God Is Not Aimless

aimlessOne of the things my wife and I are committed to is continuing to date each other. Every week, usually on Friday evenings, we make it a point to spend time away from the “to do” list and away from others.  As self-avowed amateur foodies, we like to try different types of cuisine and Austin has a wide variety to choose from.  Some dates are more formal and some are casual, even including Austin’s famous food truck culture. With all of these choices, we’ve often found ourselves indecisive about what we want to eat and I’ve been known to drive without knowing where we’re going. Logic finally kicks in and I usually stop driving aimlessly and pull over in a parking lot so we can finalize our decision.

Aimlessness is costly because it is wasteful and counter-productive resulting in fruitlessness.  I think all of us can agree with that because we intuitively know that life is to be lived with purpose and usually when one loses that sense of purpose apathy, depression or despair kicks in.  I think we intuitively know this because we were created by God who is purposeful in all that He does.  If we truly believe that God is committed to carrying out His purpose in the world, we can be confident, despite what happens, that all things are working together for good in our lives.

A Case of Aim from the Beginning

Recently, I began re-reading the Bible, starting in Genesis, and immediately I was struck by the order in which He created creation.  Genesis 1 details God’s creative activity in six days.  However, what’s intriguing about this account is the order or structure of creation. There is a pattern of form and filling in Genesis 1. Here is what I mean:

  •  Day 1 corresponds with Day 4 | Creation of day and night on Day 1 and then the creation of the sun and moon to fill the day and night skies on Day 4.
  • Day 2 corresponds with Day 5 | Creation of sky and sea on Day 2 and then the creation of birds to fill the sky and fish to fill the sea on Day 5.
  • Day 3 corresponds with Day 6 | Creation of dry land, plants, and sea and then the creation of animals and man to fill these places on Day 6.

creation

In the very first chapter of the Bible, we learn that God is not aimless, but purposeful in His sovereign activity of creation. This truth should begin to shape our understanding of the character of God.  In fact, the rest of the Bible continues to reveal that God is purposeful.  

God’s Aim in Our Pain

However, I strongly suspect that isn’t where we struggle to believe and understand that God is purposeful.  We struggle to understand God’s purposefulness when we see the painful effects of sin in the world and how it painfully affects our own lives.  When we experience or hear of tragedies abroad or closer to home, we often question their purposes which, at times, causes us to question the sovereignty and the goodness of God.  Our theology seems to come unraveled when pain or disappointment invades our lives.  But why don’t we struggle to believe that all exists to glorify Him when all is going well? Is it impossible to believe that God even uses sin and its painful effects to glorify Himself?  Why do we commend God in times of pleasure and condemn Him in times of pain? We do this when we interpret life from our vantage point and not from God’s. That’s idolatry, not theology.  

James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:6-7 reminds us that the trials we experience are given to us by God to prove, strengthen and perfect our faith.  God’s ultimate goal for us is that we would be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and the process of being conformed or sanctification sometimes happens by experiencing trials and pain.  Trials and pain provide the occasion for us to remind ourselves of truth and respond accordingly as children of God. Oftentimes, these trials expose just how unholy we naturally are. C.H. Spurgeon said, “Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil and let us see what we are made of”.  

In seeing our unholiness, we ought to desire to be more holy. In that way, God’s aim in our pain and trials is that we would continually turn to Him for sanctifying and sustaining grace. When we turn to Him, we are declaring that He is sufficient to remove our pain or sustain us in it and in that He is glorified! God’s aim in our pain is not only our sanctification, but ultimately our joy and His glory as we are driven to Him (Psalm 16:11).   Do you believe that pain is God’s tool for your joy and His glory in your life? We must continually fight to believe in the goodness of God (Psalm 106:1), the sovereignty of God over all things – good and bad (Daniel 4:35, Psalm 115:3), and the good promises of God for His children (2 Corinthians 1:20).

God’s Aim in Our Pleasure

If pain is a tool that drives us to God for joy, what about pleasure?  What is God’s aim in our pleasure? Are the pleasures we experience meant to drive us to God?  Resoundingly, “yes!”  All of the legitimate pleasures we experience emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, materially and physically are pointers.   James 1:17 reminds us of the source of every good gift (material and immaterial) and 1 Timothy 6:17 reminds us that He aims for us to derive joy from what He’s given. Earthly pleasures are meant to be pointers to an eternally pleasing God!  The gift reflects the heart of the Giver. However,  sin prevents us from seeing the greater value of the Giver over His gifts. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is given that we might see rightly!  Psalm 16:11 says –

You make known to me the path of life;

   in your presence there is fullness of joy;

   at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Psalmist tells us that  lasting pleasure and the fullness of joy are ultimately found in God. If earthly pleasures are pleasurable, yet fading, how much more should we seek to experience ultimate unfading pleasure by being with Christ?!  

God’s Aim in His Pleasure

Have you ever wondered what brings God the most pleasure? It’s Him! Dr. John Piper writes: “God’s own glory is uppermost in his own affections. In everything he does, his purpose is to preserve and display that glory. To say his glory is uppermost in his own affections means that he puts a greater value on it than on anything else. He delights in his glory above all things” (Desiring God, p. 43).  For God to find joy or pleasure in anything above Himself, He would be an idolator giving glory to something or someone lesser.  Since nothing greater exists than God, He finds ultimate delight and pleasure in Himself because He is the sum of all perfection and glory!  If God finds ultimate delight in Himself, how much more should we do the same?  

God’s aim in all that He does is that He be glorified by, in and through His creation, which is the whole aim of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.  God’s aim is His own glory, and rightly so!

Grace & Peace,

d.

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The Attributes of God: The Decrees of God

“The decree of God is his purpose or determination with respect to future things.” (Pink, p.15)

Open Theism is a position held by some that deals with the knowledge of future things.  Moderate Open Theists will claim that God knows the future, but voluntarily limits His knowledge of the “free choices” of man to preserve man’s freedom.  Hyper Open Theists claim that the future is unknowable, even by God, because the future is non-existent.  Both of these positions are unbiblical and problematic for numerous reasons, which we will soon see.

In my first installment, one of the characteristics of God that was listed was God’s eternal nature. Eternity is no respecter of the dimension of time. Therefore, God is not bound by time.  “In the beginning, God…” (Gen. 1:1a)  He eternally exists outside of time and has created time.  This remains to be a difficult reality for us to grasp because our very existence is bound in time and in many ways defined by it. We are limited by the Limitless One.

God has disclosed to us in His Word that He acts according to the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11).  He consults no one about His will and He has purposed to glorify Himself in all that He decrees.  He will not let the exaltation of His Name ultimately be left in the hands of creatures.  Because He is eternal, His decrees are eternal.  With respect to His decree, we see this most clearly in the death of Christ.  The LORD spoke through Isaiah in the 53rd chapter,

10Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes
an offering for guilt, 

It was the will of the LORD to crush him. It was the decree of God the Father to crush His Son, Jesus, for the atonement of His people. Luke records for us in Acts 2:22-23, 

22“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

The crucifixion of Jesus was according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, though done by the hands of lawless men.  God decreed Jesus’ death and the method by which he would die before time, and in time Jesus died exactly how the Father decreed it.  God always accomplishes His will. 

* To say God doesn’t know the future is to deny God’s omniscience.

* To say God doesn’t know the future is to deny God’s omnipresence. 

* To say God doesn’t decree all things is to deny His sovereignty, wisdom and omnipotency.

To believe in that kind of god leaves us hopeless and living in a world predicated by fate and chance. 

Believer, continually be comforted by Romans 8:28.

d.

Suffering Well

Through my extended journey through Philippians, one of the most reassuring things about this epistle is Paul’s attitude considering that at the time of his writing he was in chains for the gospel. This is one of Paul’s prison epistles. The reoccuring theme / word in this epistle is joy or rejoice.  In fact, the fourth verse of the fourth chapter exhorts the Philippians and us to rejoice always, which includes short and long seasons of diverse trials.

Recently, I have been getting an onslaught of news from various brothers and sisters in the faith about various trials they are experiencing.  One of the most reoccuring trials I hear are people dealing with health issues, even some that are life threatening.   My heart goes out to them and my prayers go up for them.  May the Lord extend them more grace to deal with these trials and ailments if He doesn’t choose to heal them.   That grace is the increasing assurance in the abundant promises of the gospel.

The implications of the gospel are mighty against battling despair, depression, anger, frustration, and apathy that tend to accompany trials or afflictions. 

These implications are mighty because they point us to Christ!

We simply must continue to believe the gospel for our sanctification and look forward to the eschatalogical implications of it – a glorified body, a new heaven and new earth, free from the presence of sin and its effects and reconciliation with Christ.  It is a battle of faith to understand that this world and our earthly tents are not final. We are citizens of heaven awaiting our return home and we will be fit with new bodies for eternity. REJOICE!  Our suffering is only for a little while.

While we can be comforted that our suffering here is not final, we still battle with the question of why? Why has the Lord appointed or permitted suffering for His children?  Here’s where we must be cautious in examining the Lord and His ways, lest we sin against Him like Job.  We must let God speak through His Word and rest in that. 

Scripture tells us that there is a suffering that is actually a gift of grace (Philippians 1:29), it’s designed to sanctify us (James 1:2-4), deepens our intimacy with Christ (Psalm 119:75, Philippians 3:10) and loosens our affections for this world.

Scripture also tells us in Romans 8:28 that all things (including your trials and sufferings) are working together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  What’s implicit about Romans 8:28 is that all things are meant to glorify God! Our suffering, in one way or another, is a vehicle God uses to get glory from us for Himself as we see Him as Ultimate.

Grace & Peace,

d.