May 2018

God’s Eternal Plan in Real Time

I have written about this many times before. However, getting an eternal view is always helpful and necessary so that we do not lose heart and think that God is simply passive in life and earthly events. Knowing that God, the God of the Bible, is in control, sovereign, and almighty, makes the very difficult realities of life not only bearable but very interesting when viewed from His eternal plan.


To say that life is self-sustaining, like a top that has been spun and let go in order to spin on its own, is to reveal an unbelieving heart. This is not active faith but passive acquiescence. I mean, even the world believes that in one form or another and the world does not believe in God, does it? Why, then, do we believe that this perspective is any more acceptable in the church?


Rather, God actively “holds all things together.” Paul wrote:


Colossians 1:15–17

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.


Does this sound passive to you? Absolutely not! By Jesus Christ, Paul wrote, “all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible…” And, by Jesus Christ, all things “hold together.” That word is used in 2 Peter 3:5 in reference to creation. It means all things “stand together,” or are “held together.” The indication is that of a bond and order and sustenance that is only dissoluble when God, more specifically, Jesus Christ, releases it. By His sustaining power, which is constant and infinite, Jesus Christ is able to make the universe predictable. Even the so-called “natural laws” of the universe are only constant because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Therefore, He maintains every molecular bond, and every stellar relationship in the cosmos, in constancy and predictability.


But, why is this the case? I mean, why does Jesus Christ hold all things together? Was there a reason for creation? Does the Bible tell us why life even exists and where it is going? Of course it does! In fact, it gives explicit teaching so that we might have hope and encouragement in the Scriptures, and thus in God, and not hope in our circumstances:


Romans 15:4–6

4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,

6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


The reason goes all the way back before creation. The Bible teaches that the world was created in six days of active creation and a seventh day in which God stopped creating and enjoyed what He made. This was a week, the first week of creation. At the beginning of the week, we are told, the angels “sang together” at the laying of the foundations of the earth:


Job 38:5–7

5 Who set its measurements? Since you know.

Or who stretched the line on it?

6 “On what were its bases sunk?

Or who laid its cornerstone,

7 When the morning stars sang together

And all the sons of God shouted for joy?


We know that this was day one since the earth was summarily created, but not populated, at the beginning of day one:


Genesis 1:1–2

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.


It was at this moment that the angels of God sang together at the display of God’s great power in His design and implementation of the foundational elements of creation. From here, Jesus would go on to create light, darkness, vegetation, animals, man and finally woman. And, since the angels sang together at the creation of these things, that would mean that the angels were created before Genesis 1:1. Therefore, all the angelic realm, with all of its incredible structure, hierarchy, and brilliance, was designed by Jesus Christ and created, with the aide of the Holy Spirit. All of this was from the decree of God to His Son for a specific reason.


What was that reason? Why would the Father give the decree to the Son to create the cosmos and populate it with so much variety and beauty? There are scores of passages that either hint at the reason or outright tell us. However, like creation, I am interested in the foundational elements at this point. From here we can build the building and see the glory of the house.


The best place to start as to motive and reason for this creation is found in the Apostle Paul’s writing to the Romans. He wrote:


Romans 8:28–30

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.


Just like the sustaining work and power of Jesus Christ to order and preserve the predictable universe, God also sustains the lives of those who love Him, and (don’t miss this!) are called “according to His purpose.” What is the purpose? His purpose goes all the way back to the heart of God wherein He “predestined” something. What did He predestine? He predestined that created people would become an “icon” of His Son. The Greek word, “icon,” means a living picture or visible resemblance to something. In this case, God predestined that He would make men and women resemble His beloved Son, Jesus Christ! Incredible! This is it! The mystery is solved. The motive for all of creation is that God had a plan that was “hidden in God” and “carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:9-11). When you read the gospels, you are reading the active eternal plan of God being carried out, or accomplished, by God in impervious fashion. That is, nothing could, or can, withstand God’s purpose. Satan cannot outsmart Him. Men cannot but do His will. The whole created order is subject to this eternal plan without fail.


As Peter wrote, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…” (1 Peter 2:21).

Exposing the Hypocrite: The Necessary Ministry

In Luke 11, Jesus Christ is invited to a lunch. The host: a Pharisee. This man had just witnessed Jesus casting out a demon (11:14). And the Pharisees in general had summized that Jesus had done that work by the devil himself. How ludicrous! Why would Satan send his own messengers to the Abyss? No matter. These men were not interested in rationale. They made this accusation because, as it says in v.29 and v. 12:1, “The crowds were increasing…(by) so many thousands…” They needed to silence Jesus and the way to do that, they thought, was to make senseless accusations in the public arena to turn people away from Him and keep them in their control. They further wanted/demanded a sign from Him thinking that this would “test” Him. These men needed to discredit Jesus. Why? Why would they want to discredit a Man who is casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead, etc…? Let’s find out.


This Pharisee invites Jesus to lunch. No doubt, this was a set-up. However, Jesus was well aware of it and did not act any differently than He would have otherwise. In other words, He was no hypocrite. When Jesus sat down to the table, He initiates the fight by not observing the ceremonial washing of the hands before a meal (See Mark 7:3-4). Jesus knew that His freedom to sit down and eat without washing His hands in ritualistic fashion would upset the Pharisees. That is why He did it! He needed to upset their self-righteous rituals.


The Lord, then, makes the first statements. In essence, Jesus tells the Pharisee, the host, that he is clean outside but filthy inside (v. 39). He tells him that he is legalistic, self-righteous, and void of the love of God (v.42). He tells him that he is full of sinful self-importance and lusts after respectful greetings in public (v.43). He tells him that he is like a concealed tomb-people walk over it but don’t realize what is actually inside of it (v.44).


At this point, a lawyer answers back to Christ and says, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too” (v.45). Jesus has some words for them as well. They too are self-indulgent while demanding insane rigidity from the people they are leading (v.46). They were like their prophet-murdering fathers (v. 48). They are those who will kill the messengers of Jesus Christ (v.50) and yet will be held liable for their bloodthirsty behavior (v.51). They keep the truth from people, never entering into truth themselves (v. 52).


Now, at this point, Jesus has hit about every button He can in one sitting. After Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees, Luke tells us, “…began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say” (vv.53-54). It is at this point that Luke wants us to understand that Jesus purposely said what He said about their sins. Their wicked hearts could not respond in any other manner. They wanted to entrap Him and then, if they could do it publicly, use their diabolical accusations against Him and discredit Him before the people.


The problem is, however, there were so many people attracted to Him that they were stepping all over each other to hear Him (v.12:1). It was “under these circumstances” that Jesus turns to His twelve disciples and says a most crucial lesson to these men that they could ever hear. Jesus said,


Luke 12:1b

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.


Jesus had just outlined actual cases of hypocrisy in the lives of the Pharisee and the lawyers. He had identified them as outwardly appearing acceptable before men while pretending to represent God to them, but all the while be deeply dark and corrupt in their hearts.


Therefore, these men needed to always, always, be aware of the effect of hypocrisy. It is a leaven. It spreads. It permeates. It affects deeply in the heart of men and women who are already prone to pretending to be something they are not. In this case, the disciples must guard against not only the Pharisees themselves since a hypocrite cannot be believed or trusted-ever. But they must also resist any form of hypocrisy by simply revealing it, just like Jesus Himself had just exampled to them. They must expose hypocrisy, not simply coexist and hope that they don’t cross paths.


However, hypocrisy won’t win. Hypocrites will be found out (v.2). What they are hiding will be revealed at some point. Therefore, the apostles must not speak privately what they can’t say publicly and thus play the hypocrite themselves. What will be the result? Rage. Rage by the hypocrite towards the apostles. They will impose fear on these men (v.4). Nevertheless, God should be feared more (v.5). They can only kill the body. God can throw a soul into hell! But, in their impotent threats, God will protect and care for these men (vv. 6-7).


What are they to do? What is their proper response? I will tell you the proper response-preach. That is the proper response. Jesus said,


Luke 12:8–9

8 “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God;

9 but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.


They will be threatened to stop preaching the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:17-20). They will be warned and they will be opposed. However, they are under orders by the One who can cast the souls of the cowardly apostles into hell if they will no longer confess Christ before men. And, in fact, when they would bring these men before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, there should not even be a thought or worry about what will be said in their own defense. These men, like us, must rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to bring to mind what to say.


Beloved, the church is full of hypocrites. These are men and women who hate the truth, hate the Father, hate the Christ, hate the Spirit, and despise the light. They are those who, if they could, they would create a thousand more hypocrites like themselves out of God’s people. They are, as Jude wrote,


Jude 16

16 These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.


And they are:


Jude 19

19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.


The Pharisees, in prototypical fashion, exhibit for us whom to beware of. And, Jesus, in prototypical fashion, exhibits for us how to expose their hypocrisy and remain faithful to the truth in light of the threats of the hypocrite. After all, obedience to God will cause antagonism from the hypocrite. But, obedience to the hypocrite will cause antagonism from God. Which will you choose?


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