5 Amazing Identity Points in God (part 1)

In Isaiah 43 we find five amazing identity points in God.

#1- God is personal: “I have called you by name.”  Isaiah 43:1

When we apply that identity point to us it builds confidence.  “Do not fear.”  The opposite of fear is confidence.  When you’re gripped by His personal interest in you, you can know with certainty that you are not who you’re résumé, your performance, your friends or enemies say you are.  Instead you accept that you are who God says you are.

#2- God is present: “I will be with you.”  Isaiah 43:2

God doesn’t need a telescope to see you and your needs.  He’s not watching from a distance.  His with you–especially in the hard times.

The application of that identity point is that, “I am strong.”  Why does God allow hardship?  To show us how strong we can be IN HIM.

Human strength is an illusion.  God uses hardships and painful circumstances to teach us how badly we really need Him.

And because Christ strengthens me, I can persevere.  Nothing is more essential to success in the Christian life than perseverance.  Faith gets you started but perseverance keeps you going.

A Christianity Worth Believing In

In 2008 I finished the book “True Story” by James Choung.  Great book for our day and age.  If you’ve been a Christian for a long time then you’ve probably heard and seen the “Bridge Illustration.”  I know it by heart and still use it today.  It’s convincing and has helped many people come to faith.  But I always felt uncomfortable about it.  It seemed trite and “too easy.”  That’s where Choung’s work comes in handy.  Without denigrating past attempts to explain the gospel in easy terms, Choung finds a new way for a new generation to explain it visually.  I used it in worship one Sunday…but here’s his version below.

What is the Purpose of the Law in the Bible?

Before we get to the answer we need to cover some basics: If I give you something because of what I promised, it is not because of your performance. If I give you something because of what you’ve done, it is not because of my promise. Paul is adamant in Galatians: either something comes by GRACE or WORKS; either it comes because of the giver’s promise or the receiver’s performance.

A gift-promise needs only to be believed to be received, but a law-wage must be obeyed to be received.

The promise by God to Abram is a covenantal promise and it is a covenant that relies in no way on Abram, but only on God.

Therefore, the law of Moses must have a different purpose!

As soon as redemption or salvation becomes based on performance, it can no longer be a free gift.

It is common for believers to begin their faith journey with Christ looking beyond themselves at “Christ…clearly…crucified” (Galatians 3:1), relying on God’s promise that Christ has taken our curse and blessed us. But as we journey, it is tempting and easy to look within ourselves at our “human effort” (3:3), resting in our own performance to give us the confidence of God’s acceptance. Doing this makes us radically insecure–it cuts away our assurance and prompts us to despair or get prideful.

So what is the purpose of the law then? Galatians 3:19…it was “added because of transgressions,” until Christ came. The law did not come to tell us about salvation, but about sin. Its main purpose is to show us our problem: we are law-breakers.

The law was never intended to “impart life” (3:21). The law makes us realize how morally helpless we are. We are not simply sinners, but prisoners of sin, helpless to free or cure ourselves.

The law has the power to show us we are not righteous; but it cannot give us the power to be righteous.

The law does its work to lead us toward recognition of our need for salvation by grace through Christ.

The law can no longer be viewed as a system of salvation. It no longer forces obedience through coercion and fear. When we grasp salvation-by-promise, our hearts are filled with gratitude and a desire to please and be like our Savior. The way to do that is through obeying the law! When we come to the law motivated by gratitude, we are better in our obedience to the law than we were when we thought obedience saved us.

Why?

Grateful joy is a motive that leads to more endurance in obedience than fearful compliance. Once we understood salvation by promise, we don’t obey God any longer for our sake, by using the law-salvation system to get things from God. We now obey God for His sake.

Law and grace work together in salvation. Everyone wants joy and acceptance but won’t admit the reality and severity of their sin. They will not allow the law to search and analyze their hearts. But unless we see how profoundly sinful we are, the message of salvation will not liberate and create joy.

In other words, unless we know how big our debt is, we can’t have any idea how big Christ’s payment cost Him. If we don’t realize how bad we are, the idea of grace will seem useless and never change us.

The law shows us as we really are. So the law points us to Christ as he really is: SAVIOR…the One who obeyed the law on our behalf and died in our place so we might receive the promise.

Science Versus Religion?

Albert Einstein said, “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

I know the history of the rift between science and religion.  But that’s history.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Most Christians that I know don’t want to live in the middle ages.  We benefit immensely from science.  But when science has appeared to replace God, Christians have reacted.  Some overreacted.  That’s a shame.

Most scientists I know are either Christians or at least theists.  What?  I thought scientists were godless atheists whose idol was science?  Not in my experience.  There are a couple of blowhards but they don’t appear to be the majority.  In fact, most of the scientists I’m acquainted with that are Christians have had their faith in God renewed by their scientific knowledge.

Christians need not fear true science.  It doesn’t seek to replace God, nor could it if it tried.  Sometimes humans (not necessarily scientists) have made it into their god, but what haven’t we done that with?

Scientists need not fear authentic Christians.  They don’t hate science.  We couldn’t live without it’s foundations and applications.  Sometimes Christians have made it into their scapegoat, but what haven’t we done that with?

5 Ways We Know God is Igniting our Worship with Himself

Isaiah 58 describes 5 different ways we know God is igniting our worship with Himself:

1. Light: “Then your light will break out like the dawn (vs. 8).”  What is that?  Not sure.  But when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, his face glowed (Exodus 34:29).  When Jesus was transfigured before the disciples, his face shone like the sun (Matthew 17:2).  How appropriate then that Christ promises in Matthew 13:43 that “The righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father.”  Isaiah says that when God shows up in your life, you will shine like the sun coming up after a long dark night.  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).”

2. Recovery: “And your recovery will speedily spring forth (vs. 8).”  “Recovery” means wholeness or health.  In other words, worship should be healing, rejuvenating, refreshing.  If it is then you know God is manifestly present.

3. Righteousness: “and your righteousness will go before you (vs. 8).”  When God shows up in response to our worship, we have the power to conquer that thing that keeps us down.

4. Protection: “The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard (vs. 8).”

5. Full provision: “Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ (vs. 9).”

Augustine said that our hearts are restless until they find rest in God.

Clean on the inside +compassion on the outside = God in your midst

We are Desensitized to Sin and Human Suffering

Of the 1,189 chapters in the Bible, 250 contain the words of the prophets. That’s over 20%, near 25%. Half of what they say denounces SIN and the other half condemns those who see human SUFFERING and do nothing about it.

Yet events that horrified those same prophets take place in our world every day, and we’re immune to them. Like wearing a watch, we get used to it and after awhile we don’t even notice it.

But the prophets noticed! They never became desensitized to sin or human suffering.