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Entries in Faith Alone (38)

Sunday
Nov252012

Faith Alone - November 25, 2012

The Source of Blessing

[Abram] recovered all the goods
and brought them back his relative Lot
and his possessions,
together with the women and the other people
Genesis 14:6

Lot and his people were captured and carried off by enemies, but Abram rescued them.  After suffering this great defeat, Lot had his land and possessions restored to him through Abrahm's efforts.  This was far more than he had hoped.  Similarly, people in the world today receive good things because Christians are living faithfully on the earth.  So we should be encouraged and comforted when we see God's blessings.  It proves that the church is still present on earth and that God's people, though small in number, haven't disappeared completely.  It's for the sake of Christians that God shows his grace to everyone in the world.

Unbelievers do just the opposite.  They think they are responsible for the blessings they receive, attributing all good things to their own wisdom and efforts.  In their misplaced self-confidence, they indulge in their pleasures, getting drunk and gorging themselves as arrogantly as did the people of Sodom.  In the end, they will receive the punishment they deserve, while God's people will remain securely in his care.

Furthermore, this passage makes us aware that devout Christians will always suffer in this world.  Their lives are filled with problems, but it's precisely these problems that help them to become holier and more righteous. In all things, even problems and troubles, "God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called" (Romans 8:28).  Suffering kills the sinful nature, strengthens faith, and allows the gifts of the Holy Spirit to multiply. 

Sunday
Nov182012

Faith Alone - November 18, 2012

Handling Secular Matters

So Abraham brought sheep and cattle
and gave them to Abimelech,
and the two men made a treaty...
So that theplace was called Beersheeba
because the two men swore and oath there.
Genesis 21:27-31

Abraham made a binding agreement with King Abimelech.  This incident shouldn't be passed off as purely secular and superficial.  Instead, we should carefully note what Abraham did here, because it can bring us comfort.  Some people think Christians shouldn't get involved in public matters.  But this story goes against that mistaken notion.  God didn't establish the church to get rid of the family and government.  He wants the church to support them.  That's why Abraham, the father of the promise and king of all earthly kings, doesn't refuse to take an oath and enter into a binding secular agreement with this king.

No one should use Christianity as an excuse for not wanting to have a job or hold public office, as certain religious people do.  They're only trying to avoid serving others.  But by avoiding this, they're ignoring God's command to love him and to love other people.  In the end, they will receive what they deserve for their hypocritical behaior.

We should carefully consider God's laws and Abraham's example.  Abraham didn't concern himself with only religious matters.  He was a prophet of God, but he also dealt with matters relating to the government and his own household.  So we need rulers in the world, as well as in the church.  The church doesn't have the right to do away with the family structure of the goernment.  Rather, the church should affirm and support these institutions. 

Sunday
Nov042012

Faith Alone - November 4, 2012

AVOID ARROGANCE

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Galatians 5:325-26

When we are priased, we should know that we are not the ones being praised, but Christ, to whom all praise and honor belong.  The fact that we may teach in a godly way or live in a holy manner is not our gift, but God's.  So we are not the ones being praised, but God in us.  If we acknowledge this, we won't get out of line.  We won't become proud because of this praise.  For "what do you have that you did not receive?" (I Corinthians 4:7).  Instead, we will give God the glory.  We also won't allow ourselves to give up our calling because of our abuse, disgrace, and persecution.  God covers our bitter hatred, persecution, and blasphemy.  Furthermore, we face contempt and ingratitude from our own followers - peasants, townspeople, and nobles.  Though hidden and inward, their animosity toward and persecution of the gospel are more harmful than enemies who persecute openly.  God allows this so that we don't become proud of our gifts.  This millstone must be hung around our nectks so that we will not be infected by the plague of honoring ourselves.

Certainly many of our own followers honor us because we are in official positions as preachers. But for every one who honors us, there a hundred who hate, despise, and persecute us. The blasphemy and persecution from our opponents, combined with the contempt, ingratitude, and secret hatred from our own followers, delight us so much that we easily forget all about personal glory.  As a result, we rejoice in the Lord and stay in line.

Sunday
Oct212012

Faith Alone - October 21, 2012

SPIRITUAL AND PHYSICAL LIFE

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit
John 3:6

We can't feel the new birth or the spiritual life with our five senses.  We can't see it. The spiritual lif will endure, while the physical life will one day end.  Our lives on earth will eventually become like dust, which is blown away and never seen or felt again.  Then only the spiritual life will remain.  We will be raised from the dead and will come alive once again.

We can't see or understand this spiritual birth.  We mst simply believe it.  What is born of the Spirit is spiritual, and the primary benefit of this new birth is the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  Nevertheless, Christians still have an external existence.  While they live here on earth, they are nurtured by a mother and a father, eat and drink, wear clothes and shoes, have a house and a garden, and own money and property.  They view all of this as if they were guests who were traveling through this land to another city - their true destination.  When they arrive there, they will no longer care about the places where they stayed along the way.  During the journey, they were always thinking, "Today, I am a guest.  Tomorrow, I will continue my trip."  In the same way, a Christian also thinks, "Today, I am a guest on this earth.  I eat and drink here.  I live honorably and modesly in this life. But tomorrow, I'll proceed on my way to an eternal life in the kingdom of heaven, where I am a citizen."  So Christians also journey through this life.  When they come to the end of this life, they will let go of everything physical and enter a spiritual life that will never end. 

Sunday
Oct142012

Faith Alone - October 14, 2012

Trusting Christ Instead of People

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them
for he knew all men
John 2:24

No one understands how difficult it was when I first realized that I had to believe and teach an idea that was contrary to the teaching of the church fathers.  This was especially shocking to me when many outstanding, reasonable, and educated people shared their views.  The church fathers include many holy people, such as Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine.  Despit that, my dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ must be worth more to me than all the holy people on earth - yes, even more than all the angels in heaven.  When I read Augustine's books and discoverd that he also had been in error, I was greatly troubled.  Whenever this happens, it's very difficult for me to calm my own hart and differ with people who are so greatly respected.

But I dare not accept something just because a respected person says it.  A person can be holy and God-fearing and still be in error.  That's why I don't want to rely on people.  As this passage says, the Lord Christ didn't rely on people either.  Furthermore, in the book of Matthew, Jesus earnestly warns us to beware of false prophets, who will come and not only claim to be Christians, but also "perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect - if that were possible (24:24).

Rather than trusting the church fathers and their writings, we should crawl under the wings of our mother hen, the Lord Christ, and look to him alone.  the heavenly Father said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well-pleased.  Listen to him!" (Matthew 17:5).  God wants us to listen to Christ alone.