Thankfulness and Godliness … (November 2021 Update) 

Over the last couple of months, I have been participating in a study of Jerry Bridge’s Respectable Sins with a group of guys. It’s a great book! But this past week, we studied two chapters that I thought I would do fairly well with – ungodliness and unthankfulness. I tend to think of myself as a fairly “godly” person (in a humble way, of course) and I am usually very thankful for all that God gives me.  

But, as I read the chapters, I discovered that those two sins had become “respectable” for me too. Bridges defines “ungodliness” as a failure to recognize and depend on God at all times. I quickly realized that I usually recognize the Lord in spiritual matters but often leave Him out of my thinking in daily, regular issues and work. Ungodliness is not wickedness – but just failing to recognize God and depend on Him for everything. My previous assessment of my own godliness quickly crumbled to the ground. 

When I began the chapter on “Unthankfulness,” I felt more secure because I am very grateful for all the Lord gives me. In the first half of the chapter, I felt pretty good about being a thankful person as Bridges reminded us that we need to be thankful for all the Lord has given us. But … halfway through the chapter, Bridges switched from being thankful for what God has given us to being thankful whenever things do not turn out the way we want. Ouch! That hit home and I immediately saw that I needed to repent of my unthankfulness too. 

Godliness and Thankfulness go together. A godly person sees that he needs the Lord in every situation and learns to depend upon Him for everything. The ungodly live as though God does not exist – even if they believe that He does exist! The truly thankful person is not just grateful for the good things God gives. He recognizes that God is in every situation (godliness) and therefore he is able to give thanks even when things do not go according to his plans and wishes. A godly man is truly a thankful man. 

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The love of God is probably the one attribute that everyone likes to read about. But God’s love is not exactly the same as ours. We love because others love us. God loves us even while we were sinners. God loved us even before we loved Him! And His love is for us is what makes us special and valuable. Martin Luther once said, “God does not love us because we are valuable, But we are valuable because He loves us.” So, the love of God is a precious attribute for all believers to rejoice in! 

Let’s look at the attribute of loveFirst, 1 John 4:8 plainly says, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” The love of God is not a sentimental love but is a love of passionate commitment to His creation. This love is WHO God is and all real love flows from Him. He is not only the supreme example of love; He is its source. 

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Our INDEPENDENT God … (September 2021 Update) 

Independence! 30 Years agoUkraine declared its independence from the USSR (August 24, 1991). And for 30 years, Ukraine has struggled to maintain that independence. The biggest struggle has been against many forms of Russian interference. Even in 1991, Russia recognized that Ukraine was the key to determining if the USSR would survive or not. The secession of Ukraine from the USSR ended any realistic chance of keeping the Soviet Union together. By December of 1991, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine had met to form a “Commonwealth of Independent States” to replace the USSR. Ukraine was officially independent and the USSR ceased to exist. 

But Ukraine still struggled to be really independent. Russian influence and pro-Russian politicians refused to allow Ukraine to experience real freedom. In 2004 (the Orange Revolution), massive protests against the rigged election of the pro-Russian candidate, Victor Yanukovych, led to more than 500,000 protestors camping in the main square from November to January until the election was restored to the pro-Ukrainian candidate, Victor Yushchenko. In November of 2013, after Yanukovych was “elected” again, he refused to keep his promise of moving toward relations with the EU. This prompted massive protests and violent battles between his pro-Russian government and the hundreds of thousands of pro-EU protesters between November (2013) and February (2014). After snipers shot and killed 100 protestors, Yanukovych fled the country and Russian troops captured Crimea and attempted to capture eastern Ukraine. With no army to protect itself, Ukrainian volunteers formed armies to protect Ukraine in the east, and people even gave donations at grocery stores for these volunteer armies until the government could raise funds to supply national army. Because of these selfless heroes, Ukraine was able to maintain its independence as a country. Now Ukraine is celebrating 30 years of independence! 

But, in reality, no country and no individual is completely independent. Every country depends to some degree on other countries and every individual is dependent on others. (Even the US exists today because other countries, especially France, helped the colonies in the Revolutionary War, and the current global pandemic has reminded us that we are all interconnected). We like to talk about our independence, but what we really mean is that we are mostly independent. In reality, we are all dependent to some degree. But that is not true when we speak about God and His independence. 

The Independence of God is one doctrine that we rarely speak about, but it is one of the most basic and foundational attributes of God. This doctrine is often called the aseity of God or sometimes called the simplicity of God or even the freedom of God. Regardless of which term is used, the attribute of the independence of God is essential to our confidence in God and our relationship to Him. 

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The ONLY Wise God … (August 2021 Update) 

Exclusive claims bother us – and they should. Whenever anyone says that they are the “only one” who can fix a problem or they are the “only one” who can do something, we automatically think they are simply bragging. We can all remember athletes who claimed to be the “only one” who were humbled by their subsequent defeats! But when we are speaking about the God of the universe, the claim to be the “only” one is not just appropriate – it is the ONLY correct assessment. When we speak about love and forgiveness, ONLY God provides perfect love and forgiveness. And ONLY God perfectly judges and punishes. ONLY is the only appropriate word when we are speaking about God. And ONLY is especially appropriate when we are talking about His wisdom. No one else compares. That’s why He is called the ONLY wise God! 

When speaking about the attributes of God, theologians usually divide the attributes into two categories – communicable and incommunicable. Communicable attributes are characteristics of God that are similar to those in humans. For example, love is a communicable attribute. It is one that humans share with God. This attribute of God is called communicable because we also love and, therefore, we experience and understand this attribute. On the other hand, the incommunicable attributes of God are characteristics of God that we do not share. God is infinite; we are finite. We cannot even begin to understand the concept of infinity. God is eternal; we are temporary. We can talk about eternity, but we really do not understand it because we do not naturally share this attribute. 

One very important attribute of God is His wisdom. In Jude 1:25 and also in Romans 16:27, God is called the “only wise God.” These verses emphasize that God alone possesses complete and total wisdom. Wisdom is a communicable attribute. It is something we share with God. We understand wisdom and we experience it (even though we often do not live according to it!). But we are not all-wise. Unlike God, we do not have complete and total wisdom. Nor do any other (so-called) gods. There is only one all-wise God. He alone has all wisdom and all power (Revelation 7:12). He is the ONLY wise God! 

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A City Set On a Hill … (July 2021 Update)

In March of 1630, John Winthrop delivered a message to the new arrivals who had come to settle what is today Boston. Preaching to them from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Winthrop warned his fellow colonists that the “eyes of all people are upon us.” He explained that their “experiment” on American soil would make them like a “city set on a hill” for all the world to see. And that their success or failure in this experiment depended upon their willingness to uphold their covenant with God and with each other. Even as America celebrates another year of its independence, the world is still watching. And many are wondering if that experiment will continue to shine for all the world to see.

But Jesus was not speaking about a political experiment in Matthew 5. He was speaking to his disciples about the testimony of the church to the world. In verses 14-16, Jesus outlines his plan for the witness of his church. Let’s take a look at it and remember its importance even for us today.

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