Sunday, August 18, 2019

Reminders: God

We are down to my last two sermons as your pastor. And I’ve been doing a good bit of thinking and praying about what I should talk to you about during these last two weeks. Actually, I was just considering a last sermon, but the list of things that I was eager to talk about with you grew quite large. And that’s why my last sermon became my last two sermons.

As I considered what to do, there was something Peter wrote that was prominent in my thinking.

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 2 Peter 1:12–15

Peter was soon to leave those saints, just as I will be leaving you. And just like Peter, I want to do what I can to make sure that you will remember some important things so that you can understand life. And I do that because, just like Peter, I know that how you understand life will define the kind of life that you will lead. I want you to be able to live well.

So, this week and next, I will remind you of some biblical themes that I have taught you, and I do that so that, just as Peter said,

after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Today, I’m going to talk to you about this question. Who is God and what is He like? I can’t imagine a question more critical to wise living. This is the key issue. So, as Jeremiah wrote,

…let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 9:24

We’re going to take a look at God, this morning. And it is my hope that, by the power of the Spirit, I will be able to impress upon you some critical aspects of who your God is.

I think that the Church in America needs to rediscover the majesty of the God who rules this creation. Consider some Scripture that speaks to this.

Here, in order to highlight how great God is, Isaiah, makes a series of comparisons between God and what He has created. Listen

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? Isaiah 40:12–18

In another place, Isaiah writes these words that God spoke. Note not only God’s claim to uniqueness, but also the range of things that He does.

I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:5–7

Paul adds this to make clear how this majestic God does not need us.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. Acts 17:24–25

Then, there is what Isaiah saw and heard.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Isaiah 6:1–3

Here’s the thought that I hope that you are getting from all of this: the awesome majesty of your God. He is no trite, invisible friend. He is God. And He is an amazing God. And He is that not first and foremost because He has rescued us. It’s about who He is in Himself. He is God. And revival in the churches will happen only when this majesty of God is rediscovered.

Now, what is, in fact, quite amazing is that this God, this God who is high and lifted up, this God who does not need you - this God has acted for your benefit. In fact, He has committed Himself to you, to your welfare. And He has made that commitment in a way that is clear and obvious. Listen to this from Hebrews.

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath… Hebrews 6:13–17

This is not just about how God made a promise to Abraham and swore to keep it. It’s also about how God extends the same promise and oath to ‘the heirs of the promise’. Do you know who that is? That’s you. And so, it is to you that this God has committed Himself, has promised Himself. And He guaranteed that promise with an oath. He swears by Himself that He will take care of you. He will bless you.

The first question to ask here is simple. Why would the majestic God who needs nothing from us do such a thing? Why would He bother? And if you think that you can come up with an answer to those questions it only means that you do not understand what is going on. The God who is above all things has pledged Himself to you, and He has assured you of that by swearing to keep His promise. And at the heart of that promise is this: ‘I will be your God’. That is the language of the covenant. And it covers everything, which is why I make a fuss about this idea of a covenant. God has promised Himself to you. He is your God.

What needs to happen now is for us to take a closer look at what is included in this promise. How does your God keep this promise to you? And we’re going to do that by looking at each person of the Trinity. While there is one God, this one God eternally exists in three Persons, the Father, the Son, the Spirit. We’re going to take a look at each one in turn.

So, first, God, the Father. What does His keeping that promise look like? The key is in His name. He is the Father. He is your father. For far too many people that is a hard concept to understand, at least in practical ways. And the reason for that is obvious. It is because of the failure of so many fathers these days. Some of you have had really good fathers. Give thanks to God for that gift. But there are so many who have not had the benefit of a good father. And that has its consequences.

The calling of every human father is to picture to his children who the heavenly Father is to them. And what is it about that Father that every human father is to imitate?

For one thing, he is to show that God, the Father, cares. Listen again to Peter.

…cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 [HCSB]

What a powerful thought: He cares about you. And that caring about you shows in many ways.

He always hears you.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:15,17

He is intimately aware of all that is going on in your life.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. Psalm 139:1–4

Listen to Paul as he puts the icing on the cake.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

The great and amazing God, the majestic God who doesn’t need you, He is for you. Your Father is for you. And if He is for you then, does anything else matter?

It is the Father who acted to deal with your greatest problem, your rebellious sin. Because He cares, because He is for you, the Father sent the Son.

Consider now what God, the Son, has done for you. A good place to start is to talk about the Incarnation, the Son taking on humanity.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Paul is helpful in filling out what that means, in filling out what the Son did to become man.

…though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:6–7

Please note those words, ‘emptied himself’. Try to picture the Son, filled with the dignity, the grandeur, the majesty of being God - try to picture the Son setting all of that aside and becoming a mere human. The Son emptied Himself for you. This is His role in keeping that promise, in being your God.

And the reason for this emptying? Listen to how Hebrews describes what that is all about.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. … He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:14–15,17–18

The Son has kept the promise by becoming a mere human so that He could suffer on that cross and make propitiation for your sins. He continues to keep the promise by helping ‘those who are being tempted’ - that’s you.

That’s about what the Son has done in the past and what He does in the present. But what about the future? Listen to what the Son promises all His faithful disciples.

The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. Revelation 2:26–27

The Son will share the authority that He has received as Messiah. He will share that with you.

And that leaves God, the Spirit. When you think of the Spirit, one thing that should quickly come to mind is the idea of power. The Spirit is all about power.

Listen to these from Luke.

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy - the Son of God. Luke 1:35

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. Luke 4:14

Then, these words of Jesus in Acts.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

And how will this power of the Spirit touch your life? Listen again to Jesus.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another [Paraclete], to be with you forever… John 14:16

The Son promises the powerful presence of the Spirit as ‘another Paraclete’.

Here, I will remind you about that word Paraclete. It can be translated as Helper, Counselor, Advocate. A Paraclete is someone who encourages and exhorts. The Spirit is all of that - for you. This is how God, the Spirit, fulfills His role in keeping the promise. And He acts in this powerful way so that you can accomplish the calling that has been given to you.

So, who is God? He is the great and amazing God, the majestic God who is over all things, the great and amazing God who doesn’t need you. And yet, He is the God who has made a promise to you. ‘I will be your God.’ And He keeps that promise to you as the Father, as the Son and as the Spirit.

So, what are you to do with what I’ve told you? What does remembering these things look like? Two thoughts.

First, you need to believe it. After all, it’s the Gospel. You need to believe it in theory as I talk to you about who He is. But then, you also need to believe it in practice as you face each day with its joys and challenges. This God has committed Himself to you.

To be able to take the theory and believe it in the practice of your life, you will need to ponder it. You will need to invest time thinking about what this promise means in the context of your life.

It is when you do that that you will see the need for something else. You will see the need for repentance and faith. And I say that because, as you develop your understanding of who God is, you will see that you don’t fully believe His promise. At different points in your life, you don’t depend on Him to keep His promise. You just don’t. This will look different for each of you, but you all will find that when it comes down to the nitty gritty of life, there are places where the promise of this amazing God makes no difference to you. You act as if there is no promise and that you are on your own to deal with whatever it is that you are facing. You will need to repent of that. You will need to be honest about your unbelief in the specific situation where it showed up.

Was there a time that you gave in to the fear which is anxiety, to the demand for control as a means of self-defense, to the desire for something that you had no right to, thinking, ‘This will make life work’, to the false comfort of some lie? You will need to be honest with your God about that, about depending on someone or something else instead of Him. Then, once you have admitted what you have done, come to this amazing God in faith asking for forgiveness of your inexcusable sin, as well as for the grace that will change you. Ask for the ability to do better at believing the promise the next time you are faced with some temptation. Repentance and faith, they are basics to faithful Christian living, something that you need to remember.

So, working at believing the promise is one thing that you will need to do. Here is another. As these truths increasingly grip your soul, it will only make sense to worship this God, to worship Him as the Father, as the Son, as the Spirit. It only makes sense to worship each one for how He keeps that promise, ‘I will be your God’. So, take to heart these words of the psalmist.

Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Psalms 29:1-2 [NKJV]

And do that because you remember this profound thought.

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11