Tuesday, March 26

How can we really be safe?

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. -Proverbs 29:25

Why is the fear of man worse than the fear of God? 
It "lays a snare." Well, you say, isn't it obvious? God is greater than man. OK, that does make a lot of sense. So, again I ask, why do we fear men over God? It is certainly a misplaced trust. But sin really doesn't make much sense no matter what that sin is.

We fear man in part because we see them, which means in our mind, we don't see God! At least on a level that means the most. That's a serious problem. Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, tells us that what motivated the heroes of faith, like Moses, was that he acted on faith because he saw Him "who is invisible" (Heb. 11:27). We have good example of this unbelief in Jacob who upon waking from his ladder dream (Gen. 28) exclaimed, "Behold, God was in this place and I did not know it." Yes, it was good that he recognized God WAS there. But no, it was not necessarily good that he had not realized that until then. Not unusual truly. We tend to miss these things for we are so bound to the material world. And until God shows himself to us in an uncontested and glorious way we operate in a blind acceptance of the truth--our version of it. We bless God that Moses exhibited such faith in the midst of such opulence and power in Egypt.

But the main reason we fear man more than God is due to our low view of God and falsely inflated respect for man. So, why does the fear of man "lay a snare?" Simply because man cannot promise or fulfill what God can. So, trusting in man is bound to trip us up. When we don't take everything to God in prayer, that is one way in which we affirm that our fear of man and not God. What? Can a man, my wife, a new job or a friend or money really help me to the core? No. And when we try such things (as good as they may be in themselves) we turn God away and our hope of a true solution.

Why is trust in God safe?
First, because there are no contingencies he has not anticipated. There are no bumps in the road he is incapable of crossing. I can't change my past, but the Lord Jesus can save me from their domination in my life. What can I do about the future? But God knows it very well. No question there. Trust in the One whose reach goes in both directions, the past and forward and that with ease!

Second, trusting in the LORD is safe because his love is not conditioned on our own goodness or performance. So many have lived with the fear that they might lose the relationship they have with another. And in this world, that may very well be true, yes, may have even happened. But IT CANNOT HAPPEN WITH GOD! Has he not said, "I will never leave you, I will never forsake you" (Heb. 13:5). In the Greek language multiple negatives emphasizes a point. In this verse, there are an unprecedented FIVE, that's 5 negatives! God means to make a point. Thus, we must mean to let him! And please don't say that you're an exception.

Third, we are safe in the fear of the LORD because he is all-powerful. This is not just a doctrine to be believed, but a truth to be delighted in. Most people are not very powerful. Some of us may in fact be rather weak in any number of ways. But not God. There is no trouble which he cannot overcome. He may not want you or me to overcome our issues right away, because there may be a much larger strength we cannot gain until we suffer. But he is all-powerful just the same.

Fourth, this leads to another very important reason to be safe in the fear of the LORD, and that is because God is all-wise. In summary, God lovingly foresees all contingencies and is completely powerful to make happen even the impossible. But add to this that he is ALL WISE and you have an indomitably accurate force. He knows every harm and benefit which can come to us. And if you trust that God is good, then you can rest in his wisdom.

Lastly, God is sovereign. All of his attributes come together in this awesome truth! Here is a wonderful explanation from the Puritan, Steven Charnock:
The power of God is that ability and strength whereby He can bring to pass whatsoever He pleases, whatsoever His infinite wisdom may direct, and whatsoever the infinite purity of His will may resolve. . . . As holiness is the beauty of all God’s attributes, so power is that which gives life and action to all the perfections of the Divine nature. How vain would be the eternal counsels, if power did not step in to execute them. Without power His mercy would be but feeble pity, His promises an empty sound, His threatenings a mere scarecrow. God’s power is like Himself: infinite, eternal, incomprehensible; it can neither be checked, restrained, nor frustrated by the creature.  
Can you not see how we have every reason to be safe in God?

Monday, March 25

For Whom Did Christ Die? C. H. Spurgeon

Many rail against the doctrine of "limited atonement." But know that it is not the effect or power of Jesus' atoning work that is limited, but it's application. Charles Spurgeon has interestingly had the respect of Christians on both sides of this issue. But while some readers may continue despising this doctrine, Spurgeon here explains just one reason it is a good doctrine, in fact, better than universal atonement. God's glory is at stake. May I add one thought here. If you read this and imagine, "Well, if I am not elect, then can I be saved?" That is the wrong question. The right question is, "Do I want to be saved?" Jesus did say, didn't he, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved . . ." (John 10:9). Let's not worry too much about the divine counsel of God. Study it, yes. But bow before it. If you wish to know God, then turn to him. But in order to rightly understand the complete and finished work of Christ on the cross rightly, consider the following . . .

"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." 
John 6:37
Some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say, "It is so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself," they say, "to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty. I admit there is, but beauty may be often associated with falsehood.

There is much which I might admire in the theory of universal redemption, but I will just show what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before He died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then myriads there who had been cast away because of their sins.

Once again, if it was Christ's intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood that seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption. To think that my Saviour died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain. To imagine for a moment that He was the Substitute for all the sons of men, and that God, having first punished the Substitute, afterwards punished he sinners themselves, seems to conflict with all my ideas of Divine justice. That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever have been imputed to Saturn, to Janus, to the goddess of the Thugs, or to the most diabolical heathen deities. God forbid that we should ever think thus of Jehovah, the just and wise and good!"

Saturday, March 23

Resurfacing on the Blog . . . Seeing the Genuine Savior

Yep, that's what I'm doing, resurfacing after a stuttered quietus (blog entries here and there). One of our Elders, Gary Appleby kindly urged me to continue writing, for which I here give him thanks. It's not that anything urgent has prevented any blogs necessarily. But one thing we are all learning from the Worldwide Web and that is, simply put, that it IS world wide! And it seems to be becoming even more so as time passes. My point here is simply that what one thinks in the confines of his own office in a small rural town like Perry, NY is that a small word may be a "shot heard round the world!" Or it could be just heard by the few. Either way, that's no problem. We don't write for fame or for a sure return. We often have no idea who reads what we write. But if God puts something on our hearts, the reception is not so much our responsibility as is the penning of those thoughts. The Spirit carries truth home to the heart, and only He.

American Christianity seems to often base its success on numbers, or as it's put, we seek "more bang for the buck." But that can be an elusive goal, and worse it will likely divert us from what is most important. In fact, it's almost guaranteed to do so. Jesus' entrance into this world went completely against the tide of expectations, Jewish, Roman or otherwise. If Jesus entered the world and were always perceived as the most "together," wealthy, influential,  or powerful, then on what basis would folks have followed him? I'm not saying that this is the only reason Jesus entered the world in Bethlehem poverty, but it certainly figures into the salvation equation.

In the late 1980's I did some construction work for a young man who it turns out was a millionaire. In talking with him, he shared with me that he had met and married his wife before ever telling her that he was wealthy. When he met her he drove a beat up old VW van (pea green, I believe). Why do this and take a chance of erecting a wall of distrust between yourself and your new bride? Well, because he had had experience in the world and knew that there were women who'd be quite ready to marry him for his money. He was also a nice looking guy to boot. Later, in speaking with his wife, she shared her initial disappointment that he had not felt her trustworthy enough or her love genuine enough to share this knowledge. Part of us can understand both sides in this situation. Jesus took all that off the table. If anyone were to place their trust in Christ, it would have to be on the basis of the unvarnished truth of his diety bound up in humble human form.

Those who have eyes of faith, can see the value of the genuine article. And this faith comes from God. Palm Sunday exultation gives way to angry hatred and crucifixion within just one week! Man is fickle. But God is not! And he knew quite well the state of this world which he came to save.

Wherein does your trust lie? Those who see through Jesus' ignominious death will in the end discover that they are married to One who unimaginatively wealthy! But He never misleads. Follow Christ. Yes, follow Jesus Christ.