The Awe Factor of God

Just started reading Francis Chan’s Crazy Love.

Over a million copies sold already. I picked up a copy at the Desiring God Pastor’s Conference in Minneapolis last week. Figured I needed to see what all the ruckus was about.

He begins in a rather unorthodox way with chapter one entitled Stop Praying. He wants us to step back and take a look at the awesomeness of God. He directs the reader to a website to view this:

Have to admit. That perspective will definitely fuel your awe tank. Amazing.

Later in the chapter, Chan quotes A. W. Tozer:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. . . . Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.

Will you pray with me that God gives us a fresh and accurate view of Himself tomorrow as we gather to worship His awesome name?

Nothing Matters More in the Battle Against Sin that Enslaves

Among the things I give thanks to God for this Thanksgiving week is the grace He has given in delivering me over the years from enslaving sin.

How does that happen? We find a significant key in Peter’s second epistle.

Second Peter addresses a threat to the church of Jesus Christ in Peter’s day in the form of heresy, false teaching. Chapter 2:1 says – there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them. Their error was libertinism. They promoted license. They preached a perverse understanding of freedom and grace that entice by sensual passions of the flesh (2:18). Anything goes was the name of the game for this bunch. Grace covers.

Peter aims in this book to take such foolishness to task and arm the church with weapons of warfare to counteract the attack. He begins this letter with the indicative before ever stressing any imperatives. He talks of what is before what should be. He lays out a grand description of what God has done in saving His people. He bases his prescriptions for godly behavior on an eloquent description of what God has done. 

In so doing he tips his hand at what makes for the key idea in the entire book. We see it in 1:2 – Grace and peace be multiplied to you. That’s not an unusual opening to any epistle. We find it often. The writer expresses a profound wish or hope that the letter to unfold in their hearing will prove to channel rivers of grace and oceans of peace to their lives – that such blessing be multiplied, be ever increasing in their lives. Where? Look at the rest of the verse – in (or through) the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord

Who doesn’t want the favor of God in his life? Who doesn’t want the peace of God in her life? Who doesn’t covet ever increasing doses of grace and peace? Such can be found in only one source – the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Don’t miss the connection in v. 2. You have no true knowledge of God if you do not claim Jesus as Lord. Jesus Christ is God. He is divine. In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col. 2:9). John 17:3 – And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. There is no true knowledge of the Father apart from an intimate knowledge of the Son. 

Grace, peace, life, godliness, all the things that truly matter, the ultimate treasures, come from the knowledge of God in Christ. So we don’t miss it he says it again in v. 3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him (emphasis added). The words know and knowledge appear some sixteen times throughout the three chapters of this little book. Peter is trying to tell us something! It matters what you know. Perhaps it would be better to say it matters Whom you know.

There is nothing that matters more in our battle against sin than a passionately personal, thorough going, ever increasing knowledge of God and His Son the Lord Jesus. 

Do you want to win the battle over sin and its grip in your life? Give yourself to the vigorous pursuit of the growth of your knowledge of Him.

Adoption – Not a Fairy Tale

John Owen, the Puritan divine, called the biblical doctrine of adoption “our fountain privilege.” J. I. Packer calls it the highest privilege the gospel affords to those who believe.

The London Baptist 1689 Confession of Faith defines adoption this way:

FOR the sake of His only Son, Jesus Christ, God has been pleased to make all justified persons sharers in the grace of adoption, by means of which they are numbered with, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of children of God. Furthermore, God’s name is put upon them, they receive the spirit of adoption, and they are enabled to come boldly to the throne of grace and to cry ‘Abba, Father’. They are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by God as by a Father.He never casts them off, but, as they remain sealed to the day of redemption, they inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation (Chap. 12).

Knowing GodIn Packer’s book Knowing God, he writes of what he calls deep insights from the Epistles of the New Testament that adoption gives us. First on the list is that our adoption shows us the greatness of God’s love. Indeed, the apostle John declares in 1 John 3:1, See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

The implications of this are staggering. More from Packer:

God receives us as sons, and loves us with the same steadfast affection with which he eternally loves his beloved only-begotten. There are no distinctions of affection in the divine family. We are all loved just as fully as Jesus is loved. It is like a fairy story–the reigning monarch adopts waifs and strays to make princes of them. But, praise God, it is not a fairy story: it is hard and solid fact, founded on the bedrock of free and sovereign grace. This, and nothing less than this, is what adoption means. No wonder John cries, “Behold what manner of love!” When once you understand adoption, your heart will cry the same (IVP, 1993, p. 216).

Men, do you want to understand adoption better? This Saturday at 7 AM at the church office Oxford Club meets. Bring your own breakfast and join in the discussion of chapter nineteen, Sons of God, in J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. May we all understand this precious doctrine better and actually believe that this is true: We are all loved just as fully as Jesus is loved!

Powerful Incentive to Pray

CarsonJesus taught His followers to open their prayers this way: “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). Paul wrote in Eph. 3:14, “For this reason I bow my knees before the  Father.” Before both the Lord and the apostle revealed the content of their praying, they prescribed and modeled a certain manner of address toward God in praying. Call Him “Father.”

This is no small thing, particularly in the ancient eastern culture. The ancients revered their fathers as those who led the family unit and cared for its well being, doing it good and bestowing upon it favors. So by using the term “Father” as a means of addressing the Lord, we should see a ground of our praying that can powerfully motivate our praying. God is no mere transcendent Other to which we bring our petitions; He is the ultimate Father.

Once again, D. A. Carson, in his terribly helpful book on prayer, A Call to Spiritual Reformation (Baker, 1992, 230 pages), helps to motivate and equip in the all important means of grace that is intercessory prayer.

So as Paul approaches God with his petitions, he reminds himself that the God he addresses is his heavenly Father, the archetypal Father, the Father of all who are truly his people in heaven and on earth. He is a good God; he knows how to give good gifts. Paul dares to approach this God with these requests because he knows God to be good God, a heavenly Father. Thus the nature and character of God become for Paul the fundamental ground for intercessory prayer (p. 201).

Now here is where Carson takes the truth and brings it home to our prayer lives.

The more we reflect on the kind of God who is there, the kind of God who has disclosed himself in Scripture and supremely in Jesus Christ, the kind of God who has revealed his plans and purposes for his own “household,” the kind of God who hears and answers prayer–the more we shall be encouraged to pray. Prayerlessness is often an index to our ignorance of God. Real and vital knowledge of God not only teaches us what to pray, but gives us powerful incentive to prayer (p. 201, emphasis mine).

How is your prayer life? Do you need some incentive? Contemplate the nature of your God in Jesus Christ as Father. And then, when you pray, bow your knees and begin with, “Our Father in heaven.”