Choosing a Destiny

“God is not a man that He should lie” Numbers 23:19

The basis of all the covenants that God has ever made is that He speaks the truth with no hidden agenda. To doubt or reject God’s word is to call Him a liar. An example of this can be seen in Romans 3:10 where Paul writes, quoting from Psalm 14, “There is none righteous, no, not one” and in 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There are those who reject these truths and thus call God a liar. John writes as much in his letter, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

Jesus claimed to be Truth (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; 8:32) and God’s word to be truth (John 17:17). In so doing He was saying that God does not lie and therefore His word can be relied upon. Men do lie so when it comes to a choice whose word are we going to believe?

In his greeting to Titus, Paul states clearly that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The best a man can say is that he is not lying or will not lie but he cannot truthfully say that he cannot lie. Paul gives us the reason God cannot lie in 2 Timothy 2:13, “He cannot deny Himself.” What this means is that God always speaks and acts according to His Divine Nature. We can observe this in His Creation. All creatures and plants conform to their kind and can do nothing else. In breeding animals and growing crops we rely on this fact.

When it comes to God’s covenants and promises we can rely on them because God cannot lie. If we create an image of God in our minds that is like people we will not be inclined to believe His word. As such we call Him unfaithful and a liar. Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He lied to Eve (Genesis 3:5) and he has been lying to people ever since.

In creating us in His image God has given us free will to make our own choice. We can choose to believe God or we can choose to believe Satan. Our choice will determine the course and destiny of our lives. Believe God to eternal life (John 5:24) or believe Satan’s lie to eternity in the “lake of fire and brimstone” to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). We are choosing to be either in Christ’s presence or Satan’s.

Tender Affection

“When He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3

Many years ago before I was married my friends sometimes visited me at home but I would do little or nothing in preparation. The day came when my fiancé, who had not met my parents or family, came from interstate to meet them and stay for Easter. There was a lot of activity on my part to prepare for her visit including the purchase of a new bed to ensure her comfort and washing the car. She was very special to me being the girl that I would marry. Nothing was too much trouble or expense to make her feel welcome and loved after three months without seeing her.

This kind of excitement and expectation can be ours as we “eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7). The apostle Paul lived in eager expectation of seeing Jesus. He wrote with longing and anticipation, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). He would later write to his young pastor friend, Titus, to teach all people to keep “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

Observation over the years suggests that some Christians are satisfied that they have a home in heaven but without any real longing or eagerness to be in that home and be with Jesus. Heaven is heaven because of the presence of Jesus. Without Him it would be hell. If we truly love Jesus, there will not just be the knowledge that we will be with Him and see Him face to face, but a genuine heartfelt longing for that day.

John writes that this expectation will cause us to prepare ourselves for that day. If we remain content with a “ticket to heaven” with no thrill at the prospect of seeing and being with Jesus it may be that we do not have a home in heaven at all. Surely one in whom dwells the Holy Spirit will have this thrill and excitement that will motivate them to clean the house in readiness and eagerly look forward to the day.

When I speak the name of my wife it is with tender affection and it stirs the emotions every time. To better understand longing desire and tender affection read the Song of Solomon. When we are in intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus we will speak the name of Jesus with tender affection also. Jesus is the name by which we are saved. Jesus is the name above all names. The name Jesus means Saviour. Let us speak His name but speak it with tender affection in anticipation of His coming.

A Faithful Witness

“He who does not believe God has made Him a liar” 1 John 5:10

In Titus 1:2 and Hebrews 6:18 we read that God cannot lie yet in this letter of John to Christians he twice writes that it is possible that people can make God appear to be a liar. In both cases it is when people contradict or disbelieve God’s word.

From the beginning Satan accused God of being a liar. He spoke through a serpent to cast doubt on God’s testimony. Since then he has had plenty of people who are willing to go out of their way to discredit the word of God. What is particularly sad is when people who go by the name of Christian also discredit God’s word by not believing it. This disbelief may be expressed in misrepresentation, distortion or outright rejection.

Any time we question the correctness of God’s word; anytime we interpret God’s word contrary to what it actually says; anytime we distort or misrepresent God’s word we are claiming that we are a higher and more reliable authority than God. This is the pinnacle of pride and calls God a liar. No one who truly loves Jesus Christ would knowingly do this work of the devil.

In almost a summary of all that he has written in his Gospel and in this letter John writes out in a nutshell the essence of what God has said that he wants us to be sure to believe, “and this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; and he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (vv 11-12). The key words in this passage are:

  • Given – Eternal life/Christ is God’s Gift
  • Christ and eternal life are one (cf. John 14:6). No Christ = no eternal life
  • Christ must be received not merely observed
  • Christ is equal with the Father

Anyone who does not believe this testimony of God is calling Him a liar. The evidence that a person does believe this will be seen in their life and word as John has described earlier in this letter.

John has written this letter so that those who have taken God at His word will have the assurance that they are truly born of God and have received Christ who is eternal life (v 13). Then, and only then, will that person know the “full joy” that John desires that all God’s people have (1:4).

An Immutable Fact

“… in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, …” Titus 1:2

If we begin reading the Bible from this standpoint, “God, who cannot lie,” we would fare much better in understanding God and accepting His word and promises. As children we found it so easy to trust. As the years went by we found that it was naive to blindly trust everyone. Can God be trusted? That is the question that Adam and Eve had to answer. Satan convinced them that God could not be trusted and so they trusted Satan instead. We must also choose but regardless of what we choose the fact that God cannot lie remains.

The writer of Hebrews writes that it is impossible for God to lie (6:18). Paul writes something similar in 2 Timothy 2:13 when he wrote “He [God] cannot deny Himself.” He cannot think, speak or act contrary to His Divine Nature. We see this characteristic in all creation. All creatures act according to their nature.

If we choose not to believe a person we are saying that they are either ignorant on the matter or that they are a liar. When we do not believe God we prove that we are children of Adam and following his trust in Satan.

Repentance for salvation is that act of choosing to cease not believing God and to believe His word. In doing this we reject our allegiance to Adam and attach our allegiance to Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 5).

Sadly, there are some who claim the name of Jesus Christ who do not accept all His words. Such a claim is a deceit and hypocrisy and infers that Jesus is either ignorant or a deceiver. Unbelief may be masked by mishandling the word of God. We can become very adept at twisting another person’s words to suit our cause. Paul writes that elders in the church should be able to express “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9; 2:1) so that the congregation may become “sound in the faith” (1:13; 2:2) through “sound speech” (2:8). The word of God is the authority that a teacher has. When he speaks the word of God faithfully he has “all authority” (2:15) but the moment he strays he has no authority.

Those who abuse the word of God may “profess to know God, but in works they deny Him” (1:16). Paul’s assessment is that they are, to God, detestable, disobedient and disqualified to serve Christ.

Let us make this an immutable fact in our minds, God does not and cannot lie. That is the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ.

True to Kind

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” 2 Timothy 2:13

This must be one of the most comforting verses in the Bible for the one who knows the heart of God and knows his own heart. It is one of the reasons why Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd. We are prone to wander from the truth back into worldly ways of thinking but the Good Shepherd keeps steering us into ‘green pastures.’

We are told in the Bible that there are two things God cannot do; He cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18) and He cannot “deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). These relate to His Person. In contrast there are passages that tell us that nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37) but these relate to His activity in the world.

The very origin and root of sin is that Satan provoked Adam and Eve to doubt both of these aspects of God’s nature that He cannot do. He cannot lie and He cannot think, speak or act contrary to His Divine Nature. The combination of these two is where the true believer finds their assurance, comfort and peace.

When we read God’s word we are sure that He is not telling lies or trying to hide things from us. We know that he does not speak with hypocrisy and will not set a trap for us. When we have doubts about this it is easy to know who is behind those doubts. Satan has been doing this ever since he spoke with Eve in the Garden of Eden. He is well practiced by now but we have the whole Bible that will expose his lie.

In the Bible we also discover that there are many ways in which we may think that God is not faithful to His word. Again, our sinful hearts have a bias to consider God unfaithful but as we read the Bible and reflect on our own lives we will discover that He is and always has been faithful to who He is. The world does not see it that way but that is because their idea of godly traits is different to the revelation of God in the Bible.

One of the most common of complaints is used in other relationships as well. Essentially it is that if you don’t give me what I want, you don’t love me. This is a form of manipulation and no one should allow themselves to be manipulated in this way. That would not be love at all and it destroys the relationship. God will not be manipulated.

Love is sacrificially giving what the other persons needs. This is what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. “For God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Wow! Aren’t we glad that God will always love us in that way?

God is no Liar

“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” Hebrews 4:11

Rest in this context is the ceasing from our efforts to please God by keeping moral and ritual law or through service, and resting in our new relationship with God through the completed work of Jesus Christ. This is the great divide between religion and true Christianity.

The main impediment to experiencing that ‘rest’ is refusing to believe what God has said. This was Israel’s problem when Israel first approached the Promised Land: “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19). When we don’t believe what God has said we will disregard His counsel, directives and commands. This is, in effect calling Him a liar or deceiver. Israel “did not enter because of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:6). We choose not to obey because we think we know better. This was Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden and is the root of all sin. We can hardly expect to remain in fellowship with God while bringing His character into question by calling Him a deceiver or liar.

Both the Apostle Paul and the writer of Hebrews state that it is impossible for God to lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18) and Paul also states that God cannot and will not act contrary to His nature (2 Timothy 2:13). Jesus said that He is truth (John 14:6) and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 15:26) who comes from the Father. The testimony is that God is truth and will not and cannot lie. To suggest otherwise is arrogance in its extreme and follows Adam’s example.

The writer of Hebrews exhorts Christians to be diligent in believing what God has said and demonstrate that we believe God by doing and living as He says. This is what James affirms when he wrote, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Clearly, the “rest” means serving the Lord and His people and not putting up one’s feet and being idle. How we live our life will reveal whether our faith is genuine or not. When we hear God’s word on a matter and believe what we have heard, we will act upon it as He has directed without finding it a burden (1 John 5:3). If we adjust, dismiss, ignore or reject any of God’s word it reveals that we do not believe Him, perhaps even that we do not want to believe Him.

How can we know whether we are expressing true faith? The writer of Hebrews explains, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

The Word of God has a way of revealing whether our faith is genuine or not. As we read and study it the Holy Spirit will show us where our heart lies. A heart that welcomes the word of the Lord and is guided by it is one that knows the love of God and has no fear of His wrath.

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentile and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

As We Are

“With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With the blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; With the pure You will show Yourself pure; And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.” Psalm 18:25, 26

Psalm 18 was written by King David after he had experienced the Lord in many ways and on many occasions. One who has only heard or learned about God could not write in such a way. He didn’t just know about the Lord, he knew the Lord personally and intimately through revelation and life’s experiences. Many people learn about God but few know Him in life experience.

We tend to see others and God as we ourselves are. The Lord says, “You thought I was altogether like you” (Psalm 50:21). The devious person will see God as shrewd; the legalist will see Him as a dictator; the compassionate person will see God as compassionate and the merciful will see Him as merciful. What we think of the Divine Nature can be seen in the way we relate to others.

The Bible is given to us by God to correct us where we are not thinking correctly on many things but especially in regard to Him. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). As we learn about God from the Scriptures and accept the teaching the Holy Spirit changes us into His likeness. When we read and receive such God-breathed words as, “But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” Titus 3:4-6), we melt in our hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to change us. Then we will see God as merciful, loving, gracious and righteous. “We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2). We don’t have to wait until heaven to see Jesus as He is. Through believing God’s word and experiencing Jesus Christ in daily living we are being transformed into His likeness (Romans 12:2) and have in our minds a more accurate understanding of His nature.

Our theories about Jesus Christ are tested in our life experiences. When they don’t seem to match we are forced to go back to Scripture. If they do match we rejoice in having a more intimate understanding of Him and fellowship with Him.

An unbelieving world may say that it is blind faith or brain washing but the one who not only knows about God but has also experienced Him personally through Jesus Christ will not be moved by such folly (Psalm 14:1).

We will tend to see God and other people as we are ourselves. Only through God’s word can we discover the truth about Him and ourselves and then He will ensure we go through the appropriate tests and trials to conform us to His likeness. The experiences of life will either confirm we are correct or drive us back to His word for correction. When it appears that God is not meeting our expectations it may be because we have a wrong view of Him and therefore wrong expectations.

True to Kind

“This is a faithful saying … If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself”  2 Timothy 2:11, 13

Paul encourages Timothy and all of us to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (v 1) through faith in who Jesus is. There will be reward for remaining faithful. Paul gives the examples of a soldier, an athlete and a farmer to show that God is faithful. But even if we are not faithful God remains faithful. Why is this? It is because God and all His creatures are true to kind. God cannot act contrary to who He is and that is a foundation stone of true Christian faith.

The Bible reveals two things that God cannot do: God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18) and God cannot act contrary to His Divine Nature (2 Timothy 2:13).

In an attempt to reduce penalty or even avoid penalty the defence of an accused may call witnesses to demonstrate that the actions of the accused were “out of character”. This is wholly untrue. All of God’s creatures act absolutely according to what they are. We all act exactly according to what we are. The natural person is always in rebellion against God and can do nothing but sin. The problem is not what we do but what we are. What we do is the outworking of what we are. A person may be able to suppress behaviour but they cannot change what they are. “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10).

Sinful thoughts, words and deeds are the symptoms of what we are. As in the case of one before a judge we may try to escape penalty by claiming otherwise but God will not be deceived. We are sinners and there is no remedy until we admit that we are sinners by nature. We cannot change what we are. At best we may be able to change some aspects of our behaviour but that will never make us compatible with God.

God is holy; God is undefiled; God is without sin; God is love; God is righteous and just; God cannot deny who He is and if we are to come into His presence and have communion with Him then what we are must be changed. We cannot change what we are. This is why Jesus makes the emphatic statement that “you must be born again” (John 3:3). This is not a command but a statement of fact. To have communion with God we must have the same nature. This is only possible by way of a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 6:15) through which we are made “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

When Jesus died on the cross He took our sin nature to death as well as the penalty for sin acts. In His resurrection He opened the door for a new life (Ephesians 2:10). The Gospel of Christ reveals God’s remedy for the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) but also the remedy for what we are. Jesus’ resurrection necessitated His death on the cross; for us to live the resurrection life we must die to self.

God cannot change who and what He is. He is holy and without sin. If anyone is to come into His presence it is they who must be changed. Only Jesus Christ is able to do that for He alone bore our sin and rose again.

Christian Retirement: an Oxymoron

“Likewise,[the older men] exhort the young men.”  Titus 2:6

Having reached that age when many in the past have faced compulsory retirement from employment it is pleasing that I do not have to follow such a fate. Several decades ago I observed men who were healthy at 65 years old but were very ill or dead by 66 or soon after. Their lives revolved around their work and when that ended they felt worthless. That was another encouragement for me to pursue Christian ministry.

Fortunately, for the Christian, there is no retirement until the Lord takes us home to be with Him. Consider what might have been if these people had ceased serving the Lord at 65 years:

  • Noah, who at 600 years of age built the ark and re-established the human race
  • Enoch walked with the Lord for all of his 300 years until the Lord “retired” him by taking him up in an individual “rapture.”
  • Abraham obeyed the Lord and left his family, friends and culture to go to another land without knowing where he would settle. He was 75 years of age when called and had the son of promise at age 100.
  • Moses, at 80 years delivered Israel out of bondage in Egypt. He endured the resistance of Pharaoh and then the complaints of Israel for a further 40 years. His leadership of the nation only ended when the Lord took life from his body.
  • From age forty, Joshua had led the fighting and developed an army for Israel and at 80 years he took over the leadership of the nation. He led Israel for a further thirty years until he died.
  • None of Jesus’ disciples went into retirement. They served the Lord Jesus until death, whether that came at an early age (James) or much later (John).

No matter how hard we may search the Bible there is no suggestion of retirement from serving the Lord Jesus Christ prior to His taking us from our earthly bodies. In fact one could make an argument that the most productive period in many Christian lives is the latter part when wisdom has finally been produced to go with youthful zeal.

In his letter to Titus one of the qualities of a sound church that Paul noted is that older men are training young men and the older women are training the young women (Titus 2:1-8). If the character of a church in our day is that the older men and women “retire” and do not fulfil this role or any spiritual role they will be inclined to sit back in judgment and criticise those who do. This may be a reason some churches have few young people and find it hard to get people to fulfil ministry roles.

In his later years Paul may have corrected Timothy and Titus but even from prison he was still training them and encouraging them. He did not consider that he had ever done his bit.

Christian retirement? Yes, it is an oxymoron!