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-Me on oil rig, 1982, catwalk.
- That didn’t happen like you think it did (things like that don’t happen)
- We live in a world that is an open system (vs closed)…God can and does interact with his creation.
- Some questions if you believe b
Why did God do that?
-Because it didn’t fit his purposes for me to die in 1982 (other reasons as well)
Why doesn’t he do that (something like it for everyone)?
-I assume it doesn’t fit his purposes in those situations probably for many different and complex reasons.
Different paths diverge from there:
- My choices don’t matter (God is in control)
- God is not in final control (which would mean something else ultimately is, us, chance)
- God is in control, my choices matter (how this works is a mystery)
I believe C…from Scripture and from personal experience.
It is a mystery not a contradiction…the fact that God is in control and my choices (including my prayers) matter…is above my ability to fully understand, but not my ability to believe and experience.
I know that God kept me from falling that night and that he used unusual means to do so.
But God’s purposes are revealed in more than extreme examples like the one I gave.
His purposes are in effect in every part of our lives…all of time and space are about his purposes.
This is sometimes called “Providence”
It’s a word used to describe God’s ongoing relationship to his creation
It protects us from some common errors related to God and the universe…like
- Deism: The world is God’s watch that he made, wound, and then left to run down.
-He has moved on to other things.
- Chance: All that exists is the product of randomness and time.
Everything is a roll of the cosmic dice…but there is no one to roll the dice.
- Fate: This is the superstitious version of Chance.
It’s for people who can’t stomach either a personal God or a completely random and undirected universe.
“Fate” is a way to find purpose in life without having any accountability for your life.
“It was meant to be” “Things happen for a purpose”…without allegiance or commitment to the one who has purposes.
-We even have a Christmas song that honors “fate.”
“Through the years we’ll always be together, if the fates allow.” (I’ll be home for Christmas)
But Providence is defined like this:
God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he keeps them in existence, cooperates with created things in every action and he directs all things to fulfill his purposes.
Three parts of that definition.
- God preserves all things.
All things exist because God continually causes them to exist.
Hebrews 1:3 “Christ is upholding the universe by his word of power.”
Used to describe the men who brought the paralyzed man on a bed to Jesus.
It is active, purposeful control.
Jesus is continually carrying all things along in the universe by his power.
Col. 1:17 In Christ “All things hold together”
Some of the early scientists (and modern ones) believed science was possible because God was engaged in the universe.
My experiment and experience will be true today and tomorrow…for me and for you.
Because the world is not random, God holds things in existence.
- God works in all things, using the way he has designed them to act as they do.
This is sometimes called “concurrence”
God works within the way he has designed the world, but he is active in it in an ongoing way.
Eph. 1:11 “God accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.”
He works within the world of weather and animals:
Ps. 148:8 “Fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfill his command”
Matt 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air, your heavenly father feeds them.”
He works within the world of cultures and nations:
Nebuchadnezzar forgot himself and said “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power for the glory of my majesty.
The words were still on his lips when God spoke judgment on him…for 7 years he lost his mind and lived like an animal.
Then at precisely the appointed time…his sanity was restored and he said…
Dan. 4:34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
Nebuchadnezzar made his choices…but God was ultimately directing the course of that (and all nations).
We are to see all aspects of our lives and all of the created world as being in his hands.
Jesus said to pray for daily bread (Matt. 6)…but we are also told to work diligently with our hands…there is no contradiction.
King David affirmed that God has planned our days before we are born (Ps. 139:16)…and yet David was held responsible for his actions.
So does it rain because evaporation becomes condensation becomes raindrops?
Or does it rain because God in his providence, sends the rain?
For the atheist…if it rains…there is no one to thank…it is a “rain machine” at work. That’s all.
But for me…I marvel at the design of an amazing system of recycling water and dispersing it…and I thank God for this rain on this day.
So God preserves all things, and he works in and through all things.
- For his Purposes
He works in all things towards his ultimate purpose.
Some struggle with how God could orchestrate so many details…it seems like just so much to keep track of.
The problem is in our imagination.
A big difference between you working on several different parts of a task at once to bring about a final result and God at work in everything to bring about a final results…is scale. (not just scale, but partly so)
Think about scale between two humans.
You can walk and talk and think and move your arms at the same time.
But if you suddenly found yourself in the body of an NFL quarterback and you had to process all he has to process in micro seconds…well, you would be on the ground with a large lineman on top of you in a micro second.
You can do some of what he can do, but he can do those things a lot better, and faster.
It is a matter of perspective…when we compare human to human, some can do things we could not come close to.
But we are talking about human to God comparison…all of space/time is before him.
So it’s not hard to imagine that God could make all things work for his purpose…not really…Impossible to fully comprehend.
Okay but why would he care about everything in the world…is he a micro manager?
No, micro managers are not effective because they try to hold on to more information and control than they can manage.
God has no such limitations…in addition, he doesn’t have just the power to deal with all the details, he has the heart to care about them.
That should be a comfort.
Matt 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
God is working all things together for his purposes (and the good of those who love him, who are called to his purposes).
Because we love him, we trust him…we want what he wants.
Analogy not reality:
-The Universe is not a part of God, like our bodies are part of us…but let’s use our bodies to help illustrate.
Let’s say you decide you want to run, so off you go.
As you are running…what is happening?
Are nerves transmitting current to muscles? Yes
Is personality (you) using will and thoughts to cause your legs to move? Yes.
It is not either or…it is both and.
But you don’t just want to run around…you want to run home…so off you go.
Running with a purpose.
If at any point you stop directing your legs to run, they will stop running.
So you have an ultimate purpose in directing your legs to run…get home.
And you continually “interact” with your legs to accomplish your ultimate purpose in running.
Again, its an imperfect analogy, all analogies are when you are talking about God…but you can get the picture.
Does it rain because evaporation turns into condensation turns into rain? Yes
Does it rain because God sends the rain? Yes
Do nations rise and fall because of cultural movements, the will of men? Yes
Do nations rise and fall because God causes them to do so? Yes
Is this mystery? Yes.
Is this really the way things are? Yes.
Week 2 of advent season…celebrating the coming of the Christ and looking forward to his return.
Last week we were in the gospel of John, this week the gospel of Matthew
We are going at God’s providence in:
Then our own lives.
- A GENEOLOGY:
Matthew 1:1 “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham”
That’s how Matthew begins his account of the good news…his Gospel.
Then he gives a list of names going back from Joseph(Jesus’ non-biological father) to Abraham
Genealogies were used for more than just historical facts…they were used to make a point about a person.
People are often interested in their ancestors to see if there was someone “important” there…someone of historical notoriety.
What if you hired someone to research your ancestry and they called and said:
“Hey I found out every single ancestor of yours, going back 200 years did absolutely nothing of note…except for the ones that did really terrible things.”
Probably wouldn’t post that online.
We want to be proud of our heritage
But Matthew wanted to show through genealogy the importance of Jesus…not his ancestors.
They already believed Abraham and David were important…Matthew wanted to show that ultimately Jesus did not derive importance from them…but they derived it from him.
Jesus was the son (in the lineage) of Israel’s greatest king David, who was the Son (in the lineage) of the founder(humanly speaking) of Israel, Abraham.
In addition he calls him “Jesus Christ”…Christ is the Greek equivalent to “Messiah” a well known and much looked forward to character in Jewish history.
So Jesus is the son of David, and Abraham…he is the Messiah…the savior.
He is the rightful heir to all of the messianic promises.
God directed the lineage of generations of people…and at the precise time and place…Jesus was born.
Gal. 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law
God’s providence in a genealogy
But this is not just a list of names…this is hundreds of years of people living, meeting, marrying, raising children dying…to get to Jesus, the Messiah.
Providence in genealogy
Let’s look at his providence in prophecy
- A PROPHECY
Matthew 1:18 “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about…”
- Mary was engaged to Joseph (A pledge to be married was legally binding and required a divorce)
-Before they came together (meaning before they had had sex) Mary was with Child through the Holy Spirit.
“Wait a minute Terry, this is a problem for “modern” people to believe.”
Why? And why just for modern people?
A virgin birth has always required a high view of God.
They didn’t know all of the details of childbirth in the first century.
But they knew how things worked and they knew a woman doesn’t get pregnant by herself.
It’s been a problem for everyone in every age, who didn’t have a high enough view of God.
It’s a problem if you start with a closed system where there is no possibility of an outside of space and time intervention.
If there is no one to keep you from falling off an oilrig, no one to care about the details of your life, and certainly no one to cause a virgin to become pregnant.
It’s not even a small problem if you start with God.
So whether the virgin birth is a problem intellectually depends on your starting point…if you start with God…it is just not a problem.
- Joseph being a man who wanted to honor God was faced with a dilemma:
- He did not think it right to marry her if she had been unfaithful (his faith would not allow it)
- He did not want to expose her to public disgrace
*Don’t think he was not heartbroken…he had to have been.
What he decided was to divorce her quietly
- Then God sent a messenger (the meaning of angel)…to deliver a supernatural message in a very natural way (a dream) to let Joseph in on what was going on.
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Matt. 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” — which means, “God with us.”
This prophecy was initially given in Is. 7:14
This was part of a prophetic word that was given to faithless Ahaz, King of Judah, over 800 years earlier that ultimately came to life in the Lord Jesus.
This is the Providence of God revealed in a prophecy.
Long before Jesus was born, his birth was declared.
I wouldn’t say “predicted” because that implies a sort of probability…but this was a surety.
Again, since God is not tied to space/time as we are…this is amazing to contemplate, but should not seem impossible by any means…he is God.
He can handle not just some details, but all details that ever have been or will be.
Laurence (Kim) Peek was a savant who was born with severe brain damage.
He could memorize things starting at the age of 16 months.
He could read a book in about an hour and remember almost everything he read.
He would read the left page (in a glance) with his left eye, and the right page with his right eye.
He could accurately recall the contents of over 12,000 books.
But he could not button his own shirt and had a below average IQ.
So this human, who needed help to live daily life…could “see” in an instant the contents of 12,000 books.
That is inconceivable for me, probably for you as well…but this is a mere man.
Sooner or later everyone who thinks about the Providence of God will come to a point where he or she will say “I don’t understand this…it is inconceivable.”
This can be troubling but it should not be surprising.
We are finite in our understanding; God is infinite in all of his ways.
So lets take a look at:
GOD’S PROVIDENCE, MY LIFE
- MACRO issues: We are dangerously close to war with N. Korea
-This has real implications for many people…maybe all of us.
What can you do with this fact and others like it?
Three most common approaches:
-Complain: complain about their president or ours?
-Disengage (avoid reading, thinking about this and other difficult realities)
What can you do in line with Providence?
- Pray: Because your choices (including prayer make a difference, and God, not Kings determines ultimate outcomes)
Prov. 21:1″The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”
1Tim. 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior
- Trust and be faithful with what God has put in front you:
*Jesus said we are to let our lights shine before men that they may see our good works and bring glory to God.
*Live and speak as those who understand the providence of God.
- MICRO ISSUES: The very personal and important issues in your own life.
-Health…mental and physical
How does belief in God’s providence impact behavior in these areas?
- Counteracts our tendency toward Passivity or rebellion: “It doesn’t matter what I do.”
-God will do what he wants to do regardless of my choices.
-This is wrong biblically and disastrous personally.
- Our believe in God’s providence should lead to behavior in line with faith.
-It is unlikely that you fully understand a combustion engine yet your lack of complete understanding did not keep you at home this morning.
-We do not have to fully understand God’s providence and the reality of our choices…to fully trust and obey him…and thereby experience him.
- We are responsible and God is sovereign
- Our actions and prayers have real results and do change the course of events.
Let me give you some choices to contemplate this Advent Season:
- Do not give in to fear, but trust in God.
*This is not easy, but it is possible…and it is reasonable…its not a escape from reality it is choice to live fully in it.
- Make the choices God has given you to make and trust God with the results.
*Be faithful…trust God with results.
*Walking on that catwalk 11pm in 1982…I was thinking about getting that task done and going back to my hotel room for the night.
There was nothing cosmic about the day…like every day that summer it smelled like grease and sounded like a bunch of crude unbelievers on an oilrig.
Nothing special about the place…tiny one gas station town in East Texas.
But God…who in the beginning, spoke space and time into existence…stopped me from walking off that Rig to a terrible end.
What if he had not? What if he does not someday keep me from mortal danger?
Rom. 14:8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
Okay, but what if I don’t die…but life becomes enormously difficult?
What if life IS enormously difficult?
I’ll tell you the Biblical answer…it is not an easy one, but it is a real one.
Heb. 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him… so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The right answer is to continually consider Jesus…so you will not lose heart.
If you have lost heart…then reconsider him.
You and I continually have diverging paths in front of us.
Will I walk in a world where everything is under the providential care and control of God?
Will I walk in a world that is not?
Of course, we do walk in a world that is under his providence…but the question is will we continually reorient to that world in our belief and our behavior?
Listen to what Paul wrote
1 Cor. 15:58 Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is never in vain.
You could not know your labor is never in vain…if you did not know that God is in ultimate control.
He will ensure that your labor is not in vain.
Rodney is going to sing a song that tells of the reality of our existence now…your efforts, your choices can sometimes feel like they are in vain.
This is because we live now under the curse…humanity is fallen, the ground is cursed because of our sin.
Our labor often feels like meaningless toil.
But it is not…Christ has come, Christ will come.
Christ is making all things new…now…heart by heart…choice by choice.
Consider the comfort and confidence of God’s providence as you listen to this song.