|By: Dr. John G. Weldon; ©2012|
|God is the single most important word in the human language because it identifies the single most important Person in the entire universe.|
- 1 Introduction
- 2 The Greatest Pleasure
- 3 Who is the true Lord?
- 4 Eternally Increasing Joy
- 5 God’s Supreme Joy
- 6 Being Thankful
- 7 The Best News: Enjoying God above All Things
- 8 Knowledge of the true God
- 9 Highly Recommended Reading on Knowing God
- 10 Additional Highly Recommended Reading on God.
- 11 Fyi: Sample “Christian apologetics” by non-Christians
- 12 Notes
God is the single most important word in the human language because it identifies the single most important Person in the entire universe.
Logically, it is impossible that there could be two separate Beings who are God – i.e., two Supreme Beings. There can only be one true God, no matter how many assorted gods people might claim. All other alleged supreme deities or finite gods cannot be God by definition. For example, it is impossible that there could be two infinite beings in the same manner that, by definition, one cannot have two everythings.
There can be only one supreme, infinite and absolutely perfect Being. If common sense tells us anything, it must be this. “It is evident to reason that there is but one eternal, self-existing, independent, infinite being upon whom all else is dependent.”
If one God can be established as genuine, then by the very nature of things He has no rivals, for they aren’t real. They don’t exist because they can’t exist.
The Greatest Pleasure
Being creatures infinitely removed from God, our greatest pleasure and eternal ecstasy is to intimately know and live with this one true and infinitely perfect God, to be transparently loved by Him forever and to ceaselessly experience a kaleidoscope of His infinite delights, especially Himself. (On personally knowing God, See Dr. J. I. Packer, Knowing God and God’s Words.)
Just try and imagine what it would be like to know and enjoy an infinitely perfect God, bathing in the presence of His infinite glory. What is an infinitely perfect God? A God who is infinite in all His flawless attributes; a God of infinite love, infinite joy, infinite glory, infinite purity, infinite justice, infinite mercy, infinite holiness, infinite truth, infinite goodness, infinite kindness, infinite immortality, infinite immutability, infinite power, infinite knowledge, infinite presence, etc. Imagine the wonder of living forever with a God who is both infinitely joyful and infinitely creative. He is infinitely beyond the most perfect Being we could conceive or imagine.
Knowing Him would be indescribably wonderful. But there is a big difference between knowing God and knowing about God – between knowing Him personally as your best Friend who loves you unconditionally and has personally given you the greatest gift in the universe – Himself – as opposed to merely knowing that He exists or what He is like, intellectually. Indeed, if people understood that the potential actually existed for knowing this infinitely perfect One, personally, as Lord and God, but also as a best possible friend, they would give everything, the world itself, for merely a second in His presence. That second would pale in comparison to all the gold on earth, to all human learning and achievements throughout history, to every dream of every person since Adam. Were it possible, they would give the universe itself to experience God’s actual presence for a single second. Now just try and imagine living in His awesome and breathtaking presence, not for a second, not for a billion years, but for an eternity, forever without end. It can happen…
Imagine the palpable and infinite divine radiance, our five senses theoretically magnified a hundred fold, with glorious new powers, the awe, intimacy, the wonder of worship, the learning, the happiness and fun, love, joy, adventure, challenges and on, unfathomable wonders that never end. How do we know they will never end? Because God created them and He made them never to end. The best of the best experienced in this life is but a dark shadow compared to what is coming, but the joys and pleasures of this life offer us hints. Given the nature of God, if eternity is anything, it is endlessly beyond and better than this life. For example, in merely the realm of musical/emotive beauty, imagine hearing (just one of the senses) endless wonders such as the hallelujah chorus of Handel’s Messiah, beauty magnified to the thousandth power forever. Imagine the possibility of a dozen new senses cross pollinated and expanded beyond comprehension. Imagine an infinite universe that is always the same, so it is always home, and yet it is always changing, so it is never boring. (As if living forever with an infinite God could ever be boring.)
One of the most amazing verses in the Bible is Philippians 3:21 where it says that Jesus, “who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” That’s pretty amazing. We have no idea what this ultimately means but, given who God is, perhaps it would involve an IQ of 10,000 for starters, the ability to travel at the speed of thought (“infinitely” faster than the speed of light), and powers and abilities which, as CS Lewis observed, were a mortal human to see us, would tempt them to worship us as a god?
Yes, knowing God is what we are all about – and what we were made for.
Enjoying God is the only possible happiness that can satisfy our souls eternally because this is precisely our highest destiny. Every finite distraction (particularly the sinful ones) are temporal at best, and, given the deceptions of life, often come with a heady price tag. Having anything less than God for eternity, by comparison, would, literally, constitute endless torment. For example, consider what living forever would be like – but alone in space or some other desolate dimension. Never-ending, it would be horrifying beyond imagining. The reason for God, so to speak, is to spare us such a fate, even a much worse fate. To be sure, if we think that anything in this life is ever going to truly satisfy us, just read that little book by the wisest king of the ancient world, King Solomon (Ecclesiastes), whose wisdom was and remains legendary. It’s a great book for a Christian to recommend that a non-Christian read. Solomon’s experience in life – he had the money and means to attempt virtually everything in order to find satisfaction and contentment in life – failed miserably, because relatively speaking, “all is vanity.” Solomon’s life is human existential proof (repeated in millions of lives every day) that only God is what can ultimately satisfies us. King Solomon’s conclusion about the matter is summed up with his declaration in Ecclesiastes 12:13: “That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.”
The highest calling, the greatest science and the best philosophy which can ever engage the attention of men, above all a child of God, is the attributes, the glory, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, the love, and the existence of the one and only, magnificent God. Infinite superlatives cannot contain Him. Since nothing is greater than God, no study is greater than the study of God. “To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances; To seek him, the greatest adventure; To find him, the greatest human achievement” (Raphael Simon). For example, a study of God’s attributes is one of the most rewarding studies possible, bringing continual thrills of joy (see recommended reading). As C.S. Lewis correctly observed, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered [to] us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” And Sam Storms reiterates, “We have settled for pathetic, little pleasures like illicit sex and drunkenness and earthly wealth when God offers us fullness of joy and pleasures that never lose their capacity to satisfy and enthrall.”
Who is the true Lord?
As famed singer Bob Dylan observed in the song of this title, no matter who you are, “you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
We typically think we are in control of our lives, but in truth, we aren’t. We are controlled by the true Lord of our lives, whatever that may be. ‘For some it’s God, for some it’s the devil,’ and for most it’s everything in between.
Every person builds their personal identity upon something: self, career, success, security, spouse, money, pleasure, etc. However, “If it is not God, it will endlessly oppress us” which is why it should be apparent that “sin is centering our identity on anything but God.”
If our identity and the life that flows from it aren’t based wholly upon God, the ultimate and perfect reality, we inevitably suffer with various forms of infinitely lower substitutes – replacements which can easily become afflictions or addictions. This is why, as numerous philosophers and theologians have recognized, achieving true happiness and security outside of God is impossible. (See note.) Being finite and imperfect creatures, such happiness and security couldn’t be accomplished even with endless time.
Although we might center our identity on all sorts of things, every God substitute damages us and others, in ways overt and subtle, visible and invisible. Even substitutes otherwise wonderful such as love and family can become addictions and idols. That’s why the problems in the world stem from one principle source – having anything but God as our greatest love. The extent of the worlds’ wounds is the extent to which it has abandoned the first and greatest commandment. That’s why, in one ultimate sense, “Sin is a misguided and selfish determination to seek happiness in places where ultimately only emptiness and disillusionment are found… Sin is declining God’s offer of a filet mignon to fill our spiritual bellies with rancid ground beef.”
Without God, what good would even Heaven itself be? An eternal paradise beyond imagining would at some point become tiresome and annoying because it would lack a God of infinite perfection and wonder to whom we could intimately relate and enjoy. As the noted French atheist Jean-Paul Sartre pointed out, a finite being requires an infinite (and personal) reference point in order to have true purpose and meaning in life; otherwise all is lost.
Eternally Increasing Joy
But all is not lost because God is real and He has revealed Himself to us. This God is everything of value, which is why theologies like those of Jonathan Edwards and John Piper are so crucial: they are wholly God-centered, to the glory of God alone. That of course, is what theology is all about – doxology and the study of and learning about the infinitely glorious God, who created everything for His glory, which includes the eternal joy of the redeemed. (See note.) This is a learning of God, which, wondrously, will never cease, even throughout eternity. Nor could it cease, since finite beings will always have wonderful and astonishing things to learn from an infinite God. In the resurrection, I’m personally assured that God will have so constructed us that we are capable of learning new things forever, of having our joys and pleasures increase forever, and having our love grow forever – and endless more wonders. If by definition, as finite creatures, our knowledge of an infinitely perfect God must increase forever, then our joy must increase forever as well because it is ever joyous to learn of the wonders of God. And if our knowledge and joy in God must increase forever, so must our love for Him. As our knowledge and joy of God’s glory and marvels increase, by definition our love for Him must increase proportionately, never-endingingly so. It will be glorious beyond words.
The only true happiness is eternal happiness. That’s what everyone wants – to be happy. That’s what more than one survivor of suicide concluded before they made the attempt – that if they couldn’t be happy, they didn’t want to live. There is good news – we can be happy – now and forever, happy and joyous beyond our wildest dreams.
And to repeat and underscore, there isn’t a person who has ever lived who didn’t want to be happy. All men seek happiness, so much so that the search is universal — without exception. “… there is in every soul an insatiable hunger for happiness, a chronic and unending ache for joy and delight.” “… the longing, the yearning, the passion, in the human heart for joy and happiness, and fascination and excitement” is universal. But why? Why this universal need for happiness? There is a reason.
The reason that we desire happiness with such relish is because it’s in our spiritual blood so to speak – we are created in the image of God, a God who is Himself infinitely joyous and happy. Truly, God has infinite Joy: try to imagine the difference between the greatest of our finite joys and what His infinite joy would be like. Our greatest rapture would not comprise the minutest shadow of comparison. Yet, as believers, we will increasingly partake of this infinite joy forever. And if we are not believers, until we find happiness in Him, our true purpose, we will never find true happiness. To be sure: “Christianity forbids us no pleasures, save those that lead to temporal misery and eternal woe.” Put another way, in one sense, sin is seeking happiness where only ultimate disappointment can be found – in every place and manner but God. In other words, given a starving man, sin is rejecting God’s free offer of a King’s buffet for sawdust sprinkled with sequins, something that at first glance might look pretty or seem inviting but have no sustenance.
On the other hand, God desires more for us than we have ever imagined.
As Jonathan Edwards observed, “God created man for nothing else but happiness. He created him only that he might communicate happiness to him.” This is proven by Scriptures like Psalm 16:11, “… In your presence there is full as of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.” We will forever “drink from the river of your delights.” Or, as other translations put it: “the river of thy pleasures” and “the torrent of thy pleasure.” Both “everlasting joy” and “eternal blessings” will be the never-ending inheritance of the redeemed.
God’s Supreme Joy
Unfortunately most people have little conception of the extent to which both their secure and lasting joy in this life (as distinct from circumstance driven happiness) – and their eternal delight and welfare in the next – depend upon God’s glory being supreme in everything. To the extent that God is not supremely concerned with Himself and His glory e.g., with that supreme perfection, beauty, majesty, greatness and infinite worth that is Him, He is to that extent unjust — and also unloving towards His creatures. We are the last beings who should desire that God’s supreme interest not be centered in Himself, because that is precisely where our eternal best interests and security are to be found. Nevertheless, “since our greatest good and highest joy lie in God, God’s delight in our creaturely happiness results into a delight in himself…. The end of the happiness of the creature is one with the end of the glorifying of God [quoting Jonathan Edwards] ‘this one supreme end consists in two things, namely, in God’s infinite perfection being exerted and manifested, that is, in God’s glorifying himself; and, second, his infinite happiness being communicated and so making the creature happy. Both are sometimes in scripture included in one word, namely, God’s being glorified.’… [As John Piper says] ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.'” To be sure, to the extent God is not supremely concerned with His own glory, He is by definition not concerned with infinite perfection and thus everything suffers, Himself included. Thankfully, that is something He will never permit. It could not be otherwise that “God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exultation is the supremely loving act.” And, “God desires our greatest good. But what greater good is there in the universe than God himself?… He must work to elicit from our hearts rapturous praise and superlative delight because, as Lewis said, ‘all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.'”
In other words, why should we enjoy and praise only football and romance, poetry, movies, wine, nature’s beauty, and everything else good in this world when they are infinitely inferior to God and His love for us? It doesn’t make sense. When we consider the infinite glory, nature and love of God, everything else is barren by comparison. What logic does it make to exchange the eternal God for temporal insignificance? Joy, pleasure, happiness, excitement and fascination are by definition better in every way when found in God than when found in sensual or worldly pursuits – more exquisite, more extensive, more excellent, more sublime, more solid, more satisfying. Every good thing in this world and all acceptable delights (vice obviously excluded) are yet more delightful when we personally know the One who, in unmerited love and grace, freely gave them to us. And besides, as everyone discovers sooner or later, vice, in Edwards words, “destroys the sweetness of outward enjoyments.”
As an infinitely perfect being, “God is love” and the infinitely complex internal life of God is an eternal self-giving love, which illustrates why God’s first concern must be with Himself and His glory, a glory which, thankfully for us, is inherently self-sacrificing. Thus, understanding that 1) God is absolutely sovereign and 2) “all things rest in God’s loving control” and 3) knowing the unparalleled and marvelous promises of God in Scripture, such as Romans 8:28, can only make us marvel all the more. (See note.) Is it any surprise Scripture admonishes us to always be joyful?: “Keep on rejoicing in the Lord at all times. I will say it again: Keep on rejoicing!” Or, “Always be joyful in the Lord! I’ll say it again: [always] Be joyful!” “Always be joyful.” “Rejoice evermore.”
Here is something worthy of praise. Here is something worthy of worship, which, again, is primarily enjoyment, happiness and pleasure in God, leading to His glory. God created us to delight in God. By comparison, everything else in the world is but sawdust. Yet somehow, we ignore God had heap our praises on sawdust. Is anything more unbefitting?
So often, we can’t even thank God for His gifts, let alone Himself. After all, throughout the world, what isn’t a gift from God? Life, love, health (even illness and tragedy can be gifts or blessings), food & drink, music, fun, pleasure, children, laughter, family, learning, beaches, babies, sports, beauty, joy, snow, romance, adventure, happiness, peace, sleep, excitement, the glories of nature, happiness, pets, art, entertainment, sense perceptions, culture, homes, physical intimacy, electronic conveniences and pastimes — and I haven’t even begun. Notice that most of these are categories that can be broken down into hundreds or thousands of additional individual gifts. (The potential number of food recipes alone is nearly endless.) All free – not even for the asking. “Every gift which is good, and every perfect boon, is from above, and comes down from the Father, who is the source of all Light. In Him there is no variation nor the slightest suggestion of change”.
But, like the 10 lepers Jesus compassionately healed, only one of whom returned to thank him, how many people ever thank the true God for all these multitudes of gifts and blessings that bring such delight into our lives – let alone the ultimate gift of God Himself? And yet they are missing the greatest Delight of all and the kaleidoscopic pleasures of adoring and enjoying Him forever. Here is the perhaps basic nature of sin – that the unbeliever will not “honor him as God or give thanks to him.” Perhaps this is even the fundamental sin – not being willing to honor God as who He is, refusing to give him the glory and praise He deserves, considering His promises as unworthy, even discarding the Cross and all it represents — horrors. Sin always exalts our own interests over God’s, placing us on the throne of the universe, dethroning God so to speak, making ourselves god. Indeed, when we covet anything but God, we actually become idolaters. (Colossians 3:5) “Whatever we covet is our god, and hence Paul identifies coveting as idolatry (Col. 3:5).”
Perhaps the worst sin of all is such rebellious pride, pride which caused the Fall of Satan, the Fall of our first parents, and in the end, the ultimate Fall of every one of us who will not repent from our sins and idolatry and turn to Christ. This explains why Jesus said that only those who humble themselves as a little child will enter the kingdom of heaven. “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This is why Romans 14:23 teaches that “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” As Schreiner explains, faith glorifies God because it trusts Him as reliable whereas unbelief dishonors God because it considers Him unreliable and His promises as untrue – it considers He will not do what He has said, robbing him of his glory. Thus “we glorify God by trusting in him, and dishonor him by failing to believe in his word. Hence, whenever we do that is not a result of faith constitutes sin inasmuch as it dishonors God.”
The Best News: Enjoying God above All Things
The good news is that our sins are forever forgiven through faith in the atoning death of Christ, which is part of the basic Christian gospel: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” “He forgave us all our sins.” “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” But in fact, the gospel involves more than forgiveness of sins — so much more, as great and wonderful as forgiveness is; it involves salvation in its broadest sense and receiving and fellowshipping with God Himself, even in a way many Christians don’t yet recognize.
For example, pastor Sam Storms, author of Pleasures for Evermore: The Life-Changing Power of Enjoying God explains how our individual praise of God represents, in actuality, God’s expression of Himself in self-giving love: “God’s pursuit of my praise of him is not weak self-seeking but the epitome of self-giving love! If my satisfaction in him is incomplete until expressed in praise of him for satisfying me with himself (note well: with himself, not his gifts or blessings, but the intrinsic beauty and splendor of God as God), then God’s effort to elicit my worship (what CS Lewis before [he understood it] thought was inexcusable selfishness) is both the most loving thing he could possibly do for me and the most glorifying thing he possibly do for himself. For in my gladness in him (not his gifts) is his glory in me.
“If God is to love you optimally, he must bestow or impart the best gift he has, the greatest prize, the most precious treasure, the most exalted and worthy things within his power to give. That gift, of course, is himself. Nothing in the universe is as beautiful and captivating and satisfying as God! So, if God loves you he will give himself to you and then work in your soul to awaken you to his beauty and all-sufficiency [hopefully, a purpose of this article]. In other words, he will strive by all manner and means to intensify and expand and enlarge your joy in him…. If God is as excellent and gloriously ineffable and unfathomably majestic as Scripture contends, he wouldn’t love us unless he did whatever was necessary to bring us into the knowledge and experience and enjoyment of himself. All other, lesser gifts, such as being made much of, would not be the ultimate expression of divine love. God is the gospel! Having God is the good news! All other, necessarily lesser, gifts are good only to the extent that they facilitate the higher, indeed highest, goal of getting God! Making himself known to us in Jesus and working through his Spirit to bring us into white-hot admiration and enjoyment of who he is (that’s worship, by the way) is the ultimate and unparalleled act of love.”
The very purpose for our existence is to glorify God – again, the only true God, the only Supreme Being and the most important Person in the universe. “To glorify something or someone is to praise, enjoy, and delight in them… to serve or defer to him or her… Your ultimate joy is to see them in joy.” As Piper observes, to glorify God is to live with the purpose that throughout the world God’s name will be regarded as precious. It is to know beyond doubt that throughout eternity we will have the indescribable pleasures of intimately knowing and glorifying God, the single greatest Treasure there is – of praising, marveling, savoring and delighting in the infinitely astonishing God, in being enchanted by Him and in Him, – and in endless ways, experiencing the unimaginable generosity of His infinite love towards us.
“That is why we exist – to display the glory of God. Human life is all about God. That is the meaning of being human. It is our created nature to make much of God. It is our glory to worship the glory of God…. Not to fulfill this purpose for human existence is to be a mere shadow of the substance we were created to have. Not to display God’s worth by enjoying him above all things is to be a mere echo of the music we were created to make. This is a great [and indescribable] tragedy. Humans are not made to be mere shadows and echoes. We were made to have God-like substance and make God-like music and have God-like impact. That is what it means to be created in the image of God …. But when humans forsake their Maker and love other things more, they become like the things they love – small, insignificant, weightless, inconsequential, and God-diminishing.”
As Jonathan Edwards observed, “The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast.” That’s why God told Abram, “I am … your very great reward” (Genesis 15:1).
In addition to happiness, everyone wants and seeks love. Love is the biggest thing of all. But again, we want, need and seek love because we are created in God’s image – the image of the One who is love. Only the triune biblical God is love, only He lovingly sacrifices Himself for His creatures – fallen and rebellious as we are. (Imagine the astonishment of the Angels!) Only He freely gives eternal delights past imagining, “blessings beyond which no better can be imagined or conceived: an infinite, eternal, mutual, holy energy of love and pleasure between God the Father, and God the Son flowing out in the person of God the Spirit, and filling the souls of the redeemed with immeasurable and everlasting joy.” Indeed, “… the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”, and “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him…”
Whoever wants genuine and eternal love, must first come to the God who is love.
Knowledge of the true God
If we were to carefully search throughout the whole of human history and religion, we would discover that only the God of the Bible is the true God – and only He is infinitely unique and worthy. Only He is. Only He has provided compelling evidence for His existence, which is why so many scholars and even some former skeptics have concluded that biblical Christianity is “the most intellectually and existentially coherent option among all others,” demonstrated through the academic discipline of Christian apologetics. (See note.) Only He has revealed himself in His word, the Bible. Only He is a God of grace. Only He is holy. Only He is a God of demonstrated self-sacrificing love. Only He is the infinite-personal, triune God.
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.” As the apostle Paul declared, “We know that the false gods in this world don’t really exist and that no god exists except the one God.” Jesus taught, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Only this one true God is He who spoke the universe into being and yet was born in a manger; the eternal and infinite Glory who graciously humbled Himself with human form; the God of infinite joy who nevertheless wept; the God of perfect life who astonishingly died of unspeakable wounds that rebellious creatures might freely inherit eternal life. This same God who became obedient to death on a cross, also rose forever to His eternal glory, and for those who believe in His Son Jesus Christ, for their eternal salvation.
To believe we cease to exist at death is a terrible error: we sense the eternal within us because we are eternal. We will live forever in either Heaven or Hell and the Day of judgment is coming, perhaps soon: “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” If that Day for the world doesn’t come soon, it is coming soon enough for every one of us — the very moment we die. Only those who have the righteousness of Christ given to them will survive it. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Knowing God is possible. If readers wish to know precisely who God is and what He is like, they only to read the Gospels and look at Jesus, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).
To be sure:
- “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
This very Christ is the One who promised us: “I can guarantee this truth: Those who listen to what I say and believe in the one who sent me will have eternal life. They won’t be judged because they have already passed from death to life.”
- “To him be glory both now and for ever.”
This God is the One who deserves our ultimate trust, no one else; no matter what. If we truly know him, our final destiny is eternal love, delight, awe, joy and pleasure. And so much more – God Himself.
If you are not a Christian and would like to know how to become a Christian, see the homepage of JAshow.org.
For those seeking salvation, it is fitting to close in the words of Jonathan Edwards:
- “Do not presume upon the mercy of God, and so encourage yourself in sin. Many hear that God’s mercy is infinite, and therefore think, that if they delay seeking salvation for the present, and seek it later in life, that God will bestow His grace upon them. But consider, that though God’s grace is sufficient, yet He is sovereign, and will use His own pleasure to determine whether He will save you or not. If you put off salvation till the end of your life, salvation will not be in your power. It will be as a sovereign God pleases, whether you shall obtain it or not. Therefore, seeing that in this matter you are so absolutely dependent on God, it is best to follow His direction in seeking it, which is to listen to His voice, which says, “Today, if you hear My voice, do not harden your hearts” [Psalm 95:7-8].
- “Beware also of discouragement. Take heed of despairing thoughts, because you are a great sinner, because you have persevered so long in sin, have backslidden, and resisted the Holy Spirit. Remember that, no matter what your case may be, no matter how great a sinner you are, God can bestow mercy upon you without the least prejudice to the honor of His holiness, which you have offended, or to the honor of His majesty, which you have insulted, or of His justice, which you have made your enemy, or of His truth, or of any of His attributes. Let you be what sinner you may, God can, if He pleases, greatly glorify Himself in your salvation. Amen.”
Put more simply, as Billy Graham might declare: “Say to God, I want my sins forgiven; I turn from them to Christ. I want to know I’m going to heaven. I want eternal life. I’m ready to surrender my life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I want to follow Him from this day on.”
Soli Deo gloria, Christmas Day, December 25, 2011
If I could perchance pay every reader $1 million with nothing left over, just to read these books listed below, I would do so happily.
Highly Recommended Reading on Knowing God
J. I. Packer, Knowing God; Knowing God Devotional Journal: A One-Year Guide; God’s Words.
A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God, Volumes 1 & 2 (study guides included) and The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life. =
John MacArthur, Our Awesome God.
Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God. (Charnock was the 17th century Puritan chaplain to Oliver Cromwell; hefty at over 1000 pages and written in Elizabethan English, but so was the KJV; pure gold.)
Additional Highly Recommended Reading on God.
God, The Gospel of John (and the other 65 books).
John Piper, The Pleasures of God and Desiring God and When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight For Joy.
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God.
Jerry Bridges, Trusting God & The Joy of Fearing God.
Tullian Tchividjian, Do I Know God?: Finding Certainty in Life’s Most Important Relationship
Sam Storms, Pleasure Forevermore: The Life-Changing Power of Enjoying God & One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God.
Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World & The Nature of True Virtue. The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University has made Edwards’ complete writings available in a searchable database at: http://edwards.yale.edu/research and has published Edwards’ works in a 26 volume scholarly edition. See especially “Major Works” at http://edwards.yale.edu/research/about-je
Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith.
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ; The Case for the Resurrection; The Case for Faith; The Case for a Creator.
Systematic theology. The study of systematic theology (such as Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Systematic Theology) is something that should be close to every Christian’s heart because it is the systematic study of God Himself. For example, basic Christian doctrines, which are unique in comparative religion, include Bibliology, the doctrine of the Bible (e.g., inspiration, inerrancy, canon); Theology Proper, the doctrine of God (e.g., theism, Trinitarianism, God’s attributes); Angelology, the doctrine of angels, elect and reprobate; Anthropology, the doctrine of man; Harmartiology, the doctrine of sin; Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church (e.g., the nature of the church as Christ’s bride and in organic union with him); Christology, the doctrine of Christ (e.g., the incarnation, the hypostatic union; His person and work); Pneumatology, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (e.g., His person and work); and Eschatology, the doctrine of last things, involving detailed predictions of the end of history. All these doctrines are unique in key ways when compared with those in other religions. Each major category of theology has particular sub- doctrines. For example under the doctrine of salvation, we find the doctrines of depravity, imputation, grace, propitiation/atonement, reconciliation, calling, regeneration, union with Christ, conversion (repentance/faith), justification, adoption, sanctification, eternal security (perseverance), election/predestination, redemption, and death, resurrection and the final state. A study of any one or all of these will produce blessings beyond measure.
Fyi: Sample “Christian apologetics” by non-Christians
1. Dr. Anthony Flew, There Is a God (The case for God by a former leading atheist turned deist with strong sympathies for Christianity as the only possible divine revelation, if there is one; some interesting comments on Christian faith. See my review in: John G. Weldon, “The New Atheists and Remembering a Notorious Atheists’ Prayer,” (9 Parts);https://www.jashow.org/articles/worldview/atheism/the-new-atheists-and-remembering-a-notorious-atheists-prayer/.
2. Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: a Jewish Perspective (A defense of Jesus physical resurrection from a noted Orthodox Jewish scholar; although upholding the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ — from one perspective, amazing enough — still weak in areas.)
3. Dr. Randy L. Wysong, The Creation Evolution Controversy, an excellent and balanced scientific case for creation by a veterinary scientist, nutritionist and critic of Christianity. (Time permitting, I hope to offer a review of his Solving the Big Questions As If Thinking Matters: Why Materialism, Evolution and Religion Have It Wrong (2010), a book that required 10 years to compose. For the moment, I might mention that has it about 90% right on religion generally, but unfortunately, seemingly doesn’t want to give biblical Christianity a fair hearing, e.g., accepting false assumptions and use of an unknown number of biased sources. Although grateful for what he considers good religion, had he impartially looked at well-informed Christian apologetics (e.g. The Reason for God and Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, above; cf. note 52 below), carefully reasoned theodicies, and biblical Christianity with the same objectivity he did in The Creation Evolution Controversy, he might have come to a different conclusion. As such, it seems his critique is fundamentally humanistic and he apparently doesn’t yet comprehend how his “rules of engagement” and “truth filters” (chapter 3) aptly fit biblical Christianity, e.g. “evidence, facts, experience and reason,” etc., do support Christian faith. Nevertheless, fair warning, his arguments will probably be disturbing or threatening to most Christians who haven’t taken the time to study apologetics and theology. Wysong is an original, like Arthur Custance and GK Chesterton. But, having abandoned materialism and religion/divine revelation, his only source of refuge is limited human reasoning and, it appears, a form of spiritualism, a dangerous practice (acknowledge so by practitioners; see my The Coming Darkness), although hopefully, it has only been adopted philosophically and Dr. Wysong will rethink matters. Regardless, please join me in praying for Dr. Wysong. (As an aside, Dr. Wysong’s The Truth about Pet Foods and his veterinary nutritional approach are unique and could save or significantly extend the life of the average companion animal; he is helping to accomplish for veterinary science what rational complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is helping to accomplish for conventional medicine which latter medicine is, apparently, the leading cause of death in America (cf. Mercola.com, use the search engine to type in “Death by Medicine”), e.g., open-minded medical science, preventative medicine and sound nutrition, including nutraceuticals.)
End notes (All Scripture references are NIV, NASB, ESV unless indicated.)
- Thanks to Dr. Norman Geisler for this idea, unfortunately, given the blessings of age, I can’t remember where.
- Donald J. Westblade, “The Sovereignty of God in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards,” in Sam Storms & Justin Taylor, For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, 2010, 110, citing Edwards. Edwards was the great scholar, philosopher, theologian, missionary and preacher of the 18th century, America’s finest theologian and one of its premier intellectuals. He observed: “[It is] evident to reason that there is but one eternal, self-existent, independent, infinite Being,” to which everything else is reliant – “infinitely below him” and “universally and perfectly dependent on him.” (Jonathan Edwards, “The ‘Miscellanies’,” Entry No. 1156: “Observations on the Agreeableness of the Christian Religion to Reason,”; http://edwards.yale.edu/archive?path=aHR0cDovL2Vkd2FyZHMueWFsZS5lZHUvY2dpLWJpbi9uZXdwaGlsby9nZXRvYmplY3QucGw/Yy4yMjoyOjMud2plbw==).
- John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God, 2000, 311. One of the top five books I have read.
- See Sam Storms, “Christian Hedonism: Piper and Edwards on the Pursuit of Joy in God,” in Sam Storms, Justin Taylor, eds., For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper.
- “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
- Adapted From William Lane Craig’s short treatise on molinism, The Only Wise God: the Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom, Epilogue, 153.
- Sam Storms, “Christian Hedonism: Piper and Edwards on the Pursuit of Joy in God,” in Sam Storms, Justin Taylor, eds., For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, pp. 57 (CS Lewis quote), 60.
- Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, 2008, 191-192, 231. Obviously, this is a general summary statement; in actions, sins are expressed outward from one’s nature and one’s adopted identity.
- Illustrated in the following, excerpted from my Handbook of Biblical Evidences: “The late Dr. Mortimer J. Adler was one of the great modern thinkers. He is author of such important than books as Ten Philosophical Mistakes, Truth in Religion, and How to Think About God, was chairman for the Board of Editors for the Encyclopædia Britannica, and architect and editor-in-chief for the 54-volume The Great Books of the Western World library [which I sold in college]. This collection contains the writings of the most influential and greatest intellects and thinkers in Western history—from Aristotle to Shakespeare. In Volume 1 of The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of The Great Books of the Western World, Adler points out the crucial importance of the issue of God’s existence to the greatest thinkers of the Western world. With the exception of only certain mathematicians and physicists (who would certainly be included today had they been privy to the modern advances in physics and mathematics), “all the authors of the great books are represented. . . . In sheer quantity of references, as well as in variety, this is the largest chapter. The reason is obvious. More consequences for thought and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other basic question.” (Mortimer J. Adler, editor in chief, William Gorman, general editor, The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World (Chicago: IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1952), Vol. 1, 543).
- Matthew 22:37-38. And, of course, the second.
- Sam Storms, “Christian Hedonism: Piper and Edwards on the Pursuit of Joy in God,” in Sam Storms, Justin Taylor, eds., For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, 2010, 55.
- In The End for Which God Created the World, Edwards philosophically and scripturally defends the idea that God created the world for His own glory. Because genuine happiness originates and concludes only in God, human joy, particularly eternal joy, is a genuine part of God’s glory. Samuel Hopkins observes in his preface to Edwards book that, “The end which God had in view in creating the world was doubtless worthy of him, and consequently the most excellent and glorious possible. This therefore must be worthy to be known by all the intelligent creation, as excellent in itself, and worthy of their pursuit.” Edward concludes his The End for Which God Created the World with the following discussion:“The more happiness the greater union [with God]: when the happiness is perfect, the union is perfect. And as the happiness will be increasing to eternity, the union will become more and more strict and perfect; nearer and more like to that between God the Father and the Son; who are so united, that their interest is perfectly one. If the happiness of the creature be considered as it will be, in the whole of the creature’s eternal duration, with all the infinity of its progress, and infinite increase of nearness and union to God; in this view, the creature must be looked upon as united to God in an infinite strictness.
“If God has respect to something in the creature, which he views as of everlasting duration, and as rising higher and higher through that infinite duration, and that not with constantly diminishing (but perhaps an increasing) celerity [speed, swiftness]: then he has respect to it as, in the whole, of infinite height; though there never will be any particular time when it can be said already to have come to such an height.
“Let the most perfect union with God be represented by something at an infinite height above us; and the eternally increasing union of the saints with God, by something that is ascending constantly towards that infinite height, moving upwards with a given velocity; and that is to continue thus to move to all eternity. God who views the whole of this eternally increasing height views it as an infinite height. And if he has respect to it, and makes it his end, as in the whole of it, he has respect to it as an infinite height, though the time will never come when it can be said it has already arrived at this infinite height.
“God aims at that which the motion or progression which he causes aims at, or tends to. If there be many things supposed to be so made and appointed, that by a constant and eternal motion, they all tend to a certain center; then it appears that he who made them and is the cause of their motion, aimed at that center, that term of their motion to which they eternally tend, and are eternally, as it were, striving after. And if God be this center, then God aimed at himself. And herein it appears that as he is the first author of their being and motion, so he is the last end, the final term, to which is their ultimate tendency and aim.
“We may judge of the end that the Creator aimed at, in the being, nature and tendency he gives the creature, by the mark or term which they constantly aim at in their tendency and eternal progress; though the time will never come when it can be said it is attained to, in the most absolutely perfect manner.
“But if strictness of union to God be viewed as thus infinitely exalted; then the creature must be regarded as infinitely, nearly and closely united to God. And viewed thus, their interest must be viewed as one with God’s interest; and so is not regarded properly with a disjunct and separate, but an undivided respect. And as to any difficulty of reconciling God’s not making the creature his ultimate end, with a respect properly distinct from a respect to himself; with his benevolence and free grace, and the creature’s obligation to gratitude, the reader must be referred to Ch. I, Sec. IV, Obj. 4 where this objection has been considered and answered at large.
“If by reason of the strictness of the union of a man and his family, their interest may be looked upon as one, how much more one is the interest of Christ and his church (whose first union in heaven is unspeakably more perfect and exalted, than that of an earthly father and his family), if they be considered with regard to their eternal and increasing union! Doubtless it may justly be esteemed as so much one that it may be supposed to be aimed at and sought, not with a distinct and separate, but an undivided respect.
“’Tis certain that what God aimed at in the creation of the world was the good that would be the consequence of the creation, in the whole continuance of the thing created. ‘Tis no solid objection against God’s aiming at an infinitely perfect union of the creature with himself, that the particular time will never come when it can be said, the union is now infinitely perfect. God aims at satisfying justice in the eternal damnation of sinners; which will be satisfied by their damnation, considered no otherwise than with regard to its eternal duration. But yet there never will come that particular moment, when it can be said, that now justice is satisfied. But if this don’t satisfy our modern freethinkers, who don’t like the talk about satisfying justice with an infinite punishment; I suppose it will not be denied by any that God, in glorifying the saints in heaven with eternal felicity, aims to satisfy his infinite grace or benevolence, by the bestowment of a good infinitely valuable, because eternal: and yet there never will come the moment, when it can be said, that now this infinitely valuable good has been actually bestowed. (Jonatha