Sunday, January 31, 2010

In Whom Do We Trust?

Every so often I get an email in my inbox that admonishes me to help take a stand against some atheist who is determined to get "In God We Trust" off of our money.

I used to jump on those opportunities because I believe we should never, for a moment, forget our roots and the heritage of this nation; regardless of how humanists, atheists, agnostics and others have tried to deny the historicity of our Christian roots, they exist. We were a nation that trusted God!

Still, I find that at least in part I'm somewhat less inclined to get on that bandwagon, only because it really won't matter that "God" is no longer printed on our paper currency if He isn't first printed on our hearts.

In this day and age, it seems more and more professing Christians are falling by the way side, "giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons" as represented in the emergent church and the word/faith, even the now blatant new age movement!

Do we as Christians in this nation, trust our LORD as we should? When tragedy strikes, where do we look to first? Our bank account? Our health insurance? Our family or friends? Do we sit down and ponder the matter and through our own mental faculties try to solve the problem for ourselves? Do we turn to the telephone to call the church prayer line (this is closer to the mark of course, but not where I want to focus our attention right now).

Believe me, I am just as guilty of doing those things as any one else!

As you already know, the first place we ought to look to when tragedy strikes is the throne of God; seeking His face, and His grace and wisdom to counsel and comfort us in time of need.

Call me a 'doomer and gloomer' if you like, but I truly believe that we are heading towards tragedy in this nation that will effect each of us in some profound ways. Our faith is going to be tested, and when these calamities strike - - who will we look to? The President? Congress? Our governors?

Everywhere you look in scripture, over and over again, the Word admonishes us to trust in the LORD and not in man, and we will look at some of these verses in a little bit. Before that however, let me ask you, have you ever done a word study on "faith"? If you have, you were probably as surprised as I was when I discovered that "faith" appears in the Old Testament only twice! Once in Deuteronomy and once in Habbukuk. Considering that the Old Testament is at least twice the size of the New Testament, this is very perplexing!

Until you learn that in the Old Testament, the word that's synonomous with "faith" is "trust". Get your concordance out and look up the following words: "trust, trusted, trustedst, trustest, trusteth, and trusting"; all together there are dozens upon dozens of references in the Old Testament.

In all of these different renderings for "trust" in the Hebrew language, the following words and phrases incorporate the literal meanings in the English:

"to flee to, confide in, to trust, to make a refuge, to have hope, refers to God as our rock or a shield;security, to be reliant upon, to build up, support, to render firm or faithful, believe, to be quiet, assurance, established, verified, steadfast, continuance, stand fast; tarry, wait, patient" and other related words that correlate with having faith in God.

Now let's zero in on some particular scriptures, beginning with the Psalms:

PSALM 37:3
Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

I've been hearing reports for quite some time now about an economic collapse that's heading straight for America; as well as this, some food shortages, racial tensions mounting, and other scary scenarios that I won't get into here. Yet as I brought these issues up before the LORD, asking Him what's to become of the church, and myself, He directed me to this very verse above!

His promise to those that trust Him is that they will dwell in the land and verily we shall be fed! When the LORD says "verily" I think we can rest assured that He means VERILY!

In verse 5 it says,

PSALM 37:5
Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

One who commits anything to the LORD, is certainly placing faith and trust in Him. To commit is to surrender one's own will or right to something, passing it on to another for their intent and use, in this case, the LORD Himself.

In the first half of vs. 7 it states:

PSALM 37:7
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: . . .

The idea of 'waiting' and being 'patient' are tied in with what it means to trust in the LORD, to have faith in Him, to express a hope that He shall save us in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves in, no matter how late the hour may be; even if we think its "too late".

Also it's very reassuring that if we falter in our faith, or express a lack of trust in the LORD, or commit a sin or transgression--if we are His children, He will uphold us in the event that we stumble and fall:

PSALM 37:23
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.

The beginning of Psalm 118 speaks profusely of "the mercy of the LORD" and the Psalmist associates this with those that trust in the LORD... not in man (generally speaking, humanity) or in princes (government officials), but only in the LORD will he trust!

PSALM 118:5-9
I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The LORD taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.

Also in the book of Job, this man of great faith declared, in the midst of the horrible tragedy of losing his entire family, worldly possessions, and his physical health:

JOB 13:15
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.

That is an incredible declaration of faith that I continually marvel at!! Would to God that I had such faith as this man Job!
Now let's turn to the book of Jeremiah (where I am currently reading in my devotionals) and see what we can find in the 17th chapter (note the highlighted section in green):

JER 17:5-6
Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

Compare these with verses:

JER 17:7-8
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Its remarkable that the LORD doesn't want us to share our trust with any other source other than Himself; that is, when we look to aid from human resources and not consider the LORD who alone can provide help. This is not to say that the LORD sometimes doesn't use human agencies to provide help for us or that we shouldn't use such resources.

The problem is when we look to any one but the LORD, Who should be first and foremost when we seek for aid. All too often we assume a visit to the doctor's or a lawyer, a repairman, etc. is the natural solution and resort to them without consulting the LORD first.
Recall what action King Asa took when he became diseased in his feet:

2 CHRON 16:12
And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.

Contrast this conduct with his former trust he placed in the LORD when the formidable army of the Ethiopians came to attack King Asa's kingdom:

2 CHRON 14:13
And Asa and the people that were with him pursued them unto Gerar: and the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves; for they were destroyed before the LORD, and before his host; and they carried away very much spoil.

2 CHRON 16:8
Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the LORD, he delivered them into thine hand.

It's when we seek the strength of human resources and ingenuity and forget to seek God that our hearts begin to drift, and eventually this can lead to a kind of spiritual atrophy where we don't pray any more, we are no longer offering thanksgiving to Him for His bounty He lavishes on us, and our hearts depart from the LORD, as highlighted above in JER 17:5-6.
And yet those who trust in the LORD, will not see . . .

"when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit."

What a blessed hope we have in the LORD! All He asks is that we trust Him. It would be a shame on us if we were to place trust in an untrustworthy fool. You would only want to trust someone who has proven themselves to be worthy of our trust! And this is none other than the LORD Jesus Himself!

Hear what He says concerning His Word:

MATT 24:35
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

We don't have any anxiety in our day to day living that the heavens and the earth will suddenly vanish into oblivion, do we? We aren't the least bit surprised when we look out of our windows and see they are still there, just where we left them the night before!

As certain as those things are, the words of Jesus Christ are even MORE certain! Even right down to the individual letters, are our LORD's Words dependable! What do I mean by that?

Get the picture: Its the sea of Galilee; the LORD Jesus just delivered His teaching from Simon Peter's boat. He then turns to Peter, an experienced fisherman, and says the following:

LUKE 5:4-5
Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.

Did you catch it? The word of the LORD was for Peter to let down his NETS for a draught... not net, but NETS, plural!

Peter's response? "nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net." But that wasn't the word of the LORD, He distinctly said "nets" and had Peter truly trusted wholeheartedly the word of the LORD, he would have dropped every net he had in the boat!

The thing is, Peter and his co-workers had "toiled all the night" and caught nothing; they knew the waters of Galilee, they knew where the fish were biting, they had years and years of experience! If any one would know how to fish in Galilee, it would be them!

And yet, here comes a carpenter(!!?), and this one they called LORD, told them what to do, and they did do it, partially. They were partially obedient, they were partially trusting in God.

Isn't that the case with all of us? We all trust the LORD but in different increments or percentages: some trust Him 50%, others 70%, etc. In situations when we "know best" due to our intimate knowledge and experience about something, can we put logic and our senses and our knowledge aside, and trust His Word?

We can take the LORD at His Word, we can believe wholeheartedly His promises to us, though all of this nation turns their backs on Him; though the church may fall deeper and deeper into apostacy in growing numbers; though hard times may fall on us Christians, though all odds seem against us and we have no certain means of income, no imminent cure for a hopeless ailment our loved ones suffer, nor a foreseeable future of hope, we can take what GOD says to the bank and HIS check will NEVER BOUNCE!!

Remember I am growing in faith along side all of you; I don't and can't stand apart as someone who has "arrived in the place of total victory and absolute faith" in the LORD. This exhortation is for me as much as any one else who may read it.

It is my prayer that it will indeed encourage you and bless you to seek Him. May we abandon our all to the LORD in reckless devotion and commitment to Him and His Holy Word, in Jesus Name, amen!

agape, grace & peace,

brother James Fire

PROV 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Friday, January 1, 2010

HOLY LIFE or Hypocritical Legalism?

I would like to once again address the issue of holiness; a previous article in FtMoF on this subject was entitled wholly, holy May 10, 2009 and its available for you to review (perhaps before you read this article).

For those who would like even more information on this subject, you can review a 3-part article from The TRUTH Under FIRE - Monday, September 21, 2009
The Simple and Serious Gospel of Salvation – Phase II The Sanctifier is the Saint's Fire

Parts Two and Three are as follows -

In my interactions with other believers, and in my zeal in sharing what I've learned about holiness and desire to encourage holiness in all of our lives, I was confronted a number of times by fellow Christians, who almost with an air of dismissal, have said things like,

"Yeah, but we're not under the Law but under grace."
"Yes, but you have to be careful because that can lead to legalism."
"But we already are holy, what's the need for striving for something we already have?"

I have even been told that I'm promoting a legalistic form of Christianity based on works!
If you believe that any of the above statements are true in the context of encouraging holiness in the life of the believer, then this most certainly needs re-examining in the light of scripture!
I have found an excellent article by J.C. Ryle on this subject and below are some excerpts (not in contiguous order) as well as the link to the entire article, should you wish to read it:

"We must let men see by our good conversation that we are indeed the children of the Holy One, or our son-ship is but an empty name. 'Say not,' says Gurnall, 'that thou hast royal blood in thy veins, and art born of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by daring to be holy.' "
"We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. This is a point on which He has spoken most plainly, in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of John.

JOHN 14:15,21,23;15:14
If ye love Me, keep my commandments.
He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.
If a man love Me he will keep my words.
Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.

Plainer words than these it would be difficult to find, and woe to those who neglect them!"
"[This] question can never be out of season. The wise man tells us, "There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh-a time to keep silence, and a time to speak" (ECCLES 3:4,7); but there is no time, no, not a day, in which a man ought not to be holy. Are we?"
"I ask to be heard today about this question. How stands the account between our souls and God? In this hurrying, bustling world, let us stand still for a few minutes and consider the matter of holiness. I believe I might have chosen a subject more popular and pleasant. I am sure I might have found one more easy to handle. But I feel deeply I could not have chosen one more seasonable and more profitable to our souls. It is a solemn thing to hear the Word of God saying,

HEB. 12:14
Without holiness no man shall see the Lord

"What then is true practical holiness? . . .

A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ (emphasis mine). He will not only live the life of faith in Him, and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labour to have the mind that was in Him, and to be "conformed to His image" (ROM. 8:29).
"It will be his aim to bear with and forgive others, even as Christ forgave us -to be unselfish, even as Christ pleased not Himself -to walk in love, even as Christ loved us -to be lowly-minded and humble, even as Christ made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself.
"He will remember that Christ was a faithful witness for the truth -that He came not to do His own will -that it was His meat and drink to do His Father's will -that He would continually deny Himself in order to minister to others -that He was meek and patient under undeserved insults . . . 

"that He thought more of godly poor men than of kings-that He was full of love and compassion to sinners -that He was bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin -that He sought not the praise of men, when He might have had it -that He went about doing good -that He was separate from worldly people -that He continued instant in prayer -that He would not let even His nearest relations stand in His way when God's work was to be done.
"He will lay to heart the saying of John, He that saith he abideth in Christ ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked (1 JOHN 2:6); and the saying of Peter, that Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow His steps (1 PETER 2:21).
These are but a few jewels of truth and grace drawn from this source; if you would like to read this article in its entirety, please follow this link -
Holiness. A Sermon by J.C. Ryle

If I could now address some of the statements made by others, in mild objection to the mandate to living holy lives, I shall take them one at a time:

The assertion (and supposed refutation of the necessity of holiness in our lives) that 'we are not under the law, but under grace' only emphasizes more strongly, the case that we should live holy lives! The purpose of the Law is that our sinfulness would be realized, that we can't live up to God's Holy Standard of Holiness and Righteousness.
The purpose of grace is the forgiveness of and deliverance from sin and its diabolical power, the justification of believers, the imputation of righteousness, and the sanctification of the believers heart as well as their mind!

In essence, its because we are under grace and not under the Law, that we for the first time in history (ever since the creation of the church, the body of Christ) can effect holiness in a practical sense in our lives, not by our own will or strength, but by the empowerment of God's grace!
Its been said that we must use caution because any intent towards holiness in our lives could lead to 'legalism'.

My question to such an allegation is, 'How so?' Since true holiness is acquired by the grace of God working in the life of a yielded believer, who is convicted of his own sin and sinful heart and desires to "put on the new man" and to "put off the old . . ." (EPH 4:22-24; COL 3:9-14)
and seeks the power of God's Spirit to accomplish this (HEB 4:16), how then can such conduct lead to legalism, unless that believer ceases to solicit the succouring (securing, help, assistance) of our Savior, the LORD Jesus Christ?

One cannot pursue holiness and legalism in the same breath, or in the same step. Its the same with walking in the Spirit and walking in the flesh: one can't conduct himself in both arenas simultaneously. In fact these two comparisons are related, that is: holiness is a work of the Spirit; legalism is a work of the flesh.

If the attention and focus of the heart is in the procurement of God's empowering grace and the power of His Holy Spirit, and if the saint seeks to yield himself to his Father's holy will and influence, and if that believer acknowledges that a certain temptation yet claims a hold in some portion of their sinful heart and thus, that portion must be crucified and identify with the death of Christ on the cross, how then is that saint in danger of legalism?
Such thinking of unnecessary caution brings gleeful delight to the enemy, as it would be the very last thing he would wish, that the church would wake up to and follow the call to holiness!
The idea is brought up that we have no need to struggle for holiness as this is something that has already been granted to us in Christ Jesus. And to this sentiment I give a whole hearted "AMEN!"

By the shed blood of the Lamb we have been cleansed from our sin, and our wickedness is no longer held in our account - our spiritual indebtedness to the Holy Judge of All Creation has been "paid in full" by the LORD Jesus who won our atonement on the cross! We as His body, the church, are now called a HOLY nation (1 PETER 2:9).
So there is no need then for the believer to acquire holiness? Yes there is, but that which effects a different part of our being; holiness in a positional sense covers our hearts (or spirit) and yet there is also a practical, or experiential holiness that we must obtain which stems from that positional holiness and is indeed an outgrowth from it, which deals with our minds.
This is why it's said in scripture "Let this mind be in you" and "be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind".
God loves us so much, he is not willing to leave us justified, but not sanctified.
Justification saves us from the penalty of sin, whereas sanctification saves us from the power of sin. See the difference?
And its in the deliverance from the power of sin that we as Christians experience victory and in abundant life, which our LORD so dearly longs to bless us with!
Positional holiness deals with that granted to every believer who is born of God's Spirit, but practical holiness has to do with the mind of the believer, and bringing into conformity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 COR 10:4-5).
The battle for the mind of the believer is a very real arena of spiritual warfare, for its those embedded thoughts in our minds that will eventually lead to action: unholy thoughts breed unholy actions; holy thoughts breed holy actions.
Contextually speaking the preceding verses certainly speak of spiritual warfare, and the imagination and every high thing that exalts itself above the knowledge of God could in fact be the carnal, rebellious thought(s) yet residing in a believer's life; such is in need of execution via the cross of Christ and our identification with Jesus in His death.
We no longer are to think as the world thinks, we are no longer to meditate on and hold dear such thinking that is inherently sinful and in accord to the spirit of disobedience (EPH 2:2-10)!
If the LORD was content only with a positional holiness in our lives, and expressed an absent from fruit of holiness in manner and practice, why then are there so many admonitions in scripture, indeed, even commands for the church to "be holy"?

The LORD Jesus Himself stated:
MATT 5:8,13-14,16
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
MATT 5:29-30
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
MATT 5:48
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
And Paul the Apostle further admonishes us -
ROM 12:1-2
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
2 COR 7:1
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
1 THESS 3:12-13
And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
1 THESS 4:7
For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
And here the Apostle Peter states:
1 PETER 1:15-16
But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Notice in all the above admonitions these godly apostles state their case that holiness is something to be acquired, something that should increase, and that we're called to this culture of holiness and that we should present ourselves for this express purpose, that we're to be transformed into this state of being, that is of Christ-likeness, and not merely that we possess holiness already (which of course we do, positionally).
Such lofty commands towards purity, and holiness can leave us quite discouraged, can't it? For we know what our hearts are like, and what we are capable of (to a certain degree), and this can lead to hopelessness.
However, let me encourage you in these thoughts:
In the book of Genesis the LORD commanded light to come out from darkness, and it was so. He only spoke a Word, and all of creation was established, in all of its glorious beauty.
The LORD God commands the heavenly host of angels, and they obey without the slightest of wavering.
The LORD Jesus commanded the storm to be still, and it complied.
He likewise ordered demons who were possessing people to come out, and they did so.
He spoke to the man with the withered hand, to "stretch forth your hand" and while it was physically impossible for that man to do so, out of obedience to the LORD, he asserted to move his arm, and it was restored!

The LORD Jesus gave His church a new commandment:

JOHN 13:34-35
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
A truly remarkable commandment when you think about it . . . His command was that we love one another as He has loved us! This powerful, unfaltering, unconditional love is something entirely alien to this world and its population of unregenerate humans.
That's why when the world sees us loving one another with that same depth of quality as the LORD Jesus love for us, they will KNOW that we are the disciples of Jesus Christ! For no other means to display this sort of agape love is possible other than through Jesus Christ!
Are we able to obey this commandment? Of course, but only by God's empowering Spirit, and when we increasingly die to ourselves and become more like Jesus we will find ourselves loving those who, humanly speaking, are impossible to love, such as our enemies, persecutors, and haters.
When God commands, He provides the means for that command to be followed by the enablement of His Spirit.
Thus endeavoring to be holy in Jesus Christ is not legalistic by any means, its simply being obedient to the command of God, a command He expects obedience to, since He has made for us every provision necessary for its fulfillment in our lives.
I looked up the word "affection" in Websters and came up with this:
And so I then looked up 'propensity' and found this:
"an often intense natural inclination or preference"
Scripture states the following regarding "affection" -
COL 3:2,5
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
What Christians are to have intense natural inclination and preferences for are "things above" not "things on the earth", and everything we do in the Spirit, everything we say in accord to the heart of God, all trials and experiences we have are things that the LORD guides us in and is preparing us for the future kingdom which HE will inaugurate! A kingdom of holy priests and children of the KING!
May the LORD Jesus richly bless and enrich our lives in Him as we endeavor to "walk even as He walked"!

brother James