What Can I Believe Sermon Series, #1, 3.30.08
What Can I Believe About God?
The IBC Pulpit ● Isaiah 42:5-9; 44:6-8; 48:9-11 ● Dr. Kevin Shrum
The sermon series entitled – What Can I Believe? – is delivered out of a deep concern that God’s people know what they believe and why they believe it. In an age where spiritual confusion and biblical illiteracy reign knowing the great truths of the Scripture is essential. In this series we will look at the Doctrine of God, the Doctrine of Scripture, the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the Doctrine of Salvation and the Doctrine of Last Things.
Introduction: We begin with God! What can we believe about God? Are there many gods? Is there but one god? Is Allah the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Is God a single unity or is God a trinity? Many of these questions will be answered in this message, as well as the other messages in this series. Let’s begin with several base texts (although there are many texts that could be used and will be used in this message).
(Isaiah 44:6-8) “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.’”
(Isaiah 48:9-11) “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”
How does one begin to think about such a large issue as God? Let’s allow these texts, and others, direct our thinking about God. There are five main thoughts that emerge concerning God throughout Scripture.
God is a Self-Referential God!
What does it mean to say that God is a self-referential being? It’s actually very simple. Humans are time-bound, referenced creatures. We do not exist on our own. We must have a reference point in order to define who we are: parents, birth date, job, death date, etc. We are dependent, created beings. On the other hand, God has no reference point in that He is an un-invented, uncreated, unreferenced being! He exists all by Himself. As Isaiah 44:6 notes, “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.”
This is exactly what God was getting at when Moses asked about the identity of God at the burning bush: (Exodus 3:13-14) “Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I Am Who I Am.’ And He said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I Am has sent me to you’” Again, God is not a created being; He is not a dependent being; He is not a man-made concoction. He is simply I AM!
But this is not all. God is not only an uncreated being, He is a Trinitarian unity. That is, God is One. Deuteronomy 6:4 states, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is one.” Christians do not believe in a polytheistic system of gods or in a pantheistic god where God is equated with nature, but rather in One, Personal, Trinue God. Yet, when we come to the New Testament we discover a deep mystery about God – God is also Trinitarian in nature. That is, though God is One, we also see that He is made up of three separate and distinct personages – Father, Son and Spirit. There are not three gods; nor, is there simply One God with three different names. Instead, there is One God who is revealed in three distinct, unique and separate personages within the unity of the Godhead. What gave birth to this view of God? Scriptures such as Matthew 3:13-17 where the Son is baptized, the Father speaks words of affirmation from heaven and the Spirit anoints Jesus. 2 Corinthians 13:14 recognizes the mysterious nature of God: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” In essence, God is God all by Himself in the perfect fellowship of Father, Son and Spirit.
God is a Sovereign God!
Our great self-referential God is also sovereign. That is, He is in control of all things, ordaining, guiding and accomplishing His will in His time and in His way. He is neither surprised nor caught off guard by any event in history. In fact, He is behind, in and works through all events of history. He has a design for all things and will accomplish this design by His great power and for His glory. It must occur to us that nothing has ever occurred to God as if by surprise. Isaiah 44:6 notes, “I am first and I am the last; besides me there I no god.” God numbers our days and makes all things to happen according to His will. God is sovereign in creation. Isaiah 42:5 puts it this way, “Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it.” God is sovereign in salvation in that He has chosen to save a people for Himself out of every nation and every tongue and every tribe for the praise of His glory (John 13:8; Rev. 7:9). God is sovereign in all things, especially in stewarding His creation and saving sinners for Himself.
God is a Saving God!
Our great, sovereign God is also a saving God. In Isaiah 44:6 God is called the “Redeemer, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 43:14 concurs with this description of God by adding, “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” God as redeemer is also a New Testament concept. Galatians 4:4 states, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who are under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” To redeem something means to purchase at a price. In other words, God has purchased sinners with the precious blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
So, how does God redeem sinners? Through Jesus Christ! God is a saving God because He is holy, righteous and just. He is able to declare sinners not guilty in His Son, Jesus Christ. He is able to save because He is also a God of grace, mercy and love. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve - forgiveness. Mercy is not receiving what we deserve – wrath and judgment. And love is the redemptive engine that makes God’s love and mercy possible. God demonstrated His justice and righteousness toward sin and sinners by punishing His Son, Jesus Christ, so that He would bear the penalty for our sin. God poured out His wrath on Jesus so that He could pour out His righteousness on sinners (Romans 3:21-31).
(Galatians 3:10-14) “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ 12 But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’ 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
(Titus 2:11-15) “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”
God is a Sending God!
The God who is God all by Himself, the God who is a sovereign, saving God is also a sending God. That is, He has ordained that word about Him and His great mercies be spread through the means of His chosen people. This is why Isaiah 44:8 puts things this way, “Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses!” Earlier in the Book of Isaiah God had called Isaiah to be a prophet with Isaiah answering in the affirmative (Isa. 6:1-8). The sending nature of God is also seen in that familiar passage in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” God sends us as witnesses of His sovereign, saving grace so that sinners will hear and believe the good news (Romans 10:14-21). We are His ambassadors declaring His message for His glory and for the sake of sinners (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).
God is a Self-Glorifying God!
In the end, the chief end of God is to glorify Himself. God is not a man-centered God, but a God-centered God. This rather arrogant statement is actually not arrogant at all. If I, as a human, were to say such a thing you may call the men in white jackets to take me away. But for God to say this is actually right, true and loving because God is a perfect being who alone deserves all praise, glory and honor. If God doesn’t glorify Himself in all things then He is giving His glory to something else and that would be idolatry.
(Isaiah 42:8) “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”
(Isaiah 43:25) “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, I will not remember your sins.”
(Isaiah 49:9-11) “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”
(John 17:1-5) “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”