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Soveregnty 13

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Sovereignty 13.

The year is drawing to a close, so I thought I ought to draw to a close this extended series that I have been doing on the sovereignty of God. [P] I actually think that I could continue it until the LORD returns. I stated right at the beginning that viewing sovereignty is like looking at a coin: you see either the head or the tail; you can’t see both sides at the same time. And we can view things either from man’s perspective, the choices and decisions he makes, the view of his will; or we can view things from a different perspective, the Divine perspective; and you see God in sovereign control over all. This is the view that Scripture presents, for most part. I could take almost any passage of Scripture (other than the Song of Solomon) and preach the sovereignty of God. I don’t know how many of you make a practice of reading through the Bible each year – if you do, you might like to do so next year with a yellow pencil and highlight every passage that presents the sovereignty of God, where you see God directing events, events that would not happen unless God were in control. I tell you at the end of the year you will have a yellow Bible! The sovereignty of God is infused throughout the entirety of Scripture. That is why I could continue this series indefinitely. So in this brief overview we have seen יְהוָה’s absolute sovereignty over absolutely everything on earth: [P] controlling all events on land, sea and air. Things aren’t merely due to the merely mechanistic forces of nature – there is “Someone driving the car”! determining the direction and outcome. Too often we fail to see God’s hand at work, hear what He is saying, because we do not regard Him as directing every single event that takes place in this world that He made and controls. God is in control, it is not in us to determine the outcome – the Scripture is not ashamed to ascribe responsibility of all to Him, both good and bad: [Lamentations 3:37-38 Who can speak and it will happen if the Lord has not commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that disaster and good will come?] So then we looked beyond this earth and saw יְהוָה’s complete control of the unimaginably vast heavens [P] – immense and awesome power beyond our ability to comprehend. It didn’t happen by chance, by atoms coming together by random forces. There is a Creator! Hallelujah! They are the work of His fingers – He was actively involved in their coming into being. And throughout we have seen that God’s sovereignty stems from Him being Creator. I remember speaking out at the prison about Robin’s guitar – it was admired by quite a few who came along, no doubt they would have liked to own it; but nobody disputed that it was Robin’s – why? He didn’t buy it; it is his because he made it! If you make something, you own it; and you can do with it as you choose: you can: sell it, keep it, give it to someone, or even set fire to it and play the star spangled banner. Then from the incomprehensibly large, we turned to the inconceivably small – down to the quantum level [P]. God controls every single atom, or electron or quark – down at that level where behaviour is unknowable, when only probability can describe what takes place. And we saw that there is no such thing as random or chance events. God is in control of ALL! Then I turned to living things – things with life [P], first plants then animals – things with a will. We saw that יְהוָה is in total control. But it goes beyond all that we analyse with our science – there is a whole spiritual realm [P] which sophisticated modern man largely ignores. So I looked at the spiritual realm – again Scripture reveals יְהוָה in absolute control, not only over angelic beings, but also evil spirits and satan himself. So finally we came to where the rubber hits the road: [P] what about man?! We like to think that we control the direction our life takes but we saw that [P] [Proverbs 21:1The king’s heart is as a stream of water in the hand of יְהוָה, He turns it wherever He wills.”] And I looked at a couple of kings, in fact they were over empires – yet they were יְהוָה’s servants. Although יְהוָה was not their “god” yet still He directed their steps to carry out His own purpose. And it is not just kings – every character you encounter in the Scripture plays the part assigned to him in the Divine drama. Why should it be any different with us?! In particular I addressed יְהוָה’s sovereignty both in salvation and in reprobation, the lost. I was talking with Graham about that message; I said to him that I felt that it lacked practical application. He helpfully sent me an email with some points that I will include today. You see? It is all very well to talk about the sovereignty of God, but what should be my response? [P] That is what I want to look at today – having looked at the sovereignty of God, let us conclude this series by considering the impact that יְהוָה being sovereign should have on my life. I had quite a few headings because really a concept of יְהוָה’s sovereignty lies behind every right response to God, because that is who He is. But I have condensed them down to 7 points: 1/ AWE! [P] [Job 25:2 “Dominion and awe belong to Him Who establishes peace in His heights.] I guess the whole real purpose of my taking this series is encapsulated in this. It is my heart that we know God! That He be glorified and honoured for who He actually is! That we know Him as He is! GREAT! Glorious! AWESOME! Way beyond our tiny ability to conceive! Transcendent! Above and beyond! That we give Him the glory due to His Name! To expand our concept of Him! It grieves me that we reduce God to some small concept where He is there just as our personal little helper to aid us get on in life. He is BIG! And has plans and purposes way beyond our comprehension! If anyone had a handle on the sovereignty of God, it was the apostle Paul. He would consider the sovereignty of God – and it would so blow him away that he would just have to put aside what He was saying and burst out in a peon of praise. Here he is considering the purposes of God, His ways of mercy: [Romans 11:32-36 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. (then he can’t contain himself:) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counsellor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.] That should be our response to the sovereignty of God: PRAISE! [P] יְהוָה’s sovereignty evokes a song of praise – He is in control: [Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!] [Psalm 22:23 You who fear יְהוָה, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.] Declaring His greatness! – the greatness of His deeds, His plans, His purposes – the wonder of creation in its vastness and its minute intricacy – the miracle of life – the wonder of salvation – His mercy, His grace, His compassion! – His loving-kindness; His patience; His absolute control over every single atom, creature, event. You are just left staggering in awe! All you can do is fall down on your face in WORSHIP! [P] That is what a vision of Jesus will do, the One who has all authority: [Revelation 1:17-18 When I saw Him, I fell down at His feet like a dead man. He placed His right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the first and the last. I am the living one! I was dead, but now I am alive for ever and ever. I have authority over death and the world of the dead.] That is what John did, that is what Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Daniel all did when they had a vision of Him on the throne! I used to be greatly taken with Moses, the man of God; I longed to have a vision like he did at the burning bush. He was on his face because the ground where he stood was holy – then it came to me, יְהוָה is just as holy now as when Moses was at the burning bush – if he was on his face, then so too should I, because יְהוָה hasn’t changed. What is missing is my perception of Him as He really is. A lot of our problems, complaints and grizzles, our dissatisfactions would vanish if we were mindful of the sovereignty of God, His glory, rather than our petty predicament. If we worshipped! The world does not revolve around me; it is directed by One who is one the throne. We need to bow the knee, not stiffen the neck. [Psalm 5:7 But as for me, through the abundance of your steadfast love I will enter your house. I will bow down toward Your holy temple in awe of You.] And in: [Psalm 33:8 Let all the earth fear יְהוָה. Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.] That verse associates fear, with awe. [P] 2/ Fear should also be our response to the sovereignty of God. Do you recall the fear in standing outside the headmaster’s office? Of course you don’t, that never happened to you, right? But I do – why the knocking knees? Because he had the authority to punish – and in my day they did! In Roman’s 13 Paul tells us to respect and fear those in authority – he is talking about human rulers – because they hold the authority to punish because they have dominion. How much more the King over all those kings, the One who is sovereign over them! When you consider that God is in control of all – the vast and mighty heavens, the tiniest detail of every molecule, what are we before Him?! Such power such knowledge! Such dominion and authority! It is wise to fear the one in authority – otherwise you are likely to cop it! We saw that יְהוָה is sovereign over reprobation – He has the right to consign you to everlasting torment. Fear of יְהוָה is a consequence of His sovereignty. [Psalm 86:8-12 There is none like You among the gods, O Lord, and there are no works like yours. (He is sovereign, supreme, above all others) All the nations that You have made will come and bow down before you, O Lord, and glorify Your Name (He is the sovereign Lord before whom all bow). For You are great and doing wondrous things; You alone are God. Teach me, O יְהוָה, Your way, that I may walk in your truth. Unite my heart to fear Your Name. I will give you thanks, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify Your Name forever,] The fear of יְהוָה is a most interesting and salutatory study – there are wonderful blessings associated with the fear of the LORD (another series perhaps?!). It is the basis of all wisdom – if you fear יְהוָה, His absolute authority – it will motivate you to flee from the folly of sin, and live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age – that is the wise course. The appropriate response to His sovereignty is fear! God’s sovereignty over salvation and reprobation encourages the holy fear of Him and warns us to flee from sin. Our lives are in His hands. He sees all things, all that we do; He knows our every thought and inclination, He determines all things. God is at work in us bringing salvation yet because of this we also work it out with fear: [Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For the One at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure, is God.] When I walk in sin I am not mindful of the fact that my life is in His hand, that He knows all I am doing, that I will face the Sovereign and have to give account of every deed and word I’ve spoken. [Hebrews 10:31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.] And in: [Hebrews 12:28-29 Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be thankful, through which let us serve God acceptably, with awe and reverence. For indeed our God is a consuming fire!] Fear in the Scripture often has an aspect of its meaning “reverence” and certainly awareness of יְהוָה’s sovereignty will produce that, but fear is an aspect of it also. Fear of man and circumstances is not healthy; the Bible says it is a snare. But awareness of the sovereignty of God will break that snare and instead induce fear of יְהוָה – and that is vital to our spiritual health. The proud are foolish, they do not fear God: [Psalm 36:1-2 The wicked has rebellion in the midst of his heart. There is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his eyes, hating to detect his iniquity.] It is the humble that fear יְהוָה humility [P] is another response to the sovereignty of God. Suppose you are granted an audience with the Queen – do you turn up and say “Wotcha Liz! I’ve got a few ideas about how you should be running the place”?! What arrogance! You don’t come before the sovereign like that! When you consider the sovereignty of God, His absolute control over all, you are overcome by that awe that I spoke about. God is inconceivably great – as the Psalmist said: [Psalm 8:4 What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?!]. When you consider יְהוָה’s absolute sovereign control over all, it brings you down to size in a big hurry. As human beings we do like to strut around. We are proud of our achievements, our science, our technology. Go back to those last 5 chapters of Job – remember the multitude of questions יְהוָה assaulted Job with? [Job 38:4 “Where were you at my laying the foundation of the earth?! Tell me, if you possess understanding.] Who are we to answer back to God?! [Romans 9:20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing moulded will not say to the Moulder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?] If we are mindful of who God is; then we realise that we are but dust. We are but the creature. We like to think that we control our destiny, that we chose God; that I am in control. But we have seen that it is all God – He is sovereign. Salvation is from Him, from beginning to end – all we have, we have received. [1 Corinthians 4:7 For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?] We have nothing to boast about, except our sovereign LORD [Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.] Sovereignty repudiates salvation by works, it humbles the creature. Not only sovereign over salvation He is also sovereign over reprobation – far from gloating that I’m chosen and another is not, it is deeply humbling because I know I am not any better than my neighbour. I know my sin is sometimes far worse than my neighbour. It is deeply humbling that He should set His love on any, when He needs no one; but it is a wonder that He should choose me. The reason people reject reprobation is because of pride. We want to remain in control of our salvation. But it is the Sovereign who is control – what can I do, or accomplish? [Jeremiah 10:23 I know, O יְהוָה, that a man’s way is not in himself; nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.] Rather: [Proverbs 19:21 Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of YHWH will stand.] So instead of strutting we should be bowing. יְהוָה is Lord, sovereign, ruling, on the throne – we bow at His footstool in submission. [P] Submission I am not going to dwell on this because I dealt with it last time. But if יְהוָה is sovereign, on the throne; then we are His subjects [P], we are under Him. And if we are subject, then we are servants – we are appointed to service [P] [Psalm 123 I lift up my eyes to you, the One enthroned in the heavens. (there is the Sovereign on His throne!) Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to יְהוָה our God, until He is gracious to us. Be gracious to us, O יְהוָה, be gracious to us, for long enough we have had our fill of contempt. For long enough our soul has had its fill of the derision of the self-confident, the contempt of the arrogant.] That is how it is we look to יְהוָה: as a servant does to his master. We depend upon His grace. He doesn’t have to be gracious but we submit in dependence to His dealings. We lift our eyes to the Sovereign on the throne – instead of coming to Him asking Him to bless our enterprise; we say, “Lord, what would you have me do?” We are not in control – יְהוָה is! He directs, our role is to submit to what our Master directs. So recognition of יְהוָה’s sovereignty begets a spirit of sweet resignation – when David was driven from the throne and from Jerusalem: [2 Samuel 15:25-26 The king said to Zadok, “Let the ark of God return to the city. If I find favour in the eyes of יְהוָה, He will let me return and let me see Him in His dwelling place. But if he says, ‘I take no pleasure in you,’ then I am ready. Let Him do to me that which is good in His eyes.] He left in the hands of the One who is sovereign. His ways are “good, acceptable and perfect”. We humbly submit to His perfect way and trust Him to work things out according to His plan, will and purpose. So our response to His sovereignty should be one of Faith [P] He is in control! Hallelujah! He knows what He is doing and is well able to bring about the ends that He has purposed. So we can trust Him. People put their faith in all sorts of things: the doctor for their health, their savings and investments to provide for them; their skills and talents; their ingenuity or hard work. A nation trusts its armed forces or the diplomacy of it government, its wealth or power. We rely upon our technology. Think about them for a moment – all these things are fallible! It is possible (if not likely) that they will let us down. None has supreme power, none are in control. Surely it is far better to rely upon the One who is in control of all, determining all. Will יְהוָה fail?! Will יְהוָה let us down? Can His purposes fail? Of course not – He is sovereign!! What are you going to put your reliance upon? If we truly regard יְהוָה as sovereign, it is an inevitable consequence that we will trust Him. Faith in יְהוָה is the appropriate response to the sovereignty of God. And this faith is no airy-fairy intangible ephemeral thing. It is very real and very practical. Faith in יְהוָה results in [P] Rest. I have put this as a separate point but really it is very closely associated with faith. If יְהוָה is in control, it is the end of our striving. Sure we work, for that is what the Sovereign calls us to do; but it no longer depends on my efforts, He is in control, He is working out His purposes; and there is a wonderful peace and trust producing rest. This is very real and very practical – I found this especially real in the recent earthquakes and their aftermath. Is your faith in God real, or just words? Do you really believe God is in absolute control? If so you will know a peace that passes understanding. Even when the earth is shaking, things are not out of control. It is not some powerful random force but a precisely ordered event controlled by יְהוָה. Remember every atom is under His control. The crack in my home is exactly the length and depth He determined. This building I am in is only going to collapse at יְהוָה’s command. I am not going to die or even be scratched, unless יְהוָה allows it. If I am crushed under tons of concrete it is because יְהוָה has called me home. He is in control and He will do what is “good, acceptable and perfect”. I alluded to this verse before: [Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this age, (the world thinks all is due to natural forces, that things are not controlled or directed) but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, (we have a different way of looking at things to everyone else) so that you may approve what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God.] Knowing this produces a wonderful assurance [P] When the earth was shaking I had peace and assurance because I knew יְהוָה is in control. I saw others in panic – I am not braver or stronger than them, the only difference is where the faith is placed. When you know God is on the throne in absolute control you rest in perfect assurance. God is sovereign over salvation; that enhances our assurance of salvation. If my salvation rested upon me meriting His favour, what assurance can I have that I have done enough or the quality of what I’ve done is sufficient? It is the knowledge that He chose me before the foundation of the world, before I had done anything good or bad that assures me that He who started a work of grace in me will bring it to completion. When I look back at my sin, His discipline of me has assured me I’m one of His – Hebrews 12 tells us that it is His sons that he disciplines. I have come to see it is only His love from all eternity that has prevented Him from blotting me out. It affords a sense of absolute security. The sovereignty of God produces Confidence [P] – not in myself, but in the One who is on the throne! Glory to His Name! One of the things that disturbs me about the education system today is the stress on making kids, confident, assertive, self-assured. It is totally misplaced and is producing an arrogant generation with no regard for authority. This confidence is not that bolshy confidence in ourselves – it is confidence in One who is in control – that [Philippians 1:6 convinced of this one thing, that the One who began a good work in you will finish it until the day of Christ Jesus, ] that: [2 Timothy 1:12 I am not ashamed, because I know in whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted until that day.] that: [2 Timothy 2:19 the solid foundation of God stands firm, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” ] Because we [John 1:13 were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a husband, but of God.] The assurance and confidence comes from it being totally His doing: [Ephesians 1:11 in Him we were chosen, having been predestined according to the purpose of the One who works all things according to the counsel of His will,] Because Jesus has done it we [Hebrews 4:16 approach with confidence to the throne of grace, in order that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.] The psalmist knew this peace, this confidence that comes from relying on יְהוָה: [Psalm 4:8 In peace I will lie down and sleep at once, for You alone, O יְהוָה, make me dwell safely.] Even in sorrow and suffering there is that rest that assurance because יְהוָה is in control, determining all that takes place: [1 Thessalonians 3:3 so that no one would be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed for this,] God appoints what takes place, even the loss of those that we love: [Job 9:12 If He would snatch away, who could turn Him? Who could say to Him, ‘What are you doing?’ How comforting to know that it is “He” not the devil who “snatches away”. [Job 23:13 “But He is alone, and who can dissuade Him? And whatever He desires, indeed, He does it.] Finally, and I have gone on too long, יְהוָה’s sovereignty should fill our hearts with: [P] Gratitude. God is in control, Hallelujah! We used to sing a hymn: “God holds the key to all unknown and I am glad!” The world is not directionless and chaotic out of control. I am so thankful that God is in control that He is sovereign working out His perfect purposes. His sovereignty is cause for thankfulness. Do you remember the old Kris Kristofferson song: “Why me LORD? What have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve know? Tell me LORD, what did I ever do that was work loving you or the kindness You’ve shown?” Why did God choose me, save me, redeem me? I haven’t a clue – I wouldn’t if it were me! But I am so glad that He did. As Andre Crouch put it: “I don’t know why Jesus loved me, I don’t know why He cared. I don’t know why He sacrificed His life. But I am glad, so glad He did!” It is His sovereignty. If the essence of Christian theology is sovereign grace; then the essence of Christian ethics is gratitude. We are not driven to obey Him to earn His love, but we obey out of a response of gratitude for His unmerited love to His own. There I am under the condemnation of God, it is a miracle of grace that He saves any and a wonder that He saves me! He takes the initiative, He is sovereign, it is all of Him. This is captured in a song we sing: “You did not wait for me to draw near to You but You clothed Yourself with frail humanity; You did not wait for me to cry out to You, but You let me hear Your voice calling me. And I’m forever grateful to You, I’m forever grateful for the cross, I’m forever grateful to You, that You came to seek and save the lost.” One of the greatest things I learned from my time with the Pentecostals, is the wonderful key of thanksgiving! It is truly liberating! But it also eminently rational – when you consider all that God has done, His sovereign control over all His creation, His intimate care of you as an individual. Every event directed according to His perfect purpose carried out in loving-kindness; the only appropriate response is deep gratitude. Not a solemn “Amen, brother” but an exuberant outpouring of your heart and life to One who is Sovereign over all! Praise and glory and honour be to His wonderful Name! [P] [Psalm 116:12 What shall I give back to יְהוָה for all his benefits to me? ….. I will offer to you a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and proclaim the name of יְהוָה.] At least a dozen times in the Scripture it says: [P] [1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to יְהוָה, for He is good; for His loyal love is everlasting.] I think God wants us to get the message – in view of His sovereignty we ought to be thankful people.

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