Tag Archives: Abraham

Obedience Requires Faith

For Lent, our pastor is sharing a sermon series based on our Christian toolbox. Last week we learned about forgiveness. This week the tool we were challenged to pull out of the toolbox is faith.

Hebrews 11 provides the best illustrations of faith. It is filled with stories of people who lived by faith – Bible greats like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Joshua are all commended for their faith.

In each example, faith was not the end of the story. In each example, faith led to obedience to God’s call. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Joshua all stepped out in faith and did exactly what God asked of them even if it seemed crazy.

Noah built an ark when it had never before rained. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son. Joshua commanded the Israelites to march around Jericho for seven days to make the walls fall. These Bible greats all acted in faith, believing that God would be faithful in return. But although each of these people was obedient, it is for their faith that they are commended.

God commands us to do good to others, to feed the hungry and heal the sick. He commands us to step out in faith in so many ways. But if we only step as far as we think we can in our own power it’s not really obedience, and we are not fueled by faith.

Many years ago when I was looking for a job, I saw a posting for a job opening that was two weeks old. It was only a part-time job, and I wasn’t going to apply, but I heard this voice in my head that said, “Just send in the resume.” I didn’t end up getting the posted job, which had already been filled when I sent in the resume. But I did end up being offered a full-time position with the same company as the managing editor of a legal newsletter. The 5 ½ years I spent in that job was the perfect experience for my current job as Director of Legal Publications.

If I had ignored that voice – the voice of the Holy Spirit prompting me to step out in faith – who knows where I would be working now. At the time, I really didn’t think I would ever have a full-time job again because of the many years of major depression I had gone through. It was only by the grace of God that I was able to not only step out in faith and take the job when it was offered, when I didn’t know if I could do it.

The wonderful thing is that when I stepped out in faith and was obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, God was faithful in return. But without faith I couldn’t have done it. At the time I trusted that God’s hand was in the situation and He knew what was best.

I know this seems a small thing compared to building an ark or marching around a city for seven days. But it is just one example of how stepping out in faith that leads to obedience can be a blessing.

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Sin, Redemption, and Grace – My Tuesday Three

This is week two of “My Tuesday Three,” and I am so excited about what I’ve found for this week. As I determined to find three separate but related posts, I was blessed to have God lead me to the perfect three for this week. They all touch on the themes of sin, redemption, and grace, but from different perspectives. I am pleased to share these posts with all of you, and hope you are as blessed by the message of hope that they bring as I was.

The first post I want to showcase is titled Saddened by My Fallenness by Pastor Bryan Lowe over at Broken Believers. I’ve been reading Bryan’s blog for quite some time, and he has a wonderful ministry for Christians struggling with mental illness, though his posts are equally uplifting for all Christians. This particular post really spoke to me in its brutal honesty. From the first paragraph Bryan revealed such truth about what I have come to know about myself without God:

Scripture never flatters the human heart.  It acts on us directly, “dividing the spirit from the soul.”  I find no glowing review of our common humanity, nothing leads me to draw any other conclusion.  At our deepest essence, we are depraved, separated from truth and goodness.

He goes on to explain that it is those who recognize and mourn their own sinful and depraved heart whom Christ came to save and whom God comforts and heals. We must never think that we are completely cured of our depravity, but must continually turn to God for strength and healing. Bryan concludes with a wonderful quote from Martin Luther, but you’ll have to go check out the post to read it.

The second post that I want to showcase is titled The Good Shepherd: Tending a Blemished Flock by Chris Yeager at Chris Yeager Writes Blog. I found Chris’ blog because he submitted a poem to Idylls for the King, the Christian literary blog I contribute to. I read a few of his posts, which were all wonderful. But this one in particular struck me as one I wanted to include in My Tuesday Three because it fit so well with Bryan’s post, and then the third post I found later fit wonderfully, too. This post also includes the cutest picture of his young daughter and a story of her getting in trouble and locking herself in the bathroom that perfectly illustrates our relationship with God when we sin and don’t know how we will ever be able to make it right. Chris writes:

It is very easy for us to lock ourselves away from God and fear what He will think of us if we open up the door.  Our sin or disobedience can seem so great that we would rather try to hide it away and hope that He will ignore us.  But God is a seeker…He is a good shepherd who finds His sheep wherever they may try to lose themselves. He is the healer and redeemer, cleansing us of our blemishes so we can stand before Him unashamed. 

It is when we know we have done wrong, and that we can’t do anything to make it better on our own, that we must turn to God for redemption. God knows our depraved hearts, and yet He loves us enough to send His only Son to die for our sins so that we could be redeemed.

The third post that I want to showcase is titled Abraham and David: Saved By Grace by Loren at Answers From The Book. I’ve been reading Loren’s blog for some time, and always learn something new. His posts are well supported by scripture and always encouraging. This post rounds out My Tuesday Three by reminding us of how we, depraved as we are, can nonetheless be justified before God through His grace. He starts with the Old Testament stories of Abraham and David that Paul points to in Romans 4. Neither Abraham nor David was perfect, but both were justified by faith in God. Loren points out that both of these men were perfect examples to cite to the Jews Paul was writing to, because no Jew would have argued that either was not justified before God.

But what did David claim was the basis for his Justification before God? Certainly not works or strict adherence to the Law. David had committed murder and adultery (2 Samuel, Chapter 11). Yet in Psalm 32 . . . he described the blessed man not as the one who was without sin, nor the one who had worked to earn God’s favor, but the one whose iniquities were forgiven and whose sins were covered.

In spite of our depraved heart and the sins we commit, we can be justified before God because of His abounding grace; because Jesus has forgiven and covered our sins. Our salvation is a gift from God and He alone is glorified when we are saved by grace alone.

Taken together, these three posts tell the whole story. Mankind is depraved and sinful by nature, and though we think we can hide from God or try to repay our own debt, the truth is that our redemption is only available because of the grace of God offered to those who recognize their sinful condition and need for a savior, and choose to rely in faith on Jesus Christ.

I know I cannot save myself, and neither can you. But God loves us anyway and has made a way for us to be redeemed through faith. Do you understand the wickedness of your own heart? Have you tried to hide from God or turned to Him for redemption and healing? Are you trying to earn your own salvation or do you know the joy of being justified by grace alone? I pray that, if you don’t yet know the grace of God, you will read these three wonderful posts and that the Holy Spirit will grant you understanding of the awesome truths they reveal.

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Comprehending the Trinity

According to the liturgical calendar used by many Christian churches, last Sunday was Trinity Sunday. This is the day that the Church celebrates the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It falls on the Sunday following Pentecost, which is when the Holy Spirit came upon the Church.

The doctrine of the Trinity is one that causes concern for many people, and some churches that consider themselves Christian refuse to adopt this doctrine because they believe it involves the worship of three gods instead of the One True God. This is because of how the doctrine is typically explained. It is said that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the three persons of the Triune God. But how can three distinct persons be one? Christians are monotheists; we believe in one God, not three.

The problem with rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity is that to do so one must say that Jesus is not God. And yet that is exactly who He claimed to be. Jesus said to the people, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” John 8:24. Later in this same conversation, as the discussion turned to Abraham and how the people claimed Abraham to be their father, “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58. The Jews of His day clearly understood this statement by Jesus to be His claim that He was God. As they plotted against Him and threatened to stone Him, they said, “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:33.

But why did this statement by Jesus — “before Abraham was born, I am” — lead the Jews to the conclusion that Jesus claimed to be God? To understand this, we must return to the Old Testament and the stories the Jews were intimately familiar with. When God sent Moses to rescue the Israelites from Egypt, Moses was afraid to go.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” Exodus 3:13-14.

When Jesus said His name was “I am,” the Jews understood this to be His claim that He was God. Jesus went on to make six other “I am” statements as recorded in the book of John, and to also claim that He and the Father are One.

Despite this and other scriptural evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity, many have trouble with the concept because scripture also says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4. This past Sunday the guest pastor at my church spoke of the Trinity in a way that made this apparent problem or inconsistency a non-issue. It was a way of understanding the doctrine of the Trinity that I had not heard before.

The word “personae” that is translated “person” in most explanations of the Trinity is a Greek word that does not actually mean person. This is an incorrect translation of the Greek word. The word “personae” actually means “face,” “mask,” “role,” or “appearance.” One American Heritage Dictionary definition of the word is “The role that one assumes or displays in public or society; one’s public image or personality, as distinguished from the inner self.”

Used in this way, one can understand Jesus as the role God assumes or the mask He displays to humans who are not able to stand in the presence of God the Father. The Holy Spirit can be understood as the role God plays or the face He displays within the hearts of believers to guide them in their daily living. Each “personae” of the Trinity serves a different purpose or role, but He is only One God. God’s appearance as Jesus here on earth served a specific purpose, and His indwelling in the hearts of believers as the Holy Spirit serves another purpose. But always He sits on His heavenly throne in all His glory and splendor as the Father.

The Christian band Third Day sings a song called “You Are So Good To Me” that is a song to the three personae of the Trinity. Whenever I hear the closing reprise, I better understand this complex but simple way in which God reveals Himself to us:

You are my Father in Heaven
You are the Spirit inside me
You are my Jesus who loves me

When I sing along with this song, I know that the “You” I sing to is One God, and He is all three of these wonderful things to me.

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