Thursday, March 19

A faith tried is a faith true....

"Yet I am always with you; you hold me by My right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:23–26

Most of us would stop at the gracious grace and abundant mercy of God's salvation, purchased through the blood of the innocent Lamb --the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ. We'd muddle through this life secure in that knowledge that we were destined for a greater place.

We'd sit back on our laurels and wait...wait...wait...

And then move on, forgetting the rest of the progress towards that day, leaving behind the abundance and the assurance that God would provide us, if we would only look to Him. At least, that is what the 'post-modern' intellectual would say. "Hey, been saved. Been baptized. And doing my best to do...."

Despite the fact James tells us works are not enough, even though Paul speaks of an inner change and the wealth of realized impact that comes from our real condemnation found when we approach Christ as open, sorrowed and agrieved sinners, dragging our meager faith with us like a security blanket --realizing we are at the mercy of a God who is a vengeful, righteous and powerful God, fully within His rights to smote us like a knat on the hindparts of a donkey.

God doesn't stop at our conversion. We gain eternal life, the old self (that sinful, worthless person) dies instaneously in the true repentance of a sinner and God transforms us into new creatures; capable of so much more than the corrupted people we were. But, it isn't something we know to use or become instantly knowledgable in its power and authority over the things of this world. Too often, though, like the 'rumors' of men who won't follow the directions to assemble a children's bike we ignore the instruction manual of this new self...and fail to be truly fully converted into the new creature God has given us.

Much like Peter, who Ray Pritchard of Keep Believing Ministries spoke of in his post on Facebook......


Peter is our best character to look to in regards to how human we can be in our belief and totally unprepared (uncoverted, if you will) for the abilities, talents and gifts that God has equipped our new natures with. And, because of that, we fail to achieve what has been set aside for the purposing God has for us in the Kingdom work.

Jesus recognized Peter's humanity in his faith when he spoke the prediction of Peter's denials. "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32) Recognize that Christ doesn't call him by his given spiritual name, Peter, but by his human name of Simon. He is speaking to the human fraility of His disciple, not the strong and powerful spiritual leader that bore the name Peter.

And it is Simon who answers, professing the promise of following the LORD in death before he would utter such denial. The King James version says "Before you are converted" instead of "when you have turned back."

"Peter was saved," Pritchard notes, "but in some deep sense he was not yet fully converted to the Master's use --and that explains his tragic failure." Faith without temptation, suffering or sorrow is a shallow and humanistic faith which often crumbles just like Peter's did with the first accusation and rapidly fails with each successive assault.

Because we stand on our own perceived strengths.

"Why should Satan attack only at the point of your self-perceived weakness?"
Pritchard asks, "If you know you have a weakness, that's the very area you will guard most carefully." Our own sinful, broken humanity demands that we feel 'good', that we are percieved as 'productive and valuable' and that our 'faithful' service to God means that we are never foolish enough to be tempted or struggle in our lives. We are prosperous in wealth, health and happiness.

God has a purpose behind our suffering, as He did Peter's sorrowful and sinful denials. If God's grace was not enough to save us from harm or suffering, what kind of God would He be? If His promise of a 'new creature' was not true, then how can we have confidence in anything else He says, promises or predicts?

Yet there are Christians the world over that are suffering because they chose to accept Christ's salvation, are persecuted because they struggle for the Kingdom and not man and religious movements abound to 'explain' what we are 'lacking' in service, thought or action that causes such human suffering, human pain and human discontentment.

I used to think enviously of 'successful' Christians; you know, the ones who had material possessions, were living a 'happy' life in their pursuits of employment, family and service to God. I would listen with awed jealousy to the 'big-time' preaching of those who have made it 'big' in the Christian community of faith; mega-churches, multi-million dollar ministries. Such things as envy and discontent are man-made illusions that we consider standards; in terms of progression in the faith, of achievement.

Our pastors aren't broken, sinful-natured human beings but 'godly' and 'righteous' men who would impart their knowledge of 'how to do it' to us for the occassional tithe, the full hearted signing on to the 'vision' and who display their 'humility' weekly upon the stage of our 'progressive, contemporary' church services.

Yet when they fall, and fall hard, we run from them as if they were plague-infested and contagious. It is that surprise and strength of the temptations we all face that is forgotten in the sorrow and shame of the sinful actions they take and our safety from such illusionary temptation is called into doubt.

Just as Peter expressed shock and a bit of self-felt anger at Christ's assurance he would indeed denial Him three times before the crow croaked out its sound. Like Peter learned, we become the most pliable and stronger for the purposes of God when we fall flat and hard upon the face of our own abilities and are faced with the undeniable fact, as Pritchard says, "without the LORD we can do nothing but fail."

We must find our safety in temptations and the victory over them, not in our own 'self-assessed' confidence in our strengths, but only and completely by the gracious presence of God with us and Christ's continued and assured intercession for us.

"A bone that is broken often becomes stronger after it is healed," Pritchard notes, "Something in the healing process actually makes the break point stronger than it was before." And as the breaks occur in our lives; families torn asunder, marriages broken and battered and a 'good' child from a Christian home errs, for all those who come to the realization that God has committed both His word and His Spirit to us for the sake of counsel and for His glory find themselves cleaving to such assurance even under the condemnation of this mortal and sinful body.

And we place the assurance of our eternal new nature to the authority and proven abilities of our God. The believing hopes and prospects of Heavenly protection reconcile us in the dark providences we will journey into.

"Blessed LORD," Matthew Henry says, "who hast graciously promised to become our portion in the next world, prevent us from choosing any other in this [world]'"

If we ascribe our confidence not in our ability to 'weather the storm' but rather in the assurance of increased condemnation the closer we become in relationship with our Creator for the purposes of rooting out our old nature through faith and prayer, we find ourselves converted through spiritual wisdom, capable of dealing with the muck and grim of our falls in the confidence of our 'newly' acquired abillites in the new nature we have. And we find our testimony, our service and our faith strengthened.

Pritchard points out that Peter lost "his vanity, pride, self-confidence, rash impulsivness and unreliability" to gain "humility, new[ly] confidence in God,tested courage, New determiniation to serve Christ and a willingness to use his experience to help others."

A man truly worthy of being the cornerstone of Christ's church.

"The things he lost he didn’t really need; the things he gained couldn’t have come any other way."

And we find the confidence in tested faith to overcome temptations of our old sinful nature that is all too fully human because we hear the counsel and wisdom God speaks to us with, know the confidence and assurance of His ability to overcome and His promise of our 'godliness and righteousness'.

We find ourselves in spiritual progress, as Prtichard expresses as his "first law"; where we find we 'cannot go back, cannot stay here and must move forward' from the sinful ways of our old nature because of the progression towards the realization of our 'new' nature's desire and need of a relationship with our God.

And we become stronger warriors in the battle of this world, fierce and loving in our faithful desire that 'all should not perish, but have eternal life.' We express and shine with God's glory made perfect through our suffering and trials, lighting the darkness with the righteousness of our Savior and the Truthfulness of His word. Speaking the power and authority of God in our lives; even in the midst of the storms that ravage this world.

We find instruction in the darkness of our sinful ignorance, peace in our suffering for Kingdom sake and joy in the brutality of a sinful, broken world that we cannot fully explain or be comfortable with anymore.

We become indestructable in our destruction and happy in our sorrow.

And become more effective, purposed and Christ-like in our Kingdom commission.

Evangelizing to the world about "the GOOD NEWS" by the testimony of our lives.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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