Chapter 1: Life Lessons on God
1. The Bible and Jesus are not insufficient or incomplete, and those who would have us believe otherwise work for the wrong team.
Colossians 1:28 says, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” Being complete in Christ means that we have all that we need in Christ for living a full and holy life. 2 Peter 1:3 says, “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Christ is always enough, and once He indwells our hearts, we don’t need to keep looking for something more to satisfy us, to complete us, or to fulfill us. He is our all in all and our everything, and, when we approach life, relationships, career, and every other challenge from the perspective of completeness in Christ, we are in a position of real health, ultimate wealth, and eternal prosperity. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” When God calls us to do something, He will supply us with all that we need and then some in order to be able to do it. When we obey Him and delight in Him above all else, He will fill us and empower us for effective service and a life that brings us and Him abundant joy. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” We abide in Christ by loving Him and keeping His commands as a result of our love for Him and the inner work that He is doing in our hearts. Then, we are guaranteed a life that will bear abundant fruit to His glory.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” When God inspired His written Word and assured its safe transmission to us today, He did so without leaving anything out, and He did so without wasting His words. All of the Bible is inspired of God and profitable for our learning, for our training, and for our sanctifying so that we will be adequate, having all that we need to know in order to be able to live as God would have us. God has given us all that we need in His Word to grow in Him and to be used of Him. We are not dependent on the Bible plus some other worldly resource in order to be sanctified. True Christianity is never Christ plus something, for Christ plus nothing is everything. Grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, and Scripture alone are the pillars of true Christian faith, and it is only the evil one himself who seeks to add to those things by attempting to subtract from the fullness of Christ and the completeness of His Word.
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” If the devil wants to get a hold of us through deception, he must first get us to disbelieve, doubt, compromise, or be confused about Christ and His Word. Therefore, we must purpose to know it better than others, even those who would seek to be our teachers, so that no one, even the devil himself, can lead us astray by moving us away from the truth. Psalm 119:99 says, “I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.” The best investment we can make is to expend ourselves in the humble study of God’s Word by submitting to the sufficient work of Christ in our hearts.
2. God always stands with arms wide open in eagerness to forgive, and it is this kindness of His, proven once for all on the cross, that leads us to keep repenting.
Luke 15:20 says, speaking of the prodigal son in Christ’s parable, “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Once we have received Christ as our Savior, we can be sure that Christ’s desire to fellowship with us will never end (Galatians 4:6). He will always be ready to receive us with gracious arms wide open no matter what mistakes we have made because we wear the robe of righteousness found in Christ (Isaiah 61:10). He is our advocate and intercessor, and He is the reason we are part of God’s family (Hebrews 7:25). Nothing can ever change that. Sometimes we will struggle and stumble, for all Christians have rough patches (James 3:2). But what is important is that we remember just how much our Father loves us. He even gave up His Son for us to save us when we could not save ourselves (Romans 5:8). He adores His sons and daughters, and He does not treat them with conditional love or as a God ready to condemn His own. This is because Christ has borne His wrath upon the cross, and we are alive in Christ and seated in the heavenly places with Him (Ephesians 2:6). The Father will discipline us as children whom He loves so that we will grow in righteousness, and this is only further evidence of His grace and compassion, not of harshness, cruelty, vindictiveness, or distance (Hebrews 12:6, 10).
Our God is near to us, tender, gentle, and kind. Once we realize just how much our God is for us and how much He adores us as His own, we will begin to understand just how wasteful, useless, trivial, stupid, and illogical sinful behaviors are. Sin can never satisfy, but, at best, it brings a temporary, passing sensation of happiness that is soon begging for more to fill its renewed emptiness. Set in contrast to the joy of God, sin seems so futile, just as the prodigal son realized how much better he had it back at home rather than rolling around in the mud with the pigs. We can eat as the pigs eat, or we can eat as a son at our Father’s table. It makes no sense to run from this reality, for it is kindness, kindness, and more kindness. Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” It is not a fear of God’s wrath that leads us to love Him more and obey Him more fervently. Rather, it is a fuller understanding of the profound depth of His love and mercy for His own. Once we understand just how good God is to us, it makes us want to love Him more, obey Him more, and worship Him more. If we harbor any inclination of God being standoffish with us or waiting to see how we perform before deciding how kind He will be to us, we are setting ourselves up for spiritual failure, disappointment, and dissatisfaction. We belong at His table, but we must believe that He wants us there and that His love is more than enough.
3. God always opens doors at the proper time, and, when He closes doors, it is so that we don’t miss what is kindest, wisest, and best.
Given that God is sovereign over all things, it is tempting at times to project things upon the character and nature of God that simply are not true. When a relationship fails or a job offer falls through, for example, it can be tempting to think that God is not kind. But God is always kind, and He always acts in kindness to us. The piece of the puzzle that we miss is that God sees the whole picture, while we only see a part. He knows if there is something better that He has in store for us, but we may have to be taken to a place where we don’t want to go in order to find it. He knows if we are not ready for something, and He is righteous and wise and kind to keep us from doing something we would later regret. When God closes doors, it is never in cruelty or because He lacks the power or because we lack the faith to move God. Faith is never about us moving God but about having enough faith to believe that God can move us. It is not about making God’s will align with ours, but it is about conforming our desires and ambitions to His. Given that He is always right and that we are prone to error, no other way makes any sense. When God does open a door, we can be sure that it is of Him because it will be something only God could have done. 1 Corinthians 16:9 says, “For a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” Paul was well aware that an opportunity had been given to Him by God and not by his craftiness or mere chance. He also knew that the devil would oppose the opportunity, which we would expect if we are doing what God wants. God opens doors and He closes doors, all with perfect wisdom and kind intention.
Some people hold to the false view that, if we are doing God’s will, then no harm can befall us. The truth is that God does allow trials into our lives, and sometimes we will go through dark places. But our Protector is there with us. As Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” God may not take away the source of our fear, but He will make us able to obey and to be strong despite our fear. Knowing that He is with us makes all the difference. It is so easy to assume that God has abandoned us if things get difficult, but we must understand and recall to mind that He goes through the valleys with us. In addition, it is only His grace that enables us to proceed onward from the valleys and ascend to the mountaintops of spiritual victory. It is always about His work in and through us to His glory, for we are one with Christ (Galatians 2:20). Our life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). This connectedness with God in our hearts is the ultimate expression of His kindness to us, and knowing that will help us trust Him when doors close and to praise Him when He opens doors.
Psalm 139:5 says, “You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.” The bottom line is that God is in total control, and He can and must be trusted. He allows into our lives only what He believes is for our best, and He promises to cause all things to work for our good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He will never stop working to sanctify us, even ordaining circumstances to accomplish exactly that. Satan can do nothing to us unless God permits it, and He will only permit it when He knows it is something that He will cause to work for our good in the end. A lifelong journey of open doors and closed doors will always point back to the goodness and mercy of God, and we would be wise to be those who are led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14) down the straight and narrow path (Proverbs 3:5-6).