The Majesty of God and the Misery of Man

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18–20 ESV)

How Does God Speak to us Through Creation?

God is spirit. He is not physical. God is not part of his creation. That is known as pantheism and is practiced by Buddhists and Hindus. No. As amazing as creation is, it is not God. God created the universe as a separate reality from him.

Creation is the visible reflection of God’s invisible nature

  • “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1–3)
  • “And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (Isaiah 6:3)

How? How do the heavens “speak”? How is the earth full of his glory?

Here is where we must see creation like a mirror. If you’re standing in front of me and I pull out a mirror, I can look in the mirror and I can see you if I angle it right. You can see me. What am I actually seeing? I am seeing your reflection. That’s the word we use. Is what I am seeing you? No. What I am seeing is what you are like without it being you. The mirror communicates a sufficient amount of what you are like for me to say, I see you.

The mirror has tremendous limitations. It is only two-dimensional. You are three-dimensional. The image is much smaller than you are. It has no capacity for volume or weight. It can’t tell me anything about your internal organs, overall health, background, knowledge, loves, family history, and on and on. There is so much it doesn’t say, but it says a lot.

This universe is filled with billions of mirrors. They aren’t God, but they do reflect God. They are not all that he is. He is so much more than we could ever get from creation. But we get a lot from Creation about what God is like.

Here is where it gets a little sticky because it isn’t clear how we exactly “perceive” these things. That’s the world Paul uses. How do we discern God’s nature? Paul highlights two aspects. His power and divine nature. At least these two. Perhaps these are the easy ones. How do we discern God’s power by looking at creation? Have you ever watched a thunderstorm? Sat by a waterfall? Seen volcanoes erupt? Have you seen earthquakes or floods?

The scale of the universe is beyond even our modern technology knowing. The power within the creation still scares us. What happened when one atom was split over Hiroshima in 1945? The power in one atom is astounding. How many atoms are in the universe?

As many of you know, the beauty of creation and what it says to us is a favorite topic of mine. I have written one book in my life and it was on that subject. The title was, Eyes Wide Open. What do we see when we look into the world? Not just stuff, but astounding beauty.

If our eyes are wide open, what do we “perceive” from creation? There is a Creator. There is a God. He is powerful. He is beautiful to create such awesome beauty. God shouts through creation every day, I’m here and this is what I am like!

Still, how are we without excuse? We are going to hit this later in Romans, but part of creation is that God has given us a moral awareness. We call it a conscience. We are instinctively aware that we live in a moral universe. This is a mystery, but God has so wired us as image bearers that we are instinctively aware of a moral code to which we feel shame. That shame is universal among humans across all cultures and time. It creates that inward feeling that we are all aware of called “nakedness.” Adam and Eve connected that feeling of bodily shame to their first experience of sin. You are here with clothes on today because you are moral and whether you realize it or not, are living with a perception of moral accountability to your Creator. God is there. God is creative. God is powerful. God is moral. Yet, natural revelation has profound limitations.

Creation says enough to condemn us but not enough to save us

Like a mirror has limitations to communicate, creation does to. We become aware of God’s existence, his power, and our moral accountability. But I can stare at the stars all I want and I am not, on my own, going to conclude that God has a Son named Jesus who died on the cross and rose again on the third day. For me to get that, I need God’s Word about God’s Son and this will form the basis for Paul’s urgency about preaching the gospel. How else can we be saved? “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15)

So, what about people who only see creation and never hear the gospel? I’d like to address this more later on in our series, but hopefully this will suffice for now. God holds us accountable to the light we receive. Creation gives some light as we have seen. Nobody can say, you didn’t tell me anything! God says, I was speaking every day.

Apparently, God punishes in degrees based on the truth we have access to and our level of response to it. Jesus said it would be better if Judas had never been born than to spend eternity as the one who betrayed Jesus (Matthew 26:24). Jesus said in Matthew 10:15 that it would be better to have been a citizen of wicked Sodom than a citizen of a town that rejected one of his disciples’ ministry. These and other places indicate levels of punishment even in hell.

Here is the sobering news. What you have heard by reading this today places you in the highest level of accountability forever. You have just today received far greater privilege and spiritual light than any remote tribesman. All he has is creation. Today, you have heard the gospel. You can follow this spiritual GPS right to the cross and be under God’s grace forever.

It is better to be an aborigine who never heard the gospel than to be you forever if you reject the gospel. It is better to be a remote tribesman in Ecuador than to be you forever IF you suppress the truth.

So what should you do if right now you can’t say, I repent and I believe? Yet there’s something in you that tells you, you are accountable for your life; you feel the weight of your responsibility to God and you suspect that heaven and hell are real.

Friend, ask this question, why did God make the whole universe reflect what he is like? Why did he give you a conscience? Why make the world astonishingly beautiful? There is only one conclusion—He wants you to know him! And…

God Wants to Save Us

In a few verses Paul writes, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” (Romans 2:4) He doesn’t fill the world with mirrors to condemn us but to save us.

It’s like my girls when we play hide and seek. They are getting craftier now, but for a long time I would get done counting and say, “Ready or not, here I come!” And about two seconds later I’d hear, “Daddy, I’m over here!” They want to be found and they make noise so I can find them.

God is making massive noise so that you can find him. Do you dare pray, God, I may have missed you up to this point in my life, but I don’t want to miss out on you or your salvation. Help me. How many have found God by just that simple initial humble prayer…God, if you are there, won’t you save me? God is a saving God. He wants us to know him. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins to save us. Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)

We move from magnificent mirrors to genuine faith and trust in Jesus dying for the sins of my life. Would you like to be included in that? God is speaking. Are you listening?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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I am Not Ashamed

The Potency of the Gospel – The Power of God

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16–17 ESV)

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, FOR.” Here is the why. “It is the power of God for salvation.” (Romans 1:16)

Paul realized it wasn’t his gospel or any human being’s gospel. He didn’t preach Paul’s gospel or Peter’s gospel or John’s gospel or the Jews’ gospel or the Gentiles’ gospel. What would be the point? There is no forgiveness of sins in Paul’s name or Peter’s name or John’s name or your name or my name. Our gospels and all our self-help gurus and doctors and health experts, and psychologists, and all the medical knowledge of the whole world can’t save us from death much less the wrath and judgment from God. No. We need power to save that we don’t have.

Think, Pray, & Long Like an Apostle

Longings Marked by Love

“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that   is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.” (Romans 1:11-13 ESV)

“For I long to see you.” Paul has never met them. He doesn’t know any of them personally. Yet he has prayed for them ceaselessly and the desire of his heart is to see them. This is Christian brotherhood and love. He has heard so much about their faith and obedience. He realizes the challenges they face doing ministry in the imperial city of Rome. His heart is with them and he can’t wait to see them.

Notice that Paul has at least three unfulfilled longings for the Roman Christians: To see them, to bless them, and to be blessed by them. The language he uses is to “impart…some spiritual gift.” What gift? Is it a spiritual gift specifically like knowledge or service or a more general spiritual encouragement? I think the latter. Among the best spiritual graces that go with being a Christian is to be with other like-minded Christians!

You mean for immature Christians that is helpful. I’m mature and I don’t really need other Christians. Please see what Paul says, “…that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:12)

Romans: Greetings and Gospel

Greetings and Gospel

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures…” (Romans 1:1-2 ESV) You see Paul’s name at the beginning of the letter. This was the custom of the day. You began with your name, then the person you were writing to, then gave greetings. Paul expands that basic template and fills it with Christian truth.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus…” The language Paul wrote his original letter in was Greek. Through the series I will occasionally refer to the Greek words behind our English translation. For example, in the original Greek, these seven verses are all one sentence. Things like that. The word “servant” here is another. Doulos in the Greek could also be translated “slave.” It would have been shocking in first-century Rome. Rome might go down as the most obsessed-with-power city of all time. It makes Washington DC look like a recess playground. Julius Caesar. Beware the Ides of March.

Nobody wanted to be a slave and nobody would call themselves one. But Paul has no qualms describing his life as one of complete devotion and service to Jesus. Are we comfortable calling ourselves a doulos of Jesus? Are we living like that?

Broken and Blessed

The Present Family – Broken & Blessed

My encouragement today is for you to see the blessing and curses of your family as part of a bigger story. How?

The blessings of family are remnant gifts from creation

In this way, the experience of human family, especially a Christian family, tells the whole story of redemption. Marital intimacy is a reminder of when everything was great. A fun family movie night when everyone gets along echoes an ancient harmony. Family speaking words of honor, love, and respect sounds and feels noble and meaningful. The child dedication. The piano recital. Walking your daughter down the aisle. Singing together on the family road trip. When family is awesome, it is really awesome. It used to be awesome always.

The fact that it’s still here is something we take for granted. God chose to allow family to continue even after sin. Not everything continued—unending life being one example. Many things were lost, but not family. It is a gracious gift from God and we should be thankful that we even have a family. No matter how broken your family is, have you given thanks that you have one?

Help for the Digitally Drowning Family

Tony Reinke, in his book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, asks questions about our smartphone use, among them are:

  • “Do my smartphone habits expose an underlying addiction to untimely amusements?
  • Do my smartphone habits reveal a compulsive desire to be seen and affirmed?
  • Do my smartphone habits distract me from genuine communion with God?
  • Do my smartphone habits preoccupy me with the pursuit of worldly success?
  • Do my smartphone habits disengage me from the needs of the neighbors God has placed right in front of me?”[1] (Tony Reinke)

Convicting enough? For me too. So, what should we do? How should we approach the technological marvels? Here are some helps.

When a Family Member Annoys

Five Strategies for Dealing with an Annoying Family Member

Overlook the annoyance/offense

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11 ESV)

Proverbs is written to describe practical Christian living. Over the years, this verse has come to my mind regularly as I am deciding whether to be upset about something or not. It is a man’s glory to overlook an offense. This is describing a character quality. It’s the ability to be magnanimous toward the faults of others. Pettiness magnifies the little faults of others. Every little slight or fault is repeated and nursed into a grudge. But it is a glorious person who overlooks the offense.

As Christians, we have a very real basis for overlooking slights against us. God is the judge, not me. “I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) It goes on to encourage us to do good to our enemies knowing God will make all things just in the end.

Anger and bitterness come from me refusing to let God settle the score. I want to do it and my irritation, big or small, is my way of making you hurt back. The key is to be hard to annoy. Are you easily annoyed? Don’t be “annoyable.” How? Overlook it. To overlook is to choose not to look at something anymore. You overlook it.