Jesus and Professions of Faith

After turning water into wine and clearing the Temple of the moneychangers...

<cite>Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, <b>many believed in his name</b> when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.</cite> John 2:23-25 (ESV)

After multiplying a few loaves to feed thousands of people...

<cite>When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, "This is indeed the <b>Prophet</b> who is to come into the world!" Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him <b>king</b>, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself... When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "<b>Rabbi</b>, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves."</cite> John 6:14-15, 25-26 (ESV)

After teaching the people about himself, the Father, and his coming death...

<cite>As he was saying these things, many believed in him. So Jesus said to the Jews <b>who had believed in him</b>... "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires..."</cite> John 8:30-31a, 44a (ESV)

These are just a few of the examples in the gospels of Jesus not just blindly accepting professions of faith. Many people will follow a man with zeal, a man who can fill their bellies, or a man who can tickle their ears. Apparently, Jesus is looking for more. These people would agree with Jesus' testimony or obey his teaching up to a point, but the followers Jesus is seeking should have no such limitations.

What reservations would he see in my faith? Why?

Grace to Help from the Lord of the Harvest

Tonight was a wonderful night of teaching at the Transformation House. I've been leading lessons through John Piper's book The Passion of the Christ that brings to light many reasons given in Scripture for the suffering and death of Jesus. Lesson 27 teaches that Jesus suffered and died to become a sympathetic and helpful priest. The gist of it is that through his life and death he subjected himself to the same weaknesses, sufferings, and temptations that we face daily because we are human. Accordingly, he is able to sympathize with us in our weakness, because he himself suffered when being tempted.

Of course, this isn't just a theological or intellectual exercise. Knowing that Jesus is sympathetic is supposed to give us confidence to approach him in our times of need. What are those? I'd say any time of temptation, conviction, or suffering. Any time we're tempted to look at ourselves in light of God's Word and allow our failures to overshadow God's grace toward those who believe. Knowing that we'll find sympathy with Jesus instead of a rebuke, we are to approach him with confidence for mercy and for grace to help us make the right decisions or persevere through hardship.

He's also not impotent to help us. He himself endured shame and scorn all the way to the cross, and through the greatest moments of temptation he never wavered. He always trusted God, and he offers strength to us through the same Spirit that empowered him to "walk just as he walked." My prayer is that this gospel, this good news, would encourage and enable the men their to continue working out their transformation before the Lord.

Also, there's a very encouraging brother there named Will (who gave me permission to recount this quick story). He was saved while he was in jail, reading the Bible as a skeptic and not understanding what comfort it offered to him. He couldn't believe it when he found out there were men coming to the jails to teach him just that of their own accord. Now through ministry's like ours through our church, he's still taking advantage of laborers going out to spread God's Word and also reap the harvest that God has prepared. God himself has promised there are people who will receive His Word and be changed by it to "bear fruit." This is truly happening in the lives of Will and many other men through places like the Transformation House.

Will shared with me tonight that he believes one of the greatest prayers we're commanded to pray is that "the Lord of the harvest would send out laborers into his harvest." (Luke 10:2) He marvels at the wisdom and plans of a God who would cause men to freely teach the Bible so that others could come to know God more, and I have to add that I myself am the result of many men and women giving their time and love to teach me the same Word. I'm also humbled by his encouragement and his inclusion of myself and the others from Immanuel in the answer to his prayers. Finally, I'd encourage those of you who believe as I do to consider how you might be joining others in reaping the harvest that God has prepared for us to reap!

The Fear of the Lord

My pastor preached a sermon this morning on the fear of the Lord. More specifically, it was a word from Joshua 24 on ways Joshua endeavors to cultivate the fear of the Lord among the Israelites and how he doesn't shy away from challenging their response. I won't go into much more detail, but his message did remind me to put together a few pieces of the Scriptures I've seen to grow in my understanding of the Lord.

It can be dangerous blogging about a topic like this, read by people from various faiths or understandings of Christianity, without providing a robust definition of what it means to fear God. However, for the sake of this post, I'm going to point out one of the most easily understood definitions I use. Proverbs 8:13 says, "The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil."

That's simple enough... no caveats required. To fear God means to hate what is evil, specifically what God has declared is evil. This includes things ranging from pride and arrogance to immorality, hatred, and murder. When the concept of fearing God becomes a little heady or non-practical, this definition gives it feet. It's immediately applicable... if I want to discern whether I'm living in fear of the LORD (as we're called to do, for example 1 Pt. 1:17), I can look at my life and ask whether or not I'm hating what is evil or partaking in it.

Another boiled down definition I like is one I keep in mind for spiritual maturity. What does it mean to grow as a Christian? In Hebrews 5:14 God says, "But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." From this I see that spiritual maturity involves consistently choosing to do what is good instead of what is evil (see also Rom. 12:9). This results in a conscience that is readily able to discern right from wrong and, putting these two definitions together, grow in fear of the Lord.

So, in summary, we ought to fear the Lord, and if we see in ourselves a deficiency in this, we should devote ourselves through prayer and belief in the gospel to consistently doing what is good instead of what is evil. We should do this in all things, and we should do it through the grace that has been given to us through the cross of Christ.

The Bible teaches that Jesus died a death for us, so those who have faith in him for the forgiveness of their sins no longer have to fear death. Instead, we can fear the Lord and trust that through His salvation we are empowered to choose to do what is good instead of what is evil.

Faith Without Works

James 2:15-16, "If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,' but you don't give them what the body needs, what good is it?" James is making the point that faith without works is dead by showing how good intentions aren't enough to clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Our desires must be backed up by actions if we ever want to convince anyone that we really do desire these things. Similarly, the mere recitation of a creed or doctrinal belief won't be enough to prove that you really believe it... at least not to God. Saving faith invariably produces change and motivates obedience in a Christian.

And so I speak to husbands, because I am one. Smile "If your wife is tired or stressed from the pressures of work, keeping the home, or life in general, and one of you says to them, 'Just relax, babe. Remember, what matters is your attitude and not a day's agenda,' but you don't do your part to pitch in and take care of some of the things weighing on her mind, what good is it?"

Can you convince someone by your actions that you want your wife to have rest and be free from anxiety? Can I? Surely we can do better with the command as our guide: "Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, to make her holy..." Jesus' good intentions were backed up by the ultimate self-sacrifice, and He is the standard of love we should always strive for as we serve our lovely wives.