What motivates God?

I have been involved in some interesting discussions over at Jonathan Brink’s website, as well as at Rick Ianniello’s. I have also been losing sleep over the thoughts – trying to reconcile what I am hearing, with what I see in the Word. Questions like: Is love the base attribute of God? Does love motivate God to do all that He does? Do we have to then redefine things like judgement, and wrath, and hell?

My first thought was to look to the Bible, to show that there is no reason to suppose that love is God’s “base” attribute. But, in mulling these things over, I believe that what is actually the heart of the issue we have been discussing, is not WHO God is (important as that is), but WHAT motivates Him. And, I just do not see Scripture that God is primarily motivated by a love for mankind, or His creation. God is ultimately motivated by wanting all of creation to display His glory. He does what He does for His glory.

Jonathan Edwards and John Piper opened my eyes to this in God’s Passion for His Glory. The most life-altering book I have read, save the Bible. Here is what Edwards has to say:

God is glorified within Himself these two ways: 1. By appearing… to Himself in His own perfect idea [of Himself], or in His Son, who is the brightness of His glory. 2. By enjoying and delighting in Himself, by flowing forth in infinite… delight towards Himself, or in His Holy Spirit… So God glorifies himself toward the creatures also in two ways: 1. By appearing to… their understanding. 2. In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying, the manifestations which He makes of Himself… God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoice in. when those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might [be] received both by the mind and heart. He that testifies his idea of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.

It is amazing, how absolutely full the Bible is of this idea. Whether it is specifically referring to God’s glory, or to the idea of it (by using terms such as “for My namesake”), God receiving praise and glory and honor is the central theme of the Bible. God has spared Isreal at times, not for their sake, but for His glory (ie. Exekial 36:22) Ezekial is replete with the idea that God will act, that “they may know that I am the Lord” (about 30 times) Romans 9 is a significant passage on this. Regarding Pharaoh, and why God chose to raise him up as a vessel of wrath: “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (verse 17)

It is a really hard concept initially to wrap our head around. We have been taught that WE are the center of His universe. We have been shown verse after verse that talks about His love for us. Which is, of course, true, but there is context for that as well… We believe that God cannot possibly love God most – that would be narcissistic. And yet, could God be holy, if He placed infinite worth on anything but that which is infinitely valuable?? Namely Himself?


The only thing to not disappoint…

I was reading a blog on Piper’s site, which kinda got me thinking….

How many times has someone said “Man!  You have GOT to see this movie!  It’s AMAZING!!!”  And, sometimes, precisely because they have pumped it up, it disappoints.

Or – It’s a quiet day at Cedar Point , and so you get to ride the Raptor 14 times… and by the fifth time, you really are bored with the thrill (as though you will admit that to the people you came with) but you keep going, because you remember that first moment of excitement – and you want that back.  But there simply is no way to recreate the thrill.

We really do fill our life with cheap substitutions, do we not?  Looking for either the same thrill, or a new thrill, or a chance to recreate a thrill.  But it does not happen.

It is different with God.  If you seek Him, you will find Him.  And He will not disappoint.  This God, who is willing to dwell in the hearts of feeble man, is so great that no one has seen Him in all of His glory.  Moses had to gaze upon His backside, lest he be consummed. 

This God – should you share your delight of Him with others, will not disappoint them.  You can not hype up an encounter with God so much that you have ruined the experience. 

I loved getting my tattoos.  I love being on the back of a motorcycle… and both lose some of their thrill… and both pale in comparison to a God-filled moment.  Better is one day in His court than a thousand elsewhere… Think about that… I so rarely have the faith to believe that.  Could one God saturated day in His Word, where His Spirit is upon you in some glorious, heavy wonder, really be better than three years elsewhere?  I think of all the things that charm me most – if I could live at Disney World with my kids for three years, getting tattoos, riding a bike, playing xbox, having sex, eating chocolate, and steak and enjoying my friends’ company, and playing RockBand; if I could meet Ben Roethlisberger, and John Piper, and Rico, and Rachel…. if I could shower my children with material joys, and swimming with dolphins…..  Being in His presence for a Day would be better than a thousand days of those sorts of elsewhere….

A common Word….

My friend Dave has posted a link to a document, regarding a document put out by leaders in the Muslim community, seeking unity and peace with Christian leaders. The bottom line is, we agree that our God, and Allah are one and the same. A grievous day indeed, when you look at some of the names on the list.

Included are Bill Hybels (Senior Pastor at Willow Creek), Rick Warren, Brian McLaren, Leith Anderson (President, National Association of Evangelicals), John Stott, and a host of professors at prominent schools (Yale, Fuller)

From the Yale document, signed by over 300 Christian leaders:

“The future of the world depends on our ability as Christians and Muslims to live together in peace. If we fail to make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony you correctly remind us that “our eternal souls” are at stake as well.”

I am confused, and disheartened.  I thought our eternal souls were at stake when we failed to place our faith and trust in Christ for salvation?  When we deny our need for Him, and choose not to repent?

 Of course we are to love everyone, my point is not to ignore that…  But to unite, in a manner that denies who God says He is in the Bible is heartbreaking….

“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.”  Isaiah 48:11

I know He is sovereign, and I rest in this, even as I pray for the souls of those who are straying so far from the Truth.

Choked up, part two

I think this will take up far too much space as a comment, and have chosen instead to respond to a previous thread here….

I can not explain to you, how a part of me, larger than I care to admit, wants to see God as you do… let me explain, through a friend:

“From my childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, in choosing whom He would to eternal life; and rejecting whom He pleased; leaving them to eternally to perish, and be everlastingly tormented in hell.  It used to apprear like a horrible doctrine to me.  But I remember this time very well when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God, and His justice in thus eternally disposing of men, according to His sovereign pleasure.  But never could give an account how, or by what means, I was thus convinced, not in the least imagining at the time, nor a long time after, that there was any extraordinary influence of God’s Spirit in it; but only that now I saw further, and my reason apprehended the justice and reasonableness of it.  However, my mind rested in it; and it put an end to all those cavils and objections.  And there was a wonderful alteration in my mind, with respect to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, from that day to this; so that I scarce ever have found so much as the rising of an objection against it, in the most absolute sense, in God showing mercy to whom He will show mercy, and hardening whom He will.  God’s absolute sovereignty and justice, with respect to salvation and damnation, is what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes; at least it is so at times.  But I have often, since that first conviction, had quite another kind of sense of God’s sovereignty than I had then.  I have often since had not only a conviction, but a delightful conviction.  The doctrine has very often appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright and sweet.  Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.  But my first conviction was not so.”

 I am not yet with Jonathan Edwards.  I WANT to be.  I understand God’s sovereignty.  I know it to be true.  But when I tuck my 4 year old into bed – with his tiny, rebellious heart beating, I cry out “oh God!  I do not know how to love You so very well, if Levi is to be a vessel of wrath!  Oh God, oh God!!!!  What will I do???”  I want, desperately to delight in this great truth – man’s salvation is truly in the hands of the Almighty alone!  I want to rejoice in that! 

But at times, this heart rebels.  Lord!  If You CAN save everyone, why DON’T You???  What about my uncle, dying this year of cancer?  What of good friends far away, what of good friends close to home?  Why me?  Why not everyone I love????  IT’S NOT FAIR!  So cries my heart!  So, rebels my heart.  We want to take His sovereignty away.  We want to let Him off the hook.  We want to believe that grace and mercy are owed to everyone – if He bled on the cross, and took away the sins of some, WHY NOT ALL? 

For His glory.  For His divine pleasure and good will.  Because He owes man, who traded the delight of the omnipotent for a piece of fruit, nothing.  For His glory.  It is as close to a mantra as my heart will get – for He has done it all, for His glory…..

 And so, of all the prayers of my heart – the loudest that cries is that I might love His sovereignty – for right now I feel like the childlike Edwards – stuck in the fear and awesomeness of this truth, and not in the beauty of it…..

choked up…

So, in my latest attempt to get a handle on what is becoming so pervasive, even very close to home for me, I googled R.B. and his “the gods aren’t angry tour.” 

Couple of excellent summary blogs later, and I get into reading comments…..

“Hey, it’s easy to say “universalism is a different gospel,” but honestly, I’d like to hear an argument as to why.” 

And my heart breaks….  

It is not the first time I have wept over a different gospel.  The tears have flowed quite freely in the last few months – when I first became exposed to RB and the emerging church (a little slow, I know : )

My heart aches, when I sense that the gloriousness of Christ and what He accomplished on the cross is being diminished.  When His horrificly beautiful act of sacrifice that we must focus on (much like when we cannot take our eyes off a car accident)  actually gets cheapened – because the word sin does not even enter into the “story” of the Bible.  When man does not need a Saviour anymore.  When grace loses its greatness – for he who is forgiven much loves much, and let me tell you – the modern man has been forgiven very little in his own mind….  His mercy, His grace, is greatest, when I can cry with Paul, and Isaiah “Oh wretched human am I!  Chief of sinners!  Woe is me God!  And oh…how GREAT Thou art!  You have forgiven ME?  From THIS?  AH!!!!  God!!!!” 

I love my Saviour.  My Father.  His mighty saving hand accomplished more than I will ever, ever comprehend this side of heaven.  He is greatest, when I am smallest – like when staring up into the night sky, and you realise how infintesmal you are – only it is a greater, greater scale than that.  His holy condescention! 

Let us not blaspheme – by even whispering of another way to God save but through His Son, and belief in His blood.  Let us not cheapen His mercy by thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought.  And oh! let our hearts be awakened to the absolute awesomeness of Him who would call us friend, beloved, bride, son, daughter!

I can’t help it.

I am borrowing my entire blog this morning from www.DesiringGod.org – I love Piper!!!!  THIS is my heart.  It has been my heart for so long, but Piper says it so much better than I can….

Matthew 10:24-31

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

My desire this morning is that God would use my words to inspire you with courage in the cause of truth. My prayer is that he will grant you to overcome all fear of speaking the truth of Scripture, and that you will have the boldness to speak it openly and clearly when it is unpopular or even dangerous.

There are at least two reasons I feel this burden this morning. One is that Paul had this burden for his younger apprentice, Timothy. Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:3, “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth.” In other words, “Timothy, it is likely that you are going to have to say some unpopular things that do not scratch where people itch. I want you to know this in advance so that you are not shaken when the truth you preach is rejected. It will take courage to press on in the face of that opposition, Timothy. So be courageous and take your share of suffering for the truth (1:8; 2:3; 3:13-14).”

The other reason I feel this burden this morning is because subjectivism and relativism permeate our culture and threaten to destroy churches and schools and denominations and movements. By RELATIVISM I mean the assumption that there is no such thing as absolutes. What is true or right or good or beautiful for you may not be for me. It’s all relative. By SUBJECTIVISM I mean the assumption that in this relativistic atmosphere I, the subject, have the right to determine what is good and bad, right and wrong, true and false, beautiful and ugly for me without submitting my judgment to any objective reality or any objective authority outside myself. This is the air we breath in America today.

Which means that it is extremely unpopular today to take a strong stand on anything except tolerance. The claim that you know a truth that everybody should believe or that you know a behavior that everyone should avoid—that claim is enough to earn for you the name, Ayatollah or Facist or Ceaucescu.

If you commend a truth with confidence, and make a case for it on the basis of objective evidences, and call on people with urgency to change their minds and believe it, you will be viewed by the average American as arrogant and even dangerous. But if you avoid talking about truth or give the impression that truth is unattainable, and if you avoid words like “should” and “ought” and “must,” then you will signal to people that there is no objective truth and there are no moral absolutes. And then people will see you as humble.

Confidence that you know some things that all people ought to believe is seen as the essence of arrogance today. On the other hand, a sense of uncertainty about what is true and about how one ought to live, accompanied by a kind of open-ended ethic and an absence of judgment on controversial issues is seen as the essence of humility. This is one of the primary ways today that people with itching ears gather for themselves teachers to suit their own liking. It is not easy to be called arrogant and dangerous, and it feels very good to be liked as humble and open and inoffensive. And therefore the temptation to lose your theological and moral nerve is tremendous and the need for courage is immense.

The text for my exhortation is Matthew 10:24-31. The aim of Jesus in these verses is to give us the courage to speak the truth of God’s word with clarity and openness no matter what the cost.

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.

The main point of this text is plain from the three repetitions of the command not to fear. Verse 26, “So have no fear of them.” Verse 28, “Do not fear those who kill the body.” Verse 31: “Fear not therefore; you are of much more value than many sparrows.” So Jesus’ aim here is to overcome fear and instill courage.

But courage to do what? Can we make the point of this passage sharper? We can. The point is made very sharp in verse 27. Jesus has something very specific in mind that is threatened by fear and advanced by courage. He says in verse 27: “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not fear . . .” In other words the real danger of fear in this passage is the fear to speak clearly (in the light) and openly (on the housetops) when that speaking might get you in trouble.

So here’s the point of the passage: Don’t be afraid to speak clearly and openly what Christ has taught you even if it costs you your church, your friends, and your life. Or to put the point positively, Be courageous to speak the truth of Scripture clearly and openly for all to hear even if it is unpopular and dangerous.

The rest of this text is motivation: five reasons are given for why you and I should have courage to speak all that Jesus taught—the popular parts and the unpopular parts—no matter what. Here they are (far too quickly, I regret):

1. First, notice the “so” or “therefore” at the beginning of verse 26: “So (therefore) have no fear of them.” In other words, fearlessness flows from what Jesus just said, namely, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more (will they malign) those of his household.” Therefore have no fear of them. Does that help make you fearless?

It should. I think the sense is this: Jesus is saying, “Your mistreatment for speaking the truth clearly and openly is not some unexpected, accidental, random, meaningless experience; it’s just the way the way they treated me, and so it’s a sign that you belong to me—you are part of my household (cf. Heb. 13:8). So don’t be afraid of the names they call you when you speak out plainly, those very names bind you and me together.”

2. Second, notice the word “for” in the middle of verse 26 (the NIV often drops these important words): “So have no fear of them; FOR (here comes the second reason not to be afraid) nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” How does that help us overcome fear and be courageous in the cause of truth?

It helps us by assuring us that the truth we are speaking will triumph. It will be vindicated in the end. People may reject it now. They may call it the word of Beelzebul. They may cast it out. They may try to bury it and hide it from the world and pretend that it does not exist. But Jesus says, “Take heart in the cause of truth, because in the end all truth with be revealed, all reality will be uncovered. And those who spoke it with clarity and openness will be vindicated. Do not fear.

3. Third, Jesus says, Fear not, you can only be killed! Verse 28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” In other words, the worst thing your opponents can do to you when you speak the truth is to kill your body. And that leaves the soul untouched and happy in God for ever and ever.

But if you keep silent, if you forsake the path of truth and fall in love with the praise of men you could lose your very soul. And that you ought to fear. But don’t fear what man can do to you. All he can do is dispatch your soul to paradise. Fear not.

4. Fourth, don’t fear to speak the truth, but be courageous and speak clearly and openly because God is giving close and intimate attention to all you do. Verse 30 means at least that much. Jesus says, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” In other words, the suffering you may undergo in speaking the truth is NOT because God is disinterested in you or unfamiliar with your plight. He is close enough to separate one hair from another and give each one a number. Fear not; he is close; he is interested; he cares. Be of good courage and speak the truth come what may.

5. Finally, fear not because your Father will not let anything happen to you apart from his gracious will. The logic of Jesus is plain and precious. Verse 31: “You are of more value than many sparrows.” Verse 29: “Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will.” The courage-giving conclusion: No harm will befall you but what God mercifully wills. As the young missionary Henry Martyn said, “If [God] has work for me to do, I cannot die.”

So I appeal to you, don’t yield to the spirit of the age. Love the truth. What you learn of Christ in the closet speak in the light. What you hear in the Scriptures proclaim from the housetops. And do not fear the face of any man. Amen.

Of sunsets and squandering.

In any other context, it would have sounded profane… I was just starting to pray, out loud, but turned a corner on the road (best praying seems to be done when driving), and out popped “Oh God!!!!!”  For, to my left, and above me, was the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen in my life.  The colors molded together, and I could look straight up into pinks and purples.  Half the sky was filled with the glory of the Lord.  I have Never seen a sunset such as this.  It was absolutely phenomenal.  I wanted to get out of my car, and just stare…. but I would have been late for Bible study.

But, I wondered what the unbeliever does in those moments, for I could not help but rejoice in the slendor of my King – in His goodness to man.  I finished my thought “Oh God!!!!!…  You are AWESOME!”  How undeserving am I!  How undeserving are we!  And, how do we squander it!  As a believer,  (okay, and as a Calvinist)  I get chills sometimes… do you ever go “there” – what if He had not bestowed His mercy on you?  What if He had not placed you in this time period, with these parents, with this gospel?  What if you were raised in an abusive, unloving, atheistic home?  You would be responsible for your sin… No amount of pleading ignorance could justify not looking at that magnificent sunset, and saying, “God?  You made this, did You not?  How unworthy am I, to enjoy this moment, this breath!  In Your goodness, reveal Yourself to me!”  

For His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly percieved, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.  Romans 1:20

But, how we waste it!  How caught up in this world we get!  As believers, we get sucked into the lesser pleasures.  We have a gift, The Gift, and we not only don’t share it, we don’t even enjoy it ourselves. 

I want, when I look at the sunsets, the fall leaves turning, the river, to think on God’s goodness, to us all.  To me… I want to delight in His creativity and brilliance – and then to magnify my delight by proving I am Most delighted in Him.  I do not want to settle for a half-hearted, mediocre Christianity.  It is certainly not what I, or any of us, were called to.  I do not put everything in today, while it is still called today.  I hide behind the lie that the worst thing I can do to ourselves is suffer burnout…  I am in the business of self-preservation, and so I protect myself from the glorious rewards, and delights of blessing others.  Ironic, isn’t it?  I sit comfortably at home, storing up energy, that may very well be squandered on 100 lesser pleasures.  Piper said “To risk is right, better to lose your life than to waste it.”  I am looking for those opportunities to risk, to bless others, to glorify God.  To Praxy my Doxy.  

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