Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Knowledge of the Holy

A.W. Tozer has a wonderful little book (slightly over 100 pages) entitled, The Knowledge of the Holy. The premise is that our view of God is far too small, which in turn inhibits our ability to experience the transforming power of the Spirit in our lives. My family attends a church that has a much higher view of God than most, but as I read this book, I find that we are sorely lacking as well. “The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her.”

The purpose of this post is to outline and summarize the attributes Tozer brings out about God, to include their definitions. An “attribute” is something God has revealed as being true about Himself. It isn’t a definition of Him, but rather is something intrinsic to His nature. We must also consider all of the attributes as one, with each attribute contributing to the others. You will note that most every one of these attributes deals with the concept of infinity, something of which finite man can scarcely conceive, yet it is still worth our efforts…for without the attempt, we can never know about our God. Tozer says we absolutely must break ourselves of the habit of thinking of the Creator as we think of His creatures. Please take some quiet time and muse and wrestle with the implications of each of these attributes. Look at how often we define God in a manner similar to that of a creature. Even better…get the book, and see some of the musing and implications Tozer comes up with.

God Incomprehensible- An infinite God is not comprehensible by man. Bits and pieces as He chooses to reveal, yes; otherwise He cannot be known. We tend to reduce Him to manageable terms, and the result is a God we can in some measure control…in other words, not God at all. I think of the things I teach about God. I can have confidence they are true and I can proclaim them confidently. However, this particular attribute opens my eyes to how easily I come to think I have God “figured out.” The only things I can “figure out” about God are those which He tells me, and even then it will only be partially since I as a finite being cannot begin to comprehend His infinitude.

God as the Holy Trinity- No matter how hard one tries or how many deep theological words he uses, this attribute cannot be satisfactorily explained, only believed as “truth for the heart.” Three, yet One. Separate, yet in total, perfect, complete unity. Perfect in love.

The Self-Existence of God- Origin can only apply to that which is created. That God was not created means He has no origin. He is “Someone Who was made by none.”

The Self-Sufficiency of God- God is what He is in Himself, and as such, He has no need. “Need” can only be referenced to a creature, and not to the Creator.

The Eternity of God- Since time came into being at the creation, God is outside of time. God is unaffected by the farthest reaches we can consider in both past and future. “God dwells in eternity, but time dwells in God.”

God’s Infinitude- This is something we cannot grasp, yet we must at least make the attempt for it will help us to come to grips with the other attributes. Infinitude can only belong to One, and it says God is measureless. Measuring is something we do as Creatures. The infinite cannot be measured, and when we try, we end up with something that isn’t God!

God’s Immutability- God never differs from Himself. He never grows or develops. Since He is already perfect, any change is impossible.

God’s Divine Omniscience- God possesses perfect knowledge and has no need to learn. It also means God has never learned and cannot learn.

The Wisdom of God- God’s understanding is infinite, and this infinite wisdom is the root of all truth. Among other things, it “…is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means.”

The Omnipotence of God- Because God is infinite and He is self-existent, He must have limitless power as well. This perfect, complete, limitless power must go hand-in-hand with the idea of sovereignty as well.

God’s Divine Transcendence- God is exalted far above the created universe. He is not just the highest in an ascending order of beings. He stands fully and completely apart.

God’s Omnipresence- “God is everywhere here, close to everything, next to everyone.” “In His infinitude He surrounds the finite creation and contains it.”

God’s Faithfulness- To be unfaithful is to change. Since God cannot change, He is absolutely faithful in all He does. He is perfectly consistent, with all He does in perfect agreement with all He is.

God’s Goodness- This is the attribute that disposes God to be “…kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.” It is this goodness that allows a distinction between kindness and cruelty and even between heaven and hell.

God’s Justice- Justice and righteousness are almost perfect synonyms in Scripture. Justice is the way God is. His acts are the perfect definition of justice. In no way should we ever attempt to think of God as conforming to an external, independent criterion.

God’s Mercy- This is “…an infinite and inexhaustible energy within the divine nature which disposes God to be actively compassionate.” Mercy is God’s goodness confronting human misery and guilt. Tozer also goes to great length to dispel the idea that God in the Old Testament is a God of justice whereas the God of the New Testament is a God of mercy. Remember…God is immutable!

God’s Grace- While similar to mercy, grace is God’s goodness directed toward man’s debt and demerit.

God’s Love- God is not literally “love” as is so often ascribed, but love is an essential attribute of God. It’s very difficult to actually define “love,” but we can describe how love manifests itself. Good will, friendly, giving freely to the object of its affection, self-sacrificial, taking pleasure in the object of its affection are examples of this manifestation.

God’s Holiness- “We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of. God’s holiness is not the best we know infinitely bettered.” God’s holiness is something “…unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible, and unattainable.” Holiness is who God is; He is the standard.

God’s Sovereignty- This is the absolute freedom of God to do that which He desires. Nothing can hinder, compel, or stop Him.

I know this resulted in a long post. I hope you will take the time along with me to ponder these attributes in a heart-felt attempt to know and thus love the God of our salvation more and more. I hope to place another couple of posts on this book, one involving some implications of furthering our understanding of God’s attributes and another summarizing Tozer’s final chapter wherein he “puts feet to the ideas” and challenges us to rise to the occasion of glorifying God more and more.

Giving thanks to my Lord, Who is far more than I could ever imagine…

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Some people who read my blogs and who know me personally have leveled the charge of "hypocrite" at me, claiming that my life and what I write here and on my HomeDisciplingDad blog don't match.

You know what?

They are right.

My life does not conform with what I write here, and I doubt that most of the people who read this blog could state that their lives do either. My purpose in writing these blogs is not to expound from on high as a person who has "made it," but rather to compile thoughts and musings of what I find in the Bible and what I read from respected authors that show what my life should be like...almost like a series of goals at which to aim.

I can honestly and sadly say that I fall far short of most of what I write. But if I don't at least have these thoughts in front of me, then I don't have direction. I would like to be the person who has made great strides against idolatry, whose life illustrates strong obedience to God's commands, who always loves his wife as perfectly as Christ loved the church, who has shepherded his family away from the ways of the world and into following Christ unashamedly, who witnesses the Gospel and the love of Christ daily to a lost and hurting world, who prays unceasingly, who loves God with every ounce of his being, 100% of the time.

But I fall short, often very short. I know that.

But without vision, the people perish; and these blogs are places for me to compile what I hope is a God-centered vision for myself and for my family... and just maybe, for those who do me the honor of reading them as well.

So, yes, in a sense, I am a hypocrite; but in another, I am a sinner, justified by faith, living in grace, and praying for a life more conformed to Christ.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Foolish Life

I was reading a back-issue of Randy Alcorn's Eternal Perspectives Newsletter (free subscription at Eternal Perspectives Ministries) and came across the following quote:

"Any life that leaves us unprepared for death is a foolish life."

This has a similar flavor to the couplet inscribed on a Puritan-era tombstone in Boston:

As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be.
So prepare for death,
And follow me.

We in America absolutely detest even thinking that our lives are finite. It is an uncomfortable subject for many reasons, not the least of which is that we unconsciously consider this life to be superior to the next. As Christians, we should know better!

But the bottom line is that each of us will face death, and only God knows the span of our life. Both Randy Alcorn and this voice crying out to us from the grave are pleading with us to consider our lives in light of their finitude. To a Christian, this should call us to consider if we are truly living our lives in a manner worthy of our status as God's adopted children. Are we building His Kingdom? Are we finding joy in doing His will? Are we shining light into a dark world?

Or...are we living for ourselves, for our "Disneyland" experience here in America (as my pastor likes to put it)? Are we so chummy with the culture that we cannot begin to fathom God's radical call on our lives?

How does one prepare for death? I propose that one prepares for death by the intentional living of his life, becoming more and more like Christ every day, obeying Him, and doing His will. By the end of our lives, our only plea on our deathbed should be, "Oh, that I had more time to show the love of Christ to the world...but to die is gain!!!"

We should be striving to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant"...not "Well done, good and faithful servant, for you broke that sporting record" or "Well done, good and faithful servant, for you died with the most toys" or even "Well done good and faithful servant, for you attended church faithfully." The key word here is servant. We serve the risen Lord, doing His bidding in the world. We don't ascertain that bidding through circumstance and feeling, but rather through careful study and application of the Scripture. And I dare say that most of what we in the American Evangelical Culture are doing reflect the intent of the latter comments above, and will burn up as the chaff it is.

Trust me when I say part of the reason I write is to preach to myself. I admit it... I love my vacations. I love my home. I love my toys. I love the accolades I get from my job. I take for granted God's blessings in my life. And NONE of these things will amount to a hill of beans from God's viewpoint. In fact, there is a good argument to be made that they may even be idols! And if you've read some of my earlier posts on idolatry, you know how God abhors idolatry. Where is my focus? When will my actions match my words?

Oh Lord, in the name of your Son, Jesus, please make it so!!! Please give me, and all who read this, the desire to conform our lives to that of our Savior. And when that desire is there; please turn it into action. Give us a vision for what You want from us on this earth. Give us a vision of what truly matters, and grant the joy and desire to do those things! Then Lord, take all the glory from our transformed lives!! Amen!

May we have a healthy understanding of death... and how to prepare for it....

Tozer on "The Exaltation of God"

A.W. Tozer has something to challenge me on almost every page I read. In his book, The Pursuit of God, he has an essay on The Exaltation of God. In it I found the following quotes:

"Every soul belongs to God and exists by His pleasure. God being who He is, and we being who we are, the only thinkable relation between us is one of full Lordship on His part and complete submission on ours."

This is the point that the evangelical culture in our country seems to have conveniently forgotten. The EC ignores Lordship...especially "full Lordship." And if you don't recognize full Lordship, then complete submission is not even on your radar screen. Do we really take time to get quiet before the Lord for an extended period of time and ponder who He really is? Maybe if we did that, we would arrive at the same conclusion as Tozer.

"The pursuit of God will embrace the labor of bringing our total personality into conformity to His. And this is not judicially, but actually."

Tozer makes the point of mentioning "judicially" because he understands that we are justified by faith alone, which makes us right with God judicially. But we then have the challenge of sanctification, which is the act of bringing our total personality into conformity to God's. This is an actual, intentional, laborious process, and it involves, in the power of the Holy Spirit, actually changing who we are.

"The moment we make up our minds that we are going on with this determination to exalt God over all, we step out of the world's parade."

Doing the above means determining to exalt God... and that means being different from the world. How many of us quickly get defensive here, professing that we don't really love the world, but are just living in it? God's way and the way of the world are completely antithetical; you can't have it both ways. Tozer goes on to quickly cut our excuses out from under us with the next quote:

"Our break with the world will be the direct outcome of our changed relation to God. For the world of fallen men does not honor God. Millions call themselves by His name, it is true, and pay some token respect to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average man be put to the proof on the question of who or what is above, and his true position will be exposed. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time."

(In Tozer's day, he probably didn't have to deal as much with this one: Between God and sports!) When the rubber meets the road, which choice will it be? If the answer isn't 100% "God," then we are not honoring Him and He is not our true Lord. Note that Tozer phrases it as "forced to make a choice." This is not an intellectual agreement; he means it to be real life. If we know what God is asking of us, and yet refuse to willingly conform ourselves with a joyful heart, then we are dishonoring our Lord...and that raises the question of what we truly believe. That's the whole point of this blog. Are you serious about your faith? If so, then it has to show as you grow in Jesus' righteousness. You can't sit still; you must be becoming more like your Lord.

And I write/preach this to myself as well....

May we all seriously consider what we need to do to pass Tozer's test on honoring the Father of our Lord and Savior.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Practical Tips for Obedience and Change- Part II

This morning I had the pleasure of sitting under the teaching of Dr. John Piper as he conducted a seminar on "Christian Hedonism." (Yes...sounds like an oxymoron, but it's not!) The purpose here isn't to describe or defend Christian Hedonism. If you would like more information on it, go to Desiring God and put it in the search box. You will have more information than you can possibly digest! While you are there, purchase a copy of Desiring God for a more thorough treatment of the subject...AND a life-changing view of our Lord and Savior!

I took away from his seminar several items that relate to obedience and Christ's Lordship. First and foremost is that Christ IS Lord, but that for the believer, it is not a thing of duty and burden. In fact, if you are acting out of simple duty, you probably don't really know Christ! Instead, our actions...including the keeping of God's commands...are to be motivated by joy! We are actually commanded to have joy! I won't go into the theological defense of how God can command an emotion...go to the website for that. So bottom line... obedience to the commands of God is a joyful thing! But Pastor Piper also said that it is a continual fight...you must fight for joy, probably on a daily basis...or even more often! And he gave some strategies that are applicable (there are more, probably available on the website or through some of the other books he's written).

1. Meditate on Scripture day and night. That means reading it, memorizing it, and musing upon it.

2. Pray. Pray for joy. Pray for what you are learning in your meditations on Scripture.

3. Preach to yourself instead of listening to yourself! I highlight this because it struck me as important, yet immensely practical, simply because it is something we don't do! We wake up in the morning and listen to ourselves grumble. We listen to ourselves all day long, and if we were to actually pay attention, we would be amazed at how often what we are telling ourselves is negative and joy-killing. Quit doing that! Instead, preach to yourself sermons based on the Scripture you are reading and meditating upon. Preach about God's goodness and glory. Preach about His promises. Preach about His expectations of you in your sanctification. Train yourself to listen only when you are preaching and not when you are grumbling.

Becoming more like Christ isn't a burdensome work of drudgery. Make no mistake; it IS work and it DOES require change. But it is a joyful thing to become more like our Lord! Let's make the most of every day in doing so!

Toward more joy and more Christlikeness!!!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Practical Tips for Obedience and Change

In my last post I challenged every Christian reading it to consider God's commands for obedience to His Word and how that would require a person to change his attitudes, his actions, and his life in conformity with Scripture. That's a huge challenge. In fact, it is a challenge that will take your entire life!

So how would one go about this? Here's a suggestion for how to start. If you are serious about this, you should already be reading your Bible. The next time you are reading, ask God to reveal his commands, principles, and patterns to you. Get a journal and write them down. Then take some time to muse and pray over how you would apply that particular command, principle, or pattern to your life personally, to your relations with those in your family, to your relations with those in your circle of influence, and to the world at large. Each command, principle, or pattern will not necessarily apply to each of these realms, but consider each as you muse. And then make a point of actually applying what you are discovering!

Here's an example (I just went to a book of the Bible and looked to find a command.)

I found First Peter 4:9- "Show hospitality to one another without grumbling". First I would ask what "hospitality" means. If I'm going to show it to someone, I'd better know what it is as God defines it. Use a Vine's Expository Dictionary for this sort of thing...it works great for the layman like me!

So how do I show hospitality to my immediate family? Could it be in the atmosphere I create in my home? Could it be in how I express my love for each of them? Could it be regular meals around the dinner table instead of on the run?

How do I show hospitality to my circle of influence? Do I invite people over to share meals regularly? What kind of meal- fancy or normal? Do I make them feel a part of the family? Are they comfortable in my home? Do they feel the love of Christ in me and in my family as we converse?

How about to the world at large? Am I quick to invite someone I've just met to break bread in my home?

And of course, we can't forget the last part. How do I do this without grumbling? Prayer, of course. But what should my attitude be toward showing hospitality to anyone? Am I not showing them the love of Christ in a real, tangible way and thus witnessing a changed life in action? Does that not take grumbling out of it?

I hope this will challenge you to take seriously God's commands, and to strive to apply them daily in your life such that you look more and more like your Savior each day!

Obedience and Change

Using my computer NAS Bible softward, I did a search of the New Testament for the words, "obey," "obedient," and "obedience." It generated forty-four hits. A quick scan of them showed that the first five pertained to the water "obeying" Jesus when He calmed it. The rest typically had something to do with believers and their relation to God, His Son, and His Word or to their carrying out of everyday life in reference to the Word.

Here are links to the ESV Online Bible with the individual words searched:

Click here for a search of the NT for the word, "obey."
Click here for a search of the NT for the word, "obedient."
Click here for a search of the NT for the word, "obedience."

If you were to do the same search and peruse these verses, you would come away with the understanding that God actually cares that we as believers obey Him! That is something that goes against almost everyone's basic nature, especially here in America. We loath being told we have to do something a certain way; we cherish our independence and our right to do and to act in the way we please. We prefer to focus on grace, and ignore that God has a claim on our lives. But we are not our own; we are bought with a price and are now slaves of Christ. He has every right to command us how to live our lives and to expect our obedience.

Also consider the analogy of a parent and a child. We as parents expect obedience from our children for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we typically know better than they what is good for them. One of the steps of salvation is "adoption," where we as believers become adopted children of God. In this case, though, we never grow up. We will always be His children, and He has every right as our Father to expect our obedience and we should expect that His commands for us result in what is best, even if we can't see it.

The bottom line is that Christ obeyed perfectly. If we are to become like Christ in sanctification, we also should be obeying more and more each day. Obviously we won't have perfect obedience this side of heaven, but we certainly should be progressing that way.

...which brings me to the second point. If we are progressing in obedience to the Word of God, then our lives are going to change. You cannot be the same person this year that you were last year if you are concentrating on conforming your life to God's commands. For example, you will be more patient, more loving, more God-centered, more service-focused, more joyful, more ______ (you fill in the blank). Your life should be more organized according to the standards in the Bible rather than the standards of our culture. You cannot be the same person; your life must reflect more of Christ and His way today then it did at a previous point in time. (The longer the time frame, the more obvious the change should be.) If you are the same person and haven't been moving toward Christ-likeness in obedience, then you should seriously question your progress in sanctification. And if there is a problem with sanctification, then you should have a serious self-examination of your salvation.

The bottom line for the Christian is that a major part of your sanctification is obeying God as He revealed His will in the Word, thus conforming your life to that of Christ. That requires work. It requires the power of the Holy Spirit. It requires that you actually renounce/repent of the way you are and change, sometime dramatically, the way you act and live. If more people who go by the name, "Christian," would do this, then we would actually look different to the pagan world, and would be a far better witness.

Praying for obedience and change, both in my life and in the lives of those I love....

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"I 'Made' Jesus my Lord!"

I've been doing some reading lately of material by John MacArthur as well as listening to different podcast programs. I have blogged on the Lordship issue previously, but I want to return to it in light of some of the things I've learned.

First, it was pointed out that every time the term, "Lord," and the term, "Savior," are used together, "Lord" is always given first billing. It is always "Lord and Savior" and never "Savior and Lord." This indicates the relative importance of the two in God's eyes. Unfortunately we in the evangelical culture see it in the latter when in reality, God sees it in the former. This results in our pretty much ignoring the implications of Jesus as Lord while enjoying the benefits of Jesus as Savior. This is to our peril.

Secondly, how often do you hear someone say they "made Jesus Lord of my life" or something similar? MacArthur points out a glaring error in this sort of thinking. It requires quite a large amount of arrogance to even consider that you as the creature made your creator your Lord, as if it were up to you! The fact is, Jesus is Lord and there is nothing you or I can do about it. In fact, there is no question that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father!

The real issue isn't that Jesus is suddenly Lord of one's life; He's always been Lord of one's life. The real issue is that you have been disobedient. A more thoughtful way to put it is something like, "Jesus has always been Lord, and I've sinned in disobedience. In the power of the Holy Spirit, I am endeavoring to grow more and more like Jesus through obedience to His Lordship!"

So, how about it? Shall we put Jesus' Lordship in its proper place and focus on obedience as we strive in the power of the Holy Spirit toward sanctification? I fear this is missing in most every evangelical heart today, including mine.

Let's change that, starting now....