This Sunday I conclude the BECAUSE HE IS series. Each of the six instalments of this series has dealt with a truth about God. My hope throughout the series so far has been that I might introduce those unfamiliar or less acquainted with God to experience a richer, deeper and more intimate knowledge of Him. My motive for doing this has been to lead someone who had never loved God to come to gladly love Him — and for those who were in like of God to become besotted with their love for God. I have repeatedly said throughout this series so far that I have not wanted this to be merely a series of lectures or just interesting information for your fancy. (Added to this, I have confessed that Kim has forbidden me from lecturing this series!) But now, as I prepare to conclude this series this Sunday, I want to give you some of the theological background behind what I consider to be one of the most important series of sermons I have delivered. There was a time when theology (the study of God) was considered the “the Queen of the sciences” from which all knowledge flowed making every other ’ology a subset of Theology.
Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. Second Samuel 7:22
The first part of this series was simply called Because He Is. If I was to have lectured on this topic it would have been on the topic of ‘ontology’ – a philosophical-theological lecture. Ontology comes from two Greek words, ontos – which means “being, person, is”; and logos – which means “reason” from which we get the English suffix –ology (‘the study of’). Ontology is therefore the study of (the ultimate) reality. When Thomas Aquinas, a Medieval theologian, developed a set of proofs for the existence of God, he began with ontology. He reasoned that because anything was it must have had a being behind it. Since we can all verify that this world is, we can verify what Aquinas stated – that there must be a Being behind it. We can also verify that this world is operates on certain principles such as fixed chemical reactions, gravity, decay, objective moral laws, planetary order. We refer to something that is obviously true or factual as “ontologically true”. Therefore, for Aquinas, the answer to the philosophical question, “How do we prove God exists?” was, “We know God exists because He is.”
And Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is none like You to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on You, and in Your Name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.” Second Chronicles 14:11
The study of who God is, His nature, His unique attributes, His unique acts, His character, and His essence, is known as Theology Proper. I have spent the best part of the last four decades focusing on the study of this academic discipline, and yet, I still have much more to learn. The preeminent quality of God from which each of His afore mentioned aspects flows out of, is holiness. God is holy. Before we think of God as love, almighty, just, or wise, we must appreciate that He is holy — not like the human attribution inappropriately given to cities or landmarks or so-called shrines or false religious leaders — God’s holiness is almost incomprehensibly unique. God is holy means that He is: distinct, sacred, special, impeccably pure, infinitely uncommon, perfectly good.
“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your Name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:4
When French theologian and lawyer, John Calvin, sought to correct the flagrant misrepresentations of his day about God and His deeds, he based his research on the Apostles’ Creed, the Scriptures in their original languages, and the works of several ancient Church Fathers, especially Augustine of Hippo. The result of his research was a mammoth four-volume work known in English as The Institutes of The Christian Religion. He divided his work into four sections: (i) About God The Father as Creator and Redeemer; (ii) About God The Son as Saviour and Revealer of the Father; (iii) About God The Holy Spirit as the Agent of Redemption through raising Christ from the dead, and regenerating the redeemed; and, (iv) About the Church as the Spirit-empowered community of the redeemed. To understand God necessarily leads to understanding that He is the Redeemer by whom we can only be, and must be, saved from our sin, reconciled to God, and be eternally pardoned. To accept God’s offer of rescue is to be delivered from the darkness of our alienation into the light of our adoption and fellowship with God and the community of the redeemed. This community is known as the Ecclesia – the Church. The theological study of God’s redemption plan is known as ecclesiology.
Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:4-7, 22-23
God is the Source of all goodness and blessing and is therefore worthy of all glory and praise. The Greek word for glory is doxa. In some church worship services they will close by pronouncing the doxology which literally means “words of praise”. For the one who comes to know God there is a reflex to want to worship God with praise and adoration. Human beings are created by the All-Glorious God to worship Him. Sin distorts this uniquely human characteristic by deceiving people into worshiping the created rather than the Creator.
For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. ¶ Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:21-25
The closing book of the Bible paints a picture of the culmination of redemption where the redeemed give God glory by attributing to Him every blessing they have received, by singing –
Saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” Revelation 5:12-13
One of the Greek words for knowledge is ‘episteme’ from which we get the term epistemology which is the study of how we come to know. In the realm of theology, although episteme does not occur in the Bible, epistemology pertains to how we know the truth about God. The Bible declares that God is the true God and that He is the Source of truth. This truth can be known by: (i) reliable testimony; (ii) verifiable accounts, particularly found in the Scriptures; (iii) direct encounters; (iv) direct revelation including hearing the voice of God or divine dreams; (v) philosophical contemplation such as considering creation needing a Creator (and similar to what Aquinas did); and, (vi) otherwise inexplicable answers to secret prayers to God.
And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6
The Christian claims about God are true — not a different kind of ‘true’ to what a reasonable person would consider true, but the kind of true that is, as Francis Schaeffer described as — true truth! Therefore, Christianity’s historical truth claims can be verified. Christianity’s philosophical truth claims can be reasoned. Christianity’s subjective truth claims can be experienced. Christianity’s scientific truth claims can be tested.
This Sunday I conclude the Because He Is series with Because He Is Life. Soteriology comes from the Greek word soterios which is translated into English as ‘salvation’, thus, soteriology is the study of salvation.
With each of the messages in this series there has been a “so what” element. When I map a sermon series out, often months before I preach it, I always ask the “So what?” question as I sketch it out. As you can see from the picture of my sticky-note in my Bible, next to the start of First Peter, for this series I actually began with the “so what” elements of each instalment. These “so whats” are the implications of each of these ‘ologies’ in the Because He Is series. Because He is holy, the Apostle Peter tells us we should be holy.
But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” First Peter 1:15-16
This Sunday, perhaps one of the greatest “So what?” moments that any church could hope for will be publicly demonstrated as baptise people who have accepted God’s offer of forgiveness and redemption. You will also notice that I have mined just one passage from First Peter to draw out each of these ‘ologies’. It is my hope that as you hear my heart to convey the richness of the treasure of knowing God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, your confidence in the God of the Bible will be buttressed not just by good theology grounded in Scripture, but in the fact that you have come to know Him in truth for yourself. This Sunday will not be a lecture, and perhaps by now you can see why, and we may all humbly say along with Job –
I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5-6
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.
What I am about to say may shock some. I may even upset most of you who read this. But I hope that in reading this, you will hear my pastoral heart and not prejudge me before you’ve read it all — and prematurely assume that I am being unnecessarily pedantic or petty. I need to speak up about an issue that has been troubling me for some time. I have observed many people becoming disillusioned with their concept of Christianity and walking away from Christ as a result of this issue. It has split churches and even ended marriages and it’s time for someone to finally address it despite its popularity!
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21
FIRSTLY, UNDERSTAND THAT CHRISTIANITY IS SUPERNATURAL
Nearly all religions are ‘dead’ religions. While these religions are characterised by various traditions, rituals, and ceremonies, there is very little ongoing supernatural interaction or experience associated with them. Such religions stand in contradistinction with genuine Christianity which is a ‘living’ religion because such Christianity is characterised by its adherents enjoying a continual and personal interaction with the Holy Spirit. This is precisely what Jesus taught us — that the Holy Spirit would lead us, guide us, and instruct us.
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17
Becoming a Christian requires a miraculous spiritual transformation whereby an alienated soul (described in the Bible as being spiritually “dead”, Eph. 2:1-5) is reconciled to God by the Holy Spirit mediating the sacrificial work of Christ on our behalf.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. Romans 5:10
This “new life” opens up a Spirit-transformed believer to some amazing supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is why we reasonably describe genuine Christianity as supernatural.
PRAYER AS A DIALOGUE
Most religions practice prayer — but Christianity views prayer uniquely. For Christians, prayer is not the merely the mindless reciting or chanting of religious phrases. Rather, prayer is talking from the heart to God. It’s not about saying certain words or phrases as if prayer required some kind of Hogwarts’ training! Rather, genuine prayer involves confessing, requesting, pleading, interceding, and worship. It is where the believer is invited by God to come close and to be transparent. Many Christians describe prayer is a dialogue with God. But this description can be misleading because the dialogue involved in genuine prayer is not necessarily, and in fact, is not usually, a matter of God talking back to the one praying in the same way as the one doing praying. (The Bible does not teach ‘listening prayer’ such as this.) Genuine prayer-dialogue is where the child of God prays, and then listens to what God says in His Word. In this way, your first aim in praying is not to hear a word from God, but to hear the Word of God! By treating prayer — and the Word of God — like this, you discover that when it comes to making important decisions in your life, the Word of God (the Bible) gives you wise counsel. This counsel instructs you to obey God’s general commands, to seek out wise counsel from trusted and proven advisors, to submit to those God has placed over you or alongside you, and to not be hasty.
LEARNING TO HEAR WHAT YOU DON’T NEED TO LEARN TO HEAR
Over the years I have seen many people offer “How To Hear God” seminars and books. But nearly all of these (if not, all of these) ignore some blatantly obvious descriptions in the Bible about how God speaks to one of His children. When we search the Scriptures to study how God spoke to people we notice two outstanding things. Firstly, as CS Lewis depicted in the Chronicles of Narnia, it was very rare that God actually directly to an individual. Secondly, when God spoke, it was always clear and understandable. In the Old Testament God spoke to pagan rulers often through vivid dreams without any of them very having done a How To Hear God’s Voice Seminar! God also spoke His redemptive Word through just a handful of prophets. The Old Testament actually gave people some tests for determining whether any prophet who claimed to have heard from God was genuine or not.
¶ “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 13:1-3
When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:22
As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.” Jeremiah 28:9
Based on these two important pieces of Biblical information you be assured of two important principles. Firstly, if God wants to speak to you directly, He will do so in an unmistakably clear way. Secondly, God rarely speaks directly with a person — yet He has given us His Word which is sufficient for us to know how to be reconciled to Him and to come to know Him and His will. (Anyone who claims to have had God speak directly with them yet openly and wilfully disobeys God’s written Word despite this encounter with God, is probably lying!) Knowing these two great Biblical principles should benefit any son or daughter of God who has felt that perhaps they have not been spiritual enough because they have not heard from God the way others claim to have; and, it should also cause the child of God to occasionally admit that they may have acted in presumption rather than on the basis of the Word of God’s instructions to seek wise counsel before presuming that “God told me to…” I have been guilty of such presumption.
Yet there have been several significant times in my journey with Christ when I have sensed that God has ‘spoken’ to me. As I have grown in my walk with Christ I have learned that God’s wisdom for the decisions I have to make often comes from my wife, my elders, and my trusted friends. Each Sunday before I stand to speak before the church I seek God for His word for our church and for Him to speak through me to those participating in our worship service. It is often in these moments that I sense the Holy Spirit impress upon me a word, words, or a thought, that I then convey as I minister on Sunday. I have learned, and am learning, to pay attention to the impressions that the Holy Spirit puts on my heart. But rarely will you ever me say, ”God spoke to me this morning and said…” or, “God has told me that we should…” It is when people make such expressions a part of their usual vocabulary in describing their relationship with God that they are in grave danger of committing presumption and arrogance. It has been my common experience with such people that their failure to admit their presumption and face up to the fact that God did not tell them to do something has resulted in them hurting and disillusioning other brothers and sisters in Christ. I have seen marriages end because of it. I have seen churches split because of it. I have seen friendships finish because of it. And sadly, I have seen vulnerable Christians walk away from church and Christ because of it.
If you feel God is speaking to you about something, or telling you to do something, rather than publicly declaring it as so, I would like to urge you to test it and follow the principles of wisdom from God’s Word first.
God will never tell you to do something that His Word clearly forbids (such as committing sexual sin).
God does not always guarantee that you will succeed or prosper if you obey Him (think of the Prophet Jeremiah). In Scripture we see that God often let people ‘fail’ as they faithfully obeyed Him.
God rarely asks a person to do something without first preparing them for it (think of each of the disciples that Christ appointed as apostles). Which is more likely: God telling someone to immediately leave their job and begin tomorrow working as a brain surgeon; or, God speaking to someone who has spent the last 8 years of their life getting through medical school and training as a surgeon to now begin to focus their specialist training on becoming a brain surgeon?
God rarely directs a person to tell another person to do something that they weren’t expecting. This has sadly happened when someone has claimed that “God told me to tell you that you should marry me!” In every instance that I know of where this happened and the person complied, the marriage has ended quickly and sadly.
BEING A CHRISTIAN IS A RELATIONAL ADVENTURE
Christianity is a dynamic (always changing) journey with the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit within us who works within us to desire to do and pursue the will of God (Phil. 2:13). It is the illumination of the Spirit that takes God’s Word as we read, study, and meditate on it, and makes it seem fresh and alive to us. And it is the Word of God, which He, the Holy Spirit, inspired men to write so that we could clearly discern the will of God for our lives. You don’t need a word from God to know what God’s will for your life is. You don’t need to attend a “Learn To Hear The Voice of God” seminar, or to read a book on the topic. Instead, you just need to dialogue with God in prayer through pouring out your heart to Him with your requests, petitions, confessions, and thanksgiving; and then, prayerfully read His Word as the light of the Holy Spirit illuminates it to your soul.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Second Corinthians 4:6
Perhaps if more believers were led by the Spirit like this, less Christian marriages would end, less churches would be split, and less Christians would walk away from Christ and His Church after becoming frustrated by the false belief that since these presumptuous Christians have apparently mis-heard God so wildly, the reason must be that God doesn’t actually exist. This is one of the most pressing issues that needs to be confronted today — especially among those of us who identify as Spirit-filled Pentecostals.
If you’ve ever wondered how come “some people get all the breaks”, chances are that they take a daily dose of vitamin R. Perhaps you’ve wondered how some people seem to get so much done? The answer is a daily dose of vitamin R. A daily dose of vitamin R also helps you to lose weight, get better grades, and learn a foreign language quicker! This is because vitamin R improves brain function, physical health, and mental strength. Let me tell you how I discovered the benefits of taking vitamin supplements. A few months ago I had a bit of a health scare and was nearly hospitalised. Doctors decided against it due to the increased risk of contracting covid-19 if hospitalised. But the resultant treatment that I had put some of my internal organs under abnormal stress. To rectify this, I prescribed a daily dose of vitamins (particularly vitamin D). This past week I had another doctor’s appointment to follow up on my recent pathology tests and was advised to increase my daily vitamin intake. It’s only in the last few weeks that I’ve become aware of — and impressed with — the benefit taking a daily dose of vitamin R.
Most vitamins have some side-effects if taken in excess. Before you consider taking vitamin R you should be aware of its side-effects that occur from the outset of taking it. Firstly, it effects your vision. If you take vitamin R you will begin to see problems more often and more clearly. Secondly, it will effect your heart. If you take vitamin R you will begin to feel compassion for those with these problems and feel a growing desire to help them. Thirdly, it effects your attitude. If you take vitamin R you will stop blaming and increasingly begin to welcome criticism as helpful. Fourthly, it effects your tenacity. If you take vitamin R you will begin to stay committed for longer.
WHO VITAMIN R IS RECOMMENDED FOR
Vitamin R is recommended for those seeking to be more helpful and productive. It is not recommended for those who like to avoid commitments, sleep in, neglect physical exercise, and spend hours each day on social media or gaming (vitamin R has been known to be completely disruptive to each of these). Clinical trials have conclusively shown that those who start taking vitamin R all begin to feel a sense of pressure – similar to the sensation of a weight being placed on their shoulders. Experts advise that this is perfectly normal and as the daily dose of vitamin R is maintained it soon gives way to a growing feeling of achievement and fulfilment.
WHERE TO SOURCE VITAMIN R
Vitamin R is not sold in shops. In fact it is not sold anywhere. But it is ready accessible and freely available for anyone even those not looking for it. A growing number of vitamin R takers tell of how they began taking it by accident and because of its immediate improved wellness outcomes they are now daily vitamin R takers. Once you’ve felt the benefits of taking vitamin R it’s hard to give it up. It’s not taking other vitamins. It doesn’t come in a pill, a capsule, or a tablet. In small doses vitamin R can enter your system when, instead of leaving a dirty dish in the sink, you wash and dry up your dish instead. Vitamin R increases into your soul significantly when you volunteer to help a good cause, such as your local church, for example.
THE ULTIMATE EXAMPLE OF VITAMIN R
The Greatest Exponent of what vitamin R can achieve within a person was the One who introduced vitamin R in small doses to His twelve followers. There initial dose came from simply complying with the request to, “Follow Me.” This they did for some three years or so. After watching Him intently, they then got a larger dose when they were told to, “Go…and proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” And as every example of those who have ever received a near maximum dose of vitamin R bears witness, just before they received their ultimate dose vitamin R they felt two universally common sensations: inadequacy and inability. Yet, as everyone who has received such high doses of vitamin R from the One who gives the ultimate enabling strength found in vitamin R, somehow they were supernaturally enabled to do the very thing they felt both inadequate and unable to do!
Perhaps you could start out trying some small doses of vitamin R. The known benefits of taking on a small responsibility (vitamin R) include: increased commitment leading to the completion of things you commence; finding your place of belonging within a team that needs you (which boosts your mental wellness); increased confidence to do things you never thought you could do; and a growing sense of achievement from being a part of a dedicated group who each carry their responsibility (vitamin R) seriously.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.