Church culture is full of “churchy” phrases we use as shorthand to get across certain ideas. We use them all the time without considering what the phrases can convey to new believers and pre-believers. So, we’re going to spend a few weeks looking at 3 “churchy” phrases that can convey some unbiblical ideas and 2 phrases straight from scripture that are often used WAY out of context.
Today, we’ll look at the phrase, “It was a God thing.” In weeks to come we’ll examine the sayings, “God showed up in the end” and “God will never give you more than you can bear.” Finally, we’ll tackle two phrases that are direct quotes from scripture passages: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt. 18:20); and, “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’” (Deut. 27:27). We will look at the context of those passages and some of the wrong ways they’re used out of context as “churchy” phrases.
So, today, phrase one: “It was a God thing.” We say it to give God glory and deflect attention from ourselves. Glorifying and enjoying God are the reasons human beings were created. So what’s wrong with saying, “It was a God thing”? Well, it’s NOT necessarily our motive. It’s the necessary implication of the phrase that’s the problem.
If there is something we recognize as “a God thing,” then we necessarily imply that there are other events that are NOT “God things.” Those non-God things are simply random. They just happened. God wasn’t “in them.”
God can’t be everywhere all the time having his way on every little issue, right? No self-respecting God would show up in just any old event; he wouldn’t show up and have anything to do with our sufferings, our traumas, our natural disasters, with terror attacks and school shootings. THOSE can’t be God things, surely.
Is cancer a God thing? Is a car-wreck a God thing? Are marriage struggles a God thing? Or are only those things I consider to be victories of life a God thing? Let’s look at Colossians 1:15-20:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn before all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
The congregation of Colossi, like you and I most of the time, was looking for their “best life now”—a way to be spiritually successful.
Some of them were drawn to teachers with messages about how to have a fulfilling Christian life through special diets, or through special knowledge about angels, or through particular kinds of hard physical discipline.
It wasn’t that the Colossians didn’t believe in Jesus. But gurus were selling them all kinds of teachings about “how to be the best ME I can be” and earn a constant stream of “God things.”
How can I get God to give ME what I want? Well, one guru would say you can learn more about the angelic realm. “I happen to be holding an angels conference this weekend and for the low, low price of ½ pound of silver, you can find about how to achieve more victory by knowledge of the angelic realm.”
“Sure,” another guru would say, “angles are fine; BUT if you really want to ensure a life full of ‘God things,’ you need to attend MY conference on the Daniel Diet and the Sampson CrossFit Program.”
“Well,” said the next guru, “David lived in caves before his got his palace. So I’m selling a book on successful cave-dwelling called ‘The David Plan: From Cave to Castle.’”
Paul sees the congregation being led away from the great central theme of God’s Word: 18 And [Christ] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
The Christians of Colossi were very spiritual; they spent their time and money on spiritual things. Good for them.
But their problem is OUR problem too. “Spiritual” pursuits that do not lead us to Christ as preeminent in EVERYTHING are harmful. They lead us to pick and choose what WE judge to be “God things.”
Paul wants us to write across the whole of our lives – across our spiritual pursuits, across our “victories”, across our “failures” – that the Lord Jesus Christ is the first thing and is everything.
Because Christ is preeminent, there is NOTHING in your life that is NOT “a God thing.”
Look at what Paul says about Messiah Jesus’ relationship to God the Father.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn before all creation.
In Christ, the invisible has become visible. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (Jn. 1:18). Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9).
Sometimes we Christians tend to think that Jesus loves us but the Father is the one of whom we should be afraid; we have the idea we need to hide behind Jesus from a stern and judgmental father.
But Christ’s love IS the Father’s love; the Father sent out his unique Son into the world to die on the cross. The eternal, unchangeable love of the Father, Son, and Spirit IS THE “GOD THING!”
Now look at what Paul says in vv. 16-17 of Jesus’ relationship to the universe.
16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Every created thing in the universe was created by Christ. That makes EVERYTHING IN EXISTENCE A “GOD THING.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (Jn. 1:1-5).
Not only is Christ the Creator, but he is the sustainer of all things. He holds everything together simply by the power of his own will. ALL MATTER, ALL SUBATOMIC PARTICLES AND ATOMS — ALL EXISTENCE IS “A GOD THING.”
The humblest Jesus follower knows something about everything. She knows that Jesus holds it all together. He knows The Man in Heaven is intimately involved with all existence. EVERYTHING IS “A GOD THING.”
When you come to trust Christ Jesus as the One who offers forgiveness of your sin by his shed blood on the cross, you also begin to learn that HE is the one who holds the very universe together by the Word of his power.
How utterly self-focused it is to think there is anything a believer can do to lose or somehow damage the salvation that the all-powerful Christ earned for you and holds together for you! SALVATION IS A GOD THING – from start to finish. Salvation is of the Lord.
Look at Jesus’ relationship to his people in vv. 18-19: 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell….
Just as Christ Jesus is the firstborn before all creation who brings creation into being and holds all creation together, by his resurrection power he is also firstborn from the dead.
The Lord Jesus rules creation – all life. The Lord Jesus rules death. Conception of life is a “God thing.” Birth is a “God thing.” Even death (sudden and surprising, or long and agonizing) is “a God thing.”
When Jesus stepped out of that garden tomb death’s power was broken. Death entered the world in a garden when Adam rejected God’s Word. Death died on a cross at Calvary and its funeral was held at an empty garden tomb.
I grew up in the days of the Space Race. I still remember watching Neil Armstrong put mankind’s first footprint on the surface of the earth’s moon.
I heard him say, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
He meant that first footprint upon the earth’s moon opened the way for the whole of humanity to explore the universe. He broke through into a new order of reality.
Jesus purchased you with his blood shed on the cross in payment for sin. You trust into his person and his good work and are united to Christ and to one another. You possess ALL of the benefits Jesus offers to his people – including LIFE and POWER OVER DEATH.
Finally, look at Jesus’ relationship to everything in v. 20: 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Because Jesus shed his perfect blood once of all, ALL THINGS …on earth or in heaven are “God things.”
He bought everything by his shed blood. He bought the right to save all those who trust into him alone, bringing them peace with God. Because as the perfect Lamb of God, he made himself the complete and final offering for sin to satisfy God’s holy wrath.
He bought the right to eternally damn all those who reject his grace in favor of their own merit. SALVATION IS A GOD THING. DAMNATION IS A GOD THING.
I have a final question for you: What would Jesus have to have done to end his suffering on the cross?
Even on the cross, he was still holding all things together.
If he had but “let go” there would have been only the perfect, perfectly-content-among-themselves Godhead – no more fallen sin-fractured creation. No longer would there have been any hateful creatures spitting and jeering at God as he suffered infinitely for the sins of his people.
But even as he hung dying a death of infamy and humiliation, Jesus held all things together because the Father loves YOU; because the Son loves YOU.
ETERNAL PERFECT LOVE IS A GOD THING.
If you have never known God’s love and never had peace with the holy God, you can own that love and peace today, right now. Love is a God thing freely offered. Peace is a God thing freely bestowed.
Simply give up trying to impress God and people with your own goodness and your own merit and say to Jesus, “Thank you Lord Jesus for living and dying for me.” Your prayer will be “a God thing” – the very best God thing!
1 F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 57.
2 Sinclair Ferguson, “Colossians 1:15-20 – The Incomparable Christ.” Accessed 4/16/16 at: