Friday, September 30, 2016
(6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
(7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—
(8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
There is a love that is true love with no pretenses, no games, no conditions. We don't know love really, apart from God's love. Mostly human love is selfish...more a desire to be loved. But God's love not only comes to us when we are helpless to help ourselves, when we are lost sinners and unable to be reconciled to this great holy God, but He actually came Himself to make the way for us so that we can be free of sin and all that separates us from Him. He came Himself and paid the penalty for our sin.
Even so, this love continues to conquer every part of our being as we learn to live by faith in Him, and He indwells us. He is always at work, conquering every part of our hearts until we are completely surrendered to His will. His will is always at work in us. It is His love that does this. His love is a stronger power than any other power in Heaven or hell. Even while we go through severe testings, sufferings, and trials, we can be assured all has to go through His nail-scarred hands and all is for our ultimate good and freedom. I wrote this song as I was going through my own struggles in life and finding I needed to trust His hand in my life through all, and His love that would never fail.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Faith is the reality. Faith is the assurance of what God tells us to hope for. Faith is the conviction of what we don't yet see. Faith is an action inside of our inner being that must act always. What we truly believe in our hearts, is what we truly act on. We may say one thing and do another, only because we don't truly believe what we say. We will ultimately act on what we truly believe in our heart of hearts.
Vincent Word Studies on faith: " Faith apprehends as a real fact what is not revealed to the senses. It rests on that fact, acts upon it, and is upheld by it in the face of all that seems to contradict it. Faith is a real seeing."
Faith comes to the child of God through the Holy Spirit coming to abide in him, as he believes in the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, as revealed in God's Word, the Bible. That faith will be tested sorely through fiery trials in this life, and genuine faith will be purified and shown to be what it is in that fiery furnace, just as it did for Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego. What it may otherwise show to us, is that our faith was in the wrong place, and a genuine faith in the God of the Bible was never there. The book of Hebrews tested the Hebrew believer's heart, to see if they had this kind of faith, or were they rather holding on to the Jewish system and law rather than truly embracing the only true salvation through Jesus Christ. Did they truly "enter in?" (Hebrews 3:19-4:3). It's interesting to do a look at the list of faith actions listed in Hebrews 11, and see what faith - genuine faith in God - the confidence His Word is true and alive, the "assurance of things hoped for, and conviction of things not seen," produces in the lives of those who have it.
Look at all the action words of faith in the chapter and list them.
received, v. 12
offered, v. 4
even in death still speaks, v. 4
was taken up, v. 5
pleased God, v. 5
constructed an ark, v. 7
condemned the world, v. 7
became heir of righteousness, v. 7
obeyed, v. 8
went out, not knowing where, v. 8
went to live in a foreign land, in tents, v. 9
looked for a city designed and built by God, v. 10
received power to conceive though past age, v. 11
considered God faithful Who promised, v. 11
had descendants born to him even though "as good as dead," v. 12
died in faith having not received promises but only greeted them afar, v. 13
considered themselves strangers and pilgrims on earth, v. 13
seek a homeland that is not on this earth, v. 14
desire a better country, v. 16
when tested offered up his only son, v. 17
considered God able to even raise the dead, in order to keep His Word, v. 19
received his son back again, v. 19
invoked future blessings, v. 20
blessed each of his sons, v. 21
prophesied of the exodus of Israelites and gave directions for his bones, v. 22
Moses hidden by parents, v. 23
no fear of the king's edict, v. 23
refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter, v. 24
choosing mistreatment over pleasures of sin, v. 25
left Egypt, not afraid of the king, v. 27
endured as seeing Him Who is invisible, v. 27
kept the passover and sprinkled the blood, v. 28
crossed the Red Sea on dry land, v. 29
encircled the walls of Jericho and they fell down, v. 30
gave friendly welcome to Israel spies, and did not perish, v. 31
conquered kingdoms, v. 33
enforced justice, v. 33
obtained promises, v. 33
stopped mouths of lions, v. 33
quenched the power of fire, v. 34
became mighty in war, v. 34
put foreign armies to flight, v. 34
received back their dead, v. 35
refused release from torture, v. 35
suffered mocking and flogging, chains and imprisonment, v. 36
were stoned, sawn in two, and killed with the sword, v. 37
went about in sheep and goat skins, destitute, afflicted, mistreated, v. 37
wandering about in desserts, mountains, and dens, caves of the earth, v. 38
(39) And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,
(40) since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
How then, should we be, if we are born of this same Spirit, Who is a guarantee of an eternal inheritance, incorruptible, kept in Heaven for us. How should we walk, if indwelt, truly, by the Holy Spirit... the Spirit of the Holy God of the Bible? Is He truly living in your heart? Have you "entered into" that "rest of faith" in His work alone? No, not a set of beliefs about Him, but He Himself, indwelling you by the act of being born again. This chapter tells us there is evidence of that in our lives when put to the test. Faith always acts on what it truly believes. When one has the Spirit in them, living in them, counseling them, guiding them, leading them, then their actions will ultimately be in accordance with all He says to us in His Word, rejecting this world, and embracing His promises. "Whether we live or die we are the Lord's." (Philippians 1:20-22)
(1) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
(2) looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(3) Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
(4) In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
We don't "act on faith" trying to have faith in our faith, but faith acts in us and through us because it has to. It's true faith in our hearts produced by the Holy Spirit in us, convincing us of His Word, that it is true, that makes that Word as much or more of a reality to us than those things we see around us, that causes our actions to have to follow that conviction. It's because we know and are convinced. Not because we conjure up a faith in the power of our faith, as though we are gods and can make anything happen if we "believe" hard enough.
Those who are born again know. Those who aren't let themselves be convinced by another voice, another shepherd, not the true Shepherd. So eventually those who are of a different flock will reveal themselves.
(1) "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.
(2) But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
(3) To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
(4) When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
(5) A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers."
How do you know if you're following the true Shepherd? Only by listening to His voice... His Word. If you disagree with His Word, you disagree with Him. If you hate His Word, you hate Him. If you neglect or deny His Word, you neglect or deny Him. If you take a man's word over His, disregarding His, then you are following another shepherd, one who is "the hired hand, and not a shepherd," but who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.
(10) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
(11) I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
(12) He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
(13) He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
(14) I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
(15) just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
If we follow the true Shepherd of our souls, and have His Spirit abiding in us, we have an assurance from Him that produces faith through anything we have to go through in this world, knowing we have a better inheritance waiting for us. We know that nothing or no one can snatch us out of His hand or take Him away from us or separate us from His love.
(27) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
(28) I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
(29) My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
(35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
(36) As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
(37) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
(38) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
(39) nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Be careful who you listen to. Be careful where your faith is. The testing of it will prove it, not to God, as He knows all, but to our own hearts. If we fail the test, it causes us to look into His Word, to seek His face, to learn from Him, and to submit to Him. God will never fail us. If we ask Him for true faith, He will give it. It's not about whether or not we are strong enough, or how much we can endure. It's about His indwelling presence and His strength, endurance, and faithfulness, and the knowing and conviction of things He promises. True faith allows all the dross to be taken away, and willingly allows itself to be refined in the fire, because it must. It can do nothing else. It says, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:68-69)
May the Lord cheer our hearts and encourage us in the day of evil, with His Word of faith and hope and love. "For, 'yet a little while, and the coming One will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.' But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls." (Hebrews 10:37-39)