Faith Has No Drawbacks

LoveNow the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:38). The writer of Hebrews tells us that the Christian life is marked by the quality of faith. The person who has faith in Christ will never be at a disadvantage or come short. This is not a white knuckled attitude of positive thinking, forced repetitious confessions, but a calm trust in God. Faith is unrelenting obedience that places its confidence in God despite circumstances.

 

But sadly there are those who draw back or shrink back. This “is a picture of lowering the sail on a sail boat (RWP). These people attempt to get where they’re going on their own power and start paddling. They will eventually take on water and sink. Scripture says that these people, “concerning faith have made shipwreck.” (1 Tim. 1:19). They end up in ruins and the wreckage of their lives is horrifying.

 

The Bible teaches us that we should be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18 ) or unfurl the sails of our faith and let the wind of the Spirit of God guide us and supply us with his power to live for Jesus. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8 ) and we do not depend on anything to save us except what Jesus Christ did on the cross. We live by faith as Christians and we do not live our lives in reaction to gas prices, stock market indexes and global economy. Throw away the paddle of unbelief and live by faith in God and his promises. God says, “My soul shall have no pleasure in him.”  The person who does not have faith will be subject to God’s disapproval and wrath. No one likes a coward, especially God. Unbelief and spiritual cowardice are serious crimes against heaven (see Rev. 21:8). Faith has no drawbacks.

 

All I know is God calls us to act in faith not fear.People are easily moved and confused by the news, but who has believed the report of the Lord (Isaiah 53:1)? What concerns me is that it seems many professing Christians are unprepared for the hard times ahead. They are restless as they are faithless. Christians will go through difficult times. Preaching about people suffering and the necessity of going through trials requires that I have to give some Christians a spiritual Heimlich maneuver because they choke on the meat of the Word. But I have to speak about it.

 

We as Christians are told our faith will be tested by fire (1 Peter 1:7) and we will go though fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12). Nothing strange is happening to you. God’s purpose is to press your life into the mould or image of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29). Being a child of God does not prevent trials, nor should it. God works through adverse circumstances to gradually change us into the image of his Son. Christ learned obedience by the things he suffered (Heb. 5:8). You are becoming identified with Christ and his sufferings in order to bring praise and glory to God. Faith has no drawbacks.

 

From my studies of the scriptures I find that the true followers of Christ can thrive in times of affliction, hardship and pain. The Bible says of the children of Israel, “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.” (Exodus 1:12). Trials are not unfortunate circumstances-they test the mettle of our lives by training and discipline. A black smith is gets his title due to the fact he uses black metals like iron. The word “smith” comes from the word smite or hit. He heats the metal and works in a low lighted area so he can see the color of the metal as he tempers it. He heats that metal to a bright glowing orange and hammers it, then plunges it into a cold bucket of water. He will discover after just a couple of attempts at tempering the metal whether it will last or end up as scrap.

It says Joseph “was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.” (Psalm 105:17-19). In the Hebrew it says, “His soul came into iron” or “iron entered his soul!” In his hardship he glowed with the heat of heaven’s blacksmith and when the process was over he saved the world of that day. His chosen ones will do exploits (Dan 11:32) because they have been tempered by the Heavenly blacksmith in the iron furnace of affliction (Deut 4:20). He learned that faith has no drawbacks.

For some of you the worst part is that you are in the dark about what is going on. Like the blacksmith shop, you world is dark around you.  But without his work you will never make it.  God asks you today, “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.” (Isaiah 50:11). The dark times are the times we are confused, aimless and feeling useless. God seems to put dense fog in front of us and slows us down. We ask, “What do you want me to do Lord?” God says, “Nothing…only believe…all things are possible to him that believes.” People here right now are in a place where they can do nothing but trust. Be confident that God is at work in your life despite the darkness and that true faith expects that He is true to his promises and “performeth all things for you.” (Psalm 57:2). One old sage says, “There are blessings which we cannot obtain if we cannot accept and endure suffering. There are joys that can come to us only through sorrow. There are revelations of Divine truth which we can get only when earth’s lights have gone out. There are harvests which can grow only after the plow has done its work.” Without tribulation we have no ability to endure, we will be weak and unusable.

I hear preachers today talk about abstract faith not concrete faith. Abstract faith is a shortened version and theoretical version of faith. They don’t tell you the whole story. Concrete faith is a solid tangible faith. Churches cheer-lead people about how God will save them from all their trials. But we can rejoice “when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” (Romans 5:3-4NLT). It is the same faith that sees deliverance from trial and the same faith that sees deliverance in trial. Faith has no drawbacks.

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.” (Psalm 138:7). The Hebrew wording there is “As I go on in the middle of trouble he will revive me.” When you decide to go through it is then he will revive you!  In your trouble you must decide that if you cannot be delivered from it you will go on despite it. That is when he refreshes you and gives you new strength. God’s people have many problems and are not immune to trials because they are Christians. Most of us know that when God did not save us from hardship, pain and trouble he saved us in it, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.” (Ps. 91:15)! No matter how hard, no matter how long it takes I know that faith has no drawbacks!

Tried and true Christians are like oak trees, “lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3AMP). God equips us by the storms. Some storms are sudden, unexpected crushing defeats, bitter disappointments. Others storms start slow and then overwhelm us. His tree will make history. God may shake your branches and let the rain beat down on you but by the time he is done your roots will be deep and you will stand stronger and more powerful by his grace. While those who refuse to believe are like windblown dust the person of faith, “shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Ps. 1:3).

People need to return to the simple, concrete faith that says. “Lord I believe you!” If it means my death I do not care for I have sworn an allegiance to the King of Kings! As you resolve to go on, as you decide no matter what comes and say, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid!” (Isaiah 12:2) as you declare, “I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD.” (Psalm 71:16) it is then he will refresh your spirit, invigorate your mind and regenerate your body by the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead and dwells in you (Rom 8:11).

We are “to build up our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep ourselves in the love of God, and wait anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 20, 21). We are to build our faith by praying according to the Holy Spirits wishes. Notice how prayer and the experience of God’s love are vitally linked. We should constantly think of the love of God and firmly believe. We should be waiting with eager anticipation of Christ’s mercy. God loves whom he wants to love. “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In trial some people are like Israel that said “the Lord hated us.” (Deut 1:27). That is unbelief in its worst form. You must know he loves you!

Arthur Pink says, “God did not love us because we loved Him, but He loved us before we had a particle of love for Him. Had God loved us in return for ours, then it would not be spontaneous on His part; but because He loved us when we were loveless, it is clear that His love was uninfluenced…God’s love for me, and for each of “His own,” was entirely unmoved by anything in them. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with “no good thing” in me.” No human standard of love can measure the breadth, length, depth and height of God’s love. I believe that he loves his own.

But now because of the Holy Spirit I believe that he loves me. Despite my trials I must believe he loves me. Despite the glowing iron of my soul where I feel I cannot bear my hardships anymore, I believe he loves me. Despite the storms and my soul swaying back and forth where my strength seems tested beyond its ability to endure, I believe that he loves me. When there dark all around me and I cannot see him who my soul loves, I will not lose hope because the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in his wings and I believe that he loves me. I must keep myself in the love of God and build up my faith by spirit empowered prayer because faith has no drawbacks.

You Have Been Warned!

Paul Before FelixThe Bible records that the Apostle Paul stood before and earthly king and preached the gospel. It says, “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” (Acts 24:25).  Where is the bold witness for Christ in this day of compromise and syncretism who will warn men of their coming encounter with the thrice holy God? Where are men like Paul who will not hold back speaking of God’s justice before the most powerful men in the earth?  His life was in the balance and his future uncertain as he stood before these men detained in their judicial system for two years. But he remained a witness to the fact that the King of the Universe, God Almighty would judge them. Paul was more afraid of God than some earthly sovereign. They shook in the presence of this man of God as the Holy Spirit reproved them (John 16:8 ) through the man who called himself the Lord’s prisoner (2 Tim 1:8). Where are the people who know their God and do exploits such as this?  Where are those who are unafraid to say that God will judge this nation because of its’ evil? How long will the preachers of God who would warn the elect of God (Ps. 19:11) be sidelined by a worldly church until they make up their minds?  “To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.” (Jer 6:10). 

 

While it is true there have been and always will be people who are condemning and vituperative in the use of scripture (Rom 2:1) and you will always find bitter and hateful people who act in line with their twisted, hardened hearts, the kindness of God is seen in leading us to repentance ( Rom. 2:4) through men who love the church and would suffer all things for the elects sake.

 

The justice and mercy of God do not cancel out each other. How can that be determined? It is because Christ is Judge and Savior. The concept of judgment is not the unpredictable anger of God, but when God in his justice sentences people to physical and spiritual penalties who continue in unrepentant sin. All people are eternally obligated to love and serve God and he is infinitely offended when they break his laws. It is not an option to serve God, it is a responsibility through grace. But how sad when people bristle and become twisted any time that someone addresses them concerning the God who cannot tolerate unrepentant sin or stomach lukewarmness (Rev. 3:16). People in their well oiled theological machine see God as so “merciful” that he will not penalize anyone for sin and evil. We are more at ease blaming the forces of “mother nature” because the thought of God acting against sin and the creation being revolted by sin is unthinkable!While they will say that people only punish themselves they cannot see God dealing with sin in his justice. They could not be more wrong. It should be reiterated here that the most basic understanding of God anyone could have is that justice is what we deserve; mercy is something we do not deserve. When God acts in mercy and saves us we experience it as undeserving lawbreakers.

 

It is damnable to think God Almighty will not act in his justice against sin just because a person sends up religious smoke screens talking about grace and forgiveness. That does not blind the eyes of an all seeing God and stop him from taking punitive action against sin. Church people beware. Unrepentant, habitual sin especially on the behalf of the backslider carries more serious consequences than those who have never known the Lord (Heb 2:1-3; 2 Pet 2:20-22). The church growth movement with its focus on fleshly unity sees anyone addressing the biblical concept of the judgment of God as divisive, legalistic and unteachable. Do people who feel this way think they will escape the judgment of God (Rom. 2:3)?

 

It is wonderfully true that the New Covenant brought mercy and grace (John 3:16-21). Thank God! But that is only partially true. Christ’s first coming brought a light the darkness could not extinguish (John 1:5) and exposed demons, death and disobedience in unyielding exposure. Those who hide their sins are already condemned because they love darkness. Jesus said he came for the purpose of judgment as well (John 9:39). God the Son has authority to judge (Mt. 5:22, 27). Christ taught that people place themselves in danger of judgment (Mt. 5:21-22) and based on their actions their sentence could be more severe (Luke 10:14).  Even every idle, careless word will be examined on judgment day (Mt. 12:36). You have been warned.

 

This United States has defied God and deified sin and God’s anger is not seen so much in traumatic weather or economic recession. In the middle of it all is a backslidden, lukewarm church. Then these so called ministers who no longer preach the gospel message are powerless though they shake themsleves like at other times not knowing the Lord has departed from them (Jud. 16:20).  But what is worse is that the awful price we are being forced to pay is not being on talking terms with Almighty God as he snubs the disobedient and will not speak his Word to them  through ministers who are a flame of fire (Amos 8:11-13)! In his mercy God has left us men in the past who have written about the doctrines of grace for us to read. We can at least warm our shivering souls in solid biblical exposition and feed upon the grain in these storehouses of Joseph despite the wet blanket of snow fallen upon the evangelical church. One can only weep in hope, to break up the hard clods of ground upon the our hearts, so we plant the seed of the scripture in fertile soil. We wait for the Sovereign mighty God to come and raise up men in our day to minister the words of his mouth.  At last  the saint of God will say, “I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.” (Psalm 85:8). 

 

God is commanding men and women everywhere to repent because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world. Christ made it clear after Pilate had brutally executed some men and a tower fell upon another group that they were no greater sinners than other people in fact, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-15).  The Bible is clear: “Some people get caught in their sins right away, even before the time of judgment. But other people’s sins don’t show up until later.” (1 Tim. 5:24).  God’s judgment is revealed from heaven now against those who suppress the truth by their breaking of God’s law (Rom 1:18 ) and if they do not see it now eventually they will know the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16). You have been warned.

 

But the one who holds the gavel of eternal justice will have nailed scarred hands. Christ himself will be our judge in this life and after we die (2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim 4:1). We know Christ came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and that he did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them (Luke 9:56). How does he save them?  Jesus death on the cross demonstrated God’s justice (Rom. 3:25) and his punishment upon sin. It fell upon the sinless son of God. No he rules with a sceptre of righteousness and justice (Ps. 45:6; Heb 1:8).  The Lord has spoken to those in Christ his “not guilty” verdict and offers peace to those who will put their faith in Christ’s blood poured out in an atoning sacrifice and propitiation for sin! The Phillips translation of Romans 8:34 says, “Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us!”  He who could condemn -saves! Oh Blessed Jesus! People are saved from God the Judge by God the Savior.  Who has warned you to run away from the coming wrath (Mat. 3:7; Luke 3:7) and run to Jesus for your refuge (Heb 6:18)?!  Your only safety is in Christ the Judge and Savior. You have been warned.

 

A Heart Offering

my heart I offer you Lord“Cor Meum Tibi Offero Domine, Prompte Et Sincere.” is a lovely Latin phrase that is translated as, “My heart I offer to you Lord, promptly and sincerely.”  It was a motto of one of the greatest reformation leaders ever known, John Calvin and it shows that the most noble and sincere gift given to God Almighty is that offering of the heart-our affections and thoughts. A person is willing to give their heart to God because in the day of God’s grace and power has come when Christ takes the granite heart of stone of out them and gives them a soft pliable heart. Out of sheer gratefulness the person who is forgiven much loves much. Our first love is Christ and to him our hearts belong!

In this day and age the heart and spirit are neglected and abandoned by the business of life and even church ministry. The tasks which we once loved now bleed dry our passion all because we have mistreated our own hearts by ignoring the need for fresh hearts warmed with gratitude and affection as we give a minchah or a thank offering to God.  God still speaks in the dreary caves of disappointment and disillusionment to those who in the past used to serve the Lord with such contagious enthusiasm! He calls to us with a still small voice that asks for all our heart, energy and every faculty of our being, promising greater power and desire to do his will as we offer our hearts to him, promptly and sincerely.

How sad, that we give our hearts to anyone and everything in the name of the Lord! Yet to the Lord the one who strengthens our hearts we give so little of the very hub of all we are and often we are surprised that we are drained doing his work.  If you would be generous with God he would be generous with you. Going to God in private even when no one sees or hears is the place where the weary heart finds it easier to exchange itself for a fresh vigor and life only found in the presence if him whose heart once shattered in his labors. How gracious and generous he was to give his heart to us and you and I must be big hearted enough to give this fountain of life and affection to him for our own welfare.

Calvary was Christ’s “sweat and blood” laboring over the souls of men, yet he rose in great power in and strength because he feared. What does this mean? He feared God enough not to give his heart in Calvary’s offering in his own strength! He committed what he did through the eternal spirit of God and offered himself without spot to God (Heb. 9:14). We must commit what we have poured our sweat and blood over to God everyday by doing it through the Spirits power and purity of heart not fleshly energy. Not one act should be done, preaching, praying, worship, and any good work without GOD’s power and presence. This can only be done by offering our hearts to him, promptly and sincerely. 

You cannot claim to have given your heart to him making a loud bragging noise because it is given in a silent frequency that only the ears of God and the very holiest of angels can hear. The reward of men’s praise is only a corruptible crown that soon fades away. The heart can never be given as a surplus because the giving of the abundance of the heart is always all we have and speak. This act of giving may leave us poor in spirit, but only for a short time until the tearless joys of the kingdom of heaven fill its place.

Sometimes the heart must consciously be given over to Jesus more than just once. yes, you can only be saved once, but we must go from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18 ) by forsaking the flesh and those secret hidden sins that shrink back from exposure in our hearts. We act so surprised when we think we have given all of it to him, yet there lurks some part of us that has been held back! Like Ananias and Sapphira we hold back part of the price of our love and the feet of them that carry away such hearts into worldly things wait outside the door of desolation and weariness.  It is also true that when God wants our heart we postpone or delay in our giving. It repeats often in the Gospel of Mark that “the servant of the Lord” Jesus Christ did heal and rescue people in his love “straightway” or “immediately.” What do we wait for? We should give him what he seeks for as soon as the request is made. Let us pour out our hearts to him without lingering and procrastination.

Sadly, the most common pitfall in every age in which people have lived, is replacing heart love with ministry, works or religious ritual.  Yet, there is nothing we can do or say that will meet up with GOD’s standard of perfection and nothing we can do that will satisfy him except the generous offering of our heart.  Have you given your heart to Jesus? Have you offered it to him, promptly and sincerely?

Sola Fide

Faith Alone Saves“The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb. 10:38).

The whole biblical truth of being saved by faith in Christ and by God’s grace alone thrills my entire being. It teaches that salvation, the securing of ones soul to spend eternity in heaven in the presence of God is based on faith all by itself in what Jesus the Christ did in his death, burial, resurrection, ascension and exaltation. 

Most people forget this truth flowed from the Old Testament. In Habbakuk chapter two, a prophet troubled by the terrible times in which he lived was yelling out to God for answers.  He so prayed boldly he scared himself, for he knew at any moment that he was going to hear from the awesome God so he braced himself for the answer. 

The answer came with Sovereign grace! God replied that he wanted him to write his answer in letters so large that everyone can read and make it so plain that everyone can understand it. This vision of the future may seem slow in coming but it is steady and sure  and he says this: “The just shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4).  Glory to God. Others may live with their bloated self ego in religious activities not knowing where they stand for God and only basing their relationship to him on the basis of what they do for him, but the just, soul made right with God by embracing the glorious transaction that took place on the cross is made right with God and lives all their life in light of God’s promises.  The writer of Hebrews reiterates this, “For yet a little while he that shall come will come and not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them that draw back unto perdition but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”  (Heb. 10:37-39).

They believe to the saving of the soul! We do not have to dumb down the scriptures and present the some “gospel for dummies” but, oh that we in plain large letters in our preaching would make plain the doctrine of justification by faith. This is what Martin Luther called the “wonderful exchange” that Christ took our place and became our sin and we became his righteousness. It is our hope and we cannot please God in anything that we do because we fall so short of the glory of God that salvation is unfathomable and impossible to achieve by ourselves.

But like Abraham in Genesis 15:5-6 we are told to gaze at heaven, even beyond those stars and see the infinite gap between us and God and believe his promise of salvation procured by God the Son. That we would simply trust in the God who cannot lie that heaven and eternity have been opened up to those who embrace this promise. “For the promise is unto you, and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:39).