Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Heartbeat of God

The Heartbeat of God - Part 1

When we were in high school most of us got a yearbook.

And most of us were thrilled when those yearbooks came.

But let’s be honest, few of us quickly searched for the principal’s picture,
or even for a friend’s picture first.

Who did we want to see first? Ourselves, and we studiously searched
the index for every possible reference to our own names to see how
we looked in each picture.

When we open our Bibles, we are very much tempted to do the same thing.

We think of ourselves first and are thankful that we can devote a bit of time
to a God who loves us even more than we love ourselves.

But when things don’t go so smoothly in life, we often begin to wonder what
went wrong.

Surprisingly, God loves us enough to make us neither the center of the Bible
nor the center of His world.

Perhaps because of our self-focused hearts we have really misunderstood
just how great God is and just how good His plan really is.

In this and my next two messages, I would like to focus on the Bible’s
overarching structure and consequently ask, “What is on God’s heart from
Genesis to Revelation?”

And then I want to look into why us not being the center of this world is actually
the absolute best news for each and every one of us.

Sometimes I am asked why I came to Japan.

If I have time, I always go back to a mission trip I took in 1999 to Lithuania,
a small Baltic country west of Russia.

It was only a four-week trip, but each weekday morning our mission team was
engaged in a three-hour personal Bible study.

One week the study was called, “The Heartbeat of God”.

The study started in Genesis and ended in Revelation, and it was all about
God’s overarching, unchanging plan for this world.

It consisted of looking up a long list of Bible verses, reading them, pondering
them, and recording our observations and interpretations.

It was intense, but it was amazing and it was life changing.

Up until then God had been slowly helping me to see that the world isn’t mainly
about me, but rather that I was born to be a part of God’s great story.

But through this study, along with the experiences I had there, God began to
give me a passion for a much bigger and more wonderful vision than the
American Dream.

So what is God’s great overarching plan in a nutshell?

It can be summed up in two basic themes, which is really one theme with two

God wants to greatly bless unworthy people like us, and then He wants us to
turn around and be a great blessing for all the nations on the face of this
Earth for His glory.

As it says in Psalm 67: May God be gracious to us and bless us and make
his face to shine upon us, 2 that your way may be known on earth, your
saving power among all nations. 3Let the peoples praise you, O God; let
all the peoples praise you! 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,

So this receiving blessing and giving blessing is all about joy in the greatest
person, God!

Many times at church we focus on the first part of the theme, that God loves us,
unworthy as we are, and has sent Jesus Christ to save us and bless for an
eternity with Him in heaven.

But that is only half of the story, and only half of the good news.

God isn’t a man-centered God, and so He has a much bigger plan than simply
to save us.

He wants to save us and bless us in order that we might be a blessing to others
and bring His love and salvation and joy to all the nations for His glory.

For nothing can so satisfy our hearts except to know and enjoy God in all of His
glory and then be involved in declaring His unfailing plan of redemption for this

Isaiah 52:7 says, How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who
brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of
happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

God does not need us to fulfill His plans, but He blesses us to be a part of it,
because indeed He reigns over all and His sovereign plan cannot fail.

Do you want to be a part of something that cannot fail?

I do. And that is why I am here today. That is why I am missionary in Japan.

So let’s start at the beginning today and begin to see God’s great plan unfold
from Genesis.

What were the first words God said to Adam and Eve after they were both made?

Gen. 1:27-28 says, So God created man in his own image, in the image of
God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed
them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and
subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of
the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Basically God is saying, “I have blessed you and have made you both in my image.

You are to be like Me and display My image and goodness for all to enjoy.

Therefore, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and care for it like I care for you.”

It is interesting that God lays it all out before Adam and Eve right there at the

I want you to multiply My image, (My goodness and My glory) for the whole world
to enjoy.

Now if I were to take a picture of myself and say, “Hey, I want you to take this
image and plaster every signboard in the world with it,” what would you say to me?

You would say, “Wow, you are a narcissistic, egotistical person, Mark!”

So some prominent western atheists look at the Bible and say God is a
megalomaniac, obsessed with His own power and importance.

Yes, that would all be very true if God were just another human being like
you or me.

A human’s glory could never be enough to satisfy the hearts and souls of this
world, and so plastering my picture everywhere would not help anyone.

And so living for our own glory as humans is always wrong, and by their own
words even atheists unwittingly reveal that they know that to be true.

But God is not a man — He is the only God, far above and over everything
that exists.

He is no small god — He is the One God who created time and space just
by speaking.

And He knows each one of the trillions and trillions of stars He made by name.

He cannot adequately be compared to anything else in existence.

Psalm 145:3 says, Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His
greatness is unsearchable.

If God were to deflect our attention away from Him and onto anything else for
our highest praise and joy, He would not be loving.

So God does not condone idolatry, He puts Himself forward in the Bible as the
greatest and best, and the only One worthy of all of our praise, because He
truly loves us.

He rightly tells us to worship and enjoy no one and nothing else, because only
He is worthy of our lives and our highest praise and joy.

Not wanting to prevent our fullest joy, God says, “Praise Me. In everything you
do, enjoy Me and spread My glory in all you say and do, and You will know
fullness of joy.”

God says this in Isaiah 43:6-7:

“I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring
My sons from afar and My daughters from the end of the earth, 7 everyone
who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed
and made.”

As Psalm 16:11 says, You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence
there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

So God is simply the greatest Being and the One Being in the entire universe for
which self-exaltation is the most loving action.

Because when God gives us Himself for our worship and praise, He is really
giving us the absolute best and the only thing that can satisfy our hearts fully

So God says, “Because I love you, and because I love this world I made, I want
you to take My image: My goodness, My love, My glory, and I want you to enjoy
filling the world with it.”

God made the world, and He made us, to live for and enjoy the best! - His
glory, as we enjoy His greatness and share Him with the entire world in all
we think, say, and do.

Well, as you know, Adam and Eve didn’t trust that this was the best plan for
their lives and they foolishly, no insanely, thought they could do better than God.

Thinking they would be wise, they chose the creation rather than the Creator,
and, as Romans 1:25 says, they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

It is the same whoredom that Ewen spoke about last week from the book of Hosea.

Though we belong to God as His own, as those created in His image, as those
who reflect who God is for the world to see, we all reject Him and drag His image
through the mud.

Because of Adam’s fall into sin, we each come into the world with the same hearts,
looking out for ourselves first, even at the expense of others around us.

In Romans 1:22 it says, Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and
exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man
and birds and animals and creeping things.

Adam foolishly exchanged the glory of the immortal God for other things, and so
do we.

That is the meaning of idolatry - trading God for other things. And all of us do it!

Instead of going to the spring of the Living Waters in God, as the prophet Jeremiah
says, we shockingly turn to broken, muddy cisterns that can hold no water for our

God says, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the LORD, 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have
forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for
themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

Images of God and created things, can never fully quench the thirst of our hearts

These things, as it says here are broken, leaky cisterns that can hold no pure

When we trade God for created things it is an insanely foolish exchange, but sin
blinds us to our own foolishness.

That is why Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of

Sin is the completely insane way of looking at the world, that only God can
deliver us from.

Though God did come to Adam and Eve and forgave their sin and shame,
mankind naturally went from bad to worse.

In Gen. 6:5 God said, every intention of the thoughts of his heart was
only evil continually.

Romans 3 says the same thing about us being apart from Christ - None of the
thoughts of our hearts are centered on God and thus they are at root evil
unless God intervenes!

Choosing rebellion, people willingly became hard, blind and dead to God’s
glory, and so in mercy God raised up Noah’s family and graciously chose
them to start over with.

And after the flood God gave the same words to Noah that He had given to
Adam and Eve.

Genesis 9:1 says, And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to
them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

And history records that they did multiply,

but their descendants did not want to fill the earth, because their hearts were
again set on themselves and not on God’s glory, just like before the flood.

Brazenly they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with
its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be
dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Gen. 11:4)

Instead of spreading out and filling the Earth for the sake of God’s Name, they
were going to stay where they were and live for their own name.

And that is still our temptation today also.

Live for my own name and make myself comfortable and secure.

Don’t take risks to step out and love my neighbors sacrificially for the sake of
God’s glory.

And so God graciously calls another, Abram, to bless and to multiply and fill the

Do you see a pattern here?

God is displaying His grace, forgiveness, and mercy over and over so that we
can see how great His mercy is and so we can become like Him as we love the
people around us.

As Christians, as those who have been mercifully rescued from slavery to sin and
death by Christ, we are to be the aroma of Christ for those who are marching
down the same path to destruction we were on.

We are to reflect God’s mercy in a way that people can begin to know Him through
our lives.

Gen. 12:1-3 the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred
andyour father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you
a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will
be a blessing... in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

From the beginning it wasn’t God’s will just to bless Abraham’s descendants, the

God’s plan was to graciously choose to bless Abraham’s offspring in order that
they be a blessing for all the families of the Earth.

Though Israel did multiply, and though God did send them to Egypt,

     again, Israel failed in its task, and so God again worked for His own Name.

Psalm 106:7-8 says, Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider
Your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of Your
steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. 8 Yet He saved them
for His name’s sake, that He might make known His mighty power.

For the sake of His name and for the sake of His people’s enjoyment in His glory,
God worked to save His people and make known His mighty power.

It is the same for us today.

God doesn’t save the good people, He saves rebellious, ungodly people like us out
of this world for His own name’s sake, and so our hope is in God and not in

So God’s love is rooted first in the value of His holy name, not in the value of
sinful people.

And because of that, there is hope for sinful people today, for people like you
and me!

God will graciously save people from every nation for His own name’s sake
through Christ.

And God will keep all of His global promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.

He will bless all nations and fill the earth with His glory through Jesus Christ,
their descendant according to the flesh.

So it is really no surprise when Jesus, right before He ascends to heaven, uses
His last words on Earth to again give His followers God’s plan and heartbeat for
the world.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore
and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I
have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the
age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

“Again, I am blessing you with My authority and My personal presence, therefore
go in My power and make disciples of all nations for my glory.”

Notice that He didn’t just turn to Peter, James and John and say, “Hey, I know you
guys are the gifted ones in evangelism. I want you guys to go to the nations, and
the rest stay here.”

No, He says to all of His followers, “Go! Since all authority on heaven and earth has
been given to Me, and since I will be with you, go to all the nations for My glory.

I have the power. I am the One who is sufficient to do this task, but I choose to use
each of you little ones, I choose to include every single one of you in My great plan.”

So the great plan of world evangelization is not just a plan for a select few
charismatic leaders called “missionaries” or “evangelists”. No, it is a calling on
each of His followers.

And it is more than a calling, it is an extreme blessing to carry God’s blessing
to all peoples.

So how can we be involved in helping reach all the nations with the good
news, even today?

We will continue this look into God’s overarching plan next month when I
speak, but for now I just want to help us think through some personal
application for our lives today.

First, evangelism and missionary work is not a man-centered thing. It is not us
trying to convince people to pray a certain prayer.

Rather we need to convince ourselves to remain constant in prayer so that we
can bear the image of God well in everything we do and say.

We are to renew our minds in Christ in order to become like little telescopes
for God.

Like a telescope, we are to help others see and know God’s goodness and
glory through our lives.

A telescope works by pointing itself towards unimaginable expanses of glory
in the heavens and helping people get some small picture of what is really
up there.

In the same way, we are to let our little lights shine, the light that is from Christ,
so that the world can see through us a bit of the glory of God, and be able to
say, “He must be good!”

May others see that God is good, that God is merciful, and that God is love by
the way we love, by the way we are gracious and merciful to others, and by our
joyful hope-giving words.

Yes, we do much more than try to convince!

We love, we befriend, we look for ways to be kind and serving just as God
through Christ has served us and continues to serve us daily through His Spirit
each day for Christ’s sake.

This will mean taking time to genuinely befriend others, inviting them into our lives
and into our homes so that people have a reason to believe what we say.

It will mean visiting people in the hospital or in orphanages. And it will mean serving
the materially and spiritually poor in other nations and giving them what they need.

In Japan, we are blessed financially, so we can help send missionaries and
financial aid.

But this is all because of who God is - He is a God of mercy and love for all
the nations.

And we have been blessed to join with Him in His wonderful plan of spreading
His glory and salvation in Jesus Christ to all the nations.

Acts 4:12 speaks of Jesus Christ when it says: “And there is salvation in no
one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by
which we must be saved.”

1 Peter 2:9 sums up our calling as Christians:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for
his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who
called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were
not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received
mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Let’s pray.

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