Why Believe in a Personal God?

Why Believe In a Personal God?

Chapter Three

Why Believe In a Personal God?
Intelligent Order Points To Intelligent Creator 32 "The Moral Law Tells The Tune" 39
Universal Mind Behind Universal Order 33 General Moral Agreement 40
One-To-One Correspondence 34 The Personal Superhuman Mind 41
Winder Of The Clock 35 The Argument From Direct Religious Experience 42
Quest For A Personal God! 36 "Consider The Happiness Of The Religious" 43
Universal Moral Obligation 37 Discussion Questions 44
Objective Moral Order 38    

Psalms 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-20

Intelligent Order Points To Intelligent Creator

Thus far in our spiritual quest we have assumed the existence of God. We have not tried to prove God's existence. In the strictest sense, God's existence cannot be proved. The Bible simply declares, "The fool hath said in his heart 'There is no God'. "No attempt is made in the Bible to prove the existence of God. Religion in general and Christianity in particular assumes the existence of God. It is not the task of religion to debate; rather, it is the task of religion to share. Religion says, "Taste and see for yourself that God is, and that God is good."

It is the task of philosophy, not religion, to present evidences for God's existence. Philosophy examines, evaluates, and explains. Says William Temple, "Religious faith begins exactly where the argument leaves off… what are for philosophy the ultimate questions are for religion the primary assurances".

God is a primary assurance to the man of faith, but to the man who is searching, God is the ultimate question!

Philosophical arguments alone cannot create faith in God; they can, however, help destroy some of the intellectual obstacles which undermine faith. Philosophy can help remove the barriers of honest intellectual doubts. Therefore, the disciplines of logic and apologetics have their place.

We must glance at some of the philosophical arguments for the existence of God.

First, the existence of an intelligent order points to an intelligent Creator. In his great commentary on the Gospel of John, William Barclay helps us to see the significance of this basic evidence for God's existence. "When we look at the world we see an amazing order. The planets keep to their appointed times… Clearly there is order in nature, and therefore, equally clearly there must be a mind behind it all. Further, that mind must be greater than any human mind because it achieves results that the human mind can never achieve… Therefore, the mind in nature is far above the human mind in man. If then in the world there is order, there must be mind; and in that order there are things which are beyond the mind of man to do, then the mind behind the order of nature must be a mind above and beyond the mind of man–and straight way we have reached God." (Daily Study Bible, Gospel of John; Volume 1, pg. 36-37)

"Become for me, O God, my primary assurance rather than my ultimate question! I see you in the heavens. Let me experience you in my heart!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My quest will lead to my discovery, and my questions will be turned into exclamation marks!

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Psalms 8:1-9

Universal Mind Behind Universal Order

E. Stanley Jones convincingly argues for the existence of God. A universal order argues for a universal Mind. "How could this universe come by chance into a cosmic orderliness that stretches from the molecule to the outermost star, and controls everything between? And how could this orderliness just happen to stay by chance through millions of years? That would be a stark materialistic miracle–universal chaos by chance gives birth to universal order! The one who believes that must spell his 'chance' with a capital 'c' and mean by it–God. How long do you think it would take for you to throw up a font of type into the air and have it come down by chance into a poem of Browning? I asked a printer that question and he replied, "Both you and the type would wear out first".

"Someone has figured out how many chances to one it would take for the world to have happened by chance, and the figures go round the world 35 times. 'A preposterous figure', says Dr. Millikan, the scientist. Sir James Jeans had figured out that it would take a hundred million years for a hundred thousand monkeys, packing at random a hundred thousand type- writers, to happen by chance upon the plays of Shakespeare. And then, after they had happened upon the arrangement of the letters, they wouldn't know what the letters meant!"

"When I pick up a book and see that there is intelligence in it–that sometimes does happen!–then I know that behind that intelligence is an intelligent mind expressing itself through that intelligence. When I look at the universe, I find that it responds to intelligence–it can be intelligently studied. Intelligence has gone into it–into its very structure. Then the simple conclusion must be that behind that intelligence, which is built into the structure of things, is an intelligent mind, and since that built-in intelligence seems to be universal, I will have to spell it in capitals–a Universal Mind." (Abundant Living, pg. 5)

"The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and Night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world." (Psalms 19:1-3, Living Bible)

"It is both saner and easier to believe in the divine miracle of a God- created orderly Universe, than it is to believe that order came from disorder and that Character came from Chance! The orderly universe is driving me to an orderly God. I surrender my personal disorder to your Divine Order. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: It is reasonable and wise to believe that my mind came from the great Mind of God. I will therefore subject my petty thoughts to His powerful thoughts!

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Psalms 50:1-6

One-To-One Correspondence

Perhaps the simplest of all arguments for the existence of God as we have noted is the fact that an intelligent order points to the existence of an intelligent Creator.

Secondly, as convincingly shown by Dr. Elton Trueblood, there is a one- to-one correspondence between internal logic and external laws, which amazingly points to a common source of origin, namely God! There is a one- to-one correspondence between man's mind and the predictable laws of nature, both of which point to a common Source. What man sees and knows best can be figured out because internal logic has external laws as its parallel counterpart. This phenomenal kinship between mind and nature points to One who is the Designer of both. Were it not for this consistency in nature and the ability of man's mind to logically comprehend it, the discipline of Science would be impossible. God has made a comprehensible Universe! Astronomical discoveries serve to demonstrate this truth.

Scientists, with a knowledge of scientific principles and laws, figured out in their minds where a new planet should be found in the solar system. Details of the new planet's orbit, as well as predictions of its future positions in the sky were calculated, even before the actual planet Uranus was located with a telescope. After the planet Uranus was found by 'accident' in 1871, it was calculated that the planet took about 80 years to make on complete revolution around the sun. For about 40 years, predicted calculations proved to be completely accurate, but then discrepancies were noted. It was then that two separate scientists predicted the position of an unknown body in space which was pulling Uranus slightly out of the predicted path of revolution. Separately these scientists' predictions were tested and a faint object, which proved to be the eighth member of the sun's family–Neptune–was discovered!

Thus, this discovery only served further to illustrate that there is a one-to-one correspondence 'between internal logic and external laws, which points to a common source of origin–God! The God who created man's mind created a universe which is subject to man's predictions. Man's ability to predict and to find that his predictions come true, shows that the facts exist independent of man's mind and yet man's mind corresponds with nature's laws, pointing to the fact that internal logic and external laws have the same Designer!

"The outer expanse of the universe and the inner expanse of my mind come from a common source–God! O thou, who dost fill the Universe with Thyself, fill the inner universe of my mind with Thyself! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Just as there is naturally a one-to-one correspondence between internal logic and external laws, I will seek naturally a fellowship between my spirit and God's spirit!

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Acts 17:22-31

Winder Of The Clock

Thirdly, there is a principle in Nature which is well known to every scientist, the principle of entropy. Notes Trueblood, "As the useless energy increases, the useful decreases by the same amount. This ratio of useless to useful energy is called entropy. The law of entropy states that the ratio is constantly increasing. This means that the amount of energy available for the energizing process of the world is ever growing less". (Philosophy of Religion, pg. 103) This principle shows that there will be an ultimate dissipation of all energy, if Nature remains as it is now.

Notes Dr. Inge, as quoted by Trueblood, "If the universe is running down like a clock, the clock must have been wound up at a date which we could name if we knew it. The world, if it is to have an end in time, must have had a beginning in time". (Ibid, 104) But the principle of entropy points not only to a beginning of energy, but logically demands a source of energy. The clock was wound in the beginning, but there had to be a Winder of the clock!

"The universe as we know it, by the aid of modern science, could not have originated without the action of a creative Source of energy outside itself, and it cannot be maintained without it." (Ibid, 105)

This principle may lead to a discussion of Purpose. A may be explained by B, but unless the explanations are pushed to the ul tlmate reason–Z (Z being something which is its own reason), your knowledge is incomplete. Example: If a nail is being driven, we ask 'Why'. Answer: "The nail goes in because the hammer hits it. The hammer head moves because it is moved by the muscles of a man's arm. The arm muscles move because they are directed by nerve impulses". (Ibid,97) But these are secondary causes or reasons why the nail is driven. They are not the real reason. "But the whole enterprise takes place because a man has a reason for driving a nail in a board. Perhaps he wants to build a house for his friend." (Ibid, 97) We ask the question of why energy is lost and someone says because of the principle of entropy. That is a secondary reason. The real reason must be explained in terms of God's creation of the energy and His purpose for creating matter. The principle of entropy shows, not only that energy had a beginning, but that energy must have a source. In talking about causes, one must go to the uncaused Cause who has purpose for all things.

"The more I observe the Universe, the more I am driven to the conclusion that there is a Personable Force who created Energy, that there is a great Designer who produced Beauty, and that there is a great Mind who initiated Purpose. I am beginning to see, O God, that as you began it all, so you will sometime end it all!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: May the God who is 'out there', become the God who is 'in here'–even in my heart!

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Acts 7:30-38

Quest For A Personal God!

Arguments from Science give plausible evidence for God's existence. The existence of an intelligent order points to an intelligent Creator. The one-to-one correspondence between internal logic and external laws points to a common source of origin–God. The constant decrease in the quantity of energy in nature points to an original source of all energy– God. But simply to establish the existence of a Being which is the highest in a series, is not to establish an object worthy of Man's worship, allegiance, or love. It is necessary, not only to be assured of the existence of a Supreme Being, but to know that that Being is Personal and Approachable.

To equate God with 'Beauty', 'Love', 'Power', 'Aspiration', or even with the 'Absolute' is to reduce God to an impersonal essence. Some equate God with 'Ultimate Reality' or with that to which a person will devote his total energy or devotion. To do this would make God a mere subjective experience with no objective reality. God must have an existence independent of a person's own notions, ideas, experience, or awareness.

The true concept of God has been inseparably connected with His Personality. God most convincing1y manifested Himself through His great historic acts. God is the God who acts in human history! In delivering Israel from Egypt, He revealed His love, and in speaking to Israel from Mount Sinai, He displayed His holiness. In conquering their enemies and in controlling nature (miracles), He visibly showed His mighty power. The Creator God lived among mankind for over 30 years, so say the Christians. Further, the God of the Christian reveals, not only Man's wickedness, but He also expresses His love and mercy through His forgiveness and abiding Presence. Christians asset that God is all-wise, all-powerful, and all- knowing, that He is a God of Purpose and that He is a God who is Personal. He gives meaning, not only to human history in general, but to individual history in particular!

The God whose existence is evidenced in Science, is the God who is revealed through Man's conscience and especially through direct religious experience.

There is sufficient evidence that God is not simply an Impersonal Being or Force or Essence. The arguments from Moral Experience and from Religious Experience both point to the existence of a Personal God. We must spend time investigating these two types of experiences.

"Can it be possible that the Infinite is interested in the Finite, that the Universal is concerned with the Particular, that the Force behind the Universe is a Personable Friend in the World? My prayers to you, O God, are affirming such daring faith!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am a personal being; I must serve a Personable God!

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Romans 2:11-16

Universal Moral Obligation

There is evidence from Man's moral experience that God not only exists, but that God is Personal. In our careful examination of Man's Moral experience, we must first examine the evidence for the independent existence of an Objective Moral Order, which in turn will eventually lead to the conclusion that there is a Personal Moral Lawgiver behind the oral Order.

Prerequisite to a discussion of the meaning of and the evidence for an objective Moral Order, is an appreciation for the Universal sense of moral Obligation. It can be generally said that Universally Man has a consciousness of being under Obligation, regardless of the influence of his particular society, and independent of his own likes or dislikes. Universally, man feels the demands of the moral laws which is no respecter of persons. "That to which all bear testimony is the fact that a man who genuinely says 'I ought' means 'I ought, though the heavens fall'. The command is not conditional, but categorical… It is beyond dispute that the human animal is concerned very largely with what he ought to do. In this enterprise he is, no doubt, frequently confused and baffled, but he goes on asking the question. To describe man without this question would be ridiculous… To say 'I ought to do this' is not the same as to say 'it is to my advantage' or 'it is prudent' or 'it is customary', or it is commanded by the state' or 'I desire it'. In fact, we habitually decide between all of these and what we think we ought to do. Frequently, there is a clash between them." (Philosophy of Religion; Elton Trueblood, pg. 108-110)

This universal sense of moral obligation points to an objective moral order. Those who hold that there is an objective moral order hold that there is a moral order that is real and binding upon all men, independent of man's whims and notions. Such persons are ethical realists. "The case is strictly parallel to that for physical realism. There are the same reasons for believing in a moral order, to which our judgments mayor may not conform, as there are for believing in a physical order to which our scientific judgments mayor may not conform. The moon has a definite size even when men differed about it." (Ibid, pg. 112) In contrast, the ethical relativist believes that nothing is objectively or really right or wrong, but that right and wrong are simply determined according to the situation or circumstance or personal moral opinion or interpretation.

"Is it possible that I may find you, O God, in the inner workings of my conscience, as well as in the outer wonders of the Universe? Does my sense of moral oughtness come from You? My conscience bears witness of your personal existence!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I 'ought' to do right, even when it is inconvenient or difficult to do right!

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Psalms 2:1-12; Psalms 14:1

Objective Moral Order

We have noted that a universal sense of moral obligation points to an objective moral order. We must look carefully at life to gather the evidence which supports belief in an objective moral order.

First, think of Man's conscience. Although Man's conscience must be morally trained if it is to be a safe and mature moral guide in decision- making, it is interesting that 'instinctively' all persons seem to know that some actions or attitudes are always 'wrong'. But this universal sense of right and wrong points to a universal moral standard. The Conscience can only judge an act or an attitude to be 'wrong', if there is an objective standard, not subject to time or circumstances, by which to judge the act or attitude. "The modern mind has been infected by the poison of subjectivism. Subjectivism is the view that one's own personal outlook is the end of every matter. Therefore, every person is as qualified as any other individual to call something true. If it is true to him, then, no matter how inconsistent it may be with other facts, it is true indeed… By this subjective standard, Christianity is, of course, true, but so is atheism, communism, sexism and the notion that the moon is made of green cheese. All things are true to someone, the modern mind would declare. Nothing is therefore false or true by any of the old definitions… The result is that communication is being lost between people and nations, for no standards of straight-thinking carryover from one to the other. The mind of anyone person therefore becomes a remote island, separated from any other mind by the trackless seas of indefinability ." (Why is Christianity True?; Dave Breese, pg. 3-4)

Second, think of the widespread use of ethical terminology in common conversation. Even atheists use words which mean nothing if their ethical content is extracted. The attitude of the atheist who claims to be 'honest' cannot be explained without acceptance of what he himself rejects –an objective moral order–for there is no such thing as truth or falsehood unless there is an objective standard to determine truth and falsehood. "The practice of the honest atheist frequently denies the conscious import of his words, because he is acting in a way which makes no sense unless his conscious conclusions are untrue." (Philosophy of Religion; Elton Trueblood, pg. 115)

"The 'ethical atheist' is a contradiction in terms, for an atheist denies all objective moral standards, from which ethical statements originate. O God, I see that I cannot have the 'fruits' of moral good without the 'roots' of Moral Objectivity!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My strong convictions, regarding 'Right' and 'Wrong' are useless convictions, unless they are born out of the Objective Moral Law!

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Proverbs 3:1-6

"The Moral Law Tells The Tune"

We are gathering evidence to support belief in the existence of an Objective Moral Order.

Third, listen to the quarrelling, excuses and defenses of people. Notes C.S. Lewis, "Everyone has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kinds of things they say. They say things like this: 'How'd you like it if anyone did the same to you?'–'That's my seat, I was there first'– 'Leave him alone, he isn't doing you any harm'–'Why should you shove in first?'–Give me a bite of your orange, I gave you a bite of mine'–'Come on, you promised'. People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups. Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man's behaviour does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about", (Mere Christianity; C.S. Lewis, pg. 17)

Quarrelling between people is meaningless unless there is objective moral reality. Without an objective moral standard, one cannot prove another person wrong, for each man's judgment is as valid as another! And why make an excuse for personal behaviour if one hasn't felt that he has failed to 'live up' to a certain, real standard for conduct?

Fourth, think of the unselfish moral decisions which persons make. When one makes a moral decision in the presence of two conflicting impulses, he is aware of an overriding guiding principle, which if he obeys, causes him to side with the impulse which results in unselfish action. Notes C.S. Lewis, "Supposing you hear a cry for help from a man in danger. You will probably feel two desires–one, a desire to give help (due to your heart instinct), the other, a desire to keep out of danger (due to the instinct for self-preservation). But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help, and suppress the impulse to run away. Now this thing that judges between two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged, cannot itself be either of them. You might as well say the sheet of music which tells you, at a given moment, to play one note on the piano and not another, is itself one of the notes on the keyboard. The moral law tells us the tune we have to play; our instincts are merely the keys"; (Mere Christianity, pg. 22)

"When I have had to make a moral decision in the presence of two conflicting impulses, I have often sensed the presence of a Guiding Principle. Is that guiding principle You, O God?"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In making moral decisions today, I will side with my impulses which will result in unselfish actions!

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Romans 2:17-29

General Moral Agreement

We continue to gather evidence to support belief in the existence of an Objective Moral Order.

Fifth, observe the Judgment-making that regularly is exercised among persons–common persons and specialized persons alike. The fact that one makes moral judgments everyday is evidence that there is an objective moral standard. People blame and praise one another, and that with great conviction! People even judge their own actions and motives. One knows what he 'ouqht' to have done even though he often fails in moral performance. Even when one is down morally, he tends to look up to an ongoing aspiration! Not only are personal judgments made, but it is common to hear people pronounce judgments on history or on national moralities or policies. Democracy is declared to be better than totalitarianism. Even historians pronounce moral judgments upon heartless dictators who have committed unspeakable atrocities. It is quickly recognized that certain actions are wrong, even when national policy or majority rule in a nation have allowed certain things. Most, if not all, historians declare that Lincoln's attitudes toward American slavery reflected 'moral reality', even when his views were unpopular. Unless there is an Objective Moral Order, one cannot pass moral judgments, but can only express his own personal opinion, which is really no better than Hitler's opinion!

Sixth, acknowledge the general moral agreement among different cultures. To a remarkable degree, there is general agreement of what is right or wrong, even among people of very different cultures, which is another evidence of a universal moral law. Notes C.S. Lewis, "I know that some people say the idea of a law of nature or a decent behaviour known to all men is unsound, because different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference… Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two make five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to–whether it was only your own family or your fellow countrymen or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked". (Mere Christianity, pg. 19)

"I am seeing that there is one set of moral standards for all persons, in all ages, in all nations, for all times. Can it be that this abiding moral law reflects the very nature of a loving moral lawgiver?"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because my nature demands both justice and mercy, it is reasonable to believe that a loving God governs a lawful universe!

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John 1:1-5; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-3

The Personal Superhuman Mind

There is evidence that there is a personal moral lawgiver behind the moral law! The moral law must have a superhuman origin since it didn't originate in man or in society, both of which obey its demands oftentimes against personal interests or desires. "This means that the only focus of the moral law is a superhuman mind. That it must be a mind is clear when we realize that the law has no meaning except for minds, and that it must be superhuman is clear when we realize that it cannot be ours. Therefore, the recognition of an objective moral law drives us to the belief in God, without whom that law would have no significant being." (Philosophy of Religion; Elton Trueblood, pg. 115)

Further, the superhuman mind behind the moral law must be personal, if an adequate explanation can be given for the feeling of those scientists who think of themselves as materialists, is highly mysterious if the real world they seek to know is unconscious matter or force, for it is the same kind of feeling we know best when there is real communication between two finite minds. The joy that comes in the effort to know the truth and the reverence for it which makes good men spurn the temptation to deceit are not intelligible if the only consciousness is at one end of the transaction, but they are completely intelligible if truth is the meeting of mind with Mind." (Ibid, pg. 115) The person who invests all the powers of his being in obeying the moral law, is acting as if the universe was not governed by impersonal law, but rather by a personal moral lawgiver who cares whether men obey it. The universe must be governed by a Personality, not an impersonal Force.

Further, the nature of human personality demands a Personal God. Just as it is difficult to imagine a stream which runs higher than its source, so it is inconceivable to imagine an impersonal being who is able to create personal creatures. If this were so, the creature would have higher qualities than the Creator Himself! "Did (man's) intelligence come out of the nonintelligent? If so, that is a materialistic miracle. Nature brought forth something she didn't have. Again, you and I have purpose–we choose. Did that purpose come out of a nonpurposive universe? That too would be a materialistic miracle." (Abundant Living; E. Stanley Jones, pg. 6)

"The God of all wisdom has used reason to drive me into the arms of a personal God. The moral lawgiver behind the moral law has turned out to be a personal and personable Mind who seeks communication with my mind! O God, what love you have unveiled!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is beginning to unveil His loving personality to me. I am excited to meet that personality!

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Exodus 3:1-6

The Argument From Direct Religious Experience

During the last few days we have looked at the Moral Argument for the existence of a Personal God. Considerable evidence was examined which supports belief in the existence of an Objective Moral Order, which helps explain the sense of universal moral obligation among mankind. Convincing is the evidence further that the moral law originates in a superhuman mind. The greatest discovery, however, is the discovery that this superhuman mind is personal and personable, ever seeking communion with Man's mind!

It seems accurate to say that God has revealed Himself through 'Moral Law', but is it possible to experience God more directly and intimately? Millions throughout history have answered this question affirmatively! Many in all ages have uniformly testified to a personal fellowship with God! Direct testimonies, religious autobiographies, hymns and prayers are the main sources for reporting religious experience.

Millions in all ages have testified to a personal experience of God! One spoke of his personal encounter with God in terms of personal love and joy: "Ah, my Lord God, most faithful lover, when thou comest into my heart, all that is within me doth joy! Thou art my glory and the joy of my heart, my hope and my whole refuge in all my troubles". (Imitation of Christ, written 500 years ago) The amazing thing about this testimony of personal fellowship with God is the fact that millions have testified similarly! Notes Elton Trueblood: "The fact that a great many people, representing a great many civilizations and a great many centuries, and including large numbers of those generally accounted the best and wisest of mankind, have reported direct religious experience is one of the most significant facts about our world". (Philosophy of Religion, pg. 145)

In light of these multiplied reports of direct religious experience, both ancient and modern, what conclusion can we draw? Only one of two conclusions can be drawn. Either these testimonies are true reports and God is real, or these reports are false and God is an illusion! If God is an illusion, then all great men, as well as Jesus himself were victims of self-delusion!

But there is strong evidence to support the conclusion that such testimonies of God's reality are true!

"God, the evidence is convincing that you exist, and that your existence is personal. Is it possible for me to know you personally, to commune with you, as friend with Friend? I leap with joy to think of such a possibility!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because millions in all ages have claimed to know God personally, I will personally seek to establish such an intimate relationship with God!

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Acts 8:4-8

"Consider The Happiness Of The Religious"

Evidence favors the conclusion that reports of personal experience of God are true. Elton Trueblood shares the following evidence.

First, the number of reporters are many. "What is reported by only a very few could be objective, but chances are against such a conclusion." (Philosophy of Religion; Trueblood, pg. 156) In the case of direct religious experience, the reporters compose a vast company!

Second, the character of the reporters is varied but trustworthy. The profession of some reporters has obviously been higher than the character has been exemplary. However, among the vast number of reporters have been some of the most trustworthy and noble characters in history.

Third, the agreement of the reports is not complete but substantial. "Complete agreement is not required for validation. If it were, science would be destroyed. What is required is a substantial core of agreement, with increasing agreement in proportion to developed sensitivity." (Ibid, pg. 157) The agreement of the reports is not agreement in terms of religious information, but in terms of a sense of new life. "What is revealed is not propositions, but a Presence." (Ibid, pg. 153) The saints of all ages have had remarkable agreement in their reports of a divine Presence and Power in their lives.

Fourth, the consequent change in lives is most convincing in the validating process. When lives which claim direct experience of God are similarly changed, this fact alone points to a common Power which produces those changes. "One of the most remarkable features of so much of religious life is its consequent joy in the face of pain and hardship. George John Romanes, the eminent naturalist and associate of Darwin, for whom the Romanes Lectures are named, was turned from agnosticism to theistic conviction, not because of his own personal religious experience, but because of his observation of the lives of others who reported such experience. The crucial consideration. to one who tried to be fully scientific was as follows: 'Consider the happiness of the religious–and chiefly of the highest religious, i.e., Christian belief. It is a matter of fact that besides most intense, it is most enduring, growing and never staled by custom. In short, according to the universal testimony of those who have it, it differs from all other happiness not only in degree but in kind. Those who have it can usually testify to what they used to be without it. It has no relation to intellectual status. It is a thing by itself and supreme'." (Ibid, 158)

"Is it possible that I may experience a happiness that does not depend upon my happenings, a happiness that is different both in degree and in kind from the mere happiness that I have experienced! O God, what you have done for others, you can do for me! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: It is not religious propositions that I will debate, but it is the Living Presence that I will experience!

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Discussion Questions On 'Why Believe In A Personal God'

  1. How does the task of religion and the task of philosophy differ, in regards to the subject of 'God'?

  2. If philosophical arguments cannot create faith in God, what is the purpose of examining arguments for the existence of God from a philosophical viewpoint?

  3. How is the existence of God (from a philosophical viewpoint) further evidenced by the one-to-one correspondence between internal logic and external laws?

  4. Define and illustrate the scientific principle of Entropy and explain how this principle serves to demonstrate the existence of God.

  5. What evidence is there from various dynamic acts in human history that God is a personal Being?

  6. Cite as much evidence as possible for the independent existence of an Objective Moral Order.

  7. What does an "ethical relativist" believe? Why do the beliefs of an ethical relativist make intelligent and meaningful moral dialogue impossible?

  8. From a study of Man's conscience, what evidence can be derived to establish a belief in an objective moral order?

  9. How does the widespread use of ethical terminology point to the existence of an objective moral order?

  10. Why is quarrelling between people so meaningless, unless there is an objective moral order?

  11. During a difficult moral decision, why do people often side with the impulse within them which results in unselfish action?

  12. Do you agree or disagree: "Unless there is an Objective Moral Order one cannot pass moral judgments, but can only express his own personal opinion, which is really no better than Hitler's opinion!" Why/why not?

  13. In the study of various cultures, what evidence is there that there is a general moral agreement regarding most moral actions, and how does such evidence help establish a belief in the existence of an Objective Moral Order?

  14. Why does recognition of an objective moral law inevitably drive one to the belief in God as a superhuman mind?

  15. Why must the superhuman mind (behind the moral law) be personal?

  16. How does the nature of human personality demand the existence of a personal God?

  17. What evidence can you cite from the reality of personal religious experience that points convincingly to the existence of a personal and personable God?

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God’s Purpose in Creation and Redemption

God's Purpose In Creation And Redemption

Chapter Four

God's Purpose In Creation And Redemption
God's Greatest Creative Act 45 Free To Be Sons, Not Slaves! 52
Frightening Freedom! 46 Forgivness From Sins 53
Man's Lost Greatness 47 Free To Be United, Not Divided 54
Brilliant Ray Of Hope 48 Free To Be Confident, Not Fearful 55
Man–Creature Of Freedom Or Fate? 49 Discussion Questions 56
God's Positive Purpose Revealed 50 Discussion Questions (Continued) 57
A Positive Response To A Positive Purpose 51    

Genesis 1:26-31, Genesis 2:7-14

God's Greatest Creative Act

The greatest creation of the personal God, of whom we have been thinking in the last chapter, is Man. Man may not be the strongest animal or the fastest animal or the largest animal, but Man is the only animal who asks ultimate questions and who seeks ultimate meaning in life. Man is unique because man was uniquely created. God said, "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness". (Genesis 1:26)

That man is a self-conscious, self-determinative creature is clearly revealed in the Biblical account of Man's creation and fall. (Genesis 1-3) The nature of man, as revealed in these chapters, can be seen from various perspectives, all of which we must examine: (1) Man's Dominance; (2) Man's Limitation; (3) Man's Freedom; (4) Man's Rebellion; (5) Man's Fall; (6) Man's Hope. The Genesis record states Man's unique creation, reveals Man's deliberate wrong choice, and unveils God's merciful provision for Man's predicament.

When Genesis uses the word 'Day' in reference to God's creation, does it literally mean 24 hour days as we know of them or does it symbolically represent eras of time? This is a question which has been unfruitfully debated for along time. The important thing is not how or how long God actually took to create and to organize, but the important thing to realize is that God actually is the creator of all things. The orderly universe is not an accident or chance happening. It is the intelligent handiwork of God. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork." (Psalms 19:1) It is much more difficult to believe that the orderly universe is the product of accident and chance, then it is to believe that the orderly universe is the amazing product of an intelligent and personal God.

Man is different from all other creatures because he is made in God's own image. "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7) God is a Tri-une Being; Man is a Tri-une being as well. God is a Being of intelligence (Omniscience), and so man is created a rational being. God is a Being of temperament (Love), and so man is created an emotional being. God is a Being of action (Omnipotence), and so man is created a volitional being with the capacity to act. God, whose dominance is supreme, has shared that dominance with mankind.

Look first then at Man's dominance. God is creator and Lord of the earth, but God put Man in charge of the earth. Man must exercise his dominance over the earth with a constant sense of his stewardship before God. (Read Genesis 1:28) God gave man dominion over all things, not to abuse the world of nature, but to govern and creatively to use the world of nature to serve mankind and to glorify God. Man is not to use his call to domination over the world as an excuse to exploit the world's natural resources, such as lumber, coal, oil and the soil. God is the giver of all good and perfect gifts. Man is to receive those gifts gratefully and selflessly. God's creatorhood reveals His grace and love.

"Creator God, help me to be creative, not destructive, in the use of the raw materials of creation which you have put under my control."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is the Giver and I am the Receiver of all good things. I will henceforth live gratefully!

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Genesis 2:15-25

Frightening Freedom!

We are looking at the nature of Man from various perspectives, as recorded in the early chapters of Genesis.

Second, look at Man's limitation. God placed one limitation upon Man. "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17)

This tree represents God's sovereign knowledge which belongs to God alone. Man must depend completely upon God and not try to assert himself as God's equal. The tree reminds Man that God alone is all-knowing, and that Man must acknowledge his utter dependence on God, who as creator, is infinitely greater than the creature.

Third, look at Man's freedom. Only as man could freely choose to obey and to serve God, could man's love for God be proved and developed. A slave is forced to obey and serve his master even against his will. The attitude of the slave's resentment for his master is vastly different from the attitude of love with which a son willingly performs duties for his father. Only the son, who has the power of choice, can prove his love for the father.

Love could not be tested without the presence of a standard by which to determine obedience or disobedience. God's commandment forbidding Man to eat from the tree was the standard by which to either praise Man for his obedience or to condemn Man for his disobedience.

The fact of Man's freedom is well described by Suzanne de Dietrich: "The thing that makes us uniquely human is that, unlike the other creatures, we are able to say both 'yes' and 'no' to God. Man does not do the will of his Creator by necessity. The stars in the sky follow their prescribed orbits, the animals of the field obey their instincts, but man has this unique and frightening ability–he can refuse to be obedient to his Creator. For God does not want slaves, but sons". (God's Unfolding Purpose, pg. 36)

Obedience or disobedience means nothing if there is no objective standard by which to judge. The tree in the Garden provided that standard, making possible the exercise of Man's frightening freedom!

"Thank you for my freedom to choose. My freedom of choice allows me to ascend to the highest heights of moral development or to descend to the lowest depths of moral degeneracy. Help me to choose the Right. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: It is both frightening and fantastic to be a creature of freedom. I will exercise this freedom responsibly!

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Genesis 3:1-13

Man's Lost Greatness

Fourth, consider Man's rebellion. Man, possessed with the freedom to choose, determined his own destiny. Man yielded to the subtle temptation of Satan and was enticed by Satan's allurements.

Satan implanted the seeds of doubt into Evils heart. Appealing to the "gratification of Man's desire, Satan succeeded in getting Man to overstep his God-imposed limitation, and thus to challenge God's sovereignty.

Satan, whose own fall is attributed to the drunkenness of pride (Ezekiel 28:1-10), became the instigator of Man's pride, which caused Man's fall. When Man ate of the tree, he declared his independence of God and his desire to "run his own life".

When Man invaded God's territory of personal knowledge through eating from the tree, Man yielded to the temptation to play the part of God. Man's relationship to the Creator was made to be one of servant to master. Man attempted to usurp God's mastership when he yielded to Satan's evil suggestions.

Fifth, recognize Man's fall. Man's disobedience to God led to Man's fall. Man failed to stand the test and thus prove his love for the Creator. Man fell from the height of splendor to the depth of despair, from the beauty of perfection of the vileness of distortion, from the joy of fellowship to the anguish of separation, from the freedom of innocency to the bondage of guilt, from the strength of health to the weakness of disease, from the glory of life to the corruption of death, from the richness of an heir to the poorness of an outcast, from the fullness of knowledge to the shamefulness of ignorance.

Sin replaced innocency with guilt and caused man to clothe his nakedness. No longer could man reveal himself as he really was, but he was compelled to hide his true identity.

Sin also caused man to run from God's presence and hide. (Genesis 3:8) No longer could Man enjoy intimate fellowship with God, but Man instead became an alienated, estranged rebel afraid to face God.

Neither was willing to accept personal moral responsibility. The man blamed his actions on the woman and the woman, in turn, blamed her actions on the serpent. The transgressor often scapegoats, blaming his actions on his background or friends or society or heredity. Man seeks to sooth his conscience through rationalization, but God cannot be fooled.

"Legitimate physical appetites were exploited by Satan to cause Adam and Eve to sin. Help me, God, to obey you and never to allow my appetites to rule my life."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: With every right moral choice, there are wonderful moral results!

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Genesis 3:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-18

Brilliant Ray Of Hope

Sixth, see Man's hope. Immediately following Man's fall, a brilliant ray of hope shown over the horizon of Man's history, revealing God's future plan for Man's salvation. That ray of hope was found in the curse God pronounced on the serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman; also between your offspring and her offspring; He will crush your head and you will crush his heel". (Genesis 3:15)

This prophecy refers to Jesus who was born of the virgin Mary, a descendant of Adam and Eve. Al though Satan inflicted injury on Jesus the Son of God, through crucifixion Jesus crushed and destroyed the works of Satan through His redemptive death on the cross, and proved to be victor over Satan through His glorious resurrection. (Hebrews 2:14-15) Man's bondage to Satan was broken through the conquering power of the resurrected Lord. Through the seed of Eve, Man would be reconciled or brought back to fellowship with God. Through Christ, Man would be "born again" and receive a new nature.

What general conclusions and applications can be drawn from a brief study of Genesis 1-3?

(1) God is the Creator of all of life; therefore, God has the right to rule in each man's life. Each person is responsible to use his body and soul and mind for God's glory. To abuse one's body, mind or soul is to sin against one's creator.

(2) Man's call to domination over the earth is not a call to careless exploitation, but to responsible stewardship. The God-granted power to dominate can become a temptation to 'lord over' other people and to exploit the world's resources for selfish use. Man's lordship over the earth is subject to God's lordship over all of created matter.

(3) Satan often tempts man by calling into question the truthfulness of God's Word. (Genesis 3:1)

(4) Sin can be defined as disobedience against the known laws of God and rejection of the revealed love of God. Because God, by nature is just, wrong moral choices always result in tragic moral consequences. The penalty of sin is death.

(5) Because God is a loving redeemer by nature, He has provided a redemptive plan for mankind's salvation.

"O God, because of your creative power, I was born for greatness; because of my willful disobedience, I lost my greatness; because of Christ's redemptive love, I can regain my greatness. Thank you! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God has promised, He has provided, and what He has provided, I will receive–Redemption! Glory!

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Ephesians 1:5-14

Man–Creature Of Freedom Or Fate?

We said in the last devotional that, because God is a loving redeemer by nature, He has provided a redemptive plan for mankind's salvation. In seeking to understand God's redemptive plan for mankind, one of the best Biblical chapters to study is the first chapter of the book of Ephesians. Particularly in the first 14 verses of this amazing chapter, we see exposed both the positive purpose of God in redemptive provision and the positive freedom of man in personal faith and salvation.

In looking at both the free provision of God and the free appropriation of salvation by Man, some of your basic questions should be answered. "Are you a creature of freedom or a creature of fate? Are you free to determine your own eternal destiny or was your eternal destiny fixed by some divine decree before the foundation of the world? Did God only choose to save only certain human beings or did God choose to save the entire human race?

We must spend some time seriously examining the truths of Ephesians 1. This chapter tells us that the positive purposes of God have been wonderfully revealed to mankind. The ordination of God's eternal purpose is understood in terms of sonship through Christ (verse 5). The operation of God's progressive purpose is understood in terms of unity in Christ (verse 10). The consummation of God's perfected purpose is understood in terms of total redemption through Christ (verse 14).

Think first of the ordination of God's eternal purpose. "His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!" (Ephesians 1:5, Living Bible) Sonship through Christ is God's eternal ordained purpose. Was it God's eternal purpose only to ordain a limited, fixed number to become adopted sons or was it God's eternal purpose and intention to adopt all persons as his children? Who does 'us' refer to in Ephesians 1:5? A chosen number of individuals, determined by divine decree, or the total corporate human race? If only a select number by divine decree, then how can we say 'in love' He predestined? Is divine love consistent with a divine decree to damn those to destruction who were not chosen for adoption as sons?

From a serious study of the book of Ephesians (and all of scripture) we conclude that God predestined (or determined) that 'us' should include the entire human race. God predestined the entire human race to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. God's will is that all persons be saved. God does not will that any should perish! (Read 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16-17; Titus 2:11)

"O God, I am beginning to see that the entire human race is the object of your special love and that you long for all to be saved from sin. Your free gift of eternal salvation is now being offered to everyone. You favor the entire human race and never arbitrarily select to save only some. Thank you for the revelation of your saving purposes for mankind."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The God who wills to save all is able to save all–including me!

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Ephesians 1:5-14, Ephesians 2:13-18

God's Positive Purpose Revealed

In the last devotional we noted that the ordination of God's eternal purpose is understood in terms of sonship through Christ. He can say next that the operation of God's progressive purpose is understood in terms of unity in Christ (verse 10). "This was his purpose: that when the time is ripe he will gather us all together from wherever we are–in heaven or on earth–to be with him in Christ, forever." (Ephesians 1:10, Living Bible)

God's eternal purpose is that all persons should be adopted as spiritual sons (verse 5), but divine intention and purpose to adopt all as sons could only be made possible through the blood of Christ (verse 7), which atoning blood makes possible man's release (redemption) from sin's bondage and relief (forgiveness) from sin's guilt. God's eternal purpose to save the human race could not be realized without the atoning work of Christ on the Cross. "So overflowing is his kindness towards us that he took away all our sins through the blood of his Son, by whom we are saved." (Ephesians 1:7, Living Bible)

That which God has ordained (universal salvation) becomes possible through Christ's accomplished work on the cross (unlimited atonement). Because Christ died, God's eternal intention can be fulfilled, namely, the salvation of all mankind. Christ's atoning sacrifice places all persons in a savable relationship.

But even though all persons are in a savable relationship, all persons are not automatically in a saved relationship. Christ's atonement makes possible the salvation of all, but only personal faith in Christ makes actual salvation operative. Although Christ died in order to reconcile all, all are not personally reconciled to Christ. God's eternal purpose–universal salvation of mankind–only becomes God's realized purpose as persons personally receive Christ's salvation.

If Ephesians 1:5 speaks of the ordination of God's eternal purpose– sonship through Christ–then Ephesians 1:10 speaks of the operation of God's progressive purpose in time–the uniting of all persons to Christ. It is God's purpose to unite all persons in Christ. (Ephesians 2:13-18)

Ephesians 1:14 speaks of God's perfected purpose consummated–namely, the total redemption of those who are God's possession. "His presence within us is God's guarantee that he really will give us all that he promised; and the Spirit's seal upon us means that God has already purchased us and that he guarantees to bring us to himself." (Ephesians 1:14, Living Bible) Christ provided an unlimited atonement, making forgiveness and redemption possible for all (verse 7). God's grace has been lavished upon the human race (verses 7b-8a). God's objective intention is to save the human race corporately (verses 11-12).

"God, how wonderful to know that you are not vindictive in your general treatment of mankind, nor arbitrary in your specific choice of men for salvation. You have sent your Son to seek and to save the lost–and that includes all persons of all times! Thank you for the revelation of such loving purposes!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's objective intention to save all mankind marks me as a savable person because of my human genealogy and as a saved person because of my spiritual regeneration!

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1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16-17; Titus 2:11

A Positive Response To A Positive Purpose

We have noted that God's objective intention is to save the human race corporately. The Bible clearly declares this truth: "God longs for all to be saved and to understand this truth". (1 Timothy 2:4, Living Bible) "He isn't really being slow about his promised return, even though it sometimes seems that way. But he is waiting, for the good reason that he is not willing that any should perish, and he is giving more time for sinners to repent." (2 Peter 3:9, Living Bible) "For the free gift of eternal salvation is now being offered to everyone; and along with this gift comes the realization that God wants us to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures and to live good, God-fearing lives day after day." (Titus 2:11-12, Living Bible) "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3;16, Living Bible)

But while it is God's intention to save all, it is only those who hear the Gospel ('word of truth') and who believe the message of salvation that become a part of God's new race of people (the body of Christ). Those who hear and believe (verse 13a) are those who receive God's promised Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who is responsible to fulfill God's saving purpose in the lives of those who respond to God's saving purpose.

After we personally placed our confidence in Christ and in His saving message, we were "stamped with the promised Holy Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance, until the day when God completes the redemption of what is his own; and that will again be to the praise of His glory". (Ephesians 1:14, Phillips)

So, in light of our study of Ephesians 1 thus far, we must again ask: "Is man a creature of fate or a creature of freedom"? Man is made in God's own image and as such, is free!

(1) God freely chose to save mankind corporately, even before the time when mankind (in Adam) freely chose to fall into sin!

(2) Christ freely chose to come to earth to voluntarily die for the sins of mankind, thus placing all mankind in a savable relationship through Christ's unlimited atonement.

(3) Each person can freely choose to accept or to reject God's salvation. Man is free to accept or to reject God's salvation, but man is not free to accept or to reject the consequences or results of right or wrong moral choice. To choose positively–that is, to choose Christ–is to choose forgiveness and redemption and ultimately a heavenly inheritance which is presently guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who seals the believer's heart.

"O God, your positive purpose is salvation for every person, made possible because of the atoning blood of your Son. Help me to make a positive response of faith in Christ, in order that I may enjoy personal salvation! Thank you for your powerful provision and for the possibility of a powerful appropriation!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God has positively intended and positively provided, I will positively enjoy–salvation from all my sins!

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Ephesians 1:5-8; John 1:12; Galatians 4:4-7

Free To Be Sons, Not Slaves!

We have looked at God's positive purpose revealed: (a) God's eternal purpose ordained–sonship through Christ (Ephesians 1:5); (b) God's progressive purpose operative–unity in Christ (Ephesians 1:10); (c) God's perfected purpose consummated–total redemption through Christ (Ephesians 1:14).

In light of God's positive purpose revealed, let us now look at man's positive freedom exercised: (a) freedom to be sons, not slaves (Ephesians 1:5-8); (b) freedom to be united, but divided (Ephesians 1:9-10); (c) freedom to be confident, not fearful (Ephesians 1:11-14).

In first considering man's freedom to be sons, not slaves, we must look at three aspects of this truth: (1) adoption as sons (v.5); (2) redemption from bondage (v.7); (3) forgiveness from sins (v.7,8a).

Freedom to be sons of God speaks of spiritual adoption. Even before the foundation of the world, God determined to adopt us–the human race–as His children. The mark of God's ownership is stamped deeply on the soul of every human being. God claims the right to be our Father, and we His children. "He determined in His love before time began to adopt us to Himself through Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 1:5 Barclay's translation)

God has destined us to be sons, not slaves! To be called children of God is to be called the objects of God's special care, love, and attention! "What is man that thou art even mindful of him?" But, just think, "What is man that thou art willing to make him a son of the living God!" "We were absolutely in the power of sin and of the world; and God, through Jesus, took us out of that power into His power; and that adoption cancel sand wipes out the past and we are made new. We have passed from the family of the world of evil into the family of God." (Daily Study Bible; Ephesians; Barclay; pg. 93)

Freedom to be sons speaks also of redemption from spiritual bondage. What is the relationship between redemption and adoption? Perhaps Galatians 4:4-7 best shows that relationship. "But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir." The meaning of redemption is 'to loose.' The powerful blood of Christ is the answer to the powerlessness of men who are in the grip of sin! "It is still true of Christ that by His power He can liberate men from this helpless slavery to the things which attract and disgust them at one and the same time ." (Daily Study Bible; Ephesians; Barclay; pg. 94)

"O God, release me from the bondage of sin and make me a captive of your love. Free from sin, I am free to serve you. I bow low before you in order that I might stand tall before everything else. I am redeemed from being a slave of sin in order that I might be adopted as a son of God! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The shame and humiliation of my sin is replaced by the dignity and status of my position as a son of God!

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Colossians 1:20-23

Forgivness From Sins

Adoption as sons (v.5), redemption from bondage (v.7), and forgiveness from sins (v.7,8a)–all were ways of declaring the wonderful truth that man is free to be sons of God rather than slaves of sin. We have looked at adoption and redemption. Let us now look at forgiveness.

What is the relationship between redemption and forgiveness? Redemption from sin means deliverance from the slavery of sin, but there is also forgiveness of the sins themselves. Deliverance from what I am–a slave! Forgiveness for what I have done–sin!

Wrong moral choice (sin) always leads to wrong moral consequences (bondage). Christ not only releases one from the consequences of wrong moral choice, but Christ forgives one for the wrong moral choice which led to bondage in sin. Not only does Christ release the prisoner of sin, but Christ relieves the prisoner of the guilt of the crime which resulted in imprisonment. The present bondage is broken (redemption), and the past guilt is resolved! Not only are bad habits broken but a troubled conscience is cleansed! Forgiveness means relief, and redemption means release, and both are made possible through Jesus' blood. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us." (Ephesians 1:7-8a NIV).

Why does God redeem us? Why does God forgive us? Is there something about us that makes us worthy or appealing to God? Never! God redeems and forgives because God chooses to redeem and forgive, not because we are worthy! We cannot earn or deserve or purchase God's favor. God's grace– unmerited favor–is initiated totally by God. God loves us, not because we are lovely, but because 'God is love.' The very nature of God is love, not a sentimental love, but a suffering love. We are redeemed and forgiven 'through his (Christ's) blood.' (Ephesians 1:7) Love which bleeds is love which saves!

God could neither redeem man from the bondage of sin's consequences, nor forgive man for the guilt of wrong moral choices, without the atoning blood of Christ! It is not an eternal divine decree which is the instrument of man's salvation. It's instead the shed blood of Jesus Christ which is the instrument of man's salvation. The will and pleasure of God was to save humanity from sin, but this divine intention in eternity could only become realized in time if Christ should choose to consent to the Father's request that He die an atoning death on Mount Calvary! Christ had to die, not in the sense of absolute necessity, but in the sense of redemptive necessity. Only through the blood of Christ could God's holy nature be honored and man's salvation be guaranteed. Even though God the Father requested God the Son to come to earth to die for mankind, in reality, there are not three parties involved in this transaction (God, Jesus, Man), but rather there are only two parties involved in this transaction (Holy God and Sinful Man). For when Jesus died, God died!

"O God, I see now that your justice was maintained and your love was demonstrated at the same time when Jesus died, for, when Jesus' blood was shed, God's life was poured out! God, you took the penalty of sin upon yourself when Jesus died, for 'God was in Christ,' both dying for sin and at the same time reconciling sinners to Himself! Thank you! Thank you!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: 'The blood, the blood' – this is my plea, this is my salvation!

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Ephesians 4:1-7

Free To Be United, Not Divided

Christians are called to unity. for God is a unifying God. Christians are free, not to divide, but to unite men around Christ. Not free to be independent, but free to be interdependent. Not free from social concerns, but free to meet social needs. Not free from authority, but free under authority. One is free when he fulfills the purpose for which he was created. Christians are created to unite all things in Christ.

A brick is not free when it is thrown aside, never to be used in a building. It is 'free' when it finds its place and purpose in the wall of a building. A large 'work horse' is not free when it is never harnessed to work. Rather it is free when it is given opportunity to pull a load. thus fulfilling its purpose for existence.

A Christian is not free when he is given no responsibility. A Christian is truly free when he finds his purpose in creation and in the Church of Jesus Christ. When he is 'carrying his share of the load.' When he is using his spiritual gifts within the Church. When he is functioning as a healthy and cooperative member of the Body of Christ. He is free when he is in love and unity with other members of God's family. God's purpose is a corporate purpose. A Christian therefore is free when he is seeking to unite all things and all persons around the feet of Jesus. When he is involving himself in helping God to realize His ultimate purpose for His world. "For God has allowed us to know the secret of his plan. and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ. that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in him." (Ephesians 1:9-10 Phillips)

A Christian is free when he is involved in helping to fulfill God's Master Plan for the human race–"to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." (v.10 NIV)

When a Christian involves himself in bringing God and men together and in bringing men together. with men in loving understanding, then that believer is helping to fulfill God's purpose of uniting all on earth around the feet of Jesus! Christians are to put their arms around sinners and draw them to the Saviour (2 Corinthians 5:2). Christians are to love one another (1 John 4:7). There should be no place among Christians for the sectarian spirit–that spirit which results in dividing true Christians because of secondary issues of doctrinal distinctives. Criticism, divisions, carnal jealousy, and competition–these are the results when Christian groups elevate secondary issues rather than unite together because of their common love for Christ! Whenever Christians manifest any spirit other than love. they are hindering the cause of Christ and frustrating the purpose of God which is "to unite all things in him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth." (Ephesians 1:10 RSV)

"O thou unifying God, help me to maintain 'the unity of the faith in the bond of peace.' Broaden the circle of my inclusion of those fellow Christians who agree with me in the essentials of the faith but who disagree with me in the secondary doctrines of the faith. Deliver me from the sectarian spirit that results in destroying fellowship among Christian people. In Jesus' charitable Name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: While I am contending for the 'essentials of the Faith.' I will not become contentious among fellow Christians who choose to differ from me in the 'secondaries of the Faith'!

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Psalms 37:34-40; Ephesians 1:11-14

Free To Be Confident, Not Fearful

How can you have confidence that you are included in Christ? You can have confidence that you are a Christian and on your way to heaven, if you have responded in faith to the Good News of salvation (v.13). It is not enough to hear the Good News. You must also believe the Good News. That is, you must put your faith totally in God whose plan for human salvation has been revealed through Christ. Believing is trusting God, taking God at His word, transferring your trust from yourself to God alone, for God alone has a plan for human salvation.

Confidence is based not on denial of sin, not on human ability or human accomplishment. Confidence is based on human confession of personal sin, and acceptance of 'the word of truth,' the 'gospel of your salvation' (v.13). There are those who appear to be very confident, very self- reliant, and self-assured ('towering like a cedar of Lebanon' – Psalms 37:35 Living Bible). These persons seem to manifest no doubts, no fears. Often they are brash and bold and brazen. They seem to have the 'world by the tail.' They enjoy intimidating others with their confident words and actions. It seems that such people make all the right decisions. They boast that they are self-made persons.

But such confidence is an illusion! Such confidence is built on a crumbling foundation! Such confidence is the product of spiritual ignorance–a lack of understanding of God's master plan for history!

What is the basis of confidence? Understanding the "purpose of his (God's) will." (v.11) What is the purpose of God's will? That each person, as a part of the corporate human race, recognize that he is chosen and predestined in Christ to be saved from sin (v .11). That each person, as a part of the corporate human race, realize that he individually is chosen to accept God's salvation. That each person who accepts God's salvation be confident that the "best is yet to be." Why? Because heaven is the inheritance of the believers, guaranteed to believers by the promised indwelling Holy Spirit (v.14).

Ephesians 1:11-12 speak of God's objective intention to save the human race corporately. This divine intention to put the human race corporately into a savable relationship is made possible through Christ. Ephesians 1:13a speaks of individual human response to God's plan of salvation. Those who respond to God's plan of salvation are those who first hear the word of truth (that is, after hearing the 'word of truth,' these persons believe the message of salvation which is made possible 'in Christ.' Hearing and believing the 'word of truth' results in receiving God's promised Holy Spirit who gives assurance of a future inheritance. Ephesians 1:13 b, Ephesians 1:14 speaks of God's gift of assurance and confidence to the believing heart. The believer's confidence is related to the past, present, and future–in his understanding of God's past saving intention (v.11), in his relationship to God's present saving power (v.13), and in his assurance of God's future heavenly inheritance (v.14).

"O God, I see that my confidence does not originate in the fulfillment of my own self-centered will, but in the fulfillment of your eternal will–the salvation of mankind through Christ. If one is not saved through Christ, he has no basis for confidence and every reason for doubt and fear. I put my trust alone in the saving Christ!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God intended in eternity and what Christ provided in time, I will receive by personal faith–salvation from my sins and reconciliation to my Saviour!

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Discussion Questions On 'God's Purpose In Creation And Redemption'

  1. What evidence is there that man is uniquely created in God's own image?

  2. Practically speaking, how is man to exercise his God-given dominance over the earth and at the same time practice his God-required stewardship in the earth? Cite practical examples of how this dual responsibility is carried out by sensitive believers.

  3. Why did God place a limitation on man's freedom in the Garden of Eden, according to Genesis 2:16-17?

  4. Was the exercise of man's will in the Garden of Eden an authentic exercise of freedom, or was it simply an apparent exercise of freedom which was really predetermined by a sovereign God?

  5. What is the most distinctive feature of man that makes him a creature uniquely created by God, different from all other creatures of the earth?

  6. What made Satan's temptation in the Garden of Eden so appealing to our first human parents, and what is there about that first temptation that is common to all subsequent temptations which all humans face?

  7. What were some of the immediate consequences of the fall of Adam and Eve, and in what ways are these consequences the consequences which modern-day persons face when they sin?

  8. How do you interpret Genesis 3:15, as this verse relates to God's provision for lost mankind's restoration?

  9. After noting the general conclusions and applications from a study of Genesis 1-3 (which are listed in the chapter), which points (if any) revealed some new insights to you? What further additional insights and applications, from your own study of these chapters, can you share with others?

  10. From a careful study of Ephesians 1 (along with the insights shared in the chapter of this devotional book), how would you answer the following questions? "Are you a creature of freedom or a creature of fate? Are you free to determine your own eternal destiny, or was your eternal destiny fixed by some divine decree before the foundation of the world? Did God choose to save only certain human beings or did God choose to save the entire human race? (Cite as many scriptures as possible to document your answers.)

  11. According to Ephesians 1:5, what has always been God's unchanging plan for 'us'? Does 'us' refer only to certain favored human beings whom God has chosen or selected, or does 'us' refer to the entire human race? Is there any solid scriptural basis for believing that God has chosen only some in the human race to be saved, and that He has condemned the rest to be eternally lost? What scriptures can you cite to show that God wants to save every human being from sin and for heaven?

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    Discussion Questions On 'God's Purpose In Creation And Redemption (Cont.)

  12. Could God's perfect will to save the entire human race have been possible without the atoning work of Christ on the cross? Note Ephesians 1:7.

  13. If it is God's perfect will that all persons come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) then why does not God exercise His sovereign power to force all humans to repent of sin? Does God have a 'permissive will' as well as a 'perfect will,' resulting in God allowing sinners to refuse to repent of sins, even though He desires that all sinners repent? Is it a demonstration of God's sovereign power that He refuses to coerce man, and instead allows each person to exercise his free will in positive acceptance of or in negative rejection to Jesus' universal provision for human salvation?

  14. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Even though all persons, because of Christ's unlimited atonement, are in a savable relationship, all persons are not automatically in a saved re1ationship."

  15. What personal conditions must be met by the sinner in order for God's universal saving purpose to be personally realized in the individual sinner's life? Can you show from scripture that God offers the gift of saving faith to all persons, thus making possible the salvation of the entire human race?

  16. What is the relationship between God's universal saving purpose, Christ's unlimited atonement, and a person's individual appropriation of salvation?

  17. According to Ephesians 1:5-14, list three different ways in which man's positive freedom is exercised and demonstrated.

  18. Spiritual sonship (according to Ephesians 1:5-8) is the result of what three spiritual realities?

  19. According to Galatians 4:4-7, what is the relationship between redemption and adoption?

  20. What is the relationship between redemption and forgiveness?

  21. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christ had to die, not in the sense of absolute necessity, but in the sense of redemptive necessity, for only through the blood of Christ could God's holy nature be honored and man's salvation be guaranteed."

  22. What is a 'sectarian' spirit, and how does such a spirit violate the teachings of scripture, especially those in the book of Ephesians (Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 2:14-22)?

  23. According to Ephesians 1:13, how can you be sure that you are a Christian and on your way to heaven? What does it mean 'to believe,' as used in this verse?

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