Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

Speaker:

                             Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

                                                                                                    Del Tackett

     The question as related above was asked by Del Tackett during the presentation of the Truth Project.  The Project was initiated 12 years ago by Focus on the Family, a Christian organization located in Colorado Springs, CO.  Del Tackett was the spokesman for the project that became a widely used seminar which related the truth of the scriptures to every day life.  Although having reference to the teaching of the seminar, his question has a deeper relevance that impacts the totality of our lives.  His question in actuality includes two questions.  The first of these, “What do you believe?”, is then followed by the second, “Do you really believe it is really real?”

     To fully answer the first question would take volumes so let me summarize in a few sentences.  If we are born again the old has gone, the new has come.  The old man is buried with Christ (Romans 6:3) and the life we now live is by faith in the life of Christ given to us. (Galatians 2:20)  We are sealed by the Holy Spirit, given the consciousness of God and the assurance that the Lord is our security and our significance. (Genesis 15:1)  Our Lord is in charge of each day, guarding us each second and preparing us with perfect knowledge and infinite power to celebrate Him, enjoy Him, worship and serve Him for all eternity.  He is in charge of all that pertains to us and all His governance is guided by the eye of infinite eternal love.  He supplies all we need physically and spiritually and tells us that we have no need to be afraid or worried. (Deuteronomy 31:8)  

     The second question to consider, then, is this.  Do we really believe this?  Is it really real?  In the case of many there is a wish and a hope, but the circumstances of life cause us to question the reality of what we believe at times.  We face many difficulties in life and the disappointments, the loss of health, family concerns and financial burdens all combine to cause doubts and anxieties.  Looking at our circumstances may cause us to doubt our relationship to Him, or to doubt His promises.  We may even wonder how our lives are to be different from the unbelieving world around us.  What are the distinctives?  What differences should be present in our lives that characterize us as really believing that what we believe is really real?  

     The scriptures are not silent as to the expected response of the believer to all one has in Christ.  If we really believe that what we believe is really real then we will have the response described in Colossians 3:1,2.  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  These verses introduce the topic of “things above.”  What are these “things above?”  What activities are continuously taking place in the realm above?  I believe there are three of these in number, in each of which we are invited to have a part.     

     The first of these is prayer.  In Hebrews 7:25 we read that our Lord continues to pray for us.  Those of the redeemed who are with Him are likewise joining Him in prayer.  The reminders that our lives are to be centered in prayer are many in the scriptures.  Luke 18:1b states…”men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”  I Thessalonians 5:17 says “pray without ceasing,” and Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us to “Be careful for nothing;  but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  In prayer we are reminded that our need is not partial, it is total. 

     The second of “things above” is seen in Revelations 19:4.  “The twenty four elders and the living creatures fell down and worshipped God who was seated on the throne.  And they cried: ‘Amen, Hallelujah.’”  These two words epitomize praise to the Lord for who He is as well as for what He does:  Hallelujah-Praise the Lord!, and Amen-Let it be so!  If we really believe that what we believe is really real, that our lives will be characterized by praise, and specifically these two words of praise, Hallelujah and Amen.  

     The third activity taking place above is proclamation, the declaring of the person of Christ and what He has done.  Revelations 5:9-10 is as follows:  “And they sang a new song:  you are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”  If we really believe that what you believe is really real, then you cannot help telling others, proclaiming its truth first through your life, and then through your words.  

     Finally, we need to remember that we are not left to ourselves to manifest a life of prayer, praise and proclamation.  We have been given Christ, not as a model to emulate, nor as an example to study, but as a Life to be expressed in our lives.  It is His triumph in life in which we join.  His victory over all the circumstances of life is transmitted to us.  His Person given to us has already been manifest in prayer, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)  His life is seen in praise, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”  (Luke 10 21)  Finally, we see that His life in which we share is declared to be one of proclamation.  “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  (Luke 19:10)                       

     There is no reason to doubt what we believe.  It is really real!  There is, furthermore, no reason to doubt that the Risen Christ will not be manifest in our lives with prayer, praise and proclamation as well.  As we constantly look to Him to manifest Himself in and through our lives, He Himself will demonstrate the reality of His truth through our lives.  

In Christ, Richard Spann

The Last Enemy

Speaker:

                                                    

     We have many enemies in our Christian walk.  They are dedicated, relentless, and purpose our destruction physically and spiritually.  They became our enemies when, as a race, we rebelled against God through Adam and Eve.  The Good news of the Gospel is that Christ, our Victor, has dealt with our enemies!  Sins, which condemn us, have been dealt with and removed by His Cross!  (I John 3:5, Colossians 2:13-14)  Self, that persistent rebel that leads us astray, has been buried with Him. (Romans 6:3-4)  The world itself is dealt with by the cross as well, as the Apostle Paul celebrates in Galatians 6:14.  “But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.”  In addition, I John 3:8 tells us that the Son of God appeared in order to destroy the work of the devil.  All enemies that we face in life are now conquered but one, which is what the scriptures call the last enemy.  I Corinthians 15:26 tells us what this enemy is.  “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  

     Death looms before us as a specter which draws closer with each passing day.  Unpredictable as to its cause and timing, it is declared to be an enemy.  It separates us from our work, our plans, our friendships, and our loved ones.  It thrusts us from the known into the unknown.  It is the separation of the body from the spirit.  Its nearness produces grief in those who approach its gates and those who mourn with them.  Job describes death in these terms.  “The land of darkness, and of the shadow of death; a land of thick darkness, as darkness itself; a land of the shadow of death without any order, and where the light is as darkness.”  The shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept,” reminds us that even our Designer and Creator wept in the presence of death.  Our tears, our loss, and our grief as our loved ones pass is felt in His heart as well as in ours.  Being fully human as well as Divine, He understands and joins with us in our grieving, but He also wants us to know the scriptural truth about death. 

     The Lord desires us to understand first of all that the approach to death, including the particular illness, event or situation that produces death will not be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)  All the days ordained for us were written in His book before one of them came to be. (Psalms 139:16b)  This is the assurance that the days of illness, confinement and travail as we near the end of our lives are administered with His perfect control, His unfathomable knowledge and Infinite love.  We are His inheritance, His handiwork and His home.  We will find when we are with Him that He has omitted nothing that is needed for our perfection for His work through us in the ages to come, nor has He permitted anything to touch our lives that was not needed for His perfecting of us.  John 14:2-3 reminds us that He is preparing a place for us.  He is also preparing us for that place.  When we are ready and our place is ready, He will take us to be with Him!  It will not be like a sign I saw in a restaurant earlier this week.  “We regret to inform you that your assigned seating is not available.  Please wait in your vehicle until you are called.” 

     The Lord wants us to realize that the exact details of our coming to Him are under His control.  He states in Revelation 1:18 that He is the one who holds the keys of death.  For some, the Lord will give them a ”heads up,” so to speak.  He informed my mother that she was going to go home to be with Him in four more days, which came to pass as He said it would. My last visit in the nursing home to see my step brother was characterized by a smile on his face saying, “I am going home in three days!”  The Lord took him home three days later.  One patient of mine, a Christian, was told by the Lord that he was not ready to leave until he had returned to his friends and family and been a witness to them.  This man made a tape of his testimony and distributed it freely before He went to be with the Lord some months later.  Perhaps the most remarkable event describing the Lord’s control of His timing was a patient I was called to see in the Intensive Care Unit years ago.  She had been unresponsive and near death for several days.  A rattly noise and wheezing became evident to the relatives and I was consulted to order medication that would ease her respiratory distress.  I visited her late in the evening, and to my surprise, she sat up in bed and started a conversation!  My immediate thought was that there was only one reason that she regained consciousness and that it was because she needed to hear the Gospel.  She listened carefully, prayed to receive Christ and I visited a little longer with her before prescribing treatment for the wheezing.  When I returned to her room the next morning on rounds, I was informed that she had passed away during the early morning hours.  Truly, our Lord holds the keys of death!   

     We have seen how the cross of Christ has dealt with all of our enemies except one, our last enemy, which is death.  This enemy our Lord has dealt with by His resurrection.  II Timothy 1:10 states that He has “abolished death.” (KJV)  What does it mean to “abolish?”  Websters dictionary states that it means “to do away with wholly,” or “to annul.”  To understand what this means more completely we need to look at what death is.  Death is separation.  Physical death is separation of the spirit from the body.  Spiritual death is separation of the spirit from God.  To “annul” or “to do away with wholly,” then, implies that separation is non existent.  Death, having been made of no effect, then, become the portal by which we are united with Christ.  The moment we accepted Him as Savior, he was imputed to us as righteousness.  Throughout our lives, He is imparted to us as our Holiness and when we see Him, He will be implanted at our redemption!  I John 3:2 says that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (KJV)  To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  (II Corinthians 5:8)  My mother’s last words on earth and her first ones in heaven as she entered the presence of the Lord were “Oh Glorious!”  I have known others who have entered the Lord’s presence in Heaven even while their body was still partially functioning!  I was called to the hospital to see a patient of mine who was admitted with a tentative diagnosis of a massive stroke.  She was totally unresponsive and unable to move her extremities.  Her blood pressure and pulse were normal but there was absolutely no response or movement.  As I stood at the end of her bed all of a sudden both ams shot up in the air and she said “Jesus!”  I immediately knew two things.  Number one was that she was not talking to me!  Number two was that I was going to have a difficult time bringing her back!  Her body “lived”  another day before respiratory and cardiac functions ceased. 

     Christ has also abolished death as to its effect on separation of the body from the spirit by exchanging the old body for a new one!  “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal home in heaven not built by human hands.” (II Corinthians 5:1)  “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:  “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (I Corinthians 15:53-54)  

      There is also another aspect of death which is “made not to be,” and that is the separation that death produces among believers.  In the view of some, there is no time lapse before this reunion occurs!  Ray Stedman related the following thoughts in Authentic Christianity.  “We are all locked into time.  At our physical “death,” we leave time and enter the eternal NOW.  But what is even more amazing is that in the experience of that believer he does not leave anyone behind.  All his loved ones who know Christ are there too, including his Christian descendants who were unborn when he died!  Since there is no past or future in heaven, this must be the case.  Even those who, in time, stand beside his grave and weep and then go home to an empty house, are, in his experience, with him in glory.”  Discovery House Publishers, 1996, pages147-148.  The above comments are beyond my comprehension, but they do introduce the certainty that in eternity in God’s timing, there will no longer by any separation experience among believers.  Christ will have fully and finally dealt with our last enemy.  We will be like Him, with Him, and with others  who have placed their trust in Him.  We will join a mighty throng, bringing glory to Him forever and ever.  “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen”  (Ephesians 3:21)  (KJV)        

In Christ, Richard Spann         

The Biblical Response to Governing Authority

Speaker:

      Today is November 3, 2020.  It is election day.  It will be a greater turnout for voting than we have ever seen before.  Many issues concerning our nation are before the voters.  The personalities and their lives have been under close scrutiny by the press. We are told many things that will happen in the future to our country if the right people are not elected.  A sense of anxiety and foreboding prevails among many.

     In our country, we have the privilege of openly supporting candidates for office without fear of reprisal.  The freedom to cast our vote is assured.  Honesty in counting the votes and reporting is the norm.  Over the centuries since society, cultures, and nations have existed, our situation is a rare privilege.  Throughout the history of the world, kings, dictators, and tyrants have ruled with no regard for anyone but themselves.  In the first several centuries after Christ, the Christians were scattered.  They faced abuse and persecution from their own countrymen.  Their nation was ruled by a foreign power.  They were hunted down, imprisoned and many retreated to the catacombs.  It was during these early years of the church that the Apostle Paul was used of the Lord to give direction to the church in regard to their response to the governing authorities.  These principles are still relevant today.  “The counsel of the LORD standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” (Psalm 33:11) KJV 

     The first of these principles is given to us in the letter to the Romans.  “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)  “Give everyone what you owe him:  if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:7)  The spirit of grumbling and complaining is to be avoided, because ultimately it is God that we grumble about and to whom we complain.  “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” (Philippians 2:14-16a)  Living as light in a crooked and depraved generation, without complaining or arguing, is greatly used by the Lord as we hold out the word of life.  It is in this setting that the Gospel is advanced.  “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men:  whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (I Peter 2:13-16)  If there is a conflict, however, between the authorities and God, then we must answer as Peter and the other apostles did.  “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29b)  

     The second of these principles is given to us in I Timothy 2:1-4.  “I urge, then, first of all that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives-in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, my wife and I were invited to attend the Presidential Prayer breakfast in Washington DC.  At one of our meetings, Dick Halverson, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, spoke to our small group.  His message focussed on this passage and he challenged us with the thought that, to some measure, the advancement of the Kingdom of God is dependent upon our faithfulness in prayer for the authorities.  Our prayer, for example, for the president should be that the Lord would guide his decisions, his selection of those in the cabinet and direct (like a watercourse) his agenda for our country.  We need to ask that the legislation and court decisions would be those which would glorify God and allow His work to continue in our country.  We need to ask that the Lord would turn our country and its people to Him.  

     This responsibility and privilege, to pray for our governing authorities, extends not only to our own nation, but to every tribe and tongue in all the nations.  Operation World, written by Patrick Johnston, is an invaluable guide to prayer that is needed for those in authority throughout the world.  Does not the Lord care about all the nations, and not just our own?  Does He not challenge us in Isaiah with the following?  “You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” (Isaiah 62:6b-7)  Is a lack of prayer delaying His work in this regard?                

     The third principle which is given to us throughout the scriptures, is that our trust is not in our governing authorities but in a sovereign God who rules over all authorities.  This is what Isaiah saw during the days of absent and ineffective leadership of Judah and Jerusalem.  “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.  The Lord does not allow the misdirection, the folly, and the evil purposes of rulers to alter His plans for His people and His world.  He makes the wrath of man to praise Him.  He will raise up a Pharaoh, if needed, to accomplish His purposes. “The kings’ heart is in the hand of the LORD, he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.”
(Proverbs 21:1)   

     Ray Stedman relates the following thoughts regarding the Lord’s control of authorities.  “What was the best way to spread the Gospel in the first century?  It was to appoint Emperor Nero as chairman of the committee to evangelize the Roman Empire!”  Under his direction, two sons of Roman noblemen were chained to the Apostle Paul every six hours!  Every twenty four hours eight soldiers heard the Gospel.  You might say that they were the captive audience!  The effectiveness of this approach was such that entire legions (7,000 men) became followers of Christ during the first several centuries.  Paul reflects this success in ministry with his comment in Philippians 4:22.  “All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” 

     The early church, as well as the generations that followed, needed further understanding of what Christ did for us and how we are called to live.  To achieve this end, the Lord allowed the authorities to imprison Paul so we could have Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians and Philemon as directions for our spiritual walk. (The Prison Epistles)  Later, toward the end of his life, I and II Timothy and Titus were written from imprisonment as well.  The grace of God saw the need of the church in advance and gave Paul this opportunity to write for them and for us.   

     What the Apostle Paul gained from the opposition he experienced was of immense worth to Him.  “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:10)  Many Christians, in similar situations in the last 2,000 years have found comfort from these words in their lives and been partakers of His strength in their weakness.  God permitted the authorities to interact with the Apostle Paul so that we might obtain similar comfort and encouragement in our lives as well.  

     The short journey that each of us has during this lifetime is one of preparation.  Jerry Bridges once remarked that we, during this journey, are looking for comfort, whereas God is looking that we be conformed.  God’s work in us is to conform us to the image of Christ.  His work through us is to bring others to Christ and be used by him to transform their lives as well.  During this journey, there are no accidents, only incidents.  The Lord is in control of all circumstances, including any authority that will touch our lives, whether it is to our liking or not.    As J. I. Packer noted, when we are with Him in His Glory, we will see that nothing that hindered His work in and through us was permitted and that nothing that was necessary to His work was omitted.  As the psalmist says, “The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me:  thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever:  forsake not the works of thine own hands.” (Psalm 138:8) KJV   

     Our task, then, as Christ followers, is to submit to the governing authorities, pray for them, and trust God’s sovereign rule over them.  As we do so, we can trust in His promise to us in Deuteronomy 31:8.  “The Lord Himself will go before you.  He will be with you.  He will not leave you or forget you.  Don’t be afraid, and don’t worry.”   His infinite love, unfathomable knowledge, and complete control affirm to us that He, Himself, and not any other authority, is our shield and our security.

In Christ, Richard Spann         

     

Who are you, Lord? What shall I do, Lord?

Speaker:

                                                          Who are you, Lord?

                                                        What shall I do, Lord?

                                                                      Acts 22: 8,10

     The ninth chapter of Acts tells us the story.  As Saul neared Damascus a light from heaven flashed around him.  In answer to the Lord’s question “Why do you persecute me?”, Saul then asked the questions as quoted above.  The pursuit of the answers to these questions drove him into Arabia for three years and were a major focus of his years in Tarsus after leaving Jerusalem.  (Acts 9:30)  The following words given to him in Colossians 1:15-20 are but a portion of what was revealed to him concerning the nature of Christ.  “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation.  For by him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” 

The passion to know Christ grew more deeply with the passage of time.  He related the following some years later in Philippians 3:10-11.  “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  He thirsted for and continued to seek more intimate knowledge of Christ.  His belief in the person of Christ compelled him to lay his whole life at His feet, surrendering his intellect, his emotion and his will to his Lord.  This response of faith in the person of the Lord is symbolized by his second question, ”What shall I do, Lord?”    

     Paul’s life chronicles for us his response to the Lord’s answer to the second question.  “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (I Corinthians 9:19)  “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.” (Romans1:1)  “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.” (Romans 1:14)  “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:  first for the Jew, then for the gentile.” (Romans 1:16)  “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:28-29)  “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)  It is abundantly clear that these two questions and his response to them issued in a life long commitment to “know Christ and to make him known.”  

     I  have heard it said that one of the keys to life is in asking the right questions.  In light of the Apostle Paul’s questions it is legitimate to consider the questions that we ask ourselves.  Do we, in the church, consider these questions daily?  Are they the pursuit of our lives?  Is it our daily desire to know Christ more deeply throughout our lives?  In light of the world around us living in darkness and sin do we ask “What shall I do, Lord?  Do we have a burden of prayer for the lost?  Do we seek to spend time with them and serve them?  Are we willing at cost to ourselves to share the gospel and our lives with them?  

     Or are we, like the world, asking the same questions the world is asking?  “What shall we eat?  What shall we drink?  What shall we wear?” (Matthew 6:31)  Do our questions focus on where shall I attend school?  What employment shall I seek?  Where shall I live?  What investment shall I make for the future?  If these are the only questions we ask, then we are no different from the pagan world around us.  Our salt has lost its saltiness. (Matthew 5:13)  We are like a kernel of wheat which remains only a single seed. (John 12:24)  We are content, as G. Campbell Morgan describes, to eat our morsel alone.  

                                               “‘If I have eaten my morsel alone!’

                                                     The patriarch spoke in scorn;

                                                 What would he think of the Church, were He shown

                                                      Heathendom, huge, forlorn,  

                                                 Godless, Christless, with soul unfed,

                                                 While the Church’s ailment is fulness of bread, 

                                                      Eating her morsel alone?

                                                 ‘I am debtor alike to the Jew and the Greek,’

                                                      The mighty apostle cried;

                                                  Traversing continents, souls to seek,

                                                       For the love of the Crucified. 

                                                  Centuries, centuries since have sped;

                                                  Millions are famishing, we have bread,

                                                       But we eat our morsel alone. 

                                                  Ever of them who have largest dower

                                                       Shall heaven require the more.

                                                  Ours is affluence, knowledge, power, 

                                                       Ocean from shore to shore;

                                                  And East and West in our ears have said, 

                                                  Give us, give us your living Bread.

                                                       Yet we eat our morsel alone.  

                                                  Freely, as ye have received, so give,

                                                       He bade, Who hath given us all. 

                                                  How shall the soul in us longer live, 

                                                       Dead to their starving call, 

                                                  For whom the blood of the Lord was shed,

                                                  And His body broken to give them Bread, 

                                                       If we eat our morsel alone?

     We cannot have this Christ-life within us without having clear vision, and without having driving compassion, and without having the dynamic which makes us mighty.  We cannot have Christ within us and be parochial.  Christ overleaps the boundaries of parish, society, and nation, and His clear vision takes in the whole world.  If Christ be verily in us we shall see with His eyes, feel with his heart, be driven with His very compassion.  He will send us where He would have us go, and He will make us what He would have us be, and through us-oh matchless wonder of overwhelming grace-the light of His life may shine, and the force of His life may be felt.”  G. Campbell Morgan  The Westminster Pulpit  Volume 2, pages 175-6.  Flaming H. Revell 1954-55 

In Christ, Richard Spann

  

 

      

Fear or Faith?

Speaker:

                                                             Fear or Faith?

     In my medical practice I once had a patient who described herself as a Christian.  She was theologically sound, but her life was one characterized by constant worry about nearly everything.  She was not only overly concerned about her health but about her finances and the future of her family as well.  Her life was one of continual anxiety rather than dependence upon God.  Her husband, a non believer, and I would have occasional talks together about Christ.  At one point, he related that he was not interested in “religion” because of the absence of any effect it had on his wife.  Although she knew the creed of Christianity, her life was one of fear rather than faith.

     Born into a fallen sinful world, we exist in an atmosphere of fear.  Having, as a race, rejected the governance of God, we have substituted our own governance for His.  Since crowning ourselves as king, we regard self as pre-eminent and are in perpetual conflict with the rest of humanity, who, likewise, have enthroned self.  Everyone looking out for “self” produces conflict in relationships, businesses, organizations and nations.  The end product of this conflict is a pervading sense of fear. 

     Those coming to Christ have, theologically, replaced this fear by faith.  This transformation however, is usually a process which is often slow and incomplete.  God desires that our thoughts, attitudes, and actions be governed by faith, but fear sometimes becomes the controlling factor in our lives.  This does so, commonly, in our relationships with God Himself, with others, with our concerns for our needs, and with those in authority.  

     If we do not have complete faith in what God has done and is doing for us in Christ, we replace this void in our relationship with Him with fear.  This is not a reverential awe type of fear, but rather a cringing fear which keeps us away from God rather than drawing us to Him.  This fear looks to the inadequacies of self and feels guilt and shame.  Rather than looking to Christ alone as our righteousness and holiness, it looks to the performance of self to some degree to find acceptance before Him.  Faith in His perfect love for us is the only factor that will drive out this fear.  “We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us, and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us.” (I John 4:18) The Living Bible    

     The fear of others may also replace the faith that the Lord desires us to manifest in our ministry to them.  This fear may be evident in a lack of trust, which hinders our relationship with them.  It may also be seen in a fear of rejection, which may prevent our sharing our lives and the Gospel with them.  This fear has as its basis the possible threat to self.  This fear is abolished by remembering that our trust in the Lord will keep us safe.  “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trust in the LORD is kept safe.”  (Proverbs 29:25)  

     Perhaps the most common fear of mankind, including followers of Christ, is the fear of the possible absence of the daily necessities of life.  This is seen in the following statement by the Lord.  “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”  (Matthew 6:31-32)  The Lord has also told us the following.  “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians  4:19)  Fear, perpetually focused on self, will compete with others to meet its needs.  It will also use others to meet its needs.  The needs of self will never be fully met and it will then accuse God of not meeting its needs!  Faith, on the other hand, realizes that God is meeting its needs.  Since God is the one who is responsible for meeting its needs, it does not need to be concerned about them.  That would be a duplication of effort!  This realization frees us up to help meet the needs of others. 

     Another common area in which we find fear is that of our response to authority.  Fear may be prevalent in the workplace, our organizations, and with our local and national authorities.  It may be a fear that our contribution is not recognized or appreciated.  It may relate to a disagreement regarding some decisions in the workplace or organization.  In regard to local and national authorities, we may fear the agendas, hidden or otherwise, that they bring to the office.  Whatever the case, self is not rewarded or feels threatened.  It commonly takes the posture of grumbling or complaining as the Israelites did in the desert.  “And he called the place Massah and Mariah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’” (Exodus 17:7)  Faith, however, recognizes that all authority is from God.  “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)  Faith looks to the future, and even though the governance  in our workplace, our organization or nation is imperfect and creates trouble for us, it knows that the Lord’s promises to us are our confidence.  “For our  light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (II Corinthians 4:17-18)  The Lord also reassures us of His care for us under all possible present and future circumstances with the following words.  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)  

     In many respects faith is the opposite of fear.  Faith is self-emptying.  Fear is self protective. Faith exalts Christ.  Fear enthrones self.  Faith looks to Christ himself to meet our needs.  Fear leads us to try to find solutions for ourselves apart from Christ.  Faith recognizes Him as our security and as our significance.  “Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1b)  Fear drives us to try to find security and significance apart from Him.  Faith trusts in God to control its life.  Fear attempts to control all aspects of its life without reference to Him.  Faith trusts Him as Jehovah-Jireh, the One who provides all that we need.  Fear seeks the provisions rather than the One who will provide them.  Faith knows Him as its Shepherd, whereas fear leads one to shepherd their own lives.   

     The question before us, then, is how do we replace fear with faith?  The answer begins with the knowledge of God Himself.  If we knew Him perfectly we would trust Him perfectly.  Thanks be to God, we have been given the One who has trusted Him perfectly!  Christ Jesus came into the world manifesting perfect knowledge of the Father, perfect trust in Him, and delighting in His will.  We have been given Him, not as a model to emulate, but as a life to be lived in our lives.  He Himself is our life!  “For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:3-4)   In our application of these words to our lives we must begin where the Apostle Paul did, with verse three.  “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14) KJV  Since Christ is now our life, we must look to Him continually for our thoughts, our attitudes and our actions.  He has already demonstrated that He is triumphant over fear!  It is only in bringing the totality of our lives to Him that this transformation from fear to faith becomes complete.  “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  (II Corinthians 3:18)  KJV      

In Christ, Richard Spann   

The Walk of Faith

Speaker:

The Walk of Faith  

 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk

 ye in him:  Rooted and built-up in him, and stablished in the faith,

 as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 

 Colossians 2:6-7 (KJV) 

     We receive Christ Jesus as our Lord by faith.  Subsequently, we are called to walk in Him  by this same faith.  This faith is dependent upon our being rooted in Him, built up in Him and stablished in Him.  The result of faith is a life which abounds with thanksgiving.  There are many ways to describe this walk.  One of the most useful to me is the characterization given to the walk of faith by G. Campbell Morgan.  He describes four components of what it means to walk with someone else.  We must walk in the same direction, be in agreement, have mutual trust, and keep in step with one another.  

     The direction in which we walk with Christ is clearly away from sin and toward righteousness.  It is by faith that we receive His righteousness and it is by faith that we walk in and with Christ, who is our righteousness from God.  (Romans 1:17, II Corinthians 5:21)  It is not by our own effort that His righteousness is manifested in our lives, but by His grace.  In Galatians 2:20 and Colossians 3:4 we read that He is our life.  If that is true, then, we can have confidence that His life is expected to be manifest in and through us.  It is to be experienced by us and expressed through us by the ever present Holy Spirit.  That righteousness, which is imputed to us when we first trusted Him, is imparted to us as holiness as we walk with Him, and finally implanted in us at redemption.  God does not give us things.  He gives us Christ.  In Him we are complete. (Colossians 2:10  KJV)  All spiritual blessings are in Him.  (Ephesians 1:3)  We can look to Him to guide our thoughts, our words, and our deeds moment by moment in order that the righteousness of God, which is Jesus Christ, may be experienced and expressed in and through our life.  This direction toward righteousness and away from sin was surely what the Psalmist had in mind.  “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness:  I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”  (Psalm 17:15  KJV)   

     In our walk with Christ there must also be agreement.  “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3 KJV)  There must be agreement on many things, but as regarding our walk with Him, G. Campbell Morgan has summarized some thoughts which succinctly capture our relationship with Him.   

     “It is in Christ that God is making us what He would have us to be.  The sphere in which God operated to the creation of our lives and the perfecting of His thought in and through us is Christ.  By the way of His incarnation man came into conscious nearness to God.  By the way of His life there was unveiled before the eyes of men what was in the heart of God when He said, ‘Let us make man.’  In the death of Christ there was revealed that mystery of atonement whereby man’s sin is dealt with, canceled, made not to be, that man may find his new opportunity.  By the way of the resurrection of Jesus Christ power was placed at the disposal of man so that he not only finds himself in Christ Jesus a pardoned soul, but a being equipped with all resource for the accomplishment of the Divine purpose.  By the way of the reign of Christ over the individual life through the Spirit there is the administration of the will of God and perpetual communication of both pattern and power.”  The Westminster Pulpit, Baker Book House, 1954-55, Page 245.  

     As we walk in His righteousness, and in agreement with Him regarding His purpose for our lives there must also be mutual trust.  This trust is seen in the relationship we have with our Lord in I Corinthians 1:9.  “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”  In fellowship we see the operation of mutual trust.  The Greek word “Koinonia”, translated “fellowship” means that we have everything in common with Him.  G. Campbell Morgan has described this fellowship by the use of two words, “resources” and “responsibilities.”  In fellowship with Him, all His resources are made available to meet my responsibilities.  His presence is always with me to guide with each decision.  His power is made available to do His will in any situation I face.  His Peace directs my heart and mind throughout all the difficulties of life.  Likewise, in fellowship with Him, all my resources should be made available to Him to meet His responsibilities.  What are His responsibilities?  These are stated in Luke 19:10 (KJV).  “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  Is my time made available to Him for this purpose?  Are my talents at His disposal for the accomplishment of His objective?  Have I given Him the freedom to use my monetary assets to fulfill His responsibilities? 

     Finally, to walk with someone means that you walk close together, side by side.  To walk on ahead, or to lag behind is not walking with someone.  G. Campbell Morgan states that the balance of zeal and knowledge is needed to keep us walking with our Lord.  Zeal without knowledge will propel us on ahead of our Lord.  We may, on our own, apart from His direction or desire, become involved in responsibilities that are not His will for our lives.  We run on ahead with our program, not realizing that it is our activity, not His.  Repentance  of these dead works, those in which He has no part, will restore us to His side in our journey.  Likewise knowledge without this accompanied desire or zeal will cause us to lag behind.  As the knowledge of His direction for us is imparted, there must also be a matching zeal to see it accomplished.  Failure to match the knowledge of His will with obedience results in a separation from Him in our walk.  Again, repentance from sins of omission will restore us to His side as we travel together. 

     The Holy Spirit has rooted each of us in Christ Jesus.  As He imparts the life of our Lord, we are built up and established in Him.  To the degree that we are rooted, built up, and established is the degree to which we abound with thanksgiving.  It is my desire that your walk with Him may increasingly reflect Him in such a manner as to create this thanksgiving in your heart.

In Christ, Richard Spann  

                           

The Walk of Faith

Speaker:

   As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk

ye in Him: Rooted and built-up in him, and stablished in the faith,

as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

                                                                                      Colossians 2:6-7 (KJV) 

     We receive Christ Jesus as our Lord by faith.  Subsequently, we are called to walk in Him by this same faith.  This faith is dependent upon our being rooted in Him, built up in Him and established in Him.  The result of faith is a life which abounds with thanksgiving.  There are many ways to describe this walk.  One of the most useful to me is the characterization given to the walk of faith by G. Campbell Morgan.  He describes four components of what it means to walk with someone else.  We must walk in the same direction, be in agreement, have mutual trust, and keep in step with one another.  

     The direction in which we walk with Christ is clearly away from sin and toward righteousness.  It is by faith that we receive His righteousness and it is by faith that we walk in and with Christ, who is our righteousness from God.  (Romans 1:17, II Corinthians 5:21)  It is not by our own effort that His righteousness is manifested in our lives, but by His grace.  In Galatians 2:20 and Colossians 3:4 we read that He is our life.  If that is true, then, we can have confidence that His life is expected to be manifest in and through us.  It is to be experienced by us and expressed through us by the ever present Holy Spirit.  That righteousness, which is imputed to us when we first trusted Him, is imparted to us as holiness as we walk with Him, and finally implanted in us at redemption.  God does not give us things.  He gives us Christ.  In Him we are complete. (Colossians 2:10  KJV)  All spiritual blessings are in Him.  (Ephesians 1:3)  We can look to Him to guide our thoughts, our words, and our deeds moment by moment in order that the righteousness of God, which is Jesus Christ, may be experienced and expressed in and through our life.  This direction toward righteousness and away from sin was surely what the Psalmist had in mind.  “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness:  I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”  (Psalm 17:15  KJV)   

     In our walk with Christ there must also be agreement.  “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3 KJV)  There must be agreement on many things, but as regarding our walk with Him, G. Campbell Morgan has summarized some thoughts which succinctly capture our relationship with Him.   

     “It is in Christ that God is making us what He would have us to be.  The sphere in which God operated to the creation of our lives and the perfecting of His thought in and through us is Christ.  By the way of His incarnation man came into conscious nearness to God.  By the way of His life there was unveiled before the eyes of men what was in the heart of God when He said, ‘Let us make man.’  In the death of Christ there was revealed that mystery of atonement whereby man’s sin is dealt with, canceled, made not to be, that man may find his new opportunity.  By the way of the resurrection of Jesus Christ power was placed at the disposal of man so that he not only finds himself in Christ Jesus a pardoned soul, but a being equipped with all resource for the accomplishment of the Divine purpose.  By the way of the reign of Christ over the individual life through the Spirit there is the administration of the will of God and perpetual communication of both pattern and power.”  The Westminster Pulpit, Baker Book House, 1954-55, Page 245.  

     As we walk in His righteousness, and in agreement with Him regarding His purpose for our lives there must also be mutual trust.  This trust is seen in the relationship we have with our Lord in I Corinthians 1:9.  “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”  In fellowship we see the operation of mutual trust.  The Greek word “Koinonia”, translated “fellowship” means that we have everything in common with Him.  G. Campbell Morgan has described this fellowship by the use of two words, “resources” and “responsibilities.”  In fellowship with Him, all His resources are made available to meet my responsibilities.  His presence is always with me to guide with each decision.  His power is made available to do His will in any situation I face.  His Peace directs my heart and mind throughout all the difficulties of life.  Likewise, in fellowship with Him, all my resources should be made available to Him to meet His responsibilities.  What are His responsibilities?  These are stated in Luke 19:10 (KJV).  “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  Is my time made available to Him for this purpose?  Are my talents at His disposal for the accomplishment of His objective?  Have I given Him the freedom to use my monetary assets to fulfill His responsibilities? 

     Finally, to walk with someone means that you walk close together, side by side.  To walk on ahead, or to lag behind is not walking with someone.  G. Campbell Morgan states that the balance of zeal and knowledge is needed to keep us walking with our Lord.  Zeal without knowledge will propel us on ahead of our Lord.  We may, on our own, apart from His direction or desire, become involved in responsibilities that are not His will for our lives.  We run on ahead with our program, not realizing that it is our activity, not His.  Repentance  of these dead works, those in which He has no part, will restore us to His side in our journey.  Likewise knowledge without this accompanied desire or zeal will cause us to lag behind.  As the knowledge of His direction for us is imparted, there must also be a matching zeal to see it accomplished.  Failure to match the knowledge of His will with obedience results in a separation from Him in our walk.  Again, repentance from sins of omission will restore us to His side as we travel together. 

     The Holy Spirit has rooted each of us in Christ Jesus.  As He imparts the life of our Lord, we are built up and established in Him.  To the degree that we are rooted, built up, and established is the degree to which we abound with thanksgiving.  It is my desire that your walk with Him may increasingly reflect Him in such a manner as to create this thanksgiving in your heart.

In Christ, Richard Spann  

                           

Lessons to be learned

Speaker:

                               Lessons To Be Learned From Those Who Failed

                               “For everything that was written in the past was

                                written to teach us, so that through endurance

                                and the encouragement of the Scriptures we 

                                might have hope.”  Romans 15:4

     During the days of the Divided Kingdom in the history of the Jewish nation, the kings of Israel (Northern Kingdom) all departed from the Lord and His direction.  The Southern Kingdom (Judah) had some good kings but some notable failures as well.  There are three lessons for our lives that we may learn from observing three different kings.

     The first of these was Amaziah.  It is recorded that he started well.  “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD but not wholeheartedly.”  (II Chronicles 25:2)  In verse four, he “acted in accordance with what was written in the law.”  Later in life, he forsook the law, and bowed down to the gods of the people of Seir. (Verse fourteen)  In verse seventeen it is written that he “consulted his advisors.”  In verse twenty seven it records that he was killed by his own countrymen.  The beginning of his reign was governed by the law and he later forsook the law.  What happened?  It is recorded in Deuteronomy 17:18-19 that the kings of the nation of Israel were to write for themselves on a scroll a copy of the law.  It was to be always with him, to be read all the days of his life, so that he “may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees.”  It is unlikely that his cessation of this practice happened all at once.  Most probably a few days would go by, then a week, then a month, and then he no longer consulted the LORD but sought advice and counsel from others.  His declension was gradual but describes the total abject failure that occurs from neglecting God’s word.  It is from his life that we learn the importance of God’s word in our lives.  

     Examples of what God’s word is able to do in our lives is seen in Psalm 119.  In verse nine and eleven it enables us to avoid sin, and in verse eighteen, we behold wondrous things.  In verse twenty five, we find encouragement and in verse thirty six, our covetousness is decreased.  In verse fifty, we are comforted, in verse sixty two, we are enabled to be thankful and in verse ninety eight we find wisdom.  In verse 105, we experience His guidance.  Jerry Bridges, in his book Practice of Godliness, mentions three ways that the LORD guards our lives through His Scripture.  It develops the Fear of God (Genesis 11:24-27), the Vision of God (Hebrews 11:24-27), and Humility before God. (I Corinthians 15:10)  

     The second king from whose life we may learn lessons is Jehoshaphat.  His story is recorded in II Chronicles 17-20.  The beginning of his reign is described in II Chronicles 17:3-4.  “The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed.  He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel.”  In chapter eighteen, however, we find that he allied himself with Ahab by marriage.  In II Chronicles 19:2, it is recorded that he helped the wicked and loved those who hated the Lord.  In chapter 20 verse 35 he was seen to have made an alliance with Ahaziah, who was guilty of wickedness.  His life is best described by a verse in the New Testament found in I Corinthians 15:33.  “Do not be misled:  ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” 

     The contrast to this corruption is to be found when we “have fellowship with one another” (I John 1:7)  We daily need the encouragement of others (Hebrews 3:13), as well as the comfort we bring to one another. (II Corinthians 1:4)  This is why we are told to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. (Hebrews 10:24-25)  To turn away from this fellowship and seek it elsewhere is, again, a recipe for failure. 

     The third king from which we may learn lessons is Joash.  We read about his life in  II Chronicles chapter twenty four.  The following is recorded in verse two.  “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years of Jehoiada the priest.”  In verses seventeen and eighteen, however, we read this account of his life.  “After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king and he listened to them.  They abandoned the temple of the LORD, the god of their fathers, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols.”  In verse twenty two, we read that Joash killed Jehoiada’s son.  Later it is recorded that his own officials killed him as he lay in his bed. (Verse twenty five)  

     Jehoiada’s influence in the life of Joash was remarkable.  When he was gone, however, there was no one to step in and provide direction and accountability for the king.  The impact of the individual life made a difference initially in the life of Joash.  When this was no longer available to him, his life deteriorated.  I have known of many people whose lives have been altered by the impact of another individual.  We see this progression clearly in the book of Acts, where Barnabas invested in Paul, who in turn was used by the Lord in the lives of Aquila and Priscilla, who in turn were used in the life of Apollos.  We should never under estimate our own individual need to interact with another person for encouragement and accountability, nor should we neglect the opportunity to meet with those individuals with whom the Lord has called us to invest time and resources.  No interaction with them is wasted.  Our time, talents, and totality of our lives will be used for His Glory in establishing His Kingdom. 

     From these three kings, then, we are able to understand the value of the word of God daily in our lives, the importance of regular contact with the body of Christ, that is, the church, and those individuals who minister to you as well as those to whom you are called to minister.  May the Lord so develop these patterns in your life to the end that He will be continually glorified through your life.   

In Christ, Richard Spann         

What is a disciple?

Speaker:

                                              What Is A Disciple?

                            (A Learner, A Follower, and A Reproducer)

                                                                 Howard Hendricks

     There have been many descriptions of a disciple over the years.  The above comments by Howard Hendricks were made over forty years ago and my mind keeps returning to them as I consider this subject.  To reflect on this more fully we need to turn to our Lord’s comments on these three aspects of discipleship.

     Learning is addressed in Matthew 11:28-30.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  In the middle east at the time of Christ the older oxen bore the weight of the work while the younger oxen in training was simply fastened to the older oxen by means of the yoke.  The direction of the oxen as they pulled together was determined by the course of the older oxen, not the one in training.  The Lord used this symbol of union to illustrate spiritual truths of our relationship with Him.  These conditions for learning then, include closeness of association, observation, and participation in all His activities.  The desired effect was to produce in the learner consciousness of His presence, dependence upon His power, and a commitment to His purpose.  This process is described in II Corinthians 3:18.  “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (KJV) 

     Jesus describes the importance of following Him as being necessary to discipleship in several locations in scripture.  The Gospel of Luke contains multiple references to this aspect of discipleship, including Luke 9:23, 9:57-62, and Luke 14:25-35.  In Luke 9:23, the Lord relates that prior to following Him, one must deny themselves and pick up the cross.  The inner hidden choice of denial of self must be followed by open identification with the cross in our lives.  He dealt with three obstacles to discipleship in Luke 9:57-62.  The first of these was material possessions, the second was other relationships, and the last was turning back.  In Luke 14:25-35, the Lord again mentions three hindrances to following Him which are our possessions, other relationships, and our personal freedom.  Sometimes the simple songs we sing as children capture truth vividly for us.  The truths of Luke 9:57-62 were made evident to me some years ago when my wife and I took two of our grandchildren out to lunch at a nearby restaurant.  Our granddaughter, who was four at the time, stood up in the booth and began singing the following in her clear soprano voice. 

      I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to 

      follow Jesus, No turning back.  No turning back.  

      The world behind me, the cross before me, the world behind me, the cross before me, The world behind me, the cross before me,  No turning back.  No turning back.

      Though none go with me, I still will follow,  Though none go with me, I still will follow, Though none go with me, I still will follow,  No turning back.  No turning back. 

Her message was clear and understandable.  All that remained for us to do was to say Amen, collect an offering and give the Benediction to the surrounding tables!    

     Our Lord’s words to us on being a reproducer are found in Matthew 28:18-20.  “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”  One of our speakers at a recent navigator conference, Bill Hull, remarked that they were simply told to “make more of what you are.”  To make more of what we are we need to be available, to be vulnerable, and to persevere.  First of all, we need to manage our time wisely so that we are available to others.  Jim Morris stated repeatedly that “Discipleship is more caught than taught.”  Our contact should be such that we can say with the Apostle Paul.  “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.”  (Philippians 4:9)  Our lives, furthermore, must be so transparent so that others can clearly see that Christ is living in us.  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”  (II Corinthians 4:7)  We also must learn to persevere with others.  “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”  (Luke 8:15)  Our work with others is not completed until we can see four generations through their lives.  “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  (II Timothy 2:2)   

     In Matthew 28:17 it is noted that “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”  Those who worshiped had their eyes on the Lord.  Those who doubted had their eyes only on themselves.  Jesus said that “All authority is given to Him.”  With our eyes on Him, we need never doubt His ability to make disciples through us as we learn, follow and reproduce our lives in others.  

In Christ, Richard Spann   

                 

When God Hides Himself

Speaker:

                                           Truly you are a God who hides himself,

                                                  O God and Savior of Israel.

                                                                                    Isaiah 45:15

     When the Lord called out the Israelites and made of them a great nation whose function was to impact and bless the world, He bestowed on them a priestly blessing.  

                                           “The LORD bless you and keep you;

         

                                           The LORD make his face to shine upon you 

                                           and be gracious to you;

                                           The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

      

                                                                                                         Numbers 6:24-26

G. Campbell Morgan makes these comments about this blessing which I have summarized as follows.  In the first, the LORD is pictured as the One who comes to kneel in order to serve us, and hedges us round so as to protect us.  The second of the statements refers to Jehovah as not only the supply of blessing but the channel of blessing.  It is His grace that comes to us in our need.  God Himself becomes flesh and so the glory of His face is seen, and the wonder of His grace becomes operative.  The third statement conveys the thought of a new experience created by the presence of Jehovah Himself, resulting in peace.  The Westminster Pulpit, Baker Book House, 1954-55, Volume VIII, Pages 135-136.    

     For many centuries, the children of Israel repeated these blessings continually as a reminder of God’s promise of His presence.  Because of the sin and idolatry of His people, however, His face and His presence were no longer realized.  Even among His prophets and His spokesmen, there was a lament about God having hidden Himself from their view.  

     Among those who complained was Elijah, described by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:3.  “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me.”  Asaph lamented before God his condition as compared to others.  “This is what the wicked are like-always carefree, they increase in wealth.  Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.  All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.”  Psalm 73:12-14.  Perhaps the most distressing call of all was heard from His prophet Habakkuk.  “How long O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?  Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.  Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.  The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.”  Habakkuk 1:2-4   Whether the concern was personal, in regard to Elijah, or in his relationships to others as related by Asaph, or distressing circumstances experienced why Habakkuk, they all sensed the absence of God.  Where is God?  What is He doing?  Why does He not act in my behalf or in the behalf of others? 

     When God hides Himself, it is always to do a hidden work.  His hidden work in the nations of Israel was to bring judgment resulting in restoration.  His hidden work in His followers is always that of purification and preparation.  Purification is provided that they may more closely abide in Him and draw strength from Him who is their life.  Preparation is furnished so that more fruit is forthcoming for the Father and so that they may be fully able to perform the eternal tasks in Glory which will serve and honor our LORD throughout the coming ages.  No moment of darkness, no shadow of doubt, no perplexing thought, no heavy burden, no days of despair are permitted that are not a part of His infinite love, His limitless knowledge and His complete control.  

     Knowing that God is at work, whether we can see or measure His activity, makes all the difference in our lives.  Job recounts the following in Job 23:8-10.  “But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him.  When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.  But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”  Job was stating his conviction that even though God was hidden from him, he was not hidden from God.  He states that God is all knowing-“He knows the way that I take”, that He is in complete control of my life- “when He has tested me”, and that His purpose is that of infinite love which will be reflected in my good-“I will come forth as gold.” 

     Eternity’s greatest work was only possible because God hid Himself.  Our Savior’s cry from the cross chronicled those three hours at the the end of which He exclaimed “My God!  My God, why didst thou forsake me?”  G. Campbell Morgan has the following comments on this period of three hours.  “In these three hours of darkness we are face to face with the time when all the force of evil was brought to bear on the soul of the Son of God, and all the unutterable intent and purpose of evil wrapped Him about in a darkness that is beyond our comprehension.  In the deep darkness, and in the midst of the silence, He triumphed over the forces of evil, the principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly by the Cross, putting off from Himself all that assaulted Him in, and by, and through the darkness.  In those hours transactions were accomplished which through all eternity defy the apprehension and explanation of finite minds.”  The Westminster Pulpit, Baker Book House, 1954-55, Volume VII, page 195.   

     This work of God in Christ, hidden from our view, will be marveled at throughout the ages to come as we, His body and church, will praise Him forever.  The hidden work of God in our lives is meant to be revealed as well even though we “suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”  I Peter 1:6.  The following verse (I Peter 1:7) tells us that “These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”                                 

     When God hides Himself, it is to produce a work in and through our lives that will be to His eternal glory and will result in our praise, glory and honor as well.  This will be revealed in those who have persevered by faith, knowing that, like Job, though God may be hidden for a time from us, that we are never hidden from Him.  

In Christ,  Richard Spann