Sunday, October 31, 2021

Concluding God’s Calling


Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m just trying to figure out God’s plan for my life”? As Christians we want to follow the Lord’s leading. It is good to have plans, but we must be willing to submit to God and conform our plans to His. But how are we supposed to know God’s plan for us? The Lord does not send His plans to us via email, nor does He rent billboard space for all to see. 


The Apostle Paul had to discern God’s plan. The famous missionary had devoted his life to preaching the Gospel, especially to the Gentiles, but even that involved finding God’s specific plan. In Acts 16 we read that Paul was forbidden to preach the word in Asia, then Paul decided he would go to Bithynia, but again was stopped in his tracks by the Holy Spirit. In a passage commonly referred to as the Macedonian Call, Luke writes, “Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:10).” 


The word concluding at the end of that verse means “it all came together for us.” In his wonderful book The Pastor’s Primer, O.S. Hawkins said of this idea, “It is the word picture of a sweater being knitted that doesn’t look like much until it is finished. It is the word picture of a jigsaw puzzle that makes little sense until a piece fits here, and another there, and then it all comes together.”


So it is with the revealing of God’s plan for our lives. Our Heavenly Father might close a door here, open one there, and eventually we see what He is trying to do. He might forbid Paul from going to Asia, then Bithynia, and eventually Paul sees a vision of a man from Macedonia and it all makes sense. There have been times in my life when events didn’t make sense at the time, but in hindsight I have been able to see that God was up to something. 


That is why we must seek the plan of God, because sometimes He redirects us, even if we feel like we are settled. We need to conclude God’s calling—to see it all come together. Maybe He has orchestrated events in your life so that you can start a new ministry. Maybe He is moving you to a new job because there are people there that need to hear the Gospel from you. 


God isn’t sending you emails telling you exactly what He wants you to do, and you won’t get a clue from a billboard tomorrow on your way to work. But you can pick up on the activity of the Almighty like a few seemingly random puzzle pieces, and spend time in prayer asking Him if He is orchestrating something in your life. That inaudible feeling in your soul, or that peace you feel when you think about it may just be God speaking to you.   


Sunday, October 24, 2021

Remembering and Forgetting



The Bible has a lot to say about God forgetting and remembering, and if we do not understand these words properly, we may get the wrong idea about some things. The most notable passage about God remembering is associated with Noah when the floodwaters were subsiding. Genesis 8:1 says, “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth…” 


God remembered Noah? Had He forgotten about him before that? We don’t want to give ourselves the impression that Noah slipped God’s mind, and then one day God thought, “What was I supposed to do today? Oh, that’s right! Noah is on that ark, and I’d better do something to help him.” Remembering doesn’t have the absolute literal usage that implies having first forgotten; the idea is better thought of as God honoring His word. We also see God remembering Abraham (Genesis 19:29) and Rachel (Genesis 30:22), among others. Sometimes His remembering results in punishment, like when He remembers Babylon in Revelation 16:19. 


But I want to focus on forgetting more than remembering. God’s remembering does not mean He has forgotten, but are there things He does not remember? Fortunately there are! Looking into the future, Isaiah 65:17 prophesies, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”


What are the “former things” that “shall not be remembered”? The preceding verse says, “the former troubles are forgotten, and are hidden from my eyes.” All the worries and cares that made life hard, everything that is a product of the curse, all sin and its ugly consequences will be remembered no more. The author of Hebrews adds another thought to God forgetting: “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more (8:12).”


Taken together, Isaiah and Hebrews teach that in the eternal state, God will not remember our sin, and neither will we remember the bad things from life. How is that possible? How can God, who is omniscient, forget that we have sinned? If God forgot our sin, and we remembered it, we could make the case that we know more than God in that regard, and that is foolishness. Alan W. Gomes, in his book 40 Questions About Heaven and Hell, says the idea in these verses is not about a strict forgetting, but about the events themselves no longer having their old effect. The sins that formerly separated us from God will no longer come between us. We will be treated as if we were completely sinless. 


No, God does not forget, but He treats us as if He has. “Forgive and forget,” we often say, but that is impossible. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. Gomes continued, “God no longer ‘remembers’ our transgressions in the sense that He forgives them, treating us as if we had never committed them; He no longer ‘brings them to mind’ in order to punish us for them.” 


I’m glad to have a God who remembers, yet treats us like He forgets. 


Sunday, October 17, 2021

Heavenly Minded



Many years ago people used to talk about the importance of keeping our minds on heaven. This evidently led to people becoming so focused on the life that is to come that they neglected the life that now is. The great preacher D.L. Moody began to preach that the church had become “so heavenly minded that they were no earthly good.” Things like personal holiness, loving ones neighbor, and evangelism were out of sight and out of mind. 


When the call came to stop being so heavenly minded, I’m afraid the pendulum has swung too far the other way. I believe the problem with the church now is that we are so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good. We are too wrapped up in our political parties, our sports teams, and our social events, and we rarely think about heaven. Because we are so earthly minded, we are not doing anything for the kingdom of heaven—we aren’t inviting people to church, sharing our faith, or reaching out to those in need. When we focus so much on the here and now, we are not mindful of the things that are eternal. 


In Colossians 3:1-2 Paul wrote, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Our minds need to be set above rather than here on earth. Our focus should be vertical rather than horizontal. 


The Greek word that is translated as mind (or affection in the King James) means “to exercise the mind or to interest ones self.” We need to develop the habit of fixing our minds above. In his commentary on Colossians Peter Ruckman provided a list of things that are in heaven that we can think about, and thus begin to train our minds to be in heaven. We have loved ones in heaven; God’s throne is in heaven; our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is in heaven; God’s Word is forever settled in heaven; the place Jesus is preparing for us is in heaven; and the New Jerusalem will one day come down from heaven. When we think about these things, it can help us train our minds to leave this world and dwell in a better realm. 


We typically look straight ahead, but when we are depressed or defeated we drop our gaze. Paul invites us to look up, to lift our gaze heavenward. With our feet planted on earth, let our minds drift upwards to heaven. Let our thoughts be found around the throne. Let our minds be seated in heaven’s parlor, not locked in earth’s cellar. Let us turn our eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face; then the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. 


We don’t want to be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good, but neither do we want to be so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good. We want to strike that right balance, being heavenly minded so that we are both earthly and heavenly good. 




Sunday, October 10, 2021

God Really Exists


In last week’s column I talked about some of the evidences for the existence of God, including the ontological argument. I want to continue with that thought today and write about the teleological argument for the existence of God. From the Greek word teleos, which refers to something’s ending or completion, this argument looks at the fact that we see things in nature that bring themselves towards their natural completion on their own. There seems to be an invisible force steering things in nature towards their fulfillment.


Thomas Aquinas used the illustration of an acorn and an oak tree. An acorn looks nothing like an oak tree, but we know that it is the seed that produces the mighty tree. But who or what causes an acorn to develop until it turns into an oak tree? The random chance arguments of Darwinism cannot account for this (did chaos cause intelligence?). Because acorns grow into trees it is evident that something or someone is causing them to do this. An inanimate object moving invariably towards its destiny is unexplainable. We understand that something must have a mind in order to move itself in this regard. Are we supposed to believe the acorn has a mind?


In addition to the acorn analogy we can think of other things such as the development of an unborn child. What causes a zygote to develop until it is a baby sucking its thumb? Even though this is a human life in its tiniest form, no one would make the argument that the zygote has the intelligence required to develop itself until completion. As it stands, the zygote is doing what it was programmed to do by an intelligent designer. Even things that we chalk up as being instinctive behavior does not suffice; the instincts must come from somewhere, and we attribute this to God.


Last week I talked about the moral argument for the existence of God, and now I want to close by talking about the natural argument for His existence. Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and godhead, so that they are without excuse.” The natural argument for the existence of God says that we can see God in nature, and that by nature we all have an understanding that there is a higher power. The fact that every culture in the world has some form of religion points to the fact that people realize there is a God. 


Commenting on Romans 1:20 Martin Luther said, “By nature all men have the general knowledge that there is a God… namely, that God is, that He has created heaven and earth, that He is just, that He punishes the wicked, etc.” This is because Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has “set eternity in the hearts of men.” The second question of the Westminster Larger Catechism asks, “How does it appear that there is a God?” The answer is, “The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God…” 


Pascal’s God shaped void is felt by everybody before they come to Christ, and the person that is honest with himself will admit that deep down he knows he is incomplete without the Lord in his life. People will try to fill this void with a million things, but none of them satisfy. If you do not believe God exists, do you feel like your life is missing something? You wont really live until you have a relationship with the living God.  


Saturday, October 2, 2021

God Exists


“The fool has said in his heart there is no God (Psalm 14:1).” There must be many fools in the world because there are plenty of people who say they do not believe in any God; it isn’t just that they reject the God of the Bible, they reject the idea of any sort of higher power. Over the years Christians have offered several proofs for the existence of God. 


One argument points to morality. The human race is a moral race, even though there is plenty of immorality. The very fact that we classify immorality as the opposite of morality speaks to our general moral compass. While some issues are up for debate, there is a universal understanding that some things are definitely wrong. Murder is wrong in every culture. Taking someone’s personal property is wrong in every culture. We operate by a moral code from a young age. When you hear a child say, “That’s mine,” or “I had it first,” they are appealing to a universal standard of right and wrong.


How could this morality have evolved? Morality is not something tangible. Darwin’s survival of the fittest means we would actually be inclined to take another’s property—even his life—if it helps us get ahead. Its why the lion kills and eats the gazelle. Romans 2:15 says God’s law is written on human hearts. The fact that people are moral points to the existence of God. The atheist may claim to be “good without God,” but God defines what is good. The universal code of morality can only be explained as coming from the God who created humanity. 


Similar to morality, human consciousness is also an intangible characteristic of mankind that cannot have evolved. Consciousness is one of many proofs of the second argument for God’s existence, the argument from design. Trying to make the case that life created itself is an exercise in futility. Even if that somehow happened (it couldn’t), how did it evolve consciousness? That isn’t something made up of atoms or chemicals. Our ability to reason points to an Intelligent Designer. Descartes famously said, “Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am).” We can tweak his comment to, “Cogito, ergo Dues est (I think, therefore God is).”  


Another argument for the existence of God is known as the ontological argument (ontology refers to being). Anselm of Canterbury defined God as “that than which no greater can exist.” The strongest being we can conceive of is, by definition, God. The wisest being we can conceive of is also God by definition. The argument from ontology says that existing in reality is greater than existing only as a thought, therefore, God must exist. If God were nothing more than abstract thoughts, rather than an existential being, then you and I would be greater than God because we are real. If God is the greatest thing in the universe, then He must be real because existing is greater than fantasy. 


Saying there is no God is simply an illogical position. Or as David put it in Psalm 14, it is a foolish position. Don’t reject the arguments for the existence of God. He created you and wants to be in a relationship with you.