Tag Archives: Sovereignty

Men need Majesty

Yesterday, I briefly posted a quote from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion which said “men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”  Calvin wrote this after reflecting upon the godly men in scriptures:  “Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God.”  Let us look at a few passages that show the response of men when they are duly confronted with the presence of the Almighty:

  • Isaiah was likely the most holy man of his day, and he was reduced to speechlessness when he was in the presence of the Lord:  ““Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV).
  • Job “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1 ESV).  He was convinced that if he could gain an audience with God he would be able to “argue with him, and [I] would be acquitted forever by my judge.” (Job 23:7 ESV).  God ultimately answers Job’s plea in chapter 38 as He begins to unfold for Job (and us) his might, sovereignty and infinite-ness for the next 5 chapters.  Job attempts to stop God in chapter 40 by saying, ““behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further”” (Job 40:4–5 ESV), but God continues unpacking His sovereign infinite-ness.  Once Job had experienced being the presence of God, he rightly reckons himself to be finite, limited in perspective and insignificant:  “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 ESV).
  • Even the Israelites, who had experienced first hand the miraculous delivery at the hand of God from Egyptian slavery, were fearful of being in the presence of God. “Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”” (Exodus 20:18–19 ESV)

It is unfortunate that much of what we are taught and consume in the modern evangelical church is man centered and attempts to build us up; it is Christianized self esteem.  This is not the historical understanding that holy men from the past had, nor is it the picture that we see in the scriptures.  What we need most is to be racked with the infinite might and majesty of the eternal, sovereign Creator so as to be put in our place.  He is sovereign, infinite and eternal, we are limited, finite and tiny.  When we are confronted with the majesty of God, we are rendered speechless and understand our right position in the universe.  And when we understand that the universe and scriptures are not about us, but God, there is great joy and freedom.  And ultimately profound worship emerges as we marinate on the fact that the eternal, mighty, holy God would be mindful of us, insignificant worms.  Instead of digesting a steady stream of how to texts (be a better husband, be a better father, break free from pornography, etc), try spending time mining out the majesty of God and many of your struggles will begin to loose influence in your life.

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“Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which briefly stated means this, that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.”
-The Pursuit of God by AW Tozer (location 95 Kindle edition)

Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)

Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me) by Casting Crowns (itunes)
Songwriters: John Mark Hall; Michael Jr Bleecker

One day when Heaven was filled with His praises
One day when sin was as black as could be
Jesus came forth to be born of a Virgin
Dwelt among men, my example is He

Word became flesh and the light shined among us
His glory revealed

Living He loved me, dying He saved me
And buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day

One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain
One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He

Hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree
And took the nails for me

‘Cause living He loved me, dying He saved me
And buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose, over death He had conquered
Now He’s ascended, my Lord evermore

Death could not hold Him
The grave could not keep Him from rising again

Living He loved me, dying He saved me
And buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day
Glorious day

One day the trumpet will sound for His coming
One day the skies with His glories will shine
Wonderful day, my beloved one bringing
My Savior Jesus is mine

Living He loved me, dying He saved me
And buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day
Glorious day, oh, glorious day

God is our soverign Authority and our greatest Treasure

There is a grounding effect that happens in our lives as we understand our place in the universe before the holy God.  God is not only our sovereign Authority, but also our greatest Treasure; if He is only our sovereign Authority then our faith will be oppressive and marked by duty & obligation.  If you see Him as both, your faith will be marked by delight and joy; the latter is the picture the bible paints of authentic faith.

God and Lemonade

For many of us, we have made peace with the idea of God’s Sovereignty in unbiblical ways.  We use phrases like “God didn’t mean for this to happen, but he can work it for good!” and “God didn’t cause this, but he sure can turn it around!”  In saying (and thinking) these things, we think we’ve found comfort and peace, but if stretched to their logical conclusions, this way of thinking offers neither.  We will have created a God who is absent and/or powerless to stop hard things, but is good and strong enough to make it all work out in the end.  We will have created the kind of God who can offer us neither comfort nor peace.  Thankfully this is not the God of the Scriptures.

Instead, the Bible speaks much differently about God’s character and his authority over all events.  Here are two examples, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

In the book of Job, God seeks Satan out and lifts Job up as an example of faithfulness.  Satan asks God to allow him to afflict Job in increasingly horrific ways, in order to prove that Job’s faithfulness is only hinged on God’s material and physical blessings.  God tells Satan that he can do anything except kill Job.  Over time, Satan kills his livestock, his children (and their families), and afflicts Job with disease.  At the end of this sequence of events, Job’s wife says something that we would all likely want to say.  Notice Job’s response and also the inspired writer’s comment:

“Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Job 2:9-10

Do not miss what Job said there.  Even though Satan has been the direct cause of Job’s suffering, Job rightly attributes all of it to God.  Lest we think he was mistaken, the Bible confirms that “Job did not sin” in all that he said.  Satan was the agent, but he is on a leash.  God was the one behind Job’s suffering.

In the book of Acts, Peter is preaching to a large gathering and makes this statement about what happened to Jesus.

“Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

Even though Herod, Pilate and all of the people who participated in the murder of Jesus were the direct cause of Jesus’ death, Peter rightly attributes all of it to God.  It was planned in advance, and carried out by the willing participation of all involved.  People have sinned against Jesus in murdering him, but they are on a leash.  God was the one behind Jesus’ suffering.

God does not take lemons and make lemonade.  To say that his interaction for our good begins after the fact is not faithful to scripture nor is it comforting.  If God has no wisdom, thoughtfulness, or power in what suffering I experience, how can His wisdom, thoughtfulness, or power be trusted to work it for my good?  Instead, the Bible calls us to trust that all suffering is from Him and is intended to make us more like Christ.  It calls us to believe that God will cause all of these things to work together for our eternal good.

May we be so full of faith that we can say with Job, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Praise God that He makes the lemons and the lemonade.

Contributed by Mike Marquez

Jesus Loved Mary, Martha & Lazarus so He Stayed Two Days Longer

“This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” (John 11:4–6 ESV)

Wow!  Jesus said the illness would not lead to death, but Lazarus died.  Jesus knew that God was going to use the physical death of Lazarus to bring Himself more glory by raising him from the dead.  The interesting thing is that verse 6 tells us that he loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus so he decided to stay where he was for two additional days.  What?  If you love me, come and deliver me!  If you love me, spare me from this pain!  If you love me, help me now!  Jesus loved them, so He let Lazarus die and let Mary and Martha grieve and mourn?  Yes.  This is hard for our western minds to comprehend!  Then He says, ““Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”” (John 11:14–15 ESV).  Jesus knew that allowing Mary, Martha and the disciples to go through such heart wrenching pain would lead them to a deeper and more abiding truth.  Deeper faith that leads to joy is in focus here, not their immediate comfort.  Suffering has a way of moving us in to closer proximity to Jesus because it causes us to depend upon Him more; it often times reveals our complete lack of control over our lives and world.  Martha, Ms. Type “A”, meets Jesus before He even made it into town and said “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” (John 11:21–22 ESV)  She has real faith as she proclaims “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:27 ESV).
In one of the most encouraging passages in the New Testament, we see Jesus “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled,” (John 11:33), weeping (verse 35) and again in verse 38 He is described as being “deeply moved.”  He felt deeply and strongly.  Jesus mourns over the pain and difficulty of loss of His friend and for Mary and Martha.  This passage is encouraging because He did not tell them to “have faith,” “suck it up,” “stop crying,” or “just trust.”  No, he entered in and wept with them.  What a great pattern for us to model when we are engaging others in deep despair.  Sometimes, we just need to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).  Undoubtedly, Jesus was thinking “this is not how I created things to be; death and the separation and grief that it causes was not part of the design!”  Lazarus’ died because sin entered the world and the harmonious rhythm of the perfect paradise of Eden was fractured (Genesis 3).  God’s original design was broken and we now are forced to mourn deeply because of this fracture, because of sin.  But, Jesus came to destroy death (1 Corinthians 15:23-28), “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,” (Revelation 21:4) and “make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).  No more pain, no more brokenness, no more agony.  Jesus came to remake the perfect paradise of Eden.  There is coming a day when this world, and all of its brokeness will pass away.  Suffering helps us to recalibrate our heart’s affections and the object of our hope!

No One is Able to Snatch Them Out of the Father’s Hand

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me,is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”” (John 10:25–33 ESV)

Jesus is in a heated discussion with the self righteous, religious elite in John 10.  In verse 24, they ask “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are ithe Christ, tell us plainly,” to which Jesus answered that He had told them, but they did not believe.  Why didn’t they believe since they were very religious men?  They did not believe because they were not sheep.  Don’t read past that.  Jesus said that His sheep, that God gave to Him, hear His voice and follow Him; furthermore, He knows His sheep and gives them eternal life.  There is not much mention of their choice; God had chosen them and given them to Jesus.  Jesus then goes on and provides GREAT comfort to the Christian when He says, “no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”  This paints a portrait of God’s activity in the hearts of men, He is not distant or disconnected.  The religious elite’s response was to stone Him, not because of His good works, but because they knew what He was claiming.  He was claiming to be God, He was claiming that He was the messiah.
This section provides us with much encouragement to share our faith because sheep will hear the beautiful message of the Gospel and respond in God’s timing.  It does not depend upon our ability to articulate everything correctly, it depends upon God’s effectual call in the life of His sheep.  This is freeing and liberating!  Sheep hear His voice and follow Him and He knows them and gives them eternal life and “no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand!”  That is good news!