(Un)knowable?

Author: Jason L.
Editor: Bruce L.

This devotional was given at the RAYO #5: Trivia Night fellowship event on 4/18/20. Check out our calendar for more upcoming events!

As I was thinking about this topic, how God is knowable, yet also infinitely unknowable; I was given many wonderful suggestions: from Psalm 19 about how the heavens declare His glory to Romans 11 about the depths and riches of His knowledge, to Phillippians 4:7 about the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. These are all amazing truths that should captivate our minds and hearts and show us the incomprehensible nature of God even in what He has allowed us to comprehend. But as I thought about it more, I found myself returning to one of my favorite passages in Scripture: Psalm 8:3-4. It is a question that I have wondered about ever since my heart was changed and it has been answered over and over again, yet somehow I am always left with the question of why? Let’s look at the passage:

When I look at your heavens, the works 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?

Psalm 8:3-4

This section is sandwiched between a section on God’s transcendence – how He is higher than all things and a section on God’s imminence – how he is close and personal. So if I were to split v3-4 into two, I would label v3 as the knowability of God and v4 as the unknowability of God. Yet even that would not do it justice because both display an aspect of what God has revealed to us and an aspect that our finite minds cannot understand. 

But again, the baffling mystery still remains: who is man that God would be mindful of or care for him? Who am I? Who are we? For when we look upon the heavens we see that God has set everything in place: the moon and the stars, high above us, radiating a speck of God’s glory. And so it should cause us to wonder, to be in awe. The moon reflects the radiance of the sun and shines brightly in the dark night. The sun radiates an immense brightness that illuminates the environment and does not incinerate us with its intense heat. It is glorious! If the moon has its own glory and the sun its own glory, what could the glory of God be like? How awesome could it be? For we know about the moon and the sun, but there is so much more that we don’t know about it as well. But what we do know is that when we see the magnificent glory of the moon and the sun, we see a glimpse of the Creator’s magnificent glory as well. 

When we look upon and understand how glorious God is, the question comes up: why would He ever decide to care for man? The moon and the stars display a portion of God’s glory for they do not rebel against God, they shine brightly as God has made them to be. They never deviate from His will. Even animals, who have no intelligence who are inferior to us, do what God has created them to do. Yet man, man is different, we do not do what we were made for. We continuously rebel against the holy God. Not a day goes by in which we do not rebel against His perfect will at least once. We are the complete opposite of what God is: He is sinless, we are sinful; He is omnipotent, we are powerless; He is omniscient, we can barely fit an ounce of knowledge in our brains in our short life span; He is gracious, we are quick to retaliate; He is loving, we are spiteful. So, why does God care for us?

Why? Out of everything He has made that does not rebel against Him, that He could choose, He chose man. As we plum the truths of the Word, we can see in Genesis that we are made in the image of God and He made us inherently different. Wow! In some way, we are made in the likeness of God. But we sin and rebel, so why? Why send His Son to die for us? So we could be Sons of God, so we could be heirs of righteousness, so we could become ambassadors for Christ, so we could become the firstfruits offered to God. That is why. It was to accomplish His will and give Himself glory.

In all of this we see much of God’s perfections: His mercy, grace, love. We can understand that God did it all for His glory, but why does it give Him glory? We know Romans 11:33 is a beautiful answer to the question that cannot be answered. It says “oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable His ways!” It is the answer to the question: why did God choose to specifically save us? Who is man that God cares for us? Why are we the elect and not others? Yes, we made a profession of faith with our mouths and believed in our hearts that Christ’s blood was enough to save (Romans 10:9). But we did not do this according to our sinful will, for we did not come to God first. God loved us first and saved us while we were yet sinners. He chose us before the world began for His purposes, for His glory, so we know that there is a general purpose: His glory, (Ephesians 1:3-6) but why specifically us, why do we individually bring Him glory and not someone else? We may never know until we see Him in heaven. 

Who is man that God would care for us? This question brings out so many truths in which God has revealed about himself, yet it also brings out the incomprehensible nature of God! For this question can never be answered until we fully know God. While we are still on this earth, we can only see the glory and depths of His grace as if looking through a mirror, dimly through face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12) For we can only know Him in part until the day we are perfected! I can’t wait until the day when I die and come before the Lord to ask Him and be able to comprehend this question and God’s perfection! But for now, I will be encapsulated by what He has revealed to us in Scripture, because it is amazing!

Discussion Questions

1) Do we look forward to having our questions answered in heaven? What is one unanswerable question that you have that you would like God to answer when you see Him?

2) During this time, some of us have more time, some less. How have you been taking advantage of the time to know God more through His revelation of the Word? Make a plan to know God more this wee

Parable of the Talents

Author: Ethan C.
Editors: Lisa H. and Sara T.

This is an adaptation of the devotional given at the RAYO #3: RGC’s Got Talent fellowship event on 4/4/20. Check out our calendar for more upcoming events!

14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’
26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 25:14-30

While the passage above and this blog post are focused on the Parable of the Talents, I want to start you out with the context. Context is key to fully understanding the passage that is given to us! 

We start Matthew 25 with Christ giving us the “Parable of 10 Virgins”. This parable and the one after it serve to highlight how we ought to live in light of Christ’s return. Essentially, the parable of the 10 virgins emphasizes waiting expectantly for the Lord, to be ready for Christ’s second coming. These virgins were all bridesmaids. Five had oil for their lamps and were ready to enter the wedding feast when the bridegroom came and five did not have oil for the lamps. As a result of the latter group’s irresponsibility, they were preoccupied buying oil when the bridegroom came and thus, could not enter the wedding feast.

After that fantastic picture of how we should be ready for Christ’s second coming, we see another parable stating a very similar truth with its own twists and turns. This parable is commonly known as the “Parable of the Talents”. This parable focuses on the importance of working faithfully during the waiting period before the appointed time arrives. In this parable, we see two types of slaves: (1) those who are faithful with stewarding opportunities and (2) also those who squander it. Both identify as slaves of the master, but there is a clear distinction for the true type of slave – those whose hearts genuinely love their master and go out to work for Him.

In this biblical context, a talent is a weight. For example, you can have a talent of gold or a talent of silver. In this case, it is silver –  The word “money” in verse 18 is translated as “silver”. This is not exactly related to what we understand talents to be today: the natural abilities that each person may have. While we can certainly use our talents and abilities to the glory of God – and we should – we should more so be using the talents (spiritual opportunities and responsibilities) that the Lord has given and placed us over.

The first two slaves understand the importance of serving the master and understand the weight of stewarding what they had been given. The word “entrusted” in verses 20 and 22 connotes the idea of giving something directly into the hands of another. It is extremely valuable and important that they have a high view of what they have been given because of who it’s been given by. It is not so much what quantity or quality of talent they have been given, but having a heart of thankfulness and service to the master who is the giver.

Notice that the third slave does not mention this. In fact, he begins by wrongly characterizing God as a hard man, a harsh man that seems to reap and gather where he did not sow or scatter seed. He had a wrong view of the talents that he had been given, leading to a wrong type of fear leading to a wrong action. Think about it, like if you were to just die and then get buried and come before God, you point to the ground and say to Him, “yup there I am. You created me and so there I am. Right there, see you have what is yours.” Rather than living a wasted life, you would make the most of your life with the family, friends, job, etc. that God has given you.

What is the point of the master giving the talent to that useless slave then? It was futile. The slave did nothing with it. And that is why he says in verse 28 “take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.” May we highly esteem the Lord and what He’s entrusted to us, so that we may be faithful to work with what we have been given.

And a key phrase is essential to complete understanding of this parable: “Each according to his own ability.” We cannot go up to God after we die and say that He gave us too much to do or that we were not capable. This may be the excuse for those who are chilling, taking life easy, just going to church on Sundays, maybe attending a Bible study here and there… just kind of doing the minimum work without any ambition. 

Notice that the reward for the first two slaves is the same. It is not based on how much you produce in terms of doing more than the other; but rather, it is based on how faithful you were with the things given to you. So rather than comparing the quantity or quality of the talents we have, we ought to seek to give our most excellent and faithful work for our Master. May we constantly and consistently WORK TO THE MAX!

Do you really understand who God is and what He has entrusted to you? This should result in a passionate desire to do the most that you can for God, throwing off sin and entanglements. This should result in a passionate desire to hear the following praise at the end of our days: “Well done, good and faithful slave”. Do you have a desire to receive this commendation when you face God at His throne, confidently and humbly presenting your life to Him? It is not only a responsibility, but also understanding the reward. He has put you in charge of many things, may you also hear, “enter into the joy of your master.”

See Him as your King, deeply understand your Master, and let that be the drive for faithful, fruitful work in the short life that we have.

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you want to better understand about the Lord and meditate on so that you can be more faithful and work excellently for Him?
  2. What is one thing that has been causing you to be unfaithful with your stewardship?

Words That Edify

Author: Joshua N.
Editor: Leon S.

This devotional was given at the RAYO #4: 5-7-5 Showdown fellowship event on 4/11/20. Check out our calendar for more upcoming events!

Words Are Powerful

When we think of our words, we often think of them as harmless or unable to inflict significant damage to others. As the old saying goes, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But is that actually true? If you think back to all the painful events of your life, you will likely remember the exact words that caused deep wounds in your heart. James 3:5-6 says that “the tongue is a fire” and can “set on fire the course of our life.” Knowing these powerful and wise words from James, we want to guard our speech to ensure that our words are always used in an edifying manner.

The Scriptures tell us that the Christian life is a life of constant warfare.  In Ephesians 6:12, the Apostle Paul warns us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places.” This war is not a battle against a foreign military force with trenches and fortresses, but one that is fought spiritually. 

Colossians 2:8 provides greater detail on our tools of spiritual warfare: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Battling against false teaching does not mean putting it in a chokehold, nor does it mean taking a sword to behead empty philosophies. We are called to fight falsehood with our  words – namely, the word of God! Our trusted weapon is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). We are to defeat empty philosophies and destroy empty deception with sound biblical doctrine.

Words That Edify

We see from the previous section that words are indeed powerful, they can set whole lives ablaze and cause the armies of darkness to cower in fear. However, words are not simply weapons used to destroy, but words are also tools used to build.

The word, “edification,” means to build up. When constructing a building, there are many important, complex steps to consider: vision, budget, blueprints, foundation, etc.  Buildings should not be constructed without knowing what the building should look like before the shovel breaks ground. 

The same can be said when we edify a brother or sister in Christ. Edification is not merely giving encouragement to others (although that is important), but knowing where the Lord wants others to be in the future. In other words, God’s goal for others becomes your goal for them. This vision drives us to create a blueprint for others’ lives. From there, we start correcting the sin in other people’s lives, encourage them to live transformed lives, and disciple them in their sanctification. 

A good example of this process comes from Paul to Timothy: “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 1:18). In this context, Timothy was a timid man and wavering in the work that God had entrusted to him. Wanting to edify Timothy, Paul writes to encourage him to keep fighting the good fight. In his letter to Timothy, Paul intentionally brings God’s plan for Timothy’s life into focus: “in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you…” This statement immediately reminds Timothy of his personal call to ministry. Paul is reminding Timothy of his ultimate goal that God had revealed and commanded Timothy to complete. It is also noteworthy that although Paul encouraged, taught, and directed Timothy,  it was purposeful. Paul could clearly see, through the revelation of God, the finish line of Timothy’s ministry and urged him to keep running closer to that future Timothy – the Timothy who would accomplish much for the kingdom of God.

This example of Paul and Timothy is how we are to model our edification of our brothers and sisters in Christ! When we edify others, we need to aim to be intentional with people. When speaking to others, ask yourself: “Are they heading towards God’s will for their life?” Next, we need to push them, even if it is just a little nudge, in the direction of God’s will. Ideally, they should come away from the conversation more Christ-like and fueled-up to run the race with greater fervor. 

What if we have no idea where God wants them to be? How do we push them in the right direction? The answer is, again, be intentional! Dig a little deeper to help them understand God’s plan for their life. Some probing questions to ask may be: 

  • What are their goals in life?,  (i.e. Are they godly?) 
  • What do they like to do? (It may show you where they can be fruitful.) 
  • How has the Lord gifted them? (This is the most direct way to know the direction of their life.) 

These are just a few questions to start helping others to see God’s will for them. Also, start trying to see their lives through the Word of God. It will paint a picture of where the Lord wants them to be. 

So whether we are at home, planning calls, checking up on people,  aim to be intentional in your interactions with others. Seek to build people to become the dynamic Christian that God wants them to be.

As we progress in our sanctification and edify others, we should not forget that our battle here is not physical, but that of a spiritual nature.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12

Discussion Questions

  1. Think about the people you are close with (small group, roommates, family, ministry teams). What are some godly goals that they have for their life? What are some verses you can use to encourage them to run harder towards that goal?
  2. Do you think your words are edifying? How can you know whether your words are building up, tearing down, or causing no effect?

Do All to the Glory of God

1 Corinthians 10:31 NASB is something I usually end my prayers with. It says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” My prayer is that whatever we do, we do it with a mindset of giving God glory. I usually end my prayers by quoting this verse because it is all-encompassing. It just feels appropriate. Everything we do as Christians should (keyword being should) be within the scope of this verse. We could definitely have worse mantras in our lives.

As Christians, of course, we want God glorified, and we want to bring glory to God. But do we really know what it means? Do we really understand what we are talking about? Maybe we say it in our prayers because it feels like the right thing to say. It becomes a blanket statement to cover things we do just to make us feel that we are glorifying God in what we do. Like when we’re about to study for that exam, and we pray that God would bless our preparation. We pray that our exam preparation would glorify God. Although if we were being completely honest, we pray that prayer simply to give ourselves a “God-glorifying” stamp onto our study to convince ourselves that we glorify God regardless whether or not it in fact glorifies God.

We can save the topic of God’s glory for another time. That’s not what I’m writing about right now. I’m not talking about the Isaiah 6 glory necessarily. I’m talking about glorifying God in our actions. Remember? “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The verse is talking about glorifying God in whatever you do.

The context of that verse is at the conclusion to Paul’s answer to a question asked of him. The question was whether or not Christians are allowed to eat food sacrificed to idols. His answer begins in chapter 8 and ends in chapter 10. It is true that Christians are free in Christ and that all food is clean. Christians can freely eat any food, even those sacrificed to the Greek idols.

Paul’s response in chapter 8 is to his audience that if by eating those foods they stumble their weaker Christian brothers, they should not eat that food. If their actions tear down the local body of believers rather than building it up, they should refrain from eating. In chapter 9, Paul says that if any action would cause a “hindrance to the gospel of Christ”, it should not be done. So whatever we do as Christians, if it creates doubt in the minds of unbelievers or causes the gospel to be implausible in the eyes of the unbelievers, then we should be free to choose not to do it, for the sake of the gospel. Having addressed their actions influencing weaker brothers and unbelievers, he now addresses their actions influencing themselves. In chapter 10, Paul says that if any activity they do leads them to temptation, they should not engage in that activity. If by doing it, they are walking a fine line or testing God, they should flee from it.

So, indeed that verse is all-encompassing. In Paul’s mind, we must ask ourselves these questions about our actions:
Does it build up and strengthen believers? Or does it stumble or weaken the faith of our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Does it help the unbelievers to understand how the gospel is to be lived out? Or does it cause them to doubt the plausibility or the credibility of the gospel?
Does it help us stand firm in our faith in Christ? Or are we playing with fire or treading on the boundaries of our Christian ethics?

Another thing that crossed my mind as I was thinking about this was Deuteronomy 26:1-10 NASB. This section describes a Jewish feast called Firstfruits. Observed on the third day after the Passover and the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, this ceremony was a time of thanksgiving for God’s provision. Verse 1 through 9 are a reminder of all God had done for Israel as well as a call to continue in obedience. Verse 10 is the description of Firstfruits as a response.

In the New Testament, James calls believers “a kind of firstfruits among His creatures” (James 1:18 NASB). Just like the sheaf of grain was set apart for the Lord, believers are set apart for God’s glory. 1 Corinthians 15:20 NASB says, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” Jesus’ resurrection has paved the way for our resurrection. Paul taught the Corinthian believers to set aside a collection “on the first day of every week.” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NASB). And, just as the offering of firstfruits was an occasion of thanksgiving, so the Christian is to give with gladness.

In summary, the Feast of Firstfruits symbolizes God’s harvest of souls. It sets a pattern of giving back to Him the first (and the best) of what He has given us. How can you give God your first fruits? Let me give you two things.

First, is He the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning? And do you then think of how to give Him the best portions of yourself? Of your day, your time, and your money? And second, do you enjoy doing things that give God glory? Or do you enjoy giving glory to God? What I mean is, do you do the things you enjoy primarily because you enjoy it but if asked you can somehow justify it as an activity meant to give God glory? Say you enjoy playing basketball. Do you then play basketball because you want to use the skill God has gifted you with to glorify Him? And do you use basketball as a means of fellowship with those in the church or as an avenue of evangelism to those outside of the church? Or do you play basketball with believers and unbelievers, never using what God has given you for His glory?

Do all to the glory of God. It’s a pretty important thing to be thinking of. And like the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, it is our sole purpose, really our only purpose. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

The Cost of Evangelism

There was once a minister who felt burdened in his heart to provide help to a recent widow. One day, he knocked on her door with money in hand, but she did not answer. Trying a few more times, he concluded she was not at home and went on his way. A little while later, he saw her at the church and told her that he had remembered her need.

“I came to your house and knocked on your door. There was no answer, so I went away assuming you weren’t home.”

“Around what time was this?”

“Around noon time.”

“Oh dear, I heard you, but I just assumed it was the landlord coming to collect rent.”

Last month, I had the opportunity to go with some men and women from Redeemer’s Grace Church to do some open air preaching. Two brothers and I took turns preaching, while the sisters supported us by going around evangelizing to the surrounding people. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. We were sharing in fellowship with one another, loving the lost, and obeying our Lord.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NASB

The brief story above was an illustration I used that Saturday. As Christians that obey the Lord in evangelism, we aren’t like the landlord coming to collect rent. Contrary to what much of the world thinks, we aren’t coming to collect a debt that is owed, but to bring people something. Our desire is to be heard, to let them know that salvation is by grace alone. It is a free gift that does not require any working on their part. For although “the wages of sin is death”, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 3:23-24 NASB

But this should be true no matter the method of evangelism we use. Whether that is open air preaching, door to door evangelism, or evangelism to family, friends, and coworkers, we are to be faithful in preaching Christ crucified. One form of evangelism isn’t better than the other. Who else but God can cause one to believe? 1 Corinthians 3:7 NASB plainly tells us that it is only God who causes the growth.

I strongly believe that open air preaching is a sign of great boldness in the Lord for the one who does it. Such zeal is highly commendable. However, it is far from the most difficult or the most costly. If those walking by and listening disagreed, how might they react? By turning their head and walking faster. Maybe even calling the authorities or slandering the preacher. But to the one who makes a stand for Christ to their family, friends, or coworkers, what is the cost? The line from the hymn “Jesus I My Cross Have Taken” comes to mind: “Foes may hate and friends disown me.” Disownment. Alienation. Getting fired from your job. And what do you gain? For Paul it was everything. For us as well, it is everything.

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” Philippians 3:8 NASB

Christ should be everything to us. He is the one we love to follow after and the one we love to proclaim to others. So to the open air preacher, to the door to door evangelist, and to the one that makes a stand for Christ to family and friends, you are doing the work of God. And let us all rejoice with Paul who stated “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” Philippians 1:18 NASB

What we bring to people is really very simple. It is the very same message that when brought to our attention, we believed and were saved. So go out and preach to all who have not heard. Go out and proclaim without fear He who bought you with a price. Fear God and do not fear man. Do not fear the cost of evangelism.

One way to heaven and that is all
One way to avoid the consequences of the fall
One way to be justified
Accomplished by Christ’s blood on the day that he died

Don’t let God’s patience make you confused
His goodness and mercy must not be abused
Jesus is coming on His white horse
And will punish all sin with all of His force

The day’s soon coming that He’ll take a hold of the Globe
When men’s blood will be dripping off of His robe
One simple question I ask you my friend
How often does your mind think about the end?

Does this reality not astound you?
And make your heart break for the souls around you?
Fear and shame must vanish away,
The split second we think about that fateful day

When God in His justice all men will destroy
And His fury and wrath He will completely employ
Hell is a thought we should think about more
It should keep us awake and shake us to our core

It should get you off your couch and put you to labor
For the sake of your family, your friends and your neighbor
And despite the fact that the world remains hostile
Unashamed you should go preaching the gospel!

-Jordan Standridge