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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Saturday Sermon: Why Christianity?

Today is Father’s Day and I want to honor our Heavenly Father. We are continuing our look at Romans 3:25-26, and we have seen in the last two weeks that this passage shows the righteousness of God, His ultimate worth and holiness, and the incredible justice and mercy of the Almighty. We titled our sermons “The Value of God”. Now we want to show you why this passage proves that Christianity is the true religion, and that our God is God.

In doing this we will also reform, revitalize and revolutionize the way you worship, and what you are thinking about as you worship. You have probably heard it said that you become like what you worship, and that is true as far as it goes. However, even if you worship the true God, the Christian God, if your conception of God isn’t high enough, no wonder your condition isn’t as high as it ought to be. Not just “I think He’s great”, but fully informed as to why, and able to ponder that mediate on that.

Therefore, we want to lift up the name of God as high as we can, today and everyday, not simply with our voices, but in our minds and hearts. We need to raise our conception of God, to see Him as majestic and merciful as He is, in our thoughts. I want you to think great thoughts today. That isn’t an intellectual pursuit it is a spiritual one.

When we think of how beautiful He is we tend to think on how thankful we are, and we need to do that, but to do that while focusing on how great He actually is. It is not in what His plan accomplished for us, but what this plan means about God Himself, that is what raises our worship to a new level. Concentrating on the perfections of God is what begins to perfect us.

A renewed mind will lead to a renewed life. Not simply changing our minds about what is right and wrong, and trying to find some key to make us act better, but thinking God’s thoughts after Him, entering into the realm of His majesty as He has shown us in the scriptures, seeing just how valuable God is.

My aim today is to show forth our God as beautiful as He is, and to get you to think of God with a fuller understanding. If we see Him with an understanding, not a feeling but an understanding of how glorious He is, we will be lifted up towards that glory in our worship. Then we can have more fully deep and developed feelings. Let us endeavor to lift our thoughts upward. Let us discover the highest worship today, let’s talk about why God is great.

In answering the question of “Why Christianity?” over other religions, we need to answer an important question. Which religion exalts God the highest, which places the most value in God? That God, the One who is the most powerful, the highest, the most worthy, that is the One I want to worship, that is the only One worthy of worship. Any God who is less than fully God is no God at all, only someone or something more powerful than us, but still not all powerful, and so that dismisses with many religions right from the start.

A true God isn’t just the most powerful being in the Universe, but the One who created it all and the One who sustains it all, only such a God could actually be God; the others are only greater than us, but not greater than everything. They may be godlike, but not God. Which God is the greatest, the most powerful, the highest and most different from us? This God is the Highest; this God would be the most worthy of worship.

Think about it, the best religion would be the one which places the most value in its god, and the one who derives the value of everything else based on the worth of its god, it would base all its morals and standards on that. It isn’t just about which supposed god is the most powerful, but which is the most pure, the most perfect. Not just in claim but in demonstration.

A people never rise above their conception of God; if your God is just like you, or if your God is small, then your life will be small, your morals will be small, and your people will live far below the standard of a people whose God is lifted up to the heights. If your god is a lying, malevolent, and reckless being, no wonder its people are the same way; that is what they worship. So, again, which religion exalts God the highest, which places the most value in God?

My belief is that Christianity is the true religion because its God has the highest majesty and holiest mercy. This passage, Romans 3:25-26, proves that. Only Christianity has an infinitely valuable God who is infinitely holy and takes out infinite justice against infinitely bad sin and gives us infinite mercy, which can lead us to heights of infinite worship. Christianity has the highest conception of God. In this light, lets consider the other major religions of the world.

Is the religion with the greatest god the ones who have a god patterned after every human emotion, like Hinduism? Considering the human heart, as we have seen in Romans and we see all around us and in us, how ridiculous and vile. Is it the ones say that god is in everything, again how awful, or that god is everything, how unholy is that? God to them is just a part of everything good or bad, and their god is just like everything else. How does that exalt God?

Closer to Christianity, but still so far away, are the other two monotheistic religions: Judaism and Islam. They all speak of God as Creator and Sustainer, but two of them don’t go all the way in valuing God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all claim to speak for the same God, that is, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. But they say very different things about Him.

How about Islam, whose god isn’t all that holy, and to whom sin isn’t all that bad, as we saw last week? Judaism seems better but it isn’t developed into the place Christianity is, their notion is that God pardons based on our own repentance, a notion of sincerity, which is in a sense matching the rest of the world while still calling on God. How about the forms of so-called Christianity that make the decision of man the determining act in salvation, or that claim God has to act in faith, as if faith is outside and greater than God?

No, none of these is Biblical Christianity, who exalts God to where He is, and sees sin for what it is, and God holiness for what it is, or at least in concept, even though we cannot fathom it. Christianity sees our sin as having to be paid for by the ultimate worth of God Himself, and God pouring out His wrath on His Son. How great is His love seen to be then? He meets His own holiness, the bar of His justice and delivers us in His mercy because of it.

Notwithstanding the intended lessons of Old Covenant typology, Judaism today doesn’t get it. They view God as directly accessible, without a Mediator. There is no longer even a typological atonement, but Judaism replaces it with human prayer, repentance, and affliction of soul.

Islam does the same thing, only differently. If we pursue the question, “How does Allah show mercy?” it begins to look a lot like justice, possibly justice “graded on a curve”: Allah judges intentions and efforts. In Islam, there is mercy, but you need to earn it. You don’t need to be perfect, but you need to merit the mercy. But mercy is by definition that which is undeserved. Mercy in Islam looks a lot like justice. And their god has a level of holiness that lets you pay for your own sins. That doesn’t seem all that exalted to me.

We still have a sense of justice and a sense of mercy, but sin has greatly perverted them. Justice is no more justice (since sin must go overlooked), and mercy is no more mercy (since you do have to merit having your sins overlooked, be it the merit of your intentions or of your overall performance). We’d rather blaspheme God’s perfections than confess that our condemnation is just and His mercy, if granted, is undeserved.

Biblical Christianity says that before the foundation of the world, God, who is perfectly just, perfectly merciful, and perfectly holy and wise, planned for the salvation of sinners, while displaying His own righteousness. He would justify the ungodly, the condemned. And He would remain perfectly just. How? It is just as we have been studying in Romans 3:25-26. God’s justice was not bent, diluted, circumvented, or anything of the sort. It was satisfied. God had been an enemy, but now He is a friend. He had been angry, but now His wrath is spent. Christ bore it.

It couldn’t have been just anyone, it had to be God the Son Himself, and that shows us how offensive and bad and serious sin actually is, and how much value God places on His own holiness. Our lives aren’t worth the offense. Considering that, what other way to pay for sins could there be? If God is absolutely holy and absolutely just, what other fate than hell could we hope for, unless God Himself paid the debt for our sins?

Only Christianity exalts God’s holiness and His infinite worth to this level, where it takes a God to pay for even one sin. Only Christianity steps forward with a historic person whose whole purpose in life is to die, whose worth is so great He can pay for all sin.

This may sound like the same old thing, but it is much, much more, much fuller and richer than perhaps you have ever heard. This understanding is what exalts God and places ultimate value in Him. This is what will bring you to a new level, the highest levels of worship, worshipping God with an understanding, a more full understanding of His worth, the more fully understood, the higher the level of worship, much higher than a few songs and a good feeling.

Those things are okay, and strong waves of emotion are wonderful, but if you think that is the height of spirituality, my friend, you are still in the kiddie pool of Christianity. Unless you understand just how bad your sin is, up against just how holy God is, how powerful His judgment is, and how great that means God’s mercy must be, then you don’t have it yet, and none of us are all the way there yet, but think of Christ on that Cross versus anything else you might want in life.

Let me give you a clue. The better you actually and truly understand this the less you sin, period. Now tell me you understand what I am talking about, you master of the emotional release. That is no guilt trip; that is the gospel truth. You don’t do it out of fear, you don’t do it out of gratitude, you don’t do it out of trying harder; you do it out of worship, because nothing else looks good at all compared to Him.

It is time to go into the depths of God, true worship, not emotional worship, and to swim there, not in an emotional rush, but in a fullness of understanding and a grasp of His true majesty, our true depravity, and His awesome mercy. I’m not trying to give you a downer about your feelings; I am trying to get you to see God without them leading the way. They aren’t to play the lead part, only the accompaniment. Then you will have feelings of depth you have not known before. And if you have been part way before, and had these feelings of depth, have you continued on in the journey to see God as holy as He is, or have you stopped with how good it feels? Is God getting bigger and more beautiful in your eyes?

A.W. Tozer – We need to improve the quality of our Christianity, and we never will until we raise our concept of God back to that held by apostle, sage, prophet, saint and reformer. When we put God back where He belongs, we will instinctively and automatically move up again; the whole spiral of our religious direction will be upward.

You must get a hold of this passage until it gets a hold of you. Read it, pray over it, study it, and meditate on it until God unleashes its power and His presence in this text upon you. If you have not seen this, no matter how much you have felt before, you have not known the depths that you are being called to, and you haven’t experienced anything like this before. It is not simply joy, it is not merely sorrow; it is more than thankfulness; it is awe and wonder. Awe and wonder at His majesty and His mercy. The renewed mind that dwells on God’s greatness will result in great lives.

That is true worship. You can find it in this passage; you will find it nowhere else but in Christianity. Only Christianity has an infinitely valuable God who is infinitely holy and takes out infinite justice against infinitely bad sin and gives us infinite mercy, which can lead us to heights of infinite worship. That is the highest worship, and it doesn’t start with a feeling, it starts with an understanding. You are now informed; will you be transformed by this truth? Do you understand the value of God? Do you understand why Christianity must be true?

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4 Comments:

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Sista Cala said...

Pastor, I am enjoying this series and greatly appreciate your dedication to the mininstry, particularly the one you have here.

"Concentrating on the perfections of God is what begins to perfect us."

I believe it has everything to do with 'Christ being formed in us'. When we get our minds right, the rest of our body/temple will have to line up too.

 
At 11:55 PM, Blogger Heavenly Soldier said...

Amen to that. Been busy helping move a friend an they've been working her like crazy, but you should see me on Sunday. Their giving me a fit about my file. If I don't get them monday than calling doc at va an having her reqest them for me. Our love an blessings to you an Margie.

 
At 6:42 AM, Anonymous stevehall said...

JD,

Kiddie pool of faith, huh? I've seen that somewhere before...

Yeah, the Lord was ministering to me this morning, recalling to my mind the words of a man who, not unlike us oftentimes, obstinately refused to leave the "kiddie pool":

The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."

For a short time (8 days, at least), Thomas refused to go to the deep end of the pool, where his feet did not touch, where he had no sensory assurance of spiritual things. But the Lord still loved him & ministered to him in the midst of a faith that, given his 3 years of experience in the Lord's presence, was not child-like, but childish. Child-like faith dives into the deep end, childish faith never strays from the comfortable realm of physical reassurance. Life would thrust Thomas into the deep end of the pool as he later faced & accepted martyrdom for Christ. As Romans 5:3-6 tells us, God likewise thrusts us into the deep end of the pool to test, strengthen, & perfect our faith.

I thank Him for the trials which have grown my faith.

 
At 7:18 PM, Blogger Even So... said...

Thanks folks...yes indedd, this is important stuff that doesn't get preached or taught or discusssd enough...

 

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