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God's God-ness

When you preach, don't just tell people what to do; show them the beauty of Christ.


When I first got to the Village Church it was at that time called Highland Village First Baptist Church in Highland Village, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. It was about a hundred and sixty older men and women. So in that setting, I wanted to preach a series early on in my time there about doubt. It focused on what to do with doubt and where doubt was coming from, so doubt isn't one-size-fits-all. It really kind of swelled up from different places and in different seasons. So I on a given weekend service said, "Here's what I want you to do. I want you to grab your bulletin, and on the back of your bulletin if you consistently struggle with a doubt, you consistently wrestle with some truth about God, some truth about Jesus, something about the Word of God, I want you to write it out on that bulletin and tear it off. And I want you to put it in the joy boxes." That's what we call our offering boxes. "Put it in the joy boxes and then we're going to look through those and address it." When all was said and done that weekend, it looked like we were doing a building campaign, but we weren't. What we did take in that day was a mountain of people's doubts, confusions, and guilt. Here's what became clear: The people at Highland Village First Baptist Church almost completely understood what God wanted of them and demanded of them. They were not confused that God was holy and that in God's holiness he had an expectation about their life and how they behaved. The Word of God bore its weight on every area of their lives. The largest mound of doubts read something like this:

I know what God requires of me. Why can't I seem to do it? Why am I always two steps forward, one step back? Why am I perpetually climbing up the mountain, trying to get there, and before I get there I feel like I slip and slide all the way back down to the bottom? So if I am loved by God, if Jesus is in my heart, if I have been born again and blood bought, then tell me, somebody tell me why I'm perpetually falling short of God's holy ideal?

I'm reading those doubts and at first I was like Yeah. Then here's what hit me: There is way too much of "me" and "I" in that. So here's what happens: if you allow people to hear God's requirement without letting them look upon the God who accomplishes those requirements, you leave your people enslaved and frustrated and joyless so that they'll never worship God.

So here's what I want to do in my time with you. I want to talk about God's God-ness, and I want to watch God be God. Then I want to tell you why that's so important if what we desire is lives transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. The more people's eyes are on them instead of on their Creator, the less likely they will ever be transformed. But the more they get their eyes on God and the more they get their eyes off of them, the better shot we've got.

Your congregations, my congregation stink at holiness. They're awful at it. But I'm pathetic. I mean, the Word of God bears its weight on me. I just know enough of it now to know where to cling and where to grab and where to hold tight. So if you perpetually weigh out the weight of the Word of God on your people without pointing your people to the God of the Word, they don't have a chance. It's only going to be a little while before they exercise their doubt in one of two directions. They'll say, "Forget it," and walk into licentiousness. Or, God help us, they'll become good at putting on a front of self-righteousness but inside not be transformed at all. Nothing is more damaging to the beautiful, spectacular, glorious name of Jesus Christ than pretenders. people who wear the clothes but don't have the heart. So I want to talk about God's God-ness.

God's God-ness

So if you read in the Bible the prefix before the name of God most consistently used is holy. He is a holy God. He is the holy Lord. So if we begin to take his attributes, like if you want to talk about his omnipotence, the fact that he is all-powerful, and then you put he's got holy power in front of it, it's even bigger. We can talk about his omniscience, that he is all-knowing, so he's not only all-powerful but he's all-wise and he's holy in his all-knowing. Then you've got omnipresence, which we can't even in our brain begin to grasp. The second we start to grasp it, it gets terrifying. So you and I we're stuck in time. But God is outside of time, which means that tomorrow is something he knows about. Tomorrow's where he is. Yesterday isn't just what he's knowledgeable out. He's there and there and here all now. So you've got a God who is forever present. You have a God that's all-knowing, and you have a God that is all-powerful. But here's the thing to consider. It's not like golf where he picks one of those as a club. He doesn't analyze the situation and go, Give me my power. He doesn't analyze the slope and go, You know what I'm going to need? Omniscience on this one. What I mean when I say God's God-ness is that it's all of those things always at once. So that always and ever God is ever-present, all-knowing, and all-powerful. When I say I want to talk about God's God-ness, I want to look at five areas where God shows his God-ness to be spectacularly beyond what we can fathom

God's God-ness in Creation

I'm going to start in Psalms, you see God's God-ness in creation, so let me read you just a couple of texts here. Psalm 33:4-9:

For the word of the Lord is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

Almost every biblical writer reminds the reader in their letter, book, history, and narrative that God is the Creator God. Now, God flexes his God-ness in creation. All you need is the earth to rotate a bit slower or a bit faster and we're not here. All you need is the sun to be a little bit hotter or a little less hot and you and I aren't here. You have literally at any given moment trillions of things that have to happen to keep certain ecosystems alive. In God's God-ness, God shows his might, his power, his presence, his wisdom in the fact that it's happening. Did you see how he made the stars?

We could go to Psalm 8, "O LORD, our LORD, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" We can go down there to verse 3 and David says, "When I look at the heavens … and the stars of the sky," But what I want to show you in Psalms is you see how he put the stars there? He just breathed! It wasn't laborious. He didn't need to lay down. He just exhaled and the universe expanded in every direction, and it's still expanding now. That's God's God-ness.

God's God-ness in Providence

The second place you see God's God-ness is in his providence. Providence is the power, presence, and wisdom of God working itself out in the details of our lives to reveal his deep love and affection for us.

The United States Navy decided that the Chandler family when I was in high school shouldn't live in Alameda, California, the Bay Area, very beautiful part of the world, and instead he decided that the Chandler family needed to move to Galveston, Texas. I don't know if you've seen the beaches in the Bay Area and then you've been to Galveston, Texas. But they're not the same. So I'm thinking judgment. Dad needed to repent. But we go down. Dad is a pagan. Mom is—I don't know how to explain my mom—really kind of self-righteous backwoods, a Missouri snakes and poison fundamentalism. She made the Pharisees look loose. That was the kind of home that I grew up in. So the Navy moves us to Galveston and the football coach at La Marque High School put me in a locker next to a kid named Jeff Fairclaw. During my second day of practice Jeff Fairclaw walked up to me and said, "I need to tell you about Jesus. When do you want to do that? I'm going to let you tell me when we do it, but it's happening. So when you want to do it, now, after practice? Do you want to come to my house, or should I come to yours? So just tell me when you want to do it." Now, here's what happened. The Pentagon made some decisions, and my coach made some decisions, and they isolated a little locker for me, but what was happening is God's God-ness was at play.

Let's look at a biblical example of God's providence from Acts 17:

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the all the face of the earth, having determined the allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling places, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way towards him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for "In him we live and move and have our being"

What you see happening in Paul's phenomenal defense of the gospel in Athens is he's saying that the times and boundaries in which you and I dwell were set by God for the purposes of God. So that men might seek him and find him, though he is not far from any of them, so that God is providentially governing your heart and my heart. Here's what is crazy to think about. There are billions and trillions of details that went into you being in this room right now and our God in his God-ness handled it all. And hear me; he's not tired. He didn't have to huddle up, he didn't lose anybody, and he didn't have to go, Jesus, I thought you were on that. No. Holy Spirit he's saying you were on it. No. He never forgets, is aware of every event and how every event leads to other events, which creates other events that brings about his purposes and his glory. This is God's God-ness in providence.

God's God-ness in Nature

You also see God's God-ness in nature. Right now I know some of you are like, "He already did that." No, I did creation. So let's see the difference between creation and nature. There are certain scientific rules. If you have any kind of integrity you're going to walk in them, but that doesn't mean you want to submit to the God of the Bible. For instance, every scientist would say that cannot get something out of nothing. So you can't have nothing and, bam, a dog. That's impossible. Again, I'm just telling you this is what scientists believe—that you cannot get something out of nothing.

Now here's what happens: people who recognize this universal truth—and creations screams that there was a Creator—but then refuse to submit to the God of the Bible, become a deist. These people would say that there was some kind of force of creation, some kind of spiritual force that made all this, but he is totally impersonal. He is not involved in his creation. He has started the engine, put it on cruise, and now he's just watching what he has created as though watching us would be entertaining.

But as believers in Christ we are not Deists. Let's go to Matthew 8. I'm going to pick it up in verse 23.

And when he got in the boat his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; [Listen to this.] but he was asleep. And they went and work him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing." And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled saying, "What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?"

That's God's God-ness. I've yelled at a storm before, but it never listened to me. Jesus cursed a fig tree, and it died. He told a dead man that he's not allowed to be dead. You know what he did? "Lazarus, get up." "Well, I was dead." "No, get up!" I mean, who's got that kind of power? God flexing his God-ness can tell a dead man he's not allowed to be dead. So God shows his God-ness over the natural order. Although God created and established natural law, he can invade it and break its rules anytime he wants. And he does often. We call these miracles.

God's God-ness Over the Reign of Man

God also shows his God-ness over the reign and rule of man. Let's look at Exodus 5 that shows God breaking natural rules. We'll see God flexing his God-ness over the reign and rule of men. So Moses comes to Pharaoh and says to him, "You need to let God's people go. You need to let the Lord's people go." And then there's an epic showdown where Moses turns Pharaoh's hand to leprosy and then making it clean, making his staff a snake. Unmoved, Pharaoh has his magicians come out. They make their staffs snakes. There's some jawing that goes on. And while that jawing goes on, Moses' snake eats the other two snakes. And here's Pharaoh's response in Exodus 5:2: "But Pharaoh said, 'Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.'"

Now you want to talk about the definition of a fool, look at Pharaoh. He says he doesn't know who the Lord is, but you think he would know the Lord's power after the water turns to blood, or it's dark in the middle of the day? All of a sudden his power is merely junior varsity power, maybe even third string power. Pharaoh says, "Don't you like my palace?" God says, "How about I darken the sun?" "Don't get me wrong," God says, "That is a cute little house. By the way, you used all my stuff to build it." So God shows his God-ness over the reign and rule of man, but Pharaoh is still hardened.

In Exodus 12:30-31 we would later find out that the reason Pharaoh's heart is continually hardened towards the Lord is that God wanted to flex his God-ness over the supremacy of man. So this is the most complex, powerful nation on earth. This is that place that the rest of the world looked and said, "Look at that kind of law, that kind of building, that kind of technology, that kind of system—that's what mankind can accomplish. That's what they can do. That's what they can build." They were patting themselves on the back.

But God will reveal his God-ness over man's paltry supremacy. So in Exodus 12:30-31 we read:

And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, "Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said."

As another example, let's look at Daniel. This is one of the most terrifying passages in the Bible. It's like the last three chapters of Job when God really shows up and finally answers Job. This passage has a similar weighty impact. Let's start with Daniel 4:28:

All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. And at the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?" While the words were still in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, "O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know [Two things: Know.] that the Most High rules the kingdom of men [second thing] and gives it to whom he will." Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws.

"Is this not what I have built a house for my majesty, a place for my glory?" Notice that God says it was his majesty that did this. So this is what's hard for people who don't understand the God of the Bible. Nebbie's not a godly man. He doesn't fear the Lord. That doesn't mean God didn't give him his reign and rule. In fact, here's something to think about. I try to tell Village that we have a ton of people that come to our church who aren't believers, just kind of skeptics. I love that they're there. But no one has a choice about whether or not they'll glorify God. No one. If you're here, you're glorifying God. You're going to do it as a trophy of the grace of God, or you're going to do it by being justly and rightly judged by his justice. But even the most hardened man in the world, shaking his fist at God, is simply bringing glory to God via his judgment, because God is a good, just Judge. He judges fairly and rightly for those who have rebelled against him. The same is true for leaders. God made Nebbie king, and then Nebuchadnezzar wants to say, "Look what I've done." And God tells him, "No, no. I did it. Let me show you." Then he turns him into some kind of animal. This is like a beauty and the beast story, but King Nebuchadnezzar is the beast.

You've got all these illustrations in history where men thought they were gods. Napoleon is one of my favorites. Little man, conquered Europe and then set his sight on Russia. Conquering Russia meant that the whole continent would be theirs. A man told Napoleon, "Man proposes but God disposes." Napoleon's response was "I am he that proposes and disposes." That entire army was wiped out in the snow banks of Russia. God used snow to kill that army. You know how small snow is? The most well-trained, equipped, ready to roll army that the world had seen up to that point died in ditches in Russia because of snow.

God's God-ness Over Satan

Another place where God flexes his God-ness is over Satan and the demons. Hollywood movies always make it look like God and goodness can barely triumph over Satan and the powers of darkness. But that's not the way things look in the Bible. In the Book of Job, for instance, the devil has to ask permission. Even when God gives him a little bit of permission there's a leash on it. "All that's in his hand you can take, but don't touch him." I love in Luke the dialogue between Jesus and Peter where Jesus says, "Satan has asked me to sift you like wheat." "Do you remember Jesus' response? "But I have prayed for you." But did you see what happened? "Satan has asked me to sift you." So there's no dualism here. There's no equally aligned forces at battle. In fact, you know how Armageddon ends? Jesus shows up and says, "I Am." Boom. Over." That's how it ends. It's not like a seven month long battle where the winner is up for grabs. Jesus shows up, with a sword coming out of his mouth says "I Am" and it's over. All the enemies of God are wiped out with two words, and they're not even complex words. Not even a lot of syllables there. "I Am." It's over.

So you need to hear this. Even when the Lord allows the enemy to play, the enemy's game simply serves the purposes of God. Here's another example: Paul says, "It was given to me by God an evil spirit to torment me, a thorn in the flesh that I might not boast in my exceedingly great revelation." So ultimately there are demonic forces wanting to hinder Paul and the work of Paul. In fact, again, if we kept going in Acts 16 and 17 you would see that the demons had actually heard of Paul. When the seven sons of Sceva try to drive out the demon, you remember the response? "I know Jesus Christ and I've heard of Paul, but who are you?" I've heard of Paul? May we have the type of ministries where they're like, Oh yeah, I heard of that guy. Yeah, I heard of him. God allows Satan to torment Paul, a thorn in the flesh. What does that do? It makes Paul all the more reliant upon God, which makes him all the more powerful in ministry unto God. All of Satan's efforts merely make Paul a holy pawn in the hand of our great God and King.

Pointing to God's God-ness

Let me tell you why it's such good news to start paying attention to God's God-ness. I think one of the problems that our people have in walking in holiness with transformed lives is that they don't really believe that God is accomplishing what God said he would accomplish. And that stems from the fact that they don't get God's God-ness. If you get God's God-ness, if you get that this is who God is, that God is holy in his power, holy in his presence, holy in his wisdom and knowledge, then when God says in Romans 8 that he will conform us to the image of his Son, you can really believe it. Or when it says in Ephesians 1 that he's going to make us holy and blameless in his sight, you can believe it if you believe that God is really God.

So here's where preaching goes bad. Preaching goes bad when we as the preachers aren't continually saying, "Look how big he is; look how able he is; look how mighty he is." It goes bad when instead we're just saying, "Quit sleeping around; quite doing drugs; quit doing … " So, now don't get me wrong. I think God has given us the law to lead us into life as he designed it to be where the fullness of joy exists in complete obedience to God Almighty. But people can't get there without God's God-ness. They can't get there if you're putting a weight on them that is crushing. They'll be forced to pretend or to give up.

Let me give you two texts that back up this truth. First, in 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul says, "We are all with unveiled faces beholding … " So we believe we are beholding the Lord. We are looking at Jesus. We are looking at God's God-ness. We are transformed from one degree of glory to the next. So how are we transformed into the image of Jesus? By beholding God's God-ness in Jesus. So you're not transformed when you try harder. You're transformed when Jesus is so lovely that you'd rather have him than anything else in the world.

Secondly, consider Hebrews 12:1-2—"And let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us … " What? " … fix … " Run with perseverance, a race marked out for us, fixing " … our eyes on … " who? Because he's " … the Author … " and the what? "Perfecter," finisher "of our faith." So that Jesus Christ doesn't just save you, but he sanctifies you. He's not the front door that you walk through, but he's the whole deal.

If we want holy people in your churches, in the workplace, and all around us to be transformed and be like Jesus, then we as preachers must perpetually point to God's God-ness. We must always circle back around to what God has accomplished and what God has done, because we all stink at living holy lives. We need an alien righteousness that is much better than our own.

One of our biggest problems is that we don't stand in awe of God. If we really did it would be a little scary, because the definition of majesty is an imposing grandeur. It involves a twinge in our guy that says, "I don't want to take my eyes off of this, but if this goes bad I could die." But you want to talk about imposing grandeur, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, whom for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame. We must constantly point people to what God has done.

Then trust that in the preaching of the gospel and in pointing to the finished work of Christ, God will transform the lives of people. Well, don't we need to at least threaten them with the law? Well, Jesus is the fulfillment of that law. If they trust in him there's no threat left. Hebrews says he disciplines those he loves. He scourges all those he calls sons. But I don't think that the primary motive that God wants out of us for obedience is fear of discipline. I think even Hebrews 12 is an evidence of the mercy of God. And you know how I know this? I have three children.

We have several rules in my house: Have fun, Be safe, and Show respect. So rule number one is this: Have fun. So we play a lot in my house. We laugh a lot. I've got a nine-year-old, a six-year-old, and a three-year-old. I'm saving my "No." I know they're coming, but I don't want to use them up all now. When I use them I want to be able to go, "Does daddy like to say no? So why do you think daddy is saying no here? Does daddy like to have fun? Does daddy like to laugh? Does daddy like to play? Then why do you think daddy is saying no here? Could it be that when all is said and done what you want isn't going to end up being the fun that you think it's going to be?" I want my daughters and my son to be motivated at their daddy's gladness in them to be obedient to daddy. But where they don't want that, I love them enough to do it another way.

I don't know how your kids work, but I doubt they've walked up and said, Father, I'm feeling as though I'm not protected and love. Will you please whack me a couple of times? Instead, I tell my kids something like this: "If you do that again, I will have no choice. You've already violated rule three. I'm trying to be gracious here. I'm simply warning you that if you do that again, I'm going to punish you. I don't want that. I know you don't want that." I want them to feel secure in my love for them to know that I am for them and I am for their joy.

I'm not talking about happiness. I say this all the time. Happiness is cheap. It can be taken from you in a second. Happiness is tethered to life and your life experiences. But joy doesn't work like that at all. Joy transcends our experiences. It doesn't matter if everything is going right or everything is going wrong. If we're built where we're supposed to be built, we're unshakable people.

Serve your people well by pointing them to the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who has paid the bill in full and continue to preach that gospel over and over again. When the saints gather, we are reminded of salvation and I need to be reminded that salvation is from the Lord. I need to be reminded of the fact that even my good days outside of Jesus Christ is an offense. Everybody thinks we need Jesus on our bad days. That's not an offense. But the Bible goes farther than that, doesn't it. What does the prophet Isaiah say? That all your righteous acts are what? "Filthy rags." So when you're nailing it, you get up, you do everything you're supposed to do and you don't do the things you're not supposed to do, you're still wicked. Because your righteousness is as filthy rags. You at your best still falls woefully short.

So "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." We like to ascribe giant sins to that verse. Oh, you've fallen short of the glory of God because you sleep around or you're on drugs or you're a murderer or you're …. No, no, no. You just are. That's Ephesians 2, isn't it? You are by your nature an object of God's wrath? Here's what you did. "I was brought forth in iniquity. Surely from my mother's womb." You were in trouble when the doctor spanked your bottom. That first breath of air, you were an object of God's wrath. You need a Savior. Your people need a Savior. I need a Savior.

Here's what I learned during my battle with cancer: It was God's God-ness to let me walk through that. We didn't do anything. We prayed a lot and cried a lot and put one foot in front of the next believing that God is God even over that experience. And if it was a work of the enemy, we trusted that God would crush his neck. And if it was God's will to call me home early, then that's just more heaven for me. But that's the kind of stuff that's birthed out of God's God-ness. That's not birthed out of clean yourself up and be nicer looking. That just puts chains on your people. You should not struggle to marvel at the God of the Bible. Page after page after page it's unbelievable.

I wonder where your heart is. Because what ends up happening is the pastor's self-watch is usually the first thing to go. Are you in awe? Do you have a sense of Wow? He's letting me say these things about him? Isaiah is a bit godlier than I am, I believe, and he fell on the ground like a dead man, "Woe is me." John, friend of Jesus, the disciple who Jesus loved, sees an angel and falls on the ground like a dead man. Are you in awe and overwhelmed at God's God-ness? Are you stirred with the bold confidence of knowing that God's purposes cannot be thwarted? That what God desires God brings about? That our universe is not dualistic? There's not a force at odds with the God of the universe. There's a speed bump, but he already handled that at Calvary. So now you walk in the power made available to you by the gospel and gift of the Holy Spirit.

Matt Chandler serves as Lead Pastor of Teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and serves as president of Acts 29, a worldwide church-planting organization.

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The God Who Shines Like the Sun

Life-giving light comes from God, and we must live in light of that reality.
Sermon Outline:


I. God's God-ness

II. God's God-ness in Creation

III. God's God-ness in Providence

IV. God's God-ness in Nature

V. God's God-ness Over the Reign of Man

VI. God's God-ness Over Satan

VII. Pointing to God's God-ness