Friday, June 28, 2019
God and all things
Romans 11:36-12:2 "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. 12:1 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. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
Note: Readers can also read this post on my new blog site - https://www.newhope-ny.org/pastor-mahlon
Introduction: I don't want to be another goldfish
I used to own a goldfish. As I watched the fish swim, it would stare blankly, unaware of the water that was sustaining it. The fish was fed by me. If there had been no aquarium, the fish would have died. Like that fish, many Christians carry on their day with hardly a second thought about God, His being and attributes. The great Dutch thelogian Abraham Kuyper once noted: "there is not one square inch of space that Christ cannot say "mine!" I don't want to remain ignorant of God's presence like a goldfish. Instead, I need His grace to cultivate a heightened awareness of His all pervading reality.
There is the Creator and His creation. There is the Redeemer and those whom He came to redeem. Any possibility we have of knowing God, or even knowing about God, is totally due to the gracious efforts He initiates. Knowing God is the chief purpose of life. With those thoughts in mind, is it a wonder how we could put anything in God's place? Yet, we often do. The late author A.W. Tozer writes in his classic book, "The Pursuit of God":
"The world of sense intrudes upon our attention day and night for the whole of our lifetime. It is clamorous, insistent and self-demonstrating. It does not appeal to our faith, it is here, assaulting our five senses, demanding to be accepted as real and final. But sin has clouded the lenses of our hearts that we cannot see that reality, the City of God, shining around us. The world of senses triumphs. The visible becomes the enemy of the invisible, the temporal of the eternal."
Tozer then concludes:
"At the root of the Christian life lies belief in the invisible. The object of the Christian's faith is unseen reality."
This first post aims to stir our thoughts toward cultivating a greater awareness of God's all-surpassing presence.
God's infinite presence is the majesty which stirs the believer to live for Him
Reflection upon Romans 11:36-12:2 gives us a way to understand how the Christian is to live in the presence of God. Older writers often talked about living in God''s presence by the Latin phrase "Coram Dei", which referred to heightened awareness of God's activity within them and through them.
God's omnipresence, we could say, is His "infinite presence" which influences all points in the universe, even the universe itself. All things - time, space, people - are present to God. To illustrate, picture a man at the supper table. He has before him a plate and all the utensils. He can reach out and affect anyone of those objects, since they're all in front of him.
All of creation is before the living God. Not only do all things lay before Him, God also is present at every place and moment in history and space. Theologians refer to this aspect of God's omnipresence as His immensity, which is referred to in the Bible (1 Kings 8:22-23; Acts 17:26-28). God's presence suffuses the fabric of time and space while keeping Himself distinct and separate from it (i.e. another aspect, God's transcendence, Psalm 46:10; 1 Timothy 6:16).
What I've described marks the first step in cultivating a greater awareness of God - namely what we could call His "infinite presence". He is the ultimate, living, only, Personal, uncreated reality that is identified as three persons - Father, Son And Spirit (Matthew 28:20; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
This infinite presence of God is the majesty which stirs the heart to want to know God. When I focus on God''s infinite presence in Romans 11:36, the verse leaps off the page. This one verse of Romans 11:36 is a Bible within the Bible. Note the words of the verse:
1. "from Him" - that is, God the creator.
"through Him", that is, Christ the redeemer".
2. "to Him", that is, Christ our soon coming King.
3. "to Him be glory for ever, amen", that is, the Triune God's work of concluding history.
The entire canon of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, finds its summary in Romans 11:36. So God''s infinite presence is the majesty which stirs the heart to know God. Let''s now consider how we go from knowing God to living for Him.
God's indwelling presence motivates the believer to live for Him
When we transition to Romans 12:1-2, we find the command to present our bodies as living sacrifices. Paul is beginning to discuss what we could call God's "indwelling presence" in the Christian. Here we see the Christian presented as a living sacrifice, much like those sacrifices brought into the temple at Jerusalem in Paul's day. They were brought for presentation to God to express worship. Those sacrificial animals were set apart. The result? Death. The sacrifice left the world of the living to give its life to point the way to the Author of all things.
The sweet aroma that wafted its way throughout the temple would remind worshipers of their purpose for living - to know God. The Christian is a living sacrifice (see Ephesians 5:1-2). He or she is to voluntarily come. The remainder of Romans 12:1-2 commands not only action, but surrender. Just as Jesus went willingly to the cross to give His life on our behalf, we too are to follow in His steps (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 2:21).
We find the command in the passive voice: "be transformed by the renewing of our minds".
Too often we are tempted to "be conformed to this world". Passivity in the things of the flesh leads to swift spiritual decline. We find too often the tendency to put things in cruise control and let the world dictate our agenda. God''s indwelling presence in the Christian as the Person of the Holy Spirit urges that we exchange worldly passivity to surrender to His leading.
What does it look like when the Christian follows through in surrender to the Spirit's indwelling presence? Paul supplies the answer in Ephesians 4:20-24 -
"if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
As one reads Romans 12:1-2, the urgency to be transformed by the "renewing of the mind" is heightened. Renewal of one's mind entails the combination of spiritual and moral transformation. The Christian is passive, in one sense, yielding to the Spirit's inner working. Yet, at the same time, the Christian is actively participating with the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 2:12-13; 2 Peter 1:4-11).
How God's infinite and indwelling presence work in the believer's life to increase a sensitivity to Him.
So as we head down the homestretch of today's post, lets put together what we have said about God, all things and how we increase our awareness of Him by His grace. The two headings we considered had to do with what we call God's "infinite presence" and "indwelling presence". At salvation, the Spirit of God comes to indwell the Christian (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20). Christians are described as the temple of the living God, both individually and corporately (Romans 6:4-12; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; Ephesians 3; 1 Peter 2:4-11).
God's infinite presence, accessible to anyone, manifests in its more obvious expression by the indwelling of the Person of the Holy Spirit in Christians (see John 14:16-18; 15:26-27). Only by the Spirit can one test or prove that good, acceptable and perfect will of God (i.e. the scriptures, see 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Hebrews 4:12).
Today's post featured Romans 11:36-12:2. We noted how God's presence can be understood by two headings: His infinite presence (i.e. omni-presence) and His indwelling presence (i.e. the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian). The presence of God, by the Person of the Spirit in the Christian, enlightens them to their spiritual identity. The Spirit's enlightening work also empowers such persons to live out the will of God found in the Word of God. Such truths alert us to the pervading reality of God's desire to work in and through every Christian His powerful and mighty presence. There is God and all things. May we, as part of "all other things", look to and live for God that is overall and through all things.