Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE GOD CHRISTIANS WORSHIP IS PERSONAL”

Second Corinthians 13.14

 

Recent events in the large Indian city of Mumbai over the last couple of days are a painful reminder that we are a world at war. However, though just about everyone acknowledges that there is a shooting and bombing war that is being waged in different parts of the world, most people seem unaware that the hot war in which people are being killed is only one aspect of the much larger worldview war. The hot war, whether it is in Chechnya, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or India, seems mainly to be a war waged by Islamic jihadists against anyone who is not an Islamic jihadist. The Islamic jihadists are quite willing to attack anyone in the west as a representative of Christianity and the Great Satan which is the United States, anyone in India as a representative of the hated polytheistic religion of Hinduism, of course the despised Jews wherever they can be found, and even jihadist Muslims who are not exactly of their stripe.

Though this religious war (and it is a religious war) distracts most of us from attention to it, there is an underlying worldview war being waged at the same time. To paint the portrait in very broad brush strokes, there are four key players in the worldview war: Christianity, Islam, the Hinduism-Buddhism pantheists who believe God is nature and nature is God and who believe in reincarnation, and the materialists such as the communists and secular humanists who believe only in matter and reject any notion of anything that is not of the time-space-matter continuum that comprises this universe. Each of these four key worldview perspectives has different beliefs about such large topics God, reality, knowledge, morality, and even human nature. Allow me to set aside most of these large topics to concentrate for a moment on just the differing worldviews about God.

Of course, secular humanism, slash communism, slash materialism rejects any notion of God out of hand, so we can dispense with any further consideration of that worldview. However, it may surprise you that even though Hinduism, Buddhism in the main, New Age religions, Christian Science, and the Church of Scientology seem to be different at first glance, the underlying concept of these religions is really the same.[1] They embrace the notion of what is called pantheism. Pantheism, which is Greek for “everything is God,” is the belief that God and the universe are essentially the same.[2] Can this be true? Can God be the universe and the universe be God? If that is so, how can God be good with evil in the world, since that would mean that God is both good and evil, which is meaningless nonsense? This is not the only problem pantheism has concerning their view of God. Pantheists also deny that God is personal. So, materialists deny that there is a god, and pantheists deny that God is personal.

Moving on to Islam, we find that Muslims, those who embrace the religion of Islam, insist that their god, Allah, is shown in their holy book, the Koran, to be a personal god. In theory, Allah is a personal god, shown to possess the characteristics of personality, which are intellect, sensibility, and will. However, there are claims made by Muslims about Allah which challenge that this god who is in theory a personal god, is in fact and in practice a personal god. To Muslims, the oneness of Allah is fundamental to their religion, just as it is to Judaism and Christianity. However, Muslims claim their religion is the purest form of monotheism, insisting that Allah “was neither begotten nor beget nor had any associates with Him in His Godhead, and thereby denying that Christianity is a monotheistic religion. Islam teaches this in the most unequivocal terms.”[3]

Additionally, Islam teaches that Allah is a god of love. Indeed, some of his names depict this very characteristic, claiming that he is loving.[4] Herein lies one of the great inconsistencies of Islam with respect to Allah. If Allah was all by himself in eternity past prior to creating all things, how could he be love without actually loving? Since Muslims claim Allah is absolutely alone in a way foreign to both Judaism’s and Christianity’s concept of the one true and living God, who would have been there be for Allah to love and commune with prior to creation? Are you a loving god if for eons before creation you loved no one, because there was no one to love?

Even after the Muslim’s version of Allah’s creation of the universe and its inhabitants, there is still a serious problem in connection with Allah’s creatures that exposes the Muslim concept of Allah to really and practically be that of an impersonal god. Consider their faith in near mechanical rituals. Muslims recite the Koran over and over, in unison, word for word, in the original Arabic, even if they do not understand or actually speak Arabic. Neither do they pray to Allah as a personal being, pouring their hearts out to him as David did, or arguing with him as Job did. One Muslim website declares, “understanding [the Koran] is secondary” to recitation and ritual, which makes sense only if Allah is not really a personal being in any practical or experimental sense.[5]

Thus, when one takes a step back and considers the worldview wars, we see that three of the major perspectives that are engaged in this great struggle for dominance in the marketplace of ideas, the materialists such as the secular humanists and communists (basically the evolutionists of the world), the pantheists of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian Science, and Scientology religions, and even the Muslims and their religion of Islam, are worldviews that do not embrace the concept of a God Who is personal. By personal, I mean more than the theoretical notion of personality that is encompassed by the characteristics of intellect (the ability to think), sensibility (a moral nature), and will (the ability to decide). I am referring to attributes that only the God Christians worship is shown to possess.

Christians have always insisted that there is only one true and living God. We echo the sentiments of the Jewish people as they recite Deuteronomy 6.4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” In addition, the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Corinthian church: “there is none other God but one.”[6] As well, to Timothy, he began First Timothy 2.5 by declaring, “For there is one God.” Of course, Muslims deny that we are monotheists. They insist that we embrace the notion of three Gods, while claiming to believe in only one God. That is utter nonsense, though I will not take the time to address their misunderstandings about the God of the Bible this morning for lack of time. What I will assert is that only the God of the Bible meets the innermost needs of man as he really is.

Turn, if you will, to Second Corinthians 13.14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” This is what is called the Trinitarian formula, wherein the Apostle Paul closes his letter to the Corinthian congregation with a benediction that calls attention to the three persons of the triune Godhead. Notice how each Person of the trinity is linked to a different aspect of blessing:

 

First, WE SEE THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

 

That the Lord Jesus Christ is fully God is established beyond any reasonable doubt. In John’s gospel, He is shown to be God, to be co-eternal with God, and to be the Creator of all things, John 1.1-3. Also in John’s gospel, it is shown that He claimed to be God, provoking a reaction by the Jews and resulting in an acknowledgment of His deity by the doubting Apostle, Thomas.[7] As well, in a number of places in his writings, the Apostle Paul affirmed Christ’s deity. His comments about bending the knee, bowing the head, and confessing with the mouth at the name of Jesus, in Romans 14.11 and Philippians 2.10-11, hearkens back to a statement made by Jehovah in Isaiah 45.23, showing Jesus Christ to be the God of Israel. As well, there is Paul’s insistence to the Colossians that Jesus Christ is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, Colossians 1.16-17, and Colossians 2.9. As if more proof is needed, there is Hebrews 1.8, where the writer of Hebrews ascribed to God the Father the statement whereby Jesus Christ is addressed as God. Not as full a proof as can be established had we more time this morning, but enough of a reminder to refresh your concerning the Bible’s revelation that Jesus Christ is God as well as being man.

Thus, we see that grace comes to us through the person of Jesus Christ, the second person of the triune Godhead, who left heaven’s glory and became a man that man He might redeem from sins. You see, men are estranged from God by their sins, and in need of reconciliation. However, that great gulf that separates God from man cannot be bridged by man and cannot be ignored by God. Only by God becoming a man, by means of the virgin birth, the great condescension to our level (though without sin), could God become, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, approachable. We know that sinful men do not deserve to be reconciled to God. Our sins condemn us, and God would be justified in damning us all to Hell without a second thought. However, by taking upon Himself human nature, without sin, and then becoming the sacrifice for our sins on Calvary’s cross, the Lord Jesus Christ became the Satisfaction for our sins. Dying on the cross, shedding His blood to wash away sins, being buried and rising from the dead, and then ascending to His Father’s right hand on high, Jesus Christ procured for us a salvation full and freely offered to any sinner who will turn from his sins and come to Christ. We do not deserve, nor can we earn, this salvation which is available in and through Jesus Christ. It is by grace that sinners are saved, God’s riches at Christ’s expense; possible only when the Savior Who reconciles man to God is Himself both man and God.

 

Next, THE LOVE OF GOD

 

The love of God is so central to Christianity, because a loving God is the God of Christianity. Indeed, the God of Christianity is not merely One Who loves, He is love. First John 4.8 and 16 declares, “God is love.” It is asserted that not only the God of Christianity is love, but that the god of Islam is also love. However, I dispute this. I do not dispute the claim that Allah loves, however I do dispute that Allah actually loves. Consider the great contrast that exists between God’s revelation of Himself to the Christian and the Muslim view of Allah by considering eternity before creation.

If God really is love, then He is not only capable of loving, but He actually did love in eternity past, something Allah was incapable of doing. You see, the Christian revelation of God is a revelation of one God Who exists in the form of three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a reality Islam denies. That denial of God’s triune nature condemns Islam to a contradiction that cannot be overcome, and dooms it as a religion without a god to meet human needs. You see, for God to be love He must love, something that was undoubtedly expressed between the persons of the trinity throughout the timeless ages of the past, but a thing impossible unless God is a trinity.

John 17.24 preserves for us a portion of our Lord Jesus Christ’s prayer to the Father the night before His crucifixion. Please turn there and read that verse with me. Notice as we read the Lord’s reference to the Father’s love for Him in eternity past, before creation: “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” My friends, no being who loved no one for all eternity can suddenly be considered a loving god. However, John 3.16, and the declaration by Jesus that God so loved the world, becomes meaningful when it is recognized that the heavenly Father Who loved His eternal Son throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity chose to both create us and to love us.

We need grace, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the avenue by which God communicates grace to us. We also need God’s love, and the God Whose love for His Son was expressed for all eternity has chosen to love us as well.

 

Finally, THE COMMUNION OF THE HOLY GHOST

 

The Holy Spirit of God is the third person of the triune Godhead. The least is known of Him, because while it is the Son’s privilege and honor to glorify the Father, the Spirit of God is in turn tasked to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ instead of drawing attention to Himself, John 16.13-14. This is not to say His role in God’s plan for our lives is not vitally important. Remember, Paul’s words are “the communion of the Holy Ghost.” Communion translates koinwnia, which has a wide range of meanings from close association to sharing and participation.

Christianity is alone among worldviews in asserting that the relationship that is established when a sinner is reconciled to God through Jesus Christ is administered by the Holy Spirit of God. When the reconciliation is effected through faith in Jesus Christ a standing before God is granted. That standing is called justification, and it is a legal transaction between God and the justified sinner. However, men who need to be reconciled to God are not only sinners, they are also men. And men need communion, interaction, fellowship, camaraderie, and an antidote to the aloneness that plagues us so long as we inhabit our sinful bodies. The communion of the Holy Ghost ministers to those needs by indwelling and interacting with the believer in Jesus Christ.

When God works in the sinner’s life to bring about his conversion to Christ, what Jesus declared to Nicodemus to be the new birth, that person actually becomes a partaker of the divine nature, Second Peter 1.4. To state it another way, one aspect of the communion of the Holy Ghost is sharing God’s eternal life with Him by means of the Holy Spirit indwelling the Christian. So, what is the result of this communion of the Holy Ghost? Oh, there are many results, too many to even make mention of now. I could talk about being sealed with the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption. I could talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I could talk about a number of things. However, let me confine my remarks to a single passage, Galatians 5.22-23, where we see the effect the Spirit of God has on the Christian’s personality: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Thus, the communion of the Holy Ghost, just with respect to the Christian’s personality, produces characteristics and traits that affect one’s self as well as one’s capacity to successfully interact with others.

 

Reflect, if you will, on the personality of our God. He is personal, meaning He really does interact with His creatures, meeting the needs of His children in ways not contemplated by those who hold other worldviews. Every human being needs to be loved, and only the God of the Bible is truly a loving God, God the Father loving His Son throughout eternity before the creation of the universe, and showing the climax of His love for mankind by giving His Son up to be a voluntary and substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for our sins.

Since no sinner actually deserves the salvation that Christ offers, it must be by grace through faith. However, every worldview other than the Christian worldview offers a salvation by means of good deeds and works of righteousness. Only Christianity offers salvation by grace to undeserving sinners, and Jesus Christ is the means by which such grace is offered.

Finally, human beings are social creatures, with an inborn need to interact with other intelligent beings. However, only the God of scripture is capable of addressing the yearnings of man’s soul and spirit. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” Can Hindus talk like that? Can Buddhists talk like that, or Scientologists? How about communists or secular humanists? How about Muslims?

You are the way you are, possessing a mind, a body, and a soul. You have physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and desires. Those needs are only met by a God Who is, Himself, personal, truly personal, really personal. Only God, the God of the Bible, has been eternally personal, the three divine Persons interacting, communing, loving each other for all eternity, and then creating us to interact with, to commune with, and to love.

Are you taking advantage of God’s nature to love the One Who loves you, to interact with the One Who created you to interact with, and to commune with the One Who would commune with you? That begins, truly begins, when a man becomes a Christian. Until then, the deepest and greatest needs of your heart and soul will never, can never, be fulfilled.



[1] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), page 580.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., page 369.

[4] Ibid., page 370.

[5] Nancy R. Pearcey, Total Truth, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), page 388.

[6] 1 Corinthians 8.4

[7] John 10.33; 20.28



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org