HOW CAN I LEARN TO TRUST IN GOD?

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We cannot trust someone we don’t know, and that is the secret of learning to trust God. When someone says, “Trust me,” we have one of two reactions. Either we can say, “Yes, I’ll trust you,” or we can say, “Why should I?” In God’s case, trusting Him naturally follows when we understand why we should.

The main reason we should trust God is that He is worthy of our trust. Unlike men, He never lies and never fails to fulfill His promises. “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19Psalm 89:34). Unlike men, He has the power to bring to pass what He plans and purposes to do. Isaiah 14:24 tells us, “The LORD Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.’” Furthermore, His plans are perfect, holy, and righteous, and He works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His holy purpose (Romans 8:28). If we endeavor to know God through His Word, we will see that He is worthy of our trust, and our trust in Him will grow daily. To know Him is to trust Him.

We can learn to trust God as we see how He has proven Himself to be trustworthy in our lives and the lives of others. In 1 Kings 8:56 we read, “Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.” The record of God’s promises is there in His Word for all to see, as is the record of their fulfillment. Historical documents verify those events and speak of God’s faithfulness to His people. Every Christian can give personal testimony to God’s trustworthiness as we see His work in our lives, fulfilling His promises to save our souls and use us for His purposes (Ephesians 2:8-10) and comfort us with the peace that passes all understanding as we run the race He has planned out for us (Philippians 4:6-7Hebrews 12:1). The more we experience His grace, faithfulness, and goodness, the more we trust Him (Psalm 100:5Isaiah 25:1).

A third reason to trust God is that we really have no sensible alternative. Should we trust in ourselves or in others who are sinful, unpredictable, unreliable, have limited wisdom, and who frequently make bad choices and decisions swayed by emotion? Or do we trust in the all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, gracious, merciful, loving God who has good intentions for us? The choice should be obvious, but we fail to trust God because we don’t know Him. As already stated, we cannot hope to trust in someone who is essentially a stranger to us, but that is easily remedied. God has not made Himself difficult to find or know. All we need to know about God, He has graciously made available to us in the Bible, His holy Word to His people. To know God is to trust Him.

Prophet Nathan Emol

DOES GOD CHANGE HIS MIND?

 

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Malachi 3:6 declares, “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” Similarly, James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Numbers 23:19 is clear: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?” Based on these verses, no, God does not change. God is unchanging and unchangeable. He is also all-wise. So He cannot “change His mind” in the sense of realizing a mistake, backtracking, and trying a new tack.

How then do we explain verses that seem to say that God does change His mind? Verses such as Genesis 6:6, “The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.” Also, Exodus 32:14 proclaims, “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.” These verses speak of the Lord “repenting” or “relenting” of something and seem to contradict the doctrine of God’s immutability.

Another passage that is often used to show that God changes His mind is the story of Jonah. Through His prophet, God had told Nineveh He would destroy the city in forty days (Jonah 3:4). However, Nineveh repented of their sin (verses 5–9). In response to the Assyrians’ repentance, God relented: “He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened” (verse 10).

There are two important considerations involving the passages that say God changed His mind. First, we can say statements such as “the LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth” (Genesis 6:6) are examples of anthropopathism (or anthropopatheia). Anthropopathism is a figure of speech in which the feelings or thought processes of finite humanity are ascribed to the infinite God. It’s a way to help us understand God’s work from a human perspective. In Genesis 6:6 specifically, we understand God’s sorrow over man’s sin. God obviously did not reverse His decision to create man. The fact that we are alive today is proof that God did not “change His mind” about the creation.

Second, we must make a distinction between conditional declarations of God and unconditional determinations of God. In other words, when God said, “I will destroy Nineveh in forty days,” He was speaking conditionally upon the Assyrians’ response. We know this because the Assyrians repented and God did not, in fact, mete out the judgment. God did not change His mind; rather, His message to Nineveh was a warning meant to provoke repentance, and His warning was successful.

An example of an unconditional declaration of God is the Lord’s promise to David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). There is no qualification expressed or implied in this declaration. No matter what David did or did not do, the word of the Lord would come to pass.

God tells us of the cautionary nature of some of His declarations and the fact that He will act in accordance with our choices: “If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions’” (Jeremiah 18:7– 11). Note the conditional word if: “If that nation I warned repents [like Assyria in Jonah 3] . . . then I will relent.” Conversely, God may tell a nation they will be blessed, but “if it does evil in my sight [like Israel in Micah 1] . . . then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do.”

The bottom line is that God is entirely consistent. In His holiness, God was going to judge Nineveh. However, Nineveh repented and changed its ways. As a result, God, in His holiness, had mercy on Nineveh and spared them. This “change of mind” is entirely consistent with His character. His holiness did not waver one iota.

The fact that God changes His treatment of us in response to our choices has nothing to do with His character. In fact, because God does not change, He must treat the righteous differently from the unrighteous. If someone repents, God consistently forgives; if someone refuses to repent, God consistently judges. He is unchanging in His nature, His plan, and His being. He cannot one day be pleased with the contrite and the next day be angry with the contrite. That would show Him to be mutable and untrustworthy. For God to tell Nineveh, “I’m going to judge you,” and then (after they repent) refuse to judge them may look like God changed His mind. In reality, God was simply staying true to His character. He loves mercy and forgives the penitent. “Has God forgotten to be merciful?” (Psalm 77:9). The answer is, no.

At one time we were all enemies of God due to our sin (Romans 8:7). God warned us of the wages of sin (Romans 6:23) in order to cause us to repent. When we repented and trusted Christ for salvation, God “changed His mind” about us, and now we are no longer enemies but His beloved children (John 1:12). As it would be contrary to God’s character to not punish us had we continued in sin, so it would be contrary to His character to punish us after we repent. Does our change of heart mean that God changes? No, if anything, our salvation points to the fact that God does not change, because had He not saved us for the sake of Christ, He would have acted contrary to His character.

Prophet Nathan Emol

CAN GOD LIE?

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God is holy (Isaiah 6:3), and that quality makes it impossible for Him to lie. The holiness of God is His moral and ethical perfection, His absolute integrity that sets Him apart from all His creatures. God’s holiness is thus related to His transcendence. God does not conform to any standard of purity; He is the standard. God is absolutely holy with an infinite purity incapable of being changed. Because of His holiness, when God speaks, He will not and cannot lie. He never deceives; He never distorts or misrepresents what He says or does. Lying is against His nature.

Because God cannot lie, God’s Word, the Bible, is completely trustworthy (1 Kings 8:56; Psalm 119:160). “Every word of God is flawless” (Proverbs 30:5). God’s character and the communications that proceed from His character are purer than anything this world can produce: “The words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6).

The basis of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 was God’s own unchanging nature; that is, God’s rock-solid attribute of truth makes everything He says utterly trustworthy: “Since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants’” (Hebrews 6:13-14). The text continues with the statement that “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18).

If God could lie, He would not be transcendent; in fact, He would be just like us—humanity has a reputation for hiding, misrepresenting, and distorting truth. But “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19).

From the very beginning, God has rewarded faith in Him (Genesis 15:6; Hebrews 11:6). Faith, or trust, can only be a good thing if its object is worthy of trust. Faith in an unreliable person or thing is a disadvantage. If God could lie, then His words would be suspect, and He would be unworthy of our trust. But, as it is, He is wholly dependable: “The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy” (Psalm 111:7).

Jesus, who is “in very nature God” (Philippians 2:6), is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Everything Jesus said and taught was the absolute truth. Everything He did reflected the truth. People such as Pilate will always be confused by the truth (John 18:38), but Jesus came “to testify to the truth” (verse 37). Jesus is, in fact, the Truth itself (John 14:6). Jesus cannot lie because God cannot lie, “and everyone who belongs to the truth knows [Jesus’] voice” (John 18:37, CEV).

God, who cannot lie, is of transcendent moral purity. He wants moral purity in His children as well. God cannot lie, and the followers of Christ should not lie: “Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25). “With whom does God dwell?” the psalmist asks. The answer, in part, is that God dwells with “the one . . . who speaks the truth from their heart” (Psalm 15:2). May we love the truth as God does.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHY IS IDOL WORSHIPING SUCH A POWERFUL TEMPTATION:

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Ultimately, the answer to this question is “sin.” It is the sin nature of man that causes us to worship modern idols, all of which are, in reality, forms of self-worship. The temptation to worship ourselves in various ways is a powerful temptation indeed. In fact, it is so powerful that only those who belong to Christ and have the Holy Spirit within them can possibly hope to resist the temptation of modern idolatry. Even then, resisting the worship of idols is a lifelong battle that is part of the Christian life (Ephesians 6:11; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3).

When we hear the word idol, we often think of statues and objects reminiscent of those worshipped by pagans in ancient cultures. However, the idols of the 21st century often bear no resemblance to the artifacts used thousands of years ago. Today, many have replaced the “golden calf” with an insatiable drive for money or prestige or “success” in the eyes of the world. Some pursue the high regard of others as their ultimate goal. Some seek after comfort or a myriad of other passionate, yet empty, pursuits. Sadly, our societies often admire those serving such idols. In the end, however, it doesn’t matter what empty pleasure we chase after or what idol or which false god we bow down to; the result is the same—separation from the one true God.

Understanding contemporary idols can help us to understand why they prove to be such a powerful temptation. An idol can be anything we place ahead of God in our lives, anything that takes God’s place in our hearts, such as possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/drugs/gambling/pornography, etc. Some of the things we idolize are clearly sinful. But many of the things we idolize can be very good, such as relationships or careers. Yet Scripture tells us that, whatever we do, we are to “do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) and that we are to serve God only (Deuteronomy 6:13; Luke 16:13). Unfortunately, God is often shoved out of the way as we zealously pursue our idols. Worse yet, the significant amount of time we often spend in these idolatrous pursuits leaves us with little or no time to spend with the Lord.

We sometimes also turn to idols seeking solace from the hardships of life and the turmoil present in our world. Addictive behaviors such as drug or alcohol use, or even something like excessive reading or television viewing, may be used as a means of temporarily “escaping” a difficult situation or the rigors of daily life. The psalmist, however, tells us that those who place their trust in this behavior will, essentially, become spiritually useless (Psalm 115:8). We need to place our trust in the Lord “who will keep [us] from all harm” (Psalm 121:7) and who has promised to supply all of our needs when we trust in Him. We also need to remember the words of Paul, who teaches us not to be anxious about anything, but rather to pray about everything so the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, can guard our hearts and our minds (Philippians 4:6–7).

There is another form of idolatry prevalent today. Its growth is fostered by cultures that continue to drift away from sound biblical teaching, just as the apostle Paul warned us, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3). In these pluralistic, liberal times, many cultures have, to a large degree, redefined God. We have forsaken the God revealed to us in Scripture and have recast Him to comply with our own inclinations and desires—a “kinder and gentler” god who is infinitely more tolerant than the One revealed in Scripture. One who is less demanding and less judgmental and who will tolerate many lifestyles without placing guilt on anyone’s shoulders. As this idolatry is propagated by churches around the world, many congregants believe they are worshipping the one, true God. However, these made-over gods are created by man, and to worship them is to worship idols. Worshipping a god of one’s own making is particularly tempting for many whose habits and lifestyles and drives and desires are not in harmony with Scripture.

The things of this world will never fully satisfy the human heart. They were never meant to. The sinful things deceive us and ultimately lead only to death (Romans 6:23). The good things of this world are gifts from God, meant to be enjoyed with a thankful heart, in submission to Him and for His glory. But when the gift replaces the Giver or the created replaces the Creator in our lives, we have fallen into idolatry. And no idol can infuse our lives with meaning or worth or give us eternal hope. As Solomon beautifully conveys in the book of Ecclesiastes, apart from a right relationship with God, life is futile. We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and designed to worship and glorify Him as He alone is worthy of our worship. God has placed “eternity in man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to fulfill this longing for eternal life. All of our idolatrous pursuits will leave us empty, unsatisfied, and, ultimately, on the broad road that most people take, the one that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHY DID JUDAS BETRAY JESUS?

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While we cannot be absolutely certain why Judas betrayed Jesus, some things are certain. First, although Judas was chosen to be one of the Twelve (John 6:64), all scriptural evidence points to the fact that he never believed Jesus to be God. He even may not have been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah (as Judas understood it). Unlike the other disciples that called Jesus “Lord,” Judas never used this title for Jesus and instead called him “Rabbi,” which acknowledged Jesus as nothing more than a teacher. While other disciples at times made great professions of faith and loyalty (John 6:68; 11:16), Judas never did so and appears to have remained silent. This lack of faith in Jesus is the foundation for all other considerations listed below. The same holds true for us. If we fail to recognize Jesus as God incarnate, and therefore the only One who can provide forgiveness for our sins—and the eternal salvation that comes with it—we will be subject to numerous other problems that stem from a wrong view of God.

Second, Judas not only lacked faith in Christ, but he also had little or no personal relationship with Jesus. When the synoptic gospels list the Twelve, they are always listed in the same general order with slight variations (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16). The general order is believed to indicate the relative closeness of their personal relationship with Jesus. Despite the variations, Peter and the brothers James and John are always listed first, which is consistent with their relationships with Jesus. Judas is always listed last, which may indicate his relative lack of a personal relationship with Christ. Additionally, the only documented dialogue between Jesus and Judas involves Judas being rebuked by Jesus after his greed-motivated remark to Mary (John 12:1-8), Judas’ denial of his betrayal (Matthew 26:25), and the betrayal itself (Luke 22:48).
Third, Judas was consumed with greed to the point of betraying the trust of not only Jesus, but also his fellow disciples, as we see in John 12:5-6. Judas may have desired to follow Jesus simply because he saw the great following and believed he could profit from collections taken for the group. The fact that Judas was in charge of the moneybag for the group would indicate his interest in money (John 13:29).

Additionally, Judas, like most people at the time, believed the Messiah was going to overthrow Roman occupation and take a position of power ruling over the nation of Israel. Judas may have followed Jesus hoping to benefit from association with Him as the new reigning political power. No doubt he expected to be among the ruling elite after the revolution. By the time of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus had made it clear that He planned to die, not start a rebellion against Rome. So Judas may have assumed—just as the Pharisees did—that since He would not overthrow the Romans, He must not be the Messiah they were expecting.

There are a few Old Testament verses that point to the betrayal, some more specifically than others. Here are two:

“Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9, see fulfillment in Matthew 26:14, 48-49). Also, “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—the handsome price at which they priced me!’ So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter” (Zechariah 11:12-13; see Matthew 27:3-5 for the fulfillment of the Zechariah prophecy). These Old Testament prophecies indicate that Judas’ betrayal was known to God and that it was sovereignly planned beforehand as the means by which Jesus would be killed.

But if Judas’ betrayal was known to God, did Judas have a choice, and is he held responsible for his part in the betrayal? It is difficult for many to reconcile the concept of “free will” (as most people understand it) with God’s foreknowledge of future events, and this is largely due to our limited experience of going through time in a linear fashion. If we see God as existing outside of time, since He created everything before “time” began, then we can understand that God sees every moment in time as the present. We experience time in a linear way—we see time as a straight line, and we pass from one point gradually to another, remembering the past we have already traveled through, but unable to see the future we are approaching. However, God, being the eternal Creator of the construct of time, is not “in time” or on the timeline, but outside of it. It might help to think of time (in relation to God) as a circle with God being the center and therefore equally close to all points.

In any case, Judas had the full capacity of making his choice—at least up to the point where “Satan entered into him” (John 13:27)—and God’s foreknowledge (John 13:10, 18, 21) in no way supersedes Judas’ ability to make any given choice. Rather, what Judas would choose eventually, God saw as if it was a present observation, and Jesus made it clear that Judas was responsible for his choice and would be held accountable for it. “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me” (Mark 14:18). Notice that Jesus characterizes Judas’ participation as a betrayal. And regarding accountability for this betrayal Jesus said, “Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Mark 14:21). Satan, too, had a part in this, as we see in John 13:26-27, and he, too, will be held accountable for his deeds. God in His wisdom was able, as always, to manipulate even Satan’s rebellion for the benefit of mankind. Satan helped send Jesus to the cross, and on the cross sin and death were defeated, and now God’s provision of salvation is freely available to all who receive Jesus Christ as Savior.

Prophet Nathan Emol