Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Do Not Fear: We are Perfectly Loved by a Perfect God

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. I John 4:18

I have often wondered about this verse and desire to be perfected in God's love, so that I won't let fear have any place in my life. It says that God's perfect love casts out fear but then I thought of Christ, He is Perfect Love personified and He did not fear any man. He was the ultimate picture of fearlessness as He stood before Pontius Pilate, who told Him that he had power over whether Christ lived or died.

So Pilate *said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?”

Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” John 19:9-10

He was not afraid of offending the Pharisees by healing on the Sabbath, He was not afraid to cleanse the temple and drive out the money changers, He was not afraid to speak the Truth in love. It almost sounds a bit humorous in Luke 11 when He was pronouncing woe on the Pharisees, the lawyers told Him that they also were insulted by His statements.

Luke 11:45 "One of the lawyers *said to Him in reply, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.”

Did Jesus back off then and say "Whoops, I didn't mean to offend you lawyers?" No, the next verse records, "But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, bwhile you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers." (Luke 11:46)

I wonder why I get so afraid then. Is it because I want to please people more than I want to please God? Proverbs 29:25 says: "The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe."

Snare here can be defined as a noose. Did you ever hear the expression "the social loop can become the social noose?" The more I get caught up in people pleasing, the more tied I am in trying to meet others' expectations of me, instead of just trying to please God. Way back when I was in high school, I remember that if a certain person did not smile at me in the hall when classes changed, it could actually ruin my entire day. Why? Because I was trapped in the snare of wanting everyone to like me. What a fool. I was in a dangerous position, thinking that way, for Jesus warned us that we should not even desire wanting to please everyone around us. In Luke 6:26 He warned, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way."

But the Scriptures encourage us, whenever we are afraid, to look away from ourselves and our situation and to place our eyes on Jesus. If we aim to please Him, we have nothing to worry about. Repeatedly it tells us not to be afraid, to look and rely on Him to help us.

In Psalm 56:11 it says, "In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

The fact is man can do nothing to God's children without His sovereign permission. So if something that looks humanly bad happens to me, I can rely on the promise of Romans 8:28 which says "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." I can rely on the fact that God can work any bad thing for the good in my life if I will keep trusting Him.

Have you ever thought of what Jesus was saying in John 15:9: “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love."

We are loved in the exact same way by Jesus that the God the Father loved Him. That is a lot of love! In fact, you could not ask for any more love than that. If I am loved that perfectly by my perfect God, I really don't need to be afraid except of displeasing Him. As much as I think of the love of God, I also must remember that God is holy and just. Though my sins are all paid for, one day, I will stand before Him and give an account for my life, for what I did with what He graciously gave me. That is what I should have a holy fear of, displeasing Him, not being liked by every person I know.

Romans 11:22: Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

Paul is not saying that we will be cut off from eternal life if we do not continue in His kindness, but we can miss out on rewards that He longs to give us. In other words, this life is not a game. So, every day, I need to ask myself, "Whom do I want to please today?" Is it people who may say something nice about me to my face and then turn on me when my back is turned? Or is it in my perfect God, who never changes, nor will change His verdict He rendered about me when I believed in His Son.

Romans 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Perfect Complement: Human Inability and Total Divine Ability

Luke 13: 10-13 "And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.

And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.

And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.

And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God."

I read this passage this morning and my spirit rejoiced within me. For that woman represents me and my own inability to produce anything that pleases the Lord, by my works or so called goodness. But the Lord tells me I am loosed from my infirmity. Well, just what does that mean, in practical terms?

God knows I want to do the right thing. Just like Paul says in Romans 7:15, I really want to do the right thing. Really I do. But I find myself not being able to do it. "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do."

The woman who was all bent over really wanted to straighten up her spine. But if you look in the Greek, the words for "could in no wise lift" are "eis mē pantelēs" and EW Bullinger, in the Companion Bible, transliterates it as meaning: not unto the furthest extent, or unable to the uttermost.

If we are really honest, that should be our description of living a Christian life in our own power. The more we try, the greater we fail. Unable to the uttermost. I like that, for it gives me a real sense of relief. God is not expecting anything from me in my own power or ability. And He also is not surprised when I admit to Him my failures. As if I could hide anything from Him anyway? He knows every thought before I even think it: "Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought from afar off." (Psalm 139:2)

But, there is a perfect complement to my total and complete lack of ability to produce anything before God that He could reward at the Bema Seat. That perfect complement is God's total Divine ability, available to every one of His children, so that none of us have an excuse that will stick at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Christ is capable of saving us to the uttermost:

"Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)

Our Great High Priest will always be there in every exigency and every emergency we face to give us what we need. One of the ways He does that is just by revealing to us His names in the Scriptures when we face various trials and temptations. Just taking the time to find the names of God in the Scriptures will tell us of all the ways He can work His Divine abilities into our own human disability. Meditating on Him, being all that you need for every situation is one of the ways He will give us that ability to overcome in our trials. But we must choose to believe that these promises are true, even more true than what we see or feel around us.

Are you in need of defending? God has promised to be a rock and fortress to His children four times in the Scriptures:

2 Samuel 2:22 And he said:“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;

Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 31:3 For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me.

In Psalm 71:3, the Psalmist makes a petition from his Rock and Fortress:

Be my strong refuge,
To which I may resort continually;
You have given the commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.

By looking away from ourselves, and putting our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our Faith, meditating on who our God is for us, we will be given strength from His own endless resources. I like the idea of God being my mighty Rock and Fortress, what other names of God do you like? I would love to hear them!