Tag Archives: theology

That we might know God

Update: Redemption Church removed the heretical statement concerning the parts of God. I am glad for their willingness to receive correction.

Once upon a time, a man’s house was on fire. Every room was burning. The roof was about to cave in. The inferno raged all around. The fire department showed up.

“Oh. I see the problem. Your bookcase is on fire”.

“Well”, he answered. “It certainly is on fire. But that isn’t exactly the problem.”

“Let’s just put that fire out and then we can talk about the rest of it”.

“I guess…”

So they put the bookcase out. Part of the roof caved in. The fire caught the trees outside.

The firefighter said, “Oh. Look at that. Your dresser is on fire!”

The propane tank outside exploded. The firefighters put the dresser out.

This silly example describes the state of our church. The Southern Baptists have been discussing social issues this week. Justice is a crucial calling of the church. But the conservatives were fighting hard to make sure that any hint of injustice stay buried.

The moderates fought hard to bring social justice to the front. Meanwhile, the whole house is burning down.

We are all very aware of where Ed Litton stands on every cultural issue. But he doesn’t understand who God is, and that didn’t even blip on anyone’s radar.

While the church across the country is fighting for whatever social cause comes up, or whatever cultural war they deem important, we have missed the whole point of it all, and the house is in embers.

Jesus said that eternal life is “that we might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

The reason that Jesus came into the world was to restore fellowship between God and man, that we might turn from our idols and know that only true God as he has revealed himself in his word.

But that has not become the supreme goal of the modern church. A faithful minister might preach faithfully about who God is and who Jesus is and still arouse the anger of his church if he is on the perceived “wrong side” of the culture wars.

It is as if Jesus came, not to reconcile us to God, but to support our political causes.

Take, for example, this statement from Redeemer Church in Mobile, Alabama. Their pastor was just elected president of the SBC.

“God is One, the Creator and Ruler of the universe. He has eternally existed in three persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three are co-equal parts of one God”

There are only two scenarios. One is that whoever wrote this knows nothing about theology, or who God is. Or two, they just don’t care, and have a “good enough” view when it comes to doctrine.

God has no parts. If God had parts, then someone or something outside of God would have had to have put him together. In which case God is not God. This is the doctrine known as “the simplicity of God.” God is not composed. IT MATTERS.

This is theology 101. It matters. It is eternal life.

This definition of God is NOT Christianity. It is a denial of the Trinity.

We spend so much time on our social pet peeves, that we have forgotten the point of it all. That we might know God.

When you are searching for a church, if “part” is used anywhere to describe God, keep searching. Either they are outright heretics, or have decided that it doesn’t matter.

Here is my point. This statement of faith made it past the review committee, it was most likely written by a pastor. And no one cried foul and changed it. The house burned down while we were debating the fire on the bookshelves and the dressers.

Would these statements have made the final cut?

We believe that a woman has the right to choose.

We believe that nothing makes God happier than when two people – ANY two people – fall in love.

We believe that the police should be defunded.

We believe that every Christian ought to vote Republican.

We believe that every Christian ought to vote democratic.

If you now wish to debate me on any of those statements, then you are proving my point. We have become very good at putting out the fire on the bookcases and the dressers when the whole house is collapsing around us.

Everyone who has paid attention at all knows what is wrong or what is right with all of these statements. The “Church” has made their thinking on it quite clear.

Meanwhile, the house is burning down. To divide God into parts is to take his great name in vain. It is to deny God, to blaspheme his holy name and to become pagan in your thinking.

The church used to profess this: “No sin is greater or more provoking to God than the taking of his name in vain.” (Heidelberg Catechism 100).

According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, who is the one single essence,  in which are three Persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible;

the Son is the word, wisdom, and the image of the Father;

the Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Nevertheless, God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit have each His personality, distinguished by Their properties; but in such wise that these three Persons are but one only God.

Hence, then, it is evident that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.

Nevertheless, these Persons thus distinguished are not divided, nor intermixed; for the Father has not assumed the flesh, nor has the Holy Spirit, but the Son only.

The Father has never been without His Son, or without His Holy Spirit. For They are all three co-eternal and co-essential. There is neither first nor last; for They are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy. (Belgic Confession, Article 8)

But today, who God is doesn’t matter. What words you use for him don’t matter. As long as you get behind my social cause; vote the right way. After all, theology is all speculation. What is really important is winning the culture war.

It has destroyed churches, it has torn the house down.

The house is on fire. Wake up, people.

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Who carries whom?

Bel bows down, Nebo stoops; Their idols were on the beasts and on the cattle. Your carriages were heavily loaded, A burden to the weary beast.
2 They stoop, they bow down together; They could not deliver the burden, But have themselves gone into captivity.
3 “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, And all the remnant of the house of Israel, Who have been upheld by Me from birth, Who have been carried from the womb:
4 Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
(Isaiah. 46:1-4)

One of the greatest things you can do in times of distress and uncertainty is to learn who God is. And one of the best passages for that endeavor is chapters 40- 55 of Isaiah.

In the context, God has shown his prophet that Babylon will take Israel into captivity and scatter them throughout the world. But, God goes on to say, it will not be the end of his promises. God will provide a highway in the desert, a return to the land and he will bring judgment on his enemies. And then God gives his people assurances of his promise by reminding them of his almighty, everywhere-present power.

In the ancient world, a war was a battle between the gods of the nations. The context would be between Yahweh, the God of Israel, and Bel and Nebo, gods of Babylon.

That is the context of Isaiah 46. God shows Isaiah that this is no contest at all.

Bel and Nebo have to be carried from place to place. They not only are incapable of delivering their people when they go into captivity, THEY will go into captivity themselves. But they won’t even be able to walk into captivity. They will be loaded onto the carts and become a burden to the beasts who will struggle to pull them from place to place.

What good are gods that you have to help get from place to place? What good are gods that are powerless to save? What good are gods that require your sacrifice, and your efforts and your wisdom! What good are gods that require you to defend their honor, to fight their battles?

What good are gods that have to be carried from place to place?

In contrast, the true God, the God of Israel, the God who has become OUR God through Jesus Christ, carries US. We don’t carry him. He carries us.

He carries us from birth. He lifts us up through the hard times. He bears us when we are at our full strength. He carries us when we are young and strong. He carries us when we are old and grey.

He doesn’t decide we are too old to be valuable to him. He doesn’t decide that we can do this on our own now, for he knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.

He KNOWS that we are like flowers of the field. Strong one day. Fading and blowing away the next.

13 As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
  14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
  15 As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
  16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.
  17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, (Ps. 103:13-17)

And still, he carries us. We don’t die for him. He dies for us. We don’t carry him. He carries us. We don’t defend him. He defends us.

This is the God we serve. He is our God and we are his people.

Learning more about who he is will go a long ways towards our comfort.

As the old hymn says,

“E’en down to old age all my people shall prove

My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;

And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,

Like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.”

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