Boring Obedience – Big God

Boring Obedience – Big God

Word in Season

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Ruth 1:16

[Boaz] said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. Ruth 3:9-11

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Ruth 4:14-15

Why? That question usually rises up in our flesh from time to time when we are called to obey God. Love your wife and children. Why? Be kind to your coworker. Why? Spend time with me in prayer. Why?

The simple answer is that you should do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. It is God’s command. You will deepen your relationship with your wife if you love her. You will show Jesus to your coworker as you are kind. You will get to know God better as you study His word and commune with Him.

The root of the “Why” question often arises because we question how effective our obedience will be. Why obey if I can’t see the fruit that will come from my obedience?

For the spouse whose wife despises him, what fruit will come from loving her? Or why should I be kind to my coworker who undercut me for that position? And if I don’t feel like I’m growing closer to God after I spend time with him, why would I study and pray?

To the doubters, I give you Ruth and Boaz. I love the examples from the Old Testament of people who stepped up and did the right thing without ever seeing the outcome.

Ruth, a widowed foreigner, chooses to do the right thing and follow her mother-in-law back to Judah. She willingly cares for Naomi and abandons her own home for the sake of Naomi even to the point of saying, “Where you die I shall die, and there I will be buried.” (Ruth 1:17).  From the circumstances, I can strongly assume that Ruth did not foresee the outcome of her obedience.

Boaz, a successful farmer and businessman, chose to obey the command of the Lord and sought the opportunity to be a kinsman-redeemer (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) to keep the line of Elimelech and Naomi alive. There is no way that Boaz in obeying could have seen in the moment the long-term impact of His obedience. Boaz was simply acting in obedience as he redeemed Ruth and married her.

And yet, the simple in-the-moment obedience of both Ruth and Boaz led to the birth of man named Jesse who had a son by the name of David. And it is from this Davidic line that the Savior of the world, King Jesus, was born in the little town of Bethlehem.

Two things happen when you obey Him. First and instantly, you bring glory to God. The world sees it. Your wife will see it. God will be seen as more beautiful when you adorn His doctrines (Titus 2:10). Second and unforeseen, God uses the obedience of His people as a means to accomplish His plan. You have no idea how masterfully God will use your simple obedience in the little situations of life. Maybe your coworker will turn to Christ in repentance. Maybe tomorrow morning, when you meet Him in the quiet, God will show himself more clearly to you than ever before. Maybe God will use the love shown to your wife to open her eyes.

We aren’t called to be omniscient. God has that handled. We are called to be obedient and trust Him with the results.

I pray we do that more today.

Do You Do Well, Joe?

Do You Do Well, Joe?

Word in Season

Over the first five weeks of the fall, we studied the book of Jonah with the Main Adult Sunday School class. There are many lessons about the hardness of the human heart and the loving compassion of God in those four short chapters. Below is a short recap that hopefully will inspire you to dig deep into this book and God’s word.

I hope it also encourages anyone on the fence to join us Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM as we go through God’s Word together. It is a gold mine of hope, encouragement and calls to action.

God:
Do you do well to disobey me, Joe?
My command was certain that you should proclaim, mercy to your enemies—those whom you hate.
Their evil hearts before me, condemn them to eternal shame.
Warn sinners of my coming judgment, their sin before God, not man.
Was it wise for you to try and thwart my plan?

Have I been unreliable? Have my commands ever failed in the past?
Am I the God of optional plans that bend upon fate and man?

Joe:
Yes I do well, God!
I know you are reliable, and that’s why I’m disobeying.
Your plan must be wrong. What you command has a flaw.
Those evil wicked people, deserve death that’s why I’m flying

[God pursues Joe and exposes his sin and disobedience. But rather than repenting of his sin, Joe would rather continue in his rebellion (Jonah 1:4-16)]

God:
Joe, do you do well in the midst of the storm? Do you do well to give up on your life?
Your disobedience was for naught.
None can run from my presence, don’t you know?
I have pursued you with trials and exposed you with man’s devices.
My plans are never thwarted by feeble disobedience, or have you forgot?

Joe, do you do well to want death over repentance? Don’t you see you are in the wrong? You disobeyed me, and are embracing the consequences.

Joe:
Yes, I do well! I will not obey.
I’d rather be dead than see goodness extended.
You must be missing how evil these sinners are.
They don’t deserve mercy, that’s why I am justified
I’m sparing them from your mercy, from being Your children they are protected

I will die now; I am indifferent.
To the pit I will go; cast me in it.

[Joe in the pit and the depths of his sin (Jonah 1:15-2:10]

Joe:
God, please help!
I went into the deep. I hit rock bottom. My life was almost done.
And in those final breaths, one thing was on my heart—it was not disobedience.
Save me God! You are my rock and hope.
Dead men can’t praise you.
Let these lunges breathe anew, my life I give to you.

God:
You are forgiven, though the grave you deserve. I will be merciful,
To the depths of the sea, your transgressions are removed.
And your life, I will spare, transport you back to earth
Now do well to obey me. It’s is truly for your best.
The mercy you’ve received is not greater than the rest.

[Joe obeys, God saves evil sinners, but Joe gets angry (Jonah 3:1-4:4)]

God:
Do you do well to be angry at me, Joe? Is your anger right?

Joe:
Yes I am right, God. Yes I am justified.
I wanted to save you from extending your mercy. I wanted to help you avoid giving grace.
That thing that you did was totally not right.
You saved sinful people, they weren’t even your own children. You made yourself dirty by extending your grace.
This thing done is evil!
I knew you would do it, it’s why I disobeyed at the first.
I wanted to save you from being tarnished,
These dirty sinners make you look the worse.
You were meant to stay pure and clean and only to extend grace to good people like me.

[Joe sits down in hope that God will bring judgment to the evil sinners. God gives Joe some comfort in the form of a thing then takes the thing away after a day. Joe gets angry (Jonah 4:5-11)]

God:
Do you do well to be angry about losing that thing, Joe?
I gave it to you then took it away. You didn’t earn it or make it.
What right do you have to be so upset?
That thing you love, is it worth such a fit?

Joe:
Yes, Yes, Yes I do!
That thing gave me comfort. That thing gave me joy.
I loved that thing. That thing protected me.
It’s not fair. It’s not just.
How can you take away what I love most?
Death is preferred to the injustice of this life!
Why live in a world where things flee from me as a ghost.

God:
Joe, do you see the problem? It’s in your heart.
You think things that you love are top on my chart.
You think things that you hate, I should hate too.
You want me to be God, but God in Joe’s shoes.
You’ve dreamed me up to be someone like you. But I’m not.
Joe, you think you are clean and deserving of mercy, and think no one below you could ever be worthy.
You want people to earn my love and affection, but have you done anything to earn me?
You love your little comfort things more than people. How is that anything but evil?
You’d rather see judgment on souls than my love to win.

I am not you, Joe. I am God.
Everything I do is right and just.
I have mercy on those I will and I extend judgment on the unrepentant.
My ways are higher. My ways are greater.
Your low opinion of me makes you worthy of the grave.
Do you not see the grace all around you? What did you do to receive it from me?
Was it your status or work, or family tree? No, I gave you mercy when you deserved death. You were down in the pit, and I gave you a lift.
You are not better. You are not more worthy.
So, stop playing judge and jury.

Joe:
God, I am broken. You’ve exposed my sin. I do love my things more than souls,
my heart is sick from within.
You are God, I am not. You get to choose who deserves your mercy.
My sick heart cannot match your grace.
I will write of your compassion upon my poor life.
It will not be pretty, from this sinner’s perspective,
But God, you will shine, your compassion overflowing.

If God is Immutable, How Could Gifts Cease?

If God is Immutable, How Could Gifts Cease?

Word in Season

im·mu·ta·ble /i(m)ˈmyo͞odəb(ə)l/ adjective; unchanging over time or unable to be changed.

Someone texted in this question during the Spirit of Truth Conference Q&A panel. It seems to approach the concerns that might be brought about by a cessationist’s (one who believes certain spiritual gifts are no longer in use today) viewpoint on the spiritual gifts. The goal of the conference was not to argue cessationism vs continuationism (the view that all spiritual gifts are still active today). But it came up a handful of times, and it definitely causes disagreements in the global church.

Rather than arguing for cessationism or continuationism in this response, I think it will be more helpful to show that, while there may be good arguments for continuationism, arguing for that on the basis of God’s immutability (unchanging) is not valid.

To get to the heart of this we have to understand what God’s immutability implies. Immutability means that God is unchanging in his character, though not necessarily in his dealings with humanity. God does not change (Malachi 3:6). God does what he says he will do (Ezekiel 24:14). God does not make things up or lie (1 Samuel 15:29). God is eternal in his nature (Psalm 90:2-4). God’s holiness and glory are unchanging (John 17:5). And on we could go.

But…

Thanks be to God we in Christ can wake up each morning and praise our immutable God who changes in his interactions with sinners. He once was at war with you, and your sin was your death sentence. But, by the grace of God in Christ, we can now be called children of God – not enemies. You were once far off but are now near by the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:13).

Every cessationist that I know of is absolutely convinced that God is unchanging in his character. God would not be God if his character changed. The view that certain gifts have ceased reflects a change in God’s dealings with his people, not his character.

The same argument could be made for Jesus’ earthly ministry. If we felt Jesus’ presence with us during his time on earth was a character trait of God, we would be terrified to see him leave us and return to Heaven. But he did go, and that is a change in God’s dealings with us, not his character. Jesus came for our salvation and returned to the Father glorified as our advocate. In Jesus, we see God’s unchanging eternal character (holiness, eternality, truthfulness, etc.), and we also see a massive change in God’s dealings with us.

Believing that certain gifts have ceased does not require God to have changed. Just as Jesus came at a time and point in history to fulfill the law of God, so viewing certain gifts of the Spirit to have been used at one time in history and now no longer used makes no impact on God’s eternal unchanging character.