The Most Important Thing
Preached by Mike Aiken
What is the most important thing about you? Is it who you are married to? Who your significant other is? Your job? Where you go to school? Who your parents are? What abilities you have? Who you hang out with? Your friends? The choices you make? Where you live? What you wear? What you eat and drink? What you watch on your phone or tv? What your favorite football team is? How much money you have or make? Or how you spend your money? There are many other possibilities for answering this question but these are just a few I thought of. How would you answer that question? What is the most important thing about you?
A.W. Tozer answers the question with this profundity: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” What does he base this on? He explains, “Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts about God.” These thoughts about God he calls the “idea of God.” Tozer also shows how these thoughts about God affect our behavior therefore this matter of thinking rightly about who God is, is practical.
Furthermore, Tozer believes the most important thing about the church (the corporate community of the people of God) is also what the group thinks of God. He explains, “Always the most revealing thing about the church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech.”1 So as an individual believer or as a community of believers (the church), what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. To reiterate, if we have unbiblical views about God we will be committing idolatry which is false worship. Tozer is aware that “civilized” western people will think they don’t commit idolatry because they don’t bow before an object but he aptly explains what is at the heart of idolatry: “The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.”2 Therefore, my friends, we must be careful to not fall into wrong views about who God is. This morning I want to briefly introduce to you two important things the Bible teaches about who God is.
1“Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. 5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. 6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
I. God is Simple
What is meant by the simplicity of God? It means that God is one in his essence, nature, or being (I use these terms synonymously). Deuteronomy 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” He is numerically one but he is also one in his being which means he is undivided. There is no division in God’s being. In other words, God is not composed of parts. This is so because God is uncreated. He alone is eternal and uncreated. He has no beginning and he has one end. That is what is meant by God’s eternality. Because God is simple, which means he is not composed of parts, he is not dependent upon anything outside himself. If God were composed of parts he would be dependent upon those parts for his existence and would not be God. If God were composed of parts it would show that he was created by something, and if that were true he would not be God.
All of creation is made by God and is composed of parts. We are dependent upon God and the parts he has composed us of for our existence. God alone is independent which means he depends on nothing outside himself for his existence. We on the other hand are dependents and everything in our created world is composed of parts. We are not simple. We are composed of parts. Take the human body for instance, when our heart fails us we die. If our lungs fill with water (pneumonia) we die. When any major organ fails us, we die. Our cars are also not simple, they are composed of parts. When Carolyn and I were coming home from a weekend trip in which we took my older van it left us sitting at a Sheetz Convenience Store about 70 miles from home. We went into the store, used the facilities, got a snack and then came out to a van that wouldn’t start because the starter went bad. The vehicles we drive are composed of parts and when certain parts break down your vehicle isn’t working.
God is not composed of parts. This means his attributes (perfections) are all of who God is in himself. For instance, the Bible says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). In the same letter written by the Apostle John its states, “God is love.” The verse says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” There are many attributes of God found in his word such as mercy, longsuffering, holy, just etc. Each of these are NOT parts of God but are all of who God is in himself. So, God is not part love, part light, part mercy, part longsuffering, part holy, part just. God in his spiritual simple being is all love, all light, all mercy, all holy, all longsuffering, all just. This is hard for us to grasp as creatures because we are made of parts and we think everything else is as well, but God is not. Also, the persons of the Trinity are not parts of God. The Father is not one third, the Son the second third, and the Holy Spirit the last third making up the being of God. No, God is one, undivided being which is shared by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three Persons are three eternal personal relations in the Godhead which has one will and one mind.
Why is it important to maintain that God is simple and what practical effect does that have on the Christian’s life? First it is important to maintain this because God is God and he is distinct from his creation. The Bible teaches the Creator/creature distinction and this doctrine of simplicity maintains that. Secondly, there is tremendous practical significance to this teaching of God’s simplicity. Listen to James Dolezal as he nicely tells us why God’s simplicity is important: “Because God is not made of parts, he will not fall apart for you.” This means God is not like a “supreme ruler” in the Star Wars Episodes who finally is killed. Our God is the King of kings who can never be destroyed. God will not fall apart for you because he is not composed of parts. God is simple and all his attributes are all of him not parts of him. All of God’s promises will come true for the believer because God is simple. Friends, take comfort in this teaching today. Whatever your worries and concerns are about the future, know that God will not fall apart for you because he is simple.
What this practically means is God’s attributes, since they are all of God’s being, are never in conflict or competition. Take for instance the Christmas story. In this historic event, we see all of God’s attributes on display in the incarnation. To name a few, his holiness, his love and his justice. God’s holiness is offended by our sin and his justice demands death to all sinners but God is love also, and in love he sends his only begotten Son to rescue us sinners by living the perfect life for us and then dying the death, we deserved to die. His sacrificial/substitutionary death was a display of the holiness, justice and love of God. His death propitiated (appeased) the just wrath of God so that all who will admit they are sinners, repent of their sin and trust in Jesus will have God’s very righteousness credited to their account. This is the gospel and God’s simple nature makes it all possible.
Now let’s consider one last thing that is true about God.
II. God is Unchanging
We as God’s creation live in time and space and constantly experience change. Today is December 31, 2017 and tomorrow will be a new year, 2018! We see changes in our bodies every year we age. Many of us don’t want to get old so we dye our hair as it grays or we put moisturizers on our face to minimize the wrinkles. These are changes we don’t like. When I was younger I could play tennis for 2 or 3 hours and then recover and play the next day. Today at 57 years old, I still play tennis but my recovery takes at least a day before I want to play again. And when my son Stephen beats me he encourages me by saying, “Just remember dad you’re not 56 anymore.”
Not all people dread change. When we were children we dreamed of the day when we would be on our own and we liked the changes of growing older and gaining more independence, such as, being able to go to the store without mom or dad, driving the car alone, graduating from high school, trade or technical school, or college. Then the change of moving out of the house and getting your first “real job” and your first apartment or house or getting married. I have found that change was more welcomed when I was younger and maybe that is your experience as well.
So, why do I mention all these changes? So we can now contrast who God is in comparison with his creation which is always changing. God on the other hand never changes. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Psalm 102:23-28 says, “He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days. 24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days- you whose years endure throughout all generations!” 25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end. 28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.”
These passages teach us that our God is the same and never changes. This is true about God’s being, his purposes, decrees and promises. It is impossible for God to change.
If God could change then he would not be God. God is perfect in every way and cannot change for better or for worse. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” God does not change like the weather- sunny in the morning, cloudy in the afternoon and snowing at night. God cannot change from being good to being evil. He is not like Anakin Skywalker, from the Star Wars movies, who had the “potential to become one of the most powerful Jedi ever, and was believed by some to be the prophesied Chosen One who would bring balance to the force,”3 but because of his “fear of loss” he changed and went to the dark side and became Darth Vader. Again, Scripture clearly teaches that there is no change in God’s being, his decrees and purposes, nor his promises. God is a covenant keeper and cannot change.
This teaching of God’s unchangeableness should bring us comfort as we live in a world where our political leaders break their promises or a parent or spouse has let us down. We need to be reminded of God’s unchanging character and how that relates to God’s purposes and promises. Consider Hebrew 6:17-20: “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
C.S. Lewis in his Chronicles of Narnia tells us of the adventure of 4 children from London who went to the country side in England to live with a professor for the summer. The adventures in Narnia happen when Lucy enters a large Wardrobe in an empty room. Her other friends Edmond, Peter and Susan also experience Narnia. In book 2, “Prince Caspian” Lucy encounters the lion, Aslan, who represents Christ. Lucy had not seen him for a while and upon seeing him Lewis writes, “She gazed up into the large wise face. ‘Welcome child,’ he said. “Asland” said Lucy ‘you’re bigger.’ ‘That is because you are older, little one,’ answered he. “Not because you are?’ “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.’”4 Lucy’s experience should be the experience of every Christian where we see how big our God is and that he does not change. This picture of God’s majesty and unchangeableness is found in God’s word and because of this fact we are not consumed as Malachi 3:6 states. If God could break his promises we would be the most miserable of people, but because God is unchanging we should be the most joyful of people. This is truly good news.
But some may say, Mike, what about all the passages where it says God changes? There are a few of them and we will look at the one where Hezekiah is told he is going to die and then he prays and is granted more time. Isaiah 38:1-7: “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.” 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 and said, “Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city. 7 “This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he has promised: Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.”
Does this incident with Hezekiah show that God’s purposes may change? I am convinced there is no change in God’s purposes or his mind. God did tell Hezekiah he had an incurable disease and that he would die and that he was to set his house in order. One of the keys to unraveling this seeming contradiction is to understand that each piece of this story was decreed by God, as are all things (Eph. 1:11). For instance, God decreed that Isaiah would give the dreaded message to Hezekiah. God also decreed that Hezekiah would pray which he freely did (he wasn’t coerced). Lastly, God decreed that he would answer Hezekiah based on his earnest prayer. This story was recorded to encourage us to pray and expect that God will answer according to his will and good pleasure. While God’s decrees are unchanging, we need to remember that God does not reveal his secret decrees to us. They remain hidden. We are to obey God’s revealed word which tells us to pray. Our prayers really do bring about change in our time and space world. What remains unchanging is God’s secret decrees. C.H. Spurgeon (famous British Baptist Pastor) when he preached on God’s unchangeableness back in 1855 brought up this story of Hezekiah and showed how God must have decreed what happened, because if Hezekiah died then his son Manasseh would not have been born. Spurgeon makes a point that Jesus the Messiah came through the line of Manasseh and his sons and grandsons and so God certainly decreed for things to happen as they did so that Jesus would be born through this line.
Just think, God’s love for you cannot grow and increase but we are changing and we can by God’s grace love him more and show our family, friends and neighbors God’s love by sharing the gospel, sharing in their burdens and praying for them. Also remember God is simple and what that means for you is that because he is not made of parts he will not fall apart for you. God is simple and God is unchanging. What is the most important thing about you? What comes into your mind when you think about who God is in 2017, 2018 and every year God gives you. May the Lord keep us from idols and may the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to God our strength and redeemer as we continue to worship and serve him in this new year.