Cru @ Sru : Ask Anything Night (Part 4)

64079-ask-me-anythingYou can visit Pages One, Two, or Three in the series, or just scroll down on the home page.

 

I am graduating soon and am very unsure of what I’m going to do with my life. How do some people find it so easy to put all their stress on God and not on themselves? 

They’re faking. Haha.

If I would spend any considerable amount of time pondering the reality that God can (and often does) bring about unexpected change,I’d curl up in the fetal position in the middle of the road for fear of coming upon a fork in the road or a tunnel. (that’s a metaphor) When I arrived at Grove City College in 1997, I was a pre-med atheist. When I graduated, I was a Christian biz management major. I worked in sales & management with building materials, installing windows & mirrors, laser engraving (which then became the first business I started on my own), considered grad school (I was going to get a PhD to teach business until I was rejected), started a graphic design business, and then answered the call to ministry, which has been the most steady period of my life by far.

All that to say, I had no clue what life was going to look like. But I found an amazing wife along the way, some great friends, started a family, and lived.  We’ve moved our family. I’ve walked away from one job with no other job on the horizon. You just don’t know. But there is a contentment at knowing whose hands are forming the clay (see Post #3 and Philippians 4:13)

Everyone handles stress differently. There is no fast-track to surrender and contentment. I promise, though, that the closer you walk with Jesus, you’ll find peace there… not necessarily calm or quiet, but real peace. Peace is not tied to circumstance, nor is contentment or joy. They are in a glorious, divine, saving Person. Seek first his kingdom! They are cliched and overused statements, but they are true. It will look different for you than it did for me, but the great news is that the object of our affection is consistent, and so the result for both of us will be glory.

 

Is smoking weed a sin? 

I’m sorry to provide a redirect, but I’ve appreciated this article, and so I feel it’s a great share for a perspective on marijuana.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/don-t-let-your-mind-go-to-pot

 

Why does God not perform any more of the big miracles he did in the Bible? 

You’ll get two answers here, depending on who you ask. Some would say he still does. Some would say he has stopped. Interesting, isn’t it?

I believe God is still God, unchanging and ever present. As such, I believe he still, at times, does the same things… I would also argue, though, that he does them for the same reasons. In the New Testament, particularly the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is the “main character,” taking center stage through the spread of the gospel, validating the ministry of the early church through repeated acts of power. In other words, as the gospel extended further and further from Jerusalem, the good news was accompanied by testimonial acts of God’s power as a form of validation. These acts were extraordinary and “proved” the gospel to an increasingly hostile world. I’ve spent enough time with missionaries to believe that God still works in power to validate the truth of the gospel as needed. However, salvation comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. In other words, it’s not the “sign” that saves, it’s the gospel. God has given us all that we need to experience the greatest miracle of all.

Reaching back even further to the Old Testament, which in many cases included a different set of miracles, I would present an additional thought. The many acts of deliverance by God in the form of extraordinary manifestations (the Exodus as a huge example) served to reveal God’s character and nature, all the while preparing the world for the ultimate expression of the miraculous – the incarnation. God in flesh, walking the earth in perfection. People could touch and speak to the Creator of the universe in the person of the Son. Amazing! Not a moment, but decades with the God-man. The miracles of the Old Testament prefigured a great many details of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. The miracles were shadows, hints at a greater reality, whereas Christ was – and is – the full representation. It’s funny, most think parting the Red Sea was a big deal, but dismiss the unthinkable – that God would not only take on a human nature, but sacrifice it in an act of supreme love. How glorious!

Likewise, in modern terms, the regeneration of a human heart from a state of enmity with God to one of eternal life is a miracle we cannot fully comprehend… yet we ask to see something else, because “seeing is believing.” We’ve been asked to take hold of a spiritual reality – the most concrete truth – without sight. Our definition of miraculous (mine included – there are days I just want to see amazing things!) is short sighted, because we are limited by our five senses. The Scriptures promise that one day faith will be made sight… then the stories of old will seem as miniscule compared to the fully revealed glory of God in the salvation he provided.

 

Why should people believe God is real?

There are folks who dedicate their whole lives to coming at God from a purely rational perspective. The field is called Christian Apologetics. Some are great in this field. Ravi Zacharias is probably the best if you’re into the YouTube. However, one thing cannot be underestimated, and that is the biblical reality that apart from Christ, our understanding is darkened. Grace awakens in us the capacity to understand things that our sinful hearts are not inclined to acknowledge. I bring this up to say, there is – and until Christ returns there will always be – a critical element of faith to this question.

However, to give an overly simplistic answer in the form of a question and a statement – I would encourage you to give these some thought… If there is a sovereign God who is responsible for creating everything out of nothing, then is it fair to say that he is entitled to establish the rules and judge the outcomes? As an unfortunately combative side thought, but one that speaks into your question, I’ll share this. If Christians are wrong, then they’ve wasted their lives pursuing faith, hope, and love. If the atheist is wrong, they’ve wasted their eternity. Again, harsh, but intended to further raise the idea of consequence. I find the matter of consequence to be a significant motivation to consider the biblical narrative.

 

Are there requirements to get into heaven?

According to Scripture, only perfect righteousness is worthy of heaven. No mere human has ever attained righteousness. Due to our sin nature it is impossible. Christ was born in order to live a perfectly righteous life, which accomplishes two things… first, his perfection enabled him to bear the weight of sin as the perfect sacrifice – sin deserves death… in order for God to be just, death is required. So as Jesus died, he was bearing a penalty that he did not deserve, a feat only possible for one who is without sin. Second, his perfection is then credited to the believer in what is traditionally called the great exchange… Christ takes sin, the believer takes righteousness. With this righteousness in our accounts (so to speak, for there is far more than a mere transaction), we are free to approach God. This imputed (gifted) righteousness, then, satisfies the requirement. This is why salvation, for the Christian, is the gift of God, given by grace (unmerited favor) through faith.

 

 Is there only one God? 

According to the Bible, yes. The doctrine of the Trinity is mysterious… that we have one God, eternally existing as three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are not three manifestations of one God, or three representations of one big idea of God. Three distinct persons, yet one God. The Father is God, but the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit. The Son is God, but the Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, but he is not the Father or the Son. The only word to describe this is a mystery, but it is the revealed truth of God’s word. If the Bible is true, then yes – there is only one God.

 

Is believing in God possibly just ignorance for us not knowing where we started from? 

One of the arguments in favor of God, proposed by Anselm, is the Ontological argument. Oversimplified, the argument states that the idea of God is evidence for the existence of God. There is something inherent in the concept of a supreme being that suggests his existence. I believe it unconvincing that man could invent such a being. Moreso, I find it even less convincing in light of the reality that the concept of God has not only be sustained, but increased in time, even if not every expression of deity is in line with the truth. The pursuit of deity is a human norm… far beyond any simple ignorance.

The irony of Scripture is that the word makes clear the fact that our unbelief is a result of not knowing where we started from.

 

 

This was a longer post, but I’m still working through questions! Please keep checking back for additional food for thought!

Domain: In the beginning (part 4)

(excerpt from a recent sermon on Genesis 1:1)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

I want to finish this series by thinking about the heavens, not as things seen (like space ‘n stuff), but as things unseen. The heavens. The realm of the heavenly. The abode of God. The heavens are God’s domain.

So much of our understanding is unseen. Ideas. Thoughts. Concepts. Our faith, also, is an unseen entity. We walk by faith, not by sight. Even so, God has gone to great lengths to reveal himself and to make himself as visible as our oft-as-pea brains can handle.

Think about the ways God has manifest himself throughout history. As a voice in a bush that was burning, but that wasn’t consumed by flame. Neat. A voice on the mountaintop in thunder and lightning. Neat. A pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. These things are spectacular, and quite honestly beyond my wildest imagination. Mostly, though, God shows us the effect of his presence. The red sea parted. Manna appeared every morning for 40 years. Water poured from a rock. Droughts. Rain. More lightning. Countless lives convicted, changed, transformed, empowered. Countless enemies brought low, defeated, conquered. These are the effects of his presence.

Then Jesus changed everything. The invisible became visible. The intangible became tangible. The Son of God took on flesh and became a man.

John 1:14 says “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.”

Hebrews 1:3, “Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,”

Colossians 1, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

This is special revelation. This is the stuff you can’t find out from a science experiment. And here’s what it says:

Jesus is God.

He said so. (John 8:58)

His friends said so. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

His Father said so. (Matthew 3:17)

He became flesh and walked around.

For a brief window in the fullness of time, God walked the earth as a man and demonstrated his Lordship of the visible and the invisible. He gave us a glimpse of the heavenly kingdom, and a promise to bring the kingdom in full when he returns. In the meantime, he promised to make the kingdom evident as he redeems and saves sinners, restores the image of God, and makes them to look more and more like himself.

The incarnation was amazing, but it was the preview/ the trailer. The fullness is yet to come.

Until that day, we are once again seeing God through the evidence of his presence, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the gift of God, his down payment and his guarantee. The Spirit is the seal of life everlasting upon the Christian. The unseen but true; the third Person of the Trinity.

Jesus brought the kingdom of heaven to earth, and he proved that the unseen is God’s domain, too.

So what does this mean?

I often say, if Genesis 1:1 is true, then the whole Bible becomes quite significant. If this verse is true, God is sovereign over everything you see, everything you don’t see, everything you imagine, and the time in which you see, don’t see, and imagine.

A God who is so sovereign is terrifying… unless he gives you a reason not to be afraid.

If Genesis 1:1 is true, Jesus gives rest from the terror of a holy God.

Jesus is the rescue for sinners.

Because Genesis 1:1 is true, here is truth.

God is perfect. One God, eternally existing as three persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Man is sinful. Every man deserves death in this life and the next because God’s holiness cannot be compromised. The bigness of sin is not measured by how bad I behave, but by the significance of the one I’ve sinned against. Sin against an eternally perfect God, you’ve earned an eternal death sentence.

The good news continues. Jesus lived a perfect life in fulfillment of God’s law. He did what no other man could, because he’s Jesus.

Jesus revealed himself to be the God of Genesis 1:1, and offered himself as a perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for sin. He died on a Roman cross, bearing the wrath that sinful humanity deserves. His shed blood perfectly satisfied God’s justice and wrath. His sacrifice is so perfect that any who take it upon themselves are redeemed by it.

This sacrifice is applied to your account when you turn to God in repentance and faith, turning away from sin and trusting in the work that Jesus accomplished on your behalf. When the blood is applied to your account, not only are you brought out of the red, debt paid, but you are also placed infinitely in the black as Christ’s perfect life and righteousness are given to you as a gift. You are viewed as perfect in God’s eyes by grace through faith IN CHRIST.

The Word says that all who turn to God through Jesus Christ are given the Holy Spirit, not only to seal our future salvation but to transform our lives now. God promises to make us over to be like Jesus… never perfect in this life, but ever moving forward.

Life itself pivots at Genesis 1:1. May we never fail to appreciate the significance of a Sovereign Creator!