- Do you prefer created things more than the Creator of all things?
- 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.
- Are you a slave to created things? The new ALWAYS wears off.
- Is your view of life about you, your dreams and your agenda? Do you want to be sovereign?
- Have you become satisfied with serving God instead of being satisfied with knowing God?
- What is upper most in your affections. What are you really after?
- 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
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!
“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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“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!
“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
You make a crummy god
This is an excerpt from Matt Chandler’s Advent Message, The Promise of a Savior.
“We have been unable to fulfill our lives in away that our souls cease to chase the dangling carrot. Here’s why I worry about us. We’re never going to suffer as much as Job and we’re not going to be as rich as Solomon. Do you know where that puts us? Directly on the treadmill, running to whatever is next. If you think about your life, your whole life has been a series of “What’s next?” Where there’s not a “what’s next,” we get super restless.
We just wanted to get to high school. Then we just wanted our driver’s license. Then we just wanted to get out of high school. Then we just wanted to get into college. Then we just wanted to get out of college. Then we just wanted to find the one. We wanted to get married. Then we needed to find a job to support this marriage. Then we wanted kids. Then we wanted a promotion at work. We’re constantly punting down the field of our lives the next thing.
That glittery, sparkly little thing out there in the future continues to drive us while never satisfying us. We’re not even going to get tuned into that, because new stuff and advancement is intoxicating like a drug.
We’ll run and we’ll run and we’ll run, and there will always be something that’s next. You’ll continue to punt the fullness of life down the field of your life until your run is over. Only something that’s beyond the sun and not underneath it can solve that issue with the human heart. We need this Savior. We need the Ancient of Days to help with that.
I’ve said this for years. I just so passionately believe it. There’s always one or two who get upset when I say it. I mean not to upset you, I promise, but I want to make it very clear that I believe no one has lied to you, deceived you, and betrayed you more than you have. Despite the fact that there are mountains of empirical data that you make a crummy god over your own life, my bet would be most of us feel very confident in our “godness” over our lives and see any sort of authority or boundary as an affront to our sovereignty.
Of course, all we have is evidence that we really stink. We lie to us and betray us and trick us and don’t tell us the truth and don’t show up when we say we’re going to, but we really make awesome gods. We need this Savior to rule over our hearts .
The last thing he talks about is atoning for our sins; that this Savior would atone for our sins, eradicate sin. If we were honest, many of us in here, even now, are slaves to sin in our lives. Probably what I can comfortably say is that you have two different lives going on. You have your life at church, where you’re great and you love the preaching and the singing, but you have this whole other life that maybe one or two people know about, or maybe nobody knows about but you, and you are actively being owned and dominated by your sin.
You have bought into the ridiculous lie that you’re controlling it, that you can stop whenever you want, and you would never cross this certain line, and you have everything under control. How long have you been trying to stop? A decade? Two? Bro, you’re not in control; you’re being driven. Only this Savior can set us free from the hooks of sin that deep into the soul.”
When affliction leads to worship
“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 ESV)
We are indeed wasting away – our bodies are decaying this very moment. We are slowly breaking down, slowly falling apart. When we are young, we feel invincible, but as we age our mortality begins to set in. If you’re old enough then you’ve injured yourself getting out of bed, brushing your teeth or getting into your car – you din’t even have to goto the gym! Even as our external bodies are wasting away, our internal natures are growing stronger and more sanctified, more holy, more like brother Jesus if we have Him as the Cornerstone and Foundation of our lives. It is easy to “play church,” or know the right answers, but to seek Him and abide in Him is a whole different story. One makes you religious, the other makes you alive.
Paul experienced more pain and hardships than probably anyone that you have ever known. And yet, he sees all of his afflictions as light & momentary when compared to the eternal weight of glory that is to come. What!?!? Affliction in and of itself will never produce this in us. It is only when it is compared against the backdrop of eternal things. Far too often our minds are set on the things of this world (Romans 8:5-8), not on the things of God. We must set our minds on the things of the Spirit – there is an active component in us.
What are things that we should be thinking on? Things that we can’t see – and thus require faith (2 Cor 5:7, Romans 14:23, Hebrews 11:1-6) – are things such as the full restoration of all things by the sovereign Ruler of the universe, sitting at the table at the wedding feast of the Lamb enjoying perfect community with God and with others, working for God’s glory with no thorns & thistles, and enjoying a perfect paradise in the presence of the Almighty. Dwelling on these things make the hardships of this world seem light and momentary in comparison. It is what we behold and set our minds upon that marks us, shapes us and drives us.
Indeed Paul knew suffering & affliction to the point of despair (2 Corinthians 1:8), but he had discovered something far greater – a comparison that brought him supernatural comfort. This is when our afflictions lead to worship. Regardless of the challenges that are before you – severe medical issues, loss of a spouse or a child, loss of a relationship, work pressures or anything else, whatever you spend your time thinking about and, mulling over in your mind will mark you. Work towards that being the unbelievable nature of a perfectly powerful and holy God who would condescend to rescue a completely rebellious people. Be wowed by the fact that God makes His former enemies His friends. Think on that and see if it doesn’t change you. Lord, give us hearts to believe!
Other Posts to Consider:
God’s children forsake sin (1 John 3:4–10)
“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:4–10 ESV)
When we walk in ongoing, unrepentant sin, we walk outside of God’s good, right and protective law. To walk outside of God’s provision and protection has grave consequences. Jesus’ mission was not only to forgive us of sin, but to free us from its grip (Romans 6). John goes boldly tells us that no one who abides in Jesus keeps on sinning – we can’t because He is light and in Him there is no darkness or sin. He says that no one who walks in ongoing, unrepentant sin (that is evident for we all have sin in our lives) knows Him. This may be a long and slow process, but ultimately God ensures His elect that they are His by the way that they walk. Our actions always speak louder than our words. It is easy to say we love God, serve Him and pursue Him, but only those who pursue the righteousness that is found in Jesus alone are truly His. Don’t be deceived! If you’re hanging your hat on having walked an aisle or having prayed a prayer, but have no real desire to know God or grow in holiness, then you need to ask if you are really His child.
We aren’t of God if we make an ongoing practice of sinning. Growth in holiness, empowered by the grace of God is the most comforting thing in regards to our eternal security. One cannot be regenerate and walk in ongoing, apparent & unrepentant sin. Sin is of the devil. We must be careful not to place timetables on this – for we have all walked in sin for a season. But, it should always frighten us and move us towards the cross. The regenerate person cannot continue to walk in open sin because the Word of God and the Holy Spirit dwell within him. We can’t keep on walking in open sin because we have been reborn. It is like being reborn as a fish and trying to live on land – you can’t for long. The very air that we now breath is the grace of God through the Word of God.
The litmus test for faith (children of God versus children of the devil): whoever does not practice righteousness or love his brother is not walking in the light. This takes some serious unpacking because it sounds like external behavior modification. We are recognized by our fruit (Matthew 7:16). The Christian is transformed to the core by the Holy Spirit, so much so that he cannot walk in a pattern of continual sin for long periods. John boils it down to the true barometer of where our hearts really are regardless of what we profess or what we’d like to believe. If we don’t love others, we aren’t regenerate; we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). This is at the top of the list of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions in Galatians 5:22. We can’t produce this, it is Spirit wrought. Additionally, if you can’t forgive then you aren’t forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15). This is slow and progressive, but will be a growing reality in the hearts of the elect. God, help us!