For Thy Sake

Genesis 3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Sometimes we read a Scripture that just doesn’t seem to make sense and may even seem contradictory to how we understand life.  One such verse is found in the above verse in Genesis 3:17.  It all seems okay until we get to the highlighted portion of the verse.  We expect God to judge man for his sinful acts of disobedience so the curse of the ground seems right, but the addition of the phrase “for thy sake” just doesn’t seem to fit.  It is because of what we do not know that makes it seem like a displaced phrase.  It would seem that if God wanted to do something for man that He would have made it easier, yet God did just the opposite and made it harder.

In order for the verse to make sense you need to put it in context with God’s plan for man.  Go back to Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  God did not intend that man would be completed by simply forming a body and breathing life into him.  His plan is far more complex and wonderful than that.  The making of man’s body was but a part of the creation of man.  Remaining was the completion of his soul and spirit.  Notice the different words used to describe His work.  First, He “created time and space” (make something out of nothing) and then He made man (fashioned a body out of the dust He had already created.  We know that because the Scriptures uses different words to describe His work (Created and made).  Further, we know that because of the description of the finished product.  Man would be made in the image of God, that in the similitude of God, or in a similar way.  The Bible teaches that God is a Trinity which means that God is known in three persons (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit), yet there is only one God.  The best illustration that I know of a trinity is that we are also a trinity.  I have a body, but that is not all there is to me.  I also have a soul containing my mind and will, yet that does not include all there is to me either.  Thirdly, I have a spirit and yet that is not the whole of me.  It takes all three; body, soul and spirit, to describe the whole of the person I am.  I am body, soul and spirit, yet there is only one of me.  I am made in the image or similitude of God.

Secondly, God said that we were to be made in the likeness of God.  We know that Adam and Eve sinned and that event changed man from a man without sin to a slave of sin.  His will was no longer to serve God but it had been changed to serve himself because the very nature of sin is to reject the authority of God and to make ourselves the authority that governs our lives.   God is great enough to make a way when there was no way to redeem man.  The damage was done and now God had the task of redeeming fallen man and then to complete His image and likeness within man so that his conduct would be in complete agreement with the nature of God. 

To complete God’s likeness will require man to undergo a complete overhaul from a rebellious selfish being into a new creation of God (2 Corinthians 56:17).  Man now must be confronted with his sin and see it for what it is.  The truth of sin is horrible for sin is a degenerating, destructive, degrading, deforming, decaying, and deliberate attack on the authority of God. That nature must die in order for new life to begin.  We will not reject sin until we see it for what it is and reject it like a poisonous snake. 

At this point we are now ready to choose for ourselves who and what will reign over us.  Just as in the garden of Eden there are two choices, The Tree of Life (Jesus) or the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Satan).  You will choose one or the other as there is no other choice (Romans 6:16).  To choose Jesus you will follow Him by faith in Him and His Word.  Once this choice is made, God promises to lay all the charges against you on Jesus; you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide you and to teach you; and you receive the promise of New Life through this world and for eternity.

So getting back to the original question of why is the curse for our benefit.  It is because it is the problems of life that God uses to teach us His ways and His truth.  Without them we would have no way of discovering the consequence of sin and turning from it.  I learn more from my mistakes and failures than I do from my successes.  As I build my life on truth, righteousness and knowledge I begin to take on the appearance of my new life.  Without the struggles we would never let go of sin.

The Necessity of the Struggle

1Co 2:3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:  5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

When we think of the Apostle Paul, we often think of a man who presented his message powerfully and had everything under control, when in fact that is just the opposite of how it was.  He was a man of small stature, and his appearance was marred because of a physical ailment.  To see him you would not think that he was significant or mighty and would not intimidate you in any way.

He did not even suggest that was the answer to your problems for he had problems of his own.  He struggled continually with the carnal nature and the elements of this world.  So what made him so effective?  It was the struggle itself, because people do not need to see the greatness of another person, but the greatness of God.  When we trust Him, He alone is the solution to our struggles.  By seeing Paul in his weakness, they could see the greatness of God.

We often slip into the thinking that it is our strength, or wisdom or our presentation that conveniences and convicts others to come to Christ.  In reality, that may be the very thing that stands in the way of them trusting God for that is the job of the Holy Spirit.  Even if we could persuade them by our efforts then they would become dependent upon us instead of God and their faith in us would not help them, but would be a hindrance to their faith in God. 

But there is another purpose in God’s plan beyond our usability, and that is our own growth.  Note that Paul specifically stated that it was for our own faith that would bring stability with God.  It is encouraging to see faith work for someone else but it is life changing when faith works in our own life.  Like the adage “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”, so it is with faith.  Show a man faith and he has the pattern, but when he proves God for himself he has hope and promise.

Faith in God only comes after the old nature has been subdued.  The reason for this is that our old nature fights to be in control and the conflict is not won until the old nature is overcome.  This is a task that we cannot accomplish through any natural means and it requires supernatural power which we do not have until we place our faith in Him.  John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.  The struggle is necessary for the individual to release his grip on the controls and take his place as a passenger on this journey to forever.  We do not have the wisdom nor the skills to navigate life successfully.  The struggle is within us and the victory is won by surrendering to the Lord as our pilot (Savior) by trusting Him to get us home safely. In our weakness, we are made strong and in our coming under His control we are saved.

The Flaming Sword

Occasionally, I like to address a Scripture that is commonly misunderstood.  Today is one of those days.  The Scripture is found in Genesis 3:22-24 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:  23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.  24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

A common understanding is that since man sinned, he was driven out of the garden where the tree of life was located because he couldn’t be trusted any more and the angel with the flaming sword was stationed there to protect the tree of life by preventing man from ever returning. 

There are several things wrong with that interpretation.  First, God was not protecting the tree of life from man but rather He was protecting man from the tree of life.  Had Adam taken from the tree of life, he would have sealed his own doom because that would have sealed his eternity in the fallen state and God had greater thing planned for man.  It would have destroyed God’s plan of man being completed in God’s image, likeness and authority.  Man needed time to be changed into that likeness.

Second, it was not an angel that was placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, but a Cherubim, which means spiritual enforcer.  This was not to prevent man from taking from the Tree of Life, but to restrict man until he would come restored to a right relationship. 

Thirdly there are two directives as to man’s exodus.  In verse 23 states that the Lord sent him forth from the garden to till the ground from whence he was taken.  The ground was cursed for man’s sake (v. 17)  He needed to see the effect of sin in order to turn from it and back to God.  Then in verse 24 we see that man was driven out.  Man had willfully gone against God and he needed to understand that thereare consequences for sin.  God will not lower His standards and wink at our sin.  It will take God’s intervention to deal with sin and it was pictured in the slaying of the animal for their new coverings or clothing.

Fourthly,  the flaming sword is described in Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: as the Word of God.  We know it as the Scriptures or The Bible.  It is further described in Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  You cannot fool God and He will know you to the depth of your inner most being.  Entrance is restricted to only one way, the way of the cross.

Finally, the phrase “to keep the way” does not mean to keep the way closed, but just the opposite, to keep the way open.  Though it is kept open it is still restricted to meet God’s standards.  There is hope for man to complete God’s plan for man by entering in the manner that God is pleased with and that is the was of Faith in Jesus.  However, we must come repentant of our self-government and surrender our will to the Lord Jesus for it is His blood the brings our sin into submission.  Without that blood there is no remission.

Seeing the invisible

As I sit here this morning, I am already seeing God at work.  The mission meeting in Oklahoma is starting to take shape and I see God’s fingerprints on each thing that happens.  Each person is key to its success.  God began this work many years ago.  As I consider just how long ago, I find that it began before He created anything.  We were in the mind of God and everything needed for us to become what He intended was provided.  He has been working ever since and I found Him working in my life long before I found out that I was a part of His plan.  You may remember a blog that I wrote recently about HIStory.  That is what history is all about, it is HIS story.  He alone establishes kings and rulers and He alone removes them.  He orders the natural laws that govern the universe and He made mankind, and more specifically, He made me.

He is the one who spoke to my heart and called me out of darkness and into His marvelous light.  He is the one who gave me a burden for the persecuted church.  He directed me to write The Mystery of Faith, then moved me to where I now live, and connected me with all of the ones who have established this vision of equipping the church leaders.  He provided the translators of my book, paid for the mission trips and provided everything to go on these trips.  Now I am beginning to see His plan on equipping the persecuted church leaders to do the work of shepherding their churches.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews has some wonderful insights on seeing spiritually.  It begins by listing a number of notable Bible personalities who LOOKED for a city, made by God and SAW it from afar (verse 13).  There is an interesting note in verse 27 concerning Moses which says “for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”  Then based on that vision, they responded by faith which is summarized in verse 33-38.   The chapter concludes with the statement, “having obtained a good report through faith . . .”

As I look ahead I see a vision taking shape.  It is not my vision, but His plan which has it beginning in God, and will see its realization by faith in Him.  The hardest part of such an endeavor is to keep my hands off.  The temptation is to claim it as my vision, my work, my heart, etc. but it is in truth, not mine at all but His.  This is His working so we must not lead but follow, we must not offer our works but our faith in Him.  If I can do it without His involvement then it will not require faith nor His power and will not properly represent Him.  It is precisely because of this impossibility that I can see the invisible.  It is because I see God working on all fronts that I can see His objective.  It is because the devil is working so hard to keep people in darkness that they need God’s light in order to see beyond this world into eternity.

We are much like the 12 spies that Moses sent into the promise land to search it out.  They all came back with a report that the land was a good and rich land and even brought evidence with a bunch of grapes that it took two men to carry.  The difference was in what else they saw.  10 saw the giants and determined that the fight was impossible.  The other two, Joshua and Caleb, also saw the giants, but also saw God who was greater than the giants.  So here you stand, giving your report of the Promised Land.  What do you see, Giants, in the form of an oppressive government or God who is greater than the opposition?  What is your report on what you see?

Having Faith

Yesterday, while my wife and I were shopping for Christmas gifts, I noticed a lady in the store who looked at me as though she knew me and then walked over to me and asked me if there was anything that she could pray for me about.  My immediate reaction was where did this come from?  I don’t know you and this is so out of the ordinary so why do you want to pray for me?  I made no response but knowing that the Lord works in wondrous ways.  I thought about it for a moment and the first thing that came to mind was the Christian Training Center in Japan so I asked her to pray for that.  I specifically asked that she not pray that the Lord would bring it to pass but that we would be sensitive to what the Lord had planned.

I have learned that God is not concerned about the doing of mission projects as He is about our walking by faith in Him.  After all, He is the one doing the work, as the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.  You see, God’s greatest work is us.  He is completing His image in us so that the world can comprehend what He is like.  He will bring it to pass without our effort if we will “believe in Him”.  Another way to say it is “if we will have faith in Him”.   

In my Bible studies I try to find the exact meaning of the original language in order to accurately understand.  This led me to an amazing discovery and that is that the word we translate as “faith” is pistis, which means to trust, rely on, or follow.  Then I found that the word that we translate as “believe” is also pistis, and has the exact same meaning.  The only difference is that faith is a verb or action, whereas believe is a noun or the act of trusting.  In other words you can substitute one for the other without violating the meaning.  For example, in Mark 9:23  Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.  This is an amazing promise and most people believe that God can do anything. However, if you substitute the word faith, for the word believe it takes on a whole new dimension.  Now it reads “. . .if thou canst faith, all things are possible.”  Do you see the implication?  What is holding God back from doing, is our unbelief or our non-faith in Him.  In other words we are the limiting factor in God working. 

Most of the time, we focus on the doing, instead of the believing.  That is because the carnal mind is trying to earn God’s favor but God has removed effort from the formula of pleasing him and now all that is required is for us to “believe in Him” or “to have faith in Him”.  God’s part is the doing and our part is the believing.  He works through our faith but He doesn’t work because we work.  God’s power is only exercised upon our position of faith in Him.  This is perfectly aligned with James 5:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Our efforts should first be to know the Lord intimately, and then to discover what He is doing and join Him.  He does not join us to fulfill all our plans and dreams but when our plans and dreams are to see Him magnified here on earth we will see Him do amazing things.

The Exceeding Greatness of His Power To Us-Ward Who Believe

Eph 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

You will recognize the same scripture that I have used in my two previous blogs, as this is the third of three blogs on Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers. 

The Ephesian church was undergoing great difficulty because of the pagan influences and the untrained leadership of the church.  Paul was writing to Timothy from his prison cell and giving him direction as to how the leadership needs to be led in dealing with these pagan customs and teachings.  He emphasized that the leadership did not need the ‘how to do’ message but the Lord, Himself to work in their hearts in these three specific areas in order for them to be able to see the victory.  The Lord would have to give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of Him.  We do not need answers, but what we need is the person of the Lord Jesus, Himself.  He does not have the answers, but is the answer to everything.  He is known through both the spirit of wisdom and by revelation.  It is not head knowledge, it is heart and experiential knowledge.

It is in this light that Paul says that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened and then they would know these three tremendous blessings.  Expositors comments; “In these three clauses Paul leads the readers on from the hope itself which becomes theirs in virtue of their being called of God, to the splendor of the enheritance to which the hope points, and from this again to that in God Himself which makes the fulfillment of the hope and the possession of the inheritance certain, namely the limitless efficiency which is His prerogative.”  Kenneth Wuest goes on; “ This power of God working in our behalf with reference to our salvation is not thought of here as operating only in the future, but also at present.”  It is not that we shall have power but that we also presently have His power available to us in all our life endeavors. 

The exceeding greatness of his power speaks of a power that is beyond measure, that is much more than is needed to do the job at hand.  We do not need to fear that we might fail for it is not our might, but His might that overcomes the adversary. Again I quote Wuest; “Paul uses four words here, all having the general meaning of power; “ the first use of power is dunamis, which is the word that we get our word ‘dynamite’, the second word is translated “working” and is the Greek word energeia, which is the word we get our word energy from and means power in exercise or operative power; the third word is “mighty” which is the Greek word kratos, or manifested strength; the second use of the word power is the Greek word ischuos, or strength, or power as an endowment.  Collectively we have this translation; “And what is the superabounding greatness of His inherent power to us who are believing ones as measured by the operative energy of the manifested strength of His might.

This power that was illustrated when Christ was raised from the dead, is the same power that God stands ready to exercise in us today, as we face the world in all its depravity.  Timothy was to lead the church to see how great a salvation that is ours and what God has in store for us.  Then for us to learn what it means for us to be a child of God and its richness and blessings. And finally, to meet all opposition with the power of God that will totally defeat the powers of darkness and all its host.  We are not just meager, “sinners saved by grace” but we are Children of God with all the power of heaven at our disposal.  The victory is already won and we are to fight from the position of victors.

Eternal life

Most Christians have heard John 3:16 quoted many times and can probably quote it themselves.  I have heard it quoted so many times that I had become dull of hearing and felt that I knew the verse quite well.  Then one day as I was reading the verse, yet once again, there was one word that jumped out at me and it was like someone slapped me in the face and said look at this phrase, and that was the phrase, Eternal Life.  The one word was “eternal” and all of a sudden the verse exploded into amazing understanding. 

The word eternal means “without end” so I began to contemplate what life without end really means.  I thought of from now on without an end, that is a finishing end.  I considered, starting with salvation that there would never be an end to my life.  I wondered, what would it be like in say 100,000 or a million years?  Would I ever get bored or complacent with that existence?  Then I remembered that in eternity there is no such thing as time and off my mind went with that adjustment, wondering how that would work and what it would be like. . .

Then I remembered studying the concept of infinity in college and recalled that an infinity(meaning no end) has no end in either direction.  Going forward there is no end and going backward there is no end.  My mind began to hit overload with this new insight.  Here in time and space we think linear, that is in a straight line.  We don’t consider any of the other possible directions but in eternity all directions are considered so eternal life must mean without beginning or end.  That was real difficult because I think of my life as having a beginning.  That beginning was at my conception and it is dated from my birth.  I have no recollection of life prior to that yet the Bible records that we were in the mind of God before time began.  Now my mind is really buzzing as I realize that I actually am older than dirt.  God‘s plan for me existed prior to His creation of the world.  Now I began to realize that I am not a product of chance happening, or the result of certain chemicals coming into contact with each other, in short, a product of creation.  It is just the other way around, creation is the product of God’s plan for me and you.  It serves as a womb of sorts to provide an environment where God can complete His plan of making man in His own image, after His likeness and with dominion.

As I began to feel a little comfortable with this new understanding, another truth came to mind.  Not only does eternal life not have a beginning or an end but eternal life encompasses all possibilities in all other directions as well.  At this point my mind went into TILT.  I failed to comprehend the whole of the idea of life in the full meaning of eternal.  This truth is too wonderful for me. Though I could not comprehend it, I was affected by it.

Then I began to think about God.  He is Eternal.  The Bible describes Him as the eternal God.  We think of this as a title but it is so much more.  It is a description of the dynamic of who and what God is.  This is promise that God’s plan is not some pie in the sky, by and by, but His plan is to make us His children and to give us eternal life.  That is His life that shares with us as we live in Him.  He is getting us ready for an eternity beyond our comprehension.   That is why we share in His inheritance, His sufferings, His character, His reign and His life.

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting (eternal) life.   For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  He that believeth in Him is not condemned, but he that believeth not in Him is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Baptism

There has been much debate on the subject of baptism over the years that have caused a lot of confusion among believers and even the splitting of churches.  What you believe about baptism is important and can cause real problems in fellowship.  Baptism is not required for salvation.  If it were, the thief on the cross would not have been saved yet Jesus declared that they would be together in paradise that day.  Though it is not a requirement for salvation, it is a requirement of obedience and a faith walk of the believer.  It is proper evidence of your conversion.  A Scriptural baptism will include these 5 points of identification.

  1. The first point of identification is that there must be a proper candidate.  A proper candidate is one who has become a believer in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  He has been converted from the old way of living (sin) to the new life (walking by faith in Jesus).  This is done by a confrontation and confession of sin (called repentance) and the surrender of the control of your life to Jesus (faith in Him).  This is a conscious and deliberate choice of the will.  An infant is not capable of making such a choice, yet a few do make that choice at an early age prior to the teenage years.  A proper candidate is already a believer so baptism is not a part of getting saved but it is an important part of walking by faith and should be done as soon as possible after getting saved.  Without the conversion experience, you are not a proper candidate.  Baptism is not part of your qualification for salvation but an evidence that it has already been accomplished.  See Acts 2:38, 8:12-13, 36-38, Ephesians 4:5
  2. The second point of identification for a scriptural baptism is a proper mode.  A proper mode is how it is done.  The word baptism is a transliteration of the Greek word “baptizo” which is the only method used in the Bible.  It means to dip, immerse or plunge under.  The sprinkling or pouring came much later in the history of the church and was in response to the erroneous doctrine that baptism was necessary for, or a part of salvation.  Scriptural baptism knows of only one method and that is by immersion and is seen in its meaning.
  3.  It is the picture of God’s provision of our salvation in Christ:  He died on the cross, He was buried in the tomb and He was raised victorious over death hell and the grave.
  4. It is also the picture of what has happened to the believer.  He has died to sin, buried in a grave of water and raised to walk in newness of life.
  5. It is further, a picture of the Christians’ hope.  We die physically, we are buried in the ground and we will be resurrected to join Christ in the air and so shall we ever be.  See Romans 6:4-6, I Thessalonians 4:13-18
  6. The third point of identification for a scriptural baptism is a proper time.  There isn’t a lot of scripture about the timing of baptism but the scriptural example is that it should be done as soon as possible after conversion.  Acts 8:36-38  I have heard of a number of individuals who claim to be believers but have never been baptized. In every case I have observed that there is a major problem in their faith walk.  We are commanded to be baptized once we become a believer and to put it off becomes disobedience when not done promptly, as it will affect your faith walk. 
  7. The fourth point of identification of a scriptural baptism is a proper purposeMatthew 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.  A common question about baptism is why should I be baptized since I am already saved?  Some people have the idea that going to heave is all that is important but Jesus said that we should fulfill all righteousness.  Getting to heave is just the means of travel but God is in the business of transformation of the believer so that when he gets to heaven he will be at home.  Without this transformation we would either miss the trip all together or if we should actually make it there we would be dis figured or handicapped forever.  Here are some of the reasons that we should be baptized.
  8. It is a declaration of independence from the control of sin on our lives.  It is also a declaration of independence from the curse of the law (legalism).  Further it is a declaration of independence from the dominion of the old nature.  We are no longer a prisoner of our old nature.
  9. It is a declaration of dependence upon Christ not only to provide salvation but a means to continually be cleansed from sin by our confession of it to Him.  It is also a declaration of our dependence on the Holy Spirit to teach us the scriptures, give us recall of them (John 14:26), convict, convince and convert the world (John 16:8),  guide you into all truth (John 16:13), Shew you things to come (John 16:8), and to glorify the Lord (John 16:14).  We are totally dependent on the Lord.  Further, it is a declaration of dependence upon the Scripture.  It is wholly trustworthy as it will never pass away.  It has stood the test of time, trials and twisting and remains the sure foundation of all doctrine of God.
  10. It is a declaration of interdependence.  The church is the bride of Christ and very precious to Him.  As a part of a local church we support one another and learn  to lean on the Lord as He is in the church.
  11. Baptism is to be administered by a proper authority.  The proper authority is His church made up of His believers.  It is the church that was commissioned to carry the gospel to the whole world, to baptize the new believers and then to teach them to observe the things that He commanded us to do. (Matthew 28:19-20)  Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22) Acting under His authority and leadership we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  (II Corinthians 5:18)

Crises of Faith – 6

As I listened to the news this morning, I heard that there was over 500 tornados in our nation during yesterday’s storms.  This is unprecedented numbers.  My wife and I had to shelter from a potential tornado for the first time ever.  I got the sensation that God is trying to turn us as a nation, but I don’t sense that we are getting the message so here it is as I hear it from God.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him.”  “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  We have adopted a lifestyle of religion without faith in Him.  We are similar to the Pharisees in that we are careful to dot the I’s and cross the t’s in our form of worship, without ever realizing we are in the presence of Almighty God.  We struggle and work to “do good” and to “be good” on our own, but God is saying to us that such religion is an insult to Him.  We need to get this right.  God is not pleased with a religion that does not place us in a position of trusting in Him and will judge us for not turning to Him. 

The situation is this:  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  We are not guiltless, we are guilty of sin and will face judgment unless we turn from sin.  According to Romans 14:23 living a life of not trusting in Him (faith) is sin.  Do you get it?  Faith is the missing ingredient.  That is the only thing that will please Him.  We must own our sin.  It is not because we are so bad and fail so much, but because we refuse to live by faith in Him.

I can just hear the response of “I trust in God.  How dare you question my faith?”  My dear friend, I am not judging you.  I am sharing the truth of what the Scripture states about our condition.  Jesus Himself said that most people will travel the Broad Way that leads to death.  Only a few will find the narrow way that is restrictive and corrective but they will find life.

That brings us to the second truth about our situation.  There is a way to please Him and turn away His wrath.  Instead of insulting Him by our rejection of the truth of our sin, we need to own up to it and confess that we are desperately in need of His forgiveness.  We can’t do it without Him, whether we understand it or not.  God is well aware of our plight.  It is even worse that we know, so His plan is to take our sin on Himself, suffer the consequence of it, and deliver us from its consequence.  I remember a time when I was about four or five years old that there was a forest fire near our home and Dad was fighting the fire with other neighbors.  Dad had placed my older brother and I in a fairly safe place at the edge of the forest with a couple burlap sack to put out little spark fires that would break out from the airborne cinders.  Sure enough, one broke out near us and my brother put it out.  Soon there were others and I got involved but I didn’t know much about what I was doing.  I was wearing a pair of sandals and kicked at the fire but my sandal flew off and when I stepped down in the leaves, I stepped on a thorn and I let out a scream.  I stood there on one foot, with fire coming closer and fire between me and my brother and I cried out in desperation.  Then I heard a sound come rushing toward me and when I looked up I saw my Dad come running through the fire to me.  He spotted my sandal and in full stride, gathered it up and then grabbed me up and carried me out of my situation.  This is what our heavenly Father wants to do for us.  He is our solution and not the sum of our best efforts.

The final truth of our situation is that all God requires of us is for us to continue to walk by faith in Him.  He is not concerned with us looking good in His eyes.  His love for us is enough.  He is not pleased with our good works, but he is pleased with our faith in Him.  When Jesus was asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”  The word “believe” and the word “faith” are exactly the same word in the Greek language so that it could be translated that ye have faith in Him. . .   God is not concerned with your mighty works but he is infinitely concerned with your faith in Him.  God will do the work, but you are required to do the believing.  Faith in Him is our work.  Sadly, we have it turned around today and are focused on the works, omitting the faith and that is what defines the Crises of faith today.

Crises of Faith – 5

Not long after I finished High school, I applied for a job with the Colorado Department of highways as a part of a survey crew and was hired.  The first day after orientation I loaded up with the rest of the crew and went out to an intersection where I was dropped off and was told to wait there until they came back for me.  They gave me no indication as to how long it would be but my instructions were clear, just wait until they returned.  It was a warm spring day but there was no shade for me to wait under.  I did have my lunch and a jug of water with me and that turned out to be a real good thing.

The morning began to wear on and I wondered what was taking so long.   As time wore on I began to wonder why they left me there alone.  It didn’t make sense but I continued to wait.  Noon came so I had my lunch and tapped my jug of water but they didn’t return.  I continued tapping my water as the afternoon wore on but still no one came for me.  It was just about quitting time when I saw the crew returning.  Everyone was smiling but no one said a word.  Come to find out it was a test to see if I could follow directions.  My directions were to wait and watch for their return. 

That is the same directions that the Lord gave to His followers with one exception, we are to be busy sharing the gospel of Christ as we wait and watch for His return.  There may be additional directions that that the Lord gives, but the point is that we cannot be trusting the Lord when we take it upon ourselves to add – or subtract – from those direction.  Anything we change in those directions is not trusting in Him, but ourselves.  Romans 14:23 says, “. . . whatsoever is not of faith, is sin.”  King Saul was given specific directions by the Lord to destroy the enemy, his flocks, and his herds.  But when Samuel came by to check on him, Saul had not destroyed the cattle and sheep.  He explained that it was his intention to sacrifice them to the Lord.  For this sin of changing the Lord’s plan the kingdom was taken from him.  Samuel’s response is very telling.  I Samuel 15:22-23 “. . . Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because thou has rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

Sometimes what the Lord doesn’t make sense to us but we are to follow it to the letter else we stand against God.  Faith in the Bible is clearly understood to mean that we are following the Lord’s directives, otherwise it is not faith in Him.  What we see a lot of today is doing what we think might be the Lord’s will.  That is nothing more than a wild guess, carried out to the full of our understanding and is not faith in the Lord but faith in our guess.  In order to walk by faith in the Lord, we must get our directions from the Lord.  If He is not directing then we cannot proceed.  So where do you find His directions?  The vast majority of God’s will is written down in Scriptures.  God will never contradict His Word.  Another way that God directs us today is by His Holy Spirit.  That is not a hunch, or good guess, or even what seems right, but the leading of the Spirit.  Again, it will never contradict His Word and will require us to trust Him and not a result.  Further, it will glorify or expose God to the world and call us to righteousness.  I do not put stock in open and closed doors as Satan can also open and close doors.  However, I do believe that we can find God’s leading through those who have traveled the road of faith successfully.  Long established principles of faith and doctrine can clarify the way. 

Popular fads may look good at the moment but fade over time.  Worldly success is not a good measure of God’s involvement.   Sensationalism is one of the most popular measure of a church’s success but promotes the individual rather than the Lord.  In the final analysis the way of God is a narrow way but it leads to life everlasting.