Blog

More than a Seating Chart, a Heavenly Truth

I have heard it said that an idol of the heart is a thing that you will sin to get or that you will sin if you do not get it. I think that’s true. I also think that such idols are easy to overlook, easy to justify, easy to accept as a normal part of everyone’s life. Certainly, there are things that our society tells us are simply understood things that you must have or you will sin.

I want to point us to one idol of the heart and the solution Jesus hints at in a parable from Luke 14.

Luke 14:7-11 – 7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The parable here is a very simple one, at least in its surface application. Jesus warns that people at a dinner party should not push and shove for the best seat. It would be very embarrassing to work your way to near the head of the table only to have your host ask you to move for a guest who is more important than you. Instead, Jesus points out to us that we are wiser to take the lowliest seat so that, should our host want to honor us, the host can ask us to move to a better place.

Often when I think of this parable, what I just wrote is about as far as it goes. It is as if Jesus has just given us a nice slice of etiquette to help us navigate a social setting so as to avoid an embarrassing faux pas. But I think there is much more to be found here. It has to do with being a Christian and avoiding a dangerous idol.

The reason I think that this is more than social advice is in the word “everyone.” In verse 11 Jesus says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” I do not think that this can be said to be true in every dinner party setting. After all, I think we have all sat in a room, watched a person promote himself shamelessly, and seen that everybody in the room just lets it happen. Often times we would prefer to suffer through a person’s boorish behavior for a couple of hours than to go through the social awkwardness of rebuke.

Instead of being mere social counsel, I believe that the Savior is here asking us to think strongly about the rewards we seek. Self-promotion in this life will lead to ultimate, eternal humbling. Exalt yourself in the here and now, and you will be humbled forever. Godly humility is something the Lord will eternally reward. Of course, this is not about behaviors that will somehow earn a person the grace of God. This is about a reshaping of personal priorities so as to live for the Lord and not for the world.

So, Christian, make some application. Where do you press for the better seat at the banquet? Let me ask it a better way. What reward do you seek in this life? What type of temporal reward for your behavior and achievement do you long to have and bemoan when you do not get? What social or political wrong will not only disappoint you but drive you to sinful distraction? What will you press forward to make sure you have, especially when it comes to recognition? Or, if you will not press to get it, where will you sulk, pout, and drive yourself toward depression if you do not have others see you in a certain way?

I think if we will ask these questions, we are starting to get at what Jesus was doing in this teaching. The parable, after all, is always deeper than the simple story. Jesus is telling us that, if we find our reward in this life, if we press forward to have the lost world around us prop us up, we are heading for a humbling eternity. We cannot, we must not, live for the smiles of the world around us. Whether that be recognition for all the work we do in the church or recognition in the workplace for all we sacrifice, if our desired reward is the applause of men, we are in deep trouble.

But Jesus says that the humble will be exalted. Again, this is not true at every dinner party. But it is true eternally. All who forsake this world and turn to the Lord will find life. All who come to Jesus are to have eyes that are set on things above, not on the things of this world. No, we do not pretend life does not matter. But if we are to get the call of God right, we must see that the rewards that matter are those of heaven. The smiles that matter are the smiles of god. The seat we want is at the table at the marriage feast of the Lamb.

Friends, this can apply in so many ways. Our world tells us to demand what we feel we must have. You must have that vacation. You must have that bonus. You must have that “thank you.” And all of those things can be very good things. It is not wrong to ask about things if you feel you are being overlooked. But if you are willing to sin to get the things you believe you deserve, they are idols. If you drop into despair, if you will sin if they do not come to you, they are idols. And if you chase after the idols of the heart, you are like a person elbowing his way to the high seat at the table. You will be humbled when you find out that was not your place to begin with.

There is a better way. Set your eyes on eternity. Look for eternal reward. Be willing to sit at a lower seat at the table now, because the eternal reward is the one that matters.

Hope and Perspective on Inauguration Day

It is Inauguration day 2021. Today, in the United States, one president leaves office and another takes it up. And our nation is deeply divided. Some are wildly excited. Some are passionately angry. Some are purely discouraged.

In my reading of the word today, I was reminded of a truth that I believe should help all believers walk wisely through a day of political change.

Luke 17:24-30 – 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

As the Lord Jesus spoke to his disciples in Luke 17, he pointed them toward the day of his return. Jesus does not return to this world in a secret fashion, unperceived by many. Jesus, when he comes back, is going to flash like lightning into the world and change it forever.

But what will the world be doing? The Savior tells us that many people will be living life as if nothing new was going on. They will marry and have kids. They will fight wars and sign peace treaties. They will inaugurate presidents and watch others leave the capital. They will live like there is no reason to think about the Savior. But the Savior will return, and the world will be forever his as it already is forever his.

Christians, may we be careful not to be like those who are focused so much on the day-to-day that we forget that we live in the kingdom of God that is already and not yet. May we remember that the Savior is building his church right now, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Let us remember that it is our job to be faithful to the Lord regardless of the government under which we live. Let us remember that the Savior is coming, and when he does, no person on earth will miss it. Let us remember that many in the world will ignore Jesus until the world has no choice but to worship Jesus.

This thinking helps us. It helps me not to let myself be overly excited about having a president I approve of or overly discouraged about having a president I would prefer not to have. It is not me saying that how we live or function as a nation does not matter, but it puts things in perspective. If the United States stands as a city on a hill and exalts the ways of God, Jesus will come back. If the United States falls under the judgment of God for her sin, crumbling into something we would not recognize as the country we love, Jesus will come back. Whether life is easy or persecution is prevalent, Jesus will come back because Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Today, Christian, I hope that you will pray. I hope that you will pray for the kingdom of God to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. I hope you will pray for our nation to function in ways that please the Lord. Pray that God have mercy on a nation that does not deserve it and hold us back from the destruction we would bring upon ourselves. Pray for the faithfulness of the church to stand and grow and worship regardless of who is in the Oval Office. Pray for the new president as the Lord commands you do. And pray, “Even so, come Lord Jesus,” and ask the Lord to remind you that the Savior has never once failed. We live in a world that forgets. We live in a world as it looked in the days of Noah. The Lord will grow his church. Many will hate the Lord and his ways. Jesus is Lord now. Jesus will return and rule forever. Let this give you perspective and hope.

A Question on Baptism in the Nicene Creed

I recently received a question from a sweet lady about our church’s use of the Nicene Creed in one of our worship services. About once per quarter, we recite this old confession. But a line in the creed was bothering her, as it could sound like the creed supports the idea of baptismal regeneration. Here is my response slightly edited for this format.

I really appreciate your question about baptism as mentioned in the Nicene Creed.

The Nicene creed says, “I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.” That phrase, “for the remission of sins,” is what sounds like a sticking point. Is the creed suggesting to us that the act of water baptism brings to us the remission of sins? Does it suggest that baptism is required for salvation? Does it say to us that baptism regenerates a person? I certainly understand how the questions could be raised.

We know that Scripture does not teach that baptism regenerates a person. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9). Nor does Scripture indicate that water baptism is required for a person to be saved. So, if the creed is suggesting such things, we must do away with at least that part.

Let’s ask where might the language that is used in the creed have come from? We read in Acts 2:37-38, “37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ 38 And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” Here we see what I would guess is the source of the language that was used in the Nicene Creed.

First, is language that indicates that there is one baptism “for the remission of sins” biblical? We have to say that it is since we can see it right there in Acts 2:28. Therefore, if we understand the language correctly, if we have a proper understanding of salvation and baptism, we do not have to avoid using it.

Next, does such language require us to believe that the point being made is baptismal regeneration? I would argue not. Peter was certainly not suggesting in Acts 2 that being immersed in water brings about forgiveness. Peter instead ties together as a unit repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We must also note that the very same Peter who used that phrase in Acts 2 was also clear in his first epistle to say that physical baptism has nothing to do with our salvation. Peter wrote, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21). Clearly Peter is connecting the physical act of baptism unbreakably to a person’s initial cry of repentance and faith. Baptism is not physical washing. Baptism is the act of one who has cried out to God to appeal to him for forgiveness. Peter says baptism saves, but then immediately points out that baptism has nothing to do with saving you but simply points to the faith through which you are saved.

How then should we think about the phrase, “baptism for the remission of sins.” To the early church, there was no concept of separation between saving faith and baptism. This is not to say that the church, if pushed, would suggest that faith alone does not save. Nor is there a belief that baptism has anything to do with causing one’s salvation. Instead, it is to say that there is a clear assumption in the minds of the church that those who repent and believe will quite naturally be baptized. It was simply unthinkable to a first century Christian that anybody could be genuinely saved and refuse to follow the Lord in baptism. Thus, to call a person to be baptized in the first century would be akin to calling them to repent and believe for salvation and to follow that belief with baptism.

To show that this concept is not me reading into the text, let me add that there are other places in Scripture where one word is used to point to a concept that is broader. For example, we are happy to say that whoever believes is saved (John 3:16). But we also know that repentance is part of saving faith (Matt. 4:17). There is nothing wrong with suggesting that faith saves. At the same time, there would be nothing wrong with an even clearer call to repent and believe. After all, one cannot genuinely believe in a saving way without repenting. Thus, a call to faith necessarily includes the call to repentance.

Another example in Scripture is Paul’s statement in Romans 10:9, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” One could argue that all that Paul is saying we must believe is that Jesus rose from the dead. But included in Paul’s words are the understanding that the resurrection includes the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins and the doctrine contained in its understanding.

The point I think we should see is that, sometimes in Scripture, a single term is used to hold a larger concept. And I believe that when Peter says that we should repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins in Acts 2:38, he is using the word baptism to include all that baptism represents. Baptism represents a repentant faith in the Lord Jesus and his saving grace. That repentant faith in the Lord Jesus is our only hope for the remission of sins. That faith is symbolized in the one, true baptism.

If we understand that what I am suggesting is the meaning of Acts 2:38 is sound, and if that is the source of the language in the creed, I do not think we will need to worry that the statement in the creed is promoting anything unsound. We must actually agree that there is only one baptism for the remission of sins. That baptism is the baptism which symbolizes the saving faith and repentance of the believer. That baptism is what peter was calling for in Acts 2:38. And that baptism necessarily contains the faith that saves and must not be separated from it.

As I said a moment ago, I really am grateful for your question, as it forced me to think more clearly about the statement in the creed. I agree that, if not explained, that statement can be confusing to people in our culture, because baptism has been wrongly understood in many denominations. I believe that your question will cause me to take some time to help our folks guard against the misunderstanding that could arise here. Similarly, I often take time to remind our folks that the word catholic in the creed is not intended to mean the Roman Catholic Church, but is merely a word that means the universal church, the body of all who have ever been saved by Jesus.

You might also ask me why we would use the Nicene Creed, or any creed, if people have the potential of being confused by the language? I think that the use of such statements, even with the potential for confusion, is helpful. I believe that there is something good in, from time to time, helping our church acknowledge basic doctrines that have been proclaimed for centuries. It is nice to see that what we preach at our church is not a doctrine that we have come up with recently, but that it is compatible with the words of the believers who declared these things to be true back in 381, even if we might say things in a clearer way for our generation.

I hope this answer is helpful. And I will be sure to do what I can to help our folks know that this line is not about baptismal regeneration in any form.

Jesus Warned Us; Don’t Be Discouraged

We live in a divided age. Many folks lament the seemingly unbridgeable gap between those on opposite ends of the political and philosophical spectrum. Even many Christians are heartbroken and deeply distressed.

It is right, on the one hand, for us to be disturbed. After all, as we see people hurting each other and going against the word and ways of the Lord, we should be sorrowful. We should be ready to weep with those who weep. And we should be genuinely and righteously angry over sin.

At the same time, I wonder how much of the distress that Christians are feeling today is because we are surprised. If in fact we have allowed ourselves to be surprised by this age and its evil, I fear that we have somehow swallowed a lie. Our surprise has to do with the dissonance between the falsehood we have believed and the true and biblical reality of our situation.

Christian, do you expect this life to be peaceful? Do you believe that, if you just behave kindly and live as a productive part of your community that the world will treat you well? Do you believe that, if your church does kind acts—picks up the garbage in the local park, makes lunches for teachers, hands out food for the homeless, washes the local library’s windows, walks dogs at the Humane Society—that the world will love your church? Do you believe that, if we will just compromise a little bit on seemingly secondary moral issues that the world will leave us alone?

I want us to be faithful and kind as citizens in our community. And I want us to live lives of such a salty flavor that the world will see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. And I want us to embrace causes of righteousness and justice. But, and this is important, if you expect that the world will embrace us, you are mistaken, dangerously mistaken.

Luke 12:51-53 – 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

In my daily reading, I ran across the paragraph above. There Jesus reminds his hearers that he came not to bring peace but division. Jesus knew that his gospel and the word of the Holy God will cause people to be in conflict. Families, communities, and nations will turn against one another. This is not because Jesus is a violent insurrectionist. But it is because the ways of the Lord and the sin of the world are infinitely separated by a gap that cannot be narrowed.

As time goes by, Christian, if you genuinely embrace the word of the Lord and genuinely follow the Savior, you will find yourself at odds with the world around you. People will see that you cannot applaud and embrace what they do and how they think. And in our fallen world, people will eventually hate you for not applauding them. Eventually, the world will demand that you bow down to their idols. And if you will not bow, they will begin to heat the fiery furnaces.

I do not tell us this today in order to discourage us. Instead, I say this to hopefully remind us of the need for steel in our characters. We need to be willing to suffer. We need to be willing to die instead of embrace sin. We need to be willing to speak the truth, even when speaking that truth could cause us to be turned out of our homes or fired from our jobs.

If you know me, you know that I am not here suggesting that we be intentionally provocative and insulting. I despise the ugly, snarky, insulting, gotcha language that I so often read from Christians in social media. I believe that we can speak the truth with respectful tones and at wise times. So, I am not suggesting that you have to be the one who forwards a nasty and provocative post or the one who somehow sabotages every family meal with an argument. Trust me, if you are faithful to the word, honest with your words, even if respectful, you will find the conflict without having to try to start it.

Christians, loving Jesus means we cannot love the ways of the world. Following Jesus means we cannot accept the world’s redefinition of morality. We cannot act as though lies are true. We cannot act as though all people have heaven awaiting them. And the world will hate us for what we believe.

What then do we do? We need to expect the world to divide against us as it hated Jesus. And then we live faithfully before our Lord. Share the true gospel. Tell the clear truth in a godly way. Love people enough not to pretend you believe a lie. And when the division comes, do not despair as though you are facing something God kept hidden. The Lord told us what it will be like to follow him. It is taking up a cross daily. May we do so for the glory of Jesus.

And do not let this division make you feel defeated. The Savior conquered the grave. The Savior promises his return. The Savior says that he will build his church and hell will not prevail against it. The Savior brings life to dead hearts every day. The Savior has the power to move the hearts of kings. The Savior will reign, and nothing will stop him. So, let us be faithful even as we pray, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”

The Image of God

Genesis 1:26-27 – 26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

27 So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

What does it mean to be created in the image of God? Three things come to mind: relationship, reflection, and rule.

Being made in the image of God has to do with our intended relationship with God. God created mankind in his image and likeness. Later in Genesis, we will see that sons born to fathers are said to be similarly born, the likeness of their dads. The concept here includes the idea that we, as people created in the image of God, are supposed to be in the relationship of loving children to God our Heavenly Father. Human beings doing what human beings are supposed to do will love the Lord, worship the Lord, and rejoice in the presence of the Lord. Like a child who properly loves his parents, we are to love the Lord our God.

Being made in God’s image is also about reflection. Images in the ancient times, just as pictures today, were supposed to depict to some degree the attributes of a person or thing. Mankind being made in the image of God shows us that we have the responsibility to display in our lives and character certain things that are true of God. God is holy, loving, just, and good. We are to live in such a way as to help the world see what those things look like. In doing so, we function as the image of God.

Being made in the image of God also indicates rule. Kings who conquered in ancient times would erect statues of themselves in the conquered lands to remind people who was the new king. God has called mankind to live in this world, to fill it, and to subdue it. We are supposed to show the globe not only what God is like, but that God rules. We are to be royal ambassadors, representatives of the holy King.

Consider the image of God when you think of the fall of man or subsequent sin. When mankind fell, we attempted to take ourselves out of relationship with God, no longer living as children of our Heavenly Father. Eve believed that God was not good, not loving, not a Father to her. When we rebelled, we failed to reflect the character qualities of the holy God, but instead tried to bring into the world a morality of our own making. Eve was convinced by the serpent that she could be like God, knowing good and evil, determining for herself what is right and wrong. And, when we fell, we failed to rule the world as we were supposed to. We stopped shaping the garden for the glory of God and instead plunged the world into brokenness and futility.

One of the beautiful things about living as a Christian is that we, by the grace of Jesus, have the opportunity to function in the image of God as we were intended. As believers, because of Jesus, we are again returned to the status of children of God. Like the prodigal coming home and being welcomed as a son, we are embraced by our Father and given familial relationship with him. As believers, we can, for the first real time in our lives, actually reflect for the world to see the attributes of God. We can point people to God’s goodness, love, justice, and so much more. And, when we are in Christ, we can remind the world of God our King as we call the world to come to Jesus and to submit to the rule of the one who reigns now and will reign forever.

“The Word Was God” — Guarding Against False Translation

John 1:1 (ESV) – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

You probably know that there are some who have translated John 1:1 differently than what you see in most bibles. The most common group doing this is the Jehovah’s Witness. I want to take a moment here to help you avoid being persuaded by the argument that a Jehovah’s Witness would make to you regarding this verse if you should ever encounter it.

In the last clause of verse 1, the ESV says, “and the word was God.” But the Jehovah’s Witness translation says, “and the word was a god.”

While I don’t do Greek with you often, this time it is necessary. The transliterated Greek of that clause is kai theos en ho logos. “Kai” is the word for “and.” “En” is the word “was.” “Ho logos” is “the word.” And “theos” is the Greek word for “God.” As in English with God (capital G) and god (little G), the word “theos” can mean either God in the sense of the true God or god in the sense of a god, one of many idols, false gods, etc.

How do we know if the Greek is trying to say God [capital G] or a god [little g]? Often, the way to distinguish in Greek whether the author means God (big G), or god (little g) is to see if the article, the word “the,” is included. “Ho Theos,” “the God,” is the usual form for the God of the Bible. “Theos” alone is usually god (little g). This is how the Jehovah’s Witnesses have convinced others that they have a point, because this passage only says theos and not ho theos.

If one does not know any better, and if one only knows the rule that to speak of the God of the Bible requires the use of ho theos and not merely theos, this would be an open and shut case. But the moment a person knows just a little bit more about grammar in Greek translation, that person will see that the Jehovah’s Witness argument is faulty.

First, let’s do a little English grammar. A linking verb is a “to be” word like “is,” “are,” “was,” etc. Unlike an action verb (runs, sings, swims, beholds, etc.), a linking verb can sometimes take two nouns and tie them together to show a relationship. “Tom is my dad,” is a sentence that equates “Tom” and “dad.” And, in fact, those words are interchangeable. The sentence, “My dad is Tom,” is equally true.

In a sentence like the examples I just gave, we see a subject, the linking verb, and the predicate nominative. Does it matter which word is subject and which is predicate? Take this sentence as an example: An apple is a fruit. In that sentence, apple has to be the subject and fruit has to be the predicate. If you reverse the order and say, “a fruit is an apple,” you have misleadingly given the indication that all fruits are apples. In that instance, one must know which is which to communicate clearly.

The clause at the end of john 1:1 is a sentence with a linking verb, a “to be” verb. John has constructed this clause quite intentionally to show us which word is the subject, which is the predicate, and to prevent us from thinking they are interchangeable.

In English this would be easier. We distinguish the subject from the predicate simply with word order. The subject comes first in the sentence and the predicate comes after the linking verb. This does not work in biblical Greek, as word order does not offer us the same sort of signal as to which word is subject and which is predicate in a sentence. In Greek, in a sentence with action verbs, it is easy to distinguish subject from object by the case of the words; their endings are spelled differently. But the case of subject and object in a sentence with a linking verb is the same.

The trick that a biblical author might use to distinguish subject from predicate in a sentence with a linking verb has to do with the use of articles. In English, articles are words like “the,” “a,” or “an.” Often in Greek, both nouns in a sentence with a linking verb will have an article before them. But, if the author wants to distinguish for you between subject and predicate, he will omit the article before the predicate so that it is absolutely clear which word is subject and which is predicate. This technique allows an author to put the word he considers more important first, even if that word is supposed to be the predicate and not the subject.

John did not put “ho theos” in John 1:1 so that he could show that the “logos” (word) is the subject and “theos” (God) is the predicate. Otherwise, you might confusedly translate this verse, “And God was the word.” But John only wanted to say, “The word was God.”

A. T Robertson writes:

“The subject is made plain by the article (ho logos) and the predicate without it (theos) just as in John 4:24 pneuma ho Theos can only mean `God is spirit,’ not `spirit is God.’ So, in 1 John 4:16 ho theoß agape estin can only mean `God is love,’ not `love is God’ as a so-called Christian scientist would confusedly say. So, in John 1:14, ho Logos sarx egeneto, `the Word became flesh,’ not `the flesh became Word.’”

This type of construction as in John 1:1 is normal in Greek, and, it is necessary to show us which word is the subject of the sentence. This is not merely important for grammar in general. There is a significant theological reason that the article could not be included before Theos in John 1:1. D.A. Carson in his John commentary writes:

In fact, if John had included the article, he would have been saying something quite untrue. He would have been so identifying the word with God, that no divine being could exist apart from the word. In that case, it would be nonsense to say, in the words of the second clause of this verse, that the word was with God. The word does not by himself make up the entire Godhead. Nevertheless, the divinity that belongs to the rest of the Godhead, belongs also to Him.

A.T. Robertson agrees, pointing out, “By exact and careful language John denied Sabellianism by not saying ho theoß En ho logos. That would mean, that all of God was expressed in ho logos, and the terms would be interchangeable, each having the article.”

While the word is God, He is not all that God is. Jesus is not the Father. Jesus is not the Holy Spirit. And so, Theos, in verse 1, cannot have the article. But the lack of the article does not mean that John is trying to say that the word was “a god.”

So, what we see from Greek is this: John could not have used an article before theos in this verse, and still been faithful to Biblical Trinitarian theology. John’s construction here is not at all uncommon in Greek. The construction does not signify that John is meaning anything other than the One true God here in verse 1. We must reject the Jehovah’s witness translation of verse 1. It does not come from solid Greek scholarship, nor does it faithfully express the clear intention of the author as we find throughout the rest of the Gospel.

John intended to tell us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John wanted to preach trinitarian theology. He wanted us to see that Jesus is truly God, not allowing for the Arian heresy of denying his deity. John wanted us to see that Jesus, while god, is not all that God is, thus denying the Sabellian heresy or modalism, the false belief that the Father became the Son who became the Spirit and conflating the persons of the godhead. There was only one grammatical method John could use to do this. Had John wanted to call Jesus merely divine, he had other words available for that. But John wanted to say that Jesus exists forever, is with God, and is God., and he did so perfectly.

Why Be Thankful?

I’m glad today to live where I do and when I do. I’m grateful for all who have sacrificed and served to give me what I have. I am grateful for the opportunities and the freedoms that I experience. I’m grateful to have family, friends, and a church who love me. And these are not the primary reason I’m thankful today.

Why be thankful? I am created by the God who made the universe. He gave me value and a purpose. And I, like all of humanity, promptly refused to fulfill that purpose. I have failed to be perfect from conception forward. And the God who made me could very rightly have cast me into hell immediately.

I am grateful, however, because the God who made me, against whom I have rebelled, chose to rescue me. God the Father sent Jesus, God the Son, into the world as a man to accomplish some amazing things. Jesus lived a perfect human life—the life I should have lived but could not. Jesus died as a sacrifice on the cross—suffering the death I deserve to die. Jesus rose from the grave—a feat I could have never accomplished and which proves his success and his glorious identity. And Jesus brought me salvation.

God has said that all who will repent and believe, all who will genuinely come to Jesus and Jesus alone for salvation, will be saved. When God brought me to trust in Jesus, he gave me glorious gifts. God applied to my account the perfect life that Jesus lived. It is as if his perfect test score is written down on my score sheet. God also applied Jesus’ death to cover my sin—he died a death that would have cost me an eternity in hell. And God proclaims to me that Jesus’ resurrection is my own. Now, because of Jesus and Jesus alone, I know that eternity in joy with the Lord is my forever home.

Why am I grateful? It has nothing to do with politics, health, wealth, prosperity, family, food, music, or the rest. All good things are gifts that ultimately remind us of the good God who made us and who sent his Son to be our Savior. And I encourage you, be thankful like this. Be thankful for Jesus.

And if you do not have his salvation, come to Jesus for life. How? Believe that God made you. Believe that you have sinned in falling short of God’s perfection. Understand that you can do nothing on your own to bridge the gap between you and the Lord. Entrust your soul to Jesus, placing all your hope for all your eternity in Jesus and his finished work. Admit you are a sinner and ask Jesus to forgive you. Surrender your life to his lordship. By the grace of God, truly believe in Jesus, and you will be saved. And that salvation will change your life, reorient your priorities, and grant you the forgiveness and eternal hope that will give you true reasons for gratitude.

God is Still Sovereign

I thought I’d post this entry from my HEAR journal, as it gives me hope from a strange passage.

H – Highlight

1 Kings 19:35 – And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.

E – Explain

During the days of Isaiah and Hezekiah, the Assyrian army threatened Jerusalem. This force was insurmountable. There was simply no way that Judah should have been able to survive. The northern kingdom had already fallen to this empire.

But, in the verse above, we see the supernatural hand of God at work. The Lord sent an angel and wiped out a massive force outside of Jerusalem.

A – Apply

God is able to change the world by his will and for his glory. There is no army he cannot defeat. There is no force that is great enough to stop his plan. For me this morning, I find comfort and hope in the fact that God is mighty enough to defeat armies and change the course of history. Obviously we are living in a strange and frightening political time. But knowing that the Lord is almighty and glorious reminds us that he is not going to be defeated. Our election, our laws, our national strength or weakness have nothing to do with the greatness or the glory of God.

R – Respond

Lord, I see in this text that the greatest of enemy armies and the mightiest of empires do not threaten you. You are the Lord over all. No king and no army, no president and no election, can change who you are. Help me, I pray, to remember your greatness and that my purpose is to glorify you. I do pray for your mercy on our nation. But I will not, or at least I should not, allow myself to fret over the plots of men. You are God, and that is the great and final truth.

A Quick Thought on God and Politics

Let us learn a few things about our God.

Isaiah 44:24-28

24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
“I am the Lord, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself,
25 who frustrates the signs of liars
and makes fools of diviners,
who turns wise men back
and makes their knowledge foolish,
26 who confirms the word of his servant
and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’
and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,
and I will raise up their ruins’;
27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry;
I will dry up your rivers’;
28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’ ”

What can we glean from this text that is over two-and-a-half millennia old?

24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

Our God is Creator. He made all things. He made you and me. And he did so by his own power. We cannot imagine this type of awesome power. You and I can create nothing. We can take existing material and fashion it, but we create nothing from nothing.

25 who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish,

God will frustrate liars. In eternity, we will not see the victory of corrupt news media, censoring social media sites, or evil politicians who would use deception to gain power. Neither will we find ourselves defeated by proponents of false religions and godless worldviews.

26 who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins’; 27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry; I will dry up your rivers’; 28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’ ”

Here God speaks particularly of using Cyrus, the leader of an oppressive government, to accomplish his will. God intended that Jerusalem would be rebuilt in the late 6th century BC. God motivated a pagan politician, a man with selfish and godless motives, to send the people of Israel back into the land to accomplish exactly what God planned.

Can we see anything in the above passage to give us hope today? I pray that you do. God is mighty. God is Creator. God will not lose. Liars will not overthrow him. No politician or political party will thwart him.

Am I suggesting elections do not matter? No, that is not my point. I am suggesting that, whether the election goes the way I want or not, God is still God. He will use godly men or evil men to finally accomplish exactly what he intends. Our God will be glorified. His kingdom will come. His will is going to be done.

I would hope that you have voted in a way that best matches the truth of God and the standards of god in his holy word. But even more so, I would pray that you have surrendered in faith and repentance to Jesus Christ, God in flesh, the King of kings and Lord of lords. He reigns and will reign. And your only hope is to find his grace before facing his judgment.

My Way or God’s Way

H – Highlight

1 Samuel 28:5-7 – 5 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 6 And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. 7 Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.”

E – Explain

On the day before the death of Saul in a battle with the Philistines, the king is afraid and seeks God’s counsel. But God will not speak to him in any form, so Saul seeks guidance through forbidden means.

A – Apply

It is a temptation for people to seek things in God’s way so long as we get what we want. But, when we do not get what we want, it is often the case that people will turn from the ways of the Lord to try to accomplish things in whatever ways we can find. This is evil.

R – Respond

Dear Lord, I acknowledge that there is a temptation to do things in my way or in ways that dishonor you when I do not get what I want from you. I confess that this is sin. You are perfect, and your ways are best. I pray that you will help me trust you and to totally find my freedom from within the bounds of your perfect commands.