The first thing I want to say is that my purpose in writing this is to reasonably examine and discuss how we look at our Biblical faith. It is always my hope that those who read what I have to say will share that same desire to be reasonable and reasoned in their response. In our present time, too often such reasoned discourse is woefully underrepresented in the “public square”. More often than not, what passes for “discussion” is nothing more than the angry tossing of epithets back and forth, which accomplishes nothing more than choosing up sides and declaring which mob of demonstrators you have joined. If that is your proclivity, don’t bother reading this. It will either bore you or tick you off. If, on the other hand, you are open to examine the ways you think and believe, please read on.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21
Perhaps you’ve heard the term “world view”. Much has been written on the subject. Two excellent books by Nancy Pearcey that are very helpful for Christians seeking to understand the impact of world views are Total Truth and Saving Leonardo. Simply speaking, world views refer to the ways by which we view the world — how we see “reality” and how we personally relate to it. Most people don’t consciously select their world view. We simply “pick it up” from the prevailing influences of our culture. Some of those prevailing influences are what so-called “experts” have to say. Other influences are what loved ones teach us. For many, the greatest influences are whatever is popular — what their “group” says, be it peer pressure or mob rule.
It might surprise some to know that not everyone sees reality the same. But areas of study such as ontology and epistemology are rife with opposing theories. Even a casual examination of philosophy or religion reveals there are many world views, each with its own framework of assumptions, from which we derive our identity and meaning. The kicker is that world views go beyond theoretical assumptions which we posit as reasons for what we do. We actually have to live with the consequences of whatever our world view is. We go where it leads us, and adhere to whatever it provides, in terms of our own peculiar sense of who we are and what is the meaning of our lives.
Those of us who proclaim the Christian faith find ourselves awash in a turbulent cross-current of world views. For millennia the Church has struggled to navigate the mainstream of Biblical Christianity. But now, we have entered a confluence of world views, a muddied mixture of secular and Biblical.
While some say this muddy mixture is a blend with benefits, such as increased knowledge, pragmatic applications and greater inclusiveness, it is really a watering down of the essential focus of our faith. Secular mindsets of today all have one thing in common. They evaluate all reality from humanity’s standpoint, without regard to God. But the Biblical world view evaluates humanity from the standpoint of the almighty Creator God of the Bible. A true “mixture” of these two is impossible. One or the other must win out. And yet, many in the Church today, perhaps without even knowing it, have adopted secular world views, thereby rejecting the Biblical world view of their own faith.
“No one can serve two masters.” – Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins.” – Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37
Postmodernist voices challenge, “A Biblical world view can be whatever you want it to be. You are arrogant to insist your view is the only correct one.” Do you suppose they have any idea of what they are talking about? The small Bible I take to church with me has 1,042 pages of text, not including the concordance and other miscellaneous information. That’s a lot of Scripture to narrow down to a single world view. Am I just picking and choosing verses I like or agree with? Do I simply look for Bible verses to use as proof texts for whatever my particular opinions are? Absolutely and emphatically, no.
For Christians who have abandoned the Biblical world view or at the very least, doubt the Biblical world view, I suggest there are two reasons you question the authority of Scripture over your personally held world view. The first reason is ignorance. Are you really aware of what is printed on all those 1,042 or so pages? Have you read them? How many times have you reread passages to familiarize yourself with them? Have you struggled through passages, examining them for meaning? Have you memorized verses? Have you meditated on them? Have you questioned and discussed them with others? Have you been persistent in your study? Those who answer yes to such questions know what the Bible actually teaches because they have invested the time to learn what it means. The meaning of the Bible is not hidden. It is the most published, most widely distributed book of all time. Paradoxically, it is also the most criticized, distorted and misunderstood book of all time.
The second reason professing Christians abandon the Biblical world view is that even though they may be familiar with certain Biblical passages, they don’t accept them as “real”. Therefore they do not consider the Bible authoritative, but merely inspirational. Just as sunsets or Shakespearean sonnets can inspire us emotionally or intellectually, the Bible has become a repository of inspiration for them…but by no means the source for authority. They reserve for themselves the authority to declare what is true in the Bible and what is not true. They place their personal authority above Scripture for what they believe. And that is essentially a secular mindset.
In the beginning of a Focus On The Family video series called The Truth Project, host Dr. Del Tackett asks, “Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?” Christians must face this most basic of questions. Do we really believe that God created the universe? Do we really believe that our sin separated us from God and pronounced a death sentence on us? Do we really believe that the death of Jesus Christ paid the price for our sin? Do we really believe that by personally receiving his forgiveness and his Lordship over our lives that we will live for eternity in the presence of God? Do we believe the Bible is true or that truth can even be known? Do we really believe in a supernatural God at all?
One way to answer this question (“Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?”) is by using Scripture as a touchstone. I have chosen Ephesians 3:20-21, but it is by no means the only passage suitable for our purposes. Any passage that embodies our faith will do. And there are many. Let us begin by rereading this passage. Then, consider the meaning and implications of each phrase.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
“Now to him…”
This is a prayer of blessing. Paul is blessing God. It is implied that the Ephesians, to whom Paul is writing, agree with him in making this blessing. And finally, the believer who reads this passage also joins with them in Spirit to bless God. So the question is, do you believe this God is real? Are you really blessing him? Is this an act of true worship on your part? What do you really believe in verses such as:
“Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!” – Psalm 103:22
“…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” – James 3:8-10
Do you believe that the God you bless is real, or that the blessings that come out of your mouth are real? Or do we just recite “good things” in hopes they will out-weigh those bad things we said yesterday? If God is not real, do the words we say, whether good or bad, have any real consequences? Or are we merely expressing vague and momentary feelings? What is the purpose of having a conscience that judges us for what we say, if the God we bless does not exist in “reality”? What do you really believe?
“who is able…”
This is one descriptive quality of God. Theologians call it omnipotence. God is all powerful. He is able.
• Romans 4:21 He is able to do what he promises.
• Philippians 3:21 He is able to subject all things to himself.
• Hebrews 2:18 He is able to help those being tempted.
• Hebrews 5:2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant.
• Hebrews 7:25 He is able to save completely.
And on and on. What about those supernatural events in the Old Testament, such as Numbers 17:8? “On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.” Ripe almonds? This clearly is a miraculous sign. Do you believe this? Is God able?
“to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think”
This clause reinforces the fact that God’s omnipotence goes far beyond what we are able to ask of him. It even exceeds our ability to think of what things we might ask of him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12
The fact that God is infinite, while we are finite places him beyond our scope and out of our control. We are subject to the laws of nature, but God has authority over nature. Supernatural means above and beyond nature, therefore God is not bound by the laws of nature. Our appropriate response to his supreme authority is to humble ourselves before him. Do you believe that or have you placed God into a box of your own making?
“according to the power at work within us”
What is this power at work within us, this “immeasurable greatness of his power” (Ephesians 1:19)? It is God’s power, not our own. We cannot take credit for it. It does not give us bragging rights. It does not justify “spiritual” pride. Isaiah 40:29 tells us,”He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” Accordingly, Jeremiah 9:23 warns, “…let not the mighty man boast in his might…” For as the LORD told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” To which Paul replied, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” – Ephesians 6:10
“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might…” – Colossians 1:11
Scripture encourages us to appropriate God’s power, because our natural human strengths are insufficient for God’s purposes. Walking by faith means, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). But that means I must remain in him, stay connected to him, have my being in him (John 15:4; Acts 17:28).
“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13
“that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” – Ephesians 3:16-17
God’s power is a mysterious thing, beyond our ability to comprehend. Suffice it to say, we are in him and he is in us. Therefore his power will accomplish his will, and as he wills, he works through us. When he does, we can rely on his strength within us to help us obey him in faith. What do you really believe about your faith and the power of God? Is it real or do you only have the appearance of godliness, while denying the power? (2 Timothy 3:5)
“to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus”
How do you see glory? Is it just a short-lived thrill, like fireworks, beginning with intensity only to fade away to nothing? Who today cares about or even remembers yesterday’s glories? Is glory just a feeling or event that lasts only for a fleeting moment? If so, then how important is glory in the church and in Christ? Does this phrase mean nothing more than, “Rah for our team!”? What do you believe?
When the angels announced the birth of Christ (Luke 2:14) they said, “Glory to God in the highest”. Though the news of Messiah’s birth was new, the idea of glorifying God was not. A thousand years earlier David had written, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 108:5). In the original Hebrew text, the word glory included connotations of honor, splendor, abundance, dignity and reverence, all of which point to an attitude of worship.
“All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.” – Psalm 86:9
And in the Greek language of the New Testament, the meaning of glory stems from the good opinion, judgement, or view that results in honor, praise, thanks and worship. We see that our opinions, judgements and views which direct our relationships among ourselves are ultimately for the purpose of glorifying God, not ourselves.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” – Romans 15:5-7.
The Biblical directive to glorify God is not about an event of exultation, so much as an ongoing attitude believers are to maintain in their relationship to Almighty God — a relationship that lasts forever.
“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” – Psalm 57:11
“This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” – John 11:4
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” – 2 Corinthians 1:20
“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Timothy 1:17
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” – Revelation 4:11
“throughout all generations, forever and ever”
God’s glory is not the fading glory of a passing season. Forever means for eternity, always. The Biblical world view is about God’s glory, not ours. And that is fundamentally the single, most important question we can ask ourselves. What do we really care about most — our story or His story? One day each of us will be called to answer. What does your “Amen” really mean?