What’s The Point?

Why are we living the Christian life? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I saw one of my Facebook friends had a status where she was told by someone else that her time in Bible College being educated in the Bible was a waste. After all, will that help you to go to Heaven? I hate to say it, but I have encountered this attitude many times before. It’s a dangerous problem for the church.

I could focus a lot on the point that the Bible doesn’t really talk so much about going to Heaven as it does about the resurrection and the Kingdom of God, but that’s another point. The problem is that our Christianity today has made the goal of life be to get to Heaven. Unfortunately, in our descriptions, getting to Heaven seems to be the goal and God is often kind of secondary there.

What is the relationship between God and Heaven? Few people seem to think about this. That’s because few of us seem to really think about God anymore. Well, that is aside from thinking about all the stuff He ought to be doing for us. Isn’t it strange we don’t think as much about all that we should be doing for Him? God is often seen as someone there just to meet our needs.

This also causes us to ignore this world. I still think back to what one lady said in a Bible Study I was at with a church we used to attend. “I’m saved and my children are saved so we’re just waiting for Jesus to come.” Apparently, their Bible said, “You’re saved, but if you want to you can go into all nations and spread the Gospel, or you can just wait until I return one day.” Yes. Jesus needs to return to relieve our suffering, but what are we going to do for the suffering of others meanwhile?

Sadly, an education is often seen as a threat. Couldn’t your learning get in the way of knowing God? I did write about this in an earlier post. To say that it is is like saying “I want to be married to my wife, I just don’t want to waste time on all that stupid stuff like getting to know her as a person. Oh yes. I want to make sure that she also has plenty of sex with me.” Of course, most any husband will want plenty of sex, but what would we think of the man who wanted it absent of really knowing who his wife is as a person? Such a person is essentially just using his wife to meet his own desires. Are we guilty of doing that with God?

It’s easy for us to sit back and talk about all that God owes us. Let’s make it simple. What does He owe you? He only owes you that which He’s already promised He will give you. If He has not promised it, He does not owe it. He doesn’t owe you perfection this side of eternity. He doesn’t owe you feeling good about yourself every day. He doesn’t owe you money or fame or anything else? Now let’s reverse the question. What do you owe God? You owe Him everything you have and it’s the selfish tendency of you and me to want to hold on to things that we have no rights to as if our true happiness is found apart from God. Of course, God gives us many things that can help bring us some happiness, but none of these will bring us ultimate happiness. When we start treating them like they will, they become idols and they quickly become our masters. (This is called addiction in extreme cases.)

The sad part is a greater education could help with this. One of the greatest boosts of mine to Christian living is to know the things that I believe and why and what a difference they make. Christianity has something to say about every aspect of life. It speaks about money, leisure, sex, friends, family, etc. Nothing I do is untouched by Christianity, or at least it shouldn’t be.

When we fail in our evangelistic duties and start thinking about how Christianity can help us, we become increasingly self-centered. For all of us, our tendency is to look out for #1. Aren’t we all thankful Jesus didn’t do that? Had Jesus done that, the crucifixion would not have happened. Jesus chose willing suffering to bring about redemption and the glory of God. Many of us think we can reach the glory by bypassing the suffering. It just won’t happen. The Bible regularly connects suffering with righteousness. We often connect it with the idea that we’re not living Christianity right.

I applaud my friend for wanting to have a greater education in the Bible. I wish we all did. We have too many sermons and Bible studies where we skip straight to the question of “What does the text mean to my life and how do I apply it right now?” instead of asking what the text meant to them and about the situation when it was written. We will not properly understand the latter without having some understanding of the former. We also increase the likelihood of a self-centered Christianity.

It’s my sincere hope that we return to a faith that is lived out well but understood well in the mind as well. We won’t all be intellectuals, but whatever intellect we all have we should focus some of it to understanding Christianity and what a difference it makes. We can look forward to Heaven, but let us not ignore the world around us as if Heaven is plan B because God’s just given up on this world. Greater knowledge of what we believe will not hurt us. It is the ignorance of the knowledge and the defiance of it that will.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Awareness of God

Is God really there? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve written some lately on the silence of God. Now when we talk about this, we must keep God in the argument as He is. As soon as we change the nature of God, well we could be talking about something problematic, but it’s no longer a problem for Christianity because Christianity does hold to a deity with the omni-attributes. Yet if we believe in a deity with the omni-attributes, I think it behooves us to stop and really think about what we believe. You see, I think we can often have awareness of an idea, but it really hasn’t sunk in that that idea is true. If it could sink in, it would change us. I have long said that if we could just get a momentary glimpse for a second of how much God really loves us, our lives would never be the same.

When we think about the silence of God, we often focus on how we feel. If we feel like God is silent, well that means He’s silent. If we feel like God has abandoned us, well that means that God has abandoned us. It’s a sad state of affairs because we know that feelings can often prove to be very deceptive. Many of us were sure we had found “the one” at one point in our lives before reality set in. I was sure I had found “the one” many times before my Allie came along. To be fair, logic can be misused by us at times, but the difference is the facts that logic deals with are accessible to everyone. Feelings are not. Feelings tell more about you than they do about the situation you’re dealing with.

In reality, our feelings do play on our thoughts and change them. This is patently obvious. Just go with the sensation of falling in love and it’s really incredible how much your thinking process changes. When some people tell me about how they can relate to something I’m going through with Allie because they have girlfriends, I often tell them it’s close, but marriage really changes things. If people tell me then they think they know what it’s like, I tell them that they really don’t. You just can’t picture it. I thought I could and I was frankly quite wrong. This is one of those areas you learn best by experience.

The reverse is also true. Our thoughts can change our feelings. Imagine if you found out today that you had won ten million dollars in the lottery. Think your feelings would change? Better believe it. What would happen if you were a husband and was having a horrible day at work and opened up your lunchbox to find a note from your wife that said something like “Hey honey. I just want you to know that I am going to be thinking about you all day long. I’ve made it a point so much that I even sent the kids over to stay with your parents for the night. Oh. Did I mention I got a new outfit recently? I want you to see me in it soon, and see me out of it as well.”

I guarantee you, such a man’s mood would immediately be lifted.

What changed? In both cases, it wasn’t the situation per se. Many things could still be absolutely horrible. What changed was that you got new information about something better and grander. What could really be more grand than God? (Yeah guys. Bear with me. God is indeed grander than my second example on the list.) That’s part of the problem. We have a passe attitude towards God. We often have an intellectual awareness of Him, but we haven’t allowed that reality to sink in. This is one reason we struggle with sin so much. We honestly look and say that it is no big deal. Somewhere we have to think that when we realize that ultimately sin is a great wrong against God. We still do it anyway. In fact, we all know that we all do stupid things every day. There is some truth to the saying that you always hurt the one you love.

You see, if we realize that Christianity is true, we should realize there is unconditional love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy for us. We should realize that even if we don’t “feel” God, we can realize that He is there. He has promised us that He is. We cannot escape from His Holy Spirit. His Spirit fills all of creation and fills each part with the entirety of His being in fact. As I type this out in my office, the Spirit of God is all around me and as you read this, He is all around you as well. Now if you want to ask why you do not have the joy that you should, it could just be you have not really realized that.

This is why your theological knowledge is so important and can carry you through so many times when those feelings are lacking or are in fact antagonistic. This is something dreadfully lacking in our churches. We no longer teach good theology. We want our people to enjoy the presence of God, but we tell them nothing about who God is. It’s quite odd that we tell people that they need to get to know the person they marry as that is the person they’ll spend the rest of their lives with and be sleeping with regularly, but when it comes to knowing who God is, we don’t do that. In fact, we prefer rush evangelism. We have children often make a decision when they are extremely young and give them no basis for that decision.

I would in fact prefer that in our churches, we set up a discipleship course and have it be that before someone comes to Christ fully, that they go through the course and learn what it is they are saying they are ready to believe and why they believe it. Am I saying they must all be sophisticated theologians and apologists? Not at all. What I am saying is that some theology and some apologetics is unavoidable. You are going to do theology whether you like it or not. You are either just going to have a good theology or a rotten one. You are going to do apologetics somehow. You will just give a good reason or a bad reason. If we did this simple step, we could avoid a lot of heartache later on with apostasy.

If we don’t really know who God is, it could be we’re coming more to Him for the experience. In fact, we’re not really interested in experiencing Him. We’re interested in experiencing a feeling that He gives us supposedly. If your experience of God does not result in a changed life and worship, you should ask if you are really experiencing God or just experiencing an emotional high. Ladies. This should really hit home for you. If you’re married, there is no doubt your husband enjoys the feeling of sex, but how many of you are going to be really romantic if you think that he’s coming to you for just the feeling of sex you give him, but he’s not really interested in you? If you don’t really like that idea, then why on Earth would it be realistic to think that God can be treated the same way?

God is a Trinity. Okay. Got it. So what? Is this just a nice little doctrine you believe in and then you release it when you need to beat up Jehovah’s Witnesses? Oh yes. You will argue tooth and nail for the doctrine, but do you really know why? What difference does it make if God is triune or not? Really stop and think about that one for awhile. If you think for awhile and come away with the answer of “I really don’t know what difference it makes” then it’s time to really study the Trinity. We could go down the line. What does it mean to say God is love? How about holy? Omnipotent? Omnipresent? Omniscient? Merciful? Gracious?

If you don’t know, are these worth knowing about?

If God isn’t worth knowing more about, what is?

And what about the historical Jesus? Do you really think about Him? How do you know He lived? How do you know the NT is a reliable record of what He did? How do you know He’s deity? What difference does it make? The same for the claim that He rose again and the claim that He is the Messiah. One great danger with Jesus we make is that we are so adamant to defend His deity, and we absolutely must, that we lose sight of Jesus the man. It is indeed a heresy to deny that Jesus was fully deity. It is also a heresy to deny that He was fully human and let’s make sure we don’t go that way.

The more we know about God, the better our lives will be. They won’t be perfect as long as we live in a fallen world of course, but they will be far better. In a marriage, the more you and your spouse come to know each other, the better off you’ll be. In parenting, the more you come to know your child, the better of a parent you can be. How could it not be good to know your God better? How could that not improve your worship? How could it not make you a better evangelist for your faith?

And the more you learn about that, the more the silence of God really will not be a problem, because your feelings won’t be guiding your life with God. You will still have times where you don’t understand and your feelings can lead you astray, but those are the exceptions and not the norm. In fact, in our interpersonal relationships, we have to do this. There are times the people around you hurt you or do things you don’t understand. Sometimes, people are jerks and you have to accept that. If you know otherwise of the person, you have to really think about what you know. “Yes. I know this person did that, but here’s what I really know about this person.” It could be this person was a jerk this time and just slipped up, but that is not who they are consistently. (And if it is, you really should reconsider your relationship with that person.)

When I came across apologetics, I was in a dark spot in my own life, and that was changed by seeing it’s all true. I think back to what a really good friend emailed me once in a time of doubt he was going through. I remember seeing an email from him one day with the subject of “Jesus of Nazareth.” I was really nervous to open it up knowing the doubt he was wrestling with. Instead, I read the line of “He really did walk out of that grave didn’t he?”

I had to smile.

Yes.

Yes he did.

And that changes everything.

The knowledge of God can really make a difference. Learn about God and it will change everything. Can it help to learn about you and your personal psychology? Absolutely. It helps most to learn about God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters