On The Attributes of God…

The question of describing “who God is” is a critical matter in all areas of biblical teachings and practices. How you understand God can influence your faith. In orthodox Christianity, it is my firm conviction and belief that Scripture reveals God Himself as the Trinity: One God in Three Persons. I am sure that all of the conservative Protestant churches can attest to that. However, the main issue emerges when we try to explain and describe what God is.

It is my great concern that the congregation in the churches do not know their God well enough. As J.I. Packer said in his classical work, Knowing God, “Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God’s attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are” (p. 21-22). As Christians know God better, indeed their lives and their minds are being transformed. 


The knowledge of God is ultimately gained by reading and studying the Word of God. The Scriptures attest to that in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  


When explaining and describing what God is, I am talking about His attributes: mercy, love, wisdom, knowledge, faithfulness, self-sufficient, righteous and so forth. 


In this generation, there prevails a great theological error surrounding the attributes of God, which is to elevate one of God’s attributes over His other attributes. 


Most people would recognize the love of God as His attribute. Indeed, the apostle John said that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). I believe in the love of God. I am also encouraged by the fact that God does love in action. Children in Sunday school would memorize John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The Apostle Paul indicates the demonstration of God’s love in Romans 5:8. 


The theological error does not consist in the fact that God is love, but when God’s love is elevated more than His other attributes. “We believe that God’s greatest attribute is love” is an erroneous statement of faith. The New Testament, especially 1 John, speaks about the love of God a lot. Don’t make the mistake between emphasis and elevation. When John wrote his first letter, love is indeed the emphasis or one of the themes because that’s one of the ways to know if one is a born-again Christian. However, do not equate emphasis to elevation. “…it should caution us not to take any one of these descriptions by itself and isolate it from its immediate context or from the rest of what Scripture says about God. If we did that, we would run the risk of misunderstanding or of having an imbalanced or inadequate picture of who God is. Each description of one of God’s attributes must be understood in the light of everything else that Scripture tells us about God. If we fail to remember this, we will inevitably understand God’s character wrongly” (Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. p. 159). 1 John does say that God is love, but it is theologically dangerous to narrow our focus of who God is on a single epistle and separate the knowledge of Him from the rest of Scripture. 


Indeed, I admit, the love of God is more appealing than the wrath of God. His loving attribute does affect us emotionally and spiritually. Yet the whole of Scripture does not submit to our emotions, for Scripture is sufficient and authoritative. Calvin warns us about this mindset in his Institutes, “The effect of the expression, therefore, is the same as if it had been said, that he is of infinite majesty, incomprehensible essence, boundless power, and eternal duration. When we thus speak of God, our thoughts must be raised to their highest pitch; we must not ascribe to him any thing of a terrestrial or carnal nature, must not measure him by our little standards, or suppose his will to be like ours”. Or another version can be said like this, “lest we dream up anything earthly or physical about him, lest we measure him by our small measure, or conform his will to our emotion” (Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. 3.20.40). If God’s love becomes more appealing and the greatest attribute against the rest, we have worshiped the wrong God or only part of God. You can end up believing in the god of Rob Bell who wrote Love Wins, becoming a heretic and destroying the message of the Gospel. 


Have you ever sat down and reflected on what God verbally said about Himself? The authors of Scripture do describe His attributes in various places, but what does God say about Himself? Moses penned it down in Leviticus 19:2, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Whatever happened to teaching and reflecting about God’s holiness? Additionally, whatever happened to teaching and reflecting about God’s immutability, wisdom, justice, wrath, faithfulness, knowledge, self-sufficiency and so forth?


In conclusion, it is indeed my concern that the congregation in the churches do not know their God very well. Rather, they only know one part of God. 


An (imperfect) illustration that can hopefully drive home my argument. You and your significant other have started dating. Both of you are in the honeymoon phase and love to be with each other because you found that this person is “compatible” with everything you love. Initially, you find that the other person is so kind, nice and loving. As both of you continue to know each other as a couple, you start to know the “bad” side of that person. You may realize that the other person is selfish, gossipy, arrogant and so forth. Perhaps you may contend with that person and still love him or her. After getting married, you start to realize that person is irresponsible, lazy, messy and so forth. Although you may not like his or her bad behaviors, you still love that person as a whole for who he or she is. You cannot just love that person when he or she is nice and loving. To truly love someone is to love that person as a whole even though he or she is not perfect. 


The God of the Bible is perfect and sinless. Scripture has already reveal everything we need to know about God. Though you may not like one of His attributes, God will not change according to your liking – consider His immutability (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19). Though we can continue to grow in the knowledge of God in this life, we cannot fully know God due to our sinfulness and our finite minds. Hence, I agree with the Reformed maxim “the finite cannot contain the infinite”.  


To love God is to love Him as a whole being. To know God is to know Him as a whole being. To worship God is to worship Him as a whole being. “We must remember that God’s whole being includes all of his attributes: he is entirely loving, entirely merciful, entirely just, and so forth. Every attribute of God that we find in Scripture is true of all of God’s being, and we therefore can say that every attribute of God also qualifies every other attribute” (Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. p. 179)

"Peace", When There Is No Peace

Once you are in vocational ministry, it does not take too long for you to take into careful consideration of all the teachings that are in the world. These teachings are from “Christians”, theologians, pastors, authors, and writers. As a minister, I do read the news from time-to-time. I notice what is happening in the world. At the same time, I also read articles, news, and blog entries written by professing Christians who claim to have high-view of Scripture. High-view of Scripture is a good attitude to have; at the same time, a person with a high-view of Scripture may also have low-literacy of Scripture.

I regret this, but I read some entries from Huffington post by this guy, some guy and the same guy. I know who Mooney is though not personally. Like Rob Bell who questioned the existence of Hell in his book, Love Wins, Mooney makes very bold statements and claims that Jesus did not believe in hell, Jesus did not care about doctrines, and God saving everyone in the end like the story of Jonah. Because of all those posts, there is no need to believe that everyone will go to hell. God’s grace and love will prevail in the end. Everybody will be saved. 

On a personal note, I really want to believe what Mooney says. Let’s all admit…Hell is not a pleasant word. To some, hell can be a good word since they’ll meet their buddies and party there. I really want to believe that in the end everyone will be saved. No one needs to suffer. It does sound very nice. 

Knowing the Word of God to be inspired by God and His Word is inerrant, I cannot believe what Mooney says are absolutely the Word of God. I cannot promote “Peace”; when in the end, there is no peace. I cannot promote “Everyone will go to heaven”; when in the end, not everyone will go to heaven. I cannot promote “No Such Thing As Hell”; when in the end, there will be some who will be “vessels of wrath” (Romans 9:22).  

Thankfully, I am not the first one to see this. Young Jeremiah have experienced it in his time in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 6:14). When Jerusalem was prophesied to be destroyed by Babylon, many false prophets have risen to comfort everyone with lies. They claim to have come from God, when God never called them (Jeremiah 23). 

Let’s fast-forward to Jesus’ time. Jesus gave his disciples a prophetic event that will happen in the future. The reality of this future event implies that “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” (Matthew 24:11) Jesus calls us to be ready because the “Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44) God’s final judgement will come through 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. Similar to what happened to King Zedekiah, God’s judgement came on Jerusalem through Babylon. 

Let’s fast-forward to the time of Paul’s last letter to Young Timothy. False teachers have already crept inside the church, and Timothy had to deal with them. Timothy was timid, weak, and constantly had ailment. Paul does not sympathize with him, but gives him strength and exhortation to press on. Paul said, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

I really hope Mooney also read the book of Nahum because Nahum prophesied God’s judgement on Nineveh a generation after Jonah.

The Nature Of A Spiritual Infant

A baby is completely dependent upon the care and provider of the parents. A baby cries for various reasons, and the parents have to decipher what the baby wants. A baby hunger and thirsts, so the parents feed their baby with milk. So, we can agree that a baby naturally needs someone in order to survive.
 
The analogy of a baby is a good transition to the topic that I want to speak about. A Christian is described in various images in Scripture: a sheep, a member of the body of Christ, a part of the temple of God, a bride of Christ, a salt, a light, an infant and so forth.
 
A Christian is an infant. Thankfully, God knows fully well what a Christian needs. Peter said, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3)
 
Christians are newborn infants because they have been spiritually born-again by the Holy Spirit (John 3). As newborn infants, Christians are no longer “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3); Christians are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Because Christians are born-again, Christians are infants because Christians are a new creation, Christians ought to naturally desire milk – spiritual food – Scripture or the Bible. 
 
It is the nature of Christians to be dependent on God. It is the nature of Christians to progressively know God. It is the nature of Christians to progressively desire to know God. It is the nature of Christians to progressively and naturally hunger and thirst for God. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) The Beatitudes are the characters that describe what a Christian looks like. Any Christians who are self-reliant and independent would lead him/her to spiritual despair, amnesia and vulnerability.  

Singing hymns are generally my preferable style of worship. Not all hymns, however, equally have good theology. In “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah”, I invite you to read these two lines:

Bread Of Heaven, Bread Of Heaven

Feed Me Till I Want No More

In the context of this hymn, when the Israelite was in the wilderness, they need manna or food. Manna were bread that fell from heaven. Physical nourishment is important, and there is a suggested theological implication that physical fulfillment is temporal. 

After doing much research on this hymn, this lyric was probably not the original but was probably edited. Regardless of what the original was, “feed me till I want no more” does not sound correct. It is implying or suggesting that spiritual nourishment is temporary rather than an ongoing desire for that nourishment. 

Think about it, a baby naturally needs physical nourishment. For Christians, they naturally (or supernaturally) also need spiritual nourishment from the Word of God. Without the knowledge and practice of the Word of God, Christians cannot spiritually grow into maturity (2 Timothy 3:16-17). 

Meditate on this response from a “Christian”: “Thank you God for the Bible. I finished reading it and I want it (or God) no more.” 

A proper response would be this: “Thank you God for feeding me with your Word, and I desire more.” And off you go to your other activities as you look forward to your next devotion because you want more of God’s Word and Himself. 

As I was saying about the lyric, there was a change. Whether if you have been a Christian for a long time or if you’ve recently become a Christian, I hope that we would always have the attitude of being an infant that longs for God and be close with Him. So here’s the alternate lyric:

Bread Of Heaven, Bread Of Heaven

Feed Me Now And Evermore

Knowing Dead Guys

For those who are in my church, you may have heard me quote a sentence during sermons, seminars or Sunday school lessons, and I would say, “The person who said this quote is a dead guy in the [so and so] century.”

Although the selected sentences may sound archaic – or should I say “old”? – they contain more theological richness than, I think, John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Jones and so forth could pen down.

Dead guys such as John Bunyan, who draws out words or sentences, using allegory, to tell a beautiful story, yet deep theology, in Pilgrim’s Progress.

Dead guys such as John Calvin, who was a genius exegete.

Dead guys such as Charles Spurgeon, who was known as the prince of preacher.

These dead guys have been known as the Puritans. It also depends on how you define “puritans” because church historian found it to be one of the most difficult tasks. If you are an average Joe who may seem to know who the puritans are, your answer may be wrong because the answer is not as simple as using Wikipedia or dictionary. But…I digressed from my main point.

I found knowing dead guys have greatly reinforce my walk with Christ and my understanding of Scripture. Their works are influential and edifying to the souls. Their works have caused them to spill their own blood. Their works are worth attentive studying and reading (although I admit that reading Geerhardus Vos’ Biblical Theology has put me to sleep countless times).

I encourage you to get to know some of these dead guys. Indeed, be updated with modern issues that they may not have dealt with.

Personally, I don’t expect myself to know all of them at great length, but I have chosen to study two or three dead guys’ work.

John Owen – known as the greatest theologian in history.

Charles Spurgeon – known as the prince of preacher.

James Montgomery Boice – known as the defender of Biblical Inerrancy.

Reformation Day


On Friday, many people, especially children, will dress up and collecting candies from door-to-door. People look like the characters they see in the movies or TV shows. It can be scary or entertaining. 

For Christians, however, October 31st is a sweeter treat than Halloween candy. Christians do have a “day” to celebrate. It is a significant day that we can never forget and take for granted. October 31st is indeed Reformation Day. This day commemorates an event that struck Wittenburg (Germany) with a hammer bang on the church door by a man named Martin Luther

Luther confronted the issues that the Roman Catholic Church was doing for the lay people who had no access to the Bible. The Catholic church was promoting this false teaching called indulgence where it basically teaches that in order to be saved, you have to pay your way to heaven. Luther opposed that idea, the Catholic church and the Pope. Indeed, this confrontation and opposition got him into a lot of trouble in the Catholic church. Luther was soon tried by the church and had to recant of his teaching. During the trial, Luther’s response shocked the crowd, “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

Martin Luther’s legacy has lived on for 500 years. Luther is one of the most significant figures that God raised up in the early 16th century – October 31st, 1517. Luther nailed his 95 thesis on the church of Wittenburg for the purpose of restoring the missing doctrine called the Doctrine Of Justification By Faith, and confronting the Catholic church. The Catholic church was teaching that we obtain salvation by merit. Luther’s rediscovery of the forgotten truth lead to what it was historically called the Reformation or the Protestant Reformation. Luther rediscovered from Scripture that “salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and good works result from our faith, they are not added to it as the grounds for our right standing in the Lord’s eyes (Eph. 2:8-10). Justification, God’s declaration that we are not guilty, forgiven of sin, and righteous in His sight comes because through our faith alone the Father imputes, or reckons to our account, the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).” (Link

You can read more about Reformation Day by typing this event on the Google Search Engine.

In our western society and the church, this historical event has been forgotten. Christians attend church without understanding the history of how the church got here. Christians, we need to understand why we believe what we believe and teach what we teach. By doing so, we will know what we believe, why we believe it, how to live it, and how to share it

Did you know that because of Reformation Day, we have our own translation of the Bible? Let us continue to not take our faith for granted, but to equip ourselves with Biblical Truth and live out that truth daily.

Reflections


After six weeks of being away from ministry, Mark Driscoll made his verdict on Wednesday by resigning as a Preaching & Vision Pastor of Mars Hill Church. Simply by typing “Mark Driscoll” on the Google Search Engine, you will find many news pertaining to this story. 

I am personally sad yet not surprised. According to the letter of resignation, Driscoll says, “today, also by God’s grace, and with the full support of my wife Grace, I resign my position as pastor and elder of Mars Hill. I do so with profound sadness, but also with complete peace.” He also noted that his situation is not safe or healthy for his family. 

I was first exposed to Mark Driscoll’s teaching as a young new Christian. I think the first message that I heard from him was either the “Religion Saves” series or “1 + 2 Peter” series or one of the Easter messages. He’s very influential in his style of preaching. He’s boldness to talk about controversial issues sparked many interests to the “Young, Restless and Reformed”. I love Driscoll. I love his enthusiasm. I love his toughness on men. I am sure that many Christians were influenced by him. 

Without getting too deep into the discussion of what happened for the past two years with his ministry, this entry is not an attack on his reputation. I am 100% sure that there’s already enough of that going on in the internet. This entry is simply reflections on what I’ve learned and observed from the ministry of a mega-church pastor.
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#1: Fruit is important
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Someone told me, “Driscoll may be going through a lot of trouble, but at least his messages have transformed many people’s lives. He has solid teaching and solid theology.” 

There is truth to that statement. We need to, however, remember what Paul said to Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16) To keep a close watch on yourself means to watch out in how you live your life. John MacArthur said, “the priorities of a godly leader are summed up in his personal holiness and public teaching.” We already know on the news that Driscoll’s behavior towards his colleagues is abusive. We already know the controversies that he’s involved in. Though his teachings are Biblical, the teachings also need to reflect his life.

We all need this. We don’t just need solid knowledge and being able to teach. Teaching is not the means to the end of a leader. All of us need to pay a closer attention to how we live our lives. Again, John MacArthur states this, “by careful attention to his own godly life and faithful preaching of the word, Timothy would continue to be the human instrument God used to bring the gospel and to save some who heard him. Though salvation is God’s work, it is his pleasure to do it through human instruments.”

My pastor said that we need to work on the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit of the Spirit is eternal while Spiritual Gift is temporary. Fruit of what a Christian is while gift is what a Christian does. Gift can be abused because they can be used to manipulate or exert power or control in personal and/or relationships. 

Question for all of us: Do we see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives? How is the fruit being evident in our lives and in the lives of others? Do we live out what we teach/preach?
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#2: Bad Reputation Is Worse Than No Popularity
==========================================I don’t know how to entitle this one, but you may understand my point. 

I used like fame. I used to like people to recognize me and my works. I dreamed of one day to be a “celebrity pastor”. However, I have repented of all those ideas and my pride. 

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1) I highly suggest that all of us hold a good reputation in our own surroundings. May we receive favor from the people we see. Cheating, lying, deceiving, manipulating and abusing for one’s own gain is the way of a fool.

I would rather stay low and be recognized by the people in my own church, and that I get to know the flock that I shepherd. There is no doubt that “elders who rule” should be “considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17) We need to respect and thank the elders who look after us and teach us the word of God.

It would be an honor, though, to teach alongside with John MacArthur, John Piper, DA Carson, Tim Keller, and other men with good name. Of course, they have their own critics, but they do hold to the qualifications of an elder. (1 Timothy 3) 

I am called to fulfill my ministry (2 Timothy 4:5), and not be like someone I am not. I don’t need to be popular. I don’t need to be a celebrity. I want to be faithful with what God has given me.

Question: What kind of name are we making for ourselves? Do we find favor in the eyes the people we work with or go to school with? If someone were to describe you, what would they say about you?
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Conclusion
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I think two reflections on my part are good enough. I think that there lots to learn in our own ministry. 

Let us not stop here. As Mars Hill Church and Driscoll are going through a difficult season, it is important that we uphold them in prayer. As “cliche” as this verse is, it still rings solid truth for those who are being conformed into the image of Christ: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)