Living in Light of God’s Attributes, Part I
Preached by Pastor Phil Layton on January 14, 2007 at Gold Country Baptist Church
"And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped." (Revelation 5:6-14, NASB95)
Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is heaven.” Revelation 4 & 5 give a picture of how God’s will is done in heaven, how true worship looks there, how reverence for our Lord is done right. My prayer in this new series is that we would experience more on earth as it is in heaven, in our vision of God, worship, and reverence. Some of what I say in this series may offend some, but my greater concern is offending God by holding back His truth and glory. Here on earth, sadly, often we see quite a different picture than this passage, even within churches; a lacking reverence, worship, and low view of God.
A year ago we were visiting another church, and the pastor was giving an illustration where he talked about heaven, and he said “when I picture heaven and Jesus, I can’t wait to give him a big hug, I really want to sit on his lap and tell him some jokes and listen to him tell me a few good ones”
I’ve been in environments where the pastor or music leader will say “all right, let’s give God a hand” and everyone claps. People smile, clap, occasionally whistle and then, done applauding God, sit down to hear what's next on the program.
I’ve been in great big stadiums full of Christians before where different parts of the audience chant “We got Jesus yes we do, we got Jesus how about you?” … more …” (like a school rally)
I don’t know if you ever receive these kind of emails, but I used to often get emails from co-workers with some syrupy and sentimental presentation of either Jesus or some slogans and clichés that God tells them, and a lot of them at the end of the email say something like “If you love Jesus, you will forward this to 10 people and watch to see the good things happen” – it’s almost a superstitious kind of thing
One “Christian” camp song goes so low as to say Jesus is “the salt on my Frito.”
There’s even a T-shirt that says “Jesus is my homeboy” –one of the best-selling T-shirts in 2003. People seen wearing it include Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, Pamela Anderson and Ashton Kutcher.
- To talk about Jesus on the same level as Frito chips is trivializing blasphemy.
- The Lord of Lords is not the “homey” of worldly celebrities – or anyone for that matter. The Bible actually portrays Him as a consuming fire who will judge all who blaspheme Him. Yes there is love and closeness, but also fear of Lord
- The Christ of Scripture is not a superstition-granting good luck charm or fortune cookie that makes good things come into your life if you forward theologically incorrect emails to 10 or more people. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the transcendent sovereign, who I think is actually offended by most of the clichés and slogans thrown around with His name or attributing things that He is not.
- King Jesus does not need a pep rally of people chanting that they’ve got him, yes we do, how about you, just substituting his name for class or team spirit? He is a holy God, the majestic and mighty Master of the universe who needs nothing from us
- God is not an entertainer who wants us our applause, or someone who needs people to clap and whistle like He’s some worldly show.
- And I don’t think that when we see the Lord of the universe in all His glory we’re going to tell him our favorite jokes and casually hop on His lap while He tells us some good ones. If you believe the Bible, every knee is going to be bowing and every tongue will be confessing Jesus Christ is LORD and we will worship Him in reverence. God is not any of those trivial and shallow and superficial portrayals.
"These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes. “Now consider this, you who forget God, Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver. “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God." (Psalm 50:21-23, NASB95)
WHY STUDYING THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD IS URGENT
I. Great indictment passed on those who make God in their image
Not only Ps 50:21 – also the great indictment in Rom 1:23 is that they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man …”
v. 25 “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator …”
Steve Lawson has written an excellent book called Made in Our Image: What Shall we do with a “User-Friendly” God where He documents the legacy of America’s low view of God which results in a watered down church that diminishes God to the lowest common denominator so that people aren’t offended. It is:
- Needs-driven (felt needs)
He writes (p. 17):
The problem with all these approaches to the church, however is that they lack depth. On the surface they sound fine. But unfortunately, that is where they remain – on the surface.
Such radical shifts in the direction of the church are, I believe, the result of our diminished view of God. As our view of God has suffered, so have our ministries and lives. Rather than being focused upon the true God, we have become enamored with the world, a vantage point that easily accommodates our vision of a god made in our image.
The sad result is this: Rather than seeking to become as much like heaven as they can be, churches are instead striving to become like the world. Rather than pursuing spirituality and substance, many have become enamored with style and size. The sizzle – not the steak – has become the main entrée. Gospel light is being replaced with gospel “lite,” preaching with performance, exposition with entertainment, sound doctrine with sound checks, the upper room with the supper room, and the unfolding drama of redemption with – well, just plain drama.
Only when our vision of God is restored will our lives and ministries be put right. A high view of God leads us to see that the church is not a corporation, but a congregation; not a business, but a body; not a factory, but a family … a right vision of God must be the driving force behind the church. Only that can bring His glorious presence and all-sufficient power to bear on the lives of His people so that we can be what He desires us to be. We must unveil the truth about the sovereign God to unmask the fallacy of the user-friendly god …
II. Nothing more important than knowing God
John 17:3 – essence of eternal life
Theme of book of Ezekiel and everything God does in that book is that people would know Him “the I AM YHWH” (over 65x “that they may know”)
Philippians 3 – only thing that matters (all else dung in comparison)
"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8-11, NASB95)
The bigger your view of God, the smaller your problems will look
John Piper: “I preached on the holiness of God and did my best to display the majesty and glory of such an unapproachably holy God. I gave not one word of application to the lives of our people (not a good practice regularly). Little did I know that in the week prior to this message one of the young families of our church discovered that their child was being sexually abused for over a year by a close relative. It was incredibly devastating. There was police involvement. Social workers. Psychiatrists. Doctors. They were there that Sunday morning and sat under that message.
I wonder how many advisers to us pastors today would have said, Piper, can't you see your people are hurting? Can't you come down out of your ivory tower of theology and get practical? Don't you realize what kind of people sit in front of you on Sunday?
Several months later the sad details began to come out. And the husband came to me one Sunday after a service and took me aside, and said, ‘John, these have been the hardest months of our lives. You know what has gotten me through? The vision of the greatness of God's holiness that you gave me the first week of January. It has been the rock we could stand on.’" (from “The Pastor as Theologian” at 1988 Pastor Conference, available at www.desiringgod.org)
III. God begins His law by revealing who He is and forbidding false views
READ EXODUS 3:1-6
It’s been pointed out that Moses did come flippantly or jokingly into YHWH’s presence – instead it was with lowly submission, humble contrition and reverential awe. He “covered his face in fear, afraid to even look at God … Moses was traumatized by his proximity to deity and rightly so” (Lawson, 82).
EXODUS 15:11-18 – God revealed His mighty works and they rightly praised Him in spirit and in truth
EXODUS 19 – God gave the people detailed instructions about His terms for how we would meet His people to give His law. They were to wash and consecrate themselves, no person or animal could even touch the mountain or they would die. It’s very clear that God is teaching them He is not be approached casually or without reverence. The awe and trembling they had when God revealed himself with the thunder and cloud is the same heart we still need to have – a healthy fear of God.
** EXODUS 20:1-4 – Vital importance of not creating idols
NOTE: We do not form idols out of stone anymore, we create them in our own mind. We would never make a golden calf in a furnace and bow down to it, but instead we fashion idols in the factory of our own heart, focusing our affections on either a substitute for God or a distorted view of God.
I like to think of God as … Well, my God is a God of … When I picture Jesus …
I don’t like to think of God as … On judgment day I think it will be like this …
What we think or want God to be is irrelevant at best, and at worst, it can be idolatry – any image or thought of God different than the fullness of who He is revealed in scripture
False views of God Christians can be guilty of:
- God is all love
- Heavenly repairman (we must rely on Him at all times, not just when we need something fixed), Celestial Santa Claus, Galactic Grandfather
- Bumper sticker “Jesus is my copilot”
A copilot is described this way: You see him “smiling and welcoming everyone coming on board. His job is to be on standby – ready to step in and help should an unexpected emergency demand it … However, once the emergency is over, he returns control to the pilot. He is always at the controls, but never totally in control … How convenient it is to have a subordinate sovereign – able to drive, but only at our discretion! Reduced to a secondary, supportive role, the Lord is always there, watching and awaiting our call in times of crisis. But in the interim He does little. Occasionally, He checks our instrument panels, ready to step in if needed, or comforts us when something goes wrong; but for the most part He is on standby. His will is always subordinate to ours.” (Lawson, 37)
Probably none of us in this room would be so bold as to actually misrepresent God verbally the way some do, but in the way we live sometimes, our actions may be saying the same thing. We sin in secret sometimes like we don’t really believe in God’s omnipresence, we don’t really pray like we believe that God is all powerful, we entertain those sinful thoughts in our minds as if God isn’t really omniscient.
** The thrust of this series is not to get more facts in our head, the title and theme of this series is LIVING IN LIGHT OF GOD’S ATTRIBUTES. My prayer is that we will believe and embrace these truths to the degree that we will LIVE LIKE WE BELIEVE the truths of what we know about God.
IV. The True and Full God of the Bible is being eclipsed in our world
Example of full solar eclipse – as tempting as it may be to look at the moon when shielding the sun, you still can’t look directly at it or you’ll cause irreparable damage to your eyes
This is good analogy because sun is still just as hot and glorious and massive regardless of what’s happening here on earth, but the problem is that too many preachers are obscuring a true view of God from their people
R.C. Sproul gives the illustration of a lady who came up to him at conference furious because she gets the impression that her pastor is doing everything in his power to hide the character and attributes of God from their congregation because he’s afraid people will leave
Also illustration of Willow Creek surveys and determination to never again have a church where someone was 1) bored, or 2) thought it was irrelevant
Sproul’s response was that scripture records dozens of people’s encounters with true and full God of the Bible; none were relaxed or flippant or casual or giddy, but nor were any bored or thinking their encounter with God is irrelevant. The solution is to bring people face to face with the majesty and greatness and holiness and supremacy and weightiness of God to bear on our lives, not to come up with a substitute
CONCLUSION: Encounters with God
"Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place!”" (Genesis 28:10-16, NKJV)
People of Israel at Sinai: "Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”" (Exodus 20:18-20)
Gideon: "Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the Lord. So Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.” Then the Lord said to him, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.”" (Judges 6:22-23)
David: Then David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, having in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. So David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces. (1 Chron 21:16)
Job: "Then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. … “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.”" (Job 42:1-6)
"In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. " (Isaiah 6:1-6, NASB95)
Ezekiel: "Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking." (Ezekiel 1:26-28)
Daniel (READ DANIEL 10:1-10)
"Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground. Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. " (Daniel 10:7-10, NASB95)
Luke 5:8 “Go away from me Lord for I am a sinful man”
Mark 4:35-41 “they feared exceedingly” after Jesus calmed the storm
Paul: "As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless … " (Acts 9:3-6, NASB95)
Rev. 1:17 “when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead”
- Jacob realized the reality that the Lord was in the same place as Him and was afraid and said “how awesome is this place”!
- Moses took off his sandals and was afraid to look at God’s fire
- The people of Israel not only didn’t want to see God, they didn’t even want to hear his voice lest they die. It says that the fear of God keeps His people from sin
- Gideon saw a theophany and had to be assured that he wouldn’t die
- David and his best men saw the same and fell on their faces; Ezekiel also falls on his face at the vision of God and angels
- Job gave testimony to God’s absolute sovereignty and supremacy and said all he could do was retract and repent in dust and ashes
- Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord that even the angels covered their faces and he immediately said “woe is me” (Heb. for “it’s all over, I’m undone, finished”)
- Daniel falls into a semi-comatose state and has to be picked and set trembling on his hands and knees
- Peter realizes who Jesus is and begs Him “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man”
- The other disciples are scared during a storm but when Jesus calms the storm they’re terrified far worse! The storm could take their lives but the one in the boat is in charge of their souls. It’s one thing to contend with the power of nature, but it’s quite another thing to have the King of the Universe 2 feet away from you!
- Paul sees the Lord and falls down and those with him are speechless
- John the apostle gets a glimpse of the Lord in glory and is like a dead man
We need to have a high view of God, and a low view of self. We need to take God more seriously and reverence Him more. That’s what by God’s grace we hope to do in this series.