Calvary Road Baptist Church

“A GREAT CHURCH HAS A GREAT GOD”

 

This is the first in a series of messages related to what makes a great church. However, I will bring these messages to you fully realizing that there is nowhere found in God’s Word any appellation or description of any church that would declare or imply greatness. This should be no surprise to any of you who have heard me preach for any length of time, since I have often said that God uses no great men, for there are no great men. Rather, God uses men greatly. Therefore, as there really are no great men, since churches are comprised of men (I speak generically), there are no great churches. Therefore, when I speak in this series of messages of a great church, I do not refer to any congregation’s reputation, to any congregation’s size, to any congregation’s missions budget, or to any congregation’s inherent superiority. In reality, a church congregation is great when, as in the early days of the church in Jerusalem, “great grace was upon them all,” Acts 4.33.

There have been many occasions over the last two thousand years when God has given to a people great grace. It happened repeatedly in the First Great Awakening. It happened repeatedly in the Second Great Awakening. It happened repeatedly in the Korean and in the Welsh Revivals of 1905. It happened on the Isle of Lewis. It is happening in numerous places around the world, such as in Nigeria, such as in China, such as in Vietnam and Cambodia, and it may even be happening, if reports turn out to be accurate, in Iran. I want our church to be a great church. When I say that, I mean that I want great grace from God to be upon us all. It is the profound desire of my heart to see that happening here at Calvary Road Baptist Church.

Note carefully that the messages I purpose to bring over the next few weeks will not be “do this” sermons, as though if we do this or embrace that concept we will be a great church. I know of no such guarantees found in the Bible. What I do believe in is what I will call correspondence, a correlation that exists when a church is blessed with great grace from God. Therefore, that is what I will address, those realities that are linked to and correspond with God’s great grace in a congregation.

My message is titled, “To Be A Great Church We Must Have A Great God.” I am not suggesting that we set as our goal to become a great church, and embrace the notion that we have a great God in order to become a great church. Not at all. What I am declaring in no uncertain terms is that a great church, a church upon which great grace from God has been bestowed, is a church whose God is great. Is God great? These are more than just words. I understand the word great to refer to big, to powerful, to majestic, to glorious in every way, and to superior in His virtues to the nth degree. Understood in this way, do you embrace the notion that God is great?

If a great church is a church with a great God, as I have described the concept for you, then it should be understood that since a church is comprised of people, the individuals comprising the church must have a great God. Sir, do you have a great God? That is the important question for you to contemplate this morning. Why don’t we ponder three considerations related to God’s greatness before you answer that question for yourself?

 

First, CONSIDER THE GREATNESS OF GOD

 

Allow me to quickly read a few of the many verses that speak directly to the greatness of God:

 

Deuteronomy 10.17:     “For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward.”

 

Nehemiah 1.5:    “. . . I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments.”

 

Nehemiah 4.14:   “And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”

 

Nehemiah 9.32:   “Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day.”

 

Job 36.26:   “Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out.

 

Psalm 47.2:   “For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.”

 

Psalm 48.1-2:   “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.”

 

Psalm 77.13:   “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?

 

Psalm 86.10:   “For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.”

 

Psalm 95.3:   “For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”

 

Psalm 96.4:   “For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods.”

 

Psalm 135.5:   “For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.”

 

Psalm 145.3:   “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.”

 

Psalm 147.5:   “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.”

 

Proverbs 26.10:   “The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.”

 

Isaiah 12.6:    “Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.”

 

Jeremiah 10.6:    “Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.”

 

Jeremiah 32.18:   “Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the LORD of hosts, is his name.”

 

Titus 2.13:    “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

 

Many verses, I know. However, they form a bedrock foundation for my comments about the greatness of God, in two parts:

Part #1 has to do with God’s objective greatness. By objective, I refer to facts, to reality, to truths about God that are not subject to opinion. First, God is great in His essence. First, there is spirituality. God is a spirit and not comprised of material substance in any way.[1] He is a person, possessing intellect, sensibility, and will. He is alive. He is invisible. He is also immaterial and incorporeal.[2] Next, God in His essence is self-existent. That is, it is His very nature to exist, as His words to Moses from the burning bush suggest: “I am that I am.”[3] Third, God is immense, which is to say that He is infinite in size.[4] Since God created the time-space-matter continuum of observable reality, He is actually greater than this physical universe in which we live and is not in any way not present throughout His creation. Four, God is eternal. Being the Creator of the time-space-matter continuum, He is the cause of time, and is Himself outside of time. In the Bible, He is said to be “the eternal God,” to be the One who “inhabiteth eternity,” and to be the only one who has immortality.”[5] God is not only great by reason of His essence; He is also great by reason of His attributes. Attributes speak to the qualities of God, which I shall list in two groups, His non-moral attributes, and His moral attributes: When referring to God’s non-moral attributes, I can list four: First, God is omnipresent, meaning He is everywhere present, which is a wonderful comfort to the believer. Next, God is omniscient, meaning He knows everything, including His comprehension of the future as well as the present, and every combination of possible outcomes that might be. Third, God is omnipotent, meaning that He is not only the most powerful of all beings, but that He is the possessor of all existing might and of all existing power. There is no might and there is no power that does not ultimately originate from Him. Fourth, God is immutable. Immutability has to do with God being unchangeable. Being perfect, there is neither need nor room for improvement with God: “I am the LORD, I change not.”[6] God’s moral attributes have to do with moral qualities. First, there is holiness, that attribute by which God wanted to be especially known in Old Testament times.[7] Holiness is what separates God from moral evil and sin. Next, there is righteousness and justice, which is that quality of God’s holy nature that is seen in the treatment of His creatures. Third, there is God’s goodness, reflected in the fact that God is love, that God is benevolent, that God is merciful, and that God is gracious. The final moral attribute of God is His truthfulness. As Paul stated to Titus, in 1.2 of that epistle: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” Therefore, we see that when the facts about God are considered, it is objectively true that He is great.

However, there is another way of seeing God’s greatness, which is by comparing the incomparable One to other so-called gods. This is Part #2 of our consideration of God’s greatness: Let me begin by saying that God is comparatively great because there is no god to compare Him to. In fact, He is the one true and living God, unique as a being, as these verses establish:

 

Isaiah 44.6:    “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.”

 

Isaiah 44.8:    “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”

 

Isaiah 45.5:    “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.”

 

Isaiah 45.6:    “That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.”

 

Being the only true God, eternal, self-existent, all-powerful, etc., He must be great. However, even when He is compared with the fictional gods of the false religions of this world, He is recognized to be great. Consider four comparisons:

When the God of the Bible is compared with the god of Hinduism, He is seen to be great. This is for several reasons: First, Hinduism embraces the notion of millions of gods. Second, Hinduism embraces the concept of pantheism, making no meaningful distinction between gods and the material universe in which we live. Add to that the insufferable caste system of Hinduism, and the Hindu practice of burning living wives alive on their husband’s funeral pyres before British colonialists outlawed it, and you can easily see why God is greater than any Hindu conception of gods.

When God is compared with the Buddhist conception of God, He is again seen to be great. Buddhism is essentially an atheistic religion that believes in an endless cycle of reincarnation and bondage to a deterministic notion called karma. Buddhism has no notion of a personal God, and no grasp of any loving and benevolent relationship being possible between a god and man. Millions pray to a cross-legged fat man with a ruby in his navel who betrayed his marriage vows, by abandoning his wife and baby to “find himself.” This is Buddhism. God is obviously great by comparison.

When the God of the Bible is compared to the Allah of Islam, God is obviously greater than Allah. Why so? Allah is an invention, existing before Mohammed’s birth as the name of an Arab moon god. As well, Allah is said to possess many characteristics in Islam, but here are three ways in which he falls short of the God of the Bible: First, God is love, something that is nowhere stated of Allah in Islam’s sacred texts. Second, God is gracious, providing for the salvation of sinners apart from works of righteousness, while Allah demands good deeds to curry his favor. Third, the God of the Bible has a Son, the Savior, Jesus Christ. Muslims vehemently insist Allah has no son. I agree. It is their loss, for it shows Allah for what he really is, a counterfeit claimant to the throne of God, who has provided no sin-bearer to pay the penalty for our sins.

Finally, when compared to the god of materialism, God is great. In fact, though they deny there is such a thing as God, and claim there is nothing beyond the material, materialists such as communists, humanists, environmentalists, and others of their ilk, they do have a god of sorts. It is what they describe as the evolutionary process; a mindless mechanism that they claim explains everything about life on earth. However, it does not explain the big bang, how the very first effect could have occurred without any cause. It does not explain why they ignore the Second Law of Thermodynamics, that for evolution to proceed as they explain it would have to proceed against the observed patterns of increased randomness and disorder seen by science in the universe. However, most importantly, it does not explain the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, a historical event with such serious attestation only the most belligerent opponents of the historical record refuse to admit it. God compared to no god is obviously great. However, God who raised Jesus from the dead, in the face of opponents who say such a thing cannot happen, is even more obviously great. You would think a God like this, who is objectively great and who is comparatively great, is a God who would be thought trustworthy, which brings me to my second main point.

 

Next, CONSIDER OWNING GOD AS YOUR OWN

 

It is one thing to admit the God of the Bible is great. It is quite another thing to embrace the God of the Bible as your own God. It is one thing to admit to facts that are presented, while it is quite another thing to assimilate those truths and so make it part of your being, essential to your existence. To phrase it another way, it is one thing to sing “God reigns,” but quite another thing to sing (and to mean) “My God reigns.”

Do you own God as your God? Do you acknowledge Him as your Creator and Sustainer? Psalm 100.3 reads, “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

Do you own Him as your sovereign ruler and the great Object of your worship? Psalm 72.11 informs us that there will come a day when “all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.” Must you wait until that terrible day, or will you fall down before Him now, voluntarily owning Him to be your God?

Hebrews 12.28 encourages us, “let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” If God is your God, then His cause is your cause. What will you do to advance His cause, your cause? Will you do what the early Christians did? They gave their time, their talent, and their treasure to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

What about your will? Knowing that God is a spirit, we claim that He is also a person, with intellect, sensibility, and will. Unlike the impersonal gods of many false religions, one cannot worship and serve God without conforming your will to His will, since He being holy and we being sinful do not have wills that align. Will you yield your will to the will of God? You must to own God as your God.

 

Finally, CONSIDER BEING OWNED OF GOD AS HIS OWN

 

Do we not acknowledge that God is great? Sure we do. Whether you consider Him objectively or comparatively, in absolute terms or compared with other so-called gods, the God of the Bible is truly great. Reasonable and thinking men endorse the notion that God is great. As well, there is owning God as your own. Who would not want to own the Creator and Sustainer of all things as his own? Who would not admit to the propriety of bowing before Him as the sovereign ruler and proper Object of worship? Finally, it is admitted by thinking people that the lesser gives to the greater in every arena, therefore, we as His creatures should find it only right and fitting to give Him of our time, of our treasure, and of our talent. He is the only Being who exists to have an absolute claim on our wills. Who would deny that?

Admittedly, there is a difference between realizing and even voicing God’s greatness, seeking to own Him as your own, and being owned by Him as His own. After all, there are a billion people in the world who claim to be Christians, who profess allegiance of some kind and to some degree to the God of the Bible. They say He is great and they want to own Him as their great God. However, what can be said about being owned of God as His own?

We know from both the Old and New Testaments that before the coming of Christ, great clarity existed concerning who was owned of God as His own. As the Apostle Paul reminds the Christians in Ephesus, there were those who were part of the commonwealth of Israel and those who were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, those who had received the covenants of promise and those who were strangers from the covenants of promise, those who had hope and those without hope, those with God and those who were without God in the world.[8]

Though both Jeremiah and Ezekiel foresaw it, the Lord Jesus Christ introduced the notion of the new birth to Nicodemus in John chapter three, when He said, “Ye must be born again.”[9] Later on, the Apostle Paul remarked about being adopted. Whether it is known as regeneration, the new birth, being born again, or being adopted, what is referred to is an event wrought by God whereby someone becomes a member of the family of God. Are you a member of the family of God? If you are, you will go to heaven when you leave this life. If you are not, you will go to Hell when you leave this life. As with the Jewish people and the covenants and promises God made to Abraham, it all has to do with being owned of God as His own. If you are in the family of God, God is your heavenly Father. If you are not in the family of God, you are God’s enemy.

Moving from a consideration of the covenant people to a consideration of the family of God, let us now distinguish between the family of God and the church of God. The phrase “church of God” is found eight times in the New Testament, each time coming from the Apostle Paul. The church of God is not the same as the family of God, despite a great deal of Protestant confusion surrounding the topic. If you come to Christ by faith and are saved, you become a member of the family of God. If you are a Christian who follows the Lord in believer baptism, you become a member of this church, a church of God.

Each of these three kinds of relationships with God found in the Bible speaks of some aspect of God’s ownership of someone as His own. With each aspect of God’s ownership come different duties, obligations, and responsibilities. The covenant people of God were give the rite of circumcision and, until Christ fulfilled it, the Mosaic Law to live by. The family of God, believers in Christ, have the duties and obligations associated with life and fruit bearing. The member of the church of God, however, has even more duties and obligations than Christians have, because we are in a church relationship with Jesus Christ as our head and the Great Commission to make disciples as our charge.

 

To be a great church we must have a great God. To be sure, God is great. He is not only objectively great, but He is also comparatively great. Who of all the gods of the various religions of the world can compare to the God of the Bible? Beyond the bare admission of those glorious realities, however, there are other considerations arising from the personality of God and the personalities of human beings, made in His image and after His likeness. Just as there is a difference between a car and my car, a house and my house, a wife and my wife, a child and my child, so there is a difference between God being great and my God being great.

He is my God when I bow to Him as my Creator and Sustainer, when I yield to Him as my Sovereign and Object of my worship, and when I give to him of my resources (my time, my talent, and my treasure). He is my God when I consciously surrender my will to Him to obey and glorify Him.

However, there is yet another consideration of my great God. To be sure, He is great whether I admit it or not. All the more thrilling to me is my ownership of God as my God, when my God is great. However, the pinnacle is when you are owned of God as His own. It is one thing to say “My God,” while it is something else entirely for God to say, “My servant,” “My friend,” or “My child.”

Great churches, or churches with great grace bestowed upon them, are congregations who know God is great, who consciously own God as their own, and are owned of God as His own.

Let us see, this morning, if God bestows great grace upon us, as evidenced by our willingness to live for Him.



[1] John 4.24

[2] See Henry Clarence Thiesen, Introductory Lectures In Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949), pages 119-121 and Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology Volume I, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. Edition), pages 376-385.

[3] Exodus 3.14

[4] 1 Kings 8.27; 2 Chronicles 2.6; Jeremiah 23.24; Psalm 139.7ff; Isaiah 66.1; Acts 17.28

[5] Genesis 21.33; Isaiah 57.15; 1 Timothy 6.18

[6] Malachi 3.6

[7] Leviticus 11.44-45; Joshua 24.19; 1 Samuel 6.20; Psalm 22.3; Isaiah 40.23; Ezekiel 39.7; Habakkuk 1.12

[8] Ephesians 2.12

[9] John 3.7



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org