Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Concept of God

God is … Holy (Divine)Omniscient (infinitely wise)Omnipresent (being present everywhere at once)Omnipotent (having unlimited power).

These are some of the words used to describe the nature and character of God. These are attributes that make Him different and distinct from man. These words help us understand the concept of God a little better, but as we learn or gain knowledge of God from the meaning of these descriptive words, we need to point out there is a distinction between God and His attributes; what He is … is not … all together who He is. Let me explain with this example.

You may say that you have a friend who is patient, but you wouldn't say your friend is patience. Your friend is more than the sum total of his or her traits. So we must also say God is more than the sum of His attributes.

In looking at the concept of God, we need to look at the word itself …

Concept … the word means idea, possibility or theory.

Theory … a concept not yet verified … a hypothesis.

Hypothesis … an opinion based on conjecture, speculation or supposition.

I feel like I'm going around in a circle. As you can see, when talking about God, the scientific approach doesn't work. He is more than a lab experiment.

If God is Holy, Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent … what does that make God? Sovereign. What's that mean? Being Sovereign speaks of … rulership, King, Head of State, the one greatest in status or power; the rightful owner who is independent and self-governing.

Okay … how does a self-governing Sovereign like God operate? He acts through what's called the Providence of God.

Providence is …

1.) The guardianship and control of all creation by God.
2.) A manifestation of God's foresightful care.

Providence can simply mean … to see beforehand and to act accordingly.

I could end this discourse by saying that God sees everything that happens in the world before it happens; that He is just an observer, an onlooker as the history of man unfolds. But there is much more to God's Providence than just watching; it includes guardianship and control with His foresightful care.

Remember, the one thing God has always wanted ever since He created man is a relationship with the crown of His creation … man.

The concept of God's relationship with man is thought of basically three ways.

1.) First is the deistic view, in which God created the world like a machine; He set all things in motion as if it were a watch with built-in secondary movements and causes of action, one movement causes a different movement each with its own effects on the natural scheme of things. Everything works automatically just as God intended when He spoke all things into existence.

This view states all God did was to set the earth's natural laws in motion like a watch or a machine and then … God steps out of the picture … and simply observes and watches everything that takes place in the world. He never intervenes; He never intrudes in man's affairs because He is only an onlooker. With this view of God, He is absolved of any blame for the catastrophes that happen in life. He leaves man to operate by the dictates of their own hearts.

2.) The next view is ethical monism which is the exact opposite of the first. This view claims that everything that happens is a direct result from the hand of God as He directs and dictates all movement, good and bad. Peace, war, sickness, accidents, weather … anything and everything, God does it all.

With this view … man has no free will … God determines everything and He actually causes everything to take place. We would then become only robots or puppets.

3.) The biblical view … if it is not a total rejection of these other two positions on God's providence, it is as close to total rejection as one can get. The historical Christian view is that God created the universe to operate in the laws of nature that He predetermined. When God created man He gave him a free will to make his own decisions … good or bad … basically it's our choice.

As with the first view, God has stepped back somewhat, just not all the way to the role of only an observer. God observes, but will intrude into the affairs of man if and when He so chooses … does He not have the authority and the right to do so? There are times when He is the cause of how things work by intervening in our lives. At other times our decisions may be the indirect result of His influence at work on our lives to bring about His sovereign will. I believe that God is sovereign over everything that happens in the world either by direct cause from His hand or the secondary causes He has already put in nature.

One last thought about the Sovereignty of God. God must be in total control of everything created … everything. That's part of being Sovereign. If there is even one molecule that is not under His control, one tiny little speck running around in God's created universe that He is not in control of … just one … then that means that God is not in total control of what He made. Do you know what that is alluding to? God is not God. If anything is outside of His authority, outside of His control … then He is no longer God over all things … and that can not be.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's the Nature of Things

Why does God … allow things like child abuse, random shootings, fatal accidents, birth defects, cancers and other horrible things to occur?

Since we believe that God is the author, creator and keeper of this planet we call Earth and is sovereign over it, it's inevitable that all of us ask the same question … God where are you … when we see these terrible things take place.

I think the Bible gives us some of the answers that we are looking for but it's not answered in just one plainly written sentence; rather it's shown to us in many different ways. The first answer is in the book of Genesis when we are told of the fall of humanity. God's immediate response to the first man's sin of transgression against God's rule and authority was to curse the earth and human life.

Death and suffering entered the world as a direct result of sin. We see this curse manifested in the realm of nature when thorns become part of the plan of God and human life now included labor by the sweat of the brow and the pain that follows man throughout his lifetime. This helps illustrate the fact that the world in which we live … is a place … that is full of sorrows and tragedy.

But the Bible never says that there's any correlation in this life between suffering and the guilt of the people on whom these tragedies fall.

R.C. Sproul speaks to this fact when he says … "If there were no sin in the world, there would be no suffering. Because sin is present in the world, suffering is present in the world, but it doesn’t always work out that if you have five pounds of guilt, you’re going to get five pounds of suffering."

That's also the perception that the book of Job labors to dispel, as does Jesus' answer to the question about the man born blind in the 9th Chapter of John. This blind man, like Adam was, like you and I are, was made from the dust of the Earth; but because he was formed within the bounds of an imperfect world, a tragedy occurred in his life; a failure in his development that caused him to be born blind.

Knowing that man dwells on a cursed earth and that things are not always perfect, Jesus takes the same element that this blind man was created from, dirt and adds His spittle to it to make clay and then anoints the eyes of the blind man with it. Why did Jesus do this?

1.) To complete and finish whatever failed in his fetal development in the womb.

2.) To show to the world that man … as he is born … is not complete until he has had the touch of Jesus on his life.

Jesus tells His disciples this man was born blind that the works of God should be made manifest in him. So, isn't Jesus basically telling His disciples that God's Sovereignty, Will and Purpose was at work even in this blind man's birth?

The Bible makes it pretty clear that God lets these tragedies happen and in a certain sense … ordains that they come to pass … as part of the present situation that the world is under … judgment for sin that brought the curse to be placed on the earth in the first place.

He has not removed the curse of death from this world. Because of the fall of a sinful man and for no other reason death is part of … the nature of things … on this earth.

Even the disciples of Jesus were unsure about similar tragedies that happen in life. In the 13th Chapter of Luke, Jesus was told about the Galileans whose blood had been mingled with the sacrifices by Pilate. The disciples asked how this could be; was it a terrible judgment that had fallen upon some of them? The response from Jesus was … "Don't worry about it." (My translation) He declares to them that neither this case nor the eighteen people who were killed when a tower collapsed … had anything to do with them being greater sinners than they were.

There were some people present who had heard His discourse with the disciples, so He said to them, except they repent, the same thing could happen to them … again bringing the question back to the fact that man's overall moral state of wickedness makes it feasible for God to allow these kinds of dreadful things to take place in a fallen world. It has nothing to do with individual sin.

The judgment of God can come in many different ways … but usually it comes through the curse that was placed on the Earth and on fallen man. It's the nature of things. But we do have a promise that there will come a day when suffering and death will be no more.

We see all these things through the arrangement of God's Providence. It is a part of His plan to adapt His mercy and grace to the suffering of men. Often all these things are permitted, in order that He may show us His deliverance and His blessings.

God can do no wrong … the universe will, when all His works are seen; feel and know that all He does is just and right.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Speaking to Satan

Are we to speak to Satan? When he brings to our minds thoughts and temptations, should we talk to him about them … hold a conversation of sorts with the evil one. Or should we speak a rebuke to him as Jesus did during the three, no … four … recorded temptations in the wilderness? Would there have been a fifth or sixth had He not sent him away?

Notice the account given in Matthew 4:1-11 … Satan waits until Jesus is at His weakest point after having fasted for forty days before he tempts Him. But this is why Jesus was there … to be tempted of the devil. In the first two temptations, the only response Jesus had to them was to speak what was written in the Word of God. I don't know if Jesus was reminding the devil or telling him for the first time what it said.

The last temptation was a bolder attack than any which had been made before and was met with a decided rebuke. Why did Jesus respond this time with a rebuke? It was a proposition that the Son of God should fall down and worship the devil.

How did Satan tempt Him four times? 1.) Bread. 2.) Presumption … cast thyself down. 3.) Material kingdoms. 4.) Idolatry …worship me. This forth temptation was diabolical and as such Jesus did not treat it as the others; but with Divine authority, commanded him to leave; Jesus drove him away.

Okay … Jesus rebuked the devil; but what about us?

In the forth chapter of his book, James begins the chapter with these questions, (my translation) …

"What brings or causes discord, or quarrels and fighting among the Body of Christ? Isn't it true they come out of your sinful flesh because you are jealous, proud and haughty (showing arrogant superiority and disdain of others)?"

Then he follows up with this statement …

James 4:6-7"But He (the Lord) gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it).
So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you."

The key to resisting the devil is … being subjected to God. How do we do that? Humble yourself before God. He gives grace to the lowly, those who depend on God's strength … not their own … as they resist the devil and their own sinful desires of the flesh.

(The word … "resist" … means to stand against, oppose, withstand.) Just "stand firm against the devil" and he will flee.

Resist the devil … Satan cannot conquer you if you continue to resist. Strong as he is, God never permits Satan to conquer the believer who continues to resist him. Satan can not force the human will to do his bidding. Satan is to be looked upon as an enemy, and to be opposed as such; to be watched and guarded against with humility; because it's not about our strength … it's all about Jesus … His strength in us.

When the submitted believer stands against and resists the devil; not in his own strength, but in the strength of God, trusting in the grace of God and in the blood and name of Jesus … Satan knows not what to do with him … he does not like the power of prayer, nor the strength of faith; and from which he leaves … in fact the Word says he flees.

Notice James didn't say to rebuke the devil, did he? In fact he never even mentioned speaking to the devil. Could one of the reasons be that by speaking to him, you are giving the devil the acknowledgement he wants from you? Remember, his downfall was … "pride" … the very opposite of the "humility" that James said to resist him in.

I may be bending the meaning of this next verse a little, but I want you to consider how and why I use a direct application of this verse concerning what our words may end up doing … if we speak to the devil.

Ephesians 4:27"Neither give place to the devil." (A spot, a location, or place.)

The Amplified Bible reads … "Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]."

I wonder if the only time we need to speak to the devil is to fulfill the words of Jesus when He said, "In my name they shall cast out devils." This is different then when the devil comes to tempt you. Refuse to acknowledge him … turn and resist.

I really don't know … but as for me; I do not and will not give the devil even the time of day. If and when he comes to me, I just turn my back to him and ignore him and walk away from his evil attempts and suggestions trying to get me to respond in the flesh and follow his bidding. I won't do it.

This is all I do and it works, but … honestly … it only works when I want it to. But it does work. Satan doesn't like being ignored, but he can't do anything about it because Jesus has already made him of no effect to those who are in Christ Jesus.

The word "resist" is used 9 times in the N.T. and means … to stand against.

The word "rebuke" is used 12 times in the N.T. and each time it is used, it is speaking of a man rebuking a man … not the devil … except one place in Jude.

Jude 1:9"Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee."

If Michael the archangel, on a mission from God, would not and did not rebuke the devil on his own, but instead said … "the Lord rebuke you" … I guess my question would be … Why then, do many believers do so on their own?

When you look at the past tense of this word rebuke … it becomes "rebuked" and as such is used 19 times in the N.T. When this word is used meaning … the disciples rebuked something or someone; it always refers to other people, not the devil. But when it states that Jesus rebuked something, it is usually referring to the spiritual powers of the devil.

Rebuke means … "to chastise with words." Do we have the right to chastise the devil? Aren’t we only instructed to resist him? You will have to decide for yourself if you want to chastise or rebuke him … I've found that he doesn’t listen to me.

In closing … I'm thinking of another man who was attacked by Satan himself … with full permission from God … remember Job? Allow me to ask this "what if" question. What if, in the middle of his testing Job would have "rebuked" the devil; would Satan have had to stop the attack and flee from Job? I would say … no.

Job didn't rebuke him and Satan didn't flee. I do know this much though … it is recorded that in all Job said, he sinned not against God by accusing or blaming Him for the conduct he received at the hand of God.

I believe God was in total control when Job was tested; and I believe God is still in control today when I am tested or tempted, no matter the reason behind it.

I believe from my own observation of life that I have come to the same conclusion that Solomon arrived at in the Book of Ecclesiastes when he said … "the fear of God is the whole duty of man" … and this should be what rules his walk on earth, not just the satisfying of his flesh.

If anything is brought into question, it should be this world we live in … not God.

I believe that God is the force behind all things in life as did Job.

I believe the Apostle Paul backs up this statement that I just made; because when he was speaking of God, Paul said in … Ephesians 1:11 "… according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will …" meaning all things, even those things that I can't see any purpose for, good or bad … all things are subject to the government of God … no exceptions.

Why does God allow the devil to have access to your mind, thoughts and heart? I don't know for sure … but God has a purpose for it.

So, right or wrong … I just ignore the devil; I choose not to give him any place in my life; I turn my back to him and walk away … most of the time. I don't even speak a word of rebuke to him because Jesus has already taken care of that for me.

Am I tempted … of course I am … Satan knows my trouble spots. But I resist … but not in my own strength; I have none. It's all Jesus and His grace and mercy. Do I still sin? I'm sorry to say … I do. That's why I hide under the shadow of His cross … I need to.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Your Thoughts

Your thoughts … are they private, confined only to your mind? If not, then who else may know them? I believe most people would agree that God can and does know not only the thoughts of your mind; but also in what is called "your heart" … not the mind and soul; but rather the center of your being, where both your spirit and it's will reside.

Matthew 9:3-4"And certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said …"

Matthew 12:25"And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them …"

According to the above verses, Jesus (God in the flesh) had the ability to know the thoughts of others. Some people call this … reading someone's mind … which is a term I really don't like to use. Knowing and reading are different.

When studying the Bible it is important to know that many times the words … "heart, mind, soul and will" … are interchangeable and are used for the same intended meaning. Because of this we must decide which word truly fits the intended purpose of each verse when any of these words are used.

Look at the following two verses I am listing next as examples. The word "heart" used twice in these verses both denotes the thoughts of the mind; as well as the center of your will. Notice that even though it says that evil thoughts come out of your heart, we must decide if it means "the center of our will" or if is speaking about our fleshly mind.

Matthew 15:18-19"But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart (the Greek is "kardia" … the heart, the center of our will; as well as the thoughts, feelings and mind); and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts (imagination or purpose), murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts …" etc.

"Evil thoughts" … Are these types of things really in our hearts; thoughts that give birth to the conducts listed above. If so, we need to take control of the thoughts and desires that we allow to dwell there. Thought, purpose or motive, gives its character to conduct. Thought precedes action.

Mark 7:21 "out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts …" When Mark wrote the same words of Jesus that Matthew did, he used a different word for "evil" that has a slightly different meaning. It means "worthless or bad" but intrinsically so … meaning its nature is "inherent" … something that is born in us; and we soon discover this sinful nature we are born with wants its own way.

Why is the heart, soul and the thoughts of a man's mind inclined to evil? I think it has something to do with the fact that there is an enemy of your soul, who God allows at this present time to be the god of this world and who has also been given access to our hearts and minds. He is a spirit being.

Let me give the following scriptures to look deeper into this …

Acts 5:3-4"But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God."

Satan can and does put things in our hearts … but we are the one who allows the thought to conceive and birth sin in our life.

James 1:14-15"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

Enticed … this is what Satan does with the inherent evil, our own personal lust (desires) in our hearts. The word enticed means … "to entrap." Each one of us has different lusts which Satan knows about and works to entrap you in.

John 13:2"And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him …"

"Having now put it into the heart of Judas" … Literally, having "cast it" into the heart (thoughts, feelings or mind) of Judas. The meaning of this passage is that Satan inclined the mind of Judas to do this, or he tempted him to betray the Lord. We don't know precisely how this was done, but we know that it was because of the lust and desire for wealth and the greed for material things that was … already in the heart of Judas.

Satan can tempt no one unless there is some inclination of the mind, some natural tendency or propensity; a disposition to behave in a certain way, something naturally born in our flesh that he can make use of. Satan can present temptations of all types fitted to the propensity that he already knows about in each individual … and the soul, which is tied closer to the flesh than to the spirit; already under the influence of a strong inherent inclination to do so … then yields to this personal temptation.

In the case of Judas this propensity was … the love of money … and it was necessary only to present to him the possibility of obtaining money, and it found him ready and willing to "betray" Jesus.

Satan's end game in this temptation was to work upon Judas "to betray" Christ into the hands of His enemies, in order to put Him to death.

Judas was an apostle of Christ's; and from this we should learn even the highest office, and greatest gifts, cannot keep men from the temptations of Satan. The manner in which he tempted him was this … Satan "put" which means "cast" a fiery dart into his very heart (thoughts or mind); which shows the access Satan has into, and the influence he has upon … the minds of men.

All of this was known by Jesus, which He prophesied to His disciples that one of them would betray Him; yet it was an action which one would think, could never have entered into the heart of Judas … had not the devil put it there.

How did Satan know just how fertile the soil was in the heart of Judas? What way of access does Satan have into the hearts of man, and by what methods does he put into the heart, mind and thoughts his suggestions, and is then allowed to mix them together with the desires of the flesh; those things which are born in the heart of fallen man naturally?

How does Satan know when he has successfully mixed the evil thoughts or desires that are naturally inherent in your heart, mind and flesh, if he does not have access to your thoughts? It must be so … he is a spirit being.

There are some sins of their own nature so exceedingly sinful and vile; and because there is normally very little temptation from the world and the flesh to bring them to conception and then to act on them; it is very evident that Satan must plant the type of seed that produces these un-natural, unspeakable vile sins in a heart that he knows is already disposed to them. But how does he know?

Hebrews 2:6-9"What is man …" (Natural man, the one made of flesh.)

"Thou madest him (man) a little lower than the angels …" (Man made from the earth itself, was made lower, mortal and weaker with physical limits; angels are different … they are from the spirit realm; and as such are immortal, they can't die; material things cannot contain or hinder them; and they can operate in both the natural and spiritual realms.)

"Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him." (One of the things that are not under subjection to frail natural man is … the spirit world where fallen angels and evil spirits can and do operate in spiritual warfare against us.)

"But we see Jesus …" (Which proves natural man is the one spoken of by the question … "What is man" … and does not refer to Jesus as some suppose.)

Psalms 44:21 "He (God) knoweth (to ascertain by seeing) the secrets (things that are hidden) of the heart." (The heart of man … the mind and soul; the center of the will, man's spirit.) God is a Spirit … but so is Satan.

Can Satan somehow get into your mind and know your thoughts? How else does he know the natural disposition we each have to behave in different ways; and what thought or desire and type of temptation he needs to present to our hearts or minds because of who we are? I don't think a thin covering of human flesh will stop a spirit being, good or evil, from entering into our thought processes and finding the right weakness to assault.

If disembodied demonic spirits can enter into a man and possess his mind, soul and body as the Gospels show evidence of … and they can in unbelievers … then I find no problem believing a spirit being like the devil is, would have any difficulty in knowing a person's thoughts. To me it's no big deal. So what if he can?

The big deal to me is … what we do with the thoughts … that he puts into our minds.

But as always … I could be wrong.