Digging Deeper | Living the Dream: Sovereignty of God

Living the Dream: Sovereignty of God | Listen to Sermon Audio

Digging Deeper

What can God NOT do?

One of the fun things to explore when it comes to understanding God as one who is sovereign (i.e. one who reigns and rules over the entire universe and works all things according to his will) is to consider what things God can NOT do. At first glance it may seem contradictory that God would not be able to do certain things if he is in fact sovereign over all things. But there are at least three things that the Bible says God cannot do:

  • God cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13)

    This passage contrasts our faithlessness with God’s faithfulness. It teaches that God will never fail to be faithful to his people. In other words, an unchanging characteristic of his nature is that he will never “deny himself” by failing to come through for his people, even when we are faithless toward him at times.

  • God cannot lie (Titus 1:2)

    This passage explains that God never goes back on something he has said or says something untrue. He does not lie or lead astray or misrepresent. His words are true (Psalm 119:160). This is a truth we can apply to the Bible, recognizing that the words in the Bible are God’s words, and they can be trusted.

  • God cannot tempt toward sin (James 1:13)

    This passage articulates the difference between testing and temptation. God indeed tests our faith at times with various trials, but he is never responsible for tempting us to sin. The reason for this, James explains, is because God himself cannot be tempted to sin. He cannot, therefore, tempt us in a way that he himself cannot be tempted.

Each of these truths about God point us back to his character. Anytime we focus on God’s sovereignty and power, it is important to remember that his power is carried out through the goodness and perfection of his consistent character. Because his character is consistent and unchanging, he alone is worthy of our deepest trust.

Life Together | Faithfulness in Times of Plenty

Last month we made an unexpected announcement: due to very generous financial giving, we were able to pay off the remainder of our building debt! This has eliminated several more years of making a mortgage payment, allowed us to tithe to local and international ministries, and has created for us an increased budget to explore what it looks like for us to continue to be “worshipers in community engaged in ministry” as we move forward. We applaud this, celebrate this, and are in awe of the capacity of the Lord to blow our minds whenever and however he chooses. These are all appropriate responses. And, yet, there is one more response that we also need to remember, one that we see as God’s people are about to enter into the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 6:10-12 (emphases my own):

“And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you – with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant – and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

What is the response we see here in light of coming into fullness and plenty? Caution. The people of God, who had been rescued from slavery and formed as a people, due solely to God’s grace and power, were about to take possession of a land where everything was already set up for them. They had to construct no cities, build no houses, dig no cisterns, and plant no vineyards. In light of this, the word of the Lord to them is: “In the middle of your plenty, don’t forget me! As you enjoy this jaw-dropping gift I am giving you, remember that I am your greatest treasure. Don’t get so caught up in the incredible gift that you forget the incredible Giver of the gift.” As we enter into a season of plenty together as a church family, may we remember these ancient words of God to his people, and apply them to our own situation. As we, like ancient Israel, move into new territory prepared beforehand for us by the Lord, let us take care lest we forget the Lord.

Ben

monthly resources

In light of our apologetics SS class this summer, here’s a recent release on explaining/defending Christianity that’s worth reading:

Digging Deeper | Living the Dream: Testing

Living the Dream: Testing | Listen to Sermon Audio

Digging Deeper

Does God give us more than we can handle?

This is an often-heard question that relates to the idea of being tested by the Lord. It probably comes from familiarity with 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

This verse shows up in a passage where Paul is exploring the issue of idolatry and remaining faithful to the Lord in the face of competing false gods. This helps us to understand the nature of the temptation Paul refers to in v.13, which is anything that would compete for our worship/devotion to the Lord.

As we encounter various forms of temptation, and our faithfulness to the Lord is tested, Paul tells us that we can “endure” temptation because he provides “the way of escape.” So, to answer the original question stated above, God has promised that no temptation is too great for us to defeat, IF we resist it according to his “way of escape.” In other words, the temptation we encounter in our lives is in fact too great for us to handle in our own strength; but, as we learn to trust in the Lord’s strength, depending on him and not ourselves, we are promised that we can “endure” it.

Digging Deeper | Living the Dream: Courage

Living the Dream: Courage | Listen to Sermon Audio

Digging Deeper

The Bible contains a number of passages that are particularly difficult to understand, much less apply to our daily lives: Below I have listed three considerations in how to approach particularly difficult parts of the Bible:

  1. Context: Though context is always important in reading the Bible well, it is especially important with difficult passages. To read “in context” is to read what is around the particular passage being studied. In the case of Genesis 38, we can gain insight into why this chapter shows up where it does when we take time to read the chapters before and after it. In ch.37 we see the beginnings of Judah’s corruption as he instigates selling his brother into slavery. In ch.39 we see Joseph, in contrast to Judah, practice sexual integrity and faithfulness to the Lord. 

  2. Cultural Distance: The Bible can sometimes be difficult to understand because its events occurred in times and places very different from our own. For instance, the practice of “levirate marriage,” by which a next of kin would marry the wife of a relative who had died, is a practice very unfamiliar to us. However, in the culture of biblical people, this practice was very important, so that the widowed spouse would not be abandoned and uncared for. Understanding this is a key component of understanding both Judah’s sin and Tamar’s risk.

  3. Community: Healthy Bible reading cannot be done in isolation; rather, it is intended to be a community practice, and this is even more important when trying to understand particularly difficult passages. When preparing to preach to Genesis 38, I took some time to get guidance from the elders on how to best approach the sensitive content of this chapter in a preaching setting. Their thoughts and suggestions were very helpful in figuring out how to present this passage in a way that was both faithful to the text, yet also appropriate for all ages.  By the way, Sunday School is a great way to read and discuss the Bible with others!