Saturday, March 28, 2015

What is He like?

Once we have answered one of life's most fundamental questions, "Does God exist?" - it seems that there is no more important question that we could ask than "What is He like?"

Everything, it seems to me, hangs on the answer to that question.  If He is a monster, then life is as meaningless and hopeless as if He didn't exist at all (and maybe worse).  If He is powerless, then regardless of His character He may not be able to help us.  If He is uninterested, then we are all basically on our own; we may hope for the best, but we should plan for the worst.  Our concept of what God is like will change the way we live and view life.

What is He like?

Our answers to that question must, at times, sound pretty silly to God.  Have you ever listened to someone try to explain something for which you are a bit of an expert...and they clearly are not?  I have heard some pretty humorous explanations about how various medications work from customers.  I imagine God must, if I can say so respectfully, be infinitely more amused with our attempts to explain Him.

What is He like?

Actually it probably isn't our puny "mind" that stands most against the knowledge of God.  It seems to me, as I look at myself and talk with others, that the biggest obstacle we have to knowing God is our hearts.  Because we have sick (sinful) hearts, we tend to imagine a God who is more...shall we us.  Let's be honest.  The reason that we frankly know so little about God is that we don't want to.  We are not much different than Adam & Eve, hiding in the garden after they had sinned.

What is He like?

I think our fundamental obstacle to knowing God is our fear of the consequences.  The irony of this fear is that the "consequences" to really knowing God are all good.  Yes, we might find that in our study of who God is that He demands that we change.  It is impossible to know God and keep living the way we have in the past.  But the good news is that God is in the business of changing us.  When we know Him, really know Him, we find out that "changing us" is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.

What is He like?

So I guess this post is an invitation to find out what God is like.  To that end I would like to suggest a series of sermons just preached by our Pastor, Mark Marquis, at Immanuel Chapel in Upton, MA.  The series is on the character of God.

It is all available to listen to for FREE on SERMON AUDIO.

I invite you to listen to this series.  Each message is about 30 minutes.  Start with the first message, and work your way through them.  A few hours spent thinking about what God is like might just change the way you live the rest of your life.

"“You know, it’s awfully hard to get a Christian scared. It’s hard to get him panicked if he really believes in God. If he’s just a church member, you can get him panicked. But if he really believes in God it’s very difficult to do it.” - AW Tozer (1897 - 1963)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What's Your Problem?

If you were to look over my shoulder on most days of the week you would see hundreds of bottles of pills.  Hundreds.  I work in a little hospital pharmacy where we dispense prescription medication to sick patients every day. 

Imagine if the next time you went to your pharmacy that the pharmacist opened up the door and simply said to you, "help yourself."  No instructions.  No direction.  Throw away that prescription.  Just a welcoming invitation to take any bottle from the shelf and ingest any number of tablets with the sincerest of hopes for your health and happiness.

What would happen? 

Maybe you would get lucky and happen to lay hold of the bottle you needed and administer yourself the appropriate dose to promote your well-being and health.  Maybe.  Not likely.

More likely the average person would grab the wrong medicine in the wrong amount and die; or at least get no better.

How come?  Aren't they all, in theory, good medicines?

Yes.  Of course. 

But they are not all suited to cure your specific problem. 

When making the choice to prescribe a medication your physician (assuming he or she has your best interest in mind) will make their decision based upon their careful and specific diagnosis of what is wrong.

Does it matter which medication they prescribe?  Of course it does.

Now let's change the illustration a bit.

Does it matter which church you attend?

On any given Sunday you can presumably (at least in many U.S. locations) take your pick from dozens and dozens of church-options within a reasonable distance from your home.  Does it really matter?

As with medicine, I submit that the church you choose will either help you or hurt you (or do nothing at all) depending on what is really wrong with you. 

Every Sunday, from thousands of pulpits across our nation, "medicine" is being dispensed into the souls of those gathered to worship. 

If you choose your church without an accurate diagnosis of what is really wrong with you it is possible that your heart will get sicker and sicker.

So what's your problem?

The Bible's answer to this question is clear.  You may choose to disagree with the diagnosis.  If, however, the diagnosis is correct - the fact that you disagree will not alter to course of your condition.

The Bible says that mankind's fundamental problem is sin.  

That is it in a nutshell.  Sin.

"For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" - Romans 3:23
"But the Scripture has confined all under sin" - Galatians 3:22
"You were...dead in trespasses and sin" - Ephesians 2:1

The "right" church then, for sinners, is the church that clearly and consistently points this awful fact out.  Our problem is not fundamentally our circumstances.  It is not our spouse (sorry hun).  It is not our parents (sorry kids).  It is not our personality or health or job. 

But what, exactly, is sin?  Simply put, sin is rebellion against God's law.  God has said "do this."  And we don't.  God has said "don't do that!"  But we do. 

That's sin.

And God hates it.  And if we think that "hate" is too strong a word for how God views sin - we are mistaken.  The Bible says God hates it. 

And so the right church for sinners is the one that tells them every week how God has chosen to deal with sin and offer salvation. 

How has God chosen to deal with mankind's sin?

First, He sent His Son to pay the debt for our sin by dying on the cross:

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of  us all" - Isaiah 53:6

"I am the good Shepherd, the good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep" - John 10:11

"having made peace through the blood of His cross." - Colossians 1:20

Second, He offers salvation freely to any who will repent of their sin and believe in His Son.

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" - Acts 16:31

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish" - John 3:16

Third, He offers to change us.  God has not wiped away our sin only to send us back to our old ways.  No, we aren't perfect yet.  Far from it.  But He gives a new heart and His Spirit to begin the work of changing us.

"If any man is in Christ Jesus he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

"we are no longer slaves to sin" - Romans 6:6

So, does it matter what medicine you pick when your body is sick?  I think so.  So do you.  Even the best tasting (but wrongly chosen) medicine may be killing you.  Some, to go back to our opening illustration, would look at all the bottles of pills and just walk away.  Too many choices.  Better to not pick any at all.  That's too bad.  Because there is a right choice, and there is help available.

And does it matter which church you pick if your soul is sick?  Yes, I think so.  The question for us to ask ourselves is not "how did that sermon make me feel?" but rather "did that sermon address the real problem with my soul?"  Some, like the discouraged patient, look at all the church-choices and simply walk away - skeptical and indifferent.  That is too bad also.  You don't have to walk away.

If your problem (like my problem) is our sin - there are churches who will help.  There are pastors and teachers who will point you to God's cure as presented in God's Word.  God hasn't left you to wander around forever.  Christ offers Himself.  "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am chief."