Our Weakness: Fearful and Fainthearted! Our Strength: The Sovereign Grace of God!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

And the officers shall speak further to the people, and say,“Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.”
Deuteronomy 20:8

I find it interesting that Moses, before sending the Israelites into the Promised Land, gives the exhortation, “When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 20:1). Let us think about the great, peaceful rest we can have in this truth. From the moment we are redeemed from the slavery of our sin, we are promised residence in the presence of God Himself.

As we struggle in this life, we wander in the desert of our sinful flesh and fallen world. Where is our vision? I hope we can say along with Paul that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:21-23). We sit in Moab, pressing forward, preparing to cross the river Jordan. We are studying the Scripture, listening to the prophets and apostles echo the glorious revelation of Christ.

We must understand the basis of our redemption is the grace of the LORD. Our salvation is the work of God without any addition from us. He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. He did not just make me savable in the Egypt of my sin, he actually saved me. He made the waters part and slaughtered my enemies. He provided His Gospel as manna in the desert to sustain me, so that my soul would not be found emaciated. Oh, the glorious love of Christ shines forth from the Promise Land across the Jordan, entreating me to come. Do you really feel the struggle of Paul and understand that “to die is gain?” The long-awaited hope of our life is before us! Being with Christ is set before us as our greatest joy. The years of listening to the biographies of departed saints, sitting at the feet of Moses as he teaches us about the glory of God, waiting for the Promise Land…the wait is almost over. But the problem becomes evident, the last war. We must die to enter into the Promise Land.

Now, we have two options. One option is to devalue the work of God, saying that the work God does in saving someone is not enough to save that person to the uttermost. We could have a “God could do that but not this” mentality. There, we find ourselves in verse 8. We would be a dangerous, weak person. Our lukewarm attitude toward the sovereign, saving grace of God leaves us with no salvation at all. We are left hungering for Egypt, wondering why we had to journey. Does this sound familiar? I bet it does more than you think. How many of us find ourselves with disgust toward going to church, reading our Bibles, praying long prayers, or even volunteering to teach Sunday School? At the end of our lives, we may despise the “lost time,” believing it to be a waste. We wonder why we gave up our “fun” life. For us, the death will be the end. It is something to be feared and hated. If we hate the things of God, if we hate the grace of God, then we are haters of God Himself. There is a dangerous epidemic among church-goers to be half-hearted, plagued by doubt of their salvation. We have now become a church that bases the assurance of our salvation in a decision made at some revival, Vacation Bible School, or youth-camp and not the power of God’s grace.

The best option is given in the first verse of this chapter. We should not be afraid, knowing that God has already defeated the enemy. Our victory is in God. Paul encourages us with the same sentiment, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to the God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:53-57). I do not think that it is coincidental that Paul makes this verse the foundation of the exhortation found in the next verse to be “steadfast” and “immovable.” We are called to be fixed, understanding the basis of our victory is Christ. Our hope is in Christ. This hope is so strong, so immovable that it will not waiver before the greatest threat we have, namely hell. We are to stand on the promises of God. We are to love God and all of His attributes. Our assurance should be found in the atoning work of Christ, knowing that we are to abound in the work of the Lord and that our labor in the Lord is not in vain (I Corinthians 15:58). We will be saved from the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty. Our hearts will not melt with fear. We will be carried into the Promise Land by the Holy Spirit with Christ glorified as the victor. We are to understand the grace that saved us is the grace that has been saving us, and it will ultimately be the grace that will save us. “And he [Joshua] said to the people of Israel, ‘When your children ask their fathers in times to come, “What do these stones mean?” then you shall let your children know, “Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.” For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever’” (Joshua 4:21-24).

Consequently, I implore the members of the Church to fight against a weak-kneed, pseudo-gospel. Christian men, stand firm and reclaim Biblical teaching, so that we may lead the Church across the Jordan.

“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:21-22).

Amen! Soli Deo Gloria!

Army of Endeavor
by Fanny Crosby

Army of Endeavor, bear the trumpet call;
'Gainst the foe advancing, forward one and all!
Christ is our Commander; faithful let us be:
He will give to us the victory!

In His royal service, there's a work for all,
Cheering on the faint ones, lifting those that fall
Unto Him Who calls us ever faithful be:
He will give to us the victory!

Ever pressing onward in the cause of right,
Holding up the banner, walking in the light;
Keeping His commandments, great rewards have we!
He will give to us the victory!

Though the battle rages, what have we to fear?
In the wildest conflict, He is ever near.
Trusting in our Leader, faithful let us be:
He will give the victory!

The Love of God Revealed in the Cross


Be Thou my Vision O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.


"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." (Romans 5:1-11, ESV).

Within this article, it is important to not that to be justified is equivalent to be made righteous. It is important to note that foundation of this passage in Romans 5 is that we are justified by faith. It seems to me that one of Paul’s strongest openning statements of this letter to the faithful church of Rome is found in Romans 1:16, 17.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to
everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it
the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written,
'The righteous shall live by faith.' "

To save sinners, such as us, God requires righteousness, something that we do not have even the least particle. Therefore, the good news of Scripture, literally, the Gospel, is that the righteousness that God requires is the righteousness He provides through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus.

Notice that here in verse 17, the righteousness of God is REVEALED. It is something that is on display, much like we think of the cross on Calvary, on a hill, for the world to see. The world has been shaken by the love of God for His people, purchasing their salvation in great love. Behold, He loves believers because they are clothed in this marvelous display of righteousness, namely they are covered, dripping in the pure, scarlet, righteous blood of Christ. They look like His Son.

Where does this washing of blood originate for those of us who called children of God? Notice that the righteousness is revealed from FAITH to FAITH. Faith is the basis, the foundation that cradles our lives. Through God’s merciful grace, he births faith in us (James 1:18). This faith grows to deeper faith, reaching into our hearts till it springs forth from our mouths as a fountain of life (Proverbs 10:11). This abundant life, not a life the world enjoys but our life in Christ, rejoices in hope. This hope is the hope for the glorious righteousness of God to be revealed to its fullness in our lives! Behold, this hope springs forth, cascading over our lips into our hands, so that we may serve the masses (the very opposite of Romans 3:10-18), becoming little so that Christ’s glory may be shown to be strong (2 Corinthians 12:9,10) !

Now, we can begin to see the hard words of verses 3-5:

"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."

I beg you to look at verse 3, that we are to REJOICE in our sufferings. Why? Because through the suffering that we see, we are able to endure, to persevere. As God preserves us through our trials, character is produced in us. What type character is produced in us? Let’s hold off on answering that question until we see the result of this character.

This character yields our posture on grace, so that we may stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. This hope does not put us to shame; we are “not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation…for in it the righteousness of God is revealed.”

Now, I pose the question, “What is the character that is produced in endurance?” Chiefly, we are conformed to the character of Christ.

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phi 2:5-11).

Again, we see that chief end of this character, then our hope, that is our salvation, is the glorification of God.
Clearly, we grasp more fully Ezekiel 36:25-27:

"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put [pour] my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules."

Now, we get to the greatest issues of the Gospel. From where does our cleanness originate? Our unattractive, idol-worshipping corpses have hearts of stone, constantly hating God. The miracle of God is that the Word of God raises our dry bones to new life, giving us hearts that beat with love for Him. Under what power, does this occur? Verses 6-11 provide the basis of our hope. This is how our righteousness is obtained.

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation" (Romans 5:6-11).

The love of God is revealed in the cross. He brings us to new life, fashions us in the image of Christ, and says He loves us because we are covered in the glorious blood of His Son. Our salvation is created in us by the workings of the Holy Spirit, through the victory of Christ at the cross, all to the glory of the Father. The ultimate joy in our salvation is being reconciled to God. When we walk obediently in sweet fellowship with God, our joy is complete, perfected.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

The Severity of God's Holiness: Wrath Deserved

In Isaiah 6:1-5, we read:

(1) In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. (2) Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. (3) And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (4) And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. (5) And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

I hope that the meaning of this passage permeates your life. Upon seeing God, Isaiah notices two things:

  1. God’s holiness. The majesty of God filled the temple, and angels proclaimed the glory the holy God. Often, we think of God as this aged man, sitting on a throne, somewhat feeble. Behold the Ancient of Days; He is anything but this decrepit figment of our depraved imagination. Diametrically opposed to this view, He is glorious and holy! Society’s miniscule command of the lexicon has dulled our understanding of so many words. Chiefly, we forget the importance of the word “holy.” Shall we continue to anesthetize ourselves to God’s chief attribute? The seraphim are even emphasizing it, repeating it three times, the Hebrew analogue of boldface! Let’s begin to delve into the meaning of “holy.” To be holy means to be set-apart. The ramifications of such a statement should astound us. Piper says, “God’s holiness is his infinite value as the absolutely unique, morally perfect, permanent person that he is, who by grace made himself accessible in Jesus Christ.”
  2. The human condition. To understand the holiness of God equips us to understand the righteousness of God. “God’s passion for his holiness is greater than his passion for you,” Piper continues. Anything that is unrighteous, namely fallen creation, deserves the omnipotent, holy, righteous wrath of the Sovereign God. Furthermore, when faced with the glory of God, we should feel our utter wretchedness. Isaiah understands this as he cries out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Not only does Isaiah have unclean lips, but he also dwells in the midst of those with unclean lips. Without first understanding that our sin is primarily about our relationship with the Holy God, we will never understand who we are. We, like Isaiah, are sinful, and we are mired in sin. Our unclean lips our just an outpouring of our hearts, hardened and cold to our God. Not only are we are dead in our transgressions, but we are also in the midst of so many corpses that the stench of death is now commonplace. We are ambivalent to our condition.

Observe the glory of God’s mercy in Isaiah 6:6,7:

(6) Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that
he had taken with tongs from the altar. (7) And he touched my mouth and said:
“Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin
atoned for.”

Oh, great and glorious is our God, but we would be hopeless before a Holy God if he were not merciful. All people should see Isaiah as an example and cry out to God for mercy. “For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30, 31). Isaiah later proclaims, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near” (Isaiah
55:6). I pray that you listen to a man who has been in the presence of our Holy God and lived. Isaiah later gives us hope, “[L]et the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).

When Sorrows Like See Billows Roll

There are those days that seem hard. Those trying times come crashing at your doorstep, and you think your life will never go well again, that is, if it ever went well. I've been there, and I still have my "hard" days. Many people have had harder lives than I have had, so I'm not going to put forth some sob story, trying to convince anyone of anything.

What this leads me to is a difference. If we all have our trials, then what makes the difference? Sure, some people may have more difficult times, but is that really the difference? If so, how do you categorize hardship? It seems too arbitrary. How do you compare pain? Short answer: This emphasis is misguided. Some people are able make tribulations turn toward triumph, and others are entrapped in seeming trivialities. Even in approaching the issue on the issue of triumph, what do we consider triumph?

What is triumph? Is it Oprah, after growing up in abject poverty and molested, building an empire? Is it the starving artist who paints a masterpiece balances public appeal and critical acclaim? Is it the hopeless romantic falling in love with someone who reciprocates? We've heard many rags-to-riches stories, so is that the definition of success?

A good friend of mine, Chris, has been impassioned by a single word, "meaningless." He would probably say that Oprah's acquired wealth will be of no use to her upon dying. Her charities will eventually end. The starving artist's paintings will decay, and his fame will fade. The lovers will perish, and their love will not be "undying," as they had hoped. Ecclesiastes is a bulwark of Chris' passion. I share the same passion, and I see it heralded in James 4:14b, "What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."

Now, Chris and I see this as a great reason to rejoice! Triumph is not dependent upon this fleeting life, therefore whatever it is, it is eternal. You can even see Paul intimate such a wonderful theme to the Church at Philippi, "[T]o live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21b). Let's examine Paul's motive for such a provocative statement. Recently, Paul had been imprisoned, and he was encouraging the believers in Philippi. To provide solace, he touted the providence of God. "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel" (Philippians 1:12). Furthermore, we know see the crux of his argument: "[Now] as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." (Philippians 1:20b-23). Paul saw triumph as eternity with Christ. All the persecution is considered by Paul to be joy for the sake of the Gospel, i.e. the display of God's righteousness in the salvation of all who believe in Christ. There it is: true triumph is finding your ultimate satisfaction in God, having our greatest pleasure rest in worshipping Him and Him alone.

It Is Well With My Soul
by Horatio Spafford

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul!”
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to His Cross, and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend –
“Even so, it is well with my soul”
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live;
If dark hours about me shall roll
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

What's the best thing about heaven?

When I was around three years-old, I used to ask my mom to read to me about heaven. She proceeded, like the awesome mom she is, to read from Revelation 21-22. Here we are greeted by a splendid description of comfort, hope, and physical beauty. I was amazed at the precious stones whose names I couldn't pronounce, the measurements I couldn't fathom, and the purity of it all. Over the years, I've rested in the promise of God that my future home is in such a wonderful place. In the past few months, I've reviewed the passages, and I've been startled at what God has shown me. It takes my child-like faith and deepens it to a passionate love for the glory of God. I could expound on each part of the description, but let me just summarize. The beauty described isn't coincidental; it isn't brilliant because God is sustained by it. The reason there is such brilliance is because God is there. "And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper" (Revelation 21:10,11). God's glory is so great, so magnificent, that just being in His presence occasions a reflection of His glory. Here is our comfort in all of this, "And the city has no need of the sun or the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it" (Revelation 21:23,24). I have three things to mention here:
  1. The glory of Lord will be shining in the city. The very nature of Christ will be filling the city!
  2. We will walk by this light! The removal of the sun and moon signifies the removal of our temptations. We will no longer try to rely on anything other than God. I envision myself sitting inside, in front of a window, on a cold winter day, warming myself by the light shining through it. How I enjoy resting in the light and warmth! Much more than that will God enrapture me with Himself!
  3. The kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it. I think one of the morsels of comfort in this statement is that any glory that any human has is that which the Lord has provided. Therefore, God's glory in redeeming us, namely the image that has now been completely conformed to Christ, shines forth when we enter into his presence.
    I must praise God for giving me my greatest desire, my only hope, Himself.

"The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

(C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1965], pp. 1-2.)


Come Thou Fount
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.


-From Come Thou Fount by Robert Robinson