Lost in Space was an American science fiction television series in the 1960’s. It followed the adventures of the Robinsons, a pioneering family of space colonists who struggle to survive in the depths of space.
When danger was near to the Robinson family, Robbie, their protective robot, would cry out, “Danger”. Similarly, we teach our children to be aware of danger. They call out a warning, “stranger danger” when they feel threatened.
Warnings play a huge role in sheltering us from potential harm or danger. Because of the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, we carefully heed the medical warnings provided to us by both our local and our state health officials. With the growth of cyber-crimes in our nation, we quickly respond to security warnings by purchasing systems to protect our personal assets. Police warnings of increases in crime incent us to invest in elaborate surveillance and security equipment.
However, do we, with the same diligence, heed spiritual warnings as we move through these fretful times? Are we concerned about the health and well-being of our souls? What about our family’s spiritual well-being? During the next few weeks, we will be using the book of Hebrews to discuss “spiritual danger warnings” in the 21st century.
Opportunities in warnings
The writer of Hebrews gave five (5) warnings to his readers. Although the historical context for this epistle is different than in 2020, the warnings included in Hebrews are still relevant for today.
Warren Wiersbe, noted teacher and biblical scholar had this to share concerning the practical applications that can be found in the book of Hebrews:
Many people have avoided the epistle to the Hebrews and, consequently, have robbed themselves of practical spiritual help. Some have avoided this book because they are afraid of it. The warnings in Hebrews have made them uneasy. Others have avoided this book because they think it is too difficult for the average Bible student. To be sure there are some profound truth in Hebrews, and no preacher or teacher will dare to claim that they know them all! But the general message of the book it’s clear and there is no reason why you and I should not understand and profit from it.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Let’s get ready to dig in!
For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Acts 20:27 (NKJ)
Our intent in creating this series has been to offer a new perspective on the whole counsel of God that will hopefully increase believers’ confidence in its validity and its value in navigating in the 21st century. If you’re struggling with obedience and how to be obedient to God, continue reading.
We introduced our series by first discussing the wisdom of God. The “unsearchable” knowledge of God (Rom. 11:33) establishes the foundation for acceptance of the whole counsel of God and for victorious living under “Kingdom Rule”.
We expanded the definition of the whole counsel of God to include not only that which is revealed through His Word and the Holy Spirit, but also extends to His realized purpose and His will in the world and in the believer’s life.
The reliability of God’s counsel is a consequence of who He is and His relationship with believers. God is, by nature, exceedingly good and great! Because of that, God’s counsel can be trusted.
So why do people reject God’s counsel?
When I teach God’s Word, I am surprised at the number of pushbacks and arguments I get from people as I share the whole counsel of God. I see in their eyes and hear in their voices, the inner conflict that God’s Word creates in their life as they attempt to convince me (and justify to themselves) their “difference with the counsel” that is being “revealed”. It is out of this place of discomfort that the Bible and the Holy Spirit is regularly accused of being “intolerant”, “outdated”, and “inaccurate”.
The reason for their “disconnect” is the standard they use to assess the “value or correctness” of God’s counsel. Their “source of counsel” is, in most cases, the world, their flesh, and/or the influence of Satan. Once this is understood, it becomes clear the basis of their discomfort is not the sufficiency of Scripture but the struggle for authority in their life—God’s authority or the current worldview? God’s authority or what makes them happy? God’s authority or Satan’s authority? It is a matter of authority and obedience.
Obedience and thewhole counsel of God
I was saved when I was nine years old. I bought the “fire insurance” and wasn’t going to hell. But it was 30 years later that I learned about “lordship” and God’s authority and rule in my life. That required me to change the source of my counsel—no longer the world, my flesh, or Satan—but the whole counsel of God.
My personal journey has led me to believe that people’s disobedience and rejection of God’s counsel usually stems from one or all of the following:
Blinding by Satan. “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NRS)
Paul explains to the Corinthians the reason why people reject the gospel. The translated meaning of veiled is “to hide or hinder the knowledge of a thing.” And who is the culprit responsible for the veiling? It is Satan. Satan’s agenda is to keep people away from their Creator and His purpose for their lives. And what doesn’t Satan want people to know? “The gospel of the glory of God” realized through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus has provided freedom from the bondage of sin, a path back to God (reconciled), and access to spiritual blessings prepared for them (Eph. 1:3-5).
Bentness of the Flesh. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world — the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches — comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever. 1 John 2:15-17
As Christians we not only have become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) but we also have been delivered from the penalty and the power of sin. However, until Christ’s return or we transition to be with Him in heaven, we must still deal with the presence of sin, in our unredeemed flesh and by virtue of living in this fallen world.
These two facts require BELIEVERS to continually be aware of those factors that tend to “bend us” toward the “world’s view of life” versus God’s expectations of Christian behavior and purpose. If you have not accepted Christ’s offer of salvation, there is still “room at the Cross” with an opportunity to “change the bentness” of your flesh and the influence of this “falling” world in our lives.
Battle for Truth. “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. Romans 1:21-22
The battle for truth in the 21st century is raging. We feel the effects of postmodernism both inside and outside the Church. To exacerbate this dilemma, social media and technology has introduced the ability for individuals and groups to flood the channels with their agendas that spread propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation.
Propaganda is defined as the systematic transmission of information or ideas in order to encourage or instill a particular idea, attitude, or response. Misinformation is erroneous or incorrect information. Misinformation differs from propaganda in that it always refers to something which is not true. Its intent is usually neutral. Disinformation refers to disseminating deliberately false information, with the intention of influencing policies of those who receive it.
John Hopkins Sheridan Libraries
So where is one to go for good counsel? To the only source that has a record of being all wise, reliable, and totally committed to our well-being. That Source is God.
God’s Counsel = LIFE
The whole counsel of God includes some things that are difficult to hear—the fact that we are dead in sin and deserving of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:1–3) and the fact that we cannot save ourselves through works (Eph. 2:8–9). The gospel is a call to faithfulness and holy living (Eph. 1: 4). Believers will face persecution (John 16:33) and likely be considered foolish. But none of these things should dissuade us.
When we accepted God’s lordship and are obedient to His will and His purpose, our life will become richer and fuller—God planned it that way through Jesus Christ who is the living WORD (John 10:10). Accept the full counsel of God as your source of wisdom and direction. God’s counsel is the true path of life (Ps. 16:11).
Ravi Zacharias – God’s Plan for your life and how to be obedient
Ah Lord GOD! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. Great in counsel and mighty in deed.
Jeremiah 32:17, 19a (NRS)
In the introduction of this series, “The Whole Counsel of God”, I emphasized the importance of understanding who God is. Our view of God creates the framework on which our faith and life is to be built. This is also true with regard to following God’s revealed will and purpose for our life. Last week in our discussion on the reliability of God’s counsel, I concluded that God can be trusted because of our relationship with Him and because of who He is. Today we will continue with specifics into the reliability of God by examining a few of His key attributes.
The Attributes of God
When we speak of attributes of God, we are referring to those qualities that make up who God is—they are characteristics of His nature. We are not referring to the acts which God performs, such as creating, guiding or preserving nor to the roles He executes as Creator, Guide, or Protector. Attributes are the essence of who God is and are qualities shared by the entire Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The whole counsel of God, His truth revealed in His purpose and His will, proves reliable because they flow from the very nature of who God is. God cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). In response to challenges to their Christian beliefs, believers often use the adage, “God said it and that settles it”. Although their comeback may sound comical or ridiculous to some, their position of belief is biblically sound, because it is based on the source of their information—God Himself.
Reliability in God’s Attributes
All the attributes of God—His Goodness and His Greatness, support the dependability of God’s counsel. For time sake, I will highlight the two that will answer the question most frequently asked by those concerned with the reliability of God’s counsel—does it change?
Does God’s counsel change?
This is usually asked by those who feel that the Bible is “outdated” or “out of touch” with the life styles of the 21st century. Such questions, although often sincere, are a serious threat to the biblical authority of Scripture. Although the Bible is tangible, we must remember that it is THE WORD OF GOD—alive and active (Heb. 4:12) and coming directly from God Himself (2 Tim. 3:16). The following attributes of God support the reliability of His counsel:
The constancy or immutability of God is the attribute that states that “God never changes (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17). He is the same—yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). To say God never changes, does not mean God is static but God is “stable”. The truth that God reveals to man from Genesis to Revelations is the same truth for 21st century living (Heb. 6:17-19).
God’s attribute of integrity or truthfulness speaks to His faithfulness in all He says and does. God keeps all His promises. This is a function of his limitless power and capability; because of that God can never commitment Himself to something He is incapable of doing. (Don’t you love that!) God will never revise His Word or default on a promise. Throughout biblical history and today, God always fulfills what He says He will do (Is. 25:1).
We, as believer in Christ, can trust in the reliability of God’s counsel because of who God is and because of our relationship with Him. It is not necessary for us to check the credentials of God or ask for references; check within the pages of Scripture and see where God has proven Himself to faithful and true. But better yet, look within the pages of your own life and see where God has shown Himself to be a faithful and true Counselor.
Next week will close this series with “Reasons God’s Counsel is Rejected”.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. Psalm 16:7 (NIV)
As I entered the therapist’s office, I was immediately made aware of their qualifications as evidenced by the numerous degrees, certifications, and achievements displayed on the wall. This is very typical of professionals as they attempt to elicit our confidence in their abilities. I see the same thing when I walk into the offices of clergy and church laity.
The belief that the “buyer should beware” extends not only to products and services, but unfortunately to matters of faith. Can God be trusted? Does God really mean what He says in His Word? Therefore it may be helpful at this point in the series to explore the reliability of God’s counsel, especially for those who might question its dependability.
Last week we defined the whole counsel of God as God’s truth revealed in His purpose and His will. God communicates His whole counsel in two key ways—the Bible and through His Holy Spirit. To understand the counsel of God, it is important to first understand who God is?
Who is God?
This is the bedrock on which our spiritual confidence is built. Who is God? God is the “source” of all knowledge and the “power” behind the eternal plan for all Creation. The veracity of God’s counsel is based on its source andthat source is God Himself. We will spend more time discussing this in, “The Reliability of God’s Counsel”, Part 2.
The biblical phrase, “before the foundation of the world” was chosen through inspiration of the Holy Spirit to highlight the eternal wisdom and knowledge of God as He created His plan of salvation, healing, deliverance, and redemption for mankind. God ordained His purpose according to His good pleasure” (Eph. 1:5).
Who is God to Me?
The reliability of the counsel of God is built, not only on who God is, but more importantly on who God is to me personally. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to receive advice and instruction from someone who is neither trustworthy nor “safe.” Trust and reliability are often built through relationship.
In our text today, David’s personal fellowship with the Lord was his greatest reason to trust God’s counsel. David had experienced God’s instruction and advice throughout his life beginning as a shepherd boy in the fields of Bethlehem, through his strained relationship with Saul (1 Sam. 18:9) to his ultimate kingship over nation of Israel (2 Sam. 5:4). God was always there to advise David on what to do and how to do it. Because of that David praised or “blessed” the Lord.
David’s “reins” (heart, NIV)—the seat of his emotion and affection—were further instructed by God in the night seasons. “Instruct” carries with it the idea of discipline and chastening (Heb. 12:1-12). “Night” is plural and suggests “dark nights” or “night after night” learning from God. God’s counsel, day or night, in the good or bad times, had always proven a trustworthy guide for David, one deserving all his confident.
Is God’s Counsel Reliable?
Paul warned Timothy, his young minister-in-training, of the coming apostasy—the abandonment of religious belief. He advised Timothy to teach the whole counsel of God, in this case, the scriptures, that are “profitable” (useful, NRS) for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Paul closed his teaching with the foretelling of a time when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having “itching ears”. They will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Does that sound like the world we are living in today?
We, as believer in Christ, can trust in the reliability of God’s counsel because of who God is and because of our relationship with Him. The whole counsel of God is the only dependable counsel for 21st century living.
For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Acts 20:27 (NKJ)
One of the things this nation is not short on is advice. If you turn on the television, every station has its personal brand of advice—The Real, The Talk, The View. And let’s not forget social media.
Life and spiritual coaches have been added to the deluge of resources ready to “create a better life for you”. Online counseling by Chat, Video or Phone. Get Help and Get Happy. Therapy Anytime, Anywhere. Each of these resources and programs are targeting different groups of viewers—boomers, millennials, Xers to influence their thoughts and actions. And the real question is influence for what?
If ever there was a need for reliable counsel, it is now!
Definition of Counsel
The noun “counsel” means advice, especially that given formally. Counsel is synonymous with guidance, direction and instruction. The Hebrew word that best communicates the concept of counsel is ‘esah, which adds purpose or plan to the definition. It is both used of God’s counsel and of human counsel.
Counsel Given—Counsel Received
The Old Testament portrays counsel as that which is usually given to kings (1 Chron. 13:1). Counsel may have come from trusted advisors but more frequently through God’s prophets (Deut. 18:14-21).
Proverbs suggests that one should seek counsel from many with the thought that human beings are limited and need contributors to be sure all alternatives are considered (Prov. 11:14; Prov. 20:18).
In the New Testament, especially in the church, though they were a close-knit fellowship, involved in one another’s lives, there is almost nothing about counsel or acting on the advice of others. The closest thing to “counsel” would have been that given to the early churches via apostolic letters.
Regardless of the counsel received, no advice or counsel frees the person’s responsibility for making his or her own choice. Such was the case in our text as Paul gives instructions to the Ephesian elders.
What constitutes “the whole” ?
What is the “whole counsel of God”? If you search different Bible versions for clarity, you may still be left asking, “What is it?” In our text, the different Bible versions read, “the whole counsel of God” (ESV) or “the whole will of God” (NIV) or “the whole purpose of God” (NASB).
The phrase the whole counsel of God was introduced by Paul in Acts 20:27 in his farewell speech to the elders of the Ephesian church. In this context, the whole counsel of God refers to the “gospel message”.
Paul spoke the complete gospel—the whole truth about God’s salvation including the “mystery” of God extending His plan of salvation to Gentiles as well as Jews (Ep. 3:9). Paul’s declaration of the “whole counsel of God” made him “innocent” of anyone’s decision to reject God’s truth as revealed, at that time.
The whole counsel of God, in summary, is God’s truth revealed in His purpose and His will. God communicates His whole counsel in two key ways—the Bible and the Holy Spirit.
Paul witnessed to the fact that, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16, NRS). The Bible is the “play book” which helps believers live in alignment with God’s will and in right relationship with one another.
Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit believers relate God’s truth to present situations—guiding them in actions they are to take. Although the Spirit may use any number of avenues to help believers sense His direction, He ultimately guides us to decisions that are in harmony with what God purposes for us (Jer. 10:23).
Living in 21st century, postmodern America, it is critical that we have access to good counsel. We need counsel that is sure and dependable; trustworthy and timeless. We need counsel to help us live out of the heart God created for us. We need the whole counsel of God.
We will continue next week with this series, “The Whole Counsel of God.”