Faith As Understanding

 

Hebrews 11 tells us that “by faith we understand…” A paraphrase might say, “by faith we THINK.”  But the modern perception is that Christian’s don’t think, that they would rather just accept what they are told and blindly believe. In this message we discuss the fact that not only is being a Christian compatible with thinking, but it requires, demands, and constitutes the most profound thinking in the world. We discuss that thinking leads to faith, how thinking leads to faith, and why thinking leads to faith, all of which will always lead us to Jesus Christ.

 

An Example of Praying Without Ceasing- Sir Thomas Browne

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Despite a time where England was passing through a period of national convulsion and political excitement, men and women of God found comfort and strength through prayer. One beloved English physician, named Sir Thomas Browne, is one of these men. He wrote in his journal,”I have resolved to pray more and pray always, to pray in all places where quietness invites, in the house, on the highway and on the street; and to know no street or passage in this city that may not witness that I have not forgotten God.”

Do we witness that we have not forgotten God in all places?

Browne adds, “I purpose to take occasion of praying upon the sight of any church which I may pass, that God may be worshiped there in spirit, and that souls may be saved there; to pray daily for my sick patients and for the patients of other physicians; at my entrance into any home to say, “May the peace of God abide here;” after hearing a sermon, to pray for a blessing on God’s truth, and upon the messenger; upon the sight of a beautiful person to bless God for His creatures, to pray for the beauty of such an one’s soul, that God may enrich her with inward graces, and that the outward and inward may correspond; upon the sight of a deformed person, to pray God to give them wholeness of soul, and by and but to give them the beauty of the resurrection.”

May adding constant daily patterns of prayer give us comfort and strength through our hard times?

“Stonewall” Jackson & Rock-Solid Prayer

If we took a glance throughout our history books, scanning over the names of the heroes and major figures,  we would be surprised to find out how many of them possessed a vibrant relationship with God through faith in Christ. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a Civil War general, is one of these men. Military historians consider him to be one of the most gifted tactical commanders in U.S. history, but his gifted mind was engaged in far more than military strategics.

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Discovering The True Jesus (pt. 5)- The Dirty God

As I was driving to school in my truck this morning, I was thinking about what intrigues me the most about Jesus. What necessarily draws me to Him, what makes His character so different from any other religious leader or teacher? I came to one conclusion, and instead of diving into another biblical story this post, I simply want to share with you why Jesus is so attractive to me:

Jesus gets His hands dirty.

Does that sound odd to you? Jesus was NEVER afraid to get His hands dirty. He not only left heaven to come to earth, but He was born in a dirty feeding trough. He not only taught, He also healed. Not only did He preach, but He raised people from the dead. Not only did He teach His disciples, but He cast out demons in front of them. Not only did He eat with sinners, but He fasted and prayed for 40 days. Not only did He live a perfect life, but He gave Himself to be brutally beaten, humiliated, and nailed to a cross. Jesus got dirty.

One of my favorite examples of this is the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy in Mark 1:40-42. Now to gain an understanding of what Jesus does here, we need a little background information. Leprosy is a disease that causes flesh to rot and flake off, eventually leading to one’s death. Eyes rot, limbs deteriorate, and bones usually begin to show. In the religious laws of Jesus’ time, one would become “unclean” just by being near a leper- and have to go “wash” to be spiritually cleansed- from just being in the leper’s presence! Also, people with leprosy were cast out of society, left to die and rot on their own. Families disowned them, and whenever they were seen, shouts of “unclean!” would often resound. Here is a photo of an Indian man with a case of leprosy:

ICII-brings-joy-to-the-poorest-people-of-new-LifeThis is the type of person that comes up and talks to Jesus, the teacher who is growing in popularity and who has enormous demands to teach, preach, and heal. What does Jesus do? He gets dirty. Mark 1:40-42 reads,

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

The thing that amazes me about this story is what Jesus does to the man. Do you notice it? We covered earlier that even to be in the presence of a leper would make one “unclean.” To touch one would be downright abominable. But Jesus, “moved with pity,” reaches out and touches the man. Notice Jesus touches him before He cleanses Him. This man most likely did not have physical contact with a human for years, and the first person that touches him is….Jesus. Can you imagine how this must have made the man feel? Jesus does not only heal him, but he touches him. He goes a great length to show the man love and compassion, almost as to say, “You’re not too dirty for me,” and He does that for you and me, too. No one is too dirty for Him to cleanse. But to clean us, He had to get really dirty.

The Bible describes our hearts as leprous- dying, rotting, and unclean. Yet Jesus gave himself over to a bloody death on a cross and took on God’s wrath that was meant for us, so that we might be cleansed forever, and have our leprous hearts made new. If we ask Him to heal our hearts, His response is a warm, “I will, be clean,” and He will reach and touch us, too, as He makes us a part of His family.

This is one of the many reasons why Jesus is so attractive and amazing to me. What other faith or belief system in the world has a God who comes to save His creation through serving them and getting dirty? There are none. Jesus stands out from all of the rest. He alone is the only one who can save.

And I hope you will place your trust in Him, because He is the ONLY one who can make you new. Will you trust Him?

Jesus got dirty…for You.

Seeing the Goodness of Our God

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The more closely we study ourselves, the more beneficent our Creator becomes. Look at the highest of God’s earthly creatures-man. We have plenty of reasons to say with the Psalmist, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that I know full well” (Psalm 139:14). Everything about the structure of our bodies attest to the goodness of our Maker. How suited are our hands to perform work! How good of the Lord to appoint sleep to refresh our wearied bodies! How benevolent His provision to give to the eyes lids and brows for their protection! We could continue indefinitely!*

The goodness of God is also seen in the variety of natural pleasures that He has provided for his creatures. God could have decided to satisfy our hunger without allowing us to really enjoy the taste of it- yet how good is He that he gave us such flavors as those in meat, vegetables, and fruits! He has not only given us senses, but also things that will gratify our senses, and this too reveals His goodness. The earth could have been fertile as it is without its surface being so delightfully multicolored. Our physical lives could have been sustained without beautiful flowers to please our eyes with their colors, and our nostrils with their sweet perfumes. We might have walked outside without hearing the music of birds. Why then, is all of this loveliness so freely diffused over the face of nature? Because the tender mercies of the Lord “are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9).*

When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same (C.H. Spurgeon).

Gratitude and thankfulness is the return justly required from us, the objects of His goodness. Yet we often do not give it to God because His goodness is so constant and so abundant. It is lightly esteemed because it is exercised toward us in the common course of events. It is not felt because we daily experience it!* We must labor to not allow this to be so!

Praise the Lord for His Goodness!!

*My translation from A.W. Pink’s “Old” English language (Attributes of God, Ch. 11, The Goodness of God)

Looking Unto Jesus- Charles Spurgeon

“Looking unto Jesus.” —Hebrews 12:2

“It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.

He insinuates, ‘Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.’

All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that ‘Christ is all in all.’

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits.

Therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.

We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by ‘looking unto Jesus.’

Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him.

Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

‘My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesu’s blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesu’s name.’”

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–Charles Spurgeon, “June 28 – Morning” in Morning and Evening (Geanies House, Fearn, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 1994), 378.

The Heavenly Wedding Feast…Do You Have The Attire?

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In Matthew 22 Jesus speaks to the disciples in a parable that we regard as “the parable of the wedding feast.” He starts of by telling them that “the kingdom of heaven could be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son..” (verse 2). He proceeds to tell them that the king sent out his servants to invite people, but the people would not come. He sent more servants to invite them to the wedding, but the people paid no attention to them, treated them shamefully and even killed them. He sends out new servants with new instructions, “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.” These servants gathered good and bad (a foreshadow that Gentiles would later have the gospel message offered to them, but more on that in a different post) people, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But the king comes in and sees a man without the wedding garment and asks him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” (verse 12). The man was speechless, and at once the king had him bound and cast into outer darkness.

If your like me, you may read this and think, “What in the world? The man didn’t have on the right clothing…so he was cast out? What about meeting people where they are and welcoming them into our churches no matter what?” These are the things that I thought before the Spirit revealed to me the much deeper meaning of the passage. Here’s the deeper meaning:

The wedding feast represents heaven, and the King represents God. The servants that go out and invite people (the Jews) represent God’s prophets in the Old Testament, that proclaimed repentance and prophesied about Jesus, but were treated badly and put to death.  The good and the bad people represents everyone else (because the Jews refused to respond). All of this so far may or may not be obvious, but what on earth does the poor man without the wedding garment have to do with anything? Well, he is truly a poor man, and I’ll tell you why:

The wedding garment represents Christ’s righteousness that is laid over us. This is the way that Jesus taught that our self-righteousness would never be enough! From the very beginning of creation, God has provided a “covering” for our sin. To insist on covering ourselves is to be clothed in “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Adam and Eve tried to cover their shame, but they found their fig leaves to be woefully scant. God took away their handmade clothes and replaced them with skins of animals (Genesis 3:7, 21). In the book of Revelation, we see those in heaven wearing “white robes” (Revelation 7:9), and we learn that the whiteness of the robes is due to their being washed in the blood of the Lamb (verse 14). We trust in God’s righteousness, not our own (Philippians 3:9)! The man who did not wear the wedding garment is an example of one who trusts in his own righteousness and merit to get into heaven! It simply cannot be done, if we try to do so, we will be cast into outer darkness.

The king provided wedding garments for his guests, and God has provided salvation for mankind through Christ! My friends, our wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ, and there is no wedding feast for us if we do not have it! When the religions of the world are stripped down to their basic tenets, we either find man working his way toward God, or we find the cross of Christ. Jesus crucified, buried and resurrected is the only way to God, for He himself says, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

God has invited us to a wedding feast, and an eternity with him. Our invitation comes with a garment that we must receive and put on to enter: Christ’s righteousness. We do this by trusting in His life and finished work on the cross to cover our sins, without any bit of trust in our own merit or good works. If we trust in ourselves, our own righteousness, and our good works to gain us entrance to the feast, we wil be cast in to utter darkness: eternity in hell. However, the kingdom of heaven is opened to those who will set aside their own righteousness and by faith accept Christ’s righteousness.

My friends, there is a heavenly wedding feast awaiting, and your invited. The question is, do you have the attire?

 

“It Is Finished.” Jesus vs. World Religions

Faith in Christ compared to every other world religion or belief system is amazing in that- one man and his life changes everything. Every other religion in the world spells D-O and is all about trying to do enough to please God. Whether it be keeping laws, praying certain times a day, refraining from foods, sharing your belief so often, or taking part in rituals or traditions, the main goal is to do enough good things to achieve eternal life. In the Bible, Romans 3:23 lets us know that this is not achievable because “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Our faith in Jesus Christ is drastically different than any religion. Where every other religion says D-O, Jesus says ,”D-O-N-E.” His final words on the cross exhibit this beautiful truth: “It is finished,” (John 19:30). Jesus did what we could never do by living a perfectly obedient life to the Father’s will. In addition to this, He willingly laid down his life for us on the cross and by doing so He paid for all of our wickedness and sinfulness by taking the Father’s wrath upon himself. This was done so that “whoever calls on his name shall be saved (Romans 10:13).” One of my favorite examples of how our salvation is not about doing is found when Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a generous landowner Matthew 20:

In my own paraphrasing, this is what happens: A master goes out and hires a group of workers early in the morning and promises to pay them a denarius (a day’s typical wage.) Then the master went back out around 9:00am and picked up some more workers, and he did the same thing again at 12:00, 3:00, and then even 5:00. All of the workers worked until about 6:00pm, and each were given one denarius. The workers that had worked for twelve hours exclaimed,” these last have only worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us.” But the master replies, “Am I not allowed to do what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matt. 20:15).

What a beautiful representation of the Gospel! When I have talked to some of my coworkers and friends who are nonbelievers about the Gospel, I have usually been asked, “So someone who sins their entire life….can have faith in Jesus the last year of their life and still be saved?” The answer is YES my friends! It simply does not make sense to those who have not been shown by the Holy Spirit. But I wonder, how many times have we acted like the men who worked the entire day..judging and thinking that we have done more, are more spiritual, and deserve more blessings and recognition because of our obedience, works, and “strength of faith”? Jesus tells his disciples after the parable, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” This is the great beauty that is found in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! It is all about our faith in him, and not about what we have done or how long we have done it! Each believer will be rewarded with heaven, whether he is a Billy Graham or a murderer who has faith in Jesus in the last moments. Don’t think this last part is sounds fair? Take it up with Jesus, who tells the thief who had just asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom this: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise” Luke 23:43.

How beautiful is this! The man on the cross next to Jesus had spent his entire life in sin, but at the end of it, something was different. At the end of his life of rebellion and wickedness, he realized how depraved he was, which led to his realization of his need for a Savior. Regardless of his life experiences, his simple faith in Christ was enough for him to be given Jesus as his personal savior, and for him to be granted eternal life. My friend, this amazing love is at the door for you and me! Oh how he desires for us to come to Him, just like the thief, at the end of our rope and in desperate need of a Savior. Seek Him, and you will find Him. He longs to save us from the weariness of doing, and bring us into the fullness of joy that is found in resting in what he DID!

How can we not love, worship, and seek to know this amazing God! We no longer have to do, because it has already been done.  Trust in him, and him alone, because when Jesus said, “It is finished,” I promise you, HE MEANT IT!

 

Gospel Call: “Come to me….and I will give you rest.” -Jesus

We read Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  This is one of my favorite verses of scripture because it depicts the call to salvation, a demonstration of what saving faith looks like, and the promise of rest that Jesus intends for us to live with! So, let’s unpack it:

First, Jesus issues a command: “Come.” It’s a simple term, but can mean so much. How do we come to him? Well, we can’t come to him with the idea that he will just be the cherry on top of our lives. That’s not coming to him. We don’t just need Jesus as another component to our lives to just complete our lives, we have to come to him with the intent of making him the center of our life, laying everything down at the feet of the cross. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus declared; “he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Jesus issues the command to “Come” to those who labor and are heavy laden. The Pharisee’s at the time were imposing so many religious laws, acts, and rituals on the Jew’s at the time, that if they made even a small error they were counted unrighteous and unfit for heaven. Jesus is saying, “Are you tired of working for salvation? Are you tired of worrying if you’ve done enough to get into heaven? Are you tired of trying hard to be good enough to please my Father? Good, you should be, because you can’t please him…on your own. ” If anyone at the time felt like this, they were personally encouraged by Jesus to come to him. Although the term itself is not used in the text, Jesus gives a call to repent, to turn away from the self-centered and works-centered life and come to Him. The person who is weary and heavy-laden despairs of his own ability to please God. He comes to the end of his own resources and turns to Christ. Desperation is a part of true salvation, because a person does not come to Christ as long as he has confidence in himself. To repent is to make a 180-degree turn from the burden of the old life to the restfulness of the new. If a person does this, Jesus promises them rest.

So, what is the rest that Jesus promises?

The dictionary gives several definitions of rest that remarkably parallel the spiritual rest God offers those who trust in His Son. First, the dictionary describes rest as cessation from action, motion, labor, or exertion. In a similar way, to enter God’s rest is to cease from all efforts at self-help in trying to earn salvation. Second, the dictionary defines rest as something that is fixed and settled. Similarly, to be in God’s rest is to have the wonderful assurance that our eternal destiny is secure in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. If we back up to verse 11, Jesus says that there is no one on earth who is greater than John the Baptist, yet the person who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he! Guys, we have such an amazing glory awaiting us in heaven. Jesus promises us that even the person who is the least in heaven, is considered much greater than the best person who lived on earth! And if we come to Jesus, he promises that this glory awaits us! At the end of our lives, if we are in the faith, we are not rewarded for what we have done, we are rewarded for what Christ has done! And how much glory and praise does He deserve!?- So much that there cannot even be a time frame on it, because it would not be enough-it has to be eternal!

Third, rest is defined as being confident and trustful. When we enter God’s rest we are given the assurance that “He who began a good work in [us] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Finally, the dictionary describes rest as leaning, reposing, or depending on. As children of God, we can depend with utter certainty that our heavenly Father will “supply all [our] needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

My friends, you are invited to this eternal rest. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

He promises rest, and so much more. It’s up to you to go to him!