God the Father Almighty
by Jack Wald | September 25th, 2011

Apostles’ Creed

The Amish are a religious sect related to the Mennonites who began to immigrate to the US in the 18th century and settled into farming communities. Today, in the US, there are about 250,000 Amish living in communities that resist the technological developments of the outside world and continue to farm with horses rather than modern tractors. I used to drive in central Pennsylvania and loved seeing their horse and buggies trotting down the road.

In a book I read about these communities, the author observed that in cultures where there is little technological change, the elderly are held in high esteem because they have the wisdom necessary to be successful in life. But in cultures where the rate of technological change is rapid, the elderly are viewed as irrelevant because technology has passed them by.

I have some bad news for those approaching elderly status, rapid technological change is the world we live in today. My grandparents listened to music on a gramophone, invented in 1895. My parents listened to music on electrical cut records invented in 1925 and then vinyl records, invented in 1948. Stereo records came out in 1957 when I was a small boy. Cassettes came out in 1963, CDs in 1982 and now everything is digital. There are no more record stores or movie rental stores. These have been replaced by digital downloading.

The first computer I bought was a Kaypro and had 64k of memory. That was in 1982. Annie and I also bought a computer for our young daughters, a Commodore 64, and it had no memory, only a floppy disk. Now I have a laptop with 500 gigabytes of memory and a backup device with a terabyte of memory, 16.8 million times as much memory as my first computer. And now there is speculation that cloud computing will replace our laptops which become almost obsolete in five or six years anyway.

We live in an age of rapid change. Facebook is valued at 50 – 65 billion dollars US but there is serious speculation that unless it makes the right changes, it could fade away in the next ten years and become an outdated technology like MySpace or AOL. Microsoft once seemed invulnerable but now it is a smaller giant. The rate at which companies rise and fall is dizzying. In order to deal with the race to improve or fade away, Facebook, this past week, again made some changes, stirring up many complaints from users who liked Facebook the way it used to be. If a company stays with what people like at the moment, it risks becoming yesterdays’s newspaper – something else that is fading away.

This rapid change affects our culture and one of the new values of our culture is that it is good to be constantly moving away from what has been toward what is new and improved.

I think this value has infected the church as well. We want to move into new truths, new understandings. To hold on to the truths of our ancestors is viewed as unenlightened. In a new age, we need new truths. “The church made lots of mistakes in the past in its interpretation of the Bible and now we are moving into a more clear and true understanding of what the Bible teaches,” that is the kind of thinking the culture values.

If our Christian faith was a manmade religion, this would be true. Our thinking does evolve over time. We do become more educated over time. We innovate and improve over time. But if what we believe has come from a pre-existing Creator God, then there is an older, deeper truth that does not change over the centuries and millennia and aeons of time. What was true in the beginning of time is true today and not affected by the passage of time. Eternal truth does not give way to temporal changes.

And so we affirm the truths of the Apostles’ Creed. Although it was written 1700 years ago and although a lot has changed in the past seventeen centuries, the truth it contains has not changed. Eternal truth is not affected by the passage of time. As we move through this series of sermons based on the Apostle’s Creed, I trust we will regain our hold on ancient truths.

Last week I talked about I believe in God.  From the beginning of time men and women have been aware that there is a god out there and asked, “Who made this world?” “Who keeps it running?”

There are things we can learn about God from our observation of the world and the more we learn about our natural world, the more we can learn about God. The precision of the mathematics and physics of our universe tells us that God is an intelligent god. The beauty and variety of the species in this world tells us that God is a god who values beauty and uniqueness. The vastness of space and the power of the stars of the universe tells us that God is a god of power and might.

But there are severe limits to what we can know about God from our observation of our world and the universe. We say in the Apostles’ Creed that we believe in God the Father Almighty. How do we know that God is Father and Almighty? How do we know anything specific about God?

We have more than a simple belief that a god must exist because we see evidence of god in creation. We know more than that about God because God has revealed himself to us. We have more than a primitive understanding of God only because God chose to reveal himself to us.

God revealed himself to Abraham and then continued to intervene in the lives of Abraham’s ancestors. God appeared to Moses and led Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. God spoke to us through his prophets and then, in the most clear revelation of himself, he sent Jesus to live among us.

We believe in God Almighty.

Who is God Almighty? This is something the Israelites in Egypt might have asked. After four hundred years, the stories of God and Abraham were ancient history. God brought Israel to Egypt in the stories of Joseph, but that was long, long ago. Now they were slaves and the god of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph did not seem as powerful as Pharaoh and his gods.

Israel and Pharaoh learned of the power of God in the ten plagues that finally set Israel free. They saw the power of God when they crossed the Red Sea and were rescued from Pharaoh’s advancing army. They saw the power of God who brought water out of a stone and provided them with manna and quail. They saw the power of God who led them in a cloud by day and fire by night. They saw the power of God when Moses received the law at Mt. Sinai. And what did they think about the power of God?

They experienced first hand what the writer of Psalm 97 later wrote. (Psalm 97:1–6)
The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him
and burns up his adversaries all around.
4 His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

Israel experienced what the Sons of Korah later wrote in Psalm 46:6
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The power of God was part of the family history of the Sons of Korah. Numbers 16 tells of the rebellion of Korah and some others who challenged the leadership of Moses. In God’s judgment against Korah and the others with him, the earth opened up and they were swallowed by the ground beneath them. Then fire consumed the ones who had been holding the incense burners for Korah and the others.

The next day the people grumbled against Moses and Aaron: (Numbers 16:41)
“You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said.

God responded to their grumbling by sending a plague and 14,700 people died before Aaron could make atonement for them.

There was dissension about who would be the priests for Israel. It was a battle for power and so God instructed Moses to have the leader of each tribe bring a staff to the tabernacle to see which tribe God would choose to be his priests. The staff of Levi was chosen when it budded, blossomed and produced almonds overnight. How did Israel react? Numbers 17:12–18:1
And the people of Israel said to Moses, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. 13 Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the Lord, shall die. Are we all to perish?”

When you walk next to a giant, there is always the fear that he will step on you.

The Sons of Korah knew from their family history and from the history of Israel that when God utters his voice, the earth melts.

An all-powerful God who knows everything, from whom you cannot hide even the hint of a thought, who is present everywhere, is not necessarily good news. Korah’s family did not think this was good news. The Israelites did not think this was good news. They were terrified of the power of God. Achan did not think this was good news.

Later when Joshua led Israel to victory over Jericho, Achan kept a robe, some silver and gold for himself, knowing that God had said that everything in Jericho was to be destroyed. When Joshua later went to battle against Ai and was defeated, he knew something was wrong and prayed. God told Joshua someone had kept some of the treasure of Jericho for himself and told him how that person would be found. God instructed Joshua to call forward the tribes,  one by one, and the tribe of Judah was selected. Perhaps two stones were in a sack, a black one and a white one. One signified yes and the other no. When the tribe of Judah came forward, the stone said yes. Then the clans of Judah were brought forward, one by one. No, no, no, no and then the clan of Zerahites came forward and the stone said yes. Then the families came forward one by one and when the family of Zimri came forward, the stone said yes. And then man by man, the men of the family of Zimri came forward and when Achan came up the stone said yes and he confessed what he had done. And then Achan and his family were stoned to death.

This is terrifying! God knows everything we do. We cannot hide anything from God.

“Is God on our side?” This is the question Israel asked? They knew God was on the side of Moses but was he on their side? And if it was not certain that God was on their side, then they had good reason for being terrified of him. As I mentioned, when you walk down the street with a giant, you want to be very careful. You never know when he will get irritated and squash you.

Jesus taught that we should fear the power of Almighty God. (Luke 12:4–7)
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

Paul wrote in Romans 5 that before we were reconciled to God by the death of his son, we were God’s enemies.

How did we get to this position, being the enemy of the all-powerful, all-knowing God?

Follow me on this. When God created the world, he created the world to be a place where his creation could live in peace and harmony and in fellowship with himself. The Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, wanted to extend his fellowship to his creation. It is not that God needed any other relationships, but it is part of God’s character to share his joy with others. So mankind was created in his image. It was not God’s intention to create enemies for himself. We were created to be his companions, in intimate relationship with himself.

There is an old hymn that speaks about this life in the Garden of Eden:
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

We were created to be in an intimate relationship with God but in order to have meaningful fellowship, it was necessary that his creation choose to be in relationship with him. A man who creates a robot, to use the analogy of C. S. Lewis, is not satisfied when the robot says complimentary things about him because the robot is only saying what it has been programmed to say.

If there is a particular man you like and you want him to tell you he loves you and want him to say nice, romantic things to you, would you be satisfied with the things he said if you knew he said them only because you had put a microchip in his head that made him say those things? No. You want him to say he loves you because he chooses to love you and feels love for you.

So in order to have meaningful fellowship with his creation, God created in men and women a will free to choose. Each man and each woman could choose to be in relationship with God or choose not to be in relationship with God. Each person could choose to obey God or to disobey God.

In this way, sin entered into the world. Given a choice, we choose ourselves. We choose to make ourselves the center of the universe.

This created a problem. Now it was impossible for God to be in relationship with his creation. It was not simply that his rules had been violated. If it was that simple, God could have written some new rules that were less strict and everything would have been fine. But the nature of God is pure and holy and anything impure and unholy is unable to abide in his presence.

When gold is refined, it is put into the fire and at the very high heat of the fire, the impurities in the gold are burned up, leaving pure gold. Because we choose ourselves, because of our sinful human nature, we are impure and we would be consumed in the presence of God. It is impossible for us to be in God’s presence because we would be destroyed. God can change his rules but he cannot change his character and become impure.

God is all powerful. God is a holy and pure god. And that is a terrifying prospect when you are weak and impure. We were created to be God’s companions, giving him praise, and then because of the exercise of our free-will, we discovered we are God’s enemies, on the path to eternal destruction.

But now the really good news began. God still desired that we be in relationship with himself and so set his plan in motion. The only solution was for us to become pure and since we are incapable of doing this ourselves, God chose to sacrifice himself. God himself would die so we could become pure. God would send Jesus to die for us, to make us pure.

Israel asked if God was on their side and what God did in sending Jesus is the definitive proof that he is indeed on our side. If the giant sacrifices for you, then you know you can trust him. This is why an all-powerful and all-knowing god is good news, because he fights for us. He is on our side. He works for our best interest.

How does Almighty God who works for our best interest affect us?

We can have confidence in him.

We can say with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:17)
‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

Nothing is too difficult for God! For with a word He stills storms, frees captives, comforts the needy, brings order in chaos and light out of darkness. With a touch of His hand He can heal the sick, restore the broken and bring sight to the blind.

It is not up to us to decide what is best for us; we are not God. But God knows what is best for us and has the power to bring the best into our lives. We can trust him in all circumstances.

Secondly, we know God cares for us with great compassion.
Psalm 147:1–5
Praise the Lord!
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.

My sister has been writing a spiritual blog and she pointed out that in this psalm God’s compassion comes before the expression of his power. God is Almighty God but his power and all his resources are directed by his love and tender care of us.

Third, we can have peace with God, even in the midst of chaos and conflict.

Psalm 29:3–11
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

This is a psalm that looks at the incredible power of natural disasters: thunderstorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods, and gives glory to God for this display of his power. But in all of these terrifying events, terrifying for the ones who experience them, notice where the psalm ends:

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

As the flood waters rage, destroying property and lives, the Lord sits enthroned over the flood. The hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes and tsunamis of this world are not beyond his control. God is always in control, even over these terribly destructive events.

11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

God is in control, even in events beyond our control and because of this we can be at peace, even in the midst of a storm.

Fourth, God has mighty power but he is gentle with us.

We are talking of ancient truths that do not change with time. In the 2nd century the Epistle to Diognetus was written. Listen to part of this Epistle.
“Why did God send the Son? To rule as a tyrant, to inspire terror and astonishment? No, he did not. No, he sent him in gentleness and mildness. To be sure, as a king sending his royal son, he sent him as God. But he sent him as to men, as saving and persuading them, and not as exercising force. For force is no attribute of God.”

God has the power to make us worship him but he continues to want us to choose to give him praise. So he invites us and persuades us. He uses the events and circumstances of our lives to encourage us to come toward him. He patiently pursues us, waiting and waiting for us to turn to him. And then as the father of the son in the parable Jesus told, he lifts up his robes and comes running toward us to embrace us and welcome us into his kingdom.

There are some who have difficulty with God as the Father Almighty because of the way they were treated by their earthly fathers. For those in that situation, I encourage you to look at all the images of the Bible in which God acts with the nurturing love of a mother.

Isaiah 49:15
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.

Isaiah 66:12–13
For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.
13 As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

See in the love of God the nurturing love you need. And then pray for healing for the wounds you received from a father who was not the father you needed. God, our heavenly father, is all-powerful but gentle and loving; all-knowing but patient for you to open yourself to him.

Almighty God loves you with gentleness and tenderness. In fact, I often counsel people who are critical of themselves, as I often am of myself, to pray that they will begin to see themselves with God’s eyes. We are loved so much that God was willing to sacrifice for us. We are loved so much that God patiently pursued us until we turned to him. We are loved so much God is much prouder of our good moments and less critical of our bad moments than we are.

Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth is not to be ignored. Almighty God is not to be taken advantage of or manipulated. Almighty God is not to be taken for granted.

We are wise to take the teaching of Jesus seriously and fear the one who can end our live in this world and send us to hell. But because of what Almighty God has done for us in Jesus, we can (Hebrews 4:16)
with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This morning I want you to come with confidence to God and surrender to him. Put the things you are worried and anxious about in his hands. He has the power to do whatever is best for you and because he loves you, he will do what is best for you. So surrender to him. Put your confidence in him. Cling to Jesus who came to rescue you from eternal death.

Are you feeling vulnerable and weak, worried and concerned? You are loved by Almighty God.

Psalm 91:1–16
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Benediction
Romans 11:33–36
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.