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The Revelation of God: Part 2

To know God, he must reveal himself to us

This leads us to our second point, that for us to know anything about God he must take the initiative and reveal himself to us. The good news is that God has graciously broken through and revealed himself in several ways, including nature, the Bible, and the human conscience.

For example, we learn in Exodus 3 that when God appeared to Moses he revealed his personal name YHWH (Yahweh) or LORD. By revealing his personal name, God reveals that he is a person and not an impersonal force or higher power.

In Exodus 3:15, the word LORD is often translated with all capital letters to indicate the divine name YHWH (Yahweh). With this personal name, God reveals himself as a personal, faithful, covenant-keeping God of grace who promises to deliver his people by his great power.

In the New Testament, God translates his personal name YHWH as Lord (kurios) and connects it with the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 2:9-11). And there is a new personal name for God added by Jesus. It’s the name “Father.” Since the Father is made known to us by Jesus through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), the full, abundant revelation of LORD’s name is now Trinitarian: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19).

God has revealed his personal qualities

When the historic Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) answers the ancient question, “What is God?”, the answer contains a list of God’s personal attributes found in the Bible: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”

Theologians often use the word attributes to describe God’s personal qualities. After defining God as “a Spirit,” i.e. not having a physical body like humans, God’s being is described as infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. Theologians sometimes classify these kinds of attributes of God as incommunicable attributes that only God can possess.

God’s infinity means his being is not confined by any limits. God’s eternality means he has no beginning and no end, no before or after. And God’s immutability means it is not possible for God to change.

However, the attributes of God we share more fully are called God’s communicable attributes, including his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

God’s revelation is limited but true

We must be careful in how we describe God’s attributes and how we describe the way in which we share any of God’s attributes. It can be helpful to think of God’s incommunicable attributes in a separate category from God’s communicable attributes. But we must do so with great care and wisdom or we’ll be thinking of God in an unbiblical way.

This is because there is a sense in which we, as limited, created beings, don’t have the capacity to understand or share fully any of the attributes (including the communicable attributes) of an unlimited, uncreated, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable God. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God says:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
 neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways
 and my thoughts than your thoughts.

But not being able to know God as fully as he knows himself does not mean we can’t know him at all, or that all our knowledge of God is false. Instead, we must understand that, although our knowledge of God is limited, it’s still true, trustworthy, adequate, and good knowledge.

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The Revelation of God

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1). Genesis begins with creation as a magnificent act of God that reveals God to us as the creator of everything that exists.

The world God created consists of personal and impersonal beings and things. Humans are personal beings with names. Impersonal things include matter, space, time, motion, energy, the law of gravity, thunderstorms, oranges, and bicycles.

Many believe that humans are ultimately just impersonal matter that has come into being through a mysterious and random convergence of mass and energy over billions of years for no apparent reason and for no purpose.

The Bible teaches that humans are created by God in his image with intrinsic worth and dignity (Gen 1:28). All matter, space, time, motion, and energy are tools created and used by God to organize and rule over his creation and humanity to accomplish his purposes.

But how can we know all this? How can we really know what God is like?

We can’t think or reason our way to God

First, we can’t merely think or reason our way to God. When Moses writes the first verse of the first book of the Bible, he begins with a faith statement: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1).” Moses does not first prove scientifically that God exists.

Instead, he makes a huge theoretical assumption with the full knowledge that everyone who reads this verse may not share this assumption. Saying that our beliefs about God are based on a faith premise, however, does not in any way mean our beliefs are not scientifically and intellectually credible.

But we must be on our guard against anyone who claims to know the answer to how the world and humanity began without having a faith basis. Even the most atheistic scientists have at the core of their strongest beliefs about the origins of the universe—a faith premise. And it’s a very religious faith premise no matter how non-religious they may consider their premises to be.

This is because it takes religious faith to believe that the origins of the universe and humanity somehow mysteriously came into being through a “big bang” followed by even more mysterious processes over billions of years.

It takes as much, or more, religious faith to believe that everything that exists is only material or energy that has existed forever in some form and has been mysteriously shaped into all of its present complex forms, including humanity, only by pure chance—than to believe the historic Judeo-Christian account that it’s all the work of a personal, infinite, creator God.

It is dishonest to present a view of the origins of the universe and humanity and to claim that this view does not have a deeply rooted faith premise at its very core. And it’s even more dishonest to somehow try to position one view of origins as being scientific and not faith-based and others as being faith-based and religious.

So our faith premise is that there is an infinite, eternal, unchangeable God who exists and has created everything that exists. This means that reality is not limited to the physical but expands into the metaphysical, the spiritual. We do not live in a closed system but an open system.

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Preaching Christ to the Heart

I believe in pushing application to the forefront because I think in our culture, explaining it as you go and then really having it more fully developed at the end, I think it’s a mistake in our culture. I don’t think we have the context anymore. I hope our people are doing is bringing unsaved friends to church. Then I know that I’ve got families where the wife is a Christian, the husband isn’t, the husband’s a Christian, the wife I’m really wondering about.

And I think it’s a lot to ask the average person in our culture to trust me. There is going to be something that relates to your life, and I’m going to bring it up in about 30 minutes, but just listen to me talk about the Babylonians and the apostles and what Paul wrote to the Ephesians. For me, I try to get very quickly in the introduction to what the Chapell calls the Fall Condition Focus, which I think is really helpful. I find when I skip that, that I end up somewhere in my checklist having to go back because I left that out. When I go back and said exegete the text in its context, I’m talking about that’s part of what I’m looking for is, I want to understand what is the message of this passage and what is the Fallen Condition Focus that it’s speaking to. What’s the human need? I want to surface that in the introduction.

Also, I prefer to even state my main points in the form of direct application. So like I said in that sermon, my first point is not Peter tells these people to be subject to every, No, what God is telling us here is we need to be subject. The way I even state the main point because I believe the main point is the application. In other words, all Scripture’s given for the purpose of being applied to our life. So if I have a main point that doesn’t apply to your life, that may be my main point in my division of how I was looking at the passage, but I have not gotten the main point yet.

If I’m in Galatians and I say my first point is Paul rebuked Peter to his face. That’s not a point. In my exegesis I have to surface what is Holy Scripture telling. Am I being told this so that 2000 years later I can know that once upon a time in Galatia, Paul rebuked Peter? My main point will be you know what we see in this story? The Gospel is worth fighting for. The proof of that is Paul rebuked Peter. So Paul rebuked Peter. A lot of times I think what we write as our main point is actually the biblical proof of the point, but the point of that story is not just that fact on the surface.

When I make that first point “be subject”, I would at the end of that point, flesh some ideas out for application. Depending on how the sermon has developed, it may just be a few quick ideas. This means every one of us … We need to obey the law. As Christians we need to be model citizens. We should pay our taxes. We should, I said to our church, they came in to this building, did you know the government came in here, the city of Daytona Beach came in here and told us what we can and cannot do in this building. It says you can only seat 500 people by order of the fire marshal. What should we do? We should gladly submit to government.

Now, if they put a sign up that says you can no longer preach in Jesus’ name, then like Peter and then in your life and all of your lives are tension points where what you want to do, you think the laws of the state, the government, maybe you don’t like the present president and you just think people are making rules. It’s just like working a job and the boss makes a decision and you think, “What was he thinking?”

What do you do? What does a Christian do when there is someone in authority, and it doesn’t matter if you think you’re smarter than them. What scripture says is we’re subject.

So, I would apply it as I go and in the end wrap it all up. I do believe that we should invite people to apply scripture in all different ways. In my church, we don’t have an alter call, so there may be a lot of different ways we may do that. Sometimes, I like to invite people to pray, not only to come to Christ, but as Christians, it might be as simple as giving the Gospel, relating the application of the text to the Gospel and saying, you know, if you’re here and you’ve never come to Christ, the first step for you in this is you need to turn to Christ right now and trust Him. You need to repent and believe the Gospel. That’s what the Bible says.

And you need to understand that the Christian life is more than just being forgiven and going to Heaven when you die. You actually have the King inviting you to step into his kingdom which is run by all different rules but the way you enter in … I just talk the Gospel and invite people. Sometimes I’ll do that in my closing prayer. Sometimes we actually, not exactly this way but almost do a let’s bow for prayer. While your heads are bowed, before I pray over you, let’s just take some time to respond.

Third thing that we’ve done recently is my worship leader, who’s going to be teaching tomorrow afternoon here, I will come up and just pray a prayer at the end of the sermon and then I’ll say now let’s take a few minutes together to just have some time for response. He’ll come up and just play his guitar. He’s a classically-trained guitar player, and we’ll project on the screen a prayer of response that’s often crafted in a way that it can speak to coming to Christ and the Gospel and then living this application to the sermon out of it. So I do all three different ways.

I also sometimes do directed prayer where I may say, as our heads are bowed, take a moment and just pray a prayer of acknowledgment of where this text… Ask Christ to speak to you or reflect on how this passage is… and pray your response to God. Then give them a few seconds, 30 seconds, and then say, “Now pray a prayer of commitment,” and just guide them in that.

The third thing I was going to talk about was just planning. So I’m just going to say real quick that the third thing would be to chart a course. Turn up the music, call the dance, walk the “Preach Peace” path. The other thing was to chart a course for Gospel Centered preaching. I think it’s really helpful every year to take some time to plan your sermons for the year and to get input, to pray about it, and to think about not only how you’re going to preach Christ consistently through the year, but maybe some special series where Christ-centered preaching is going to be very much in the forefront of it.

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