Summary: Six mysteries about God’s ways and God’s character that lead us to worship.
People love to solve mysteries. Whether it’s figuring out a John Grisham novel or solving a complicated riddle, people love to try to figure out mysteries. Lots of people enjoy the TV show "Unsolved Mysteries" hosted by Robert Stack. "Unsolved Mysteries" was one of the first internet interactive TV shows. The TV show’s web site boasts that over 270 cases have been solved by viewers of "Unsolved Mysteries."
People love to look for mysteries in every area of life, and that includes the spiritual life as well. A second century spin off from Christianity called the gnosticism became obsessed with solving mysteries. The gnostics claimed that there were secret truths that Jesus revealed to just an elite few. If you were initiated into the elite, you too could gain access to these mysteries that the rest of the Church was ignorant of. Fortunately gnosticism died out in the late second century, and the Christian faith prevailed. However, as I see so many people try to find secrets and mysteries in the Christian faith through Bible codes and esoteric interpretations of the Bible, I’m reminded of just how similar this is to second century gnosticism.
People love mysteries. You see, the reality is that the reason we like mysteries is so we can try to solve them. We don’t really like mysteries that we can’t solve. How popular with the TV show "Unsolved Mysteries" be if it boasted zero cases solved? We simply can’t put up with things we don’t understand, and the spiritual life is no exception. Years ago I had a Jehovah’s Witness come to my door, and we started meeting regularly to talk about the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. We looked at Bible verses about the trinity, we talked about Jesus being fully God, the Father being fully God, the Holy Spirit being fully God, yet the Bible teaching that there was only one true God. Finally my friend simply shook his head and said, "I can’t understand that. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not reasonable or logical that God could be both three and one." I smiled, and said, "Now you’re finally starting to get it. If we could comprehend God’s nature, we’d be equal with God. It comforts me to think that there are things about God that are mysterious and beyond my puny ability to comprehend." But my friend simply could not imagine worshipping a God who had mystery, a God who he couldn’t put in his own mental box. In the end, that’s why he rejected the doctrine of the trinity.
If you want to know and experience the creator of the universe, then you’d better be ready for a little mystery. Today we’re going to talk about "The Mysteries of God." We’ve been in a series since September called "Good News for Our Times," going through the New Testament book of Romans. For the last eight weeks we’ve been in Romans chapters 9 to 11, and I’ve titled this section of Romans "The Good News About God’s Faithfulness. Throughout these three chapters the apostle Paul who wrote Romans has been struggling with the relationship between the Jewish nation of Israel and the Christina Church, which is mostly non-Jewish.
Last Sunday Pastor Bruce led us through Romans 11:11-24, and we saw that Paul used the word picture of an olive tree to describe God’s purposes in relationship to Israel and the Church. We’ve seen that in the Old Testament God promised to use a guy named Abraham and his descendants to overturn the effects of sin on the human race. God promised Abraham in Genesis, "Through your offspring I will bless all the families of the earth" (Gen 12:3). From this root promise to Abraham flows God’s purpose in the world, which is to offer a reconciled relationship with God to all people of the world. To use the picture of the olive tree, you might think of God’s promise to Abraham as the root, and the purpose of God in the world as the stem. In the Old Testament God used the Jewish nation of Israel to serve this purpose, and Israel was the light of the world. So Israel was the branch, God’s purpose was the stem, and God’s promise to Abraham was the root.
But when Jesus came to the world to ultimately fulfill God’s promises and make reconciliation with God possible, the nation of Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah. Although a few Jewish people did believe and follow Jesus--like Paul who wrote Romans--as a whole Israel rejected Jesus. Because of this rejection, Israel as a branch was broken off from God’s purposes, and a new branch called the Christian Church was grafted in to the stem of God’s purposes. So now, Israel as a branch is broken off and the unnatural branch called the Church is serving God’s purposes, thereby fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham in our generation.