THANK GOD – FOR GOD
The hostess for a luncheon asked her pastor to come and offer a blessing. However, an emergency came up and he couldn’t make it. The shy husband of the hostess volunteered to support his wife though he hated to speak in public. Visibly nervous he rose and announced reverently, “As there is no clergyman present, let us give thanks.”
I kind of hope that is not part of your thanksgiving list! Let me suggest a nobler possibility this morning. We usually concentrate on God’s gifts. And God is definitely glorified when we enjoy what he has given us (I Tim 4, 6). But, there is always the danger of making an idol out of His gifts – letting them actually take His place. So, let’s go straight to the top this morning. Let me suggest we thank God for God! The older I get, the more I realize how little I know God. I believe it is my own greatest need. God is vast, so I’ve just chosen 5 things about God to be thankful for. My prayer is that in examining them, we will take one more step toward knowing Him better. What about God can we be thankful for?
I. God Exists
The Bible takes God’s existence for granted. It never sets out to prove it for the same reason you would not write a book to prove your existence. You don’t need to prove what you know to be true, and neither does God. God’s take is found in Psa 53:1, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Perhaps you heard about the guy who was unhappy that atheists have no holiday. Christians have Christmas and Easter. The Jews have Passover. “But we atheists,” he said, “have no recognized national holiday. It isn’t fair.” His friend said, “I have an idea. Why don’t you celebrate April 1st?”
Appropriate or not, think how foolish it is to declare, “No God.” When our granddaughter Meagan was here we were playing hide-and-seek. Bless her heart, still likes it at 11. Kills me that it won’t be long. One time she hid and I looked everywhere. Couldn’t find her. Later she took me to the our closet, where I had looked, and demonstrated how she crouched between some clothes hanging tightly all the way to the floor in such a way that I missed her. The point is you can’t declare “No God” unless you have examined every nook and cranny of the whole universe -- physical and spiritual. No one has done that. It is sheer arrogance to declare “No God.” What I’d like to know is why are some people so anxious to declare “No God” and with such vehemence? Men like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins are on a crusade. And the question is why. What difference does it all make if there is no God in the first place. The verse answers: “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity.” The fool declares “No God” because he does not want to answer for his iniquity. Someone has well said, “The fool cannot find God for the same reason that a thief cannot find a policeman.” He does not want to find him.
Thankfully God’s existence does not depend on man’s opinion. He does not need man’s approval to be. The truth is, it is only because God exists that you and I and the world we inhabit exists. The Bible is eloquent in its simplicity: Gen 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Think about that for a moment. So many questions answered right in verse 1 of the Bible! John says it this way in 1:3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Listen, if you can believe those two verses, it’s downhill from there. What are the most basic personal questions in life? Here are everyone’s top 3. Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? People struggle desperately to find answers because when you leave God out of the equation, logical answers lead to despair. There’s no tomorrow w/o God.
The existence of the God of Scripture simplifies things exponentially. Where did I come from? I came from God. I am part of the “all things” He made. The Creator of this marvelously complex universe took a personal interest in my creation. Psalm 139:13-14,“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Beloved, that is “personal involvement.” I came from God. You came from God. We all came from God.
Why am I here? Isa 43:7, “7) everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” We were made to glorify God. Miss that and you miss your whole purpose for being. You do! Now, you can glorify God in a lot of ways. Lynn does it by farming. Todd does it by coaching. Diane does it by teaching. Anything can point to His magnificence. I Cor 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Col 1:16 summarizes beautifully and wonderfully, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” You, me, everyone who ever lived exists for him. To miss that is to waste your life.
Where did I come from? Why am I here? How about where am I going? Only you can answer that one. Naturalism has only one answer to this question, by the way. Where am I going – to nothingness. Kim Elizabeth has said, “Nothing is more dreadful in life than the profound thought that death may only greet you with eternal nothingness.” But Jesus makes clear that the options are two: Matt 7:13-14 says, “13) “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14) For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Where am I going? Two choices. Heaven or hell. There is no third alternative. It’s not a multiple choice question. It’s one or the other, and while God invites, I decide. It really is that simple. The starting point to get on the narrow road that leads to life? Heb 11:6, “6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists -- and that he rewards those who seek him.” Believe He exists and seek Him. Aren’t you thankful that God exists? Peter Kreeft has said, “Gratitude is the most awful moment in the life of an atheist. He feels thankful, but he has no one to thank.” Thank God we know better. Thank God He exists.
II.God is Revealed
Second, I am thankful God has revealed himself. Some people insist on this bogus question: “If God exists, why does He not write his message in the sky where everyone can see it, or let him strike me dead in 15 seconds if He truly exists.” Where did we get the idea it is our right to tell God how He must prove His existence. Is that whacked? It’s the height of arrogance again. “I don’t believe He really exists, but if He does, this is how He has to act!” Give me a break! How foolish. Especially given the fact that God has revealed Himself. He has made himself known in many ways that shout his existence. Let me list just four today.
Psa 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Professor Christian B. Anfinsen, Chairman of the Department of Chemistry at the Harvard Medical School, professor of Biophysical Chemistry at Johns Hopkins and Nobel Prize winner in 1972 for his DNA research put it very succinctly, “I think only an idiot can be an atheist.” I know what he means. Considers just one aspect, the vastness of the universe. Light travels186,000 miles per second -- almost 8 times around the earth in one second. In one year – 6 trillion miles. The Milky Way, our home galaxy – 100,000 light years across. We’ve always known there were a few more galaxies out there. As telescopes grew it was apparent that there were more than we thought – perhaps even thousands. Then Hubble was put up in the early 1990’s – a telescope in space. It revealed not thousands, not millions, but billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, and moving apart from each other – expanding universe.
The fact that they are moving apart forced scientists to conclude that the universe had a beginning at some point in time – the Big Bang. Most, like Einstein, initially resisted this conclusion. Why? Because that means a beginning that science cannot explain. True scientific exploration, which is not the enemy of faith, by the way, is based on the principle of uniformity – everything operates according to observable, consistent laws. But there is no observable, scientific law that can explain a Big Bang beginning to the universe. None. Any explanation of the beginning that anyone, believer of non-believer, comes up with requires faith. There is no – I repeat –no scientific explanation for the beginning of the universe. It is either believe in creation by a personal God -- Gen 1:1, or believe some pure speculation with no validity whatsoever from either a scientific or biblical perspective.
Paul says in Rom 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Do you not see how accurate the Bible is? God has revealed himself – in His creation. Quick illustration. Sir Isaac Newton had an exact replica of our solar system made in miniature. At its center was a large golden ball representing the sun, and revolving around it were smaller spheres attached at the ends of rods of varying lengths -- the known planets. These were all geared together by cogs and belts to make them move around the “sun” in perfect harmony. One day an unbelieving friend stopped by. The man marveled at the precision of the orbits and said, “What an exquisite thing! Who made it for you?” Without looking up Sir Isaac replied, “Nobody.” “Nobody?” his friend asked. “That right! I said nobody! All of these balls and cogs and belts and gears just came together one night, revolving in perfect order.” His friend got the message. He insisted the model had a designer, but didn’t believe the universe did. He couldn’t find God because he wasn’t looking for Him.
By morality, I mean the sense of oughtness that dwells within every person. It has been indisputably demonstrated that among all the world’s peoples this sense is universal. It is internal. It is a sense of right and wrong that infects us all. There are minor cultural differences, but the basics are the same – for example a universal sense that murder is wrong.
So where did this sense of morality come from? If human beings are truly the product of an evolutionary process whose foundational premise is the survival of the fittest – where did this sense of morality come from? If survival of the fittest drove my existence, my concern should not be for your welfare, but for your demise, thus increasing my chances of survival. Do you see that? Once again, we have a universal fact – the “sense of oughtness” built into every human being, that defies a natural explanation.
But the Bible explains. God says in Romans 2:15, “15) They (human beings) show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” Put God in the picture and it all comes right – makes sense. It is God who wrote that sense of right and wrong into everyone. So, every single person who ever lived has carried around inside a revelation of God in their own conscience. There is no other reasonable explanation for it. God is revealed in our sense of morality.
C.In the Book
God is revealed in the Book. Is the Bible truly the Word of God – God speaking to mankind? It certainly claims to be. Hundreds of times we find the phrase “word of the Lord.” The clearest statement is found in II Tim 3:16: “16) All Scripture is breathed out by God.” The claim is clear. Scripture is God-breathed, originating with Him. His special revelation.
Okay, so the Bible claims to be God’s revelation. Prove it. Anyone can say it. So does the Koran; so does the Book of Mormon. So does the Bhagavad Gita. Why accept the Bible? We could spend days on this, but let me give you just one overwhelming indication. God did an interesting thing at the end of Moses’ career. In Deut 18, he told the people that other prophets would come from Him and they should listen to them. But God also warned against false prophets – deceivers claiming to be from God. So, the natural question of the people was, How will we know the difference? God’s answer: Deut 18:21-22, “And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 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.” The 100% accuracy test. What God is saying is, if this guy prophesies something and it doesn’t happen – throw him out. He’s a fake. God doesn’t do 90%.
So, how does the Bible do against its own test? Let’s just take the life of Jesus. Something over 300 OT prophesies, written anywhere between 400 and 1400 years before the event are fulfilled in His life. Born in Bethlehem, (Micah 5:2); Betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zech 11:12-13); Refused to answer his accusers (Isa 53:7); Death by crucifixion, an unknown means of execution when David described it in detail 1,000 years ahead of time in Psa 22; Gambling for his clothing (Psa 22:18), No broken bones, though that was common in crucifixions (Psa 34:20); A rich man’s grave (Isa 53:9); Resurrection (Psa 16:8-11). Psa 22 and Isa 53 read like NT history, rather than OT prophecy.
Remember Jesus talking to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on the day of his resurrection. Remember how discouraged they were. But rather than say, “Guys, I’m here. It’s me. Jesus. Look at my hands. It’s me.” He didn’t do that. Instead, he preached them a sermon. How I wish I could have been there for that sermon. He showed them himself from the OT. But that was after he rebuked them in verse 25 by saying, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe what the prophets have spoken.” Is that what he said. No, no. That wasn’t it at all. What he said was, ““O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” They believed the Bible, all right. They just didn’t believe all of it. They chose the parts they wanted, and as a consequence, they missed the significance of the most wonderful day in history. We have to take it all, Beloved. No taking jus ta part of it. I’m sure Jesus used many of the passages I used above. I could go on and on. Beloved, I am thankful that God has revealed Himself in His Word. That is why it is so precious to me.
Of course, the ultimate revelation of God is in Christ. In marvelously descriptive language, John tells us in John 1:14, “14) And the Word (John’s beautiful name for Christ, emphasizing his being God’s ultimate communication to man), the Word became flesh and dwelt (literally tabernacled, a reminder of how God dwelt with the people in the tabernacle in the OT), the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” That’s one of the best verses in the whole Bible. .
We’ll come back to his purpose in coming, but to those who allow that God has somehow been negligent in revealing himself, I have an observation and a question. The Bible teaches that Jesus was literally God, adding a true human nature permanently to his inherent nature as God. According to Philippians 2, he always existed in the form (μορφε) of God. To that he added the form (μορφε) of a man. Unique in history. He lived for 33 years as a man, suffering every hardship, trial and temptation known to man -- every human experience except sin. He submitted to the most humiliating and painful death known to mankind. And then – then, he was resurrected! He was resurrected. And he didn’t do it in a dark alley. He presented himself to hundreds of people in his resurrected body. He became a part of the history that he created, and in the end, conquered the greatest, most persistent and enemy of all – death. He did all of that, and you ask why has God not revealed himself? My question is – What more could he have possibly done? What more could he have done? I tell you, He has screamed his existence, his love and his mercy from the rooftops. The problem is not God’s; the problem is ours if we have not seen him.
III.God is Holy
We cannot develop these last points, but we must mention them. I am thankful that God is holy. You say, Isn’t that the thing that makes us subject to judgment? Isn’t that the thing that devastates us? And the answer is yes – it is. Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory (the holiness) of God.” That is a reality that we must all deal with. A day of accounting is coming for every person. “It is appointed unto man once to die and after than the judgment.”
So why am I thankful for God’s holiness? Easy. Because his holiness guarantees that one day all the sin will be gone, evil erased, the universe will be restored to its intended purpose to glorify him. Satan and unbelievers will be banished forever from the presence of God. All this -- because God is holy. Let me leave you just one of many passages. Here is eternal reality for believers. Rev 21:3-4, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Then skip down to verse 27, further describing life in God’s recreated heaven and earth, “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” No more sin; no more suffering; no more pain; no more temptation; sorrow gone forever. Make no mistake. There is a plan to undo Satan’s work and restore Paradise. Because God is holy. I am thankful that God is holy.
IV.God is Just
I am thankful that God is just. We all have an inherent love of justice, don’t we? First four things a child learns to say – “Mom,” “Dad,” “Mine,” and “That’s not fair.” Right? We’re all looking for justice. One businessman, attending a company conference, decided to duck out of a session to get his hair cut at the hotel barbershop. However, a high-level executive saw him going in and kidded him good-naturedly about taking company time to get his hair cut. Not to be outdone, the guy said, “Well, my hair grows on company time.” The exec replied, “Not all of it.” To which the guy replied, “And that is why I’m not getting it all cut off.” We all want justice.
Here is ultimate justice. Deut 32:4, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” Isn’t that good? Wouldn’t you hate to think of an all-powerful God who was capricious? But God is absolutely faithful and just. Think of the implications. God’s justice guarantees that every wrong will one day be made right. The ultimate answer to the problem of evil is God’s justice. People get wrapped around the axel on this because they are looking for justice in this life. Us -- trying to impose our standards on an infinite God. God is not nearly so short-sighted. He has all eternity to work with.
We live in a brutal world. We do. Think of the unbelievable atrocities that happen every day. Children abused and killed by pedophiles. Rape, murder, torture, Evil! How do you answer these things? Beloved, I can’t any more than anyone else, but I know this, God will. Abraham said it this way in Gen 18:25, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Absolutely! God’s justice guarantees that eventually every single act of brutality – every atrocity will be answered for one day. Every wrong will be made right, before the just God of the universe. The Bible says in Heb 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” God will right every wrong. Recompense will be made. Somehow God will right it all. I am thankful that God is just.
V.God is Love
Finally, I am thankful that God is love. Why? Because one day, not far off for me, I am going to fall into the hands of the same living God as the pedophile, the rapist, the murderer, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. And I am no better than they. No better. You say, Come on, Dave. You’re not as bad as those guys. And I appreciate the vote of confidence. And I have not committed the atrocities that they have. But I have committed my own atrocities, just as have all of us. God, who looks on the heart, knows the murder and lust and pride and selfishness that have lived there. It is God who wrote, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (Jas 2:10). That puts every sinner on the same plane with every other sinner. It is God who wrote, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). It is God who wrote, “There is none righteous; no not one.” And if you want to argue from your own righteousness, it is God who devastatingly wrote, “all your righteous deeds are like filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). He sees right through us to the selfish intentions.
So we are lost. We are all lost, Beloved. And we would have no choice but to die in our lostness but for one thing. One thing only. God’s love. I am so thankful this morning that not only is God existing, revealed, holy and just – but thank God, He is also love. In his love he did what we could never do to satisfy his own holiness. Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s ultimate revelation. His love shown in all its magnificence on the cross. Why did Jesus come? Luke 19:10, “To seek and to save that which was lost.” How, by dying for our sins. Yours, mine, everyone’s. That love ought to compel us to accept him.
On August 28, 1982, a 20-year old private serving in Korea suddenly and without warning walked across the demilitarized zone into North Korea. Fellow soldiers pleaded with him to turn back, but he went on without responding. The Army investigation determined that he had defected to he Communists “for motives that are not known.” Eventually, the parents of the boy held a press conference at their home in St. Louis. Wiping tears from his eyes, the father said that they had accepted the fact that their son was indeed a defector. "He has lost his credibility in this country, even with me.” But he showed his father’s heart when he said, "I still love my son, and want him back." To the best of my knowledge, he never got his son.
Beloved, when God sent his only son to the cross, what he was saying to each of us was, “It doesn’t matter what you have done, how bad you have been, how deep the rebellion. I love you. And I want you back.” Will you not turn to him for your eternal salvation? We can’t improve on John’s comment in John 3:16, “16) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” If you’ve never done so, believe in Him today. Confess your sins; accept His forgiveness; live a new life in Christ. And then thank God for God. Without Him, where would we be?
A young family was expecting their first child. The doctor suggested that the husband join the wife in taking a course on childbirth. He asked the husband if he would mind going to the class. The husband responded, “Heavens, no! After all, I don’t have to take the final.” That is the message of the cross, folks. Christ took the final for us – became sin for us that we might become the perfect, cleansed righteousness of God in Him. If we will accept Him. But it came at great price to God. To reject it – is unthinkable. The best way to thank God for God – Accept Christ as Savior. Let’s pray.