Thursday, April 25, 2013

What is God Like?

“The Big Guy in the sky”, “The Man Upstairs”, “The Big Cheese” – names we have all heard or used to describe God.  But are these the best ways to describe God?  At first thought, the name “God” brings terms like powerful, creative, all-knowing, and love to mind.  Let’s go to the source to find out what God is like.  Scripture gives us many clues to God’s attributes and character. 

God is never mentioned in Scripture as being created, only that He is exists as the Creator.  Genesis 1:1 reveals, “In the beginning God created…” by merely speaking.  This verse alone shows His authority, power, and creative ability.  God is almighty and powerful (Joel 1:15) and exists apart from being created and His creation (Psalm 97:9; Psalm 90:2). 

Scripture also affirms God is spirit (John 4:24; Luke 24:39), all-knowing (1 John 3:20), everywhere at all times (Psalm 130:7-13), and all-powerful (Jeremiah 32:17, 27).  Romans 1:20 asserts everyone, without excuse, must agree His creation clearly points to His existence from the beginning.   God is also consistent and unchanging (Malachi 3:6).  1 Timothy 1:17 declares He is eternal, immortal, invisible, and alone is wise.  These are foundations to the nature of God but He is more than a distant, powerful, creative force. 

God is holy and to be given glory (Isaiah 6:3).  He is righteous and void of sin and evil (Psalm 145:17, 1 John 1:5).  He is the judge of sin and unrighteousness (Jude 1:15).  Through the life and ministry of Jesus, we know that God wants to save those who are lost (Luke 19:10).  He is not just a God ready to send a lightning bolt direct from holy heaven to punish sinful man.  He is full of compassion (Matthew 14:14) and full of mercy (Luke 6:36). God does forgive men from sin (Matthew 9:1-9) but will judge those who have not repented from sin (Luke 13:5).    

The biggest attribute of God is more than just something He possesses.  He not only created it, He encompasses it.  God is love (1 John 4:8).  Love isn’t just a character He has but the equivalent of His nature.  Love isn’t love apart from God because it’s His word entirely.  God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son Jesus into the world to save it (John 3:16) even when it didn’t want to be saved (Romans 5:8).  Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God which only comes through Jesus (Romans 8:35-39).  God’s love draws sinners (that’s everyone – Romans 3:23) to repentance by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We can be called children of God because of His grace and salvation (1 John 3:1).

God is our father (Ephesians 4:6), faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9), peace (Philippians 4:7), pleasure (Matthew 17:5), presence (James 4:8), protection (Psalm 91), and provision (Philippians 4:19).  We can know His will (Romans 12:2), grace (James 4:6), goodness (Psalm 27:13), and greatness (Psalm 145).  I pray you will take the time to look up each of these scriptures and allow God’s presence and love to fill you so you will not only know about Him but truly know Him and make Him known.  God is relational and knowable. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

What is Righteousness?

What is righteousness?  Is it an outdated church word?  Does it mean doing the right thing?  Is righteousness something you do or is it something you are?  Righteousness is literally one’s right standing with God.  Many people have done many things to be in right standing with God.  Rituals, traditions, keeping laws, being morally upright, and doing good things are some of the basic ways people have tried to become righteous in God’s eyes.

Scripture tells us that God imputes (assigns or attributes) righteousness to us not by what we have done but because of what Jesus has already done for us by His death on the cross.  2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Jesus who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  Righteousness speaks of a court and judge setting.  We are on trial because of our sin and Jesus is the payment for our sins.  Being found righteous is the judge finding favor with you.  God doesn’t count our sin against us and finds us innocent not because of our doing but because of Jesus.  Romans 4:5-8 tell us, "However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.  David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:  'Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sin are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them."  Righteousness is attributed to us by faith, not by any good works we do (Ephesians 2:8-10). 

We are not made righteous by being morally upright, good works, reading the Bible, attending church, praying, or serving in Church.  We are only made righteous by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins.  When we believe this by faith, Romans 4:5 tells us, righteousness is imputed to us.  Philippians 3:9, says, “and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”  We are found in Him only by our faith in Him.  Being righteous is really having God’s righteousness, through Jesus’ sacrifice, imputed to us.

The Bible says our righteousness will not get us close to God or to heaven (Titus 3:3-7).  Our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and we should repent of it.  Our righteousness is the claim that we are our own God and can save ourselves.  We are dead in our trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1) and cannot measure up to God’s glory (Romans 3:23).   The antidote for being bad is not simply doing good.  We need a Savior that is sinless to take our place (2 Corinthians 5:21).  When we are saved, we are made completely righteous in God’s eyes because of Jesus (Romans 5:17).  We are not made righteous over a period of time by our good works nor do we lose righteousness by our evil works.  Righteousness is not infused (gained) but imputed (granted).  Romans 6:18 tells us we are no longer slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness and verse 20 tells us righteousness leads to holiness.  Because of our right standing (righteousness) in God we are to become holy like Him (1 Peter 1:6).  We are fully righteous at all times because of God’s character and Jesus’ sacrifice not because of ourselves and should grow in our holiness.  

Why is righteousness good news?  Here’s an example.  You are saved but suppose you said some bad things to your wife in a heated argument.  Now you must exercise your faith to see yourself still righteous in the middle of your sin.  Being righteous does not excuse you from repentance.  Now you repent for that sin to God and your faith in your right standing granted by God will help you become holy and give you strength to reconcile with and love your wife.  Satan wants to tell you, “You aren’t righteous and saved!  Look what you said to her.”  He’s a liar.   You tell him God has made you righteous; you will repent and respond in holiness to your wife and be reconciled to her.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Is Abortion Right or Wrong?

I was horrified by the gruesome scenes while watching the story of Kermit Gosnell, abortionist doctor from Philadelphia. Watch about it here.  It caused me to think about abortion and the precious life God has given us all.  Think about the following: 

What if I told you I had thoughts of killing my kids?  I’m not talking about being mad as a parent and speaking in hyperbole.  I mean real thoughts of murdering them.  The sane person would instantly begin to attempt to discern my intentions while they stayed with me to ensure the safety of my children.  They would also, regardless of relationship, report me to local authorities who would in turn launch an investigation into my psychological condition and most likely take necessary measures to place my children in a background checked, well-trained, certified safe environment like foster care or appropriate relatives.  I would be subject to constant evaluation of my personal sanity and parental ability.  Petitions and actions would be taken by those who love and don't even know my kids to terminate my parental rights.

I would be labeled unstable, crazy, horrible, monster, and deemed unfit to be a parent.  Sure I would be given opportunity to receive help and healing from my inappropriate and gruesome mental status but still unfit I would be termed.   This reaction was spurred by concerned, loving citizens all from mere thoughts and, up this point, is free from actions or signs of abuse.  Love for my children stepped in certainly before death but even before minor harm like bruises, scrapes, and other non-life-threatening injuries could occur.  Those who stepped in would be heralded by society as heroes and I the villain.  Who wouldn’t protect innocent children from potential danger?  Now my children would be viewed as having a safe environment and a second chance at making the most of their limitless futures.  They would be free from the tyranny of a troubled dad bent on causing them potential harm.

Now what if I told you I wanted to abort my children?  Abort my daughter, whose brain and spinal cord developed during the first month.   Who would be able to walk away without punishment from damaging the brain and spinal cord of anyone already born?  Abort my son, whose fingers and toes, ears and organs have all formed during his second month.  Who would be able to escape the legality of mutilating those parts of those already born? Abort my daughter, whose heart is now beating at week 8 and is opening her mouth, squinting her eyes, flexing her fingers, and stretching her limbs – all while about the size of a grape.  Surely, I’d be arrested and face stiff penalties for harming these rights of those already born.  Surely my son and daughters are alive at this point and deserving of life?  What would be the reaction if I merely told you of my thoughts to abort? 

Some would advise against abortion but no law would be concerned about my thought of it.  Some would encourage me to take action upon my Constitutional freedom to choose abortion.   But was it me who actually chose to start their lives in the first place?  No matter – my freedom to choose freedom is what is really at stake.  Democracy, they say - exercising my rights as an American citizen, is the real issue – not life.  Men have died on battlefields to obtain the right for me to kill my children in the womb and they also died to imprison me if even attempted murder outside of the womb.    

God is good though.  I’m glad He gave my wife and I His love, wisdom, and compassion to chose life for our children – as if we could elevate ourselves to the position of God to choose otherwise.  I believe murder is sin - inside and outside the womb.  Abortion is just a fancy word for murder in the womb like affair is a fancy word for adultery.  Both attempting to scale down the seriousness of sin.  Children are a blessing from the Lord – a reward.  We are blessed to have them and they will never be put to shame (Psalm 127:3-5).   I’m humbled God would trust me with precious lives to shape, lead, and nurture.  I’m proud to be a dad who isn’t perfect but empowered by a God who is.   I’m thankful the Lord knit my family together in our mother’s wombs and saw our yet unformed wonderfully made bodies (Psalm 139:13-16).   Before we were born, He called us (Isaiah 49:1).  Before He formed my family He knew us (Jeremiah 1:4-5).  Thank you for giving us life and entrusting us with the joy of parenting.  Thank you for grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, healing and restoration in our worst sins.  Thank you for those same life-giving attributes accessible to others when they have wrongly chosen to end the beautiful lives You have created inside and outside the womb.   You died to give us life abundantly (John 10:10) – all of us.