Everybody wants to be the first, the one to overcome, the one to break the barrier. In this world, we are told to do, try, perform. But, sometimes, we feel like we’ve hit a wall. What if true living was an unlearning? What if real life was not found in performance, but a person? It’s a new year, a new opportunity, maybe even a new life. Let’s find a way through the threshold.
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. A pastor had had a really long week and wanted to get home to his family. But, at the end of the day on a Friday, he had some hospital visitations that he needed to make. Honestly, he was a little reluctant in doing so. He wanted to get home, but he made the visits. The very last visit was a young lady that was in a far, far wing of the hospital. So, he trekked all the way over there and he knew that he was going to try to make it quick so he could get home to be with his family.
He goes into the room and she’s like, “Oh, Pastor. Good to see you.”
He’s like, “Yeah, great to be here. Would you mind if I just said a word of prayer? I’ve had a long week. I’d like to get home, but I wanted to make sure that I came and saw you.”
She’s like, “No! No problem at all.”
So, he goes, and he takes her hand. He says, “Lord, right now, me and my sister, we just agree right now in prayer. We know, Lord, that she’s in the hospital here. She’s got some affliction and sickness, Lord. And whatever this evil is that’s within her, we just rebuke it right now, in the name of Jesus, and cast it out for Your glory and for Your honor. Amen.”
And she looks up at him and she’s like, “Pastor, I’m pregnant.”
So, anyway, I think that reminds us that we’ve all said things and done things that we wish that we could unwind, right? Have you ever had that? Like that girlfriend that’s now your ex-girlfriend because of that thing you said. You know? That job that you lost or whatever. I mean, we all have that. Isn’t it, sometimes, almost like slow motion? It’s coming out of your mouth and you’re going, “No! I can’t get it back in here.”
You know? We do those things. So, everybody has had that moment where you said something to your wife or your husband that you wish you wouldn’t have said. You said it to your kids or in the boardroom at a meeting. You know? We’ve all had those blunders where we’ve just come out with something that we know that we shouldn’t have said.
But, what I’d like to do is I’d like to get us to think a little bit. I know it’s still 10:15 and some of the coffee and caffeine hasn’t kicked in exactly yet, and the donuts or the sugar aren’t there. But I want us to be able to think for a moment here. We all readily go, “Yep. I’m in. Guilty. I’ve said things that I shouldn’t say.”
But, have you ever thought that we might be saying things about God that we shouldn’t be saying, and we should be unwinding? Let me give you some examples here. I’m going to use me, because I don’t want anybody to feel like I’m getting on you all at 10:15 in the morning. I will take all of the sin and all of the guilt of everything here. Okay? I’ll show you how this works. You probably will agree that you’ve done some of these things, too.
So, let me give you an example of how sometimes we say things about God that are factually inaccurate or lead to wrong conclusions without us even thinking that we’re saying anything that would be wrong. So, let’s say I’ve had a really good week, you know? I don’t know. Maybe the church had the largest attendance ever. Maybe something happened at the house that’s really great. One of my kids got a great grade or something. You know? Whatever happened, maybe something great happened in my life. And somebody walks up and says, “Pastor Chip, how’s it going man?”
And I go, “I am blessed!”
Well, what did I just say? I just said that you’re blessed when things are going well. That’s factually inaccurate. We’re blessed whether things are going good or bad because God has blessed us, period. So, sometimes we say things and we’re not even sure what we’re saying. We don’t even think about it. It just rolls off of our tongue. But what we’re communicating to people is that the blessed life is the life where everything’s going well, which is not true because the blessed life is the blessed life whether things are good or bad.
Let’s do another one here. If somebody’s struggling or whatever, and maybe things aren’t going well. They’re like, “You know, Pastor Chip, I’m struggling with whatever.”
And I go, “Hey, why don’t you try prayer? It works!”
Well, what did I just say to them? I just told them that if they prayed, God would solve the problem that they are currently in, and that’s the way prayer works. Well, that’s not true. I’m going to tell you right now I’ve prayed a lot of things in life that seem like they were duds. Maybe you didn’t, but I’ve prayed a lot of things that didn’t happen in the way that I wanted them to happen.
So, when we say, “Try prayer. It works,” what are we communicating? What are we saying about that? So, that makes us really think through. Are there things that we say about God, are there things that we talk about God, are there things that we speak out there about God that maybe we should have the same feelings, like, “Whoa. I should’ve never, ever, ever said that?”
Well, there is a book in the Old Testament that deals with this particular subject. We’re going to look at that in just a minute. But, before we get there, what I want to do is I want to bring everybody back up to speed — in case you’re new or maybe you missed a couple of weeks — as to what we’re doing in our current series that’s called “Through the Threshold.”
What we’ve been doing in this series — and let me say here to everybody, especially if you’re new or haven’t been here for a while. When I do a series, I do that as the pastor because I believe it is my role as a Pastor — and I see it in Ephesians 4 — to equip saints. That’s who you all are. You all are the stars. I’m just the pastor. It’s my job to equip you. It’s my job to have those halftime conversations so that we can get back into the game on Monday-Saturday so that we can come back in here to halftime again and go out and make the adjustments that we need to make so that we can do this thing that we’ve been called to do. And the way I do it is through a series. I take a big idea, and then what I do is I take about three, four, five or six weeks and I sort of talk about that big idea so that we can sort of learn those things so that we can become more of what God wants us to be.
So, in this particular series, what we’ve been doing is we’re trying to learn to really live life by unlearning large portions of the life that we’ve been living. And what do I mean by that? Well, we all go through life and we pick up things along the way. We pick up how to relate to people. We pick up coping mechanisms, relational skills and all of those things. And then, at some point, many of us have decided that we wanted to follow Jesus. Now, if you’re in here today, maybe you’re at First Friday, and you’re not even sure about that, that’s okay. You can belong here before you believe. Sit back and listen. I think you’ll enjoy. Just take in what you can.
But, for those of us who say, “I’m in, I’m following Jesus,” one of the things that we see when we start going to Scripture and looking at life the way God wants us to live life, we realize there’s a lot of unlearning that we have to do, because the way we’ve been doing it is not the way God does it. You know? We want to get back at people. And God says, “Love your enemies.”
“I want to get back at them.”
“Turn the other cheek.”
“I want to get back at them.”
“Forgive them seventy times seven.”
There are a lot of things that go on in the Bible that are just different from the way that we’ve lived. So, we’re going to have to unlearn, as followers of Christ, a lot of large portions of life that we’ve learned to truly live life in the way that God wants us to live. So, what I did the first week is I talked about a confessional life; a life of being open and honest and vulnerable, which is really different from the way the world says. “You’ve got to be strong. Don’t show weakness. Don’t ever let them see you sweat.”
But, the Lord says, “I want you to confess your faults. I want you to share.”
In so doing, not only will you, but the group will be healed in doing as much. The second week, we talked about “Me First.” We learned that early on. And that’s not what the Bible says. It’s not about me first, it’s God first. Last week, Pastor Tom dealt with unlearning church. Can I just take a moment and say what a great job Tom did? Can we give him a hand clap? It’s always good when he gets to speak. He does a good job. I watched it out in Seattle, and I said that’s great. I’m glad he spoke. It’s always great to have a staff that is so able to do. And we really have a great staff here at Grace Community Church.
So, this week, what I want to do is I want to talk to you all about living and embracing the mystery of your faith. What do I mean by that? Well, what I mean by that is this: We live in the West. We really enjoy bottom-line thinking. We like pragmatism. We like empirical verification. We want it to work. We want our facts. Well, we do that, unfortunately, in our relationship with God. What we do is we bring God down to our level so that we can manage the deity. And what we do is we build our structures and our ideas and our thoughts and our check boxes that we have, and “this right here is what it looks like to be a Christian.”
We bring God into our culture and we make Him the way we want Him, and people in other cultures make God the way that they want Him. We have our own political agendas and we bring God into all of these things that we have and do all of this stuff and move Him down here. Then we have our doctrinal systems, and we say, “This is the way I think. I’m going to bring God here. And even though this passage doesn’t fit, we’ll just sort of push that passage out of the way and bring that one over here because it fits.”
So, we can have this really nice, tidy, manageable deity. But when we have that, He ceases to be God. He has become a god in our image. And there is a mystery to our faith. There is the fact that God stands above all of that. God’s not an American, nor is He Chinese, nor is He Russian. God is not a Democrat, nor is He a Republican. God is God. He’s bigger than all of our constructs that we try to push Him into, and He stands above that. And there’s a book in the Old Testament that really speaks Old Testament these issues and to the mystery of our faith. And I think it’s something that we need to embrace and look at as a church, because oftentimes I think things that we say about God to others, we might want to unwind and realize that maybe I’m saying things that don’t really adequately tell people about who God is.
So, what is this book and what can we learn from it? Well, the book is the book of Job. The book of Job, and I’d like to submit this as your pastor, is a book that unfortunately — and I don’t think anybody means to — traditionally, when I listen to people talk about it, especially church people, I feel pastorally and also as a professor that the book usually gets read wrong. What I mean by that is this: Usually, the book of Job — and if you’re from Kentucky, it’s the book of job. I just want you to know that. I was born in Kentucky. I remember when I first became a Christian I thought it was the book of job. My dad was like, “Yeah, and you need to get one. Finally reading the Bible and getting some sense to you.”
So, anyway, the book of Job, traditionally, is read this way: Well, a bunch of bad stuff happens to some guy, and there’s sort of some understanding of why those things happen. Sort of like Chapter 2. Satan, God, whatever. We don’t really fully understand, but those are some reasons there. And then, at the end, God doubles everything that he had, so it turned out okay. Sort of like it’s a fairy tale. Like it’s a happy ending. Just go through some junk. You may not understand the junk. You may not quite understand why the junk’s happening. But, don’t worry. In the end, you get twice. It’s all good. Next book. Psalms. Let’s go.
And that’s not what the book of Job is about at all. In fact, the book of Job is not about a happy ending and it’s not about getting double, even though it says that. The book of Job is what we call “wisdom literature.” Wisdom literature is a unique type of literature in Scripture. There’s a difference between understanding and wisdom in the Hebraic thought. Understanding, the Hebrew word, is to be able to look at both sides and understand. We need some of that in our world today, because it seems like everybody lives on one side or the other, and they live in an echo chamber and only listen to the things that they already believe. Maybe we need to understand both sides a little bit better. That’s understanding. That’s the Hebrew understanding.
Wisdom is embracing the fact that we cannot fully plumb the depths of God, but we’re going to follow Him anyway because He knows better than we do. That’s what wisdom is. Wisdom is, “I’m going to do what God says, even though it doesn’t make any sense to me, because I know that God knows more than me, and I’m going to trust Him by faith that the way He says to do it is the way to do it, even though it doesn’t make any sense to me.”
That’s wisdom, biblically. Well, the book of Job is wisdom literature. It’s teaching us things about God that we need to understand. Even though we can’t fully understand, it’s telling us to follow Him. So, the book of Job is not God on trial, and the book of Job is not Job on trial. The book of Job is about God and our understanding of God; that He is bigger than us. We see at the beginning; the Bible says there’s a guy named Job. And it doesn’t say this in the Hebrew, but I think for 2018 this works: He’s a good dude. I think it says he’s a righteous man in the Bible, but he’s a good dude. He loves his family. He’s doing all the things that he should be doing. He’s a loving dad. He’s a loving father.
And then, all of a sudden, we’re wisped into the heavenlies. We’re not explained what’s going on in the heavenlies, and we don’t understand what’s going on in the heavenlies. And as we read it, we should be going, “What is going on?”
It’s exactly what is going on, even if we were told what was going on in the heavenlies, we still don’t understand what’s going on in the heavenlies because we need some wisdom to know that God is far greater than anything that we could ever understand.
So, we have this heavenly scene that makes no sense to anybody because we wouldn’t know what’s going on even if He told us. Where God says, “Hey, see my good dude down there, Job? He’s a good dude.”
Satan goes, “Yeah. Pfft. He’s only good because You bless him. Take away all the stuff that he has and watch and see. He won’t love You.”
God says, “Alright.”
And we’re like, “Whoa! Time out, God! Hold on, dude. Come on. This is not the way You’re supposed to be.”
Exactly. Like we even have any idea exactly how He’s supposed to be. This is wisdom literature. It’s not understanding literature. It’s wisdom literature. We go, “Whoa! Okay. What’s going on?”
Well, then Job starts losing everything. Everything, he loses. Then he gets afflicted with boils and he’s sick, and everything’s bad. And we’re going, “What’s going on?”
And then we get chapter after chapter after chapter of everybody telling everybody what God’s like. They’ve all got Him down. We’ve got some good church folk, his three comforters, that come. I think there’s a Presbyterian, a Baptist and a Methodist. I’m just kidding. But, that’s why we’re non-denominational. No, I’m just kidding.
But, they come, and they start telling Job all the things, and Job’s trying to say things. All of a sudden, in Job 38, God irrupts on the scene. Not “erupt” with an “e,” but an “i.” He irrupts on the scene. It says that He spoke to Job out of the whirlwind. That’s important, because if you and me were in a whirlwind, we wouldn’t have any idea what’s going on. We’d be just floundering around and doing whatever, which is a beautiful imagery of the fact that we can’t enter the whirlwind that God lives within. We would not understand. God then speaks to Job and He’s like, “Hey, now that you all have been talking, where were you when I laid the foundation? Where were you when I laid all the pillars? Where were you when I did all this stuff?”
Job’s like, “Ooo. Hmm.”
He goes into Job 39. Same thing. By Chapter 40, Job goes, “Hey, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to take my hand and I’m going to put it over my mouth. I’m going to shut up, God. I’m going to just zip it. Zip it. Because, wow.”
Then God goes on and says some other things. By about this time, Job is like, “Wow.”
We’ll pick up here at the last chapter of Job. That’s what this book is leading us to and bringing us to.
It says, “Then Job answered the Lord...” — after the Lord has given him chapter after chapter, now, of, “Where were you? Can you understand? Do you know? Could you even plumb the depths of the Almighty?”
Job says, and this is important, “‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’”
“Okay, God. Uncle. I’ve come to realize that I can never understand the way You run the universe. I thought I could maybe defend You. I thought I could maybe explain. I can’t. What I know is this: I would never understand, even if you told me, the complexities of the way that You run the universe, but what I can say is even in my sickness or my affliction or in my good or in my bad, somehow You stand above all of those things and nothing that You want to happen can be thwarted. So, I’ve got to trust You that You’re a good God and that You’re a righteous God and that You’re a just God and that You’re a holy God and You’re a loving God, because I’ve come to realize there’s no way that I can understand who You are completely. But, by faith and through, now, the wisdom that I have received, I know that You are truly God, and nothing that You want is not going to happen. And I trust You and I humble myself and I believe in You, and I know that nothing that You purpose is going to be thwarted, even though I can’t understand that, even though it doesn’t make sense to me, even though I can’t understand that, I trust You. I believe in You.”
And then He says — and he’s quoting God from Job 38, “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” He says, “You asked me that, therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. God, uncle. I said some things that I wish I wouldn’t have said. I said some things about You that I really couldn’t know, because You’re God and I’m not and I realize that. I realize where I’m at in the economy of it all. I’ve uttered some things that just were beyond me. They were beyond me.”
He quotes God again: “‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’”
Then he says this. This is what Job says: “Okay. I know You’ve asked me these questions,”
But, “‘I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.’”
“We’ve had a fundamentally different experience now, God, between You and me. I had heard about You. I had heard things about You and I had repeated those things that I had heard about You. I thought I had a good understanding of who You were, and I’d heard about You. But, now, I’ve had a moment. I’ve seen You for who You are. I have fully understood that You are the God of the universe, and I’m not. When I had that moment, I despised myself. I’m sorry for the things that I said, and I repent in dust and ashes.”
See, everywhere in the Bible where someone has an encounter with the Almighty God, it fundamentally changes them forever. In Isaiah 6, King Uzziah has passed away, and he was a great king for Israel. And all of Israel is in mourning because they don’t know what’s going to happen. The king has been lost. Who’s going to come next? Will Israel be protected? They’ve had prosperity during Uzziah’s reign. Well, it’s a funeral dirge. Everybody’s in the temple. Everybody’s there for the funeral of the king. And Isaiah, in that moment, in the temple, sees the Lord high and lifted up.
It’s sort of interesting, isn’t it, that all of Israel is in the temple and only one person has an encounter with God in the temple? Maybe we should think about that when it comes to church. Maybe a lot of times we come to church and very few people actually experience God. Maybe, like Tom said last week, we need to come prepared for church rather than showing up and saying, “I hope somebody can move me.”
He sees the Lord high and lifted up. And what does it say? It says, “The train of His robe filled the entire temple.”
Well, that’s telling. In the Ancient Near East, when you were a king and you conquered another king, they would go in and they would cut some of the hem of that king’s robe and they would sew it onto the conquering king’s robe. So, the more things you had sewed on the back of your robe, the more kings you’ve conquered. The reason Isaiah sees the train of Jesus’ robe filling the glory of the temple is because He has conquered every king and every lord in the world. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
When he sees that, he says, “Oh, that’s right. I’m the prophet. I speak forth God’s words. In seeing you, my lips are unclean. Even these lips that have been speaking Your word. Even though I’m a prophet, now that I see who You are, I realize how unclean my lips are. Bring some coal and purify them.”
See, there’s a moment where it’s no longer, “I’ve heard about God,” but, “I’ve seen Him, and He’s not a God that can be managed. And He’s not a God that can be tamed. And He’s not a God that can be bridled.”
He’s God. Larger than anything that we could ever imagine. He doesn’t fit within our little worlds. He doesn’t fit within our little systems, as much as we try to push Him into that box. I always say, as a systematic theology teacher, “As many boxes I’ve tried to put God into, there’s always just parts of Him that just go over the box and I can’t get Him in that box. There’s always that Scripture or there’s always that passage, and I can’t.”
And what we want is a manageable, deity, but when we get a manageable deity, He ceases to be God and He ceases to be the God that can do all the things that we want Him to do. Job has this moment where he goes, “You know what? I’ve heard about You, but now I see You. And I get it. I understand it.”
“After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.’”
“Job gets it. You guys think you get it.”
He says, “So, what I want you to do is take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burn offering for yourselves. And my servant Job will pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly.”
It’s great. It told Job everything about God, and he’s like, “I want you to go offer your prayer to Job, and I’ll have Job pray for you, so you can be forgiven.”
He says, “‘For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.’”
So, here we have a beautiful picture here, the ending of Job, that’s all about, What do we say about God? See, the book of Job is not a theodyssey. We want a theodyssey. Theodyssey is the way we explain the evils of the world. You see this. A lot of Christians will get together and try to explain evil, problems and all this stuff. We all want this thing that we can control and that makes sense to us, because what we don’t really want to exercise is faith. We really just want certainty. We want to know that we know. We don’t want to really trust something that’s beyond us, because, deep down inside, we all, at some level, are flawed. We all have a certain arrogance and pride. We all don’t want to give up our life in service to God. It would make so much more sense if God would just serve us.
Like the philosopher Voltaire said, “There really is a God and He made people in His image. Humanity has returned the favor and they’ve made God in their image.”
And that’s why it’s important for us to understand the mystery of faith. What were these guys saying to Job? Well, they were good Christians. They had watched TV. You know? They’d watched the ministers on TV. Listen, I’m not trying to rag on anybody, but what I’m saying here is this here. Listen: When you tell people, “If you’ll do this, God will do this. If you just give this amount of money, God will bless you back this. If you have just enough faith, this is the way you’ll get healed,” what you’ve done is you’ve made everything about God contingent upon you. You now are the driver of the bus. You now are God, because you’ve got Him in a manageable system.
What do these guys say to Job? Well, they say, “You must’ve done something wrong or this wouldn’t be happening to you.”
That’s what they say. “Somewhere along the way you did something, Job. I mean, God’s a good God. He’s all-powerful. You wouldn’t be suffering like this. And dude, you pretty much are suffering. You lost everything. I mean, like, everything. And you’re sick. You must’ve done something wrong or this wouldn’t be happening to you. So, Job, if you’ll just repent, then God will get back into the blessing business. That’s all you’ve got to do. Just figure out right and then God will work everything out.”
See, that’s the fundamental problem here, and we do this without even thinking about it in our own conversations about God. We sort of see God as the cosmic CEO, because that’s the way we understand the world. Okay? He’s sort of controlling the world. He’s over it. He’s dispensing some good stuff here and some bad stuff here, and the people that we don’t like, we want Him to go get, except when it’s another religion and they want their god to get us. We say, “That’s terrible that you would think about God that way,” but we think about God and we go, “God’s going to go get you.”
It’s like we’re doing the same thing and we can’t even see it because we’re blinded by our own imitation of God that we’ve put in a box, rather than letting God be God and really being able to understand how all this thing works out. There’s a mystery to it. There’s a beauty. There’s a majesty and a sovereignty of God that’s so greater than we can manage. It’s like Woody Allen said. Woody goes, “You know, if there really is a God, what we can say about Him is He’s an underachiever.”
What he means by that is He’s not doing a good job being CEO. He’s not doing a good job of running the world the way that we want it. The reality is His wisdom says to you and me, “Even if we knew, we wouldn’t know. Even if He told us, we couldn’t comprehend it in any way, shape or form.”
See, we have to avoid the tendency to denigrate the majesty of God to a workable theodyssey, and thereby reducing the mystery of faith to the certainty of our understanding. What we don’t want to do is take the majesty, richness and all that God is and try to tame Him into some workable understanding of the way that we think God is and works so He fits our systems, our understandings and our soap boxes. Because, in doing so, we reduce the mystery of faith to some certainty of understanding. And when there’s a certainty of understanding, faith goes out the window. There’s no more faith. There’s no more trust. There’s, “I’ve got God in my box.”
So, what can we do to take home here? What are the take-homes? Please get out a sheet of paper. Please write these down. Please go home and think through these things, talk to God about them, spend some time with God on these particular issues. These are the take-homes. These are so important that we get.
First of all, God’s character cannot be adequately deduced from our circumstances. It must come from revelation. Not the book of Revelation, but from God’s revelation to you and me through His Scripture. Let me explain what I mean by this. All you’ve got to do is go on Facebook, and people will be like, “I don’t know why God’s allowing this to happen to me, because I lost my job and I don’t know where He’s at.”
Okay. What we’re doing here is we’re assuming God’s character based on circumstances. We can’t do that. We can’t let circumstances dictate the way we interpret God or the way that we see God. The only way that we can know who God is is by what God has told us. That’s why I preach every weekend from Scripture, because I’m convinced that Scripture, as Paul said to Timothy, is God-breathed; theopneustos. Greek word. God: theos. Pneustos: wind or spirit. It’s God-breathed. Breath. It’s His breath. Scripture is God’s breath. Listen, we wouldn’t know who God is had He not told us. Therefore, when we’re in a circumstance that’s not good or that we don’t understand or that is beyond us, what do we have to cling to? We have to cling to what God has said about Himself, which means that no matter where you’re at, whether on the mountaintop or in the valley, God is a God of love. Whether you’re on the mountaintop or in the valley, God is a God of righteousness. Whether you’re on the mountaintop or in the valley, God is a God of grace. He is a just and holy and righteous God, and He’s running the universe according to who He is. Whether we can see it or understand it or not, by faith we trust what God has said about Himself and we embrace Him in the mystery of faith.
Some people are like, “I think I want to clap, but I’m not sure, because if I clap it means that I’ve got faith. And I don’t really want a faith, I really want to know. Wow. This could really be life-changing. I’m not sure that I really want to do that, because I like it the way it is. I should’ve stayed home for the Super Bowl.”
What did Job say? He says, “I’ve uttered what I didn’t understand. I looked at my circumstances and I tried to make sense out of all of this, but I’ve said things that are too wonderful for me, which I didn’t know.”
We cannot develop our understanding of God’s character from our circumstances. It has to come from what God has revealed to you and me.
Second thing. Write this down. This is important. God doesn’t need to be defended. He is to be trusted. This is huge. We want to defend God. We want to tell everybody. God has not called you and me to be the fact police and to run out and tell everybody what they’re doing wrong. He’s asked us to trust Him. Scripture says very clearly that there’s one thing that is the power of God unto salvation. One thing. It’s the Gospel. Paul says, “It’s the Gospel that is the power of God unto salvation.”
You know what the world needs to hear? The world needs to hear that Jesus Christ has come and died on a cross for their sins, and they can come home. That’s the message they need to hear. See, God doesn’t need to be defended.
“Well, let me tell you how God did all this.”
See, we go out defending God. You can’t. We can’t defend Him. We can’t even fully know Him. Somebody said to me last night, “Thanks so much for saying that, because I’m leading a small group. And I don’t really know a ton of stuff, but I just feel like knowing that God is so much bigger, I can really just trust Him.”
I’m like, “Exactly. Do you want to really have your mind blown? If God is infinite, I don’t know any more about God than you do.”
He’s like, “Whoa!”
I’m like, “I know. We need to go to Colorado and have a moment, you know?”
Just a joke. Just a joke. Anyway, we think about this all the time. We need to trust Him. Do you know what the greatest argument for God’s existence is? It’s not philosophy. It’s not a theodyssey. God’s greatest argument that He exists is your changed life that He’s done in your life. The change that people see that God exists. He doesn’t need to be defended. We just need to trust Him. We aren’t called to understand completely or articulate correctly, justify or lay out in some systematic way how God runs the universe. We are to have faith that He does so rightly. That’s wisdom.
Wisdom said it doesn’t make a difference. I know that God is God and He is a good God and He is a faithful God and He is a just God and I trust Him, even if I don’t understand what’s going on. That’s why Job says, in Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.”
You say, “How could somebody say such a crazy thing like that?”
Because Job goes, “I don’t have to understand how He’s running the universe, and I couldn’t if I did. What I know is no matter what goes on, nothing can be thwarted of His purpose, and I know that He is a good God and I’m okay with that. I’m okay with trusting Him by faith that that’s who He is.”
And the third thing is this: We collectively, as God’s children, need to pray for wisdom, not an explanation of God’s justice. We want to say, “God, why are You not doing this? Why are You not acting like that?”
We wouldn’t know if He told us.
“God, I have wisdom now. Wisdom to trust You. Wisdom to put my faith in You, this mystery of faith.”
And when God becomes God like that, it changes everything. Because we’ve moved from, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see You. Now I understand. You’re God.”
And let me tell you something: The God that’s going to save Lakewood Ranch is not going to be the God of some systematic or political ideology that we bring out and tell everybody how they should do certain things. The God that’s going to arrest the heart of people in Lakewood Ranch is the God that cannot be tamed, the God that cannot be bridled, the God that stands in absolute majesty and grandeur, the God that is sovereign above all the world — that God that we could never fully explicate, in some crazy way decided that He loves you, that He came and died for you. That’s grace. That the God that cannot even be understood says, “I’ll take the nails for you.”
That is the message that’s going to change people’s hearts, not all this other stuff that we try to lob at everybody on social media and at the workplace and try to tell everybody how to do all this stuff. We need to get a bigger picture of who our God is, and we need to embrace the mystery of faith.
Let us pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, we bow before Your majesty. We are humbled before Your wisdom. Lord, we are a people that You blew life into; into some dust. But Lord, You have chosen us for Your love. God, help us to get beyond the petty things and to really understand more of Your majesty and your sovereignty and your grandeur. Help us, Lord, to understand who we are and who You are.
And help us, Lord, as a church, to live in the mystery of our faith. Help us, Lord, to be a church that speaks well of You into our community, not in ways that we need to be reprimanded.
So, Lord, I pray that as we leave here this morning and go our separate ways that you would continue to lead, guide and direct us. I pray, Lord, that You would watch over us and protect us, and I pray, Lord, that You would continue to birth in this church a desire for You and all of Your fullness and richness. And I pray, Lord, that You would continue to help us be a place that truly wants to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ for Your glory and for Your honor. And it’s in Your Son Jesus’ name that we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody.