Friday, April 17, 2015
Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
I will never forget one of the first times I ever traveled in an airplane. I was on a trip and had many things going through my mind. In the course of our ascent into the air, we went up above the cloudline and topped out at 35,000 feet. I recall vividly how when flying out the sky had been overcast and the threat of rain was imminent. My life, the specific events that were occuring at the time and the trip back home all loomed large in my heart. Yet when we went up above that cloud line, there was nothing but sunshine and blue skies. By the time we began to descend, I noticed how insigificant houses, cars and people seemed to look in comparison to the seen I had just witnessed outside the window seat. For me this illustrates why we need the greatness of God. Psalm 19:1-6 and other passages remind us of how the heavens declare the glory of God. I experienced the message of the created order about God through the general revelation of Himself above that cloudline. When I look into the pages of the Bible, God's special revelation, and read even more specifically about the fulness of revelation Jesus Christ, the greatness of God revealed in written form and personified by the Son in human flesh dominates the pages of scripture. We need the greatness of God. Today I want to outline in short order from Romans 11:25-12:21 why we need God's Greatness.
1. Evangelism needs God's Greatness.
Whenever you read Romans 11:25-32, the essential message is two-fold: Israel has not been ultimately rejected but momentarily set aside by God and the Gentiles are being now given the opportunity to be called by the Spirit to respond to the message of the Gospel. Evangelism and missions makes no sense without God's greatness. Romans 11:25-32 is tethered to the great doxology of Romans 11:33-36, which spells out clearly how great God is. When Jesus gave His great commission in Matthew 28:18-20, He reminded His disciples of the fact that all power had been given to him on heaven and on earth. Why? Because He promised them that He would remain with His church until the time He returns. Jesus could not make such a promise unless He was the Great God revealed in human flesh. Missions/evangelism needs the Greatness of God. If God is not great, then the Gospel is not good news, since it claims to reconcile sinners who respond by grace through faith to this Great God. So why else do we need God's greatness?
Worship needs God's Greatness
Romans 11:33-36 is an everest in the book of Romans. It is the continental divide of the book. Just read it aloud and you will see why these verses spell out the greatness of God: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." Such a series of verses ought to take out breath away! Romans 12:1 tells us then the only proper response: "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice,acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." Author John Piper has noted that the reason missions exists in the world is because worship doesn't. As a corollary to his amazing statement, we could say that worship exists when we have promoted the glory of God in missions. Both evangelism and worship go hand-in-hand. The chief expressions of worship: preaching and singing, do not make sense if the God that is being preached or sung about is like us. Preaching will be flat if God is not exalted and worship will be a going-through-the-motions if our gaze never lifts above the horizontal sight-line of this world. Worship and evangelism need the greatnness of God, and now let's consider a third reason why we need God's greatness...
Serving God needs God's greatness
As one travels down from Romans 12:2-13, the emphasis shifts to God's people serving the Lord with their Spirit-given gifts. Why serve God in the church? Because He is so worthy of it! Churches all the time will try to convince people to "plug-in" and "get on board" with the church's ministries, schedule and routine, only to find apathy or lack of interest. Could it be because of lack of faith or unfaithfulness on the part of the church membership? Perhaps. However, I think the fault often lies behind the fact that the modern day church does not exalt the greatness of God and the glory of Jesus Christ. Wherever God is exalted, service will go from a duty to perform to a delight of pleasure. Giving, working and supporting the advancement of God's kingdom is a supernatural by-product of getting a glimpse of God's greatness through the scriptures, the singing and the salvations that can come when He is lifted on high. Service to God needs His greatness for motivation. Evangelism and worship needs God's greatness, but now consider one final area needing His greatness....
Everyday life needs God's Greatness
Romans 12:14-21 shifts gears one last time to life outside the church. Everyday life and rubbing elbows with unbelievers will test how committed we are to the greatness of God. If we are only interested in promoting our own greatness, our Christian testimony and depth of spirituality will be shallow and tepid. Show me a man or woman or child that views their life as literally being lived out before God's presence, and you and I will see such a person serious about making His presence known. This latter part of Romans 12:14-21 urges us to show the glory and love of God to difficult people. Unless we are convinced by faith that Jesus Christ is King of Kings and worthy of our lives, we will not make the connection needed for living godly lives in an ungodly world. The older Christians used two Latin phrases to summarize this point: we live coram dei (in the presence of God) contra mundum (in opposition to the world).
Unless the Greatness of God is the priority of priorties in our lives, evangelism, worship, service and daily life for Jesus Christ won't make any sense. Only God's greatness can make sense of anything.