Category Archives: Belief

Ultimate Affections (1 John 2:15-17)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17 ESV)

The lure to gain our identity, salvation and satisfaction in this world is real.  John tells us not to love this world or the things in it.  Just like Jesus saying that we can’t serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), neither can we chase both God and the world.  A regenerate heart breaks (though it is slow and progressive) our love affair with the world.  Chase both the world and Jesus are mutually exclusive.  John is referring to a love for the world system, not for people in the world.  We must ask where our affections really lie?  How is this desire and affection for the world destroyed?  By seeing Jesus as far more desirable.  Matthew Henry says that the heart is narrow and that it cannot contain both loves.  Lord, Help us!

John gets specific by defining what some of these things are.  We all have God given wants and desires, but they become twisted and perverted when they terminate upon us and what we want instead of upon God.  Sin is a disordering of our affections.  The heart motivation question is what we must answer; the reprobate mind will justify all sorts of things to get what it wants.  Matthew Henry calls these “The three predominate inclinations of the depraved nature”

  • The desires of the flesh.  John Wesley says that these are largely external & outward pursuits.  Paul unpacks this in more detail in Galatians 5 when he compares & contrasts walking in the Spirit with the desires of the flesh.  “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”  (Galatians 5:19–21 ESV).  In our self righteousness, we want to feel better about ourselves because we aren’t pursuing the “varsity sins” of sexual immorality, orgies, drunkenness, etc.  But, who has not struggled with jealousy, envy and idolatry.  They are in the same list.  Are you indulging fleshly appetites or godly appetites?  The appetite that you indulge in is the appetite that will grow.
  • The desires of the eyes.  This is “of that internal sense whereby we relish whatever is grand, new, or beautiful” said John Wesley.  ““The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22–23 ESV).  What do you fantasize about?  What fuels your hopes & dreams; what is your internal imagination fixed upon?  Are they morally good things that have become “god” things?  We delight & distract ourselves with the toys, trinkets & treasures of this world as we crave these things.  This is covetousness.  For what we behold and set our gaze upon shapes & controls us.  What we say that we must have sets the course of our lives.
  • The pride of life.  Again John Wesley’s comments are helpful:  “All that pomp in clothes, houses, furniture, equipage, manner of living, which generally procure honour from the bulk of mankind, and so gratify pride and vanity.”  This is the desire to be “someone,” to be admired, to be esteemed, to hunger and thirst for the applause of man.  This is the person that must have friends, must have applause, must be significant in order to be OK.

The world, with all of these desires, is passing away.  To set our ultimate hope and affection on these transient things is as meaningless as chasing after the wind – it is vanity.  And yet the depraved parts of our minds still say that God alone is not enough.  Ah, but the man who walks in glad submission to God abides for ever.  Our joyful obedience to the commands of Christ are only possible when we are abiding in Christ.  We are in Christ now and will be in Christ forever.  God, help us to see you as the true Treasure that you really are!

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Laws, rules & commands don’t produce love (1 John 2:7-11)

“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:7–11 ESV)

John is not launching a new command, but reiterating the singular command of scripture:  Love God (Deuteronomy 6:5) and others (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:34-40).  The requirement of God has always been to love Him first and to obey Him as a reflection of our love for Him.  Our obedience was always supposed to flow out of our love for Him.  However, we learn through the whole of the Old Testament and from our personal lives that being commanded to love God is impossible for us to obey.  Laws, rules & commands don’t produce love.  Love must be shown, love must be demonstrated.  The Law modeled what loving behavior looked like, but was powerless to produce it on its own.  It was all pointing to One who would demonstrate perfect love by coming and living a perfectly obedient life of love on our behalf.

John also says that this command is new.  The command to wholeheartedly love God has now been fulfilled by Jesus.  God clothed Himself in the confines of human flesh, subjected Himself to a life on broken earth, was tempted in every way (but never sinned), was spit upon, ridiculed and murdered for His goodness – all for us.  He demonstrated perfect love for God and for us.  Who goes through what He went through for His enemies?  Who does that to make enemies family?  Our love for God is the natural byproduct of believing what Jesus has done on our behalf.  The more we meditate on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection on our behalf, the more we are moved by His demonstration of love for us.  His love marks us and produces a love for God that flows into a love for others.

It is impossible walk in the light and hate others.  But, how do we learn to love others?  We abide in Him, we revel in and behold the beautiful love that Jesus had for us – the most depraved, broken and rebellious of people.  In an abiding relationship with Jesus, there is no darkness.  If we have hatred for others, we are walking in darkness and are blinded by the darkness.  So if we feel hatred boiling up in us, do we just try harder to love Jesus and that person?  No.  We run to the foot of the cross, we behold Him and Who He is and what He has done.  We beg God to awaken our dead hearts to the redemptive beauty and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  We ask to see God’s majesty, holiness & glory more clearly and to understand our depravity more deeply.  These are the things that make love and grace something that no longer needs to be explained because they are now experienced.  When we know just how bad we really are and just how perfect & powerful He really is, we fall on our knees in worship because we know how unworthy we really are to be called His children.  This worship gives way to a love for others that is supernatural.

A Grandfather in the Faith (1 John)

This starts a series of posts on the letter of 1 John.  John probably pinned his first epistle over 30 years after the death, burial & resurrection of Jesus so there was a sense of Christian’s “settling in” to what it meant to walk with the Lord over the long haul.  Jesus had not returned yet and John was aiming to help them understand what a walk of faith really looked like over the long haul.  John was getting old and would have been viewed as a “grandfather” in the faith.  He had walked with Jesus, experienced much and walked faithfully.  It would be wise for us to listen to what he has to say to us because their faith and ours are the same.

Unlike Paul’s letters, John follows no clear outline. He, instead, seems to wander from topic to topic, and often returns back to the same topic. His logic seems to be circular instead of linear as he jumps around.  Despite some of these difficulties, it is extremely rich in theology and ethics.  The major themes of the letter are:

  • Belief
  • Love for God & Others
  • True Doctrine
  • Obedient Living
  • Fervent Devotion
  • Assurance of Salvation (1 John 5:13)

However, “the main theme is tests by which we can know if we are in Christ—beliefs and attitudes that authenticate one’s claims to be a Christian.”  ESV Study Bible.  Many people can produce certain external behaviors by their own moral striving or self discipline.  But, John says that what we believe informs our attitudes which in turn produce our behavior.  John uses the verb “believe” over 100 times in his gospel and 9 times in this letter.  In John 6, Jesus miraculously feeds 5000 people, and He is rocketed to “rock star” type popularity.  However, Jesus wasn’t looking to be popular so He withdrew to the mountains, perceiving that they were about to make Him king (6:15).  During the night, Jesus & His disciples crossed the sea to the other side.  The following morning, the people could not find Him and crossed over looking for Him.  Then they asked Jesus, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (John 6:28 ESV).  Great question!  What was His answer?  Feed the poor?  Share the gospel?  Serve tirelessly?  Be morally upright?  Jesus’ answer is peculiar, especially to people who just want to know what to do!  Jesus’ response was:  “this is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29 ESV).  Our work is to believe the seemingly impossible promises of God – that He is perfect and we are not and yet He loves us, justified us and adopted us as His children.  Before anything was formed, He determined to make you His and died to accomplish that goal (Ephesians 1:3-6).  That should make you worship!  How do we build belief?  Here are a few suggestions (herehereherehere & here).

John focuses on faith, love & obedience as he avoids to do lists – he boldly focuses on what has already been DONE on their behalf!  “It is finished” (John 19:30) is the anthem of this epistle, indeed this is the anthem of all of Scripture.  It is by knowing that Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for our sin that transforms our hearts.  This does not only mean that we are justified and forgiven, but that we are also adopted as sons & daughters.  Justified is a legal term, but adopted is a familial word.  No one wants to play catch with a judge, but things are different with a dad.  Once we have been freed from believing that we are justified OR ACCEPTED based on our performance we begin to see that obedience to Christ’s commands actually lead to greater joy.  His commands are not harsh or burdensome.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30)

Let’s listen to John’s words and see how they help us to build belief, love God, obey joyfully & see our affections for Christ increase exponentially.

When Wrestling gives way to Worshipping

“A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.   O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power. Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels. He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. Was your wrath against the rivers, O LORD? Was your anger against the rivers, or your indignation against the sea, when you rode on your horses, on your chariot of salvation? You stripped the sheath from your bow, calling for many arrows. Selah You split the earth with rivers. The mountains saw you and writhed; the raging waters swept on; the deep gave forth its voice; it lifted its hands on high. The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped, at the flash of your glittering spear. You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger. You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret. You trampled the sea with your horses, the surging of mighty waters.

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.”

(Habakkuk 3:1–19 ESV)

This section sounds so much like Job who had heard of God, but now sees Him (Job 42:5).  Habakkuk had heard of God and knew His laws and commands, but now he was asking that God remember mercy when His justice provokes His wrath.  Habakkuk remembers how God’s mighty, sovereign saving power had been displayed in the past – at the Nile, the Jordan & the Red Sea and in the desert during the Exodus.  He is an all powerful deliverer.

Majestic power is on display here.  As God measures the earth (I envision a couple of small steps), He shakes the nations (like in a brown lunch sack), then the eternal mountains were scattered (only God can shake what they viewed as a foundation to the world).  His ways are eternal.  Habakkuk is doing in these verses what we must do – we must recite and remember who God is and the truths about Him – when we do this, things come in to perspective.  Apart from this perspective, you will always struggle and wrestle because you have no real perspective on things.  Like Asaph, the Psalmist you will be able to say, “but when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” (Psalms 73:16–17 ESV)

The majestic power of God is seen in the spectacular display of lightning & flash flooding in thunderstorms.  Mountains quake at His power (earthquakes) and He causes even the sun & moon to stand still (Joshua 10:12-13).  This God is all powerful, unequaled & sovereignly ruling.  When difficulty and hardship comes, knowing that our God is ruling and reigning in all power is a comforting thing.  And not just that He is sovereign, but He does good to His people.  Habakkuk is calling to recollection that.  God had protected and miraculously delivered His people before.  He will indeed do it again – but they were needing punishment for their wickedness.  God delivered them from Pharaoh and from Canaanite kings.  God is willing and able to deliver; He is the great Deliverer.

Habakkuk physically responds with a trembling body and quivering lips to the impending judgement that is coming, but he will wait for God to finish His judgement and then judge the invaders.  Habakkuk is finished wrestling, complaining & accusing God.  He is now resting on the sweet sovereignty of God.  The battle in his soul is over and he is beginning to worship and rest.  He does not have all of His questions answered, but He sees God and that is enough for him.  Oh, that we would land in the same spot.  When we wrestle, complain & accuse God of injustice or of silence – we need to be looking to get to this place.  A place where we are done wrestling and we begin worshipping.  Worship is the only thing that will satiate the wrestler’s soul.  God satiates Habakkuk’s soul by giving him a grander view of Himself – God gives Habakkuk God, and it proves to be enough.

Habakkuk concludes that if there is absolute famine in the land and hardship – no figs, no fruit, olives, food or live stock – he will still praise the Lord his God.  He will take joy in the God of His salvation.  He trusts in God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness, what a place to rest your feet in the midst of adversity.  Trusting God leads to joy.  Faith that God is in control and working all things out for His kid’s good is profoundly comforting and joyful, despite the physical hardships that may come our way.  In verse 19, Habakkuk clarifies that it is the LORD (Yahweh, the personal covenant keeping God) that is His strength.  Whether deliverance, comfort & prosperity come or not – God is Habakkuk’s strength.  There are struggles to be had, tears to be cried and doubts to wrestle through, but when we find that God alone is enough to satisfy joy ensues.  When we still believe that anything created can satisfy the longings in our soul, unrest & discontentedness are not far behind.

We want to accuse God of not running His world the way that we think is right.  It’s His world and He gets to run it the way that He wants.  And we must always rest on the fact that He is good and is doing good – even when we can’t see it.  This is walking by faith and not by sight (feelings, emotions or current experiences).  There comes a time (or many times) in our lives, if God is gracious, that we press and ask questions seeking to understand, but where the questions no longer matter because we see God and trust Him – regardless of the circumstances of life.  God, alone, is enough.  Regardless of where you find yourself today, remember that the eternal God of the universe set His saving affections on you before a star was breathed into space.  Why?  For His glory and YOUR JOY.  Meditate on this truth, mull it over, think about it and see if it doesn’t move your heart.

When God is Silent

“O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.”(Habakkuk 1:2–4 ESV)

Habakkuk opens this short book asking, “how long shall I cry for help and you don’t hear our cry for deliverance and you not respond?”  Sound familiar?  It does to me.  Wickedness is happening around him and Habakkuk can’t understand why things are turning out this way and where God is in the midst of it.  Habakkuk uses the covenant keeping, personal name for the LORD here indicating that He believes God is not absent, but is struggling with where He is and why He seems to be silent.  Have you ever been there?  I have.  These are times where we have to walk by faith and not by sight – times when we believe the unbelievable (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Simple, but certainly not easy!

Habakkuk surveys the wickedness, moral bankruptcy & spiritual disconnect and He cannot understand why it seems that the Lord is sitting “idly” by and is not judging the perversity.  This sounds like us – “where are you God, why do you seem to be so absent, why are you slow in acting?”  This is a common theme in the Bible, Peter addresses the same line of thinking when addresses the scoffers that are among them by saying that God is not distant, disconnected & slow in acting (2 Peter 3) God rarely acts on our timetable and yet we feel compelled to accuse Him of being distant & disconnected, as if we were sovereign.

The laws of God are being completely ignored and the people are doing whatever they please.  The law was not impacting their hearts.  This is a familiar refrain:  “everybody did everything that was right in His own eyes.”  Life was hard for the remaining faithful & righteous remnant.  It was easy for Habakkuk to feel alone – like God had abandoned Him.  We find ourselves in the same shoes at times.  All Habakkuk could see were the trees, but God is going to help get his head above the trees so that he can see the forest.  Despite the fact that Israel only occupied the promised land for 530 years, God was still faithful to them and to His plan.  They were slaves for 400 years in Egypt, lived in the land as a combined kingdom for 530 years and then were under the rule of the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans.

Today we can see how God was working out a beautiful plan of rescue for His elect.  And yet when we go through hardships for a day, week, month, year or lifetime we want to cry out to God – “foul, where are you, why are you silent and not acting!”  God never promised us ease, comfort or prosperity – He gives us something far greater:  Himself.  The pain is real, for sure.  But our crying out and accusations must ultimately land in a place that says, “not my will, but yours be done,” because we are not sovereign – He is.  If you find yourself suffering, struggling or hard pressed, cry out to God.  He can handle your questions & accusations.  If you will walk in this and trust that God is indeed sovereign and that He is indeed good (and does good [to you]) then you will find that He is enough regardless of whether deliverance comes.  The most gracious thing that God could do for us is to give us Himself, which is the very thing that He does at the cross.

Our inheritance hinges on His promises, not our faithfulness

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:11–13 ESV)

The apostle returns to a theme from his first letter as he reminds His readers that this world will come to an end and Jesus will make all things new.  He wants to remind them that our inheritance is secure and is coming – this truth is a major key to living a godly life. This is a gospel promise – because Jesus will return and everything here will be remade, let us strive to live godly lives in Christ Jesus.  There is a world, an existence, a country, a territory in which God will reign and no sin will exist.  The perfect paradise in the presence of God that is marked by a rhythm & rest for the soul will return.  Is this not part of the reason that God permits or causes difficulties, hardships or persecutions?  Is it not to wake up our dead hearts and eyes to the fact that this world is indeed transient and that we need to set our eyes on the world that is to come? Yes!

The implications of this truth are profound! Are you struggling with the approval of others, a difficult interpersonal relationship or bumping up against the falleness of the world?  This world is not all that there is and because of that you can endure, engage and invest – knowing that in some mysterious way God is using it to redeem this world.  You don’t have to be accepted, comfortable, respected or loved because you are all of these things (and so much more) as God’s adopted child.  Because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we will experience them in true satiating fullness in the world to come; you are able to walk in joy without receiving acceptance, comfort, respect or love in this world. There are no 10 tips to a happier life – this is the truth for living a godly life.  Peter says that our efforts towards holiness have some mysterious effect on the coming of the Lord. This sounds like a practical outflow of the Lord’s prayer (your kingdom come, your will be done).  But thank God that all of this hinges on His promises, not on our faithfulness.  We aren’t faithful, but He was so we can walk in a confidence that is not rooted in our performance but in His perfect performance that He imputed to us.

God’s Grace is the Foundation of the Christian Life

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”  (2 Peter 1:2–4 ESV)

The grace that Peter introduces in these verses serves as the foundation upon which the entire epistle is written.  As Peter nears the end of his life, the grace of God in Christ Jesus is what he desperately clings to.  So should we.  We never move beyond or past the grace of God, like a building whose entire structure rests on its footings, so does our Christian life.  Our faith is built 100% upon the footing of God’s grace.

His divine power has been granted to us.  This infinite power accomplished our salvation and gives us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness.  What?  This infinite power saves us and empowers us to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, let us put Him on, let us wear Him (Romans 13:14).  This power is recognized by the knowledge that He called us to His own glory and excellence.  The knowledge that He has called us is the power that fuels our sanctification – it is grace fueled sanctification.  It is God who has copiously provided the infinite resources of His power to us because we could never do it ourselves.  John Calvin summarizes this section like this, “He refers to the infinite goodness of God which they had already experienced, that they might more fully understand it for the future. For he continues the course of his benevolence perpetually to the end, except when we ourselves break it off by our unbelief; for he possesses exhaustless power and an equal will to do good.”

More than just granting us His divine power, He has granted to us His precious and great promises.  He has promised to provide all things through Christ.  These are gospel promises.  The promise of forgiveness, of imputing to us Christ’s perfect obedience (making us positionally holy – as if we never sinned), of adopting us as children, of giving us Himself through the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our future inheritance.  These are spectacular promises!  And these promises are what make us partakers (partners or sharers) of the divine nature.  As His image bearers we are already more like God than anything else in all of creation, though fractured by the fall.  As we grow in actual holiness by the power of His Holy Spirit, we become more like God – that is more accurate reflectors of Him.  We are to pursue holiness, not mere morality.

The Christian has been delivered from the corruption of the world that finds its roots in sinful desire.  These roots have been severed, though their shoots may still be growing in us.  Thus the call of scripture to put to death (Colossians 3:5) that which is sinful with in us.  The Holy Spirit indwells the life of a believer of Christ so that we are truly partakers of the divine nature.  Let us marvel at the unmerited favor of a perfectly holy God to a completely rebellious people.  When we were at our worst, He saved us.  When we didn’t want Him, He made us new.  When we were dead, He made us alive.  When we were His enemies, He made us His children.  When we were cold and apathetic, He gave us new hearts to desire Him.  When we were objects of His just wrath, He made us His friends.  The more you marvel at these great truths, the more you find yourself transformed in to His Image.

The need for new hearts

“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today.”
(Deuteronomy 30:6, 8 ESV)

The Israelites problem was their hard, unbelieving hearts.  This is a major focus of Deuteronomy – God is not after mere dutiful obedience, He is after our joyful submission overflowing from grateful hearts.  The people did not have these kinds of hearts because God had not given them believing hearts.  But God, being rich in mercy, promises to give them hearts that obey – new hearts, hearts of flesh rather than hearts of stone.  Only with new hearts are we able to enjoy a covenant relationship with the Creator.

This involves God writing His laws on our hearts which produces relational intimacy (Jeremiah 31:33), and hearts of flesh that allow us to walk in true obedience (Ezekiel 36:26-27).  Those that are truly His are not based on external heritage & race – it is those who have circumcised hearts wrought by the Spirit (Romans 2:25-29 & Colossians 2:11).  Circumcision was an external sign of the covenant, but this was merely an outward picture of the inward reality of our need for circumcised hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16).  Circumcision symbolizes the removal of our stubbornness that prevents us from loving God rightly (which is the first & greatest commandment – see Deuteronomy 6:5).   This is the same as uncircumcised lips that do not speak well (Exodus 6:12) or uncircumcised ears that do not hear well (Jeremiah 6:10).   We are a stiff-necked, rebellious & stubborn people apart from the regenerating, faith depositing grace of God (here).

The book of Deuteronomy readily points out that the people need new hearts – hearts that obey, but this is not something that they can produce on their own – they need God to do it in them (Deuteronomy 30:6, 29:4).  Only those whose hearts have been made new are truly His – external rituals, signs & obedience are not enough; new hearts are required (Jeremiah 4:4 & 9:25-26 & Romans 2:25-29).  Faith springs forth from a regenerated heart.

If you are a Christian, it is not because you prayed a prayer or walked an aisle.  If you are Christian, it is because God graciously determined before He made anything (Ephesians 1:4-6) that He would make your dead heart alive (Ephesians 2:4-6, Colossians 2:3, 1 Peter 3:18).  It is because of His sovereign choosing, not because of you being spiritually attuned to God or seeking after Him.  We don’t seek God (Romans 3:11, 10:3), He seeks us (Luke 15:4-10, 19:10).  When we realize that our best efforts are but filthy rags before a perfectly holy Creator (Isaiah 64:6), we are moved to cry out for mercy.  When we realize that our faith is the result of God’s regenerating work in our hearts, then our hearts begin to overflow with gratitude & appreciation and we worship.  Be thankful today that He chose to regenerate your heart not because of anything that you did, but solely because of His goodness & grace.

God, give us believing hearts

“And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:2–4 ESV)

The Israelites had been witnesses of the loving care, miraculous power & sovereign rule of God and yet they did not have seeing eyes, hearing ears or understanding hearts.  They had wandered in the desert and their clothes & shoes had not worn out, God had defeated kings and given them their land (29:5-9).  Their obedience was designed to flow out of grateful hearts that remembered their God & His faithfulness to them.  It is easy for us to look down on the Israelites for their unbelief – after all they saw God do mighty miracles with their own eyes!  We ought to be careful with our self-righteousness, because unbelief is our problem as well (“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”” (John 6:29 ESV), see also 1 John 3:23).  Jesus alludes to unbelief by using the same analogy of having a hearing problem (Matthew 11:15; Mark 4:9, 12 & 23; Luke 8:8, 14:35).

Why didn’t the people obey?  Because the Lord had not given them believing hearts.  Unless the Lord opens our eyes, ears & hearts, we will remain blind, deaf & cold towards Him.  God is the one who opens hearts (Acts 16:14), and enables faith by the regenerating power of His Spirit; our only contribution is the sin that makes reconciliation necessary.  One of the major themes of Deuteronomy is Israel’s need for right hearts; it foreshadows the people’s inability to respond rightly to God (Deuteronomy 5:29, 8:17, 9:4).  It looks forward to a day when God would give His people new hearts (10:16, 30:6), which is a theme that is continued throughout the Old Testament (see Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Our greatest need is not more impact, influence, morality or even obedience.  Our greatest need are hearts that truly believe the seemingly impossible promises of God.  The Central Promise of the bible is that a good, perfect, holy & all powerful God would make a way for His rebellious creatures to be reconciled into a relationship with Him.  The staggering implications of this should mark our entire lives.  The more that we understand that we are far more sinful than we first thought, but the gracious sacrifice of God in Christ covers our ongoing apathy & rebellion, the more that we walk in dependent humility.  A deeper, fuller understanding of the gospel shatters self-righteousness which is rooted in our own performance & morality.

Let us abandon our propensity of pretending to be godly, and let us actually pursue godliness.  Let us beg God to give us faith to believe, for we cannot produce this on our own.  God, take our far too small faith & multiply it, we do believe, but help us with our unbelief (Mark (9:21-24); help us to behold you for who you really are and cause us to become more like you (2 Corinthians 3:18).

We do not lose heart

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18