Echoes of an Empty Tomb

Echoes of an Empty Tomb
by Tad Pruitt (@tadcpruitt)

An echo starts then fades away
While dawn begins a dreaded day.
A thought perhaps that three days on
Will bring more hope than three days gone.

She rises, tired, restless, sad.
All seems lost, as if a fad
Deemed useless now to all with reason,
Faded faith, a worn-out season.

Hoping not to hope as past
But just to share a moment last
With lifeless, shrouded, silent friend
Who’s life less sounded Law, but End.

Less Law, but what? The echo rang
Around inside her heart and brain,
But came confused with curse and fears,
Drowned out by questions, sobs and tears.

Down the path to hated tomb
She walked and murmured funeral tune
And prayer, for death and Rome had taken,
Tortured, pierced and left forsaken

Her good friend, her healer, teacher,
Prophet, shepherd—more than preacher.
Echoes of Hosanna ringing,
Then replaced with chains and clinging

Blood-soaked tunic, jeers and jibes
From those so easily turned by bribes
Of peace or order, power kept
If under rug The Way was swept.

For dangerous, disruptive was
The Way, the Teacher’s sacred cause.
It seemed to tear apart the Law—
The life religious all now saw.

And what then? Echoed words from wise,
Both skeptics, guards from false-taught lies,
And seekers, wandering, wanting still,
But wondering how Law’s void to fill?

But she cared not for thoughts so lofty,
Philosophical while softly
Near the cave she came so sure
That death was final, hope no cure.

And what of sin? What did He say?
It had not died that skull-cross day.
Or so it seemed at this dark hour
New day dawning bitter, sour.

But at the tomb a thing not right
Filled her with dread. This horror might
Get worse! “Dear God, I could not bear,”
She thought, “if desecration paired

With death.” The stone so massive moved,
Unsealed the grave, unlocked and shoved
Aside by forces greater than
The guards could muster or demand.

So now unguarded was the trail
That led to final lifeless tale.
Now all had left, abandoned him
Who came to join those cursed by sin.

But wait, where is he? There’s no bone
Inside that shroud now left alone,
Abandoned as like chains put down
And walls now echoed different sound.

It was a voice, a face so glowing
Speaking what her heart was knowing,
That he was not here, not now,
Nor ever more; and more, ’bout how

Death could not keep him in that grave.
His life had lived to ransom, save,
Secure and station at His side
In Father’s love—for that he died!

She knew it! Surely he had come
Not just to teach, then die or run
From what we needed most of all,
A cure from sin and warped wrong call.

But his life in exchange for yours
And mine and hers. An open door
To any who will call his name
As Savior, Chosen One Who came.

Now echoed from that tomb her cries
Of marvel at His sacrifice
And songs of praise and thanks resounded
From the stone the slab surrounded

Out into the sun she bolted,
Hope renewed, despair revolted
From, as those she rushed to tell
Came all to mourn their friend who fell.

“He is not dead! He lives, I’m sure!”
She said three times because they were
So stunned. “Her grief has made her mad,”
They first thought, til she visaged glad.

And as she spoke His words came back
To mind and heart, and now unpacked,
Now understood, the Good News clear
And what he said made sense to hear.

For grace now echoed from the tomb,
And gospel filled that hopeless room,
And all believed or soon would see
The Law fulfilled on alter’s tree.

And echo of the lifted curse,
It rang throughout the universe,
And rings today in Easter’s bells
For all to hear and all to tell

The Good News that his power to save
Is yours; it’s mine! But more, He gave
In grace, sustaining, changing might,
Not ours, but His! Because the fight

Was won that day as Jesus rose
From death to life. And so it goes,
The echo of that empty tomb
Is grace for all, our new found tune.

Yes, Christ is risen from the dead
For sinless life he crowned his head
And Church is made His chosen bride
Sing loudly, Church! His grace is life!

Forsaking God and managing behavior

“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” (Galatians 4:1–11 ESV)

The Jews were like children – heirs to the promises – but too young to have inherited them immediately.  There was a period of waiting.  This Jews had to wait for the true promise of the kingdom.  However, they were enslaved to the elementary teachings of the world.  They were enslaved because rules and laws are powerless to liberate.  If you are only trying to manage behavior then you will never be truly free, and it is for freedom that Christ has set you free (Galatians 5:1)!  

In the fullness of time, God sent Jesus in the flesh, born of a woman, under the law.  God’s timing is always perfect, even in the midst of difficulties and hardships when it doesn’t seem like He is present.  We must learn to believe and rest in the fact that God providentially rules and reigns over all things, and nothing is outside of His authority.  At the right time, God sent Jesus to redeem fallen man and to adopt them into His family.  We are adopted sons.  God redeems AND God adopts.  Our sonship is sealed with the Spirit of Big Brother Jesus – we have been given the Holy Spirit.

We are no longer enslaved to the elementary principles of this world because of our relationship with God – not so much that we know God, but that we are known by God!  Powerful!  We are known by the God of the universe, we have been declared clean and free by the sovereign ruler of the cosmos!  Amazing!  After this amazing grace laden adoption, why in the world would we return to the “elementary principles” of this world?   Why would we want to exchange our sonship for slavery?  We tend to return because it is natural for us, but it irritates the apostle because there is no power there – quite the opposite, there is nothing but bondage and oppression there.  These elementary principles are “weak and worthless.”  They say, “observe this,” “do that,” “act like this.”  When we return to our performance as the means by which we grow, we exchange our sonship for slavery.  The real power for transformation is believing at a deep level that the God of the universe, due to nothing good in you, called you to Himself and He not only saved you, but adopted you as a son.   You are not just forgiven, you are adopted as a son.  The judge took off the robe after declaring you “not guilty,” and then went outside and threw the football with you.

These elementary principles (see also Colossians 2:8, 20) are the elements, principles or requirements of a religious system that dictate what must be done in order to be acceptable to God; they are rooted in our performance.  There is something in us that longs to return to these rules and systems because they put the power to change under our control.  When we return to our performance, we are forsaking the streams of living water offered in our relationship with God and digging our own broken cisterns that hold nothing but muddy sediment (Jeremiah 2:13).

We want a list, a system or some tip to change the uncomfortable consequences of sin in our lives.  The problem is that lists, systems and tips are powerless to produce true and lasting transformation in us.  You know what you should do, but find yourself powerless to do it and yet you insanely keep returning to the same things thinking that they will change you (Proverbs 26:11).  Insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (Albert Einstein).

The real problem is that there is not an utter distaste for sin, but rather the consequences that sin is wreaking on our lives.  We don’t see sin as an offense against God and utterly repulsive, instead we see sin as uncomfortable and we don’t like the dysfunction and consequences that it is causing in our lives.  When we, like David did in Psalm 51, develop an utter repulsion of sin itself then, and only then, are we in a position to be freed from its grasp.  The consequences of sin are gracious because they point us to the sin itself, but just wanting to be free of sins consequences without wanting to be free from the root of sin is a fools errand.  

Freedom is NEVER FOUND IN A LIST, SYSTEM OR SET OF TODO’S to be performed.  Freedom is only found in a Person.  And more than just a Person, but our association with and relationship to that Person.  Freedom is found in marveling in the unbelievable fact that the eternally holy Creator would forgive you and adopt you – that He would make you His child and write you into His eternal will with all of the rights of a natural born son.  Stare at that truth until it resonates deep in your soul.

There is not a 3rd Option

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”  (Galatians 5:16–18 ESV)

How do we overcome the sinful desires of our flesh?  There is  only one answer:  walk in the Spirit.   Sinful desires of the flesh are not only the external, easily measurable  sins, but are also everything in our natural man that is sinful – our behaviors, motivations, feelings and thoughts.  In verses 13 & 14, Paul encouraged the Galatians not to view their freedom in Christ as an opportunity for the flesh, but rather as an opportunity to love.  He now juxtaposes walking by the Spirit with gratifying the flesh.  Walking by the Spirit is firmly rooted in our adoption as sons and the freedom that is associated with being His children.  The word that Paul uses for “gratify” here is interesting – He could have used the word for satisfy.  Gratify is different than satisfy, it literally means “to carry out a command” or “to do as commanded.”  It communicates the inevitability that we will follow our sinful desires because we are not walking in the Spirit.  If we are not walking in step with the Spirit, we will gratify our sinful desires.  There is no third option.  This sounds like Romans 6:12-14 where Paul tells us not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies and Romans 8:6:  “for to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

We are commanded to walk by the Spirit.  Walking by the Spirit means that we are directed by the Spirit’s leading (and certainly the revealed word of God is part of that) and that we depend fully upon His power to walk in obedience.  This does not mean that we goto the bible to find things to do and then try to obey them on our own with an occasional prayer for help.  This looks like seeking to be filled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) – which means that we are actively influenced and directed by the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.  We not only seek His influence and direction, we are completely dependent upon Him to walk in obedience to His direction.  We tend to think of filling in terms of filling a glass to the brim with something.  A better, and more accurate, picture of being filled by the Spirit is when the sails of a ship are filled by the wind which carries it along the water.  The Spirit becomes the controlling influence in your life, like alcohol is when you are drunk.  He fills you and carries you along.

Far too often, we survey our lives and see that they are free from the sins that we deem to be really bad or destructive so we think that we are ok and we begin to coast spiritually.  There is no middle ground, we are either actively killing sin or sin is actively killing us (John Owen).  For the Christian, life is a spiritual war – the Spirit and the flesh are diametrically opposed.  You have to choose one or the other – there is no middle ground or “balance” to be found.    To be personally & actively led by the Spirit is to not be under the onerousness of obeying the Law; we now obey from our acceptance, not for our acceptance.  The Spirit doesn’t lead by sending us out, He goes with us – He accompanies us along the way.  Being led by the Spirit is personal and relational.  The Creator of the universe accompanies you.  Let that sink in.

Lord, teach us to surrender and walk by your Holy Spirit so that we will not gratify the desires of our flesh; help us to understand what this looks like, create in us a desire for it and empower us to surrender to you.

The Power to Change

“You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2 ESV)

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 ESV)

Often times, in our Christian experience, we believe that morality is the goal of our faith.  It is relatively easy to define, there are many scriptures that reinforce that we should live moral lives and we are able to accomplish morality by being disciplined; in short, morality is measurable.  We can produce morality on our own which should scare us!  There are plenty of non Christians who are very moral (far more so than I am):  they don’t cheat, steal or lie, they are benevolent, faithful to their spouses, and kind to others.  These are good things, right?  YES, they are!  Morality can be easily defined, and sometimes produced, by a list of things “to do” and things not “to do.”  We like lists because they put us in control.

Morality is not, however, the goal of the Christian life - holiness is the goal of the Christian life.  Morality doesn’t require Jesus, but holiness is built entirely upon Jesus.  Far too many have settled in to a Christless Christianity.  If morality is the target then we look to ourselves and our own power to produce it, and when we do we become very self-righteous.  Those who have a hard time producing morality are looked down on because they aren’t strong enough, disciplined enough or don’t measure up.  So should we not be moral people?  No, we should be!  But morality is not the aim.  When our target is holiness then we are driven to Christ in despair because we know that we are not holy as He is – and as we are commanded to be.  When we aim for holiness, morality is produced as a byproduct.  One is built upon us and our own efforts and one is built upon Jesus and the work He did for us.

Morality focuses on behavior and the consequences associated with our behaviors; holiness focuses on the heart’s motivations and the power of God to transform our hearts of stone.  Should we not be concerned with our external behaviors, should we just live however we want?  NO!  But we all know that managing behavior, suppressing our feelings or just trying to take our thoughts captive never results in true and lasting transformation.  Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are indicators of what we really believe down deep in our hearts – in our gut!  It is so hard to change because the root of our sin runs very deep and we seldom do the work that is required to unearth what we are really believing so we become content with just replacing our sinful thoughts, feelings and behaviors with less offensive ones. This is why Jesus said that our work is to believe (john 6:29).  So let us learn to do the painful and difficult work of excavating the false beliefs that are driving our sinful thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Beliefs -> Thoughts -> Feelings -> Behaviors.
Our beliefs lead to our thoughts which lead to our feelings which lead to our behaviors.  Most people who attend church are pretty good at managing external behaviors because we know what is acceptable and what is not and we really want people to think highly of us.  So we become content with not swearing, sleeping around, drinking too much and trying our best to stay out of the ditch of the really “bad sins.”  We aren’t overly concerned that our hearts are filled with anger, impatience, angst, lust, jealousy or discontent.  All we are really doing is replacing “unacceptable” external behaviors with more “acceptable” ones like self-righteousness, self-reliance and self-control.  Managing behaviors is rooted in self.  If we are really honest, we’d far rather deal with the self-righteous elder brother’s life than we would deal with the egregiously sinful life of the younger brother (Luke 15:11-32).  This is because the consequences of the elder brother’s self righteous behavior is not as disruptive to our lives as the consequences to the younger brother’s sinful life.  Despite the fact that the younger brother is the one in the parable – and normally the one in real life – that understands his need for grace.  We prefer good behavior over contrite hearts.

Our feelings are underneath our behaviors and they are far more difficult for us to manage.  They come on like a wave and can be overwhelming.  Feelings of angst, impatience, lust, covetousness, jealousy, inadequacy, guilt, shame and discontent – just to name a few.  Who hasn’t resolved to be more patient only to find themselves stuck behind a intolerably slow driver or picking the slowest check out line at the grocery store?  Most won’t scream out the window at the driver ahead of them to “hurry up,” or yell at the clerk at the store to “put a move on it!”  This is because we have learned to manage our external behaviors, but the feeling of impatience (and probably growing angst) is overwhelming and nearly impossible to manage.  We don’t know what to do with these feelings so we try our best to ignore them or shove them down.  This is not the biblical way to handle our feelings.  Instead of suppressing them, we should follow them – all the way to the root belief that is producing them.  This takes time, energy and dependent surrender upon a good and gracious God to do this.

Instead, we resolve to change how we think; we resolve that we should take every thought captive to obedience to Christ (and we should 2 Corinthians 10:5) and we resolve to think on excellent things instead of those things which stir up our anger, lust, jealousy and impatience (Philippians 4:8).  So how’s that working for you?  We all know the answer to that question!  Resolving to think differently does not work because your thoughts are a byproduct of your beliefs – you are closer to your beliefs, but attempting to just change the way that you think is a frustrating and unfruitful endeavor.  We must follow our sinful thoughts to their roots of unbelief in the heart.

Just because you didn’t kill someone, didn’t steal something or didn’t honk at the driver in front of you doesn’t mean that you are free.  And make no mistake, Jesus came to set you free (John 6:36; Romans 6:7, 18, 20, Galatians 5:1).  Angry hearts aren’t free hearts, lust filled hearts aren’t free hearts, impatient hearts aren’t free hearts.  Therefore, we must learn to follow our thoughts, feelings and behaviors to their roots - we must use them to diagnose the roots of sinful false belief in our hearts.  The unbelief in our heart is the root of all sinful behavior (Matthew 12:34, 15:18-19).  We must learn to repent of the sin underneath the sin.  We must learn to ask and mine out why we are angry, greedy, lustful, selfish, rude, prideful?  We must ask ourselves, “what have I really set my hope upon, where is my treasure really?”  When you begin to ask these questions you will ALWAYS FIND that your real problem is a worship problem.  You will always find that you have attached ultimate value and worth to a created thing (relationships, marriage, success, pleasure, children, morality, service, acceptance) and this thing is not able to hold the weight of your worship.  And whatever we worship converts us in to its image.  You BELIEVE that this thing at the center of your heart will produce security, significance and happiness – it will not, it cannot.  This is why the gospel always invades the heart – not primarily the thoughts, feelings or behaviors.  As Christ begins to reign in those areas of our hearts as its greatest treasure then our thoughts, feelings and behaviors slowly begin to change.

It really is simple, it’s just not easy!  Running is not mechanically complex – anyone can run.  Running is simple, but driving your mile time to 7 minutes, 6 minutes or even less is not easy!  Just because following our behaviors, feelings & thoughts to their root of false belief & false worship in our hearts is simple does not mean that it is easy.  It requires grace driven effort.  But let us not shy away from pursuing godliness – for it is what we are called to.  If you will pursue Christ like this then you will find liberating joy, regardless of the circumstances that you face.  God is most glorified when you are most satisfied in Him.

Questions of the Heart

  1. Do you prefer created things more than the Creator of all things?
  2. Have you put your hope in created things?  Created things aren’t designed to hold your hope.  Your hope will ultimately crush anything that it is parked on except for Christ.
  3. Are you a slave to created things?  The new ALWAYS wears off.
  4. Is your view of life about you, your dreams and your agenda?  Do you want to be  sovereign?
  5. Have you  become satisfied with serving God instead of being satisfied with knowing God?
  6. What is upper most in your affections. What are you really after?
  7. What is ultimate in your life?  Is it Jesus because you want him to do something for you or do you find Him alone to be your greatest Treasure?

Lay your damnable good works down at Jesus’ feet

“this parable is really the elder brother’s. You know why? Why do you think it ends the way it does? Jesus is basically speaking to Pharisees and He’s inviting all elder brothers to listen to this appeal and to put yourselves in it, and respond. It is participatory theater. And there are a lot of you that you’ve got an elder brother type of heart. And so you’re always mad. You’re mad at those people who have hurt you…and you’re mad at people who’ve hurt you and there are classes of people you look down on. And mainly, you feel like “my life’s not going the way it ought to and I’m the good one in my family and why is it everybody else has broken my parents’ heart and they’re happy and I’m not?” And the reason you are so unhappy is because of your goodness. The main thing between us and God is not our sins as much as our damnable good works. And you’re mad at people and you’re mad at things because “I’ve tried hard, I’ve tried hard and my life is not going right.” Lay your deadly goodness down, down at Jesus’ feet. Stand in Him and Him alone, gloriously complete. We’ll never stop being elder brothers until we see and are melted by what our true elder brother did for us.”

Taken from A Vision For a Gospel Centered Life by Tim Keller

A profoundly practical way to build belief

Bruce Henry:

We must fill our lives with things that inspire a worship of God instead of our idols. We must find things that stir our affections for Christ!

Originally posted on The Gospel Centered Life:

 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8–9 ESV)

The post from yestereday, beating fear, anxiety & worry involves a transference of trust, was about how we must build belief in the fact that God is good, sovereign and faithful if we wish to overcome fear, anxiety & worry in our lives.  Today, we will explore a profoundly practical way to begin doing that.  The Apostle transitions from telling us not to worry (because God is in control) to telling us to fill our lives with things that inspire and worship of God instead of our idols.

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Real Faith

“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”” (Luke 8:22–25 ESV).

There are things that happen in our lives – things that God ordains – that may make us feel like God is distant, disinterested or unconcerned.  We know, in our minds, that this is not true, however, if we are honest this is what we often times believe.  This is where our faith gets tested – this is where our true beliefs are revealed.  Beliefs are the narratives of our hearts; the bible views the heart as the central part of a person which directs all thoughts, emotions, and from which all of actions spring.  Indeed, the unregenerate, hardened “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)?  However, this is not true of the Christian to whom God has written His law upon their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, 32:40; Ezekiel 36:26; Romans 5:5, 6:17; Hebrews 10:22; 1 John 3:21).

We know that our work is to believe in Jesus (John 6:29), and as a friend of mine says, “it sure does feel like work!”  We all have beliefs, the core values that drive our hearts; it is just that they are often times not biblical or God glorifying – they are man exalting and self protective.  Faith is not some passive, fuzzy, ethereal thing.  True biblical faith is unbelief kept quiet, faith is active, faith takes work, faith is not automatic.  Faith is not primarily a feeling – it can’t be because we know that our feelings change.  Faith includes and envelopes our feelings, but it is more – it involves our minds, our wills and our understanding.  Faith is our response to what we believe is true.  Developing Christian faith is an activity that must be exercised, it is not an automatic or passive thing.  This is why Jesus calls it work (John 6:29) and why we are all recovering unbelievers.  Growing in biblical faith involves displacing our false beliefs with true, biblical beliefs.  Here is what is true about biblical faith:

1.  Faith refuses to be controlled by circumstances.  The disciples in the boat were afraid of the storm around them.  That is understandable, but it revealed what they really believed.  Jesus rebuked them saying, “where is your faith” (verse 25)?  They had faith – it just wasn’t set on the right things.  Their false faith, drove their response to the situation.  Biblical faith refuses to be controlled by the circumstances of life.  This is not saying that we should be robotic stoics!  We are influenced and impacted by our circumstances; we hurt, cry, beg and plead with God to deliver, redeem & restore in the midst of adversity, but ultimately we can’t be controlled by the circumstances around us.  We are affected by circumstances, but we can’t be controlled by them.  This is why Paul can say that he has learned the secret of being content in any situation in his life (Philippians 4:12).  Dr. Martin Loyd Jones says that “faith is a refusal to panic…faith means perpetual unbelief kept quiet.”  That is not what happened with the disciples in this situation, they panicked.  Biblical faith involves keeping ourselves under control so that we don’t respond to the circumstances of life out of our fear, anxiety & our feelings.  Faith keeps us under control.  

2.  Faith rests in what is true – it works to remember, recite and rest in God’s promises.  Refusing to be controlled by our circumstances is not enough – we may be able to muster that on our own.  True biblical faith must then run to the promises of God that are revealed to us in the bible.  Faith works to remember, recite and rest in what God says is true.  This is where so much of the wrestling takes place and where so many fail.  This involves trusting that what God says really is true instead of relying on what we think, feel, see or experience (2 Corinthians 5:7).  We must remember that God’s love for us is so great that He was willing to die to have us (John 3:16), and that He did this while we were still dead & disobedient (Ephesians 2).  We must remember that we are adopted children of the Almighty (Romans 5:10) and that He has granted us His precious and very great promises (2 Peter 1:4).  Remember that He who began the good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).  We must work to remember to cast all of our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), that sin truly is deceitful (Hebrews 3:12-13), that every hair on our head has been numbered (Luke 12:7), that we are His beloved child (1 John 3:2), that we have been bought with a great price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and that He works all things for good (Romans 8:28).  Perhaps the greatest and most encouraging declaration of scripture is that “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).  God has never once been caught off guard by anything, nothing has ever happened that He did not ordain.  He is intimately involved in all of the details of this world and your life (Colossians 1:17).  Believing these things really are work.  It takes time to remember these things, to preach them to ourselves and to beg God to have them take root in our hearts.

You must realize that no one talks to you more than you do.  The question is, what are you saying to yourself?  What are you dwelling on?  What are you turning over in your mind?  What things are you saying about, “if I only had this, or if that would only work out then life would be ok?”  Developing real biblical faith that transforms us works to remember what God says is true and then preaches that to oneself.  What are you preaching to yourself in your mind?

3.  Faith apples what is true and walks in obedience to what God reveals.  There is no replacement for walking in obedience to the commands of God.  We should pray, then we should obey.  Faith always applies what is revealed, indeed “it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” (James 4:17 NLT-SE).  To sit passively by and say “I’m praying,” or “I’m hoping,” but to never walk in obedience to the revealed will of God is not biblical faith.  We must bring all that we know to bear on the situation at hand and then we must apply it!  This obedience flows from a heart that understands that obedience doesn’t earn anything from God; your obedience doesn’t keep God from punishing you.  Obedience is not part of a secret formula to protect you from crisis.  No, true biblical obedience flows from a heart that knows and embraces that God is happy with you and that you are blessed based on the perfect obedience of Jesus alone.  You don’t obey for acceptance, you obey because you’re already accepted.  True obedience flows from a heart that embraces the amazing grace that has been extended to you and it becomes a joy to obey.  Joyful obedience flows from a grateful heart and it always leads to greater joy.  God created the universe and knows how it works so when He says, “do this,” or “walk like that,” it is not because He is oppressive, it is because He knows it will lead to your joy.  God is not after any kind of obedience – our begrudging submission does not glorify God – God is after joyful obedience.  Joyful obedience is always rooted in the unconditional acceptance God has given you in Christ and is fueled by marveling at His ongoing sustaining grace towards you.

Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones addresses this in more detail in chapter four of the free book, A Vision for a Gospel Centered Life.  Faith always acknowledges the situation and circumstances, however it always puts up a “but…”  It might feel like you’re all alone, but you know that God says that He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).  It may feel like all things are lost and hopeless, but He who began the good work in you will be faithful to complete it in you (Philippians 1:6).  Remember that God has not held you this long, just to abandon you.  He has not forgotten or forsaken you.  It is work to rest in these beliefs when our minds want to believe otherwise, but if you want to walk freely in life this is the work that you must do.  All of this is fueled by the ongoing amazement that God would love a wicked, hard hearted sinners like us.  It should shock and amaze us that God would give us soft hearts of flesh instead of our natural hard hearts of stone (Ezekiel 36:26).  When our hearts are ruled by the majesty of how unworthy we really are and how much we don’t deserve His grace, we are forever changed.  There is a shift in us from saying, “I don’t deserve this trouble or struggle,” to “I don’t deserve His unconditional love – all that I deserve is bad and yet He gives me good.”  

Thoughts from Jude (part 2)

“These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.” (Jude 1:16 ESV)

These people are grumblers – those who are discontent and complain against God.  These people have a low view of the Almighty, as if He existed to sprinkle them with fairy dusted blessings.  This brings to mind the generation that died in the wilderness for their complaining and grumbling.  Jude goes further calling these people malcontents.  Malcontents are “finding fault or being discontented with one’s lot, querulous; a discontented, querulous person, a complainer”  Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament.  These people follow their own sinful desires instead of subduing them into obedience with the Scriptures.  They boast loudly and manipulate to get what they want.  Wicked people!  How often do we find ourselves complaining, grumbling, finding fault, being discontent?  These attitudes are rooted in an extremely low view of God – as if He owes us anything.

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”  (Jude 1:17–19 ESV)

Jude uses Beloved.  We are God’s beloved.  That is something that we should sit in and marvel over.  How could a perfectly holy and loving God shower us with love and affection?  The better question is why would He?  Just because He wants to.  What glory it heaps on Him to love the truly unloveable – like me.  There are scoffers who are evil & divisive that only desire to follow their ungodly passions.  These people are not redeemed – these are wolves in sheep’s clothing that were false teachers within the church.  We must fight against this in our midsts!

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”  (Jude 1:20–21 ESV)

 

Pursue Christ!  That is the best defense against these ungodly scoffers!  Pursue an abiding relationship with the risen Christ that is fueled by the Spirit!  God, help us.  Keep yourselves in the love of God.  This means to cherish, to think on, to pursue, to understand more fully how much God loves us and to be deeply moved by that truth.  If it weren’t for the grace of God, we too would be lost!  We should yield to the Spirit’s leading in accordance with His revealed will in the scriptures.  Let us pursue doctrinal soundness, Spirit wrought dependance and worship laden love.

“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”  (Jude 1:22–23 ESV)

Be merciful to those who doubt the promises of God. How beautiful is that? Be patient with those who waiver – help them, love them, walk with them. I do believe, help me with my unbelief!  This is a powerful passage on hating sin and its consequences, but mercifully engaging those who are wrapped up in it. Hate the sin, love the sinner. This is really only possible when one knows how deeply depraved they really are and how close they are to the same sin – except for God’s restraining grace. God help us!

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”  (Jude 1:24–25 ESV)

God is the One who keeps me from stumbling.  He is the One Who is able to present me blameless before Him.  He does this for His glory and our joy.  He is over all things!  Praise God that my salvation & growth are not up to my faithful obedience, but are the result of His faithful obedience on my behalf!

Thoughts from Jude (part 1)

“To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” (Jude 1:1–2 ESV)

Jude writes to those who are called – “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30 ESV).  Don’t miss the string here – or elsewhere in scripture – there are no human fingerprints on it!  God called us to be His BELOVED (those are familial words) and He will KEEP US in Christ Jesus.  He predestines, He calls, He justifies, He keeps & He glorifies.  We are along for the ride as we ACTIVELY contend for the faith.

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4 ESV)

Ungodly people had crept in and perverted the truth.  These were designated for destruction – they did not catch God off guard and they did not cause God to have to figure out what He was going to do!  They were unnoticed because they acted like Christians, but were not.  They talked it, but did not walk it.  They perverted grace and made it cheap grace, which is no grace at all.  Cheap grace always produces license – sensuality.  They ultimately denied Christ by their actions and unwillingness to submit to His commands and obey Him.  We may be able to talk a good talk, quote bible verses, walk aisles & pray prayers, but ultimately if we are not willing to walk in joyful obedience to Christ and submit to Him then we prove ourselves to be on shifting sand.  This is perhaps the greatest risk in our modern evangelical churches.  We don’t know what we believe, we don’t teach it and people have a very weak view of God and His grace.  God is nice, but He is not compelling.  Unless one has been deeply moved by the sovereign majesty of God, he will not understand the grace that has been given to him – He will not be moved to worship or obey.
  This is why Jude starts with God calling, God loving & God keeping.  Most in our midsts today would not deny Jesus explicitly, but deny Him by the way that they live.  He is not important to them, He is not the hub that their lives revolve around, He is not adored or served, He is just One of many gods in our lives.  This should scare us all!

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 1:5 ESV)

Jesus saved a people out Egypt.  Wow, Jude is saying that Jesus is God!  Powerful.  Those who did not believe were destroyed in the desert – that should really scare us.  These were people that experienced the miraculous deliverance God had provided them from Egypt, His commands at Sinai and His ongoing deliverance and guidance.  And yet they did not believe and were destroyed for their unbelief.  Our battle is for belief!  Those who did not endure in belief did not see the Promised Land (1 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 3:16–19) – and neither will we unless we endure.  Judgement awaits those who persist in unbelief!

“Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” (Jude 1:8–10 ESV)

These false teachers had come to rely on the subjectivity of their dreams instead of the objectivity of the scriptures.  Revelatory dreams still happen, but they should always be subjected to the authority of scripture. These people pollute the flesh and defy authority. They blaspheme the glorious One.

We do not know what Jude is referring to in verse 10, it has been lost in history. Won’t it be a glorious day when we can see more fully what we only see in part now!?  Michael understood his place in God’s created order so he did not tread on God’s authority. Lord, help us to learn from your authority!  Michael left the devil to God’s authority.

These false teachers operated on their instincts (like an animal) instead of on the authority of scripture.  We must subdue our instincts, feelings and sinful thoughts – they must be engaged by the grace of God and wrestled into submission by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  All that these people knew was how to follow their instincts and feelings regardless of whether they adhered to God’s moral decrees or not. This is dangerous – this is how people end up in the weeds and destroy their lives and the lives of others.

“Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 1:11–13 ESV)

These false teachers were motivated by coveting and greed because they were dissatisfied with the position that they currently occupied. He uses examples of Cain (Genesis 4:5-8), Balaam (Numbers 22:5-7, 2 Peter 2:15) and Korah (Numbers 16:1-3, 31-35). How often do we get derailed by being dissatisfied with where we are in life? We need believe that our deepest satisfaction in life is found in an abiding relationship with Jesus alone.  It is not found in the next accomplishment, relationship or position in life.

These false teachers are like hidden reefs because they are suffering no immediate consequences for their sinful behavior. This is sad! Like a ship sailing on the open water thinking that things are OK until they strike the reef just below the surface. These people live openly depraved lives and experience no consequences for their sinful behavior. They do what they want and are largely unchecked. Why is this? One can only speculate, but I wonder if this is because we don’t like conflict or because we feel like we are being ungracious by judging or confronting someone else?  It is not ungracious or unloving to confront people in their sin – it is what is required to help people see the light of day, though it is incredibly difficult!

"Not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard"

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