God’s Anger

“God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation everyday.” (Psalm 7)

God can and does feel anger, but it is a righteous anger consistent with his righteous character. The Bible depicts God as a being who has emotions, but these emotions are under his control. If ever he becomes angry it is because he chooses to be. It is in this light that we should understand the biblical passages that describe him as being provoked by our sins. Being omniscient, he is not caught by surprise by them; nevertheless, he is genuinely provoked and his anger is genuine as well.

“If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword.” (Psalm 7)

The threat is real and should not be taken lightly. In 1 Kings ch. 16, because Baasha provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger with his idols, the Lord destroyed all his house (i.e., family) through the hand of Zimri, in accordance with what the Lord spoke by Jehu the prophet.

Do we take the Lord’s anger lightly? Do we provoke him to anger?

Lord, forgive us for the many times we have provoked you to anger. Help us to fear you with a holy fear. Amen.

God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Dignity

Psalm 8:4-6 KJV

[4] What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? [5] For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. [6] Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

If we see God’s sovereignty as a violation of man’s autonomy, then it will be a cause for stumbling; but if we see it as a vindication of man’s dignity, it will be a cause for rejoicing.

God’s glory is bound up with his free, merciful, and gracious exaltation of man, and towards this end he will exercise his sovereignty. He even went to the extent of doing the unthinkable: becoming man himself in the person of Jesus Christ in order to die for man so that the image of God in man might be restored. In himself man is nothing; he is but “from dust to dust.” But in Christ he is a little lower than God (NASB), crowned with glory and honor.

While I Live

“While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” (Psalm 146:2)

Praising the Lord is a life-time business. While I have breath, while I’m still alive, I should go on praising the Lord in every way, whether through singing, working, preaching, teaching, etc.

Now that I’m older (past middle-age actually) I’ve lost somewhat my relish for things I used to do in my youth, such as singing, writing poems and songs, composing and playing the piano, preaching, teaching, etc. Maybe it’s because when you grow old you’ve got less energy than before, and you tend to focus on the more “serious” aspects of life (e.g., work, preparing for retirement, providing for your family, taking care of your health) so that you tend to neglect “less important” things such as songwriting and the like. Actually, I still do these things, but not as often as I would like. And that’s why I’m thankful for this verse because it reminds and encourages me to keep on doing these things while I’m still alive. What’s more important than praising the Lord all the days of our lives? Yes, we praise him through our work, but we ought to praise him too through singing, songwriting, composing music, writing poetry, preaching – all the ways we can according to our gifts! Besides, the Lord also said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” So what do I do with the rest of my life? I will praise the Lord in whatever way I can as long as I have life in me.

Lord, help me to do just that: praise you in every way – sing, write, compose, work, preach, teach – while I have my being.

My God is Not Stupid

My God is not stupid;
He’s wiser than you are.
Do not presume to judge Him;
He knows you from afar.

His thoughts are higher than our thoughts,
His ways above our ways;
Our wisdom’s but a tiny drop
In the ocean of His days.

If it were easy to discern Him,
Then He would not be God;
To pit your puny mind against His
Is proof that you are mad.

Look to the mighty stars of heaven,
The worlds that fill the sky;
Great is the wisdom that has made them.
Kneel, then, and weep, and cry!

I am the Door

An Ikthus East Sermon, April 2016

TEXT: John 10:7-10

INTRODUCTION:

There’s a saying that goes this way: “Jesus is the Answer. What is the question?” The point of this saying is not that Jesus is the answer to all kinds of questions, but that Jesus is the answer to the deepest questions in life. That is, the only way to find true meaning and purpose and satisfaction in life is by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. And I think that’s the point of all these metaphors that Jesus used to describe himself. They are figures of speech that communicate in a very powerful way who Jesus is for us. When he says, I am the light, it’s a powerful way of saying that through me you can have true enlightenment. When he says I am the bread of life, it’s a powerful way of saying that through me you can have true satisfaction, and when he says I am the door, it’s a vivid and powerful way of saying that it’s through me that you can enter into eternal life.

1. JESUS IS THE DOOR TO SALVATION

(a) Jesus is the only way to be saved.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” (John 10:7)

According to New Testament scholar William Barclay –

“But when the sheep were out on the hills in the warm season and did not return at night to the village at all, they were collected into sheep-folds on the hillside. These hillside sheep-folds were just open spaces enclosed by a wall. In them there was an opening by which the sheep came in and went out; but there was no door of any kind. What happened was that at night the shepherd himself lay down across the opening and no sheep could get out or in except over his body. In the most literal sense the shepherd was the door.”

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

(b) All those who teach any other way are false teachers who rob the sheep of true life.

“All who came before me are thieves and robbers…” (John 10:8a)

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)

“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:22-23)

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” (1 John 4:1-3)

(c) We who teach and preach should be careful to offer in our preaching and teaching not the wisdom of this world, but the gospel of Jesus Christ – because only the latter saves.

“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe… [We] preach Christ crucified…” (1 Corinthians 1:20,21,23a)

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and vain deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

(d) True Christians stick to Christ and his gospel; they will not listen to false teachers. They can discern the true from the false.

“All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” (John 10:8)

“So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:67-69)

“They are from the world; therefore, they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:5-6)

“Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting.” (2 John 9-10)

2. JESUS IS THE DOOR TO SAFETY.

“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out find pasture.”

“To be able to come and go unmolested was the Jewish way of describing a life that is absolutely secure and safe.” (William Barclay)

See Psalm 121, especially verse 8. See also Romans 8:35-39. There is absolute safety in Christ.

3. JESUS IS THE DOOR TO SATISFACTION.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“Men lead lives of quiet desperation.” (Henry David Thoreau)

It is possible to have everything and still feel empty. It’s also possible to have nothing and yet have everything.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8)

The apostle Paul was living life to the full even though he was in prison because he found satisfaction in Jesus Christ.

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11b-13)

Paul could rejoice and be at peace – even in prison. Abundant life is not dependent on circumstances.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4,6,7)

The abundant life does not consist in owning a lot of material things.

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 11:15)

The abundant life consists of faith in God’s faithfulness, which gives rise to a sense of security, and results in a life of generosity and good works.

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

The abundant life is a life of unselfish giving and not selfish hoarding. It is the life which Jesus lived.

“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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25)

The Mind and Sin’s Deceitfulness

In ch. 8 of his The Power and Efficacy of Indwelling Sin, John Owen elaborates on Hebrews 3:13 (“Take heed that you be not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”) and discusses the role of the mind in the deceitfulness of sin:

Deceit properly affects the mind; it is the mind that is deceived… But where the mind is tainted, the prevalency must be great; for the mind or understanding is the leading faculty of the soul, and what that fixes on the will and affections rush after, being capable of no consideration but what that presents to them. Hence it is, that though the entanglements of the affections unto sin be oftentimes most troublesome, yet the deceit of the mind is always most dangerous, and that because of the place that it possesses in the soul as unto all its operations.

The Wrath of God

Berkouwer, on page 258 of his The Providence of God writes about the wrath of God:

Apart from God’s wrath neither His righteousness nor holiness, neither His love nor mercy can be understood… Wrath is the implication of God’s holiness. It must direct itself against evil… God’s wrath is not arbitrariness… It is the exalted reaction of His holiness.

But he also points out that –

God show His goodness and forgiveness in this, that He does not keep His anger forever (Mic. 7:18) The question “who knoweth the power of thine anger,” is the converse of the question, “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity…?” (Micah 7:18)

Thus, Berkouwer can conclude that “In God’s forgiveness, it is also possible to recognize His righteousness, His wrath and His holiness.” How come? Because this same righteous and wrathful God  gave his Son for our redemption, who bore the penalty of our sins (i.e., the wrath of God) so that we might receive forgiveness. And in fact when Christ hung on the cross as our sin-bearer and substitute “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself” (II Cor. 5:19). The wrathful God is the God of love!