Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Alaskan Cruise and The Character of God

The Alaskan Cruise has been nothing short of spectacular so far. The seas have been calm; the Bible studies rich; the dialogue honest and profitable; the fellowship authentic; the debates enlightening; and the food... unbelievable! (I'm going to have to swim a few extra miles this week just to keep my weight loss goals on target – 28lbs in the past eight weeks—yeah baby!)

We are currently docked in Ketchikan, Alaska - a beautiful ocean side city with a Rockwell charm all its own. It is the Salmon capital of the world and has a quaint Internet cafe that I am blogging from just a few yards from the ship. I will be blogging now each day that we port.

I wanted to begin today by including some brief thoughts on the character of God. During the debate on board ship yesterday between Dr. James Renihan and Dr. James White had with Dr. Marcus Borg and Dr. John Dominic Crossan on theme of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (BTW, both Renihan and White were brilliant), the emphasis quickly shifted focus to the issues of the character of God in Christ and the sufficiency and veracity of God's Word. For more details of the debate click here

I must say before commenting more about this that on a personal note I am enjoying immensely getting to know the Borgs and Crossans (their wives are with them as well). They are absolutely delightful people: witty, affable, pleasant, good-humored and charming. They do consider themselves to be Christians which was surprising for they deny unashamedly the bodily resurrection of Christ; His vicarious substitutionary atonement for sin on the cross; His miracles; His sinless life; His virgin birth; depravity and sin; heaven and hell; and the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. In saying that, they are genuinely devout humanitarians; and the burdens they express for their fellow man are commendable but only as they relate to the "here and now." For eternally, they are unprofitable (Isaiah 64:6). By their own denial of the above "essentials of the faith" it is unavoidably clear that their theological convictions stem from unregeneration—and therefore, what I believe we are seeing are two very gifted men intellectually under God's common grace who are trying to reconcile the claims of biblical Christianity absent of regeneration in Christ. As you know, this is an effort in futility (1 Cor. 2:11ff).

The biblical differences and concerns I have for them are profound and the cavern that separates us on the most basic elements of the gospel is enormous. And therefore, my sincere prayer for them is that the eyes of their heart would be opened to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation—embracing the His gospel of grace through faith alone. May I ask you to pray for these dear people that God would grant them saving faith; for it would be no greater joy than to see them born-again and to have them as our brothers and sisters in Christ!

Now, in response to the above I would like to share some brief thoughts with you on the character of God (with a lengthier unfolding to be posted tomorrow). Grace and peace to you all…

2 Cor. 3:5

From the 107 THESES:
1. All our works, both musical and written, must produce a high view of God-with our chief aim being to glorify God and worship Him forever. (Job 40:6-41:34; Psalm 29:1-2; Jeremiah 9: 23-24)

2. This means we are to represent God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in the fullness of Trinitarian character and attributes revealed through the Scriptures. (Romans 11:33-36; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Revelation 5:12)

3. This is paramount-for it brings glory to God to reverence Him in the totality of His worth and works. It elicits holiness and obedience in the life of the believer. (Psalm 96:9; 103)

4. Even in God's redemptive plan for man… salvation never begins with man and his need but with God and His glory. And no one ever lives greater than his or her view of God. (Ephesians 1:3-14; Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 1:7)

5. Whether, then, [we] eat or drink, or whatever [we] do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)

6. We fail to glorify Him when we praise the servant through awards and accolades rather than exalt the Master. "I was but a pen in God's hand and what praise is due a pen?" (Baxter) God will not share His glory with another. (Psalm 115:1; Isaiah 42:8)

7. We fail to glorify Him when we speak of God out of our own vain imaginings or recreate Him in our own image; instead of honoring Him by how He has revealed Himself through His holy Word. (Psalm 50:21; 1 Corinthians 2:13-16)

8. We fail to glorify Him when we make money a prerequisite for ministry; some to their own destruction teach that godliness is a means to financial gain. "Freely you have received; freely give." (Matthew 6:24-34, 10:8-10; Acts 3:6, 20:33; 1 Timothy 6:5)

9. We fail to glorify Him when we publicly honor Him with our lips, but privately have hearts that are far from Him. (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:7-9)

10. God cannot be glorified where sin is pacified; and He cannot be extolled where sin is entertained. To live in and tolerate unrepentant sin is to write Ichabod across the doorpost of our lives and industry-"the glory of God has departed." (1 Samuel 4:21-22; 1 Corinthians 5:1-8)

11. We fail to glorify Him when pride struts like Nebuchadnezzar across the Babylonian palace of our accomplishments thinking our own hand has made us, our own hand has delivered us, our own hand has provided for us, our own hand has promoted us and our own hand has saved us. (Daniel 4:28-37; James 4:6)

12. We fail to glorify Him when we strive to please men rather than to please God. (Galatians 1:10: 1 Thessalonians 2:4)

13. We fail to glorify Him when we speak and sing of the benefits of the gospel, but fail to proclaim the Gospel itself. (Matthew 4:17, 7:13-27, 9:13, 16:24-26; Luke 14:26-33; John 1:12-13; Acts 20:27; Romans 3-5, 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 2:2, 9:16; 2 Corinthians 4:5, 7:10; Galatians 1:6-8; Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 2: 9-18; 1 John 2:22-23, 4:1-4, 5:1-3)

The Awesome, Knowable God
How are we to know what a right view of God is? Who is to make the determination and how can we trust it when made? What standard do we apply? What measuring rod do we hold up as the plumb line to evaluate the personhood of the Creator of all things? Who is arrogant enough to say, "I know the mind of the Almighty." "I understand with absolute certainty the fullness of His character and attributes. Let me tell you about His ways, His acts, and explain Him to you."

We know, first of all, that the existence of God can be seen from His creation. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)

But we only come to really know Him-His character and attributes-through one source alone: the Scriptures! The Bible is God's autobiography. It is the divine disclosure of the self-revelation of who He is and His redemptive plan for fallen man. Because He is God we don't have the right to redefine Him on our own terms.

Romans 16:25-27 "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen."

Romans 15:4 "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

1 Tim. 6:3-4 "If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing;"

If you desire to know Him, to worship Him, to walk with Him, to love Him, to serve Him, to pray to Him, to fellowship with Him, to commune with Him, to adore Him, and to obey Him, you must come to His Word. We are not slaves to our instincts. We are responsible.

Because HE is holy, His anger burns against sin.

Because HE is righteous, His judgments fall on those who rebel against Him.

Because HE is faithful, the solemn threatenings of His Word are being fulfilled.

Because HE is omnipotent, no problem can master Him, no enemy can defeat Him, and no purpose of His can be withstood.

Because HE is who He is and what He is that we now behold what we do - the gathering clouds of the storm of Divine wrath, which will shortly, burst upon the earth.

Because HE is almighty He is one who speaks and it is done, who commands and it stands fast. He is the One with whom "all things are possible" and "who works all things after the counsel of His own will."

Such is the God of the Bible, the God who throws out the challenge, "To whom then will ye liken God, or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?" (Isaiah 40:18). And as though that were not enough, in the same chapter He asks again, "To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: He calleth them all by names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power, not one faileth...Hast thou not known? has thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?" (Isaiah 40:25,26,28).


littlegal_66 said...

Thanks for sharing some of your "travelogue" with us. (It would be nice to see some "calm seas" after viewing footage of Katrina's fury and her aftermath the last few days-maybe you could post more tranquil shots of the ocean?)

I would imagine the calm and serene waters around the Alaskan shoreline to be very conducive to meaningful contemplations on the character of God.

I am adding the Borgs and the Crossans to my daily prayer list.

Convicted But Forgiven,

littlegal_66 said...

P.S. No one can convince me that it is humanly possible to lose weight on a cruise! (Maintain, maybe; lose, never) ;-)

Bret said...

Steve: Thank you for the update on the debate, conference and cruise. May the Lord be glorified in all that is done there.

Brother Bret Lovitz

Bhedr said...

I hope youv'e had fun. i am so envious of you for being there( a godly envy):-) ah but have fun. I can only imagine what its like to be able to do stuff like that and get to go to such debates. What fun. I am glad for you.

You are so right in the truth that you cannot deny the essentials of the faith and be regenerate. I have been trying to convince some Southern Baptist pastors of this as well. They think you can still be regenerate and not believe in the virgin birth; yet they themselves believe in it. At least I hope they do.