What Would Grandpa Say?

     [EGW editor's note: Published in the May 2015 issue of Think magazine, used by author’s permission.]

God is Working in your Life!
God,... are You There?
by Jim Mettenbrink

     Where is God?  It is often said that the founders of the United States were Deists.  Except for a few, their writings refute this notion.  Deism?  In a nut shell, it is the belief that God created this world and then went on vacation, leaving man to his own devices.  In other words, God is not active in the world today.  If so, man is truly his own god, walking aimlessly through this jungle of life.  Well, not really aimlessly, but on the path of self-made hedonistic utopia.
     Deism has not always been in the world’s closet.  Although Deism had been promoted in Britain in the 1700s by Hume and Locke, it was Thomas Paine’s entrance into the 18th-century with “Age of Reason” that popularized Deism in the USA.  Deism reached its peak in the 1830s and 1840s.  Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” (1859) influenced many Deists who simply become atheists.  After all, if God is not active in the world, maybe the supreme being does not exist at all!
     Deism is hardly mentioned today, however, although the raw numbers are very small, from 1990 to 2000 those openly espousing Deism increased 717%.  Deism is the ideal for the person who concludes that the complex design of the creation demands a supreme creator, but who has been propagandized with the Secular Humanist mindset and its child, Postmodernism.  Modern Deism, simply stated is God created us, but He left us to make our own ever-changing rules of ethics and morality.  This is not the biblical perspective of God, but in listening to some Christians, it appears they have not grasped just how much God is involved in the affairs of men, nations and individuals.  If the Bible sets forth anything at all, it is that God is all over everywhere, all the time.  One has to be totally ignorant of the Bible or suffering from a chronic case of self deception to deny that fact.
     Refuting Deism’s claim, God has been continuously active from immediately after the creation.  He gave Adam and Eve a simple standard of conduct – don’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  When they violated it, He punished them (Genesis 3:16-19).  Was the worldwide flood a mere natural phenomenon or was it caused by an active God?  After the creation, the Bible states “God said”, “Lord said” or, “word of the Lord” nearly 550 times.  Was He talking to Himself or someone on earth?  Indeed, God’s activity was giving instruction how man should live in order to please Him.  That does not sound like an inactive God!
     God’s involvement is most notable in the prophecies of the nations.  Because so much of the Old Testament records the details of God’s involvement with ancient Israel, one should not conclude that He was not involved with the other nations, or nations today.  God sent Jonah to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, to warn them of their destruction.  The entire city repented, so God relented in His plan to bring disaster upon them (Jonah 3).  After Assyria had destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel and exiled the people, Jerusalem was spared destruction and God destroyed the Assyrian army because King Hezekiah prayed (2 Kings 19:15-20, 35-37).  Just how Divinely active was God in that?
     Even a cursory reading of the Old Testament, reveals God is active in the rise, the direction, and fall of all nations.  “
For the indignation of the Lord is against all nations, and His fury against all their armies....” (Isaiah 34:2).  Jeremiah gives prophecies of the destruction of various nations in chapters 46-51.  We summarily conclude, God is active in all nations’ very existence.  But how active is God in the affairs of individuals and if so how is He active?  Let’s begin with the prophets.
     One might argue that prophets were especially chosen for God’s particular purpose.  True, God chose them to do His will.  For example, Jeremiah wrote of God’s special selection – “
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).  And He was directly involved in their prophesying.  The apostle Peter wrote “...that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).  For example Ezekiel recognized and acknowledged the inspiration of God – “Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me” (Ezekiel 2:4).  Further, in contrast to the false prophets who were deceiving Israel, Micah said of himself, “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of justice and might, To declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin” (Micah 3:8).  To be clear, God did not interfere in the free will of the prophets.  After the contest between the false prophets of Baal and Elijah to provide the miraculous evidence that Jehovah is God, he ran away to hide because he was afraid of Jezebel (1 Kings 18:22-19:3).  This inspired prophet deserted in a moment of weakness.  Note, God did not stop Elijah from exercising his own will.
     God’s involvement continued in the New Testament after Jesus ascended into heaven.  Fifty-five times the Holy Spirit is referred to in the book of Acts.  Certainly, the Holy Spirit was the Divine agent who came upon the apostles (Acts 2) and through whom, He gave the miraculous spiritual gifts (Acts 8:14-17).  A reading of Acts also shows the Holy Spirit was directing the evangelistic work of the early church.  Barnabus and Paul were “
sent out by the Holy Spirit” on their first mission journey (Acts 13:2-4).  He chose the places where they should evangelize – “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.  After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them” (Acts 16:6-7).  Some might argue that was then (biblical era), but this is now.  Is God active in our personal lives now?  If not, then the deist has a point, at least in part!
     The New Testament is the Christian’s God-given handbook by which to live – “
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).  It tells us God is active in our lives.  “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:13); “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations...” (2 Peter 2:9).  He knows each Christian’s character and heart; our weaknesses and strengths.  God is active!
     Perhaps one of the greatest weaknesses amongst Christians is “fully” submitting to the Lord.  God wants all of us to take part in doing His singular goal – save the lost and keeping them saved (Matthew 28:19-20).  Those two commands require that we examine ourselves: (1) Is my attitude toward the lost the same as God’s?  (2) Am I striving to fully prepare to save the lost (Ephesians 6:11-20)?  (3) Am I trying to discover my talents and abilities and organize my time to fulfill God’s commands?  (4) Am I praying for wisdom to fulfill God’s commands?  (Romans 8:26-27; Colossians 1:9-11).
     No doubt, the devil will throw rocks in your path, trying to discourage you to the point you quit!  Remember Romans 8:31-39!  Often people believe they don’t know the scriptures well enough to show the way of salvation to others.  The remedy is to study the Bible.  Also a great book regarding winning souls is Muscle and a Shovel.  It is the account of one man’s struggle to become a Christian and it reveals the young soul winner who knew how to approach a person to prompt him to think of his eternal destiny.
     There is nothing in the New Testament which indicates God has stopped directing evangelism.  It must be our purpose to allow Him to use us to take the gospel to the lost in His mission to save the lost.  The quizzical aspect of evangelism is how God connects those carrying the gospel to those with receptive hearts.  Basically, it is sowing the word of God to all.  It is easier to see God’s hand by looking back in time.  It becomes clear that God brought the lost person and the Christian together.  He is active in His work!  However, it is up to us to allow Him to use us.
     Over a period of months, nearly 40 years ago, and as a new Christian, grandpa was in frequent discussion to teach his assistant about salvation.  He never became a Christian.  However, our typist overheard these discussions.  One day when we were alone, he asked, “Can I become a Christian?”  He did so and in the first five months baptized five people into Christ.  He then preached for nearly 30 years.  So a new Christian can be effective in bringing the lost to Christ.
     About 30 years ago, a man was baptized.  Within a week and frequently thereafter, he called grandpa to come in the evening and teach a person who had agreed to study their relationship with God.  Over the next year, six were baptized because of his boldness and encouragement for people to consider their eternity, yet he knew little of the scriptures at that time.  Did God connect these to men with open hearts with grandpa?  Surely this was not mere chance!
     Grandpa says be diligent to prepare to sow God’s word, but always set out to interest people in their eternity and know to whom to go for them to be taught.  He is waiting for you.  And as the apostle Paul wrote, “
But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.  And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you” (2 Thessalonians 3:3-4).

      © Jim Mettenbrink; used by permission; courtesy of the Brookings church of Christ; 150629
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