Posts tagged ‘faith’

Lest You Become Weary

Whenever there is film of a marathon race, they like to show the participants as they get near to the end of the race. I have yet to see anyone stopping to do some shopping, or to play a quick game of basketball during the race. That doesnt happen because the runners are fully focused and what they need to do. I think that maintaining our focus is one of the reasons for our communion at the Lord’s Table every week as well. Hebrews 12 talks about things we can do when we take the bread and the fruit of the vine that will help of run with endurance.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NKJV)

First, we take encouragement from those who have run the race before us. We also build one another up as we partake of the emblems each week together. This is not something we do alone. It is, as Paul described it in 1 Corinthians 10, a communion in the body and blood of Christ.

Second, we should reflect on our lives and determine that because of our love for Christ and our gratitude for the price he paid, we will lay aside every sin that so easily ensnares us. As we remember the brutality of the suffering that He endured, we are reminded of the awfulness of our sin and resolve to turn from it, lest we be ensnared in it again.

Third, we must focus on Jesus, who is our supreme example of endurance. Think about what He went through. Think about his focus stayed on the joy at the end, when he would be able to redeem his bride and spend eternity with us in heaven. And as we consider the hostility He endured for us, it will help us to endure the trials we go through and not become discouraged and weary. He died for me; I will live for him.

Take time today to focus on Jesus and what he has done and resolve anew to never quit, but rather to run with endurance and finish well.

20120909-084155.jpg

A Direct Cooperation With The Spirit

A very common teaching today is that no one can come to God without being acted upon by the Holy Spirit. It is taught that this action of the Spirit happens independent of human cooperation, and causes the sinner to be able to understand spiritual things and seek after God. Where do such doctrines come from? Let’s look at a few verses that seem to support this position.

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. (John 6:44, 45 NASB)

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16 NASB)

If we just consider those passages, then the direct action teaching seems pretty solidly rooted in Scripture. But the problem is this; those are not the only verses on the subject, and we need to consider everything that has been revealed in the Word before coming to a conclusion.

If we agree that faith is required to please God, then we need to determine how faith is obtained. Paul said in Romans 10,

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17 NASB)

Notice that the verse does not say that faith comes by election, but by hearing the Word of Christ. Paul confirms this when addressing the Galatians.

“This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:2 NASB)

From these two verses we can see that faith comes when a sinner hears the Word of Christ. This is also true because the Word of God is not a dead letter. It has inherent spiritual power within it.

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NASB)

The Word of God, empowered by the Spirit in cooperation with faith growing in those who receive it, has the power to draw men to Christ and renew the mind. This is not limited to the salvation experience. This faith building and renewing of our minds is a lifelong journey of growth in the things of God.

So it is not a sovereign Divine act that enables sinners to come to God. It is, rather, a Divine cooperation with the Spirit that results in salvation.

20120807-004246.jpg

Just…Live…Faith

I believe it is significant when an Old Testament verse is quoted in the New Testament. When the verse is quoted twice, that is a big deal. But when a verse is quoted three times, with each instance in a different letter, there is a spiritual principle being taught that has a wider application. Habakkuk 2:4 is just such a verse.
But the just shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4b NKJV)
How appropriate that this little verse is quoted in Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews.

The Just:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:16, 17 NKJV)
If I had to sum up the message I’d Paul’s letter to the church in Rome in just one word, that word would be justification. For it is in Romans that we are shown when, where, and how justification by faith happens. The “how” is by faith, as the previous verse says. The where is in our hearts (Romans 5:1-5), and the “when” is at obedience in baptism (Romans 6:3-10).

Shall Live:
But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for the just shall live by faith. (Galatians 3:11 NKJV)

In Galatians we have been provided with practical instruction for Christian living. But are also told that “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)
I cannot help but see an implied reference to baptism here as well.

By Faith:
Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. (Hebrews 10:38 NKJV)
There is an entire chapter in Hebrews talking about faith. We also see that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Feeding our faith is the key to not drawing back. Faith in God is the very source of our spiritual life, and if we quit on God, we are left with less than nothing. In fact, it would be better to have never begun with God.
“For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.” (2 Peter 2:21 NKJV)
In reality, in the vast majority of cases, salvation is not lost — it is left.

Do you want to be justified and have eternal life?then have faith in God. But how do we get faith? “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 NKJV) Get into the Word of God and feed your faith. And once you are in Christ via obedience in baptism, continue to stay in the Word and let your mind be transformed.

20120804-003915.jpg

A Learning Experience

Jehovah God is omniscient, knowing all that is, all that has been, and all that will be. He has always been that way because it part of His divine nature. Jesus, in whom the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form, shares this attribute (Colossians 2:9). So why would the writer of Hebrews say something like this?

“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation”, (Hebrews 5:8, 9 NASB)

Jesus did something His heavenly Father had never done — He learned! As Almighty God, Jehovah had never needed to learn anything! But since Christ had “emptied himself” of His divine prerogatives in order to be incarnate and come to earth as a man, He grew and had to learn obedience. God has never needed to obey anyone, either!

If Jesus was without sin (and He was), the what does the writer mean when saying Christ was “made perfect”? Perfect here in the Greek is not talking about sinless moral perfection, but about completeness. To be our high priest, Jesus had to not only be fully God, but also fully man. He would have to be tempted in every way men are, yet without sin. This could only be a completed by learning to be obedient.

And because of the obedience He exhibited, Christ is the source of eternal salvation. To whom? Those who say a prayer of salvation? Those who, deep down, believe? Those who He has elected ahead of time and regenerated before they decided either way? No! He is the source of eternal salvation to only one group of people — those who obey Him! As I have said in previous posts, I am not saying we are not saved by faith, but rather that obedience is a part of faith, and without it faith is dead. Can you imagine how something dead and lifeless could transmit eternal life? Of course not!
If I were a reporter, I would summarize salvation this way:
Who saves us: Jesus Christ
What saves us: grace
How grace saves us: faith
When and where faith saves us: baptism
Why: His love for us.

I cannot think of a better way to summarize my thoughts than what was written by John Sammis in 1887 –“Trust and Obey”.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Refrain:
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

20120730-010238.jpg

The Opposite Of Belief

The Opposite Of Belief
In modern English usage, belief can be defined as mental assent to an idea. But what is belief in a biblical sense? Is it mere mental assent, or trust, or confession? One way to see what belief means in the Bible is to see what it is contrasted with. Let’s go to the foremost authority on the subject, Jesus Christ.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36 ESV)
So according to Jesus, the opposite of belief is disobedience! In fact, belief and obedience are inextricably linked together. This link is so strong that to speak of belief or faith without stating or implying obedience is to take it out of context!
Even in Mark 16:16, where Christ says that, “he who believes and is baptized will be saved, and he who does not believe will be condemned” many teachers try to twist the verse to say that it refutes the essential nature of obedience (in this case baptism). But in fact, since obedience is implied whenever belief is mentioned, the verse in no way weakens the command to believe and be baptized!
So am I talking about a salvation by works? Of course not. In baptism, it is God who is doing the work of regeneration. When Paul speaks of works, he is usually referring to “works of the Law” and not obedience in faith. And he is correct! Law keeping has no power to save! But James speaks of works as a natural consummation of saving faith. Again, we are saved by faith in the resurrection of Christ, but that salvation is effected at baptism. (1 Peter 3:21)
So what is it that we are supposed to obey? The Gospel!
“in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8 ESV). But what is the Gospel? According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, this is the Gospel:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5 ESV)
But how does someone obey an event like the death, burial and resurrection?
According to Romans 6, it is done in baptism.
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Romans 6:4-6 ESV)

When we participate in the death, burial and resurrection at baptism, we obey the Gospel and our faith saves us! As Peter wrote, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:21 ESV). Write all you want to explain this verse away, but you can’t force it to say anything other than “baptism saves you”!

Remember, the opposite of belief is disobedience. You cannot speak of faith without obedience, or you are taking belief out of context!

20120716-235339.jpg

Soft Christianity!

Soft Christianity

As Independence Day approaches, I am thankful to be living in a country that, at present, allows us to worship God. This freedom has enabled America for the last century or more to be a land where workers can be trained to preach the Gospel around the world, and where Bibles can be printed and then distributed to those who would receive them.

But there is no scriptural guarantee that this will always be the case. In fact, I almost wonder if this freedom has caused American Christians to take the church for granted. To look upon Christ and the Church as a nice addition to our lives that helps people behave, but that one shouldn’t get too radical about. Where selection of a “church home” is done on the basis of who has the most to offer rather than on the veracity of the message being preached.

And all the while, our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the planet suffer and are killed for their faith on a daily basis. They worship God in secret gatherings, out of sight of government officials or the radical religionists who would think they are doing God a service by killing them. They continually live out the Words spoken by our Master:
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:18-20 NASB)

On occasion, I have met brethren from lands like Pakistan, or who have fled Saudi Arabia because they had a sentence of death on them. They were not proud, but considered it an honor to be persecuted for their Lord. After such meetings, through no fault of theirs, I would walk away feeling so lukewarm and convicted. You see, where I am from, I am surrounded by those who encourage my faith and I can openly worship Jesus. But for those who are the persecuted, their faith costs them something. They truly have to count the cost before putting on Christ in baptism, because it may cost them everything they have held dear to themselves. Surely their heavenly rewards will be so much greater than my own, and rightly so.

But again, we in America must also remember that there is no guarantee that things will always be like they have been in our past. Persecution could come at any time, and who are we to say that it would not be a pruning and purifying process that the Lord would deem necessary to our spiritual development?
Did not Jesus himself say,
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11, 12 NASB)?
And the Apostle Paul wrote that, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12 NASB)
Do we dare to contemplate what the Spirit meant when He had Paul use the word “all” in that verse?

Well, what are we to do in the mean time? First and foremost, pray for the persecuted church daily! As Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, those who are mistreated since you yourselves are in the body also.” All of us who belong to Christ make up His body. And when one part is suffering, we all suffer with it (1 Corinth 12:26)

I would also encourage all of us to prayerfully examine the Scriptures and judge for ourselves the depth of our commitment to Jesus Christ and the Gospel. And after that, say with deeper conviction than ever before, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back!”

20120701-020127.jpg

%d bloggers like this: