TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

July 31, 2017 | by: Sam Storms|

First published: http://www.samstorms.com

Few things are more controversial among Christians than the sovereignty of God. Is God truly sovereign over everything, including calamity, natural disasters, death, and demons, or is his sovereign control restricted to those things we typically regard as good, such as material blessing, family welfare, personal salvation, and good health? Today we turn our attention to ten things we should all know about God’s sovereignty.

Before we begin, it’s important to distinguish between natural evil, which would include such things as tornadoes, earthquakes, famine (although famine can often be the result of moral evil perpetrated by those who devastate a country through greed or theft), floods, and disease. Is God sovereign over natural evil? Does he exert absolute control over these events in nature, such that he could, if he willed to do so, prevent them from happening or redirect their course and minimize the extent of damage they incur? Yes.

Moral evil has reference to the decisions made by human beings. Does God have sovereignty over the will of man? Can he stir the heart of an unbeliever to do his will? Can he frustrate the will of a person whose determination is to do evil and thereby prevent sin from happening? When a Christian does what is right, to whom should the credit and praise be given? And how is it possible for God to exert sovereignty over all of life without undermining the moral responsibility of men and women? These are the questions that find their answer in Scripture.

(1) Numerous biblical texts explicitly teach that God exerts complete sovereignty and meticulous control over all the so-called forces of “nature.” I encourage you to take time to read Psalms 104; 147:8-9, 14-18; 148:1-12. Also consider Job 9:5-1026:7-1437:2-2438:8-41. Other texts include:

“It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom; and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses” (Jer. 10:12-13).

“Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not he, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for you do all these things” (Jer. 14:22).

“I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither” (Amos 4:7).

“When he summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread . . .” (Psalm 105:16).

Jesus exercised this authority/sovereignty when he rebuked the storm on the Sea of Galilee, provoking this response from his disciples:

“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. . . . And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:39-41).

Does this mean that God can put a halt to the destructive path of a tornado or redirect its trajectory, or that he can stop the waves of a tsunami? Yes.

(2) God is also sovereign over events that from our limited human point of view appear to be entirely random:

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33).

(3) His sovereignty extends to the affairs of our daily lives and the plans we make for each day:

“A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?” (Proverbs 20:24)

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21)

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. . . . Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).

(4) God is sovereign over both life and death. Many are ready to concede that God is sovereign over the beginning of life but they do not like the idea that God is sovereign over the time and manner of its end. But note the following:

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39)

“The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up” (1 Samuel 12:6)

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 5:13-15).

David himself declared in no uncertain terms that every day of one’s life is written down in God’s book before any single day has yet to come to pass. In other words, the day of our birth and the day of our death have both been ordained by God:

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16).

When David made Bathsheba pregnant, the Lord disciplined him by taking the child. 2 Samuel 12:15 says, “Then the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David, so that he was sick . . . . Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died.”

(5) God is even sovereign over the disabilities with which some are born.

Then the LORD said to [Moses], “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11)

(6) God is sovereign over everything, even the unjust death of his own Son.

“Jesus, [who was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23)

“For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27-28)

“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief. . . . (Isaiah 53:10)

“[God] works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11)

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35)

(7) God is also sovereign over the choices of human beings. If God does have sovereignty even over the choices of human beings, and they do evil things, is God morally culpable for their actions? No. This is the mystery of compatibilism, according to which both the sovereignty of God and the moral responsibility of human beings are perfectly compatible, neither canceling out the other. Several texts should be noted;

“Then God said to him [Abimelech] in the dream, ‘Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her” (Genesis 20:6).

Here we see that God exerts control over the decision-making of Abimelech and restrains him from having illicit sexual relations with Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Some argue that God cannot do that. They say he cannot intrude on the human will and prevent a free moral agent from committing abuse or an atrocity. Yet we see from this story that God can surely prevent someone from sinning against someone else if he so chooses.

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1).

Again, God’s sovereignty over the will/heart of the king is seen in his determination to turn that will or to direct the king’s choices in accordance with whatever God pleases. And yet the king (or any person) is still morally responsible to God for the decisions he/she makes.

“In the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing . . .” (Ezra 1:1).

Here we see a concrete example of what is asserted in Proverbs 21:1. God moved on (“stirred up”) the heart of the pagan king Cyrus to issue a decree that the Jews should be free to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (see also Ezra 6:227:27). There are numerous other texts that describe how God exerted his will on and over the will of others so that his ultimate purpose might be achieved. See Deut. 2:30Joshua 11:20Judges 7:2-3,221 Sam. 14:6,15,202 Sam. 17:141 Kings 12:1520:28-292 Chron. 13:14-16Acts 4:27-282 Cor. 8:16-17Rev. 17:17.

(8) God is sovereign over whether or not a woman becomes pregnant. For this, see Genesis 16:229:311 Sam. 1:5Judges 13:3.

(9) God is sovereign over the suffering of his people, as the cases of Job and Joseph make clear. James clearly says that God had a purpose in it all:

“You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose (telos) of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).

But what about Satan’s hand in the suffering of Job? Did he not instigate the events that led to the death of Job’s family, the loss of his property, and the physical afflictions that he endured? Yes, but even Satan can do nothing apart from God’s sovereign permission. We read in Mark 1:27 that Jesus “commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And Luke 4:36 says, “With authority and power he commands the unclean spirits and they come out.” No matter how powerful the enemy and his hordes may appear to be, they are always subordinate to the overruling will of a sovereign God.

When Joseph’s brothers cowered in fear of what might happen to them for having sold him into slavery, Joseph declared:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20).

John Piper also sheds light on the experience of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers:

[Genesis 50:20] says, “You meant evil against me.” Evil is a feminine singular noun. Then it says, “God meant it for good.” The word “it” is a feminine singular suffix that can only agree with the antecedent feminine singular noun, “evil.” And the verb “meant” is the same past tense in both cases. You meant evil against me in the past, as you were doing it. And God meant that very evil, not as evil, but as good in the past as you were doing it. And to make this perfectly clear, Psalm 105:17 says about Joseph’s coming to Egypt, “[God] sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.” God sent him. God did not find him there owing to evil choices, and then try to make something good come of it. Therefore this text stands as a kind of paradigm for how to understand the evil will of man within the sovereign will of God.”

(10) God is also sovereign over the animal kingdom, even when its inhabitants do destructive things. When the Assyrians populated Samaria with foreigners, 2 Kings 17:25 says, “Therefore the LORD sent lions among them which killed some of them.” And who can forget the words of Daniel in the lions’ den: “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths” (Dan. 6:22). John Piper explains:

“Other Scriptures speak of God commanding birds and bears and donkeys and large fish to do his bidding. Which means that all calamities that are owing to animal life are ultimately in the control of God. He can see a pit bull break loose from his chain and attack a child; and he could, with one word, command that its mouth be shut. Similarly he controls the invisible animal and plant life that wreaks havoc in the world: bacteria and viruses and parasites and thousands of microscopic beings that destroy health and life. If God can shut the mouth of a ravenous lion, then he can shut the mouth of a malaria-carrying mosquito and nullify every other animal that kills.”

One final comment is in order. Although God’s sovereignty is pervasive, that does not mean we will always be able to discern his purposes in the many events of life or why he has ordained things in his secret, decretive will that run contrary to what he has made known in his moral or perceptive will. If embracing this tension, this mystery, is offensive to you, I doubt that you will find much comfort in knowing that God is sovereign. But he is. Do I believe this because I can explain it? Do I believe it because it is to my mind no longer a mystery? No. I believe it because this is what I see taught throughout Scripture.

7 essential passages on Jesus Deity

BY J.A. MEDDERS (first posted on http://jeffmedders.org

Jesus being God is so core to our faith that every Christian should be ready to point it out in the Bible.

We need to able to show that Jesus is God, not a god. We must display that Jesus isn’t diet god, baby god, god jr., or JV god — but that Jesus is the theos, which is the Greek word for God — the God.

While many texts throughout the New Testament affirm, from a Christian understanding, Jesus’ divinity (John 10:30, Colossians 1:15-17, John 8:58), they could be argued that they are referencing something other than the full deity of Jesus. “I and the Father are one.” Christians understand that passage to mean Jesus and the Father are indivisible, of the same essence, equal in all things, and committed to their glory. But one could look at John 10:30 and say, “That means they are unified to save the world — nothing more.”

Wonderfully, the Word of God provides seven texts, from four different authors, that undeniably refer to Jesus as God/theos.

 

The Apostle John

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [theos]

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God [theos], who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God [theos]!”

 

The Apostle Paul

Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God [theos] over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Titus 2:13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God [theos] and Savior Jesus Christ

 

The Apostle Peter

2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God [theos] and Savior Jesus Christ

 

The Writer of Hebrews

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God [theos], is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

 

John, Thomas, Paul, and Peter — all men who believed and understood the Torah, look at Jesus and say, “He is God!”

The writer of Hebrews tells us that God the Father looked and Jesus and said, “Your throne, O God…”

Glorious.

These would be well worth memorizing — today.

 

Namibian News 2017

In March 2017 events unfolded that most certainly are the culmination of years of prayer and faithful gospel ministry in Namibia.  After a long period of struggle and difficulty a group of 6 clergy and 8 lay leaders chose to separate themselves from their denomination and form their own association, the Namibia Evangelical Anglican Council (NEAC).  This departure did not come easily as these servants would give up much to stand for truth. Their decision would involve financial sacrifice, social difficulties and even some persecution.  However, they knew in their conscience that they could not remain in an increasingly liberal denomination and chose rather to pay the price of separation.

The seeds of this decision were sown at GAFCON Nairobi 2013, where the Namibian delegation grew great encouragement from a global alliance of like-minded believers. Relationships were particularly established with bishops from REACH-South Africa and this resulted in ongoing informal discussions about ways to advance faithful gospel ministry in Namibia.

In March 2017, the leaders of NEAC and two bishops from REACH-SA met to discuss a way forward for Evangelical Anglican ministry in Namibia.  In a historic decision, the entire NEAC elected to join REACH-Namibia rather than form another evangelical Anglican denomination in that country.  This alliance of gospel partners can only serve to strengthen the work of the gospel in Namibia.

A vibrant celebration service was held on March 18th, where the Windhoek Agreement was formally ratified before a congregation of over 200 people. In the following months, a number of meetings and fellowship events are planned between the various churches in this new expanded partnership of REACH-Nam churches.  There will also be regular training and outreach visits between our two countries.

We praise God for His faithfulness and give thanks for the many servants of the Word who have laboured and prayed for the gospel to grow in this amazing country.

Please remember the work in Namibia through your regular prayers. Our God is at work.

You can also find out more about how to get involved with REACH-SA’s ongoing gospel partnership with REACH-Nam through “Churches for Namibia

The Value of Theological Education

 - a talk by Solanga Mkiva of St James Church, Summerstrand Lorraine

There are a lot of people, even Christians, who look at theological education with disdain. A lot of non-Christians frankly think of theological education as nothing but brainwashing; like you’re deliberately escaping reality and clouding your mind with mystical fairy tales instead of doing something useful in life. I know a lot of Christians too who similarly think getting theological education for full time ministry is tantamount to wasting your life. “You could be doing something so much better.” But there are other reasons as well as to why it is generally looked upon with disdain. In our circles especially, quite a few Christians think of those with theological education as Bible snobs. All head but no heart. I hear this being said all the time from books, from fellow Christians, “it’s all just an intellectual exercise”.

What some people fail to grasp is that that is an indictment of wrong theology not theology itself. One of my legendary theology lecturers, Dr. Robert Doyle, defined theology accurately and succinctly when he said, theology is the attempt to properly recognise what the Bible says. Theology is the attempt to properly recognise what the Bible actually says. And what the Bible has to say of course addresses the whole man at the deepest possible level. I heard someone who once said, “you know Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 5, you guys are wasting your time, you shouldn’t be studying the scriptures, you should come to me…” The irony is that it is theological education that will help you interpret that text correctly. Others say things like, “it’s all heavenly minded stuff but no earthly good.” I have to say that there are times when I hear our people express such disdain for theological education that I get a little sick because usually it reveals how apathetic even some of our people are about God’s Word. And you see this apathy toward the Word of God all the time: after Sunday’s sermon, they have no interest in what was said.

 

Patchy Bible study attendance. No curiosity about the meaning of the scripture. No questions or joy or insights that come from them reading their Bible. No Bible based conversation. No participation in Bible study. And it all stems from this misguided notion that thinks there’s a path to relationship with God apart from his wordapart from properly recognising what the Bible says. There are even churches who go so far as to swear by pastors who have little to no theological education. I know a pastor who’s a very old man now who use to pride himself on never having gone to College because that shows that he is legitimately led by the Holy Spirit in his thinking. He’s more authentic because he never studied.  His successor therefore, is also a man with no theological education and I know him also. You can go to that church tomorrow and what you’ll see for yourself is that the baton of the Gospel has long been dropped…

We live in a time where Christians have bought into this secular new age philosophy that is sweeping the globe which I call ‘spiritism’. Professing Christians and Christian churches are chasing these mystical connections with God and out of body mindless experiences of God that are based on ecstatic emotions and musical meditation, floating away on a melody. We are in a time in which relationship with God is thought of as an enemy of knowledge of God, the heart is thought of as the antithesis of the mind, devotion as the opposite of study, Spiritual means mindless, authenticity and genuineness equals thoughtlessness and spontaneity and absence of preparation. We’ve gotten sucked into this pattern of thinking and so theological training, the task of properly recognising what God has to say through His word, has become increasingly unpopular even among Christians.

There’s a whole host of other factors that contribute to theological education being looked upon with disdain even within the church but we don’t have the time to explore those any further.

But what’s the value of theological education?

Number 1: The value of theological education is that it serves the safeguarding of the Gospel for the building and the maturing of the body of Christ.

When you read the Pastoral Epistles, Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, you see this emphasis on the passing down of the precious news of the Gospel from one Generation to the next. When Paul was coming near to the end of his life, he said to his son in the faith, Timothy; Timothy “what you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” That is how God builds His kingdom you see. That is how God builds the church. That is how God saves the lost and that is how He matures Christians: through the safeguarding of the precious Gospel. Not through emotional arousal through music, not through the spreading of miracles and financial blessing, not through trances and out-of-body experiences and mystical connections but through well-taught men and women entrusting the Gospel to the next generation of men and women who will guard it from false teaching and error… So Paul continues to tell Timothy that the things that he has been taught, he must also entrust to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others, 2 Timothy 2:2.

As you know, we are celebrating 500 hundred years since the birth of the reformation this year. And we are not celebrating the heroes of the Reformation in themselves. And I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want that.

Calvin after all wanted to be like Moses in that he didn’t want anyone to know where he was buried; he didn’t even want a tombstone on his grave because he didn’t want to receive any hero worship. George Whitefield in the next generation said something similar when he said, “let the name of George Whitefield perish so long as Christ is exalted.”

What we are celebrating with this 500th anniversary is the rediscovery of the Gospel that took place 500 years ago and the fact that it has been guarded for generation after generation through the training of reliable people who will be qualified to also teach others. That is what we are celebrating. None of sitting here today are self-made proclaimers of the Gospel. It’s all because God has put Gospel men and women in our lives who have handed the Gospel down to us so that with faith and love we may hand down to others. That is what theological training is fundamentally all about. It is about Gospel men and women entrusting the Gospel to reliable men and women who will also be able to teach others. That is how God builds His kingdom. That is how sinners are saved. That is how believers are edified and matured and equipped for works of service. That’s the 1st value of theological education.

Number 2: The Value of theological education is that it provides you with the tools that you need to be able to correctly handle the word of God.

You know it is entirely possible to open the Bible, read it and call yourself a Bible based Christian and not teach what the Bible actually says. It’s entirely possible. Creflo Dollar for example, the millionaire Pastor with a private jet and a mansion calls himself a Bible man. He’s even written books on how to study the Bible. I remember watching him once teaching his church a passage in Job. It was very disappointing because he was pointing out that Job’s suffering is not actually from God but from the devil and that in fact when Job put his faith in God, God blessed him abundantly.

Point: Believe in God and you will have your own private jet and mansion like me... That’s Creflo. The question is how is it that Creflo, the Bible man, got Job so very horrendously wrong?

One of the primary causes is that Creflo Dollar needs to fit everything he reads in the Bible into his presupposition that God is all about materially blessing those who trust in him. So everything needs to conform to that pre-existing framework that he conjured up. Because he comes to the Bible already convinced of this, his method of reading the Bible is to align scripture with whatever he already holds to be true. What you are doing then when you are reading the Bible like this is that you are listening to the echo of own voice and suppressing the voice of God. Theological education trains you in a method of reading the Bible that is designed to get you to see what is there in the Bible. Theological training is valuable because its goal is to get believers to read carefully what is already in the Bible so that what you believe and what you teach is actually what God had intended to say.

And when you have read the Bible’s story carefully with the help of teachers and the writings of other believers over 2000 years of church history who’ve pondered and thought deeply about what the Bible says, it becomes clearer and clearer that the main character in the Bible’s story is not me and my craving for a private jet, it’s Jesus. And it becomes clearer and clearer that the climax of the plot is the death and resurrection of Jesus and that everything else either leads to or flows from that central event. That is why Jesus said to the guys on the road to Emmaus, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory? And so beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning Himself” Later he said to the disciples, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” He’s talking about the whole Hebrew Bible. He’s pointing out how the whole Hebrew Bible is actually all about Him.

What you’ll also notice in Luke 24 is that Jesus explained to the guys on the road to Emmaus and explained to the disciples. He explained and explained to them the Scriptures.

In Cape Town I met a guy who goes to 1 of our churches who couldn’t stand GWC. Couldn’t stand the College. I got to know him quite a bit and one day he told me that he thinks we should quit preaching from the pulpit and rather have everyone sit in a circle and share what they feel the text says to them. He explained to me that preaching belongs to the first century context, not in today’s world. Then I realised that he hated the College because could not stand explanation. He didn’t want to be taught. He despised explanation. That’s another off-shoot of the post-modern world we live in today: the relativizing of truth. What’s true for me is not necessarily what’s true for you. Therefore, why should I sit under someone’s explanation of the Bible? And why would you set up a theological training institute to produce people who will carry on the legacy of the explanation of the scriptures? It just didn’t work for him. And I’ve sat in this guy’s mid-week Bible study and you would be shocked at what’s going on there.

We are in danger of people despising theological training because they’ve grown tired of receiving explanation of the scriptures. The limitation of theological training, what theological education can’t do, is open our minds so that we can understand the Scriptures. It can’t open our minds so that we can understand the Scriptures and actually see Jesus and His death and resurrection for sinners as its centre. Only Jesus can do that. So Luke 24:45, “then Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘this is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the 3rd day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

That is why Paul said to Timothy, “The things you’ve heard me say entrust to reliable men… who will be qualified to teach others”.

The reliability and qualification that Paul is talking is more than a degree or the ability to teach, it’s a regenerate heart and a mind that is opened by Christ to understand the centrality of the Gospel in all the scriptures. It’s only when you grasp the centrality of the Gospel that you will be able to produce what Paul in the Pastoral Epistles calls the pattern of sound teaching, or what he sometimes calls sound doctrine. Sound teaching flows from the centrality of the Gospel like water flows from a fountain. Paul makes the connection between sound doctrine and its source in the Gospel clear in 1 Timothy 1:11 when he talks about “…sound doctrine which conforms to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” So he says to Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” You see because if you can’t handle the word of God, then all you are left with is the tradition that you have grown up in. And sooner or later if your tradition veers off the Gospel then you will be purporting a false Gospel. So you cannot depend on tradition. You’ve got to be able to handle the word of God. And so Paul urges Timothy to do his best, “…to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

Theological training gives those whose minds have been opened by Christ, the tools as they read the scriptures to be able to come to an understanding of how each element in the story fits this the grand narrative that climaxes in the Gospel event.

When I arrived at College in my first year I remember looking around and seeing all of these people from all over the world and thinking to myself, “Wow, I’ve come to like in this military base together with these Gospel soldiers who’ve come together to receive this training in handling the Word of God. And then be thrust back out into the world in order to safeguard the Gospel.”

Let me tell you it is a thrilling thing to be in that environment, to see that picture. It awakened me to the reality that you are part of something big, much bigger than you, much bigger than your St. James or your Word of Life or Gorge or Emmanuel, you’ve been drafted into the army of God to safeguard the Gospel of grace for the advancement of the kingdom of God in the world. The Gospel is permanently under attack. The Gospel is always under attack. So you must never be relaxed about training; theological training, brothers and sisters.

The 2nd value of theological education is that it gives you the tools to be able to handle the word of God correctly.

Number 3: The value of theological education is that it trains you in relating God’s word then to our struggles in the church now.

There’ve been appalling displays of the use of the word of God to address the struggles that are found in the local church. Appalling displays. Again, displays that show that you are listening to the echo of your own voice when you are going into the scriptures. And we’ve got to remember that we are sinners saved by grace. So sin is always going to be a challenge for the local church. It’s amazing how many Christians subscribe to this notion that because of theological education, we get too heavenly minded and as a result we become no earthly good. I wonder what you do then with Colossians 3:1 which says “because you have been raised set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated… and not on earthly things”. And according to Paul, this is actually the basis upon which to fight earthly racism which is still so rampant in our country and in the church. How do I know that? Well, when he shows the relevance of fixing our hearts on things above as people who have been raised with Christ,  He then says in v11 of Colossians 3, “Here there is no Greek or Jew… but Christ is all and in all.” That’s the effect of setting our hearts on things above. That’s the earthly good. Or in Ephesians 2:14 he says “Christ Himself is our peace…”You see. Ultimately peace does not come through political intervention, Paul says ultimately “Christ Himself is our peace, he has made the 2 one and has destroyed the barrier, the diving wall of hostility by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”

You see it’s careful reflection on the Christ who is now seated above that is the cure of our earthly pain and strife. That is the solution to our struggles. The way to tackle racism is not to close the Bible and talk, it’s by carefully working out how the word of God speaks into the issue and how the Gospel is the weapon to kill it and then having open and frank discussion on that basis. That is what theological education trains you to do. Many people close their Bibles and try all sorts of pragmatic solutions to help them fix things because the Bible and the Gospel are too up there, too abstract for ‘real life’... so it is thought. The truth is that it is those who are heavenly minded, those who have been raised with Christ, who fix their hearts on things above who are in fact of most significant and of most real earthly good.  

Number 4: The value of theological training is that it equips you to give sound answers to the cries of our broken world

I remember when I was telling people that I was going to study theology at George Whitefield College. I could see by the look on their faces that many people felt sorry for me. Really, many people looked at me as if to say, eish “you could have been useful to the world”. But you know what? Do you know what question people the world over asked during the world wars? Or during the civil wars across Africa? Or during Colonialism and Apartheid? Or what question people asked when Tsunamis swept through Asia? Or when babies are raped and killed? Or when Boko Haram murders innocent people and kidnaps school girls? Or when terror ravages the Middle East and Europe? The question everybody wrestles with is “where was God? Where was God?” The very same people who thought you were foolish for studying theology are the very same people who ask the question, “where was God, where was God.” And whatever answer you give to that question is a theological statement; it’s a reflection of your theology. As a Christian the thing that we’ve all got to come to terms with is that everyone of us is a theologian… When you talk about God you are saying something theological. Some of you sitting here tonight might be surprised to know that many Christians do not think that they are in fact theologians. In fact some even go as far as to say I hate theology, I just want to know God… They of course fail to see that that option doesn’t exist: whenever you talk about God, you are theologising. The simple fact of the matter is everybody is a theologian and the only real question then is who is schooling you? Who is schooling you? What is the basis of your thinking about God? And so the 4th value of theological education is being trained to form Biblical answers to the cries of our broken world. Forming Biblical answers to cries of our broken world is a great way to reach the lost for Christ. When can show how plausible the Bible is in its answers to the deepest questions that humanity has, you are a very effective person in reaching the lost for Christ because it’s the Gospel in the end that brings true healing. It doesn’t mean that we all have to run off to theological college to receive formal theological education. Some of us here are not called to full-time ministry as such. But because as a Christian you are a theologian, you have to care about your theological training. You have to care about being trained and equipped theologically for these 4 reasons that I’ve just outlined.

Number 5: The value of theological training is that it gives you sweet communion with God

Speak to anyone who’s undergone theological training and they’ll tell you that those years were some of the best in their entire lives and I can say the same for myself. What could be sweeter than seeing and savouring God in the scriptures hour after hour day after year after year? The greatest pleasure there is in the world is to enjoy is communion with God through his word. There’s no greater delight than communion with God. And when you get the opportunity for theological training in a formal setting, you get to have that as the main staple of your everyday life with little distraction, there’s really nothing sweeter. My hero D.A. Carson always says, devotion is nourished by study and study is nourished by devotion. The 2 go hand in hand. Delight comes from knowing God and you can’t know God without studying His word. The 2 go hand in hand. And when you’ve got the tools to mine for yourself the treasures that are there in God’s word then how sweeter your delight will be in our God and Saviour.

 

In summary, 5 values of theological study:

Number 1: the safeguarding of the Gospel for the building of the church and the advancement of the kingdom of God.

Number 2: the tools that you need to be able to correctly handle the word of God.

Number 3: the ability to relate God’s word then to our struggles in the church now.

Number 4: the ability to form give sound Biblical answers to the cries of our broken world.

Number 5: sweet communion with our God.

Captured. Committed. Contagious. - Marks of True Christian Community

 - originally posted on desiringgod.com, written by Marshall Segal

A new year is a unique time to stop and assess our community — our church, our small group, our circle of friends. Have I found the believers I need to help me believe (Hebrews 3:12–13)? Am I making the most of those relationships (Hebrews 10:24)? Do unbelievers see us living together for something beyond this world (John 13:35)?

Six verses have shaped my vision for community in the local church more than most. They paint a vivid picture of what marked the very first church — what held those believers together after Jesus left them here on earth, what inspired them to leave everything behind for his sake, and what sustained them in the face of horrible opposition and persecution.

Acts 2:42–47 describes this community of faith for the sake of our Christian communities today. The passage is short enough to memorize, and yet big enough to shape years, even decades, of life in the local church, and captures for us at least four markings of true Christian community.

1. Relentless Devotion, Not Casual Indifference

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. . . . And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts. (Acts 2:4246)

Devoted. Perhaps it is easy for you to find churches meeting weekly or more, even within a couple miles of your home, but how many of our churches are marked by this kind of passionate devotion to God’s word and to one another? This was not just faithful attendance or reliable, spiritual routine. It was relentless joy and love — together.

What were they devoted to? To the Scriptures and to their fellowship (Acts 2:42). Not devoted like we might be devoted to a New Year’s resolution, but like we are devoted to eating food and drinking water each day. They were daily devoted to God’s word and to each other like their lives depended on it, because they did depend on it.

Is your community committed like theirs?

2. Heartfelt Affection, Not Bored Formality

What happened as they devoted themselves to the Bible and to one another? “Awe came upon every soul” (Acts 2:43). Do you think of evangelism like it’s an academic lecture or marketing pitch, trying desperately to persuade a nonbeliever to surrender and agree with us? Something different was happening in this tiny and fragile church: awe.

Awe overwhelms the mind to get to the heart. It must take the mind first. No feeling or emotion leads to real life or joy if it is not based on the truth about you and about God (Romans 10:2). Christianity, though, is not simply about getting the truth right, but about having the truth capture our hearts. If we are not fascinated with this Christ, we can hardly claim to know him.

Too many of us in too many of our churches settle for rehearsing the same truths over and over again — in singing and preaching and discussing — without expecting to be moved by God again. But awe is not only the experience of conversion, but of day-in, day-out faith in community. As we watch God move over and over — for one another and in one another — our hearts awaken in wonder again.

Is your community still moved by God?

3. Sacrificial Generosity, Not Selfish Ambition

The Christians in that first church were captured by a vibrant, dynamic, and personal vision of God, but that did not keep them from focusing on one another. They did not have to choose between being a church going hard after the God seated in heaven and a church dedicated to the needs around them here on earth. “All who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44–45).

Christianity did not isolate believers to focus exclusively on their own relationship with Jesus, but made each believer another vital vein in the body of Christ — each of them carrying what others need from God to the one in need.

God promises to meet our every need (Matthew 6:25–33), and many times (if not most often) he meets our needs through another believer. He gifts each of us, not for self-expression or self-fulfillment, but to fill what is lacking in someone else by meeting genuine needs. God has given each of us grace that was not meant to end with us, but to extend to someone else (1 Peter 4:10). But without selfless and sacrificial compassion, grace ends up in storage, not in action.

The first Christians felt so secure in God’s promises that they let go of all they had to help one another. To the watching world, it was unexplainably selfless and foolishly generous. As happened later in Macedonia, “in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2). Joy faced with need always looks like compassion and sacrifice. In short, it looks like the cross (Hebrews 12:21 John 4:9–11).

Is your community radically selfless and generous toward one another?

4. Contagious Joy, Not Secluded Cliques

When I think about my church and my small group, though, the sentence that haunts and inspires me most is the last one in this paragraph: “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). All the devotion and affection and compassion became irresistibly contagious.

We do not measure our community strictly in numbers, because only God gives the growth, not us (1 Corinthians 3:7). But we should measure ourselves in part by whether he’s giving the growth at all. If our Christian community is committed, but not compelling to anyone, we should be asking serious questions about what we’re committed to.

Every single church in the world has a mission statement direct from our Lord himself: “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). God didn’t mean for some of us to make disciples and others to do other kinds of ministry. Every Christian and every Christian community is called to win the lost and build into Christian maturity. God intends to make every genuine expression of true love, joy, and worship contagious.

Is your community consistently making disciples?

As you begin another year, look for questions to uncover weaknesses or blind spots in your church or small group. Perhaps sit down and develop a vision for how you will live and serve together over the next twelve months. Open the Bible and anchor every dream and plan in actual, memorizable words from God. With his glory as our guide, and his grace as our fuel, he will lead us and add to our number.

Presiding Bishop Advent Message

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.  (Hebrews 1:1-4)

In recent reflection on Hebrews I’ve been struck by the extent of the focus on the absolute superiority of Jesus.  Why does the writer take most of the first ten chapters to nail home this one great point?  It helps to understand that the writer of Hebrews is talking largely to Jewish believers who were beginning to drift back to the old religion.  At first they stood firm for Christ against great opposition (Heb.10:23f) but in time, the daily demand of faith in an unseen Saviour began to weary them and they slowly slipped back towards the old religion with its comforting rituals and religious practices. It’s true that the slow burn of nagging unbelief can produce more apostates than the hellfire of harsh persecution.

This should not surprise us. The life of trusting Jesus by faith alone is not as simple as it may look to outsiders.  Its tough to cling to the invisible God day after day, year after year. A number of converts have spoken about the nagging nostalgia for their old lifestyle and religion. The years can gradually take their toll as the disciplines of daily faith are overcome by the spreading cancer of doubt.

So what is the solution to the danger of drifting faith in the unseen Saviour?  Simple.  You need to see Jesus!  That is exactly why Hebrews takes nearly ten chapters to draw for us a glorious picture of the Person (1:1-7:28) and Work (8:1-10:18) of the Lord Jesus. The Introductory verses of Hebrews (above) are the seeds that bear fruit in the entire epistle. Hebrews will show us a striking picture of Christ, the owner,creator and sustainer of all creation (v.2b). God made visible (v.3a). As to His Work, Jesus provided the purification for our sins by His death upon the cross (v.3b) and is now seated as ruler over all creation having completed His great work of salvation for us.  This is the Jesus Hebrews wants us to see (1:1-10:18) and continue to follow by faith (10:19-13:25) until we see Him face to face.

Hebrews brings us the Jesus we need to see this Advent season.  The solution to our daily nagging battle with unbelief will not be accomplished through some renewed spiritual or religious experience.  The answer to our anxiety is not ultimately solved by doctors, lawyers or political leaders. Certainly no amount of presents under a Christmas tree will give us comfort in our faith. We need, above all else this Advent, to see Jesus.  Not just the baby in the manger, but Christ, our Prophet (v.1), Priest and King (v.3b).  The Christmas Babe is our Creator, sustainer and Saviour.

In a world where believers are distracted from their faith by spectacular emptiness and celebrity endorsed sin, we need to pay more careful attention to the remedy of Hebrews.  The solution to a disillusioned, distracted and drifting faith is a renewed look at the Person and Work of Christ.  Take time to see Jesus in Hebrews these holidays. There can certainly be no better thing to do in this season of expectation than to see afresh just who our Saviour is and what He has done for us.

“How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” (Heb.2:3)

May the Lord give us eyes of faith to see our Saviour this Christmas.  

Every blessing to you all over the season and into the year ahead.

Glenn Lyons

Prayer

  • Pray for our clergy and gospel workers as they plan and prepare for ministry in 2017. That the Lord will open doors for the gospel to find hearts and bring souls to Christ. Pray for fruit to come from every church that runs with the #REACH500 vision.
  • Pray for the Lord to bring rain to our drought stricken country.
  • Pray for the leaders of our country to rule and govern rightly in the fear of God.
  • Pray for the people of South Africa to bow the knee to the real Jesus this Christmas.

 

Emmanuel Church Five Year Vision 2016.11

On Sunday 13th Nov, pastor Alistair Anderton presented Emmanuel’s next 5 year vision.  Our ministry team are fully on board and working hard at planning the various ministries and events for 2017. We are excited about the doors the Lord is opening and we are thrilled to see such a positive response.  

It now remains for each member of the Emmanuel family to play their part.  by :

  1. Praying on a daily basis for Emmanuel and the ministry team.

  2. Persevering in regular, generous and willing giving and tithing.

  3. Participating in a ministry at Emmanuel.

Please contact Alistair if you wish to discuss the part you can play in the work of the Gospel at our church.  If you missed the Sunday presentation you can listen and download the info here.

Five Year Plan Presentation

Piper & Keller Wrestle with Sanctification

Published on Aug 26, 2016

John Piper and Tim Keller sat down to discuss the biblical vision of sanctification. In this 14-minute video they touch on how justification and sanctification relate, along with the psychological dynamics of faith. See the full resource at http://desirinGgod.org/articles/piper...

Why Did God Create the World?

First published on DesiringGod.org - Why did God create the world?

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:1–7)

After the question: Does God exist? to which God answers, I Am (Exodus 3:14), the next question that has shaped us most deeply at Bethlehem is: Why did God create the world?

The short answer that resounds through the whole Bible like rolling thunder is: God created the world for his glory. We’ll talk in a moment what that means, but let’s establish the fact first.

Notice the key verses in Isaiah 43:6b–7, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Even if the narrowest meaning here is I brought Israel into being for my glory the use of the wordscreatedformed, and made are pointing us back to the original act of creation. This is why Israel ultimately exists. Because this is why all things ultimately exist — for the glory of God.

The Bible Is Clear

When the first chapter of the Bible says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27), what is the point? The point of an image is to image. Images are erected to display the original. Point to the original. Glorify the original. God made humans in his image so that the world would be filled with reflectors of God. Images of God. Seven billion statues of God. So that nobody would miss the point of creation. Nobody (unless they were stone blind) could miss the point of humanity, namely, God. Knowing, loving, showing God.

The angels cry in Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” It’s full of millions of human image bearers. Glorious ruins. But not only humans. Also nature! Why such a breathtaking world for us to live in? Why such a vast universe? I read the other day (can’t verify it!) that there are more stars in the universe than there are words and sounds that all humans of all time have ever spoken. Why?

The Bible is crystal clear about this: “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). If someone asks, “If earth is the only inhabited planet and man the only rational inhabitant among the stars, why such a large and empty universe?” The answer is: It’s not about us. It’s about God. And that’s an understatement. God created us to know him and love him and show him. And then he gave us a hint of what he is like — the universe.

The universe is declaring the glory of God and the reason we exist is to see it and be stunned by it and glorify God because of it. So Paul says inRomans 1:20–21,

His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God.

The great tragedy of the universe is that, while human beings were made to glorify God, we have all fallen short of this purpose and “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” (Romans 1:23) — especially the one in the mirror. This is the essence of what we call sin.

So, why did God create the universe? Resounding through the whole Bible — from eternity to eternity — like rolling thunder is: God created the world for his glory.

To Help Us Feel It

Isaiah states it plainly in Isaiah 43:7 (“created for my glory”), and presses home the reality over and over to help us feel it and make it part of the fabric of our thinking:

Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; . . . And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 40:4–5)

I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. (Isaiah 42:8)

Break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel. (Isaiah 44:23)

For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you. . . . I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. (Isaiah 48:9–11)

And he said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified. (Isaiah 49:3)

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. (Isaiah 60:2)

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor . . . to give them . . . the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1–3)

Glorify Is Different from Beautify

This is why God created the world — “that he may be glorified.” Which does not mean: “that he may be made glorious.” Don’t take the word “glorify” and treat it like the word “beautify.” To beautify means to take a plain room and make it beautiful. We don’t take a plain God and make him beautiful. That is not what glorifying God means.

When God created the world he did not create out of any need or any weakness or any deficiency. He created out of fullness and strength and complete sufficiency. As Jonathan Edwards said, “Tis no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain that it is inclined to overflow.” So we don’t glorify God by improving his glory, but by seeing and savoring and showing his glory (which is the same as knowing, loving, showing).

Or switch to the word “magnify” (so Philippians 1:20, “that Christ be magnified” megalunthesetai). We magnify his glory like a telescope not a microscope. Microscopes make small things look bigger than they are. Telescopes make unimaginably big things look more like what they really are. Our lives are to be telescopes for the glory of God. We were created to see his glory, be thrilled by his glory, and live so as to help others see him and savor him for what he really is. To know, to love, to show his glory.

That is why the universe exists. If this takes hold of you the way it should, it will affect the way you think and feel about everything. Now you know why everything exists. You don’t know everything. There are billions of things you don’t know. But you are never at a loss to know something important about everything. Because you know that everything exists for the glory of God. You know something about everything. And this is one of the most important things you can know about anything. And so to know this one thing — that all things exist for the glory of God — is to know something supremely important about everything. Namely, for what purpose it ultimately exists. That is amazing.

Why This Particular World?

But we can’t leave it here. It’s too general. It’s too disconnected from the specific persons of the Trinity and from the flow of history the way God is guiding it. The question is not just, “Why did God create the world?” but why this world? — why these thousands of years of human history with a glorious beginning, and a horrible fall into sin, and a history of Israel, and the coming of the Son of God into the world, a substitutionary death, a triumphant resurrection, the founding of the church and the history of global missions to where we are today? Why this world? This history?

And the short answer to that question is, for the glory of God’s grace displayed supremely in the death of Jesus. Or to say it more fully: This world — this history as it is unfolding — was created and is guided and sustained by God so that the grace of God, supremely displayed in the death and resurrection of Jesus for sinners, would be glorified throughout all eternity in the Christ-exalting joys of the redeemed. Or let’s just keep it short: This world exists for the glory of God’s grace revealed in the saving work of Jesus. Which means that Bethlehem is not just a God-centered church, but a Christ-exalting church and a gospel-driven church. For us there is an unbreakable connection between the glory of God, the glory of grace, the glory of Christ, the glory of the cross.

The Glory of God and the Cross of Christ

Now let me show you this from God’s word. We can do it in five steps.

1. The apex — the high point — of God’s display of his own glory is the display of his grace.

“God predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:5–6). In other words, the glory of God’s grace — what Paul calls “the riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7) — is the highpoint and endpoint in the revelation of God’s glory. And the aim of predestination is that we live to the praise of the glory of this grace forever.

This is the endpoint of his glory, and everything else — even God’s wrath serves this. So Paul says in Romans 9:22–23, “Desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, God has endured with much patience vessels of wrath . . . in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy.” Wrath is penultimate. The glory of grace on the vessels of mercy is ultimate.

2. God planned this — the praise of the glory of his grace — before creation.

“God chose us in him before the foundation of the world . . . to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:46). Grace was not an afterthought in response to the fall of man. It was the plan, because grace is the summit of the mountain of his glory. And he created the world for his glory. He planned the world for the glory of his grace.

3. God’s plan was that the praise of the glory of his grace would come about through the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

“He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ . . . to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:5–6). This predestination to the praise of the glory of God’s grace happened “through Jesus Christ.” In the eternal fellowship of the Trinity, the Father and the Son planned that God’s grace would be supremely revealed through the saving work of the Son.

Again, Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:9, “God called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” So, before the ages of time began, the plan was for the revelation of the glory of the grace of God specifically through Christ Jesus.

4. From eternity God’s plan was that the glory of God’s grace would reach its high point in the saving work of Jesus on the cross.

We see this in the name that was already on the book of the redeemed before the creation of the world. Before there was any human sin to die for, God planned that his Son be slain for sinners. We know this because of the name given to the book of life before creation. “Everyone [will worship the beast] whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:8).

The name of the book before creation was “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” The plan was glory. The plan was grace. The plan was Christ. And the plan was death. And that death for sinners like us is the heart of the gospel, which is why in 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul calls it “the gospel of the glory of Christ.”

5. Therefore, the ultimate purpose of creating and guiding and sustaining this world — this history — is the praise of the glory of the grace of God in the crucifixion of his Son for sinners.

This is why Revelation 5:9 and 13 show that for all eternity we will sing “the song of the Lamb.” We will say with white-hot admiration and praise, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). We will praise ten thousand things about our Savior. But we will not say anything more glorious than: You were slain . . . and ransomed millions.

So we ask in conclusion, Why did God create the world? And we answer with the Scriptures: God created the world for his glory. God did not create out of need. He did not create the world out of a deficiency that needed to be made up. He was not lonely. He was supremely happy in the fellowship of the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He created the world to put his glory on display that his people might know him, and love him, and show him.

And why did he create a world that would become like this world? A world that fell into sin? A world that exchanged his glory for the glory of images? Why would he permit and guide and sustain such a world? And we answer: for the praise of the glory of the grace of God displayed supremely in the death of Jesus.

Some Concluding Questions

Which means that the ultimate reason for all things is the communication of the glory of God’s grace for the happy praise of a redeemed multitude from every people and tongue and tribe and nation. All things are created and guided and sustained for the glory of God, which reaches its apex in the glory of his grace, which shines most brightly in the glory of Christ, which comes to focus most clearly in the glory of the cross.

So I ask:

  • Is the glory of God the brightest treasure on the horizon of your future? Paul expressed the Christian heart in Romans 5:2, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

  • Is the glory of grace the sweetest news to your guilty soul?

  • Is the glory of Christ in your life the present, personal embodiment of the grace of God?

  • Is the glory of the cross the saddest and happiest beauty to your redeemed soul?

Recovering the Priority of Personal Holiness

This article can be found on ligonier.com, written by Alistair Begg Jul 18, 2016 

“If the Word does not dwell with power in us,” wrote Puritan John Owen, “it will not pass with power from us” (The Works of John Owen, vol. 16, p. 76.). This godly minister personified this truth in his personal life and public ministry more than three centuries ago. For years he carried the message of Jesus Christ into the trenches of a culture as chaotic as our own while simultaneously dealing with the death of his wife and all eleven of his children. John Owen was no ivory tower theologian, but rather a zealous pastor who worked to the brink of exhaustion to further the work of the Reformers. He is remembered for shining gospel light into the spiritually dark arenas of politics and academia. And his love of Scripture was clearly and forcefully articulated from the variety of pulpits into which God called him.

Yet what gave John Owen success in ministry was not so much his oratory skill, nor his evangelistic zeal, nor even his love for the people he shepherded. John Owen was used mightily by God in all these ways because he was a man characterized by personal holiness. And in an age when the church is emulating the world, where it is no longer distinguishable from our pleasure-oriented culture, the example of John Owen shines like a beacon on a stormy night.

Let’s consider whether we have allowed contemporary culture to infiltrate our minds and hearts. Have we inverted Christ’s desire that the church be in the world by bringing the world into the church instead? If we take an honest look, perhaps we’ll discover that we are contributing to this trend. Rather than relying solely on the sufficiency of God’s Word, are we employing counselors in our churches who apply worldly methods of psychological analysis to address felt needs? Have we adopted worldly means to reach the seekers who sit skeptically in the back pews rather than offering them the truths of the Gospel and the Christian life? Faithful teaching of God’s Word is vanishing. Are we among the number that have replaced preaching with elaborate drama productions aimed at entertaining? In terms of covenantal relationships, the rate of divorce and remarriage reflects societal statistics. Where do we stand on this issue? The church has become tolerant of all kinds of biblical compromise, casting aside principles that Owen and his contemporaries would have given their lives to protect and defend.

Unlike Owen, we are in danger of falling prey to the belief that without entertainment and other-worldly concessions, no one will want what Jesus offers. Let’s not forget the exchange, in the nineteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel, between Jesus and the rich young ruler when Jesus told the man the realities of true discipleship. As the rich man realized that personal sacrifice is required to live in God’s kingdom, he walked away. What did Jesus do? He did not do what many churches do today: run after the man in an effort to make the Gospel more appealing. No, Jesus let him go, because the only terms on which anyone can truly follow Christ are God’s terms.

Owen engaged the culture without capitulating to it because his chief desire was to reflect God’s purity in his life and ministry. He remained faithful in his preaching to the truths of Scripture — even in the face of life-threatening persecution — because of his commitment to holiness. People flocked to hear Owen preach because he reflected God’s character. Owen wrote, as noted in Peter Toon’s book God’s Statesman: The Life and Work of John Owen: “I hope I may own in sincerity that my heart’s desire unto God, and the chief design of my life … are, that mortification and universal holiness may be promoted in my own life and in the hearts and ways of others, to the glory of God, so that the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be adorned in all things” (p. 56).

I fear that personal holiness is not a priority within the church — even among its leaders — as it was in the days of the Puritans. Many ministers are often nowadays more concerned with visual growth and success than with cultivating personal purity. That was certainly not the case with John Owen. Rather than devoting much time to developing innovative amusements for the worship hour, Owen made private communion with God a top priority. He understood why the apostle Paul wrote: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2). The Word of God is the means employed by the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Christ, so if preaching and evangelism are to be effective, private communion with God in His Word must be more important than discovering the latest ministry technique. Owen wrote that “whatever else be done in churches, if the pastors of them, or those who are so esteemed, are not exemplary in gospel obedience and holiness, religion will not be carried on and improved among the people” (Works, vol. 16, p. 88).

Yet holiness isn’t just a necessity for ministers. If the church is to recover its distinctiveness, holiness is a requirement for each individual member. Hebrews 12:14 says,”Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Unless we recover this emphasis on holiness, how will the world look in and be able to see the Jesus we profess? Evangelistic efforts will ring hollow if such efforts are not accompanied by personal purity.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.