WHAT DOES GOD THINK?

What does God think of you and what you do?
Are you constantly looking over your shoulder to see if you are about to be struck by a lightning bolt?
In this brief encouraging message, you will discover something that many people are afraid to believe.
I hope you will find something here to make you smile from the inside out.

Photo by Charl Durand on Pexels.com

NOTE: For a video of this message, click here.

NOTE: For a podcast of this message, click here.

He’s a real piece o’ work.

Usually, when we say someone is a real piece of work, we are using it in a negative fashion trying to say something about their character.

William Shakespeare used the same phrase in one of his numerous immortal quotes which he lifted from his reading of the Bible, but he was using it to glorify God’s creation.

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.

When King David began to consider the greatness of God and His creation, he was astounded that God would even take notice of man.

When I look at your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Psa 8:3-4

Compared to the expanse and beauty of the heavens, how could one little puny individual account for anything?

As he pondered these things, God began to show David just how much He cared for us.

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens,
and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
Psa 8:5-8

David understood our position in the created order of things.

Even though we were the last to be created, we were placed above the rest of God’s natural world.

Notice that he says we are made just a little lower than the angels.

Can you see the difference between King David’s thought and Charles Darwin’s?

David says we are a little lower than the angels, but Darwin says we are a little higher than the apes.

Which comparison would you prefer?

Mankind has been crowned with glory and honor in that humanity has dominion over all other created things of the world.

We find this passage quoted in Hebrews in a different context referring to Jesus.

However, before he gets to Jesus, the writer acknowledges what everyone knows to be the current reality.

Now in putting everything in subjection to him,
he left nothing outside his control.
At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.
Heb. 2:8

That is certainly our reality, is it not?

Not everything is subject to us.

While we may understand shark behavior, we are not yet able to control those fearsome creatures.

Out in nature and unprotected, we are at the mercy of the beasts of the field.

We cannot simply tell that bear to lie down and expect it to obey us, because the reality is that not everything is subject to us at this time.

However, we begin to find a glimmer of hope for this situation as we continue with Hebrews—

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels,
namely Jesus,
crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Heb 2:9

From His exalted position with the Father, Jesus was made a little lower than the angels for just a little while.

The writer of Hebrews then goes on through the rest of the letter to show how Jesus is exalted above everything the Jews held dear about their religion and history.

The conclusion of the matter is that we are to look only to Jesus and not to anything else for our salvation.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Heb 12:2

We are told here that Jesus is the both the author and the finisher of our faith.

What does that mean?

My translation uses the word “founder” instead of author.

Founder can be interpreted as the one who formed the organization, but not necessarily the one who brought you into that organization.

However, when used in conjunction with the word perfector, or finisher of our faith, we are forced to see it in a different light.

Consider the way Paul refers to this aspect of our salvation.

And I am sure of this,
that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Phl 1:6

The good work of salvation was begun in us by an outside force and will be brought to completion by that same outside force—Jesus.

I am not sure I can belabor this point too much or too often.

It is ALL of God’s doing, not ours.

Again, to quote Shakespeare,

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely Players

—(from “As You Like It”)

In this passage of melancholy, Shakespeare brings for the truth that not much is within our control.

We are simply here, coming on the scene, doing our thing, and leaving.

Viewed from a negative mindset, though, this would certainly produce an existential angst; but viewed from a place of understanding God’s love for His creation, it produces a hope that goes beyond what the eye can see.

Let’s continue with God’s working out His will in us.

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
Act 16:14

The Lord opened her heart to hear. If God had not done that, she could not have heard the message with any understanding.

But God, being rich in mercy,
because of the great love with which he loved us,
even when we were dead in our trespasses,
made us alive together with Christ
by grace you have been saved
Eph 2:4-5

We were dead, apart from God. We could not muster up the energy to even ask to be saved, let alone do anything to earn it.

We were made alive from our deadness in order to be able to enjoy a life lived with the Father.

he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,
but according to his own mercy,
by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Tit 3:5

As the TV infomercial says, “Wait!! There’s more!”

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth,
that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Jas 1:18

We’re not done yet! There is still more!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
According to his great mercy,
he has caused us to be born again to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:3

I have only begun to show you the many places where this truth is brought out; but we will stop there.

The question before us today is

“What is man that God is mindful of him?”

Out of the magnitude of God’s creation, why should humanity occupy such an exalted place?

What does God think of us?

After all, history shows that by and large we are not very likable creatures.

We constantly want to be better than our neighbor, to get more than they have, to take what they have for ourselves.

Yes, civilized society has put a tourniquet on that blood flow, but it still continues in more subtle forms as well as the outright slaughter of others for the sake of gain.

Loss of life in African countries continues as one group seeks to dominate another.

Just last week a church was attacked and people were put to the machete.

The ability to earn a living is hampered in Muslim countries like Pakistan.

The majority rules and they greatly hinder anyone who is not a Muslim from finding a decent job.

When we look at those kinds of events, we may sometimes wonder if God has any concern at all for us.

However, we cannot look at the situation for others to determine our own condition.

God will rectify those things in His time the same way He did with the early church when Paul so vehemently opposed it.

We can look at the thoughts presented earlier about how the Lord called us out of the darkness into His light.

In that place, we will see what He thinks of us; what He thinks of you.

This is a concept that many struggle with, but God loves you. He loves me.

We may not feel that love the same way we do for our spouse or close friend, but God loves you.

He can do nothing else, because

God is love.
1Jo 4:8

So.

What does God think of you?

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.
He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
Rev 21:2-3

He thinks of you as a bride as she begins the walk down the aisle to meet her bridegroom.

You are beautiful.

You are loved.

Let that thought carry you through the week.

God loves me.

US AGAINST THEM

Division in our society is more marked today than ever before. Christians should not be a part of this division, but we are. What can be done about this?

A DIVIDED SOCIETY

NOTE: For a video of this message, click here.

NOTE: For an audio podcast of this message, click here.

I believe everyone would agree that our society has become more divided than ever before in our lifetime.

We have always had divisions, differences in beliefs, party lines and denominations.

Fortunately, over the past three decades there has been a decline in the animosity once felt between denominations.

However, in the realm of political thinking about issues within society, there has been an increase in the acrimony expressed by opposing groups.

We have witnessed physical attacks on people for wearing a certain kind of ball cap.

We have also seen physical attacks on those who have been found without a piece of cloth over their face.

People who have been lifelong friends suddenly find themselves in a persona non grata status with their friend.

Being ostracized from the family—something that was formerly limited to the Amish and the Muslims—has now become commonplace in our society.

The current dividing line is your opinion about Mr. Putin, the leader of Russia who has chosen to invade Ukraine.

Almost everyone has experienced this divisive attitude at one level or another over any one of these issues.

Certainly we cannot be happy with this!

Is this the way it is supposed to be?

Will it always be this way?

It will continue to be this way for as long as we as a society continue to view anyone as “the other.”

We seem to have grown comfortable with an “US vs THEM” mentality.

Paul encountered this same divisive attitude in his day.

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Col 3:11

Paul is pointing to the things that people used to divide themselves back in his time.

If he were writing today, he would say there is neither black nor white, conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican.

We would probably look at that and say he was out of touch with reality. For, of course those groups exist.

The groups he spoke of from his day also existed.

There definitely were then, and there definitely are now, people from different religions, different economic classes, and different parts of the world.

So what was Paul getting at?

Let’s look at this verse from a different translation.

In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
Col 3:11 NLT

He is talking about how we should view things from a new and different perspective, because we should have a different worldview.

As a believer, we should not be subject to the world’s way of doing things.

We are not of those who make distinctions between one another.

Paul also said this in a different way in another passage.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 2Co 5:16

Regarding Christ or anyone according to the flesh causes us to make distinctions in our thinking.

Those distinctions are based on our own fleshly value judgments.

Those value judgments will inevitably lead to separation.

Separation leads to division.

And division leads to war.

While it may not be a major war between countries, any animosity between two people is a war.

And war is what we are seeing in our society today.

Politically and sociologically, we know this sharp divisive attitude is caused by a lack of understanding.

It is up to you and me and any other believer who may read and understand this, that we are to stem the tide of division in our society.

I know that sounds like a tall order when you consider yourself and the vastness of society.

But, it is not so overwhelming if you apply the principle of elephant-eating.

How do you eat an elephant?

You remember how to eat an elephant, right?

One bite at a time.

And that is what Paul was saying in the context of our verse.

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
Col 3:8

Notice that anger, wrath, malice, and slander are each directed at others.

These are each the result of a separation and division from the other, at least in the moment.

Paul then goes on with how we can slow that divisiveness between us as far as we are concerned.

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
Col 3:9

Have you put off the old self?

Have you put away that part of who you were that made distinctions and judged others as being something “less than?”

In another place, Paul tells us to put off the old man, the old life; but here he says that we already have done that.

It is a statement of fact—you have put off the old.

and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Col 3:10

He says this as a matter of fact—you have put on the new self.

And that new self is being constantly renewed in knowledge after the image of that new self’s creator.

Growth comes from the constant renewal in knowledge.

What we know changes as we grow.

We also find that some things we knew before have changed from what we were told.

For instance, I graduated high school in 1965 when there were only 98 elements on the Periodic Table in chemistry.

Today there are 118—20 more than when I graduated.

Fortunately, the ones I recall are still there—not like the planets which has added to, taken away and put back again.

The point, though, is that if we are being renewed in knowledge which is bringing us to be more like Christ, then we should also be changing.

We should be always changing in the things we say, do, and think about others until we have the full mind of Christ.

Jesus said something that pertains to this idea of division and what we can do about it.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  
Matt 5:9

A pistol known as the Colt 45 was known for a time as the “peacemaker,” but that is not what Jesus meant.

He did not talk so much about those who could stop a fight through an intervention—whether lethal or otherwise.

He was talking about those, who by the very presence of their being, are peacemakers.

Peacemakers are those who do not get entangled in the divisive nature of our world.

They are able to remain aloof from all the propaganda and news stories and fear predictions of the preachers of doom.

They are able to help calm the fears of those who do tend to get distracted by all the noise.

I was listening to a chaplain recount an experience he had in Iraq.

He was in the back of one of those transports—I don’t know what they are called—and they were heading out into the battle area.

The soldier sitting next to him said, “Chaplain I am glad you are here today.”

Of course, the chaplain appreciated the comment, because he knew that he was there to bring comfort to the soldiers.

He asked the soldier, though, “Why are you glad that I am here?”

The soldier said, “I just feel safer having you present with us.”

That is a peacemaker. His presence made a difference.

Let’s return to our original verse to see one last thing about getting rid of an “Us vs Them” mentality.

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but
Christ is all, and in all.
Col 3:11

It is not until we are able to see the truth of this statement that we will then be able to get rid of our divisive thinking.

Christ is all and in all.

We do not truly believe that as a society.

Just consider all the struggles we have gone through in our own country since Jefferson penned the words.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

The black man has had to struggle to even be recognized as human, let alone equal.

Women have had to struggle to even be recognized as human, let alone equal.

But this truth—that Christ is all and in all—has so penetrated my heart and consciousness that I can no longer view anyone as worse or better than I.

The result, for me, has been that I am grieved when I hear conversations that degenerate into an Us vs Them.

I hear it among fellow pastors talking about other churches.

I hear it among my friends concerning the political landscape.

Yes. We are going to have differences of opinions about all manner of things; but there is no reason to view the other side as stupid, out-of-touch, mean, ignorant or any other negative type.

When we do, we are not able to love as Jesus loved, which we are called to do by the grace of God.

Let us make love our aim, our goal.

Ask the Lord to increase the size of your love-bucket, and go pour some love out on people.

There is more than enough to go around, but not enough is being shared these days.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1Co 13:13

It is good that you have faith.

It is good that you have hope.

But, most importantly, you should have love.

Let this week provide you an opportunity to love in a way that you have never experienced before.

May your heart be enlarged to a place of resistance against any Us vs Them thinking.