Month: August 2020

Belief that shares

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I recall the certainty and conviction of belief I held when entering ministry life at the age of 22. I assumed I understood everything that needed to be understood. I also assumed that my beliefs were the right beliefs, obviously, because they were my only experienced beliefs. My youthful passion was often mistaken for truth, which I was unable to distinguish.

Belief That SharesTwo realities had yet to flood my young mind. First, God is sovereign, and He is not required to ask my permission before moving me into unimagined events, challenging and stretching my faith. Second, God’s Word is totally authoritative and sufficient, presenting God’s truths in God’s way for all of life’s circumstances. As I discovered my thoughts and priorities not aligning with Gods’, my young faith made many wrong assumptions about the correctness of my beliefs. I had yet to recognise the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification in this area of my life.

In this regard, the Holy Spirit’s purpose for all believers remains constant, moving each of us “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Sanctification assures us of “the mercy of God” working within, therefore “we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1). Sanctification is never comfortable; it constantly strives to challenge those things we resolve to be unchangeable and expose our heart’s vulnerability to self-deception (Jer 17:9; Pro 28:26).

However, don’t become disheartened when sovereign mercy reaches in to dethrone the idols of your heart (Eze 14:3-5). Realise that idols are by nature liars, determined to retain their position of authority over your thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours. Intertwined within all this is the vulnerable activities of human conscience, which may or may not be speaking biblically correct words.

The apostle Paul speaks to this as he writes to Timothy. He reassures Timothy with truths outside of our normal thinking in times of change or challenge. “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…” (2 Timothy 1:8-9).

Paul calls Timothy to reject embarrassment and the temptation to distance himself from the Lord’s testimony or from Paul the prisoner. As no doubt Timothy’s emotions were influenced by the opinions of others, he had decisions to make. Procrastination was not to be his luxury. Paul calls Timothy to prioritise his heart with God’s “purpose and grace,” God’s priorities. Poor Timothy, uncomfortable at the thought of going against the challenging people around him, he would need the same deep resolve Paul had (Php 1:12-26).

Timothy was called to walk head on into “suffering for the gospel.” While suffering is foreign to the contemporary gospel of our age, it is normal for the “gospel of God” (Rom 1:1) throughout Scripture. So, Paul tells Timothy that suffering is not to be avoided but shared. This is how “the power of God” could be actuated in both their lives, through unashamed and mutual participation in each other’s lives and ministries for the gospel, regardless of the cost.

Forward to our time, our lives, and our churches, God’s “purpose and grace” remains unchanged. God’s mechanism for releasing His power into serving believers lives also remains unchanged. His Spirit’s goal for sanctification remains unchanged, moving us to a more Christlike mature faith, a humbler faith, and a more other-minded faith.

God’s sovereignty, and the authoritative sufficiency of His Word is put in motion as we unit together in Christ, confident in His “purpose and grace.” Here, there is no shame of each other or of the Lord’s testimony. This, God “gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”

God gives belief without fear

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Believers should expect that God reasons through life’s issues differently. God’s thinking is the opposite of this world’s thinking (Isa 55:8). The world injects fear into people’s lives through media news, Internet conspiracy, social media gossip and slander, governmental controls, and mankind’s own inclination towards fear and suspicion.

God gives belief without fearEven though Christians know that God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7), our fleshly appetite for negativity challenges Christ’s sufficiency in these matters. Fear produces feelings of separation from God’s power and love, having no relationship with the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit always works to affirm God’s power and love, which always produces self-control. Anything else is not of God’s Holy Spirit.

Sadly, fear has become fashionable, empowering all kinds of wrong thoughts and behaviours. But in Christ, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). God’s children bow their feelings to the supremacy of God’s love, striving to grow towards His perfection of love within us (2Co 5:14).

Jesus even spoke reassuringly of the fear of martyrdom, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…” (Matthew 10:28). While this world uses the words of people to shift your focus onto the enemy’s ability to hurt you, we rest in the unchallenged and eternal security of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus called His disciples to a belief that conquers inner turbulence, “let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). This is big belief in a big God and a mighty Saviour whose relationship with redeemed saints cannot be sabotaged.

Christians are not victims, crippled by those who oppose Jesus. No, “…everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). Christian faith governs emotions and should focus on Jesus (Heb 3:1), who is the risen and ascended Son of God. There is no-one greater, no-one more powerful, no love more pervading, and no foundation more secure than the Lord Jesus Christ. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine,” Jesus said, “and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25), this rock is Jesus – Hallelujah!

Such belief puts “on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Worldly thinking should no longer enslave the minds of believers through human arguments which reduce Christ’s redeemed people (Gal 3:13) to being victims. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

The apostle John reminds us that “we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He [Jesus] is the true God and eternal life. 21Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:18-21). We live in the understanding of things known about Christ, not in the unknown and uncertain speculations of this world. Jesus empowers us to put to death those idols of the heart which speak lies into our emotions and beliefs. Jesus rules all things, and in Him we trust!

 

Where the Holy One dwells

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God is worthy of the most palatial dwelling place with the most lavish furnishings, overlooking the most majestic scenery, while being surrounded by none but the most mighty and holy creatures. Revelation 21:11 describes such a place, the eternal city, the New Jerusalem, “having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” Furthermore, “the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev 21:23). “Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false…” (Rev 21:27). Heaven is God’s most spectacular dwelling place, providing for full and unhindered exhibition of the His multi-faceted glories.

Where the Holy One dwellsWe also understand from Scripture that God is “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3), unparalleled in His perfections of purity, love, power, knowledge, and supremacy. He, being the standard of holiness, is incompatible with anything or anyone which is less than holy. He consistently reveals Himself as “the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite’” (Isaiah 57:15). What an astonishing contrast. Although God is unapproachably holy, He graciously humbles Himself to come close to sinful people who have a contrite heart attitude toward Him. These lowly in spirit people are the ones of interest to Jehovah.

The purpose for God coming to dwell with such people is to revive their spirit and heart. But why some may ask? Since the person is already humble, what more do they need? The answer is that they need God’s own righteousness, His holiness imbedded within them to make them acceptable to Holy God. That’s what humble yet sinful people need. Only then can they be an acceptable dwelling place for the Lord.

The Hebrew word Isaiah uses for ‘revive,’ basically means to ‘give life.’ Taking the spiritual heart which is dead because of sin He gives it spiritual life. This regeneration of the dead spirit, giving first time spiritual life, is wholly the work of God. The sinner has no roll to play other than being contrite, which means being broken and crushed before a holy God over sin (Psa 51:13-17).

In the New Testament, we see the ultimate fulfilment of this through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Those who were “dead in trespasses and sins,” who were “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:1-2), God “made alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5).

Despite a sinner’s unworthiness, God responds to their faith in Christ. For “it is God who establishes us… in Christ…  22 and has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). The once dead heart is regenerated through the life breathing ministry of God the Holy Spirit, who seals and guarantees the reborn sinners’ position in Christ, appointing a new heavenly destination. The heart, which was once a grave, is now a living dwelling place (temple) of the Holy One (1Co 3:16). Hallelujah!

Jesus words remain true, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). True and lasting contentment can only be found in Christ, and only once the Holy One steps in with eternal life, bringing His peace and joy. Believers enjoy the most privileged relationship with God through Christ and His Spirit, for which we give Him all the praise. Indeed, our God is a merciful Saviour God by nature.

 

Belief with destiny

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Spiritual destiny speaks of the inevitability of God accomplishing that which He previously determined for your life. The Bible teaches God’s intimate involvement in your life, engaging with you every step of the way for His glory. Therefore, recognising God’s determined and purposeful love working through your belief should fuel your response of worship.

Belief with destinyBelief with destiny speaks of God’s intentional long-term plans for you, beginning with His gospel. There was never anything temporary or transient in God’s thinking when He formulated the gospel in eternity past (Eph 1:4; 2Ti 1:9). The idea that salvation is some kind of easy come, easy go spiritual option which can be exchanged for another option is utterly foreign to God. As man’s will never had any part to play in the design or initiation of the gospel, so man’s will has no place in the ultimate destination for those saved through the gospel.

Much anxiety is escaped by overlaying God’s wisdom on your expectations of life because it’s God who employs every phase of life for His purposes. Therefore, recognising God’s involvement in the timeline of your life instils assurance.

If you have trusted your life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, there are three basic stages of life which God has implemented His planed will with purposed destiny.
God planned your salvation
David observed that the Lord “created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). He confessed, “you hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:5). God manoeuvred David despite his wrong decisions in life.

Likewise, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God was working on our unmerited salvation long before we realised what was going on. “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ…” (Ephesians 2:5). That is God’s determinative grace at work.

God planned your life for usefulness
Paul even acknowledge God’s purposes in the painful afflictions of his ministry (1Th 3:3-4). No circumstance is wasted by God as He intertwines His purposes into the fabric of our lives for His glory. He has calculated all the variables of our inconsistencies, our failings, and others bad treatment of us for keeping His plans on track.

In Ephesians 2:10, Paul explains that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The Lord intends us to walk with Him through each and every chapter of life as willing and obedient participants expressing the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22) doing good works as opportunity permits.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). We rightly plan our lives out, others may impact those plans for better or for worse, and circumstances modify those plans. But it’s God who determines and adjusts the outcome and longevity of our plans to accommodate His will. 

God planned your heavenly home
Romans 8:30 tells us that “those whom he [God] predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” The believers eternal heavenly destination is as certain as their salvation was. It is God alone “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 Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 1:24-25).

 

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