Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Systematic Theology Part 10-The Omni's

Christie and I love to watch the show Heroes. I loved watching the X-Men cartoons when I was a kid. An interesting question that always gives a wide range of answers is, "If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose and why?"

We love superheroes. They seem unbeatable. They almost always win...ALMOST!

Some people like to think of God as a cosmic super hero wielding these great powers. The problem with this view is that superheroes have limits to their powers. God, being infinite, is unlimited in his attributes. Tonight we are going to look at three attributes that we will call the “Omni’s”.

Our goal, once again, is to understand “what” these attributes are, not “how” they work.

The First Omni
Think about the last time you went on a scavenger hunt. What makes a scavenger hunt fun? If you didn’t have to look for things, would it be fun? Scavenger hunts are fun because you don't know where the items are. You have to dig around for them. If you didn't have to look for them, it would not be fun.

The first “omni” we are going to look at tonight is difficult because our experience is that things can only be here or there, not everywhere. We know of nothing in this created world that matches this attribute. Even oxygen cannot be everywhere at is made up of individual molecules, and those molecules only exist where they are. God, however, is OMNIPRESENT.

Psalm 139:7-12- 7Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or whereshall I flee from your presence?
8If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,"
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

What does omnipresent mean? “God is present, in the totality of His presence, throughout the universe, at all times.” Dr. David Nelson, class notes p81 He is not partly here and partly there. He is altogether everywhere all at once.

Omnipresence is God’s infinity as it relates to space.

“The greatness of finite objects is measured by how much space they occupy. With God, however, the question of whereness or location is not applicable. God is the one who brought space (and time) into being. he was before there was space. He cannot be localized at a particular point. There can be no plotting of his location on a set of coordinates...There is no physical body to be located at a particular place.” Millard Erickson, Systematic Theology, p299

“Though God is present everywhere throughout the universe, he cannot be contained in any one part of it.” A Theology for the Church, p234

“There is no place where he cannot be found.” Erickson p 299

If God is Omnipresent then...

...Nothing can contain God (Acts 17:24; 1 Kings 8:27)
-”House of God” is a figure of speech-temples cannot contain him.
...No one can hide from Him (Jer 23:23-24)
-God is near and far at the same time (Grover is only near and far one at a time)
...He’s always got his eye on you (Prov 15:3)

Truth: God’s Omnipresence “reminds us that we can never outrun the power and providence of our great Lord.” (TftC p234)

Romans 8:38-39-38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“God is not localized. He has not been left behind. He is available to us wherever we may be. It is good to assemble with believers in a regular lace of worship, but God is not prevented from meeting with us because we have been unable to come to this special place. Nor does God have any difficulty dealing with needs and problems that arise in widely differing locations at the same time. He does not, however, move from one place to another as a sort of divine superman who flies at infinite speed. Rather, he simply has access to the whole of creation at all times.” (Erickson, p300)

God is not only infinite as it relates to space. He is also infinite in power.

The Second Omni
How do we measure someone’s power? (weight can lift, # of pushups, etc.). When we talk about God’s power, we are not talking about physical ability.

Define Omnipotence: God is able to do all things that are proper objects of his power.
God’s “power to do everything that in his rational and moral perfection God wills to do.” J. I. Packer

If God is Omnipotent then...
...He must be the most powerful (Genesis 17:1-”I am God Almighty”)
...He must have power over everything (Genesis 18:10-14-Power over creation)
...Nothing can be too difficult for him (Jer 32:17; Matt 19:26)
...Nothing can stop him (Psalm 115:3; Job 42:2-he will accomplish his will)

Typical arguments against God’s omnipotence:
-Can God make a mountain he can’t move? Can he make a square circle?
-Can God sin? (Sin is an exercise in weakness, not power)

Truth: God can do everything but can do nothing that involves contradiction or are against the proper use of his power

What God "Cannot" Do:
He cannot do the logically absurd or contradictory
He cannot undo the past (can wipe away the consequences)
He cannot sin (act contrary to his nature)
He cannot break a promise

“All of these ‘inabilities’ are not weaknesses, but strengths. The inability to do evil or to lie or to fail is a mark of positive strength rather than of failure.” Erickson p 303

A lot of times when we think of the power of God we think of physical feats that God can do.

Truth: The greatest display of God’s omnipotence is his ability to change people.

“Whereas giant machinery can accomplish extraordinary types of physical work, it is not so easy to alter human nature.” (Matt 19:26-with respect to salvation)

Finally, God is also infinite as it relates to knowledge.

The Third Omni
My brother and I used to play Trivial pursuit for fun. It tests your knowledge of several different subjects. We liked to see how smart we were. I always chose the sports and geography questions. He liked the history questions. We may have been pretty knowledgeable in some subjects, but neither of us was completely knowledgeable in all subjects. God, however, is.

Psalm 147:5-5Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.

Define Omniscience: His comprehensive knowledge of all that was, is and ever shall be (TftC p231)

If God is Omniscient then...
...He never misses even the most insignificant event (Matt 10:29; Psalm 139:2)
Matt 10:30-knowledge of the impossible (hairs on head)
...He has knowledge of what no man can see (the heart) (Acts 15:8)
...He has knowledge of what has yet to happen (Psalm 139:16)
...He knows about all our needs (Matt 6:8)
...He must be the source of knowledge (Acts 15:18)
...He is infinitely wise (Romans 11:33)

“We are all completely transparent before God. He sees and knows us totally. He knows every truth, even those not yet discovered by humankind, for it was he who built them into the
creation.” Erickson p301

When we realize that God truly is OMNI then we can have confidence that what he says is true...especially this:
Isa 46:9-10-I am God and there is no other

The God we worship is everpresent, all powerful and all knowing. This should give us comfort, trust, hope and peace.

The One True God is always close
The One True God is always in control
The One True God always knows

This is why the One True God is the only one worthy of worship.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Funny or Not? Vol. 28

If you need a good laugh, please take 3 minutes to watch this...especially if you love Pop Tarts...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Systematic Theology Part 9-God Forever Past, Forever Present, Forever Future

So much of our world is based around time. “When will this class end?” “What time does the movie start?” “How much longer in the game?” “What time do I have to get up?” “How long will this take to cook?” “How much time do I have, doc?” “How much longer do I have to wait in this line?” We are so surrounded by time that it’s hard to imagine timelessness. But, that is exactly what God is. He’s timeless. He’s eternal.

Genesis 1:1 tells us that God created everything "in the beginning", before time even existed. In fact he created time. Being eternal, God is not bound by time. He is above and beyond time itself.

What does it mean that God is eternal and why does it matter?

Since God is eternal He is Self-Existent:

If I were to show you 10 objects and ask you where you think those objects were created I doubt that you would answer, "It wasn't created. It has always been."

Our experience understands that everything we see (trees, shirts, video games, books) had an origin in something. They began to exist at a particular point in time. Since this is our experience it takes great effort to even begin to comprehend that something could exist with no starting point. This is what it means to be eternal. God, being eternal, has no starting point. He always has been and always will be. Let this idea stretch your mind beyond your experience for a moment and try to fathom what being eternal really means. It means that nothing made God so his existence has to be found in himself.

What does it mean for God to be self-existent?

1. God has "life in himself." (John 5:26)
God's life does not come from an outside source. He is life.

2. God is unique (1 Thessalonians 1:9; Isaiah 45:5)
There is no other God, and there is none like him. If God came from somewhere then, based on our understanding of where things come from, he would have had to be created. But there is no other God. There is nothing greater than God, so there is nothing from which God came. God has life in himself.

3. God is not dependent on anything else for his existence (Exodus 3:14)
Contrast God's statement of his existence ("I AM") with the oft referred to and loved statement of Rene Descarte ("I think therefore I am).

Descarte is depending on his ability to do something as evidence of existence. God just is. As Millard Erickson says, "His very nature is to exist." (Systematic Theology, p298)

As people we always look toward purpose and beginning as evidence of existence. God is beyond our understanding of everything that we see because he is beyond the need of anything to make him or sustain him.

This leads to our second point about God's eternity:

Since God is eternal he is Self-Sufficient:

This means that God is "lacking nothing." We see this in several places of scripture. Here are two:

Psalm 50:10-12
Acts 17:24-25

1. God doesn't need anything to keep existing
"The continuation of God’s existence does not depend on anything outside himself.” Erickson p297

2. God doesn’t need anyone’s help to accomplish his purposes
“God has chosen to use us to accomplish his purposes, and in that sense he now needs us. he could, however, if he so chose, have bypassed us. he could simply have been--without us; and he can, if he chooses, accomplish his purposes without us. It is to our gain that he permits us to know and serve him, and it is our loss if we reject that opportunity.” p298

Since God is Eternal he is unchanging

Hebrews 13:8; Psalm 33:11; Psalm 102:27; Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; James 1:17; Deut 7:9; Psalm 119:90; Lam 3:22-23; 1 John 1:9 are all very clear that God is an unchanging God. Our experience, though, is that everything changes in some way or another. Even toilet paper changes in substance and form throughout it's "life cycle" from creation to disposal.

God, however, being eternal, has no need or capacity for change. Usually something changes because it lacks something needed to fulfill it's purpose. Remember that God lacks nothing so he has no need to change. If he were to change (increase in something) then he would not have been perfect and therefore not God. If he were to diminish in something then he would no longer be perfect and no longer be God. God does not increase or decrease in any way. He is what He is!

The unchanging nature of God leads us to two conclusions about Him:

1. God is Constant
2. God is Trustworthy

But what about the apparent contradictions in the Bible where God seems to be changing his mind? (Genesis 6:6; Jonah 3:10; Exodus 32:14; 1 Samuel 15:35)

First, a simple but effective note on how to correctly interpret Scripture:
Always remember to interpret the hard to understand passages by appealing to the clear passages. We have already seen that scripture CLEARLY states that God is unchanging. But let's look at 3 other ways to deal with these apparent contradictions:

1. Human terms cannot fully describe God’s actions
ex. God does not actually experience pain or regret, but that’s the best way we can describe, with human language, what is going on. Remember that god cannot be captured fully by human language

2. God sees the big picture
He knows what he’s doing and where he’s going. his timelessness allows him to do this. We can only see his plan play out step-by-step. Did God change his mind or was this just the next step of his master plan?

3. People change in the way they relate to God
Ninevah repents, God spares
Adam sins, God judges and condemns
These are the natural outcome of a change in human relationship toward God

Is the eternity of God essential?

If God was created then there must be something greater than he.
If God was lacking something then whatever had what he needed would have power and authority over him.
If God changed then he was, is or will be imperfect, thus necessitating change.

Ultimately, if God is not eternal then he is not God.

"It is precisely this concept of no-origin which distinguishes That-which-is-God from whatever is not God.” Tozer p39

Stand in awe and amazement today of the eternal nature of God. Worship him with wonder at his incomprehensibility and infinity. May your worship this week be great toward a great God.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Questions Answered: When Does Shyness become Sinfulness?

Often people relate their emotions to just being a part of their personality. This is especially true about uncomfortable parts of someone’s personality. If a person is grouchy or off-putting, that behavior is often excused by friends as just a personality quirk. The same can be said about shyness. Shyness is regularly excused in teenagers and adults as “just a personality quirk.” It’s accepted and often expected in children and excused as a natural reaction to an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation. But is it natural and should it be so easily accepted and excused?

All of us have been shy at one time or another. Many people would consider themselves to be shy. I think we all know someone that w would describe as shy. So, here's a question: can shyness be sinful, and if so, when does shyness become sinfulness?

Defining Shyness:In humans, shyness (also called diffidence) is a social psychology term used to describe the feeling of apprehension, lack of confidence, or awkwardness experienced when a person is in proximity to, approaching, or being approached by other people, especially in new situations or with unfamiliar people. Shyness may come from personality introversion, genetic traits, or the environment in which a person is raised. (from wikipedia)

To discover when shyness becomes sinfulness we need to take the mask off of shyness.
What is really going on when shyness takes over? What is the foundation of shyness? Where does it come from? Why does an outgoing and happy person suddenly run for cover at the first uncomfortable situation? In short, why are we shy?

Let's take the mask of shyness by exploring how it is based in 3 areas that lean toward sinfulness.

Shyness is Low Self-Esteem (AKA-Lack of Confidence)
The lie of self-esteem: Self-esteem is just the world’s way of telling you that you’re not good enough but it’s up to you to make yourself good enough. The very popular and oft taught idea of self-esteem is in direct contradiction to the Truth of Christ.
Philippians 3:3-we are not supposed to put any confidence in the flesh.
Ephesians 2:8-10-Our worth is not based in ourselves but in Christ alone and that worth does not grow or diminish.

When you walk around in shyness based on low self-esteem you reject the worth that Christ alone has paid into our lives by his death. In this we are sinning in our shyness. Reject the world's idea of self-esteem and embrace the only true worth that exists-Christ-esteem.

Shyness is Fear
Often depending on self-confidence that just isn’t there can lead to the 2nd face of shyness: fear. This is especially true in children. It’s expected and excused in children. But then it creeps into our lives as teens and adults and can become paralyzing. Again, there is a problem with fear as it relates to Christians living lives of trust in Christ and his Word.
2 Timothy 1:7-8a-In Christ there is no place for a lifestyle of fear or low self-confidence because we have been given power
Isaiah 41:10-if we have confidence in God’s truth then we will not fear

When you walk around in shyness based on fear you are rejecting the promises and power of God in your life.

Shyness is Selfishness
If we are honest with ourselves we will see the 3rd face of shyness is the one that usually appears. There have been a lot of times where we’ve done things we didn’t think we could do or done things that scare us, but when selfishness creeps in we’ll appeal to shyness to avoid having to do something we just don’t want to do.

I call this “manufactured shyness for personal comfort”. That means it’s not really shyness, it’s just a convenient excuse to not do what you don’t want to do.

This is the pinnacle of pride: putting your desires above someone else and even above God’s desires for your life. We know that God hates pride and deception (Proverbs 6:16-17) so it’s easy to see how this “manufactured shyness” is sinful.

How could shyness impact ministry and these good works that God has created us for?

Shyness as low self-esteem-”I Can’t”
Shyness as fear-”I’m scared”
Shyness as selfishness-”I don’t want to”

The excuse of shyness when it relates to ministry results in a failure to witness, a failure to encourage new believers, a failure to teach, a failure to pray, a failure to volunteer and multiple other ministry crippling failures. I do not deny that shyness is a part of some people's nature (it's even a part of mine) but I do deny that shyness is ever a valid excuse to avoid engaging in ministry. God knows your propensity toward shyness when he calls you to a ministry opportunity and promises power, courage, confidence and everything we need for every good work he calls us to do.

The next time you feel and urging by the Holy Spirit or are encouraged by a spiritiual leader to do something and you feel shyness creeping in, check it up and make sure your shyness is not just a cover/excuse for lack of confidence, fear or selfishness.