I recently taught a lesson which looks at the lies our fears tell us and addresses them with the word of God. The audio can be downloaded at the following link.
I recently taught a lesson which looks at the lies our fears tell us and addresses them with the word of God. The audio can be downloaded at the following link.
Though there are some significant problems in the church growth movement, we should all be for church growth. In fact, it seems almost impossible for a church to be fulfilling the great commission without some kind of growth taking place. We are to go out and make disciples. When they come in, they too are to grow to the place where they go out and make more disciples.
Many times, though, it seems to come down to, “if we get this program going, more people will show up,” and sometimes this is true, but it really is amazing what we can accomplish in the power of the flesh. It is true that nothing happens outside the providence of God, and even kings have their authority because He establishes them, but this is not the same as God’s Spirit moving on the congregation in a sanctifying way.
The idea of common grace and saving grace applies not only to individuals but churches also. A church can grow in number and wealth if it has the right marketing plan, along with a number of other useful strategies, but this does not necessarily mean anything spiritual is happening there.
A church where the congregants live worldly lives for the entire week is not really growing, even if it is getting more numbers in on a regular basis. We cannot call it church growth when the majority of a local church is involved in much of the same worldly lifestyle as the rest of society. If we, as congregants, spend our week chasing after self-glory, personal peace, affluence, and we let the Word of God sit unread with no real prayer life, it doesn’t matter how big the church is.
In fact, this seems to be a problem in many small non-growing churches as well. The people come on Sunday and see low attendance and wonder why the pastor isn’t bringing in more people with his sermons. Yet there is no real desire for personal holiness in their lives. After spending the entire week with no real thoughts on Godliness, they attend church and expect something to happen, but when we spend a good portion of our time doing things God hates, and not doing the things He loves, we shouldn’t expect much to happen at our church. We are the church, not just the pastor.
It seems that real church growth will not occur when there is no desire for personal holiness in the lives of its people. On the contrary, when there is a hunger for righteousness, and progress is being made in personal holiness, church growth has already begun. We don’t need more programs that will bring more people in to be just like everybody else in the world. We need individuals in the church to grow in Godliness, and as this happens, we will not need programs to bring in the people. The church will grow because the people will be bringing them in, and more programs will be developed to accompany the need for the people who are coming in desiring to know Christ and be more like Him.
So maybe this was a bit of a complaint, but it wasn’t really against the church growth movement. It was against the idea that personal holiness can be neglected, while church growth is to be expected, and this can happen in churches with big marketing plans, and some without them.
As we grow to be more like Christ
And by the world, we are less enticed,
In our hearts, God’s Spirit’s moving,
Then of our growth, He is approving.
What is it about being forced to slow down that makes you want to run faster than you were before? I think it is because we realize we had been taking our abilities for granted. On top of that, we realize that though we were running fast, much of it was spent on directionless pursuits. It is amazing how we can feel pressured to check social media, or check a gaming app on our phone. There have been times I have felt like my evening was full because I needed to write a blog post, but no one is sitting at their computer waiting for me to post. Not even my mom does that. Still, something inside me says you better get something written soon.
These are small examples, but we fill our days with these types of anxieties. Many of the things that have us running so fast could be eliminated without a deficit to anyone involved. Often, the only real negative impact we feel is the effect it has on our pride. We tend to think, if I am busy, then I am important. People need me to fulfill all of my so-called responsibilities, because if I do not, things will fall apart, but it is not true. Much of what we feel pressured to do is noise.
We rarely realize this until something hits our life that forces us to start reevaluating. There comes a time when your body or emotional state says, it is time to change pace. At first, we usually think we can work through it, but, in the end, we find that providence is serious about making us slow down. It is at this point that we will hopefully start to gain perspective.
The process is painfully pleasant. About a year ago I found myself in a similar situation. First, I wanted to power through as if my will-power could right all the wrongs with my health. Once I resigned to the fact that I could not do it, I settled in to make some changes. The first thing that I needed to do was to get rid of all the needless distractions that had been adding stress but did nothing to help me be productive with things that were important.
I started by reevaluating what truly mattered. The key to this was making sure my mind was set on things above, or in other words, making sure I was seeking first the Kingdom of God. I will not talk about this much here because I do so in other posts (see links at the end of this post), but if we fail to get this right, everything else becomes meaningless, regardless of whether we are moving fast or slow. Upon reflection, I found I had filled my life with needless interruptions, and they were not benefiting me in any way. I came to realize that I did not know I was being distracted because I was not even aware of what I was being distracted from. I believe this is the case for many people.
Then began the process of slowing down and removing needless stress. This process involved deleting apps on my phone, limiting social media time to once a day, and I even began to schedule time on my calendar to check email only three times a day, instead of checking it continually. This reduction was the part that felt painful at first. I felt like I was going to miss out. If much of my productivity happens with email, how could I accomplish all that I needed to get done? I noticed myself repeatedly looking to my phone for notifications that were no longer available. I had to retrain my mind’s habitual response. The result of this was that I found I was not less productive, I was more productive. I had hours in the morning, afternoon and evening, which were email and social media free. These uninterrupted hours forced me to become more strategic with my time at work and home, instead of wasting it always checking to see if there was something new in my inbox, and diverting my train of thought. This also gave me more time to do something I enjoy, writing.
Regarding social media and time online, I realized I was not missing out on much. I also noticed that my executive attention, the ability to focus on something for an extended period of time, began to grow stronger. Before I was forced to slow down, I had already realized that the internet had started shrinking my thoughts. I began blogging 2005, that was eventually reduced to Facebook posts, and then I was down to 140 characters on Twitter. Though all of these can be powerful tools if used correctly, sustained thought is not something online platforms encourage. The big takeaway was that my mind was spending much less time flitting from one unimportant thing to another.
I also began to choose my television time much more carefully, and I would always keep my Kindle or a book with me. If I was going to spend time doing something during my free moments, I could at least make it something mindful. I could continue to talk about more of these little changes, such as reducing entertainment and letting my mind get bored to make myself desire more useful stimulation, but I think you are getting the picture. Let me conclude with few thoughts on the importance of slowing down.
Slowing down is not something we have to be forced to do. It is something we can do even when our health is strong, and life is good. Jonathan Edwards once said this about a man he honored deeply, David Brainerd.
“[One] imperfection in Mr. Brainerd, which may be observed in the following account of his life, was his being excessive in his labours; not taking due care to proportion his fatigues to his strength.”
Much of what I have written about is removing the unnecessary and unproductive activity from our lives, but sometimes we even need to slow down on that which is worthwhile and godly. Our Lord has put His treasure in jars of clay, and though the outward man is wasting away, the inward man is being renewed day by day. This truth should teach us two things. First, our bodies cannot do it all, and they will eventually fade. Second, when our bodies force us to slow down, even in our service to God, we are not necessarily reducing our pace in being renewed spiritually, which is the ultimate goal.
It seems our culture as come to believe that the two are inextricably bound. If you are not running fast, then you are not being renewed. Sometimes, the best path to being renewed is through slowing down. Maybe it is time to take due care to proportion our fatigues with our strength. It is by doing so that we find we are redeeming the time more effectively than when we were before. It is important to remember that doing less does not mean we stop doing difficult work. Much of our most important undertakings are challenging. This truth is why I think we sometimes prefer busyness over slowing down. If we are using it as a form of procrastination, that type of busyness can be a form of laziness. In the end, I found during my time of slowing down that I was actually accomplishing more.
A divided mind, one caught between heaven and earth, will never find peace because it is chasing things in two different directions. A heart that is united in the fear of the Lord will be able to slow down and cover more ground simultaneously. This need to slow down and regain focus, like all battles with the sinful nature, is a daily struggle. Part of what prompted me to write this post is the fact that I have allowed many of these things to begin crowding my life again. We must continually guard our hearts against being pulled away from the Lord and his service by things of no importance.
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. – Psalm 86:11
Posts on Setting Our Minds on Things Above
We have been looking at how moral absolutists understand moral dilemmas. So far, we have covered an introduction to moral absolutism, non-conflicting absolutism, and conflicting absolutism. We will now, in this final post on this topic, look at a graded absolutism
Graded Absolutism (GA)
The last way to address moral dilemmas is to argue that there is a hierarchy built into God’s moral law, and at times, some laws supersede other laws which is meant to handle these conflicts. This view is called graded absolutism. It is held by theologians such as Norman Geisler, Stephen Mott, and Millard Erickson.
The graded absolutist starts out with the explanation that some laws are weightier than others (Matt 5:19), and some commands are greater than others (Matt. 23:23). This position can be explained quite simply when we think of civil disobedience. According to scripture, we are to obey the civil government, but what if that civil government commands us to worship a false god. Built into God’s absolute moral law of obeying government is the idea that we should do it only if it does not contradict God’s law. This is because obeying God is much greater command than obeying the government.
In the case of the midwives who lied in Egypt or Rahab who lied to hide the spies, the proponent of GA says that God actually deals well with them for their lying (Exodus 1:20). In these situations the greater command, to which lying must yield, is the protection of human life. GA differs from the conflicting absolutist in two ways. First, the conflicting absolutist says you must choose between the lesser of two evils, and second, when you do it you have sinned. The graded absolutist says you must choose between the greater of two goods, and when you do it, even if it involves violating a lesser good, you have done something commendable. The proponent of GA does not merely say that in a situation like this that lying is allowed in the sense that to do it is to be held innocent. They go further and say that the lie is virtuous, and to not do it would be wrong.
In the case of the mother with the tumor (see previous two posts), they would say that to try and save the mother is the greatest good because you seek to save both in spite of the minimal percentage of success in protecting the child. To attempt to save both lives even at the cost of losing one is the greater good than letting one die without any effort to save them both.
Strengths of this position
1) It has quite a bit of scriptural support for its graded view. Even the Ten Commandments seem to be listed in order of weight.
2) It sees God’s moral law in its entirety as absolute without waiver or conflict. The conflict only happens between specific commands.
3) It can answer many difficult passages in the Bible with ease, such as David eating the “bread of the presence” (see Mark 2:26)
1) It wavers on the absolute nature of specific commands.
2) It can appear to be a lesser version of situational ethics.
I realize these short posts cannot answer all the questions, but I hope you have found them helpful in priming the pump when it comes to understanding moral dilemmas as a moral absolutist.
Other posts in this series
“We do not regard it to be soul-winning to steal members out of churches already established, and train them to utter our peculiar Shibboleth: we aim rather at bringing souls to Christ than at making converts to our synagogue.”
“In the next place, we do not consider soul-winning to be accomplished by hurriedly inscribing more names upon our church-roll, in order to show a good increase at the end of the year. This is easily done, and there are brethren who use great pains, not to say arts, to effect it; but if it be regarded as the Alpha and Omega of a minister’s efforts, the result will be deplorable.”
“Teach gospel doctrines clearly, affectionately, simply, and plainly, and especially those truths which have a present and practical bearing upon man’s condition and God’s grace. Some enthusiasts would seem to have imbibed the notion that, as soon as a minister addresses the unconverted, he should deliberately contradict his usual doctrinal discourses, because it is supposed that there will be no conversions if he preaches the whole counsel of God. It just comes to this, brethren, it is supposed that we are to conceal truth, and utter a half-falsehood, in order to save souls. We are to speak the truth to God’s people because they will not hear anything else; but we are to wheedle sinners into faith by exaggerating one part of truth, and hiding the rest until a more convenient season. This is a strange theory, and yet many endorse it.”
“To try to win a soul for Christ by keeping that soul in ignorance of any truth, is contrary to the mind of the Spirit; and to endeavour to save men by mere claptrap, or excitement, or oratorical display, is as foolish as to hope to hold an angel with bird-lime, or lure a star with music. The best attraction is the gospel in its purity. The weapon with which the Lord conquers men is the truth as it is in Jesus. The gospel will be found equal to every emergency; an arrow which can pierce the hardest heart, a balm which will heal the deadliest wound. Preach it, and preach nothing else.”
C.H. Spurgeon- The Soul Winner
If someone were to walk by, they would see a man at rest on the Lord’s day. He is sitting on the front porch soaking up the sun on a beautiful spring day. The birds are singing, and a pleasant breeze is blowing. His posture is relaxed, and in his lap sits his Bible. In his hands are a highlighter and a pen. The pages of the black leather-bound book are open to 2 Corinthians; pages he has evidently read before because some of the highlights are of a different color than the highlighter he is holding. He is pouring over the words, frequently stopping to highlight and reread relevant phrases as he comes to them, and then jotting a few notes in his journal.
To many, it is a picture of serenity and peace: a moment of rest. There is, however, something deeper going on below the surface. There is an internal struggle raging. First, there is bodily fatigue. The body that appears relaxed is doing everything he can to stay on task and stay focused on the word. There is a physical distress that keeps his body from finding the peace it desires.
Also inside, there is a sinful nature warring against the spirit he is attempting to nourish. It is calling him away to other activities. Activities of idleness, ones that turn his eyes from things above and diverts his attention to the pleasures of this world. He hears the sirens calling, and he is striving to resist them as he sits in what appears to be perfect peace.
Lastly, there are the doubts and fears, along with worries and pains he is looking to address. This time in the word is not a laid-back time of reflection. He is in a battle, searching for fuel for his faith. Worries at work, cares at home, financial burdens, and concerns for others weigh him down.
The outside world cannot see it, but this internal war is raging. Yet, there is something deeper still going on. Something even the man himself cannot see. At this very moment, the eyes of the Lord are looking to and fro throughout the earth to be strong on behalf of those who put their trust in him, and the Father has locked his eyes on his eyes on his child and will not turn away.
At the same time, the Son is interceding on the man’s behalf. Jesus is not praying that the man be taken out of the world, but that he be kept from the evil one. The Savior is praying that the man will be set apart from the world and that he will be sanctified in the truth: the very word of God he is holding in his hands.
As he sits and reads, engage in this battle of the ages, the Holy Spirit surrounds him and begins speaking to his heart. There is an invisible light emanating from the pages and entering through the windows of his soul. The Spirit draws his eyes to the following words.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
The Spirit uses this to illuminate two truths, showing him that the battle has a purpose. First, this fight makes him rely not on himself but on God, who raises the dead. Second, he learns that it is by being comforted by God in times of difficulty that we are taught to comfort others. Something he longs to do.
It is here that the Spirit reminds him that he has a treasure in this jar of clay, and like Gideon breaking the clay pots to show forth the light hidden within, it is not until our weakness is exposed that the treasure begins to shine forth. Though the man may be afflicted in every way, he is not crushed. He may be perplexed, but he is not drawn to despair. He may be struck down, but he will not be destroyed. The Lord has heard him in his distress and bowed the heavens and came down. He sent out his arrows and scattered the enemy, and is drawing the man out of many waters.
The man still feeling the effects of a distressed body, breathes a sigh of relief and finds himself sweetly resigned to the Lord’s will. His heart is moved to spend the evening in prayer, praising God and interceding on behalf of those he loves. There is an intimacy with his Savior that reminds him that the weight of his troubles cannot compare to the weight of glory that lies ahead. That night, he sets his a Bible by his bed and closes his eyes to pray, and once again the heavens begin to move. Our quiet times are rarely as they appear.
Other Posts From The Fight of Faith
Do not Judge. – Matt 7:1
It is difficult to think of a verse more misused than this one. The number of times it has been used to censor Godly reproof would be impossible to count. If you are in the habit of reading the Word of God and upholding Godly standards, then you have most likely had this verse thrown your way while commenting on some behavior or trend of which God does not approve.
This verse, to many people, means that no one is ever allowed reprove or correct someone’s behavior or beliefs. If you speak, even in love, against things like sexual deviancy, drunkenness or false religious beliefs, then according to these people, you are a judgmental Pharisee. Of course, this is a judgment they are making about you, which means if their interpretation of this verse is correct, then they are also judgemental in their reproof. After all, if they believe that telling people they are wrong is intolerant, they should stop telling judgmental people it is wrong to judge.
With only a small amount of exegesis, we will see that Christ is not saying that it is always inappropriate to reprove someone with the word of God. In fact, this is something we are commanded to do, and it is something for which the Word of God is intended. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” So what then is Christ telling us? He is telling us of a difference between those who think they are above the law and those who see themselves as under the same standard as the person they are correcting. We are all under the same requirements, and we should not act as if we are exempt from the rules we apply to others. This understanding of judging is seen in the following verses when Christ tells us to remove the plank in our eye before looking at someone else’s speck.
There are a few different ways we can approach someone who is in sin. First, we could act as if all standards of conduct are relative, and not correct anyone except those who try to correct others. This self-refuting judgment, of course, is hypocrisy at its finest. Second, we could act as if the moral law does not apply to us and condemn anyone who violates it, but his type of condemnation is the actual definition of judging. Or finally, we could look at our own shortcomings under the moral law and approach the one who is erring by saying, there is a standard which God wants us to follow because of His love for us, and neither of us is above that standard. Along with both of us being under this standard together, we both fall short so let’s work on our shortcomings together. After all, His standards are an expression of His love.
When we think of a judgmental person, we also tend to think of their attitude as much as we think of their actions. This judgmental attitude is often seen in the first two approaches as well. The first person, the one who thinks that it is always wrong to reprove, usually ends up with a judgmental attitude, because as they criticize, they are acting as if they are allowed to rebuke when the person they are reproving is not. Hence, they are proudly unaware that there is a plank in their eye. The second person also tends to succumb to a judgmental attitude because they too fail to see their own guilt in these matters. Both will have tendencies toward harshness. Only the third person, the one who believes God’s moral standards can be known, that they themselves are not above the struggles with sin, and believes that a reproof is an act of love, will be able to avoid the judging that Christ is speaking of in this passage.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – 2 Tim. 2:24 – 26
“Blessed are they that mourn.” This beatitude is clearly one of the great paradoxes of scripture. “Blessed” and “mourning” almost seem to be contradictory. When we think of mourning, we rarely think about blessing, Typically our minds think of death because mourning is something we do when someone dies, but here again, Jesus is showing us that there is a depth to the Christian life we need to take the time to understand.
What it does not mean
What does Jesus mean when He says, “Blessed are they that mourn? To understand this, the first thing we should do is clear away the debris by eliminating a few possible types of mourning that Jesus does not have in mind. First, there is some mourning that is sinful. Some people desire to fulfill their lusts, but they are unable to do so. These unfulfilled sinful desires could lead them to depression and mourning. Others have satisfied their lusts and have been caught and mourn the fact that they have been exposed and have to face the consequences, but they do not regret the sin itself. Scripture calls this worldly sorrow which leads to death (2 Corinthians 7:10). Second, it does not simply mean being sad that someone has died. Even haters of God do this, but they mourn like those who have no hope. There is no blessing in these kinds of mourning.
What it means
So what does Jesus mean? It is important to keep in mind that the beatitudes build upon each other. They are not things we do to be saved; they are changes in our nature worked in us by the Holy Spirit. The first beatitude was poverty of spirit, and when we looked at it, we understood that because we are sinful, we have no merit before a holy and just God. The mourning of the second beatitude flows directly from our poverty of spirit. If you have never known your poverty of spirit, you will never mourn spiritually over your destitute condition. With this in mind, we are aware that this mourning is a mourning over our sinfulness.
We first experience this at our conversion, but it continues throughout the Christian life. Do you hate your sin? Do you hate to see sin hurting those you love? Then you are experiencing this blessed mourning. Romans 8:23 says, “And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” This groaning seems closely related to mourning over sin. This mourning is an attribute of a blessed person because this mourning is a gift of God. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “Conviction must of necessity precede conversion,” and conviction of sin is a gift of God. We should not be afraid of it.
The end of glibness
Glibness in the Christian life is done away with by this beatitude. Do you see life as a joke or merely one big party? Then maybe some self-examination is needed. There is a seriousness about the Christian life that needs to be part of our character. We are not to be morose or miserable. We can laugh, and we should have joy, but not regarding sin. It is important to remember, that one of Jesus’ titles was “Man of Sorrows.” If we have no spiritual hunger, and our lives are characterized by glibness, Jesus speaks directly to us in Luke 6:25. He warns, “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” If there is no mourning over sin in this life, there will be plenty of it in the life to come.
Those, however, who mourn over their sin now, will be comforted. Jesus is revealing Himself to them, and He will continue to do so. We will be comforted because our sins are forgiven. We are declared righteous in Him (justification) and He has also begun to kill the sin in us (sanctification). We are both mournful and happy because of Christ and the hope He gives us as the victor over sin and all its wages.
In the next post on the beatitudes, we will see how the poverty of spirit and mourning over our sinfulness produces in us a meekness that inherits the earth. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. How does this blessed mourning manifest itself in your life, and how is it a blessing?
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:4
No matter how much I strained and struggled there was no relief. I could not win the fight. At the time, none of it made any sense. What or who was I even struggling against? All I saw was wave after wave crashing upon me, which were driven by the dark skies overhead. I fought and fought but to no avail. At first, I was determined, but the battle continued, the night was long, and my strength was spent.
It was lonely. No matter how many people came to encourage me and let me know they were concerned, they could not take this burden from me. When you face a time like this, you do everything you can to be as light of a load as possible on your loved ones, so even though they carry some of the weight, there is a portion of it that you always have to bear alone.
I continued to fight, but the battle seemed unending. I fought to subdue it until it broke me. Its accuracy was so perfect that it struck right where I thought I was strong. My strength was vanquished, and I was no longer able to contend, but in my brokenness, something happened. I recognized the hand that was heavy upon me.
Just like the story of Jacob wrestling with God, we can sometimes be left alone for a long night of combat, but when it comes to the story of Jacob, we often fail to see the full picture. That event is often explained as Jacob wrestling God to get a blessing from Him. It is said that through his persistence, Jacob prevailed and was blessed. This understanding is why this event is often seen as a picture of our need to prevail in prayer, and I believe that is a truth that can be drawn from this time in Jacob’s life. However, I believe there is something more.
This night of wrestling is not primarily about Jacob getting something out of God. This contest is about God getting something out of Jacob. Remember, Jacob did not go looking for the struggle. God came to Him, and for a while, Jacob had no idea what was going on. Here is the point that is often missed. During the fight, Jacob had a complete reversal and went from striving against God to clinging to Him, and that is where the blessing was given.
When dark providences hit our life, we often fight and struggle in our own strength against the powers that confront us, but once in a while, through the sovereignty of God, we are shown our weakness, and we find ourselves broken. For the believer, it is during those moments that we stop striving against God and start clinging to Him because we find our strength to be nothing, and learn that without Him we are doomed.
This reversal is precisely what happened when we came to know the Lord. The conviction of sin began to lay heavy upon us, and we did everything in our power to resist it. We tried leaning on our morality, philosophies, and the suppression of our guilt but the heavy hand of God upon our sinfulness was more than we could handle. At that moment, we turned to our pursuer and found a hand ready to bless us. Just like Jacob, our names were changed from deceiver to Israel, Prince of God. The Lord came to us, fought against our sinfulness and self-reliance and then delivered us.
I am not sure what you may have faced in the past, or what you might be suffering right now, but if you see yourself clinging more to Jesus because of it, it is a work of God. He has come to bless you. After we face a time like this, we are changed. We have come to understand our weakness, as well as God’s strength. Jacob’s realization came when God touched his hip and put it out of joint. That was the moment his strength failed, and he realized who he was fighting. Because of that encounter, Jacob walked with a limp for the rest of his life.
Some may have looked at Jacob and mockingly asked, “Is this the mighty man of God I’ve heard about? He can’t even walk correctly.” Likewise, because of some of the battles you have faced, you may have disfigurements that are still evident to the world, and some may ridicule you for them. But if what caused those scars in your life, caused you to walk closer with your Lord, those who know your Savior will recognize them, not as flaws, but as the fingerprints of our gracious God.
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. -Genesis 32:30-31
Dear Christian, your fears are lying to you. Nothing they warn you about can ultimately hurt you. Fear shows its face daily and holds you back from doing things that may not be safe according to the world’s wisdom, but are life-giving in every respect. It tells you that you must save your life, or you will lose it, but the opposite is true. It is time to push fear aside and begin marching more boldly toward the Celestial City.
For those not in Christ, their fears are deceiving them because they are not fierce enough, and they are focused on earthly desires. Their sin and coming judgment are far worse than they can ever imagine. For the Christian, our anxieties are lying to us because our greatest problems, sin and judgment, have been taken care of on the cross, and every other anxiety is, therefore, unwarranted.
Samuel Davies once preached a sermon called “This Very Year You are Going to Die.” He worked from Jeremiah 28:16, a statement that was spoken to Hananiah, which says, “Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die.” Davies went on to teach that this could be a statement that this true of every one of us, for tomorrow is promised to no one. We must redeem the time, for the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).
It is time to start living. There is nothing that can come into your life that can separate you from the love of Christ. Don’t worry about your reputation, don’t worry about how dark it could get, and don’t even worry about the fallout of your past sins. Walk through them all with your Lord, and walk through them with boldness, because they cannot touch your life in Jesus.
Your time is coming. If not this year, soon. However far away, it is nothing compared to eternity. What are you doing with this time? As mentioned earlier, most of our time and attention are focused on saving our lives instead of losing them, but losing it for his sake is where it will be found (Matthew 16:25). This self-focus is what produces most of our anxiety. We know that God will take care of our needs, but our fears tell us that we need to be concerned about our wants. It is time to let them go and put our focus where it needs to be. You might spend your whole life trying to lay up treasures on earth, but in the end, moth and rust will destroy, or they will be handed to someone else when you are gone. Store your treasures in heaven where there is an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading kept for you (1 Peter 1:4).
We have one primary goal in this life, and all other goals are subservient to it. We desire to finish our course and ministry and testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24). It does not matter what has happened in the past; it is time to forget what is behind and press forward to what is ahead (Philippians 3:13). All things are working together for the good of those who love Him. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “Without God, man is anxious either trying to anticipate chance or escape fatalism.” With him, however, we are always secure within his providential care, even when it does not seem safe. Lloyd-Jones continues, “We are never in any position or situation outside of God’s knowledge or care. He knows much better than we do ourselves.”
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added (Matt. 6:33). Our fears point to the kingdom of this world, but in pursuing Christ with all our heart, there can be no failure or reason to fear. It is time to pour our lives into pursuing his glory.
Someday soon you will have a tombstone with your name on it, and all the fears that tried to hold you back from living for Jesus will be exposed as the lies they really are. Samuel Davies himself died the same year he preached that sermon at the age of 38. He spent his time living for the Lord, and he is with Jesus where all of his anxieties and troubles are now long gone, as yours will be. Set your focus and live for Jesus, and in that, you will find life. Even if everything in this life falls apart, one day you will stand in the presence of Jesus where every fear must bow.
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. – Acts 20:24