Surveying a Great Mountain
And many peoples shall come, and say; “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.”(Isaiah 2:3)
Recognizing that the study of God is worthwhile, we prepare to start. But where shall we start from? How do we plot our course?
Five basic truths, five foundation-principles of the knowledge about God that Christians have, will determine our course throughout:
- God has spoken to man, and the Bible is His Word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.
- God is Lord and King over His world; He rules all things for His own glory, displaying His perfections in all that He does, in order that men and angels worship and adore Him.
- God is Savior, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus.
- God is Triune; there are within the Godhead three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and the work of salvation is one in which all three act together, the Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it, the Spirit applying it.
- Godliness means responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word.
In light of these general and basic truths, we examine in detail what the Bible shows us of the nature and character of the God of whom we have been speaking.
We are in the position of travelers who, after surveying a great mountain from afar, traveling round it, and observing how it dominates the landscape and determines the features of the surrounding countryside, now approach it directly with the intention of climbing it.
J. L. Packer shares this in Knowing God.
We have been given as the people of God a great opportunity to assess and evaluate all that we are and do as the church. We must acknowledge that the church, like a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore we must strengthen those links. This is the time to evaluate our resources and how they are or are not being used for Christ’s mission and purposes. Packer gives us 5 important principles. First, our mission must be the mission of Christ as revealed to us in the Bible. According to the Bible Christ’s mission is to “seek and save the lost”. Therefore, that is our mission. We do not to have discernment meetings to discover this. According to the Bible, the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ. No other means or religions are sufficient. The Apostle Peter at the healing of the lame man declared,
“Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The only purpose the church has in this world is to make known the grace and salvation of God.
Second, we must recognize that God is Lord over all and especially His church. We must therefore consult Him before we make plans or engage in activity. We cannot afford to be like the money changers in Jesus’ day, using the church for our purposes. The true church is not, has never been, and will never be a human institution designed for human purposes. I pray that God will deliver and cleanse us of this faulty perception. As we have been so graciously interrupted with life and church as usual, we should take time to question our desires, motives and activity in light of God’s sovereignty and our servant hood.
Third, we must discover and work with God in His activity. Quite often we fall into the trap of instituting our own desires and creativity and then inviting God to assist us as though we are the master and He is the servant. We must change positions and become the servants who work under and with the Sovereign God to accomplish His plans and purposes. The analytical questions are: Is what I’m doing glorifying God or someone or something else? How does this activity grow, build, or further the kingdom of God? Is the mission of Christ being accomplished?
Fourth, the model of oneness in purpose and mission is seen in the Trinity. Jesus makes clear that in the kingdom of God, there is no room for individuality and independence. Packer illustrates the oneness in his description of the plan of salvation and how each of the Godhead played a part but all were totally united in purpose and mission. In this hour, we as the people of God must define the important values and mission of the church and be willing to lay down our personal desires and purposes for the sake of the whole accomplishing the mission the God has given to us. The new norms of the world and the church will require great sacrifice of much of our customs and programs. We through the guidance of the Holy Spirit must discover ways in the new norm to carry out the mission of the church. There may be no room in the new norm for some of our traditional methods and rituals. However, the church must continue with its mission. The early church began with the idea that they were going to stay in Jerusalem and attract only Jews. Persecution and opposition saw to it that they carried the gospel to all the world and much of their original rituals gave way to that new norm but God continued to bring people into His kingdom. Unplanned and perhaps unwanted by these first believers, God began to draw Gentiles who knew none of the Jewish rituals but knew Christ. In not too many years, the church consisted of more Gentile than Jewish believers. Today the church is largely Gentile. I don’t know how God will use this crisis for His purposes but I do know that most churches may not be ready to function in the new norm effectively. Like the Council of Jerusalem, we need the Spirit to speak to us wisdom and knowledge.
Finally, we must bring everything into the light and presence of God. There is a great need for revival in the church. Is has always been easy for humanity to drift away from God and to substitute human thinking and human perception for the principles and instruction of God. Often we speak of the church as though it is a human institution, operated and directed by humans. We are found on many occasions determining our belief systems through human thought or feelings. These unfortunately have and do lead to division and diversion of the plans of God for His church. Packer gives us four areas that we must respond in if we are to see a revival, a restoration of the church that impacts this dark world. First, as individuals, not the corporate group, but we as individuals must trust that God knows what He is doing and like Jesus our role is to bring our hearts into total surrender and submission to God. Second, we must give increased attention to building our faith and expressing that faith in worship as we acknowledge and exalt God as Lord of the Universe and us. Third, we must devote ourselves to intense prayer and intentional praise. Fourth, we must submit ourselves to God, to His Word and to His mission. The church will never live this unless and until we choose this path as individuals. May God grant this in us in this hour.
Dr. John Thompson