Category Archives: God
C. H. Spurgeon:
Let us repent heartily of every hard thought we have ever had of our God and Father. I am forced to look back upon some such sins of thought with much distress of mind. They have come from me in serious pain and depression of spirit; and now I pray the Lord of his great mercy to look at them as though I had never thought them, for I do heartily abhor them, and I loathe myself in his sight that I should ever have questioned his tender love and gracious care. If you have similarly transgressed, dear friends, in your dark nights of trouble, come now, and bow your heads, and pray the Lord to forgive his servants concerning this thing; for he is so good, so gracious, that it is a wanton cruelty to think of him as otherwise than overflowing with love.
In a culture where the loudest chatter over the topic of “faith” often happens in debates between theists and atheists/agnostics over the existence of God, and certainly helped along by a postmodern religious pluralism, the Christian faith suffers from dangerous generalizations. Faith, for example, can come to be defined as the mere ontological belief in the existence of God and nothing more. That God exists is certainly true, but we mustn’t stop here. Even the demons believe in God’s existence, but this truth only causes them to quiver off into the shadows.
At one point during the life and ministry of Christ a pair of blind men approached Jesus for healing. After approaching Him, Jesus asked the two blind men, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28-30). Yes, they said. And they were healed, healed because their faith expanded beyond a conviction of God’s existence. They trusted in Jesus’ sufficient power to heal their blindness.
In this brief account of two blind men, and from what I see elsewhere in scripture, biblical faith presupposes need. It presupposes my spiritual blindness. It presupposes that I understand the despair of my sinful condition. It presupposes that I understand God’s angry wrath that rests upon up and all sinners alike. It presupposes that I need One to become a curse for me. It presupposes that all my religious works to appease God constitute a pile of dirty laundry at the feet of His perfect holiness (Isaiah 64:6). I must come to a place of honesty about my helplessness. I need a Savior.
To believe that God exists is a great thing, but this is not the saving faith of the New Testament. Saving faith must also believe that God has initiated activity necessary for my good (Hebrews 11:6). Genuine saving faith anticipates the activity of God for me. And this is why saving faith must move beyond faith in an existing God, it must cling to a moving God. True faith trusts in the actions of God, looks for the coming hope, and rests in the Savior’s healing work on the cross. I need God to act for me, on behalf of me, upon me. I need Him to shine light into these spiritually blind eyes. I need Him to remove my guilt. I need Him to heal my spiritual blindness.
Do I believe Jesus is capable and sufficient to accomplish all this for me? The “yes” is my saving faith.
that won on the cross
and wins the world
is a love that is
and defined by
It is a love that flows out of the heart of a God who is
infinite in righteousness,
who loves justices as much as He loves goodness;
who blazes with a
love for Himself above all things.
He is Creator,
Beginning and End.
He is robed in a splendor
and eternal purity
that is blinding.
then bends down to whisper loves songs to His creatures.
-Timothy J. Stoner, The God Who Smokes: Scandalous Meditations on Faith (NavPress, 2008 ) p. 30.
In a sermon on John 3:16 (“God so loved, that he gave…”), Puritan Thomas Manton makes the following point on God’s indescribable love towards sinners in sending His Son:
“Love is at the bottom of all. We may give a reason of other things, but we cannot give a reason of his love, God showed his wisdom, power, justice, and holiness in our redemption by Christ. If you ask, Why he made so much ado about a worthless creature, raised out of the dust of the ground at first, and had now disordered himself, and could be of no use to him? We have an answer at hand, Because he loved us. If you continue to ask, But why did he love us? We have no other answer but because he loved us; for beyond the first rise of things we cannot go. And the same reason is given by Moses, Deuteronomy 7:7-8: ‘The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you…’ That is, in short, he loved you because he loved you. All came from his free and undeserved mercy; higher we cannot go in seeking after the causes of what is done for our salvation.”
-Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, 2:340-341.
The motive of God, as displayed in Scripture, is central to Reformed theology (i.e. Calvinism). God acts for the sake of His own glory. Does this make God a narcissist?
Much of what is written on blogs sinks quietly into the electronic void (sometimes that’s a good thing). I think it’s worth our time to pause here to listen carefully to this contemporary debate.
It all started last Monday.
Ben Witherington initiates (11.20.07)
The recent discussion was ignited by Bible scholar Ben Witherington, Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Asbury Theological Seminary. Witherington was reading Schriener’s new book (New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ) and came across Schriener’s thesis: “God magnifying himself through Jesus Christ by means of the Holy Spirit.”
Witherington took offense and wrote a critical blog post on Nov. 20th (“For God so loved Himself?” Is God a Narcissist?). In part he writes,
“There were various nuances and amplifications to the discussion, but the more one read, the more it appeared clear that God was being presented as a self-centered, self-referential being, whose basic motivation for what he does, including his motivation for saving people, is so that he might receive more glory. Even the sending of the Son and the work of the Spirit is said to be but a means to an end of God’s self-adulation and praise.”
Witherington defended his view of God as one who acts out of self-sacrifice for the good of others. God’s glory stems from His selflessness and sacrifice not his self-centeredness.
And Witherington ended his critique with a left hook.
“I suppose we should not be surprised that in a culture and age of narcissism, we would recreate God in our own self-centered image, but it is surprising when we find orthodox Christians, and even careful scholars doing this.”
With this one post, Witherington challenged centuries of Reformed theology and especially Jonathan Edwards. But his rifle also took dead aim at contemporary ministries of men like John Piper and Sam Storms.
Especially given Witherington’s scant exegetical basis for his arguments there were responses to be expected. And it didn’t take long for them to begin.
Denny Burk responds (11.21.07)
Denny Burk, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Criswell College in Dallas, was the first to respond. His response was centered around two main points.
1. Scripture does not present God’s “love” as an end in itself. God’s love and redemption shown towards sinners is frequently used to show that God acts in these things for His own glory (Exodus 9:16; 2 Samuel 7:26; Psalm 79:9; Isaiah 42:8; 48:9; Ezekiel 36:22, 32; John 17:5; Romans 9:17; 11:36; Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).
“God’s love (manifested supremely in Jesus Christ crucified and raised for sinners) is a means by which His glory is manifested to the world. This is the common Arminian error. They mistakenly regard God’s means (His love and redemptive acts) as ends in themselves. But the Bible simply does not bear this out. The ultimate end or purpose of everything is God’s glory.”
2. Calvinists do not call God “narcissistic” (an “inordinate fascination with oneself”). After citing Isaiah 42:8, Burk writes,
“When sinful humans exalt themselves, it is not loving because it is a distraction from the One who truly can meet the deepest needs of fallen humanity. It is a vice for sinful people to call others to admire them and so to distract them from admiring God. God is love. Therefore He must exalt Himself so as to draw people into worship. This is not narcissistic because it is no vice for Him to exalt the beauty of His own perfections for His creatures’ enjoyment and blessing. Witherington misses all of this, and like other Arminians, removes the firmest grounding that we have for God’s love — God’s own desire to exalt the glory of His own perfections.”
In other words, God acts in love towards sinner because He is motivated for His own glory. God magnifying His own glory is the foundation for the love given to me as a sinner.
Bottom line, Burk calls Witherington out on the simple fact that God’s love towards sinners in redemption is not at odds against God acting for His own glory. Sinners like myself enjoy God forever because God is most concerned about His eternal glory.
John Piper responds (11.24.07)
It was only a matter of time before Piper responded. Piper is John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and featured at desiringGod.org. Glorious and profound truths (like the motives of God!) are his lifelong study.
And his thoughts on Witherington’s critique? “Astonishing.”
As expected, Piper’s response was exegetical. Piper posted a list of passages under the title “Biblical Texts to Show God’s Zeal for His Own Glory.” These passages include Exodus 14:4; 1 Samuel 12:20-22; 2 Samuel 7:23; 2 Kings 19:34; Isaiah 43:6-7, 25; 48:9-11; 49:3; Jeremiah 13:11; Ezekiel 20:14; 36:22-23; Psalms 25:11; 106:7-8; Habakkuk 2:14; Matthew 5:16; John 5:44; 7:18; 12:27-28; 14:13; 16:14; 17:1, 24; Acts 12:23; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Romans 1:22-23; 3:23-26; 9:22-23, 17; 11:36; 15:7; Ephesians 1:4-6; Philippians 1:9,11; 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 1 Peter 2:12; 4:11; Revelation 21:23.
In succinct bullet points, Piper adds the following.
“God’s exaltation of his own glory is not narcissistic but loving, because it directs our attention away from ourselves to the one glorious reality that can satisfy our souls forever.”
“God’s self-glorification is not the alternative to our glorification but the foundation and goal of it, as Schreiner will make plain.”
“The real cultural bondage today is not that too many people are making God radically God-centered, but that most people cannot conceive of his being loving unless he is man-centered.”
And then came the zinger.
“To suggest that Tom Schreiner is ‘creating God in our own self-centered image’ because he says, with the apostle Paul, that God saves us ‘for the praise of his glory’ (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14) is less an indictment of Tom than of Ben.”
Sam Storms responds (11.26.07)
For such an important topic of debate, Piper’s response seemed a bit short. With a new generation of blog readers interested in Reformed theology and these topics of debate, bloggers need to clearly and carefully articulate issues for them.
So I was thankful to hear Sam Storms (a long-winded blogger) jump into the discussion. Storms — a scholar of Jonathan Edwards, former professor and the man featured by Enjoying God Ministries — took time to more fully explain how we benefit from God seeking to glorify Himself.
Storm’s “brief response” was likely the longest of the three.
Because God is our greatest good, God’s seeking to magnify His glory does not impede our good. This is a fascinating argument Jonathan Edwards presented. It’s worth reading Storm’s argument at length:
“The question I most often hear in response to this is that if God loves himself pre-eminently, how can he love me at all? How can we say that God is for us and that he desires our happiness if he is primarily for himself and his own glory? I want to argue that it is precisely because God loves himself that he loves you. Here’s how.
I assume you will agree that your greatest good consists of enjoying the most excellent Being in the universe. That Being, of course, is God. Therefore, the most loving and kind thing that God can do for you is to devote all his energy and effort to elicit from your heart praise of himself. Why? Because praise is the consummation of enjoyment. All enjoyment tends towards praise and adoration as its appointed end. In this way, God’s seeking his own glory and God’s seeking your good converge.
Listen again. Your greatest good is in the enjoyment of God. God’s greatest glory is in being enjoyed. So, for God to seek his glory in your worship of him is the most loving thing he can do for you. Only by seeking his glory pre-eminently can God seek your good passionately.
For God to work for your enjoyment of him (that’s his love for you) and for his glory in being enjoyed (that’s his love for himself) are not properly distinct.
So, God comes to you in his Word and says: ‘Here I am in all my glory: incomparable, infinite, immeasurable, unsurpassed. See me! Be satisfied with me! Enjoy me! Celebrate who I am! Experience the height and depth and width and breadth of savoring and relishing me!’
Does that sound like God pursuing his own glory? Yes.
But it also sounds like God loving you and me perfectly and passionately. The only way it is not real love is if there is something for us better than God: something more beautiful than God that he can show us, something more pleasing and satisfying than God with which he can fill our hearts, something more glorious and majestic than God with which we can occupy ourselves for eternity. But there is no such thing! Anywhere! Ever!”
Very well stated.
Like cutting open the chest and uncovering a beating heart, to understand that our sovereign God acts in all things, and at all times, for His own glory gets at the very heart of God’s motivation. I simply cannot think of a truth more clearly presented throughout Scripture, nor can I think of a more radical worldview-changing truth.
God always acts for His own glory.
If we take our eyes off God’s magnifying of Himself in all things, we will be tempted. We’ll be tempted to downplay the demands of the Law (because we will no longer view the Law as God’s preservation of His glory). We will misunderstand the work of Christ on the Cross (that Christ met the high standards of the Father’s glory). We will misunderstand our life purpose (we do all things to bring glory to God as an act of union with God Himself). And we will misunderstand Scripture’s picture of eternal worship (we will find it odd that we circle around the throne of the Father, the throne of the Son, the river of the Spirit and sing worship forever).
Here’s the irony. To view God’s motives of grace and salvation as ends terminating in our good is to reinterpret the biblical God by our own narcissistic hermeneutics. Our greatest good and eternal joy both stand squarely on God’s motive of magnifying Himself.
In summary, if we take our eyes off God in his magnifying of Himself, we will fail to understand everything else. But most sadly, we will miss our greatest pleasure – to glorify God by enjoying Him forever!
Here is the center of Calvinism, what we call Reformed theology.
Saved from the wrath of God
(This post includes graphic content)
In a sinful world filled with evil we are not short on illustrations of suffering. The most graphic images of human atrocities (like beheadings) will never leave our minds. For me one of these haunting memories comes from 9/11, the day men and women jumped from the burning World Trade Center buildings to their deaths. For them it was better to jump than to endure the raging, steel-melting, furnace-like heat of burning jet fuel.
One author recounts the graphic and shocking scene as experienced through the eyes of a rookie cop, Will Jimeno.
“While fussing with his equipment, Will kept hearing explosions, one every few seconds, a ragged beat of concussions thudding up and down the street that sounded almost like fireworks. Finally he turned around to look: they were human bodies, dropping from above, exploding on impact. They sent up aerosol clouds of blood and left large divots in the sidewalk. The ground became littered with shorn body parts and random scatterings of personal effects – watches, high-heeled shoes, coins, a briefcase, Palm Pilots. Will forced himself to look up and finally understood the dreadful truth – that these people were jumping deliberately, that the heat was pushing them out. ‘I’ve heard experts say they were dead before they hit the ground,’ Will says, shaking his head. ‘But that’s not true. I saw them. You could tell – they were conscious the very end. They saw what was coming.’”
This very graphic horror relates to the gospel.
The book of Revelation portrays King Jesus. He is the holy warrior, splendid in holiness and authority, worshiped as the Great King of all creation. He returns to earth for a second time as the Lion, furious like a neglected King towards His rebel subjects. He returns to earth to “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” by “inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (Rev. 19:15, 2 Thess. 1:8). This is a just and righteous human suffering.
I find it impossible to imagine what desire would overcome a fear of heights, causing a businessman to jump 1,000 feet to the pavement below. Likewise I cannot imagine the greater horrors that overwhelm the soul under the eternal heat of God’s wrath. The greatest horrors cause people to respond in unimaginable ways.
“When he [King Jesus] opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Rev. 6:12-17).
Notice the unbearable heat of God’s holy wrath. What horror would make someone jump rather than burn? What horror would lead the sinner to plead with the mountain to crush him? The horror of intense heat causes a sinner to cry out for a crushing landslide of rock, rather than endure the furnace of God’s holy wrath.
Of this despair, Charles Spurgeon said,
“The falling of the mountain would grind them to powder, and they wish for that: the descent of the hill upon them would bury them in a deep abyss, and they would rather be immured in the bowels of the earth for ever than have to look upon the face of the Great Judge. They ask to be crushed outright, or to be buried alive sooner than to feel the punishment of their sins. Then shall be fulfilled the word of the Lord by his servant John, ‘And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them’ (Rev. 9:6). Ah, sirs, extinction is a boon too great to be permitted to the ungodly. Earth will have no bowels of compassion for the men who polluted her and rejected her Lord. The mountains will reply, ‘We fall at God’s bidding, not at the petition of his enemies,’ and the hills in their stolid silence will answer, ‘We cannot, and we would not if we could, conceal you from the justice which you yourselves willfully provoked.’ No, there shall be no refuge for them, no annihilation into which they can fly: the very hope of it were heaven to the damned … Their cry for extinction shall be in vain” (22:754).
In Christ we are saved from this wrath of God.
It is not uncommon to meet churched people who say they are “saved” but have no idea what they have been saved from. Prominent Christian leaders, too, seem unable to see the significance of God’s wrath, forgetting that preaching the gospel so sinners may avoid God’s wrath (in the Cross) is the greatest humanitarian need and the greatest humanitarian activism they could possibly engage! Telling sinners that God’s judgment is stored up towards their sin — and that salvation is found only in Christ — is one of the most rare and certainly the most necessary act of compassion in the world, as urgently necessary in Minneapolis as in Darfur.
What makes this such a universal catastrophe is the fact that all men, women and children are naturally sinful, and that makes them (by nature) children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). You don’t have to try to anger God, it just comes naturally to God-ignoring sinners. His judgment rests upon sinners for all acts of rebellion, even for what seems insignificant to us like being unthankful towards Him (Rom. 1:18-21). To act selfishly, concerned only with oneself, is enough to store up an account of wrath (Rom. 2:5-8). God’s holiness demands perfect obedience and He will judge all sin, all unthankfulness and all sinners.
Unrepentant sinners who do not obey the gospel will be judged eternally. They will never again enjoy even the smallest momentary comfort. They will not enjoy one drop of water on the tongue through drinking, nor one short breeze of cool air on the skin through jumping, nor the comfort of extinction by crushing. They will endure an eternal death, an eternal worm, an eternal fire (Rev. 14:9-11).
And so, for the church, being “saved” becomes an empty label if we cannot answer the question: What are we saved from? The beauty of the Cross is that I (a sinner provoking God’s judgment) have been freed from the fire of God’s holy wrath because my wrath was absorbed by the Son! Only in the Cross I have been saved from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:9-10)! “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Rom. 5:9).
The holiness of God is graphic. Christ’s death on the Cross was graphic. The eternal death of sinners is graphic. That God judges sinners is graphic. Praise God, the horror of the Cross has saved you from the horror of God’s wrath! Believers have been spared by the wrath absorbing work of Christ! He drank the cup for us (Luke 22:39-44)! It’s through the Cross of Jesus Christ that sinners are spared the horrors of the “wrath of the Lamb!”
Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). The Psalmist writes, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:12). Believe in Christ, take refuge in Him and find your joy forever in the Cross (Gal. 6:14)!
Jonathan Edwards once said, “‘Tis God’s manner to make men sensible of their misery and unworthiness before he appears in his mercy and love to them.” Indeed, until we can sense the wrath of God upon us for our sin, we cannot taste the beauty of the Cross.
We cannot imagine the heat that would cause a man to jump of his own accord. We cannot imagine the horror that would lead a man to plead with a mountain to smother his body. But we must catch a glimpse of these horrors to be forever grateful for the work of Christ. For this is what we have been saved from.
Related: A brief but excellent book by R.C. Sproul, Saved From What? (Crossway).
Related: “A Crucifixion Narrative” by Rick Gamache (mp3). The Cross displayed in all its graphic horrors as the wrath of God is absorbed by Christ on behalf of sinners.
Related: Book review of Jonathan Edwards, Unless You Repent (Soli Deo Gloria). Previously unpublished sermons on the painfulness of God’s wrath and eternal judgment as displayed in Scripture.
Related: “We affirm that Jesus Christ is true God and true Man, in perfect, undiluted, and unconfused union throughout his incarnation and now eternally. We also affirm that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for sinners, as a sacrifice for sin, and as a propitiation of the wrath of God toward sinners.” Together for the Gospel statement of faith (article vii).
Note: The 9/11 quotation above was taken from Hampton Sides, Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier (Anchor Books: 2004), page 379.
Ray Comfort’s “debate” happened this afternoon (watch here). I’m at least very thankful for his presentation of the gospel message, although he said he would not open his Bible. Atheist rebuttal: “The Ten Commandments were used wholly for his proof.” Indeed, there was a little bait-and-switch not unlike what Josh Sowin was worried about. Overall, the atheist argument was predictable, underdeveloped and a bit reminded me of high school debates (“there are way more better arguments”).
Kirk’s “wake-up call” for the audience to think was good as was his presentation of his testimony though no mention of the Cross.
The highlight for me was Kirk’s response to the question that god is merely the projection of our cultures. In other words, let’s assume god exists, why not follow the god of Islam? Cameron responded with REVELATION! How amazing. This is how you respond to this question (just don’t advertise the debate with the promise of keeping your Bible closed). God reveals Himself in His Word and His Son and converts sinners in America and Pakistan and wherever. This takes courage in a debate.
Overall, it was a strange “debate” that did not seem to showcase the best arguments on either side from a convincing scientific standpoint. Comfort said he could make undeniable scientific claims and would not open the Bible. He seemed to fail on both promises to a watching world. Evangelicals were concerned of being represented by Comfort and their concerns were justified. The lesson for future recollection: What parameters are Evangelical Christians willing to draw in advertising the debate? And what will they promise to deliver?
Many debates between a Christian and atheist go something like this:
Christian: “God exists because we see the influences of a Creator all around us. Only His existence can make sense of everything else.”
Atheist: “Okay, so God exists. Now why are you a Christian and not Jewish or Mormon or Islamic?”
Christian: “Ummm” (insert awkward relativism like: “For me Christianity makes the most sense”) …
If you don’t think this fumbling happens, I would encourage you to listen to the recent McGrath/Dawkins debate. When a Christian debates an atheist – as you hear in this and many other debates – there comes a moment when the debate takes an awkward turn. The question changes from the existence of God to why the Christian has chosen his/her religion over all the others. It’s an awkward moment because it reveals that the Christian was debating from rationalism, not pleading obedience to God’s revelation. This misunderstanding gets exposed with one simple question.
So you believe in God. What makes Jesus Christ your god of choice? It seems the only objective answer to this most pressing question is to say God is found in His Son as revealed in His Word. It’s here that the wisdom of God will get you laughed out of an academic debate. But Scripture makes this point clear in several places:
1 John 2:23 “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”
1 John 4:15 “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”
1 John 5:1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.”
2 John 1:9 “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
In other words, if you have not persuasively turned sinners toward Jesus Christ and the Cross you have not persuaded sinners to God! Even if you can prove God exists — if this is where you end — you have won nothing. When Christians dialogue with atheists/skeptics/agnostics, the discussion must move beyond the mere existence of a god (and the skeptic knows this!).
Attempts to prove the existence of God make it very easy to forget the message of the Cross of Christ. Keeping the Cross central in our conversations with atheists demands that we have a firm handle on the revelation of God that breaks into our hearts and is confirmed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I’m not supposing we should disengage the debates. Certainly not! The church must continue to engage culture (and atheism is a growing segment of our cultural fabric in America). I’m arguing that a successful debate cannot be defined as the persuading of others of the existence of God. Rather, God is here, He is angry towards sin every day and sinners must bow and repent from their sin. Especially when we enter the philosophical and academic centers of the world God calls us to follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul (Acts 17:30-31).
If we have not (by God’s grace) persuaded skeptics to the Cross, neither have we persuaded them to God. The Cross — not Deism — is the goal.
As I finished this post, Jon Bloom posted an excellent comment on another post that fits here. Thanks Jon!
“The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.” – Christopher Hitchens.
“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Matt 11:25). “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3). – Jesus
We will always be the infants of our species. Thank you, Tony!
Indeed, Jon. Thank you!
Come Unto Me: God’s Invitation to the World
by Tony Reinke
This time last year I was staying up late and getting out of bed very early to put the final touches on my undergraduate thesis. I convinced my secular academic adviser that it would be good to clarify the contours of the biblical gospel. I’m sure he wasn’t too thrilled.
For me, the opportunity to concentrate my attention on the character of our priceless gospel was incredible. The product was the book titled Come Unto Me: God’s Invitation to the World. My primarily goal was to take advantage of an opportunity to articulate the biblical gospel — both the work of Christ and the act of faith — with my academic adviser and fellow classmates.
Secondly, my non-Christian audience pushed me to think hard at how to best articulate the biblical worldview, something I had not consciously worked through in the past.
Finally, the book helps me retain an important balance in my personal ministry. There are several contours of the gospel and each are easy to forget or minimize.
The invitation to God, from God, is a biblical message filled with rich diversity. For those who accept it, this message requires sorrow and promises inexpressible joy. The invitation comes without price and costs everything. The invitation includes an offer of a relationship to God that is both forensic (or legal) and yet conjugal (or marital). The invitation to God is a call to leave past burdens and take up new burdens.
Frequently I need to be reminded of these important contours.
And so now I offer this book for your reading. It’s free for you to download and read. Thanks to the help of gracious friends, it now comes in three mouth-watering flavors:
1. Come Unto Me in HTML format. This is the basic text format but ideal if you are interested in browsing or reading the content online. Click here for HTML.
2. Come Unto Me in PDF format. Ideal if you are interested in downloading and printing the book. This file preserves the original pagination and formatting. Click here to download the PDF file.
3. Come Unto Me in LOGOS format. Ideal if you want to incorporate my research of the biblical gospel into your own research. Thanks to my friends at StillTruth, you can download and install my book into your Logos software. Click here to access the StillTruth Webpage and download.
Weighing in at just 3.4 ounces, Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy is a tiny book with a heavyweight hook! Of all the great works out there on the attributes of God, this is my favorite.
I was first introduced to Tozer when I led a group of local college students through the book, The Pursuit of God (another excellent, must-read). I was drawn especially to Tozer’s simplicity, biblical depth and straight talk. In articulating the sweet communion the believer enjoys with God, Tozer communicates with a clarity no author (except maybe Martyn Lloyd-Jones) can match. Pound-for-pound, no writer provides the preacher more quotes than Tozer!
The Knowledge of the Holy is a 23-chapter, 120-page study of the attributes of God. It is the perfect size for group studies or to recommend to readers who have trouble with larger books.
Tozer covers the attributes you would expect (immutability, omniscience, transcendence, omnipresence, faithfulness, goodness, justice, mercy, grace, love and sovereignty of God). But he throws in some chapters that often are forgotten in short attribute studies, like the Self-sufficiency and Self-existence of God.
Tozer writes out of a burden that each generation holds tightly to an accurate view of God.
“Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind” (p. 4). And on the page earlier he wrote, “Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.”
Tozer’s presentation of the attributes of God is passionate because a wrong understanding of God is (as he writes) ‘deadly.’ Our generation must look beyond the creedal affirmations we inherited and ask the honest question: Who do I believe God is? And since each Christian comprises the Church, this self-examination is necessary for everyone in the church (see p. 114).
Tozer properly shows that an accurate understanding of God flows first from faith in God and the accuracy of His Word. Without faith in the impossible (the resurrection, for example) there will never be a clear understanding of who God is. In the eternal, revelation must precede reason.
The danger for our generation (and every generation) comes when we fashion God into our own golden-calf-image. God is who He is and remains who He is. And, “were every man on earth to become an atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what He is in Himself without regard to any other. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections; to doubt Him takes nothing away” (p. 33).
It is the Christian’s duty and joy to pursue this God and Tozer proves himself to be a reliable guide in the journey.