Your Cell Phone and God's Call

Set your cell phone or MacBook or latest electronic gadget on the table in front of you.  Look at it closely.  Imagine you were a person from 1950 looking at your gizmo today.  An iPad might be too much for 1950-man, so lets say it's a cell phone.  What could you know about it?  It's not lit up or making noise.  It's just sitting on the table.

If you stop and think about it, you could probably deduce that the device is something that has been intentionally created; that is, it wasn't accidentally assembled after a tornado ripped through computer plant.  You might also come to the conclusion that the device did not create itself.  There was a designer or a team of designers and they probably had a plan to build the phone.  A purpose for the object was probably also something the builders had in mind.  And the simple reality that someone else built the phone should lead you to believe that the builder deserves much more credit for the phone's existence than the phone itself.  

Like your cell phone, we can think about the creation of the world in much the same way.  The technical term for this is teleological thinking.  As we look at the created world, we can see a creator.  There is order and organization and harmony and design.  All this world came from somewhere and the credit belongs to the creator.  A funny thing happens however--throughout history people look at the world and worship creation, that is, they give ultimate credit to the created things rather than the creator.  This would be like crediting the plastic power button on your phone for the phone's creation and then worshiping the power button.  Of if they don't worship a physical part of creation, they worship an idea.  It's like saying all this world came about by accident and random chance gets all the credit and worship.  But when they say this, what they are really saying is, "I know best and the object of my worship is myself because of my own ideas."  The phone aught not think of itself better than its creator, yet so many people do this regarding their own creation and their creator.  How silly.

Looking at the world and seeing a creator happens because the Creator has designed in some markers into his creation.  This called general revelation.  General revelation is, “The knowledge of God’s existence, character, and moral law, which comes through creation to all humanity. […] General revelation comes through observing nature, through seeing God’s directing influence in history, and through an inner sense of God’s existence and his laws that he has placed inside every person.”[1] (A biblical picture of general revelation is available in Romans 1:18-2:29 and Psalm 19:1-6 for example.)

God has appointed all of his creation to point back to himself.  He has placed his trademark on all he has created just as Apple has a recognized symbol on all their products.  Yet even looking at an iPhone, iPad, or iMac, you don't need the Apple icon to know the item was created by Apple.  There's just something about an Apple products that screams, "I'm made by Apple!"

Interestingly enough, general revelation can demonstrate our sinful ways.  We can see that we've misplaced our worship and that's called idolatry.  Romans 1:16-2:11 provides a solid explanation that man is without excuse--we should know and believe that there is a God apart from creation and we are not that God.  In the book of Acts, the Apostles Barnabas and Paul go into Lystra to proclaim the good news of Christ.  The people there are so amazed, they begin worshiping Barnabas and Paul.  The Apostles respond by showing the people that they themselves are simply parts of the creation and not the Creator.  They go on to say that God has not left himself without a witness because his trademark is on his creation but that they should also listen to the message God has sent them to share. 

God uses the pinnacle of his creation, man, to share the good news of salvation found only through Christ.  This is what Barnabas and Paul were doing.  This is kind of like what the manufacturer of your cell phone does with press releases.  People stand up and tell you about the product and the manufacturer.  Even if you were not at the original press release meeting, you may learn of this information because someone wrote it down.  God has even commissioned his people to tell his story (and he appointed others to write it down).  The most famous of these instructions is found at the end of Matthew 28.  This telling of God's story is called special revelation and the instruction in Matthew 28:16-21 is called the Great Commission. 

Special revelation is, “God’s words addressed to specific people, such as the words of the Bible, the words of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles, and the words of God spoken in personal address, such as a Mount Sinai or the baptism of Jesus.”[2]

Now again imagine you are looking at your cell phone and it's an Apple product.  A guy walks up and says, "That phone is an Apple iPhone, designed by Steve Jobs."  You can choose to believe the guy or not.  God had many of his people telling the world about himself.  They were often called prophets in the Old Testament.  They told people about God and they themselves served as a mechanism for God's special revelation.  They often wrote stuff down too.  But the people rejected them and sometimes even killed them.

Now imagine that after the cell phone guy walks away, another man shows up.  While he's standing there the phone rings.  You answer it and the voice on the other end says "My name is Steve Jobs.  I created the phone you are holding in your hand."  You look up and the man speaking to you over the phone is the same man standing before you in person.  Again, you could believe or not. 

God has done this too when he said of Jesus at his baptism, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:15.)   You to have a choice.  Look at the world like you looked at your cell phone.  That's God's general revelation speaking to you.  Then open the Bible or talk with Christians telling God's story.  That's God's special revelation and he's speaking to you!


1. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1994), 122-123.

2. Ibid., 123. 

* Both the photo of Steve Jobs introducing the Mac Air in 2008 and Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" are registered under a creative commons license and are used with permission.