Do Not Be Moved

“[Let no one] be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this” (1 Thessalonians 3:3)

In his book Desiring God, John Piper uses an analogy of a camera to help explain the idea in which God sees our suffering. He says that on one hand, God uses a narrow lens in which He looks and grieves with us as we undergo suffering. This is often the only lens you and I see through. But according to Piper, God also uses another lens, a wide-angle lens in which He sees beyond the immediate situation. This is the lens that sees what has occurred before and what will result from this moment, ultimately working for our good and God’s glory. This “good” may be realized in our lives as God works out the circumstances, or it may only be realized in death.

Paul knew about suffering. It was a topic he wrote about in almost all of his letters. He knew its purpose and the importance of teaching that purpose to others. He also demonstrated the proper response to it. Through his suffering, Paul knew his strength came from the Lord. Jesus was Paul’s reason for living. To see Him magnified was his passion. But Paul also knew that to die was gain (Philippians 1:21). As he wrote his final words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8, he was comforted knowing he had fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. He also knew what awaited him—a crown of righteousness. That was worth everything Paul had endured in his life and it will be worth everything suffering may cost you in your life as well.

So how do we respond in times of suffering? We trust God. He is sovereign. We allow His Word and His Spirit to penetrate our shaken and shattered lives. We live each day in view of eternity knowing that no amount of suffering can compare to glory (Romans 8:18). And we trust that His grace is sufficient to see us through (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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What God Does With Our Sin

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14)

Addressing the issue of sin is a vital part of the gospel presentation. It might be an unwelcome issue to tread on sometimes, but it’s necessary. Sin is what separates us from God. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death”. Fortunately, the back half of that verse says, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. The grace God gives in salvation covers every sin. However, it is often the case that we want to believe differently, that somehow there’s some sin that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross didn’t cover. That is not the testimony of Scripture:

  • God throws our sin into the sea (Micah 7:19)
  • God treads our sin underfoot (Micah 7:19)
  • God throws our sin behind His back (Isaiah 38:17)
  • God blots out our sin (Isaiah 43:25)
  • God forgets our sin (Hebrews 8:12)
  • God removes our sin (Psalm 103:12)
  • God covers our sin (Romans 4:7-8)
  • God takes away our sin (John 1:29)
  • God cancels the debt of our sin (Colossians 2:13-14)
  • God washes our sin (Isaiah 1:18)
  • God forgives our sin (1 John 1:9)

The great message of the Bible is that on the cross, Jesus paid, not for just part of your sin, but for all of it. When He cried out from the cross “It is finished” He meant that it really was finished. Salvation rests on God’s grace alone. So respond today by resting in that grace. Live the freedom the cross provides knowing your sins have been paid in full!

Pay Close Attention

“But the high places were not taken out of Israel. Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was wholly true all his days”          (2 Chronicles 15:17)

Very few proclaim truth more directly than Oswald Chambers. I was reminded of that this morning when a friend of mine shared a quote from him. The quote read, “You no more need a day off from spiritual concentration on matters in your life than your heart needs a day off from beating. As you cannot take a day off morally and remain moral, neither can you take a day off spiritually and remain spiritual. God wants you to be entirely His, and it requires paying close attention to keep yourself fit. It also takes a tremendous amount of time. Yet some of us expect to rise above all of our problems, going from one mountaintop experience to another, with only a few minutes effort.” The context from which this quote came was 2 Chronicles 15:17, where over time, King Asa refused to continue his early efforts in removing the high places (pagan places of worship) in the territory in which he reigned. As Chambers puts it “Asa was not completely obedient in the outward, visible areas of life but only in what he considered most important”.

The overall assessment of Asa’s reign was a good one, but there were times when he made decisions based on his own priorities and belief in what was right even though God had given different instructions. We often do the same thing. We make assessments based on our own priorities or belief in what is right even though God has told us differently. Life is not always lived on the top of the mountain. That’s why we must pay close attention to the deep things of God. We need to take the time to diligently study His Word so we can not only discern His will, but survive in the valleys.

Satan infiltrates through the smallest of cracks and then before we know it, he has a foothold in some area of our life. If we are to keep this from happening we must stay in tune with God. We must push aside those things that would distract us. We must let go of not just the bad things, but also the good things that because they’ve taken priority over God, they’ve become an idol.

God speaks to us through His Word and the Holy Spirit uses that to guide us in obedience to God’s will. Don’t get distracted. Instead, be sure and pay close attention.

Obedience from the Heart

“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17)

Part of the Apostle Paul’s ministry was to ensure believers had a proper perspective about the gospel of grace. There were converts to the Christian faith that held on to the Law, believing salvation required something more than the blood of Christ. On the other hand, there were some who thought the gospel Paul preached (the gospel of grace) meant that obedience was optional. Paul addressed both of these issues in Romans. In Romans 7, he addressed those who thought they needed to add to what Christ had done on the cross. In Romans 6, he addressed those who thought grace was a license to sin. Before Christ we were all slaves to sin, but with Christ in us, we are now slaves to righteousness, committed to a new lifestyle that grace produces and the Holy Spirit enables.

Obedience to God’s will is our “thank you” for His grace. It’s not how we earn salvation or make God love us more, it’s a genuine desire of the heart that results from salvation. Though we never obey perfectly, obedience to the will of God should be our greatest goal. God’s will is laid out in His Word. It’s through the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit speaks it into our lives. The Bible doesn’t hide the fact that we still sin, but it also doesn’t hide the truth that the essence of genuine belief is a pattern of life that desires to obey God in all things. Let us seek God in His Word each day. And let us pray that His will would always be our hearts desire.

Sovereign, Good and Faithful

Oswald Chambers once wrote “It is only a faithful person who truly believes that God sovereignly controls his circumstances. We take our circumstances for granted, saying God is in control, but not really believing it. We act as if things that happen were completely controlled by people. God may cause our circumstances to suddenly fall apart, which may bring the realization of our unfaithfulness to Him for not recognizing that He had ordained the situation. We never saw what He was trying to accomplish, and the exact event will never be repeated in our life. This is where the test of faithfulness comes. If we will just learn to worship God even during the difficult circumstances, He will change them for the better very quickly if He so chooses.” This quote is found in the December 18th devotion entitled Test of Faithfulness from his devotional My Utmost for His Highest. The key passage for this devotion is Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose”.

If you’ve never read Oswald Chamber’s, you should. You’ll be blessed by his writing. It was ten years ago today that I got up that morning and read this devotion. Later that same day, I waited by the phone for a call to find out whether or not I still had a job with the company I had worked for sixteen years. When the call came, I found out I didn’t. I’ve always been struck by God’s graciousness in providing these words to me that morning. I needed them. I still need them. More and more, I realize it has always been about God’s faithfulness and not my own. In fact, in spite of my unfaithfulness, His still remains. I’m encouraged by that. I hope you are as well.

God’s sovereignty doesn’t always play out the way we had hoped for, but His faithfulness during difficult times is everything we could hope for. God is good. And every situation He ordains in our lives is ultimately for our good. Although that good might look a little different than what we might have envisioned, we can always trust His ways. The question is, will we? Will we be faithful and worship Him even during the difficult times?

  • “He who calls you is faithful” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
  • “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
  • “…if we are faithless, He remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13)
  • “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9)
  • “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23)

Self-Determined Apart from God

“…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:25)

When I first heard the quote, my mind immediately went to Romans 1:18-32 and quite frankly the state of our nation. Ravi Zacharias was preaching a series on Saul, Israel’s first king when he said, “When you are determined in going in a certain direction, it’s quite possible that God would step aside and second your motion”. The series was entitled A Life That Lost Its Focus. It seems hard to believe the extent to which our nation is ignoring God’s will. More and more, politicians from both parties support policies contrary to what God desires for our nation. One of our nation’s most polarizing debates is on the issue of same-sex marriage. It’s an issue in which God has spoken clearly.

Romans 1:18-32 confronts the issue of unrighteousness and the consequences that result from it. This passage may be a difficult part of Scripture, but it is a necessary part. In it, Paul spoke of judgment on the unrighteous, judgment that came because the truth about God had been perverted, the people had exchanged the truth about God for a lie. Three times in this section of Romans, Paul wrote that “God gave them up”. In essence, God seconded their motion, removed His restraining hand and allowed the unrighteous to continue in their sin only to suffer the consequences of it. This was God’s judgment.

Scripture repeatedly demonstrates the biblical principle that obedience brings blessing while disobedience brings judgment. Though we try, we can’t divide God in His attributes? We can’t elevate His mercy and grace above His holiness and righteousness. To accept one attribute as true is to accept them all as true. He is perfect in each of them.

In the book of Romans, Paul laid out the gospel in its clearest terms. He began with sin (Romans 1:18-3:20). Scripture is clear about sin, not only sexual sin, but all sin. God can’t look upon it. However, sometimes in order to not offend or hurt people’s feelings, sin is either downplayed or all together left out of the gospel presentation. When such is the case, the gospel has not been presented, just a false imitation. This doesn’t mean we should be anything less than gracious as we share the need for forgiveness of sin. We all share equally in that need.

We are at a crisis point in our nation. Our national leaders seem to have lost focus on doing God’s will on matters of public policy. For the most part, they stand for nothing. Equally unfortunate is that much of the electorate is either uninformed of this fact or simply does not care. We should. Our rights are not endowed by a president or legislature intoxicated by power, but by our Creator, and as such, we are to submit to His will. If we persist in going a way that is contrary to the will of God, there comes a point in which He will step aside, allow us to go our own way, pursue our sin and suffer the consequences as a result of it. Are we now at that place in our country? Have we lost our focus? Have you lost yours? As Christians, we believe what we do because the Bible says it. For all the noble arguments that form the basis of support for marriage being between one man and one woman, because the Bible says so is where the argument ends. Though unbelievers couldn’t care less about biblical authority, Christians must hold to it.

Thankfully for us, Paul didn’t stop at Romans 3:20, but under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, continued to write, showing us the magnificence of God’s grace through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. The “giving over” to sin and its judgment Paul spoke of in this passage was not eternal. One day His judgment will be. But today, judgment for sin is meant to drive us to seek God’s grace. And God is ready to give that grace. It comes at the cross. And it comes because of Jesus. He is our only hope! So, if you need to regain your focus, try focusing on Him.

Draw Near

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16)

The “Christ alone” message challenges us to let go of what comes most natural to our human nature— control. God appointed Christ to suffer and pay the penalty for our sin. It was a debt we couldn’t pay, but one that Jesus lovingly paid on our behalf. Christ has redeemed us, perfectly and for all time. All of salvation is by God’s grace, and it comes through faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus lived a life we couldn’t and He died a death we wouldn’t. We don’t have to add to what Christ has done because we can’t. Instead, we are to trust in His finished work.

As believer’s, our confidence to “draw near” is not because we’ve worked up enough goodness in and of ourselves to be worthy enough to draw near. No, it’s because Jesus, our Great High Priest has made atonement for sin and thereby opened the doorway to grace. It’s Christ who is worthy! So, let us do as the Hebrew writer says. Let us draw near to the throne of grace, and to the cross, the central symbol of all Christ has done on our behalf. We don’t have a God who is unapproachable, but one who calls us to come boldly and confidently before His throne knowing that it’s there where we will find mercy, ever flowing grace, and help in our time of need.