Is Anything Too Hard for God?

September 15, 2017

Is anything too hard for God?

God tells the prophet Jeremiah that He is going to punish the people for their rebellion against Him. Indeed, He promises to destroy Jerusalem and the very temple that pictures His dwelling in their midst. But He also promises that decades later He will gather the people from where they are scattered and show them His redeeming love; they will be His people, and He will be their God. It is in this context that He says: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).

If God can do that – if He can punish and He can redeem, if He can scatter and He can unite, if He can use human empires both to destroy according to His plan and to build up according to His plan – is there anything He cannot do?

No. Nothing is too hard for Him.

Consider a few of the many Scriptures that make similar claims:

  • [When God promises that a 90 year old woman who has been barren her entire life will bear a son fathered by her 99 year old husband] “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14a)
  • [Similarly, when the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she, a virgin, will give birth to a son, and that her elderly, barren cousin Elizabeth is already pregnant] “For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)
  • [Job speaks after God has displayed and spoken of His power, glory and wisdom] “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
  • [When there are hundreds of thousands of Israelites in the wilderness and God has promised them meat. Moses is skeptical]  And the LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.” (Numbers 11:23)
  • Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Num 23:19b)
  • Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3)
  • Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (Psalm 135:6)
  • For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? (Isaiah 14:27)
  • Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. (Isaiah 40:28-29)
  • “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’ . . .. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” (From Isaiah 46:9-11)
  • All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)
  • [When a man asks Jesus for healing for his son, after Jesus’ disciples were unable to heal him]  “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24)
  • [When the disciples wonder if anyone can be saved if it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom] Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)

So the claim of Scripture is all-encompassing: God has authority over conception, over illness, over sin, over rebellion, over repentance, over faith. We need His help always, in all areas – including our faith!

But God is not our all-powerful genie in the bottle, at our beck and call, who grants us any wishes that we might ask. He has already declared the end; He will accomplish His purpose. Our purpose will not stand; God’s will.

And so consider the way that Jesus Himself prays as He notes the Father’s unstoppable power:

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

Jesus shrank back from the horror of the cross. He knew that protecting Him from the Jewish leaders and the Roman governor was simple for the Father. God could thwart their plans; that was possible for Him. But Jesus also knew that God’s plan, God’s will, included His going to the cross. He knew that the end God had stated from the beginning – blessing all nations through the seed of Abraham, covering the sin of rebels by the sacrifice of His Son, ushering in an eternal Kingdom of righteousness and peace ruled by a descendant of David – Jesus knew that this glorious end required that He go to the cross. And so He went.

So God is more powerful than the illness you face, than the sin that tempts you, than hardness of anyone’s heart; God is well able to comfort every sorrow, to grant wisdom to the foolish, to bring rebels to repentance. Nothing is too hard for Him.

Therefore, trust this almighty God! He works all things together to fulfill His great plan. Whatever trials you are facing, however weak you are in yourself, look to Him! Delight in His sovereign power, which He wields for the good of His people and the glory of his Name.

 

Have You Tasted That the Lord is Good?

May 5, 2016

The Apostle Peter writes:

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation– if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2-3)

Babies love their mothers’ milk. They grow by it. So they long for it. They cry for it. They become anxious when they go for lengthy times without it. They know very little else; but babies know they need that precious milk. They know it is good. They know their mother who feeds them is good.

Peter tells us we have been born again through God’s word, God’s Gospel, God’s Good News that endures forever and grants life (1 Peter 1:23-25). This is the pure spiritual milk that feeds and nourishes us. Thus, like little babies, we must long for that Word – if we have really tasted that Jesus is good.

So note: Peter is identifying two events with each other: Our salvation; and our tasting that Jesus is good. There is no salvation without our tasting that Jesus is good, without our tasting that God is for us, that God is supremely valuable. We must hear this word; we must believe it; and we must take it to heart. We must taste.

What, then, does “taste that the Lord is good” mean?

Peter here alludes directly to Psalm 34:8: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

But hear other Scriptures that say something similar:

I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:14)

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:5-8)

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. (Nahum 1:7-8)

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100)

These Scriptures all maintain God’s goodness. However, from our human perspective, our Lord often does not appear good. We see natural disasters. We see human tragedies. In our own lives we experience hardship, pain, and suffering. How do we taste that the Lord is good when life tastes bitter?

As we will see on Sunday mornings in the weeks ahead, Paul addresses these questions directly in the second half of Romans 8.

But for today consider the answers that come from Psalm 135 and 145:

Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD,
who stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God!
Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!
For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession.
For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods (Psalm 135:1-5)

Why is God’s Name pleasant to us? Because He has chosen His people. Out of all His creation, He has chosen His church as His precious possession, to declare the excellencies of the One who called us (1 Peter 2:9). And since He is above all gods, no power can snatch us out of His hand. We are His. We are guarded and kept by Him. So while suffering and hardship will come, we can taste that He is good, and rejoice in Who He is.

Then from Psalm 145:

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. . . .
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. (Psalm 145:1-5, 8-12)

We taste that He is good in part through reminding ourselves and one another of what He has done. We remember both His mighty acts and His majestic character, and in remembering, meditate on these truths revealed to us through the living and abiding Word of God.

Prompted by those remembrances and meditations, we thank Him – and we make sure those around us know these truths; we make sure they know what we have tasted.

So we taste in part through remembering, reminding, and retelling Who He is and what He has done. We drink in that precious spiritual milk of the Word and, nourished and satisfied, share that milk with others. And that very sharing deepens our experience of tasting that the Lord is good.

So how are your taste buds? Are you tasting each and every day? Do you experience God’s goodness? Do you know Jesus as satisfying and filling?

Taste that He is good!

Fearing the One Who is Fearsome: God and Truth

March 20, 2015

Those of you following the Bible Unity Reading Plan are nearing the end of the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, sometimes called the books of Moses. God has brought His people to the edge of the Promised Land. Here Moses reviews the more than forty years since God brought His people out of Egypt. The people have seen God work; they have heard His voice; they have sometimes responded with joyful obedience, but so often instead have rebelled against Him. God has brought them to Himself (Exodus 19:4); He has made them His people and so they are to love Him above all and obey Him (Exodus 20:2-17, Deuteronomy 27:9-10, 6:5-9). He has given them all these commandments for their good (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

As Moses looks forward past his death, knowing their bent toward rebellion, he warns them:

If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the LORD your God, then the LORD will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions (Deuteronomy 28:58-59 ESV).

Bear with me here for a bit as we look in more detail at this text.

What is the purpose of the central clause? Why does Moses include, “that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the LORD your God”?

First of all, remember that the word “Lord” in all capitals is used when the Hebrew text contains the Name of God, “I Am That I Am, ” most often these days transliterated “Yahweh.” With this understanding, it is clear that “this glorious and awesome name” and “the LORD your God” are in parallel to each other.

Second, remember that for the ancient Israelites, names were often used to describe character. A name is a window into who the person is. So to say that God’s Name is glorious and awesome is to say HE is glorious and awesome.

Third, note that the Hebrew verb translated “fear” is repeated in a different conjugation and translated “awesome” by the ESV.

At this point, perhaps a different translation will be helpful. Let’s take the New American Standard, replace “LORD” with “Yahweh,” and replace “fear” with “hold in awe”:

If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to hold in awe this honored and awesome name, Yahweh your God (Deuteronomy 28:58)

In this rendering, the point of the central clause is clearer: Moses is restating in other words what it means to be “careful to observe all the words of this law.” We cannot do that in a legalistic sense: “OK, here’s a command, I’ll keep it and show God how good I am.” For to be careful to observe all the words of this law is indeed to love Yahweh with all our heart, soul, and strength!

Rather, Moses is saying that to be careful to observe all the words of this law is indeed logical, true, right, and pure; it is to fear the One who is fearsome, to hold in awe the One who is awesome, to honor the One who alone deserves honor, to delight in the One who is Joy itself.

And all of that depends on Yahweh being the true God, the God of truth, who speaks words of truth to His people. If He is not, then none of Moses’ words make any sense. There is no reason to fear Him if He is not fearsome; there is no reason to hold Him in awe if He is not awesome.

Thus, hundreds of times Scripture emphasizes that God is true, that His words are true, that Scripture itself is our only hope of knowing the truth. Allow me to give a quick summary of the way God speaks of truth in His Word:

  • God’s ways, judgments, rules, law, commandments, and words are all said to be true (2 Samuel 7:28, Psalm 18:30, 19:9, 119:142, 119:151, Proverbs 30:15, Revelation 15:3, 16:7, 19:2, and many more).
  • In contrast, those who oppose God are liars. Satan is the prototypical liar (John 8:44), the antichrist is defined as the liar (1 John 2:22), and those today who are unrighteous “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).
  • Jesus, on the other hand, emphasizes time and again that His words are true. More than 60 times, Jesus introduces His words with “Truly” or even “Truly, truly.” He came to bear witness to the truth, and everyone “of the truth” listens to Him (John 18:37). He alone is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
  • This risen Jesus is “the true one,” “the true witness” (Revelation 3:7, 14).
  • God is seeking true worshipers who must worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).
  • It is through abiding/remaining in Jesus’ word that we will know the truth – and that truth will set us free (John 8:31-32).
  • We must receive the Spirit of Truth, who guides us into all truth (John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13, 1 John 5:6). We can then both know and be in Him who is true, the true God. And this is eternal life (1 John 5:20).
  • Paul calls the gospel “the word of truth” (Ephesians 1:13, Colossians 1:5), and he calls the church “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).
  • In contrast, those who oppose God are under a “strong delusion” having “refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
  • So we in the church must preach the Word, even when it is unpopular and derided, because many, having “itching ears,” will “turn away from listening to the truth” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).  And as we use the Scriptures for teaching and correction, God may “grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25; see also 3:16).

Thus, Scripture claims that it is the source of ultimate truth. We, like the ancient Israelites, have a bent towards rebellion, towards suppressing this truth, and are therefore under a delusion. The Word by the Spirit must dwell in us richly if we are to know the truth, and in turn be set free. So we must submit ourselves to God and His Word – and so find the glorious freedom of the children of God.

So be careful to do all the words of God’s instruction – that is, hold in awe the One who is awesome, glory in the One who is glorious, hold to the true words of the One who is Truth – to your great joy and fulfillment.

[For further reflection on Scripture and truth, read and meditate on this compilation of more than 200 verses on this theme. For more on the process of coming to submit to Scripture, see these three blog posts from 2013: first, second, and third. The Bible Unity Reading Plan is available as an android app here.]

How Sovereign is God?

January 9, 2015

How sovereign is God?

That is: What does God control through His sovereign will?

Scripture tells us:

  • Even the tiniest bird doesn’t die apart from His hand (Matthew 10:29)
  • You don’t even lose a hair from your head apart from His knowledge and will (Matthew 10:30)
  • He controls the moon and what we now know are trillions of stars in millions of galaxies (Psalm 8:3)
  • But He also keeps a man from having sex with a woman in his harem (Genesis 20:2-4)
  • He performs mighty deeds, obvious miracles, like parting the waters of the Red Sea so that the Israelites can pass through on dry ground (Exodus 14)
  • but He also speaks in a still, small voice to bring about His purposes (1 Kings 19:11-12).

God controls all things – major and minor, intergalactic and microbial, global and personal.

He works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11).

Specifically, He controls the desires of the most powerful of men:

Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever he will.

Daniel 4 gives us a specific example of such turning. Nebuchadnezzar, king of the mighty Babylonian empire, the greatest ruler of his day, Is surveying his city, delighting in his power and accomplishments. While the king is boasting in his pride, God turns not only his heart but also his mind – Nebuchadnezzar becomes mad, and acts like an animal until he acknowledges “that the most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will” (Daniel 4:32). In other words: Nebuchadnezzar will remain crazy until he knows that he deserves nothing. He is emperor by God’s grace, not because of His breeding or intelligence or military prowess.

Nebuchadnezzar does come to his senses. He recognizes God’s sovereign power and praises Him:

Daniel 4:37  Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

So, the Bible claims that God is that sovereign. He controls all things – even kings’ hearts, even generals’ hearts, even presidents’ hearts.

Do you believe that?

Have you come to acknowledge what Nebuchadnezzar had to be forced to acknowledge?

We are beginning a series on the book of Esther. This book is unusual: It is the only book in the Bible that never mentions God explicitly. God is not the stated subject of any sentence.

Partly for this reason, some have questioned: Should Esther really be a part of Scripture? Shouldn’t every book in the Bible actually mention God? Is this just a book about Jewish nationalism?

Indeed, such were the questions that early church leaders wrote commentaries on every other book of the Bible prior to writing a commentary on Esther. The earliest known Christian commentary dates from around the year 700.

But although God is not mentioned, He is present in all that happens – in every event recorded in the book. In Esther, God acts providentially – that is, He works behind the scenes. So at the time, it’s rarely clear that He Himself is actually acting. But by the end of the story, it is abundantly clear that only God could have orchestrated all the recorded incidents to bring about the salvation of His people.

Now, consider our own era. Isn’t it much like the time of Esther?

  • Like Esther and Mordecai, we are recipients of great, precious, ancient promises. But, like them, we don’t know how those promises apply to us specifically.
  • Like Esther and Mordecai, we are faced with dangers, with ambiguities, with a lack of an obviously right choice – and yet we must act. We must make decisions.
  • Like Esther and Mordecai, we don’t see God parting the Red Sea or sending fire down from heaven to consume an offering; we don’t hear God speak from Mt Sinai or witness Jesus walking on water or risen from the dead. Like them, we must walk by faith, not by sight.

So the characters in this book face situations much like ours. Esther is thus highly valuable to us.

The fundamental message in Esther is this:

God is sovereignly working out His grand plan of redemption for the glory of His Name, through all events that happen.

In this book we see multiple examples of God at work, often in seemingly minor and personal matters. But in the end, through these small acts of providence, God saves His covenant people from genocide.

The lesson for us must be: God continues today to work sovereignly, even through minor events in our lives, to bring about His good, perfect, and pleasing will.

So if we belong to Him, we can step out with great confidence, praying that God will use us no matter how great our past sins, no matter how bumbling our efforts. We cannot mess up God’s plan.

For as the Apostle Paul tells us, God works all things together for good for those who love Him, for those whom He has called. And if we are in Christ, nothing can ever separate us from His love (Romans 8:28, 37-39).

[This devotion is taken from the introduction to last Sunday’s opening sermon in the series Esther: The Miracle of Providence. Follow the link to download or listen to the audio of the sermon.]

 

God is Independent, Sovereign, and Sustainer of All Creation

July 4, 2014

By Fred T. Balbuena

 The act of creation declares that God is not a part of, nor dependent on His creation. This is crucial to our understanding of the nature of God.  It describes that He is eternally in fellowship within the Trinity and nothing can come close to this kind of relationship.  It establishes not only the “being” or “personal nature” of God as a talking God, but it makes God unique in such a way that He is not in need of anything outside of Himself. It is due to this relationship that makes God uniquely other, or “one of a kind”. God is not dependent on anyone or anything.  He is absolutely free. God is the only source of everything and He is not dependent on anyone else for anything at all. Therefore, nothing compels Him to do anything outside of Himself. He was free and unrestricted in the act of creation.  In other words, nothing determined or shaped what He brought into being. J. I Packer says, “How everything was designed was purely God’s own idea.”[1] He is the one who gives life and everything else in the universe gets their life, existence and purpose from Him.  The Geneva Catechism also explains this doctrine remarkably well. It says:

 “This term does not imply that God created his works at once, and then threw off the care of them. It should rather be understood, that as the world was once made by God, so it is now preserved by him, and that the earth and all other things endure just: in as far as they are sustained by his energy, and as it were his hand. Besides, seeing that he has all things under his hand, it follows, that he is the chief ruler and Lord of all.”[2]

 We see more evidence of the essential nature of the doctrine of creation through the teaching of Irenaeus (175-185 CE) against Gnosticism. For Irenaeus the doctrine of creation displays God’s continual government over the world, particularly over the “Churches” from every tongue, and tribe, and people and nation. It is the belief in “One God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and sea and all things that are in them that must unite the Church in the whole world.”[3] For Irenaeus, the truth which expresses God’s authorship of all reality must be kept or preserved carefully in spite of diverse languages where Churches had been planted. He says:

“As the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shineth everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth.”[4] Thus, the doctrine of creation is one point of doctrine, which must be imported everywhere to understand the nature of God, which guides our faith, preaching, and our worship.

The Bible affirms that God did not simply create the world and then left it to itself to run its course. This is absolutely contrary to the Deist’s[5] idea of the nature of God. The entire creation as they claim is like an old clock that does not need any more intervention from its Creator. However, God is very much involved in creation.  He remains involved in the world and in everything he created, particularly in the lives of people he formed in his image.  Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29–30). Thus the God of the Bible is not an abstract deity who is removed and uninterested in everything He created.[6]

We also notice this emphasis in John Calvin’s teaching which is found in the Institutes of the Christian Religion: Book 1 Chapter 5, “The Knowledge of God Conspicuous in the Creation, and Continual Government of the World.” This chapter is divided into two major parts. The first part deals with the knowledge and nature of God that is displayed in creation. Here Calvin argues that God’s invisible and incomprehensible attributes are made visible to some extent in creation. He maintains that the intricacy of the universe and the complexity of the human body portray God’s providence, power and wisdom. Furthermore, God’s omnipotence, goodness, justice and mercy are clearly displayed in the way He created man endowing him with a soul.[7] The second part deals with consequences. If man ascribes to these admirable arrangements, then the whole order of things is left to fortune or chance. Calvin argues that the endless and irreconcilable opinion of the philosophers concerning how God created the world primarily corrupts pure religion. By allowing their ideas to influence our thinking about the glories of nature is extreme stupidity and blatant rebellion against God and is deserving of punishment.

The book of John in the New Testament also affirms this truth even with animals and plants. “In His hand are the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10). The Apostle also affirms that God is continually “upholding the universe by His word of power”(Hebrews 1:3). “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24-25). God is constantly sustaining everything in the universe with life and that “in Him we live and move and we have our being” (Acts 17:25, 28). Christ is the One in Whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Everything that happens in the world is directed by God. This is true even to the point that the falling of a hair or a sparrow is directed by God, no less then the birth and death of Princes, or the revolutions of empires. (Matthew 10:29, 30). Creation then will not continue to exist apart from God’s sustaining power.  This is not how God the creator is depicted in the Bible. The ongoing existence of all creation depends on the powerful hands of God through all the seasons, and in every second of every day.

How shall we make sense of the horrible things that happen in the world under the watch of God who reveals himself as the all-sufficient, sovereign, sustainer of the world? Is he really capable of bringing about his purposes and what is best for the people he created? Isaiah 40:26 says, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.” In the book of Jonah God commands a fish to accomplish his plan (1:17), he commands a plant to grow (4:6), and he also commands a worm to kill it (4:7). Far above the life of worms and the stars, God’s command is what holds everything in its place. Below are seven exhortations from John Piper that can help us relate this theology of God into our lives.

1. Let us stand in awe of the sovereign authority and freedom and wisdom and power of God.

2. Let us never trifle with life as though it were a small or light affair.

3. Let us marvel at our own salvation — that God bought it and wrought it with   sovereign power, and we are not our own.

4. Let us groan over the God-belittling man-centeredness of our culture and…    the church.

5. Let us be bold at the throne of grace knowing that our prayers for the most difficult things can be answered.  Nothing is too hard for God.

6. Let us rejoice that our evangelism will not be in vain because there is no sinner  so hard the sovereign grace of God cannot break through.

7. Let us be thrilled and calm in these days of great upheaval because victory   belongs to God, and no purposes that he wills to accomplish can be stopped.[8]

 

 


[1] J. I. Packer, Affirming the Apostles’ Creed (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), pg. 55.

[2] “Historic Church Documents at Reformed.org,” Center of Reformed Theology and Apologetics, 1996, quotation, accessed January 13, 2011, http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe= http://www.reformed.org/documents/calvin/geneva_catachism/geneva_catachism.html.

[3] “Irenaeus– Against Heresies,” ColumbiaUniversity in the City of New York, Book 10, accessed April 12, 2011, http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/irenaeus/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Deism is a view that God, the Supreme Being, does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the natural laws of the universe.

[6] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), pg. 267.

[7]  ”John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion.” Internet Christian Library. Accessed February 16, 2011. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes/.

[8] http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/the-sovereignty-of-god-my-counsel-shall-stand-and-i-will-accomplish-all-my-purpose

God is Eternal and Powerful

June 26, 2014

By Fred T. Balbuena

 Everything in heaven and on earth had a beginning. Their beginning is caused by God who created all things. The book of Isaiah declares, “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the Lord, and there is no other.”  (Isaiah 45:18) This act of creation then proves that God is eternal. Bill Bright says “Before He spoke the first work of creation, time did not exist.”[1] He existed in eternity, which differentiates Him from everything He created. He is not bound to time. Thus, all history is but a little speck within eternity. This is how Abraham described God as he experienced His faithfulness after making a treaty with Abimelech in Barsheeba. “[I] planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God’” (Genesis 21:33). Given that God is the originator of everything, there is nothing that can bring an end to His existence. This is the attribute of God clearly in view when Moses prayed to Him which was recorded in Psalm 90. Moses prayed; “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Palm 90:1-2). When Paul wrote to Timothy, he thanked God for His patience. Paul said, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:16-17).

 The Bible clearly requires us also to believe that God created the universe out of nothing. The common Latin phrase used to describe what creation teaches is Ex Nihilo.  This means that before God began to create the universe, nothing else existed aside from Him. In other words, the word “nothing” does not imply some kind of existence, as some philosophers have taken it to mean.  Ex Nihilo means that God did not use any previously existing materials when He created the universe.[2]  Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Psalm 33: 6 and 9 also tells us, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” This means that God simply said the words and everything came into being instantaneously and orderly.

 The difficulty which people commonly ask regarding creation is twofold: “Who made God?” and “How can God make something out of nothing?” In any case, the Bible says God is eternal. He was not made nor did anything cause Him to exist. Only the universe had a cause, which is God. He is the one who caused everything to exist and “God does not need a cause because He had no beginning.”[3] The New Testament affirms this truth from several sources. John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” The words “in the beginning” are identical in the original language to the opening words in the Old Testament, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is not an accident.  What John is doing here is telling us who Jesus is and what He did.  Jesus is eternal God, and He created the universe along with the Father. Therefore, the words “in the beginning” mean, before there was any created matter or beings, there was the Word, the Son of God.  Jesus Christ was the Father’s agent, or Word, in the creation of all things. Jesus our Savior, our Lord, our Friend—is our Maker.

My main purpose in addressing these topics is simply to encourage you to hold onto the promises of God at this present time and for our final destiny. As the writer of the book of Hebrews says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Let us put our trust in the wisdom and power of our Maker. Let us set our hope in God who knows all things and who has the power to bring about His good purposes in our lives according to the power of His grace. Let us cast all of our cares upon God, “for nothing will be impossible with Him.” (Luke 1:37) He promises that He will sustain us in distress and in all calamities in life as we depend on His power and grace.



[1] Bill Bright, God: Discover His Character (Orlando, FL: NewLife Publications, 1999), pg. 35.

[2] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), pg. 262.

[3] Ravi K. Zacharias and Norman L. Geisler, Who Made God?: and Answers to over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), pg. 25.

God is a Talking God

June 21, 2014

By Fred T. Balbuena

One of the spectacular truths we observe in God’s act of creation is the personal nature of God.  He is a personal being because He speaks.We see this nature directly from Genesis 1 where we read that God speaks as the first human beings were created. God said, “Let us make man in our image.” This is absolutely crucial to our understanding of the nature of God. The God we know today and whom we believe, talks. As DA Carson says, “He has personality and dares to disclose Himself in words that human beings understand.” [1]  He is not an impersonal power, a product of someone’s spiritual imagination, an abstract force, a spirit that is hard to define, nor is He absolutely unknowable. In other words, He communicates and we get to know Him based on what He says about Himself. Francis Schaeffer drives this idea by saying, “God is there and He is not silent”. Therefore, under the rubric that demonstrates God as a personal being is a display of Him communicating as a way of creating the heavens and the earth. God said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). That is how powerful God’s word is. He just spoke the words and everything came into being.

We might wonder, however, whether God truly spoke some words in creation since no else could hear Him. But that is not true, He was not alone. There is an indication of the existence of a plurality in the personhood of God which we observe before the creation of man. He was communicating and indicating how human beings should be created to other Infinite Beings. The “Word” who is Jesus Himself was with God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2) This “Word” is Jesus who, “Became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God was definitely not alone before creation. The Son of God and the Holy Spirit where coexisting with Him before the foundation of the world.  God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” The Spirit of God was hovering over the water. He exists in relationship with the Son and the Holy Spirit.

This is exactly what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he wrote, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). The Father is eternally in exists with the other persons in the Godhead.  Jesus said, “Father… you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).  Jesus was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:1-3) There never was a time when the Father was alone, was not talking to anyone, or denied of fellowship. God’s love for the Son was seen in the very act of creating.

And now, let us speak to him through our praises, thanksgiving,  prayers, and petitions. Let us bless his name and ask him to continue to speak to us through  His Word. At the same time, let us implore that the Holy Spirit would light up our minds so we understand what he says for our own good. God does what he says he will do when we call upon his name. So let us pray that he would grant us strength in weakness, firmness in the storms of life, joy in suffering, patience in the midst of oppositions, and love when we are maligned or criticized for the hope we have in the appearing of Jesus Christ. Never relinquish asking God to give us understanding when he speaks. His word is what we need the most. It’s the fundamental source of abundant life and daily renewal. Essentially, it’s our dependency and satisfaction in what God says that glorifies him the most in our lives. Here’s a familiar song that echoes this truth.

Speak, O Lord                                                                                                                                    by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend (2005)  © Thankyou Music CCLI#2444699

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility;
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of pow’r that can never fail—
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us—
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

 

 

 


[1] D. A. Carson, The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010), pg. 20.