The God who Acts part one

God is alive. 

And day after day, He proves He is the living God by His active and intimate involvement in absolutely everything that is going on in this universe. 

That’s a two-part statement. 

God is alive; and God is active.  

I’m not going to spend much time on the fact that God is alive, but instead I want us to consider the fact that the God is a God who is active..

Now I know that’s an obvious statement, and when I say something that sounds so obvious it’s easy to take it for granted, so I feel like it’s important I explain why it’s so vital we carefully think about the fact that God is a God who acts.

I could start by giving you a little history lesson.  Truth is there have been many throughout the course of history who have been willing to admit that God is alive, and even willing to acknowledge that He has acted; but who are unwilling to accept that He acts.  They believe in the idea of God, but deny His interest in this world.  They think of Him as a cold, distant Creator, who set the world in motion, who even now may be watching us, but who by and large employs a hands off approach in terms of its actual day to day operations.   He’s not involved.  He’s kind of like the king or queen of England, a figurehead.

There have been others, who while they did not deny that God acts, were confused about just the extent of God’s activity.  They think and talk of God as a God who sometimes acts.  The issue of the activity of God, and His involvement in the world has actually been an issue of great controversy in the church. 

But this isn’t just a doctrinal problem.  Truth is there are a lot of people who have their theology right as far as this is concerned, they know that God is alive and active, but they live like He isn’t.  Most of us would never say God is uninvolved or uninterested in what’s going on in this world, or even in our lives.  But the reason I want to consider the present activity of God is because I’m afraid if we are going to be honest many of us would have to admit that all too often we think of God as if he were merely a historical figure, someone from the distant past.  We may not actually think of God as inactive and inert, as dead in a grave somewhere, but we act like it and especially we worship like it.  Even here in our study of God’s attributes, it is all too easy to come and study what He did, what He’s like, as if God were somehow far removed from us and all of His activity confined to the past. 

And the results are devastating. 

If you forget God is active, if you don’t understand the extent of God’s activity, it will suck the spiritual life out of you.  You’ll become a spiritual zombie.  I was talking to someone recently about how easy it is to become cold to the truth.  To get trapped in that rut of just going through the motions, going to church, praying, doing all the right things, but lacking any real spiritual vitality. 

And you know one of the things that is at the root of that?  Why do so many of us lack spiritual life?    Well we lack life because we forget that there is life in God.  As Martyn Lloyd Jone has said, “One of the easiest things you can do is to forget…God.  Of course, you still get on your knees and do your prayers, but it all stops there.  Your praying is just routine, just something you do, because you are not gripped by the fact that God is alive, that God is a God who acts.”   

It’s not that we think of God as ‘dead,’ but that on a practical day-to-day basis we think of Him only as a God who is far off, and not also as a God who is actively and intimately involved in absolutely everything that occurs in this universe, and therefore as actively and intimately involved in absolutely everything that occurs in our lives.  We forget that God is not just a God who has acted in the past, but also a God who acts in the present; that God is not just a historical figure; He is also a present reality.  God is alive; God is active.

The truth is, in many of our minds, God is no better than an idol.  He’s our little Sunday God.  When we leave here, on a very practical level, we don’t think of Him as involved in this world or as able to do much of anything at all. 

One of the things that sets God apart from any other idea of god is that He alone is active.  The idols of the nations; they are impotent, unable to do anything at all.  God is distinguished by the fact that He can do whatever He wants to do, and that He does do whatever He wants to do.  Listen to the Psalmist in Psalm 135:5-7; “For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.”  Well, how do you know that Psalmist?  “Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in all the seas, and in all the deeps.”    

I know my God is God because one he has the ability to act, to do whatever He wants to do; two, He does not only have the ability to act, He does act, whatever the Lord pleases He does; and three He can and He does do whatever it is that He wants to do, wherever it is that He wants to do it.  “…in heaven and in earth, in all the seas and in all the deeps…”  “Everything God takes pleasure in doing, He does, and cannot be hindered from doing…”

On the other hand, he goes on to tell us in verses 15-17, “The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man’s hands.  They have mouths, but they cannot speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear, nor is there any breath at all in their mouths…”  Those gods are all show.  In reality, they are dead and unable to do anything at all.  And listen, if the God you worship does not act, if He’s just watching us from a distance, if He isn’t involved in what is going on in this universe, He’s no better than an idol.

And therefore He’s a false hope.  I mean, if God doesn’t act, what’s the point? 

You know some people say, “Religion is a good thing.  It doesn’t really matter whether or not God is real – if He actually does act – that’s not what it’s about – it’s just good for people to believe in god.”

You know what God says?  That’s the height of foolishness. 

Isaiah 46, “To whom then would you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike?”  To whom are you going to liken Me?  Who are you going to compare me with?  An idol?  “Those who lavish gold from the purse and weigh silver on the scale, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; they bow down, indeed they worship it.  They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it; they set it in its place and it stands there.  It does not move from its place.  Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer; It cannot deliver him from his distress.”  No, you can’t compare me to an idol. They can’t do anything.  They can’t actually save you.  “Remember this…I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure…”

It’s funny, back in Isaiah 41, God actually gets a little sarcastic and he talks to the idols.  He says, “Present your case…Bring forward your strong arguments.”  In other words, prove to me you are gods.  Here’s how you do it.  Tell me what’s going to happen, declare to me the things that are going to come, so that everybody might know you really are gods. Then he goes, just do something, do good or evil, that we can start getting anxious.  Then, Behold, you can’t do anything, you are not gods, “you are of no account, and your works amounts to nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.”

Did you get that?  If you are putting your hope in a god that can’t act, what are you?  You are an abomination.  God is completely different from the gods of the nations, and from any other conception of God that exists because those gods and those ideas were created by man and therefore are unable to do absolutely anything.  God, on the other hand is the Creator, He is involved in this world, He does have a purpose, and He can and will accomplish whatever He wants.  Whatever He wants, that’s important.  It’s not just about what we want, He has a purpose, and He will accomplish that purpose.

Now God wants us to acknowledge that.  He wants us to acknowledge that He is King and that He is presently ruling in this world.  He wants us to acknowledge not merely that He is able to act, but that He is acting; not merely that He is able to rule but that He is ruling, that He is governing; that He is on the throne; that He is at work. 

This is a serious issue.  God says in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the Lord, that is My name, I will not give my glory to another, Nor my praise to graven images.”  Don’t give credit for what I do to anyone else.  As someone has put it, “God’s claim to deity and the expression of His glory correspond to the extent which He rules over Heaven and earth.”  If God isn’t acting, if God isn’t working, if God isn’t involved in what goes on in this universe than He’s not God.

We should be constantly praising God for His activity in this world.  God says in Psalm 96:2,3 “Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day…”  What are we supposed to talk about?  We’re supposed to be talking about how God acts – proclaim good tidings of His salvation -how He delivers His people – and we are supposed to do that day after day.  “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples…”  We’re to go around talking about God’s glory, how are we to do that, well specifically, we’re to go around talking about God’s wonderful deeds, and when we talk about God’s wonderful deeds, what are we talking about?  We’re talking about the ways in which God has acted and does act in this present world!  “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.”  Why?  “For the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens…”  God is set apart from every other god.  Why?  Here, because He is alive and He acted.  He’s the one who created the heavens and the earth.  

Part of the problem is the world we live in is constantly denying God’s activity. 

God has set all around us proof of His activity.  Psalm 19 says, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”  The world is talking to us and you know what it is telling us?  God is at work. 

It’s like God is placing before our eyes as in a picture proof of His wisdom, power and activity; and yet mankind is so twisted that we look at all that God has done and we work as hard as we can at explaining it away. 

I mean people are willing to believe anything to believe God is not a God at work.  Oh yeah, how about this?  That monkey – he’s your relative.  Go give him a hug, he’s your great grand dad.  What?  Anything, anything to deny God’s activity.

I’m constantly amazed at what people are willing to believe just so they don’t have to believe in God.  But really, this is what people have been doing since the beginning of time.  There’s a story in Isaiah 44,  if it weren’t so sad, it’d be funny. 

Here’s a guy, and Isaiah says he goes out and plants a tree, the rain makes it grow; then he cuts it down so he can put it in his fireplace.  He takes part of it, and uses it to warm himself.  He uses another part of the tree, to make a fire to bake some bread.  And then the last part, he uses to make a god.  And then he worship it.  He falls down before it.  Think about that.  He uses some for fire, some for food, and then the rest for a little god that he falls down and worships.  And he cries out to this little god that he made, “Deliver me, for thou art my god!”   And Isaiah says, “They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so they cannot comprehend.  And no one recalls, nor is their  knowledge or understanding to say, ‘I have burned half of it in the fire, and also baked bread over its coals.  I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination.  I fall down before a block of wood.  He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside.  And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

You know in our culture, we don’t usually make little gods out of wood, but we’ve got our gods.  We’ve completely written the one true God out of the picture.   Science has basically replaced god in most people’s minds.  Everything goes back to science.  Everything has some sort of natural explanation.  Well, what’s so foolish about that is they are getting so fascinated by God’s work that they are forgetting the author. 

It’s kind of like a scientist listening to a great symphony.   And you ask him why does the violin make that particular sound?  Why does the oboe sound like that?  And he starts getting into great detail about sound waves and all of that.  And he goes through this complete, thorough explanation which is completely true.  What he says about the science of music, about sound and sound waves is right, but he’s missing something so obvious, so simple, so basic.  That violin made that sound because the violinist picked up the bow and played the violin.  Sure you’ve got sound waves and all of that, but if she hadn’t started playing, you wouldn’t have heard anything.

We’ve got laws of nature and all of that, but we must never forget that those laws of nature are just expressions of God’s ever-constant activity.

Why’s man work so hard to explain away God’s activity?  He doesn’t want accountability. If God is active and if God is at work, then man is accountable.  Well, we don’t want that.  We don’t want to have to be accountable for our actions.  So we do whatever it takes to deny God’s ever-present activity.

Even in our individual lives, God makes it clear He is at work.  This is true for the believer and the unbeliever.  Every day God is at work in your life.  Why do you think the sun rises?  Why do you think that it rains?  It’s all demonstrations of God’s goodness.  Jesus says, “He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous…”  Yet people are constantly living in God’s world, recipients of God’s goodness on a daily level, living in the home that God allowed them to have, eating the food that God enabled them to purchase, while completely ignoring and even denying His work. 

We’ve even got little phrases we use to deny God’s activity.  We say, “Oh man, that was just lucky.”  Or “That was an act of fate.”  Or “What a coincidence.”  No, that wasn’t luck, it wasn’t fate, it wasn’t a coincidence, it was a work of God. 

Now we’re not the first generation of people who have come up with all sorts of crazy, convoluted theories to deny God’s work. 

I was reading Calvin’s Institutes recently and he quotes Augustine who lived hundreds of years before him as saying, “I am not pleased with myself for having in my treatises…so frequently mentioned fortune…Thus indeed I have expressed myself; but I repent of having mentioned fortune in this manner, since I see that men are habituated to a very sinful custom: when they ought to say, ‘This was the will of God,’ they say, ‘This was the will of Fortune.’”

But you know this problem goes back further than even Augustine and Calvin, you find it happening even in the Psalms.

David confronts it in Psalm 115:1,2 “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, But to Thy name give glory because of Thy lovingkindness, because of Thy truth.  Why should the nations say, “Where, now is their God?”  In other words, unbelievers are saying to the people of God, your God doesn’t exist; He’s not at work. 

There have always been wicked people who denied God’s activity.  The Psalmist talks about them in Psalm 94, he says, “They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly; all who do wickedness vaunt themselves.  They crush Thy people, O Lord, and afflict Thy heritage.  They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the orphans, and they have said, “The Lord does not see, nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.” 

So it’s important we think about God’s activity, His involvement in this world, because so many have denied it, a denial of activity has devastating consequences, it’s fundamental to God’s uniqueness, God desires we acknowledge His work, and our world is constantly trying to shift our focus off of God onto something else.  

But there’s another reason it is so important we remember that we serve a God who acts, which we will look at tomorrow. 

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