Sunday, February 15, 2009

Just Believe (pt. 4)

John 5:17-24 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." (18) This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (19) So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (20) For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. (21) For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (22) The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, (23) that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. (24) Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Last week, in speaking of an active & vibrant faith, I mentioned 2 Corinthians 13:5- “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

Paul knows that faith in Christ, like food, is useless unless it is taken & consumed. Belief that is bounded by the flesh to the inner confines of the soul is a moribund faith- it is a waning fire. The flesh binds faith by its selfish, lazy, & fearful nature. We don’t let our faith in Christ out of its mortal cage oftentimes because we fear the rebuke of man more than the praise of God. It does not often suit our fleshly goals- indeed, it often impedes such goals; or we are simply too lazy to add effort to the faith formed within us. The latter was the sin of the beneficiary of the one talent. His righteous master & judge made clear in the course of his sentencing that his sin was laziness (Matt. 25:26).

Whatever the cause, the test is in the pressing on of oneself to unhinder the faith in Jesus Christ God has placed within you. Act more in accordance with the mind of Christ that dwells within instead of the mind of man & your faith will grow. The world will see to that. Christ promised that the world would hate his disciples to the same degree that they hated Him (John 15:18ff) as they faithfully spoke truth to the power of the natural man in & of the world. This is the form of testing that James speaks of as well. A testing that is part examination, part trial by fire:

James 1:2-15 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (3) for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (4) And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (5) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (6) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (7) For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (9) Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, (10) and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. (11) For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. (12) Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (13) Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. (14) But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (15) Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Testing is blessing from God that beats down the temptations that dwell in the soul of man. Tortuous temptations lurk within us & the rest of the world as well; the testing draws them out in open where they suffer & die. They cannot live in the place of persecution. This action is the cause of the consequent “steadfastness” James erstwhile mentions. We have a choice of either continuing to afford those temptations a peaceful abode in the soul of man (both in us & the world), or faithfully confronting them & therein bring them out of the boudoir of the elect‘s heart. The French word “boudoir” is broke down into its linguistic derivatives to mean “a place to sulk in”. There is much sulking going on within the soul as the new creation suffers the old man having the run of the place. But the shoe changes feet as the new creation responds to the test by boldly taking hold of the joyous faith set before him & rising up to throw the former nature into a sulking sullen sea of sorrow.

John the Baptist did his case no favors as he faithfully pointed out the sin of his earthly judge Herod. But his actions bore testimony as well as further girded his greater faith in God as the real judge of man. He persecuted the selfish, lazy, & fearful sin nature, ostracizing it from his soul. Peter likewise said to those men of rank who threatened him towards being silent for Christ- “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). This bold proclamation of truth to power came shortly subsequent to the promised test of his faith that was his thrice denial of Christ. Remember what the Savior said to him concerning which: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Man’s temptations & desires give birth to sin & death, but God gives life through faith in Christ. Faith gives birth to the “crown of (eternal) life” as we receive it & apply it to the circumstances of our mortal life.

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