THE GOSPEL FOR LIFE (GFL) study by Jay Wegter can be found here, and is titled, “The Glory Of God In The Face Of Christ (2 Cor 4:3-6).“
An Introduction To Ruth
From BIBLE STUDY TOOLS, a quick “5 Essential Lessons You Need to Know from the Book of Ruth”
EVERY WOMAN IN THE BIBLE
RUTH AND NAOMI’S ROLE IN SCRIPTURE
Ruth was a Moabitess who married an Israelite. Her husband’s family had left Judah during a famine and migrated to Moab. There all the men of the family died, leaving three women alone and helpless: Naomi, the mother-in-law, and Ruth and Orpah, her daughters-in-law. The women were helpless for a simple reason. Property was owned by men, not by women. With no men left in the family, the women lacked any means of support.
Only one course of action seemed open to Naomi. She would return to Judah and seek aid from her relatives. Naomi urged her daughters-in-law to return to their fathers’ households, where they would be supported until they could remarry. Orpah followed Naomi’s advice, but Ruth insisted on staying with her mother-in-law. The loyalty and support she offered Naomi proved to be the turning point in her own life.
EXPLORING RUTH’S RELATIONSHIPS
The Book of Ruth is a rich source of insights into healthy interpersonal relationships. It reminds us that even during the dark days of the judges, godly men and women could and did live blessed and happy lives.
Naomi and Ruth’s relationship with God (Ruth 1:9–17). Ruth’s relationship with God began the way that most relationships with Him do. Ruth came to know and value someone who knew Him well. For Ruth, that person was Naomi.
Naomi spoke easily about God because He was real to her. We see this in the blessing she gave her two daughters-in-law after Naomi had decided to return to Judah: “The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband” (Ruth 1:9). Naomi clearly loved her daughters-in-law and loved God. In loving she became the bridge over which Ruth passed to faith.
When Naomi urged the two young women to go home and find new husbands, Orpah turned back. However, Ruth refused to return home. She truly loved her mother-in-law and would not desert her.
The biblical text clearly shows that Ruth realized that this decision called for a faith-commitment to Naomi’s God. When Naomi continued to urge Ruth to return home, Ruth expressed her commitment in unmistakable terms.
“For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The LORD do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).
The order in which Ruth expressed her commitment is significant. In Old Testament times Israel alone had a covenant relationship with God. Ruth, aware of this relationship, pledged that “your people shall be my people,” fully aware that in committing herself to God’s covenant community she was also committing herself to Israel’s God.
Ruth’s decision to stay with Naomi was also her commitment to God. Ruth had chosen “the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:12).
Ruth’s relationship with Naomi. The first chapter of Ruth makes it clear that Ruth deeply loved and appreciated her mother-in-law. That love was expressed in a loyalty that surpassed all other ties. Rather than return to her father’s home, and stay in her own country, Ruth chose to accompany Namoi into an uncertain future in a strange land.
To see how Ruth’s commitment to her mother-in-law continued to work itself out is fascinating. For Ruth, Judah was a strange land, with unfamiliar customs. But in Naomi Ruth had a mentor, and she wisely followed her advice. The two women had returned at harvest time. Old Testament Law provided that the poor and landless could gather food in fields owned by others. That law said, “When you reap the harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands” (Deut. 24:19). Naomi sent Ruth out to gather grain that the harvesters missed, a process called gleaning.
Gleaning was hard work, but for the poor each kernel of grain was precious. And Ruth “continued from morning” until late in the day gathering food for Naomi and herself.
Later, after Ruth’s modesty and virtue had won the admiration of one of Naomi’s relatives, Naomi explained to Ruth the law of the redeeming relative. When a man died childless a near relative could marry his widow. The first son produced by the couple would be given the name of the dead husband and inherit his estate. Hearing of the admiration of such a relative for Ruth, Naomi urged Ruth to approach the man and ask him to take on the redeeming relative’s responsibility.
Ruth allowed herself to be guided by her mother-in-law in the selection of a potential husband. Although Naomi’s choice was neither young nor especially handsome, Ruth realized that he was a man of quality, and she followed her mother-in-law’s advice.
In every way Ruth showed herself to be loyal, hard-working, sensible, and responsive to Naomi’s advice. Clearly Ruth had a deep respect for Naomi, as well as a real love for her mother-in-law.
Ruth’s relationship with Boaz. It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of a woman’s reputation. Long before Boaz met Ruth or knew her by sight, he had heard good things about her.
In the small farming community it was impossible to keep secrets. Everyone knew that Naomi had come back from Moab and that she was accompanied by her daugher-in-law, Ruth. They knew of Ruth’s choice to commit herself to Naomi’s people and their God, and they had formed definite opinions about her character. When Boaz first met her he was able to say,
It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before (Ruth 2:11).
Well aware of her good qualities, Boaz treated her favorably. He invited her to eat with his harvesters, told her to glean with his own servants, and instructed the young men not to molest her. That this instruction was necessary reminds us of how dangerous life could be for a woman alone in the era of the judges. Boaz even instructed his harvesters to be sure to leave handfuls of grain for Ruth to collect.
When Naomi learned of what had happened and realized that Boaz was a near relative of hers, she felt that God was opening a door for Ruth. She instructed Ruth to continue to work in Boaz’s fields through the barley and wheat harvests. When the several weeks of the harvests had passed, Naomi took Ruth aside and explained her concern for Ruth’s future security.
As a near relative, Boaz was qualified not only to marry Ruth but also to reclaim the lands of Naomi’s husband. So Naomi told Ruth how to approach Boaz.
During the harvest season workers often slept outside in the fields. Naomi told Ruth to go at night to the place where Boaz was sleeping and lie down at his feet. Some have taken this as an attempted seduction. However, the position Ruth took was symbolic and a request that Boaz take her under his protection as a wife. Boaz clearly understood the symbolism and promised to do as she requested, “for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:11).
Before Boaz could marry Ruth he had to obtain the permission of a man who was an even nearer relative of Naomi. When Boaz explained that to redeem the fields of Naomi’s dead husband the man would also have to marry Ruth, the man declined. He already had grown sons. If he should father more than one son with Ruth, he would have to provide for them from the estate he intended to reserve for his first family. With this claim disposed of, Boaz married Ruth.
The marriage was blessed with a son, and that son became the grandfather of King David and an ancestor of Jesus Christ.
RUTH: A CLOSE-UP
Ruth is one of Scripture’s most attractive women. She was a woman with a marvelous capacity for love and loyalty. While Ruth was decisive and ready to risk an uncertain future out of loyalty to Naomi, she was far from headstrong. She was wise enough to follow Naomi’s advice, ready and willing to work to support the two of them. Ruth quickly established a good reputation in her adopted homeland and won the approval of all who knew her. Her reputation rather than her physical attributes first won the admiration of Boaz, who responded by treating her graciously. The relationship that grew between them was founded solidly on the mutual appreciation of each for the good and gracious qualities of the other.
While Ruth truly is a love story, it is far from those romantic novels that emphasize passion and physical attributes. Ruth’s and Boaz’s love grew out of their commitment to values far more significant than mere good looks.
NAOMI: A CLOSE-UP
Naomi’s name, “pleasantness,” is suggestive. She cared for her daughters-in-law and earned their love and loyalty. Even Orpah, who chose to remain in Moab, wept when she left Naomi to return home. We can sense in Naomi an especially generous spirit. Although alone, she urged her daughters-in-law to think of their own future rather than Naomi’s welfare. Back in Judah, Naomi felt a deep responsibility to Ruth and determined to “seek security” for her, “that it may be well with” you (Ruth 3:1).
We should hardly be surprised that Naomi was such a powerful influence in Ruth’s life. People who truly and selflessly love others have a tendency to draw those others to them and through them to the Lord.
RUTH AND NAOMI: EXAMPLES FOR TODAY
- Naomi is a wonderful example of how to evangelize. She didn’t try to talk Ruth to faith. Instead she loved Ruth and lived a life that Ruth recognized was worth emulating. Ruth wanted the peace, character, and loving-kindness she saw displayed in her mother-in-law’s life.
- Naomi shows us how to be a gracious in-law. We don’t know whether Naomi had counseled her sons against marrying out of their faith. We do know that she loved both her daughters-in-law enough to put their welfare above her own. Eventually she even loved Ruth to faith in God.
- Many parents hesitate to offer advice to adult children. While we cannot force our will on them, we can share our thoughts and our wisdom with those willing to listen. When advice is given lovingly and with respect for our children’s independence, it will often be welcomed.
- Naomi is a glorious reminder of how God can make one of the least likely to be remembered into someone who will never be forgotten. When we feel insignificant we can remember how God used a starving widow to win a woman to faith who became an ancestress of Jesus Christ.
- Ruth reminds us that character does count. Good men are more concerned about finding a godly spouse than a sexy one!
Sue Poorman Richards and Larry Richards, Every Woman in the Bible (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), 105–107.
BAKER ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE BIBLE
Ruth (Person). Moabitess and the widow of Mahlon, the son of Naomi and Elimelech, who were Ephrathites from Bethlehem living in Moab because of a severe famine in Judah. Upon the death of Elimelech and Naomi’s two sons, Naomi returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth during the time of the barley harvest (Ru 1:4–22). While gleaning in the barley fields of Boaz, Ruth found favor in his eyes (2:2–22). She later married Boaz, when he, serving as nearest kin to the childless Naomi, purchased Naomi’s estate to keep it within the family (4:5–13). Ruth is mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ as the mother of Obed and the great-grandmother of David (Mt 1:5).
RUTH, BOOK OF
Author and Data. The author of the book is unknown. The question of authorship has particular connection with the date of writing, and a few clues provide at least an “educated guess.” The book must have been written sometime after the beginning of David’s reign. The reference of 4:18–22, which pertains to the historical significance of Ruth as David’s great-grandmother, bears this out. Since foreign marriages were not approved in the Book of Ruth, it scarcely could have been written during the period in which Solomon began his policy of foreign marriages. Also, David’s close friendship with Moab might have prompted someone in his kingdom to write the book, thus presenting objective rationale for David’s actions (see 1 Sm 22:3–5). Consequently the author may have been someone close to David, possibly Samuel, Nathan, or Abiathar.
This view is not without its critics, however. Some scholars consider the opening statement, “in the days when the judges ruled,” to demonstrate the late composition of the book. However, such a phrase need not refer to an extensive period. In today’s world one might use a similar phrase in reference to conditions at the beginning of the 20th century. The dates of the judges probably comprise a period of about 300 years, beginning with the judgeship of Othniel and concluding with that of Samson, though Samuel also served as a judge. If the genealogical information is complete in 4:18–22, the events took place during the life of David’s great-grandfather and mark the birth of his grandfather. Allowing a 35-year generation span, the events would have taken place somewhere about the turn of the 11th century bc, or about 100 years before David’s birth.
Purpose. The book’s purpose is closely related to its date of composition. Assuming an early date, that is, one close to David’s lifetime, its principal thrust must be the authentication of the Davidic line. The book may be considered as a justification for including the godly Moabitess in the nation of Israel.
Introduction (1:1–5). Driven by famine, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, cross the Jordan to stay for a period of time in Moab where there was sufficient provision. The two sons, after marrying Moabite women, die, and their father dies as well. Naomi is left a widow with two foreign daughters-in-law.
Return to Bethlehem (1:6–22). Hearing reports from Bethlehem that the famine had ended, Naomi makes preparations to return. Both of her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, accompany her for at least a portion of the journey. Probably thinking of the problems which might be encountered by them as foreigners in Judah, Naomi strongly urges the girls to stay in their own land. Both of the young widows refuse, but Naomi presents the facts. First, she is not pregnant, so the chance of a younger brother fulfilling the levirate responsibility is not imminent. Second, she has no prospects of remarriage and consequently no prospect of further children. Then, she also notes that even if the first two conditions were met immediately, the possibility of their waiting was impossible. Orpah is persuaded and kisses her mother-in-law good-bye.
But Ruth “clung to her” (neb). The verb, having the connotation of being glued to something, is the same verb used of marriage (Gn 2:24). Ruth demonstrates her serious intentions by making five commitments. In essence, Ruth renounces her former life in order to gain a life which she considers of greater value. At this point, she is contrasted with Naomi, who had encouraged both of them to return to Moab and its gods (1:15). But Ruth decides to follow the God of Israel and his laws. Ruth’s appeal to the God of Israel was more than equal to Naomi’s pleas, and the two of them return together.
Their arrival in Bethlehem is traumatic for Naomi. Having left Bethlehem with a husband and two sons, she returns empty. She tells her friends to call her “Mara” (bitter). But she has returned at a propitious time, the beginning of the harvest season.
Reaping in the Fields of Boaz (2:1–23). The first verse of the chapter provides the setting for the narrative which follows, introducing Boaz, a wealthy relative of Elimelech.
Ruth volunteers to glean the fields, to follow the reapers and pick up the insignificant amounts left behind. Gleaners were also permitted to harvest the grain in the corners of the fields, a provision for the poor contained in Yahweh’s Law (Lv 19:9,10).
She happens to come to the field of Boaz. As he visits this field, he notices Ruth, inquires about her, and learns her identity. His overseer reports that she has industriously worked the fields from early morning until that time. Boaz, attracted to her because of her loyalty and concern for Naomi, graciously makes additional provision for her. She is given a favored position in reaping, directly behind the main body of reapers. Further, she is to receive water which has been drawn for her by the young men—an unorthodox arrangement.
Ruth, falling before Boaz in a gesture of great humility and respect, asks why as a foreigner she should be accorded such favor. Boaz gives two reasons, her kindness to her mother-in-law, and her spiritual insight which led her to seek after Israel’s God, “under whose wings you have come to take refuge” (neb).
She is also given a place at the reapers’ table and, upon Boaz’s orders, returns to the fields—this time to reap from the unharvested grain. At the end of the day she returns home to Naomi and tells her of the day’s events. Naomi informs Ruth that Boaz has the right of redemption. Ruth returns to his fields until the end of the harvest season.
Relying upon the Kinsman (3:1–18). Naomi advises Ruth with regard to approaching Boaz as a goel, or kinsman-redeemer.
The plan suggested by Naomi seems peculiar, yet some thoughts may give a certain colouring to it. (1) Naomi seems to have believed that Boaz was the nearest kinsman, being ignorant of the yet nearer one (v 12). Consequently, according to Israelite law (Dt 25:5ff.), it would be the duty of Boaz to marry Ruth to raise up seed to the dead. (2) The general tone of Naomi’s character is clearly shown in this book to be that of a God-fearing woman, so that it is certain that, however curious in its external form, there can be nothing counselled here which really is repugnant to God’s law, or shocking to a virtuous man such as Boaz, otherwise Naomi would simply have been most completely frustrating her own purpose. (3) Her knowledge by long intimacy of Ruth’s character, and doubtless also of that of Boaz by report, would enable her to feel sure that no ill effects could accrue (Sinker, Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Ruth, p 283).
His response to Ruth’s actions demonstrates his gentlemanly concerns for her. He explains the situation of not being the nearest kinsman, but promises that he will take care of the necessary procedures the next day. Protecting her reputation, Boaz sends her home before daylight. Naomi, wise in these matters, succinctly predicts of Boaz, “He will not rest until he has settled the matter today” (neb).
Redeeming the Inheritance (4:1–21). Boaz goes to the place of business, the city gate. The city gate area comprised the forum of the city where the public affairs of the city were discussed. Boaz indicates that he wishes to discuss a matter of business with the nearer kinsman. Ten of the city elders act as witnesses. Beginning with the property matter, Boaz inquires whether this nearer kinsman is willing to acquire the property for Naomi, including the traditional stipulation, “On the day when you acquire the field from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the dead man’s wife” (neb). The nearer kinsman is unwilling because to marry Ruth would inevitably cost him some financial loss, since he would have to divide his own property with any son of his born to Ruth. Thus he relinquishes his rights by the custom of taking off his shoe. Significantly the shoe was symbolic of the land rights which belonged to the inheritance. So Boaz takes the part of the kinsman-redeemer.
The marriage of Boaz and Ruth produces a son who, under Israel’s laws, is reckoned as Naomi’s child and heir.
Teaching. The Book of Ruth traces the lineage of David to the Messiah. The completion of that line is in Matthew 1 and finds its focus in Jesus.
A second teaching is the beauty of God’s grace. A foreigner, even a Moabitess, can be linked with Israel’s blessing.
Theologically, the concept of kinsman-redeemer as a type of Messiah is clearly evident. He must be a blood relative, have the ability to purchase, be willing to buy the inheritance, and be willing to marry the widow of the deceased kinsman.
And finally, the love which Ruth shows becomes a pattern of devotion, a woman of whom it was said to Naomi, “your daughter-in-law who loves you is better to you than seven sons.”
Bibliography. A.E. Cundall and L. Morris, Judges and Ruth; G. Gerleman, Ruth; R.M. Halo, The Theology of the Book of Ruth; A.R.S. Kennedy, The Book of Ruth; C. Lattey, The Book of Ruth.
Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Ruth (Person),” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1871–1873.
Worshipfully Prioritize Your Marriage by Faith!
This past Sunday, Faith Community Church picked back up the summer series of “Faith Matters.” Greg Gifford (WEBSITE | TWITTER) taught on how to apply Scripture to prioritizing your marriage by strengthening the “core” of this all-important relationship. Below are some practical tools to help you prioritize your marriage by faith:
1) DIGITAL BOUNDARIES: This means you need a location to keep your phones while at home so that they are not always on you, and always demanding your attention. A simply priority would be that you do not engage technology before you meaningfully engage your spouse.
2) FIRST FIFTEEN MINUTES PROJECT: Another thing that I encourage couples to all the time is the idea of crystallizing the first fifteen minutes that you are home for each other. This means that the wife stops what she’s doing if she’s home, or the husband stops what he’s doing and you guys take 15 minutes to talk with each other. We have to hang up the phone when our spouse walks in the door. We have to put dinner on hold for a few minutes. This is just a very practical way of saying you matter to me. You’re a priority. Children—be quiet. TV—be quiet. Telephone—be quiet. My spouse is home and they are a priority to me.
3) 3-2-1-1 COMMUNICATION EXERCISE (PDF)
4) INTIMACY INVENTORY (PDF)
John Hus: The Goose Who Became a Swan |Erwin Lutzer|
Sola Fide: Faith Alone | Erwin Lutzer and R. C. Sproul
College Park Church (April 2017) – Lecture by Erwin Lutzer.
R. C. Sproul speaks on the doctrine of justification by faith alone and how it was debated among Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians.
WOW ~ A Biblical Post-Election “Note”
“The Father of a Murdered Son” ~ a Mark Driscoll Sermon
This hat-tip goes to WINTERY KNIGHT:
Plastic Pastors (Environmental Myths In the Pulpit)
I wasn’t going to post on this subject, and all-in-all, this topic is one Christians have the moral superiority in.
A poignant point from a discussion about Global Warming via a professor I admire:
BUT, stats and movements founded on these false statistics shouldn’t be used in the pulpit. When the secular left rejects true religion, they supplement their spiritual quest with that of fallible mans quest as the object of their religion. Which is why many call — rightly so — modern day environmentalism a religion. A recipe for disaster. So pastors should be weary of this stretching of man’s credibility found all-too-often in the environmental progressive left. Likewise, this leftism has infected the church. Here is an exceprt from a book written by “emergent leaders” that will shed some light on how this man-made religion infects the church. This is taken from an old post entitled, “Feminist Extremism, Eastern Concepts in Youth Specialties and Gaia in Emergence“:
REMEMBER, Grace Baptist IS NOT an Emergent type church. This sermon merely gives me the opportunity to critique eco-leftists and liberal theology a bit. So the following is a video critique of parts of the sermon followed by more information about the topics:
Other wise known as “The Great Garbage Patch Charlie Brown!”
This is with a h/t to The Dennis Prager Show:
Another news source says this:
An updated article on this can be found at THE FEDERALIST, and it comes my way with thanks to GAY PATRIOT.
WATER BOTTLE MYTHS
From an older post, URBAN LEGENDS — WATER BOTTLES (Updated HERE), as well on some bottle myths:
Updated info from BIG GOVERNMENT:
LORD OF LORDS/KING OF KINGS
Mark 11:20-25, “Moving Mountains: Faith in Faith” (My First Sermon)
(The was originally presented in front of some really great guys on 4-15-10, tax-day)
This sermon is one I am ambivalent to preach, there are not any funny stories or happy endings, merely a call to preserve “the faith once and for all given to the saints.” Before we dive in however, since it is the day we give to Caesar what is Caesars, I figured a thought experiment would be fitting:
A jab at high taxes aside, contending for the faith can be a grueling job, considering all the variations offered to us.
A sound understanding of faith may take some patience and thoughtful understanding today as we tackle just a few of the many differences between a healthy faith and the kind that leads to a very troubled praxeology (<< click to jump to definition). We will take the time here to look at some of the key concepts of a healthy faith through a verse many times misapplied. How one interprets Mark 11:20-25 will tell you a lot about a person’s understanding of faith. Again, the verse we will be reading from is Mark 11:20-25, so if you are ready we will jump in.
This verse is often used to make the point that OUR FAITH IS BIG ENOUGH to remove any aliment that besets us. It is often combined with another verse from Isaiah 53:5 that reads in-part, “by Your stripes we are healed.” As you will find, however, context and historical setting are key to a proper understanding of working out these types of verses into our everyday lives and the impact they have on our personal faith. We will cover just a few topics in this presentation, they are:
- How these verses are misused by some, and subsequently faith;
- we will discuss some of the Jewish cultural context and history involved;
- and finally, we will look at an oft overlooked interpretation of these verses.
Starting with how faith is often misused by many of the faithful, we will consider what Pastor Bob DeWaay calls anthropogenic fundamentalism.
- The term anthropogenic fundamentalism can simply be defined for our purposes as a “man-centered faith,” rather than “God-centered faith.”
Or, man trying to capture what God only provides and make it his own.
E.W. Kenyon, sometimes called the grandfather of the Word-Faith movement, wrote a book entitled, Two Kinds of Faith, in which we find Kenyon saying that “a spiritual law few of us have recognized is that our confessions rule us.”
Kenneth Hagin, who is known as the father of the Word-Faith movement, has taken bits-and-pieces from Kenyon and well-known faith healer William Branham and ordered them into a systematic word-faith doctrine/theology, culminating in the opening of Rhema Bible Institute in 1974. Mark 11:23 was one of Hagin’s favorite verses he used to justify his,
- creating verbalized capsules of thinking by “laws of faith” that control one’s circumstances with “formulas.” (my own definition)
This was a big-deal to him, even coining the term “have faith in your faith.”
In contradistinction Calvin says that…
- True faith “unites us to Christ and inserts us into His body creating the bond that enables us to receive, posses, and enjoy Christ Himself.” This is Calvin’s “union with Christ by Spirit worked faith.”
True faith is God centered, and aligns us — or tries to — with God’s will. Not the other way around. There are many examples of what faith should not be, but one James Montgomery Boice mentions that can replace true faith is optimism. Which he simply defines as a “mental attitude which is to cause the thing believed in to happen.”
In this “faith in your faith” aspect, you will never hear a person graduating from Rhema pray like Christ did in Matt 26:39:
- “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
A.H. Strong points out that God does “not change his mind when men pray, or when they believe… as [God] fulfills his purpose by inspiring true prayer, so he fulfills his purpose by giving faith.” Finishing his thought Strong quotes Augustine, “He chooses us, not because we believe, but that we may believe….”
You see, we want a faith that unites us to Christ and His work, nothing of ourselves. In Reformational thinking, we are not even capable of generating this kind of faith. Take note that Ephesians 2:8 ends with “it is a gift of God.” John McArthur points out that faith is included as preceding this statement. By contrast, Kenneth Hagin makes his concept of faith clear when he enumerates his understanding of Mark 11:23:
- He believes in his heart,
- He believes in his words. Another way to say this is:
- He has faith in his own faith . . . Having faith in your words is having faith in your faith.”
Notice this Christ-centeredness in Galatians 2:16-17 fleshed out by the International Standard Version:
According to the text in the ISV, Christ’s faith — not ours — does the justifying. It is His focus of attention, not ours, that does the work. The “onus,” the, is put into proper perspective.
As an example from one of my favorite verses, Philippians 1:6:
This “optimism” in one’s faith that Boice warned us of, rather than a God Centered faith is really an old heresy that started with the early influence of Gnosticism on the Desert Fathers. If you do not know about these mysterious persons that are so influential on the emergent version of this Gnostic heresy, here is a quick introduction.
Now, As some may know, others here may not, my father was deeply involved in this understanding of faith. He would routinely claim financial success and good health as a matter of habit… neither of which he ever truly possessed. A few years back he was very-very sick.
He looked and felt awful.
However, he refused to go to the hospital, instead, he spoke health and healing to his body. When he finally acquiesced to the pain that C.S. Lewis says is our body verbalizing that something is wrong, he was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer.
- In case you do not know, colon cancer is one of the most survivable cancers one could contract today.
Rejecting his doctors advice of immediate surgery, my father found renewed vigor that he wasn’t truly sick — even yelling at me in the doctor’s office:
- “GET BEHIND ME SATAN!!” (pointing an accusing finger at me)
In surreal fashion and doggedly claiming that this sickness was curable via faith in his faith, his body no longer allowed him the option of denial and he gave way to his doctor’s advice. Even with surgery, he had waited too long.
On October 25th, 2008, I was reading Scripture to my dad who was recently sent home with me diagnosed with two-months to live when his breathing started getting worse than it already was. I stopped reading from the Word and started to fluff the pillows and blankets surrounding my father. He managed to gasp “help” and shortly thereafter was strong enough to cry a bit…
…all the while telling him that I loved him while wiping the drool from his mouth and the sweat from his brow.
I could not dial 911 or call for help because my father was sent home with us for this reason… to pass as comfortable as possible.
All I could do is watch my father suffocate to death. He looked scared. I suspect for a few reasons, one is man’s tendency to not want to die.
Another reason is that if your faith is connected to your health and your health fails… failing faith in God’s finished work on the cross is not far behind.
He was coming to the stark reality that his theology was flawed and death is a one-for-one statistic.
While I know the work wrought on Calvary’s Cross was bigger than my dad’s praxeology, his view of faith led to a troubled walk that stifled his connecting with God and God’s people in a healthy well balanced manner. Even shortening his own life considerably.
Let me repeat that: his view of faith led to a troubled walk that stifled his connecting with God and God’s people.
Another example of faith gone awry is told by a fellow contributor to a group blog dealing with the Word-Faith heresy. This is the story of John Edwards and his struggle to come to terms with a cultic understanding of Biblical doctrine:
These two stark examples ~ my own and John’s ~ are the consequences of anthropomorphic fundamentalism: making oneself god in some sense of the word by guiding your own faith rather than allowing Godly faith in.
Another important aspect that seems to be missed by these Word Faith types is that the Bible incorporates parables, poetry, wisdom, prophecy, and history. Within these categories you will find metaphors, hyperbole, symbols, and elevated language.
For instance, in Psalm 91:4 we read, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.”
Obviously God the Father being Spirit, known only by God the Son, does not have literal feathers. Reading on in the verse we find it is a metaphor for God protecting us like armor — just more comfortably… metaphorically speaking.
Likewise, we find commonly used in the Jewish texts of the day speech about “removing mountains” as metaphorical for an “infinitely long or virtually impossible task accomplished only by the most pious of rabbi’s.”
James Brooks in his commentary on Mark mentions that Mark 11:23 may be an “allusion… to the temple mount, in which case faith in God makes the temple system obsolete.” Jesus was speaking to, directly, the “Judaizers” of His day in this “sermon” pointing to the fulfillment of his soon to be culminated mission. You see, since we are considered “priests” or “rabbi’s” in God’s new and better covenant we do not rely on our own piousness, a Priest’s standing with God, or formulas ~ but Christ’s alone.
So the question, I think, becomes this: “as priests, what types of unmovable mountains would be in the context of our offering of prayer to the object of our faith?” In Matthew 5:23-24 we find this:
Let’s compare this to the passage we are reading in Mark, starting a bit into verse 24:
True faith causes good works -SO- in this salvonic understanding:
Therefore, with faith based in what God has already done for us while we were yet sinners, forgiveness of others is what we are called to.
With that PapaG’ism in mind, do not forget that this verse is connected to Christ overturning tables for a second time on the Temple Mount and cursing the fig-tree as representative of Israel’s faithlessness, another seemingly insurmountable task.
As applicable and connective as I think these comments are, there is yet another often overlooked understanding which keeps Christ firmly in context, and not us.
Again, James Brooks mentions that Jesus may have been referencing “the Mount of Olives and the Dead Sea,” the “latter being seen from the summit of the former.”
William Lane expands on this in his commentary on Mark, mentioning likewise that the,
Evangelical scholar Walter Elwell likewise hits on this idea:
[See these and more commentaries in the Appendix]
So like the parable of the faithful and wise servant (Luke 12:35-48), we must watch over this great gift of faith and its awesome responsibility by prayer to the object of our faith… asking for these mountains of faithlessness, self-centeredness, and our unforgiving hearts to be cleared daily by God’s word and our union with Him… always saying like John did, “come Lord Jesus, come!”
- Boice, James Montgomery. Foundations of the Christian Faith. Downers Grove, Illinoise: Inter Varsity Press, 1986.
- Bowman, Robert M. The Word-Faith Controversy: Understanding the Health and Wealth Gospel. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2001.
- Budziszewski, J. The Revenge of Conscience: Politics and the Fall of Man. Dallas, Texas: Spence Publishing, 2004.
- Dewaay,Bob. The Emerging Church: Undefining Christianity. Saint Louise Park, Minnesota: Bob Dewaay, 2009.
- Geisler, Norman, Thomas Howe. When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook On Bible Difficulties. Wheaton, Illinoise: Victor Books, 1992.
- Hall, David W., Peter A. Lillback, ed. A Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes: Essays and Analysis. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2008.
- Hanegraaff, Hank. Christianity In Crisis: 21st Century. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2009.
- Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, Illinoise: Inter Varsity Press, 1993.
- Kelly, Douglas F. Systematic Theology: The God Who Is: The Holy Trinity. Vol. 1. Ross-Shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2008.
- Kenyon, E.W. The Two Kinds of Faith: Faith’s Secret Revealed. Lynnwood, Washington: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1969.
- Lane, William L. The Gospel According to Mark. Edited by F.F. Bruce. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing, 1974.
- Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.
- Lewis, Gordon R., Bruce A. Demarest. Integrative Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996.
- MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007.
- McConnell, D.R. A Different Gospel: Biblical and Historical Insights Into the Word of Faith Movement. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.
- Oden, Thomas C. Systematic Theology: The Living God. Vol. 1. Peabody, Massachusettes: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.
- Strong, A.H. Systematic Theology. New York, New York: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1896.
- Yungen, Ray. A Time of Departing. 2nd. ed. Silverton, Oregon: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2006.
I wanted to point out just a couple of after thoughts. The first part of the verse we read from (v. 20), there is an interesting event that is mentioned.
Something I know the Jewish mind would have surely known considering how well the pharisees knew (at least memorized) Scripture. in verse 20 we read this:
- “Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.”
Now let’s read from Hosea 9:16, and then from Job 18:16, respectively.
This miracle of Jesus cursing the fig-tree can be seen as one of the many instances Jesus showed Israel He was their Messiah through fulfilling of Old Testament prophecy.
Another quick thing I wish to point out is that many Bibles separate verse 25 from verses 20-24.
I think you can completely drop verse 26 and not include that at all, however, verses 20-25 should be looked at as a cohesive pericope.
Definition of Praxeology
Just so the reader knows how I understand this term: “right” theology into “right” action. The “Word Faith movement/theology,” “Liberation theology,” as well as “Emergent theology” distorts this interpretation. Here is a more in-depth definition:
(Commentaries on Mark 11:20-25)
There is good Scriptural connection that makes Mark 11:23-24 an eschatological verse. Of course rabbinical use of “moving mountains” was a phrase referring to seemingly impossible difficulties:
…But it also shows that we cannot pray in faith for anything that we like. In this matter, Jesus was “thinking God’s thoughts after him” and willing his father’s will. That sort of prayer, if asked in faith, will always be answered, for it is praying that God’s will may be done (as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane). We can only move the mountains that God wants removed, not those that we want moved. “Moving mountains” was a phrase used by the rabbis to describe overcoming seemingly impossible difficulties; we must not of course take it in the literal sense. If we pray in this way, we can give thanks for the result before we see it, for the answer is sure in the will and purpose of God.
There is one other condition for effectual prayer: we must freely forgive others, as God forgives us (25). If we do not, how could we pray “in Jesus’ name,” that is, in the way in which he would and did? This verse may indicate that Mark knew the Lord’s Prayer, though he does not record it in his gospel.
D.A. Carson, R.T. France, J.A. Motyer, and G.J. Wenham, New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVasity Press, 1997), 968.
Matthew Henry speaks to the miracle of faith, which rightfully understood, truly is one of the most miraculous of all:
Now this is to be applied,  To that faith of miracles which the apostles and first preachers of the gospel were endued with, which did wonders in things natural, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out devils; these were, in effect, the removing of mountains. The apostles speak of a faith which would do that, and yet might be found where holy love was not, 1 Co. 13:2.  It may be applied to that miracle of faith, which all true Christians are endued with, which doeth wonders in things spiritual. It justifies us (Rom. 5:1), and so removes the mountains of guilt, and casts them into the depths of the sea, never to rise up in judgment against us, Mic. 7:19. It purifies the heart (Acts 15:9), and so removes mountains of corruption, and makes them plains before the grace of God, Zec. 4:7. It is by faith that the world is conquered, Satan’s fiery darts are quenched, a soul is crucified with Christ, and yet lives; by faith we set the Lord always before us, and see him that is invisible, and have him present to our minds; and this is effectual to remove mountains, for at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, the mountains were not only moved, but removed, Ps. 114:4-7.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), Mk 11:12.
Whenever I read Henry I have to say “Amen.” This faith is not only miraculously accomplished, but is imported to us through the work of the Holy Spirit, as Augustine rightly notes this continuous miracle:
Whether they are going to speak before a congregation or any other body, or to dictate something to be spoken before a congregation or read by others who are able and willing to do so, speakers must pray that God will place a good sermon on their lips. If Queen Esther, when about to plead before the king for the temporal salvation of her people, prayed that God would place a suitable speech on her lips [Esther 4:16], how much more important is it for those who work for people’s eternal salvation “by teaching God’s word” [1 Tim. 5:17] to pray to receive such a gift?
Douglas F. Kelley, Systematic Theology, Volume One: The God Who Is: The Holy Trinity (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2008), 54.
Many of these early thinkers referenced Isaiah 7:9 which basically says this: “If you don’t take your stand in faith, you won’t have a leg to stand on.” So here we are, mentioning some good interpretations of these verses, I believe that in context with the fig tree and some of Jesus’ other teachings, we can almost see that these verses tend to speak to the end-times, one of my favorite commentaries points this out:
The Dead Sea is visible from the Mount of Olives and it is appropriate to take the reference to “this mountain” quite literally. An allusion may be intended to Zech. 14:4. In the eschatological day described there the Mount of Olives is to be split in two, and when the Lord assumes his kingship “the whole land shall be turned into a plain” (Zech. 14:10). The prayer in question is then specifically a Passover prayer for God to establish his reign. What is affirmed is God’s absolute readiness to respond to the resolute faith that prays (cf. Isa. 65:24). What distinguishes the faith for which Jesus calls from that self-intoxication which reduces a man and his work to a fiasco is the discipline of prayer through faith. When prayer is the source of faith’s power and the means of its strength, God’s sovereignty is its only restriction. The assertion in verse 24 reiterates this assurance in more comprehensive and general terms. The man who bows his head before the hidden glory of God in the fulness of faith does so in the certainty that God can deal with every situation and any difficulty and that with him nothing is impossible (10:27).
William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark (New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), 410.
Evangelical scholar Walter Elwell likewise hits on this idea:
Jesus has acted out two parables of terrible impending judgment of unbelief—the withering of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple; now, in response to Peter’s remark, he turns to the vital component in the eschatological drama that is inexorably coming to pass, namely, faith in God. This Israel does not have, but the disciples can and must have faith if they are to participate as victors in the coming destruction of the enemy-occupied land which will split at the Mount of Olives when the terrible day comes that precedes the kingly reign of the Lord over the whole earth (so Zech. 14:1–11). Jesus urges his disciples to pray with the faith expressed in Isaiah 65:24 and participate with him in the new exodus, and so avoid the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the faithless land. But they must humbly seek forgiveness and harbor no resentment (v. 25), as Israel has not done in the presence of Jesus the Son, if they are to stand in the Father’s righteousness through this cataclysmic time.
Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (electronic ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), Mk 11:20.
Another commentator mentions this eschatological allusion:
…Jesus was speaking generally, but there may be some allusion to the Mount of Olives (11:1) and the Dead Sea. On a clear day the latter can be seen from the summit of the former. Alternately, the allusion may be to the temple mount, in which case faith in God makes the temple system obsolete (cf. John 4:19–24).
James A. Brooks, vol. 23, Mark (electronic ed.; Logos Library System; The New American Commentary Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 183.
And this great working through the verses by a favored theologian of mine:
11:21 The Fig Tree Which You Cursed Has Withered
- ADMONITION FOR THOSE PREPARING TO BE BAPTIZED. CYRIL OF JERUSALEM: You are now being joined with the holy vine.’ If, then, you abide in the vine, you grow into a fruitful branch, but if you do not so abide, you will be burnt in the fire. Let us therefore bring forth worthy fruit. For let it not come about that it should happen to us what happened to the barren fig tree in the Gospel.’ Let not Jesus come in these days and utter the same curse upon the fruitless. But instead may all of you say, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.”
11:23 Whoever Does Not Doubt in His Heart but Believes
- THE POWER OF PRAYER. CHRYSOSTOM: Prayer is an all-efficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine never exhausted, a sky unobstructed by clouds, a haven unruffled by storm. It is the root, the fountain, and the mother of a thousand blessings. It exceeds a monarch’s power…. I speak not of the prayer which is cold and feeble and devoid of zeal. I speak of that which proceeds from a mind outstretched, the child of a contrite spirit,’ the offspring of a soul converted—this is the prayer which mounts to heaven…. The power of prayer has subdued the strength of fire, bridled the rage of lions, silenced anarchy, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, enlarged the gates of heaven, relieved diseases, averted frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. In sum prayer has power to destroy whatever is at enmity with the good. I speak not of the prayer of the lips, but of the prayer that ascends from the inmost recesses of the heart.
11:24 Believe That. You Will Receive It and You Will
- FULL CONFIDENCE. JOHN CASSIAN: While we are praying, there should be no hesitation that would intervene or break down the confidence of our petition by any shadow of despair. We know that by pouring forth our prayer we are obtaining already what we are asking for. We have no doubt that our prayers have effectually reached God.’ For to that degree that one believes that he is regarded by God, and that God can grant it, just so far will one be heard and obtain an answer
11:23 It Will Be Done for Him
- DIVINE GIVING AND HUMAN WILLING. AUGUSTINE: Note that Jesus said “for him,” not “for me,” and not “for the Father.” Yet it is certain that no human being does such a thing without God’s gift and workings. Mark well that even if no actual instances of perfect righteousness may be found among humans, that does not rule out perfect righteousness as if it were formally impossible. For it might have been realized if only sufficient responsive willing had been applied, enough to suffice for so great a deed.
Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall, eds., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament II, Mark (Downers Grove, IL: InterVasity Press,1998), 162-163.
Keeping Our Christian Identity Through “Seders”
Walk With Me
This is a topic I taught on at church, and it is a simple way to preach the Gospel to yourself. There are 5 categories:
- We are Sinners;
- We are Judged for this sin;
- We are Forgiven;
- This forgiveness creates a Relational aspect with our God;
- Which brings Joy in every situation we face.
In our busy schedules choose a single verse from each section and on Monday study that single verse about our sinful nature. Use an online resource such as Blue Letter Bible to read a commentary on it or Bible Gateway to read a version you haven’t read of the verse. (Or one of your home resources… whatever the case may be.) On Tuesday take a verse on forgiveness (mine, or one that has hit a cord with you over the years). Etc.
By Friday, T.G.I.F. takes on a new meaning. The following week, do the same, but with a different verse. Habits.
WE ARE CALLED TO CHECK IN
A verse that calls us to “check in” so-to-speak, is 2 Corinthians 13:5 ~ I will read from a paraphrase of this verse, however, feel free to click on the link below to see the paraphrase next to my favorite versions:
Even one of the greatest Repormers mentioned this “preaching the Gospel to ourselves” aspect of our faith: “We need to hear the Gospel every day, because we forget it every day” ~ Martin Luther.
ALL HAVE SINNED (#1)
- Proverbs 21:2 ~ “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.”
- Proverbs 16:2 ~ “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD evaluates the motives.”
- 1 Samuel 16:7 ~ “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
2 things to glean from these:
Here we read a quick insight gleaned from Matthew Henry (Matthew 23:27-28)
How many righteous persons are there?
- Romans 3:10 ~ “There is no one righteous, not even one.”
Bill Cosby teaches us about this malady we have from the earliest age (and he is a debased sinner as well, in need of a savior):
As an aside. Something that Bill Cosby said above struck a cord with me. He mentioned that the only time a child tells the truth is when they are in pain. So do we ~ often times ~ as adults. Here is the C.S. Lewis quote that came to me when I watched this:
We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities, and anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (NY, New York: Touchstone, 1996), 82-83.
Let us take a short historical theology break and read a few points from the 1689 London Baptist Confession:
Hank Hanegraaff explains WHAT sin is and is not:
R.C. Sproul, a theologian of report, helps us define what TOTAL and UTTER “depravity” means:
While some will not support my posting of this next video by Mark Driscoll… I understand. But he has done a lot of good explaining of core doctrine that assists us in understanding concepts, like, TOTAL DEPRAVITY:
- Jeremiah 17:9 ~ “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable – who can understand it?”
Sproul has a wonderful ministry, and he [Sproul] has asked ~ rhetorically ~ how: anyone could be involved in believing in the value of human worth and at the same time believing in TOTAL depravity? He responds:
- Leviticus 5:17 ~ “If someone sins and without knowing it violates any of the Lord’s commands concerning anything prohibited, he bears the consequences of his guilt.”
In the O.T. guilt has three aspects.
(1) There is an act which brings guilt;
(2) There is the condition of guilt which follows the act;
(3) There is punishment appropriate to the act.
In the N.T., guilt is a judicial concept. The Greek word/idea is drawn from the courts, and emphasize liability to punishment. The guilty person has been:
(3) and convicted.
Both Testaments view acts which bring guilt as the end result of offenses against God. (See: Heb. 9:11–28 for the legal answer to this predicament)
- Romans 6:23(a) ~ “For the wages of sin is death….“
And, we must always keep in mind that we are judged righteously by our Triune God:
Galatians 2:16-17 (<< link to the HCSB version. Below is the ISV)
— According to the text in the ISV, Christ’s faith — not ours — does the justifying. It is His focus of attention, not ours, that does the work. (The “onus” then is put in proper perspective.) As an example from one of my favorite verses, Philippians 1:6:
To be clear:
(a) HE started the Good work [salvation];
(b) He will carry it out;
(c) He will complete it.
It is ALL a work of Christ!
In-other-words, we will join the 24-elders in Revelation in throwing our crowns at Jesus feet, for all the good “WE” did was in actually Him working through us by even creating these… good works in our heart, and the will and drive to do them for His glory:
The Imperishable Crown (1 Cor 9:24-24) — The Crown of Rejoicing (1 Thess 2:19) — The Crown of Righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8) — The Crown of Glory (1 Peter 5:4) — The Crown of Life (Revelation 2:10)
- Romans 6:23(b) — “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
For those that do not know, I am a three-time convicted felon from many years ago. I like to say I am a retired felon. While in Jail I had to realign drastically the direction I had traveled. I didn’t realize it then, but I was preaching the Gospel to myself by studying Hosea. The Lord told the prophet — literally —
- “Go, take to yourself a wife who will prove to be unfaithful.”
And if you think about it, we are all unfaithful to God in some way: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And we break our marriage contract with the Lord, it is the Lord who is faithful and bridges the gap we cannot:
[David offered raisin cakes to the starving (1 Sam 30:11-12); at the celebration of the return of the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam 6:18-19); Abigail made for David’s troops (1 Sam 25:18). What was once good in the Lord’s eyes man will surely corrupt.]
- Jeremiah 15:19(a,b) ~ “Therefore, this is what the LORD says: ‘If you return, I will restore you…‘”
This implies we will fail, and He knew it, and yet chose us.
George Gilder enumerates a law that goes well with the Refiners Fire hymn. In an Interview with Dennis Prager Mr. Gilder enumerated a law of Information Theory*, and thus economics:
*(the mathematical theory concerned with the content, transmission, storage, and retrieval of information, usually in the form of messages or data, and especially by means of computers)
✜ Zechariah 13:9;
✜ Job 23:10;
✜ Isaiah 48:10;
✜ 1 Peter 1:7.
Notes on 1 Peter 1:7
a) Peter was not backslidden or apathetic;
b) It was Paul’s general encouragement to fan the flame/keep the fire burning brightly
- 2 Corinthians 4:16 ~ Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.
“…renewed day by day.” Almost like a Jewish Seder which Paul would have been familiar with. Like the Passover Seder, for instance, that helped keep the identity of the Jewish nation for almost 3-millinea, we need habits that keep our identity as owned by Christ, daily. Are we equipped for the task?
- 2 Timothy 1:7 — “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”
“…but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” We have “to take some responsibility in that renewal. The continual brightening of the inner flame that God has given to us is related to God’s own equipment for us. God does not equip us with weakness, but with power. He does not equip us with hatred, but with love. He does not equip us with self-destruction, but with self-discipline.”
- Romans 8:15 — “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”
John Calvin, the great Reformer, says this of the above Romans thinking:
MARTIN LUTHER tells us we have to preach this to ourselves constantly… because it is SUCH GREAT NEWS we seem to view it as unbelievable:
Okay, what does “forgiven” mean? And, how does this change our position with God?
We have all heard the famous saying, “Mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you absolutely do not deserve.” This comes in part from Hebrews 4:16:
“At the proper time” is a colloquial saying of the day that means “just in the nick of time.” The Believer’s Bible Commentary says this of the Hebrews verse:
In Genesis 8 when Noah sacrificed clean animals to God, “the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma.” Christ is the last Adam, thee final sacrifice that ends all sacrificial offerings, and we see in 2 Corinthians 2:15 the “…we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” You see, we are covered in Christ’ offering and are thus pleasing to God.
How should we respond to this idea in Psalm 30:5?
Indeed, God is my salvation;
I will trust Him and not be afraid,
for Jehovah, the Lord,
is my strength and my song.
He has become my salvation.”
You will joyfully draw water
from the springs of salvation,
and on that day you will say:
“Give thanks to Yahweh; proclaim His name!
Celebrate His works among the peoples.
Declare that His name is exalted.
Sing to Yahweh, for He has done glorious things.
The God of Glory
Even in failure and time of testing and trials we have a line to divine joy. Consider James 1:2-4:
Of verse two my first owned (and still a favorite of mine) commentary says this:
In another commentaries summing up of verse three, we see perseverance is key to our joy as well, but this takes time and is something not magically infused at the outset:
Paul surely knew by heart this verse:
My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to You
because You have redeemed me.
We should then have a definition of o-u-r-s-e-l-v-e-s… as Christians, that bring to bear the gift we should now be celebrating, here, Martin Luther in his Commentary on Galatians, offers a good definition of a Christian. In this definition we see the totality of the above study of Romans Road ~ exemplified:
A “summation” of the above:
Sunday Morning Reflections ~ Psalm 23:6
Most Sunday’s, early morning, I do a Sunday cartoons for my [this] site. One particular cartoonist I follow and have enjoyed over the years is retiring and starting a business venture using his talents. I was perusing his portfolio and found this gem tucked away… it is a quick visual of Psalm 23:
I love this verse tucked away in Psalm 23:6:
|Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
as long as I live.
|Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.
This verse is a promise that God (Christ) chases after His own, those who were given to Him (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:4-5; John 17:6-26, …etc.). He will finish the good work He started in them (Philippians 1:6):
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
I don’t know about you, but God chased me to the end of my rope (via an obedient Sheriff in super-max at Wayside). And He is doing “Yeoman’s Work,” as, I am owned by Him (Acts 20:28), and, it is work (a cultivation, John 15:5) only He can accomplish. CS Lewis touches on this when he wrote:
“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words ‘compelle intrare,’ compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, AND HIS COMPULSION IS OUR LIBERATION.” (Emphasis added.)
Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life
REMEMBER ~ the Apostle Paul mentioned the same — many years before — Lewis penned the Chronicles of Narnia:
I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry — one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I received mercy because I acted out of ignorance in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate His extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
1Timothy 1:12-16 (HCSB)
Continuing this chasing God does of those that belong to Him. His “sheep”
…My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
John 10:27-29 (HCSB)
A scene that beautifully captures Lewis’ experience is in his The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 5). One of the main characters—a boy named Eustace—has developed an evil heart and becomes a dragon. He wants to be a boy again, so Aslan leads him to a pristine fountain of water. Listen to Eustace (and behind him, C.S. Lewis), describe his experience:
The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain. But the lion [Aslan] told me I must undress first.
So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.
But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that [the skin on my feet was] all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as it had been before.
[Eustace then repeats the process a second and third time, growing increasingly despairing.]
Then the lion said, ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.
Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything, but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.
If you’re feeling God’s pursuit like the “claws” of a lion, know that while it may be painful, it’s not punishment. God never desires to pay you back, but to bring you back. Will you let him?
CS Lewis as well as the Apostle Paul were essentially “chased by God,” and in a lot of ways I was chased as well. As I was writing this and thinking on this miracle that God has wrought in my life as well as others… a friend posted this on FaceBook. And I wish to note that this boy was CHASED by God into a foster-care system and brought into His fold by the Body of Christ (via an obedient uncle and aunt). You see, Christopher Duffley was one of those given to Jesus — set-aside — by the Father, and God will finish the good work (salvation) in him:
I will end with this very personal insight into why Philippians 1:6 is a favorite of the much missed J. Vernon McGee: