The Fullness of God

An astounding truth is presented to us in the Word of God. Colossians 1:19 tells us…

“For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell”


And in Colossians 2:9 Paul goes on to say…

“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”


To the Christian this makes sense even though we don’t quite fully grasp it. Jesus Christ is the fullness of God. Everything that Jesus did, said and thought on earth was in exact alignment with the Father and the Spirit. The Lord would say to His disciples, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”   Even Nicodemus recognized that Jesus was no ordinary man.

Now that we have the complete Scriptures we know that not only did Jesus claim to be God but He backed it up with signs and proofs so that we could believe it. We are also taught further about His deity by the apostles.  While the humanity of God is not something we can ever fully understand there is something that to me is even tougher to take in.  Listen to what Paul tells us he prays for in Ephesians 3:19…

“…that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”


If it wasn’t written in God’s Word we would be cast out for even suggesting this could be possible. But not only does Paul suggest it but he goes on to explain it.  Brothers and sister WE can be filled with the fullness of God. WOW!! I know this week my mind is going to be wrestling with all that this truth means in my life but just to meditate on the magnitude of what God has done for us should cause us to worship Him.

Praise to the Lord who has done wonderful things for us. Only to Him be glory and majesty and praise!

 

 

 

 

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Entry Level Theological Truth [32]

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Genesis 3:8.

To many people God seems distant and removed from their everyday lives. Much of this situation is self-imposed, for humans have a tendency to hide from their Creator. This behavior first transpired in the garden moments after the fall of Adam and Eve; upon hearing the sound of the Lord’s approach their intuitive response was to hide.

Their modern descendents are no different. Troubled by accusing consciences, contemporary people run and hide from the searching, inescapable gaze of the all-knowing God. As the Scriptures say: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19-20.) Rather than expose themselves for what they are, people hide from God’s light. This denial of reality leads to chronic self-deception and alienation from the Lord (Ephesians 4:17-18.)

 


Hiding In Plain Sight



 

A nineteenth century writer evokes the atmosphere:

A sense of guilt upon the conscience invariably occasions distant views of God. The moment Adam became conscious of having sinned, He hid himself from God’s eye. He sought concealment from the endearing presence of Him who had been used to walk in the cool of the evening through the bowers of Paradise, in sweet and confiding communion. It is so now! Guilt upon the conscience, sin unconfessed, imparts misty, gloomy, distorted views of God. We lose that clear endearing view of His character which we once had. We dare not look up with holy, humble boldness. We misinterpret His dealings; think harshly of His ways; and if providences are dark, and afflictions come, in a moment we exclaim, ‘I have sinned, and God is angry.’ And so we seek concealment from God. We sink the Father in the Judge, and the child in the slave.1

One of his contemporaries points out the absurdity of hiding from the Almighty: “What madness was this, to think to hide themselves from Him from whom they could not hide themselves, all things being naked and open before him. Hebrews 4:13. What folly was it to fly from him whom they should have flown to; he being the God of all comfort and consolation. Romams 15:5. Did ever any hide himself from God and prosper? (Job 34:22. Amos 9:3. Jeremiah 23:24.) No, never.”2

 


Strategies For Evading Reality



 

Some people hide in pleasures – some of them ordinary and some of them illicit. They try to put God out of their thoughts in a continual round of amusing diversions. Others camouflage their guilt and terror behind a cloak of pseudo-piety. They reason that a facade of good deeds and religiosity may obscure their guilt. Others deny the obvious truth of God Himself, thinking that they can disinvent the Judge of the universe through an act of their wills; they seek to do this by replacing Him with intricate but shallow fables about the origin of the cosmos.

All of these efforts are in vain, however, for God seeks His fallen creatures, poignantly calling out “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9.) Drawing on Mackintosh’s classic Notes On The Pentateuch, MacDonald notes: “This question proved two things—that man was lost and that God had come to seek. It proved man’s sin and God’s grace. God takes the initiative in salvation, demonstrating the very thing Satan got Eve to doubt—His love.”3

This pursuit of sinful men and women culminates in the coming into the world of the Lord Jesus Christ – “God manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16) – the one who describes His own mission thus: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10.)

The Lord repeatedly exposes people to the light. If they hide and run, he pursues. As the poet Thompson memorably depicted it:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.4

At the end of this life, everyone must meet Him. To those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior now, they will see their most cherished loved One face-to-face (1 John 3:1-2.) To those who do not have a relationship with Christ, He will be their judge (Acts 17:31; Revelation 20:11-15.) The eloquent Scottish preacher-poet Horatius Bonar well articulates this somber reality, bringing the past and the future together:

In the day of wrath this scene of Eden will be repeated,—man fleeing from the presence of God. In the absence of thickets he will betake himself to the rocks and hills (Hosea 10:8; Revelation 6:15, 16). But what will these do? Can His eye not pierce these? Can His hand not pluck them thence? For thus the Lord has spoken, ‘Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down; and though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence’ (Amos 9:2, 3).5

1Octavius Winslow, from the blog: http://octaviuswinslow.org/2010/08/22/august-22/ Accessed on 8/23/10.
2Philip Henry, Exposition of the First Eleven Chapters of Genesis, (London: J. Nisbet and Co., 1839), pp. 74-75.
3Alluding to C. H. Mackintosh, Notes On The Pentateuch: Genesis to Deuteronomy, p. 33; William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad, Ge 3:7–13 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995).
4Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven. Lines 1-13. Accessed on 7/20/12 here: http://poetry.elcore.net/HoundOfHeavenInRtT.html
5Horatius Bonar, Earth’s Morning: Or, Thoughts on Genesis, (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1875), p. 140.

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NT Tuesday: Doing the Work of an Evangelist

Golden Waves


Over the last few weeks (here, here, and here), we have considered several New Testament principles: worshipping God in spirit and in truth and the appropriate use of spiritual gifts. Now it is time to turn to another principle found in the New Testament. Before we look more intently at this new principle, I want to remind everyone of what makes a New Testament principle. A principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption.” So, a New Testament principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption that was established or expounded upon in the New Testament for believers seeking to follow the Lord Jesus as His disciples, individually or collectively.”

To introduce this next principle, let’s look at a few verses. The first verse is one of the parting comments of Jesus Christ to His disciples and is found in Matthew 28:19-20

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Another verse, with the same thought, is found in Acts 1:7-8

“He (Jesus Christ) said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Both of our verses suggest the idea of spreading the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus Christ died on the cross as payment for our sins and that the Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days later as proof that God is completely satisfied with that payment. Elsewhere we have a few other verses that are more direct in our responsibility to share the Gospel with the lost. In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul exhorts Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist”. And in Ephesians 4, we read that the Risen Lord gave men as evangelists for the well-being of the church (the same reason all of the other gifts were given).

Several simple and accurate conclusions can be reached by looking at these verses. One is that God has entrusted men and women with the responsibility of delivering the good news that Jesus died for mankind’s sins according to the scripture. I want to emphasize something – the responsibility is given to INDIVIDUALS – not to the church, either local or universal! The assembly is not responsible for spreading the Gospel; the universal church is not responsible for spreading the Gospel. Rather, each and every believer is given the individual mandate and privilege to share the Gospel with the lost.

We will think more on this important topic next week!

Until then, fulfill your ministry and do the work of an evangelist!

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Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.

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NT Tuesday: Spiritual Gifts – Teaching

Last week we looked at Ephesians 4:11-12 as key passage in understanding the New Testament principle that each believer is given a spiritual gift to be used for equipping the saints to do the work of ministry. The verse reads: “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” And also, 1 Corinthians 12:28 “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administration, and various kinds of tongues.”

Gift BoxThis week we are going to continue to look more in-depth at the spiritual gift of teaching. Teaching is a heart-to-heart endeavor that, with all the other gifts, is designed to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. Keep in mind that the goal is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. The goal is NOT to give every brother a chance to explain a Bible passage or to share how much we have studied and learned about a particular passage, the goal is unarguably to equip the saints.

Biblical teaching is NOT the same as explaining or expounding a Bible passage. Think, as well, on the passage in 2 Timothy. Paul writes to his younger brother who is actively engaged in ministry “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Notice again, that the goal is to equip the man of God for work – not to inform him (or her) so that they can pass a test or impress their co-workers, but to EQUIP them!

BooksBoth Jesus Christ and Paul handled the Truth in the same way – like a manual for life and ministry. Their teaching was more like that of a trade school than an academic setting. Paul’s letters clearly show that even in the structure where he lays out (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) biblical principles in the first part of his epistles and then the last section is filled with what to do with the principles. In other words, “here’s the truth and here’s what you do with it.” Neither of these men merely explained a passage, neither of these men spoke to their students’ heads, they were speaking to their hearts.

As believers who must be equipped by other believer’s faithful use of their spiritual gift, we need to be in prayer that the men of God who provide the biblical instruction to us and our dear brothers and sisters are men of God equipped to teach – equipped to teach with the goal of equipping to do work. We need to pray for men of God to take the platform who have a heart burden to speak to their listener’s hearts, not their heads. Most believers can explain a passage, but I would suggest that few, the ones given to the assembly by a Sovereign God as a teacher (or teacher-shepherd) are able to teach like Paul and the Lord.

Until next week, fulfill YOUR ministry using the gift given to you…

 

 

 

 

 

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NT Tuesday: Spiritual Gifts – Introduction

Gift BoxOver the last few weeks, we have been considering worshiping God as He has prescribed it in the New Testament. In my series of 3 posts I referred to the truth that I was discussing as a New Testament Principle. Now it is time to turn to another principle found in the New Testament. I want to remind everyone of what makes a New Testament principle. A principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption.” So, a New Testament principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption that was established or expounded upon in the New Testament for believers seeking to follow the Lord Jesus as His disciples, individually or collectively.”

To introduce this next principle, let’s look at a few verses. Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” And also, 1 Corinthians 12:28 ESV “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administration, and various kinds of tongues.” Therefore, another New Testament principle is that God has given each believer a spiritual gift.

Most Bible students will quickly recognize that there are several passages that deal with spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift is a super-natural enablement given by God to you at the time of your new birth. This gift is given to you along with a ministry and a series of related works that use the gift in an appropriate setting to accomplish God’s purposes.

God was gracious enough to give us some examples of these spiritual gifts. (I don’t for a moment believe that every spiritual gift has been enumerated in all of the passages on spiritual gifts.) God was also gracious enough to tell us the purpose for the gifts being given. They weren’t given to us, by God, for our own personal enjoyment, or even our own personal ministry. They are not to be buried and “kept for later” or exchanged because we aren’t happy with the one(s) we received. Rather, they were given to us by God to equip the saints for the work of ministry.

Most of you are saying “brilliant” at this moment because that is soooo obvious. But, I would like to suggest that perhaps from time to time we have lost sight of the goal when discerning gifts in our local meetings, etc. I am thinking, at the moment, specifically of the gift of teaching. I fear that for one reason or another, we have made the gift of teaching a “rite of passage” where every young man (or middle aged or older) is given a chance (or chances or even the platform regularly) to “teach.” We all know that we don’t believe in a “one man teaching ministry” but yet, we have embraced an everyman, or nearly everyman teaching ministry. That is certainly not scriptural (more on that later.)

Teaching is a heart-to-heart endeavor that, with all the other gifts, is designed to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. We ought not to be merely explaining Bible passages Sunday after Sunday. Almost any brother who studies the Word can explain a passage! But, dear saints, that is not teaching as envisioned by God and described in scripture.

We are going to talk more about this next week, Lord willing. But until then…fulfill your ministry (and use your gift to equip others to do the work of ministry.)

 

 

 

 

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NT Tuesday: Worship in Spirit and Truth [3]

SunriseFor the last couple weeks, we have been looking at the New Testament principle of worship. Our thesis, if you will, has been as follows: The Father seeks worshippers. As disciples of Jesus Christ, worship is a necessity – both corporately and individually. The Father desires it! But as any Master desiring something, it is to be on His terms. This by default means that it is not on our terms.

We’ve seen from scripture (John 4) that Lord Jesus said we must worship God “in spirit and in truth.” Last week, we discussed the first requirement for worshipping God. This week we are going to look at the second requirement of worshipping God – “in truth.” First, we must ask, what is “truth”? Truth is the Word of God. Truth is not arbitrary. Truth for one person is the same as truth for the next. God has given us clearly His will for us and it is revealed for us in the Word of God. Everything we do in worship, we must do in accordance with the Word of God. God has defined acceptable worship – not man.

Man, as he is inclined to do, comes up with his own ideas and his own ways of worshipping God. There is a proverb that would remind us of the dangers of that type of thinking – “There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12). Often times, we are well-meaning and sincere, but we are also wrong. We cannot define worship as something different than how God has defined it.

Sadly, the human mind can rationalize nearly anything. Well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ have convinced themselves that they can worship God however they want – whatever makes them feel good about themselves and their walk with the Lord. Just because we can rationalize something or just because it feels good (or we feel blessed), doesn’t make our actions right!

God has always told man how He is to be worshipped. He has not left it up to man to determine how to worship Him. And when man did use his own “judgment” or followed his own “conscience”, result was not good (think of Saul!). In Ephesians 5:17, we read “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence.” God has given us all things we need to know that pertain to worshipping Him so that we can worship Him in spirit and in truth.

One last point, because truth never changes, our worship doesn’t change. We do not need to make worship “relevant” for different peoples or different cultures or different generations. Worship is in response to KNOWING GOD – His person and His work. If we need to do anything to help people worship God, it’s teaching them about Him, showing them His glories from the Word. God has not changed, truth has not changed, and worship does not change and God certainly doesn’t need us to help Him make it relevant.

Until next week, fulfill your ministry!

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Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.

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Happy Father’s Day

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,
but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4 ESV

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Entry Level Theological Truth [26]

The Rock of Gibralter

“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’” Genesis 3:4

After beginning subtly, the adversary changes tactics by directly challenging the Word of God. From an implied undermining of the Almighty’s goodness Satan’s argument now proceeds to specific contradiction of the Creator’s authority. Eventually the enemy always unmasks himself in opposition to the Lord’s revealed mind in the Scriptures. Ultimately, everyone must decide: “Does God’s Word have authority in my life?” Whether one realizes it or not, disbelieving or disobeying the Bible flouts the power, holiness, and sovereignty of the Most High God.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [25]

Graveyard

“…Lest you die.” Genesis 3:3

“There’s nothing certain except death and taxes” says the familiar adage, but why is that so? People of every race, nationality, socioeconomic and educational level die. One out of every one dies in our world today; these are easy statistics for the mathematically challenged (like this author.) How does one account for the ubiquity of death in our world? Genesis 3 gives the answer.

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Which Church? New Testament Churches Were Guided By Overseers

Which Church?

The responsibility for leadership in New Testament assemblies devolved upon overseers, (often translated ‘bishop’ in the King James Version). These men are also described as being elders, that is, men of a mature spiritual experience, 1 Timothy 3:6. They were not elected by the congregation, but appointed by the sovereign choice of the Holy Spirit, Acts 20:28. Certain qualifications had to be met, and these are outlined in 1 Timothy chapter 3, and Titus chapter 1.

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