Just a thought to share with you this morning.
Jesus Reached Out
No matter where you run, or how buried you are in work and circumstances, there is no place that God cannot find you. This is a comfort to some, and a fear for others. Don’t add God to your list of fears. When Adam sinned against God, he ran and hid. God called out into the garden and said, “Where are you Adam?” Adam hid because of his sin, but his sin did not hide him from God. God knew exactly where Adam was, just as our parents could always see our foot sticking out or our hair just above the back of the couch. We pretend that we can hide from those that love us the most, but we are only fooling ourselves. God sees us in our sinfulness, our wretchedness, even our busyness, and stills calls to us. He still reaches out His hand. God loves us, even when we sin against Him. God loves you, especially today.
No better way to greet the day than to express such praise to the One who made it. Give glory to God, for He has equipped you with life and breath and joy, inexpressible joy.
A new year has come again. 2014 marks the 107th year for our church. If the Lord tarries, we will continue on into this new year worshipping the Lord and serving Him. But we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. We have lost parents and friends this past year.
As we turn our attention to this new year, we need to refocus our understanding of who God is. Why is there evil and death? Where is God when we need Him most? Time and again the Israelites of the Old Testament struggled to find out the answer to this question. But they often accepted a lesser god, a lesser being, a lesser deity than the One True God. They wanted a god who was like them, fallible, easily manipulated, and powerful enough to bring the rains in season. They wanted a God who would respond to sacrifices when called upon, a god who said “no rules!” when it came to sexual purity and marital fidelity. But in the end, Baal is not God. Molech is not God. Ashtoreth is not God, nor a goddess. All of these images of their imagined gods fell before the True God, like Dagon before the Ark of the Covenant. These false gods failed to protect Israel from invasion. And failed to produce fire when begged for, Baal on Mt. Carmel.
We tend to invent our god after our own desires and needs. We want a God who will heal our diseases, heal our marriages and families, and look away when we want to have some fun. We want a God who has the power to heal us, but the good sense to look away when we sin. We call him by various names like “The Man Upstairs” or “The Great Physician”, the Author of “the Good Book” that describe not so much Him, but what we think about Him. We believe that we will be able to slip by “St. Peter” at the “pearly gates” with a claim to heaven because we were “good” as opposed to “bad” and so spend eternity playing harps on fluffy clouds before the “Old Man”. Is this truly the God of the “good book”?
How can we know what God is really like? Can we know Him? What can we find out about Him, if He is not what we conceive? Does God want us to know Him? If so, how could He inform us to His Being?
When we look all around us, we see God’s handiwork. Is there any God capable of this? Dare we gaze upon the presence of God? All of the false gods fall before the True God. God Himself says: “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for 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,’” (Isa 46:8-10)
My prayer for you is that you will be glad that we do not worship any lesser God than the God of the Universe.
“For I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things.” Job 31:23
Have you ever been afraid? I know I have. Fear is something that grips us when we are caught in something we don’t understand and presents itself as a threat, like Medicare part B, or overdue mortgage payments, or high gas prices. Our safety is threatened, our life is threatened, and we are powerless to do anything about it. Fear can paralyze us, its icy chill freezing our blood in its veins. But it also makes a powerful impression, and motivation for action. If I am afraid of losing my house, I will put in longer hours at work, or if I am scared of Medicare, I will pour more time into studying it.
Job’s words are interesting, if not ironic. Job says these words as he is sitting in an ash heap, covered in painful sores. Job has received the business end of destruction, with all of his children killed by a whirlwind (1:18, 19), his wife scorning him for being faithful to God (2:9), his property destroyed, raided, or carried off by invaders. If you or I were sitting there with Job, we might say, “hey, uh, Job? Do you think you’ve seen destruction yet?”
Job is confessing to his fear. He dreaded, or as some translations read, was terrified. Job felt real terror when he thought about the destruction that God could wreak upon him. Why? Because Job had a healthy understanding of who God is. God spoke the world and the universe into existence (Genesis 1) and upholds it still, that is, keeps it together, by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). Scientists have yet to discover everything about the universe, but they have discovered one important thing. At the level of the sub-atomic, the atoms are held together by an unknown force, which they call a “strong force” which counteracts the “weak force” which threatens atoms’ flying apart. Scientists can’t explain how each force works, but they know that they do. Job knew what that force was: “the word of his power.” Job knew that in God’s word, power and strength, the very atoms he was composed of held together, the very atoms that composed all of his great wealth, his family, his possessions were held together by the Creator. Thus the great Creator could also wreak untold havoc upon him if He so chose. Jesus put it this way, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) There is a place for fear, a healthy fear of God, a terror perhaps, but a motivating fear. What did this fear motivate Job to do?
If you read the rest of Job 31, you find a man who has committed himself to a path of righteousness. He knows what the alternative is. He swears off lust (vs. 1), lies (5), dishonesty (6), adultery (9-10), injustice (13), closing his ears to the poor (16-20), greed (24-25), idolatry (26-27), gloating (29), cursing (30), inhospitableness (31-32), and overworking his soil (38-40). Job is sensitive to what God requires of him, and has been very careful to be obedient. This was motivated in part, by his fear.
Despite his innocence, Job realizes that the destruction has come upon him anyway. “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded had happened to me.” (3:25) But Job was not hopeless, for he knew that his integrity would ultimately triumph, despite his dark circumstances, for he says , “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (19:25-26) Does this sound like a man in utter despair and hopelessness? It should, but it doesn’t. Though what he had feared had come to pass, he has found that destruction isn’t the worst thing that could happen to him. The worst thing is to have his soul cast into hell. He knows his Redeemer will not allow it, and one day he will see God in his flesh. Job learned that his fear wasn’t sufficient as a motivation to serve God. Fear alone will service a tyrant, fear without love will lead to rebellion. Thankfully the Bible doesn’t leave us in fear.
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15, 16) God’s children? This isn’t fear (though I will confess I’ve been afraid of my Dad on more than one occasion). This is love. If you are a Christian, you are not motivated so much by abject fear of what God would do to you, so much as what God has done for you through His Son Jesus Christ. God has expressed such love for us that He has sent His Son Jesus to die for us, cleanse us from our sins, and bring us into sonship with God. We are no longer strangers and aliens but children. What Job says in faith we repeat with full assurance, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” We have been bought back from sin and brought into God’s love as His children.
The invitation is to you, your household, and all who are afar off. Choose this day whether you will serve God in love, or be afraid of Him and of His judgment for the rest of your life. The invitation is open. Get to know your Father.