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Why Children Need a High View of God

I still remember reading A. W. Tozer’s book, The Knowledge of the Holy, back when I was in my freshman year of college. In the preface of that book, Tozer writes, “The view of God entertained among evangelicals these days is so low, so beneath the dignity of God as to constitute idolatry.”

How important it is to know God rightly.

What is needed for children to see how true and how glorious, how joy producing is the Christian faith? What will produce in the next generation faithfulness, strength of character, willingness to serve sacrificially—a willingness to go anywhere the Lord might want them to go to be witnesses for Him? What will it take to bring this about in them?

There are many answers to that question. But there is one that is of the upmost importance if children are to grow and have the strength of faith and a joy in the Lord. Consider six reasons why we must pass on to the next generation a high view of God.

First, it’s true.

Do we not want our children to grow and to know God as He is? And not present God in barely bigger than human terms? We want them to see his majesty, His glory, His independence. We do not want them growing up thinking, Boy, it’s a good thing that God has me on His side because I know He needs me to get the work done that needs to be done.

We want them to realize from their very earliest years how much they need God, but how He doesn’t need them at all. My goodness, the privilege that it is to be related to this God who loves them so deeply. So, indeed, to know God rightly, is to know Him both as other than us and near to us. Both as transcendent in the glory of His holiness, His Majesty, His power, His dominion, His sovereignty. And, amazingly, to recognize His love and goodness and kindness and mercy, His forgiveness, His tenderness. It’s true that God is great and it’s true that God is majestic and merciful.

Second, a high view of God enhances our understanding of his love and His mercy and His grace.

Here’s what happens if you approach the love of God without understanding the glory and the greatness of God. When the words come to your ears, “God loves you,” what do you think? Well of course He does! Aren’t I worth it? I mean, who wouldn’t love a wonderful person like I am?

We live in a culture that is so filled with a sense of entitlement that we bring it into the Christian faith. We start thinking that we deserve this love of God that we hear about. I think one of the biggest problems we have in our churches, broadly speaking, is we have this rush to the divine immanence. We rush to talk about the love of God, the grace of God, the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God—all of which are true—all of which are glorious. But because people typically do not have a high view of God, they hear those things and they think in terms of entitlement: Well of course.

But if you realize God is holy, that He is perfectly pure in all of his ways, then you hear the love of God very  differently. You hear it the way Isaiah must have understood it in Isaiah 6, after he saw the glory of God’s holiness, His majesty, His power, His might, and His purity. Then realized his own sin before God as the basis by which God then came and brought to him forgiveness and grace and mercy.

What a difference that makes! This is not entitled mercy; entitled grace. (That’s an oxymoron, by the way. Grace is unmerited favor.)  But you stand in awe and wonder that that great God would deem it good and right to love the likes of me.

Third, it promotes deep and authentic humility.

We do not want our kids growing up thinking, How great I am. We want our kids growing up thinking, How great God is! We all need so much to understand how little we are, how weak we are, how foolish we are. But incredibly, God in His mercy and grace, through His son Jesus, has brought us to the One who is great, who is wise, who is knowledgeable, who is able to provide everything we need out of the infinite fullness of His bounty. A true humility is grounded in a high view of God.

Fourth, it strengthens living and vibrant faith.

One of the most important elements of faith is a confidence that God is able. Nothing could thwart His power. Nothing could hinder Him from accomplishing whatever He chooses to do. This big view of God that sees His strength and His might—His sovereign majesty—is one of the resources that is absolutely necessary to believe in God. If you don’t think that He can do it, you’re going to look elsewhere. You’re going to go horizontal quickly and look for help from this or that other person, this or that other scheme. What will lead us to go vertical is the conviction that God is the one who is able to bring about anything that He chooses to do.

In addition to being certain that God can powerfully bring about what He chooses, faith requires knowing that He always chooses the best. He knows perfectly what needs to be done, and no one can match His wisdom.

The third ingredient necessary for faith in God is a confidence that He is for us; that He really does love and care for His people. Confidence in the power of God, and the wisdom of God, and the love of God is necessary for faith. A high view of God is absolutely critical then for a living and vibrant faith.

Fifth, a high view of God provides the resources necessary for times of suffering and affliction.

I don’t know what people do during times of suffering, whether for themselves or close friends or family members, if they don’t have a confidence that God’s ways are best, and that He is working through the suffering to bring about the good that He has designed to come to pass. That’s everything. I’ve heard so many people say, “When you’re talking to someone going through suffering, don’t bring up Romans 8:28.” And my response is, “Why in the world not?”

Why hide from them one of the most glorious teachings in the Bible that has everything to do with strengthening the faith of suffering Christians? God works everything together for good. Wow. He can do that? Oh yes He can!

A high view of God enables us to believe that God is in our suffering for good. We may not see all He is doing in this life, but we know His character. We know that He will never fail in accomplishing any of the good ends that He has designed. So indeed, we believe God during those times because we know who He is. Like the song says, “When we can’t trace His hand, we trust His heart.”

Sixth and finally, it elicits genuine and sustained worship of the God to whom alone belongs all glory.

To realize why it is that God alone should be worshiped requires a high view of who God is. Otherwise, our tendency is to think that something else out there ought to be receiving our worship, or perhaps, I ought to be receiving it.

Whatever there is that is worthy of worship, is what we ought to worship. Whatever is truly honorable, ought to be honored. Whatever is praiseworthy ought to be praised. The only way we can answer the question, “Who is it that deserves praise, that deserves honor, that deserves worship?” rightly is by knowing who God actually is. He alone is the One worthy of that honor, and glory, and worship. And when we know who God rightly is, and we worship Him, we are changed.

God has so designed us that we instinctively, naturally seek to become like whatever we esteem most highly. Did you know that about yourself?  Look at what you love; you adore; you treasure. Guess what you’re looking at? You’re looking at a reflection of what you are becoming. God wants us to see Him as eminently worthy of our deepest affections, our genuine love, our highest worship. In so doing, what happens to us? We long to take on the character of the One we adore.

May God help us to be tools in His hands in the life of the next generation, to see them develop a high view of God; to know Him rightly and to enter into the joy and the truth of the Christian faith, that they might in turn pass that on to the generation that follows.


This post was adapted from the message Bruce Ware gave at the Truth78 launch event in April, 2018. You can watch the full event here.

 

On Not Shrinking, but Upholding, Embracing and Declaring

On Not Shrinking, but Upholding, Embracing and Declaring

Paul’s declaration in Acts 20:27, “. . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God,” are richly inspiring, yet deeply sobering words.  Why inspiring?  Why sobering?  Let’s take the latter first.

These are deeply sobering words because they imply that, due to what is contained in “the whole counsel of God,” there may be sources of temptation to shrink from declaring to others the very content of these words.  More specifically, to declare the whole counsel of God requires that we overcome both the fears of external resistance, and the deep discomfort of internal inclinations, that lead us to seek to avoid disapproval by others.  In a word, we see that faithfulness to the whole counsel of God is an issue, at bottom, of the fear of God vs. the fear of man.  Whose approval do we most long to receive?  Whose opinion do we most value?  Whose assessment weighs in heaviest in our own hearts and souls.  (BTW, “most” and “heaviest” are important terms in these questions since it is simply impossible to care not at all—nor should we—about the opinions or assessments of others.  So, the question is not whether we care about what others think, but whose opinion and assessment matters to us the very most!  Here is a test of faithfulness to and worship of the true God vs. idolatry in the very ways we assess what others think about us).

But, why should this be?  What is it about “the whole counsel of God” that would elicit such fears and deep discomforts?  The answer is obvious once one considers the content of “the whole counsel of God” in contrast with the values, commitments, and moral sensibilities of the culture in which we live.  That word of God in its fullness contains many teachings and truths that are at one and the same time, glorious, beautiful, humbling, strengthening, and awe- and hope-inspiring, to those who have the eyes of faith, and also deeply offensive, seemingly foolish, and fully at odds with the zeitgeist and wisdom of our culture as it divines what is good and right and fulfilling.  Paul is conveying this notion when he speaks of the word of the cross as foolishness to those perishing but to us who are saved, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:18-25).  Again, he speaks of the gospel as emitting one aroma which to some is the fragrance of life, whereas to another it is the stench of death (2 Cor 2:14-17).

Children Desiring God Blog // Bruce Ware QuoteBecause we live in a culture where what is truly (as God knows these to be) right, good, and wise is considered wrong, bad, and foolish, while what is truly (as God knows these to be) wrong, bad, and foolish is considered right, good, and wise – due to this sinful and Satanic (recall he excels in deception above all else) inversion of truth, faithfulness to proclaim the actual content of the Word of God is to invite scorn, ridicule, and rejection from the cultured despisers—Schleiermacher surely was correct here—of biblical religion.  Hence, there will inevitably arise within our hearts, as with the heart of the Apostle Paul, a temptation, even a stubborn inclination, to “shrink from declaring” what that word actually says and teaches—a betrayal of the truth that Schleiermacher and a host of subsequent liberals have done right down to the Brian McClarens and Rob Bells of our day.  So we are faced with one of the ultimate and most central questions of our lives as Christians and particularly as Christian ministers – will we fear man and so shrink, or will we fear God and so not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God?  Choose this day whom you will serve.  We cannot not serve both the Word of God and the wisdom of men.

But Paul’s words, “. . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God,” are also deeply inspiring words, for they call to mind the story of a remarkably faithful while violently opposed life lived for the cause of Christ and his gospel.  Often when I read Paul’s description of the suffering he endured in his ministry of the gospel (see especially his record of affliction and opposition in 2 Cor 11:23-29) I call to mind also these words in Acts 20:27.  There is a connection between the two that should be obvious to all.  His was not the kind of affliction due to foolishness and sinfulness that Peter warns against (1 Pet 3:17b) but rather of the affliction that comes from the offense of the truth and doing what is right that Peter commends (1 Pet 3:13-17a).  It was his very not shrinking from declaring the whole counsel of God that resulted in the massive opposition, suffering, hardship, and agony that Paul endured.  Yet, because he knew with all of his heart that the truths which he taught and for which he suffered were life-giving and hope-building, he could suffer even with joy—recall this theme in his letter to the Philippians which he wrote from prison.  Indeed, because of the inestimable glory of this truth, he could even consider the fullness of his own suffering as merely “momentary, light affliction” (2 Cor 4:17) in contrast with the eternal weight of glory awaiting all who knew and embraced the wonders of the truths he faithfully taught from the whole counsel of God. Incredible. Almost unbelievable.  Yet, this indeed makes perfect sense because (but only because) Paul knew the words of truth he embraced as his own, the words of truth he proclaimed without compromise, the words of truth for which he suffered, were the very words of life.

Do you know the whole counsel of God as the very words of life?  Do you uphold and embrace every aspect of the whole counsel of God as God’s own word and words, and therefore as true and right and glorious and good?  Do you accept the inevitable opposition which comes with faithful proclamation of those words?  May God grant us hearts like the Apostle Paul’s, to proclaim with joy what may bring us opposition, knowing that, in the end, we await the words “well done” from the One who embraced and proclaimed the truth most faithfully, and who, as a result, suffered most fully.

Bruce A. Ware
Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

2016 National ConferenceWe are excited to welcome Bruce Ware back for a third time as one of our keynote speakers at the Children Desiring God National Conference. He will expound on these issues and help us answer these questions as he teaches on Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God. We hope you will join us April 14-16 in Indianapolis! Learn more and register now!