Worldview 2 – Agreement between God the Father and the Son

Continuing our discussion of the big picture questions, we find out in John 1:1 that something called “The Word” was with God in the beginning and also was God. This Word, or logos, is God the Son who ultimately became a man and lived here on earth among us as Jesus Christ. Jesus told his disciples that He had shared glory with the Father before the world began (John 17:24), and that the Father had loved Him before the world began (John 17:24).

The Bible indicates throughout that the three persons of the Godhead counseled and planned together concerning the creation of the world and the redemption of a people to be God’s personal possession. If you have time you might check out some of the following passages of Scripture: Psalm 33:11;  Proverbs 19:21; Isaiah 46:9-10; Matt 25:34; Eph 1:4, 9-12; Eph 3:9-11; 2 Tim 1:9; Rev 13:8.

Even though this plan was an eternal plan before the world began, it was implemented in time, at the right time: Galatians 4:4; Romans 5:6; 1 Peter 1:20; Titus 1:2-3; 2 Tim 1:810; Ps 139:16

Because God is trinity, there was an agreement or covenant among the members of the trinity, agreed on before time began, as to how our redemption would be accomplished. Among other things the Son agreed in participating in the creation of the world and mankind. He would become a man and assume human nature (John 1:14; Gal 4:4-5; Heb 2:10-15). He would be placed under the law, obey it perfectly, and yet die in order to pay the penalty for sin (Ps 40:8; Matt 5:17,18; John 8:28, 29; John 10:18; John 17:4;  Gal 4:4,5; Phil 2:6-8; Heb 10:7-9). He would provide believers with forgiveness and renewal of their lives through the new covenant (Luke 22:20, John 17:12, 19-22; Heb 2: 10-13 7:25). He would give His people eternal life (John 17:2). And also that He would be the representative of a people (1 Cor 15:45; Heb 9:24).

(Part 3)

Worldview Thoughts 1

Sometimes when I contemplate the Christian faith I like to step back and try to get a grasp of the big picture. In philosophy and even in our own personal lives we ask the big questions: “Why I am I here?” “What is the meaning of life?”  I’ve been thinking about these things recently as I a write a book and as I teach a series on the Christian World View in my church. I thought I would take some of these ideas and condense them for my readers. So let’s begin at the beginning.

In the beginning, before time began and before anything had been created, what was there? The Bible tells us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). In the beginning nothing existed except God. We learn from Scripture that is Trinity, that is, He is three persons in one Godhead.  There is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Christians believe that this is not just a religious teaching but it is the truth about the way things actually are.

We also know from Scripture that there was love, fellowship and communication among the persons of the Godhead. This is important because the question often comes up among modern thinkers about where love comes from, or why we enjoy fellowship with one another as human beings. The Christian answer is that these traits don’t come from evolution nor are they just figments of our imagination or neural responses to stimuli. According to the Bible, we were made in the image of God and since God has love, He communicates and is a fellowshipping being, it makes sense that we would also have those traits.

(Part 2)

Food from the Fallow Ground

As I was reading in Proverbs this morning I came upon Proverbs 13:23: “Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor.” We all heard the saying that it is better to teach a person to fish than to give him a fish. There is a lot of poverty in our world and in our country. The United States government has spent billions of dollars to tackle the poverty problem and the percentages are not much better now than they were 50 years ago. My purpose here is not to provide a naïve remedy for a complex problem. But I thought that this principle from Scripture was interesting.

There is a lot of fallow ground where the poor live, even in cities. What if people could be shown how to till up some ground for a small garden and be shown how to plant a few vegetables? What if several neighbors could get permission to garden on a vacant lot near their homes in a big city? I know this is being done in many places, but there is an underlying truth here in this proverb. There are resources available within reach of most poor people, but they may not know how to access it. They may not have the motivation to access it. They may just not want to do that much work. But whatever the reason, it would be worthwhile to continue helping, teaching and showing how individuals can be more productive where they are using the resources that are right around them.

Reading the Puritans

I don’t know when it happened, but early on in my Christian life, perhaps in my teen years and certainly in my twenties, I developed a taste for Puritan writings and more modern writers who themselves had been steeped in Puritan and Reformation thought. As a pastor, my dad accumulated quite a library which included many Puritan and Reformation works. Even though he was a dispensationalist, he gravitated toward Reformation works and was able, in his own mind at least, to mesh the teachings together in a coherent thought pattern. I think I inherited some of this from him.

What attracted me to these writings was the way the authors in that tradition focused on the greatness, glory and sovereignty of God. The God described in the churches I attended was the same God and the beliefs were the same, but the emphasis was more on us and what we should be doing in our efforts to serve Him and please Him. The God of the Puritans was in charge. His followers could trust Him completely and more than that, they were able to rest in His goodness and in His plans for His people. It’s hard to describe but there was a difference. The God that was described by many people I heard had made salvation available, but His hands seemed to be tied by the “free will” of man. The offer was made, but rather than being the God described in the Bible as the one who goes out to save with His mighty right hand, we were given a God who was somewhat impotent while awaiting the outcome of what everyone was going to do with His Son. I was impressed with the purposes of God in the intention of increasing His glory among the nations and in worshipping this God with the spirit of reverence which is due His great name.

So who were some of the people I began to read and/or listen to? Here are some of my favorites: John Own, Jonathan Edwards, William Gurnall, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur, John Piper, Arthur W. Pink, J. I Packer, Martin Luther, R.C. Sproul, to name a few. Now I don’t want to write this disclaimer in every article I write, although I may I have to. But, I don’t agree with every single thing these men say or write and you probably won’t either, but I don’t agree with everything anyone says. So my recommendation to read these men means there is good, meaty substance here even if you don’t agree with every statement or conclusion.

What are some of the works I would recommend? Any of the commentary series by Lloyd-Jones are good. He has a great set of books on Ephesians and Romans among others. These are mainly transcriptions of his sermons which he preached in London to a regular group of folks so these are not the kind of works meant for a scholarly audience. In addition, there is a website dedicated to presenting his audio sermons. The site is http://www.mljtrust.org/. I highly recommend it. I can remember my dad listening to his sermons on the radio back in the 50’s and early 60’s.

A publisher I became familiar with early on in my adult life was Banner of Truth. This organization republishes Puritan works that had gone out of print. One of my favorite was a three paperback series called “The Christian in Complete Armour” by William Gurnall. This is an excellent devotional read. This is a modernized version so it is easier to read than the original. But who would think this much could be written from Ephesians 6 and the armor of God? They also publish a book of Puritan Prayers and Devotions called The Valley of Vision. This book helped me see the difference between the way I pray and meditate from the way the Puritans did. What I saw in them was a deeper reverence for God than what I have and a greater distrust of the flesh and therefore our need for deeper repentance and dependence on God for the living of our lives.

Other good books include Indwelling Sin in Believers by Owen, Practical Christianity by Pink, The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther, The Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards, The Pleasures of God by John Piper and any of the books and commentaries by John MacArthur. There is a very difficult book by John Owen titled The Death of Death in the Death of God. But the introduction by J.I. Packer is great if you can find it on line anywhere. Mark Dever and J. I. Packer quote this introduction in its entirety in chapter 4 of In My Place Condemned He Stood.

Some other good books include The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Plight of Man and the Power of God by Lloyd-Jones, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer, The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink and Knowing God by J. I. Packer.

Jonathan Edwards is sometimes hard to follow and Ben Stevens has done us a service by taking Edwards’ book Dissertation Concerning the End for which God Created the World, and simplifying it in modern English for the rest of us. Stevens’ book is entitled simply Why God Created the World. These are very important ideas to think about and I heartily recommend the time it may take to read and think about what Edwards through Stevens is telling us.

For those of you who, like me, are from a Baptist background I’ll mention one more book that was helpful to me a number of years ago. It is called By His Grace and for His Glory by Dr. Thomas J. Nettles. In this book Dr. Nettles shows us how the Doctrines of Grace prevailed in the most influential and enduring arenas of Baptist denominational life until the end of the second decade of the twentieth century. This is a book that traces theological history in Baptist life from Reformation teaching down to the present. So if you’re the type of person that likes history and theology, you might find this an interesting read.

Hopefully this hasn’t been too overwhelming, but I wanted to give you a flavor of the kind of books that were formative in my Christian life and were powerful in propelling me forward in my love for God and His word. Perhaps something in this article will trigger your curiosity and might deepen your love for God and your appreciation of His grace as well.

 

Who Will be Our King?

When I listen to and watch what is happening during this debate and legal challenge to the traditional definition of marriage, I’m reminded of what the Bible says regarding our basic problem as human beings. We are in fundamental rebellion against God and against His right to reign. Jesus told a parable in which He describes Himself as a nobleman who goes away to receive a kingdom and in the meantime places His estate in the hands of some servants. The citizens rebel saying, “We will not have this man reign over us” (Luke 19:14). That’s the problem in a nutshell. It’s not a matter of whose preference wins in some legal debate. It is a matter of submitting or not submitting to the Lord and Creator of the universe as the rightful ruler.

The writer of the Psalms describes this same thing in Psalm 2, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us'” (Psalm 2:2-3). We are in revolt. We will have our way! We will sever the bonds that tie us down and keep us from having the total freedom we want and believe we deserve.

What’s God’s response? He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure” (Psalm 2:4-5). The passage goes on to explain that the God of the Universe has installed His Son as Lord and has given Him the nations as His inheritance. The earth is the Lord’s, not ours and He will govern it in any way He pleases and establish any laws and rules He chooses. Who can say to Him, “What are you doing?” (Job 9:12). Our responsibility is to find out what the King wants and do it.

What does the Psalm writer say is going to happen when God’s Son receives the nations as His inheritance?

“You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:9-12).

Notice what the prudent course of action is for the kings and the judges of the earth. Submit to the King of the universe, the one who made the earth and everything and every person in it. But people scoff. They say these are archaic beliefs to be relegated to the past. It reminds me of something St. Peter wrote,

“…knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:3-7)

We cannot flagrantly violate God’s created order without paying the consequences– if not now, later. Peter tells us why there is a delay in the judgment, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

It’s time to repent!

God’s Curse or Blessing? – Part 8

So the bottom line for the person who is in Christ is that the days of the guardianship of the law are over. It did it’s job in the first part of human history but now in Christ it’s responsibility has been completed.

Please don’t interpret any of this to say that we are free to live in any way we like. I’m talking about the role of the law and its place in our lives. The reason this is important is that many Christians put themselves under the law in order to try to please God in the sense of making Him happy with their level of obedience. What they don’t realize is that perfection is the standard and we fall way short. Even though you may not lie, steal or cheat, do you really want God to condition his favor toward you based on whether you loved him with the entirety of your mind, heart, soul and strength over the last 24 hours? You didn’t fall at all short of that standard? Even though you didn’t rob a bank, you perfectly loved your neighbor as yourself and didn’t look with covetousness or envy at anything at all that another person has or does? You don’t really want to be evaluated by the law, do you?

Another motivation sometimes is to try to use the law to get our lives in order. If we struggle with certain temptations, we tend to go back under the law to solve that problem. The trouble is that the law brings a curse as we have seen. In fact in Romans 7:8 we learn that sin takes the opportunity in the law to produce all sorts of evil desire. Second Corinthians 15:56 tells us that the strength of sin is the law. Sin gains power when the law is in force. Life requires self-discipline, but putting oneself under the law doesn’t work and in fact God pleads with us not to do that.

Returning now to Galatians 4:7 we find that if we are a son then we are an heir of God. Think about what that means! We are adult sons, not children. We are heirs of God with all the rights and privileges of being an adult son. Paul tells us in Romans 8:17, ““and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” We share in the inheritance that Jesus Christ receives. We are his siblings, so to speak.

Paul basically spends much of the rest of chapter 4 begging the people not to return to childhood. Notice his pleading in verse 9, “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”

In Colossians 2:8, Paul writes, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Then in verse 20 he says, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, (there’s that expression again) why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations – do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.” The interesting point here is that he finishes up this thought in verse 23 by saying, “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” In other words, it doesn’t work to set up these rules for yourself to try to stifle the flesh. Returning to law-keeping seems like it has a wisdom to it, but it does not work! It just stimulates more sin.

So my question was, “does God beg us not to put ourselves under the law?” Look at verses 11-16 of Galatians 4 and see what you think. God is serious about this. He uses expressions like “I urge you…” and “I’m afraid for you….” The answer we need for trying to live a godly life is not more law. It is in our recognition and accepting by faith the fact that we are new creatures in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit within us and we need to yield to His leadership in our lives.

God’s Curse or Blessing – Part 6

Now let’s go back to a question we left hanging earlier. The law is a guardian and a tutor until faith comes. When is that? What is the timeline? Once faith comes, the guardianship and tutor relationship ends. When is that? Does that mean when we trust Christ and are saved? Let’s continue reading.

In Galatians 4:1-3 we learn that the law is like the parent or guardian to an under-aged child. A child, Paul says, is not much different than a slave even though he is the heir of everything. Many children probably feel like that! He is under the rule of his parent until he comes of age. Even though he is an heir, he still has to go to bed when told, has to go with mom to the store, has to eat his vegetables and so on. In the same way, when we were children we were in bondage under the elements of the world. My question is still the same – when were we children and when did adulthood come?

Paul answers that question in Galatians 4:4. He says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

So there’s the timing answer. God sent forth his son more than 2000 years ago when Christ came into the world. That’s when childhood ended. That’s when adulthood started. That’s when the law’s guardianship and tutelage ended. It doesn’t have anything to do with our growth from childhood to adulthood or with our conversion to Christ.

During this time of childhood, Paul describes it as a time of bondage under the elements of the world. What are those elements? We’ll look at that next time.

God’s Blessing or Curse? – Part 5

To get the context for this discussion you should probably go back and read the previous posts on this topic.

But why was the law given then? In other words, if the law does not apply to my situation, why give it? He answers that question in verses 22-24 of Galatians 3. First he says that it confines all under sin. In other words, the law lays down the standard and no one lives up to it. Therefore all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Don’t just skip over this. That is an interesting reason to give the law: “to confine all under sin.” Paul writes essentially the same thing to the Romans in Romans 5:20, “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound.” Abound means to increase. The law was given to increase the sin.

Second, before faith came we were kept under guard by the law and kept for the faith that should be revealed later on (Galatians 3:23). Before faith came the law had a guardianship role to keep people under control. A question you should ask yourself is what is the timeline involved? In other words the law guarded before the faith came. When did the faith come? When did that guardianship end?

Third, the law was a tutor to bring us to Christ. Again he says that when faith came, the tutor relationship ended. When did that faith come? We’ll look at the timing of this more later. What I want us to see now is that the purpose of the law had nothing to do with giving salvation because it can’t do that. It doesn’t even have anything to do with spiritual growth. As you will recall, Paul asked that question in verse 3. His conclusion was that the law does not perfect or mature us. The law’s responsibility was to confine all under sin, make them guilty and to guard and serve as tutor until the time that faith comes.

In the Old Testament God said that those who keep the law will be blessed and those who don’t keep it in its entirety will be cursed. There are many Christians who are still trying to live under those terms, trying desperately to keep the law so that God’s blessing will be on their lives. They do this because they read this in Deuteronomy and Joshua. They believe this applies to them. But it does not! What we’ve learned in this study is that as Christians, we are children of Abraham and therefore recipients of the unconditional promise made to him and to his seed. Christ took God’s curse on himself so that the blessing of Abraham could be ours (Galatians 3:14). There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

What I’m trying to encourage you with is to realize and believe that God will not add conditions to the blessing He is giving you through His promise to Abraham. The law that came 430 years after the promise cannot annul the promise. If you’re a Christian, the discussion of God’s curse does not apply to you. Christ became the curse so that you won’t be the recipient of it.

Bible Study – Genesis 1:1-3

When and how did God create the universe? The Bible tells us that he created the heavens and the earth “in the beginning.” We discussed that truth last time. But how did he create? Remember there was nothing to create with. There was no material in existence to make something out of. And “God said, ‘Let there be light'” (Genesis 1:3). “Then God said, ‘Let there be a firmament'” (Genesis 1:6). God’s method of creation was to speak. Psalm 33:6 “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”

God spoke and the universe and all it contained came into existence. He continued to speak and various parts were separated from other parts. For example water on the earth was separated from water above the earth and an expanse was created between them. Light and darkness were separated from one another. Water was gathered together into one place to allow the dry land to appear. All of these things occurred because God spoke. God created through the spoken word.

When we look at John 1, we find that the Word was in the beginning with God and the Word was God. But the Word became flesh and lived among us. This Word is the second person of the trinity. He is the Word of God and he is God. And that Word took on a human body and his name is Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the Messiah. All through the description of Jesus’ ministry here on earth he says things like, “I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things” (John 8:28). And, “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak” (John 12:49).

Jesus is God’s Word to man and it is through him that all things were created.

Hebrews 1:1,2 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

The answer then to how God created the universe is that God spoke the word and everything came into existence and that Word ultimately took on bodily form and came here to dwell with us – Jesus Christ.

Reading and the Christian – Part 7

We have seen how reading is important in the Christian life. God used words to create. He gave us His written word for the purpose of instruction in how to live. He required it of the Old Testament people and the New Testament Christians also saw the importance of reading. God expects us to spend time meditating on His word and in order to do that we need to know how to read and how to focus long enough to think about what we’ve read.

God lifts up His Word above all other forms of communication. Peter, who was present at the transfiguration of Christ, describes this event in 2 Peter 1:19-21. Even though this was a grand event, he explains that there is a more sure word. More sure than an emotionally charged experience of the glory of God? And what is that more sure word? He goes on to tell us that it is Scripture. Scripture is a more sure word than any experience we may have whether it is a real physical experience as it was in Peter’s case or an emotional or spiritually charged vision of some sort. The Word is more sure than all of that and should be given the priority when we are trying to determine what God would have us know or do.

The Psalmist in Psalm 138:2 tells us that God has magnified His Word above His name. We know that the Name of God is great and sacred. We are not to take His name in vain and yet God Himself has elevated His Word above His name.

If these things are so, then we must be sure that we understand and practice the importance of reading ourselves, in our families and in our churches. Children must be taught the skill of reading and it must be actively encouraged. There must be undistracted time allocated for this practice. As parents we must set the example.

In the next few posts we will go over some of the challenges to the word and reading that we face in our modern world. We will also look at some steps we can take to mitigate those hindrances and challenges.