Saturday, April 21, 2012

Faith is Being Certain

Ask yourself this question:  "Am I convinced that God will answer my prayers?"  Being convinced leaves no room for doubt.  I'm not convinced if I am 99% sure.  I am not confident if I think it might not happen.

Faith is being sure of what we hope for; certain of what we do not see (Heb. 11:1).  If you have doubt, then you are working from a potsition of "hope" instead of "faith".  Hope leaves room for the possibility that your prayer may not have been heard.  "I hope God hears me."  That is how most of us pray, I believe. 

It is beyond our ability to be "doubtless".  We are human and we are flawed.  We require the Holy Spirit of God, Himself, to help us believe and not doubt.  We have to choose to seek Him and His righteousness.  Sound familiar?

Read Matthew 6:33:

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Have you ever considered that our faith grows when we actively seek Him? 

Makes sense...the more you know Him, the more you know what He is capable of, the more you will trust and believe in His power and willingness to answer prayer.

How is your faith?  What are you actively doing to seek God and His righteousness?  Are you a person of FAITH, or simply someone who HOPES?  According to James 5:15:

"The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well."  May God empower all of us to truly be convinced that He hears us and wants to change our circumstances.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Does salvation come by “believing,” alone? 

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. – Rom. 10:8-10

Clearly, believing is the key factor to becoming a follower of Christ.  According to this passage, believing is something that happens in our hearts, not simply our minds.  We would have to believe in someone to truly follow them; thus believing is indeed a vital part of choosing to follow Jesus.

It is a key factor to faith as well.  Hebrews 11:6 says that for us to come to God, we must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.  People of faith must first believe.

However, “believing” is a starting point, not an end…what about “confessing with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’?”  What does that even mean?  If I confess that Jesus is “Lord”, do I not then have to let Him beLord”?  Can I claim He is Lord from my heart and not give Him Lordship of my heart?  That seems highly improbable on the integrity level, doesn’t it?

Repentance, then, is the other part of this “Salvation” experience.  If God is going to be Lord of my life, I have to repent of my sin.  I have to want to let go of sin and desire the change only God can bring. 

This is also shown in the following scriptures:

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. – Luke 5:32

46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. – Luke 24:46-48

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life. – Acts 11:18

I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. – Acts 20:21

First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. – Acts 26:20

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

Is believing important?  It is imperative!  But apart from repentance, I believe that James would say:

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. – James 2:19

The difference is, that the demons’ belief in Jesus doesn’t lead them to repentance.  They are not offered that option.  Only people, made in the image of God, have been offered this great salvation.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Good Friday...What Changed?

Many times we have heard the story of the suffering of Jesus on this day we call Good Friday:  The unrecognizably beaten form that was led down the Way of Suffering to the Hill of the Skull, Golgotha, and hung to die like a common criminal.  He suffered many kinds of pain that day:

1.    The pain of betrayal - Judas

2.    The pain of injustice – The Sanhedrin

3.    The pain of indifference – Pilate

4.    The pain of physical torture – Temple Guard and Roman Soldiers

5.    The pain of the nails and the crown of thorns – The Cross

6.    The pain of breathing while hanging – Survival

7.    The pain of humiliation – Hanging almost naked; The wine-vinegar

8.    The pain of mockery – The crowds, the priests, the soldiers and the criminal on the cross

There was a man who had watched this entire process.  He was there when Judas agreed to betray Jesus; when Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin; when Jesus was sent to Pilate; when Jesus was abandoned by His own people; when people shouted demands for His crucifixion; and when Jesus was tortured and crucified.  He was a disciple of Jesus’, though not one of the Twelve.  He wanted to save Jesus, but in the end, his fear of what might happen to him overpowered his desire to save Jesus.

And after Jesus had said, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing;” after He had said, “My God!  My God!  Why have you forsaken me?!” after He said, “I’m thirsty;” after Jesus finally said, “It is finished!” – Right in the middle of the unusual darkness of that terrible afternoon – There he stood, left to consider it all.

Joseph of Arimathea: 

1.    Until now, a proud, prominent member of the Jewish ruling Council. – Mark 15:43

2.    Until now, wealthy and yet of strong character. – Matt. 27:57; Luke 23:50

3.    Until now, watching and waiting for the kingdom of God to come. – Mk. 15:43; Lk. 23:51

4.    Until now, unwilling to be known as a disciple of Jesus. – John 19:38

5.    Until now, divided in his allegiances between Jesus and His own position in the culture.

But now:

1.    Regretting his silence in the trials

2.    Reliving the shouts of the crowd to crucify this innocent man

3.    Reconsidering his position and the value of it in the scheme of things

4.    Remembering how Jesus spoke of love, of commitment, and of following Him

5.    Realizing his own fear and weaknesses

Joseph decided that it was time to be strong and courageous.  He went directly to Pilate and boldly asked for the body of Jesus (Mark 15:43) so that he could give Him a proper, Jewish burial.  He went, himself, up to the cross and took the body of Jesus down – enlisting the help of another Pharisee-disciple; Nicodemus (John 19:39-40) – and taking the body to a brand new tomb (John 19:41); one that had recently been carved out of solid rock for Joseph (Matt. 27:60).  Nicodemus brought along 75 pounds of myrrh, aloes and spices (John 19:39) to wrap in the linens in which Jesus would be entombed.  Joseph and Nicodemus personally wrapped Jesus’ body, placed it in the tomb, and rolled the stone over the entrance (Matt. 27:60; Mark 15:46).

Joseph could not go back and make things right.  He couldn’t go back and stand up for the Truth in the trial with the Sanhedrin.  He couldn’t make any speeches before the crowds who were shouting to have Jesus crucified.  He couldn’t order the temple guard to stop abusing Jesus.  He couldn’t go back and do what he should have done. 

But he could treat Jesus like royalty in His burial.  He could come forward and confess that he believed Jesus was worthy of better than what He was given.  He could draw that line here and make the statement:  Jesus is, in His death, as He was in His life:  My King!

What about us?  As we stand here today, considering the brutal miscarriage of justice that led to the death of the Savior we claim to love, how does it affect us?  Will we continue to live the life of an “Undercover disciple,” in fear of what might happen if we told others that we believe in Jesus?  When He died for us in this way, will we remain unchanged?

What can we do, now?  We cannot go back and undo all of our mistakes made in weakness and fear.  We can’t bring back things, “the way they should have been”.  But we aren’t done, yet.  There is still today.  How will we show Jesus our deep love for Him?  How will we let the world know that we believe?  What will we do?