Category Archives: Faith

The Thirst of the Soul

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.””
(John 4:10, 13-14 ESV)

The providence of God compelled Jesus to travel through Samaria in order to meet with this woman to offer her Living Water that she could never buy on her own.  Jesus had asked her for a drink from the well (4:7)  and the woman was quite confused as to why a Jew would ask her for a drink.  Jesus came to interrupt the shame in which she was walking.  She walked in racial shame for being a half breed that didn’t fit in anywhere, gender shame for being a woman because women were looked down upon in the ancient world and moral shame for the life that she had led.  Jesus enters into her world by saying, “if you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  She was speaking to the gift of God and though He didn’t look all that impressive (Isaiah 53:2), He was the gift of God to all peoples.  This shame laden outcast was speaking to the Word who spoke her and all things into existence.  The Word, Creator, Almighty condescends Himself to a defiled, unclean, unholy place and people in order to redeem them – to make them acceptable, clean and holy.

Jesus does not offer this woman some second rate version of redemption because she had lived such a morally corrupt life.  No, Jesus offers her the best – He offers her God!  We know from John 7:38-39 that this living water was the Holy Spirit reigning in the hearts of the redeemed.  He offers her God and nothing less.  Not just eternal life, but the presence of the Almighty reigning in her heart.  A heart that was weary, dirty and wounded was offered restoration, redemption and rest.  The same offer is made to you and me.

Jesus says that she will never thirst again.  Seeking to satisfy your thirst on your own with created things is a fools errand because created things are powerless to quench the thirst of our hearts. You can spend your life arranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic or you can come to Him who will quench your soul’s thirst.  Drinking water from the well (or faucet) will not quench your soul’s thirst for love, approval, affection, belonging, meaning, purpose or power.  However, the soul will be irrigated forevermore by the living water that God provides. We regularly want to turn from this living water to our own cisterns that we have hewn ourselves in order to satiate our thirst.  However, the Living Water that God provides will become a spring that wells up within the heart of the believer providing eternal satisfaction. The human soul is thirsting for something greater than created things can offer it, only God Himself can satisfy the soul’s thirst.

This woman had hewn cisterns herself, but they could not hold water – and if they could it would have been dirty runoff water.  We, like this woman, forsake the Living Water and run to our own hand hewn, leaky cisterns due to our own unbelief.  We must battle unbelief – the source of all sin – and we see from this passage that all we must do is ask. We must plead with the God of the universe to “help us with our unbelief” (Mark 9:24).  Lord, give us ears to hear, eyes to see and hearts to believe.  Lord, satisfy our thirst with You.

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The Providence of God

he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.” (John 4:3–5 ESV)

Seven words form a short sentence that we often read right over in order to get to the “real story.” When we do so, we miss a beautiful truth that will stir our affections for the Almighty.  Jesus did not physically “have” to travel through Samaria.  It was the most direct route between Judea and Galilee, but no respectable Jew would travel that route.  Devout Jews would go around Samaria by crossing the Jordan and going up the east side in order to avoid becoming unclean or defiled by coming in contact with a Samaritan.

The Samaritans were a people that resulted from the intermarrying between Jews and people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva and Hamath that the king of Assyria brought in to settle the region (2 Kings 17:24–31). The Samaritans had their own version of the Pentateuch and worshiped on Mount Gerizim instead of in Jerusalem.  They were half breeds that were despised by both the Jews and the Gentiles.  They didn’t fit in anywhere, they were alone.

Jesus had to pass through Samaria because of the providential call of God.  The Greek word used here (see also John: 3:7, 14, 30; 9:4; 10:16; 12:34; 20:9) means that it was necessary, it was a divine mandate or requirement – it was part of God’s plan.  He had to travel through a land that would make Him unclean, but one of the beautiful realities of the messiah is that He cannot be made unclean by interacting with defiled people.  Quite the opposite, He makes dirty people clean.  Religious Jews would go around this region.  Religion always blinds us and makes us self righteous and avoidant of those we deem to be unworthy – as if we are worthy because of our own doing (1 Corinthians 4:7).

We must ask the question, “why?”  Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria?  Why did God’s providence lead Him there?  Could it be that He is showing us that no one is too unreachable, too unworthy or too unclean?  Could it be that He was demonstrating that the gospel is for all ethnicities, genders, socio economic classes and moral type of people?  Jesus had to go through Samaria because He came to seek and save His lost sheep and apparently there were quite a number of lost sheep in Samaria because many of them believed (John 4:39-43).

The Samaritans asked Him to stay two extra days and He obliged them – I can only imagine what the disciples were thinking!  Many believed in Jesus based upon the woman’s testimony alone.  Jesus stays with a group of outcasts two extra days! Jesus loves those who are unloveable by the world’s standards.  We often times seek to be loveable – that is to bring something of merit before the Almighty – instead of resting in the love that He has for us.

These unclean, outcasts profess Jesus as the Savior of the World.  He is not only the Savior of the Jews, but the Savior of the world.  He saves all people – from every nation, tribe and tongue!  First to the Jews (Nicodemus in John 3:1-15), then to the Samaritans (John 4:1-42) and then to the Gentiles (the official at Capernaum in John 4:46-54). This is the mission of the church.

What does this providential appointment mean to us today?  The Word, Creator, Almighty condescends Himself to a defiled, unclean, unholy place & people in order to redeem.  The Creator serving the created is backwards, but that is what it took to undo the effects of the fall (John 4:30-34, Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28).  God providentially invades the world of His lost sheep.  God’s redemption means that He makes lost sheep forgiven, acceptable, clean and holy. He makes unclean outcasts clean.  He makes clean people holy.  He makes us family.  In God’s kingdom, the unwanted outcasts are welcomed with open arms.  Jesus’ good words of forgiveness & redemption are only spoken to those who feel unworthy, alone and dirty because  good people see no need for grace.  The grace of God has adopted you and made you His son – perfectly acceptable.  You are no longer on the outside looking in and this was done because He “had to” go through Samaria and He “had to” come to you.  You didn’t seek Him, He sought you.  You were lost and He found you, redeemed you and adopted you according to His plan which He determined before He breathed a star into the heavens.

Motivations Matter

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34 ESV)
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
(Matthew 15:18–19 ESV)

Tim Keller says that “the key difference between a Christian and a Pharisee is motivation. One obeys to get God’s stuff, the other obeys just to get God.”  This is true and we see it cover to cover in the bible.  God is not after any kind of obedience, God is after our JOYFUL obedience.

We are leaky people – what is on the inside leaks out of us.  If we are angry people, it has a way of leaking out on others;  if we are anxious, then it leaks out; if we are discontent then it leaks out; whatever is on the inside leaks out of our heart in the form of our feelings, words and behaviors.  This is why simply trying to manage our sinful behaviors never works.  We might try to buckle down and be extra disciplined to guard our tongues against gossip, our eyes from pornography or our quick whit from injuring others, but we ultimately fail.  The reason we fail is because we are fighting a losing battle because we have not destroyed the supply lines that keep the battle raging.

Should we not be concerned with our sinful words and actions?  Of course!  We should work with all of our might to align them with the words of scripture.  But, ultimately, just managing behavior will never make you free and it’s for freedom that you have been set free (Galatians 5:1).  Our real problem is the heart.  It is the GPS for our entire life (see Matthew 12:34, 15:18-19).  The heart is much harder to manage than our actions.  It seems to have a mind of its own!  It is easily distracted by random thoughts, emotions and desires.  We don’t really know what to do with it, so we tend to ignore it.

Our heart’s problem is a treasure problem – “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21 ESV).  Trying to manage its thoughts, emotions and desires will never lead to freedom.  What we need is a better view of what is really worthy of captivating our hearts.  We far too easily believe that worldly wealth, good relationships, success, acclaim, Christian service or comfort will provide us with what we are longing for.  Until you come to a point to which you see that these things, as good as some of them are, will never sustain you, you will never be free.  The “perfect” marriage will not set you free, the “perfect” job will not set you free, “perfect” relationships of love and acceptance will never set you free. 

Until we see that chasing good things, believing that they will satisfy us, is like running a marathon on a treadmill, we will never be free.  Jesus said that “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44 ESV).  Don’t miss the fact that the man JOYFULLY WENT AND SOLD EVERYTHING THAT HE HAD TO ACQUIRE THE FIELD.  Is there a cost to following Christ?  Absolutely!  But when you view it at 20,000 feet, like the man in this parable, you will see that the cost is infinitely small as compared with the infinite joy that you receive.

How do we do this?  Paul tells us that “if then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1–3 ESV).  What are you seeking?  What are you telling yourself will make you happy, content or complete?  Start there and beg God to change your heart to see Him as the greatest treasure and to cause you to long for Him more than you long for the things that He can give you. 

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.”  

Joyful Obedience

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”  (1 John 3:11–24 ESV)

This section is highlighting Cain’s unacceptable sacrifice with Abel’s acceptable sacrifice.  Ultimately, it does not seem to matter what their sacrifices were, but the heart behind the sacrifice.  God is after contrite hearts that offer sacrifices by faith alone (Psalm 51:17).  Actions speak louder than words and we learn that Abel’s sacrifice was offered by faith and was deemed righteous (Hebrews 11:4).  Cain was evil and did evil, for out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:43-45 & Matthew 12:34).  The difference between good and evil is seen in actions that flow out of the heart.  The redeemed will have increasing goodness flow out of them as the fruit of transformation.  Don’t be surprised that the world hates you – for it is evil.

John emphasizes the continuing ethic to love one another.  Love for one another is rooted in God’s love for us (1 John 4:19).  Love for others, and especially the saints, is a sign that we have been raised from death to life.  The one who does not love abides in death.  John sounds like Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26) when he says that those whose lives are marked by hate are murderers and no murderer has eternal life.  It is jarring, John is saying that if our lives are marked by hate instead of love then we are not redeemed.  That is a hard saying.  External compliance to God’s commands is inadequate to save.  A moral ethic of being good doesn’t require saving faith.  Jesus’ mission was not to make immoral people moral or to make bad people good – Jesus came to make dead people alive.  We should not murder (Exodus 20:13), but more than that we should kill coveting which leads to hate, anger and ultimately can lead to murder.

The love of God compelled Jesus to action.  Jesus loved us and went to the cross.  Love is active, not passive, love is not primarily an emotion.  Because Jesus sacrificed for us, we can sacrifice for Him.  He is not just our model, but also our power to love.  If we see a brother in need and callously blow it off, we are not abiding in love.  Let’s not love in talk, but in action.  True obedience involves not just our words of profession, but our obedience in love (3:18).  As we walk in a love that is rooted in His love for us, we reassure ourselves that we are His children.

When we become convicted of sin, God is greater than our heart or our sin.  He offers forgiveness.  He is greater than us.  A clear heart leads us to boldly approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  John makes a connection between our obedience and God answering our prayers.  Is this, “I obey, therefore God gives me what I want?”  No, this is not the secret formula to get what you want.  This is a picture of an abiding, dependent man who is praying confidently before the Creator of the universe because he know that he has an Intercessor in heaven.  The commandment is to believe and out of that to love.  Our work is one of belief, one of faith (John 6:29).  Abiding produces faith which yields obedience.  We are not made right by our obedience – that is religion, but our obedience does bear witness to our transformation.  The Holy Spirit of God is the One that bears witness with our spirit.  “Abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, & transform our affections.” -Sinclair Ferguson

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).

You Can Rest

“He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:9–14 ESV)

“Feel the futility of it. In the Old Testament, the priests of Israel were required to offer daily sacrifices to atone for sins. Hebrews points out that the fact these sacrifices had to be performed over and over for hundreds of years shows that they were ineffective in removing sin (Hebrews 10:1–2). Let the language of these tasks being “endless” and being required “year after year” make you tired.

But when Jesus comes, acting as our high priest, he makes a sacrifice of his own life and body that pays the debt once and for all. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Jesus, unlike any other priest, completed his work and was able to sit down. Like his Father in Genesis 1, Jesus sits because his labor for us is perfect and complete. In other words,

“It was very good.” Because Jesus rests, you can rest.

Jesus’ death and resurrection embody the promises of Sabbath. His work is perfect; complete. He has redeemed us from our sin. By trusting him and obeying his words and his Spirit within us, we are no longer slaves to our corrupted nature. We are free to be God’s children. His resurrection is a picture and promise of the new life we have now and will have forever when Jesus returns and we are resurrected as well.”

by Winston T. Smith, April 17, 108.  From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

Worried?

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.
O Israel,trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.
The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great.
May the LORD give you increase, you and your children! May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth!
The heavens are the LORD’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!” (Psalms 115:1–18 ESV)

All that’s left to do is trust God. But that just happens to be the hardest thing for a human being to do. If it were natural to us, everyone would happily follow Jesus, and divided allegiances would be an aberration. But trust isn’t natural, and divided allegiances are the norm. We are all guilty of little faith and, to make things worse, it isn’t enough to simply understand this. Acknowledging the diagnosis does not automatically lead to a cure. You can confess it, and worry will creep in even during your confession! The cure is not to simply know what the problem is. The cure is to know the one we are called to trust. Keep looking at the triune God and how he has revealed himself throughout history. Don’t spend your time focusing on your wavering allegiances.

How do you seek the kingdom? When you seek the King, you are seeking his kingdom. This kingdom includes everything that comes from him. It includes his law, his grace and mercy, his blessings of life, adoption, and holiness, and all his promises throughout Scripture. Those who seek him feed on his Word and seek to imitate him.

Are you worried? Jesus says there is nothing to worry about. It isn’t our kingdom, it is God’s. We take our cue from the King, and the King is not fretting over anything.

He is in complete control.”

by Edward T. Welch, Dec 17, p 352.  From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

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Forgiven

““Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”” (Jeremiah 31:31–34 ESV)

“Is the evidence of having forgiven someone forgetting what he has done to you? Jeremiah 31:34 is often quoted, where God says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

There are at least two problems with this understanding of forgiveness. First, it is not realistic. Trying to forget a sin someone has committed against you will only encourage you to remember it. Completely erasing an offense from your memory is not realistic. Second, it is not biblical. Our omniscient God does not forget anything! The word “remember” in Jeremiah 31:34 is not a memory word, but a promise word, a covenant word. God is promising that when we confess our sins, “I will not treat you as your sins deserve. Instead, I will forgive you.” Forgiveness is a past promise you keep in the future. It is very important to understand these two dimensions of forgiveness. If you don’t, you will veer off in one of two equally wrong directions: (1) You will be plagued with doubts about whether you have forgiven someone because you think that forgiving equals forgetting.

Or (2) you will give in to bitterness because you think that, since you have forgiven someone in the past, you are allowed to hold onto the vestiges of hurt in the present. Neither reflects the way God has forgiven us.”

by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp, May 26, p 147.  From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

Frustrated & Fruitless?

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” (Philippians 4:4–5 ESV)

The Apostle once again brings rejoicing back in to focus.  Rejoicing (joy) is a deep contentment, an abiding joy, a soul level happiness that is not dependent upon our circumstances – it has at its root a dependent trust in and reliance upon a good and sovereign God.  All Christians know that they are supposed to be joyful, after all if is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  So why are so few Christians really joyfully?

We may think that it is our responsibility to manufacture joy (and many other traits like love, patience, compassion).  But it is not our responsibility to produce these traits in our lives – we cannot and will not ever be able to manufacture these.  Most Christian’s wear themselves out trying to produce them.  Simply put, we lack the resources on our own to produce good things in our lives.  Joy is a byproduct of something deeper – it is the fruit of something that is happening inside.

So how do we become joyful like the Apostle is admonishing us to be?  Our lack of joy indicates a deeper problem.  We all know, that we can’t just make ourselves joyful.  Lacking joy, indicates a lack of faith (trust) in God which is often times manifested in our believing that we know what is best (though we’d never say it) as if we have ultimate vision and perspective on things or that God is not really after our good.  Do you see that?  We think we are privy to how things really work.  We think we have things all figured out.  We think we know what is best.  We are not convinced that God is really after OUR good.  Our work (and it is work) is to believe that God is good and that He is able to do all that He has promised (Philippians 3:20-21).  The more that we believe this and draw near to Jesus in utter dependance, the more He will produce wonderful things in our lives.  Your role is dependance and faith, His role is producing beautiful things – don’t get those backwards or you’ll be frustrated and fruitless.