Tag Archives: Belief

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

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Real Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts from Jude (part 2)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts from Jude (part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pondering the gospel transforms us (1 John 2:24-25)

“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.” (1 John 2:24–25 ESV)

The beautiful message of the gospel is what is to abide in us, for as we move deeper in to it we abide in Him more fully.  There is no secret formula, just marveling in how a perfectly holy, righteous and good God would make a way for a profoundly wicked and rebellious sinner like me.  This triggers transformation in me and moves me closer to God as I worship the Majestic God of the universe!  And we have eternal life – life that will not end, but will get more joyful than we could ever imagine!  Lord, sanctify us with your truth your word is truth.

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.