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Where does faith begin? Some people exhort us to just believe in something. Others tell us to believe in ourselves. But where is our faith ultimately suppose to rest. The Word of God places a high emphasis on the need for faith. In fact, Hebrews 11:6, says that “without faith it is impossible to please him” – that is God. Romans14:23 tells us that “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

Is it really that important then if we have faith or a right faith? It is crucial! For God has also told us that the “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). In fact, this verse begins by telling us that it is in the gospel that “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith.” Very literally, it is “from faith into faith.” The gospel of Jesus Christ calls each of us to depend on God at every point of our lives and in every circumstance.

Peter also picks up on the importance of faith in the 2 Peter 1:5-10. In verse 10, he challenges us “make your calling and election sure.” He says that we are to do this by holding fast to the “his precious and very great promises” (1:4) and then “to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge…” (1:5) Notice that his chain of progression beings with faith.

The Book of Proverbs also emphasizes the need for faith, but it does so in a different way when it says:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

Therefore, to  have knowledge and wisdom, we must first “fear the LORD”. We must possess a reverential awe that leaves us trembling before the one with whom we will have to do. We must regard the LORD of hosts as HOLY!!!  We  must believe that God is who He has reveal Himself to be in His Word.

“But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:13)

“All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

Therefore, if our faith is to be in the proper place, it must be of a proper fear. If we have a right faith, we will recognize God as the supreme and sovereign being over all things. We will trust Him as He has reveal Himself to us in His Word – the Bible. Faith must begin with God not with us. Faith must begin with the Word of God and not with the wisdom of man. So may we all come to tremble at His Word.

I don’t know about other people, but I have found it is normally easier for me to do evangelism as an organized event, whether it is going door-to-door or walking around a public area and just talking to people, than it is to do it in my more daily interactions with people. As I have thought about this difference, I have contemplate what goes through my mind that makes evangelism so difficult for myself at times. I find so of the things that discourage me from doing evangelism are the following:

  • How do I start the conversation? Or change it to a spiritual topic?
  • What if the person asks a question I don’t know the answer to?
  • What if the person gets offended by what I say?
  • Is it worth the effort, they porbably won’t believe the gospel anyway?

Those are just some of the thoughts that run through my mind to make sharing the gospel a less desirable endeavor, so then how do you over come these things that hinder your gospel proclamation. Some people have sought to make evangelism easier for others by trying to boil the gospel down to a few essential points, such as the Four Spiritual Laws or Romans Road. Some people seek to make it easier by offering classes on the basic knowledge need to do evangelism, such as what the gospel is (kind of scary that has to be covered in an evangelism class), what are common objections to the gospel, and how to engage an unbeliever in a spiritual conversation. Yet, even these attempts to make evangelism easier, I do not think will suffice if we are to bold preach the gospel of Christ.

The most simple and fundamental way to be better in evangelism is simply this: BELIEVE. Now that probably seems like a weird assertion to some of you, because you say I do believe and yet I still struggle. My point is simply this the more convinced that you and me are in our hearts about the truths of the gospel, they more boldly we will proclaim them. Here are some things to consider so that we might be more convinced of their reality.

  • Everyone stands condemned because of their unrighteousness. You, the person standing in line with you at the store, the person sitting next to you at a little league game, the person working in the next office next door, and the person next door will die in your sins and suffer an eternity in hell at the hands of your Creator if you do not experience the grace of God.
  • The ONLY way to find the grace of God is in the gospel concerning His Son. The only hope you or anyone else has is to be declared rigtheous not on account of our own righteousness, but on account of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And to have wrath of God that our sins rightly deserve satisfied by the death of His Only Begotten Son.
  • The ONLY way to recieve the grace of God is through faith in the God of the gospel. And faith must rest upon the revelation of the one living and true God and His gospel as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Thus faith must come from hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Rom 10).
  • Someone MUST speak. There can be no salvation if there is no word of Christ to be believed. There can be no salvation where there is no gospel message. And God has ordained that it is His peoples responsibility to proclaim that message. So by not sharing the gospel what we are really indicating is that we want the other person to go to hell. The best way to ensure that a person does not get saved is to keep them away from the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So if you want to be a better evangelist, preach the gospel to yourself until your so overhelmed by its reality that you cannot help but tell others about it. The greater the gospel, and more importantly the Jesus Christ, is to you, the more you will desire to talk to others about Him. Remember the gospel is not about calling faith in an action (the death and resurrection of Jesus), but in a person (Jesus Christ, who died for them).  I fear that there are a great number of people in this country that are confused on this very issue. They love what God has done for them, but they do not love the God who has done it.

As I was doing my devotion this morning, I ended up taking a look at the days of Elijah in light of Rom 11:2ff. Primarily I was interested in why all the prophets were being put to death. So as I took a look back at 1 Kings 16-21 to find out what this situation was all about. It turns out it was the result of King Ahab’s poor choice of a marriage to Jezebel. This marriage was in direct opposition to God instructions in Deut. 7:3-4,

“Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.”

I do not want anyone to think that Jezebel was the only evil person in this, I think Ahab’s choice of Jezebel simply was a reflection of the evil intentions of hisown heart. “Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife incited him.” (1 Ki. 21:25). Ahab followed his wife in rebellion against the One True God and established Baal worship (16:31-32). Not only that but it was surely backed by this wicked king’s authority that “Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the Lord” (18:4).

Ahab himself seems to have been a pretty spineless individual. He appears to be among the people when they slay the prophets of Baal in 18:40, but when he returns to tell Jezebel what happened at the beginning of 19, he does not oppose her threat of Elijah’s life.

I could not help but think about the care that should be taken in pursuing marriage, especially as Christians. It is of the utmost importance that as you consider a potential spouse that he or she is devoted to the same God as you are. Please notice that I did not say that he or she should belong to the religion or profess the same faith, but that their life should reflect a devotion to the same God. The longer that I am exposed to “Christian” discussions and debates, the more aware I am that variations in the theology of some so called “Christians” amounts to a difference in dieties. Here are a couple of quick examples:

  • The God of “open theism” is different than the God of the Bible. The former is simply a God who has no control over your life and cannot be relied upon because he lacks control of the circumstances of your life, while the latter is completely in control of every situation and has intended it for the good of his people (even the times that we don’t understand what he is doing).
  • The God of Catholism is a different God than the God of the Bible. Catholicism establishes a system of human actions or works (called sacraments) by which people can receive ‘grace’. Biblical Christianity establishes that grace is received simply through faith, not through things that we do.
  • The God of Liberalism is different than the God of the Bible. The God of Liberalism is not concerned about righteous living or holiness. Liberalists are usually more concerned with curing the ills of a fall world than in being restored to a right standing in the eyes of a righteous God. Biblical Chrstianity demands holiness, because God is Holy, Holy, Holy. It demands righteous living, because God is a righteous God. Yet it recognizes that human righteousness is really unrighteousness in the eyes of a Holy God. Thus it demands a righteousness alien to the believer, the righteousness that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

So for those of you that are still single, don’t be so quick to think that just because someone professes the name of Christ that they believe the same things about Him that you do. Get to know people. Get to know what they really believe about their God. Is the God they believe in the same as yours? Are they following the same Lord as you? Do they submit to the same master? If they don’t keep looking, because more than likely “they will turn [you] away from following [the LORD] to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.” (Deut. 7:4)

Review of Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

As I continue to read, I have begun to realize that it is very easy for me to read a book and then set it on the self. The problem is that when I set the book on the shelf, I tend to set its content there as well and not give it the continued consideration that it often deserves. So in an effort to help myself remember better the truths presented, I have decided to write reviews of each book I read from here on out. I will post them here on this blog as well for those who are interested in such matters.

In today’s society it is not uncommon for people to be depressed. In fast, any one with common sense will realize that being depressed or being down is a normal part of life. But what about people that always seem to be depressed, who cannot seem to find any form of happiness. Modern society has come to the point that rather than deal with the issues that underlie depression, people seek to deal with it by medicating themselves. In Spiritual Depression, Lloyd-Jones attempts to highlight a variety of causes that may cause depression. Ironically, they are all traced back to lack of faith or a lack of understanding about what God has revealed about us or about Himself. As Lloyd-Jones express it:

“The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to say to your soul; ‘Why are thou cast down’ — what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’ — instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having donethat, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God'” (21)

However, if you are anything like me you realize that sometimes you are blinded to what is causing the depression in the first place. While it is easy to say that depression is ultimately the result of us thinking we deserve something that we don’t, of having unmet expectations, and of being unwilling to submit our wills to God, it is sometimes hard to pin point the exact area in which we are doubting God.

As Lloyd-Jones delves into various texts of scriptures, he shows from them various causes of depression and how the Christian is to deal with them. Some of the basic issues that he deals with in the course of the book include:

  • Confusing justification and sanctification

  • Dwelling on the past sins

  • Listening to feelings instead of listening to God

  • Failing to recognize discipline or trials in their proper light

  • Needing to learn contentment

  • The effects of bad/false teaching

While this list is not exhaustive, it hopefully gives you a quick glimpse of things to consider if you are struggling with depression. I hope that you and I can have the same kind of concern that Lloyd-Jones does about the testimony of our churches when they are seem to filled with joyless Christians.

“So often we give the impression that we are dejected and depressed; indeed, some would almost give the impression that to become a Christian means that you face many problems that never worried you before. So, looking superfically the man of the world comes to the conclusion that you find happier people outside the Church than inside the church. He is quite wrong, of course, but we must recognize that some of us at any rate have to plead guilty to the charge, that far too often because we suffer from spiritural depression, and are more or less miserable Christians, we grossly and grievously misrepresent the gospel of Redeeming Grace.’ (79)

So let us all take ourselves in hand and learn how to deal with our hearts in such a way that our testimonies and the testimonies of our churches makes known to those outside the church, that they are missing out on what really matters. That true and lasting happiness, true and lasting joy, can only be found by delighting ourselves in the Lord.

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Tim. 1:17)

It has long been debated how it is that salvation comes about. There are some who would assert that God has made possible the way of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and all that remains is for us to embrace it by faith. Others have asserted that God actually saved some through the death and resurrection of Christ and all that remains is for God to act in that persons to bring them to faith.

No God fearing Christian would ever assert that faithwas not a necessary condition of salvation. The questions that have long driven debate among theologians was how does faith come about and what relationship does faith have with works. Can a person believe the gospel and then later loose their salvation? Does knowledge of the gospel and believing that is true equal faith? Is faith a work of man or of God? How does a person come to faith? What must one believe? As time permits over the next few months I hope to answer some of these questions faithfully from scripture.

For now let me leave you to consider Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” I would like to make three quick observations:

  1. “I am confident” – Paul states that he is confident about the future of the believers in Philippi. Why is that Paul is confident? Isn’t there the possibility that they might stop believing at some point?
  2. “He who began a good work” – Paul is not concerned about them giving up the faith, because He does not see it as something that they have done in the first place, but rather a work of God in their lives. Paul seems to understand that they came to faith not because they were somehow smarter or better than other people but rather because God did something in their lives to bring them into the faith.
  3. “will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” – Since Paul sees their salvation as having been a work of God, he can be confident that what God has begun, He will also finish. God will continue to grow and strengthen the faith of those in whom He has begun to do a good work.

I would draw one final conclusion from this verse about the nature of the faith of those who have “suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1 Tim. 1:19). If a person’s “faith” does not last until the “day of Christ Jesus,” it is evidence that their faith was not a “work of God,” but rather “work of man.” It seems fair to conclude that there is a faith then that springs forth from men that will not save and there is a faith that springs forth from God that results in salvation. We must endeavor then to distinguish that faith which is a genuine work of God from that faith which is born out of the hypocrisy of the human heart.

“but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised” (Romans 4:12)

As I was studying Romans 4:12 the other day I was struck by the consideration of “the steps of the faith of our father Abraham.” Paul’s point in the argument of Romans here is to make clear that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness prior to the receiving of circumcision (a work). But I had to ask what did the steps of Abraham’s faith look like?

He did not boast about His faith. Abraham never seem to be a man who boasted about having faith. He never went out and said, “Hey, look at me I am a follower of God.” Ironically, when Abraham did interact with those outside his immediate circle, he was at times prone to lie to them (bout His wife). He never went around telling everyone, “Hey, you would never believe the promises that God has made to me.” He seems to have just been an ordinary man whom God saw fit to bless.

His faith was “wordless.” What I mean by wordless is that Abraham did not describe his faith to others. I don’t seem to recall Abraham going around and talking to people about God’s sovereignty or His immutability or His kindness or any other attribute. I should note, however, that Christians today are called to defend “sound doctrine,” which calls for the use of words (see 1 Tim. 6:3, 2 Tim. 1:13  and Titus 2)

His faith was “living.” I chose the word living to highlight the use of Abraham in James 2 as an example of someone who did not have “dead” faith. You see Abraham’s faith was primarily reflected in his actions and conversations with God. God calls Abraham out Haran, Abraham goes (Gen 12). God tells him He will have a son, he believes and continues trying to have a son, although with his wife’s maidservant (Gen 15-16). God tells him to circumcise every male as a sign of the covanent, he does it (Gen. 17). God tells Abraham of His intent to wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham calls on God to demonstrate His righteousness by preserving the righteous (Gen. 18-19). God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham goes and tries to do it (Gen 22). Abraham’s faith was demonstrate through the life that he lived, thus it was a living faith. A faith that evidenced itself deeds and not merely words.

Let this be a fresh reminder to all of us who claim to believe in Jesus Christ. Does our faith demonstrate itself through our actions? Or just in our words? We talk about a sovereign God, but do we act as though He is sovereign? We say he is omniscient, but do we live as though He knows every thought and deed we have done, are doing, and will yet do? We say he is righteous and just, yet do we live as though the sins we commit will be rightly judged? We say that there is forgiveness with Him and that our sins have been forgiven, but do we act like we have been forgiven?

“You believe that God is one You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19)

As I was sitting in church this Sunday attempting to listen to the pastor’s sermon, I was having trouble paying attention. As I tried to captivate my thoughts on the sermon at hand, my mind kept being drawn to the consideration of James 2:19 and the distinction between genuine faith and demonic faith. I have been greatly excited by the fact that our church, Omaha Bible Church, is currently going through the book of James in our care groups. This last week we did an overview of James with regard to how James distinguishes between genuine faith and demonic faith.

As I have continued to think on this verse in connection with the rest of the book of James and the Old Testament that would have been the foundation of James understanding of the gospel. I have begun to see more and more the point that James is driving at in James 2:19-24 is not just the works that are being done, but the motive behind them. I realize I am about to make an argument from silence, but I think if you will bear with me for a moment you will realize that there is a connection. I would like to assert that when James proposes that faith works, he is referring to a faith that acts out of a love for God and that James is in no way asserting any form of legalistic justification.

First, James makes reference to the demons faith with regards to the nature of God. They believe “that God is one,” and James tells his readers that those who agree with this fact have “done well”. Given the fact that He is writing to a Jewish audience I cannot help but think that James is here applauding them for their recognition of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one.” This makes sense in light of the fact that James has just argued that you must be a doer of the law and not just a hearer (James 1:22-25) and that Deuteronomy 6:3 says, “O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it.”

Second, if indeed James is drawing from Deuteronomy 6 here in James 2 it would makes sense to conclude that what the demons lack is what Israel was called to do in Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” It seems clear that the demons have no genuine love for God, but rather hate and despise him. And so the natural man also in Romans 1:30 are referred to as “haters of God.” Therefore it seems likely to assume that what James expects to see from those who have been justified is a love that flows out in obedience to God and His word.

Finally, James uses Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (James 1:21) as the example of how Abraham was justified through His works. Clearly James cannot be speaking of the initial justification by which Abraham was credited as righteous because of His faith (Genesis 15:5), because the sacrifice of Isaac doesn’t take place until Genesis 22 when Isaac was a young lad (at least old enough to carry a load of wood for the sacrifice). The question the must be asked what was God trying to assess in the the testing of Abraham. We are told in Genesis 22:12 that as a result of Abraham’s obedience God knew that Abraham feared Him. In addition, I would add to that the fact that God now knew who had the preeminence when it came to Abraham’s affections, because in Genesis 22:2 Abraham was told, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” The issue was not ultimately just Abraham do you believe that Isaac is the one through whom you will be blessed as I said, but do you love Me enough to sacrifice your son whom you love.

You see faith is not just about believing and acting…the Pharisees believed the law otherwise they would not have went to such great lacks to keep the law (at least in outward appearance. The problem was that they hated the Law Giver, which is why when He came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ and asserted things like He did in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Things like if you are angry in your heart your a murder and if you lust in your heart you are an adulterer, they could not handle it. So the did the one thing that every one of us wants to do, they attempted to kill God! And they thought they had succeeded until Christ rose again on the third day and demonstrated for all that not only had He satisfied the wrath of God, but it is impossible to kill God. In the struggle between God and the rebellion of His creation, God demonstrated that not even His rebellious creation could over come Him.

Ultimately, what distinguishes false faith from true faith is a love for God that overflows into a love for others, and so fulfills the two greatest commandments.

I have been thinking about what it means to be a Christian a lot over the last few months. And of course as a person who attends a bible believing church, I have talked with lots of people who call themselves Christians. But what is a christian? The bible tells us the term originated in the city of Antioch as a title for those who were students/followers of Chrsit, “and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). So it is fair to say that all of those who follow the teachings of Jesus could rightly be called “christians.” The bigger question then in my mind is do all christians, or disciples of Jesus go to heaven. In other words does identifying oneself as a Christian and doing christian things make one a Christian.

I believe that the biblical evidence supports the position that it is possible to think oneself to be a christian when one is not really for the following reasons:

  1. Some Professors are rejected by Christ. Matthew 7:21-23 describes a person who claims to be a follower (i.e. claiming Jesus as Lord), but Christ will tell him to depart from Him.
  2. The Profession of faith cannot be the basis of salvation. If the profession of faith is the basis for salvation than salvation is no longer of grace, but is the result of a work…namely that of claiming or professing faith. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that even faith must be given to us by the grace of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
  3. Profession (or faith) is never listed as the basis of assurance. The bible gives to basic basis for assurance to the believer. First and foremost, “We exult in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). The foundation upon which all hope must rest is the character of the one who saves. It is the assurance that comes from knowing that God is true to his promises (Heb. 6:9-20). The other main basis of assurance is “proven character” (Rom. 5:4). Read 1 John sometime and you should notice that the primary basis for assurance is how you live. James told us that “faith without works is dead” (Jam. 2:26). Now to make clear I am not ascerting that a person needs to do works to be saved, but that if you do not see fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) in your life and if your live is not being conformed into the image of the Son, you should probably question whether your faith is genuine.

All that to say that I would encourage everyone to check themselves for a pulse. Are you being conformed into the image of Christ? Or are you continuing to reflect image of the devil? Are you a child of God? Or a child of the devil?