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Tag: Faith

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)

Even the Demons Believe – And Shudder

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19 ESV) As R.C. Sproul has said, “Faith isn’t believing IN God, faith is believing God” (paraphrase). Faith is believing what God has said and done in history, written in Scripture for our salvation. As Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV) In true, real faith, there is an assured, hopeful, anticipatory rest in the promises of God. And this faith is a God-wrought work. A faith of our own making will not last, because you struggle in your own power to maintain your conviction. This cannot stand in the wake of the world’s belief systems. You need God to give you new life, to be born again, in which He grants this very divine faith that is of God, not yourself.

Ultimately, the promises of God have been fulfilled in history and will be brought to completion in the completed, finished work of Christ at His return; His perfect life lived, His perfect sacrificial death for us, and His resurrection, all for His glory and the salvation of His people. We wait, in faith, for His Day when He returns to consumate His Kingdom and bring judgment on His enemies. He is the King of kings, the Master of masters, who fulfills all in all. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36 ESV) What a joy and hope of salvation! And He imparts the faith necessary to be saved, the faith that holds these promises in assured hope. He receives all the glory and His people get to participate in His glory for all eternity!

Basics of the Reformed Faith – Kim Riddlebarger

This is a series of posts done by Kim Riddlebarger, posted on Westminster Theological Seminary’s blog, entitled Basics of the Reformed Faith. He goes through some of the core tenets of what Reformation teaching consists of. This can be very helpful if you are new to, just exploring or want to be reminder of the great truths of Scripture and let them work like a medicine on your soul. I would imagine there are going to be more of these posts in the near future, so I’ll add them as they come out. Check it out!

The Gospel-Centeredness of John Calvin – The Gospel as the Foundation Unto Progressing in Holiness

Excerpted from the Institutes of the Christian  Religion, Book III, Chapter XV, Section 5, Christ as the Sole Foundation, As Beginner and Perfecter.

The below section from Calvin’s Institutes is an excellent summary of the foundation of Gospel-centered sanctification (progressing and maturing in holiness). Any other application of teaching apart from this foundation is basing our progression in the faith, at some level, upon our own working and toiling to “be good” (which is an oxymoron in light of Scripture), as opposed to submitting ourselves to His sovereign working in us of what is already true of us by the declaration of our justification before God’s throne. Living in light of what is already true of us in Christ is itself the motivation unto holiness. As Albert Mohler pointed out in his talk from the Together for the Gospel conference in 2010, “The Reformation was all about the recovery of The Gospel; the means of reforming the church was The Gospel.” This excerpt from Calvin is a perfect summary of what this means.

Only by a constant orientation to the Gospel, in particular that Christ is our righteousness (having none of our own with which to offer God in exchange for the eternal life of our souls), are we going to progress in holiness. Any other teaching is using law as a means unto progression in holiness which results in burnout, deadness, legalism, and oddly enough, legalism itself actually winds up resulting in the worst forms of license. The law was given by God to expose how far we fall short, not an instrument to motivate us unto holiness. It is an instrument whose design is to bring us low, to bring us into humility before God, so that we see how great the love of Christ is in the Gospel, that He Himself fulfilled the law in our place, died our death in our place, and rose again to seal, give life, and confirm all He has accomplished in our place. He is righteousness. Calvin shows us just how great this Gospel is and how it is the only true motivator unto holiness.

“…Christ, when we acknowledge Him, is given us to be our righteousness [1 Cor. 1:30]. He alone is well founded in Christ who has perfect righteousness in himself: since the apostle [Paul] does not say that He was sent to help us attain righteousness but Himself to be our righteousness [1 Cor. 1:30]. Indeed, he states that “He has chosen us in Him” from eternity “before the foundation of the world,” through no merit of our own “but according to the purpose of divine good pleasure” [Eph. 1:4-5, cf. Vg.]; that by His death we are redeemed from condemnation of death and freed from ruin [cf. Col. 1:14, 20]; that we have been adopted unto Him as sons and heirs by our Heavenly Father [cf. Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:5-7]; that we have been reconciled through His blood [Rom. 5:9-10]; that, given into His protection, we are released from the danger of perishing and falling [John 10:28]; that thus ingrafted into Him [cf. Rom. 11:19] we are already, in a manner, partakers of eternal life, having entered in the Kingdom of God through hope. Yet more: we experience such participation in Him that, although we are still foolish in ourselves, He is our wisdom before God; while we are sinners, He is our righteousness; while we are unclean, He is our purity; while we are weak, while we are unarmed and exposed to Satan, yet ours is that power which has been given Him in heaven and on earth [Matt. 28:18], by which to crush Satan for us and shatter the gates of hell; while we still bear about with us the body of death, He is yet our life. In brief, because all His things are ours and we have all things in Him, in us there is nothing. Upon this foundation, I say, we must be built if we would grow into a holy temple to the Lord [cf. Eph. 2:21].”

Faith and Hope, an Inseparable Pairing – John Calvin

Wherever this living faith exists, it must have the hope of eternal life as its inseparable companion, or rather must of itself beget and manifest it; where it is wanting, however clearly and elegantly we may discourse of faith, it is certain we have it not. For if faith is (as has been said) a firm persuasion of the truth of God – a persuasion that it can never be false, never deceive, never be in vain, those who have received this assurance must at the same time expect that God will perform his promises, which in their conviction are absolutely true; so that in one word hope is nothing more than the expectation of those things which faith previously believes to have been truly promised by God.

Thus, faith believes that God is true; hope expects that in due season he will manifest his truth. Faith believes that he is our Father; hope expects that he will always act the part of a Father towards us. Faith believes that eternal life has been given to us; hope expects that it will one day be revealed. Faith is the foundation on which hope rests; hope nourishes and sustains faith. For as no man can expect any thing from God without previously believing his promises, so, on the other hand, the weakness of our faith, which might grow weary and fall away, must be supported and cherished by patient hope and expectation.

White vs. Bryson: Debating Calvinism (John 6:44)

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:44

When sticking with this one verse (Jesus’ own statement) you cannot escape the conclusion: No one comes to Jesus, believes in Jesus, cares anything about Jesus, unless the Father who sent Jesus draws that person to Him, and the one who comes to Christ in faith will be raised on the last day. Which comes first, the giving of the person by the Father to Jesus, or the person coming to Jesus? This verse is clear. The Father does something that has an effect. Regeneration (the new birth) precedes and gives rise to faith, monergism. Bryson attempts to reconcile his free-will theology with what is plainly stated in this verse.

Isaiah 59:1-8: The State of Man, The Plea to Believe on Christ

Isaiah 59:1-8

In this passage, at the very beginning, it is shown the Lord’s willingness to save any who call upon Him in the sincerity of their hearts, and that he has the strength and sovereignty to accomplish it. It goes on though to describe in detail why it is that we are separated from Him and what keeps us from being saved. Of course the easy, textbook answer is that our sin has caused that separation. But expanded and reflected upon, the blame is clearly placed on us, not on God deciding or not deciding to save us. He does choose who He will save, but He cannot be blamed for your sinful actions. In no way will He ever be blamed for whether or not you were saved in the end. That’s the point of this passage, to show where the blame lies and why. It describes the condition of our hearts before the Lord and why it is a person is not saved. Indeed, in the first verse, the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save you. But after that truth is stated, it then shows what holds us back from salvation: to put it bluntly, it is all our fault; and more specifically directed to you, the reader, it is all your fault. “For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness,” the passage states. This is all of us, not just the “worst” of us from the world’s perspective. We all have blood on our hands, we are all guilty of murder before the eyes of the Lord. In our hearts, when we are simply indifferent toward another person, we have committed murder in our hearts. Men, Jesus stated that if you even look at a woman lustfully, you have already committed adultery with her in your heart. It states in God’s word that if you break one law, you are guilty of breaking the entire law. It’s all or nothing, you keep it all, or break one law and you are done for. What’s the point? We are all spiritually bankrupt, and until you see the utter desperation of the human condition (more specifically, your own personal desperation and inability to anything right[eous] in the eyes of the Lord apart from His grace, you will never understand, appreciate, or attain salvation. To be poor in spirit is to rightly understand your spiritual condition before the Lord and mourn because of that condition. You have no hope in and of yourself. To be really honest, this passage is quite a downer to man apart from the grace of God. It is extremely negative and no one wants to admit their condition to be this bad. In fact that world takes the opposite approach, attempting to build up self-worth within you, which only lasts for a time and is dependant upon your actions. If we view ourselves as anything better than this state, we’ve missed the mark on understanding where we stand before the eyes of the Lord. All of us have blood on our hands. We are all murderes, adulterers, liars, filthy, wicked sinners. All of us have broken the law of God many times over, more than can be counted. All of us speak lies everyday, and our tongues are always muttering wickedness. It may not be the type of wickedness people consider wickedness in the world (like a serial killer, rapist, child molester, etc.), but other people’s opinions don’t matter in this context, only the Lord’s decree matters here. He defines the reality of right and wrong. When it all comes down in the end, it’s between you and the Lord and what He deems righteous in His eyes. And He has deemed that before His eyes, all of us, even you, are so desperately wicked that if you were to see the rottenness and decay of your soul, it is my speculative opinion you would die from shock. So again, what’s the point here? You cannot save yourself by any willing of your volition, or rolling up your sleeves and “gettin’ it done (morally speaking) for Jesus.” God does not help those who help themselves because we can’t help ourselves, scripture is very clear on this; this is what it means to be dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1, speaking about the state of believer’s prior to their conversion); we are totally morally unable to do anything right before the Lord. To express the attitude toward Christianity that, “God helps those who help themselves,” is to show a complete lack of understanding of the Biblical nature of man (morally dead and decaying) and the Biblical nature of God (sovereign, just, righteous), and what it cost God to save anyone at all; namely the precious blood of the Father’s Son. So where’s the hope for any of us? What do we see here? We are at out wits end before God, we have nothing to offer Him, so what can we do? Nothing, that’s the point. God has to change us first before we can even see or hear God spiritually. The hope comes in though with Jesus Christ. He is calling, even commanding everyone to believe in Him for salvation. Because everyone is so desperately wicked, and being that no one can save themselves, someone has to do it for us with the strength to carry it out. That person was Jesus, God in the flesh. Jesus, being God, became one of us, putting on flesh just like the rest of us, living as we do. The only difference here is that Jesus was both fully man and fully God. In order for us to be saved, someone had to live the life we couldn’t live. Jesus lived that perfect life, fulfilling all righteousness before the eyes of the Father. Because of the great chasm between man and God, our sins have to be atoned for, wiped away, cleansed, before we can even have a relationship with God again at all. Jesus was perfect, and because of this, He became the perfect, spotless sacrifice for sinners. By the will of the Father, Jesus was beaten, whipped, cut, His back ripped apart, insulted, humiliated, strung up on a cross. Nails pierced His hands and feet, a crown of thorns driven into His skull. He hung on that cross until satisfaction was made for the sins of any who would believe in Him. The thing that struck Jesus to the core more than all of that though was the wrath of the Father. He drunk deep of the full wrath of God, stirred in all of its fury, all for a bunch of wicked, viper-like sinners who rejected Him in their sin, even killing God on the cross! What amazing love. Jesus made satisfaction for sins on the cross, bled, and died. He died the the death we should die, even now, for our awful sins. But this Savior, this wonderful God who became one us was not defeated by death, but by the power of God was brought back to life, and he reigns in heaven above, over all things. All things have been handed over to Him by the Father in heaven and on Earth. This is where our hope is in all this negativity about man. Our hope is completely rooted in Christ and His work alone, not in our work and what we can give to God. We can give nothing to God in return for the death of His Son. Nothing would ever match up to an infinitely perfect gift as Jesus. For those of you who think you’re pretty good, moral people, look at the cross where Christ died. Consider what it took to atone for sins. If you’ve believed on Christ for salvation, it took the death of the Son of God to atone for you! What a clear indictment of your infinite guilt before the the Father. Is your separation from God not just as bad as the mass murderer or the child molester? Did it take that ultimate sacrifice to cover pretty good, moral people? Absolute not! It took the death of Christ to cover wicked sinners, all of us are included, there are no exceptions to this. That’s the point here, even you are wicked beyond measure. Jesus made this very clear to the Pharisees in the Gospel’s. He stated that unless your own self-righteouess surpasses that of the Pharisee’s, you will never see the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:20). Even they, in their own self-righteousness, fell infinitely short of the glory of God, and they were the moral best of all of us! For those of you though who think you are totally beyond the reach of God’s grace to save you because of the things you’ve done in the past, look at the cross where Christ died. If His blood is of infinite worth (which it is), can it not cover an infinite number of sins in your life, no matter how big or small? Repent from your sin, turn from your ways of wickedness, and believe in Him, trust Him as your Lord and Savior, the great Messiah, and He can rescue you no matter where you are at spiritually. He has the infinite power and strength to save you and He will if in the sincerity of your heart you ask Him. “The Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save.” You are never beyond the reach of God’s grace, no matter what you’ve done. I don’t know how much clearer I can make that.

Though I typically don’t like using movie quotes as illustrations, especially from this movie, this one applies here from the movie Fight Club (Tyler Durden): “It’s not until you lose everything that you are free to do anything.” Until we’re bankrupt spiritually before God, we cannot fully appreciate what Christ has done on the cross. If you think you have it all together, consider the things I’ve said. Even our best works are like filthy rags before the eyes of the Lord (Isaiah 64:6). Our only hope is in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection for sinners. My plea to you is to believe in Jesus Christ and He will wipe away all of your wrong-doing, all of your sin and wickedness. We have nothing to offer God, but He offers us everything in Christ, even His own righteousness, the only thing God will accept as payment for your sin; paid for through Jesus’ blood.

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