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Who is God?

The way you answer that question impacts the way you are living your life. It impacts not only the individual, but your relationships, and eventually society as a whole. It’s not hard to prove this point. If you believe there is no God, you will live a certain way, as if God, His ways, and His existence doesn’t matter. And if you believe God and His will is vitally important and relevant to life, you will live another way. Either way, you can see that how we think about God is relevant to our entire society and life. How much more relevant would it be that God actually exist or not exist? That He actually has a perfect moral standard, and that Jesus really is the Son of God, the only one who can fill that standard on our behalf?

But how can we know the mind of God? It is popular today to think that no matter what we “decide for ourselves” to believe about God, we can’t know it for certain, so we must just “do our best” according to our own standards of good. Then God will just forgive our moral failure to meet His standards. But on whose authority is this opinion based? Is it in fact true? Or is it true that God is Yahweh as described in the Bible who “will by no means clear the guilty?” (Ex 34:7)

On what authority would you base your beliefs about God? Your opinions? Feelings? Experiences? Sort through the confusion and consider how you know who anyone is. Unless they reveal to you what is on their mind, you can’t know it. So are there, for example, reliable documents which God has had transmitted to us to do just that, revealing these very things? Yes. Test the Bible and see.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord [Jesus], and it was attested to us by those who heard… (Hebrews 2:1-3 ESV)

What is the Church?

It is not a social club. It’s joyful worship and it is serious business, but, among other things, it’s really the people of God being rescued and on a rescue mission. The church is not commissioned to convince people of the love of God for a comfortable life or to develop clever marketing strategies that ask, “Are you ready to join God’s family?” The serious business is that this world is messy, dark, and deadly, and we’re mired in a body that will die. After which we will all be judged for evils which we are still not finished committing. God is not selling insurance or any other product. God is commanding that “all people everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30). Repent means to turn away from evil and turn to Him. The alternative, ready or not, is to face the consequences of our thoughts, addictions, and actions made against Him.

The reason the church worships a beautiful and gracious God is that He does not “take pleasure in punishing the wicked” (Ezek 33:11) but would rather celebrate when a person trusts in Him for forgiveness and a new heart (Luke 15:10). The Creator is so gracious that He became one of His creations, Jesus of Nazareth, and loved sinners by taking their place so they wouldn’t have to face God’s anger for their apathy and rebellion. That is Good News. And that’s the truth in love. That’s what Church is about: People who put their trust in Jesus for their rescue and thus truly becoming a worshipper of God from the heart. They are those being rescued now and having a sure hope for an ultimate rescue when they are resurrected, never to suffer or sin again.

Gospel Espresso

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
(Isaiah 30:18, ESV)

There’s SO much wonderful theology packed densely into these words. Forgive me for talking over some heads because it takes some background knowledge of the Bible to get through this, but I pray that I’ll make accurate sense, doing justice to God’s Word and that the Spirit would help you make sense of it, giving you discernment as to where I might miss something. I hope I’ll get more time to expand this a bit later. This verse serves as a proof of prophesy and the wonderful coherence of the whole Bible.

Here are some of the big topics I see mentioned in passing in this verse (yet not mentioned insignificantly).
-God of mercy and grace
-God of Justice punishing sin (see the context and the “therefores”)
-God waits to have mercy and exalts himself because he is also just.
-God who is jealous for his glory in order to show mercy.
-Wait for God and trust in his ultimate salvation.

The ultimate way this was fulfilled was when Jesus came
(The Messiah and the Teacher mentioned in verse 20)
after Israel’s long wait (about 700 years later than Isaiah)
to exalt himself in glory on the cross (John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32; 17:1)
to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice who does not let injustice be,
but punishes all sin, either on the cross or in hell, our choice.
Repent. Wait for him. He is coming again soon.

God can and does speak to people directly, but shouldn’t it go without saying that this is quite exceedingly rare? Why are there so many “prophets” today then claiming they’ve got a special word which is above and beyond his Word? Because, according to God, they’re deluded liars that give him a bad name.

And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.” (Jeremiah 14:14, ESV)

And that was said about people who were saying God would bless them with material wealth and peace! There is also the other problem where God is said by some to be evil or to be sending curses where he isn’t. Where God speaks to everyone is within God’s Word, the Bible. If we add to it or speak authoritatively about it (critics included), it can be equivalent to saying “thus sayeth the Lord” when he doesn’t sayeth. If we are going to speak authoritatively about God, we’d better have his Word right. If one is going to comment or quote an academic source, then one had better have read it well enough to have the right gist of it.

These days, we have many “false prophets”, but they’re not all in churches. Some of them are attacking the church by making exaggerated claims that the Bible describes a God who is immoral. If only we could just read for ourselves without adding our agendas as much as we do, then we might just find the grace which God has extended. Let’s make an effort to humble ourselves so that we do not keep arrogantly taking God’s name in vain like this. After all, Jesus died for deluded liars who misuse and abuse his name.

The Christmas Sequel: Revisited

Someday we will celebrate a New Christmas: “God with us” at the second coming of Jesus—The day of all days to remember.

He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:26-28, ESV)

And while they were gazing into heaven as [Jesus] went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:27)

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. (1 Thess 4:16)

The high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:61-62)

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Rev 1:7)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14, ESV)

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:7-8)

Jesus-Heaven-and-Hell
Upon watching a forceful, honest, passionate display of emotion and straight-talking Bible teaching from pastor Mark Driscoll as he was answering a question on hell (56:50), I accidentally glanced at the comments section on Youtube, where I was watching it, and saw a familiar objection that went something like this:

“I could never believe in a God who is angry at us and/or sends people to hell for their sins.”

The comment was stated more forcefully and more passionately than my bare bones version above and added a current population figure. Mark was discussing his view based on the Bible, a Christian view about a Christian teaching. If Christianity isn’t true, the question would have no force at all because the Christian view then wouldn’t matter. But what was the commenter’s response based on? Was it based on the teachings of Jesus for a question about the teachings of Jesus? Based on principles of justice or mercy? Was it even based on a search for truth about the way reality is? None as far as I could tell, but simply based on what the commenter would not like to believe. For what does one’s preferences in the matter have to do with how reality is? He didn’t even consider all the people in history, just the population of today. Without saying it directly, he’s describing God as being unfair, but without offering up why any of us should think that his unoffered standard is better than God’s.

In answering this objection, I think my friend said it well: “I find it interesting how people can seemingly decide what kind of God they can believe in. It’s not like God can be determined by our beliefs.”

But perhaps this overlooks another side of the skeptic’s objection. Perhaps they “could never believe” not because they have an intellectual problem with it but rather a genuine emotional reaction to hearing that their unsaved family members and friends who have died are now . . . It’s understandably and unspeakably tragic. Christians too have friends and family members who have died without taking hold of the pardon God has offered. We too have to face whether there’s good enough reason to believe that Jesus was who he said he was and whether we should believe he historically resurrected to prove it. I don’t like hell, but in light of his qualifications I also believe Jesus really knew what he was talking about—which is why he went through the crucifixion to get me out of it or else I too would die in my sin and rebellion against God.

I’ll leave you with these last thoughts. Heaven is not a right that God owes anyone or else it wouldn’t be amazing grace to being with. What if instead he chooses to show his righteousness by punishing evil rather than forgiving it?

“But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world?”
(Romans 3:5-6 ESV)

Bigot!

Bigot: (n) a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance.

Tolerance: (n) 1 : capacity to endure pain or hardship : endurance, fortitude, stamina
2 : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.

So to “tolerate” something or someone means my views will differ from, even conflict with, the ones tolerated. So it doesn’t make anyone a bigot to disagree. It doesn’t even make someone a bigot to conflict against views that are really emotionally charged. It makes them a bigot to hate and be obstinate about it. It may even be possible to be a bigot while calling someone else a bigot, especially if they really aren’t.

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