Ask a Pastor Ep. 32 - God's Will, OT vs. NT God, Book of Revelation

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This episode our Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund, talks with Director of Men's Ministry, Mike Hatch, about God's will, how God in the Old Testament is different from the New Testament and what the Book of Revelation is all about.

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Message Transcript

Kurt Bjorklund: Hey, welcome to Ask a Pastor. This is something we've been doing for a while now. I think there are 20, 30, 40 episodes out there with different topics. And so you can find all of this content back on the church app, the Orchard Hill Church app, where all of those are listed, I think some of them live on iTunes, different places like that, and there's a little topical guide, so you can use these to go back and find information for anything that interests you and watch it, and do us a favor, if you are watching this, listening to it, and you find this content helpful, would you like it or subscribe to it, or both, because that helps other people find the content. So what will happen is, if there's a keyword, for example today one of the things we're going to talk about is God's will. If somebody just types in God's will, if this is liked enough, followed enough, then somebody will find it, they'll be able to find the content, and it will be helpful to them.

Kurt Bjorklund: So if you would that, that would be awesome. If you have questions you can send them to askapaster@orchardhillchurch.com, and we will be happy to address them in the days ahead. And if you're listening on the radio, this is also just part of all kinds of content you can find at orchardhillchurch.com. So today I'm joined my Mike Hatch. Mike is one of our life stage pastors at our Wexford campus. Mike is also somebody who's engineered our men's ministry over the last several years here at Orchard Hill. Beyond that, he is the person who is the highest rated, most listened to, Ask a Pastor guest to date, because he was the one who was here, when we talked about masturbation in the past. You can find that also on the past stuff. So it made him the highest rated Ask a Pastor guest. I'm not sure if that was you or if it was the topic. We're not sure, but welcome back, great to have you here today.

Mike Hatch: Humbled to be here, and honored that people would be excited to hear more about masturbation, and anyway, no. Good to be here.

Kurt Bjorklund: That is not on today's topic list, but Mike always great to have you here. Today we're going to ask a few questions. Here's the first. Somebody said, “I'm curious how one is to understand God's will for their life, we say in the lord's prayer that thy will be done. I would assume part of that is living in accordance with the Bible, but is there a personal component, and if so, how are we to know we are doing God's will?” So what's your response kind of to the God's will question?

Mike Hatch: I love this question. Because there are so many things that distract and pull us away from our desire to want to please God often, and often today I hear this question a lot especially among young people, whether it be having to do with career or relationships, how do you determine where God's leading you, and if the direction you're going in is something that's pleasing him, where he wants you to be? So the first thing that came to my mind actually was in Romans chapter 12, where it actually says ... This is what you do if you want to know God's will, and we can impact this a little bit, but Romans chapter 12:1, it starts out by saying, “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is, his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

Mike Hatch: So, it's interesting that in order to understand God's will, it's as if Paul's saying there is an element where you've got to sacrifice yourself in order to get there, if that makes any sense. So in some kind of mysterious way, spiritually, I think through the work of the holy spirit, when we put ourselves and our selfish simple desires to death, we begin to understand through that, what God's will is, and we begin to be brought into alignment with his perfect will, as a result. That would be one thing, and I would say too, just on a personal level, because it sounds like they're coming from a personal perspective too, I know for me ... I don't know if you've touched on fasting or not, but I know for me, one of the ways in which I know I have gotten more centered in terms of understanding God's will from my life and direction and clarity is in ... it may sound strange, but fasting, denying myself to a certain extent, and embracing the hunger pangs in a sense. And it's amazing what God does in those moments to clarify the priorities in our lives from a biblical, godly perspective as a result of that.

Kurt Bjorklund: That's good. You know one of the things that ... I think I taught on this last fall in the Book of James, and we were working through the Book of James, and there's a portion at the end of chapter 4 that talks about God's will. And so, if you're interested in this, if you go to the website or the church app again, Orchard Hill Church app, you can find it, it's the message of James 4, the last part of James 4. But one of the things I talked about, is I just did a search through all of the references to God's will in the New Testament in the Bible, and what you find, is that it's not nearly as mysterious and mystical as we tend to make it out to be. In other words, what we tend to do, is we tend to be like, “God's will. If God would just show me his will, then I'd be able to do God's will.” And we act like it's this ethereal thing, but in the Bible, his will is that we're saved, we come to acknowledge of Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior, that we're set apart or sanctified, is one of the words that's used, I think it's 1st Thessalonians 4, and following there 2, 3, 4, right in there, I don't think it is that.

Kurt Bjorklund: And where he says, “This is God's will, that you be sanctified.” It's that we serve, it's that we are willing to suffer on behalf of the Lord, and when you start to understand that God's will is really outlined in scripture for us as coming to faith, being set apart, serving, using our gifts, all of those kinds of things, then what I've always believed is that, once those things are true, then you can say, “I can do what I want.” In other words, the way to understand God's will is to say, “Get a pure heart,” sometimes fasting will help, sometimes other things will help, and then make your best decision, because if you've lined up those other things, then you don't have to be saying, “Is it God's will that I move here, or go to this school, or that school, or do this or that?”

Kurt Bjorklund: At the end of the day if you've said, “If all these other things are lined up, then I can choose.” Now clearly, if one of them is against one of those things, then you have to say, “Maybe this isn't the right path,” but I've always thought that was a much healthier way than trying to say, “God, reveal it to me.” Not that, again, you don't ask God to show you, but a lot of times that becomes so subjective, that what we do, is we project on to God what it is we really want to do, and if we don't put it through the filter of God's word, then what we end up doing, is we say, “Oh, I believe this is God's will,” then we blame God when something doesn't work out, rather than simply saying, “This is how God has revealed himself.”

Mike Hatch: It's so funny you say that, because you're right. It's a heart posture before God, where we search for these things, and often we say, “God's will,” but it's almost like a smokescreen or a disguise to say, “I want what I want,” which is, I think why we see in scripture this ... what's the word I'm looking for? This theme of placing yourself on the altar, and sacrificing yourself for whatever it is that God is calling you to do, which ultimately comes, you're right, big picture, it's through giving yourself to Christ, and living in accordance ... knowing that he's forgiven you for your sins, and living out of that gratitude.

Kurt Bjorklund: Well and sometimes, even the way people seek for God's will can actually be what the Bible calls divination, trying to divine God's word in a situation, in a way that isn't biblical. I remember years and years ago, this was long before I came to Orchard Hill, and I say that so that nobody's like, “Who are you talking about?” But I remember a guy who came in to see me, and he had started going to a strip club, and he said, “Well, I walked around the block ... I was driving around the block, and I prayed, and I said, 'God if I see two yellow cars, I'll know that it's okay for me to go into the strip club.'” Granted yellow cars are a little rare, but it's like ... and when I talked to him, it was like, “No. God has already made it very clear that you going into a strip club is not part of his will. You don't need to pray about it, seek a sign, try to understand if God's in this. God's not in that.” That's an extreme goofy example, and that most people, I would assume who are listening, would be like, “Yeah. That's clearly not God's will.”

Kurt Bjorklund: But sometimes we act the same way. We look for a sign that's a divination rather than actually saying, “Line your life up, get a pure heart, and then act in accordance.” So good. So here's a question that somebody wrote in, “Why is the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament so different?” How would you respond to it?

Mike Hatch: This question touches so close to my heart, because I don't know how to say this, it's just that I've been so inspired recently by the Old Testament, and maybe that sounds strange, because I guess you should be inspired by the whole scripture, but for whatever the reason, over the last three to five years of my life, I feel like the Old Testament has come into greater clarity for me, and it's amazing to me because people say that, because often I think we take things out of context in the Old Testament. There is a great consistency of who God is throughout the whole of scripture. And so often sometimes people will say, “Look, you see these horrible things happening to people in the Old Testament where God's judgment will rain down, and tribes of people will be wiped out, and all this kind of stuff,” and they talk about the violence or the anger and the wrath that is exhibited. And here's the thought ... When you think about that, and you understand from a scriptural, biblical perspective, that we're all sinful, then we're all deserving of that wrath, in a sense.

Mike Hatch: We're all deserving to be put to death, “For the wages of sin is death,” is what it says in Romans. So it shouldn't be a surprise if people are dying for their sin, what is a surprise, and which is so funny, so we focus on that as being so offensive to us in some ways, that we miss in the New Testament a very gory, bloody, torturous death that Jesus faces and experiences, and yet he was completely innocent, completely. And you see all through the Old Testament too, the idea of sacrifice, and the imagery, and the metaphor pointing to Jesus, pointing to the fact that there's going to be a one, ultimately the Messiah who would die for us. And so I see Jesus just all through the Old Testament, all through, saturated, and grace as a result of that, because God's exhibiting this idea that he's different from any other God that you're going to see in the ancient near east, or that the Israelites would have come in contact with, because he's the self-sacrificial God.

Mike Hatch: But unfortunately, we pick things out, little bits here and there out of context, and miss that bigger picture, that no, God was communicating his self sacrificial nature that would eventually come to fruition in the person of Christ, and who would endure the ultimate death for our sins. So I actually see the Old Testament and the New Testament being very congruent.

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, I know. I think a lot of times when somebody kind of says, “It seems like these two Gods are so different.” You're right, what they're doing, is that they're focusing on the God who smites people in their mind, in the Old Testament, God who let the water crash over the Egyptians as they chased the Israelites, and they're like, “Well, what kind of God would do that?” And then they come to the New Testament, and they say, “God here is all good and love,” not realizing that it's the same God, and that God is both of those things, and that there should be some holy fear of a righteous God. And in our day and age it seems like, in the church, outside the church, the predominant opinion is that “God's just kind of this celestial grandfather who has kind of lost his game, and is just like, 'Hey it's all good, you guys do whatever, just come every now and then, have dinner with me, and let me tell you how much I love you.'” Instead of saying, “No. This is still a God that is worthy of bending a knee to.”

Kurt Bjorklund: And that is so in-congruent with our modern world, that when we read some of the Old Testament stories, we say, “Whoa, I don't like that kind of a God, I prefer the New Testament kind of a God.” And you can't separate those two images, and I think you're right to say that you really miss reading the Old Testament correctly, if you don't see the grace of God and Jesus in the Old Testament, and you're also missing the New Testament if you don't see judgment and a holiness and a righteousness of God, especially in how it ends, when you get to the book of Revelation and some of those things. So Revelation, one of the questions is, I'll read it exactly as it was given. "What the heck is Revelation all about?"

Mike Hatch: I love it.

Kurt Bjorklund: So how do you see this book?

Mike Hatch: Okay. So Revelation is Apocrypha of course, which just means it's talking end times, and there's a lot of symbolism. A lot of the symbolism, by the way is taken out of the Old Testament. So in some ways you can't totally understand Revelation without looking back and seeing some of the writings in Daniel ...

Kurt Bjorklund: Now, when you say Apocrypha, you mean prophetic?

Mike Hatch: Yes.

Kurt Bjorklund: That they're speaking forward. Apocrypha often people use to mean extra biblical or that. So you mean that it's a type of literature that's not like the rest of the New Testament?

Mike Hatch: Thank you, yes.

Kurt Bjorklund: [crosstalk 00:15:10].

Mike Hatch: That was good clarification, yes, thank you. So it's looking ahead, but I think the main thrust and the point of Revelation is ... John is writing to the seven churches, and there is a great deal of persecution going on at the time as well, among a lot of the Christians in that time, and I think what John is trying to accomplish through the book of Revelation, is to encourage them to look ahead, and see the victory that's going to happen in Christ, as a result of his sacrifice. And you see this often, this theme where like John is kind of brought and he hears about this, this victorious king that hearkens back to Daniel actually, and then he turns and he looks and it's the slain lamb of God, it's Jesus. And so, wow this victorious king is actually ... it's Jesus who's been slain, the lamb, and that's how God has had ... is victorious is through his ... going back like we were talking about before, that this is self sacrifice in a sense, and the slain lamb of God is leading his people to victory, if you will.

Mike Hatch: And I think a lot of the book of Revelation is just that, is it's to encourage people, especially in their own persecution and trials that they're suffering, that it's not all for naught, that there is something greater in store, and there's great meaning and purpose, and even in their suffering that they're experiencing at that time.

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, that's good. One of the things that I've always found helpful is, people come to Revelation generally with three different rubrics through which they see the book. Some see it as all future. In other words, this is all about this coming tribulation, this coming difficulty, and therefore be prepared because this tribulation is coming. Some would say the church has raptured out before, some say it would endure through it, all that, but very much a futuristic reading. Some would say, it was future at the time it was written, but it has all been fulfilled now. And so they would say as you look at the book of Revelation, it was writing to people in that day saying, “Here are some of the things that are coming,” but it has been fulfilled now, so when you read it, you're not reading about future events, you're reading about past events, that were future at the time that they were written.

Kurt Bjorklund: Still others would read it and say, “Well, this is symbolic, this is language that isn't necessarily predicting anything, it's speaking of all of these events, and John, who was on Patmos or exiled, is writing in kind of cryptic language, because of the persecution people were in and, to encourage them to persevere in all of that.” And from that you get some of your different big views of end times prophesy, how people interpret things, how they understand all of that. And my take would be, there's element of all of those in Revelation. Like I said ago, sometimes [inaudible 00:18:12], I take Revelations literally, but there's symbolic language that's still literal, meaning ... you mentioned the lamb, and saying you look and say, “Worthy is the lamb who was slain.” Well, almost anybody, even if they take it literally, would say, “Well it's not an actual lamb, it's speaking of Jesus.” So in that sense you know that that's symbolic language speaking of Jesus.

Kurt Bjorklund: And what's hard about Revelations is the distance from that culture to our culture. For those of you who don't live in Pittsburgh, we're stationed in Pittsburgh here at Orchard Hill, and if I use some language to speak some things that are unique to Pittsburgh, you may not know it if you're somewhere else, but it's almost like he's doing that. Like if I say, “You know, it was the glory days, years ago when the bus led our team to a championship, and we defeated the Dirty Birds every year and everything.” People in Pittsburgh would know, “Well, you're referring to Jerome Bettis, leading the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers to a championship, and we took the Ravens out that year,” or something like that. Anybody who's around Pittsburgh, who's a fan goes, “I know that.” And there's some language in Revelations that's like that, and most of it's rooted in the Old Testament, so it's not secret knowledge.

Kurt Bjorklund: It's not like you have to know something that nobody else knows, but you have to be able to do the work to go back and understand some of the Old Testament references, some of the things that it's alluding to, but then it starts to all of a sudden take on clarity, where you say, “Oh, this reference to the lamb, or this reference to the lamb stands, and these different things have precedent that this people would have known,” and all of a sudden, what you start to see, is that it speaks of a God who is faithful to his people in difficulty and tribulation, and promises of future to his people. However you interpret it, you can see those things. I'm a little leery of people who are so clear in the their futurist predictions, that they go into Revelation and say, “This means this that's happening today,” and the reason I'm leery of that, is that people have done that for so long, have been wrong so many times, that it's hard to say, “Well, this means all of this that you take it to mean.”

Kurt Bjorklund: Like you have to see ... that at least you have to hold those things loosely, and one of the way I know, if you're listening on the radio, the program that follow us is David Jeremiah. So just tell a quick story here, David Jeremiah, I like David Jeremiah, I'm a fan overall, but when I was in college, I sat and listened to his whole series on Revelation, took copious notes on the radio, I'd tune in every day, and listen to it on the radio.

Mike Hatch: I remember that series specifically.

Kurt Bjorklund: Well, you know, he had to update it and change everything because a lot of ... even though he kept the outlines, the same basic content, all of his illustrations had to change, the first time to the second time, because the things have changed. So what he thought everything was referring to the first time he taught it, was different than the second time he taught, and that's not a critique, it's just a statement of fact of saying, of saying if you try to point to all kinds of present events, at some point you're going to say, “Yeah, that may not be exactly right.” And as soon as you've done that, now what you've done is you've taken people like me, who the first time went through and was thinking, “Wow, maybe he's got it all down,” and the second time I was like, “I can't even hardly pay attention, because now I hear that, and I say, 'I'm not sure that you really know what this is all referring to in our day and age,'”

Kurt Bjorklund: My guess is that God sits around kind of laughing at some of our interpreting and says, “You know what? What you need to know is that I'm in charge, and I'm moving history forward, and there will be a landing place.”

Mike Hatch: And you touch on something real quick that I wanted to, and I'm interested in your thought on this, because I remember going through seminary and going through eschatology, and learning all the different view on end times, and there's a fair amount, and I'd say at least about three to five different views that have some decent standing and some backing scripturally, I guess, and like you said earlier, you kind of have to hold that loosely, because in my mind, as I went through that, I kind of went through all the different views, by the time I'm done, I'm thinking, “Okay, I think I have some idea of where I land personally,” but to say specifically, like you said, to point to specific events, in our current time and try to connect those things, I think goes beyond the pale. And that's the danger where I see, where some people ... you want to be careful with some of the folks that you see out there, who will take a one specific view, and really use that to manipulate other people into following them into their perspective, and you have to remember that as we interpret end times right now, there is some pretty valid multiple different options that could be happening here, and usually if someone's hanging on to one, and they're trying to convince you of, “This is the way,” there's some manipulative motives behind that.

Kurt Bjorklund: Well potentially. I want to be careful, because even having named David Jeremiah ...

Mike Hatch: Well, that's a good point, yeah.

Kurt Bjorklund: ... for a moment that he's intentional manipulating anybody. I'm not sure I agree with all of his interpretations, but I think they come from a sincere belief of how he kind of sees the Book, but to your point, certainly, I think that there are people ... You know what sells in any arena is fear, and if you watch the news networks, MSNBC, Fox News, they'll cover the same event, and have such different interpretations, and it's all, “Be afraid of the people on the other side, who are ruining the nation you love.” And that's what keeps people watching it, because it's like, “Oh, this is ... I've got to be on the right side.” And people do that in faith as well. If I can convince people that there's this big ugly thing coming, and you better get right, you're going to be more tuned in and honed in to my teaching, and so people can use that as manipulation.

Kurt Bjorklund: So we need to leave it here. Mike, thank you for joining us. If you have questions, send them to askapastor@orchardhillchurch.com, we will be happy to address them in coming episode of Ask a Pastor.