How God Reveals Himself to Mankind (Sn1:Ep09)

Peace to Live By: How God Reveals Himself to Mankind (Sn1:Ep09) - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       I hope everyone is doing well today.

       A revelation is something that I think seems ordinary to many. That is, in today’s society when one says he or she has a revelation about something, it seems to imply that person has gained further understanding or insight into a topic. However, when going to the Bible, the topic of revelation is not quite understood by these terms. In discussing the revelation of God, the Creator of all things and Bearer of all knowledge, one must understand that there are two kinds of revelation. There is what is called general revelation, knowledge about God that he has revealed to everyone in the world, and there is special revelation (which is also revealed to many), but provides a more specific and detailed look into the things of God. This revelation isn’t revealed to everyone, but rather is limited to those whom God chooses to bestow upon such wisdom.

       The first question I would like to ask today is: “How does God reveal himself to mankind in general?” The answer to this question I think can come in various discussions about the world that we see around us and nature in general. Probably the best summery explanation of this in the Bible comes from Psalm 19. Please turn there in your Bibles. We will read verses 1 through 6. It reads:

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat" (ESV).

This Psalm says that God’s glory is revealed to the inhabitants of the world through his glory that is shown in it. God’s works are colossal in their nature and also good in their most simplistic form. Man can look up into the sky and see God’s hand at work in the beauty of the stars, or the planets that surround us, or in the distant far-back reaches of the universe (thanks the Hubble). Man can bring his eyes back to earth, and he can see that God is glorious in the creation, in the splendor of the trees and plants, fields and grass. Or, a person can look at the living things that God has created and see his glory. She can look at the fierceness of a lion. She can see his two eyes, his mouth, and his great strength. That is why the Apostle Paul would say:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:18-20, ESV).

Paul then would note that men actually have become fools and have turned to worship the creation. Mankind has taken creatures like the lion, and has made them the thing that is to be worshipped―the object of worship―rather than the Creator himself.

       But what about those who have never heard of this God, or Jesus Christ for that matter? Are they guilty of sin? Should they be counted guilty? Turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 2, and let's ponder verses 12 through 16. Paul says that:

"For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus" (ESV).

Therefore, when people go about doing godly things―that is, sinners―they are a law to themselves. They know that there is good in the world, for they practice some of it. However, it should be noted that man, in and of himself, is not good. But God helps mankind and provides for people, as Jesus noted in the Sermon on the Mount. For he said of God, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45, ESV). And all mankind benefits from these provisions. It is also noted in the Book of Acts when it is said of God that “he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with good and gladness” (14:17, ESV).

       As somewhat of an aside, I would like to address what people of a naturalistic point of view propose. They propose that the world and everything we see in it is actually built together of its own accord. They would say that the earth came together on its own, and likewise the sun, moon, and the stars. Going down into the earth, they would say that nature, and everything in it, came about through natural processes alone. What is interesting about this perspective, despite its tremendous faith in thinking that so many elaborate and detailed things can occur naturally, is that it allows mankind not to be bound by any law. People can do whatever they want, under these conditions, and not be accountable to any supernatural being. But a problem lies herein when one wants to establish rules for society. For how does one decide what is good, and right, and true? People may have different opinions, and who is right? Why is one person's statement of opinion more valuable than another's? In the end, I think I would have a better chance of winning the mega millions in the lottery than being right in holding the naturalistic perspective.

       But God also displays his power to all mankind. For God is the nation builder, and he builds nations and tears them down. He sets a nation's borders where he wants them, and no one can dispute with God in this. He does these things so that man might see him in these them, and in fact actually find him in them (see Acts 17:26-27). The Apostle Paul even noted in Acts 17 that the Athens own poets had seen God in these things. Turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 13. Let's consider verses 1 through 7 in discussing this area of topic. Paul notes:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:1-7, ESV).

       But how does God specifically reveal himself in our world? Or rather, how did God specifically reveal himself to people? The answer to this question entails many parts, for one cannot summarize the specific and special revelation of God in a sentence or two. In the Bible, perhaps the pivotal and key verse regarding this topic is this, that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 ESV). Therefore, we get our first area of how God specifically reveals himself, and that is through Scripture, the Bible itself. We are rather fortunate, I would say, in this day and age, and have been for about the last 1,600 years. We have had the Bible in full, all 66 books. And with this, Christians are able to discern God’s will in all areas of live, whether it pertains to themselves individually or the Church in a collective sense.

       But there was a time when followers of God did not have a ‘Bible’ to follow for all areas of life. For instance, if one looks back in the days of the Israelites coming out of the land of Egypt, all the Israelites would end up having is the Ten Commandments (and a whole list of other rules) that God originally gave to their leader, Moses. This was special revelation from God on how to love him, and then people could love others as themselves (see Matthew 22:37-40). It is noted in Hebrews that "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world" (Hebrews 1:1-2, ESV). Therefore, because Christ has come into the world and gone back out of it, and is returning again, we as Christians and, even non-Christians, are in a fortunate time. For even non-Christians can pick up a Bible and see the specific things of God. Though they really will not 'see it,' lest God reveal what is being said.

       Speaking of Jesus Christ, he is one of the foremost ways in which God has shown himself in special revelation. For God sent his son into the world, and he is the embodiment of God himself. Hebrews chapter 1 and verse 3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (ESV). He shows the attributes of the Father, for “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3, ESV). Jesus said himself that he is God, and that God was his father, which makes him equal to the Father (John 5:18). Jesus did bestow upon his listeners of the day various teachings about our relationship with God and others. Fortunately, these teachings were written down for our sake, that is, Christians living today.

       But there are other ways that God has revealed himself to people. One way was through direct communication. This can be seen in God’s relationship with the first people, Adam and Eve, in the Garden. The Bible says that God actually walked around in the Garden where they were (see Genesis 3:8). I think it is right to suppose that God probably regularly communed one on one with them. Perhaps this was Jesus Christ himself. But never again would God commune intimately one-on-one with people until Jesus came into the world. God did appear to man on several occasions before this. For God spoke to Abraham one-on-one in Genesis 18:1-2. God came down in a form and spoke to Moses. Now during the days of Christ, God the Father spoke to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. For while Christ was being transfigured before them, and was being visited by Moses and Elijah, God spoke to the disciples and said to them, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5, ESV). When Peter was up on the housetop in the book of Acts, pondering a vision that was sent to him by the Lord, he was spoken to directly by the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:19). So, God, on occasion, has spoken directly to his servants.

       Speaking of visions, God has spoken to his servants through visions, as he did to Peter on the housetop at Joppa. In the Old Testament, God spoke to Isaiah in a vision about Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:1). In Luke 1, Zechariah saw a vision of an angel of the Lord when he was serving the Temple service (Luke 1:22). After Christ’s resurrection, some of the women who went to the tomb of Christ saw a vision of angels (Luke 24:22-23). The Apostle Paul saw a vision after he had been confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus. In this vision, he saw a man named Ananias coming to him and putting his hands on him so that he should regain his eyesight (Acts 9:12).

       Perhaps somewhat similar to visions, God has given special revelation through the use of dreams. I supposed the most famous Old Testament example of this occurred in 1 Kings when "the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night" (3:5, ESV). God actually communicated with Solomon in this dream, asking him to ask God for whatever he wished. It is interesting to note that Solomon's spirit was also able to commune in the dream, even though it was a dream. Verse 15, after all of the conversation, tells us "And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream" (ESV). In the New Testament, when Joseph supposed to divorce Mary, an angel from God showed up in a dream and communed with him. He was given insight into the things of God, so that he might come to know what the will of the Lord was.

       God has also revealed himself through angels, as we have seen some in the visions. Acts 7:53 and Galatians 3:19 tell us that God gave the law to the Jewish people through the help of angels. In Luke 2, an angel of the Lord appears to shepherds in a field to announce that the Christ had been born. When the Apostle Paul was on a ship at sea, he was visited by an angel who told him that he was going to live, and those who were with him (Acts 27:23-24).

       Perhaps one thing that would be more apparent and interesting to those who do not know God, is that God revealed himself through the working of miracles during the time of Christ, which we read about today. Peter, in Acts 2, told the Israelites that God had shown himself to them "with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did" (Acts 2:22, ESV). These signs and wonders are apparent throughout the Gospels, as Jesus went about doing the works of the Father that God had given him to do. People were healed from their infirmities and freed from demons, in particular.

       So, in summery, we see that with revelation in general that there are two kinds of revelation: general and special revelation. General revelation includes areas of nature like within the earth, and the universe in general. Special revelation can be seen through God's Word, direct communication, Christ, dreams, visions, angelic beings, and miracles. Therefore, it is through these revelations that God communicated to man and still does communicate to man.

       Therefore, in conclusion today, it should be noted that God's desire for mankind, for people, is that everyone come to accept the truth through believing in his Son, Jesus Christ, whom God sent into the world to die for the sins of the people of the world. I want to read a rather long section of text, going back to Romans chapter 1. I am going to read verses 18 through 32. Some of these verses I have already touched on, but I want us to see the full picture of this passage. Paul exclaims:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:18-32, ESV).

Though what the Apostle Paul says is true, there is hope for anyone today who would believe in God's way for salvation, which is Jesus Christ.

       God wants to be in a personal relationship with everyone, and even though all of us have sinned against God, He has provided a way for us to reconnect, regain that communication with Him. Jesus bore all sins of all time when he died on the cross, some 2,000 years ago, and was a perfect sacrifice for our sins in God's sight. Therefore, anyone who believes that Jesus' blood atones for his or her sins will be saved from any of God's wrath to come in the future. This invitation is open to anyone who would believe in God. There is no sin that you could commit that would disqualify you from receiving God's free gift of salvation. Any sin you have committed, no matter how heinous, is forgivable. God guarantees he will come into your life, making you born again, so that you can live life to its fullest extent, becoming like his Son, Jesus. Don't think that God couldn't possibly love you, because God does love you. Remember what the Apostle John penned, “For God so loved the world” and that was why he sent his Son Jesus to die for all sin (ESV). God doesn't hate anyone.

       If you would like to be set free from the weight of your sin and believe in Jesus, all you have to do is pray a simple prayer like this:

“God, you are right about me. I have done things that are offensive to you, and I have not been in right relationship with you. God, please come into my life and forgive me of my sins, the things that I have done that were wrong against you. I believe that Jesus is Lord of the universe, and that he came to earth as a human 2,000 years ago and died on the cross for my sins, shedding his blood as a complete payment for everything I have ever done wrong, or will do wrong. I believe that Jesus rose from the dead three days after his death, and that now he sits in heaven above with you at your right hand. Please God, transform my life and make me like Jesus.”

If you have prayed that prayer with me today, you can know for sure that you are now safe from any of God's wrath to come, that you have full access to His benefits, and that He will be with you forever.

       Let's pray:

God, thank you for your love. Thank you for the opportunity to share this message, your message, with others. I pray for those who have just accepted the truth, who have just accepted reality, that you would make them grow in their newfound faith. Help them to be like your Son, Jesus. I also want to pray for those who still have not accepted your truth, that they would seriously consider these things, your things, and that they would come to a place where they would willingly accept your truth as you present it. Soften their hearts, Father, for no one knows except you when the end has come. Help each and everyone of us today as we go from this place of attention. Keep us from the evil one, and remind us of your truth always. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton