Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Word For The Wise Is Sufficient

I grew up in the home of a state trooper. There was never any question about the reality of authority. There was never any argument about where it rested. There was never any greater wisdom that I learned than when I heard how the voice of authority told me to live and obeyed. Life was good then. There was never any more miserable state of being when I heard and rejected the authoritative word. It was a fool’s way to live.
Many are living foolishly today in our culture when wisdom is in short supply. Even the church is caught up in this pursuit to insulate us from the insanity that seems to be driving our political leaders. At the very least we are greatly affected by decisions based on man’s best thinking. And man’s best thinking is being revealed as insufficient to the challenges of life today. It is like being caught up and carried along in a parade of fools. I, for one, want to know how to step out of the parade.

Hear now the word of the Lord for us today:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall."
When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment. (Matthew 7:24-8:13)

As we continue in our sermon series about the Cultural Relevance of a Biblical Worldview we consider the following truth: God reveals Himself in His word.
In Knowing God, the theologian J.I. Packer makes the claim that God reveals Himself in His word in four categories beginning in Genesis. His revelation includes command, testimony, promise or prohibition and his premise is that these categories continue to hold firm throughout the Scriptures. In our passage today we can see this revelation displayed for us in more than one way. Christ gives command, He reveals Himself in testimony, and He gives promise and prohibition to the people who hear His word. Central to God’s revelation in His word is the reality of His authority. Whether people recognize this truth does not negate it. His authority is relevant to our reality.


When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

The multitudes were amazed at His teaching and here is why: His teaching had the ring of authority to it. Have you ever been exposed to instruction without the teacher helping you see the relevance of it? What was the point of that, you may have asked after sitting through a boring lecture without understanding its application or learning why it matters. So what, you may have said to yourself or even to someone else. Here is the so what of the Sermon on the Mount. It comes down to a story that Jesus told about a wise man and a fool. They both are building houses and they both endure storms. The difference is not in what they build their lives with, although if we remember the three pigs’ story, it does matter what building materials are used in construction. Even a fable can teach a principle. Jesus is not teaching fables. But He is teaching principles. This so-what of the Word of God’s message on the side of a Galilean hill is all about the foundation. It matters what you base your life upon and how you make your decisions based upon that basis. Jesus said that wise people choose to order their lives on a foundational worldview that says God knows the right and wise way to live. It mattered to those people whether they heard the Word of God and did what the word said to do or heard the Word of God and ignored God’s direction. The Living Word of God was teaching as One who was different from the scribes. And listening to the scribes in that day was almost like hearing someone tell you that memorizing the Ten Commandments is all there was to learning how to live out God’s word. Jesus said that it wasn’t enough to know the word of God. A wise person learned how to live out the word of God.


When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him… And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him…

People are still clamoring and crowding around people and philosophies that promise the best way for people to live. Sadly some follow the next new fad into ruin. Why don’t we live the way God instructs us to live? Because we want the painless path. We want what we want. It still matters whether or not people do what the Word of God says. Their whole life is affected either way. The Chinese pastor Watchman Nee wrote that the main issue in the entire universe is authority…who has it and who recognizes it. Large crowds followed Him but we are told that two specific people came to Him. Not everyone in the crowd was seeking Jesus. Some were just in the midst of their journey. Along for the ride, or the walk, I might say. There is a difference in blending in with the crowd because that is what is expected of us or sincerely seeking Christ. These two were seeking the authority of God. And they found it. A leper…a person who was the living symbol of death and hopelessness came seeking Jesus. Symbolic in this language is how God came down from this mountain, this high ground, to encounter the need of this leper, one of the low-life of their day. The second person is met when Jesus comes into Capernaum, the center of His ministry with His disciples. We are told in the narrative that a Roman centurion, a military commander used to wielding his authority, was utterly helpless to help someone he cared deeply for. This is the Biblical God intervenes in man’s helpless and hopeless condition with compassionate desire. The brilliance of the Gospel writer demonstrates the mind of God revealed in the Word of God. He doesn’t just give us instruction in chapters 5 through 7; the writer tells how Jesus met men who wisely believed that God was willing and able to do something about their circumstances. God is still in the middle of our desperate and deadly world with a desire to help those who seek His authority. Perhaps you see yourself as a leper that no one can, or will, help. God is telling you today through this word that if you seek Him, if you acknowledge the authority of His word, He will make Himself available to you. Wise people still seek Jesus. And they know there is a way to approach Him.


And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

How differently people approach God today. People can read a passage of Scripture and interpret a promise out of context and they think that God is obligated to perform on demand and they are entitled to His blessing. It is almost like we have a view of God who is bound to His word for our benefit. He is certainly bound to His word but it is because He has a purpose in it. God told the prophet Jeremiah that He was watching over His word to perform it. God is still watching and doing His word. He invites us to join Him daily in the working out of His word in our lives. The leper bows down and approaches God. He does not demand that Jesus do anything for Him. He does not say you made me this way so you’re responsible to take care of me. He humbly makes a statement of faith about what he believes about God. If Jesus is willing, He can… How much our prayer life will change if we come to this place in our life. If God is willing, He can change our circumstance, He can make us whole. He can make us clean. He is God Almighty. Jesus tells the leper that He is willing and Be clean. This was a HUGE difference in what the leper had to say about himself in public so that others would hear and avoid him. UNCLEAN!!! He was forced to cry out. What powerful and power-filled words when Jesus said, Be cleansed. Show yourself to the priest…you will be a testimony to them!

But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

Here is a man who understood that his own authority was insufficient to help his servant’s condition. With all the power of the government and its authority to back him up, the centurion was utterly helpless in this circumstance of life. When someone in authority acknowledges that he is under authority it is a humbling thing. The centurion had authority to put down rebellion and represent the interests of Caesar’s empire but did not have authority to heal his servant. But this pagan had enough wisdom to seek One who did. Perhaps you are in a place where all your resources and power are not enough for the task. Wise people humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. In our culture today, people who humble themselves are often maligned in a climate where there is a mentality where only the strong survive. Humility is not seen as a desirable virtue according to a secular worldview. Assertive people win, we are told, but biblically speaking…


Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel…”

There is a danger attached to growing up “in church” and around church people. Sometimes we tend to know the stories without knowing God as the Storyteller. People of faith can become so used to knowing about God without knowing God deeply. The great cry to God’s people today is for us to become more intimate with God than we ever have. How? Put yourself in a place where Jesus is passing by. He speaks through the word every day; He intervenes in our lives sometimes in miraculous ways. He reveals more of Himself to those who are serious about knowing Him intimately. Jesus tells those who were following Him that here is something they need to pay attention to because it got His attention. What caused God to marvel? This centurion, outcast from the Jewish community is living out faith whereas the sons of the kingdom will be content to think they will enter the kingdom because of the faith of their fathers. They will be the real outcasts. Sometimes we Christians are content to think that just knowing the right things to say and the right places to go will be enough to enter God’s Kingdom. We must know Christ as Christians. The response to the centurion is one that is relevant to us today: “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” What Jesus was saying was that the centurion had believed…or had faith in God…and God had acted upon that act of faith. What are you believing about Christ today? Do you have faith that God has the ability and the willingness to move in our culture? Today’s church as a whole does not operate as though we believe God because in a large measure we simply don’t know Him well enough. We will not trust those whom we do not know well. Do you have a high trust level in God? Do you know Him well enough?


The centurion’s declaration to Jesus can serve as our so what for today:

…but just say the word…

Our so what is a say so! Just say the word, Lord and it is so. There are far too many people declaring things in the name of Jesus without consulting Jesus. We need more people in God’s kingdom proclaiming the authority of the King. He has decreed for us words of life. We need more people saying “Thus says the Lord” because they know what the Lord has said. What He has said He is still saying. My cry today to the Lord is just say the word.

But just say the word…Lord…and my sin, which is really spiritual leprosy, is suddenly and completely cleansed. But just say the word…Lord and my powerless effort to help someone who is helpless is accomplished under Your authority. But just say the word…Lord and my hopelessness in believing that my marriage can be healed or my health can be restored or my future can be secure or my addictions can be overcome and it is so! Let’s just let the Word of God speak…and believe it…and live it.

The title of today’s message is A WORD FOR THE WISE IS SUFFICIENT. Usually we hear that a word to the wise is sufficient. This is true if one is already wise. A person will only be wise when they have heard God and believed Him. So this is a word for the church today. We cannot be wise if we trust in our own self-made plans and serve a self-centered purpose. We will be wise when we receive what God has given us today. Himself. His word. There is no greater resource available to us. And His word is sufficient. When the church believes this, God will be manifested greatly in our midst and impact our culture for His glory. Wise people do what God says. Be a doer of the word today. It will change your life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Image Of Our Maker

Lately I’ve been thinking about air-conditioning, Diet Coke, and artificial flowers. The power went out the night before last and the air conditioning wasn’t operating. As I lay in bed I wondered how long it would take for me to get used to the absence of air conditioning. I remember the first window air conditioner my family enjoyed when I was a boy. And we all had to get used to it. Diet Coke is something for which I never thought I would develop a taste. But upon discovering that I had Type 2 diabetes I found that I developed an almost instant desire for its taste. I can only attribute that change of desires to the grace of God. These days when I run out of my Diet Coke supply, I often pout around the kitchen, wondering what I have on hand that will quench my thirst. I wondered out loud the other day as I saw someone building an artificial flower arrangement, “What in the world is wrong with what God made?” There was a time when people lived without air conditioning, dependent upon the evaporation of perspiration to keep our bodies cool as God originally designed. And no matter how much I like Diet Coke, when I am rummaging around the kitchen and looking for a substitute I seem to be oblivious to the truth that we humans have not improved on the satisfying attributes of water. Some flavored drinks actually seem to make us thirstier. And no matter how much artificial flowers look like the real thing, they give out no sweet aroma, although I’ve heard you can get some floral scents to help them seem more real. We often go to great lengths to keep from admitting that God really knows what He is doing. Man’s attempts to improve on God’s creation are futile.
So what in the world is wrong with what God made, especially that creature which the Bible says was made in the image and likeness of God? Everything is wrong. All of Creation is damaged and marred by the presence and power of sin, especially man. That which was meant to live is destined for death in its natural state. Without the intervention of Someone outside of Creation then humanity is bound for destruction and is broken beyond human ability to restore. That is the bad news. But the good news is that although the image of God the Maker stamped upon humanity is certainly flawed, it is still intact. The humanist would say that man is basically good, and will not acknowledge that there is indeed a Maker to whom man will give an account. But we who know God can know a different philosophy or worldview. The Biblical worldview lays it out in Genesis 3 and beyond. Anyone who reads and hears the word of God can come away with a different revelation. God reveals to us in the Biblical narrative that there is one great story called redemption. Our Creator has done something and is doing something about restoring our brokenness. Our Creator became our Redeemer and Restorer.
Paul wrote to the Christian community at Colossae where a crossroads of culture existed and an arena of ideas, competing with Christian doctrine, were intermingling and compromising the gospel. The challenge for the Colossians was how to be godly around ungodly cultural influences. Two views of heresy were confronted and defended against. One was Gnosticism and another was legalism. Gnosticism promoted a “secret knowledge” above and beyond the gospel message. Spiritual gurus said that it wasn’t enough to know the message of Christ. People needed a deeper revelation. Angel worship, astrology, and age-old new age pagan thought was rampant. Legalism was a swing of the pendulum in the other direction. The legalist limited their engagement of the culture lest they be infected with secular ideas. They attempted to derail Christianity by imposing Jewish control over the Christian message. They rejected the gospel because men needed to earn righteousness by their own efforts by keeping the law in their opinion. These Colossian Christ followers were caught in the middle of this cultural war of ideas wondering which worldview was worthy to base their lives upon. Their dilemma was the same as it is for the church today. We have to wrestle with and discern the timely relevance of the timeless truth of the word of the living God. Although we are not Colossians, we can learn the principles that the divinely inspired Apostle Paul wrote about. Let’s hear the word of the Lord through the proclamation of the truth about the Cosmic Christ. God reveals Himself in Christ.
This truth is relevant to our culture because the work of Christ is God’s redemptive plan.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:15-20)

God has revealed Himself through Christ in Creation, Redemption, and Restoration.


“Let Us make man in our image…” God gives Himself a directive in Genesis 1:26. Here is the beginning of the “God-made man.” It is humorous to hear someone described as a self-made man or self-made woman. Human beings may be described as movers and shakers, but they cannot be their own makers. God has made us in His image. This is what sets mankind apart from all other creatures. We live in a culture today which will grant extraordinary protection to the tiniest species of insect or rodent and kill unborn human life in the womb. How did we get to this point in this land that we love? The same way humans who think too highly of themselves often do. We deny the power of God because we do not think of Jesus as God. He is the image of the invisible God. This is only one of the passages that speak of the presence of the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, as the Agent of Creation. This passage does not teach that Christ is a created being. It teaches that Jesus was the representative of perfect humanity and its Creator as well. He was the preeminent man, the first place man in all of creation. Prefall man was created good. Postfall man can become good again once he has been redeemed. For this to happen, God had to personally intervene and pay the price of man’s redemption. There had to be a postfall man superior to the prefall man. This man was the man Christ Jesus. Christ is the central figure in the revelation of Creation. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away and new things have come. Christ is still creating.


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

The time of the writing of the Colossian letter was probably no more than 30 years or so from the death of Jesus. The Gospel of John was written probably 50 to 60 years after the crucifixion. Where did they get their information about Christ as the Creating Word of God? From Moses, in the beginning, in Genesis 1. The mystery of the incarnation is a stumbling block to Jews, Moslems, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many other world religions that balk at acknowledging that the Creator became a man. For to do that, this Man would have to be God. Exactly. And once this truth is appropriated, it gives us understanding of the precious value of the price of redemption. To believe that God became a person is necessary to understand what infinite value of Being was nailed to the cross.
At Christmastime we sing about the baby Jesus who is memorialized in the tune What Child is This? We often do not think much more about this mystery throughout the year. He did not remain an infant but grew up and is remembered in the disciples’ awestruck question in the midst of a storm at sea, What manner of man is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him? I think that I do not marvel and meditate upon this doctrine as much as I should. The foundational understanding of the gospel rests upon this truth. God Himself was manifested in the man Christ Jesus. Because He was both man and God, He could be the only sufficient price to rescue humanity from the curse of sin in that He became the curse Himself. Cursed is He, the Bible proclaims, who hangs on a tree…


For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross;

Once upon a tree, upon an old rugged, Roman cross, God died to save us from God. If we ask the unbeliever, the person who does not claim the name Christian, Are you saved?, it may elicit the response, Saved from what? I suggest to you that the average Christian, the Christ-follower, will say yes to the question when asked, Are you saved? And if you follow up with the question, Saved from what? you probably would not hear very many people say: I am saved from the wrath of God. The blood of the cross does not mean that the cross was bleeding. The blood of Christ is not primarily the body fluid we know that flows through the arteries and veins of human beings. When spoken of in the Bible the Blood of Jesus, the Blood of Christ is referring to His death. And only the Holy Death of God can satisfy the justice requirement of the Holy Wrath of God against all unrighteousness. What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood, or the death, of Jesus. The death of Christ was no accident or unfortunate series of events that led up to an untimely circumstance. It was a death sentence to the power of death itself. The image of God is revealed at the cross.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:8-9)

Today we who hear these words can be saved from the wrath of God if we respond rightly to His call to repent and believe the gospel. Surrender your life to the God of life today. Without the incarnation of God as a man, the crucifixion has no value in offering a perfect substitute for us. Without the suffering death of a crucified God, we can never know the power of a resurrected One. Thanks be to God that He has made peace through the blood of His cross. And the story continues.


So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (John 20:19-29)

Three times in this passage Jesus says to His disciples, “Peace be with you.” Significant that He said this to people who were at their emotional lowest station in life. This peace that the Word of God speaks to His disciples comes at a time when their lives were full of fearful turmoil and confusing chaos. It doesn’t get much worse than the backside of the cross. Some here today may be in a serious time of spiritual disarray. But take heart when you see Christ revealed to you as Lord of the Resurrection. God Himself is breathing the very breath of God into men who were as good as dead. Lifeless and hopeless is the man or woman without the Indwelling Spirit of God. Have you received the Holy Spirit? Just as God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life, the resurrected Christ is a preview of what life is going to be like for those who have been created to live forever with God. We will once again wear an untarnished image of God. How are we wearing it now? Do others see the life of Christ in you? Do they see you following Him through all of life’s joys and sorrows?


It seems to me that if God wants His people to follow Him, we must be guided in that journey. And God has seen fit to give us this Holy Spirit to help us determine the direction for our lives in conjunction with and not apart from the Word of God. God’s Spirit will not lead us into a place that the Word of God says we shouldn’t be. That may be spirit-led. But it is of a different spirit. Our problem is that sometimes God leads us into the hard and dark places of life. We panic and think this is not of God when the Biblical record often demonstrates the contrary. Following Christ is not the easy road where many are traveling. It is the narrow way that is often lonely. It is here that many Christ-followers reject the path of hardship and opt out. The Christ-follower needs to examine the life of the One we are following. Consider the following excerpts from the book Knowing God by J.I. Packer.

“By every human standard of reckoning, the cross was a waste – the waste of a young life, a prophet’s influence, a leader’s potential. We know the secret of its meaning and achievement only from God’s own statements. Similarly the Christian’s guided life may appear as a waste…Sooner or later, God’s guidance, which brings us out of darkness into light, will also bring us out of light into darkness. It is part of the way of the cross….Guidance, like all God’s blessings under the covenant of grace, is a sovereign act. Not merely does God will to guide us in the sense of showing us His way, that we may tread it; He wills also to guide us in the more fundamental sense of ensuring that, whatever happens, whatever mistakes we may make, we shall come safely home. Slippings and strayings there will be, no doubt, but the everlasting arms are beneath us; we shall be caught, rescued, restored. This is God’s promise; this is how good He is.” (240-242)

Our “so what” of today’s message is:

When we do not conduct ourselves as “God-made” men before God, failing to “image” Him to a godless world, perhaps it is because we find ourselves being “self-made men” trying to do spiritual things while trying to relate to a “man-made” god.

He is the image of the invisible God. Seeing Christ as He is changes us in our culture.
Are you “imaging” God in the world today?

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, (Colossians 2:6)

The Majesty Of Our Maker

Many years ago, I was traveling with my son in the vicinity of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I had some business in a condominium development and had to drive past a local landmark. One of the golf course community developers had built an elevated water tower that looked like a golf ball sitting on top of a tee. As we left the development my young son looked at the water tower until it became impossible to see. A few miles down the road he asked me a question I remember to this day.
“Daddy, how big is God?” he asked.
“Son, I don’t really know. He’s bigger than anything we could ever imagine,” I said. How does one convey the magnitude of an infinite God to the finite mind of a little boy? Just as I was thinking about the challenge he floored me with what had occupied the thoughts of that little mind since the first time he laid eyes on that water tower.
“Then He’s big enough to knock that golf ball off that tee!” Oh, that we can catch a glimpse of the greatness of God. Often we receive that from the heart of a child. A child marvels at the wonder of life. Maybe they are small enough to think big about God.
Big enough and small enough. This is the God of the Bible. One who is so majestic it defies description and One who desires to be so intimate it defies reason. Today we come to another message about the cultural relevance of a biblical worldview. It is beneficial in our daily lives and is relevant in our culture for us to think rightly about God. If I can simultaneously understand that God is both majestic and personal it will benefit me in the way I make choices in life. We desperately need a revelation of God in our culture who is worthy to be called Majestic and yet Personal. One who is far grander than our situations and yet intimate enough to know us better than we know ourselves.
We will look at two portions of Scripture to give us a sense of this revelation. It is what God says about Himself, not what you or I think or feel. The culturally relevant biblical truth to explore today is a twin truth that is held in tension.

God Reveals Himself As Both Majestic And Personal.

Let’s look first at what the psalmist has to say about the majesty of God.

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.
O that You would slay the wicked, O God; depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed. For they speak against You wickedly, and Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; they have become my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalms 139)


Because God is without beginning, God is also without boundaries. The psalmist is rightly saying that there is some knowledge and understanding about God that is too much for us to take in. Who can fully understand the ways of God? Once I was asked by a young man trying to put all the pieces together of how God has revealed Himself. He asked me some questions about the mysteries of God and I had to confess that I didn’t know. He said that if I didn’t know then tell him where he could go to get the answers. I said that for some of his questions God did not reveal the answers to anyone. After he protested a bit he stopped when I told him that if he had all the answers to every question about God that no one else did, then he would be God…and perhaps that was his real struggle after all. We all want to know what God knows. And we never will. That knowledge is reserved for him. I agree with the psalmist. Such knowledge is too high…I cannot attain it. God is not boxed into our reality. Some people say that we put God in a box. That we limit His activity when we compartmentalize Him. I would go farther and say that God is without boundaries. And if we really think we have Him boxed in and can control Him we’ve really got the wrong God hemmed in. He is loose and unhindered in the universe. And just because we are limited in our understanding of Him does not mean He is diminished in His majesty. The mystery of this majesty is that we get an occasional glimpse of it when He reveals it to us. The revelation of how much He knows us is revealed when we come to know Him.
God saw the length of my life before it ever began. That source of knowledge is something the psychics on the hotline would love to be plugged into. Not only does God know the words I speak before I speak them He knows the days of my life before I began to live them. According to verse 16 my days have been numbered. Sounds like a lot of biblical truth expressed in the days of the old western movies. One gunman would tell another to say his prayers, his days were numbered, and he was going to meet His maker. Wow! Now that is a culturally relevant message from a biblical perspective for people in our time. But no one seems to be listening very well. But that does not negate the truth from God’s perspective. It behooves us to have this biblical worldview even if many in our nation do not.
This Creator is unlimited in His knowledge of creation even when His creatures are oblivious and rebellious toward Him. The popularity of the biblical worldview does not carry any weight towards its veracity. God is true even if none of us believe Him. But how much more should these things shape the believer’s life? This revelation of God to us changes the way we live when we rightly think about Him. We can know God. But the greater truth is He knows us.
God knows everything we try to hide from all others, even ourselves. Often our greatest obstacle to being free to worship God comes in our self deception. We pretend we are something we are not and build up defenses so we do not have to disclose ourselves to God. We can lie to ourselves and believe the lies that we are good enough to justify ourselves to God. The psalmist knew that God knew him deeper than he knew himself. God has thought of everything. If He wants us to be free from sin that we have believed is not sin, He can help us see that by the convicting presence of His Holy Spirit. God knows us intimately. And He is majestic in His omniscience.
This Christ we worship is the God who had no need to be told about the nature of man because He knew all men. Such is the teaching in chapter 2 of John’s gospel. Chapter 3 introduces us to someone who by all accounts of man’s standards of righteousness was presentable to God. Now there was a man…tells us of the teacher named Nicodemus. And He lacked something to help him see the kingdom of God. He needed to be born again. This is the heart of man. We need spiritual birth to access God.
Our Maker is informed and engaged in our lives. An earthly king can be seen as very powerful in that he may have unparalleled access and control over a subject’s life. He may have knowledge over the subject’s personal and public life due to the gathering of information. A powerful king has a multitude of resources. But these earthly kings are very seldom acquainted with the subject on a personal level. This is where the contrast in God as our King is stark. He is not only intimately informed, He is powerfully engaged. He knows our weaknesses hidden from others. And He is powerful enough to do something about it.
Christ-followers who know God as all-knowing and all-powerful can live in a much different way than those who do not follow Christ. It shapes the way we make decisions in a culture that is bent on the pursuit of knowledge. We live in an information age. Knowledge is power, we hear many times. But instead of wielding this advantage to knowing more about everything to gain power over others, God gives us wisdom to apply His power to our lives. He gives us power to say no to running the rat race that the rats are winning. He gives us the power to say yes to His ways.
We can live as though we actually believe that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. The intricate design of the human being shows the intimate care and power of our Maker. And we worship Him for that. His nature is what sets His children apart from the children of men. And even the struggles in this life cannot cancel out the majesty of our Maker. Pain is real in this world. We are not called to deny it. We are called to bring our struggle to God.
The losses and crosses in our lives as members of Christ’s body are diminished under the dominion of God. Sometimes life hurts as we live it under God’s authority. We are challenged as we are told by those of no faith that if God cared about us we wouldn’t be suffering. Rebuke that lie. God knows our plight. And He knows us personally. And He can remove the thorns in our flesh or He can sustain us with His grace to endure them. He is good. He is more than good. He is great.
We have a Great King in the Kingdom of God. Wouldn’t it be a bummer if we found a king much like “the man behind the curtain” in the Wizard of Oz? I pitied him when I saw him pulling the levers that put forth the fire and smoke and images of the great and powerful Oz. We do not have a God we need to pity or apologize to the world on His behalf. We have a Great King worthy of our worship and worthy of our loyalty. God is much bigger than the men He has made.


Our second passage of scripture to explore today leads up to the popular “eagles’ wings” passage that for thousands of years have encouraged God’s people. The secret of mounting up with wings like eagles is learning how to apply the knowledge of a great and intimate God to life when it presses in and bears down upon us. Hear the word of the Lord revealed to us through the prophet Isaiah.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales? Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.
To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him? As for the idol, a craftsman casts it, a goldsmith plates it with gold, and a silversmith fashions chains of silver. He who is too impoverished for such an offering selects a tree that does not rot; he seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman to prepare an idol that will not totter.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble.
“To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God?” Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:12-31)

God has always revealed Himself as powerful and personal to people in times of despair. Desperate times require desperate measures, the old saying goes. Desperate times require a Majestic Measurer. God had the times of Isaiah and the times we live under His sovereign control. This great passage tells me that anytime I am struggling with the struggles in life and weary beyond my capacity, I need to consider and compare my circumstances to this incomparable God. There is none like Him.
People who lived in the time of Moses, Gideon, and Isaiah were despondent much like the people today…when God was compared to cultural adversity and hardship. Life is getting increasingly harder for the believer in America. It seems that the prosperity we have lived with is dissipating and the false faith of easy-believism is fading away. But real faith considers the circumstance and compares it with the God of the circumstance. For believers, hard times reveal the character of a rock-solid God.
Life is hard for the person who does not follow Christ because they are trying to live outside the authority of the Life-Giver. The Bible tells us that the way of the transgressor is hard. They want to enjoy life without the joy of the Lord, live in the Garden of God without the Gardener, and the Kingdom of God without the King. They want to do life on their own. This is man living outside of his purpose. The one who lives and struggles with the natural world in natural ways will not overcome. It has only been granted to those who surrender to Christ to be overcomers. Are you weary of being overwhelmed and desire to be an overcomer? Surrender your life to the authority of Christ today. He is King.
So You are a king? This is the mocking question posed to Jesus by the Roman governor Pilate just before Jesus completed His work on the cross. Jesus responded, My kingdom is not of this world…and …for this I have been born… Jesus was born to die so that we may be born to live. Are you living your life according to the pattern that Christ left for us to follow? Are you working for the King?
We cannot do the work of Christ but we can get to work with Christ. By this I mean that His work on the cross was His and His alone to do. That was His purpose. My purpose is to know Him and serve Him. And I must join Him in His work of redemption. First of all I must not resist what He is working out in me. He is conforming me to His image. This means I must be in a constant mode of repentance and change. When I find myself serving myself, I must say no to me and yes to Christ. We have worked long enough trying to make a name for ourselves rather than exalting the name of Christ. We must be clear in our culture as to who it is we follow for our following to be relevant. Christianity without following Christ is meaningless.
The church is the Body of Christ no matter who is president of our nation or no matter who is leader of any other nation. This passage tells us that God sets these people in place and the nations are as drops of water in a bucket. Does God care about the lives of men? Yes. But He is first and foremost concerned about His glorious name. It will be exalted in the earth. All will come to know He is God and there is no other. There are no other gods who have any power. Idols are teeterers and totterers in the scheme of things. Idols fall and idolaters stumble.
Today the church is God’s chosen spiritual army no matter who has access to nuclear missiles. The threats of world leaders to wield this horrendous sword are not a factor in the waging of spiritual warfare. Is global nuclear war a serious threat? You bet it is. But the greater threat is the loss of the souls of men and women and boys and girls who are too focused on the potential of calamity to give thought to their Personal Creator. Church, are we making much of this majestic and intimate God? If we don’t, where in the world will the world hear of such a Being?
The church of the Living God has all the resources of God no matter whose bank is bankrupt. Do we testify by our words and actions that we believe that God is able to sustain His people in these uncertain and perilous times? Do we act in faith by living out a faithful lifestyle before a watching world? Do we encourage our brothers and sisters who are struggling financially and help when we see a need? This Great God has placed His name upon His church. This is our greatest resource. The name of Jesus.

Our So What today comes to us in the form of three questions God asks in the Isaiah passage. To continually ask these three questions to ourselves is to help give us application in living out the days ahead of us.

To whom then will you compare God? (verse 18) Because we are flawed and fail, we imagine this about God. Here is where we err in our thinking! He is incomparable in His ability and compassion.

Why do you think I’ve abandoned you? (verse 27) Repent from this mindset that thinks God does not care about His people. The cross sends a different message. This kind of thinking dishonors God and diminishes His sacrifice.

Haven’t you heard about who I am? (verse 28) God is God Almighty; He gives strength to the weary, hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless. Believe the gospel…God’s good news about man’s bad condition.

After we have compared the incomparable God to our circumstance in life, we can mount up with wings like eagles. Wait on the Lord. He will come and help His people. He is that powerful. And He is that personal.

We can love a God like that.

Purpose Driven Living

Today we begin a series on The Cultural Relevance of a Biblical Worldview. Human beings are meaning makers. There is always an interpretation of our experiences in life and the circumstances of life. We betray that desire to interpret life by our questions we ask ourselves and others. Why did this thing happen?, What do these things mean?, Why am I here?, and What is my purpose? are only a few of the thoughts that plague us and cry out for answers. The last question is one that contains our purpose today as we seek to gain some insight into the answer to the question: What is my purpose?
It makes a difference in the way we live when we know why we live. And the desire for multitudes of people to nail down the purpose of their lives is prevalent in our culture today. We live in a culture where the cultural institutions are failing us in their provision and protection. That which we have come to depend upon is becoming more and more disappointing. The people we have trusted to lead us have shown themselves to be people who are different from the person we thought we knew. The time is approaching, and is now here, where we as a nation are seeking guidance from a source we can trust. For us, as the people of God to understand our purpose for which we have been created, it must be revealed from a trustworthy source, none other than God Himself. This brings us to another one of those questions. Can God really be known? For until we settle that question, we will never truly know our purpose.

A Culturally Relevant Biblical Truth for our examination today is God Can Be Known.
In our pursuit to know God and discover our purpose we turn to two passages of Scripture today. The first one comes from the book of Genesis, the book of beginnings.

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


Created things have a beginning but not so with the Creator. Pondering the phrase in the beginning can provoke a question in my mind. In the beginning of what? It surely wasn’t God’s beginning for we find Him already there, the active agent in Creation’s story. So what is the scripture talking about? The beginning that is referred to here is the beginning of creation’s relationship with its Creator. God created something when there was nothing. This is amazing enough. But when we understand that the Person of God was existing before the existence of Creation it puts things in the right perspective. There was Someone before there was something.
Creatures who have a beginning with naturally end with and ending. In the beginning God created things. And everything He created had a purpose. That purpose was to sustain and promote life. Very early in Creation’s account these living things began to be affected by the curse of sin and death brought living things to an ending. This should trouble the human creatures known as man. But people seem to live as though they give little thought to the fact that their physical earthly lives will come to an end. God is the only Being that has no beginning and therefore no ending.
Christ had a beginning as a man but was in the beginning as God. The unique Being of the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, is wrapped up in the phrase “the only begotten”. Christ was not born in the sense of being a creation of the Creator. He is not and has never been a creature. In fact He is contrasted as the Creator. Christ is not only God the Creator, He is Man. Christ was born when God became a man. He had a beginning but was also in the beginning as God. He was God’s perfect man and man’s perfect God. We can only know this by faith. Reason seems to fail to explain this mystery. And the only reason we can know it by faith is that the Word of God tells us that it is so.
The quality and extent of our knowledge of Christ depends primarily upon His revelation. As in any personal relationship, you only know someone as much as they want you to know them. A dog or a horse can be known in a relatively short period of time. But in the case of knowing God, it will take an eternity. But even now, we can begin to know Him as He reveals Himself to us. Our part in this privilege is to place ourselves in the place where God can reveal Himself to us. Intimacy with God allows Him to reveal more of Himself with us.
Church membership has a beginning with knowing the Beginner. The application of this truth to the church becomes apparent with the condition that the church manifests today. In many cases the church lacks the power of God and is often no more than an institution for social gatherings instead of the Living Body of Christ. To what do we attribute this malady? I believe it can be traced to what we see as an unregenerate church. This is the church where you can be a member without being a part of Christ. You can satisfy church membership requirements without being born again. For the church to be a source of the power of God it must be connected to God. The church will have its beginning only after she knows the Beginner. Only then will the church make an eternal impact on people’s lives.


The eternal realm has always existed because of the reality of the Eternal One. Sin is the permeating poison of creation. It causes us to turn away from thinking with an eternal perspective and teaches us to focus on the here and the now. This present world is the one in which we are living out our existence…at least for now. These words in the beginning grabs our attention like the beginning of a great story. How many of us would rather be seated in the movie theater before the feature begins? I don’t like to walk into the middle of the story. I spend too much time trying to guess at what things were like when the movie began. In God’s great story we don’t have to wonder when the beginning was or what was happening. We must begin with God. Eternity. Then the beginning began. This is where the story of man’s interaction with God began. When God created the heavens and the earth.
Self-centered human beings think of themselves as the center of the universe. Contrary to popular thought, our history did not begin when we were born. Eternity has always existed because God has always existed. Self-centered living teaches us that nothing was before we were. But that is a false assumption. We are not the center of the universe. We don’t even know where that is. That is knowledge left for God to reveal.
The presence of Christ in our world is our hope that we are connected to Eternity. In this eternal drama Christ emerges as the Eternal One willingly becoming bound to temporariness. Although Christ was equal with God because He was God He became Man to bridge the connection that was severed between God and man. Knowing Christ is our connection to the God of Eternity.
Living with an eternal worldview shapes our decision making. Consider how my life changes when I think first of all how my words build others up or tear others down. If the God of Eternity is witness to how I speak to others I should think about how I say what I say. Thinking eternally before I speak requires that I think. As I am thinking about eternity I come to discover that every action is at first a thought. And every thought is because I think. We make decisions based upon what we believe about life. If I believe I am accountable in eternity for my life in this temporary place it gives me cause to be cautious about sinful choices and abandoned in joy for godly decisions.
Church life should be focused on living in an Eternal Kingdom. All that takes place of any eternal nature in the church will be because we are living in accordance with the eternal foundation that is in place. Do we care more about business meetings we conduct than conducting our Father’s business? Church life should be about building lives based upon the principles of the Kingdom of God. Things we expend our time, talent and treasure upon should be those things that are invested in building up Kingdom People. Only then will we as God’s People live out our purpose.


Sometimes we are given a real treat when we can look into the Bible and read where God is talking to Himself. As we look into John’s Gospel we see such a time recorded for us. Jesus is in communion with the Father in what is commonly called the High Priestly Prayer. Without taking the time to deal with all that He prays we can gain some insight in the first three verses as we learn to live out our purpose in life.

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:1-3)

What matters more than I know God is that God knows me. Far greater than knowing God is the knowledge that our God knows us. People will say that they know God if they know a little about God. But they have nothing to say as to whether they are known by God. This is the testimony of God Himself where the Spirit of God testifies that we are children of God. How can I know if I am known by God? I can know the Spirit of God that testifies and instructs us in the truth.
Without a knowledge of eternal life given to us by the Eternal One, life has no meaning and purpose. It is sad to waste a life without the assurance that Christ has given us life. We bounce from one self serving attempt at assurance after another and never rest in this knowledge. If we are unsure about our eternal destiny it will affect how we live our lives in this culture. We will go along to get along and will not stand up for the truth of God when inundated with lies. We will chase every promise of peace without ever finding it because Christ is the Prince of Peace. This passage tells us that this peace is our purpose. Eternal life brings peace in the soul.
Christ is the one and only authorized agent who can grant eternal life. If I desire to receive something authentic I want to go to the authorized source. If I want to receive something relevant, I want to get it from someone who knows the proper usage for the thing I receive. Christ is the Person that knows why I am given eternal life. Without eternal life I can never know an Eternal God. Here is our purpose in life.
The Christian’s eternal purpose is to know God, to make Him known, and to be known by Him. Too many American Christians want to look like they are godly with all the trappings of the world we live in. For example we want the same things and enjoy these temporary creature comforts that our culture abounds in. We get caught up chasing the temporary and yearning for the eternal. No wonder so many of us are wandering and wondering if we are living our purpose.
Mount Olivet can reap eternal benefits when we are investing our time, talent, and
treasure towards eternity. Let us begin today with a fresh vision of our purpose.

Our So What? of today’s message is this:
The knowledge of the Eternal Nature of God is foundational to our biblical worldview.
This knowledge is relevant because it gives purpose to life in a culture of death.
Without the knowledge of God in the Person of Christ Jesus, life has no purpose in eternity.
Life matters to the God of Eternity.
Your life matters to you.