Manhood in light of a real, intentional, and loving God

I ended the last post with this statement, attempting to clarify what the God of the Bible is like in contrast to the gods of this world, highlighting 6 things about the Triune God.

However, if I believe in the God of Christianity, the Triune God, I have a God that is altogether different.  He is real (a). He created with intentionality (2). He created not out of need but out of love (3). He created and then didn’t run away but remains active in the world (4).  He takes all responsibility for what has been, what is, and what will be (5). And if I’ve been made in His image (6) – to do his works, think his thoughts, and represent Him in the world – that makes all the difference.

Now, I want to take a few minutes to unpack that.  Today’s post will cover 3, then the next post will cover 3.

He is real

I love what Glen Scrivener says about this.  There are 4 answers to the question, “What was there before the beginning?”  Scrivener argues that every worldview can be classified into 4 categories based on how they answer that question.  First, some answer the question with “nothing.”

If that’s true, then what is the consequence for humanity.  We’re an accident. We’re alone in the universe, just happy that some random molecules came together to form our little planet and our little lives.  We came from nothing and are returning to nothing, so what’s the point of manhood? Nothing.

The second answer is, “Chaos.”  Like Buddhists or Gnostists, something bad happened (we’re often not sure what) in the “cosmos,” and we’re the result.  We’re not just “nothing,” we’re the excrement of the Universe. It burped us out. So, men, life is chaos, and nothing really matters.  Do whatever you can to escape chaos, even if that means infidelity or abandoning your family.

The third answer is, “Power.”  Either power itself (big-bang) or an all powerful, solitary deity (the god of Islam or the Titans) caused us.  So, what’s the point of life? Power! Gaining power. Survival of the fittest. Creating a following of slaves and servants.  So, men, feel free to conquer and oppress because that’s what life is all about.

But, the Christian answer is different from every other answer.  Before creation, Christians argue, there was love. There was a Father loving His Son, in fellowship with the Spirit.  We take a sneak peek into Heaven in John 17. We hear God the Son, that’s Jesus, speaking to God the Father. Listen to what they were doing before creation:

17.5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

17.24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

The Triune God, the Christian God, Father, Son, and Spirit were sharing glory with one another before creation.  They were loving one another before the foundation of the world. The were giving to and receiving from each other.  They were enjoying each other. Isn’t that beautiful?! What does that mean for life? That it is the outflow of love, which we’ll look at in a moment.  And for men, it means that whatever characteristics we have, if we don’t have love, then we are not like God, and we are failing at the entire purpose of life.

He created with intentionality

Creation wasn’t a surprise.  It also wasn’t just thrown together like a kindergarten art project.  No, the all-wise God – Father, Son, and Spirit – working in tandem, together created the world and said afterwards, “It is very good.”  The heavens declare the glory of the Lord. The beauty of creation show his power and wisdom. He is intentional, and mankind is meant to live with intentionality within His creation and purposes.

He created out of love, not out of need

God wasn’t lonely before creation.  We’ve already seen that. He also didn’t need people to serve him, to meet his needs.  No, He was just fine without humanity, without creation. So, why did He create? The great theologians of the Church over the centuries all agree, Father, Son, and Spirit created as an overflow of the love they already experienced together.  They had so much love, that they wanted to create a people to whom they could further give their love. A people to fellowship in loving communion with, just like what they already had.

Here’s how Jonathan Edwards put it:  The spouse of the Son of God, the Lamb’s wife (the Church) is the reason for which all of the universe was made…God created the world for His Son, that He might prepare a bride for Him to bestow His love upon; so that the mutual joys between this bride and bridegroom are the purpose of the creation.

Isn’t that awesome!  And so, if that’s the purpose for God’s work, for God’s activity, for God’s leadership over the new world he has made, then that means we men already know the purpose for our own work, activity, and leadership.  Not to be served, but to serve. Not to have our needs met, but to meet the needs of others. Not to acquire and hoard, but to give and pour out.

Come back for the next post when we’ll cover the other 3 points!

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What does Jesus think/feel about you?

That’s a $1 Billion Dollar Question (actually, an eternal question!).  What does Jesus (and therefore the Father!) think/feel about you?  Lots of ways to answer this, but I’m going to totally steal an answer from 2 other people.  The answer will come from Thomas Goodwin, who I’ll introduce below.  But it will come through Mike Reeves who introduced me to Goodwin, borrowing many of his words and more of his ideas below.  So, if anything sounds great, it’s Reeves.  If not, it’s me.

So, Thomas Goodwin. What do you need to know about Goodwin? Well, he was born in the year 1600, three years before the death of Queen Elizabeth. He grew up in a home of committed believers, he spent some of his younger years “making merry” as they use to say and literally seeking to become a celebrity preacher, and then something scary happened. He became REALLY religious.

He later said that, at this time, his preaching was a ministry of battering consciences. He’d use the Word of God to mercilessly beat up the congregation. And internally, he was experiencing the same thing. He began to fear that he wasn’t truly born again, and for 7 years, he was looking inside for some sign of grace on his life. Seven years!!!

SO, in Goodwin, we have someone with some experience in doubting the goodness of God.  Finally, he had an old pastor pull him aside and said, “Don’t trust anything in yourself, whether performance or feelings. Look out and rest on Christ alone.” And that was the turning point. Seeing Christ clearly and rightly made all the difference.

Well, eventually he wrote a little book called The Heart of Christ in Heaven Unto Sinners on Earth, and he wrote this, he said, because he found so many Christians who, like himself, struggled to know who God was and trust his goodness towards them.

So, he hoped the book would, “take our hands, and lay them upon Christ’s breast, and let us feel how his heart beats and his bowels yearn towards us, even now he is in glory.” That he might “hearten and encourage believers to come more boldly unto the throne of grace, unto such a Saviour and High Priest, when they shall know how sweetly and tenderly his heart is inclined towards them.”

We’re going to have Goodwin guide us through 3 scenes that will unpack Christ’s heart for us.

First, in the upper room (John 13-17).

John 13.1-5 – Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

FIRST, notice that he knew he was going away and that all things had been given to him by the Father, and yet his thoughts were on his disciples. Instead of (or perhaps BECAUSE of) thinking of the glory he’s headed back to, He washes their feet…he does this to show them how he is and will be towards them, even when he’s gone.

SECOND, notice also that he already knew they would betray him. He already knew…yet, he washed their feet and loved them to the end.

Really, this whole section of John from chapter 13-17, he is preparing them for his departure. He’s taking pains to make sure they know his heart. That they know he’s arranged everything so that they will be cared for.

At one point, he says, “I will not leave you as orphans,” And a major part of that is that he promises to send the Holy Spirit to them…Look at John 16.7, “it is to your advantage that I go away.” It’s good for you. Why, because the Spirit will be a better helper for you in the days ahead.

Goodwin riffs on this whole section from chapter 14-16 to unpack in a beautiful way, what Jesus says the Spirit will do in His place…

All the comfort he shall speak to you all that while will be but from the expression of my heart towards you…he will tell you nothing but stories of my love. He will tell you that there is as true a dearness of affection in me towards you, as is between my Father and me and that it is as impossible to take off my heart from you, as to take my Father’s from me, or mine from my Father.

Second, after the resurrection

The first people to encountering the risen Christ weren’t his disciples. Some women go to the tomb, and Mary encounters Jesus, and he gives her a message for his disciples…

Now, what would you say to those no good, spineless, traitors? Those men who deserted you in your hour of need. Who, at the very least need to show some major gratitude for what you’ve just done for them?

What does Jesus call them in John 20.17 ? – “go, to my BROTHERS”  (reminds us of Hebrews 2.11) and what message does he send them? In 20.17 – “I ascend to My Father and YOUR Father…to my God and YOUR God!”  They are still his brothers and the Father still belongs to them!  Despite what they’ve done.

And 2 verses later, he appears to them, and what does he say? Does he rebuke them? Chide them? Rip into ‘em really good? No, in John 20.19 he says “Peace be with you!” And he breathes on them and says, “receive the Holy Spirit.”

And in all this time, he never brings up the past. He never scolds them or reprimands them for their behavior before the Cross.

Goodwin notes that during this time: NO SIN OF THEIRS TROUBLED HIM BUT THEIR UNBELIEF.  Isn’t that amazing.

Well, after 40 days with them, he is leaving, ascending into Heaven. What’s the last thing he does as he is leaving…even as he is ascending into the sky: Luke 24.50-51 says 50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

Third, seated at the right hand of the Father

-So, once in glory, He pours out the Spirit

-Then, he begins a ministry of interceding for his people, and this is where we want to turn our attention to the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 7.25 says, “He always lives to make intercession for us.”

I know people that live for college football. Or who say “I live for Doctor Who. I know the actors, I follow their lives, I watch the shows, I have the action figures. I LIIIIIIIIIVE for Doctor Who.”

Friends, Jesus lives for you. He EVER lives to intercede for you.

And a major theme through Hebrews is this: Jesus became the perfect high priest for us THROUGH suffering for us. A high priest comes to God on behalf of the people. And if you’re going to represent broken, suffering, hurting people…well, you have to be broken, to suffer, to hurt.

And Goodwin wants to draw out attention to, “two things, in particular, that stir Jesus’ compassion for us as our High Priest: our afflictions and – astonishingly – our sins.”

Hebrews 4.15 says He can sympathize with our weakness, that is, our suffering and all that is hard in this life.  All things that show how WEAK we are.

What about you?  Is your suffering terrible?  Have you had more than you can bear?   We’ve struggled with sin, hurt, heartache and loss.  And maybe you’re wondering, “Did he really suffer everything as I have? Did he experience betrayal? Excruciating Pain? Did he ever weep over the grave of a dear friend? Injustice? Loss of family?  The answer to all of those is YES!  What about Sin…did he suffer under sin?  Not his own…but yours and mine.  He was CRUSHED under it.

But, it’s not only our suffering and affliction that moves him…it’s also our sin. Look at Hebrews 5.2 – He can deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward (literally…those out of the way), that is, those in sin!  See what Goodwin says…

“your very sins move him to pity more than to anger… yea, his pity is increased the more towards you, even as the heart of a father is to a child that hath some loathsome disease… his hatred shall all fall, and that only upon the sin, to free you of it by its ruin and destruction, but his bowels shall be the more drawn out to you; and this as much when you lie under sin as under any other affliction. Therefore fear not, ‘What shall separate us from Christ’s love?’” TG

Mike Reeves comments on this passage by saying:

Jesus’ first reaction when you sin is pity. Where you would run from Him in guilt, He would run to you in grace. It makes all the difference when your heart feels cold. Right then in your very coldness, you can know it is your joylessness that stirs His compassion. In our guilt we’d never want to face up to some cold, pitiless God. But the tender kindness of Christ woos us.

Isn’t that amazing. Isn’t Christ good to us? And remember…the heart of Christ is the expressed image of the heart of his Father. This is our Father’s love being shown through our Savior Christ.

This is what transformed Goodwin’s life, and one of the best places to see this is to read his final words. Listen to this, these are the words of a man who for 7 years wrestled over whether he could be SURE of his salvation, SURE of God’s love for him.

I am going to the three Persons, with whom I have had communion…I shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, all my lusts and corruptions I shall be rid of, which I could not be here; I could not have imagined I should ever have had such a measure of faith in this hour; no, I could never have imagined it. My bow abides in strength. Is Christ divided? No, I have the whole of his righteousness. Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave himself for me. Christ cannot love me better than he does; I think I cannot love Christ better than I do. I’m swallowed up in God.

Isn’t that amazing? The assurance we have in His love! This is our God! So that brings us back to the beginning: how does knowing all this transform prayer? Well, where to start?!?!?! In our final post, we’ll compare our God, the Triune, true and living God, to the god of the Koran that we looked at a few posts back.

Does Jesus Rescue God?

We saw in our previous posts in this series (1, 2, 3) that what we believe about God, his character, his heart towards us, shapes everything else in our life and faith.  In this post, because of that, let’s draw our eyes towards the Lord and see what He is really like. Let’s see what he thinks about you. Is He just putting up with us, tolerating us?  Is he just watching from Heaven, waiting to jump on us after every little mistake? Let’s find out.

How do we know what God is like? John 1:18 tells us: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” So, how do we know what God the Father is like? Jesus reveals Him! We cannot know God apart from Jesus. He is the exact representation of His nature. That is a very important point for us.

That means there is not some unkind, ugly god lurking in the dark somewhere who is only holding back his hatred for us because of Jesus. No! God is, as I first heard from Glen Scrivener, “Jesus-shaped” from first to last. The famous poet, Lord Byron once said, “If God’s not like Jesus, He should be!” But, HE IS! That’s why Jesus has said, “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father,” meaning you know what the Father is like because you see what I’m like. I’m the image of the invisible God. I only do what I see the Father doing…so when Jesus is loving us, he’s just doing what the Father is doing! He doesn’t have to rescue a cantankerous God…no, the Father is all loving!  I think this is where we get into a lot of trouble…

If you try to imagine God without Jesus, you are thinking of an idol. LET ME SAY THAT AGAIN. If you try to imagine God without Jesus, you are thinking of an idol. Michael Ramsey, former archbishop of Canterbury, put it this way, “God is Christlike, and in Him there is no unchristlikeness at all.”  God is Jesus-shaped!  In fact, let’s start to use that title “God” a lot less.  Instead, let’s talk about our loving Father and our brother and husband, Jesus, who has come to save us, and the Holy Spirit who makes all of the Father’s promises, which are YES in Jesus, true for us!

So, if we want to know what the Father thinks of us, and how he feels about us, how he is towards…we look to Jesus.  And that’s just what we’re going to do in the next post.