© 2018, Charles A. Clough
Our Relationship with God in 2018: Estranged or Intimate?
A Study of the Character of God as He has Revealed Himself
vs. the Substitute Idols of our Neo-Pagan Culture
Problems with the Human Relationship with God After the Fall in Eden
2018 North Stonington Bible Church Labor Day Conference
Charles Clough Lesson #01
September 1, 2018
I just want to introduce the series and I want to be sure that everybody has the hand out so that you can take notes if you wish. The whole approach here for these seven lessons is basically following a kind of a devotional approach that I’ve used for many years, personally, and I think that, given our culture, given the things that we see changing so rapidly, I thought it would be good to follow through with this.
The title is: Our Relationship with God: Estranged or Intimate? The idea here is pretty simple. In the New Testament we read about being reconciled to God. Now if that verb “reconcile” means what we think it means, doesn’t that imply that before we are reconciled with God we also had a relationship that was hostile? You can’t reconcile a nonexistent relationship. We reconcile a relationship that’s ruptured; that’s in bad shape.
The simple point is that all men and women are made in God’s image, whether they’re saved or unsaved. That means that all people, at all times, in all of history, have had a relationship with God. We don’t normally think of that because we normally talk about salvation, but I’m not talking about salvation here, I’m talking about creation. Since we are all made in God’s image we necessarily have some sort of relationship with God.
I point this out because many of you have unbelievers in your families and you’ve probably spent years sometimes, praying for them, discussing matters with them, and it helps mentally to go year after year, in these situations, to know that it’s not that they’re living in a spiritual vacuum, they’re living with the knowledge of God that they’re suppressing in their heart.
Think of it as a sort of spiritual “Trojan horse” in that you may be witnessing, you may be sharing the Lord with them, sometimes in very small quantities, a little here and a little there, but deep in their heart they really do know what you’re talking about, in spite of all their denial. And so I want to address that question a little bit here this morning.
I am sure those of you who are 50 or older can see the fact that no time in your adult life have you ever seen the culture change as rapidly as you’re seeing it today. Tragically, we are watching what we call “Western civilization” collapse in and of itself.
I want to address this because when we speak of Western civilization it used to mean, back again maybe 20 or 30 years ago on university campuses, there was always a course on Western Civ, that is, the history of Western civilization. Most universities have eliminated that course because they consider talking about Western civilization as though it’s superior, it’s somehow hateful, it’s somehow not sharing fully in the pluralism of the human race, and so on. More recently they’ve argued that Western civilization actually is just a synonym for “white privilege.”
Now let me correct something here: historically that’s inaccurate. Our white ancestors were spearing each other just like every other tribe on the face of the planet. What changed Western Europe wasn’t because they had “white” genes; it was because the gospel of Jesus Christ had some influence. It doesn’t mean the West was totally Christian. It means, however, that the West had received benefits, socially, economically, and politically because the Word of God that affected the culture, largely through a missionary effort through the sacrifice of a lot of folks that did this. To show that, I want to show the structure of society from the standpoint of the Ten Commandments.
I’ve asked this question probably in 100 different churches and locations and never, except for homeschoolers, have I ever gotten a “yes” answer. Here’s my question: Can any of you remember from kindergarten to 12th grade, for 13 years of the most formative learning period in your life, can you ever remember any time, in any class, or outside of the class, a teacher ever sharing the reality of the revelation of the Ten Commandments in history?
Do you know why this is an important question? What do you think is the basis of law in Western civilization? The Ten Commandments have been the basis of common law for probably over a thousand years, demonstrably, and probably earlier before that. Now isn’t this remarkable that the very legal structure of Western civilization is never discussed? Then we wonder why we’re having problems; because the Ten Commandments gave a structure.
If you look at that way God spoke the Ten Commandments, and those of you who remember Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments”; they often show it on TV for Easter; keep in mind that was before you had sophisticated software, and Cecil B. DeMille, I learned from his sister who was teaching a course in cinematography in Los Angeles years ago, she said he had to hire thousands of cartoonists to give the special effects that are in that thing.
You’d never know that that was cartooning, but you can remember how he depicted God speaking to Moses, Charlton Heston up on Mount Sinai, and we realized that Moses isn’t Charlton Heston, but in that film he’s on Mount Sinai, and you can remember, there’s no doubt of the supernaturalism, the giving of the Law; Cecil B. DeMille, being Jewish by background, honored that historical event. And you see God burning the Ten Commandments into the rock.
Now if you look at those Ten Commandments, they have a very interesting structure and want to show you this. I think I’ve shown you this in previous years here a little bit, but again this is just a brief review because I want to make a point.
If you look up at these commandments: “Thou shall not have any other gods before Me and “You shall not make any graven image”; those are the First and Second Commandments. Now look at the Tenth Commandment: “Thou shall not covet”. Both that Tenth Commandment and the first two deal with our relationship with the Lord. Coveting means I am dissatisfied with how God has provided for me so I’m coveting something else; so we have that relationship.
When you come to the Third [Commandment]: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”, it’s about language. Then you come down to the Ninth [Commandment]: “Thou shall not commit perjury”; it’s about language.
Now this structure is not an accident. In the ancient world they didn’t have different fonts, so they structured the way they spoke in the way they wrote, and by watching what they wrote, you had to infer what the author wanted to emphasize. This structure is called a “chiasm” for the Greek letter “C” (chi) where it crosses like this and the idea is you go from the first to the last then you go from the second, in this case, to the ninth, then you go from the third to the eighth. Watch what happens when we do this; this is not an accident that this happened.
So, you have language and you come down to the Fourth Commandment: “Thou shalt work six days and rest on the seventh”. Then you come to the 19th verse (Eighth Commandment), and that is: “You shall not steal”. Now what to those two have to do with? They both have to do with labor and the fruit of labor, which is property and wealth. This is an economic relationship.
Then you come down further and “Thou shalt honor your parents”. Society depends upon functional marriage and family. Here marriage is to be protected: Thou shall not commit adultery. Both have to do with marriage and family.
Finally, the middle Commandment is: “Thou shalt not murder”. That middle Commandment is, in this case, what God revealing Himself is after. How do you protect life in history from generation to generation to generation? If you notice, none of these commandments directly pertain to civil government. Government is something else; it’s not the primary focus here.
Let’s go to the next slide. If we take this chiasm and we watch its structure in the sequence we observed, down at the bottom, consider this one brick on top of another brick or stone upon stone upon stone. The heart allegiance is being addressed by the First, Second, and Tenth Commandments. That, God says, is the basis of human society. If that’s not right, you’re going to get a collapse.
So that’s why the Bible addresses repentance or changing our mind about God. The heart allegiance is either to God or the heart allegiance is to the self. If those aren’t, right society is weakened to that point. This is why, socially, we argue that the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the necessary prerequisite for a civilized society.
This doesn’t set very well with our liberal PC [politically correct] culture because, as John Dewey wrote back many decades ago, Dewey being one of the founders of the public-school system, he said that Christianity and democracy are incompatible. Why do you suppose Dewey said that Christianity and democracy are incompatible?
Here’s why. Dewey perceived, correctly so, that Christianity divides. There are those who accept Christ and those who do not accept Christ. Well that divides society at a primary level and Dewey didn’t like that. He said that we have to have unity in our society; we can’t have the foundations being different. So this is a fundamental problem we’ve got now building a culture and discussing PC.
Next above that, we have those two Commandments dealing with language: the Third and the Ninth. Let’s think about language for a moment. How do we communicate to each other? Language.
Let’s extend the concept of language to accounting. You run a business; can you run a business without integrity in your books? Can a business be successful with cooked books?
So, notice what happens: you start moving with the heart allegiance, which is the foundation of character and integrity, to the expression of character and integrity in language. Now today, if you watch, we have a loaded set of euphemisms going on. We, for example, don’t want to talk about “illegal” immigrants; we want to talk about “undocumented” aliens.
Notice the shift in vocabulary; that’s deliberate. That is messing with the language to mess up how you think and to compel us to think in the categories they want us to think in. The way you alter how people think is you alter their language; it’s very clever how this is done. So, you have integrity of language; either it’s deceitful, professing truth, or it’s consistently that states truth. Truth is embedded right here. If we don’t have a concept of truth we can’t have a concept of what is correct and what is incorrect language.
Then we come up to, “Thou shalt work, thou shall not steal,” and we have labor and property. No society can ever prosper without protections for property. If you do not protect people’s property, it’s just chaos. Where’s the incentive to work? Why should I work to save and to have property if it’s going to be taken away tomorrow? This is what’s wrong with socialism. Socialism turns the government into the biggest thief possible because it means the government, not you, has final title to your property. So, the point here is that there’s a series of blocks that have to be built on top of.
Then we have marriage and family. Now everybody that is married and has a family knows you’re running a small business because it takes money to honor the family structure and to nourish it. You can’t have viable families with abject total poverty. This is what’s going on with our inner cities.
There is an inmate that my wife and I have visited in prison for about 40 years now. I asked him recently, I said, “Barry, of all the men in this prison how many of these guys come out of a functioning family?” He said probably less than 10 percent. Either they had no dad, which is typical of inner-city life today thanks to our welfare program that has undermined the male function in the family. We have guys that are sexually assaulted within their families. We have people who lost one parent through drugs, alcohol, or something. So, the point is the family is important and the family, not the state, the family is the leading basic social institution. Destroy the family and you destroy a civilization, period.
And finally, at the top you have life. Families are the generators of the culture of tomorrow. Parents are so critical in setting up the culture of tomorrow. Sociologists who have looked at the millennials and found that not all millennials, but many in the business world, have these weird expectations that they’re going to walk into a job and have top salaries automatically. This is unrealistic expectation. Where did it come from? The parents. It’s not the kids, necessarily. They’ve been trained to think that way.
So again, our culture in our time is reaping the results of parenting of the previous generation. This is how effective this is, and this is why you young parents, you need to think that all the hard work that you put into your family, it’s difficult, but it’s a calling that you are in a position of changing the culture in the next generation by how you raise your kids. It’s a tough, tough struggle to do. Raising kids is a full-time job and God bless the people and single parents who have to do this all by themselves without a helper. I don’t know how some of these single moms do it, but some of them are doing a fantastic job. Not only are they doing a fantastic job, they are even homeschooling, which I don’t know how they put a job together with homeschooling and do this, but there are some young ladies out there that are absolutely fantastic people doing this.
Now I want to proceed to the diagram you’ve seen year after year and it’s in your hand out on the back. I put three slides, I asked Larry to save three of the PowerPoint slides on your hand out because this one is fundamental to what we’re thinking about, and that is the most basic difference between the Bible and everything outside of the Bible. This is a critical idea to grasp. If you can just grasp what is in this chart, it will help you think through all the chaos that is going on in our society and getting a roadmap to what is happening here.
The basic issue is the Creator/creature distinction. If you look here on the left side I’ve put a series of events: ancient monotheism; ancient Israel; the Bible, a product of ancient Israel; and fundamentalism, which is the surviving biblical theological position, at least in America it’s called fundamentalism—that tradition that began with ancient monotheism, which was inherited from Noah’s family, that came out of the ark.
By the way, if you really want to see an eloquent, high-quality piece of work, especially if you have kids in the high school, early college age group, go see if you can the full-size ark that the Creation Museum people have put together. It’s three stories high, and when you sit next to that ark and you realize how big that ark is, you realize that Noah must’ve hired a whole work crew to build that thing and why it took him years and years and years to build it.
When they tried to build this ark, they couldn’t find carpenters that knew how to do it. They wound up having to go to the Amish because the Amish had preserved old woodworking techniques of using pegs and boards. I never realized why that was so important. It’s because the peg is a different kind of lumber than the plank into which the peg goes. So, when it gets moist, the peg swells and gets tighter.
So, the Amish built that thing and it’s three stories. You go through three stories and it’s one exhibit after another, professionally done, that addresses everything. What I felt was so nice about addressing the problems of young people is that when you go through the first deck and then you go to the second deck and you go to the third deck and you get done with the sequence of displays, at the end it’s all addressed to the critical issues facing young people. They deal with drugs; they deal with suicide; they deal with meaninglessness that has been produced by the secularized culture, and it closes with this elegant appeal to consider the Lord Jesus Christ and what the gospel does and its impact.
So, the Ark was the source of ancient monotheism. Missionaries have gone out and studied cultures, and Dave and I were just talking about it last night—people in these people groups that are separated from civilization. If you probe a little bit into their culture, they have pieces of Genesis 1 to 11 and you’d kind of expect that. Yes, they’re distorted, but they have Flood stories; they have stories of the Fall; they have stories of Creation; not in every people group, but the point I’m making here is that all people groups go back in time to the boat; we all got off the same boat. So why is it unexpected that if you probe back in history you find these stories—the stories authenticate the Scriptures; the scriptural story?
So, we have ancient monotheism. The key idea to grasp here is this: the Creator/creature distinction; I’ll address it later when we get into some of the attributes, but in the environmental movement today, the radical environmental movement, you have a return to a very articulated paganism. I will quote one author who says that we have to get rid of “two-ism” and go back to “one-ism” because two-ism is the source of the world’s troubles.
Here’s what he means: in two-ism there are two areas of existence; the Creator and the creature. If you don’t have the Creator/creature distinction you have to believe this: that there’s only one level and it’s “continuity of being”, meaning that it’s just one level of being; nature, people, rocks, animals, they’re all part of the same being. And that means they’re basically not worth more than others because they’re all part of it.
Think of a rainbow as a spectrum. In the pagan view of reality we just have a spectrum of different kinds of things—different kinds of objects—but you do not have a Creator, and the implications are awesome that fall out of this.
Here’s the point: when you read a textbook, you’re reading somebody’s writings; you’re thinking with someone you’re discussing with. Keep in the back of your head; where in this idea is God? Do we have a distinct thing where you have an eternal God; an eternal, personal God who pre-existed creation? Do we have that? If we don’t then nature is all we’ve got.
Now people don’t like to take this step; people always want to have a half-way house where you kind of mix the two together. You can’t mix these two together. You either have to go down the road of a Creator/creature distinction, or you don’t. And if you don’t, you wind up with just one layer; just nature, that’s all there is. Forget about meaning and anything else.
So here is some of the fallout. Over here with the Creator/creature distinction you have God absolutely distinct from man and nature, but you also have man different from nature because man is the only object God created that is made in what? In the image of God. Chimpanzees are not made in the image of God in spite of the fact that their DNA parallels ours in some areas; nowhere near the large area that you’ve probably read about. Creation geneticists have recently mapped out the genome of man and the genome of the chimpanzee and shown that there is a very small amount where there’s a parallel; there are a whole bunch of other things consisting of genetic switchers and so on that are going on there.
So that’s one of the fallouts. We have God as a distinct, different, eternal existence and that’s impacting us because you know what that means? It means that we need to deal with our relationship with God because we are made for eternity.
Now what kind of an eternal future do we have? Are we going to be with God the Creator or are we going to be excluded from God the Creator? That’s the basic gospel issue here.
So, it creates this idea of a destiny that’s eternity and that’s the most important question anybody can face: where are you going to spend eternity; where am I going to spend eternity? That’s the fundamental meaning.
We have man and nature. Man is not nature. And, by the way, another problem with the radical environmentalism is that nature is more valuable than man. There’s an inversion here. You can be arrested for breaking an eagle egg, but it’s no problem if you abort a human fetus—tell me that’s not a value difference.
See what happens? You have this cascade of collapse that goes on. Then over here we have nature, gods, and man are all kind of together, and that necessarily sets up the idea of evolution and transmutation; it’s easy to think about transitioning from nature to man to the gods and so on. It’s always been a feature of paganism.
Finally, the bottom line, we always talk about “what’s the bottom line of this?” Well here’s the bottom line. The bottom line is: To whom are we responsible? Are we responsible to anything? Are we responsible to any person? If there’s no Creator, we’re not responsible—there’s no ultimate responsibility.
Think about the impact socially that this idea has. We are reaping the results of a rising Neopaganism and it’s naked, there’s nothing to it.
A friend of mine was on a European train. He was sitting next to a Hindu and he had a conversation with this Hindu and they were chitchatting about the difference between Christianity and Hinduism. So, the train was going on and they were trying to compare Hinduism and Christianity. The Christian man got to the point of the Incarnation—that God became a man and He died for the human race. He couldn’t even finish the sentence when he got to that point, but the Hindu man stopped him in the middle of the sentence, “That’s the difference! None of our gods ever died for us.” Now there’s a Hindu who recognized immediately the difference: our gods never died for us. Now think of what a profound statement that is. It sets Christianity off, with our God.
If you’ll turn in your Bibles to Psalm 59. I don’t want to leave on a pessimistic note here, so I want to show you how biblically people handled adversity without getting discouraged. I turned to Psalm 59 because Psalm 59 has a header on it. Some of your translations don’t; some of the translations start with verse one and they don’t have anything under the header. But look where it says Psalm 59. If you have an older Bible, you’ll see it has a little header in small font. I can’t understand why modern translations drop out the headers. The header in the Hebrew text, what we call the header there, that is verse one in the Hebrew, it’s not verse zero.
So, if you look at the header we learn something: “To the chief musician, a Michtam of David; when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him.” So that sets up where David was.
Now let me give the historical background so we can we get that. David, at this point in his life, he’s involved in a succession narrative. If you read 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, that whole chunk of Old Testament is a story about David as the man who challenged the entire ancient near-Eastern idea of political succession. There’s a big argument going on here. The argument is this: I am going to rise and my family will be the new dynasty and I will destroy (this is the how the ancient pagans did) destroy by assassination and murder, the present king in order to protect me politically. I don’t want him, I don’t want his family, to undercut me and my family. It’s family against family.
This is how the ancient near East worked: you kill your political opponent for your own political security. However, David refused to do this and you’ll see the stunning narrative where David has three or four opportunities where he could kill Saul and he doesn’t take advantage of that. The guys around him that are his fellow soldiers that are involved in this say, “David, for crying out loud, you got Saul here, kill him!”, and David says, “I can’t. I can’t raise my sword against the Lord’s anointed.”
And David insisted by faith; he had already been anointed by Samuel the prophet, so he knows he’s going to be king, but he’s got to trust the Lord to work out how that’s going to happen. But David is not going to raise the sword against that person, not against Saul. So that’s the drama that’s going on here.
Well as the header says, he’s in a house and they’re watching the house to kill him, and that’s the house. Saul got him married off to his daughter—an intriguing story of the whole Saulite dynasty. Here, Saul’s son who was the crown prince, Jonathan, he’s making an alliance with David that was unheard of in the ancient world. So now the old man, Saul, has got his son who already is pledging his allegiance as the crown prince to this guy David over here.
Then his daughter defects and she marries David and Saul tries to get the romance going on with his daughter because he thinks David’s a poor boy; he’s an old farm boy; he can’t pay the dowry, so I’ll set him up to marry my daughter and if I set him up to marry my daughter, he’s going to have to generate a dowry and I’m going to dictate what the dowry is. So I’m going to say, “David, you can’t marry my daughter unless you kill 100 Philistines”. He figures they’ll kill him before he can kill 100 of them.
Well, David goes out and kills 200 and brings back their foreskins and counts them out one by one to Saul. Put that in a movie! See, this is the Hebrew text and it’s so neat to read the Hebrew text because it’s not prissy like some of your English translations. It just says what he did and he did it right in the court of Saul, and you can imagine Saul sitting there steaming that this guy, this young boy, who went out and killed twice the enemy that he was sent to kill. So David walks off with Michal.
Well, Michal and he are living in this house and Saul is going through all kinds of psychiatric problems, so he decides he’s going to go kill David and so he sends a squad out to Michal’s house and they’re waiting for him to come out the door in the morning. Michal pulls a Rahab here; she lets David out through a window and David escapes. So that’s the end of the story.
But mentally here in Psalm 59 is the process he went through. We’re not going to go through the whole psalm, but I want to show you a section in it to show you how he coped mentally with a crisis situation that was overwhelming. I show you this because we, corporately in our country, face a crisis situation. We face the collapse of our culture and how are we going to respond to this? We’re going to respond with the same attitude that believers like David did—he’s facing a personal assault.
I want to show you the general structure of a lament psalm; this is a lament-type psalm. There are different kinds of psalms in the in the Bible, but a lament psalm has a structure to it and here you see this structure. Once you see this, you can see as you read Psalms, that you can spot a lament psalm because it follows this outline with different verses here and there.
The first thing is that there is a preliminary address; that’s verses one and two. Usually what you’ve got in a lament psalm is first the emotional outburst of the person in need. This is coming to the Lord. So he says, “Deliver me from my enemies, oh my God, defend me from those that rise up against me. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men.” The term “bloody men” there are assassins.
David is arguing here that this is typical ancient near-Eastern politics; they’re out to kill me because Saul wants to protect his dynasty against me, so deliver me from bloody men. Verses one and two are the lament. The basic preliminary address summarizes the problem quickly in a couple of sentences. Now he goes into an analysis of his problem and in Psalm 59:3–7 is how he’s arguing before God about what to do.
This is the heart of us as believers talking to our Creator and Savior. This is the kind of intimate relationship David has with the Lord. He’s going through a pressure situation, and keep in mind he’s going against the entire culture of his world. People didn’t act this way that were in line for a dynasty. This is radical. He has no precedent. David can’t point to anybody whoever did this before.
So, here’s what he says, “Lo, they lie in wait for my life; for my soul; the mighty are gathered against me.” Look what he says in verse three. Now he faces an adversity, but look what he’s denying the adversity is caused by. He says, “Not for my transgressions and not from my sin.” So David already figures out that this suffering has come into my life and it’s due to some sin I’ve committed. I’m not sitting around wondering what sin caused this problem to happen in my life? There wasn’t a sin to cause the problem. This was a problem brought into his life, allowed by God providentially, but it is not due to his personal sin. This is a profound statement here; the end part of verse three. It’s a breakthrough so we can understand how he coped.
In Psalm 59:4–7, “They run, they prepare themselves without my fault: awake to help me, and behold. Thou therefore, Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, awaken to visit all the heathen; be not merciful to any wicked transgressors. They return at evening: they make noises like a dog, and going around the city. They belch out with their mouth: their swords are in their lips: for who, they say, doth hear?”
That is loaded with a certain metaphor. Now if you’ll notice, he’s a Jew, he’s in Israel, his enemies are Jews. Why therefore in Psalm 59:5 is he addressing them as Gentiles? So when you interpret the text you have to ask, wait a minute, his enemies aren’t Gentiles; they’re not heathen, they’re fellow Jews. Why is David switching here; what’s going on?
Alright, let’s look at Psalm 59:5–7. Here’s his analysis as he comes before God. This shows you that there is subtlety here of claiming God’s justice and I want you to see it. Verse five: “Therefore, Lord God of hosts.” You see that title for God, the Lord of hosts? That means the “God of armies;” the God of the armies of Israel.
Now think, politically David is going to be king of this nation and when he looks at God, it’s not just God personally with him, he is the dynastic successor. God, you are the God of this nation. Then he says, “God of Israel,” so he repeats; two titles. So his fixation is on the God of nations. “My life is tied in to Your calling and this future dynasty.”
We, in our Christian life would recite our unity with our Savior: we are one in Christ, we are justified, so we claim our position. David is claiming his position here as an Old Testament saint. “Be not merciful to the wicked. They return at evening: they make noises like a dog, going around the city.” “Dog” was a Jewish metaphor for the heathen; that’s what they called them: dogs. Jesus even used it: “I don’t feed the dogs.” He was talking about Gentiles.
“Behold, they belch out with their mouths: swords are in their lips: who, they say, doth hear?” See that last thing in verse seven, “who hears”? Now that’s interesting. That shows you the mentality of these people who want to murder and assassinate David are without conscience. They suppress their conscience because they say, “God doesn’t hear, we get away with this.”
Now in Psalm 59:8, you have what I wanted to show you here. This is the confidence breakthrough: halfway through this lament psalm you have the analysis, you have a depiction of the problem, and then you have all of a sudden a bursting forth of confidence that no matter how disastrous this situation is God is greater.
In the New Testament who “is greater than he that is in the world”? The Holy Spirit indwelling believers is greater than he that is in the world. But here in verse eight you see that “but?” “But God”; there’s the shift. “But thou, Lord, shall laugh at them; You shall have all the heathen in derision because …”, he goes on. We don’t have time to go through the rest of Psalm 59, but I want you see verse eight and I want you to understand the situation that David was in and how halfway through this lament psalm he has this bursting confidence and you usually see literally the phrase, “But God.”
See, that’s the difference and mentally he’s won right there. Okay that’s David. That’s sort of the model that we can use. We don’t face a problem in our lives, in our society, at our time that has not been faced with 1,900 years of other Christians in other places.
Let’s go to a method here. I want to talk about the methodology that we’re going to use throughout the conference. We’re going to start with divine revelation: the Bible. Make no apologies for that.
I will just quickly summarize the characteristic of the Bible. You hold in your lap as you hold the book or you hold your device with the app on it on, you are looking at a library. Think of the Bible; change your thinking here little bit. The Bible is not a book; the Bible has many books, and it has many letters and it has many poems. You are looking at a condensed version of a library, so that tells you something.
Now let’s extend the thinking a little bit. You have probably 40 different men, and in some places women, Luke chapter 1, Mary; you have men and women who are expressing their faith in over 2,000 years of history. They didn’t all live at the same time. They lived over centuries—century after century. They spoke at least three different languages.
You have probably 40 people writing over 2,000 years in three different languages from every walk of life. You have Peter, a small business fisherman. You have David, a king who knows royalty. You have Daniel, who works in the government bureaucracy of two of the greatest most powerful nations in ancient history. You have people who were farmers; you have people who were small businessmen, like I said, Peter.
There are the prophets; these guys weren’t full-time prophets, they were people that had jobs just like we have. So that’s it.
Now why do you think I point this out? Why is that important to know that you’re holding a library with 40 different people, three different languages, from all kinds of backgrounds of life? What does that tell you why God used such a panorama of people to give His revelation? What does that say to us? It says He’s giving us a sample of different people, in every single life situation we will face.
One of the things about General Mattis, our Secretary of Defense, several of my friends grew up in the military with him, and General Mattis is known not so much as the “Mad Dog”, he is known among his people who know him as “The Monk”. The reason for that is that early in his life he was in love with a gal and they were going to get married, and he realized: I can’t marry this lady because my loyalty is to the United States Marines first. And if that’s my loyalty, then I’m going to have to just be single for the rest of my life; that was a dedication he did.
The other thing that’s unique about General Mattis is that he has a personal library of over 4,000 books and I’m told by friends of mine who PCS’d with him, Permanent Change of Station, that he, on his change of stations, he would actually take, at his own expense, those books; his personal library would be moved with him. And you say, why is he bringing all these books?
Here’s why: I want my junior officers who are going to be in command, I want them to understand military history and here’s why: Because no person, no matter how long they live, is going to run into the different situations in life. I don’t want my officers, when they get into a situation that’s unprecedented, not to know what to do and the way they’re going to be equipped for that day when they encounter something they’ve never seen before and their buddies have never seen before. If they know military history, the chances are good they’ll know what to do.
So he always had his junior officers read those books in his library and people who have briefed General Mattis say it’s a very interesting thing; you’ll just sit there, you will study your brief, you get through the brief, General Mattis sits there, he’s very polite, very courteous; he listens to you, he takes notes, and then he says … Now you have to fear when he raises his hand, because when he raises his hand it’s not to incriminate the briefer, he raises his hand and he asks a simple question: What are you going to do if this happens? What are you going to do if that happens? He has a whole panorama of “what ifs” and usually the briefer says, “Well I haven’t thought about that sir.” So he says, “That’s right, but we need to; we need to think outside of the box.”
So that’s one of the strengths that comes from knowing history and that’s why your Book, my Book, the library is so important; to read these people as people who wrote these things out of a situation in life.
Okay: terminology. I want to distinguish two terms: general revelation and special revelation. Here’s why: general revelation is everything God has created around us. General revelation includes God’s providence in history; the things that happen to you; the things that happen to your friends. That’s provident—God providentially working out. We have verses in the Bible to depict this. That’s general revelation.
Here’s the problem with general revelation: general revelation is quiet. There’s no voice. There’s no verbiage.
Special revelation is the Bible; special revelation is verbiage. It’s an idea of a person communicating an idea to you. Here’s why: Jerry picked out hymn 28 for us to sing today. The man who composed How Great Thou Art, it’s interesting; I’ll just read the first stanza, but listen to what he is doing, how he uses special revelation to interpret general revelation. He says,
“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Your hands have made.”
He’s looking at general revelation, isn’t he? He’s looking at creation, but he’s responding from the standpoint of the Word of God.
“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Your hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
“Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee …”
Here you’ve got a person who has unity in how they think. He is able to look at a subject out here, or an event that has happened, and immediately he looks at it from the perspective of the Word of God. That’s a maturity we should all strive for; that we can think through whatever it is from the standpoint of the Word of God and how God has explained this.
The problem has been our secular education. Now here’s where we have to deal with our educational past. For the last 200 years we have all been trained in an educational environment that has separated general and special revelation, hasn’t it? Have you ever had a course in school on any subject where they mentioned a divine viewpoint from the Bible? I don’t know about you but it didn’t happen to me.
So now you see what’s going on here: we’ve been disarmed. We’ve been disarmed because we’ve never been trained to take the Word of God and think what this perspective gives to thus and such. That’s why I brought the video that we’ll show later today about childbirth [“Made in His Image” series, Episode #1: The Miracle of Birth] and the reason I’ve picked that particular video is because the man who engineered this whole video is an MD but he’s also a PE, a professional engineer, and he does something that the medical profession tries to do but can’t because it’s so obsessed with an evolutionary worldview of man.
The average doctor in medical school has been trained to look upon the human body as the million-year accumulation of accidents. This is why we have this silly idea of vestigial organs; they say the appendix and tonsils are vestigial organs. No they’re not. They’re part of a functional design you idiot!
So the point of this childbirth situation is when Randy Guliuzza goes through this from an engineering perspective. He looks at what is going on in the fetus during birth, and all kinds of systems. One system after another has to change and change rapidly and simultaneously or the baby dies in childbirth. There is no room for an accident when childbirth is going on for that fetus.
You’ll see there’s amazing idea but he brings that engineering mind to medicine so that he views the body, not as an accumulated accident, a pile of accidents, but as an integrated design. That’s why I’m talking about maturity as Christians, thinking, bringing general revelation under the scope of special revelation.
Well I want to finish this particular lesson by pointing to something; we’ll run through this pretty quickly. Here are the problems between the human race and God. We all know deep in our hearts what Ecclesiastes 3:11 says.
I might just comment that the reason I’m using black slides with white text is because pastors have had this problem; you put Bible verses up on the gizmo here and then people don’t open their Bibles. But if you don’t and you have five different translations you’ve got another problem. So for the sake of the conference, I’m not trying to say don’t open your Bibles, I just wanted you to focus on some of these verses and what they’re saying.
You’ll notice that what the writer is doing here; look what he puts in our hearts: eternity. You know, there are two areas in your life that you haven’t got any control over—none of us: our birth and our death. Yet we have this gnawing sense in the depths of our heart that there’s an eternity out there and we’ve got to find out about that eternity, but we can’t because our lifetime isn’t eternal. So, there’s a tension that goes on. We’ve been given this tension and that’s why an unbeliever is restless because of this.
Then we have a verse like this in Romans: “What can be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them, for since the Creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen.” Is that general revelation or special revelation, what do you think? It’s general revelation; it’s the world around us, isn’t it? And isn’t the claim being made here, in special revelation, about general revelation, that general revelation gives you the intuition; it gives you the sense that God is there.
How many of you saw the movie, “God’s Not Dead 1”? Anybody see that? Do you remember that last scene where the student, who’s been defending the Christian faith, is alone in the lecture hall and the professor is there? He’s been so angry throughout this whole thing and just attacking this student mercilessly. And finally, that young man turns to that professor and says, “Why do you hate God so?” You remember what the professor’s response was: “Because my mother was dying of cancer and I prayed for her and God never answered.” Oh, your problem isn’t an intellectual one is it, Mr. PhD? No, it’s something else: you got angry at God and you hide behind your little fig leaf.
Let’s look at that a little bit more: the dynamic of sin and how we think. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife” did what? Why did they hide? They didn’t hide the day before. There’s an avoidance. Even when we’re carnal Christians, we have this avoidance thing. We don’t want to think it through, I want to just cozy it over here and I don’t want to talk to God for today. See that’s sin working in our thinking; we want to avoid the truth. We want to avoid solving the problem God’s way, so we create all kinds of bypasses and so on. We’re not fooling Him but we fool ourselves pretty well.
Then this is the answer: “There is no (creation) creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to give an account.”
What that means is if I sense I am naked, I want some clothes. So that’s why the Bible says that the eyes of both of them were opened. They knew they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves together and so on.
Now let’s think about some of the fig leaves today because were still wearing fig leaves. One of them is religion—good works—making me feel good. A recent example of this: our president has had a no-tolerance policy toward illegal immigration and it’s caused separation of children from the parents when the parents get arrested. All of a sudden we have this manufactured “concern” for the kids separated from the parents.
Now wait a minute, wait a minute. Every mother in our society or dad in our society that’s arrested for anything is separated from their kids. This is nothing new; this has been going on for all history here. Why have we got a problem here? We’ve got people that have violated the law and so they’re arrested so their kids are going to be separated. What do you want—to have the kids live in jail with them?
Well there’s an agenda, of course, going on and that is we want to force open borders on this country, and this is just a façade of pretended righteousness going on to deflect from the real issue. This is phony righteousness. It’s manufactured and fabricated, and you see this all through the society today. You see this in healthcare. We don’t want to talk about abortion—we want to talk about women’s rights. What rights? Where do you get rights from? So again, we don’t want to discuss the issue. Sure women have rights, but what about the fetus, does it have a right? Psalm 139 is the answer to that one.
The professor in that movie—evolution, cosmic evolution—that was the fig leaf. It’s a fabricated thing. So, learn when you hear people in your family that are unbelievers; you don’t have to laugh at them, but in your own mind just remember, these are fig leaves for something else that is going on the person’s life, and Lord just show me what’s the real problem here. The real problem isn’t evolution, it’s something behind that. It’s not deep time or something. So you have these distractions—alcohol and opiates are a fig leaf because people just want to drown their feelings out.
I want to end here pointing out that behind this is something that hasn’t changed since Genesis 3 in the Garden of Eden. Let me show you the two lies and let’s visualize this this way: today we hear of cybersecurity, right? Bank accounts hacked with guys hacking into it.
Now what do you think the brain is? The brain has electrical circuits in it. Our brains are a lot better than any circuit board because our brains can change the circuits to accommodate to our chosen behaviors; that can work for good or it can work for evil, but the point is we are hackable. If you don’t think the principalities and powers can’t inject into your mind within a second, an alien thought and slip it right in there, you’re naïve.
Think of Peter: Peter is in a situation where he’s just confessed that Jesus is the Christ and he turns around and says, “But You’re not going to go to the Cross!” And you remember what Jesus said? He looked right at Peter and He said, “Get behind me Satan.” Now can you imagine if you are Peter in that situation? You would feel pretty put out to have your Savior look you right in the eye and say, “Get behind me Satan.” He wasn’t saying Peter was unsaved, he was simply saying that Peter had become hacked. He had become a person who allowed a thought to permeate his mind without reviewing it.
Here is obviously one of them. Here’s Malware #1 which is the idea, “Has God said?” The first words Satan ever said in history: “Has God said?” What is that an attack on? All of special revelation, isn’t it? He’s denying that God reveals Himself. If he can win that one it’s all over, and to show you that this has gone on in our lifetime, in the history of our nation.
Here’s Thomas Paine, who during the Revolution or shortly thereafter, wrote a book called, “The Age of Reason”. Look at this expression: “As to the expressions so often used in the Bible, that the word of the Lord came to such an one … it was the fashion of speaking in those times … But if we admit the supposition that God would condescend to reveal himself in words, we ought not to believe it would be such idle and profligate stories as are in the bible ... Deists deny that the book called the bible is the word of God, or that it is revealed religion.”
This was going on at the founding of our country; that’s why several of the founders were against Thomas Paine. One of the men wrote against Paine. Of course, you’ll never hear this in your education in university.
Paine, everybody talks about the Age of Reason, here’s a guy that wrote the “The Age of Revelation”, who was a peer of Paine and worked against him. Elias Boudinot was a congressman from New Jersey and became a guy who worked in the Treasury Department. Let me read you this, this was written to his daughter. Now here’s a dad, here’s a parent working, he is concerned about his daughter picking up deism and he’s going to write to his daughter. Now look at what he says to his daughter: “I was much mortified to find the whole force of this vain man’s genius … pointed at the youth of America …” Does that sound familiar? “This [thought] created some alarm in my mind lest … you, my beloved child, might take up this … infidelity; and for want of an answer at hand to his subtle insinuations might even suffer … a doubt of the truth, as it is in Jesus, to penetrate your mind. … I therefore determined … to put my thoughts on the subject … on paper for your edification and information, when I shall be no more.” See how he’s a parent, he’s concerned for his daughter and he wants his daughter not to go down this path with Paine. There is a loving father doing his thing.
Now to show you this, here is one of the greatest modern theologians in the 20th century. He taught at Harvard; I remember when I was at MIT going up to Harvard and listening to this man in the chapel because the man who led us all to the Lord wanted all of us young men to be exposed to this kind of thinking, so we could spot it as we grow older in the Lord. So here’s [Paul] Tillich. Watch what he’s saying and think of Malware #1: What did Satan say in the Garden? “Has God said?” Has He really revealed Himself? So here it is, thousands and thousands of years later: “There are no revealed doctrines, but there are revelatory events and situations that can be described in doctrinal terms. … The ‘Word of God’ contains neither revealed commandments nor revealed doctrines.” So has anything changed? My point here is basically this: the lie of Satan in the Garden has not changed; it’s just articulated in different forms.
The second lie—Malware #2 is what he said to Adam and Eve: “You won’t surely die for God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened.” See, there’s the word “enlightenment”—ooh, we’re going to be enlightened, are we? “And you will be like God knowing good and evil.” Now that last claim, “knowing good and evil”, is an urge to man to be his own authority: you will define what is good and evil.
What this means is that in a meaningless universe you have, for example, Stephen Gould, who is one of the great writers in geology. Look what he says: “We are here … because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa, a quarter of a million years ago, has managed so far to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a higher answer—but none exists. … We cannot read the meaning of life passively in the facts of nature. We must construct these answers ourselves—from our own wisdom and ethical sense. There is no other way.” Is this guy dogmatic or not? It’s the same lie. Recognize the lie when you run across it. That’s what I’m saying—it hasn’t changed.
So we want to then conclude with this: to show you that the idea of once we get rid of the Creator/creature distinction we’re all on our own. We’re not accountable but yet we have a yearning in our hearts to get back to some ordered universe. You see, I think we all have a memory of Eden embedded in us of what “should be.” There’s is a sinful, dominated urge to suppress God but yet at the same time we want He offers.
We have had, historically, the Tower of Babel. What was the Tower of Babel all about? Babel was to create a world dominion, it was to create the universal citizen. That’s happening today. A quick summary at Babel: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens.”
Now look at this clause; what does this clause say? Look at that middle clause right here: “Make a name for ourselves.” What do you suppose that’s talking about? We will define our own existence independently of special revelation. We will define our identity. Does that sound familiar? We will make a name for ourselves.
The next chapter after this is Genesis 12 when God talks to Abraham and you know what God says to Abraham? “I will make you a name.” So now we have two agendas don’t we? We have the agenda of man making a name and God making a name.
To show you how this works, in 1563 this man painted a painting of [his interpretation of] the Tower of Babel.
When the European Union approached an architect to design the parliament building for the EU, which was looked upon as the idea that whatever the EU is, it’s going to expand for the whole globe, the Weiss Building was built after the painting.
So here you have the European Union going to all the parliamentary sessions in a building deliberately created by the architect to mimic the Tower of Babel. And if that wasn’t enough, right across the river from this building is the building where they’re doing all the translation for the EU. See, connect: what are they trying to do? Reverse Babel. Babel has left us broken—we will make a name for ourselves and we’ll reverse the curse at Babel. There’s the spirit: “You will know good and evil.”
That’s the background. We’re going to go through the character of God now for the rest of the conference. But I wanted to start with that background because I felt that we want to get control of the situation that we’re in and yet I don’t want to be discouraging. God is greater than our situation. That’s why I wanted to share David’s Psalm about how David managed the situation.
“Father, we thank You for our time together. We pray that as we think these things through You’ll draw us closer to You and to appreciate all You’ve done for us and how powerful You are compared to puny fallen man. We ask these things in our Savior’s name, Amen.”