Please Take a Seat

“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 diligently seek Him”

Hebrews 11:6

Multitudes of people seek ways they may please God. Religions have been established on this desire. Their adherents are trapped and held captive in futile hopes of pleasing a god or gods so that this life, or the life hereafter, is made more comfortable and pleasant.

Faith always requires an object and, when the object is deemed worthy of that faith, appropriate action will follow (James 2:20). Hebrews chapter eleven reminds us of many people who have acted out of faith in God.

No one is able to have or exercise faith in God unless they first believe He exists and it is naive to expect anyone to place their faith in Jesus Christ without first evaluating the evidence. No one sits on a chair without giving it at least a cursory evaluation so we shouldn’t expect someone to trust their eternal soul to Jesus without an evaluation of whether He is worthy of that trust. This is one of the benefits the Bible brings but there are other witnesses. We who have already trusted Christ are living witnesses of, and evidence for, the ability and worthiness of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). He has made us new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) with a new and living way of life (Hebrews 10:20) by which we are able to commune with God. We are witnesses that Jesus Christ is worthy and faithful. It is our day by day living faith in Him that pleases Him and witnesses of Him. Service follows faith and is our response to receiving eternal life through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 6:23). Faith in Jesus Christ pleases God because:

  1. It recognises who Jesus is
  2. It recognises what Jesus has done for us on Calvary’s cross
  3. It recognises that we are sinners in need of a Saviour
  4. It is acceptance of God’s remedy for our sin
  5. It is the opposite of what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. They distrusted God whereas faith is trust in God

It is as simple to please God as it is to sit in a chair yet many make it a hopeless and useless burden. Paul writes, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is a matter of will. Will you believe?

Evidenced Based Faith

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”

Hebrews 11:1

Christians have been accused of “blind faith” but we have the testimony of God and hundreds of witnesses in the Bible, the witness of many more in church history as well as many alive today. Louis Pasteur (1822-1875) scientifically demonstrated that life only comes from life and cannot be generated spontaneously. Yet, in spite of the evidence many still believe it must have happened.

“It is a curious fact that the same scientists who believe that life cannot now come from non-life also believe that life did develop from non-life several billion years ago. What is impossible to happen today was possible in the past. These scientists realize the inconsistency of their position, but they believe that past conditions then were radically different than they are today. The problem with holding this view is that no evidence exists that conditions in the early earth were radically different from today’s conditions. It is merely an assumption that is not supported by any evidence. Yet most scientists and most introductory science texts present the existence of such a primeval soup and primeval atmosphere as an established fact.”

Don Stewart , “Can Life Come from Non-Life?” https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_611.cfm

Christians believe God’s word and the evidence, that life comes from God; but the evolutionist believes in a much greater miracle, that life came from non-life. The scientific evidence is in accord with the Christian biblical view but contrary to the evolutionists’ view.

Jesus said, “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself” (John 5:26). Jesus said that He is the source of life and gives life (John 6:33). Those who come to Him will receive life (John 5:40). Life comes from life.

When a person examines the evidence that God has revealed in the Bible, in the creation (science that is testable, not based on assumptions or theory) and in the human heart it will point them to God as the source of life. Evolution requires “blind faith” because it is contrary to true science. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6) so let us place our faith in that which is supported by faithful witness and testable evidence.

Testing Our Faith

“Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?”

Matthew 8:26

Fear and anxiety are in direct opposition to faith in Jesus Christ. Oswald Chambers writes, “There are stages in life when there is no storm, no crisis, when we do our human best; it is when a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely.” When all is well we may think our faith is strong but then the Lord allows a test to come. Usually it will be unexpected and sudden. That is when we discover in what or whom we trust. Fear or anxiety may lead to panic and worry. Faith and trust in Jesus will keep us at peace through the test or trial even though it may mean a measure of suffering.

Jesus and His disciples had boarded a boat to travel across the sea. Having followed Jesus on to the boat the disciples would have felt safe and confident of reaching their destination. “And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves. But He was asleep” (v 24). The disciples had followed Jesus into the boat; He was with them in the boat but asleep and they panicked thinking they were going to die (v 25). This sudden and unexpected life-threatening experience tested their faith in Jesus and found it lacking. However, they still had a measure of faith on which they acted by going to Him.

When we are in a situation that has the potential to provoke panic through fear or anxiety we must immediately turn to Jesus. He is the only One who can truly deliver us. When He does, as He did the disciples, our faith will be rewarded by a stronger faith and peace in our heart. Notice that the whole experience caused the disciples to ponder more deeply who Jesus is. That is what such experiences are meant to do. It would be very sad if they turned us away from Jesus. During our lives there will frequently be times when our faith is tested. Sometimes it may seem that Jesus is asleep or not caring but nothing could be further from the truth. Had Jesus been awake the disciples may not have panicked but only been fearful. That Jesus may seem asleep or uncaring is itself a test of whether we believe what He has said. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 11:6). “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). When the test comes reach out to Jesus who alone can save and keep us. He rewards faith with more faith (Hebrews 11:6).

Thorny Days

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure”

2 Corinthians 12:7

The intent of this part of Paul’s letter is not given so that we can rack our brains trying to work out what his “thorn in the flesh” was. Let us take it in its context which clearly identifies it with the temptation to pride and God’s means by which he assured Paul remained humble. Paul had been privileged to see special visions and receive special revelation from the Lord which had the potential to provoke pride. In God’s wisdom and grace there was some temptation remaining to Paul that reminded him of his past life in opposition to Jesus Christ (Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15).

It may be that temptation to particular sinful thoughts and behaviour were brought to a sudden end at the time we came to faith or at some time later when we finally abandoned all to Jesus. For this grace we should be extremely grateful daily. However, it is possible that God does allow Satan to test us periodically in an area of sin that we would rather not still have. Like Paul, our requests to have the temptation removed seem to go unanswered (2 Corinthians 12:8). We can take encouragement from Paul’s experience and learn that this is God’s way of keeping us in the realm of humility and not being swallowed up in that powerful sin of pride.

We might ask how being tested can glorify God? Being tested is not a sin. Jesus was tested/tempted without sin (Matthew 4; Hebrews 2:18; 4:15). The Lord’s answer was given to Paul and he recorded it for our benefit: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (v 9). Paul acknowledges this by writing, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (v 10). God’s grace is magnified in that though we are tempted, He gives grace and strength to resist yielding (1 Corinthians 10:13). In Romans 6 Paul gives an extended explanation. For our own benefit God may have chosen to allow a “thorn in the flesh” to remain for each of us. The purpose is clear – that we might remember where He brought us from and to keep us from being overcome with pride resulting from the glorious revelation He has given us and to keep us humbly walking with our God (Micah 6:8).

Watch and Pray

 “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them”

Mark 14:10

In this chapter we read that Jesus prayed, Judas betrayed and the disciples slept. Was that situation any different to that which often happens today?

We read in Romans 8:34, “Christ who died, and furthermore is risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” In Hebrews 7:25 we read, “Therefore He [Jesus] is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus intercedes on behalf of His people. Romans 8:26-27 tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us as well.

Judas, one of the twelve, betrayed Jesus to those who wanted Him crucified. In the professing church there have always been wolves in sheep’s clothing teaching false doctrines. As such they betray Jesus. Just as Judas was never saved (Mark 14:21) neither are false teachers who deny Christ and would crucify Him again if they could. Since they cannot, they are trying to put to death faithful and true believers so they can continue in fleecing the flock, as Judas did (John 12:6).  Paul warns Timothy of such people: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). Jesus also warned of the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:6, 12). We see that there are the “Judas’” who are betraying Jesus today by denying His words for personal gain.

The disciples slept while Jesus prayed and while Judas was betraying Him. A large part of the reason that the betrayal of Jesus by the unbelieving professing church has been successful is because the true church of born again believers has largely been asleep. By God’s grace there remains a faithful remnant who cling to Him and His word and are not deceived.

False teachers abound as Jesus said they would. Speaking of the Tribulation time He says, “For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24; cf. vs. 5 & 11) Jesus prayed, Judas betrayed and the disciples slept. His words to His disciples were, “Watch and pray” (Mark 9:38).

Deifying Mankind

“The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all its fullness, You have founded them all”

Psalm 89:11

If we base our knowledge on the theory of evolution we might unwittingly find ourselves right where the world now finds itself. We are led to believe that the world is in crisis by way of living creatures becoming extinct and a change in the climate that will lead to the destruction of all things living, including mankind.

Listening to David Attenborough one could easily be led into thinking that evolution is guided by the intelligence and will of the creature. While he doesn’t say so directly in as many words this subtle implication is clear. He marvels at the beauty, complexity and built-for-purpose intricacies of living things but attributes them to the living thing itself as though it had guided its evolution into the perfect creature it is without any input from outside its being.

If (as many believe) living creatures have evolved, i.e. intelligently and purposefully created themselves to perfection, then the highest order in the creation must also have created itself. The highest order in the creation by far is mankind. What we have in the theory of evolution is therefore the deification and worship of man. This began in the first days when Adam and believed Satan’s lie, “You will be like God” and “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:5, 3). Ultimately, the worship of man is worship of Satan because it is his lie.

Peter (2 Peter 3:1-13) and Paul (2 Timothy 3:1-9) warned of the perilous times ahead that will result from believing Satan’s lie. The circumstances they describe are now evident. Attempts by mankind to improve itself have proven and will prove futile. Knowledge may have increased but character has not changed. Education has not improved man’s character. It has opened up new ways to express sinfulness. Turning from God, who alone gives life, means a decline into physical and spiritual death (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:27). Deifying mankind will not prevent climate change in the future (see e.g. Revelation 6:12-17). Human effort to save this world will prove futile. Only Jesus Christ’s return will save the world (Matthew 24:22). Yes, we should care for our environment as a delegated responsibility from God (Genesis 2:15) but not as an act of deified mankind in defiance of our Creator (Revelation 4:11).

Various Trials

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials”

James 1:2

James is writing to Christians who are suffering “various trials.” He doesn’t identify what those trials may be because what he is about to write applies to all kinds of trials. If we want a list we could start with Hebrews 11 or 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 but there are many more examples in the Bible. We should expect to experience tests and trials throughout our lives. In school we had regular tests to prove we had learned something and were ready to move on to the next level. The same is true in our walk of faith. Our heavenly Father allows us to experience various trials so that we might know our progression of faith in Jesus and be ready to move on.

In this chapter James gives the reasons why we may pass or fall short in any trial or test. Those who come through successfully, as God considers success, do so because, at foundational level, they have a genuine love for Jesus (v 12). Those who fall short do so because they love themselves and sin more than they love Jesus (v 14).

The evidence of love for Jesus is in doing His word (v 22). A person may profess to love Jesus but their works will give evidence for or against this profession. Love for Jesus is evidenced by love for His people. 1 John has many confirmations of this truth such as “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren” (3:14) and he tells us what kind of love this is, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (v 16). Jesus said the key evidence that we are His disciples is the expression of God’s kind of love for one another (John 13:35).

How we treat other Christians is how we treat Jesus. Saul persecuted Christians but Jesus said he was persecuting Him (Acts 9:4). Peter says that lying to Christians is lying to God (Acts 5:4). Jesus says that how we are treating His people is how we are treating Him (Matthew 25:31-46). In Hebrews 10:24-25 He says that our reason for meeting together is love expressed through serving one another, mutual encouragement and edification. If we forsake meeting together it is an indication we don’t meet with Him either.

It is sobering to realise that how I am treating my fellow Christians is how I treat Jesus – but He says it is so.

Don’t be Sorry

“Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me”

1 Samuel 8:7

School children will be well aware that they are now in the final term for the year and that means Christmas is drawing near. They will soon, if they haven’t already, be making a list for parents and grandparents. No parent will give their child that they love a gift that will harm them.

God loves all people and will not give any gift that will bring harm but He sometimes allows people to have what they demand so they can experience the consequences with a view to a change of heart. Those who do not know God in a personal way interpret God’s restrictions as hatred and so they respond to God and His people with hatred. They fail to understand that the commands of God are to lead us into green pastures and keep us from the dead barren desert.

In Ezekiel 18:32 we read, “’For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord God.” God has no pleasure in judgment after a person dies (Hebrews 9:27). God has provided the greatest Gift possible in Jesus Christ who takes away our sin by bearing it in Himself. The Lord is not willing that anyone perish (2 Peter 3:9). The evidence of this is that Jesus Christ has already borne our sin on the cross.

While some may attest that they want to go to hell to be with their friends, if they had any real idea of hell as described by Jesus (Mark 9:42-48) they would not wish for such a thing. There is only one reason a person will end up in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10, 15); they have rejected Jesus as God’s only remedy for sin. They will have what they wanted; existence without Jesus Christ but they will not be at all happy or content.

As with Israel in Samuel’s day, God sometimes gives people what they demand but they will be sorry they rejected Him. There is no way to God except through Jesus because He is the only One who has dealt with sin. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Peter wrote “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

People who do not know Jesus see God as a harsh dictator out to spoil their fun. In reality He loves them and sets boundaries to protect us in the way a good shepherd does his sheep.

Well Meaning

“It shall be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”

1 Kings 17:4

There have been occasions when I have asked my wife a question but, instead of answering the question I asked, she has answered a question she thought I meant to ask. We are quite different people when it comes to conversation. This can be very helpful or, as in this case, a little frustration to me. My usual response is something like, “Please just answer the question I asked.” My wife’s response to that is something like, “Well I thought you really meant ….” Perhaps we cause a little frustration for the Lord when we treat His word that way.

Imagine if Elijah had done that with the word of the Lord on this occasion in 1 Kings 17? He would have said that the Lord could not have meant what He said because a raven could not sustain him with enough food. It’s impossible! Later the Lord sent him to a widowed Gentile woman who, with her son, was on the verge of starvation. How could she provide for him? It’s impossible!

The Bible is replete with these kinds of situations where people received a word or command from the Lord and they must take His words in the normal literary sense even when what He was asking seemed impossible. What if Moses had refused to return to Egypt because he interpreted the Lord’s command on the basis of what he thought possible? What of Joshua being commanded to march around Jericho thirteen times to bring down the walls. No, the Lord couldn’t mean that because it was illogical and impossible. When Jesus sent men to obtain the colt of a donkey that was ready and waiting for them they could have decided that a donkey already broken in would be better and safer risk for their Master. Well meaning but wrong.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews mentions many men and women who took God at His word and acted upon it without interpreting it through a grid of what is logical and possible, or that there may be a better and safer way.

Seven times in his letters Paul writes to the effect that he didn’t want his readers to be ignorant of some truth, so he wrote plainly. That is how God writes. Twice in 1st Thessalonians he writes for his readers to be comforted by what he has written (1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11). Unless his words were intended to be taken in their normal literary sense there would be no real comfort at all. God wants to communicate truth not confuse the truth.

Drifting Anchors

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil”

Hebrews 6:19

The anchor is God’s Word and Jesus Christ (vv13,14). Sometimes we have the wrong anchor. Many years ago I had a small open boat that I used for fishing and crabbing or just relaxing in either of the gulfs in South Australia. I had two anchors. Which anchor I took  depended on where I was going. One anchor was like a grapple and was used where the ocean floor was rocky or had obstacles on which the anchor could snag. The other anchor had flukes and it was designed for sandy sea or river floors. As tension was increased the flukes dug into the sand. On occasion I had the wrong anchor. The grapple anchor would not hold in sand if there was wind and waves. The boat would then drift away from where the fish were and it also opened up the possibility of drifting onto rocks.

When our understanding of Scripture is challenged we may respond in several ways. How we respond will have a lot to do with whether we have the right anchor in use. If our anchor is based on the teaching of other people, regardless of whether what they taught was correct or not, our anchor may start to drift. When that happens we will feel insecure or confused and may be at risk of shipwreck of our faith. On the other hand, if our anchor is our personal first-hand relationship with Jesus Christ and knowledge of God’s word then our anchor will hold securely just as the writer of Hebrews writes. After all, “It is impossible for God to lie” (v18).

I haven’t heard this hymn sung for a long while and perhaps it is time we revived it to encourage assurance and trust in God’s word.

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love

If you feel that your anchor is drifting it could be because your anchor is someone else’s teaching and not what you have personally received from the Bible confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Our anchor must be God’s word, not the teaching of another no matter how good we may think their exposition.