sermon: God Is Not a Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma
Given 04-Aug-18; Sermon #1445A; 31 minutes
On August 23, 1939, foreign ministers, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov signed the official treaty of non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which was in reality a Nazi Germany-Soviet Union pact of aggression.
This pact was amended following their joint invasion of Poland in September, the Nazis on the first and the Soviets on the seventeenth. The amended treaty provided a written guarantee of non-belligerence by each country toward the other, and assurances that neither country would become allied with the other’s enemy.
However, the most important part of the treaty was a secret protocol that, for all intents and purposes, was a declaration of how they were going to divide up Europe. The pact remained in place for almost two years, until Hitler ended the pact with attacking Russian positions in Eastern Poland in June of 1941, which was in response to Stalin's invasion into the supposed Nazi sphere of influence.
An interesting aside to this, although not necessarily germane to this sermon, is the fact that the Soviet Union denied the existence of the secret protocol, of the second treaty with its delineation of the European territories until 1989, with the coming down of the Berlin wall. The Russian premier, Vladimir Putin was then a low-level KGB agent stationed in Dresden, East Germany, and has been quoted as saying, “While condemning the pact as immoral, is to be defended as a necessary evil.” (I remind you what John was saying in the commentary, if nothing else this is good insight into the thinking of those God is using to stir the pot. John Ritenbaugh spoke about this last week.)
However, I gave you the short look into the evil subterfuge that went on for the days of World War II, because I wanted you to see what was at the foundation of a very famous Winston Churchill quote from a broadcast to the British people in October, 1939, less than three weeks after the unsettling invasion of Poland, to deal with the alliance with Germany by the Russians. A very savvy Winston Churchill declared, “I cannot forecast to you the actions of Russia, it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but perhaps there is a key. The key is Russian national interest.”
Hold on to that word “mystery,” as well as Churchill's key to understanding what happened through knowing the Russian national interests. Winston Churchill in his October 1, 1939, BBC broadcast that was intended to show the British people a leadership that had been discouraged by the leadership of Neville Chamberlain's umbrella diplomacy, which had in effect turned Poland over to the enigmatic German-Russian alliance. He declared he had the key to unwrap the mystery of Russia by understanding the Russian point of view.
In those early days of the war, Churchill assured the British people that Hitler and all that he stood for would be wiped out, because he knew the key that gave him insight into what the forbidding and self-serving Russians were thinking behind the veil of the Iron Curtain. Part of what you should take away from this message today is this very appropriate metaphor for the way God is viewed in a world that only thinks of God as an absolute mystery behind a forbidding and purposely impenetrable iron curtain.
For the most part, the world looks at what is hidden behind what they see as the forbidding iron curtain as something not only mysterious, but to be rationalized in the mind of men. This great mystery is viewed as real or imagined, hands on or hands off, fearsome or affable, self-serving or totally subject to the limits of a progressively deteriorating or expanding universe, unjust and unreasonable, or absolutely merciful and subject to the whims of men, unfair or unaware, on and on it goes. It is driven by carnal nature in the spirit of this world.
God is seen as an overwhelming, powerful something that must be rationally dealt with, like Stalin's Russia as an awesome power driven only by what serves His own duplicitous interests.
Recently I heard two Catholic priests go out of their way to emphatically state that God is so absolutely mysterious that He is totally beyond our understanding in what He is and what He does. One occasion was at a funeral Nancy and I recently attended for the mother of a dear friend and a member of God's church which was conducted by a Catholic priest. The other was in the course of a conversation at dinner with three almost lifelong friends, one of whom was a Catholic priest, who has been a friend for over fifty years. He is a very fine man with a very productive history of consistent, self-sacrificing service. Two people, that painfully struggle to understand, as he puts it, a God who is both absolutely holy but absolutely mysterious, unknowable.
In this world, there are many who would greatly appreciate having what we have, brethren, but are in a place the apostle Paul referred to in the first chapter of Romans, where I was going to begin by reading those scriptures. But David Grabbe already filled that in for me, but I do want to read those same scriptures, and I want you to keep especially verse eighteen in the forefront of your minds about this sermon. Think about its application beyond this world to those whom God has called at this time and a possible judgment for not treasuring and expanding the revelation of Himself that He has given to us.
Now I am going to read those verses that David read earlier, I am going to read it from one of David Maas’ favorite translations, because I think it really packs a punch. I am going to read it from the Amplified Version of the Bible.
Romans 1:18 (AMP) For God’s [holy] wrath and indignation are revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who in their wickedness repress and hinder the truth and make it inoperative.
Brethren, consider this: are we making God's Word of truth inoperative in our lives? Are we living according to the letter and the Spirit of the law that should be at work in our lives every minute of every day?
Romans 1:19-25 (AMP) For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them. For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So men are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification], because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and godless in their thinking [with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations] and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves]. And by them the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God were exchanged for and represented by images, resembling mortal man and birds and beasts and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their [own] hearts to sexual impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin], because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever! Amen.
God had revealed enough of His mysteries of Himself, making them plain to the spirit of man, really enough of the invisible nature and attributes, and His eternal power that everyone could have understood. They are the very work of His creation done in wisdom, and the incorruptible glory of His beauty and the incorruptible glory of God. But that is not the case today in a world that may consider God holy but absolutely vague and a capricious mystery.
Brethren, by the grace of God and a very precious calling we are now being measured in the exact same way as detailed by the apostle Paul in Romans 1, but from a much higher set of standards for knowing God that rests in our working relationship with Jesus Christ. We too have been given the opportunity to know God, but far beyond merely recognizing God through His physical creation. We have been given the extraordinary privilege to understand who and what God is, and what They are doing, and carrying out the exact and the unchangeable plan and purpose for all of mankind, and in the very specific order that they have determined.
We have been given not only the revealed mystery of God, but the opportunity to have the very mind of Jesus Christ, as the apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians, and to become holy, as God is holy.
Please do not think that I am saying that we should know all the mysteries of God at this time because God's Word makes it abundantly clear there are still many things that the Father and Son are keeping to themselves. You can see for yourself if you look at Deuteronomy 29 and Proverbs 25 and other verses like that. To the elect of God, His actions are not a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma as Winston Churchill famously said to the British people, regarding the actions of the Russians during the mysterious early days of World War II.
Let us go to that very well known scripture in Philippians because it is good to remind ourselves what the apostle Paul wrote to the congregation he dearly loved, but were letting carnal nature overwhelm incredible blessing of not only knowing the mysterious God, but the blessing of sharing His very mind and the relationship they had with Him and with one another. I would like to use the Amplified Version of the Bible because it makes our intimate knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, very clear and just how we are expected to maintain that clarity. If you would like to follow this in the translation you have in front of you, we will be reading from Philippians 2:2 all the way through verse 15.
Philippians 2:2-15 (AMP) Fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention. Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]. Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others. Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God by possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God. God, did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death on a stake! Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, that in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], that you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world.
God should not be absolutely mysterious to anyone, as Paul made clear in Romans 1. Now the revelation has gone from beyond the creation, to the indwelling mind of the Creator Himself, and the tender care that must be carefully and continuously cultivated with a reverential awe, learning and living the very life of Christ together. The stakes have gotten much higher, but God has not changed. He has just given us more so we can change.
Just as a reminder before you go any farther let us turn to a just a few very basic scriptures that must be firmly set in our minds, which are keys to maintaining our relationship with Jesus Christ in truth. Turn with me first to Malachi 3. You are all familiar with these scriptures. We need to have them clearly set in our hearts.
Malachi 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Malachi 3:16-17 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. “They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”
Remember brethren, we serve Him. He loves us. Now turn over to Matthew 12.
Matthew 12:36-37 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Do not forget brethren—He is listening constantly. And now,
I Peter 4:17-19 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now “if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
These are just a few of the well-known scriptures that we see from the very hands of our great Creator God, with whom there is no vacillating, there is no changing. He is carefully listening to something He apparently expects from His preciously selected treasure with a judgment that is taking place right now.
Brethren there are two things to consider here in these verses. The first one is we have been very carefully selected as a precious treasure unto God. Each and every one of our thoughts, words, and actions are being carefully judged right now as to whether or not they reflect an abiding respect and fear of our holy and revealed God. The second the most intense listening and judgment is done by the holy God and our interaction with the brethren and in self sacrifice.
I know this might be embarrassing to some of the people that are here, but the reason why we are here in Bolivar today is because the connection where they normally have services is tentative, to say the least. It is kind of weak and the crew in Fort Mill was really concerned about the setup. We found a hotel in Bolivar, a brand new Best Western that has, as Joe Baity put it, state of the art videoconferencing, and we knew that you and those out there listening to this message today from me and from Charles could hear it, so they sacrificed.
I am looking at a room full of people that are elderly or sick, who have traveled to this spot to hear these messages because they are doing it for you! This is hard for them, and they are away from their normal location, but this is what this is all about, brethren we are doing this for one another as they are doing it today.
John has been pointing out in the book of Hebrews the need for the renewing of our focused attention on God, by those who are called according to his purpose, to truly know Him with an abiding respect, with continuously thinking on the very names that describe this so-called absolutely mysterious God. So let us read and deeply consider Hebrews 10:19-25, as those who have been given this precious gift. Then we must tenderly cultivate by truly knowing God and our relationship with Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10 seems to be something that we are spending a lot of time in for the last few months because we need it.
Hebrews 10:19-25 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together [as we are doing around the country and around the world and that are in this room today], as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
There are brethren all over the current world now, that are really separated because there is a scattering going on. But when we have the chance and the opportunity, we are to be gathered together, to assemble together with brethren of like mind, because this is where we learn, this is part of the learning process. Brethren, how closely is willful sin tied into whether or not we are working together? It is right down there, right after this verse. So let us read and deeply consider.
Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
This is where we exhort. We cannot see God. But we see him through His Word, we see Him through the daily relationship we have with the brethren that we can see. That is what this is all about. It is really important, holding fast without wavering and maintaining a clear picture of God can only be continued within an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. We need to connect with those who have been called into His body, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, but for the exhortation that can only come through diligently working to speak often one to the other in the fear of the Lord. This exhortation needs to be based on the thoughtful consideration, what God is, and what the Father and Son are doing.
A couple of months ago, I was saddened to hear of the death of political and social commentator I really appreciated as a voice of reason in an unreasonable time. His name was Charles Krauthammer, and he died after a year long battle with cancer. Charles Krauthammer was what I guess you would refer to as “the wise of this world.” He was a brilliant man who had been raised by parents who were Orthodox Jews. He did not consider himself religious. But for the last thirty years or so, he has been writing editorial comment columns and doing commentaries on news shows, and he was considered by many one of the most influential men in giving a clear voice to political and social issues.
He had both cutting wit and gentlemanly charm. He was also a medical doctor who had finished his residency at Harvard back in the early seventies from a hospital bed following an accident when he dove into a pool at Harvard that left him as a paraplegic. He would be a patient by day in the hospital and a resident doctor from four to eleven, doing his rounds in the motorized wheelchair in the evening.
To get to this point following the accident that had left him flat on his back in bed and unable to move, he had the staff build a Plexiglas shield on the top of his bed. The shield was wide enough to put two textbooks, and he purposely had them put the two textbooks open to the particular things he needed to study because he did not want to have the nurses running in too often to change the pages for him.
I am giving you just a little bit of the background of this very admirable man who was, by all accounts, brilliant, a voice of reason, and role model for everybody who knew him as a kind, generous, and thoughtful man. He was truly a man who deeply considered things intellectually. He was a voice of reason in a very unreasonable time. I think he is also a very fine example for us of how precious the gift we have of knowing God even as the weak and base of this world, as opposed to great men like him.
In his very scientific and logical mind, he had determined that evolution was as much or more so a matter of faith, as biblical creation. He was appalled at how often driven men had become to make it the only plausible answer, however, he was almost as skeptical about biblical creation. Because of the lack of scientific facts and his intellect, he saw a very distinct hand of order in the creation that could not just have happened without a careful plan and execution. To this wise man of this world, it was a grand mystery without explanation. When asked if he believed in God, he responded, “I cannot say that I believe in God. But I greatly fear Him.”
Brethren, do we fully appreciate the great God who has revealed to us the Father, the Son, the plan, the purpose for our lives, and the bond that unites us to them through the Holy Spirit? If we do, then we will be living the mind of Jesus Christ in all our relationships with one another, and with them in outgoing concern. We will be striving to live the Word of God in every aspect of our lives because we greatly fear the God that we know.
We should greatly fear God, not because He is an ominously powerful mystery hidden behind an iron curtain, but because we do know Him, and we submit to Him and one another in whom Jesus Christ dwells with reverence. We can continue to grow in grace and knowledge only as we live as He lives in us.
With the fall holy days here soon, are we recommitting ourselves to knowing Him by learning and living His way of life as our way of life? Or is the world and its distractions our priority? Our intimate knowledge of what others see as an absolute mystery should be precious and should be tenderly cultivated in an intimate relationship with our brethren or we will become as befuddled as the world we live in—blind as David said in the sermonette ["Spiritual Blindness: Choosing a Curse"].
We will close with two scriptures that were already mentioned earlier by me, but with an eye towards judgment. It is now on the house of God; please deeply consider these words as we approach the time to look more deeply into God's plan through the holy days, as we keep them in the place where God places His name and as we obey His command to do so.
I Peter 4:17 (AMP) For the time [has arrived] for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will [be] the end of those who do not respect or believe or obey the good news (the Gospel) of God?
Malachi 3:16 (AMP) Then those who feared the Lord . . .
Feared the God that they knew—that they greatly feared because they knew Him.
Malachi 3:16 (AMP) . . . talked often one to another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord and who thought on His name.