Between the Sowing and the Reaping

Between the sowing and the reaping.

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

The farmer does not expect immediate produce from sown seed.  He may wish it.  He may need it.  But he does not expect it.  Experience has taught him the laws of the harvest.  Yet, while he doesn’t expect immediate produce, he does expect produce.  Why else sow?

Paul takes us into the spiritual dimensions of sowing and reaping in Galatians 6:7-9.  The lessons are as old as the hills and far more valuable.  Between the sowing and the reaping do not forget…

God’s laws prevail in every realm.  God is not mocked by the contrary words and ways of men.  The first law of the harvest is that we reap what we sow.  In the interim, between the sowing and the reaping, people may convince themselves that it is not so.  The one who sows to his sinful nature may come to believe that his sin has no consequence.  The one who sows to the Spirit may despair of seeing the fruit of his labor.  But both are equally wrong, for the laws of God always prevail.

Sowing to sinful human nature will reap further corruption.  Galatians 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption.  The degradation of life brought on by our rebellion against the Lord of life continues unabated.  We should revisit Romans 1:18-32 periodically.  What begins in ungodliness in Romans 1:18 finally flushes itself out in the cesspool of Romans 1:28-32.  It isn’t pretty because it isn’t pretty.  There simply is no getting better without God.  And there is no static state either.  It can only get worse without him.

Sowing by and to the Holy Spirit will reap eternal life.  Galatians 6:8  but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.  Let the faithful never forget.  This harvest is just as certain as the other.  The difficulty is that the corruption is in our face every day.  The person whose eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit cannot help but see it.  But the harvest of life is not so clear.  Perhaps the reason is that we have been called to walk by faith.  Romans 8:24-25  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Don’t let out of sight be out of mind.  The harvest comes.

The delay is dangerous.  This interim, this present darkness, is dangerous for both sowers.  It is dangerous for the one sowing to the flesh for he fools himself.  He puts away the most critical choice of his life, the call of God in Christ to repent and believe.  It is dangerous for the one sowing to the Holy Spirit for another reason.  His danger is that he will grow weary.  Disappointment mounts and may morph into despair.  This is why Paul wrote the next verse.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  Or listen to James.  James 5:7-8  Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

John 3:16.  What a wonderful Savior he is!

The Futility of Avoiding God

The Futility of Avoiding God

Zechariah 1:3 Therefore say to them, Thus declares the LORD of hosts: return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.  God is seeking a meeting.  Zechariah extends the invitation in 1:3-6.

The meeting that needs to happen.  Don’t think of the endless meetings of men which are understandably avoided.  This is the enduring invitation of God which shouts from every quarter of Scripture.  He desires this meeting.  The simple message of ‘return’ is saturated with his name, which appears three times in this one verse.  “The LORD of hosts” vibrates like a drum.  He is the one calling and he stands ready even if we are not.

The meeting that others have skipped.  In spite of who is calling, this meeting is put off by many and some imagine they can avoid it altogether.    Zechariah 1:4 Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the LORD.  Their attention was in other places, meetings they deemed more important no doubt.

The meeting that cannot be avoided.  Zechariah 1:5 Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?  Where are our fathers?  Answer, gone.  Do preachers live forever?  Answer, no.  The Lord brings us to the final resting place of all exceptionalism.  Exceptionalism is the belief that we are unique, that the rule which applies everywhere else, somehow doesn’t apply to us.  It has been buried in the graveyard over and over, but people keep resurrecting it in their minds.  But the Lord reminds us that not even the prophets who do his bidding are exceptions to his rule.

The prophet doesn’t live forever but there is something that endures.  Zechariah 1:6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented and said, As the LORD of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.  The word of God overtook them and it will do the same with us.  Rather than avoiding it as though it were a curse, if we turn and embrace it, his word will break with blessing upon our heads.

The same word which warns, guides.  The same word which convicts, forgives.  The same word that tears down, builds up.  The very word which ran down the fathers is the same word that says “Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you.”  How far will his word run?  This far.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  And this far.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  The word ran all the way to the cross.  That God would go so far to save us is folly to some.  But it doesn’t come close to the foolishness of trying to avoid him.
What a wonderful Savior he is!

The Desire of the Angels

The Desire of the Angels

1 Peter 1:12  It was revealed to them (the prophets) that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

We have an understandable fascination with angels.  It sometimes goes too far.  John was rebuked when his awe of an angle crossed the line. (Revelation 22:8-9)

But the angels themselves have a certain awe of what is happening among us.  1 Peter 1:12 is the end of a short paragraph about the amazing work of God that stirs the desire of the angels for a closer look.  (1 Peter 1:10-12)  The paragraph reveals some of the inspiration for the angels’ longing.

The great patience of God towards sinners.  The Gospel that was being preached in verse twelve had been predicted long before in the words of the prophets.  These men saw many things in their search for the mind of Christ, but they wanted to know more.  The Holy Spirit showed them enough of the future to encourage their patience.  There were others yet to be born for whom this great Gospel would be salvation.

Did the angels, in their constant gaze upon the majesty of God, ever wonder why he did not immediately vindicate his holiness and righteousness on a planet of rebels?  It is a wonder to me.  His long-suffering is everywhere chronicled in the Scripture.  Let one verse suffice.  2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

The great power of God on behalf of sinners.  The prophets saw that the Messiah would suffer.  This is the heart of the Gospel that was being preached in verse twelve.  Only God could take the sins of the world to the cross and there separate the sin from the sinner, as far as east is from west.  The unimaginable power of God that could have been exerted to destroy us, was in fact exerted to save us.  It is enough to make an angel wonder.

The great destiny of God for repentant sinners.  The prophets saw, not just the suffering of the Messiah, but the subsequent glories.   Isaiah 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.  Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  The Messiah will see the result of his suffering and it will be joy for him and for every soul that turns to him.

The great encounter of God with a sinner.  The things the angels wanted to see are actually announced every time the Gospel is preached.  Could it be that the supreme fascination of angels is to behold the encounter that takes place when a human soul meets the living God in the proclamation of the Gospel?  What a wonder, when he who is so very high, reaches so very low to pluck another firebrand from the burning!  And we are told that when the angels see it, they sing.  (Luke 15:10)

This magnificent work of God happens daily as sinners encounter his grace in churches and kitchens and cabs and fields.  It happens when desperate people reach for a Bible.  It can happen wherever the eternal Gospel is proclaimed, perhaps even on this page.  John 3:16.

Hallelujah!  What a wonderful Savior he is!

“As Long as You Are Happy”

“As long as you are happy.”  Good luck with that!

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  (Matthew 5:4)
My friend had a complaint.  He was trying to convince the children that a college with a tough academic reputation was the way to go.  But mom kept saying, “whatever makes you happy, honey.”
Happiness is a hot commodity in our culture.  Everyone wants it.  Some regard it as the final answer to the question of whether a thing should be done or not done.  We might want to consider that in the name of happiness some have deserted mates, forsaken home and family, disregarded the law, left noble work, inflicted pain and injury, or taken what was not theirs to take.  What powerful stuff this “happiness” must be to make people act so!
The Declaration of Independence contains this profound statement.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights , that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  Everyone is entitled to life.  (I’m afraid we have forgotten that one.)  Everyone is entitled to liberty.  And everyone is entitled to happiness?  Not.  Life and liberty should be yours, but when it comes to happiness, the founding fathers said you have a right to chase it, not a guarantee to catch it!
Happiness is like the proverbial greased pig.  You may be quick enough to catch him, but keeping him is another story.  I have had an occasional brush with happiness.  But it never came by chasing it.  It always seemed to come unexpectedly.  Usually, I am intensely involved in something else, when suddenly I realize that I’m happy.  And I am beginning to think that happiness must be a very bashful creature, because if you stop and stare, if you take time to analyze it, it is gone as quickly as it came.  Chasing it is just about the most futile thing in the world.
The blessings pronounced by Jesus in Matthew 5:3f are very instructive for happiness.  The word translated “blessed” means to be supremely happy.  So when Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” it could be translated “how supremely happy are the poor in spirit.” Immediately, we see how different Jesus’ view of happiness is.  How many counselors will tell you that spiritual poverty is the way to happiness?  Isn’t self-esteem what people want and need?  Isn’t self-fulfillment the true and grand goal of life?  Yet, this is exactly what Jesus did say.  He flies in the face of our culture, just as he flew in the face of the culture of his earthly life.  Feeling self-assured, self-aware, and self-sufficient?  You’ll never be happy according to Jesus, at least not for long, and never supremely so.
According to Jesus, happiness is something that comes when we pursue other things.  He said pursue an understanding of your spiritual poverty, pursue mourning over your sin, pursue a broken gentleness with the world about you, pursue the righteousness that can only come from God, pursue mercy, do the hard and dirty work of making peace, and think that it’s the greatest thing in the world to encounter trouble for following Him, and happiness will be yours.
Jesus was an odd sort.  He said many things that don’t fit our culture very well.  He said you get life by losing it.  He said you find joy by encountering trouble.  He said you gain reward by sacrifice.  He said you’ll only really know forgiveness by practicing it.  He was an odd sort indeed, and more than a little meddlesome.
“Just as long as you’re happy, honey.”  That kind of happiness never works for long.  It slides right through your hands.  But if you are feeling a little restless, searching for something deeper, and thirsty for more than our happiness-driven culture is providing, let me recommend Jesus.  Revelation 22:17 – The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.  His prescription for happiness may seem odd.  But it always works.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)
What a wonderful Savior he is!

“Knowledge Is Power”

“Knowledge is power.” Are you sure?

‘Knowledge is power’ is often repeated as a self evident truth.  Let’s shine the light of God’s word on it.

Knowledge certainly has an attractive power.  Ask Eve.  Genesis 3:6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.  Enticed by what she didn’t know and forgetting what she did, Eve reached for a knowledge that would make her like God.  It is hard to tell whether Adam was attracted by knowledge or by Eve. You can figure that one out for yourself.

Like most people, I like to know things.  I asked my parents many questions.  Sometimes they told me what I wanted to know.  But sometimes they said, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.”  I didn’t like that.  My thirst to know only increased.  I didn’t realize at the time just how much like Eve I was.

Knowledge also has inflationary power.  For such a highly educated man, Paul had an interesting view of knowledge.  1 Corinthians 8:1-3 – we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.  If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.  But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.  The Corinthians possessed a knowledge of spiritual things that had not served them well spiritually!  It had made them proud and vain.  All puff, no stuff.  Having the right stuff here meant loving God and being known by him.

When people say that knowledge is power, they usually mean that knowledge is helpful in some way.  But both of these powers are powers that knowledge has over us, not for us.  And that is not all.  There is a realm in which knowledge is powerless!

Knowledge alone is powerless to change behavior, good or bad.  Examples are everywhere.  I look no further than home to prove it.  I used to be a smoker.  I know why I began smoking, but I just don’t know why I continued for so long.  I knew very well what smoking did to the lungs, the heart rate, and the blood pressure.  But my knowledge gave me no power to stop.

Here is another.  We have been told for several decades that many of our social problems could be cured by educating our young people about sex.  We have been told that we are repressed and ignorant in these matters and that “knowledge is power.”  Yet, for most of my life, we have done little else but talk about sex.  We brought sex out of the closet for all to see.  If knowledge is power, our problems resulting from undisciplined sexual behavior should be gone.  It is not so.  Our knowledge has produced no power to change us.  In a culture where information is so accessible and the consequences of destructive behavior are pointed out daily, why is it that the most intelligent, most promising, most informed young woman is as likely to get pregnant as any other girl?  If knowledge is power, this couldn’t be.

If knowledge is power, then professors would rule the world.  But in fact, those who do rule the world often prove beyond doubt that power can be had with very little knowledge.  If knowledge is power, then no one smokes.  If knowledge is power, then everyone waits on sexual fulfillment until there is assurance of a stable, loving home for the children who naturally result from this union.  If knowledge is power, then we will always choose the stairs over the elevator.  If knowledge is power, then there will never be another war and unkind words are a thing of the past.  But it just isn’t so, is it?

The apostle Paul usually gets high marks among Christians for his wisdom and knowledge.  But listen to his confession in Romans 7:19.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”  He knew what was good but his knowledge was useless.  He knew what was hurtful but his knowledge could not keep him from it.  Been there?  Done that?  Granted, some things are more hurtful than others, but a slave is a slave.  Whether sex or chocolate, money or drugs, a person or a position, when you are tethered and cannot get away, knowledge may be helpful but it is not power.

The Gospel is power and knowing that is the greatest thing you will ever know. Spiritual life begins when we know the truth.  As Jesus said, it will set you free.  Paul knew that his store of knowledge was just that, knowledge, not power.  He gave us the alternative. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith. (Romans 1:16) Whatever distance there is between the man I was and the man I am, I attribute solely to the power of God revealed in this glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Nor do I imagine another real change will come or a single pitfall will be avoided without his aid.  But praise be to God!  He said he would never leave nor forsake those who trust him.  He said it.  We can count on it.  John 3:16.  Now that is power!

What a wonderful Savior he is!

What Are You Watching?

What are you watching?

If you made a list of all that you watch in a day’s time, what would it look like?  Not what you see, but what you watch.  Include in the list all that grabs your attention enough to make you focus on it for a time.

Jesus had just finished warning his disciples of the terror that would descend on Jerusalem within a generation.  No two stones of that magnificent temple would be left one on top of another.  Such a time of trouble was coming that the only admonition left would be “run for your life.”

Then Jesus told them what the days leading up to his return would be like.  Portents in the heavens, nations in distress, and perplexity over escalating natural calamities would be the agenda.  Even the unseen powers of the heavens would be shaken.  Fear and foreboding would be the tenor of the times.  The very future of the planet would seem in doubt.

There are lots of things to watch in Jesus’ warnings.  Do we watch the heavens or the nations?  Do we keep an eye on the spiritual realm or the Romans?  Do we monitor the fear factor or the natural disaster?  Do you watch any of these things?  I do.

But Jesus has a different idea.  Luke 21:34-36 –  But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.  For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.  But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

Watch yourself!  Watching those other matters will not change them or prevent them.  But the failure to watch yourself could be disastrous.  Jesus was especially concerned about two traps.

Dissipation and drunkenness were the destinations of those who looked to the wrong things to lift them up.  C. S. Lewis, after noting that perfect love casts out fear, said, “But so do several other things – ignorance, alcohol, passion, presumption, and stupidity.” (from The World’s Last Night)  What appears to lift us up may at last let us down.

Anxiety, on the other hand, won’t even try to fake you out.  Anxiety is downhill all the way.  Someone who cares enough about life to be anxious is likely to also be watching all the signs, fears, perplexities, and calamities.  It starts to feel like a certain conjugated verb.  Sink.  Sank.  Sunk.

Jesus gives three aids for this self-watch.  First, be alert.  Don’t go to sleep on your faith!  Second, be prayerful.  I still haven’t heard regrets for praying too much.  Then, be focused.  In a short time you will be standing before the Son of Man.  Don’t lose sight of that!

Jesus said that his followers should have a different attitude about the prelude to his return.  Luke 21:28 – Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.  Make plentiful use of the aids and the attitude will follow.

What a wonderful Savior he is!

What’s Your Take?

What’s your take?

What’s your take on this troubled world?  We all see the same world, but we don’t see it the same way.  Psalm 11 unfolds two very different ways of looking at the world.  The world of the psalmist was beset by violence and insecurity.  Wickedness seemed to win unending victories.  Prosperity belonged to the takers.  Struggle was the lot of the righteous.  Perhaps we live in the same world?

Psalm 11:1 In the LORD I take refuge.  His opening volley is a statement of his own faith.  “Just so you know,” he says, “I choose faith.”

First view: seeing the world through fretful eyes.

How can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain, for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (1b-3)

Fret sees a world to escape from.  I wonder how much money is made every day off of people who just want to get away from it?  Whatever “it” is, there are a lot of people wanting to flee like a bird.  God has made a good, beautiful, even awesome world.  Isn’t it obvious how far we have gone wrong when people can’t wait to leave “it” behind?

Fret sees a world of random shots.  Would you like to be in the room with the guy in verse two?  Neither of you can see.  He has a bow and you don’t.  He is wicked.  Are we having fun yet?  Do you recall the soldier who said he wasn’t afraid of the bullet that had his name on it.  There was only one and who could avoid that?  It was all those other bullets addressed ‘to whom it may concern’ that bothered him.  We do get hit by unexpected adversity.  But don’t we also get hit by unexpected blessing?  When we begin to believe in a totally random world, it is a sign that fret is taking over.

Fret sees a world with a shaky future.  The foundations are crumbling.  Hard to argue with that, isn’t it?  So, we don’t argue.  Rather, we ask what does this volatile situation lead you to conclude?  Fret concludes that there is nothing to be done, no place to go, no answer to be found.  The psalmist offers another view.

Second view: seeing the world through faithful eyes.

The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.  The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.  Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.  For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.  (4-7)

Faith looks up before it looks out.  He didn’t understand the fretting (How can you say…?) because he had looked up and seen God.  The Lord was in his temple.  The temple was still holy.  His throne was not toppled over and God was not pacing to and fro, wondering what to do about me today.  Or you!  His eyes had not lost sight and his hand had not lost strength.  The nations had not suddenly grown large and overwhelmed him.  They were still like grasshoppers.  Grasshoppers!  Aren’t grasshoppers funny creatures?  As David said in Psalm 2, he who sits in the heavens laughs.  At more than one thing, I should think.  Look up.  It will change what you see when you look out.

Faith looks down the road before it chooses the road.  What fret saw as unfolding, unending calamity, faith saw was a test.  Faith knows this because faith is familiar with the end of the road.  When you know where the road is going, you should know if you want to take it.  The end of wickedness is not good and it is very near.  The end for the righteous is simply astounding and words fail to describe it.  So let’s just remember the words of the Book, “the upright shall behold his face.”

What’s your take, today?  The Bible everywhere encourages the latter view.  I was recently told that Christians were going to be on the wrong side of history.  Nope.  The right side of history will always be righteousness and the right side of eternity will always be seeing the face of God.

 John 3:16.  What a wonderful Savior he is!

It Stands Written

It stands written.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written.”

From a human perspective, the days of Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah, must have been terrible days for faith.  She usurped the throne of David and attempted to destroy the Davidic line.  The hope of faithful Israel was the promised Messiah.  Even in exile that hope would endure, for there was yet a kingly line, though at the moment there was no kingdom.  Athaliah, however, tried to destroy all hope.  She thought she had.  And so it must have seemed to all but the faithful couple who hid a Davidic child. (This gripping story is found in 2 Chronicles 22 and 23)

And who knew but Mary and Joseph just how close Herod came to succeeding where Athaliah had failed?  Hope, cradled in a mother’s arms and guided by an earthly father, scurried off to Egypt.  Surely Joseph wondered what could possibly happen next.

Years later, beyond all hope, hope stepped forward.  Immediately the enemy attacked.  Satan, who could neither deny nor destroy, bent every effort to distort.  If he could not stop it, then he would twist it.  The effort began in the wilderness.  In Matthew 4:1-11, we read the account of the trial, summed up for us in three great temptations.  As important as each temptation is for our understanding and aid, towering over them is the unhesitating response of Jesus.

It stands written.

The common translation is “It is written,” but the tense of the verb indicates that which was written and still endures.  It is the unchangeable word of God.  Jesus’ total reliance and perfect understanding of what God has said is certainly an example for us, but it is so much more.  Here we see the Son of God standing where every human has fallen.  Our failure to stand where his word stands was the beginning of our madness in the garden.  But it finds its end in the Messiah, fearlessly standing in our place, bearing all scorn, enduring all pressure, ever true to the Word that stands written.

The cross was the last false hope of hell and the one true hope of a lost world.  The cross is hope up close and personal.  Every single day.  Unquenchable hope.  “No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand.”  (from In Christ Alone)  If I knew how to make a keyboard shout, you would hear it now.

What a wonderful Savior he is!

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name?  What’s your name worth?  Would you sell it?  Would you let it be used to sell a product?  Any product?

Psalm 106:8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.

For his name’s sake.  A study of this phrase will grow quite long.  But consider only this one psalm.  To unpack the meaning of the phrase you must unpack the behavior of those he saved.  Three examples.

Psalm 106:7  Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.

So soon!  Already God had done great and mighty things for them, yet they had not crossed the sea before they balked, doubting the way ahead, wishing for the way back.

Psalm 106:13 They quickly forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel.

My cross reference Bible has three references for this verse, Exodus 15:24; 16:2, 17:2.  I will sum them up for you in three words.  Grumble.  Grumble.  Quarrel.

Psalm 106:20 Thus they exchanged their glory for the image of an ox that eats grass.

That is a reference to their idolatry while Moses was on the mountain.  They made a golden calf and worshiped it in the very shadow of the presence of God.  God himself was to be their glory and they swapped the name that is above all names for a lump of inanimate gold.

There’s more.  But that is enough to make the phrase “for his name’s sake” explode with significance.  God, for the glory and honor of his own name, saved his people again and again.  If salvation was by merit, it wouldn’t be salvation.  If our name is great enough to save us, what need do we have of his?  But God saves based upon his own merit, his own goodness, his own righteousness, and his own love.

The last example, “they exchanged their glory for the image of an ox,” is one piece of Paul’s argument that all have sinned.  Romans 1:22-23 says, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”  Humankind, in the tangle of false worship, cannot extract itself.  God must do it.  He did.  He did it in the only name that saves, that of his only begotten Son, Jesus.

 Salvation is vested in a name.  Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.  This is a fatal blow to pride, but an endless joy and hope for those who are “in Christ.”  Son of God.  Son of man.  Soon coming King!

What a wonderful Savior he is!

Believe It

Believe it!

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Faith is God’s chosen avenue into his grace.  Hebrews 11:6 reminds us of two important aspects of faith.

Faith is essential.  Without it we face an impossibility.  The word ‘impossible’ is the word for dynamic power negated, literally, powerless.  We are powerless to please him apart from faith.  This is why good works don’t work and  why rituals alone are rituals alone.  Good works and biblical ordinances take on great meaning after faith.  Without faith, we are just fooling ourselves.  Romans 14:23 – For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.  That is a severe word that leaves no options.  But if there are no other options, don’t you want to know?

When the people asked the priests if they should keep on fasting, God spoke to his prophet, Zechariah.  God told him to ask the people a question.  “Was it for me that you fasted?” (Zechariah 7:3f)  If so-called good works are really about proclaiming our own goodness or getting our own way, then they are not even remotely connected to God.  And if rituals are nothing more than assuaging a bad conscience, then they don’t do the thing we most need to be done.  We need cleansing, not assuaging.  The living God cleanses.  He does it through the sacrifice of his Son.  When people enter into that cleansing by faith, the good works that follow are not about them, but about the glory of God who rescued them.

Faith is anchored.  In Hebrews 11:6 there are two great realities that anchor faith.  The first is the fact of God.  The second is the nature of God.

Faith believes that God is, that he exists.  It takes less faith to believe in God than to believe that chance or some spontaneous generation of matter produced the order, the beauty, the wonder, even the dangerous power that we see in the universe.  Even so, the convictions of faith don’t arise from watching the sunset, but from faithful encounter with this living God in his Word.  Romans 10:17 should be visited regularly.  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  His word is the birthplace of faith and the regular meeting place between this dynamic, living God and his children.

Faith believes that God is good.  Conceivably, one could believe that God exists but that he is not good.  If we measured him by our experience with men, God might seem to be capricious, even cruel.  He might seem to attend to us at times and ignore us at others.  But that is not true faith, for that is not the true God.  He delights in those who desire to please him.  He rewards those who faithfully seek him.  He says to anyone who will hear him,  “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)  As of today, He has not retracted that invitation.  But those who would answer His call must come by faith.

John 3:16.  Believe it.

What a wonderful Savior he is!