“[H]ow shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” - Hebrews 2:3-4
As we continue through Wayne Grudem's book Systematic Theology we find ourselves on the chapter concerning Miracles. Two weeks ago, we examined God's providence. It makes sense that the topic of miracles would follow providence, for they are the same from the vantage point of God. Miracles are only miracles to us because they are “a less common kind of God's activity in which he arouses people's awe and wonder and bears witness to himself.” Miracles are not God acting when previously He was not; for God is a God of providence, meaning he is ordaining everything always, not some things sometime.
Miracles, like a lot of Biblical themes, have been wildly distorted. And this distortion goes in both directions. For some people, everything is a miracle: babies, a rainbow, a parking space, etc. These are not miracles, for these things happen all the time. They are common. When everything is a miracle, nothing is a miracle. This is not to say that God is not providing for them, they are just not miraculous events.
The other end of the distortion is the idolization of miracles. Certain denominations are vulnerable to this problem, and many times evangelical frauds prey on these groups for the purpose of money. Instead of pursuing God these people pursue miracles. Miracles are like a drug that they keep chasing. Jesus ran into this issue during his ministry. “And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.” (John 6:2). Eventually these people didn't stick around. They gave up on Jesus, for they only wanted the awe factor. Jesus says it very bluntly, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign.”
The truth is, most of us will never see an authentic miracle (i.e. a less common kind of activity for the purpose of arousing awe). If you think about it, miracles are not that common in the Bible. The Bible covers a history of over 4,000 years. Miracles play a very small role. Sure they may be a few turn of the pages, but in reality those pages may represent hundreds and hundreds of years. In fact, many respectable theologians (Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Johnathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, B.B. Warfield, John Gresham Machen, John MacArthur) believe that the gift of miracles ended with the death of the Apostles. This does not mean that they believe that miracles won't happen, they just don't believe God will use humanity to be the instruments of these miracles as He did with the Apostles.
So what are we to do with these extra ordinary events orchestrated by God and documented in the Scriptures? Embrace them, but do not idolize them. These events from God, such as the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the destruction of Egypt, the virgin birth, the resurrection of Lazarus, the resurrection of Jesus, they all display the glory of God. They display the reality that God is a God with no restrictions. Allow these events to wake you up out of the normal and cause you to stand in awe of the God of the Universe who can do all things according to His Will.
Ultimately, allow these miracles to increase your fear and your faith in God and his Son Jesus Christ. God is a God who can destroy and he is a God who can save. As the verse above states, “God also bore witness by signs and wonders.” If these miracles truly happened don't you think it would be wise to listen to this God?
If God is all powerful and all loving, why is there so much brokenness in the world? This is a common question people ask. They believe that if those two things are true (which they are) God would create a world with no evil, no pain, no brokenness.
First, we need to be clear that God has promised to create a world like that. It is called the New Earth. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” (Revelation 21:1). The first earth is now. It is the earth that is full of sin. The New Earth will be a perfect earth. Think of the life in the Garden of Eden before the fall. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
With that said why must there be a First Earth and Second Earth? Why not just start with the New Earth?
One way you can answer this question is that it is God’s purpose. Isaiah 46:9-10 says, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10declaring 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,” The reason there is a world full of sin is because God wills it to be. He wills his image bearers to reject his authority and rebel against him. But does this solve the mystery?
In Ephesians 1:7-9 we see God speak again about His purposes and this is what it says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
The mystery of God’s purpose is displayed in Christ. So what does Christ display?
Verse 7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” In Christ dying for us we see the riches of God’s grace. Let us now say it in the negative. Without Christ dying for us we cannot see the riches of God’s grace.
Therefore, the purpose of God in the allowance of the First Earth (now) is to create a stage by which He can display to us, through Jesus, his abundant grace. Without sin, then there is no need for Christ to die. Without the death of Christ, we do not see God’s grace. Without seeing God’s grace, we do not see God, for God is a God rich in grace. If God is a God of grace, the only way to display that attribute is to create a world where grace is needed.
Perhaps it would help to think of an artist. An artist expresses himself through his work. His creation speaks about himself. This is what the first Earth is in a sense. It is the expression of God. He is putting forth who He is in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I believe this is what is being said in Matthew 26:39 when Jesus was speaking with his father the night of his arrest, “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” God did not let this cup pass (the crucifixion). Why? It was not possible, for it was his will for Christ to be the radiance of His glorious grace.
Today, in my annual journey through the Bible I concluded the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) and began the Book of Joshua. This is how the Book of Joshua begins, “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.”
The death of Moses was a significant historical event. He was the leader of the Israelites, a force of approximately 2 million people. For 40 years he stood in the gap between a Holy God and a stiff-necked people. Through his hands, God brought plagues, parted the sea, won wars, provided bread from heaven, called forth water from a rock, and split the earth.
In the last chapter of Deuteronomy it states, “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”
But like all men he died.
For me, the event of Moses’s death, as significant as it was for Israel, was a mere turn of the page, and this is the way God desired it to be.
The reason I say this is that the Bible is, generally speaking, a recording of historical events. It was written by 40 different men over a period of 1600 years. The Bible did not fall from heaven in one leather bound volume. Real men recorded real events in real time about a real God.
This was the role of God’s servant Moses, and this would also become the role of God’s servant Joshua. They were instruments, used by God to document God’s story of redemption. With each chapter we see the Glory of God on display in history. We see His promises, we see His patience, we see His faithfulness, we see His power, we see His holiness, we see His Wisdom, but most importantly we see the common thread of redemption. And this redemption reaches its apex and fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God best sums this up in Hebrews 1:1-3, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things.” Moses existed to be a pointer to the coming of Christ. Joshua existed to be a pointer to the coming of Christ. All of the prophets existed to be pointers to the coming of Christ.
The Bible is not like any other book that has ever existed. It is a recording of God’s providence as he unfolds history according to the purpose of His will. So as we read, let us marvel that the pen of God is not made of plastic and ink. The pen of God consists of the cosmos and all of its inhabitants. If God were to write a book, I suppose He would write it like this.
“Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” – 1 Peter 4:19
As Christians, we must make a choice, is God sovereign or is man sovereign. At first glance, and without much thought, many Christians would say God is sovereign (and I would agree). However, those same Christians would then argue that man has a free will and argue that God does not ordain the actions of man. If that is the case, then your theological position is that man is sovereign, not God.
The reason that many Christians say one thing, but actually believe the other is that when the question is posed with no qualifiers, it seems painfully obvious that God is sovereign, isn’t that the definition of God…sovereignty? And once again, I would agree with that statement. However, the problem then arises when we start to think about the implications of such a position. To be sovereign means to have control. Control over what? Well, control over everything. What about the bad stuff? Yes the bad stuff too…even the bad stuff at the hands of evil man.
What is interesting is that when the Bible speaks of difficulties, trials, tribulations, suffering, persecution it is not uncommon for the Scriptures to remind us of God’s sovereignty. We see this very clearly in 1 Peter 4:19, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
The suffering that Peter is speaking about is not general in nature, it is specific. It is described a few verses earlier as a fiery trial, and being insulted for the name of Christ, and suffering because you are a Christian. And Peter wants us to know that this is God’s will. God desires that his children should suffer at the hands of evil men.
The glory of God.
Verse 14 says, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” And verse 16, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”
This means that our suffering has a purpose. First, we suffer because of Christ living in us. Second we suffer so that we can display God’s glory by enduring as Christ endured. Our pain has a purpose. It is ordained by God to display His glory through our endurance.
This reality, that God has ordained suffering for a purpose, leads us to one conclusion. Trust God. The trials in your life are not random, God is in control. He is doing something…something glorious.
We are born to worship. It is in our DNA. Something inside of us causes us to exult. Most times, our worship is subconscious. We don’t even realize we are doing it. It just happens. The propensity to worship can manifest itself in the realm of sports, music, politics, power, beauty, science, etc. Almost everything that exists can be an object, and therefore a temptation, to worship.
For many of us we can look back in our lives and see a trail of broken idols that we have bowed down to. For me, as a teen, I bowed down to the idol of success. The avenue of the success in a small school was sports. Once in college, my idol became what is commonly termed, YOLO (you only live once. In the 90’s it was called “carpe diem”). I would pursue the pleasure of the moment, each night becoming a new opportunity to worship at the feet of “the best night ever.” In the moment, I did not recognize these things as idols, but there is no doubt looking back that they were my gods with a little “g”.
This reality is true for all of us, just take a moment and think about your life. It is defined by your worship.
Hopefully this thought that you are designed to worship causes you to ask the question why? Why did our Creator orient our hearts towards worship? The answer is found in John 4:23.
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” – John 4:23
God made us to be worshippers because he seeks our worship. This is why the Potter of the Universe fashioned and formed you, to praise Him. Psalm 150:6 says it very clearly, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” The reason you exhale is to exult the Lord.
The problem, as I previously stated, is our worship is misdirected. We worship things that are not made to be worshipped. We worship things that are not worthy to be worshipped. We worship things that are false.
This is why In John 4:23 Jesus says that true worshippers worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Truth means in accordance with reality. Truth means accurate. To worship anything but God is to worship an untruth. To spend a life worshiping anything but God is to live a lie.
God is looking for those who understand this. God is seeking those who have eyes to see what is truly valuable. God is seeking those who have been given the eyes to see the glory of God, and to adore Him. God is looking for those who throw down their idols of clay and come to his thrown and praise Him. The question is, when God is seeking those who worship him in spirit and in truth, will he find you?
How often have you seen a Facebook post of some parent sharing a photo of their child doing something cute and then hashtagging it with #blessed. Behind this hashtag is an understanding that your children are gifts from God. To be blessed is to be happy due to the favor of God.
With that said, what does God want us to do with these gifts that He has given us? Just looking at Facebook, it appears that we think that we are to plug them into as many activities as feasibly possible and cater to their every desire. We justify these actions by claiming that we love our kids and want them to be happy every moment of their life. But is this what God desires?
We are told by God in Isaiah 43:7 that God created, formed, and made all humanity for one purpose, “for my glory.” Notice that the verse does not say "for the parent’s glory", or even "for the glory of the child". The reason your child exists is for the glory of God.
How are children to glorify God? First, they must be introduced to Jesus, and thankfully this is exactly what Jesus desires. In Matthew 19:14 Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Parent’s how often have you been guilty of hindering your children from coming to Jesus Christ? Have you told them who Jesus is? Have you opened up the Bible and read the Gospel’s to them? In 2 Timothy 3:14-15 the Apostle Paul says this to young Timothy, “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 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.” Have you acquainted your children to God’s Word?
In Deuteronomy 11:18-19 it says, “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Moms and Dads is this a description of your child rearing? Is the Bible prominent in your home, or is the TV, video games, social networking, etc.?
In Proverbs 22:6 God commands parents to “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” How do we do this? Just read Psalm 119. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word” (Verse 9). “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (verse 130).
If you truly believe that your child is a gift from God, then I encourage you to consider what God’s will is for your kids, and give to them the treasure that is His Word.
Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA.