June 21, 2017

Discerning God's Master Plan in an Age of Deception

What is God's Master Plan and the Main Purpose for Existence?

This question is especially important today because institutional churches are increasingly shifting towards more progressive and humanistic ideas of doctrine that run far afield of what the Bible clearly teaches, all based upon a flagrant disregard for the authority of God's word and the whole counsel of God in the body of scripture. The following summary Bible verses briefly outline the core essence and focus of God's ultimate plan and purpose:

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11 KJV)

"For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen." (Romans 11:36 NLT).

According to the preceding verses, the central and highest meaning and purpose of all existence is to fulfill God's perfect will and to give God maximum glory. Only God is worthy of all praise and glory because God is perfectly good and eternally good. God's eternal and unchanging good nature is the objective basis and solid foundation of ethics and morality. Existence ultimately has a theistic-centered meaning and purpose, not mainly a humanistic-centered meaning and purpose. One of the reasons that Christian teachers get sidetracked with humanistic teachings is because they take a one good thing, such as pleasure or prosperity, and elevate it to a priority or goal of existence inordinately above its rightful position of importance, and in doing so deny the fullness of God's will and the fullness of God's glory. Also, verses such as Revelation 4:11 in the King James Version are often misinterpreted to propose that God is a hedonist. But the phrase "for thy pleasure they are and were created" does not refer to feelings, rather, it refers to God's will. All things were created for God's purposes. C. W. Booth uses Psalm 135 in his article "Is God a Hedonist?" to underscore the correct interpretation.
The purpose of creation in the deepest sense is simply to glorify God, for God's sake. 
Next, consider that God's greatest purpose is exemplified in God's greatest command. Of the Ten Commandments, the first and foremost one exonerates humanity not to worship or prioritize anything else but God as the central focus: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:1-3).
Jesus clarified the greatest commandment as follows: “Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”(Matthew 22:37-40). The main purpose of creation is to glorify God with maximum glory, which is the essence of the first and greatest command, to love and worship the person of God above all else.

God's greatest purpose for creation is exemplified in God's greatest command given to humanity.

If we idolize any aspect of God's creation, or any benefit of knowing God, then we are not only missing God's central purpose, we are also disobeying the greatest command of God. If you notice, both the greatest and second greatest commands, according to Jesus, are both others-focused. This is not by accident, but is simply a reflection of God's dynamic glory, the focal point of all that exists. God's good nature and glory were highlighted at the cross, the focal point of all human history.

The work of the cross displays the essence of God's nature and glory, in showing grace and mercy to others, so as to reestablish relationship with God.

When Moses asked to see God's glory, the account is summarized in that God revealed his overwhelming good nature to Moses, such that Moses' face glowed for days afterwords. In short, God's glory is based on God's revealed active good nature, based on showing good towards others, as described:

"And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." (Exodus 33:19 NIV)

Jesus described the significance of abiding in God's presence in John 15, where he said: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 NIV). To abide in God is a beautiful privilege with a powerful promise, that this will bear fruit to God's glory. The center of purpose is simply abiding in Christ and partnering in what Christ will do through us.

Our highest purpose is not merely getting some benefit from God, but is in abiding in relationship with God, which results in maximum glory to God. 

When we take a closer look at what the Bible says about God's nature, holiness is emphasized as a quality of utmost importance. As a basis of sound scriptural doctrine, Revelation's, "holy,holy,holy" of God's nature is emphasized rather than, say, Duck Dynasty's "happy, happy, happy," for a reason. In scripture, there are double knocks, such as "truly, truly," -when Jesus is about to say something pretty important. But in scripture there is only one triple knock, one triple repetition, and that is because the nature of God's holiness is being emphasized as the preeminent focus of God's multifaceted nature:

"Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” – Revelation 4:8 (NIV)

Happiness is a good thing, and we will indeed experience this now and in heaven, but as a divine characteristic and priority, a desire for constant bliss and happiness is more in keeping with a smiling Buddha statue rather than a sound and comprehensive view of Christian doctrine. Many Christian teachers today avoid words such as "sin," and "holiness" because they claim that these are "negative" subjects. But the reality is that mankind has a sinful fallen nature and needs genuine repentance, forgiveness of sin, and God's imparted righteousness, all so that we can abide closely in relationship with God. Repentance, turning to God, and seeking to obey God in life, are ways that we show love for God, according to Jesus, with the understanding that this enables a closer relationship with God. If we love Jesus, then obeying his commands is a privilege, not a burden: "If you love me, keep my commands." (John 14.15 NIV)

Sin, the cross, and sharing the gospel are subjects related to God's plan of redemption for humanity, all for the purpose of re-establishing relationship between us and the one true and holy God. 

Seeking our own personal satisfaction rather than God's main plan and purpose is more in keeping with New Age type teachings and secular-humanist philosophy. The definition of the gospel is summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, and begins with a tone of urgency: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance" and then Paul simply outlines the material facts that Christ Died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead the third day to appear to many people. The Great Commission described at the close of the Gospel of Matthew is essentially a command and mandate to share the gospel and teach accurate doctrine through discipleship, as should be continued and passed down through future generations.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).

A part of teaching a disciple to, "obey everything" that Christ has taught requires teaching the disciple how to test for accurate doctrine. Paul advised to, "test all things" as the Amplified translation highlights: "But test [a]all things carefully [so you can recognize what is good]. Hold firmly to that which is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21 AMP). Paul commended the Bereans for testing doctrine (Acts 17:11). Using critical thinking is in keeping with testing doctrine and applying our hearts to wisdom (Psalm 90:12). It is very important that we are good stewards of the logic and wisdom that God has given us in order to accurately discern how we can most glorify God with our lives.  

Testing doctrine is not disrespectful, it's biblical, it's commended in scripture, and is a sign of maturity. 

An Example of a False Humanistic Doctrine and Purpose
There is a tide of poorly supported humanist doctrine in our day. While there are more obvious examples of false doctrine found in teachers such as Joel Osteen, whose views of Christianity are so broad and ambiguous that he believes Mormons are Christians, there are also others closer to true doctrine that are still off the mark. One of the more misleading humanistic claims is that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, and this should probably be addressed. This statement implies that God's greatest glory is found mainly in our personal satisfaction, and is simply not supported by the whole of scripture. A more accurate statement would be: "God is most glorified in us when we most fully reflect the whole will of God." It is easy to show why this is so. The hedonistic position is mainly based on the shorter Westminster Catechism, as derived from Psalm 16:11:

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (KJV)

1. The main conclusion of Christian Hedonism does not follow logically from the body of scripture, or any one scripture, not even Psalm 16:11. This true statement: “There is a benefit of pleasure found in knowing God,” does not logically lead to this misleading conclusion: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

2. The body of scripture clearly describes many other objective benefits and characteristics of knowing and following God that are necessary in order to give utmost glory to God, and in context these are implied as higher priorities than obtaining subjective personal pleasure in God.

A. Jesus explicitly stated that discipleship and bearing spiritual fruit by abiding in Christ gives glory to God, referring to sharing the gospel and the advancement of God's kingdom in John 15:8: “This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (NIV).

B. Jesus explicitly stated, "If you love me, keep my commands." (John 14:15 NIV), implying that a desire to obey God's expressed will gives glory to God. The author of Christian Hedonism in his summary actually manufactures a command that does not exist, “...we should pursue happiness, and pursue it with all our might." -as a substitute for a true and valid command: "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'" (Matthew 22.37 NIV).

C. Loving others is described as a necessary priority: “And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:47-48). “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35 NIV)

D. Seeking knowledge of God and wisdom in God are described as imperatives in scripture: “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4.7 NIV). “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18 NIV). Obviously, the full spectrum of our relationship with God is of more value than seeking mere pleasure in God.

E. Partnering with God in our sanctification is a top and necessary priority and a command of God: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

F. Learning to have our minds as Christians governed by the Holy Spirit and also walking in the Holy Spirit are both necessary priorities in scripture: "The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace." (Romans 8:6 NIV, and see Galatians 5:16). We cannot truly glorify God in worship if it is not both based on truth and is experienced in the spirit of God: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24 KJV).

A love for the truth and a desire for God's greatest pleasure and highest glory have been replaced mainly with a love for personal pleasure in much of today's humanistic doctrines. When I had asked John Piper what scriptural basis there was to claim that our pleasure in God gives the most glory to God, he changed the subject. Piper's five central claims in his Christian Hedonism summary are not accurate and are simply not supported by the body of scripture. Piper described how he based his new doctrine on commentary, and then basically cherry-picked scripture to try to proof-text his position, all based upon a false dichotomy of his own making,

Because many specific quotes of Piper require the seeking of one gift of God's pleasure above all other equal or greater aspects, this flies in the face of the body of scripture and even specific commands of God, and should in the least be clarified. There are scriptural warnings that in in the last days teachers will focus on pleasing thoughts that entice listeners' "itching ears" with self-centered false doctrines (2 Tim. 4.3), and Piper's Christian Humanism appears to be one of these: 

"For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2 Timothy 2:3 NIV)

In an age of massive deception, ignorance is not an option.

When taken to its logical ends, the ignoring of the body of scripture in favor of personal pleasure has led to significant abuses, such as the support of LGBT clergy in mainline protestant churches. The New Testament explicitly condemns same sex attraction as a sin, but progressive-hedonistic theology is somehow considered more valid than accurate scriptural theology today:

"Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men." (1 Corinthians 6:9 NIV)

God desires for us all to know his main purpose, to live out his main purpose, and to accurately teach it to others in love.

Three Questions Test if a Teaching is Mostly Humanistic:

1. If the the words "sin" and "holiness" are rarely used, then the doctrine is most likely humanistic.

2. If the main focus is overwhelmingly on our personal benefits from God, rather than in keeping with the greatest commands of Christ to love God and to love our neighbors, then the doctrine is most likely humanistic.

3. If the main focus is overwhelmingly on our own personal satisfaction, rather than pleasing God and obeying God's highest will and comprehensive will, all based on cherry-picking scripture, then the doctrine is most likely humanistic.

The Bible advocates that we need to be all the more careful and wise in the end times as Christians. For more analysis of the errors in Piper's humanistic Christian Hedonism, C. W. Booth at his website offers a review of Piper's work, and Tom Pittman offers a detailed critique on this as well. Seasoned Christian ministers also outline inaccuracies in Amazon reviews. Moving on, following is a list of some of the more specific questions and scripture references that outline God's main plan and purpose:
I. Some Basic Questions on God's Plans for Heaven and Earth:

A. What is God's Master Plan for the Earth?
B. What is God's master plan for Humanity?
C. How is God's Eternal Plan Unique from Other Temporal Plans?

II. List of Basic Aspects of God's Master Plan:

A. Jesus' Great Commission to share the gospel and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
B. Spiritual redemption. (Psalm 49:15, John 3:16, Ephesians 1:7-10, Colossians 1:13-14).
C. The ultimate and complete sanctification of true believers (1 Corinthians 15:52, Revelation 7:14).
D. Spiritual judgement (Ecclesiastes 12:14, John 3:18, Romans 14:12, Hebrews 9:27, Matthew 12:36-37).
E. The forming of a new heaven and a new earth (2. Pet. 3:10-13, Revelation 21.1).
F. The conquest of evil (Revelation 20:2-10).
G. Justice dispensed at the final judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
H. A new heaven and a new earth prepared (Revelation 21:1-4).
I. The establishment of Holy New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9).
J. Earth filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord (Revelation 21:23-24, Numbers 14:21, Habakkuk 2:14).
K. The gathering together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth (Ephesians 1:10), and to put all things under the authority of Christ (Ephesians 1.22).
L. For God's people to experience the benefits of life, joy and pleasure in God's presence for eternity. (Psalm 16:11).
M. God as the highest good is the focus of worship and glory for all eternity (Revelation 4:11).

I have intentionally left out many details of God's plan for his creation because the main purpose of this article is to show the central and main purpose of God's plan. If you disagree with anything written, I encourage you to comment or to write your own article in rebuttal, and I would be interested in exchanging ideas reviewing your points.


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