We die to our way of life in order to live his way, by his strength and help. If we die physically, he will raise us to eternal life when Christ returns. After death, God's children get to be with him in heaven, waiting for the time when he will make this world new again.

Isn’t that something to cry out to him for? Isn’t it worth our pleas for help to be given what our souls most long for? They long for God. Jesus is God in human flesh, who reconciles us back to the Father. They long for life. Jesus is the life. They long for light. Jesus is the light of the world. They long for freedom. Jesus is the truth that sets us free. They long for satisfaction. Jesus satisfies completely. They long for peace. Jesus is our peace. They long for justification. Christ is our justification, who has taken away our sin, put it upon himself, and has given us his righteousness, making us accepted forever. He delights to save those who cry out to him!

You can apply this message to yourself in a couple of ways. First, if you are living your own way, doing things your way, ignoring God's Word, then you can apply this message by calling out to him for a change in your heart and for a change in your life. You need to be rescued from all the things we just talked about, and the only way for you to be redeemed, like the Israelites spoken of in this Psalm, is by putting your full confidence in Jesus Christ as your righteousness before God. Don't get me wrong. Christ demands repentance. To repent is to recognize your guilt for breaking all of God's righteous Laws and to turn back to him in confession, sorrow, humility, fear and obedience. Nothing less will be accepted. But Jesus also taught that you cannot come to him unless the Father draws you to him. That's why we need God's Holy Spirit to change our hearts and make us new first, before we can surrender and believe. Cry to him in prayer, confessing your waywardness, and trust fully in his power to save. Salvation is the gift of God from start to finish. You need repentance, you need forgiveness, you need a new way of life, you need to live by God's Word, you need to persevere, to keep on keeping on, you need to be faithful and to do what God wants. All of this must come by God's powerful grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Cry out to him in your prayers for this salvation.

Second, if you know you have eternal life and you trust fully in the King of kings, the Savior of sinners, the Judge who has pardoned every last one of your sins forever and has already accepted you as his very own, then you can take courage. You can be fully confident that he cares about every need of yours and hears when you call. By his help, you can live your life in obedience to Scripture. Just keep reading it and learning to do what it says in the power of God's Spirit. If you don't, you can be sure God will discipline you for disobeying, but he will never leave you or forsake you. If you are not disciplined by God as your Father, it is because you are not one of his children. In that case, you ought to examine yourself and seek the Lord for salvation and the assurance of your salvation, which only he can give.

Let us give thanks to him for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the children of men!

Let's pray.