A God-centered Worldview

Everyone has a worldview. It is a way of thinking and acting based upon one’s assumptions about life. Worldview is the architecture of ideas that influence our behavior and decisions, our relationships and values.

Our worldview involves our attitudes toward other people, it shapes our  ethical standards, and it guides the pursuit of our goals in life. Worldview influences how we think about everything from human nature, to the environment, politics, economics, and religion. One’s worldview may be formed by parents, teachers, spiritual leaders, friends, books, or the media. Worldview is our way of making sense of life.

I want to recommend a God-centered worldview. I believe it is a reasonable and coherent way of making sense of life. As a guide to forming a God-centered worldview, I recommend the book of Romans, the epistle that Martin Luther called, “the chief part of the New Testament, and . . . truly the purest gospel.” Luther went on to recommend that Christians should be intimately familiar with Romans and read it every day.

This is because the book is about God, what to know about him, how to be in a right relationship to him, and how to live for him. It has been said that “God” is the most important word in the epistle. Every teaching and topic in the book of Romans is related in some way to God. The book is showing us the way to a life centered in God and his will for us.

The writer of Romans, Paul, was “a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, and set apart for the gospel of God” (1:1). His worldview and life’s calling were centered in God. He was saying that his message, the gospel, came directly from God himself. This gospel (good news) concerned the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and his death and resurrection.

Furthermore, the gospel of God is for people of all nations. Paul’s worldview included the whole world! He wrote that he had “received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” (1:5). The Gentiles in this passage were the multi-ethnic populations of the Roman empire. The gospel was for them. Paul said he felt an obligation to bring the gospel to all kinds of people, Gentiles, as well as Jews (1 :15-16).

The ones who believe this good news message are “loved by God and called to be saints” (1:7). The word “saints” refers, not to an exalted class of spiritual heroes, but to all Christians, through faith in Jesus. They are called the holy people of God. This privileged identity surely helps them form a God-centered worldview.

What of those who do not believe? They cannot claim ignorance of God’s existence, Paul says. God reveals himself in all his glory and power in the beauty, immensity, and complexity of creation. “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (1:18-20).

Obviously, a God-centered worldview begins with an acknowledgement of God’s existence. Those who reject that are left to explore atheism, naturalism,, nihilism, or hedonism, as alternatives. In the last half of Romans chapter one, Paul discusses the tragic consequences of rejecting a  God-centered worldview. Sadly, those who reject God exchange the truth for a lie (1:25).

He describes the Roman world of the first century. In speaking about Roman society, Paul describes our own. In the clearest language, he leaves no doubt about God’s righteous antagonism to evil in all its forms: ingratitude, sexual perversion, idolatry, greed, envy, murder, strife, deceit, slander, arrogance, boastfulness, to select a few items from Paul’s long list. “They invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy” (1:28-31).

For these reasons “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness”(1:18). A permissive society such as ours, which not only condones perversion, but promotes and encourages it, sows the seeds of its own destruction. This is one of the indications of God’s “wrath,” his holy revulsion against what is contrary to his revealed will.

This picture of a guilty humanity is a dark background against which the light of the gospel shines brightly. The good news is good because the bad news is bad. The message of Romans shows us the attraction of God’s good news as the foundation for a worldview with him at the center.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Four Reasons to Read Romans

I enjoy my early morning quiet time with the Lord with my first cup of coffee. Lately my Bible readings have been from the book of Romans. This has reminded me of the book’s importance. Here are four reasons why it is good to read Romans.

1. It is a comprehensive summary of the gospel. The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman believers to help them become grounded in their faith in the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. Paul said that his entire life was dedicated to the ministry of the gospel, which, he said, originated with God himself. It was centered in Jesus Christ, who died for sinners and was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is through belief in the gospel that people are delivered from the power of sin and made right with God, according to Romans. That is very good news.

2. The gospel saves. Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” The book of Romans develops this theme in the magnificent doctrine of justification. This tells us how sinners can have their guilt removed and be declared righteous before a holy God entirely by grace. No wonder John Newton called it amazing grace!

To illustrate, the gospel message in Romans changed the lives of some well-known people. Augustine famously told the story of his conversion to Christian faith in his Confessions. Influenced by the teaching of Ambrose, the prayers of his mother Monica, and a child’s voice saying, “pick up and read,” he was convicted by a reading of Romans 13:13-14, which led him to Christ.

Martin Luther was studying the Greek text of Romans 1:17 which gave him the understanding that he could be justified before God by faith alone, apart from good works. Over 200 years later, John Wesley was given assurance of his own salvation in a Christian meeting in which someone was reading aloud from Luther’s commentary on the book of Romans. Wesley later wrote in his journal, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt that I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins.”

3. The gospel is for everyone. It is equally applicable and effective in all nations, languages and cultures. It is not exclusively for one race over another. “There is no difference,” Paul wrote. All are sinners, and all need Christ to save them, whatever their cultural background. When Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, he knew it would be read by Jews as well as Gentiles, by cultured Greeks as well as by those who were considered barbarians, by free people and by slaves. The gospel is for all people.

4. The gospel is relevant to contemporary life. In the preface to his commentary on Romans, John Stott observed, “how many contemporary issues are touched on by Paul in Romans: enthusiasm for evangelism in general and the propriety of Jewish evangelism in particular; whether homosexual relationships are ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’; whether we can still believe in such unfashionable concepts as God’s ‘wrath’ and ‘propitiation’; the historicity of Adam’s fall and the origin of human death; what are the fundamental means of living a holy life; the place of law and of the Spirit in Christian discipleship; the distinction between assurance and presumption; the relation between divine sovereignty and human responsibility in salvation; the tension between ethnic identity and the solidarity of the body of Christ; relations between church and state; the respective duties of the individual citizen and the body politic; and how to handle differences of opinion within the Christian community. And this list is only a sample of the modern questions which, directly or indirectly, Romans raises and addresses.”

So, for these reasons, it is good for us to do what Augustine did back in the fourth century: to pick up the book of Romans and read it. It could change our lives!

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Change and Thanksgiving

Since it has been three weeks since my last post, perhaps I should explain why I have not been writing. Connie and I have been undergoing a major move to a new city. We are now living in Valdosta, Georgia, near our daughter, son-in-law, and five grandchildren. It has felt like an upheaval in our lifestyle and circumstances. At our age, a change of this magnitude is not easy.

But we are not the only ones experiencing profound change. Today I had a conversation with a neighbor, Steve, who described his feelings about gradually losing his eyesight. He is learning to adjust to some unpleasant realities because the doctors have told him there is no cure for his condition.

My son Michael and his wife Lulu are grieving the unexpected illness and death of their beloved golden retriever, Sampson. He was a beautiful creature and a gentle and faithful companion. My wife and I cried too, when we got the sad news.

Yesterday I read a Facebook post from my friend Jason whose lovely wife Lori has entered a memory care facility because of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Even though they both knew this change was coming, it was painfully difficult. Jason expressed his grief in a sensitive and beautiful lament.

Each of these people in their own way coupled their sense of loss with expressions of thanksgiving. Steve thanked God for his grace in helping him  navigate with limited vision. Michael wrote a touching Facebook tribute to his dog, whom he called his best friend for eleven years.

Jason thanked his “angels,” friends who have been present to help him and Lori. He expressed gratitude for the 24 years he and Lori have been married and for her written words in a journal, which continue to speak to him now. He described feeling a “profound sadness and overwhelming gratefulness.”

Change is hard. It just is. I am experiencing the change of saying goodbye to a great network of friends, leaving the beautiful house we loved, and trading familiar surroundings for a different environment. But like the others, I do this with thanksgiving.

I am thankful that I get to do this with Connie. She and I are thankful for our apartment in the very nice retirement community where we have chosen to live. It is smaller, much smaller, than our house was. But she and I agree that setting up housekeeping here has been fun, sort of like when we were newlyweds getting established in our first place.

We are very thankful for our children who lovingly helped us with the move. All five of them received some of our furniture. Our two sons, Jay and Michael, transported it all to Kentucky, Virginia, Alabama, and here by UHaul. When we arrived in Georgia, Carrie, John Mark and Michael had our furniture in the apartment, set up and ready for us.  Our kids are our heroes!

One more thing. Connie and I are thankful that we get to live near our Georgia grandchildren and closer to the others also. I look forward to playing golf and pickle ball, and fishing with my grandsons. I anticipate attending my granddaughters’ volleyball, basketball, and soccer games.

Last week, my granddaughters, Charis and Lizzy, brought Chic-fil-a to our apartment and we had supper and board games together. It was great! Lizzy and I spent four hours another afternoon putting together a 3-D puzzle of the Neuschwanstein Castle. Grandchildren are grand! How could I not be grateful?

So yes, change is hard. But I am thankful.

Pastor Randy Faulkner