Thursday, September 18, 2014

P1 - Do You Trust God?

Psalm 139:1 "O Lord, You have searched me and known me."

Psalm 139:23-24 "O Lord, You have searched me and known me."

The above opening verses for today's post serve to frame the contents of Psalm 139. David is indicating that in His relationship with God, God has thoroughly searched and known him (139:1) and that he is willing to surrender himself to further scrutiny by God (139:23-24). These verses together communicate the necessity to trust God.

Point of Application: 
The theme of "Trusting God" is huge throughout the scripture. Moses, the great statesman and prophet of the Old Testament, wrote in Psalm 90:1 of how God has been a refuge and help from ages past. The great king David, Israel's greatest king, says in Psalm 13:5 "But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation." The wisest man who ever lived and David's son, King Solomon, commands us to trust in the Lord and lean not unto our own understanding in Proverbs 3:5-6. Jesus, the Greatest of all, God in human flesh, is recorded saying in Hebrews 2:13a - And again, "I will put my trust in Him". Then one more, the mighty Apostle Paul, states in Philippians 3:10-11  "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." In thinking on verses like these, as well as what we will be seeing in Psalm 139, the main point of application today is this: How much you trust God depends upon how well you know God and surrender to Him.
With that main anchoring point in place, let us walk through Psalm 139 and see how much we can trust God. 

Knowing God as the first foundation for trusting God
In Psalm 139 we see just how much there is to know about God, and more so how well He knows His children. David says that God had searched and known Him in Psalm 139:1. As you go down through the Psalm, you see evidence of a close relationship between God and David. What is there to know about God, and how is knowing God the first foundation for trusting Him? In short order we see the following outline of Psalm 139:

1. God is all-knowing 139:1-6
2. God is everywhere present 139:7-12
3. God is all-powerful 139:13-16
4. God is all-good 139:17-22

This is essentially the kind of God that had been "searching and knowing David" in Psalm 139:1. Its as if David had been placed into a spiritual MRI machine with God as the the One doing the scanning. To know God is the most important thing in life, and to know that God knows me is the most amazing insight in life. However in the course of trusting God, we sometimes find ourselves questioning God. It is quite interesting how often our questioning of God is connected to His attributes as outlined here in Psalm 139. Notice the following questions, and how Psalm 139 answers them, providing a foundation for trusting God.

1. Does God know what I am going through? 
We can say with utmost certainty - yes He does! Psalm 139:1-3 reveals He knows our thoughts and Psalm 139:4-6 unveils His perfect knowledge of our future actions. Psalm 147:5 reminds us that the knowledge of God is without end and Hebrews 4:13 affirms that all things are open before His eyes. So yes, God knows! He is all knowing. You can trust God!

2. Is God really there? Am I all alone?
The Psalmist in 139:7 refers to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity. Every Christian is given the Holy Spirit of God in regeneration as a Permanent Resident. (Romans 8:14-16; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:16) You as a Christian are never alone. God by the Person of the Spirit not only is in every Christian but pervades every square inch of creation. (Acts 17:27-28) The Person of the Son as God in human flesh holds all things together by the Word of His power. (Colossians 1:16-18) Indeed God is there for you! He is everywhere present! You can Trust God! How much you know God and surrender to Him determines you level of trust!

3. Is God strong enough to take care of my situation?
Psalm 139:13-16 answers this question. God is powerful enough to form you, give you life and write out the book of your life. As the Psalmists states: "How wonderful are your works (139:14)". Think about the works of God: creation, salvation, time, space and you. Whenever you and I find our trust for God being low, it is because we don't think He knows, is there and strong enough! When I was a small child, if I was playing outside and my dad happened to be working in the yard, I had no fears. Where I grew up was heavily wooded and sometimes I would hear the howl of a wild dog or hear a twig snap. Knowing that my dad was there with me - I had know fear. I trust my dad due to what I know about Him. Is it not much more with the Christian's Heavenly Father?

4. Is God really Good? 
I think out of all of God's characteristics (or attributes), God's goodness is perhaps the most doubted today. Do we truly believe God has the best of intentions for us? David writes in Psalm 139:17-18 that he cannot count all of the precious thoughts God has towards Him. Whenever he hears people speak ill of God or to question God's character, it causes indignation in the Psalmist. We may at first be offended at the language used by the Psalmist of "hatred" and "utmost hatred" for his enemies. However, why does it bother us? Perhaps because we do not think God is as Good as we claim. 

To illustrate, what happens when we find out that a child has been hurt by an adult? Or what response do we give to injustice done by selfish men against their wives or issues such as racism? Injustice is despicable. Hateful. Culture cries for justice, because true injustice is inexcusable. Now take each of those examples and multiply them an infinite amount and you begin to see why the Psalmist says what he says. God is Peerless in character and All-Good. I'm afraid sometimes the greatest accusers of God's character are we ourselves. Trusting God entails knowing that He is always Good - no matter what nor however little we may understand.

Indeed God is Good! He is All-powerful, All-present and all-knowing! You can Trust God! How much you know God and surrender to Him determines you level of trust! Today we saw how knowing God is necessary for trusting Him. Tomorrow we will look at the second foundation for trusting God.

A suggested way of sharing Jesus with a Hindu

1 Corinthians 8:4-6 "Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him."

Over the years I have had opportunities here and there to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with adherents of the Hindu religion. One time I had the opportunity to sit down with a man who is a devout Hindu. In all the conversations I have had over the years with people of non-Christian religions, none have been kinder than the beautiful Indian people who adhere to the Hindu religion. However, God's issue with all unbelievers is not their niceness, or lack thereof, but that they are not right with Him through Jesus Christ. 

Today I want to share a method of sharing the Gospel that God could use in the event you ever come in contact with any devotees of Eastern religion or any worldview for that matter. I used this method with the dear man above. To my knowledge, he has not yet responded to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would lead him and other people in the Hindu world to a saving knowledge of the truth through faith and repentance in Jesus Christ. Christian apologist Dr. William Lane Craig's definition of evangelism is an excellent reminder of Who is the true evangelist in all our conversations: "Evangelism is where we communicate Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results up to God."

Laying out four words for sharing the Bible's Gospel message with Hindus
When my friend came to me and we sat down, the very first thing I did was to outline for him the entire Bible in four words. Now before I give you the four words, I must say that when dealing with Hindus or any other adherent of any non-Christian religion, it is more important for you to know the Gospel of Jesus Christ than it is to know details about the opposing religion. As valuable as apologetics (defending the faith against non-Christian belief systems) can be and as vital as it is to have a familiarity with the tenets of the opposing belief system, it must be remembered that the Holy Spirit's effective work through the Gospel will win the soul to Jesus. 

With that said, I will list out the four words that I used with my Hindu friend in summarizing the Bible, and then briefly break them down as I did to him:

1. Creation
2. Fall
3. Cross
4. 2nd Coming

Why emphasize creation, fall, cross and 2nd coming?
Why begin with these four fundamental truths? Simply because we Christians living in America are under the mistaken assumption that everyone knows what they are and mean. Lack of spiritual vitality in our churches ought to be evidence enough to show that not everyone is as familiar with the Gospel as claimed. Furthermore, my Hindu friend had never read a Bible, nor even knew what a Bible was. Understand that this young man is highly educated and successful business owner. We all need to be reminded of and re-exposed to the four truths above everyday. 

Breaking down the Bible's salvation message in four words to show Hindus the Savior Jesus Christ

1. Creation. 
I began with Genesis 1 and creation because in the Hindu religion, there are many gods, not one Supreme, All-Powerful Creator who alone is God. Hinduism as a belief system has several versions of how the world began and in many cases, their view of the universe is that it is an endless cycle of birth-rebirth. Knowing that my friend was not familiar with the Bible, I tried to keep Bible references to a minimum. The ones I used for this first point were:
a. Genesis 1:1 This is to assert that God is the Creator of all reality.

b. Genesis 1:26 This was to assert that the God of the Bible is the Creator of humanity as well as reality

c. 1 Corinthians 8:6 This passage reaffirms the Monotheism (belief in One God) of the Old Testament and the fact that Jesus the Son shares equally in that Divine nature and is God. 

Now why did I include Christ's Deity? Because in Hinduism, there is the belief that their many gods have the ability to appear in the forms of men and animals. Nothing is unique. However my aim in sharing this with my Hindu friend was to show that the God of the Bible is unique, and that Jesus Christ is the Unique revelation of God and thus the Creator. So point one of outlining the Bible with a Hindu is: Creation.

2. Fall. 
My next point with my Hindu friend dealt with the fall and rebellion of man in the Garden of Eden. Mind you that this intelligent man had never heard of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve nor the account of the Creation and Fall. 

To the Hindu, the whole point of their religion is to escape the endless cycle of Sanasara (some spell it "samsara") or Karma. In Hinduism, people are endlessly born, dying and being reborn as different life forms. Depending upon how morally one lives in this life and how much ritual one participates in will, in the Hindu mind, determine whether one has "good Karma" or "bad Karma". Karma is a Hindu word referring to "works or deeds" and is essentially a debt-based system of works salvation. Sansara is likened to a wheel of sorts, wherein a person keeps literally going around in circles. "Sansara" and its related concept "karma" portray a person trying to live good enough in this life to have a better spot in the next. The ultimate goal of Hinduism is to escape "Sansara" (which my friend readily affirmed in our conversation) and to achieve "Moksha" or union with the Universal Soul.

In Hinduism, the underlying principle is that you are never good enough, never will be good enough and thus you need to keep working harder and living better to escape that iron-clad law. The whole concept of "Karma" then is how Hinduism explains the evil in our world, even though in the final analysis the evil we see is not the true and ultimate reality, but what the Hindus call "maya" or illusion.

The Bible of course paints a different picture. There was a literal Adam and Eve and a serpent named Satan who came to tempt them. Passages such as Romans 5:12 summarize for us the events of the fall, namely that through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin came death upon us all. The point of bring up this detail was to show my Hindu friend that evil and sin are not illusory, but realities that intruded into the perfect creation made by God. At this point it is useful to bring out that this life is the only life you got, and that there is no "sansara" or endless wheel of Karma, birth, death and rebirth. Salvation is not escape from an endless cycle of nothingness but escape from wrath and reconciliation to the Creator. This leads naturally into the third main point of the Bible and sharing Jesus with a Hindu...

3. Cross
Why call this point "cross" rather than "salvation"? Hindus need to know that salvation is historical, personal and one-time achieved. The same God who created all things and Whose name and love was rejected by Adam and Eve in favor of a Tree is by nature obligate to show wrath but desires to show mercy. In tying together this point, I began with God's response to Adam and Eve, judgment, followed by mercy. Without going into too much detail, Genesis 3:15-21 demonstrates that Adam and Eve both looked to God in faith for their salvation. His killing of two innocent animals in their place and covering their nakedness and shame set the pattern for salvation: the shedding of innocent blood on behalf of grace led believing, repenting sinners. 

The slaying of innocents in the Garden of Eden would serve to point to the ultimate slaying of the innocent Son in His humanity. For my friend, Romans 5:8 served quite well for this point: "God demonstrated His own love for us in this that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." In Hinduism, the many deities they worship view human beings a pawns on the chessboard of fate, sources for their amusement. The many deities of Hinduism range from being impersonal forces to deities that are as subject to failure as we are. A major "honor/shame" theme runs through all the many varied forms of the Hindu religion. The Gospel is unique in that it is underscored by a "Grace/forgiveness" theme, meaning that God chooses to save whomever He wills based entirely upon His desire to love. God wants to save as many people as possible. Nothing we can do can earn His favor. Period.  

All who believe on Jesus do so because of grace, calling them and keeping them until they are in Heaven with Him. All who persist in unbelief and die and go to hell do so because of their own doing. 

The cross utterly smashes the Hindu system because it asserts that God who made everything became nothing so that we who are nothing could by grace through faith become more valuable than everything He made. So we have creation, fall and cross, but there is one more point in this suggested way of sharing the Gospel with a Hindu...

4. 2nd Coming. 
My Hindu friend at this point is listening very intently and as I am sharing with him I am praying the whole time. At points along the way when I did mention something about Hinduism, I would ask him if what I shared was correct. This is done for two reasons: to make sure he knows I am trying to get to know him and secondly, to make sure I am operating in the realm of truth rather than lies. 

One of the things we have repeated in this post is how much Hindus view reality and life as an endless cycle. 

It has been noted that when Jesus came to this world, he took mankind's cyclical view of life and stretched it out to be one line with a beginning, middle and end. The beginning is creation, of which Jesus is the very embodiment thereof. The middle is the cross, upon which He died and then conquered death in His resurrection. Why? Due to the fall that took place near the beginning and to be the redeemer of all men, especially those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:10). The end point is of course Jesus' second coming. Hinduism knows of no end to history or life. However Jesus' second coming underscores the fact that He who is the Author and Finisher of faith (Hebrews 12:1) is the Author and Finisher of everything. How you are related to Him (faith or unbelief) will tell you your destination. 

My friend of course was unfamiliar with Heaven and Hell, judgment and heaven. To ensure that such truths were not just abstract ideas, centering the end of the conversation on Christ's second coming enables the conversation to end where it really began: upon Jesus Christ.

Final thoughts:
I wish I could tell you that the Hindu man to which I had spoken readily responded to the Gospel. For five minutes he sat in stunned silence. I gently said to him: "I can tell you are thinking over what was said, what are your thoughts?" The man told me that for him, we are all the same. The only response I could give him was: "dear friend, your response and the look upon your face tells me you believe otherwise. We are indeed quite different". Politely he got up and shook my hand and I never saw him again. I would ask you to pray for that man and for the Hindu world of over 1 billion Hindus. Let me close with Isaiah 55:10-11 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it."