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Who Is Your God?

February 22, 2004

 

Every once in a while we hear or read something that just seems to make our head spin with wonderment about the decisions people make that will have such far-reaching negative consequences. Just what were they thinking? Just what would have led them to think this way?

ILLUS: Chgo. Trib. 2/18/04, p. 8, Berlusconi: Dodging high taxes OK

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Tuesday that it was “morally acceptable” for citizens to avoid paying excessively high taxes. “With taxes that are too high, it is morally acceptable to evade them,” Italy’s richest man said at a news conference in Rome. “We will announce a first cut of taxes in the 205 budget and a second in 2006.” Earlier in his term in office, Berlusconi passed a law decriminalizing false accounting.

Now, you can guess that Berlusconi may have leaned in this direction because of some vested personal interest. Indeed, earlier last year the Italian parliament passed a law that exempted him from any kind of prosecution (but I think it was later repealed).

But the effect of such a law to decriminalize false accounting, and of a statement by the leader of the country that it is OK to cheat on your taxes, is to open the country up to anarchy. It is a wrong view of government. The better answer is to make just and fair laws for all to follow.

ILLUS: Chgo. Trib. 2/18/04, p. 11, 2 judges decline to block San Francisco gay weddings

A judge said Tuesday that San Francisco appears to be violating the law by issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, but he declined to order an immediate halt to the weddings. A conservative group had asked Judge James Warren to immediately stop the weddings and void the 2,464 same-sex marriages performed in the city since Thursday. Instead, Warren issued a non-binding order urging the city to halt the weddings and told city lawyers to return March 29 to explain their legal position. Another judge did likewise.

All this is clearly against California law (Proposition 22). So here is something else that just doesn’t make sense – to say on the one hand as a judge that something violates the law but to refuse to take timely, or perhaps any, action against it.

The consequences of this are astronomical. It has already started a firestorm of likeminded rebellions in several places around the country.

These judges will one day have to face those they give judgments against who refuse to abide by them. This, too, is a wrong view of government leading to anarchy.

 But, of course, all this is just a symptom of the direction we have been taking as a nation. We are reminded about these symptoms of the last days in Matthew 24 and 2Timothy 3.

“1 ¶  But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3  without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4  treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5  having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIVUS)

Of course, we find similar problems in the church. We say we believe in God just like Berlusconi and the judges would say they believe in government, but we often have a wrong view of God just like they have a wrong view of government. This leads to the anarchy of sin against God who is the rightful government of the church.

Dr. Jim Binney, in the Winter 2004 edition of Today’s Christian Preacher, says, “In over thirty years of counseling, I have yet to find a single problem (spiritual, emotional, or behavioral) which does not have a root of origin, in part or in whole, in an unbiblical image (view) of God.”

If you and I want to be a part of the solution instead of symptom, we must reassess our view of God – to examine ourselves

“ Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5 NIVUS)

Is there something you wish you could change about yourself in relation to God – something you just can’t seem to shake? Then you must ask yourself if there is something about God you don’t understand – or accept.

We can begin with the unbiblical image of God that the leaders of Judah had as revealed in the vision of Ezekiel in chapter 8 of his book (8:5-18).

Their unbiblical image of God led to their demise as God removed his glory from the temple (chapter 10) and took the people into Babylonian captivity. Their unbiblical image of God was that he was seen as being too distant to know or care (omniscience and omnipresence) and that he tolerated other objects of worship – that he was not a jealous God.

This problem is not new. This bad news common to mankind, can be found also in Romans 1:22-23, 25.

“22  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:22-23 NIVUS)

 “ They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator— who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:25 NIVUS)

The reason for why this took place can be found in the preceding verse. It is a failed image of God or distorted view of him that leads to sin and false worship.

“ For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21 NIVUS)

But there is also good news. There is victory in a biblical view of God. We can find this in Is. 6:1-3 where Isaiah has a right vision of God that ends up empowering him because it convicts him. He was first lowered before the height of God so that he might be raised to where God is and serve him with gladness there (“I saw the Lord” – “Woe is me” – “Sin taken away” – “Send me”). Isaiah’s conviction came after his view of God.

So like we see in Is. 6, a right view of God must surely involve his holiness. The light of God’s holiness enables us to see ourselves rightly and change accordingly.

But we must also, like David did in Psalm 51, understand that God is good.

“ For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.” (Psalms 51:1 NIVUS)

Because David knew beyond doubt that God is good, it was David’s motivation to return to God after sin as we see also in Rom. 2:4.

“ Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:4 NIVUS)

And there are other places in the Psalms that also tell us of God’s goodness to be open to our repentant appeal, which causes us to respond even more to his goodness.

“ The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry;” (Psalms 34:15 NIVUS)

 “1 ¶  I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2  Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalms 116:1-2 NIVUS)

A right view of God will include not only his holiness and goodness but will also carry us forward to a healthy fear of God in balance with his goodness.

“ Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.” (Proverbs 16:6 NIVUS)

Paul stresses a careful balance of the two.

“ Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.” (Romans 11:22 NIVUS)

The fear of God is one of the least understood aspects of an effective Christian life. Perhaps this is because of a misleading imbalance in teaching. We tend to emphasize either the severity of God to the exclusion of his goodness (Separatists) or his goodness to the exclusion of his severity (Neo-evangelicals).

James commands us not to be double minded about God.

“ Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 NIVUS)

Can any one of us live in sin and serve God with impunity?

“ "There is no fear of God before their eyes."” (Romans 3:18 NIVUS)

God is not distant.

“ No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (John 1:18 NIVUS)

 “ Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIVUS)

Jesus tells us not only that he is the means to God, but also the method for coming to know God.

The soul of every person born into sin and facing certain death needs the touch of God and the voice of God to comfort and give life – like Jesus, the Word of God.

“ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NIVUS)

 “ The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIVUS)

 “ That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched— this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1 NIVUS)

A premature baby girl was born in a California hospital. Weighing less than three pounds, she could fit in the palm of her grandfather’s hand. She was given less than a five percent chance of living three days. She had a intravenous tube in her foot and another in her navel. There was a feeding tube and a breathing tube down her throat. The fragile child lay helpless in an incubator, gasping for every breath. To make matters worse, her father had panicked at the thought of caring for this child and had run away.

            The grandfather was called upon to stand in as the little girl’s surrogate parent. Led into the neonatal unit, he was shocked at seeing his granddaughter for the first time, but his heart went out to her. “What can I do to help?” he asked.

            The nurse said, “Watch carefully what I do.” She reached into the incubator and with the tip of her finger, gently rubbed a patch of the baby’s skin that was not covered with wires or tubes, and at the same time, she spoke endearing words of love and assurance to the baby. She looked at the grandfather and said, “Can you come in every day and do that for fifteen minutes?”

            The grandfather readily agreed, but asked, “Why?”

            The nurse replied, “In order for this little baby to bond to you as her father, she must learn to connect your voice to your touch.”

            The same can be said of every soul of man born into sin and facing certain death. To really know God, there must be a way to bond to him as your Father. We must be able to connect his voice to his touch.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the very God you need to know. He is the Living Word who combines God’s voice and God’s touch in One. Any victory you can hope for is in God, and God is in Christ, and Christ is in you. He is where the victory is.

“ Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 NIVUS)

As we approach Ash Wednesday this week – the beginning period of the traditional forty days of self denial up to the Saturday before Easter – let us purify ourselves in preparation, having a right view of God’s holiness and goodness in healthy fear through Christ our Lord.

“ Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1 NIVUS)

Now, we are not to get hung up on “special days.”

“8 ¶  Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9  But now that you know God— or rather are known by God— how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10  You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!” (Galatians 4:8-10 NIVUS)

Every day is to be holy to the Lord.

“ Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 NIVUS)

But there may times when we need special incentive in anticipation of holy celebration. Easter is coming!

“1 ¶  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4 NIVUS)

Who is your God? How will you honor him this day? How will you prepare to worship him this Easter season?

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