Tag Archives: faith

The Finished Work

Back in the early 70’s I worked for my brother-in-law in aluminum siding. A local company paid us for applying the siding to older homes, hopefully making them look like new. This company wouldn’t release our compensation until the job was completed. On the bigger houses this could take a month or more. As a job was nearing completion, I’d tell my wife, ‘I think we’ll get paid today.’ But invariably we’d finish the day with more work to do. Job not done = no pay.

I relate that story to illustrate this point: our Lord Jesus came to earth with a job to do. The consequences of sin had to be dealt with, once and for all. And the Word of God joyfully reveals that Jesus finished His assignment. Through His death, burial, time in hell and resurrection, Jesus completed the plan of redemption.  The work has been done with nothing more to do. The check is signed in His blood.

What does this mean to you and me? We’re not waiting on God. Prayer isn’t attempting to get God to do something He’s otherwise reluctant to do. We aren’t required to “eek out” a victory over the devil. No good works are necessary to receive answers in prayer. All requests for God’s promises have received a resounding answer: Yes!  The work’s already done. For those who have accepted Jesus’ Lordship, righteousness is ours, health is ours, peace is ours, deliverance is ours, and an abundant life is ours.

Why aren’t we experiencing more of what is already ours? The Bible declares four times, “The just shall live by faith.” We are responsible to believe! And not merely intellectually. We’re to believe in our hearts. Heart belief is at the core of everything we receive in life – good or bad. If we don’t like what we’re receiving, we must check our heart.

But for right now, focus on the finished work. Mankind owed a huge debt that we could never have paid. As Jesus entered heaven and sat on His throne at God’s right hand, He, in effect, handed over a receipt of our bill marked PAID IN FULL!

Give Your Faith A Lift

October 2017

 

Give your faith a lift!

I learned a lot of wonderful truths when I attended RHEMA Bible Training Center years ago. In one of our classes the teacher pointed out that God has made available to us forces that aid or cooperate with our faith. The obvious one is love. Galatians 5:6 shows that faith works, or is energized, by love.

Another powerful partner of faith is laid out for us in Hebrews 6:11, 12.

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Faith and patience are to be imitated. When we observe others who are realizing God’s promises, we should watch and learn.

Verse 11 describes the attitude we’re to have in this. First we’re told to “show the same diligence.” Strong’s Concordance renders the meaning “interest oneself most earnestly.” In other words, this is one of those areas that requires our attention. “Hope” describes a joyful, confident expectation. Don’t lose hope!

In verse 12 we’re told not to “become sluggish.” According to the dictionary, sluggish has these meanings: slow-moving or inactive; lacking in energy or alertness; slow to respond or make progress. Obviously being sluggish is not being diligent. I think we all want to “inherit the promises.” [Inherit means to receive – or become a partaker of – your portion.] Therefore faith and patience need to be imitated.

Faith is well defined in Hebrews 11:1 – it gives our hopes substance and is our evidence of promises which can’t yet be seen. In light of that, one of the things we should be diligent about is gathering evidence. If we’re experiencing a struggle in our finances, for example, our accounts may be providing evidence of lack. Our part then is to gather evidence to override that. It begins with musing on scriptures like “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want (lack),” [Psalm 23:1] and “… my God shall supply all your need …” [Philippians 4:19] Add to that using the imagination to “experience” the provision. Faith releases God’s grace – His ability in us to do what we couldn’t on our own. As believers faith can (and should) become our natural response to difficult times.

Then we come to “patience.” I can tell you that my understanding of patience years ago was that I was waiting – waiting on God to heal, deliver, prosper or whatever. Then I discovered there’s a flaw in that understanding. Healing, deliverance, forgiveness, peace, provision, security, etc., are already accomplished for us in Christ! There’s no such thing as waiting for what’s already done!

Well, what does patience mean then? Strong’s gives this definition: “the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings. Vine’s Expository Dictionary says patience is “the quality which does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial.”

If you’re scratching your head trying to digest all that, think of it this way. Going back to our illustration, in the midst of financial hardship we’re assured that everything needed has already been provided. Therefore there’s no reason to quit or even become discouraged (hopeless). Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.

An insurance company add used to tell us that when we purchased their insurance we were in good hands. Our true assurance is that we’re in good hands when our faith and patience are leaning securely on our loving heavenly Father!

Faith and patience have been called the power twins!

Good News

Good News

A friend of mine recently posted this quote on Facebook:

“The Gospel is good news not good advice. Advice = what we should do. News = report of what was done for us.” Tim Keller

The truth expressed in this recitation caught my attention and immediately brought a scripture to mind.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16, 17

Why these verses? Because the word “gospel” means GOOD NEWS! The good news of the gospel is all about what God has done for us in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our response to that good news isn’t about things we need to do. Our response needs to be one thing – BELIEVE.

One of the biggest problems with this is that we’ve been trained to DO! “Give me something to do, Lord!” We’re accustomed to thinking things like – only those who work hard get ahead; idle hands are the devils workshop; put your nose to the grindstone; God helps those who help themselves; etc., etc. And, there’s a ring of truth in these statements. When there’s a job to do and we roll up our sleeves to apply diligence to it, good things are accomplished. But when it comes to our redemption, there is no more work to be done!

When we start working – doing – laboring – to bring about our redemption, we’re saying in affect that what Jesus has already done wasn’t enough. We’re adding our labor to His death, burial and resurrection, assuming that His sacrifice + our labor = our salvation, healing and deliverance. But the true “formula” is this: salvation = Jesus sacrifice + NOTHING!

Now, I realize this brings up some interesting questions. I can’t possibly anticipate them all in this article, so allow me to address just one.

James 1:22 tells us to BE DOERS. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Of course, this is absolutely true. Be a doer of the word! This doesn’t contradict what we’ve been discussing. On the contrary, it points us to the heart of the matter. The focal point on doing the word, when it comes to our redemption, is faith. We must believe. Christians are believers. We believe God’s Word. We believe the Gospel. We believe that Jesus’ death, burial, time in hell and resurrection paid the price in full!

Most of the New Testament – especially the Epistles – were written to address this question of “doing”. What separates religion from true Christianity? Lists of do’s & don’t added to the gospel. The Apostle Paul had “teachers” following him from city to city, telling people that they must believe in Jesus, AND … get circumcised, keep the law, remember the Sabbath, etc., etc. I’m sure it was frustrating for him at times. In fact, he got quite angry with the Galatian church for leaving the freedom of the gospel and returning to the pains of religion.

So, enjoy the good news! Believe it with all your heart. As the psalmist said, don’t forget all the benefits. [Psalm 103]

I’ll close with the Tim Keller quote again: “The Gospel is good news not good advice. Advice = what we should do. News = report of what was done for us.”

How’s Your Heart?

Romans 10:8-10 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

There are two phrases that I’d like us to take note of here: “believe in your heart” (verse 9) and “with the heart one believes” (verse 10). From the time I first started studying the Bible (not just reading it), I became interested in the subject of faith. Obviously “faith” and “believing” are the same thing. To “believe unto righteousness” (verse 10) means having faith for being made right with God. But faith for healing, deliverance, peace, and so on come from the same place.

One cardinal rule about faith is that it must be “heart faith.” Agreeing with the Bible mentally is a start, but the type of faith that moves mountains is settled deep in our hearts.

King Solomon exhorts us to guard our hearts, for out of them come the issues or boundaries of life. [Proverbs 4:13] Heart faith is what we need.

Agreeing mentally could be called “head faith.” The problem with head faith is that it won’t sustain us through the challenges of life. When we try to take a strong stand against sickness, for example, “head faith” wavers. In James chapter one we’re told that the person who wavers won’t receive anything from God. This is not a case of God holding out on us, but rather a case of doubt. “Wavering” and “doubt” are usually translations of the same Greek word.

That brings us then to “heart faith.” The “heart” here is not merely an organ in our chest that pumps blood.  “Heart” represents the center of our being. It’s a combination or link between our spirit and our soul. [I Thessalonians 5:23] Everything that has affected us emotionally over the span of life seems to get stored here. Painful experiences from the past can inhibit our ability to truly believe God at this heart level. We may agree mentally, yet disagree from our heart, and this “faith” produces nothing. But “heart faith” got us born again, and this same “heart faith” is what will receive healing, deliverance, peace or whatever God’s word promises us.

The question becomes, then, what are we going to do with the painful experiences in our hearts that have stymied our faith? The definition of faith given in Hebrews 11:1 gives us the information we need.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Bible faith – the God-kind of faith – requires EVIDENCE! Gather enough evidence to persuade your heart of the principles and promises of the Bible. Where will this evidence come from? First and foremost from the Word of God. II Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Word is profitable for “reproof.” The Greek word translated “reproof” is the same as the one translated “evidence” in Hebrews 11:1. So we could say it this way: “The Word is profitable for evidence.”

Evidence also comes from what we see – not with the natural eye, but with our spiritual eye. In II Corinthians 4:17, 18 we’re instructed to look at the things that are NOT seen. Joshua was told by God to SEE that He had given Jericho into the hand of the Israelites. This “seeing” is a type of meditation. We can meditate – see ourselves – already enjoying the benefits of the promises of God, before there is any manifestation. Our senses may bring opposing evidence to us in the form of pain, symptoms, etc., so we have to gather more to overcome that opposition.

One last area (for this article) is the area of words. The words we hear spoken, especially the one coming out of our own mouths, become either positive or negative evidence. Proverbs 18:20, 21 relates that death and life are in the power of the tongue. Choose the right words and persuade yourself toward life!

Well, there’s much more to be said on this subject but this is as good a stopping place as any. I suggest you study this out for yourself, because the just shall live by faith – heart faith that is!

Evidence

Tension reigned. Indiana Jones must find the Holy Grail and bring some water of life back, or his dad will die. Blocking his way are three “biblical” tests that he must pass. The first was repentance – “the repentant may pass.” At the last moment he decided repentance meant to kneel, and he dropped to the ground just in time to duck under a blade destined to slice off his head. Next was “the footsteps of God.” Indy faced a floor made up of individual stones with letters etched in Latin. He must step only on the stones, in the correct order, to spell out J-E-H-O-V-A-H. After almost falling through for a spelling error, Indy safely arrived at the third test: “a leap of faith.” Now he finds himself at a huge chasm, needing to get quickly to the other side. It’s too wide to jump across. His whip won’t work here. How will he get over? After a moment of fear and indecision, Indy determines a blind step into the opening is required. With eyes closed he takes a big step and lands safely on a narrow bridge. It was there all along! Scurrying across he finds the Grail, fills it with the water, and brings it to his dad. The senior Jones is brought to life and they live happily ever after, or at least until “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

If you watched “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” all that was familiar to you. Why am I bringing it up here? To make a point about our faith. Faith – the God-kind – is not blind. Harrison Ford may have been required to take a step with eyes closed, but the God-kind of faith requires EVIDENCE.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

There’s a vast difference between “blind faith” and faith in things not seen. Consider another scripture passage:

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. II Corinthians 4:17, 18

There is an “unseen realm.” God dwells there, along with angels, demons and other spirit-beings. It can’t be seen with the naked eye. Faith is required! And the God-kind of faith gets its evidence from there.

Consider another verse of scripture:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. II Timothy 3:16

The word “reproof” here is a translation of exactly the same word in the original Greek translated “evidence” in Hebrews 11:1. Do you see the significance? “Faith is … the evidence of things not seen,” and “All scripture is … profitable … for evidence.” Therefore, the most important place to get evidence for our faith is from the “unseen realm” of the Bible – the Word of God.

Here is how it works: when I find that I’m in need of something promised by God, I must believe – have faith. “All things are possible to him who believes.” [Mark 9:23] “Miracles aren’t for the deserving, they’re for the believing.” [Dr. Jim Richards] When I need healing, my physical senses (including my sight) bring evidence that I’m sick. I look sick; I feel pain; etc. Sometimes sickness even smells bad! So my responsibility becomes finding evidence in the unseen realm to counteract and overcome the physical evidence. While the sickness may be “real,” the Word of God is even more real! Jesus bore my sickness and pain. [Isaiah 53:4, 5] By His stripes we are healed. [I Peter 2:24] You see, I’m gathering EVIDENCE. When that evidence gets stronger in me than the symptoms, the pain, etc, then I’ve made divine healing mine and it will come to pass.

This is the way it works regardless of the need. Is there a promise in the Bible for a remedy? Then faith is required, a faith fed by evidence!

Gird Your Loins

Gird Up Your Loins

Luke 12:35, 36 Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; 36 and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately.

In the Bible when we see a phrase like “let your waist be girded” or, as the King James reads, “let your loins be gird about,” it is a reference to readiness. Movement would have been impeded by those long robes, so a person readying himself for work or travel needed to “gird up his loins.” That meant he would take the bottom seam of his robe, pull it up between his legs and tuck it in his belt. Then he would be ready for action.

Is readiness a viable issue for modern day believers? The Bible seems to indicate that it is! We don’t have the same long robes to deal with, but we do have responsibilities to fulfill. I’m not referring to religious works or works of the flesh. Thank God we are saved by grace through faith! [Ephesians 2:8] Yet we are saved to serve. Spiritual laziness is frowned upon. Hebrews 6:11, 12 tells us not to be sluggish. James 1:22 encourages us to be doers, not merely hearers. Our “Great Commission” is repeated in different words by Matthew, Mark and Luke. We have a responsibility to be about the business of making disciples. Not much will be accomplished if we’re not READY!

Allow me to share what I consider to be some keys to girding our loins today.

#1 – Accept the responsibility.

We’re all in the same boat here. My calling may differ from yours, but we’re all called. There is something for everyone to do. God doesn’t need “bench warmers.” There are no true barriers to participation. No age discrimination. Galatians 3 indicates neither male nor female, no ethnic boundaries, or even any economic roadblocks. I’ve discovered that even when facing physical challenges, God can use me. This is good news!

#2 – Know that you’re qualified.

Repeat after me: “Jesus is my qualification!” You see, you may have tried before and failed miserably. You may have been told that you can’t do it. You may feel like you’ll just mess things up. Maybe you were a poor student or just never finished anything you started before now. Check out scripture: God used those whose resumes contained failures and low recommendations. He even used a donkey! He can use you.

#3 – Believe that you’re gifted.

I Peter 4:10 tells us that we ALL have been given gifts with which to minister. These are grace gifts, meaning we did nothing to earn them. Outside of Jesus we don’t deserve them. But He gave ‘em to us anyway. The purpose of these gifts is clear: not to bless the operator of the gift, but to bless those needing the benefits of the gift. Check out the Amplified version of I Peter 4:9, 10.

Practice hospitality to one another (those of the household of faith). [Be hospitable, be a lover of strangers, with brotherly affection for the unknown guests, the foreigners, the poor, and all others who come your way who are of Christ’s body.] And [in each instance] do it ungrudgingly (cordially and graciously, without complaining but as representing Him). 10 As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits] good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [faithful stewards of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor].

Maybe a better modern day rendering of “gird your loins” would be “roll up your sleeves.” Let’s do it! As a congregation, let’s roll up our sleeves and get busy with the work of the Kingdom. As the slogan goes, “Just do it!”

The Value of Words

If you know me you know that I’m a “words guy.” I use the Greek and Hebrew dictionaries and lexicons to help me understand the words of scripture. I also make use of English dictionaries, because I’ve discovered that what words mean and what we think they mean are often very different.

Choosing the words we say in conversation is extremely important. We’ve all discovered by now, I’m sure, that words can heal and words can hurt. Words even create an atmosphere. If you’ve ever entered a room where cruel words were recently spoken you have discovered that they leave a heaviness in the room, even if you weren’t there to hear them. Words can encourage, edify, comfort and soothe. They can also wound, discourage, alarm and destroy.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that both death and life are in the power of the tongue. In fact, if you think words aren’t important, the book of Proverbs will prove you wrong! Jesus’ brother James wrote that with our words (tongues) we both bless and curse. [James 3:9, 10] He also instructs in the same chapter that we can steer our bodies by the words we say.

So, on one level I think most have discovered that speaking positive words makes for a better life than harping on the negative. But there’s another level I’d like us to consider. Let me start with a few of the classic New Testament scriptures on the value of words.

Mark 11:23For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.

Romans 10:9, 10 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

II Corinthians 4:13And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak,

I can’t tell you how many messages I’ve taught on “confession.” The basic principle of biblical confession is twofold: believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. Confessing what God says works! But we’re not getting the results we should. The promises of God aren’t “You win some, you lose some and some get rained out!” God’s promises are yes & amen. Jesus came to give us abundant life. We’ve been made more than conquerors.

The question remains then, why aren’t we getting the results we should? I think the answer is contained in these (and other) scriptures. For our words to carry the power they should we must first BELIEVE. Believe in your heart. Don’t doubt in your heart. We believe, therefore we speak.

If we’re honest with ourselves we’ll acknowledge that a lot of our confessions were attempts to appease God into doing something for us. “If I confess it often enough, loud enough, passionate enough …” If that’s been our focus it is fleshly and legalistic. Everything done for us by our Lord Jesus was done before we were doing anything right. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. [Romans 5:8] Making positive statement won’t change Him. He’s already for us, with us and in us.

The release of power comes as we believe in what’s already done on a heart level, and form our words around that belief. Believe in your heart; confess with your mouth. We believe unto righteousness; confession is made unto salvation, which includes forgiveness, healing, deliverance, peace and all that Jesus won for us.

That leaves us with one more question needing an answer: what if I don’t believe in my heart? Here’s where we must be brutally honest with ourselves. Most of us have confessed things we just don’t believe. No wonder it hasn’t come to fruition. So, what now?

The root meaning of faith is to be persuaded. Many times becoming persuaded is a process. The good news is that confessing what God has said will help you become persuaded. Therefore, as long as your confession does not fall into attempting to please God so He’ll come through for you, your confession can continue working for you to persuade your heart of truth.

The writer of Hebrews said it this way: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” [10:23] Hope is a confident expectation with joy. Keep speaking the Word to persuade your heart. God is faithful!

What Is Your Outlook On Life?

What is your outlook on life?

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. II Corinthians 4:16-18 [The Message]

I used to think that some people could focus on a multitude of things all at one time. I had seen teenagers who were chatting on the phone, listening to music and doing their homework, with the TV on in the background. I thought they had somehow discovered a way to glean useable information from all these sources simultaneously. As I sit here today I’m not so convinced. Merely an awareness of different stimuli doesn’t mean information has been received. I could be wrong, but I’m of the opinion that we only truly focus on one thing at a time. We can be aware of other things, but if we were tested on our comprehension level, I think we would fail miserably.

Focus is a very important commodity. I’ve noticed as a pastor that our congregant’s ability to receive spiritual assistance in our services depends as much on their focus as anything. Jesus said that true worshippers must worship in spirit and truth. [John 4:23, 24] Simply put, worshipping in spirit and truth is truly worshipping. It takes focus to truly worship God. One must put away the interference that tries to invade our mind sets. Your mind wants to ponder on things like: what you’ll do when the service ends, why sister so-in-so isn’t here today, did the guitar player just play the wrong chord, I hope the pastor isn’t long-winded today, is it warm in here or is it just me, or even – wow, my socks don’t match! This kind of interference allowed in insures that true worship isn’t going to happen.

Maybe even more important than the various things we may focus on is the basic outlook we bring to our every day life. We will all face challenges. No one gets a free ride as far as that is concerned. Just like back in our school days, it’s a given principle – there will be tests! Passing or failing is more about outlook than anything else. God has built into all of us an ability to succeed, but that ability rarely manifests in those with a “poor ole me” attitude.

When my wife and I came to upstate New York over thirty years ago we came with a message on our hearts and a deep trust in the God of that message. God poured a pure faith inside us and we ran with it. We wouldn’t even entertain the thought that we would fail. As far as we were concerned, for us to fail God would have to fail. A mighty church was built out of that outlook. Not only did the congregation grow here, but excited people went out from here and continued the work in places across the country and nations throughout the world. It was never that we were so smart or slick or even charismatic. It was that God was in it and we trusted Him completely.

I have to remind myself of these things often today. Physically I’m not able to do what I could do in the 80’s and 90’s. The nation – the world – is different now. The apostle Paul prophesied that these “last days” would be perilous. Our adversary knows his time is short. But, as we sang last week, “Our God reigns!” He is still on the throne. Faith in God still overcomes the world. The “Greater One” still resides in every child of God. As we used to say, “I read the back of the Book, and we win!”

I found this quote online: “Never let the thoughts of self-unworthiness re-arrange your prepared passion for failure. You can do it even if others say you can’t. But you cannot do it if you tell yourself you can’t.” ― Israelmore Ayivor

Embrace the outlook that you can.

 “I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].” Philippians 4:13 [Amplified]