Discerning Faith

 

1st Corinthians Chapter 12 is so rich with practical wisdom for living. Individualism and teamwork. Pride and humility. Comparison, jealousy and envy; beauty, goodness, and joy. It is all there. The one that stands out the most to me is the idea of ownership as it applies to pride and humility. I wrote about this back in April (You are [not] awesome). Instead of considering that again, I would like to draw on yesterday’s post, Examine Thyself, which I believe can help us not only learn from today’s scripture, and any truth, but put the truth to use.

Yesterday we read of the gravity of our call to examine ourselves when we eat and drink the LORD’s Supper (1Corinthians 11:26-29). Consider with me today this thought and if you find it true, let us venture examine our hearts. Here is the thought: knowing the truth and believing the truth are different.

Too often, in my past, I have confused knowing the right answer in truth with having a heart that is right in truth. For example, when posed with the question “should you be prideful or humble?”, most Christians would spring to the right answer understanding the truth is “humility is profitable and pride is not.” However, if the truth is not truly believed is it then impotent? Put another way, How does knowing the right answer differ from living the right answer? If indeed there is a difference, If one were to know the right answer but not live it, what is missing? Could it be a true belief?

If belief is a matter of heart and we know that hearts are not so easily discerned (Jeremiah 17:9) and more that our hearts are deceptive to the point where they can even deceive us (Proverbs 21:2), how then can we discern our heart? How can we examine ourselves?

I was shown an exercise I’ll share it with you here. It is a simple question, that, if seriously considered, may help us discern our faith and test our hearts. It can be adjusted to suit most any situation where discernment of faith in the truth is needed. Here is the question:

What would I be doing right now if ___________?

The blank can equal a prayer answered, worry eradicated, or truth applied. The idea is to imagine a reality where the blank was already filled in, in truth, and measure your actions, choices, demeanor, and/or attitude prior to asking this question against what those things would be like if ______ were so.  

Stick with me here just a bit longer. Let us take in an example. One of the most fundamental in nature and possibly one of the most challenging to follow because it is so unusual to imagine not maintaining your own faculties. Let us attempt to discern our pride, a matter of ownership (1 corinthians 6:19-20). For this, the question then could be: What would I be doing right now if I did not own myself? If you were, say, on loan to yourself from Christ but for a season. Try applying this to a decision you might make in an upcoming meeting or what your first thought might be when you wake up in the morning.

One more example. Let us say there was a leper in a time when being a leper meant they were an outcast to society. In a place where, if for whatever reason they were healed, to rejoin society they would need to follow a protocol to let the proper authorities examine them and give them a clean bill of health that they could then carry back for admittance into the community.  Let us say this leper begged mercy from someone they believed to be able to heal them. The question then becomes: What would the leper be doing right now if they were healed? (Reference: Luke 17:11-19)

This exercise is all to help each of us arrive at the answer to one simple and basic question that at the same time is most critical to everything we think, say and do: do we really believe? (James 1:6-8, Hebrews 3:12) May we examine ourselves and keep our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). May we think on our ways and turn our feet to His testimonies (Psalms 119:59).

Extra Credit.

Examine yourself and test your heart with this question in two ways:

  1. construct the question with a supplication you are making to our LORD as if it were already answered.
  2. construct the question with a one of these basic truths you may be taking your heart’s position for granted on; God is perfect and holy, God demands holiness, Hell and Heaven are real, on our own we are hell-bound sinners incapable of holiness incapable of earning a right relationship with God, Jesus bought us and paid our way into Heaven and that right relationship with God, there is nothing we can do to repay Him, even our best performances are but filthy rags to Him, our greatest privilege is to serve Him.

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from September 7th, 2016’s reading: 2 Samuel 1; 1 Corinthians 12; Ezekiel 10; Psalm 49

 

Deliver Him to Satan?

When first read, 1Corinthians 5:5 can have a puzzling effect on the reader. At least it did for me. Still when I read this and other similar instructions it causes me to slow down and think deeper on what I’m reading. A command to hand someone inside the church over to Satan, to abandon them, seems like it could be at odds with love which never fails (1Corinthians 13:8). It gives a feeling that we are being told to give up on a person. A closer look shows that is not the case at all.

  1. Abandoning the person to their owns ways will give them the best chance at learning the right way (1Corinthians 5:5). Perhaps condoning sin may have the opposite effect. God’s law is everywhere, convicting iniquity and reinforcing truth. It is there to help us understand that we are sinners in need of saving (Romans 7:7).
  2. The more I study this I have come to believe it is a matter of humility. The prideful lie is that this person’s salvation rests on our shoulders. That God is relying on us and us alone. That we must save them. More, that if we were to somehow offend them, that we would be responsible for their lack of salvation. That removing them from the congregation would somehow be our choosing to condemn him. If this were to be believed think of the consequences. How the sinful behavior could corrupt the whole (1Corinthians 5:6-7). Instead I think the truth is to love them in peace and entrust them to God, exercising the perfect balance between love and justice. The scripture tells us to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). The conclusion here I believe is that Paul was not giving up on this person but rather that he was committing them to God’s sovereignty and trusting in God’s plan for showing people their need for Him.

God thank You for Your justice that makes everything right: Selah. Thank You for Your love, perfect with no conditions. Thank You for Your Grace and Your mercy LORD and for coming to save us. May we love others with the love of Christ that You have given us. May we be fishers of men. Amen.  

 

Originally published on BibleJournal.net form August 31st, 2016’s reading: 1 Samuel 24; 1 Corinthians 5; Ezekiel 3; Psalm 39

What’s My Job?

 

I have heard it said that the Church of Christ needs to be known not by what it approves or disapproves of, but by the grace and salvation of Jesus. Yet, the scripture cries out to us to put certain things off and certain things on. What is the Church to do?

It is my understanding that all the prophets came to indict the culture; that Jesus did the same thing, helping the Israelites see the error of their ways, helping the humble realize their need for a Savior; that the Spirit came to give perfect remembrance to Jesus’s followers of His words and so these convictions continue to help us see the error of our ways and grow in Him. It seems clear to me that God judges perfectly, but what is the difference between God and His church?

The ESV gives Romans chapter 14 the heading Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another. It speaks to matters of conviction in food and special observance of certain days. Some felt all days were equal and others felt some special. Some felt certain foods unclean. Others felt all food clean unto itself. What then should we do? Should we eat or not, observe or not? Paul’s conclusion: Yes, let us live by faith.

If you are convicted that a certain food is unclean, do not eat it (Romans 14:14, Romans 14:23). If not, eat it. Unless by eating you may cause grief to him who thinks it unclean, then do not eat, or else you may cause them to stumble (Romans 14:15). Give way to their conviction and keep your conviction to yourself (Romans 14:22). Do not judge (Romans 14:13). Do not let food get in the way of the work of God (Romans 14:20). We are not fit to judge and for those who have struggled with feeling they need to come to the rescue of their neighbor by helping them remove the speck from their eye, Paul gives us the assurance that our LORD is their Savior, He will help them stand on that day (Romans 14:4).  

If my job is not to judge or to save, what is it? Am I doing my job in the church?

Extra credit.

  • Love has been written about many times on this blog. If you missed it, check out David LaFrance’s post Law of Love from yesterday.
  • When on a team not everyone does everything. Members have roles, different jobs. To understand the role of the Holy Spirit and how you can work with Him in your role I highly encourage you to listen to The Holy Spirit: God’s Prosecutor by John MacArthur. It starts this way…
  • This is a portion of Scripture that every preacher must understand: every preacher must understand, every pastor must understand, every parishioner, every Christian must understand. The text before us foundational to our mission. It is foundational to our cause in the world. It is the foundation of all gospel preaching and all gospel witness… Like many passages, however, in the Bible, it has a ring of familiarity to us, and people somehow think they know what it means, and they don’t really dig down to see the truth that is here. I want to be able to help you to understand it, perhaps, in a way you’ve never understood it before, and the way that it has to be understood in the context and the intention of our Lord. I think I’m safe in saying that most preachers don’t really get a grasp on this, as most Christians do not, and that is a crippling reality.

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from August 24th, 2016’s reading: 1 Samuel 16; Romans 14; Lamentations 1; Psalm 32

 

According to Your Faith

And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. – Matthew 9:27–30

Reading about this miracle lead me into a study on all the miracles Jesus performed. Many questions came forth in the study. All throughout the gospel scriptures we read about the critical element of faith in those seeking Jesus restoration (Matthew 8:10, Matthew 9:2, Matthew 9:22, Matthew 15:28, Matthew 17:17-20, Mark 6:5-6, Luke 18:42, Mark 10:52, John 40:50-51, John 11:22-27). Another version of faith in my estimation is humility, in which faith in God’s word is required, specifically that He is God and we are not. Humbling ourselves and aligning ourselves underneath our LORD and Master in truth (Mark 1:40-41, Luke 7:13-14, Matthew 9:18, Mark 7:32, Mark 8:22, Matthew 15:22, Matthew 20:30, Luke 17:13).  Why did God choose faith as the key to unlock His mercy?

Why does Jesus tell those he healed not to talk about it (Mark 7:36, Mark 8:26, Matthew 9:30)? Why did Jesus withdraw from crowds to perform miracles (Mark 7:33, Mark 8:23)? When performing miracles, why did Jesus command the evil spirits not to reveal who He was (Mark 1:25, Mark 1:34, Mark 3:11-12, Luke 4:35, Luke 4:41)? Why did Jesus tell the disciples not to tell people who He was (Mark 8:29-30)? Could it be that Jesus knew that His kingdom would require a stronger faith that did not include a ‘seeing is believing’ level of faith (John 2:22-24, John 4:48, Matthew 18:1-4, John 20:29, 1Corinthians 1:22, John 9:4)? I’m not sure I can answer all these questions, but I know Who has all the answers.

What is faith? 

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

Why faith?

That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:7-10

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. – Hebrews 11:16

Extra Credit. For a more complete answer read all of Hebrews chapter 11 and Ephesians chapter 2. You will not regret it.

 

Originally published on BibleJournal.net

From June 29th, 2016’s reading: Joshua 1; Psalms 120–122; Isaiah 61; Matthew 9

 

Deadly Thoughts

In today’s reading Paul wrestles with his sin.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. – Romans 7:14-15

Sin starts on the inside

When Jesus came he blew the lid off of religious pretense. The word became flesh (John 1:14), the word was truth and the truth could separate peoples’ thoughts and hearts from what is seen on the outside (Hebrews 4:12). Jesus knew what was happening on the inside and He called people on it. And the people were amazed! He did not raise the standard, He helped people understand that their religious leaders were blind to it. The Sermon on the Mount is not about virtuous living, it is about the truth and salvation. It is a true look at salvation. Jesus helps us understand how important the state of our thoughts and our hearts are when it comes to building the house of our life on a foundation of solid rock.

Thoughts, sin, death

Some call the book of James a commentary of the Sermon on the Mount. In James 1:14-15, we are taught the origin point of death. We are taught that death begins with thoughts, specifically lustful thoughts; desiring things of this world; wanting things for ourselves. When one lets their mind fix on getting things of this world, their heart follows after. The lust then graduates to sin as their life turns and shapes to take hold and position itself to claim what it desires (James 1:14). Sin, then fully mature, becomes death as it realizes itself (James 1:15). 

Battleground

Our thoughts are a spiritual battleground (Romans 12:2, 2Corinthians 10:3-5), on a realm of great importance (Proverbs 4:23). Thoughts mature into beliefs and beliefs shape our heart. The heart pursues itself with words(Luke 6:45) that then shape our lives (James 3:2-6). We must be aware of our thoughts and fight for the state of our hearts! Our hearts and our lives must belong to the LORD in truth. 

Foundation on the rock

As Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, wise people will build the house of their life on the truth. The truth is our weapon against deadly thoughts (John 8:32, Ephesians 6:17). As we sharpen our swords consider with me the truth in Psalms 23:1:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

I have come to believe that this is not a verse about getting things. Instead, I believe this is a verse about giving our heart and thoughts to the LORD. Not a verse about us getting everything we want if we submit to the LORD as our Shepherd. Instead, a truth about not wanting anything because we trust in the LORD to provide us with everything. The rest of the chapter 23 goes on to help us understand what that state of perfect trust will look like in our lives.

So if sin and death have their beginnings in the desires of our heart and mind (James 1:14-15), and we know that trusting in the Shepherd will guard us from wanting improper things (Psalm 23:1), the question then becomes; what do you want? If someone asked you “if you could have anything, what would it be?”… What would it be? Would it be something to be realized in this world or in heaven? What are we trusting in, the promises of this world or God’s promises

God may we all trust in You with everything and not want anything this world promises. May our trust be wholly in Your promises. Amen.

Extra Credit.

  • Close your eyes and repeat Psalm 23:1 to yourself three times in a row:
    • The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    • First, I want to congratulate you on being able to read with your eyes closed. #Props
    • Now imagine how peaceful your life would be if you did not want. What would there be to stress about? 
  • I listened to this sermon from John MacArthur to prepare for this post. I highly recommend it: Sanctification and Sins of the Mind.

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from August 17th, 2016’s reading: 1 Samuel 9; Romans 7; Jeremiah 46; Psalm 22

 

What’s up with Your Communication?

Looking for some answers on what perfect communication is? God has them. Let’s check them out. God would you help us understand how to communicate the way You intended when You created us?

I am reminded of the power of our words as I read Psalm 12:1-3 this morning. In James 3:5-6 we learn that the tongue is a small thing but how it can change the whole course of our lives. James helps us understand how our tongue can produce great evil (James 3:8-10). But there is more to controlling our tongues than simply not slandering or cursing others.

Jesus tells us we will give account for every idle word we speak (Matthew 12:36–37). He uses term idle to describe useless words. Words are powerful things, but words of these sort seem to be impotent and unprofitable. Indeed our words are powerful, King Solomon reminds us of this also in Proverbs 18:21.

The ability to speak is a gift from God, it makes us distinctly human and some point to Genesis 2:7 when God breathed the breath of life into man that with it came the ability to speak. If this is so, the question becomes how are we stewarding this gift from God? In Ephesians 4:29 we are given clear instruction on the objective of our words. We are told to avoid corrupt communication and that our words are to minister grace unto others.

As we allow the Word to test us and correct us let us consider for a moment on what to put off and what to put on.

Put off corrupt communication. First it says communication not simply talking but listening as well. With that said let us consider most dirty jokes and humor. If heard it will likely contain one of three elements. Two of them are things that humans make private but animals do not; sex and bathroom activities. The third is taking God’s Holy Name in vain. This genre of humor seems to fly in the face of God’s intended purpose for his gift of speech. Are we partaking, viewing, listening, joining in and laughing, exposing, or even sharing this type of ‘humor’? In the past I have found it difficult to avoid. It has seemingly poisoned most TV as heard in the infamous marketing  slogan “sex sells”. In the past, when I have avoided it, it was quite rewarding. Like all things trading in something that is empty and perverted for something that is full of truth fills us up and edifies.

Put on edifying communication. Again begin by considering what we are exposing ourselves to. God willing His Word is the primary stimuli in our lives and the lives of those we shepherd. God please help us. Then consider what we are communicating into this world. Our speech yes but also our non verbal communication; dress, accessories, demeanor, etc. Does it edify and build up? Is it productive and other focused? Is it from God? God willing, He is the primary thing we bring into this world.

God may You guard the gate of our mouths (Psalm 141:3). May You strengthen us with Your Spirit and bring to us the perfect remembrance of all things the LORD Jesus Christ has spoken (John 14:26) that we may edify the world and minister grace to it (Isaiah 55:11). May we love others with the love of Christ. May we walk in the everlasting ways (Psalm 1:1-3). Amen.

Originally published on BibleJournal.net form August 10th, 2016’s reading: Ruth 3–4; Acts 28; Jeremiah 38; Psalms 11–12

 

The Will of the LORD Be Done

 

In Acts 21 Paul ends up in Caesarea staying with Philip, the evangelist (Acts 21:8). While Paul was there a prophet from Judea came and prophesied that the Jews of Jerusalem would bind Paul and hand him over to the gentiles (Acts 21:11). Because of this Luke and those with Paul began to entreated him not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:12).

Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. – Acts 21:13

After they realized Paul would not listen to them, they submitted:

And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. – Acts 21:14

Reflecting on today’s reading from Acts has me asking myself these challenging questions:

  1. Do I desire God’s will or my own? Is my will wrapped up in this world?
  2. Am choosing God’s kingdom over one a kingdom of my own in this world with the things I am thinking, saying and doing? Am I today? Will I tomorrow? Who can hold me accountable in this? Have I asked them to? Do I really want them to?
  3. Am I able to discern my LORDs will from my friends advice? How can I hear God’s voice? Am I listening for it? Do I desire to hear Him separate from my desires of this world?

What other questions might we consider in applying today’s reading the things we think, say and do?

 

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from August 3rd, 2016’s reading: Judges 17; Acts 21; Jeremiah 30–31; Mark 16