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Tag: Faith and Practice

Fear is the Enemy of Faith, Faith is the Enemy of Fear

“I do know that waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” | Elisabeth Elliot

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” | Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV)

These are unexpected, historic, trying times to say the least. And it is during these times I believe the Lord gives us a great opportunity for personal, communal and societal reflection. But then there’s fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of loss (whatever form that takes), anxiety that we have no control over this situation, how long it will last, what shape it will take in the future, on and on. A person (points at self) can easily get wrapped around the axle at 3am in the middle of the night on all of this (or 2pm for that matter when dealing with even more struggles with the kids as cabin fever sets in). Fear is the enemy of faith in general, but at these times it gets ratcheted up exponentially. It’s no wonder this was the most repeated command in the Bible: “Fear not…” 

Yet the reverse is also true: faith is the enemy of fear. I believe the Lord has handed us a great opportunity filled with hope. This is a time for us, His people, to slow down, to take a step back and press into our life with Jesus individually and with our families or roommates, to recapture and develop routines and habits that move and press us into the resurrection life and activity of the Spirit. 

This is where for me the Daily Office patterns of prayer and Scripture readings throughout the day have been life giving. http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/mobile/devotions/bcp/

Generally, what this looks like is simply having a morning, afternoon and evening time of prayer, Scripture reading and meditation. And it doesn’t have to be some long, drawn out time. Make it your own. Just wake up, get coffee and pray through a Psalm or two. Let it penetrate your own heart as you dwell on it. Then at lunch, stop what you’re doing, step away (as the setting allows) and repeat by reading more Psalms, an Old Testament reading or a New Testament reading. Then in the evening, either alone or with your family or roommates, read the gospel reading and pray, resting and rejoicing in Your Father’s rejoicing in and over You. Just make it consistent. This is a great pattern to start and get in the habit of, a time to take a step back from the chaos and uncertainty and be in the word and in prayer, really as a means to simply be with Jesus, either alone or with others. Let Him work His healing salve and the means of grace into Your heart. Allow Him to dine with You and fill Your soul with what is the banquet Your soul and my soul so desperately needs: Jesus Himself.

Here is a lecture series Pastor Brian (at Trinity Pres Fort Worth) did at the very beginning of Trinity I have posted before that explains this in greater detail. Such good, rich material I commend to you to sit with and take in during this time. https://trinitypresfw.org/media/lectures/formation/

None of this chaos catches our Father by surprise. The past, present and future is ever-present before Him and is all worked out for His glory and our good. He is sovereign, He is kind and loving. He is our great Physician with a surgeon’s scalpel and healing hand who knows exactly what we need to shape us and form us into the image of His Son, the very One who went through the worst form of suffering, to the cross, bearing our wrath, and rose again, victorious over sin, death and hell, so that we could live with Him forever in the City of the New Jerusalem. Let’s together as His people put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6) and stand firm in the faith, resisting the work of the devil to discourage us, fighting the temptation to fear and press toward our great King who has already won the victory, with the hope and resiliency of the saints in the past who have endured similar trials.

“On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand…”

May it be so. Amen.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” | Romans 5:1–6 (ESV)

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” | James 1:2–5 (ESV)

The Embodiment and Fulfiller of the Law

The law, religious piety and practice have fallen on hard times these days in the church. The modern day status quo stance of many professing evangelicals seems to be something of, “I’m free in Jesus to do what makes me happy while not hurting anyone else and to follow the way of Jesus as he outlined in the Sermon on the Mount,” etc. etc. This may be the kind of stance red-letter-only Christians tend to possess. However there’s a big problem with this.

When Our Faith and Practice Contradict Each Other

“Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations?” – Jeremiah 7:9-10

I have now arrived in the book of Jeremiah in my Scripture reading plan and came upon this really convicting verse. Sometimes we can feel ourselves removed from the context of the situations where God is condemning Israel in particular, in verses such as these. However, if we believe all of Scripture, we would also believe Jesus’s words in the New Testament concerning the Law in the Sermon on the Mount.

For instance, He says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22). In addition, He goes on to say, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

With these words and other similar statements in the sermon, Jesus ratchets the Law up to a level that is absolutely impossible for us to keep, because within our hearts, we are sinning continuously, at least according to God Himself (Genesis 6:5), whose perspective and opinion on the matter seem to carry a bit more weight than what any man thinks, seeing as how God sees the depths of our blackened hearts. Not only does committing the act of murder or lust make you liable to judgment, but so does merely insulting someone in your heart or looking at a woman lustfully! According to Jesus, it’s the same as if you had committed these acts in the eyes of the Lord if you even think them in your heart.

So the verses from Jeremiah at the beginning do indeed apply to us in the Church today and are not just meant for the Israelites in their respective context. We evangelicals are the “Israelites”. We are the one’s who steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to other gods … and then go into the Lord’s sanctuary and say, “We are delivered … by Jesus.” Many times, we then leave the service without any conviction of our sin, only to go on doing those same things, either externally (through explicit acts) or internally (through explicit evil thoughts).

May God have mercy on all of us, on me. Our hearts are quick to run to sin and that must be a principle that is always on the front of our minds, which will drive us to constantly rely on the Holy Spirit for the ability to do what is right. In as much as I say this to anyone reading this, I say it to my own heart. We need His Spirit to not only restrain us, but then change us from the inside out so that we do not want to do things that are displeasing in His sight. We need desire-change, heart-change, thought-change, will-change, that is all renewed and regenerated in the likeness of Christ. Only then can we do what pleases the Lord.

This whole point of our faith and practice goes back to that DesiringGod video I posted a week ago, based upon James 3:10, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

Praise God He does not leave us without hope though. If that was the stopping point of the message, it would just be conviction, guilt and shame without any resource for changing the source of our thoughts and actions: our hearts. We would still be left in our sin, without hope of recovering, only expecting to return to the same things again and again. Yet there is free grace extended to us in the Gospel, that we would repent of our wickedness daily, continuously even, and return to Christ for cleansing and forgiveness (knowing confidently that in Christ, we are fully acceptable to God because of His cross).

Our goal in coming to the Lord’s house, corporately with the people of God, or privately into His throne room in communion with Him, through the intercession of Christ’s blood, is not just to be forgiven of our wickedness and idolatry and then return to our vomit once again (Proverbs 26:11), abusing the grace of the Gospel and putting God to the test, just as the Israelites did in the desert.

But our goal is to come, be convicted of our sin by God’s Word, in light of His holiness, and ask the Lord’s forgiveness, knowing full well He is faithful and righteous to do just that because of the cross (1 John 1:9). Only then can we move forward in holiness by His power working in us, having been accepted in His presence because of Christ’s work in our place to save us. And all of this in light of God’s great mercy toward us that we are not owed or have earned in any sense. He freely gives it to those whom He pleases to give it.

If the Gospel is simply a means to the end of staying in your sin (which according to statistics recently by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life many evangelicals are doing just that), we should fear the wrath of God that is coming, for it exposes the possibility of our not having apprehended or accepted the Gospel of God’s grace and mercy with a living faith to start with. Sure, you can respond back with all of the answers from the Bible about what the Gospel is. But the question we should be asking is, “Have I personally received this Gospel by a supernatural work of God in me? Have I been born again by His power instead of my own?” This is the one of the themes in Hebrews, James and 1 John.

Now of course in no way are we going to achieve perfection until we are with Christ. But this is the point: if our hearts are not on track with the convicting and liberating message of the Gospel, we should examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith or not. The books of Isaiah and Jeremiah show us that it would not be out of the ordinary for those of us who claim to be redeemed to be far from the heart of God, just as the Israelites were.

Our lack of zeal for the Gospel and turning away from our sin exposes the fact that we have not been struck with the power of the Gospel in our hearts, by God’s Spirit. Yes, we can have down days or even seasons, for certain. But what is it that drives you in everything you do? The world or Christ? That is the issue. It should make us mourn that we don’t consider the work of Christ in everything we do, but at the same time we should not cower away from Christ, but instead return to Him that we may be healed and restored by His power. It is only His sustaining grace that will carry us through to the end.

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