Soul Shift #5 – Our Father In Heaven, Part 2

SoulShiftI. INTRO

I used to play a game at home when my children were younger – much younger.  In this game they might have asked for money for their allowance, or we may have been playing a board game, with dice – and I would have what they wanted in my hands –and I would pretend to suddenly fall asleep. They would start giggling and laughing and crawl all over me while attempting to pry what they wanted from my clinched fists.  Those were some beautiful moments of giggles and joyful laughter and mutual longing – they were longing for the things I held in my hands; I was longing for our closeness, our innocence, and wanting those fleeting moments of sheer joy to last forever.

For me this is a picture of the activity of prayer – while we love God sometimes we are focused more on the gifts in God’s hands rather than hand of God Himself (someone described it as seeking the hand of God and not the face of God) – we pray fervently for the new job, or the return of health.  When we gain the prizes we are delighted and, often, our focus turns to the prize — and away form the momentary closeness of the good Giver Himself.

We are in a series on prayer that we are calling “Soul Shift,” where, as individuals, as couples, as families, and as a church we are asking God to move us from ‘ordinary’ prayer to ‘extraordinary’ prayer.  What does that mean?

It means that when we speak or teach about prayer in church it’s easy for all of us to instantly feel guilty.  A sermon on prayer can amount to a drive-by guilt-ing.

Is there anyone among us who is satisfied with their prayer life?

So, today, let’s not talk about – or, even think too much about what WE SHOULD DO, but let’s take a few minutes to consider WHAT JESUS CHRIST HAS DONE.

If we can lift the eyes of our hearts to see WHAT JESUS CHRIST has accomplished FOR US it will lift the “eyes of our hearts” (Eph 1:17) in worship, in adoration, in joy, in expectancy, and in delight.  It will draw prayer out of us…

Our goal, our objective is that we would leave here today more fully delighting in the Giver than in the gifts.  (Some people’s prayers go something like this: “God, if You get me out of this mess, I won’t bother You until the next one!”)

In our study of prayer we are looking primarily at what has been called The Lord’s Prayer in Mat 6.  (There is a more compact version of the same prayer in Luke 11.)  This prayer is not meant to be prayed ritualistically, but to be viewed as a pattern for prayer.

Here’s the bottom line: **We don’t need to make bigger commitments about prayer, what we really need is to think and to believe truer thoughts about God — thoughts that are shaped by the gospel, by what Jesus Christ has already done on our behalf.

We are called to work, love, to worship, and to pray FROM His righteousness, not FOR His righteousness.  That is the gospel in a nutshell – we work, serve, love, and worship FROM a growing understanding that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has won the heart and ear of God on our behalf.

Hebs 4:16: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

We come to God through Jesus Christ.  We don’t have to earn the ear of God in prayer – Jesus has earned the ear of God for us, He has won God’s ear and God’s heart for us — so we come to God in prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer is best used as a model for prayer –or, we could think of it as template – to launch us out into a place or a perspective of reflection, adoration, and gratitude.

For the next few weeks we will be looking at the individual phrases of this model prayer… learning to delight in the Giver of all good gifts.

What we will learn is 1) the initial focus is upward, with its first three requests having to do with God’s glory and 2) the remaining three requests are for our well-being. God first, humanity second – that is the ideal order of prayer.  His glory before our desires.[1]

II. BODY

Today I would like us to look at the opening phrase of The Lord’s Prayer:  “Our Father in heaven.”  Simply stated:

  • The word, “Our” — speaks of community. 
  • The word, “Father” speaks of family.
  • The phrase, “in heaven” speaks of majesty, transcendence (time, space, understanding, etc.), and authority. 

Let’s take some time and briefly consider each one…

1. What does the word “Our” tell us about community?

  • We have left the land of “me” and entered the land of “we.” [2]
  • The Lord’s Model Prayer begins with the acknowledgement that we have been invited out of isolation and into both the joy and the challenge of community.
  • Here’s a simple way to say it: Pro 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one [person] sharpens another.”
  • There are at least three primary and legitimate needs of every human being:
    1. The need to feel authentically human
    2. The need to belong
    3. The need to have a sense of destiny and purpose
  • It is in the heart of God to fully meet these needs in every person. 
  • The first and most important step is through conversion and regeneration, which is the restoration of our individual relationship’s with the living God
  • The next step is through significant relationships with each other
  • Some people find it helpful to think in terms of a cross (), with our relationship with God signifying the vertical and our relationships with each other signifying the horizontal – the cross, and subsequently, Christianity is all about engaging and pursuing both the horizontal and vertical aspects of faith.
  • Our culture, unfortunately, sidetracks us with counterfeit opportunities for community.  The neighborhood bar is possibly the best facsimile there is for the fellowship Christ desires to give His church.  The bar is an imitation — dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality — yet it is tolerant, it is ac­cepting, it is inclusive, and it is virtually unshockable.  You can tell people secrets in a bar and they usually don’t tell others or even want to.  Bars flourish not because most people are alcoholics, but be­cause God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known (Cheers!), to love and be loved.  There are scores of people who seek to medicate their shame and pain for the price of a few beers, drinking their courage instead of turning humbly to Christ.
  • With the opening word of the model prayer Jesus is welcoming us into community.

2. What does the word “Father” tell us about family?

  • With the words, “Our Father,” Jesus is welcoming us into the family of God and identifying Himself as our older brother.
  • The Aramaic word for Father is ABBA.
  • Last week we spoke about the “Abba” Cry/Longing
    • Romans 8:15“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”
    • Galatians 4:6“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
  • According to Jewish rabbinical teachings, slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by the affectionate title, “Abba.”
  • “Abba” approximates “papa” or “daddy” and implies unwavering trust.
  • “Father” expresses intelligent comprehension of the relationship.
  • Together the two reveal the trusting love and intelligent confidence of a secure son or daughter.

3. What do the words, “In heaven” tell us about authority?

  • It may be helpful to view heaven as a perspective and not a physical place, like a zip code.  God is omnipresent (always present everywhere).
  • God’s omnipresence reminds us of His transcendent nature.  Transcendence is a theological term referring to the relation of God to creation.
  • And so “our Father Who is in heaven” is “other” or beyond His creation.
  • God is independent and different from His creatures: Isa 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
  • Being beyond His creation and not limited by it or to it. This simple understanding of transcendence makes our privilege of approaching Him intimately like a son or daughter would their earthly father, all the more humbling and praiseworthy.
  • Our transcendent God is also the omnipresent God and is never farther than a prayer away!

III. CONCLUSION

  • Pastor and theologian Arthur Pink, in his book The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, says, that in these four words: “Our Father in Heaven,”there is a “blessed balance.”[3]
  • The first two words: “Our Father” teach us about the nearness and dearness of God’s relationship to us through Jesus Christ – and they inspire us to confidence and love for God.
  • The second two words: “in heaven,” Pink says, should fill us with humility and awe.
  • He says the first two words (“Our Father”) without the second tends toward an “unholy familiarity.”  And the second two words (“in heaven”) without the first two produces “coldness and dread.”
  • **When we combine these two lofty concepts for the purpose of adoration and prayer we see a marriage of God’s unfathomable love with His immeasurable holiness.
  • In the coming week will you consider giving the best five minutes of your day to God?  Before moving to quickly to petitionary prayer, will you take 3-5 minutes of worship and adoration?  Will you worship God and ask God to open your heart afresh to the wonder, to the reality of what Jesus Christ has accomplished on our behalf.
  • Begin by thinking of it this way:
    1. No one has ever been so rich and became so poor as Jesus Christ.  He left the richness, the perfect love, and perfect communion within the Trinity of heaven.  He condescended to become a man and live a perfect, sinless life so that you and I could enjoy confidant access to a holy and righteous God.
    2. No one has ever been so poor and become so rich as those who’s hearts are awakened to the reality of what Jesus Christ has done – on our behalf.  Has your heat been awakened to that gift?
  • We said at the start that we want to focus more on what Jesus Christ HAS DONE than on what we SHOULD DO.  I invite you to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation…you and I don’t have to work to earn God’s favor.  The perfect, sinless life of Jesus has already accomplished that.  We own our own sin, we repent (surrender), and we believe that we have been made righteous and perfectly acceptable in the presence of a holy God…

[1] Hughes, R. K. Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom. Crossway Books.

[2] Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals: 18.

[3] Baker Books 1982:80-81.

Soul Shift #2: Preparing Our Hearts For Prayer – A Survey of Mathew 6

SoulShiftI.  INTRO

Last week I made three points I would like to review…

  1. Prayer is not a method to get what we want from God, but the primary means of getting more of God Himself.  Through prayer, we want to find our delight, comfort, and joy primarily in God as He becomes the end goal of our lives.
  2. Often times when we endeavor to press into God, our circumstances will get harder before they get better.  This can be because God will begin to point-out and address areas in our lives that have become hindrances or barriers to our intimacy with God.
  3. Last Sunday I described those hindrances and barriers as (modern day) idols – or functional saviors.
    • They are all the earth-bound things we tend to turn to, to quiet the (legitimate) longings and/or pain that we have in our souls.
    • To unhook from some of those idols takes honesty, confession, repentance, surrender, and a heart that sincerely seeks to grow.

This morning you’ll need your Bibles open to Mathew 6; we will be looking at the whole chapter.  We are asking two questions today:

  1. How do we prepare our hearts for prayer?
  2. What is the fruit of a heart prepared for prayer?

II. BODY

In asking the question: How do we prepare our hearts for prayer? We must first take a careful look at Mat 6:1 – and particularly the words “your righteousness.”

  • NAS — “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men...”
  • NIV — “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others…”

In our study of prayer it is essential that we get started on the right foot.  The phrase our righteousness is foundational because EVERYTHING else is built on top of it.  If it’s really ‘your,’ or ‘our’ own righteousness – that we somehow earn our way into God’s presence, we will find ourselves turning away from the gospel and turning TO religion (or moralism).

If, however, it is God’s righteousness we will begin to generate a holy confidence and expectation to build a life of prayer.  See also 6:33 – “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

**We don’t need to make bigger commitments about prayer, what we really need is to think and to believe truer thoughts about God — thoughts that are shaped by the gospel.  We are called to work, love, and pray FROM His righteousness, not FOR His righteousness.

With this in mind let’s look at four spiritual disciplines (or ‘means of grace’) we can participate with God in detaching from our various accumulated idolatrous affections and prepare our hearts to encounter God — and move from ‘ordinary prayer’ to ‘extraordinary prayer.’  They are:

  1. Giving
  2. Prayer
  3. Forgiveness
  4. Fasting

We’ll look briefly at one at a time:

1.  Giving (or Generosity) – (vs. 2-4, 19-21)

These verses boils down to two overlapping ideas:

  • Motive matters
  • Generosity prepares our heart to pray

2 Cor 8:9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. (This is a concise and powerful theological statement that summarizes the gospel)

2 Cor 8:9 is the cornerstone, the basis, for any theology of stewardship or generosity – identifying Jesus Christ as the most generous life ever lived

As Christians we face countless enemies to the welfare of our souls, be it pride, lust, bitterness, or envy.  But few are as powerful and relentless as greed.  Greed has been deified in our American culture…

What is the most effective counter-attack to this insidious force of greed?  Generosity.

No one ever started so rich and became as poor as the Lord Jesus Christ.  And no one ever started out so poor and have become so rich as those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

Martin Luther spoke of a “great exchange,” or a transaction; our sin is charged to Jesus and Jesus’s righteousness is credited to us.

2.  Prayer – (vs. 6:5-8) We are to, first and foremost, pray privately and pray authentically.

Have you ever shaken your fist at God over His seeming lack of response to your prayers?

If so, you’ll be able to relate to the prophet Habakkuk, who lived about 650 years before Christ.

His book begins with this complaint: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but You do not listen?” (Hab.1:2a).

God was not offended by Habakkuk’s prayer.

Passionate, honest, gritty, and even angry prayers have been recorded throughout the Bible.

And Habakkuk certainly wasn’t the only one to complain. Moses, Gideon, and David, and Elijah all questioned God.

Job even cursed the day God made him and said, “I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me. Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands…?'” (Job 10:1-3).

When we get into the Lord’s Prayer we’ll see that it’s best to approach God with humility, deep respect, and honor.  Having said that, God can certainly take our intense emotions and questions.

2 Cor 4:17-18: For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

3.  Forgiveness – I find it interesting that the Lord’s Prayer speaks to the issue of forgiveness, but Matthew comes back to it in 6:14-15.

Mark Twain said that, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the flower leaves on the heel of the one who crushed it.”

When we truly experience the forgiveness of our sins there is an inward transformation that awakens in us a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God.

When we carry with us a deep appreciation for this grace-fueled transformation, we’ll have a heart that is more ready to forgive.  This doesn’t mean the process will be comfortable or easy, but it will mean that we can approach someone in need of forgiveness remembering that we are just as much in need of what you’re about to give to him or her.

4.  Fasting“I humbled my soul with fasting”  (Psalm 35:13b)

Isaiah 58:6-14

“Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? “Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, 10 And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. 11 “And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. 12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell. 13 “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day,
And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, And honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure And speaking your own word, 14 Then you will take delight in the Lord, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A simple definition for fasting would be voluntary abstinence of our appetites and our soulish longings for spiritual reasons.  The Bible speaks of it not as an option but as an expected and regularly practiced spiritual discipline. 

There are many different ways to fast. 

  • We can fast food and just drink water or juice
  • We can eat vegetables and/or fruit only (this has been called a “Daniel Fast,” see Daniel 1:8-17)
  • We can choose not to eat any sugar or carbohydrates
  • We can fast one or two meals a day
  • We can fast from sun-up to sun-down.
  • Paul encourages married couples to occasionally fast sexual intercourse, “that you may devote yourselves to prayer…” (1 Corinthians 7:5).
  • We can fast television or the internet and pray instead!

Before we fast it is important to seek the Lord regarding what would be appropriate.

What is the fruit of a heart prepared for prayer?

Preparing our hearts for prayer, learning how to pray, and leaning into prayer is the cure for anxiety.

Vs. 25-34 are not to be seen as admonitions to simply STOP BEING ANXIOUS!  They are telling us that as we make God the object and desire of our prayers; as we seek to find our comfort and joy IN HIM through:

  • Generosity
  • Prayer
  • Forgiveness
  • Fasting

These spiritual disciplines, or ‘means of grace’ lead us into the presence of God, which BECOMES the cure to our anxiety.  God is the goal of prayer, but the loss of anxiety – or peacefulness is the fruit.

CONCLUSION

Who are the two most important people who ever lived?

Certainly, Jesus.  The first One is easy, but who’s the second one?  Adam.

There are only two groups of people on the earth:

  • Those who are in Adam
  • Those who are in Christ.

If you are an active, intentional follower of Jesus Christ your past may help to EXPLAIN you but your past does not DEFINE you.[1]

To live our lives from a gospel-centered perspective is to live, and work, and love, and serve FROM our new identify ‘in Christ;’ not to live, and work, and serve FOR Christ’s – or anyone’s approval.

You idols do not define you – they may help to explain you, but they don’t define you.

Sometimes the most mature and appropriate thing to do is to take our focus off of our sins – even our besetting sins, and to focus on remembering what Christ has done.

When we encounter Christ through humbling our soul, we will find ourselves doing what Isaiah 30:22 says – “You will scatter your idols as an impure thing and say to them, ‘Be gone!’”

Take some time to reflect on what Christ has done… No one was ever so rich and became so poor as Jesus Christ – and if you are in Him, no one was ever so poor and became so rich as you.


[1] Mark Driscoll, Who Do You Think You Are? 2012.

God Is Closer Than You Think #8 – What Does it Mean to Become a Christian?

Dr. Jeff Arthurs, Guest Speaker

1. Most of us are trying to save ourselves (“I think I can, I think I can”).

2. But we tend to overestimate our goodness and underestimate our badness. The Bible says that spiritually we are: lost, strangers, guilty, dead, and enemies.

“For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” –Titus 3:3

3. Therefore God, who is rich in mercy, sent Jesus to absorb our sins. Jesus is the “sin eater.”

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” –Titus 3:4-7

4. Our responsibility is to “believe.”

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  –John 3:16

5. We do good deeds, not in order to EARN salvation, but because we ARE saved. We do not work FOR salvation, we work FROM it.

“This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.” –Titus 3:8

God Is Closer Than You Think #5 – What Is Prayer?

by JT Holderman

DOCTRINE

Illustration of Answered Prayer: Daniel and the Lion’s Den. Daniel is thrown into the pit with the lions and spends the night. But guess what, Daniel was found by King Darius the next morning, unharmed. Prayer is powerful. Both Daniel and King Darius prayed, and God delivered. He heard their prayers.

Definition: A theologian of our day gives a definition for prayer. He says “prayer is personal communication with God” (Wayne Grudem ST-377). I think he captures the essence of prayer, being in relationship, communication, being in conversation with God. Remember you and I were created to be in relationship with God, and relationships are defined by being in communication with one another.

Jesus Makes Prayer Possible: Do you know what gives us confidence in prayer? Jesus. His death on our behalf creates a way for us to know and be in relationship with God again. When you pray to Jesus, he hears you and whispers it into the Father’s ear. Jesus is our advocate.

Kinds of Prayer:

  • Petition: Asking God for…
  • Supplication: Asking God for something on behalf of someone else…
  • Praise: Lifting up God’s greatness
  • Thanksgiving: Thanking God
  • Confession: Asking for forgiveness
  • Sorrow: Prayers of tears and lament

Why do we pray? As Christians prayer is often a response to a need we have. We need help. And we pray because prayer has power. The prayer of Daniel and Darius had power to overcome the Lion’s hunger in the pit. But why does prayer have power? Prayer has power because we communicate with the living God.

Illustration of Answered Prayer #2: There’s a woman in 1st Samuel in the Old Testament. Her name is Hannah. She’s barren, she can’t have a child. She pours out her soul to the Lord. And you know what, God heard her prayer, just like he hears your prayer. He heard it, and he answered it. He gave her a son. His name was Samuel.

What about Unanswered Prayer: We have confidence when we know God has answered our prayer right? But is the same true when we don’t think God has answered our prayer? There is no such thing as unanswered prayer. There is simply prayer that isn’t answered in the manner you and I would like it to be answered. Our prayers are always subject to God’s will. And that’s where we find comfort in unanswered prayer, in the fact that God knows what is best for his children, even when we think he doesn’t.

EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW 6:5-13:

Context: Matthew has recorded three chapters worth of His sermon and teachings to the people, we often refer to this portion of Scripture as the “Sermon on the Mount” because Jesus ascended a mountain, sat down, and preached to all those who followed him.

How Not to Pray vv. 5-8: So in v. 5 Jesus begins to instruct us how to pray. And what does he do first? He tells how NOT to pray. Don’t pray like this, and he gives two examples. Don’t pray like the hypocrites. Jesus explains that these people pray to be seen, they find fulfillment not in praying to God, but their motive is to be seen as pious, as holy people by others. Don’t pray like the hypocrites who pray to be seen, but instead Jesus says to pray in private, in secret where the motive is simply to be in conversation with God.

Jesus also says we are not to pray like the Gentiles, non-Jews in Jesus’ day, unclean people. Read vv. 7 and 8 with me. What is the Gentiles problem in prayer? They heap up empty phrases. They simply say things hoping they will be heard. They want to sound sophisticated and use lots of words to try to impress God and earn His favor. Their motive is to impress, to appear holy to God. The hypocrite wants to appear holy to the masses and the Gentile wants to appear holy to God. So we can see here from these first four verses that what is crucial to Jesus in prayer is MOTIVE. Why we pray is important.

How to Pray: So again knowing about prayer is of little value. Knowing HOW to pray is of infinite value. So in vv. 9-13 Jesus launches into “how” we are to pray, it’s commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer.

“Our Father…”: Jesus begins with addressing who He is praying to, God the Father. It’s crucial for us to see that He begins by pointing his conversation, his spoken prayer at God. And the word Father here is important. He doesn’t say Lord, even though He is, He doesn’t say God, he says father. And father implies a close relationship, a nearness to God.

“Hallowed be your name”: And after addressing God, Jesus hallows God’s name. Now what does that mean? A person who is hallowed is worthy of our praise. To hallow something or someone is to treat them as Holy, perfect, spotless. But to say that you hallow God’s name, that you revere Him, means also that your life will be such that it reflects that, that it continually brings glory to God as the Holy one.

“Thy Kingdom Come”: Now when you hear the word Kingdom, think of God’s reign, as a King over all the earth. Jesus is often referred to in three offices, prophet, priest and King. The Kingdom of God is the reign of Jesus over all the earth and that began with His earthly ministry. He teaches us here with the authority of a Lord, a King. So when we pray this, we are simply praying that God would reign over this world. We’re just saying, God be God here and now.

“Your will be done…”: This is a hard one to pray. Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? He prayed this, “not my will but yours.” And what happened? He died. To pray that God’s will be done is an absolute sacrifice. It is the ultimate bending of our knee and acknowledging that God knows what is best. It’s hard to pray this because we are inviting God to answer our prayer not in the manner we want, but he wants. Just like Jesus in the garden.

“Give us this day our daily bread”: It isn’t until half way through the prayer that Jesus ever asks for anything in His own life. Here Jesus asks for food, bread. Now this is an image for both physical nourishment that we need from God to live on, as well as spiritual nourishment for our walk with Him.

“Forgive…”: Jesus moves on and asks for forgiveness. Now it’s odd that Jesus asks for forgiveness. Why? Because Scripture tells us that Jesus was perfect, he did not sin, he was the only person who didn’t need forgiveness!!! This is why his death atones for our sins and brings us into relationship with God. So why does he include this. Remember, the whole point of this prayer is an example to you and I of how we should pray. We should pray like Jesus. And so confession, asking for forgiveness is a key part of prayer. Primarily because it forces us to be conscious of our sins, conscious of the ways in which we have turned from God, the ways in which our faith has faltered.

“And lead us not into temptation…”: Jesus ends his example of how we are to pray like Him by admitting that temptation and evil are a reality that we have to deal with, they are universal and inescapable for every human being. The devil is not off the leash. Temptation is essentially a test. When we are tempted our faith is tested. Praying this petition is about admitting that we need God’s help as we face temptation. We can’t do it alone.

Praise and Petition: Now we walked through those pretty quickly. But did you notice as we went through the whole prayer that it was really broken into two separate types of prayer? The first portion of the prayer is what? A prayer of praise. Jesus begins by praising God, by hallowing his name, by exclaiming the goodness of His will and the power of His kingdom. A whole half of this prayer is simply praising God! When you look at your prayer life, if you were to average how much of your prayer time is spent in praising God, hallowing His name, what do you think it would be? And so it isn’t until after Jesus has praised the Father that he moves into asking for things.

APPLICATION

Our Prayer Life: Let’s wind down and bring this home. I would contend the main reason we don’t pray is because God is not a priority in our lives. If God is really our priority in life, if knowing Him is the supreme good above all that we seek after during the hours of the day, then prayer will be as natural as breathing. Prayer is breathing in and out for a Christian. Without prayer we suffocate! And so I argue that the reason we don’t pray as much as we feel called to, or as much as Scripture urges us to, is because God really is not the priority He should be.

And when God becomes our priority, we pray. Not because we are supposed to and it’s what good Christians do, but because we want to! We want to be in relationship with Him who has lavished grace upon us. Prayer is simply communicating with God. What is the most essential thing for any relationship? Communication. If you’re married you know that communication can make a marriage wonderful, or it become a hindrance to loving one another. And so in the same way, our communication with God is of vital importance. Satan wants to thwart prayer more than anything else in our walk as Christians because the reality of our relationship with God is changed through prayer. Prayer is the most powerful action you can do as a Christian. Our call this morning is to take up the charge to be lovers of God, to be people who are characterized by having God as our priority in life.

Closing Prayer: And so where are you? Is God the priority in your life? Or is he simply a priority? Do you pray? Do you wonder what God’s will is for your life? Pray. Do you need help with a struggle you’re currently facing? Pray. Do you feel stuck? Pray. Do you feel lost? Pray. No matter what you are going through this morning, God knows and he wants you to talk to him about it.

God Is Closer Than You Think #3 – What Is The Trinity?

Dr. Jeff Arthurs, Guest Speaker

 Intro: The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the heart of our faith. It is found in the Apostles’ Creed.

Definition: One God existing from all eternity as three Persons.

We come to this doctrine, this revealed word, with humility and wonder. Why do we believe it? It has been revealed.

1. God is One.

 [Dt. 6:4; Is. 46:9]

 2. In three Persons

  • Implied in OT
    • Genesis 1:26, Let us make man in our own image.
    • Gen. 3:22,  Man has now become like one of us.
    • Gen. 11:3, And they said to each other, Come, let us go down and confuse their language.
    • Is. 9:6, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
    • Gen. 1:1-2, In the beginning God created…and the Spirit was hovering…
  • More explicit in the NT
    • Baptism (Matt. 3:16-17). Spirit descending and Father saying . . . .
    • Great Commission (Matt. 28:19). Baptize in the name of . . . .
    • Benediction (2 Cor. 13:14). Grace of the Lord Jesus, love of God, and fellowship of the Holy Spirit . . . .
    • High Priestly Prayer (John 14:16). I will ask the Father and he will give you the Spirit of Truth.
    • Deity of Christ (Romans 9:5). From them is traced the human ancestry of Christ who is God over all, forever praised, Amen.
  • Deity of Christ
    • Philippians 2:5-8.

 3. Illustrations:

  •  Roles/hats (father, husband, pastor). No—this is what the ancient church called “modalism.”
  • Egg (three parts of one). No—the three parts do not share the qualities of the other parts.
  • Water (same essence in three forms). Better, but only appearance is different.
  • Human psyche (we can hold conversation with self).
  • Three dimensions of space (height, width, depth).

 Note: the nature of reality is usually (always?) more complex than first glance reveals.  It will be at least as complex as physics.

4. Implications. This is the central reality of the universe. The grand dance of diversity within unity is a dance of mutual honor, love, and submission. That is the essence of reality—love.

  • Eternal life. By grace we are grafted into this life. We become by grace what Christ is by nature—sons of God. How does this occur? He shares it with us.

Ephesians 2: 4-6

  • Christian life.
    • Marriage. Unity and diversity. Equal standing, value, personhood, but distinct roles.

1 Cor. 11:3

    • Church. Diversity and unity.

Rev. 7:9

1 Cor. 12:12

    • Humility, submission, and love.John 15:9

Philippians 2:1-11

God Is Closer Than You Think #2 – What Is God Like?

What Is God Like?  (A Taste For His Majesty*)

I. INTRO

Most of us know who Chuck Colson was – a Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973…

On June 1, 1973, Chuck Colson[1] visited his friend Tom Phillips,[2] while Watergate unfolded in the press. He was baffled and shocked at Phillips’ explanation that he had “accepted Jesus Christ.”

But he saw that Tom was at peace and he wasn’t. When Colson left the house, he couldn’t get his keys in the ignition he was crying so hard. He wrote in his book, Loving God:

That night I was confronted with my own sin—not just Watergate’s dirty tricks, but the sin deep within me, the hidden evil that lives in every human heart. It was painful and I could not escape. I cried out to God and found myself drawn irresistibly into His waiting arms. That was the night I gave my life to Jesus Christ and began the greatest adventure of my life.[3]

Charles Colson’s New Understanding of God

That story has been told thousands of times over the last four decades. We love to hear about this kind of conversion.

But far too many of us settle for that story in our own lives and the life of our church.

But not Charles Colson. Not only was the White House hatchet man willing to cry in 1973; he was also willing to repent several years later of a woefully inadequate view of God.

It was during a period of unusual spiritual dryness. (If you are in one, take heart! More saints than you realize have had life-changing encounters with God right in the midst of the desert.)

A friend suggested to Colson that he watch a videocassette lecture series by R.C. Sproul on the holiness of God. Here’s what Colson wrote:

All I knew about Sproul was that he was a theologian, so I wasn’t enthusiastic. After all, I reasoned, theology was for people who had time to study, locked in ivory towers far from the battlefield of human need. However, at my friend’s urging I finally agreed to watch Sproul’s series.

By the end of the sixth lecture I was on my knees, deep in prayer, in awe of God’s absolute holiness. It was a life-changing experience as I gained a completely new understanding of the holy God I believe in and worship.

My spiritual drought ended, but this taste for the majesty of God only made me thirst for more of him.[4]

In 1973 Colson had seen enough of himself to know his desperate need of God, and had been driven “irresistibly” (as he says) into God’s arms. But then several years later something else wonderful happened. A theologian spoke on the holiness of God and Chuck Colson says that he fell to his knees and “gained a completely new understanding of the holy God.” From that point on he had what he calls a “taste for the majesty of God.” Have you seen enough of God’s holiness to have an insatiable taste for His majesty?

This same thing happened to Job in the Bible – through all his tribulations he came to see God anew.

Job 1:1There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”

Job was a believer, a deeply devout and prayerful man. Surely he knew God as he ought. Surely he had a “taste for the majesty of God.” But then came the pain and misery of his spiritual and physical desert. And in the midst of Job’s dryness God spoke in His majesty to Job:

Job 40:8–14; 41:10–11: “Will you even put Me in the wrong? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like His? Deck yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor?…Look on everyone that is proud, and bring him low? And tread down the wicked where they stand? …Who then is he that can stand before Me? Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.”

In the end Job responds, like Colson, to a “completely new understanding of the Holy God.” Job says in 42:3–6:

Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
‘Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.”

These two stories of men encountering God in life-changing ways is the same thing that is happening to Isaiah in Chap 6…

Isaiah 6:1-8 — In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said,

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”

And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said,

“Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

II. BODY

Revival happens, individually and corporately, when we see God majestic in His holiness – and we come to grips with our own need and desperation.

Brokenness, repentance, the unspeakable joy of forgiveness, a “taste for the majesty of God,” a hunger for His holiness—to see it more and to live it more: that’s revival. And it all begins by seeing God.

We have a companion book for this series and we have a companion passage that I am asking all of us to pray for ourselves, our loved ones, for SBF. That passage is:

Eph 1:17-19 — That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

In our companion book “Christian Beliefs” by Wayne Grudem we are in Chap 2 – What Is God Like?  It is the longest chapter of the book (16 pages listing 24 separate attributes of God), and we won’t be able to cover them all this morning, so I would like to offer you 4 glimpses of God from the first 4 verses of Isaiah 6 that coincide with our companion book.

1. God Exists – 6:1:KingUzziah is dead, and Isaiah encountered the Lord sitting on the throne.

We see this also with the first four words of the Bible: Gen 1:1 – In the beginning God…” God was the living God when this universe banged into existence. And He will be the living God in 10 trillion years.

God never had a beginning and therefore depends on nothing for His existence. He always has been and always will be alive.

Our companion book describes God as “independent.”  I would take issue with Grudem’s choice of words here.  I agree with Grudem’s words that God “doesn’t actually need us or anything else in creation for anything.”[5]

I would prefer to use the term self-differentiated rather than independent.  What does it mean to be self-differentiated?

“Self-differentiation” is a term used to describe one who is emotional healthy – and is no longer ultimately dependent on anything other than themselves. They are able to live interdependently with others because their sense of worth is not dependent on external relationships, circumstances, or occurrences.

There are three categories of connection that are worthy of our understanding:  

  • Independence (-)
  • Dependence (-), and
  • Interdependence (+).

Within the Trinity each member is fully self-differentiated – and each is supremely interdependent.

2. God Is Omnipotent – The word omnipotent means all-powerful (omni = all; potent = power). Notice the throne of God’s authority is not one throne among many thrones. It is high and lifted up above ALL thrones. Again in 6:1: “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up.”

That God’s throne is higher than every other throne signifies God’s superior power to exercise His authority. No opposing authority can nullify the decrees of God.

What God purposes, God accomplishes. In Isaiah 46:10, God emphatically states: “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose.”

Daniel 4:35: “He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand.”

To be gripped by the sovereign omnipotence of God is either marvelous because He is for us — or it is terrifying because He is against us.

Indifference to God’s omnipotence simply means we haven’t seen it for what it is. The sovereign authoritative power of the living God is a refuge full of joy and delight for those who have been gripped by the gospel, which is His new covenant promise of love, mercy, and forgiveness.

3. God Is Holy – 6:2-4: “Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke 6:3: “And one called to another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!’”

The seraphim are never mentioned again in the Bible again. The word seraph literally means “to burn.”  John Wesley describes them as, “An order of holy angels…[that] represent either their nature, which is bright and glorious…and pure; or their property, of fervent zeal for God’s service and glory.”[6]

According to verse 4, when one of them speaks, the foundations of the thresholds in the temple shake.

This scene is repeated in Rev 4:8, where John has a vision of the throne in heaven – “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”

The difference between the creatures in Isaiah and Revelation have a lot to do with the eyes of these angelic beings.  In Isaiah the Seraphim covered their faces – and in Rev – the beings “are full of eyes around and within.”

In Isaiah’s vision the Seraphim cannot even look upon the Lord. Great and good as they are, untainted by human sin, they revere their Maker in great humility. How much more will we shudder and quake in His presence!

Let’s consider the word holy…

  • The possibilities of language to carry the meaning of God eventually run dry.
  • The root meaning of holy is to cut or separate. A holy thing is cut off from and separated from that which is common, or we might use the word, secular.
  • Earthly things (and people) are holy in so far as they are distinct from the world — and devoted to God.
  • The Bible speaks of holy ground (Exodus 3:5), holy assemblies (Exodus 12:16), holy sabbath (Exodus 16:23), a holy nation (Exodus 19:6); holy garments (Exodus 28:2), a holy city (Nehemiah 11:1), holy promises (Psalm 105:42), holy men (2 Peter 1:21) and women (1 Peter 3:5), holy scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15), holy hands (1 Timothy 2:8), a holy kiss (Romans 16:16), and a holy faith (Jude 20).  While it’s not used in the Bible, we speak of holy matrimony.
  • Almost anything can become holy if it is separated from the common and devoted to God.
  • God is not holy because He keeps the rules. He wrote the rules! God is not holy because He keeps the law. The law is holy because it reveals God.

Habakkuk 2:20 –“The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

The final glimpse is not in our companion book – or, perhaps we could say it is interwoven throughout our companion book…

3. God Is Glorious – 6:3: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.”

We cannot separate God’s holiness from God’s glory.

The glory of God is the manifestation of His holiness. God’s holiness is the incomparable perfection of His divine nature; His glory is the display of that holiness.

When we say, or when the Bible says, “God is glorious” it means: God’s holiness has gone public. His glory is the open revelation of the secret of His holiness.

Leviticus 10:3 — “I will show myself holy among those who are near me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”

When God shows himself to be holy, what we see is glory. The holiness of God is His concealed glory. The glory of God is his revealed holiness.

When the Seraphim say, “The whole earth is full of His glory,” it is because from the heights of heaven they can see the end of the world. From down here the view of the glory of God is limited. And truth be told, it’s limited largely by our foolish preferences for lessor things.

Some day God will remove every competing glory and make His holiness known in awesome splendor to every humble creature.

CONCLUSION

Having said that, there is no need to wait. Like Chuck Colson, Job, and Isaiah, my prayer is that as individuals and as a church we will humble ourselves to go hard after the Holy God – that we would develop a taste for His majesty.

I want to hold out this promise from God, who has existed forever, who is omnipotent, who is holy, and who is glorious.

As we prepare our hearts for communion I’d like to read my favorite about revival. But I must warn you it’s not for the faint of heart…Burns asks the question:  Do we want a revival?  Do we really?  And then he answers…

To the church, a revival means humiliation, a bitter knowledge of unworthiness and an open humiliating confession of sin on the part of her [pastors] and people.  It is not the easy and glorious thing many think it to be, who imagine it filled the pews and reinstated the church in power and authority.  It comes to scorch before it heals; it comes to [convict] people for their unfaithful witness, for their selfish living, for their neglect of the cross, and to call them to daily renunciation and to a deep and daily consecration.  That is why a revival has ever been unpopular with large numbers within the church.  Because it says nothing to them of power, or of ease, or of success; it accuses them of sin; it tells them they are dead; it calls them to awake, to renounce the world [system] and to follow Christ.[7]

Sit quietly and reflect and repent as necessary – and when you’re ready come and remember what Christ has done.  His broken body and shed blood.  He lived the life we should have lived – and He died the death we should have died.  While we were yet dead in our sins, Christ died for us – He became poor that we might become rich in mercy and grace…

* I am grateful to the teaching and preaching ministry of John Piper for some of the illustrations of this sermon – as well as the treatment of holiness — and the relationship between God’s holiness and God’s glory.


[1]  Colson was Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973. He gained notoriety at the height of the Watergate affair for being named as one of the Watergate Seven, and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. He became a Christian in 1973 after his arrest.

[2] Chairman of the defense contractor Raytheon.

[3] Loving God, p. 247.

[4] Loving God (pp. 14–15).

[5] Christian Beliefs: 22.

[6] Wesley’s Notes On The Bible. Christian Classics Ethereal Library; 1.1 edition 2010.

[7] James Burns. Revival, Their Laws & Leaders, Hodder and Stoughton 1909:50.

God Is Closer Than You Think #1 – What Is Man?

I. INTRO TO SERIES

Ephesians 1:17-21 is our theme passage for this series.  Will you join me and pray this passage regularly for yourself, for SBA – and for me and the other men who will be teaching and preaching??

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe (emphasis added).

As a church we want to see and encounter the greatness, wonder, and glory of God from an elevated vantage point. Isaiah admonishes,

Get yourself up on a high mountain! (40:9a).

We want to glorify God and know God; we want to have our hearts captivated afresh by a revelation of who God is and what God has done, so that He becomes our greatest hope, our greatest joy and delight.

The first thing we need to know about God is that God’s ultimate goal in all that He does is to preserve and display His own glory. God is uppermost in His own affections.  This is difficult for us to fathom because many of us grew-up and were taught, inadvertently, that we were at the center of God’s world.  This isn’t true.  God does not NEED us.  God loves us, but God has been perfectly content and joyful within the context of the Trinitarian relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – where there has been perfect unity, joy, delight, and love – for all of eternity.

God prizes and delights in His own glory above all things. It is SO important that we see this.  The Bible is about God, not us.  The Bible is written TO us, but it is ABOUT God.

The phrase “glory of God” in the Bible generally refers to the visible splendor and the moral beauty of God’s perfection. It is a weak attempt to put into words what cannot be contained in words-what God is like in His unveiled magnificence and excellence.

When we begin to see God from this vantage point it will free us from our lessor fixations, fears, and anxieties and we will be changed from the inside out.

The secondary reason for this series is to re/lay a foundation of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith at SBF.

Our English word doctrine is derived from the Latin word doctrinais and is the term given to the body of teachings that result from weaving together the various strands of the biblical witness and integrating them into a coherent and systematic account of reality.[1]

A doctrinal statement, then, would be a collection of our core beliefs as an expression of the larger body of Christ.

Some perspective[2] about where I hope this series will take us…

  • God is bigger, more passionate about His own glory, and at the same time, more available to His people, than we have ever dared to imagine.
  • While “principles” are good and helpful, they don’t drive (or change) our lives – passion does. What we really need is for our hearts to come alive for God. Whatever our heart prefers will exercise gravitational pull over the rest of our lives.
  • Something always takes first place in our lives. Whatever, or whoever, is at the top of our “passion list” will drown out everything else. What is it that takes first place in our lives? Is it a relationship – or the thought of a relationship? Is it money, success, pleasure, comfort?
  • Augustine said it as well as anyone – and turned it into a prayer: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[3]
  • This is why the Bible doesn’t just give us advice on how to live, the Bible gives us a revelation of who God is. The glorious gospel is not advice it is news. The Bible does not just offer principles about how to live, it offers an unmatched vision of what (or Who) to live for.
  • Most of us don’t need more information what we really need is illumination.
  • If all we want are practical steps regarding how to live our best life now, then we are seeking the wrong thing.  Our goal in this series is to catch a glimpse of the wonder, majesty, and greatness of our God – that He would become our “exceeding joy” (Ps 43:4) that eclipses everything else.
  • When we studied the Beatitudes last Spring we studied Mat 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. We become pure of heart as we long to see and encounter God above all else.
  • When our thoughts of God are small our feelings for God will be small. What we seeking with this Fall series is a truer, greater, weightier vision of God.
  • In our North American 21st century Evangelical churches, God is not always the true subject matter of much of our preaching.  We have settled for what one researcher described as mere “moralistic therapeutic deism.”[4]
  • My hope for this series is that we wouldn’t have small thoughts about God, but that we would begin to think BIG thoughts about God and that in thinking BIG thoughts about God we would grow an appropriate and wholehearted worshipful response to God – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.[5]
  • As we begin, I am reminded of a quote from John Piper: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man…You can’t commend what you don’t cherish.”[6]
  • May our Bible studies, classes, CommGroup dialogues, and sermons during this season at SBF cause us to worship Christ – first and foremost. Everything else is secondary.

II. SERMON INTRO

That being said, please turn to Genesis 1:27-28…

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The biblical story of creation reaches its climax with the creation of man (male and female) in God’s image. (Woman is at the apex of God’s creation — God made man and then He said, I can do better than that! 🙂  Four things should be noted about this climactic creative act:

  1. Man is created as the last of all God’s creation works and thus is the highest creature.
  • We are below God as worshipers.
  • And we are above lower creation and therefore, have we have been given dominion – or, stewardship.
  1. Only humankind is said to be in the image of God. (Latin: Imago Dei, Greek: anthropos).
  2. Only now that man is on the scene in the image of God does the writer of Genesis describe the work of creation as being very good (1:31).
  3. Man is given dominion (stewardship) and commanded to subdue and fill the earth (1:28).

Today we are asking the question “What is man?”  Or, “What is humankind?”  It is this doctrine that answers questions regarding how humankind is both similar to and distinctive from God the Creator.

III. BODY

What does it mean for us to become image bearers of God?  The theme, the motif, the thread, of us being image bearers of God runs throughout the Bible as we will see…

So, the first thing that we learn from this passage in Genesis is that we were created to reflect God’s glory.  We are image bearers of God.

We look to God for fulfillment of our deepest needs.  We find our joy, our comfort, and our delight in Him.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Ps 16:11

We want to join God in His rejoicing over us:

The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior.  He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.  Zephaniah 3:17

If we are made in God’s image, then the more we see and understand about God, the more that we will see and understand about ourselves.

  1. We are moral creatures – born with an intuitive sense of right and wrong.
  2. We are not mere physical creatures, but spiritual creatures.  As such, we can relate to and know God.
  3. We are intellectual creatures, having the ability to think and process information.
  4. We have been born with a desire to know and be known in the context of community.  This reflects our Trinitarian God, who has existed for eternity in perfect love, harmony, respect, and admiration – each one fully serving the needs of the other.  We join in this “dance” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: 52)

Because of sin this image has been distorted.  There is a confluence (crashing) within us of both majesty and depravity.

A few weeks ago we spoke of how the “gift of righteousness” (Rom 5:17) was imputed (or, credited) to us. Is 61:10 – “He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness.”  Well, in the same way Adam and Eve’s sin was imputed (or, credited) to us.  Every human being is born with this “sin nature.”

This is where the dogma of contemporary culture is in direct opposition to the gospel.  Our culture desperately wants to believe that we are all basically good people (with a few exceptions).

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer 17:9

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Rom 3:23

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.  1 Cor 13:12-13

We will talk more specifically about sin next month, but sin:

  • Sin distorts our moral judgment.
  • Sin clouds our thinking.
  • Sin restricts and hinders our fellowship with one another.  We see this in the Garden of Eden after the sin of Adam and Eve.

The good news is that through repentance God’s image can be restored. God redeems us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The theme, or thread, of us being image bearers of God:

  • Roms 8:19, 29 — For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God…Roms 8:29 — For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.
  • We also see this in Colossians 1:13-15 — The incomparable Christ rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”
  • Col 3:10 – Through worship and adoration we, “have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.”
  • 2 Cor 3:18 — But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
  • Our transformation culminates with the consummation of this present age and  in 1 Cor 15:49 — Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
  • 2 Cor 4:1-4 — Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.

In Jesus we see God’s likeness as it was intended to be – and because of what Jesus Christ has done we will eventually be changed to reflect God’s image as we were originally intended to do.

What responsibilities do we bear as image bearer’s of God?

  1. We are reflecting the image of God throughout the course of each and every day (for better or for worse!).  As we engage one another, our spouses, our children, or our co-workers, or neighbors, or friends – or even those that don’t like us (or, God-forbid, those that we don’t like), we are to be cognizant (aware, conscious) of the ongoing question: How can I serve, love, and listen to this person in a way that reflects a little bit of who God is?  “We cannot commend what we do not cherish” (John Piper).
  2. We are to reflect God by taking care of the earth…
  3. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  2 Cor 5:17-21 — Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

IV. CONCLUSION

N.T. Wright on What It Means To Be An Image Bearer…

Next week: What is God like?  What does God say about Himself?  (I think this may be the longest chapter in our companion book.)


[1] Adapted from Alister McGrath, “Doctrine,” in Kevin Vanhoozer, Gen. ed., Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, Baker Academic 2005: 177.

[2] I am indebted to a sermon by JR Vassar entitled, Our Great God (Apostles Church in NYC) for spurring me on to think bigger thoughts of God.)

[3] Confessions. Lib 1,1-2, 2.5, 5: CSEL 33, 1-5.

[4] Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults by Christian Smith, with Patricia Snell (Oxford University Press, Sept 2009).

[5] Westminster Shorter Catechism 1648, Q1.

[6] Let the Nations Be Glad. Baker Book House 1989: 11.