Thursday, April 27, 2017

Scripture: General Revelation

Scripture: General Revelation
    What is revelation? The word “revelation” means to unveil, uncover, or to manifest. God reveals or manifests himself to his creation. In other words, God makes himself known. God does this in two ways. The first is generally (general revelation), which will be discussed here, and specific (special revelation).
    General revelation usually refers to creation. Along with creation, the image of God in man and the human conscience are proofs of general revelation. These reveal that there is indeed a God.
Creation manifests certain aspects of God and some of his attributes. This revelation is only general; it is not specific, nor is it salvific (it does not save or offer forgiveness to sinners). Universal in scope, general revelation means that God has revealed himself in a general way to all people, in all places, at all times. Since it is universal, general revelation excludes precision and details.  It has limitations. 
     What does God reveal about himself generally through creation? God reveals his goodness. This is seen in that he causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on the just and unjust alike (Matt. 5:45). Of course, this is God providing for his creation. Creation reveals the care and provision of God. He gives rain, fruitful harvests, food, and all things that cause happiness (Acts 14:15-17).
     The heavens and earth reveal the glory of God to man (Ps. 19). These are a theater where God puts his glory on display. We see his power and divine nature (Rom. 1:19-20). Creation demonstrates the wisdom, power, and sovereignty, among other attributes already mentioned.
     Acts 17:22-31 teaches the truth of general revelation. Paul's audience knew about God. Notice, they knew about God. They did not know him. There is a world of difference between knowing about someone and knowing someone personally. They served an unknown deity. Granted, they served many gods, but they did not want to offend a god they were unaware of. The very fact that they were worshiping something points to the fact that God has made himself known in a general way. Mankind is inherently religious (Rom. 2:14-15). All civilizations worship or revere something.
     Paul used the fact that they served an unknown deity to make the one true God known. He proclaimed that God is the Creator and is sovereign (vs. 24). God is also self-sufficient (vs. 25), the source of life and all that is good (vs. 25), intelligent and determines all things (vs. 26), immanent (vs. 27), and the source of human existence (vs. 27). Paul used what was known through general revelation to launch into the truth of the actual God.
     The image of God in man teaches us about God (Gen. 1:26-27). God is sovereign and gave mankind dominion over his creation. He is intelligent and reasonable and imbued man with the ability to learn and reason. God is a relational being and created humanity with emotions, the desire to fellowship, and the ability to communicate. God is also good and just and created man with a sense of right, wrong, and justice.
     When God made man, he blessed them with a conscience. God has revealed himself in a moral sense. Humanity knows the difference between right and wrong. Our conscience tells us when we or someone else does something wrong. There is a sense of justice within each one of us.
     Remember, general revelation only manifests God in a non-specific manner. It tells that there is a God and reveals certain characteristics of him. However, mankind is fallen and therefore suppresses the revealed truth about God (Rom. 1:18). We are born sinful, corrupt, and separated from God. The true God is hated, avoided, or denied, while false gods are erected and worshiped in his place. As a result, humanity is turned over to their sinful and carnal desires (Rom. 1:24-28). General revelation only condemns and proves man to be unworthy and guilty before a holy God (Rom. 1:20). Man is without excuse. God is known, yet this knowledge is smothered, redirected, and ignored.
     There are several implications from what has been written. First, truth is present in God's creation and can be seen in human experience and culture. Truth exists and can be known. Second, the moral law is implanted in the conscience, or written on the heart, and accounts for the distinguishing between good and evil, right and wrong. Hence, we have laws and government which provides any number of benefits. Third, since humanity has a basic knowledge of God, Christians can witness and share the truth of God being assured that the notion of God is known and therefore not meaningless. Fourth, general revelation provides the basis for and is foundational to God's saving revelation through Christ and the written word (special revelation will be handled in my next blog).
     God has made himself known. That is astonishing. God, who needs nothing, created and manifested himself to his creation. One only has to look around to see the majesty, beauty, and glory of God. Everything testifies that there is a God. The entire universe declares this message. God is real.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Practical Teaching on Stewardship

Practical Teaching on Stewardship
    What is stewardship? Stewardship is the godly and proper managing of what God has given every believer. The stunning truth is that we own nothing. Everything we have is God's. He blesses and expects his children to take care of what he gives and use his gifts for his glory and the good of others. What this means is that every aspect of life is given as a gift from God. We are not only talking about material things or possessions. Christians are to be good stewards of these, but also time, money, talents, the truth, the body, the mind, the environment, and the gospel.
    Believers are to be good stewards of time. Time ought to be used wisely to draw thoughts toward heaven (Col. 3:2). Christians need to take advantage of the time they have to prepare for eternity (Ps. 90:12). Prayer, Bible study, and communion with the Lord are indispensable to this end. Remember, time is fleeting. We need to take advantage of the short amount of time we have on this earth to glorify God and serve mankind (Eph. 5:15-16; Jms. 4:14). Time is passing away. We cannot save time, buy more time, or make up time. Once it is gone, it is gone. Time is also uncertain (Prov. 27:1). We do not know how long we have.
     What are some other truths about time? Believers are held accountable for how they spend the time allotted them (Rom. 14:12; Heb. 5:12). Time is easily wasted, taken for granted, lost, and even ignored. Time is owned by God (Ps. 31:15). Eternity gives meaning and purpose to the temporal (Rom. 13:11; 2Cor. 4:18). Opportunities must not be wasted; they may not present themselves again (Ecc. 8:5; Col. 4:5). How believers spend their time is a reflection of their priorities (Matt. 6:19-21, 34). Be wise with your time. Budget the use of your time. Allow and schedule time for Bible study, prayer, family, worship, relaxing, work, ministry, etc. What are your priorities? What occupies most of your time? Is this pleasing to God?
     God, the Creator, owns everything (Ps. 24:1; 1Cor. 10:26). Our money is included; it is God who blesses financially. How Christians use their money is an act of worship. When believers give, they are reflecting their faith in the provisions of God. Of all people, Christians ought to be sacrificial and generous with what God has given. It is their responsibility to support the ministry of the local church, church leaders, the needs of others, and the spread of the gospel around the world (missions). Giving should be done cheerfully (2Cor. 9:7). We do not give to receive but to be a blessing to others. Also, we ought to be content with what the Lord has provided (Phil. 4:11; 1Tim. 6:8; Heb. 13:5).
     What motivates you? Why do you give? Why don't you give? What do you spend the majority of your money on? How do you spend extra money? Beware of greed or being to preoccupied with money. Trust the Lord and his provisions. Be thankful for what God has given. Do not let money become an idol. How can you better serve God with what he has given?
Gifts and Talents
     Believers are to use their gifts and abilities to glorify the Lord and serve others (Rom. 12:6; 1Pet. 4:10). Some believers are gifted musicians, artists, singers, athletes, doctors, farmers, speakers, educators, administrators, businessmen, etc. There are many other gifts and abilities given by the Lord. Whatever they are, use your gifts and aptitude to worship the Lord and benefit man. It is also important to trust the providence of God. He has gifted you and placed you exactly where he desires. He has a plan and a purpose.
     How do you use your talents? Are you glorifying God with your abilities? Do not measure yourself to others? Beware of always comparing yourself to other people. Be content and thankful for your unique gifts and talents from God. Do not covet another's gifts.
     Christians are to be good stewards of the truth. This begins by being a serious student of the word of God. It is the responsibility of every believer to be in the word and sit under the: word. After all, believers have a part to play in their growth (Jn. 8:31-32, 17:17). Believers are born again by the word of God and are called to receive and apply it (Jms. 1:18-25). The importance of Bible study cannot be overstated. The word must be read, studied, and meditated upon in order to mature and become equipped for good works (2Tim. 3:16-17). God is a God of truth. His children should love the truth and be good stewards of it for the glory of God and good of others.
    Do you desire the truth? Do you recognize error? Do you hunger for the word of God? Are you part of a Bible believing and preaching church? How do you share the truth? Are you changed by the truth?
Other Areas of Stewardship
     Christians are to be good stewards of their bodies (Rom. 12:1; 1Cor. 6:19-20). We are to take care of ourselves, get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, exercise, work hard, be safe, and worship God with our bodies.
     The mind must not be neglected. We are to be stewards of our minds (Rom. 12:2; 1Pet. 1:13). Worship God with your thoughts. Beware of negative and sinful thoughts. Beware of what you are feeding your mind. Take time to think. This is often neglected or ignored in our fast-paced world today. Slow down and meditate on the word of God and things of God.
     Believers should be good stewards of their environment (Gen. 1:28-30). We should be responsible and not wasteful. Look for ways to clean up around you. Recycle.
     Finally, be a good steward of the gospel (1Cor. 9:16-17; Col. 1:25; 1Thess. 2:4). Be thankful for the gospel. Share the gospel with others. We have a responsibility. Witness for Christ. Live out the gospel. Preach the gospel to yourself daily. Repent and trust in Christ. Support missions. Look for ways to evangelize and disciple. The gospel is the greatest gift God has given mankind! Don't be a bad steward of God's gift.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Practical Teaching on Worship

Practical Teaching on Worship
     There are a few things to remember when worshiping our great God. The focus of worship must be the triune God. God has revealed himself as a Trinity. The Father, Son, and Spirit are the one God of the Bible. Since this is the case, all three persons in the godhead deserve worship.
What is worship? Worship is ascribing worth to God, acknowledging the glorious attributes of God, magnifying and praising God, thanking and appreciating God, responding in awe and joy to God, and approaching God in humility and reverence. Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11).
     The Bible is at the center of worship. Worship must be biblical. The word of God is to be taught, proclaimed, heard, sung, obeyed, read, and prayed. This naturally (or supernaturally since we are discussing born again believers) leads to worshiping the God of the word. When God's words are spoken and heard, the result is worship. How can a believer not adore God after hearing his word? How can a Christian not humbly bow before the holy God of Scripture?
     Biblical worship includes several things. Prayer, praise, thanksgiving, and giving are worshipful (Acts 2:45; 1Cor. 8-9). Confession is pleasing to God (Neh. 9; Ps. 51; Jms. 5:16). Preaching and teaching are acts of worship (Neh. 8:7-9; Acts 2, 5:42, 8:4, 14:7; 1Cor. 14:26). We worship God when we read Scripture (Neh. 8:1-6; 1Tim. 4:13). It is also worship when believers exercise discipline (Matt. 18:15-20; 1Cor. 5:1-5), observe baptism (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38-41) and the Lord's Supper (Lk. 22:19; 1Cor. 11:17-34).
     Worship encompasses the entirety of the Christian life. There is no area of life that is not affected by the worship of God (Rom. 12:1; 1Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17). Most would assume that worship is limited to our actions. True worship must not end there; our minds and hearts must be engaged when we worship the Lord (Mk. 12:30). Worship is done in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:21-24). This ties together everything that has been discussed thus far. Our entire beings are involved in worshiping God, but it must be biblical- it must be anchored in the truth of God's word.
     Worship is to be private and corporate (Heb. 10:25). We worship God individually, but must also come together with other believers. It is when we are among other Christians, that we grow, learn, hear, etc. We worship God privately, but this then overflows into corporate worship.
Something that has been lost to the last few generations is family worship. This, however, is found throughout Scripture. Genesis 18:17-19 tells that Abraham was to command his children and household in the ways of the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:1-8 instructs parents to teach their children the things of the Lord consistently. Joshua 24:15 reveals that households are to serve and worship the Lord. Psalm 78:1-8 admonishes the teaching of the next generation. Ephesians 6:4 encourages families to worship purposely and consistently in order for children to be disciplined and instructed in the Lord. And 1 Timothy 3:4-5 shows that elders must lead family worship in order to be qualified to lead worship in the church.
     All of this goes to show that families ought to worship together. This is to be done corporately in the church, but also in the home. There are many ways to do this. The important thing is that God be glorified. What follows are some suggestions.
     A set time would be a good place to start. It may be everyday before dinner or a couple of times a week. The idea is to be deliberate and consistent. Read a chapter of Scripture. Briefly discuss the word of God and seek to apply God's truth to your family and situation. I would suggest reading through whole books of the Bible one chapter at a time. You may begin by reading an Old Testament book and when that is finished, read a New Testament book. You may also choose to supplement Bible reading with the reading of a sound, biblical, trusted book.
     Personally, my family and I have a devotion at a set time three times a week. This is in addition to worshiping corporately with the saints in our local congregation on Sundays and Wednesday nights. We read a chapter of Scripture and pray. We also read a chapter or section of another godly and edifying book. Some examples of books that we have read are: John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress, 50 Reasons Why Christ Came to Die by John Piper, and a theology book written for children.
Pray together. Pray for your family, the salvation of your children, the lost, missions, your local church, your pastors, known needs, etc. Allow your family members to pray if they desire. Pray the Scripture that was just read. Talk about what God is doing. Give God the praise for answered prayer. Families may choose to sing as part of their worship. Another suggestion may be to utilize a catechism to instruct and disciple your family. These are composed of questions and answers that teach key doctrines of the Bible. There are many different catechisms to choose from.
     It is biblical that the father lead their families in worship. This may not be the case for any number of reasons. If the father is unable or unwilling to lead, the responsibility is then shifted to the mother. This is not to say that if the father leads, the mother has no role. It is to say that fathers are the leaders of their families. Mothers definitely have a role to play in teaching their children.
     Worship comes naturally to the born again believer. We worship to glorify God, but worship changes us. Believers become more like the God they worship. We are being transformed- we are to be godly. Part of growth in the Christian life is to worship God and be Christlike. The more we read, pray, and praise, the more God is glorified and we are further sanctified.