Can I Know God?

Today Zophar the Naamathite answers Job and asks, 

“Can you find out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
It is higher than heaven—what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?

Job 11.7-8

There is little compassion coming Job’s way from Zophar, and he even thinks Job deserves worse (11.6). He basically tells Job that he is totally deserving of everything that is happening to him (vv.2-6), and then rebukes Job for boasting in his claim to be innocent. Rather than comforting Job in his affliction, Zophar seems to think that God is so unknowable that there must be some unknown – but real – way that Job has sinned. 

At the core of Zohar’s argument is the idea that we cannot really know God, we cannot find out the deep things of God, we cannot find the limit of the Almighty, that we cannot ever really know God.

So, can we know God?

There are two ways we can know God – His general revelation and His specific revelation. 

General revelation is what can be known of God to each and every human being from simply being observant about the world we live in. Created beauty, the fine tuning of the universe, the cycle of life, and the order of life, for example (Psalm 19.1-4, Romans 1.20). 

Specific, or special, revelation is how God has revealed Himself, His plans, His purposes in specific ways. This is things like dreams, visions, His Word, and through the person and work of Jesus. 

Of these, the Word and the person of Jesus are by far the most revealing, the most thorough, and the most special (2 Timothy 3.16-17, Hebrews 1.1-3). 

Can we know God? Absolutely. We can observe the world He has made, we can read the Word He communicated, and we can be in relationship through faith with His Son, His very likeness in human form, Jesus. 

2 Timothy 3.12-15 – Never Look Past The Word

After discussing his circumstances and example, Paul makes another strong contrast for Timothy.

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Contrary to prosperity teaching or word of faith teaching, Paul here writes that all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. This may look different in all of our lives, but the objective truth remains, that those who make a stand for Jesus, His will, His words, and His ways will find push-back and persecution from the world at large. Paul writes that there are, basically, two kinds of places this will come from, evil people and impostors. This is those who are flat-out against Jesus, and those who think they are for Him, but there is no evidence of this. One group deceives, the other is being deceived

The contrast comes when Timothy, and we, are told but as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed…Interesting that learning comes first, we really do need to know what we are believing, so that when push-back and persecution come, we know on what we are relying, we know on what we are believing, and we know in Whom we are trusting.

Timothy has been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. This is what we would refer to as the Old Testament, and Paul says that it is able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Friends, we must never look past the Word of God to make us wise for salvation. It all points us in the direction of Jesus, it all whispers His name, it all urges and encourages us to put hope, faith, and trust in Him for salvation

Maybe you have started the new year with a reading plan arranged in this way or that way, but the best reading plan you can start is one where you read the Word every day. So, let us continue in what we have learned and firmly believed, let us turn to the sacred writings, and let us look to Christ alone for salvation, as the Word of God urges us to do. 

2 Timothy 3.1 – People Are Difficult

Someone once told me that the ‘best and worst thing about pastoring a church will be the people’. From what he writes here, it would seem that Paul agrees.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

Paul will go on to say that these times of difficulty will come from people (v.2), but for the new minister Timothy this is what he needed to know first;

that as time progresses the times will get progressively more difficult.

This should not be a surprise to us, that as time goes on time gets tougher. Time of difficulty carries the meaning of stressful times, times of trial, times of tribulation…think of trying to swim in a sea that is wild, windy, and wavy. No matter which way Timothy turns, there will be difficult people to minister to.

It seems like Paul wanted to communicate this to Timothy so that he was going forward in his task with his eyes open, so to speak, knowing that people are difficult.

People are difficult, people are broken, and people are in desperate need of the saving grace of God.

If we are honest, so are we.

We are difficult to love, we are broken past the point of self-repair, and we are in desperate need of the saving grace of God.

Pastor, these are your people; difficult, broken, in need of grace.

Friends, this is all of us; difficult, broken, in need of grace.

The answer for both is the same – the free gift of grace available to us through faith in Jesus. Paul will go on to remind Timothy that the Word of God makes us wise for salvation (v.15), and it is on this solid foundation that we must stand as we seek to navigate these times of difficulty. People are broken, you are broken, and without the Word of God to stand on and soak in, this will never change.

Turn to the Word today!

Never Been A Moment

This week I’ve been thinking about the line between feelings and faith, and how this influences who we are and how we are.

During our Spiritual Depression Miniseries we said that we ought to interpret our lives based on the Bible, not interpret the Bible based on our lives. The problem with the latter is that our lives then become the ultimate test and truth of reality, rather than the Word of God. When this is the case, our lives can change, our feelings can change, and we end up being blown here and there by every wind of change, often multiple times a day. This then has the potential to change who we are, and how we are. 

Think of the person interpreting their life independently, all alone, not in relation to something that never changes.

What happens when they feel abandoned and their circumstances seem to support that feeling?

What happens when they feel lost and their circumstances seem to support that feeling?

What happens when they deal with loss?

What happens when they deal with tragedy?

If we rely on feelings over faith, it’s only a matter of time before we end up in a dark place.

There’s a part of this song that speaks to this so well,

There’s never been a moment
I was not held inside Your arms
There’s never been a day when You were not who You say You are

Despite what is going on around us, God never changes (Malachi 3.6, Hebrews 13.8). Because God never changes, His Word to us is solid, true, and lasting (Luke 21.33). So, when we might feel abandoned, lost, alone, or down, we can turn to the Word of God and know, for sure, that He is always there, always true, and always ready with an all consuming, heart pursuing, grace extending, never ending love.

This should define who we are, and how we are. 

How Am I Saved?

In James 1 we read about the testing of our faith (vv.2-4), how God tempts nobody (vv.12-15), and how the ultimate gift of salvation and eternal life comes from God (vv.16-18).

Then, we read this,

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

So, knowing all of this, we should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. This is because our anger does not produce in us the righteousness of God that should be present in those saved unto eternal life.

James continues and says that we should distance ourselves from filthiness and rampant wickedness, and having already told us that good comes from God and that He tempts nobody, James is saying, simply, put away things from your life that are not Godly.

Then we see what saves us from all this filthiness and wickedness, what saves us both in the here and now and in the ultimate sense, the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

James is very clear that the word is what saves us. The Word of God carries the power of God, and the power of God in the Word of God saves our souls.

Maybe you have heard people talk about other Christian things as necessary for salvation; perhaps baptism, or communion, or worship, or a whole manner of weird and extra-Biblical things, but, at the core, it is possible to do those things and not have a saved soul, isn’t it. For example, we can eat bread and drink juice and not believe what it represents (although Paul has some strong words about that in 1 Corinthians 11). 

On the other hand think – is it possible to have the Word of God be implanted in your soul and not be saved?

It is the Word of God that saves us, because it all points to the singular and sufficient source of salvation. 

In 2 Timothy 3 Paul is writing to Timothy to encourage the young pastor, specifically regarding Scripture, and we read,

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Very clear, that the sacred writings (Scripture, the Bible, the Word of God) make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

So, as James says, we are to receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save our souls.

The Word of God saves us because it all points to the singular and sufficient source of salvation, Jesus.

The Word of God saves us because reading it, having it implanted within us, strengthens our faith in Jesus, the Word become flesh.

The Word of God produces in us faith in Christ Jesus, which saves us (Ephesians 2.8-9, Acts 16.31, John 3.16).

How are we saved? Faith in Jesus, the living Word of God. Every time we read His written Word we are inescapably drawn to the Living Word.

How are we saved? The Word of God.

Point to ponder – Is the Word of God implanted within me?

Prayer – Father we thank you again for your Word. Help us to be people who value it, spend time in it, people who try our best to live it, and people who want to share it. Amen. 

Amos 8.9-14 – Not by bread alone

Yesterday we saw that God has a perfect memory, and the ways He Sovereignly chooses to use it is based on our position before Him; justified through faith in Jesus or in rebellion against Him.

In vv.9-14 Amos continues to deliver God’s message of coming judgement for the persistent and consistent rebellion against His ways, and one really interesting part is vv.11-12;

11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,

   “when I will send a famine on the land—

not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,

   but of hearing the words of the Lord.

12 They shall wander from sea to sea,

   and from north to east;

they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord,

   but they shall not find it.

God is sending a famine on the land, but not of bread or water, of hearing the words of the Lord. This has to be the worst kind of famine. In difficult times, we need the Word of God the most.

Imagine driving down a dark, windy road in a country you are not familiar with, right then you would need your SatNav/GPS/direction-giving-device, wouldn’t you, and that would be the worst time possible to have that device not work on you. Similarly, for God’s people to have a famine of His Word at a time when they need it most is a terrible thing.

In Matthew 4.4 Jesus draws from Deuteronomy 8 when He says

“It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The Word of God is so important to our life that it is the ultimate famine used in judgement by the Lord.

If we neglect and reject it when we feel things are going well, will it still speak to us when things are tough?

Personally I would rather not find out. Instead, let us first seek the Kingdom of God, and take to heart the truth that we don’t just live by the intake of food, but as we nourish our bodies we must also nourish our souls with the Word of God.

I Will Wait For You (Psalm 130)

Scripture references – Psalm 62.1-2, John 17.24, 1 Peter 3.3-4, Romans 7.22, 2 Corinthians 4.16, Colossians 3.1-3, Psalm 84.5-7

Have you ever had to wait a long time for someone or something? Maybe they were supposed to collect you from somewhere and they were late, or maybe you knew something spectacular was coming in your future and you had to wait for it. We all go through those same phases of waiting, don’t we; first we are excited for what is to come, so waiting is not a big deal, then later we despair as if nobody has ever waited this long for anything in the history of the world and we want to quit, then we get a second wind and the waiting is replaced with excitement of the coming joy. Waiting on something that is worth it is always worth it!

‘I Will Wait For You’ borrows heavily, as you may have guessed, from Psalm 130. The first verse is essentially the first stanza of the Psalm, and speaks to the merciful nature of our great God,

Out of the depths I cry to You

In darkest places I will call

Incline Your ear to me anew

And hear my cry for mercy Lord

Were You to count my sinful ways

How could I come before Your throne

Yet full forgiveness meets my gaze

I stand redeemed by grace alone

The Psalmist is so right, if God were to count our sinful ways, how could we ever get to Him? We can never work our way to God, He is the epitome of holiness and righteousness, He IS holiness and righteousness, and, simply, we are not. Our natural human self is always bent towards the sinful choice. We stand redeemed by grace alone (Ephesians 2.1-10).

The chorus echoes a wonderful truth, the Word of God can change us from the inside out, giving us a new heart, a new nature, a renewed spirit,

I will wait for You, I will wait for You

On Your word I will rely

I will wait for You, surely wait for You

Till my soul is satisfied

In the book of James we read that the Word of God has the power to save our souls, and on this we should rely. We wait for God no matter the eternal circumstances, knowing that He is the God of our past, our present, and our future, and that He has already worked out the situation you find yourself in, for your ultimate good (Romans 8.28-30).

So today, no matter the external circumstances, wait on the Lord, trust in His Word and rely on nothing else, and know that He has already worked it out, for your good.