Monday, February 19, 2018

I Know



“I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!” 
Job 19.25-27

Saturday, February 17, 2018

God's Designs


The Sweet Designs of God 
By John Piper 

He set me apart before I was born, and called me by his grace.(Galatians 1:15)
Ponder the conversion of Paul, the sovereignty of Christ, and what Paul’s sins have to do with your salvation.
Paul said that God “set me apart before I was born,” and then, years later, on the Damascus road, “called me by his grace” (Galatians 1:15). This means that between Paul’s birth and his call on the Damascus road he was an already-chosen, but not-yet-called, instrument of God (Acts 9:1522:14).
This means that Paul was beating and imprisoning and murdering Christians as a God-chosen, soon-to-be-made-Christian missionary.
“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’” (Acts 22:6–7)
There was no denying or escaping it. God had chosen him for this before he was born. And now he would take him. The word of Christ was sovereign. There was no negotiating.
“Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.” (Acts 22:10)
Damascus was not Paul’s final, free will yielding to Christ after decades of futile divine effort to save him. No. God had a time for choosing him (before he was born) and a time for calling him (on the Damascus road). God called, and the call produced the yielding.
Therefore, the sins that God permitted between Paul’s birth and his calling were part of the plan, since God could have called him sooner.
Do we have any idea what the plan for those sins might have been? Yes, we do. They were permitted for you and me — for all who fear that they might have sinned themselves out of grace. Here’s the way Paul relates his sins to your hope:
Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. . . . But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:13, 16)
Oh, how sweet are the designs of God in the sovereign salvation of hardened, hopeless sinners!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Nothing Except


Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2.1-5 

When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Fear

Jon Bloom, Desiring God: Lord, Set Me Free from Fear


On Thursday night, Peter said to the One he knew was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (Matthew 26:35). Then, in the wee hours of Friday morning, Peter said to a couple of servant girls he didn’t know at all, “I do not know the man” (Matthew 26:69–72).
What in the world happened to Peter that made him do exactly what he swore he would not do? Fear happened to Peter.
Then, just a few weeks later, Peter found himself in front of the Sanhedrin — the same Sanhedrin that had terrified him the night of Jesus’s trial — and instead of denials, out of his mouth came these words: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20).
What in the world happened to Peter that suddenly made him so bold? Faith happened to Peter.
Like Peter, we too are no match for the crippling fear that will seize us when faced with potential or real danger, if we only see things with the eyes of our flesh. In fact, we’ll tend to be easily intimidated by all sorts of things. But if by the power of the Holy Spirit, we see with the eyes of faith, we’ll see things as they really are and our fears will melt away.
That power, which freed Peter from fear and fueled his boldness, is available to every Christian. It is ours for the asking, and ours for the taking.

Malfunctioning Mercy

Like everything God made, fear is very good when it functions according to its intended purpose. Fear is designed to keep us away from dangerous things. When fear moves us to avoid things that are truly dangerous, we experience just how merciful a gift it can be. God created fear to help keep us free. He meant it to protect us from all manner of real harm so we can remain as free as possible to live in the joy he intended.
But after the fall, like everything else God made for us, fear has been distorted by sin, and by the brokenness of our fallen bodies and minds. So, it frequently does not function the way God designed. Due to our fleshly pride and unbelief in what God promises us, we fear things that aren’t truly dangerous at all. We feel too much fear of things that are relatively small threats and too little fear over things that can cause us far greater harm (Luke 12:4–5). Our fears are disordered and disproportionate.
Disordered fear is what Peter experienced during Jesus’s trial. The Son of the living God, whose power he had personally observed and experienced — power that raised the dead (Mark 5:41) and even made demons subject to Peter (Luke 10:17) — was now in the custody of the Sanhedrin. Things had taken a perilous turn. All those strange things Jesus had been saying about suffering and dying at the hands of the rulers — the things Peter had told Jesus should never happen to him (Matthew 16:21–23) — looked like they were happening.

Seeing Wrongly Leads to Fearing Wrongly

That was the root issue: how things looked. The things Jesus said would happen were indeed happening, but Peter’s mind was still set on the things of man, not God (Matthew 16:23). He was only seeing the human side of things, so it looked like everything was happening wrongly. This sucked the faith right out of him — and filled him with fear.
The same thing happened to the prophet Elisha’s servant. Do you remember the story? The king of Syria discovered Elisha was receiving words from the Lord about Syria’s military plans, and informing the king of Israel. So, the Syrian king took a big army and surrounded the city where Elisha was staying. In the morning, Elisha’s servant saw the troops and was terrified. So Elisha prayed, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see,” and suddenly the servant saw the mountains full of the host of heaven (2 Kings 6:17). When the servant only saw the human side of things, he was overcome by fear because he saw wrongly. But when, by the Spirit’s power, he saw rightly, his faith revived and his fear melted away.
So too, when Peter, by the Spirit’s power, saw rightly, his faith was revived and his fear melted away. He went from cowering in front of servant girls to boldly confronting the very leaders who had crucified Jesus (Acts 4:8–12).

O Lord, Open Our Eyes!

Elisha prayed for his servant, and he saw the spiritual reality. Someone prayed for Peter, too: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:32). Jesus prayed for Peter’s faith. The timing and purposes for Elisha’s and Jesus’s answered prayers were different. But the outcome was the same: the formerly fearful men became bold in faith.
Are we fearful? Do we find ourselves easily intimidated into silence or inaction or even outright denials? It is because we are seeing reality wrongly. We are blind to what God is actually doing. For if, by the Spirit, we see what God is doing in the spiritual realm, we would not stop speaking of what we have seen or heard.
This is available to us! That’s why God put these stories in the Bible. And it’s why he has surrounded us with the great cloud of Christian witnesses throughout history. Let’s ask God for freedom from unbelieving fear and a new boldness. Let’s lay hold of him until he grants our prayer. And let’s not just ask — let’s begin to confront our fears by stepping out in faith and obediently trusting his promises. The provision of boldness is often given to the one willing to act in obedience.
Father in heaven, whatever it takes, set us free from unbelieving fear by opening our eyes to reality. Do not allow us to remain silent or inactive. The freest people in the world are those who trust you most. We will not let you go until you bless us, because you are too glorious and souls are too precious for us to remain muted by fear. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Robust Biblical Theism

Fatalism and pantheism have no easy way of distinguishing what is from what ought to be. Robust biblical theism encourages us to trust the goodness of the sovereign, providential God, while confronting and opposing the evil that takes place in this fallen world.
Genesis 40; Mark 10; Job 6; Romans 10 
DON CARSON 
TRUSTING GOD’S PROVIDENCE is not to be confused with succumbing to fatalism. It is not a resigned sigh of Que sera, sera – “What will be, will be.” This Joseph understood (Gen. 40).
The account of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker does not tell us which of the two, if either, was actually guilty of something; it only tells us which of the two Pharaoh decided was guilty. Even then, we are not told the nature of the crime. The focus, rather, is on their respective dreams, and the fact that only Joseph, of those in prison, is able to interpret their dreams. The interpretations are so dramatic, and so precisely fulfilled, that their accuracy cannot be questioned.
Joseph himself is under no illusion as to the source of his powers. “Do not interpretations belong to God?” he asks (40:8). Even before Pharaoh, where he might have been expected to slant his explanations just a little so as to enhance his own reputation, Joseph will later insist even more emphatically that he cannot himself interpret dreams; God alone can do it (41:16, 25).
Yet despite this unswerving loyalty to God, despite this candid confession for his own limitations, despite the sheer tenacity and integrity of his conduct under unjust suffering, Joseph does not confuse God’s providence with fatalism. The point is demonstrated in this chapter in two ways.
First, Joseph is quite prepared to tell his predicament to the cupbearer (the servant who will be released in three days and restored to the court) in the hope that he might be released (40:14-15). Joseph’s faith in God does not mean that he becomes entirely passive. He takes open action to effect improvement in his circumstances, provided that action is stamped with integrity.
Second, when he briefly describes the circumstances that brought him into prison, Joseph does not hide the sheer evil that was done. He insists he “was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews” (40:15). The point was important, for most slaves became such because of economic circumstances. For example, when people fell into bankruptcy, they sold themselves into slavery. But that was not what had happened to Joseph, and he wanted Pharaoh to know it. He was a victim. Further, even during his life as a slave in Egypt he did “nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon” – which of course means he was incarcerated unjustly. Thus Joseph does not confuse God’s providential rule with God’s moral approbation.
Fatalism and pantheism have no easy way of distinguishing what is from what ought to be. Robust biblical theism encourages us to trust the goodness of the sovereign, providential God, while confronting and opposing the evil that takes place in this fallen world.

What a Savior