Sermon Notes
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June 19, 2017, 7:38 AM

WHO IS LIKE THE LORD OUR GOD (05)

WHO IS LIKE THE LORD OUR GOD?

Delighting in God for Who He Is (PART 05)

God’s Omniscience & Wisdom

Rev. Grady Davidson / 061817

 

SCRIPTURES

HIS TOTAL KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF ALL THINGS

Psalm 147:5   Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.

 

Daniel 2:22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what is in the darkness,
    and the light dwells with him.

 

HIS KNOWLEDGE OF OUR SIN

Psalm 90:8 You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.

 

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

 

HIS PERFECT LOVING KNOWLEDGE OF EACH ONE OF US

Psalm 139:1-6 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

 

PRAISE FOR HIS OMNISCIENCE

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

 

          The Bible clearly teaches us that God’s “understanding is limitless, that His knowledge is perfect, and that there isn’t a creature anywhere in the universe that isn’t plainly visible” to Him (Tozer 113).  Nothing is hidden from God, and nothing is unknown to God.  He knows everything that is, everything that ever was, and everything that ever will be.  Our generation prides itself that we live in the “information age.” Vast stores of data are digitally available to us with a few clicks of the mouse.  And yet the sum of human knowledge is but a speck of dust floating on the breeze, compared to the vastness of the perfect knowledge of God. 

ILLUS When Isaac Newton, the 17th century English scientist was an old man, someone remarked to him, “Dr. Newton, you must have a tremendous store of knowledge.”  His reply: “I remind myself of a little boy walking along the seashore picking up shells.  The boy has a handful of shells in his little hand, but all around him is the vast seashore stretching in all directions as far as the eye can see.  All that I know is simply a handful of seashells, but the vast universe of God is filled with knowedge that I do not possess.”  (Tozer 115)

Before God spoke into the darkness, “Let there be light”; before the creation of the physical universe and prior to the creation of heaven itself and angels and other spiritual beings – when God alone existed in the loving bliss of Father, Son and Spirit – Even then, God was omniscient.  He had perfect knowledge of all that ever would be. 

          Furthermore, God’s knowledge is fixed, certain and unalterable.  Nothing escapes his notice.  Nothing is hidden.  Nothing is ever forgotten. 

WCF 2.2  “Everything is revealed and completely open to him. His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and does not depend on any created being, so that to him nothing is conditional or uncertain.”

          Before moving on, it’s also important to make clear that God’s perfect knowledge is a perfect moral knowledge.  God knows all things, but He’s not to be compared with the Library of Congress or Google.  He knows all things, and He evaluates all things against His own holy character.  Therefore Moses would say with trembling, You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence (Psalm 90:8). 

          God’s omniscience makes us to squirm, doesn’t it?  The scriptures are full of examples of people trying to cover up before God Omniscient.

ILLUS Adam and Eve heard the Lord in the Garden in the cool of the day, and they hid in the bushes (Genesis 3:8). 

Achan buried the gold bars and the 200 shekels of silver and the Babylonian robe in the dirt in his tent (Joshua 7:21). 

David pulled strings and called in some favors to cover up his adultery (2 Samuel 11). 

TRANSITION And yet the scriptures teach us that far from causing us to run & hide from God, the doctrine of omniscience should encourage us to run to Him, and to love and honor and worship Him all the more!

          That’s a long introduction, with a short sermon to come. I want to make three comments.

BODY OF MESSAGE

I.  GOD’S OMNISCIENCE IS A SOURCE OF COMFORT FOR THE CHRISTIAN.  This doctrine is the cause of anxiety and apprehension for the unbeliever, is a source of great comfort for those of us who belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ.  What could be more comforting than to know that the One who knows everything, knows and loves me?  That the One who knows everything horrible about ME--the wickedness in my heart and the corruption of my nature and my rebellion against God’s Word—that He knows it all, and He loves me so much that He sent His precious Son to die for me? What could be more comforting than that?  To take it even further: Omniscient God knows all my sin and iniquity.  He sees it clearly for what it is.  And yet it’s His delight to cover every bit of it with the blood of Jesus.  Omniscience tells me that God knows all my sin.  But it also tells me that He’s not going to accidentally miss any of it with the atoning blood of Christ! 

ILLUS If you’re seeing an oncologist, you want the doctor to find every single aberrant cell in your body.  You’re not going to hide the cancerous cell in your liver, because it’s too embarrassing.  Omniscience: a source of comfort.

ILLUS Last Monday evening, our daughter Lydia was alone at the airport counter at IAD.  It was the first time she had ever flown alone. She had successfully gotten her bag from the carousel and taken the tram to departure check-in, and the agent at the counter couldn’t find record of her for the flight.  Of course, Lydia called Becky for help.  But this is where God’s omniscience makes a world of difference.  My Father knows all about the situation.  He knows where the glitch is. He knows Lydia’s needs at the moment.  He understands the stress of the moment.  And the One who knows everything, loves my daughter.  And because God is both Omniscient and Sovereign, I knew that my role was to pray about it.  Together, we were concerned, but not frantic.  By God’s grace, the situation was resolved in about an hour. 

          You see, the doctrine of omniscience is really a great encouragement to prayer.  My little life is not obscured and lost to God in the billions and billions of things going on.  My Father knows all, and He governs all, and He loves me.  He proved that love on Calvary. 

II.  GOD’S OMNISCIENCE IS A SOURCE OF WISDOM FOR THE CHRISTIAN.  God is omniscient; He is also wise.  Wisdom is knowing about setting the right priorities and objectives, and knowing how to go about achieving them.

          God’s omniscience is an “incommunicable” attribute.  He alone is omniscient.  But God’s wisdom is a “communicable” attribute.  We can never be as wise as our Heavenly Father, but we can and should pursue wisdom in life.  Because God is omniscient, you and I can live wisely. 

          To put it differently:  My Father in Heaven knows everything, and when I’m making decisions and need direction, I should go to Him! 

          We’re not pagans, who read tarot cards and consult the zodiac, fortune cookies and Ouija boards when we need wisdom.  Nor are we mere pragmatists, who believe that there’s no right or wrong – we just do whatever works.  We’re Christians – we’re children of the Heavenly Father through the death and resurrection of God the Son and adoption by God the Holy Spirit.  Once again, we see that God’s omniscience is truly a call to prayer:  “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).  This is practical Christianity. God knows all that there is to know.  He loves me, and based upon His infinite and perfect knowledge of all things, He delights to give me wisdom – if I’ll ask Him for it and receive it.  There are so many people whose lives are paralyzed by fear and indecision.  It should not be so for the Christian. 

ILLUS So our church spent April and May beginning to ask the Father about building a fellowship hall.  Then in the course of those 2 months, we hosted 2 events which both overwhelmed our facility; and we lost a 3rd opportunity because of space limitation of our facility.  That’s our Omniscient God, giving us Wisdom to understand our situation more clearly.

ILLUS On Wednesday, June 7, the Prayer Group prayed specifically for wisdom in finalizing plans for the program for Day Camp.  We already had a camp program down on paper, but we took it to the Lord and asked for wisdom.  Within 24 hours, I heard at least 3 different voices addressing concerns about our plans for Tuesday of Day Camp.  We completely re-wrote the plans for that day’s field trip in response. 

          Those are illustrations, but don’t miss the point.  God knows everything, and out of his infinite and perfect knowledge, He directs the steps of those who love Him and want to live lives that are pleasing to Him—that’s biblical wisdom. He does this because of Jesus our Lord, who is “wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:24); Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). 

III.  GOD’S OMNISCIENCE IS A SOURCE OF HOLY AMAZEMENT FOR THE CHRISTIAN.  Believer, when you come to know God for Who He Is, you will delight in Him for Who He Is.  You’ll want to spend time in prayer, marveling in what a Great and Awesome God, is our Heavenly Father.  That’s my charge to all of us this morning.  Delight in Him!  Enjoy Him!  Marvel in our Father’s infinite knowledge of everything! Be humbled a bit. 

To You, Omniscient Lord of All
By: Magnus B. Landstad

To you, omniscient Lord of all,

With grief and shame I humbly call;
I see my sins against you, Lord,
The sins of thought, of deed and word.
They press me sore; to you I flee:
O God, be merciful to me!

 

My Lord and God, to you I pray,
Oh, cast me not in wrath away;
Let your good Spirit never depart,
But let him draw to you my heart
That truly penitent I be:
O God, be merciful to me!

 

O Jesus, let your precious blood
Be to my soul a cleansing flood.
Turn not, O Lord, your guest away, 
But grant that justified I may 
Go to my house, at peace to be:
O God, be merciful to me!

Hymn # 234 from Lutheran Worship
Author: Martin Luther
Tune: Vater Unser
1st Published in: 1861

 

 

 

 

 

 




June 12, 2017, 9:16 AM

THE ABOLITION OF DEATH part 06

THE ABOLITION OF DEATH part 6

The Moment of the Resurrection of the Dead

1 Corinthians 15:50-57

Rev. Grady Davidson 061117

         

INTRODUCTION  What a moment it will be!  Every single one of us will be present and experience it for ourselves.  We won’t be watching it on unfold on cable TV.  We won’t be cheering from the bleachers as spectators. No! It will be us!  Of course, I’m speaking of the final moment of transformation and glorification of our bodies in the resurrection of the dead—bodies in which we will live and worship and serve God in the new heavens and the new earth forever and ever.   

It’s a moment that we find ourselves dreaming of each time we attend a funeral visitation or stand by an open grave.  It’s a moment that Creation itself is aching and longing for (Romans 8:20-22).  It’s a moment that even unbelievers are keenly interested in.  I can’t help but call attention to the current fascination in pop culture with “zombies,” the “Walking Dead,” and so forth.  As ridiculous (and indeed profane) as zombie stories tend to be – the bodies of the dead up and walking around – doesn’t this prove the point that people implicitly know that the dead will be raised, and are interested to know what it will be like?  But we must go to God’s Word (not to AMC network) to find out what we should expect in that breathtaking and awesome moment of the resurrection. 

TRANSITION  What will that moment be like?  It will be a moment of change; and a moment of triumph

BODY OF MESSAGE

I.  A MOMENT OF CHANGE.

          Absolutely necessary.  I talked about this quite a bit in the previous message, but it comes up again in our text today; I need to mention it briefly.

          It seems that some of the Corinthian Christians were skeptical about the resurrection of the dead.  They were coming out of a Greek worldview, that tended to see the physical world and the spiritual world as in conflict with each other.  “The physical is evil, the spiritual is good; and the goal of salvation is to be set free from the physical and become ‘pure spirit.’” The Apostle is having to come back and say, “You have doubts about the resurrection, because you completely misunderstand the world in which we’ll live in eternity.”  That new world will require new bodies designed and calibrated to live in that heavenly environment (50, 53, 54a).  The resurrection, that moment of change, is absolutely necessary, because we will need new heavenly bodies in which we will live and reign with Christ in the new heavens and the new earth. 

ILLUS If you dump a goldfish in the middle of the desert, it’s going to flop around and gasp and quickly die. It cannot survive in that environment.  Likewise, in the resurrection our bodies must be changed, glorified, to thrive in the environment of heaven.

          The resurrection will be instantaneous (51c-52a).  How long is “the twinkling of an eye”? 

          One moment, a body that has lain in the ground for 5000 years will be dust. The next moment, a raised and glorified body!  The Apostle is telling us that the resurrection will happen with urgency.  It will be instantaneous. 

          It will be a noisy moment—(52) “the last trumpet.”  Jesus talked about the trumpet blast as well in Matthew 24:31. The trumpet will announce the arrival of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  The trumpet blast is a sound of victory! It will be the ultimate “shock and awe”!  Jesus is here! The battle is over!  The Lord’s enemies are crushed under his feet!  This present age, under the dominion of the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph. 2:2), is over. Finished!  The trumpet blast will signal this moment of “regime change”! 

          For those who have died in Christ, it will be a ‘waking up’ experience (51-52, NB “sleep”).  “Sleep” is a euphemism for….? (Death.) We will not all sleep.  Here the Apostle holds forth the hope that this could be the generation of Christ’s return and the resurrection of the dead. There will be a generation of believing, baptized, followers of Jesus alive on planet Earth when He returns.  But for the billions of believers who died in the Lord, the moment of the resurrection will be a “waking up” experience. I want us to pause and work on this for a minute.  This is the 3rd time Paul has used the word “sleep” in this way in chapter 15 (see also v 6, 18).   So when the scriptures speak of those who sleep in Christ, what exactly does that mean? 

          The soul is asleep?

          The body is asleep?

          Or both?

          I hasten to say that there is some disagreement among Bible teachers on this, but throughout history (and certainly among Reformed theologians) the distinction is made that it’s the bodies of believers that sleep in the grave; but that the souls of believers remain awake and aware and vibrant, and immediately at the moment of death, pass into the presence of Jesus.  To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).  “This day you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).  For those who have died in Christ, this waking up experience will be the moment in which the soul, which has been present with Christ, is reunited with the body that has rested in the grave (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).  (CF the raising of Jairus’ daughter, Mark 5:21-43, “wake up, sweetheart.”)

           

          Those who remain alive at His coming will experience immediate glorification without experiencing bodily death (51). We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.  The Bible mentions (as far as I know) only 2 people from history whose bodies were translated, and they were glorified and went to heaven without passing through bodily death:  Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11).  Who knows? But that maybe this generation will be the generation who sees the Lord return!?

II.  A MOMENT OF TRIUMPH (54-56).  So many people have a great deal of anxiety about the return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the end of the world (as we know it).  Indeed, it’s a moment to take seriously and to prepare for earnestly by faith in Jesus Christ!  But the Apostle Paul wants you to know, Christian, that for you it will be a moment of triumph!  It’s a moment to look forward to, to plan for, to be excited about, because it will mean victory!  Ticker-tape parades!  Dancing in the streets!  Jumping up and down and kissing random people for joy!  Music and laughter and whooping and hollering!  The war is over! 

ILLUS “It Is Finished” (Gaither Vocals)

t is finished, the battle is over
It is finished, there'll be no more war
It is finished, the end of the conflict
It is finished and Jesus is Lord

I’ve heard that the King of the ages
Has fought all the battles for me
And that victory was mine for the claiming
And now praise his name, I am free

 

 

What war?  The war with Death – the schoolyard bully who was finally put down by Christ.  Sin – and who doesn’t struggle with sin?  And the Law – which is good and holy, but in our perverse hearts actually incites us to sin (Romans 7, and ILLUS).

“But He died the death to an end—he died it all—He died it out.  He died death dead and done” (Hugh Martin).   

CONCLUSION  (v 57) Paul’s conclusion: Thanks be to God! How do we express that thanksgiving?  How can we thank God for this gift of eternal life?  a) “I just want a chance to thank you for saving me.”  B) I’ll live for you today!  (58 – next message)




June 5, 2017, 7:51 AM

THE ABOLITION OF DEATH part 05

Characteristics of the Resurrection Body

1 Corinthians 15:35-49 (p 1117)

Rev. Grady Davidson 052817

         

INTRODUCTION  I have  to begin this morning’s message by commenting that today’s scripture has strengthened and inspired me greatly.  In these verses, the Apostle Paul is at his very best.  He’s elaborating on a subject that is obviously very important and meaningful to him, and his excitement about this topic – characteristics of the resurrection body-- is contagious.  My hope is that the Apostle’s joy about the mystery of the resurrection body will get into your heart. It will absolutely revolutionize the way you grieve the next time you stand at the graveside of a believer in Christ.  It will transform the way that you look in the mirror and think about what’s happening in your own body with the passing of time. Above all, these verses remind us that we have so much to look forward to! 

TRANSITION  Notice verse 35, and the 2 questions the Corinthians were asking.  How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?

The first question (how?), the Apostle doesn’t even bother to answer.  It will be an easy thing for the Son of God to give the command, “Come forth!” (John 11:43), and the dead will be raised!  But it’s the second question which the Apostle elaborates upon.  With what kind of body will they come? (15:35b) 

It’s a most natural question to ask. (Note: the emphasis in this passage is exclusively on the resurrection to glory of believers.)  The dead will be raised, but what will those resurrected bodies be like?  This is more than a theoretical or speculative question.  We all (literally) have “skin in the game.”  Naturally, we think here about bodies that have been dead and buried for hundreds or even thousands of years—lost at sea, buried deep in the earth, cremated perhaps.  What kind of body will they be given? 

          The Apostle gives a 3-fold answer to that question which fall under the headings “Continuity,” “Transformation,” and “Contrast.” 

BODY OF MESSAGE 

I.  CONTINUITY (36-38)There will be continuity between our natural and resurrection bodies.  Believing friend, your resurrection body will be directly related to the body you’re living in right now, in the same way that a living, healthy, green stem of wheat is related to the dry, dead seed from which it grew.  The principle of the resurrection is found in nature all around us, we just need the eyes to see it.  In October of 2 years ago, our congregation planted memorial bulbs around the pavilion.  We didn’t plant living tulips. We planted bulbs.  The tulips that have grown and blossomed are infinitely more lovely than the bulbs we stuck in the ground, and yet there is direct continuity between the two.

Let’s make it personal. In the resurrection, grandpa will still be grandpa.  You will still be you.  You won’t be reincarnated as a cow or a catfish, a tadpole or a T-Rex.  Nor will you spend eternity as a disembodied phantom.  Christ will raise you from the grave, and your resurrection body will have direct continuity with the body laid to rest in your grave.

          But what is the necessary condition that must be met for this resurrection life to burst forth from the earth?  (Death.) What you sow does not come to life unless it dies (36b).  Do you recall the words of Jesus about this very principle? Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24).  The seed falls to the ground. It dies. Here we’re reminded of the beauty and dignity of death for the believer in Christ.  Death is the necessary gateway to glorious resurrection life.  You’ve probably been there at the bedside when a Christian was passing.  You’ve seen the grain fall to the ground and die.  It’s a loss, and it hurts, and you ache.  Yet the promise of the resurrection is there, even in that moment, making that moment of separation a sacred and precious moment.   

II.  TRANSFORMATION (39-44). Our resurrection bodies will be superior to our natural bodies in every way

We’ve all laid loved ones in Christ to rest, and in many cases their final days devastated their natural, earthly bodies.  The body which was buried may have been little more than a shadow of the vibrant person they once were.  And you know that Christ is going to raise this person up, but it’s hard to imagine how God is going to give new and glorious life to this sickly, diseased, or injured shell of a body.  To this question, the Apostle says, “Just look around and see the amazing diversity of glory that fills creation. Our God can do anything! Our God can make anything beautiful!” (see verses 39-44)

          A honeybee sipping nectar from clover on a June morning has one kind of glory.  A blue whale whose tongue can weigh as much as an elephant and whose heart can weigh as much as a car is glorious in a different way.

          A kitten is glorious in one way; a butterfly in another.

          A breeze, and a tornado.

          The blazing sun during Dog Days in Dixie is glorious. A moonbeam on a December night is glorious in a different way.

          There’s glory in a single drop of rain; there’s glory in the Ocoee River raging at flood stage. 

          The point being: If you’re having trouble believing that God is going to be able to glorify that poor, wasted body laid to rest, then just look around at the sheer variety of glory that punctuates all of Creation!  God’s creative power is beyond limit! 

ILLUS “Crown Him With Many Crowns,” verse 4.

Crown him the Lord of love; 
behold his hands and side, 
those wounds, yet visible above, 
in beauty glorified. 

         

With what kind of body will they come? They will come with transformed bodies.

15:42b-44, review verses.  Our resurrection bodies will be transformed; and what Christ gives us on that wonderful day will be superior to our natural bodies in every imaginable way.  Our resurrection bodies will be fit for the new environment we will inhabit.  Our new bodies will be designed for our new existence.  Our natural (Gk: soulish) bodies are perfectly designed for this universe we live in – within the confines of time and space. 

          Our resurrection bodies will be designed for the new heavens and new earth, the eternal Kingdom of God.  (Our current bodies couldn’t exist there for a single second; we’d disintegrate.) 

          ILLUS In “The Great Divorce” (C.S. Lewis), the blades of grass in heaven are so hard as to be painful to walk upon. 

          We will be raised imperishable, because we will live in an eternal, indestructible kingdom.

          We will be raised in glory and power. We will shine with God’s glory within us and upon us; we will have within us Christ’s power of indestructible life. 

          We will be raised a “spiritual body” (44).  But what does that mean?

III. CONTRAST (45-49). Our resurrection bodies will be patterned after “the man from heaven.” With what kind of body will they come in the resurrection?  The Apostle says, Look at the differences between Adam and Christ.  Our resurrection bodies will be patterned after the spiritual body of the Man from Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ. Review verses 45-49.

          The contrast is between the “Dusty Man” (lit) – Adam, our Federal Head and Legal Representative who brought death into the world (21)—and the “Man of Heaven” – our Federal Head and Legal Representative who is undoing all the damage brought about by the first Adam.  Believers will be raised in glorious resurrection bodies like Jesus, because we’ll need those bodies to live in heaven. 

          So, what do we know from the gospels about the resurrection body of Jesus?  Several things that I would point out.

a. He was still recognizable as Jesus, but sometimes it took a second glance (Mary Magdalene, Emmaus Road disciples).  Part of the reason must be that all the subtle imperfections were gone. 

b. He was very real. He was most certainly not a disembodied spirit.  The disciples touched him.  He ate food.

c.  And yet the Man of Heaven was no longer bound by time and space.  He appeared and disappeared at will.  Gravestones and locked doors could not contain him. 

CONCLUSION  I want to close with this (45b), “the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.”  The first Adam was a soul that became alive. Adam had life.  Each of us here this morning share with our Father Adam this quality, that we are living beings (souls). 

          Do you see the contrast made? The Second Adam doesn’t simply have life, but He is a life-giving spiritual being.  Christ is our Federal Head.  He is the Second Adam, who acts on behalf of all those who belong to his spiritual family.  What does He do? He gives life to the sons and daughters of Adam.  “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it” (John 5:21).  (Close with Invitation.)

         

 

 




May 22, 2017, 7:52 AM

WHO IS LIKE THE LORD OUR GOD (04)

Delighting in God for Who He Is

God’s Sovereignty: For God’s Sake, Let God Be God

Rev. Grady Davidson / 052117

 

SCRIPTURES

(Over life and death) Deut 32:39  “‘See now that I, even I, am he,
    and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
    I wound and I heal;
    and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

 

(Over government) Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

 

Isaiah 40:23-24 who brings princes to nothing,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

 

(Over Weather) Psalm 147:16-18 He gives snow like wool;
    he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
    who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
    he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.

 

Amos 4:7  “I also withheld the rain from you
    when there were yet three months to the harvest;
I would send rain on one city,
    and send no rain on another city;
one field would have rain,
    and the field on which it did not rain would wither;

 

(Over Salvation) Ephesians 1:11   In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will…

 

(General statements)

Psalm 135:5-6  I know that the Lord is great,
    that our Lord is greater than all gods.
The Lord does whatever pleases him,
    in the heavens and on the earth,
    in the seas and all their depths.

 

Isaiah 46:9-10 I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning,
    from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
    and I will do all that I please.

 

 

 

          On Communion Sundays this year, we’re looking at some of the attributes of God, delighting in God for who He is (not as we imagine him to be, nor as we want him to be – but as He reveals himself to be in scripture). Today’s focus is on God’s sovereignty.  “To say that God is sovereign is to say that He is supreme over all things, that there is no one above Him, and that He is the absolute Lord over all creation” (Tozer, 154).  When we say that God is sovereign, we’re affirming that God does whatever He pleases; He does only as He pleases; and that He does always as He pleases.  No one and nothing can thwart Him.  No one and nothing can hinder Him.  We are also affirming that God is actively involved in everything all the time.  We are not Deists, believing that God created the universe and then stepped aside to let it run on its own.  I believe it was R.C. Sproul who said that God’s sovereignty means that there’s not a single maverick molecule anywhere in the entire universe.  The doctrine of the sovereignty of God simply says that “God IS God.”  God isn’t improvising, making it up as He goes along, or playing by ear.  God leaves nothing to chance. He never says, “Let’s just wait and see what happens.”  The doctrine of sovereignty is God saying, “I AM God, ‘there is no God beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand’” (Deut. 32:39). 

          The best definition of God’s sovereignty that you’ll find outside of the Bible is in the WCF 3:1 (in bulletin). 

From all eternity and by the completely wise and holy purpose of his own will, God has freely and unchangeably ordained whatever happens. This ordainment does not mean, however, that God is the author of sin (he is not), that he represses the will of his created beings, or that he takes away the freedom or contingency of secondary causes. Rather, the will of created beings and the freedom and contingency of secondary causes are established by him.

 

          Whatever happens, happens because God is God, and God ordained it to happen.  Yes, men, women, boys and girls are moral beings who make our own decisions. God doesn’t force anybody to do anything they don’t choose to do.  Nor does God necessarily throw up obstacles and prevent us from doing things we shouldn’t.  God has designed his universe so that we make our own choices and bear responsibility for our own actions.  Yet even the most heinous rebellion against God, even the most cruel acts of man toward man, are within the larger framework of God’s sovereign purposes to bring glory to Himself.

          As soon as the preacher starts declaring God’s sovereignty, people start jumping up and down and screaming and waving their arms in protest.  My plea is, “For God’s sake, let God be God.”  Rather than becoming distraught and anxious, the doctrine of God’s sovereignty should give God’s children tremendous calm and security and peace.

          Some thoughts for you.

1.  NO DETAILS ARE TOO SMALL (Matthew 10:29-31).  God’s sovereignty means that there are no incidental factors about your life, that are too insignificant for God.  In this passage, Jesus is using a rabbinic teaching tool, “the lesser to the greater.” If something is true on a relatively small scale, it’s most certainly true on the larger scale.  In Jesus’ day, 2 sparrows were sold for a penny.  The birds were so common, as to be practically worthless.  Very cheap.  Yet even a little sparrow, worth ½ a cent, cannot tumble from the sky to the ground outside of the will of our loving Heavenly Father.  If that is true, then how much more are the tiny details of your life important to God?  The sovereignty of God says that there are no details that are unimportant to God.  The fender bender on the new car.  The head cold.  The test score.  The lost ear ring.  We can trust God in all these things, believing that the details of our lives are in the capable hands of our Heavenly Father who does whatever, only, and always as He pleases.

2.  NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE TOO BIG (John 19:8-11).  Jesus stood in front of Governor Pilate, who acted with the full authority of the Roman Empire (greatest empire in world history).  Pilate holds the threat of crucifixion over Jesus’ head, but Jesus is unperturbed.  Why? Because Pilate’s authority came from God.  John 19:11 is an amazing verse in the study of God’s sovereignty.  Both the Jewish government and Pilate himself are responsible for their actions, in fact would be guilty of the blood of Christ. Yet Jesus, bruised and bleeding, stands with quiet confidence before Pilate because He trusts the sovereignty of His good and loving Heavenly Father.

          Child of God, be encouraged!  Sometimes we find ourselves with forces pushing against us, things that are far beyond our control – family problems in which it’s all falling apart, or a government bureaucracy that doesn’t care about your situation, or forces in the economy or at work or at school, or health problems that border on the hopeless (humanly speaking).  God brings us to these places, so that we will say to Him, “Father God, I would not choose these circumstances for myself, but I am going to trust that you are sovereign – even in this mess.”

3.  NO APOLOGIES FOR GOD ARE NECESSARY (Acts 12:1-5).  What I observe is that when something happens that from our perspective is desirable, something that makes us happy, we are quick to give God the credit.  We acknowledge that He is sovereign, and we’re grateful. 

ILLUS Planning a family reunion picnic for a certain Saturday. The date is set, and on Friday afternoon, heavy T-storms are in the forecast for Saturday.  You pray – and low and behold – it turns out to be a perfect day!  You give glory to God, and rightly so. 

ILLUS  You’re planning the Saturday picnic. On Friday, your worst worry is that it’s going to rain on your picnic.  When Saturday comes, not only is it pouring rain, but you end up keeping vigil in the ICU beside your loved one who had a debilitating stroke on Saturday morning. 

          Do you feel the tension?

          We happily give God the credit for the beautiful day for the picnic.  But when your unbelieving family member in the ICU waiting room asks you how your “good God” could let such a terrible thing happen, you find yourself wanting to cover for God, to apologize on his behalf, to get Him off the hook.  And you end up saying something really lame that amounts to saying, “God isn’t really God all the time,” or “God isn’t God with respect to this tragic situation.” 

          The doctrine of God’s sovereignty says that we never need to apologize for God or make excuses for God.  It says that we are never the victims of blind chance, dumb luck, and that even Satan has to ask permission from God to touch us or to do anything to us (cf Job). 

          Story in Acts  – James was put to death by the sword; Peter was miraculously freed.  Was Peter a better Christian? Is that why he was freed, and not his friend? (Certainly not.) Was James somehow beyond God’s reach? (Certainly not.)  Let’s be clear.  Herod was guilty of James’ murder.  But Herod could not have touched a hair of James’ head apart from the sovereign will of God.

          Think about this story from the standpoint of Peter’s wife, and James’ widow.  Peter’s wife, we assume, was very happy to have her husband back.  She gave glory to God.  What should James’ widow’s response have been?  Something along the lines of what Job said when he lost his family: “The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the Name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). 

          If I could come at it from another direction, the moment that you point your finger at anything beyond the sovereignty of God, then God is not trustworthy for anything at all.  But come to the place that you can trust God’s sovereignty even in the midst of the warfare, the famine, the unfavorable political situation, the tsunami, the epidemic… and then you can trust Him with everything. 

          This isn’t “fatalism,” “whatever will be, will be.”  It’s Christian faith. It’s trust. It’s believing that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did not withhold his very own Son, but freely gave him for us all, is large and very much in charge.  We can trust Him in everything. 

          For God’s sake, let God be God.  Be humbled before His majesty. Delight in Him. Worship Him.  Amen.

 

 

 




May 15, 2017, 7:11 AM

THE ABOLITION OF DEATH part 04

1 Corinthians 15:20-34

Rev. Grady Davidson 051417

         

Note on Verse 29: one of the most puzzling scriptures in the NT.  According to Gordon Fee, there are 40 different theories about the practice described.  Paul does not commend it, nor condemn it. He uses it only as an illustration of how futile faith is without a firm hope in the resurrection. 

INTRODUCTION  On many commercial airplanes today there’s a little video screen typically built into the back of the seat in front of you.  If you don’t want to watch one of the in-flight movies, there’s another option in which you see a map of your flight: a dot indicating the city and airport you departed from, then a dashed line showing the plane’s progress, and on the other side of the screen another point is marked indicating your destination—where you’ve come from, where you are, and where you’re headed. 

TRANSITION That’s not a bad model for getting into this morning’s scripture text. 

With regard to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostle tells us that the Lord’s resurrection has implications rooted in and stretching back to the deep past of human history (where we’ve come from).  Likewise, the resurrection points ahead to a glorious, breathtaking future.  God is directing history toward a definite, settled, fixed end-point which is guaranteed because of Christ’s resurrection on the third day.  But it’s not just “where we’ve come from” and “where we’re headed,” but the resurrection of Christ also tells us where we are on the map today. 

BODY OF MESSAGE 

I. THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST MUST BE UNDERSTOOD AGAINST THE DEEP PAST OF HUMAN HISTORY (21-22).   I have no doubt that there are many people in the world who are generally convinced of the historical event of the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, but for them it’s an historic anomaly.  It’s just something unusual and supernatural that happened.  Paul is saying, Let me give you the backdrop; let me remind you of the framework, because the Lord’s resurrection only makes sense against the backdrop of mankind’s deep history.

          “For since death came through a man…” (21).  Who is the Apostle talking about? (Adam; Genesis 3).  God had created a perfect world.  A world which God surveyed, and declared to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31).  It was paradise. There was only life – vibrant, fulfilling, joyful, overflowing life, physical, and spiritual.   There was no decay, no getting old, no bloodshed.  The Man and the Woman were vegetarians; there was no death or bloodshed even in the animal kingdom.  This paradise was governed by the principle of Life.  In this place of Life, there was perfect, loving fellowship with God and perfect, loving fellowship between the man and the Woman. 

And what happened? The Man rebelled against God’s Word, and ate the forbidden fruit.  God’s curse fell on paradise. A perfect world of Life came under the dominion of Death.  Sickness, pain, disease, bloodshed, and aging infected the world like a virus. 

But here’s the thing. What the Apostle Paul teaches here, and teaches more clearly in Romans 5, is that Adam, in his sin and disobedience was acting not only for himself, but as the Legal Representative of all mankind. (“Federal Headship,” see WSC #16.)  He rebelled against God’s Word on our behalf—thank you very much!—so that sin and death are both part of the birthright of every girl and boy born into the human race. 

The bad news is that Adam, acting on our behalf ushered Death into the world.

The good news is that God has sent a second Legal Representative, a second Federal Head who would act on behalf of others.  Our Legal Representative, the Lord Jesus Christ, did not sin and therefore was not subject to the curse of Death.  Death could not hold Christ in the grave.  So beginning on that Sunday morning, the principle of Resurrection Life in Jesus Christ began to roll back and overrule the Principle of Death in Adam.  Just as certainly as Sin and Death were transmitted to all the physical descendants of Adam, now Forgiveness and Resurrection Life are transmitted to all the spiritual descendants of Jesus Christ. 

Christian, isn’t that exciting!? We have the spiritual DNA of Resurrection Life that is absolutely more powerful than Death.  We have the spiritual DNA of Jesus Christ, and just as surely as Jesus came roaring out of the grave on the 3rd day, our resurrection is 100% guaranteed.  It’s in the genes!  No, it’s not happening “all at once.” It happens “in turn” (23) – a military term – the resurrection happens in an orderly fashion.  Christ is the “firstfruits.”  When He makes his grand appearance (v 23, parousia), the dead in Christ will be raised first, and afterwards we who remain will be raised with them.  But it’s all guaranteed, Christians. Ours is the DNA of resurrection life!

II. THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST GUARANTEES A GLORIOUS, BREATH-TAKING FUTURE (23-28).    When you take a commercial flight, and you’re getting close to your destination, the pilot comes on and makes a few comments about your destination city.  Again, that’s not a bad comparison.  The Apostle tells us just enough about what is to come, to excite us and to remind us that we’re not home yet.

In fact the Apostle makes two additional guarantees in these couple of verses –the guarantee of Christ’s triumph, and the guarantee of God’s perfect Kingdom. 

The Guarantee of Christ’s Triumph.  Christ is reigning at God’s right hand – Now!  Now is the age of Psalm 110:1, “Jehovah said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” (15:25). By faith we believe that Christ reigns over all things in heaven and on earth.  Even though it often looks like we’re getting whipped out there, the truth is that Christ’s reign is growing and extending and conquering new territory every single day through the preaching of the gospel, as men, women, boys and girls are rescued from this age and incorporated into the family of God.   

But Christ’s current reign (for the most part invisible) will one day explode in visible, undeniable triumph over all of his and our enemies.  When He returns to raise the dead, His return will be in blazing fire with his powerful angels to punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ (II Thess. 1:7-8).  In our text today, his triumph is described as destroying all dominion, authority and power (24) – all the dark, demonic spiritual forces that stand behind all the wicked and corrupt powers at work in this age – all will be crushed under his feet! 

How do we know this triumph is guaranteed? How can we be sure?  Because Christ has already delivered the death blow to death itself!   Which is the greatest and final enemy of all.  Hugh Martin: “He died the death to an end—He died it all—He died it out.  He died death dead and done.” 

          The Guarantee of God’s Eternal Kingdom (24a, 28).  God the Father sent God the Son into the world to deliver this world from the tyranny of sin and death.  When Death is finally crushed under His feet, and we are there with the saints of all ages in our glorified, resurrection bodies, gazing in amazement at one another and at the beauty of the new heavens and new earth where there is no sickness, disease, bloodshed, or death…. Then the Son will say to the Father, “Father, I’ve finished the work… Here is the Kingdom I have won.” 

          (28) “God may be all in all.”  Every creature will say, “God is everything to me.”  There will be no area of existence out of accord with God’s will by even a hair’s breadth.  There will be no area of existence in heaven or on earth in which God is not perfectly glorified and honored and loved and enjoyed perfectly.  There will be no death or decay.  No divisions among mankind.  There will be only God’s sovereign rule of love over a perfected people in a perfected universe forever.

          How can we be so certain of Christ’s triumph and God’s reign? Because of the empty tomb on that Sunday morning 2000 years ago.

          The resurrection of Jesus Christ must be understood against the deep past of human history; the resurrection of Jesus Christ guarantees a glorious, breathtaking future.  There’s one more point to be made this morning.

III. THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST HAS CHALLENGING IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PRESENT (29-34).  We can see where we’ve come from; we see where we’re headed. For now, we’re on the plane.  The Apostle says something extremely important about life between “there” and “there.”  He uses himself as an example.  Namely, he says that we can live boldly, dangerously, recklessly, sacrificially for the sake of Jesus Christ – because His triumph, our resurrection, and God’s Kingdom are guaranteed (30-32)!

          Why would someone in early retirement years sell out and go serve Christ on the mission field? Lots of EPC “boomers” are doing this, by the way.  Why would they sell their home, leave their kids and grandkids and move to Algeria?

Why would Christians look over their worldly treasures, and make plans to give absurd amounts of it away for the sake of the gospel?

          Why would anyone place himself or herself in a situation in which physical and spiritual dangers are real and deadly? 

          Why would we call our young adults to take their vocational skills to Pakistan or Bangladesh where they can quietly work and plant churches on the side?

          People, we are called to live extraordinary lives, to live boldly, sacrificially, even dangerously!  And it’s ok to do that, because we know where this plane’s landing! 

 

 


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