Proverbs about Trusting God

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.” (3:5-6)

“Do not be afraid of sudden fear
Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes;
For the Lord will be your confidence
And will keep your foot from being caught.” (3:25-26)

“He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.” (11:28)

“He who gives attention to the word will find good, And blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.” (16:20)

“The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But victory belongs to the LORD.” (21:31)

“Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
That they may be ready on your lips.
So that your trust may be in the Lord,
I have taught you today, even you.” (22:17-19)

An arrogant man stirs up strife,
But he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But he who walks wisely will be delivered. (28:25-26)

“The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (29:25)

“Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (30:5)

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Work Hard for God

The relationship between faith and works is an important Biblical concept that may require diligent study to understand. Paul states clearly that we are saved “not as the result of works,” whereas James insists that “faith without works is dead.” I have thought and written plenty on that subject before, and there are many resources available for those who want to understand what scripture has to say about faith and works.

But there is another, closely related subject that we may not think much about. We might call this subject “our efforts” versus “the grace of God.” This is an important subject because for many of us, once we understand that we are saved by God’s grace rather than earning our salvation through our own efforts, we start to feel that it is somehow wrong or disrespectful to God for us to put forth personal effort. After all, if God is to get all of the glory, then we should not be putting any emphasis on our own efforts, right?

In reality, when we try our hardest and do our best to serve him with diligence and effort, it is often in that very moment that God’s grace is truly working in us. Paul said “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

Peter tells us twice in the first chapter of his second epistle to “apply all diligence” in the specific growth we seek in our Christian walk. Those words convey the idea of “making haste,” or as we might say, “showing some hustle.” In other words, do not just sit around waiting for lighting to strike. Get started. Show some effort. God will work through you.

The English Standard Translation of Peter’s words literally says “make every effort.”

In the first chapter of his letter to Timothy, Paul gives this instruction: “I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

Timothy had a gift, just as every last one of us has a gift from God. It is time for us to kindle that gift afresh. And we need not be timid about it. God’s children can work each day with power, love, and discipline. If you need an engraved invitation, it is already there in the words of scripture.

Maybe we feel like if the effort comes from us, then it takes the credit away from God. But just as Paul’s exceptionally hard work was rightly seen as a manifestation of God’s grace, so every good thing we could ever do, think, or say, is credited directly to the God in whom we live and move and have our being.

So work hard for God. Rely on Him for strength, look to Him for guidance, and give Him all of the glory. But work hard while doing it.

Three Kinds of Unfaithfulness

Our Bibles contain a good deal of ancient history, especially concerning the Israelites. When reading the Old Testament we can learn not only about the customs, technologies, art, and warfare of this ancient people, but also about their intimate relationship with the LORD.

What we find is that the Israelites, over the course of the centuries, fell away from God time after time. If there was a way to go wrong, the Israelites would manage to find it. Because of this, their story gives us hope that God will be as patient with us and with our friends and family as He was with the people of Israel. It also gives us many examples of what not to do if we want to prosper and have joy in the LORD.

Here are three broad categories of unfaithfulness that we see Israel exhibiting. By examining where they went wrong, we can better be on the alert against troubles that might find their way into our own lives if we are not watchful.

1) Being too cowardly to even try to follow God’s leadership.
2) Becoming just like everyone around us.
3) Forgetting God in the midst of our prosperity.

Consider these categories of unfaithfulness in more detail:

Being too cowardly to even try to follow God’s leadership:

God told the children of Israel to go into the land of Canaan and to take it by force. He would fight for them to give them a land flowing with milk and honey. But the people, when they analyzed this task for themselves, decided that it was just too hard, and decided it was better not to try than to try and fail.

What commands has God given, or what direction does He lead, that you are too scared to follow? Find courage to follow where He leads, or you will die in the wilderness for your rebellion.

Becoming just like everyone around us:

Eventually the children of Israel did go into Canaan to take it for themselves. Many of them were courageous in following God into battle and claiming their inheritance. But many others were half-hearted about this task. They drove out some of their enemies, but they left others to live in the land. It was not long before they found themselves worshipping the sun, moon, and stars, practicing cult prostitution, sacrificing their children to Moloch, and doing all kinds of detestable things. They may have claimed to still follow the LORD as well, but their loyalties were obviously divided.

What worldly practices have you allowed to maintain a stronghold in your life? We may insist on calling America a “Christian nation,” but we must be careful to recognize that much that goes on here is anything but Christian. We must not cheapen the name of Christ by wearing it while living like everyone else.

Forgetting God in the midst of our prosperity:

God warned Israel repeatedly that they must not forget Him when times of comfort and prosperity came. They would enjoy nice houses and beautiful vineyards and large flocks and herds. Many of them would forget God in these times and feel that it was their own strength by which they had acquired their wealth.

In the age of advanced technology, modern medicine, and socioeconomic mobility, we may feel that the answer to all of life’s questions is to work harder, be smarter, and then sit back and enjoy the results of our own efforts. Science will save us. Money will fill the holes in our lives. Comfort is the ultimate goal. But we must not forget that without God, we have nothing.

Which of these kinds of unfaithfulness do you struggle with the most? Do you struggle with all three from time to time? What specifically should you be on the alert for this week?

Scriptures and Thoughts on Justification

What does “justification” mean?

 To say a word in your own defense.
(Job 32:2) But the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram burned; against Job his anger burned because he justified himself before God.

To show yourself as innocent.
(Genesis 44:16) So Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found.”

Do deliver a verdict of innocence.
(1 Kings 8:31-32) 31 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath, and he comes and takes an oath before Your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven and act and judge Your servants, condemning the wicked by bringing his way on his own head and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.

To pronounce innocent, to reconcile.
(Isaiah 53:11) As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

To have the charges brought against you silenced.
(Romans 8:31-34) 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

Results in reconciliation with God.
(Romans 5:1) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

To be given the identity of an innocent person, rather than a criminal, and to grow into this new identity.
(1 Corinthians 6:11) Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

How is it related to righteousness?

Same Greek word. Appears throughout Romans 3.

(Romans 3:19-26) 19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

(Romans 3:27-30) 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

If I am justified, is it “just as if I’d never sinned?”

(Galatians 3:27) For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

(Galatians 6:7) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

(Romans 7:15-20) For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

How does someone become justified?

(Romans 2:12-13) 12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.

(It would seem that someone could become justified by keeping the Law, but as Paul goes on to demonstrate in Romans 3, none of us can actually be justified this way because none of us has kept it perfectly!)

Thus clearly, not by perfect law keeping:

(Galatians 2:15-17) 15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

(Luke 18:11-14) The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(Romans 4:2-8) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”

(Titus 3:4-8) But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.

(Luke 16:14-14) 14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

Can someone lose their justified status?

(1 Peter 3:7) You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

(Hebrews 6:4-6) For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

What does it mean that justification is a gift?

(Romans 3:24) “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;”

(Romans 5:15-17) 15But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

How does justification relate to sanctification?

(Matthew 12:37) For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

 (James 2:20-26) But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

Scriptures and Thoughts: “Faith”

Definitions of Faith
Biblical definition of “faith”: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. [Hebrews 11:1-3 NASB]

Webster’s definition of “faith”: firm belief in something for which there is no proof; something that is believed especially with strong conviction 

Translations:
Greek translation of the word “faith”: πίστις (pistis): faith, belief, trust, confidence; fidelity, faithfulness.

Hebrew concepts of the word “faith”: ‘Ᾱman: reliability, stability, firmness
‘āman-hiphil: to be certain, sure; to be assured
‘āman-niphal: to be true, reliable, faithful

Thoughts

“Faith” is a word and concept that has been spoken and re-spoken throughout time. From the first of man to the present age, this word and concept has been an active part of humanity. From Abel to Apollos, people’s faiths have shaped the history of Christianity, and has set a foundation for the faithful followers of today. Whether a person is referring to its meaning in its noun form or its meaning as a descriptive characteristic, if the individual that reflects on himself or herself can confidently say that they hold both meanings in their actions and thoughts, then that person is blessed indeed. When our attention is directed by Paul to Abraham in Romans 4, as he (being Abraham) is remembered as one of the ultimate examples of both having faith and living faithfully, the point is made that without faith, the promise of righteousness would not have been granted to him and those who were to be born under his faith. Other examples in the Old Testament provide like points of having faith in the Lord: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; Daniel in the den of lions; and Hosea in regards to his relationship with Gomer. Such a concept of significance is faith. How can we do this word justice by studying it without taking into consideration several perspectives?

What is faith?
(Hebrews 11:1) “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

(2 Corinthians 5:6-8) “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

(Ephesians 2:8-10) “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

What does it mean to have a faith the size of a mustard seed?

Mustard seed parable about the Kingdom: (Matthew 13:31-32) (also Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)

“31 He presented another parable to them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of theair come and nest in its branches.’”

Mustard seed parables about faith: (Luke 17:5-6)
“5 The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and be planted in the sea”; and it would obey you.’”

(Matthew 21:21) “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and cast into the sea,” it will happen.’”
– It means anything is possible
(Mark 9:21-25) And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”

(Mark 10:27) 27 “Looking at them, Jesus said, ‘With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.’”
(Hebrews 11:17-19) “17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son18 it was he to whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your descendants shall be called.’ 19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.”

How is faith more than mere intellectual consent?
(Hebrews 11:3) “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”

(Hebrews 11:6) “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

(James 2:19-26) “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,’ and he was called the friend of God. 24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

Is faith all I need to be saved?

See verses in James in question above.  “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

How do we reconcile this with:

(Ephesians 2:8-10) “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

Should we have blind faith?

(Proverbs 3:5-7) “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. 7Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.”

(Matthew 26:39) “And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’”

Do we need evidence to have faith?
(Romans 1:18-21) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

(1 Corinthians 1:20-25) “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

(1 Corinthians 2:4-6) “and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”

How can we grow in our faith?

(James 1:2-4) Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
(Romans 10:17) So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Does God answer prayers in proportion to faith?

(Isaiah 59:1-2) “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”

(2 Chronicles 7:13-14) “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, 14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

(James 1:5-7) “5But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

(James 4:3) “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

(James 5:16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
(1 Peter 5:7) “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

(Matthew 21:20-22) 20Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” 21And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. 22“And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

(Matthew 7:11) “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

How can we use wisdom in allowing our faith/children’s faith to be tested?

 

Justification and Sanctification

Two fancy sounding words that get thrown around a lot in theological discussions are “justification” and “sanctification.” Both of these words appear in scripture and they work together to paint a beautiful picture of the Christian life.

“Justification” is a legal term that conveys the idea of being judged to be righteous. To be justified before God means that we are acquitted of the crimes of which we are accused. Our relationship with Him is restored and we do not have to bear the punishment that fits our crime. In fact, as far as the imputing of guilt is concerned, it is like we never committed the crime at all! A good part of the Bible to read in order to learn more about justification would be Romans, chapters 3 through 5.

“Sanctification” means being made holy. While justification takes full effect the moment we put on Christ in baptism, sanctification is a process that we grow in day by day. It is the process of being conformed to the image of God’s Son, and this process is taking place in us as long as we live on this earth. Our sanctification’s completion will only become evident when Jesus returns at the last day. A good place to read about sanctification would be Romans, chapters 6 through 8.

Both of these elements are present in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Notice that when we walk in the light, God does two things for us: He forgives our sings (justification) and He cleanses us from all unrighteousness (sanctification).   The word here translated as “cleanse” is where we get the English word “catharsis,” and it indicates a purging or removal of that which does not belong.

John makes sanctification sound pretty easy. All we have to do is walk in the light and God will sanctify us completely! But John does acknowledge that we will not always be perfect as we go through this process. In the following verses he states: “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

John talks about justification, then sanctification, and then he goes right back to justification again, reminding us that while our path in life is one of pursuing purity, it is only because of the forgiveness that we have received – and that we continue to receive with each passing day – that this process is even possible.

Understanding these two concepts and how they relate to each other allows us to see the gospel for the simple and beautiful truth that it is.

Many in our world are so eager to emphasize the free gift of justification that they are uncomfortable with emphasizing the truth that God’s children cannot live in sin. They miss out on the fact that salvation does not just mean forgiveness, it also means transformation.

Others fail to grasp the fact that our justification truly is a free gift that covers our sins, and as a result they try to earn their own salvation apart from God’s grace through a system of guilt- and shame-based sanctification projects.

What do you think about these two concepts? Do you see how they both fit together into one cohesive and fantastic gospel? If you want to see these concepts play out in scripture or learn more about what they truly mean, then be like the Bereans who were “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

Things God has Done for Us

Given us life: “For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’” (Acts 17:28)

Formed us in the womb: “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” (Proverbs 19:13)

Allowed us to live until this day: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15)

Provided us with food and goods: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mathew 6:32-33) “And yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)

Sent His Son to Suffer as our Savior: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Sent out His word so that we can hear it: “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

Allotted to us faith: “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)

Granted us repentance: “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18)

Shown us grace and mercy: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Given us spiritual gifts: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.” (Romans 12:6)

Granted us what wisdom we have: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

Given us the Holy Spirit: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”(Luke 11:13)

Given us absolutely everything: “For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Hope”

What is hope?

Hebrew:
qavah and achal – both terms mean to wait or to hope.

Greek:
Elpis – confident expectation and anticipation of a good outcome. Joyful optimism and confident trust for the fulfillment of the promises of God.

(Romans 15:13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

How does hope differ from waiting?

Hope is distinguished from generic waiting by an expectation and an optimistic outlook.

(Romans 12:12) Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

(Hebrews 10:28) The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.

How does hope differ from faith?

Hope carries an especially strong connotation of eager anticipation, and is generally focused on a very specific and positive outcome.

(Hebrews 11:1) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Which promises of God do you find yourself hoping for most strongly, or most often?

            (His appearance, our revelation as His children)
(1 John 3:1-3) See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

            (Our inheritance in heaven)
(1 Peter 1:3-5) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

            (Wisdom bestowed)
(James 1:5) If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

            (All things work for good)
(Romans 8:28) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

            (Eternal glory)
(2 Corinthians 4:17-18) “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”

(Romans 8:18) “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

            (No pain)
(Revelation 21:4) “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

How do we maintain hope during long and difficult times?

(It is a reasonable thing to have)
(1 Peter 3:15) But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

            (God has not left us)
(Psalm 33:18) Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love

(Psalm 43:5) Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

(Lamentations 3:21-23 ) “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

(Deuteronomy 31:6) Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

            (Read scripture)
(Romans 15:4) For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

            (Grow in patience)
(Romans 5:2-5) Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

(Isaiah 40:31) But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Is it possible to mistakenly hope for things that God has not promised?

(What about these passages?)
(John 14:13-14) “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

(Malachi 3:10) “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.

(God does not promise Christians an easy life.)
(Matthew 10:22) You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

(James 1:12) Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

(Revelation 2:10) ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

(Hebrews 11:32-38) 32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

(2 Corinthians 12:7-10) Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

What experiences in this life most arouse in you a hope for better things in heaven?

(Psalm 120)In my trouble I cried to the LORD, And He answered me. Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, From a deceitful tongue. What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, You deceitful tongue? Sharp arrows of the warrior, With the burning coals of the broom tree. Woe is me, for I sojourn in Meshech, For I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long has my soul had its dwelling With those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak,They are for war.”

What things do you have hope for in THIS life?

Standing your Ground

The book of Daniel has much to teach us about how to bear up under unjust circumstances, and how to conduct ourselves with faith and holiness even when we are surrounded by temptations and persecutions.

One thing that becomes very clear while reading this book is that Daniel and his friends are very intentional about remaining true to their God. Rather than dabbling in the sins of the Babylonians or making concessions here and there to water down their faith, they are decisive and stand their ground in every situation.

Consider for instance what we read about Daniel in chapter 1 verse, verse 8: “Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank.” Other translations say that he “resolved,” “determined,” or “purposed in his heart” not to defile himself. All of these phrases are intended to convey intentionality. He drew a line in the sand that he was determined not to cross, come what may. This explains why Daniel insisted on this course of action even when his superiors tried to dissuade him.

Consider also when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are standing before the king in the third chapter of this book. They have enraged the king by refusing to bow down to the golden idol that he has made, and so in verse 15, king Nebuchadnezzar decides to give them another chance to bow down and worship the idol:

“Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

It certainly would be tempting to bow down to a pagan idol today, in order to prolong my life so that I could serve the LORD again tomorrow. Do these three friends consider the king’s offer? Maybe it is best to keep peace with the king by simply bowing down just this once…

Instead, they respond: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

These godly men did not even need to answer the king because they had already taken their stand and they would not be moved. You may have heard the phrase, “we do not negotiate with terrorists.” This is essentially what these men tell the king. “We do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.” Save your breath. Our minds have been made up.

What if we took this attitude and applied it to the temptations in our life? There are times when we are tempted to sin, and we resist… but a part of us still considers the sin, turning it over in our mind to make sure we really want to give it up. It is as if the devil is telling us, “I am going to give you another opportunity to bow down to the golden idol. Think it over.”

May we all have the resolve to respond like Hananiah, Mishael and Azaria, “there is no need for further consideration. I have chosen to serve the LORD, and that is final.”

James 4:7 says “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” There is much that a powerful king can take away from you, but he cannot take away your freedom to choose how you will respond. Will you give an ultimatum to the sin in your life? Take your stand in faithfulness and holiness.

No Room for Boasting

Is the church basically just a group of people who think that they are better than everybody else, because they hold themselves to a bunch of traditions and rules that they think makes them superior?

Perhaps unfortunately that is sometimes the way churchgoers actually feel, but the Bible itself does not describe Jesus’ church that way. In fact, the book of Romans takes pains to make it abundantly clear that the righteousness of the church is NOT about how good they are as people, but rather how kind God has been to pour His grace out on those who will put their faith in Him.

The book of Romans gives us principles such as these:

“There is none righteous, not even one… There is none who does good, There is not even one.”

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

“Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.”

The point is that people in the church are not naturally “better people” than those outside. Rather, they are clothed with the goodness of Jesus. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Church is all about Jesus, and His goodness.

These principles led Paul to say these words in 1 Corinthians 4: “To me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself… Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”

In other words, Paul was saying that the job of the church is not to figure out who is the best Christian and who is the most lousy, or to brag about how good we are. Instead, judgment belongs to God, and we rest in His promises for those who are faithful.

And yet, while the church is not obsessed with being “better than” other people or figuring out who is the holiest, it is still true that the church strives for moral excellence. In the fourth chapter of 1 Thessalonians, The church in Thessalonica is commended for walking as they should, with the instruction “that you excel still more.” Again in the same chapter they are complimented for the love that they have for one another, yet they are told, “but we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.”

And in an odd way, it is the very fact that the church is justified by faith rather than by works that enables the church to grow spiritually. Because of Christ’s sacrifice and the words of scripture, we can know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13), and this frees us from negative thinking and constant fear of punishment or failure, so that we can walk down the path of holiness with confidence and joy. We can also be free from the pettiness of comparing ourselves to those around us. It has been said, “it is amazing how much can get done when no one cares who gets the credit.”

The church is not simply a place for “good people” who make all the right decisions in life. It is a place for broken people to find justification by faith, to rest in God’s promises, and to follow Him as well as they can on the pathway of righteousness.