Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hitting Rock Bottom and finding a Firm Foundation

It’s true. Many are the times that one must “hit rock bottom” before finding a “Firm Foundation!” It is when we come to the end of ourselves that we find the Solid Rock, Christ Jesus! It is when we seemingly have lost all hope that we find the “Blessed Hope!” It is when we find ourselves undeserving of any merit, that we discover the unmerited favor of the God of abundant mercy and grace.

“He [the Lord] brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings. And hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God” (Psalm 40:2,3).

Do you feel yourself in a pit, a pit so deep that you can’t see the light of day? A Christless life is one sinking in miry clay; quicksand. The more you struggle, the deeper you sink. We’ve all been there. We need deliverance; someone to lift us up out of the quicksand; someone to set our feet upon a Firm Foundation, a Solid Rock: that Rock is Jesus. The scripture continues: “and established my goings.” Have you lost your sense of direction; you don’t know where to turn? Jesus said, I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

David, the Psalmist, continues: “And hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God.” Have you lost the joy of living? The Lord can put a new song in your mouth and joy in your heart; praise unto our God.

You cannot save yourself. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. But God commendeth [exhibited, made known] his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6,8.).

“Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. . .All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:4,6)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) Are these meaningless words: or are you willing to believe them? Is God the True God? Are His Words true? Are you willing to trust Him to do what He says He will do? “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Tim. 1:15).

None are Exempt. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” There is none that under-standeth, there is none that seeketh after God. There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:9-12.)

Jesus Saves. You‘ve seen signs with this testimony. Believe it! It‘s true! “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).

“But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thine heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God that raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:8,9). Christ died for you; He lives for you! Will you not trust Him?

What does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? its reply is: it means knowing oneself to be a sinner, and Christ to have died for sinners, abandoning all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and casting oneself wholly upon Him for pardon and peace; and exchanging one’s natural enmity and rebellion against God for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of one’s heart by the Holy Ghost. And to the further question still: how am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things? it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sin, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on His mercy; ask Him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith; ask Him to take away your evil heart of unbelief and to write His law within you, that you may never henceforth stray from Him. Turn to Him and trust Him as best you can, and pray for grace to turn and trust more thoroughly; use the means of grace expectantly, looking to Christ to draw near to you as you seek to draw near to Him; watch, pray, read and hear God’s Word, worship and commune with God’s people, and so continue till you know in yourself beyond doubt that you are indeed a changed being, a penitent believer, and the new heart which you desired has been put within you. . .

“Let not conscience make you linger,

Nor of fitness fondly dream;

All the fitness He requireth

Is to feel your need of Him” -

so do not postpone action till you think you are better, but honestly confess and give yourself up here and now to the Christ who alone can make you better; and wait on Him till His Light rises in your soul, as the Scripture promises that it shall do. Anything less than this direct dealing with Christ is disobedience to the gospel.

J. I. Packer


Saturday, September 5, 2009

On Faith

I was listening to a renowned pastor, a TV and radio preacher, as he was speaking on Faith. He apparently hails from a northern state where ice fishing is enjoyed. When ice fishing, he said, the thickness of the ice beneath one's feet is all important. If the ice is 1/2 inch thick, (He for one will not be on it) much faith required! On the other hand if the ice measures 2 ft thick, little faith is required. God, he concludes, is great, He is as the thick ice. The logic seems to be that not as much faith is needed to trust or depend on Him because He is great. (He did, however, stress the point that Christ alone must be the object of our faith.) But otherwise just how Biblically sound is his line of thinking? "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord. . ." Isa. 1 :18.

A small god? A small faith.

If one were to say, "I am a small god; with a little "g". I am not omnipotent; I cannot do all things, but I can do many extraordinary things. I am not omnipresent, I cannot be everywhere, but I can be in a few places at one time. I am not omniscient; I don't know everything, but I do possess wisdom and knowledge of a great many things. Though I am truly a god, admittedly I do have certain limitations." If one were a small god with "certain limitations,"then we should expect a correspondingly limited faith. A small god - an equivalently small faith.

A Small Faith or a Great Faith: Which?

What of the woman with the issue of blood? Having tried everything and everyone for the space of twelve years, she found herself at the feet of Jesus: "If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus. . .said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made the whole" Matt.9:21. Her faith: was it a small faith, for 'insignificantly small' was the miracle; therefore little faith was required? Or was it great faith, for it found lodging in the Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ? A small faith indeed!!! She was ''Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith!"

A Great God? A Great Faith.

A great God is worthy of and is due a faith that is equivalent to and parallels His greatness.

In Matthew 14:25, Jesus went unto his disciples, walking on the water. The account is familiar: the fear of the disciples of the storm ; the new fear because of a man walking on the sea, "It is a spirit!'" Peter coming down out of the ship to go to Jesus: a third fear, as he saw the wind boisterous; a fourth and final fear as he began to sink, "he cried, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"Little faith, oligopistos, lacking confidence (in Christ). Doubt, distazo, to stand in two ways, implying uncertainty as to which way to take; said of believers whose faith is small. (Doubt is not said to be an entity unto itself: the two ways are faith and unbelief.) The issue was not Peter lacking confidence in himself; and of his own ability to walk on the water: instead it was the lacking of confidence in Christ to sustain him in the endeavor. It was not his strength that was in question; rather it was his lack of confidence in the power, and of the faithfulness of Christ. Jesus was never for a moment disabled or without control; it was Peter who, in a moment of personal weakness thought the creation to overpower the Creator. A little faith might be sufficient when confronting a little god, but when beholding a great God, much faith is required.

"Little is much, when God is in it!" So say the lyrics of a well known hymn. Faith is compared as a grain of mustard seed. Faith is not necessarily great as a result of much accumulation; it is not something to be gathered into a great heap; not a massive amount, this faith. Faith should be great, not so much in size or volume, but In strength.

As in the case of "doubting" Thomas, the word distazo was not used. Rather, it was Believe, pisteuo. His believing was conditional: " / will not believe. . .except I shall see. "Thomas refuses to waver, to "stand in two ways:" He chose the way of unbelief until such time he had visible proof! Jesus saith unto him, Thomas because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" John 21:29.

Lord, Increase My Faith!

A thick cotton cord may appear strong, but a stainless steel cable, though much smaller in appearance is far superior in strength. Shall my prayer be, Lord, increase my faith; increase its density, its mass - or increase its strength? But then, it is not the terminology that is of utmost importance, but the sincere yearnings of the heart! A God-given faith is not flawed or imperfect! The difficulty is in the sin-prone, imperfect and untrusting creature called man. Quoting a friend in the ministry, "Our tendency is to put our faith in OUR faith, rather than putting our faith in THE faith." "I. . .exhort you that you should earnestly contend for THE faith which was once delivered unto the saints" Jude 3b. "I will run the way of thy commandment, when thou shalt enlarge my heart" Psalm 119:32. Faith (orthe lack of it) is not essentially the problem; it is Eye ( I ). Lord enlarge my heart; give me a greater capacity for Christ; grant unto me a greater vision that I may see Him through the eye of faith; that my confidence in Him may be strengthened. Oh that we might be "stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord ..." I Cor. 15:58.

A Faith to be Accounted for Righteousness.

"For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness" Rom. 4:3. "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son" Heb. 11 :17.

What! What if - Abraham was justified by faith and declared righteous through a faith that was "weak, flawed, and imperfect?" Would he be so foolish as to trust the promises of God so far as to slay and offer up his only begotten son, seeing the faith was untrustworthy? But true faith has as its foundation the Word of God. It is not to be found in the wisdom of this world, nor in the arm of the flesh. The bottom line is that faith, genuine faith, has its roots in the eternal. It is of God, it is from God; it is "not of works lest any man should boast."

We often quote, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" Eph.2:8. What if the faith given us of God was weak, frail, faulty, flawed, and imperfect? Then the grace and the salvation through which it comes would not be trustworthy!

"Now faith is the substance [it is substantiating] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen"Heb. 11:1. Substantiating? Evidence? Sounds like something you'd hear in a court of law. (The courts of our land would find faith as unacceptable - but not so, the Courts of Heaven!) Abraham's righteousness was [still is] imputed to him; it is validated by the Heavenly Judicial System!

"Faith is the substance. . .sub stans: standing under. Faith provides a firm standing-ground while I await the fulfilling of God's promises. Faith furnishes my heart with a sure support" An Exposition of Hebrews, page 650, A. W. Pink

Faith as an Anchor.

If faith is to be anchored in Christ, then are we to be looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, the Alpha and Omega, The Living Word of God [Christ.] Without it, faith has no sight, no hearing, no understanding, no wisdom, no discernment; it has no engine, there is no fuel to run it, no steering mechanism, neither a sense of direction. . .

Faith is issued forth from the Lord; the New-born is quickened through it and he is drawn unto Christ, his affections being fixed (anchored) in Him. Unlike a ship, Christ has no need of an anchor for Himself. He is an anchor of the soul. He is anchored in me. I am anchored in Him. The cable that holds the anchor on my end is secured to the ship at the other end. It is not just the anchor that holds me; the anchor is a part of, and an extension of, the ship itself. The anchor is an instrument to secure me to the ship. Christ is in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father. I am on earth. Yet I am secure in Him; I am anchored in Him. There is, as it were, an unseen cable that reaches from the Ship, and its anchor is securely lodged in me. (We speak figuratively.) in John 14:23 we read, "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him." (We might compare this to Noah and the ark. Where was the anchor for the ark? Not over the side of that vessel; it (He) was within the ark!)

We read often of Paul's prayer concerning his "thorn in the flesh." "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in [your] weakness" II Cor. 1 2:9. "For when I am weak, then am I strong.'" vs. 10. It would appear that a strong faith is not very compatible with one who has a know-it-all attitude and is seemingly unaware of his weakness. (Which could account for the variety of Simon Peter's situations; walking on water and sinking; denying the Lord three times when he stubbornly declared he wouldn't. . .)

The Manifestation of Faith.

If faith is to be made manifest, it should be through the manifestation of Jesus Christ; revealed in His Word; revealed through Him and by means of the operation of the Spirit in the Believer.

The manifesting of Christ Himself in the heart of the believer. "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" John 14:21.

The manifesting of the Gospel of Christ and redemption through his blood for the believer. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things. . .But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you" I Peter 1 :18-20.

The manifesting of the work of faith wrought through the believer. "But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" John 3:21.

"By faith Abel offered” "By faith Enoch was translated" "By faith, Noah prepared an ark" "By faith Abraham obeyed" "by faith Moses. . .esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt."

"And what shall I more say?" May writer and reader wonder afresh at the remainder of Hebrews chapter eleven: "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" Heb. 11:13.

Finally, a study on Faith is fine, but its value is only recognized as it is exercised. Of what benefit, faith, if it lie between the covers of my Bible on a bookshelf? Faith is absolutely essential in the life of the believer. Paul, when on a ship that seemed destined for destruction, addressed the others: "there stood by me this night the angel of the Lord, whose I am and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar; and. lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for / believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me" Acts 27:23-25.

The question might be asked, What am I believing God for - right now?

Oh Lord, I thank you for your gift of life - Christ's life; and for His righteousness imputed unto me. Thank you for the faith that you have wrought in me according to your lovingkindness. May it not be left dormant; may it be found cleaving unto Christ; Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of my faith. In His name, for His sake. Amen.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Best

I must say from the start that this material may well be confusing to you the reader without preparation. If you have not yet read the article on "Faith," please lay this one aside until you have done so. This writing is an extension; the Faith article is foundational; it is a necessary underpinning for the building upon of "My Best." My sincere apologies for my lack of insight to those who may have read the earlier work. An ( * ) designates a quote from the "Faith" article.

There is an old expression, "Just give it your best." Similar are the words of persuasion used in trying to get someone "involved" in some ministry of the church: "The Lord needs your help! You can do it. Just do your best! That's all we expect and that's all God expects!" (This person may be found giving unknowledgeable advice about other things also.) Many times the person that has been "volunteered" becomes disillusioned and ends up in the valley of discouragement. What is sad is that the person is unknowingly unaware of what has happened to him or her. (MY best may well be the self-efforts of the flesh.") Are there any who are unaware of the abilities of the "old man" to cunningly adapt himself to the piousness of religion?

Those who are called of God are equipped of God. It is He who enables the believer to "do his best." The problem may be that our focus is on "doing OUR best" when we should fall before the Lord confessing our finite inabilities and our utter weaknesses in accomplishing anything "for the Lord." * The difficulty is in the sin-prone, imperfect and untrusting creature called man. Quoting a friend in the ministry, 'Our tendency is to put our faith in OUR faith, rather than putting our faith in THE Faith.'" Likewise our tendency is to put OUR faith in OUR best in an attempt to do THE best. In John 15, the "Vine and the branch," we are admonished at least 10 times of our Lord to "Abide in Me." And we are fruit bearers, NOT fruit producers! Nevertheless, we are oft found striving to do OUR best in an attempt to do "THE best!" If we would do THE best, we of necessity must put our faith in THE faith, rather than our faith in OUR faith in an attempt to do OUR best!

We must have faith if we would do our (THE) best, and the object of faith must consistently and continuously be the Lord Jesus. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son - His Best! And it is His Best in us, working through us, and not we ourselves that is essential. Even a fleeting thought of operating independently of the understanding, wisdom and strength of Almighty God may prove disastrous. Fleshly attempts cannot produce heavenly results. Let us cast ourselves upon Christ as our only help, trusting not in the arm of the flesh. It is "Christ in you, the hope of glory!" If our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, then also must be "our best" apart from the abundant mercies and grace extended to us by our Lord.

"Dear Lord, according to your grace, give me singleness of eye; cause my focus to be fixed upon Christ alone. Knowing that without faith it is impossible to please God, may I be found trusting You, being obediently submissive to your Divine Purpose. In regard to "my best," I pray that You might engrave upon my heart; yea, plant within my heart the same mindset that You planted within the apostle Paul: "Not I, but Christ!"

(It is interesting to notice that earlier in his ministry Paul, in writing to the Corinthian church, referred to himself as "the least of the apostles." Later, to the Ephesians, he was "less than the least of all saints." When approaching the latter days of his ministry he wrote to Timothy, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.")

Well written are the words from the pen of Charles H. Spurgeon in a little book called "Faith." And we quote:

"No, Lord, if I am not condemned, it is Your free grace, for I have deserved to be condemned a thousand times since I sat down to write this. When I am on my knees and I am not condemned, I am sure it must be sovereign grace, for even when I am praying, I deserve to be condemned. Even when we are repenting, we are sinning, and adding to our sins while we are repenting of them. Every act we do as the result of the flesh is to sin again, and our best performances are so stained with sin that it is hard to know whether they are good works or bad works. So far as they are our own, they are bad; and so far as they are the works of the Spirit, they are good. But then, the goodness is not ours, it is the Spirit's, and only the evil remains to us. Ah, then, we cannot boast! Be gone, pride! Be gone!"

In all of the scripture, I can find but one place that deals with "man" and his "best:" "verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity" Psalm 39:5.

See below some of the difficulties that may arise out of attempting to do “MY Best!”

"MY best" is to include and put a dependence upon the flesh.

"MY best" is a product of self esteem; it allows for fleshly pride.

"MY best" follows the way of Cain, as I think it well to present the efforts of my hands to God.

"MY best" is apt to give me a false sense of accomplishment.

"MY best" is only wood, hay and stubble; unworthy of reward; fit only to be burned up.

"MY best" regards my talents and fleshly abilities.

"MY best" supposes human strength can accomplish eternal tasks.

"MY best" causes me to scheme rather than trust.

"MY best" regards my desires, seeks the fulfillment of my will.

"MY best" looks to human reasoning, rather than seeking infinite wisdom.

"MY best" may cause me to overlook sin in my life; to be unwilling to acknowledge such.

"MY best" will cause me to "think of myself more highly than I ought to think."

"MY best" may cause me to look upon others in a judgmental way, comparing "my best" to their "best."

"MY best" may stir up a spirit of envy as I observe the talents or position of another."

"MY best" may cause my testimony to be weak and ineffectual.

"MY best" may cause me to use poor judgment in dealing with family members, other Believers, and also with unbelievers.

"MY best" will rob me of a deep settled peace; it will bring about unrest; it will steal away my joy."

"MY best" may be a hindrance to both my Bible study and my prayer life.

“MY best” will keep me from a much needed communion with God.

“MY best” will cause me to allow glory to myself rather than rendering it to Whom it is due.“

“MY best" may cause me to desire to live in the "limelight" rather than to live in the "Lamblight."

"Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself. . .I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" John 5:19a,30b. He could do nothing of Himself because He would do nothing of Himself. (Of course, there was perfect unity: Jesus placed himself as a servant in total submission to the Father; there was never to be found even a hint of contention or rivalry in the Triune Godhead!) Our Lord, being sinless and perfect, even in a body of flesh, placed full dependence in the Father and in the power of the Spirit. He has set the example; shall we not follow Him? How can we do that!?! Well, certainly not by trying OUR best (the self-efforts of the flesh) to do our best! Let us be reminded of those words penned by our brother Paul: "That I may know him. . .I follow after. . .reaching forth. . .I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" Phil. 3. Would any dare ask Paul what or Who was the object of his faith? And who among us will dare to say to that patriarch, "I did my best; I gave my best unto the Lord?"