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A Meditation on God's Ways #1

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green
The Truth Network Radio
February 9, 2024 12:00 am

A Meditation on God's Ways #1

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green

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February 9, 2024 12:00 am

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Welcome to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hello, I'm Bill Wright. Thanks for joining us as we continue teaching God's people God's Word. Don begins a new message today, so without further delay, let's join him right now in the Truth Pulpit.

Tonight is something a little different, you might say. I've titled it a meditation on God's ways, a meditation on God's ways. And it's kind of the final preparatory message before we get into the extended series of series of messages that I'm going to do.

But I want to say this. I'm going to cast what I have to say tonight in the context of the future several months of our pulpit. But to give you a sense that everything that I have to say here actually has a lot of direct personal application for anything that you might be going through in your own life as we consider the ways of God and what we want to do strategically from our pulpit. What we have should serve as a meaningful encouragement to you tonight, especially if you are in the midst of a prolonged trial, a prolonged affliction, prolonged adversity that just seems to be never ending and one obstacle comes upon another like waves on the shore. And, you know, I've been there and I know how deeply discouraging that can be when there aren't immediate answers. I can think of time sitting on a wall talking to my friend, Joe Trofamuk, who preached here back in October, going back a couple of decades.

And as a family, we were going through some some difficulties that just had no no answer apparent to them at all. You know, and these these sort of things that that I'm sharing tonight can help you if you're in a if you're in a time like that. And so I'm on your side as I as I preach here this evening, as I always try to be.

So just keep that in mind as I apply it in a different direction. These things are meaningful on a personal level. Coming to the pulpit, coming to what's ahead in the future, as all of you should know by now, I'm just back recently from a from a four month study leave. I described it to somebody. I've done so much reading, so much thinking, so much pulpit planning over that time that I'm a little bit like a bottle of Coke that's you got your thumb on and you just shook it and shook it and shook it. I think I said that last Tuesday.

Now you let the thumb go and everything comes out all at once in an explosive manner. I'm trying to channel that in constructive ways, knowing that, you know, you need time and the opportunity to catch up with me on on on many of these things. But my heart is full. My heart is is burdened. My heart is convicted over over what's ahead in a way that, you know, at a different level, even than most of my preaching in the past, I could say.

So all of that. We are going on Sunday, this coming Sunday. I intend to start a series of a series of messages on fundamental Christian thinking. We have nothing less in mind for these series of messages than to to develop minds for biblical living, biblical thinking, for biblical living, you might say.

And that's what we want to do. And just the fact that someone is a Christian and just the fact that someone comes to be in a church and joins a church even does not does not necessarily at all mean that they actually think in a biblical way. You know, we think inconsistently, for one thing, we we have certain convictions that we have from scripture, but on a day to day basis, we we don't live that out.

And I'm I'm the first one in line in the guilt line on this. You know, we believe, we say, in the providence of God and that God directs our lives and that he works all things together for good. We say that and we believe that together, don't we?

But how often is it when when some kind of reversal comes our way that we get discouraged, we start to doubt, we get anxious, we we we wonder what's going to happen. And we've the things that we said that we believed on Sunday somehow have have escaped our thinking the way that we view life on Wednesday, for example. And so we all need help to greatly strengthen our position with a biblical mind, with biblical thinking.

Even if our convictions are going in the right direction, we are at best inconsistent on it. And what I said a week ago Sunday is that it's all the more critical for us to to engage in a series like this because of the chaos that's in our culture, the chaos that is in the broader evangelical church, the chaos that that Satan and demons create as they promulgate false teaching and false philosophies to confuse the people of God and to blind people to the truth. The answer to all of those things, to our inconsistent Christian thinking and Christian living and the and the demonic stronghold of false philosophies that engulf our culture, the answer to all of that is truth. Truth preached, truth read in scripture, truth applied to our heart by the Holy Spirit. We don't need more games and social nights at a time like this as much as we need the truth of God brought to bear upon our hearts, our minds and our consciences with power by the Holy Spirit.

And so that's, you know, I've laid out the I've laid out that and I'm not going to repeat it any further than to say this. Our responsibility, our responsibility as individual Christians, as elders of Truth Community Church, as a congregation, our collective and individual responsibility at a time like this is for us to focus intently on real truth, on fundamental truth. This is a time to go back and establish the most basic presuppositions of of Christian thought, because that is what is going to engage us and what is going to strengthen us in the task ahead.

And beyond that, beloved, I want to qualify what I'm about to say before I say it. You know, one of the romantic things about preaching is that you never know how God is going to use it. You never know if God will use a particular sermon to work in someone's heart and draw them to Christ under the preaching of the word. You pray for that, you ask for that, but a lot of times it doesn't happen. But you never know when God's going to use something particularly in someone's life.

And so you just, you know, the idea is that you're just faithful to the truth and you proclaim it and you leave the results to God. And that's certainly the way that I think about this series of series of messages that are coming up. You know, from scripture I know that the things that we're going to talk about in the coming months, and it will be months, beloved, these things are generationally important. These things are important for generations to come. They're important for young people that are maybe eight, nine, ten years old to be hearing and to be embracing, and for it to shape their lives into their 60s and 70s and to affect them for a long, long time to come. It's important for us to teach these things for the sake and for the benefit of a generation yet to be born as the influence of God's word goes to a younger generation.

And they speak these things and repeat them to those that will come up under their influence as parents, as teachers, or whatever it may be. And scripture speaks to these kinds of things, speaks to that kind of theme explicitly in 2 Timothy chapter 2, where Paul says to Timothy, not so much about chronological generations, but spiritual generations, he tells Timothy as he is about to die, as Paul is about to die, that is, he says, You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. There's four spiritual generations in that verse.

There's Paul teaching to Timothy, Timothy who is to entrust the things that he heard from Paul to faithful men, and those faithful men in the future will be teaching them to others as well. And so there's this thought of new generations coming up, and Psalms speaks about that, that these things will be spoken of a generation yet to be born. You and I, we're not really used to thinking that way very often, are we?

We're so consumed with daily life that we're not really thinking about what happens next year, let alone to people that are yet to be born. And yet scripture calls upon the people of God to think that way. And one of the things that we have to do is we have to clearly establish the most basic assumptions and presuppositions of Christian biblical thought so that these things are able to be passed on into future lives. And so from a principled standpoint, I know that the things that we're doing here and what we're going to be talking about, they are generationally important. Whether God chooses to bless what we do, the truth is generationally important.

Whether God chooses to bless this particular manifestation of it, I don't have any control over that. And I make no predictions. But I do know that I need to do this for the sake of the fact that these things are generationally important. And so what we're going to do, I mentioned this two days ago on Sunday, and what we're going to do, I'll repeat it here for the benefit of those of you that were precluded from being with us by the weather, I set forth a schedule of coming series. And I just want you to know where we're going in advance. And I set forth seven series, which is incidental to the fact that in scripture seven is the number of completeness. But what we're going to do is we're going to start beginning on Sunday with a series on how to know God exists. And then we'll move from there to how to know that the Bible is true. From there, how to know Jesus is Lord.

Those things are pretty important, aren't they? Does God exist or not? And how do we know? How do we explain that? How do we articulate that? How do we defend that?

I think it matters to know that and have that clear in our minds, however long it takes to establish it. Is the Bible true? How do we know that? On what authority do we accept the truthfulness of scripture?

On what authority do we believe that? How do we know that Jesus is Lord? Those three, and then going on that, beyond that, we'll address how to know that God rules over all. How to know Christianity is true? Which, if Christianity is true, every other religion is false. Christianity makes exclusive truth claims. These things assault the philosophical underpinnings of our entire society. Well, of course we would spend time on these things if they're that important.

If what scripture says shows us and exposes to us that everything in culture, everything around us, everything that is taught in public schools is premised on lies and avoidance of the truth. And we're going to stand and make that assertion in the face of an onslaught of ungodliness. You know what? We better have our act together.

We better know what we're talking about. It's not just enough to say these things are true. We need to know why they are true and be able to articulate them in an intelligent, gracious, loving, informed way.

I think that's important. And so, how to know God exists, how to know the Bible is true, how to know Jesus is Lord, how to know God rules over all, how to know Christianity is true, how to know truth exists. Not the church, you know truth, community church exists.

Not that truth, truth itself. And how to know true salvation. You know, if there's only one way to God through Jesus Christ, man, it is eternally important for every one of us to know what that is and on what authority we receive it, and how you and I can know if truth has been born in my soul.

We need to know these things. If, you know, let's say maybe you're kind of new to Bible teaching, you're coming out of a different background or something like that. If all of these topics sound a little bit intimidating to you, it's precisely for someone like you that I'm doing it. So that these things would no longer intimidate you, but you would say, I know, I know, and I can explain why God exists, how I know that, I can explain that the Bible is true, I can explain that Jesus is Lord, I can explain all of these things. I want that for you.

I want that for you. Not just for the sake of the glory of God, that's the preeminent reason, but I want this for you because I know, beloved, I know from the work of the Spirit in my own heart that these things will change your life from one image of glory to another, as 2 Corinthians 3.18 says. I know that these things are transformative, and I want that for you. That's, you know, I mean, that's what a pastor does. A true pastor, he seeks the spiritual good of the people that are under his teaching. And so these things are critically, critically important for generations to come and for us today.

And you know what? I need to be strengthened in all of it myself. I'm looking forward to going through this with you, interacting with you as we go through these things.

And here's the thing, trying to keep a restraint on that Coke bottle here before I get out of control too quickly here. Here's the thing, is that each message within the context of each series, and then each series upon each series, it all builds together. These are different bricks being put together as we build something up. It all fits together. These things all need to be known. These things all reinforce each other.

And so it's going to be important to be with us as often as you can to get the full benefit of it. You know, in one sense they're standalone, but they're really not. The truth of God and the truths of which we're speaking here tonight, it's a seamless garment. Think of it as, you know, the soldiers didn't rip the garment of Jesus.

They gambled lots for it to keep it in the single whole unit that it was. You know, the truth of God in one sense is a unit that we consider together. And so with all of that said, it's essential for us as a church going forward that collectively you understand what our goal is in this approach and what it is that we're aiming to do. And I just kind of wrote this out this morning to just have some statement to make about it.

And it's this. What is our goal as we do this? Well, it's kind of lofty, and that's why I want to pursue it. We aim to form a biblical Christian mind in anyone who will hear us. We want to develop men and women who can think critically about the spirit of our age.

I'll say it again. We aim to form a biblical Christian mind in anyone who will hear us. We want to develop men and women who can think critically about the spirit of our age.

This is not simply about communicating information. This is about enabling noble-minded people of God to think critically and to be effective and to live to the glory of God in the age in which He has placed us. There's no need for us to look back and wish that we lived in former days when the philosophical things and the sexual chaos wasn't like that. That's not the age that God gave to us to live in. God has given us this age to live in, and, beloved, it's not too much for us to say as the people of God that God has given us to this age. God has given us to this age that we would proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us by His eternal grace. Well, the way that we proclaim the excellencies of Him is to know His truth, and the way that you proclaim it with confidence and with effectiveness and with power is to know it with clarity. Confused minds, shallow minds, unconvinced minds are not going to be as effective.

I'll say it as gently as I can. And, beloved, another thing about it, and you look back and you read church history and all of that, shallow convictions, seeker-sensitive models of ministry are not going to produce courageous lions for the truth in the age in which we live. Those who will be courageous, those who will stand, those who will proclaim Christ unafraid and in a fearless, effective way are going to be the ones who have the deepest knowledge of truth and have the most convinced mind about it and can articulate why these seven things, they know them to be true.

And I want that for our church. I want that for you. In one sense, it's the only reason I'm living, is to be able to say these things and to be used like that.

And by comparison, everything else seems secondary to me. Now, we want to form a biblical Christian mind. And then beyond that, what I want for you, even in your older age, you're older, you say, you know what, I don't have a whole lot of time left. Maybe I've got five years, 10 years left. Most of my life is behind me.

That's okay. Moses prayed in Psalm 90, Lord, confirm for us the work of our hands. Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

He only had a short couple of years to live when he said that. And as he reflects back on the wilderness wanderings, and Lord, give us a heart of wisdom, he says, Lord, with the short time I've got left, I ask you, I beg you, I pray you, to take what I am doing and establish it, bless it, establish it so that it would benefit posterity after I'm gone. And so having considered these truths for ourselves, what I want for you, what I want for our church is this, is that our men and women could effectively lead others, including their children, in truth and in discernment. I want to strengthen you so that you can be better with your kids. I want to strengthen you so you're better with your grandchildren. I want to strengthen you so that you're better with people that come in new to the church after these things have already been taught. And beyond that, beyond that, I want your kids that you teach to one day be able to lead and teach others in this as well. I know we're not used to thinking and talking this way, but to me it just seems like that's what we ought to be doing, that's what we ought to be aiming at, not entertaining ourselves, not just, you know, reciting our favorite Bible verses with each other and being content to edify ourselves and, you know, just securing our own little circle, our own little bubble that we can live in.

We've got to think bigger thoughts about the purposes of God in establishing us in the age in which we live. And so with all of those things, think of what is to come over these next six months, nine months, I don't know how long it's taken. I'm continually telling myself, I say, Don, I call myself that, I said, Don. And look in the mirror, Don.

Oh, yeah. I said, Don, don't put a timetable on this. You may find that, you know, as you get into it, there's other things that you want to say that you're not anticipating now.

So there's no time frame, there's no time frame on this. But what it will help you as you're considering this and we're entering into this in the days and weeks and months to come, think of this as an accelerated, systematic development of church-wide discipleship with the Word of God as our textbook. Everything I say to you is going to come from the Word of God. You're going to be able to put your finger on chapter and verse and say, Okay, I see it.

How do we know God exists? Verse, verse, verse, verse. Psalm here, Psalm there. And what we'll find down the road, and the thing of it is is that this is going to be so, it's going to seem like it's so incremental that you'll wonder from week to week what exactly is happening. But what you'll find is two years, five years, ten years from now when life changes for you, when crises come, that you're responding out of a position of strength grounded in truth rather than just responding emotionally to the difficulties around you.

I think all these things are worthwhile to pursue. Now, having said that, the form of our preaching may be different than what you're used to. But it's important for you to see historically in the historic context of the Christian church the precedent, not the president, the precedent for what we're doing.

And just one quote as an illustration here. Stephen Charnock was a Puritan preacher back in the 17th century. He lived 1628 to 1680. He was a notable theologian and a pastor for a time in London before his death. You can get five volumes of his works that are very profound. And he is known today, Stephen Charnock is known today especially for his systematic work on the existence and the attributes of God. And he'll have, you know, there's a chapter, he has a discourse on divine providence, for example. So a discourse on divine providence and you just keep turning and turning and it's like it's 60, 70, 80 pages long. That's his idea of a discourse. So Stephen Charnock did this.

Charnock's biographer was a Scottish man named James McCosh who lived in the 19th century from 1811 to 1894. And he says this about the nature of systematic theology and he addresses it in the context of why systematic theology is important. And it applies to the form of teaching that we're going to be using in the days to come. And I want you to hear this and to be able to appreciate the significance of it. I know of a theology teacher from my past who would object to this.

I don't object to it. I affirm it wholeheartedly. So here's what Stephen Charnock's biographer said and you'll hear me quoting Charnock in the days to come. But his biographer said this. He said, systematic theology has important purposes to secure not only in testing and guarding purity of doctrine in a church, here's the critical part, but in combining the scattered truths of God's word so that we may clearly apprehend them. Systematic theology exhibits the unity of the faith in the face of the misapprehensions, mistakes, and errors which may arise.

He goes on to say, the best Puritans awaken the unthinking and arouse the careless and compel them to think of the things which belong to their everlasting peace, end quote. The significance for what we're going to be doing in the coming months of that statement is this, is that it's the task of systematic theology to gather together truth that is found in God's word on a particular topic or a particular doctrine, things that are spread throughout the Bible to gather them up in one place so that the fullness of the teaching of God can be brought to bear on a subject so that there is as much as possible a comprehensive understanding of the doctrine at stake. And so, you know, if you consider divine providence, you know, you read about the life of Joseph, you see in a narrative form, you know, an outworking of divine providence. You go to Matthew 6 and you see what Jesus says about God's care for the flowers and the birds and how that bears on providence and what the implications of it are. You read further in Matthew 10 and you read Jesus saying that the hairs of all of your head are numbered and not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from your heavenly Father. And that's just a very brief, you know, illustration is all that is.

You take those things together, you place them side by side alongside each other and you have a fuller picture of the doctrine of divine providence than you would have if you simply looked at one in isolation without comparing Scripture with Scripture. This is very, very important for us to understand. And that's the spirit in which we're going to approach the work and the opportunity in the ministry that lies ahead of us. I'm very, very excited about it.

I can't wait to get into it with you. And so, all of that expresses our philosophy and our goals as we move forward as Truth Community Church. This is a bit of a pivot point, not a change in direction of our church, but this is a new chapter, you might say, as we move forward with what the Lord is going to do with us in the coming year. And so, I say this, I intend this to be a humble statement with what I say here, even though it sounds lofty, but, beloved, we believe together, we believe that we are undertaking a work of God with what lies ahead that is suited for the particular age in which we live. We're undertaking a work, this is God's truth. This is God's world, this is God's church, it's God's spirit, it's God's Christ that we seek to uphold and to glorify. You know, as we sung earlier in that second hymn, they can forget the channel through which these things come.

You can forget the channel through which they come, but the work of God needs to be established in our midst. And I had a seminary professor one time back in my MDiv days, which was back in the 90s, and one student was objecting to a doctrine that he had articulated, something that he had said, and he just kind of shrugged his shoulders, and he said, look, he said, this is what I think, and they asked me to teach the class, you know, and there's a certain profundity, there's a certain profundity to that. This is what, you know, and just looking at it here today as I stand before you, this is what I think we need to do. A long time ago, they asked me to be the pastor.

I don't know what else to do, but to do what I think needs to be done. And so with all of that, what follows here tonight is not really a sermon at all. It's not a message as you're used to hearing. This is just a meditation for us as we start on the Sunday to come. And I invite you to turn to the book of Isaiah chapter 55, a meditation that will give us a practical perspective as we look to the future and also as we consider our own lives before the Lord and the heartaches and opportunities that are before us. In the context of this verse, God is calling the wicked to repentance, and there might be a tendency to think and to question, well, will God really forgive me? And the point is, is that God is a merciful God, a gracious God that He will forgive even where humans might refuse to do so. So you see in verse 50, chapter 55, verse six, it says, Seek the Lord while He may be found.

Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake His way and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let him return to the Lord that He may have compassion on him and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. And so there's this call to sinners to come to the living God for salvation and pardon of their sins. On this side of the cross, we know that that is a free offer of the gospel of Jesus Christ to every sinner who would believe in Him, the one who made an atoning sacrifice on the cross, shed His blood for the forgiveness of sinners, just like you. God calls to you and says to you, repent, forsake your wicked ways and come and you will find abundant pardon in my son.

It's a wonderful thought. And then verse eight, it goes on and the prophet speaks on the Lord's behalf and the Lord says, for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. So that someone who is deeply burdened by a conviction of sin and realizes the enormity of their guilt before God, there's a tendency in that condition to shrink away from God, even as a believer, saying I have just committed, I have sinned again in the same way that I did yesterday and the day before that. And you start to have these thoughts that flit across your mind if you're not grounded in scripture that says, the Lord has to be tired of me. And you hesitate to even go and ask for mercy, to go and confess it once more again because your thinking is rooted in human ways and humans get tired of forgiveness, humans get tired of I'm sorry, humans have a limit to the compassion that they show to those who have offended them. God says, don't think about me like that, don't think about me in human categories, don't think about me in human categories because I'm a God of abundant pardon. I don't pardon like man does, I pardon freely, abundantly, gladly, I'm a God of compassion upon sinners just like you. And so come, come and return to the Lord so that you can find that compassion so that he will abundantly pardon you. It's a great invitation and is the focus of that particular passage.

That's Don Green here on The Truth Pulpit and here's Don once again with a final word. Well, my friend, there is no substitute for reading the Word of God for yourself and spending the time day by day going through the Bible in a systematic way so that you have a full exposure to everything that the Word of God says. It's remarkable the way the Spirit of God works through the Word to minister to our hearts in that way. And to help you do that, we have a couple of different Bible reading plans available on our website, thetruthpulpit.com. If you would go to thetruthpulpit.com, click on the link that says about, you'll find a sublink there that takes you to two different Bible reading plans that you can choose from. It's free, it's there available to help you in your reading of God's Word and I know that the Spirit of God will use that in your life if you're not used to reading God's Word on a regular systematic basis.

Make this the day that you start something new and move in that direction and join us again next time. That's Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thank you so much for listening to The Truth Pulpit. Join us next time for more as we continue teaching God's people God's Word.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-09 04:51:30 / 2024-02-09 05:04:41 / 13

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