Saturday, September 23, 2017

God is Omnipotent: Have Courage

There is nothing for which the children ought more earnestly to contend than the doctrine of their Master over all creation—the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands—the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that Throne.” 1

The world in which we live is fallen. The times in which we are living are troubling. Destructive hurricanes; devastating earthquakes; terrorism; sociopathic dictators threatening their neighbors. New signs in the heavens—the like of which has not taken place before—September 23, 2017 is supposedly the end of the world. These times are not for the faint of heart. The birth pangs of the Last Days are growing stronger:

You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” {Matt. 24:6-8 NASB}.

I take Jesus’ words to heart…I am not afraid when I see signs that the Bible warned us to look for. I can live without fear, even fear of the unknown, because of who God is. For the Lord is sovereign—over everything. He holds creation in His hand; He is watching over everything. Place your hope in the Lord and His Word:

 “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets {Amos 3:7}.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they” {Heb. 1: 1-4 NASB}.

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 {Col. 1: 16-17 NASB}.

I don’t worry about the events that I witness on earth, because He is sovereign, and I know that He is in control of everything, and that all things are working according to His will {Rom. 8:28}. This doesn’t mean that frightening things won’t happen. It doesn’t mean that destructive or devastating events won’t take place—it means that when they do I don’t worry—I pray:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” {Phil. 4:6-7 NASB}.

The peace of God which surpasses all comprehension. This is so amazing. God’s peace is beyond anything we can comprehend, so why be frightened? Jesus encourages us to trust Him—and trust Him I will—whatever comes or takes place in the heavens or in the earth.

The sovereignty of God is the exercise of His supremacy…being infinitely elevated above the highest creature.2 When I say that God is sovereign, it means that He is omnipotent. He is the Lord Most High. He is Lord of heaven and earth. He is subject to no one. His will is supreme. He is unrivaled in majesty. Unlimited in power. Unaffected by anything outside of Himself. “The Supremacy of God is the kingship of God, the Godhood of God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth…He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purposes, or resist His will {Ps. 115:3}. He is the Governor among the nations {Ps. 22:28}, setting up kingdoms, over throwing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best.” 3 He is the King of kings and Lord of lords {1 Tim. 6:15}. God is all powerful or Almighty. With God, all things are possible {Matt. 19:26}. God is sovereign over creation; He forms the unborn child in his mother’s womb {Ps. 139:13}. The Lord created the heavens {Jer. 32:17}. He decrees all things in accordance with His will {Eph. 1:11}. He is the beginning—everything starts with Him and ends with Him {Rev. 22:12-13}. He knows all and sees all; He sees the end from the beginning. He is all powerful and His purpose will be established:

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” {Is. 46:10 NASB}.

He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?” {Dan. 4:35 NASB}.

The term omnipotence signifies that the Lord is all powerful. Though He is all powerful, He does nothing randomly. He is a God of order—He brings order from chaos. He created the universe ex nihilo—out of nothing. “This means that before God began to create the universe, nothing else existed except God himself.” 4 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters {Gen. 1: 1-2 NASB}.

God’s power is displayed in His character, “God is all-powerful and able to do whatever he wills. Since his will is limited by his nature, God can do everything that is in harmony with his perfections.” 5 There are then, a few things God cannot do, because they are contrary to His nature and character. That is why the definition of omnipotence is God’s ability to do “all His holy will.” He can do all things that are consistent with His character. He cannot go back on His Word {Jer. 1:11-13; 2 Tim. 2:13}; He cannot lie {Num. 23:19; Heb. 6:18}; In Titus 1:2 He is called the “unlying God” or the “God who never lies.” He cannot sin or have anything to do with sin {Hab. 1:13; James 1:13}. God cannot cease to exist, or cease to be God, or can He act in a way that is inconsistent with any of His attributes. God’s power is infinite, and the use of His power is qualified by His other attributes.

Why is God’s omnipotence important for us? God created you and me—we are the imago dei—His image bearers. He made us so that our lives display a faint reflection of His attributes. We do not have infinite power—only God has infinite power, but God has made us creatures with a will who exercise freedom of choice, and make decisions regarding our lives. Our will is not absolutely free like God’s will is, but He has given us relative freedom in our spheres of influence. When we use our will and freedom to make choices that please God and are consistent with His Word, we reflect His character and bring Him glory.

We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth—we are to dispel darkness {Matt. 5:14-16}. When terrible things happen, the Church must rise up. When we see the earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes; when we see the darkness that seeks to envelop the earth, we must remember not to fear these things, but to pray and rest, knowing that God is in control and still inhabits His throne. Believers need to live and walk in the authority that God granted us in the cultural mandate {Gen. 1; Matt. 28}. Though we do not have infinite power, however, God has given us power to bring about physical, mental, spiritual, and persuasive power in our families, churches, and civil governments. When we act according to His will, we bring Him glory.  

Jesus promised us that we will have trouble in this world, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” {Jn. 16:33 NASB}. He has overcome all the trouble we see. This doesn’t mean we won’t suffer the repercussions of terrible events, but it does mean that God did not leave His throne. Jesus is with us—carrying us through all the trouble we will witness on earth. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe {Prov. 18:10}. We are to be strong and courageous, and place our hope in Him—which we can easily do because He is sovereign and omnipotent.

For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” {1 Pet. 1:20-21 NIV}.

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1. The Complete Works of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume 2: Sermons 54-106, # 77.
2. A.W. Pink, The Attributes Of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), 32.
3. A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1998), 20.
4. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 263.
5. Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook Of Theology (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 201.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Psalm To See Me Through: Psalm 27: Courageous Trust

A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God.  A Psalm of David. 

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?

When I was fourteen, I chose this verse for my confirmation graduation. I did not realize it at the time, but as I look back, this verse radically described my life. Elementary school is hard for most kids, but I had a particularly rough time. I spent my grade school years being ruthlessly picked on. My memories of second through eighth grades are miserable, with few exceptions. I remember feeling at the time, that God was my only friend.

As terrible as grade school was, and as mean as some of the kids were, they did not make death threats against me; I did not fear for my life. David faced real threats—threats that would have proved fatal had they succeeded. But David knew that the Lord was his light and salvation, he knew with all his heart that God was his defense. His confidence dispelled all fear. Whom shall I fear? is a rhetorical question. God was the defense of his life; nobody could harm him.

When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident {vv.2-3}.

The reason David has full confidence in God to protect Him, is that the Lord has proven Himself faithful time and again. He is speaking about those who came against him in the past tense. He is declaring what God had done for him before in defeating his enemies; this fuels his praise and bolsters his conviction. The imminent threat will not move him, he remains confident that even if his enemy broke through the wall and came in, he trusts the Lord without fear. I shall be confident—the Hebrew means literally “in this I trust.”[1]

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple {v.4}. 

When I read verse four, it causes me to think of a beautiful place, with a gorgeous view, one in which I could gaze for a long time, one that brings me rest and peace. David speaks of God’s sanctuary in this way. The house of the Lord is a place of peace and rest, and is also a place of refuge—a place to feel safe. David desires to spend the rest of his days in this beautiful house of peace and safety, and to gaze on the beauty of the Lord. To gaze on the Lord does not mean to catch a glimpse of Him once or twice, but it is rather a steady, sustained focus on the Lord and who He is—His person, not His hand; who He is, not what He can give. This is the best antidote for the fears that try to take our eyes of the One True God.  

“Note the singleness of purpose (one thing)—the best answer to distracting fears (cf. 1-3)—and the priorities within that purpose: to behold and to inquire; a preoccupation with God’s Person and will. It is the essence of worship; indeed of discipleship.”[2]

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord {vv. 5-6}.

The sanctuary is a hiding place; a place of refuge. David knows the Lord will hide him there from the raging chaos of the world; the evil men that come against God’s anointed king. You and I should think of God and His sanctuary in the same way. It is His sanctuary where we gather to praise and worship Him for all He has done for us, and all that He will do in the future. We too, can trust Him without fear and in full confidence. It is by worshiping the Lord and praising Him for His faithfulness, and coming before Him in awe and wonder at who He is, that we are lifted up on a rock, above our enemies. Those who come against us lose when we approach the sanctuary, offer sacrifices to the Lord, and sing His praises with joy. The tent David speaks of is the Tabernacle of David which he pitched on Mt. Zion—it housed only the Ark of the Covenant—the place where God’s glory dwells.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up {vv.7-10}

David began his prayer with confident trust and unswerving faithfulness, even though his life was being threatened by a host of enemies. Something changed in David’s disposition {v.7}; he began to pray anxiously that God would not forsake him. Who has not encountered a day like David? One moment we are full of faith, and the next we are crashing on the rocks. I have. But David reaches inside and encourages himself in the Lord in whom he has placed his trust many times. He prays that God not forsake him as his mother and father had. Most scholars agree that David’s mother and father forsaking him is most likely hypothetical. But it speaks to David’s mindset, he truly believes the only refuge he has is the Lord—everyone else has left him. How can a mother forget her son? Isaiah’s words come to mind:

Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you {Is. 49:15 NASB}.

The Lord will take him up. This promise should encourage you as well. God will not forsake you or forget you. His love is far-reaching and never-ending.

Teach me Your way, O Lord, And lead me in a level path Because of my foes. Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord {vv. 11-14}.

David’s confidence once again surfaced in the face of adversity. He encouraged himself to wait on the Lord. He knows God is faithful—and this goodness kept him from fainting under the oppression of the attack. David is not only a worshiper who seeks God’s face, but he is also a committed to following His statutes. He wants to live the way God wants him to, and he prays for the Lord to keep him on the right path.

David holds on to his faith in the Lord. Many of the psalms end with a victory praise, or an answered prayer, but here the psalmist stands in God’s sanctuary with his faith—his trust—to wait on the Lord. Here David exhibits courageous trust. There are times in life when it seems like all you have to hold on to is your faith; believing and trusting in God’s faithfulness. It takes courage to stand on your faith, and have confidence because you know the Lord and trust that He will not forsake you, even when you face adversity. Be strong and take courage…wait on the Lord.

To read all the Psalms in this series click here: Psalms To See Me Through

[1] Craig C. Broyles, Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 142.
[2] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72 (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008), 138.