The Character of God from the Book of Romans

Hope Does Not Disappoint

For a while now I’ve been fascinated with how the Bible describes who God is and what He feels. For some, the idea that God has feelings or emotions and reveals them to us may be a strange thought, but we feel deeply because God is a being full of emotion.

Lately this fascination with who God is has taken a more important turn. It seems at every turn there is someone new presenting a different view of who God is that is contrary to the Bible.  This would be understandable if it was an enemy of the faith, but more and more often it’s someone claiming the name of Jesus.

So for the last few weeks, as I’ve been reading through the book of Romans I have been paying close attention to what the apostle Paul says about the emotional makeup of God. Who did Paul say He was? What did Paul say God felt? What is God like according to Paul? The following are some thoughts from my study:

  • God’s Wrath: Surprisingly, God has strong, stern, fierce anger, which the Bible calls wrath.  This wrath is revealed against those who seek to suppress or lessen the truth of holy living through their actions (1:18), God has vessels designed for wrath (9:22), He is severe towards those who fell (11:22), and this wrath is a basis for Paul warning against believers taking revenge on others (12:19).  Obviously this severity is held in tension with God’s kindness (11:22) but it should not be ignored.  God feels anger against those who do evil.  This is significant because often we want to believe that the Old Testament God who showed wrath was a mischaracterization of God. In fact, Paul, the apostle of grace believed that God still felt wrath.
  • God is kind: I love this about God.  He deals with us with kindness though He could deal with us a thousand different ways. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance (2:4) and it’s this kindness that He continues to display to us who continue to believe (11:22).  This kindness must be held in tension with God’s severity (11:22), since He has both and one doesn’t cancel out the other.
  • God is just: God’s justice means He does what is right.  He has a just sentence against those who do evil (1:32) and the idea that God would ever be unjust is unthinkable to Paul (9:14).  We would do well to remember that God doesn’t bend His thoughts or actions around our thoughts about what is right or not.
  • God is merciful: God gives mercy to those who don’t deserve it out of the goodness of His character.  The idea that God would invite humans regardless of ethnicity or sin into His very life is mercy that should motivate us to submit to God (12:1) and His mercy is especially revealed in welcoming Gentiles who weren’t looking for God (15:19).
  • God feels love: God actually feels affection for human beings. He is not an unfeeling stoic or an unloving Father.  In fact, when we follow Christ, we receive from God a love that we cannot be separated from despite our circumstances (8:39) and this love motivates us to pray (15:30).  If you understand the meaning of love but don’t feel loved by God, I would encourage you to spend time meditating on these verses. God actually wants to pour out love into our hearts experientially.
  • God can be pleased: God can actually be happy based on the actions of His people. Paul says that God is pleased through a life lived by the Spirit and by believers living without judging other believers (14:8).  God is ultimately pleased by the death and resurrection of His Son, but he finds pleasure when those who have experienced the reality of the cross live lives trying to please Him.
  • God is generous: There is no stingy-ness in God, despite what you sometimes see in His people. Paul says that God “abounds” or overflows with generosity (10:12) to those who call on Him.  This is a God who isn’t half-hearted in His commitment to us, He overflows with generosity.
  • God is faithful: This means God doesn’t change.  Paul says His faithfulness remains in spite of our faithlessness (3:3).  If God has spoken, we can trust Him to do it regardless of the situations going on around us.
  • God is wise: You can’t read the book of Romans without believing that God is smart and knows what He’s doing. Paul calls Him the only wise God (16:27).  He stands out in His wisdom, even though the world often believes that the things God says are foolish. They don’t see the end like He does.

Paul believed that God had a deep well of emotions. God was full of wrath, kindness, justice, mercy, love, pleasure, generosity, faithfulness, and wisdom.  He was all of these without denying any of them. This is the God of the New Testament–the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We must not deviate from this representation of God, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

What surprised you? Did I miss anything? How does what is revealed here mean for our lives?

Photo Credit: Hope Does Not Disappoint by Dane Vandeputte

So…Why Haven’t You Started A House Church Yet?

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You may remember. You may not. You may be new around here. So, regardless of what group you fall in, let me take this moment and remind you: I want you to plant a house church.

That said, I thought I’d ask you a question. I know some of you have started and/or are part of house churches. My guess, though, is the majority of you are not currently part of a house church.

So what keeps you from starting a house church?

This isn’t a rhetorical question–I actually want to know! I really want to understand what stands in the way of everyday people who love Jesus from starting house churches among the lost.  Is it fear? Are you being held back by another believer in your life? Are there struggles with your faith that are holding you back? Do you just not think house churches are important? Do you think that only apostles can start a house church? Is it none of the above, but something else?

I’d really like to know. My goal isn’t to expose you but to get a feel for what holds people back so we can all move forward, see more folks come to Christ, and see more house churches started.

So, what’s holding you back? You can leave a message in the comment section or you can email me at pursuingglory at gmail dot com.

Photo Credit: City Group O6-07-2017 by Parker Knight

God the Artist and Jesus the Muse

tim-arterbury-126157From the beginning of time, God has been in love.

First, He was in love with the most pure, Holy, and right being in the universe for anyone to love–Himself. And this love of God for Himself has always been expressed in the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.

Eventually this explosion of love between God and His Son overflowed to the point where it had to be shared with others. Out of this ridiculously pure and holy love, God the Father was driven to create. So He said “Let there be light,” and “Let there be space between the waters,” and “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night” and so on. The crowning act of love expressing itself in art by these two was expressed on the sixth day: “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us,” (Genesis 1:26).

So everything that was created was created, not out of utility, but out of love. The Father loved the Son (because the Son was the exact expression of the Father) and that love culminated in the creation of the Earth. You and I and the computers or phones we are reading this on and the chairs we sit in and the views we see from where we sit were all designed as an expression of love for God. God creates out of love for Himself and now out of love for us.

Friends, we are all artists. We were designed to be like God. We were made in His likeness. Not only that, but when we decide to follow Christ, God promises that the very Spirit of God comes to live inside of us.  This Holy Spirit contains the very creativeness of God within Him, so as believers we should be some of the most creative people on the face of the planet.  Not all of us will paint or write or sing, but all of us will create. It’s part of our nature and part of having the Spirit of God within us.

While we are all called to be creative, not all of us are. By looking at the example of God, we see that true creativity is birthed out of love.  Truly creative ideas, the kind that change the world and leave a mark on history, aren’t birthed out of selfishness and the desire to be an artist. They are birthed out of a passionate love that grips the artist so that he or she creates must create. If we want to be an artist, we must fall in love.

The secular world talks frequently of muses. Originally these were daughters of Zeus who as spirits inspired artists and scientists. In today’s world we use the word to refer to people who become the inspiration for our art. These muses give writers and directors and painters ideas and provoke art. But from the beginning of time, God had One muse: His Son.

Our level of creativity as Christians is tied to the level that we are loving and musing on Jesus. The more we love Christ and think on Him, the more creative we will become, because our creativity will be birthed from the same fountain that caused God the Father to create the Earth. Paul wrote that without love we are a noisy gong or clanging symbol. The love of Christ compelling us to create keeps us from that kind of gaudy, temporary, short-lived art that doesn’t really matter. Love for Christ frees us to make art that resonates for eternity.

So work at expanding your skills. Get better at whatever your craft is. But in all your attempts to be a better artist, muse on Christ. Love Him well. The love of Him will fill you inspiration to create from a place of purity and inspiration the world will never be able to replicate.

In all your getting, artist, get a love for Christ.

[Related: Jonathan Edwards on the Relationship of the Trinity]

Getting Comfortable with a God Who is Not Like You

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It’s a common problem.

Someone is reading the Bible or talking about God with another believer and they stumble across a truth about God that they don’t like or agree with. The person could be offended by God’s character or His standard or simply the fact that He is a He. They could be offended by how He acts in Scripture or something they perceive He has done in their lives.

The problem is we as humans begin to build idols around these offenses. These aren’t idols of wood and stone like the pagans used to worship. Instead, these idols are thoughts and opinions about God that fly in the face of what the Scripture teaches. When we encounter a facet of God that we don’t like, our natural, human response is to recreate God into someone who is more like us.  And this–this God who is like us instead of who He really is–is a problem.

Let me give you one example: Romans 11:22 says this, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God…” For one person, the idea of a kind God is difficult. They see God as a hard man, punishing sin and don’t understand His kindness. Their temptation is speak of God as only just and never merciful.  Another person loves God’s kindness and how He is better than we can ever imagine, yet they struggle with God’s severity. How could God be kind and severe, they wonder? So they only teach on God’s kindness, leaving out any mention of His righteous judgment against what is wrong. The problem is both of these very different people begin to build God into their own image instead of letting Scripture shape their understanding of who God is.

‘There’s lots to be said about how to truly understand God as He really is. But we can start here: God is different than us and we must get comfortable with that. He has a different nature than us. He sees things differently than we do. We are not His equal to judge Him.  Nor is He a mix tape where we can pick the parts we like best and place them next to each other and chose that as our God.  We take God as He is, not as we want Him to be.

Once we settle the argument in our hearts that God is different than we’d like Him to be, we can begin to see who He really is. There will still be tremendous questions that remain to be answered, some of which will never be fully understood because He’s God.  This is what we signed up for–to draw close to God.

We just have to get comfortable with a God who is not like us.

[Editor’s Note: If the thought of understanding the nature of God is interesting to you, I wrote a 22 Day series based on A.W. Tozer’s book “The Knowledge of the Holy.” You can read the and follow along in the book series here.]

 

 

 

What I Am Celebrating Today

11395542494_3ef3475548_oToday is Father’s Day.

So yes, I’m celebrating my Dad.

And, to a lesser extent, I’m celebrating being a dad myself.

And, if you wanted to get spiritual about it, I’m celebrating God’s Fatherhood in my own life, which has had more impact than many people realize.

But today also happens to be my wife’s birthday. While I’m sure that you all have or are exceptional wives, I’m particularly fond of mine.

First, my wife loves Jesus. She has a devotion that points others to Him. It’s very rare that someone has to encourage my wife to seek the Lord. She loves Him for Him and it’s so rare.

Second, my wife is a gift to the body of Christ. She models what a godly woman is: She loves her husband. She raises children. She makes disciples. My wife is beautiful, but in a world caught up in materialism and perceptions, she has continually focused on beautifying her heart in a way that I’ve rarely seen women do (See 1 Peter 3:3-5).

Finally, I’ll say this: I have a particular type of all-in-ness that requires me to be all in or all out with just about everything I do. It’s an intensity that’s hard for others to live with and hard to understand.  But my wife, over a number of years, has continued to stick with me, love me, and encourage me when my intensity causes me to want to quit. I could never do what I do without her.

So for all of the reasons, I’m celebrating my wife today.

Now, it’s time to celebrate. Happy Father’s Day to you dads out there!

Photo Credit: Boxed Chocolates by Helene Titsch

Doing Things Differently

 

8952461739_a80cedf63e_oSociety tells us that “regular church attendance” is every other week.

We say that being part of a church means meeting daily from house to house.

Society tells us worship is the 30 to 60 minutes we step inside a building every week.

We say worship is a life of presenting our bodies 24/7 to God as a living sacrifice.

Society tells us children are a distraction and shouldn’t be a part of the main event.

We say the children should get a chance to participate in the Kingdom just like adults.

Society tells us that the bigger the church, the better the experience.

We say Jesus shows up regardless of how many others do, even for two or three.

Society tells us that we need to become more inclusive and relax our standards so more people will come.

We say the way is narrow and few find it.

Society tells us going to church makes us a better person.

We say following Jesus will cost us our lives.

 

What would cause us to live like this? To give our lives to meeting with other believers, living as a permanent sacrifice every day, all day? What would cause us to have meetings interrupted by children and sometimes barely having anyone around? What would cause us to choose an old path that few seem to like? What would cause us give up our lives instead of improve them?

The answers may differ for others, but for us, the answer is we’ve met Jesus. That encounter with Him has been so profound that we trust Him as our leader, not just someday, but now.  So we trust what He says, even about the ways we should gather and live our lives.

He is worth it.

Always.

Forever.

Photo Credit: Against the Flow by Hans G Bäckman

What Only God Can Do: The Gospel

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A couple of days ago I wrote about serving people in a way that makes it obvious that God is real and active, not just serving people in a way that an atheist or agnostic can serve them.  Some of the examples I gave are praying for the sick to be healed and hearing things that only God can speak to people and sharing them. You’d be forgiven if you thought I was making an argument for the supernatural. I was.

But there is another “tool” we have that the Buddhists, Atheists, or other “ists” don’t have: The Gospel. This retelling of the life of Jesus as the doorway for God drawing near to mankind isn’t just a story we tell people to convince them God is real. It *is* the power of God. Literally telling people the story of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, and soon return unleashes the power of God in the lives of those you tell it to.

When we do share the Gospel with people, we unleash Christ’s power to transform a person. This story of God offering His leadership in spite of our sin because of the sacrifice of Jesus is the story that will fix every human issue. It will fix poverty, because it fixes the brokenness of the human heart hat causes people to be unproductive, greedy, and wasteful. The Gospel heals the sexual perversion that is killing us because it tells us about a God who loves us despite what we’ve done or what’s been done to us. Literally, the Gospel is a seed of life that transforms a person from the inside out.

Now, people share the Gospel all the time and nothing happens. Sometimes, it’s because the Gospel isn’t shared from a heart of faith and encounter. No one will believe you’re message of transformation if you haven’t tasted the transformation in your own life.  But other times, people remain under the power of the evil one after hearing the message. Jesus told us this would happen (Mark 4). But if we share the Gospel from a heart that has been changed by its message, we will inevitably see it give birth to new disciples.

So you may not be good at praying for the sick. You may not think you hear God well enough to tell people what He’s saying. Both of these things are things you can (and should try to) get better at. But everyone can share the Gospel. Everyone can share what Christ has done in their lives and connect it to what Christ has done for humanity. Every time we do this, it’s an open door to access the power of God to see a broken human life transformed.

Do you want the power of God? Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel. Share it.

Photo Credit: Romans 1:16 by Jim Whitaker