In keeping with the last two days’ discussion, How Great Thou Art seems like the most appropriate hymn to feature this week. Let’s focus on the Lord’s greatness.
As we saw yesterday, Christians worship an infinite God. He confines us to His Word (although that Word has a depth and breadth that none of us could begin to exhaust), yet He remains far greater than anything our feeble little brains could possibly imagine. Rarely do I reflect on my insignificance in comparison to His greatness.
I caught a glimpse of my self-aggrandizement the other night while watching, of all things, a biographical film about legendary actress Bette Davis. The film opened with a story of Davis’ father showing her a vast night sky, littered with countless stars, as he counseled her to always remember her smallness in comparison to the universe. Though far from being a Christian, and though known throughout Hollywood as a diva, Miss Davis took her father’s words to heart.
The story reminded me of Psalm 8:3-4:
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? (ESV)
I wish Bette Davis had balanced her awareness of her insignificance with an understanding of God’s greatness. How terribly sad that she missed the privilege of praising her Creator, knowing His incredible love for her. If only the humility her father taught her had ushered her into adoration of Him!
As Christians who know how Scripture describes our Sovereign Lord, we ought to be filled with awe and humility at the thought that He would even notice us. Yet we 21st Century evangelicals often treat Him as if He was our personal slave, demanding that He arrange His very existence around our felt needs. We adopt humanistic inventions like psychology and Word of Faith theology to elevate ourselves, forgetting that He created us for His pleasure.
We need to step back and behold Christ, the mighty Lord of lords who loved His rebellious creation so passionately that He shed His blood to bear the penalty for our sin. We should shake our heads in wonder that our Creator would assign us such value, especially as we consider how minuscule we are in contrast to Him! Such thoughts should propel us into worship, so that we offer ourselves to Him as His adoring servants.
As we prepare for worship tomorrow, let’s think about God’s majesty. Perhaps the late Keith Green’s rendition of Psalm 8 will help us adjust our hearts to exalt Him. As you listen, I pray that you’ll marvel at His greatness, and even more at His generosity in giving you significance.
“You can’t put God in a box” sounds quite irrefutable, especially when one considers His infinite nature (see 2 Chronicles 2:6, Jeremiah 23:24 and Acts 7:45-50). He is the Ruler of Heaven and earth, Who does whatever pleases Him (see Psalm 135:6, Isaiah 46:10 and Romans 9:19-21). The Scriptures I’ve just cited fill me with reverence as I think about His majesty and His authority, realizing that His greatness demands conformity to His ways. If anything, His sovereignty puts us in a box because He has the right to dictate how we should conduct our lives and (more importantly) how we should hear from Him.
Recently, however, I once again heard about a woman who defended the extra-biblical “revelations” claimed by Beth Moore and Sarah Young by declaring, “In my years as a Christian, I’ve learned not to put God in a box.” In pondering the context of her pronouncement, I figured out that this woman actually meant she didn’t want to be confined to Scripture when she might have access to a deeper, more personal, word from God. For her (though she most likely would never admit it), the Bible simply isn’t enough to give her a feeling of “intimacy” with Him.
Yet 2 Peter 1:3-4 insists that the knowledge Scripture provides gives us all the resources necessary to live godly lives. Couple that passage with 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and you’ll find that the Holy Spirit speaks through His Word to every situation a Christian might face. Furthermore, the Lord gives a very stern warning in Revelation 22:18-19 against adding to God’s written Word. God, in His sovereignty, limits us to His Word.
In fact, I noticed the context of Jeremiah 23:24 (which I cited earlier), and found it interesting that the Lord’s comment on His infinite Being justified His condemnation of prophets who add to His Word.
23 “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? 24 Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. 25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ 26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27 who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? 30 Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. 31 Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ 32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord. ~~Jeremiah 23:23-32 (ESV)
The Lord, in this passage, clearly directed attention to His Word and away from self-proclaimed prophets who lead His people away from sound Biblical teaching. He made it abundantly clear that, precisely because He does fill heaven and earth, those who tamper with His Word, especially by claiming revelations that He hasn’t given, cannot hope to escape His notice. He also said in no uncertain terms that He is against such people.
Far from putting God in a box, those of us who stand for the sufficiency of Scripture joyfully accept the boundary His Word places on us. We appreciate its unfathomable depths, marveling that anyone would feel a need to supplement it. Those of us who rest in the satisfaction that the Lord gives us everything we need to hear from Him in the Bible find wonderful freedom and safety within its boundaries.
44 I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever,
45 and I shall walk in a wide place,
for I have sought your precepts. ~~Psalm 119:44-45 (ESV)
This morning I read A Statement On Marriage From Oceanside United Reformed Church To The U.S. Government. Although it’s lengthy, I implore you to read it and pass it on to others. The boldness of this church, especially in counting the cost of speaking out for truth, encourages similar boldness in me. I pray that it will do the same for you.
We got a notice yesterday explaining the new anti-bullying policies governing our apartment complex. Of course I don’t condone true bullying. But the vague wording (particularly in reference to cyber-bullying) causes me to wonder if this blog might eventually classify as cyber-bullying because I dare to speak out against homosexuality, against false teachers and about human depravity.
In today’s culture, those of us who adhere to sound Biblical doctrine definitely run the risk of being perceived as bullies because we dare to stand against the humanistic philosophies that elevate man and denigrate Jesus Christ. If people do identify as Christians, many of them accentuate Jesus’ love and compassion while ignoring His hatred of sin and His demands of repentance. Many professing Christians want Him as a Savior Who takes the punishment for their sins, but they reject Him as Lord Who bought them with His blood. As a result, they join the world in judging us as bigots who seek to impose our narrow morality on everyone else.
Certainly, Biblical Christians believe things that, to be honest, we’d rather deny. None of us enjoys the doctrine of hell, especially if we have lost beloved family members who rejected Christ throughout their lives. Similarly, few of us like confronting loved ones who engage in sexual activity outside the boundaries of heterosexual marriage. And believe me, it’s no fun whatsoever to point out ways that popular evangelical teachers misrepresent the Gospel. Standing up for the Lord takes courage and self-denial.
Yet we persist in taking Biblical stands for one simple reason: we love truth.
Most assuredly, our Biblical stands will eventually be considered “bullying,” even though we do our best to present the Gospel gently and lovingly. Perhaps my blog and other online activity will be interpreted as cyber-bullying, even jeopardizing my lease. I hope not. But, as John reminded me this morning, we must obey God, not man (Acts 5:27-29).
The Lord used an email I received today to admonish me against boasting too much about the blessings and victories He gives me. Certainly, I should praise Him, and do so publicly, when He graciously brings me through a major trial. People need to see His power and faithfulness to me in a way that encourages them to trust Him through their own struggles. But in telling people how He has worked in my life, I must take great care to remember my vulnerabilities.
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. ~~1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV)
When the Lord does something wonderful for me, I often find myself managing to share just a little piece of the glory, even as I outwardly claim that I want all the applause to go to Him. (Hypocrisy comes so easily!) In contrast, I believe the Lord would have me respond to the various victories He gives me with fear and trembling as I acknowledge my continuing dependence on His strength. Even though He gets me through huge trials (like my husband’s concurrent cancer and heart attack three years ago), I never want to imagine myself as gaining my own strength through my trials.
Don’t misunderstand me. The Lord does build my faith as I review all the instances of His faithfulness. He also uses Scripture to confront me with his record of faithfulness to Israel in order that I might appropriate those lessons to my own life. He does develop my faith as I look back on all He has done with the understanding that He will continue to demonstrate His faithfulness to me. He definitely wants me to learn how much I can trust His ability and desire to care for me.
My point here is that the Lord wants me to keep in mind that an isolated victory doesn’t immunize me against future trials of the same nature. If John gets seriously ill again, I dare not suppose that I have strength in and of myself to avoid the sinful reactions I had three years ago. While I pray that I’ll remember how Christ provided for me then, I also pray that I’ll maintain a focus, not on my ability to trust Him, but on the Lord’s faithfulness.
Jesus alone deserves the honor for any victory He gives me. When He comes through for me, as He always does, let me be very careful not to think that I’ve lost my vulnerability in that area. I will never lose my absolute dependence on His power and grace.
The Lord, as the King of kings, deserves our heartfelt worship for mercifully saving us from His righteous wrath. But even more, He deserves worship simply for His divine and wonderful nature. In our self-centeredness, we often sing “worship” songs that emphasize our feelings, or songs that give us spiritual highs, rather than ones that praise Him for His majesty. But when we turn our full attention to adoring Him, our emotions follow. We find joy in extolling Him for His own sake.
The hymn I’ve chosen to feature today does mention the Lord’s goodness toward us, but only as a result of His glorious nature. I wish YouTube had a better version of it. The ones with higher musical quality, alas, added watery choruses that (in cheap efforts to update it) detract from the power of its original lyrics. Yet those lyrics powerfully exalt him without 21st Century augmentation to such a degree that I can overlook the flaws of this recording to join in worshiping the King, all glorious above.