“Love’s Demonstration” – Deuteronomy 2:20-25

February 19th, 2017

Deuteronomy 2:20-25

“Love’s Demonstration”

Aux Texts: Romans 1:18-23; John 20:24-31

Call to Worship: Psalm 19

 

Service Orientation: God wants us to trust Him.  But, he does not ask us to take a leap of faith.  He gives us all the knowledge and proof we need to trust Him with all our hearts.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. —  Romans 10:17

                                                                                                                                           

Background Information:

  • These bits of historical information remind us that Canaan wasn’t a vacant lot. This busy corner of the world had been fought over for centuries before Israel arrived.  Various nations possessed it and dispossessed one another.  If Israel had no purpose other than occupying the land for her own advantage, she would have been no different from other nations that emerged in history for a time before disappearing forever.  God, who sets the clouds on their courses and whom winds and waves obey, had a decidedly different mission for Israel in the land.  At Sinai he told their fathers, “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:5, 6).  God wished to use Israel as a magnet to attract the surrounding peoples to himself.  The Lord gave Israel the true function of a priestly nation–to serve as his go-between to the rest of his world.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 35)
  • (v. 20) the Rephaim. A people reputedly of giant stature, who once populated the Transjordan territory of Sihon and Og, also territory west of the Jordan (Josh 17:15).  The Valley of Rephaim in the vicinity of Jerusalem (Josh 15:8; 18:16) appears to have been named for these aboriginal giants.  In Dt 3:13b the Rephaim are associated with the whole of Bashan.  They also occupied land of the Moabites, who called them Emim (2:10-11).  The Rephaim were said to be as tall as the Anakim, with Og of Bashan being the last living remnant (3:11; Josh 13:12).  His huge bed (9 cubits by 4 cubits = 13.5 ft by 6 ft) was still on display in Rabbath-Ammon.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 201)
  • (V. 23) The Caphtorites, Capthor being an old name for Crete, are better known in the Bible as the Philistines. They appear in a context similar to this in Amos 9:7, where the prophet shows that Yahweh has been sovereign in the lives of nations other than Israel.  The placement of the present note here is striking because their land was on the sea coast of Canaan, as is clear from the mention of Gaza here, an area given to Israel according to Dt 1:7.  It is presumably significant, therefore, that their expulsion of predecessors is told as a bare fact, in contrast with the theological elaboration in the previous two verses regarding Ammon and Edom.  In the Deuteronomic vision, the “Caphtorites” will have to yield in time to Israel.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 86)
  • (V. 23) While scholars debate how the Philistines might have traveled to Palestine, their original goal seems to have been to settle in Egypt. However, Rameses III defeated them in about 1190 BC and settled the vanquished forces in the coastal towns of southern Canaan.  In the mid-twelfth century, the Philistines drove out their Egyptian overlords, forming the Philistine Pentapolis, a federation of five major city-states: Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza.  In the providence of God, the Philistines arrived in Palestine (which is named after them) from the west, at the same time as the Israelites were moving in from the east and trying to establish their authority over the land.  Conflict was inevitable.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 85)
  • (V. 24) The Arnon Gorge, identified as Wadi el-Mujib today, is a perennial stream that opens into the east side of the Dead Sea almost opposite Ein-Gedi. It is about thirty miles long, with breathtaking canyon views.  It served once as a heavily fortified border area of Ammon (Ammonites) and of Moab (Dt 3:12, 16; Jdg 11:18-19).  It functioned as the southern border of the tribe of Reuben.  It is mentioned in the Mesha Stone (Moabite Stone) dating from about 830 BC.  Mesha (ca. 849 BC), mentioned in 2 Kgs 3:4, claims to have retaken Moabite territory formerly conquered by Israel, including the Arnon Gorge, and claims that he made a road for travel in the Arnon.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 436)

 

The question to be answered is . . . How does God expect the Israelites to trust Him to go into a land with giants and huge walled cities when they have already chickened out once before?

 

Answer:  God is asking them to consider the data, the proof, the evidence of recent events that all demonstrate that God can do what He has promised to do.

 

Time + integrity = trust

 

Historically, real saving faith has consisted of three elements:  knowledge, ascension to that knowledge and conviction to act upon what you know.

 

What then is faith?  Faith really means believing in God, believing all that He tells us about Himself, all that He tells us about what He has done for us, all that He tells us about what He is going to do, and trusting ourselves utterly and absolutely to that.  What is faith?  Faith means reasoning and arguing on the basis of revelation.  Faith means, not that I try to reason myself to God, but that, believing the revelation given by God, I reason from it.  Faith means drawing out the inevitable deductions from what God has said.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 163)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Proof

 

What demonstration does the God of love give Israel to trust Him?:

I-  Nothing can stop God from keeping His promises(Dt 2:20-22, 24-25; see also: Gn 6:1-4; Ex chps 12 & 14; Josh 23:10; 1 Chr 29:11-12; Ps 24:1; 115:3; Isa 38:7; 40:22-23; Jer 27:1-7; Amos 9:7; Mt 19:26; Mk 10:27; Lk 1:37; 18:27; Acts 7:5; 17:24-26; Rom 4:13-21; Heb 6:12, 18; 10:23; ch 11)

 

As Charles Wesley says:  “Faith, precious faith, the promise sees, and looks to that alone; laughs at impossibilities, and cries, it shall be done!”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 164)

 

The application to Israel’s heart seems clear.  What God had already done for the Moabites and the Ammonites, he could and would do for Israel.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 29)

 

The explanatory notes (vv. 10-12) leave the impression that no enemy is invincible.  If the Moabites could drive out the people of Emim who were “great and numerous and tall” and if Esau’s descendants could expel the Horites, then surely God could give Canaan to Israel, regardless of the opposition.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 59)

 

You can’t break God’s promises by leaning on them!

 

“A faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted.” —David Clardie

 

It is heartening to learn how many of God’s mighty deeds were done in secret, away from the prying eyes of men or angels.  When God created the heavens and the earth, darkness was upon the face of the deep.  When the Eternal Son became flesh, He was carried for a time in the darkness of the sweet virgin’s womb.  When He died for the life of the world, it was in the darkness, seen by no one at the last.  When He arose from the dead, it was “very early in the morning.”  No one saw Him rise.  It is as if God were saying, “What I am is all that need matter to you, for there lie your hope and your peace.  I will do what I will do, and it will all come to light at last, but how I do it is My secret.  Trust Me, and be not afraid.” (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 63-4)

 

II-  God builds real saving faith through convincing knowledge about Himself which leads to repentance.  (Dt 2:21-22, 24-25; see also Rom 10:17; Eph 4:12-13; Col 2:6-7; 1 Tm 4:6; 2 Tm 2:18; Ti 1:1-2; Heb ch 11; 1 Jn 5:13)

 

It is evident that the Lord through Moses was establishing belief in his control over the fluctuation of Canaanite national groups of the past in order to inspire Israel for the conquest ahead of them and to faith in his promises.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 33)

 

True faith rests upon the character of God and asks no further proof than the moral perfections of the One who cannot lie.  It is enough that God said it, and if the statement should contradict every one of the five senses and all the conclusions of logic as well, still the believer continues to believe.  “Let God be true, but every man a liar,” is the language of true faith.  Heaven approves such faith because it rises above mere proofs and rests in the bosom of God.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 31-2)

 

“Because of our almost incorrigible identification of faith with right belief, we fail to sufficiently realize that true faith must be bound up with true repentance.”  (H. L. Ellison, Expositors Vol. 7, 384)

 

The Bible recognizes no faith that does not lead to obedience, nor does it recognize any obedience that does not spring from faith. The two are opposite sides of the same coin. — A.W. Tozer.

 

Likewise, it is impossible to believe truly without repenting.  The difference between true faith and what the Scripture calls false faith is simple: it is the lack of repentance.

 

After all, there is no question that it was the Lord Jesus Christ himself who said, “repent and believe in the gospel.”  Some immediately react by supposing that this contradicts the “only believe” of the Christian message.  Does “repent and believe the gospel” imply that the sinner must do two things to be saved, and not one only?  The exhortation is really only one requirement.  The instruction, “Leave London and go to Los Angeles” sounds like a two-fold request, but it really is only one:  it is impossible to go to Los Angeles without leaving London.

Likewise, it is impossible to believe truly without repenting.  The difference between true faith and what the Scripture calls false faith is simple:  it is the lack of repentance.  Without a doubt, many who seek to win sinners to the Savior without specifying repentance in their presentation nevertheless hope that true repentance, a mighty change of mind, heart, and life, will ensue, and rejoice when it happens.  But their disappointment when it does not happen should compel them to reword their message so that there can be no misunderstanding whatever.  —J. Edwin Orr  (Ed Kenneth Kantzer; Christianity Today: January 1, 1982, Vol XXVI, No. 1, 27)

 

Disobedience and assurance do not sleep in the same bed.  —Alister Begg

 

Faith consists in the knowledge of God and of Christ, not in reverence for the Church. — John Calvin

 

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

For a time the opponents of God’s truth may seem to be very powerful while we seem to be very weak.  We may go through what temporarily looks like defeat.  The early Christians may often have felt like a defeated bunch of people when they were being hounded and martyred by the Roman authorities.  But even their martyrdom became an occasion for witness.  People saw that Christianity was so powerful that it gave Christians the strength to suffer joyfully.  They realized Christianity had an answer to something that they were afraid of:  suffering.  And within three centuries Rome had bowed its knee to Christ.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 96)

 

Faith, as we have seen, is a holy, indwelling principle; it has its root in the renewed, sanctified heart; and its growth and fruitfulness depend much upon the progressive richness of the soil in which it is embedded: if the noxious weeds of the natural soil are allowed to grow and occupy the heart, and gain the ascendancy, this celestial plant will necessarily droop and decay.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 79)

 

Those early, magnificent victories were meant to lead the people of Canaan to surrender to Israel, rather than resist.  Additionally, they were meant to win Canaan’s inhabitants to believe in Israel’s God, as they persuaded Rahab and her family.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 36)

 

One is “saved” if one is now counted by God among those who will be admitted into His presence at death or some point thereafter.  This usage of “salvation” and “saved” deprives the terminology of the general sense of deliverance that it bears in the Bible as a whole.  That loss is the result not only of the age-old obsession with forgiveness of sins and control over forgiveness as the only things that really matter, but also of the success of evangelicals in stressing, in recent centuries, the fundamental importance of forgiveness.

If now, one adds that forgiveness is strictly a matter of what one (professes to) believe, we have the recipe for the consumerist Christianity-without-discipleship that we have inherited at the present moment.

If, however–and by no means denying the essential importance of correct belief and the forgiveness of sins–we understand “saving faith” to be confidence in Jesus Christ, the whole person, and not just in some part of what he did or said, we have the understanding of a salvation that delivers the disciple, the whole person, into a full life in the Kingdom of God.  That includes progressive inner transformation of the believer, not as a condition of entry into heaven–salvation, in the common sense–but as a natural part of a whole that also includes new life, constant spiritual growth, and entry into heaven as a natural outcome rather than as the central focus.  This deliverance will indeed “Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure.”

Such deliverance is grace in every aspect.  It is the gift of life in constant, interactive relationship with a living Lord, Savior, and Teacher.  “And this is eternal life,” Jesus himself said, “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3).  “Knowledge” in the biblical understanding is interactive relationship.  It is the redeeming relationship of disciple to master, in which unmerited favor is received from the earliest stages of repentance and forgiveness to the most advanced gifts of vision, character, service, and power (Acts 6:8).  Spiritual formation is simply the process through which we “grow in the grace [certainly not in forgiveness!] and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pt 3:18). (Dallas Willard; The Great Omission, 110-1)

 

III-  God encourages us to live our lives on the basis of the evidence, not our feelings.  (Dt 2:24; 2 Cor 5:7; Gal 2:14; Phil 1:27-28; Heb ch 11; Jam 2:5-26)

 

Feelings are great liars.  If Christians only worshiped when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship that went on.  Feelings are important in many areas, but completely unreliable in matters of faith.  Paul Scherer is laconic:  “The Bible wastes very little time on the way we feel.”  (Eugene H. Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 50)

 

 

In essence, by alluding to Deuteronomy Jesus was saying, “I will not complain.  Neither will I take matters into my own hands.  My Father has not willed to immediately provide bread.  But I will trust him and his word.”  In doing this Jesus demonstrated that no need would ever drive him to draw back from his humble human existence as a real man who lives by trusting God’s Word.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. 1, 133)

 

The answer is that our deeds will be the public evidence brought forth in Christ’s courtroom to demonstrate that our faith is real.  And our deeds will be the public evidence brought forth to demonstrate the varying measures of our obedience of faith.  In other words, salvation is by grace through faith, and rewards are by grace through faith, but the evidence of invisible faith in the judgment hall of Christ will be a transformed life.  Our deeds are not the basis of our salvation, they are the evidence of our salvation.  They are not foundation, they are demonstration.  All our salvation will be by grace through faith–demonstrated by what this book calls “living by faith in future grace.”  (John Piper, Future Grace, 364)

 

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism.  It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. —Vaclav Havel, President of Czech Republic

 

Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God.  Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love.  There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace.  (Oswald Chambers; Run Today’s Race).

 

It is characteristic of Deuteronomy and the Hebrew scriptures generally to affirm with equal strength the divine will and purpose and the human responsible choice.  History is the mysterious combination of both, neither operating independently of the other.  Other examples of the same dual responsibility for a course of events include the stories of Joseph (Gn 50:20), the division of the kingdoms after Solomon (1 Kgs 11:29-12:24), and the death of Ahab (1 Kgs 22:1-38).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 38)

 

Since Sihon was a king of an Amorite people, this battle really represents Israel’s first victory over the peoples of the land God had promised. It is thus described in language characteristic of the later accounts of the conquest.  There is the same unselfconscious linking together of divine will and human actions:  I have begun to deliver. . . [you] begin to conquer (v. 31); the LORD our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down (v. 33); we took all his towns (v. 34). . . The LORD our God gave us all of them (v. 36).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 39)

 

There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.  — Freya Madeline Start

 

The victory is won in God’s eyes, but the people have to obey in order to practically take hold of it.  So God tells them, “Begin to take possession, and contend with him [King Sihon] in battle” (2:24c).  The words, “Begin to take possession” show that they are beginning the process of taking possession of the promised land.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 94)

 

God did miraculous things for them, like parting the Jordan River and destroying the walls of Jericho.  But they, too, had to work hard.  They must “contend with [Sihon] in battle.”  It is the same with the victories that God will give us.  God has prepared the victory, but he has made humans with the capacity for hard work.  It is as we work hard that we reach our fullest potential as human beings.  So he chooses our hard work as a means by which he will grant us the victory he has already won.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 94-5)

 

I think the trouble with me is lack of faith.  I have no rational ground for going back on the arguments that convinced me of God’s existence:  but the irrational deadweight of my old skeptical habits, and the spirit of this age, and the cares of the day, steal away all my lively feeling of the truth, and often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address.  Mind you I don’t think so—the whole of my reasonable mind is convinced:  but I often feel so.  However, there is nothing to do but to peg away.  One falls so often that it hardly seems worth while picking oneself up and going through the farce of starting over again as if you could ever hope to walk.  Still, this seeming absurdity is the only sensible thing I do, so I must continue it.  (The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, 398-9)

 

Important lessons are given by this alternation of the two ideas of faith and unbelief, obedience and disobedience.  Disobedience is the root of unbelief.  Unbelief is the mother of further disobedience.  Faith is voluntary submission within a person’s own power.  If faith is not exercised, the true cause lies deeper than all intellectual reasons.  It lies in the moral aversion of human will and in the pride of independence, which says, “who is Lord over us?  Why should we have to depend on Jesus Christ?”  As faith is obedience and submission, so faith breeds obedience, but unbelief leads on to higher-handed rebellion.  With dreadful reciprocity of influence, the less one trusts, the more he disobeys; the more he disobeys, the less he trusts.  — Alexander Maclaren.

 

When a child learns to run, he begins to learn before he can really do it, and he learns in the midst of his effort.  When a man wishes to learn how to swim, he goes into the water while he cannot yet swim, because he knows that once he begins he will learn to do it in time.  This law of nature has an even more glorious application in grace.  God gives us commands for which we previously have no power, yet He requires obedience to them.  He has every right to do so.  He has told us that when we submit and set ourselves toward obedience, strength will be given when we begin.  This is the spirit in which we are to believe.  (Andrew Murray; How to Strengthen Your Faith, 26)

 

“What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day.  For each of us the time is coming when we shall have nothing but God.  Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will be swept away, and we shall have only God.  To the man of pseudo faith that is a terrifying thought, but to real faith it is one of the most comforting thoughts the heart can entertain.”   — A. W. Tozer

 

Jim Wallis of Sojourners defines hope as “trusting God in spite of all the evidence, then watching the evidence change.”  This is also a good working definition of faith (trust in God) and of faithfulness (obedience to God in spite of all cost).  “No lack of trust made him waver,” says Paul, holding up Abraham as the model of the one who trusts God, “but he grew powerful in his faith as he gave glory to God” (4:20).  (A. Katherine Grieb, The Story of Romans, 53)

 

The difference between the man who trusts in God and the man who trusts in himself is not in the circumstances, but in his response.  (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 282)

 

There is much truth in the old maxim of the Puritans:  “Faith of adherence comes by hearing, but faith of assurance comes not without doing.” (J. C. Ryle; Holiness, 115)

 

There are a whole lot of people who are trusting in science to give them the answers they need to life’s questions.  I learned a long time ago science (as a group of individuals) cannot always be trusted.  They have agendas and will only promote what they want promoted.  Many will only advance in their press releases what they know will benefit their own agenda.  The real facts, the truth is often buried in a mire of data and is never really revealed.  If you think I am wrong then just take any professional periodical that deals in the sciences and look at 1-2 months worth of issues from 10 – 15 years ago and look at what they are promoting and then look at a current issue addressing the same issue and notice the difference in agenda, the difference in facts, and the (many times) completely opposite approach to a similar subject.  — Pastor Keith

 

If you are hoping and trusting in the Lord, and suddenly your health, wealth or future are taken from you and your hope is gone.  Then, you need to confess that it was not the Lord you were hoping in.  It was what you have just lost.  Hope in the Lord NEVER disappoints.  — Possibly a Tim Keller quote

 

The conquest was certain; it was only for Israel to accomplish it.  They were to cross the Arnon into Amorite territory and confidently engage Sihon’s army in battle.  God would put the fear of Israel into all the nations in the area.  “All the nations under heaven” (v. 25) is an idiomatic hyperbole signifying all the nations in the vicinity; that is, at least from horizon to horizon (under heaven).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 32)

 

Yahweh’s command to the Israelites consists of six imperatives (the first is not represented in the NIV): “Arise!  Set out!  Cross the Wadi Arnon!  Begin!  Take possession!  Engage him in battle!”  This charge is accompanied by two significant promises:  Yahweh had already given Sihon into the Israelites’ hands, and from this day on, he would send shockwaves throughout the earth, causing people to tremble in fright when they heard of Israel’s triumphs.  Remarkably the statement highlights Israel’s actions and places Yahweh in the background.  The peoples throughout the world (lit. “the peoples under the whole heaven”) would tremble and writhe (in anguish) before them when they heard reports of them because they were in dread of them and in awe of them.  Rahab’s testimony in Josh 2:9-11 and the narrator’s comment in Nm 22:3 indicate that this actually happened among the Canaanites and Moabites.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 90)

 

(C. S. Lewis, grieving the death of his wife:)   “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.  It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box.   But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice.  Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?   Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.” (C. S. Lewis; A Grief Observed, 25)

 

No literature is more realistic and honest in facing the harsh facts of life than the Bible.  At no time is there the faintest suggestion that the life of faith exempts us from difficulties.  What it promises is preservation from all the evil in them. (Eugene H. Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction discipleship in an Instant Society, 38)

 

For Sihon, stubbornness became the axe that would cut him down to size.  Indeed, God announced to Moses that he had begun to deliver Sihon and his country over to Israel.  As a result, the Israelite army should begin to conquer and possess his land.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 31)

 

God is sovereign, but we are also responsible.  The Scriptures place these two ideas side by side, without apology and without much explanation.  In fact, we see this principle throughout the Bible.  Here are a few examples.  You undoubtedly could add others:

 

  • “In his heart a man plans his course [our responsibility], but the LORD determines his steps [God’s sovereignty]” (Prv 16:9)
  • “The horse is made ready for the day of battle [our responsibility], but victory rests with the LORD [God’s sovereignty]” (Prv 21:31)
  • “Unless the LORD builds the house [God’s sovereignty], its builders labor [our responsibility] in vain” (Ps 127:1)
  • David wrote, “I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies (Ps 44:6). David didn’t trust in his bow, but in God.  But neither did he throw his bow away.  He used it with all the skill he could muster.
  • Paul wrote, “To this end I labor [our responsibility], struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me [God’s sovereignty]” (Col 1:29)
  • Paul wrote, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it [our responsibility], but God made it grow [God’s sovereignty]” 1 Cor 3:6. (Patrick Morely; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 96-7)

 

T.H. Huxley, a well-known agnostic, was with a group of men at a weekend house party.  On Sunday morning, while most of them were preparing to go to church, he approached a man known for his Christian character and said, “Suppose you stay at home and tell my why you are a Christian.”  The man, knowing he couldn’t match wits with Huxley, hesitated.  But the agnostic said gently, “I don’t want to argue with you.  I just want you to tell me simply what this Christ means to you.”  The man did, and when he finished, there were tears in Huxley’s eyes as he said, “I would give my right hand if only I could believe that!”   (Our Daily Bread, January 24, 1993)

 

Worship Point:  The more we know about God the more we should trust Him.  The more we know about God the more we should worship Him.  (Lk 1:4; Jn 19:31-37; 20:30-31; Rom 10:17; 1 Jn 5:13)

 

Lack of faith is not a failure of logic.  It’s a failure of imagination.  Lack of faith is the inability or unwillingness to entertain thoughts of a God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.  Thank God for logic.  Without it, nothing would make sense.  So it’s not that imagination is more important than logic.  It’s just more neglected.  A loss of curiosity has led to a loss of creativity.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 112)

 

Many Spirit-filled authors have exhausted the thesaurus in order to describe God with the glory He deserves.  His perfect holiness, by definition, assures us that our words can’t contain Him.  Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 31)

 

Faith is not knowledge of what the mystery of the universe is, but the conviction that there is a mystery, and that it is greater than us. (Rabbi David Wolpe, Making Loss Matter)

 

In Christian worship we are not merely asked to believe in Jesus Christ, but to live, die, and be resurrected again with him.  Life is not an intellectual construct, but a journey of death and rebirth.  When our life story is brought up into the story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, it then gains meaning and purpose. (Robert E. Webber; Worship is a Verb, 25)

 

Gospel Application: Jesus must be the object of our faith because we cannot know anything about God unless Jesus helps us.  (Jn 6:44; Eph 2:8-9; 6:23; Phil 2:12-12; 2 Tm 1:8-9; Heb 12:1-2)

 

No man can find God.  He is not discoverable. A special work of the Spirit known as “pre-salvation illumination,” is necessary before any man encounters God.  The blinding power of Satan is such that no man can even consider the truth of God without outside help (2 Cor 4:4).  Jesus said no man could come to Him apart from God’s drawing power (Jn 6:44).  Thus the Galatians would never have found God had He not first found them.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Galatians, 50)

 

The great Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, used to say that the right way to translate the text, ‘Have faith in God’ (Mk 11:22) is this:  ‘Trust the faithfulness of God.’  This translation does not put the emphasis on your faith and say that you have to hold on desperately to God.  (The All-Sufficient God: Sermons on Isaiah 40 by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 71-2)

 

True faith brings a spiritual and moral transformation and an inward witness that cannot be mistaken. These come when we stop believing in belief and start believing in the Lord Jesus Christ indeed.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 61)

 

Our beliefs and feelings cannot be changed by choice.  We cannot just choose to have different beliefs and feelings.  But we do have some liberty to take in different ideas and information and to think about things in different ways.  We can choose to take in the Word of God, and when we do that, beliefs and feelings will be steadily pulled in a godly direction.

One of the worst mistakes that can be made in practical ministry is to think that people can choose to believe and feel differently.  Following that, we will mistakenly try to generate faith by going through the will–possibly trying to move the will by playing on emotion.  Rather, the will must be moved by insight into truth and reality.  Such insight will evoke emotion appropriate to a new set of the will.  That is the order of real inward change.  (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 248)

                                       

It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self:  to Jesus:  but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.  He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”  All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.  But, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self:  he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”  Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.  We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.”  Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him.  Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you.  —Charles. H. Spurgeon

 

I believe that in Christ Jesus my sins have been fully and freely forgiven, and I am a new creation.  I have died with Christ to my old identity in Adam.  I have been raised with Christ to a new life.  I am seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  God has given to me the full righteousness of Jesus Christ.  I am joined with angels, archangels, and all the saints in heaven.  God is my Father, and if He is for me, who can be against me?  Because of who I am in Christ, I am more than a conqueror.  In fact, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.  Christ Jesus is my life!  Everything in my life here on this earth is working out for good according to the purposes of God.  Christ Jesus Himself dwells within me.  I have been called according to the purposes of God.  These things I believe and confess, because God, my Father in heaven, says they are true.  Amen!  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 96)

 

The theological arguments that support an interventionary God are many and varied.  Frequently people report that they have experienced a physical cure or an inner healing.  And they have.  “Yet,” as John Shea writes, “One brutal historical fact remains–Jesus is mercilessly nailed to the cross and despite the Matthean boast, twelve legions of angels did not save him from that hour.  No cop-out redemption theories that say God wanted it that way explain the lonely and unvisited death of God’s Son.  This side of the grace Jesus is left totally invalidated by the Lord of heaven and earth.  Trust in God does not presume that God will intervene.”  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 116-7)

 

Humility rests on self-knowledge; pride reflects self-ignorance.  Humility expresses itself in self-distrust and conscious dependence on God; pride is self-confident and, though it may go through the motions of humility with some skill (for pride is a great actor), it is self-important, opinionated, tyrannical, pushy, and self-willed.  “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prv 16:18).    (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 149-150)

 

Many today say that they cannot have faith in Christ because it is not “reasonable.”  But what do they mean by reasonable?  Do they mean that faith in Christ is inherently irrational and therefore does not make logical sense?  Or do they mean that in their value system, faith in Christ doesn’t make sense?

You see it is impossible to have reason without a value system by which to judge your reasons for thinking.  Hitler thought and acted completely within reasons when he killed 6 million in the gas chambers during WWII.   He earnestly believed that Jews and resisters were less than human and so in his mind killing them was the only reasonable thing to do.  Reason is based on a value system.  It is the value system that determines the reasonableness of one’s actions.  But if we do not share the same value system, then it is impossible for us to determine the actions of another with a different value system, to be reasonable.

So again, I come back to those who say faith in Christ is unreasonable.  Of course it is.  They are working with a different value system.  They are going to think that a person of faith is unreasonable, just as a person from FL thinks it is unreasonable for a person from Michigan to root for U of M and a person from Michigan thinks it is unreasonable for a person from FL to root for FL.   It is the value system that sets the standard for reasonableness.  No wonder Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one can come to the father except through Christ. Why?  Because HE (Christ) IS the value system.  If we don’t accept that, then we will be totally unreasonable in our behaviors and judgments.  We have adopted the wrong value system.  — Keith Porter

 

When we rely on self, and when we trust in ourselves instead of God, then our natural default is going to be to look to ourselves to find our salvation and our righteousness.  And if we think we can achieve or merit God’s favor and blessing, then what do we need grace, forgiveness or mercy for?

Jesus spoke about this same subject when he told the parable of the two men who had come to pray.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

” But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

”  I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 18:9-14).

The first thing that we need to come to terms with, in order for us to be saved, in order to us to grow in Christ, in order for us to mature, in order for us to be effective in the Kingdom of God; is for us to understand that WE ARE THE PROBLEM!  And if we are the problem, we are not going to be the solution.  We must forget about “doing” or “being” something on our own to solve our own problems and to save us from our sins.

It is our sinful nature, our deceitfully wicked hearts that trick us into believing we are OK and that everything will be OK if we simply do our best.  That is where we go wrong.  And it is only when we come to repent of our sinful self, that we will ever have a chance of becoming all that God desires for us to be.  Likewise, the church must come to a point of corporate repenting of her sinful nature, if she is ever going to grow and mature in Christ.  Therefore, we desperately are in need of God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy if we are to be saved and mature as Christians.

 

Spiritual ChallengeTrust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  (Prv 3:5-6)

 

When we fail to trust God it is because we have transferred to Him our corrupt qualities. (RC Sproul; “The Just Shall Live”: Romans tape series from 1:16-17)

 

God does not expect us to submit our faith to him without reason, but the very limits of our reason make faith a necessity.  — Augustine.

 

God alone knows what is good for human beings and God alone knows what is not good for them.  To enjoy the “good” we must trust God and obey him.  If we disobey, we will have to decide for ourselves what is good and what is not good.  While to modern men and women such a prospect may seem desirable, to the author of Genesis it is the worst fate that could have befallen humanity.  (John Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, 101)

 

Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance.  The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian.  (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)

 

Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible.  There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible.  Faith begins where man’s power ends. — George Muller.

 

When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at “the house of the dying” in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life.  On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa.  She asked, “And what can I do for you?”  Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.

“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked.  He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the United States:  “Pray that I have clarity.”

She said firmly, “No, I will not do that.”  When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.”  When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.  So I will pray that you trust God.”  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 5)

 

Jesus asks the disciples, “Do you still have no faith?”  That could actually be translated as “Where is your faith?”  I love that way of phrasing it.  By asking the question in this way, Jesus is prompting them to see that the critical factor in their faith is not its strength, but its object.

Imagine you’re falling off a cliff, and sticking out of the cliff is a branch that is strong enough to hold you, but you don’t know how strong it is.  As you fall, you have just enough time to grab that branch.  How much faith do you have to have in the branch for it to save you?  Must you be totally sure that it can save you?  No, of course not.  You only have to have enough faith to grab the branch.  That’s because it’s not the quality of your faith that saves you; it’s the object of your faith.  It doesn’t matter how you feel about the branch; all that matters is the branch.  And Jesus is the branch.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 55)

 

On the other hand, trusting God doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our “homework.”  Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (italics added).

Implicit in the idea of not leaning on “your own understanding” is that you have already gained an understanding on which you are now told not to rely!  Trusting God isn’t flying blind.  Gain an understanding–know your product, study the economic trends, learn the likes and dislikes of your customers, improve your skills.  But after you’ve done all that, don’t depend on the “strength” of what you know, but on God. (Patrick Morley; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 48)

 

Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of faith is to see what we believe. — Augustine.

 

Said Os Guinness in his classic book In Two Minds, “Doubt comes from a word meaning ‘two.’  To believe is to be ‘in one mind’ about accepting something as true; to disbelieve is to be ‘in one mind’ about rejecting it.  To doubt is to waver between the two, to believe and disbelieve at once and so to be ‘in two minds.’”  (Lee Strobel; God’s OUTrageous Claims, 103-4)

 

So What?: Having a firm trust in the Lord naturally produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It also allows us to live life free of anxiety, fear and worry.  (Ps 119:50, 116, 162; Isa 26:1-4; Gal 5:22-23; Phil 4:6-7; 1 Pt 5:7)

 

Worry is basically saying to God, “You cannot be trusted in this circumstance.” —Alister Begg

 

Jesus says that the root of anxiety is inadequate faith in our Father’s future grace.  As unbelief gets the upper hand in our hearts, one of the effects is anxiety.  The root cause of anxiety is a failure to trust all that God has promised to be for us in Jesus.  (John Piper, Future Grace, p. 54)

 

The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.  — George Muller

 

Worry is faith in reverse.

When we trust, we don’t worry–when we worry, we don’t trust.

If you want to be miserable, worry.  If you want to be happy, trust.

Worry requires as much or more energy than work does.

 

The gospel is a truly powerful, even devastating, thing.  To believe it is to conquer sin and death.  To reject it is to be crushed.  These things I have seen with my own eyes.  (Michael Bauman, Roundtable: conversations with European Theologians, 125)

 

John Wesley says of those “who imagine themselves Christians and are not”:  “These abound, not only in all parts of our land, but in most parts of the habitable world.  That they are not Christians is clear and undeniable if we believe the oracles of God.  For Christians are holy; these are unholy.  Christians love God; these love the world.  Christians are humble; these are proud.  Christians are gentle; these are passionate.  Christians have the mind which was in Christ; these are the utmost distance from Christ.  Consequently they are no more Christians than they are archangels.  Yet they imagine themselves so to be, and they can give several reasons for it.  For they have been called so ever since they can remember; they were christened many years ago; they embrace the Christian opinions, vulgarly termed the Christian or catholic  faith.  They use the Christian modes of worship, as their fathers did before them.  They live, what is called a good Christian life, as the rest of their neighbors do.  And who shall presume to think or say that these men are not Christians?—though without one grain of true faith in Christ or of real, inward holiness; without ever having tasted the love of God or been ‘made partakers of the Holy Ghost.’  Ah, poor self-deceivers!  Christians ye are not.  But you are enthusiasts in a high degree.”  (Wesley’s Work, vol. 1, 332)

 

Is it possible to have the walls crashing down around you and still experience contentment?  I would have never thought so, but I was surprised to learn that we can be content in the midst of suffering—not mere inconvenience, but severe, agonizing suffering.  The issue, I learned, is that our circumstance don’t determine our contentment, but our faith and trust in God do.  (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 101-2)

 

It is not our circumstances that control our lives and our peace, and our happiness, it is us.  We choose to be happy and at peace or not.  We choose to trust in God and to live without anxiety or not.

 

JESUS:

THE PROOF OF GOD’S LOVE

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