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“Examine yourselves,” the preacher pronounced from the pulpit as he prepared for the altar call. “Look at your life. Have you sinned this week? This month? Do you have any unconfessed sins? Come down and get your life right with God. Confess your sins and be forgiven.” Some Sundays, the message creates more of …View full post
Don’t shortchange your faith. Life is so much more than escaping condemnation. Sharing the gospel is much more than lecturing on hell. The focus of the gospel is Christ, not sin. As a young preacher, I was taught an erroneous way of presenting the gospel. Success was measured by two things: how many Christians were …View full post
This topic recently came up when someone was talking about a Word of Faith ministry. They explained faith as a force. It’s the source of power that God uses to accomplish His word. They defined it as ‘faith filled words’. It was then explained that our word of faith has the power to accomplish anything. …View full post
Christians have a tendency to borrow philosophy from the world and treat it as though it were truth. The world has a poor track record when it comes to advice, so why do we adopt failing philosophies and ignore God’s advice. His track record is perfect. The failures among Christians are the result of distrusting …View full post
“Examine yourselves,” the preacher pronounced from the pulpit as he prepared for the altar call. “Look at your life. Have you sinned this week? This month? Do you have any unconfessed sins? Come down and get your life right with God. Confess your sins and be forgiven.”
Some Sundays, the message creates more of a guilty conscience than others. If people begin responding, we’ll sing another stanza of ‘Just as I am’. If no one responds, we’ll sing another stanza anyway because the preacher is sure the Holy Spirit is convicting someone’s heart of sin, but they are resisting.
This is a widely accepted message in many evangelical churches and denominations. Though it seems right because we want to deal with sin, this approach is flawed at its core. What is the flaw? Look at the focus of the message. Where is the focus? Look at your sin. Look at yourself. I recently read a devotional that called for repentance and at the end, it stated, “Resolve now to put off all ungodly conduct and yield completely to obedience to Christ.”
This sounds good, but there is one important flaw. It’s the same flaw that caused the Law of the Old Testament Covenant to fail. Let’s let the scriptures explain. Romans 8:3-4
3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,
4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
The Apostle Paul goes on to clarify, “The Law is good and holy, and the commandments of the law are good and holy.” In spite of this, the Bible says that instead of producing goodness and holiness in us, the law makes us exceedingly sinful. The reason? Romans 7:14 explains:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.
The problem isn’t God’s law. The problem is that the law is spiritual, but we are carnal (or of the flesh). The flesh cannot become spiritual and therefore cannot fulfill a spiritual law. The law exposes sin and our utter incapability to measure up; therefore, it makes us exceedingly sinful by pointing out every act of the flesh. The flesh is at war with the Spirit, so it stands to reason that any effort through the flesh fails in its attempt to produce spiritual righteousness. When we view our spiritual condition through human eyes of the flesh, it drives us to despair, which then, if we have understanding, also drives us to the solution. This is also explained in Romans 7:24-25
24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
25 I thank God– through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
Don’t lose sight of this contrast. In the flesh, we can do nothing but serve the law of sin. When we are looking to ourselves, we only have two choices – self-deception, or utter despair. But when we look at the Spirit by focusing on what Christ has done, we are taken out of the despair of the flesh and placed into the promise of God.
And this is why perpetual repentance cannot produce lasting results. Certainly we can drive people to despair by asking them to focus on sin. This will either cause people to shut down and disengage, or it may drive them to the altar. They will beg for mercy and have an emotional appeasement for a moment. However, that appeasement will disappear the next time they fail to measure up to the standard of perfection. Then they will no longer feel right with God. Never will they grow close to God, for their sin will always drive them away. The person depending upon commitment and resolve will never get beyond surface Christianity.
Notice the Apostles didn’t preach to focus on sin. When they looked at themselves, they recognized their wretchedness compared to God’s holiness. However, when they looked to the gift of Christ’s completed work, which was given to them, they could do nothing but rejoice. The message wasn’t, “We must do something with our sin.” The message was, “Christ has already taken sin out of the way; we then receive grace and rejoice in what He has done.”
The message of the gospel is not to become holy, righteous, and resolve to be perfect. The message of the cross is to become a partaker of God’s holiness, righteousness, and to trust in His perfection. Look at one of my favorite passages in 2 Peter 1:3-4
3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Paul said it best when he said, “Not having my own righteousness, but that which is through faith in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that Jesus became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. It’s never your righteousness. You are a partaker of God’s righteousness, and you receive it by faith. You trust in God’s righteousness and God promises to overcome sin on your behalf. The more focused you are on Christ, the less power sin has. The more focused you are on sin, the less you will experience the power of faith in Christ. The power of God doesn’t change. Your faith in His power is either your strength or lack thereof.
In the past, when I preached, “Look at your life. Have you sinned…” what I was actually saying was, “Take your eyes off of the righteousness of Christ and look at your flesh.” Then defeat is a guarantee. Our calling is ALWAYS to take our eyes off our flesh and look to His grace. Grace is the gift of God’s unmerited favor. It is the completed work of Christ, given to you without any merit or service of your own. It is received by faith. Faith is believing in God’s works and trusting in His promise that His work is credited to your account. When we believe in Christ’s works, success is a guarantee.
There is only one type of repentance that is valid for the Christian. When we realize we have taken our eyes off of Christ and are again focused on the flesh, we need a change of mind and a change of direction. We repent by taking our eyes off ourselves and placing them back on Christ. We then walk with Him in His righteousness and rejoice that we are partakers of true righteousness. True righteousness is something we cannot produce.
Do you struggle with sin? This is normal. But the answer is not to focus on sin and lament over failure. The answer is to trust in God’s righteousness and focus on Him. When our minds are on Christ, we can do nothing but serve the law of God. When our minds are on the flesh, we can do nothing but serve the law of sin. The carnal mind draws from the flesh and human effort. Even during righteous acts it is still drawing from sinful flesh. This is why Jesus said, “Many will come to Me in that day and say, ‘Look what we have done in Your name,’ but I will declare, ‘You are a worker of lawlessness.”
If it is a good deed done through the flesh, even if it is done in Jesus’ name, it is still an act of the flesh, and whatever is of the flesh is sin. According to the Bible, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Yet this is good news indeed. Your righteousness has already been accomplished. You need to do nothing but trust in the righteousness of Christ, given to you by faith. God only asks one thing of you. Trust in what He has given you. Hebrews 11:6 says:
But 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.
Take your eyes off your sins, failures, good works, religion, or any other self-focus. Believe in Him and receive the reward of faith – trusting in God. Nothing else has eternal significance. When you fail, you have simply stepped back into the flesh, and God calls you to again trust in His mercy and grace. Then receive righteousness and experience perfect fellowship as if that righteousness were your own.
As preachers and teachers, we should be turning people’s focus away from themselves and toward trusting completely in Christ. As listeners and receivers of the word, we should be taking our eyes off both our righteousness and our sin, and we should be looking to Christ alone. Not ourselves. Not our sin. Not our works. Not our righteousness. Christ alone. That is the Christian who will experience the victory already accomplished by Christ, and that person will grow into the faith God has provided. If there is one thing to resolve it’s this, resolve to trust in nothing but Christ. You can’t do it and you’ll only get frustrated with both failure and lack of spiritual fruit in your life. Stop trying and start trusting in Him. Then God has promised to both subdue your iniquities and will cause the fruit of the Spirit to emerge in your life.
Eddie Snipes 2013
Don’t shortchange your faith. Life is so much more than escaping condemnation. Sharing the gospel is much more than lecturing on hell. The focus of the gospel is Christ, not sin. As a young preacher, I was taught an erroneous way of presenting the gospel. Success was measured by two things: how many Christians were compelled to the altar to repent again, and were there any sinners who were convinced to escape hell.
Over the years, I began to recognize some flaws with this style of preaching. The first thing was, what about those who are trying to grow in their faith? “Eddie, you need to preach a fiery message of salvation. Otherwise you aren’t going to get converts,” the pastor who mentored me said. I was preaching at a prison and two other ministries that reached low-income families. But I began to feel a burden for those I knew were Christians. Some I had even seen come to Christ. Do they need to hear a ‘You are a sinner’ type of message?
Another flaw is this: rarely does true faith emerge from the fear of hell. Fear is a powerful tool that can be employed to manipulate people. Politicians use it. The legal system uses it. Employers use it. Many areas of society uses it. Should the church be using it? It is God who said, “My ways are not like your ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” In fact, throughout the New Testament, we see the Bible stressing how the Christian life and God’s ways are counter culture and counter to human nature. If society is dependent upon fear to control and manipulate, shouldn’t that at least cause us to stop and ask, “Is God’s way different than society’s?”
Funny I should ask, for the Bible does answer this question. Romans 2:4 tells us, “The goodness of God leads you to repentance.” And look at the message of 1 John 4:18-19
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
19 We love Him because He first loved us.
Hell, fire, and brimstone is strangely missing from the gospel message preached by the disciples. On the day of Pentecost, when the church was born and the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples, they went to the very crowd they feared – those who had crucified Jesus. It was the very group that caused Peter to deny Christ out of fear of going on trial with Jesus. But there Peter stood, with the disciples, in front of thousands of people. His words speak volumes. He began his message by explaining that he and the disciples were rejoicing, not because they were drunk as some accused them of being, but because the promise God had given in the Old Testament had come. They had received the promise given of the Holy Spirit that would empower the believer to be united with God and receive from God.
We see similar things in the Apostle Paul’s messages to the unchurched cities where he started new churches. Paul never proclaimed their damnation, nor did he use the promise of a ticket to heaven that would escape hell. He preached Christ. He presented the goodness of God and the power of Jesus. First, the power of Christ to conquer death through His resurrection, and from that position of power we could trust Him to conquer death in our lives. First, the death of the flesh in this life was defeated through Christ, second, the death of our life on this earth would be defeated and we will one day be transformed in our bodies as we can now be transformed in our spirit.
Read the Apostle Paul’s presentation of the gospel to the pagan worshipping men of Athens. He found an altar with the inscription, “To the unknown God.” He used this as an opportunity to present the God these men never knew. From there, he pointed to the goodness of God, explained how God did not hold their ignorance against them, but now calls for them to repent. And repentance means to turn. It is both a change of mind, and a change of directions. He then pointed to the erroneous way of thinking that God could be crafted out of stone or gold, but that His desire is to be united with them.
Indeed there is a place to mention sin, but sin is never the focus. Paul states, the day is coming when God will judge the world in righteousness, but He has given us the assurance of life through Christ. Peter uses a similar line of reasoning in Acts 3:12. They healed a man who had been born a cripple. The people were amazed and rushed to see the spectacle. Peter used this as a second opportunity to preach to the very crowd who condemned Jesus to death.
Keep in mind, Peter is about to present Jesus to the people who knew who He was and consented to His death. Peter then says, “By the power of Jesus, whom you put to death, this man stands before you whole today.” I’ve condensed the speech, but this is the nuts and bolts of his presentation. Then Peter points out that Jesus is the man they crucified with sinful hands, but then shifts the focus. Repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out and the times of refreshing may come. Indeed sin is mentioned, but sin is not the focus. Look at the goodness of God. Your sin prevents you from experiencing this, but turn to God and He will remove your sins so you also may experience the goodness of God.
There is a big difference between the message, “Look at your sins. Look at hell. Beg God for mercy that He may let you escape hell,” and the message, “Look at the power of Christ, and the goodness of God’s love offered through Christ. Let God remove your sins and transform you into a new creation so you can walk in that love.” Do you see the difference between biblical evangelism and the hell-fire evangelism method? One is self-focused. One is Christ-focus. One teaches the flesh to save itself. The other teaches us to trust in the goodness of God and let go of the flesh.
To see the vast difference between these two gospels, look at the fruit of repentance. Those who are running from hell are dependent upon perpetual repentance and show little love for God. He is one to be feared. Obedience is compelled by a fear of judgment. Those who see the goodness of God and His invitation to join Him in new life overcome fear. God becomes a Father and life is about learning how to enjoy fellowship, not a fear of anger. The Bible says that we are perfected in Christ, yet the above passage from 1 John says, “He who fears has not been perfected.” We love God because He first loved us. It is the love of God that compels people to true repentance. When we see the depth of God’s love for us, we are drawn by that love. When we see the love of God, poured out through the life of Christ and His payment for our sin on the cross, we are drawn to that call of love.
Which shows love? The lord who says, “Serve me or I’ll beat you with stripes?” Or the lord who sees us struggling for survival and says, “Let me carry your burden. Walk with me and trust in my works. If you join me in my labors, I’ll reward you by making you an heir to my kingdom?” The last example IS the message of the cross. Jesus said, “He who is weary and heavy laden, be yoked to Me and I will give you rest.” A yoke is how two oxen were connected so they could plow a field. But the message is not for us to pull the plow, but to be yoked with Christ so we can find rest as He pulls the load. Yet we are still rewarded as if it were our labors.
Ephesians 2:9-10 begins by making it clear that our salvation cannot be earned, it is a gift of grace and not by any works. Yet it ends by saying, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ for good works that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in it.” We are God’s workmanship. We walk in His works as He works to transform our lives into something glorious, and our role is to walk in God’s works. We don’t create our own. But then we are rewarded as if it were our own.
Who will enjoy the Christian walk, the one who thinks he must pull the plow, labor all his life, and fear that it might not be enough? Or the one who joins to the yoke of Christ and enjoys fellowship while walking through the works God prepared beforehand for us to walk in? And we walk through God’s works with Christ for two main purposes – to enjoy fellowship and to be rewarded for the work as an heir of the Kingdom of God. Do you see how God’s goodness can do nothing but lead us to repentance? This is nothing but good news – and that is what the word ‘gospel’ means, good news.
The message of the gospel is not, You have sinned and God’s preparing judgment. The message of the gospel is, Under Adam, we are already under condemnation, but God so loved the world that He gave. He gave Himself as the payment of sin so we could be freed from condemnation and join Him as an heir to His Kingdom. The gospel does not say, “Look at your sin,” but rather, “Take your eyes off your sin and look to Christ. Trust in His payment for sin and enjoy fellowship with God. He has given you all things that pertain to life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
Eddie Snipes 2013
This topic recently came up when someone was talking about a Word of Faith ministry. They explained faith as a force. It’s the source of power that God uses to accomplish His word. They defined it as ‘faith filled words’. It was then explained that our word of faith has the power to accomplish anything. Words are containers and if we fill our words with faith, then we will have power. There are varying degrees of how this belief system plays out, but in a nutshell, it is taught that faith is a substance and we harness that substance for our use.
This is not a belief system based on the truth of scripture. I know there are those who will disagree, but rather than picking apart the beliefs of others, let’s look at how God has explain this in the Bible and let everything either stand in agreement or stand against the word of the Lord. Then let us decide which word is truly of faith.
Let’s begin with Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
The Greek word translated into ‘substance’ is ‘hupostasis’, which means: strong confidence, substructure, firmness, assurance, or substance. Even if someone knows nothing about Greek, looking at the possible definitions gives a clear meaning. The words that are possible translations are not multiple meanings, but multiple word usages. Substance can be used as long as the usage conveys the idea of something that underpins or is a firm assurance. It’s substance in the sense that faith is substantive in its ability to uphold our confidence. This word is used several times in the Bible, and each time it is used to explain confidence. Here are some examples:
2 Corinthians 9:4 You should not be ashamed of this confident…
2 Cornithians 11:17 I speak foolishly…in this confident boasting…
Hebrews 3:14 …hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.
Here is a place where the word ‘substance’ is used in reference to actual substance. Luke 8:3
…and many others who provided for Him from their substance.
This is not the same Greek word as what is used in Hebrews 11. This is the word ‘huparchonta’, which means possessions, goods, or property. The misconception of faith being a substance is based on the misunderstanding of the English translation of a single word in a single verse. Out of context, this can be twisted into a wrong meaning, but it can’t be misunderstood if read in the context of the rest of the chapter. Read the entire chapter of Hebrews 11. Based on the ‘substance / assurance’ of faith, Abel pleased God and was murdered for his testimony by Cain. By faith Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelled in tents because they refused to settle into a city, but waited for the eternal promised city, whose maker is God.
We look at possessions, but these who walked by faith counted these as nothing. Look at a few more details in this chapter: Hebrews 11:13
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
36-40 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.
37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–
38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,
40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
The Bible gives examples of those who saw the miraculous deliverance of God, and those who miraculously endured suffering. Both endured because of faith.
Now if faith is a force that gives us the power to speak our purposes into our world, why is it also used as the example of endurance of those who were mocked, beaten (scourged), sawn in two, slain by the sword, wandered in exile with nothing but animal skins for their possessions, and those who were afflicted and tormented?
The message of faith is not that we have the power to use a force for our will, but that we are so confident in God’s promises that we endure – whether we see part of that promise here, or we become the testimony of one of those who endured. I say part of the promise because even those who saw God’s blessings here didn’t count it as the fulfillment of the promise. In fact, they were willing to give up everything of this life because they had absolute assurance in the eternal promise to come.
How can a person sawn in two be an example of great faith, if faith is the power to proclaim your will and make your word fulfill what you desire to accomplish? If that’s the case, the people who were sawn in two were fools. The homeless saints of the past who had to make their own clothes as they wandered in the wilderness were also very foolish. Why would you use the substance of power to make yourself worse off? No, this passage can only make sense in light of its intended meaning. These were so sure of God’s promise that they were willing to wait with patience – even if every force of evil stood against them. They had the assurance of Job, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.”
Job spoke these words during the darkest time of his life. Though circumstances looked hopeless, he stood on the hope of God’s promise.
Now that we’ve looked at what the substance of faith actually means, let’s look at a great example of faith in action. Abraham is called the father of faith. He was before the Law, and is the Old Testament example of New Testament faith. How does the Bible define faith in Abraham’s life? Abraham believed God, and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness. Faith = belief in God’s word. Belief is not merely a passive belief that has no meaning. In James chapter 2, twice the Bible reiterates that faith without works is dead. This passage goes on to call out those who say, “I believe in God.” Big deal. Even demons believe in God, but what effect does that have on their lives? We can also look around. Nearly 80 percent of people say they believe in God, yet He is far from the thoughts of most people, and farther from their actions.
James goes back to Abraham as the example of what true faith looks like. Many places in scripture we see that Abraham was accounted as righteous because he believed God, but James says to look at Abraham’s life to see the evidence of faith.
Abraham was in his late 90s when God promised him a son. God didn’t fulfill that promise until Abraham was 100. God gave Abraham the promise, “In Isaac shall your seed be called.” Abraham took this promise to heart. This promise meant that Isaac had to grow into adulthood and have children who would then carry this promise to the next generation. At the heart of the promise was Christ. Through Abraham and his descendants, God would provide the promise of salvation in Christ.
Shortly after giving Abraham the promise, God put Abraham’s faith to the test. He called Abraham to slay his son as an offering for sin. We have the perspective of history and know that the only human sacrifice God ever received was when He became a man and offered Himself up for the sin of the whole world. And He did it on the same mountain that God called Abraham to use to offer Isaac. It was a foreshadow of what God would one day do. Abraham did not have the perspective we have. He only had the promise and the command to offer Isaac.
Since the promise of God was, “In Isaac shall your seed be called,” Abraham knew that there could never be a different son of promise. God would either intervene to provide a substitute for Isaac, or God would have to raise Isaac from the dead. Humanly speaking, it’s impossible for a dead son to be the fulfillment of God’s promise; therefore, Abraham believed the Lord fully capable of doing the impossible. Keep in mind that Isaac’s birth was the miracle of the impossible. The heart of Abraham’s faith is found in this statement from Genesis 22:5
And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”
We will come back to you. Abraham’s faith in God’s promise gave him the firm assurance that regardless of what happened on the mountain, both he and Isaac would return. Now let’s go full circle and return to Hebrews 11. Look at Hebrews 11:17-19
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,”
19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
Faith was the substance that gave Abraham absolute confidence. Abraham had no power to change his circumstance. He didn’t rebuke the devil. He didn’t question God. He didn’t speak his way out of the trial he had to endure. What faith did do was give him absolute confidence that what God promised, he was able to perform. Abraham walked by faith, and though life demanded what Abraham was unwilling to lose, he trusted that God’s promise could not fail. He walked into the storm of emotions he had to be feeling. He laid his hopes and dreams on the altar. He laid down his own will. Then Abraham rested his confidence in God, who was able to give life to the dead and call things that are not as though they were. Let’s look at the passage I just recited from as well. It’s a long passage, but I encourage you to read all of Romans 4:16-25
16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations “) in the presence of Him whom he believed– God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;
18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”
19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,
21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
Faith gives glory to God as this passage states. The belief that we can harness power to speak our will into existence as God has done takes that glory and attempts to make it about ourselves. It is the call to seek independence from God, just as Adam and Eve attempted to do at the original sin.
Who gives life? Who speaks into existence that which does not yet exist? Not Abraham. Not the power of faith. It is the power of God. Abraham believed on God, who is able to do these things. Not only that, when there was no hope, Abraham held to hope because he was fully persuaded that God was able to perform His word.
And this is the meaning of faith. Faith is believing God. Those who believe God are compelled to obedience, for that is where God’s word is put to the test and His promises are birthed into our lives. Faith without works is dead because any who say they believe God, but are unwilling to trust Him, have nothing but a man-made faith. And anything of the flesh is already dead. Mustered up faith is dead. You can’t produce faith by human effort. Faith comes by hearing the word of God because when we see the promise, that’s when the Spirit reveals these truths to our spirit. Then we have the opportunity to rest fully in confidence in God’s word and promises, or to put our confidence in the flesh and seek safety in either disobedience or apathy.
Faith itself is not a substance. Faith is not power. Faith is the revelation of God’s word and purposes to us, and then we are called to trust in what God has revealed. He reveals the promise, but not how that promise will be fulfilled.
Back in Hebrews 11, we see examples of those who saw God’s power in this life, and those who saw the reality of it beyond this life. Some saw God work in amazing ways. Some were confident without having to see God’s works in this life. But both examples are people who believed God regardless of what the flesh could see.
When you read about faith, keep these things in mind. Faith is not what you do, say, or have the power to accomplish. Faith is trusting in God’s word, His power, and walking where He leads. Faith is believing in God – true belief. The kind of belief that causes us to trust in Him whether going through the valley of the shadow of death, or on the mountain top of restoration. Faith is to trust fully in God and His power to keep His word.
Christians have a tendency to borrow philosophy from the world and treat it as though it were truth. The world has a poor track record when it comes to advice, so why do we adopt failing philosophies and ignore God’s advice. His track record is perfect. The failures among Christians are the result of distrusting God, not the result of trusting His word. G. K. Chesterton said it best, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” No truer words could have been spoken. Also consider the words of Colossians 2:8
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Following the wisdom of the world will cheat you out of the blessings of the Lord. It isn’t God who withdraws blessings, it is we who choose to walk in the place where God’s blessings are not found. In no area is this more true than in relationships.
Consider how the world presents the male role in marriage. There are two false examples and rarely do we see a good example. Worldly example 1 is the macho man. He’s the guy who looks at women as objects of his pleasure. He takes what he wants, and the woman likes it. In mainstream Hollywood this man wins the woman’s heart by his own hard heart and selfish attitude. A classic movie showed a woman stomping off in anger. The macho man snatched her by the arm, spun her around and kissed her. She fought at first, but then melted in his arms and said, “I like a man who takes what he wants.” This would be laughable if not for the fact people actually believe the selfish lie.
Example 2 is the Bundy syndrome. The popular 80’s sitcom, Married with Children, depicted the father figure of Al Bundy. He was a moron, wimp, and lacked any type of positive leadership skills. This has become the trend in Western culture for depicting the male role in the family. Listen to the commercials on the radio. Smart woman, dumb man. The man is clueless until he submits to the leadership of his wife. In some ways this is a backlash against the bimbo blonde image of women from the 50s and 60s, but to degrade one sex does not make up for the degrading of the past. It only creates new problems. Emasculating men does not empower women. It merely abandons God’s design and tries to fix worldly problems with worldly solutions. The worldly degrading of women was a failure in the family. Do we think worldly degrading of men will have a better effect?
The world’s methods of portraying family roles has always failed. Yet the Christian continues to look to the world to adopt the image of males and females in the family. And what is the result? The divorce rate in the church is almost identical to that of the culture. This means the church is adopting a philosophy of those who fail, but promise success. It reminds me of a comedy where someone directed a young man to the town expert on marriage. “Eugene knows all about women. He’s been married eight times.”
The role of women hasn’t done much better in the world. In the ancient culture, women were property. They were subject to men as inferior. Many fleshly minded people throughout history have twisted scriptures for selfish purposes and attempted to manipulate God’s word to bring about self-centered motives. To mix scripture with worldly philosophy only creates a customized worldly philosophy. The same passages that teach women to be subject to the family structure also teach men to love and honor women. Leadership does not equate to degrading. In the same passage that teaches women to submit also teaches men to submit to Christ and imitate His love toward their wives. In every instruction for the wife, there is also an instruction for the husband. But because pride is the standard of the culture, the church adopts this and declares, “I will not be subject to anyone.” And then we wonder why God doesn’t intervene to fulfill His promises.
The truth is that obedience leads us toward God’s best for our life. Obedience cannot earn grace, but it does put us into the path were promises flow. A life focused on the flesh cannot see the abundance already laid up for our lives. We want God to bless our worldly behavior, but God is inviting us to enter His promise. Because the people of the church are unwilling to humble themselves, they allow pride to drive them to pursue their own wisdom instead of being led by the wisdom of God.
The teaching of happy wife, happy life, is a lie. I know, just stating this will ruffle some feathers, but I believe you’ll understand why this won’t work if you follow this to the end. The truth is that no husband can make his wife happy. No wife can make her husband happy. Not one person is immune to the flesh and we all become self-seeking to varying degrees. If my will is not in full agreement with my wife, she won’t be happy. If I can’t fulfill every desire, she won’t be happy. If I can’t provide all the things of life she wants, she won’t be happy. These same things also apply to the husband. We can provide moments of happiness, but true satisfaction comes when we learn to seek others and not our own happiness. True satisfaction is a gift from God and not the work of our efforts.
Just think about the reality of this statement from scripture, “The eyes of man are never satisfied.” If you don’t think this is true, look at all you have and compare it to all you want. I’m happy when I get a new car. In six months, am I still happy? In a short time I will want something else. Maybe something for the car, or something else my desires ‘need’. A new house makes us happy for a moment, but then we need new furnishings. Or need more home improvements. In time, we may even need more room. I was happy with a yard, but now I want more land. I was happy with my relationship, but now things I don’t like are beginning to annoy me. And what happens to satisfaction when annoyances draw our attention? Even when we get what we want, happiness crumbles when other things come in that displeases us.
Happy husband, happy life would also be a lie. Consider a few plainly observed examples of those who have learned to expect happiness. The end result is always disappointment. What happens to children when the parents give them everything they want. Are they happy? Only at the moment of receiving, but they end up with rotten attitudes and unrealistic expectations. What happens when an adult becomes self-absorbed? Executives who are accustomed to being catered to are greatly displeased at petty things that deprive them. Athletes are also great examples. Colleges often cater to star athletes because they want to keep them at the school. But when they make it to the pros, many self-destruct because they expected to be catered to and are offended when they are expected to perform to their multi-million dollar contracts. Athletes complain and go on strike because they aren’t getting enough. Why don’t they recognize how much they have compared to the rest of society?
Two celebrities have made the news in recent years for assaulting hotel maids because they were displeased with something about their room. Hotels treat celebrities like royalty, yet instead of being appreciative, they begin to become discontented about what they don’t like. Never mind that they have luxury all around them. They can only focus on the petty annoyance they dislike.
And that’s the result of human nature. Certainly we want to please others, but if we teach others to expect perfect happiness, it only sets them up for a self-centered world view, and discontentment is the fruit of selfishness. The same is true for ourselves. If I expect to be served, I will be discontent when I feel the service isn’t good enough. When I expect to be happy, I will be discontent when anything fails to make me happy. Then the smallest annoyances can become large problems in my eyes. This is your life when selfishness is the focus. This is my life when I view the world through selfish eyes. We all have selfish eyes, but as we grow in grace, our eyes learn to look to the Lord instead of ourselves. And the result is always contentment. Selfishness always produces discontentment. Faith always satisfies. It’s a fact, but this truth can only be seen when we step out of selfishness and into faith.
Our flesh loves to focus on what we don’t have, and what irritates us. Have you ever met a grumbler or complainer? The vast majority of their complaints are about petty annoyances. The more they complain, the less they recognize the good all around them. Consider the words of Jeremiah 17:5-6
5 Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD.
6 For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.
The Christian lives in the promise, but the flesh draws us to invest back into what is under the curse of a fallen world. This is why seeking happiness cannot satisfy anyone. The word ‘man’ is referring to mankind in the general sense. Anyone who looks to the flesh as the way of satisfaction is pursuing the curse of the world. Not only will they not be happy, but they will not even have eyes to see good when it comes into their lives. And the more they pursue the flesh the more barren their soul becomes.
This is why pursuing happiness doesn’t work. This is also why encouraging people to set their expectation on being made happy is a recipe for disappointment. Pursuing my own happiness can’t satisfy my soul, so how can the concept of happy wife create satisfaction in the family? The more the focus is on happiness the more deprived both sides will feel. Obviously this does not mean that men should not try to please their wives. This should be the case, but when wives believe the lie of the culture that family happiness is dependent upon their own pleasure, they will feel deprived when the husband falls short. And he will fall short often. The same is true for men. If happiness is dependent upon their wives meeting their expectations, they will always feel slighted, for no one is able to fulfill all our expectations and wants.
Do you see the problem with this philosophy? If either side is being fed the expectation that the other should be catering to them, it is a set up for disappointment. The wife will never be happy, for no human will measure up to their full expectation. And anyone being taught to look to anything of this life as the source of satisfaction is pursuing a path to the desert – not the path of happiness. That person will always end up in a barren desert, for no one can every meet your every want or expectation. But look at the rest of God’s word to Jeremiah:
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD.
8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
Who waters the soul? It is the Lord. The one who looks expectantly to the Lord and trusts that all things are of Him will be satisfied. It’s a guarantee. When your spouse fails you, because God is your expectation, you will flourish even when circumstances would indicate otherwise. It is God who waters the soul of those who walk by faith. God will water through your spouse, through your friends, through His word, and through your fellowship with Him. And the primary source of satisfaction comes through your walk with the Lord.
If you are dependent on a person – including yourself – you have cut off all the ways God waters you and you are limited to only what the flesh can provide. And the flesh is fallen and highly limited. It should be evident that if you can’t satisfy your own soul, how can your spouse do so? You know what you want and you can’t fulfill your own needs; therefore, how can someone who cannot see your perspective fulfill your needs. God did not put your spouse into your life to feed your selfishness. The purpose of marriage is to fulfill our longing to express love, not to be a source for selfish gratification. A good marriage is two people seeking the Lord together, and upholding one another. If either party becomes selfish, it robs intimacy out of the marriage and puts self on the throne instead of the Lord.
When one person feels obligated to make the other happy, they will naturally feel a sense of resentment – though they may work to bury it deep inside. Any service out of obligation is not an act of love. Forcing ourselves to submit to being used may work for a time, but in the end love is harmed, not grown.
But there’s more! Look at the promise of Proverbs 11:24-25
24 There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty.
25 The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.
There is a reason why the Bible says that the way of Christ is foolishness to the world. The world views everything through the eyes of the flesh. The flesh says, “I must be served in order to be happy.” God says that the soul who seeks itself will only come to want. The true road to happiness is not the pursuit of happiness. It’s to trust in God to be the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Because we know that God is our source of good, we stop looking at what others are doing for us and start trusting in what God has empowered us to do for others. We give knowing that it is God who will prosper us.
Prosperity does not merely refer to physical possessions. Our soul needs prosperity much more than our wallets. There are those who scatter good into the life of others. The world says that we should make ourselves number one, but how many people do you see that have found lasting satisfaction through self-focused living? God says to scatter into others and you will increase all the more. In other words, you will abound greater than what you have given. But those who take and demand others to give to them only come to poverty. Their soul wants for more and takes from others, but finds no lasting satisfaction.
Do you see why teaching that happy families depend on feeding one person’s desire is a destructive lie? Whether we are teaching wives that in order to have a happy life they must be gratified, or if it’s teaching men that wives are for their pleasure, or to teach kids that happiness is found in things, it is a lie that robs each person of true satisfaction.
If you are barren, stop seeking someone to water you. Stop sulking until your spouse meets your needs. If you want to be watered, start watering others – your spouse, your children, your neighbor. God has promised that if you give to others, He will give to you. God has promised that the one who waters others will be abundantly watered by God’s hand. Do you believe this? Your life testifies to your faith. When I withdraw love because I am not satisfied with the other person, I have made flesh my strength and declared I don’t believe God. Or that I would rather deprive myself than to give to those I don’t feel deserve it. Then I will remain in the barren desert, refusing to drink from the Lord’s blessing because I wish to submit to the flesh.
In Christ, these promises are already yours. Don’t be drawn into worldly philosophies. Don’t listen to the voice of pride which says, “I’d rather be miserable than be a blessing to someone I don’t feel deserves it.” We have received grace. Don’t submit back to the flesh and miss out on living in God’s abundance. A giving life is a happy life. Walk by faith and not by sight through eyes of the flesh. Enjoy God’s gift of true abundance and prosperity. The only other option is to put our trust in the pride of the flesh. As with all promises, the watered soul receives from God by faith – trusting in Him and His word.
Giving to others is to take what God has given us and invest it into the lives of others. Those who sow bountifully will reap bountifully. This is true because it is God who gives the increase.
Keep in mind, the target of this post is not your spouse, but you. And me. It is to examine our ways of thinking and adopt a giving, rather than taking, attitude in our relationships.
Eddie Snipes 2013
 Hebrews 11:6
When Jesus walked with the disciples, He asked, “Who do men say that I am?” It was a leading question intended to draw a comparison between the revelation of God and how people viewed Jesus through human eyes. They explained many theories they had heard. Some said he was a prophet, teacher, good worker. Some even theorized that Jesus was one of the Old Testament prophets that came back from the dead. “But who do you say that I am?”
It’s a question every person answers. They either answer it with human understanding, or by the revelation of God. Those who know about Christ have various answers. Some even call Him Savior, but then shape that into their own world view. The truth of Christ only comes through God revealing Himself to the person. Look at Peter’s answer in Matthew 16:16-17
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
Unless God is revealing Christ to our hearts, we can only view Him through Human eyes. Even then, people can refuse the revelation of God and choose a god who fits their own desires.
If you look at the religious leaders of His day, they viewed Jesus as a deceiver, lawbreaker, and friend of drunkards and prostitutes. The fact He showed love to those under the condemnation of the law caused them to condemn Him.
Remember the woman caught in adultery? They dragged her to Jesus, cast her at His feet, and said, “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The Law says she should be stoned to death. What do you say?”
This question was meant to entrap Jesus. The woman was already condemned by the law, but now the law sought to condemn the mercy of God. Jesus held no office or position, so they didn’t need to come to Him in order to stone her. Their goal was to put Christ in a position where they could use the law against Him. Jesus stood there while they demanded an answer. Since they wanted the law, Jesus brought them under the law’s condemnation with the woman. He stooped down and wrote in the sand. The Bible doesn’t say what Jesus wrote, but I believe it was something like this:
Murder – hatred in the heart.
Idolatry –loving things more than God.
Stealing – the reality of greed in the heart.
Witchcraft – rebelling against God in the heart.
Adultery – lust in the heart.
On and on Jesus wrote. “Why is he writing these things,” they murmured. “Good teacher,” they said with sarcasm, “The law says she should be killed. What do YOU say?” they demanded again.
They thought Jesus was stalling, but He was preparing to make a point that would condemn every one of those who stood on the righteousness of the law. The fact is, they weren’t in good standing either. They were self-deceived in thinking they were righteous because they hadn’t done outward acts forbidden by the law, but that didn’t mean they were righteous under the law. Each of the above statements are teachings in the scripture. What those who trust in the law don’t realize is that sin is first born in the heart, thus condemning us – even if none of these things make it into our outward display to the world. In time, all of these things would become outward expressions as the religious leaders descended into a mad quest to destroy Christ, the one who exposed their condemnation under the law.
Jesus stood up and said, “Which one of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” He stooped down and began writing again. Their goal was to condemn Jesus by showing that He was not trusting in the law, but Jesus showed them the mirror of the law, and they saw their own condemnation. The younger men waited with anticipation for the elders to cast a stone. But they just looked at Jesus’ writing and then to one another. No one had the guts to claim their own righteousness, for the law stood before them, pointing at their own condemnation.
After a few minutes it became clear that not one of them had a clean conscience. The young men watched in astonishment as the older man began dropping their stones and walking away. These men were at the pinnacle of legalism, yet not one of them had a clean conscience. Each one saw their own condemnation when forced to look into the fullness of the law.
After a few moments, Jesus stopped writing and looked up. “Woman, where are your accusers?”
“There are none.”
“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
In one incident, the Law was used to challenge grace, but the law became condemnation to everyone who looked to it. Jesus was the only person present who was worthy to cast the stone, and He revealed that every person – religious or sinner, was under the Law’s condemnation – for all have sinned. And He also revealed that grace not only overcomes the law, but sets the sinner free from both condemnation and sinful passions. The message is not that you are uncondemned so enjoy sin, but that you are set free from condemnation so you can now walk in life. This will be explained in more detail in a future article.
This is the message of the gospel. According to John 3:17-18, Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, for the world is already under condemnation. The one who trusts in Christ escapes that condemnation. The one who refuses deliverance remains in the condemnation they are already under.
Compare this truth to what is often preached in most evangelical churches. The church has a tendency to focus on sin. Each week, the Christian is asked to refocus on their sins. But the message of the gospel is that sin has been taken out of the way, and now our focuses onto Christ and the gift of righteousness. The law focuses on sin, for its demand is that everyone be perfect. Since the law is spiritual, but we are carnal (or of the flesh), we cannot attain to that standard of perfection. Therefore, the law focuses on where we fail. The gospel does the opposite. It takes the focus off our failures under the law and turns our eyes to Christ.
The law says, “You failed and are under condemnation.” The gospel says, “Your failure is irrelevant because once you enter into the gift of righteousness by faith, your old life is buried and a new life is given. Now you are righteous because you are given the righteousness of Christ.”
Those under the law always seek to condemn grace because they are not fully looking into the mirror of the law. The law is not singing your praises. Even the pinnacle of self-made righteousness falls short, for as the Bible says, “Even if you keep the whole law, but offend in one area, you are guilty of the whole law.” (James 2:10)
Religion teaches men that they can keep the law by rules, regulations, and good deeds. But the law disagrees. Religion teaches men to put blinders on so they only see the portions of the law that religion can keep, but this does not justify the person. The only time condemnation comes into the vision of grace is when grace takes off the blinders and says, “Look at the whole law, not just what you are able to do.” Once we look at the whole law, we are not condemned. We are made aware that we are already under condemnation. The very law we are trusting in is actually our condemner, for not one person can keep the law from birth to death – therefore all are under condemnation. And one offense makes us guilty – though anyone who is honest knows they offend on a continual basis.
Once our eyes are opened to the law, we see that we can’t use the law to condemn sinners. The law is a mirror for our own sins. That’s when Christ stands before us and says, “Where are your accusers?” Religion condemns. People condemn. But scripture takes both us and our condemners and reveals that we are too weak to keep the law. And then we recognize the gift of righteousness in Him. That is our escape. Take to heart Romans 3:19
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
This is the bad news. All are under the condemnation of the law. The religious person is condemned. The Baptist is condemned. So is the Catholic, Holiness, Church of God, atheist, New Ager, and every person – whether they are religious or not. The law drives us to the understanding that we can never measure up to God’s perfect nature, and then the good news is given. In Christ we are no longer under the Law. Look at Romans 8:1-2
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
In Christ we are set free from the law. No more condemnation for sin. No more penalty of death. In Christ, you are free. Judgment has been taken away in Christ. This is the good news – the gospel of Christ. The call of God is not to do the law, but to trust in Christ, who has fulfilled the law on our behalf!
Eddie Snipes 2013
In the coming weeks, I’ll be starting a series of articles about understanding grace and what that means in the Christian’s life. Or if you are not a Christian, this will be a good opportunity to understand what the Bible means when it speaks of grace.
There is a reason why the gospel is called, ‘The good news.’ In fact, that is what the word ‘gospel’ means. The Greek word ‘euaggelion’, which we translate as ‘gospel’, means: good tidings, or the glad tidings of God. This is not what most people think of when they hear about the gospel. Most people think of the gospel as condemnation that makes us feel guilty. This is partly because some traditional beliefs are that people must be shamed into coming to the altar, then they try to unload their guilt by penance or repentance.
The Bible says that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world was already under condemnation and He came to proclaim God’s acceptance. At Jesus’ birth in Luke 2:14, the angels announced his coming to the shepherds in the field with these words, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
The word translated into goodwill literally means, to have pleasure, take delight, or have kind benevolence toward someone. When the law stood as man’s condemnation, guilt separated mankind from God, but Jesus came to fulfill the law and give good gifts to men (Ephesians 4:8). The angels announced the beginning of this new work of God at His birth.
When someone is stuck in the old covenant (the law of the Old Testament), they are prevented from seeing the gift of Christ. The Bible also states this by explaining that those who focus on the scriptures of the law have a veil over their hearts. That veil remains in the reading of the Old Testament, but that veil is removed in Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:13-16)
Contrary to what many still teach today, Jesus did not come to proclaim our guilt under the law. The law itself proclaims our guilt. Jesus came to set us free from the law and proclaim the acceptance of God. Look at Luke 4:17-21
17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus made it clear that His life is the fulfillment of this promise found in the Old Testament. Though the Old Testament was founded upon the law, all the promises pointed to Christ. In a future article we’ll look at what the Bible says was the purpose of Old Testament law. For now, let’s focus on the passing of the law. I understand many will argue against this idea saying the Law will never pass away, but these two passages clearly teach the Old Covenant passes away in Christ:
2 Corinthians 3:7-18
A new covenant of grace is born in Christ. As we move forward, we’ll look at scriptures that explain how the Old Covenant can be eternal, yet still pass away for those who are in Christ. For you, the good news is that in the past, you were under condemnation. In fact, any who are outside of Christ are still under the Old Covenant and are under its penalties. But the good news is that in Christ, the veil of our blindness is removed, and the new life of the Spirit is revealed. That is when you see the truth of the above passage, “The acceptable year of the Lord.”
The promise revealed in the Old Testament, read by Jesus in the New Testament, and proclaimed by the angels at His birth is the same – now God takes pleasure in showing His good will toward man. The condemnation has been taken out of the way, and you are accepted by God through Christ. No more condemnation – just peace with God and an eternal hope that you can rest your assurance upon.
Eddie Snipes 2013
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.
The picture of the Lord being our shepherd shows our complete dependency on Christ and our need to follow wherever He leads. Most of us want to camp out in the green pastures, and we lament when we are taken into the valley. But what is the purpose of the valley? It is where we learn to trust completely on the Lord.
Anyone can have faith in the safety of the pasture, but most are trusting in the pasture and not the Lord. When the Lord becomes the focus, we are comforted by Him regardless of the circumstances.
Just before Jesus went to the cross, He took Peter, James, and John with Him to the top of a mountain. To their amazement, Moses and Elijah met them there and began talking with Jesus about the coming death He would face. As the men turned to leave, Peter stood up and said, “It’s good for us to be here. Let us make a tabernacle for You, Moses, and Elijah.”
Peter was clinging to the mountain top experience. He did not want it to end, so his idea was to build a camp up there and keep the experience going. But the experience wasn’t the purpose. It was the time of encouragement to prepare Jesus for the deepest valley anyone will ever walk through.
This is the natural attitude of every Christian until their life is fully established in Christ. We want the mountain top. We want to build our home there and never leave. But what we don’t realize is that we are putting our confidence in the emotions of the moment instead of in the Lord.
God leads us to the mountain of rest. We enjoy the green pastures and quiet waters. But that is not the goal. That is the rest for the journey. When we begin viewing the pasture as though it is the reward, we’ll resent the valley of the shadow of death. Instead of saying, “Your rod and staff comfort me. Even though I’m surrounded by enemies, I enjoy fellowship at the table, for you are with me,” we are dragging our heels and saying, “Why can’t I go back to the pastures?”
God does not want you to trust in the green pastures. God wants you to trust Him. God doesn’t want you to love His provisions as though they are your reward. Don’t short change yourself. God is your exceedingly great reward. And everything He brings in your life breaks your dependency on anything but Him as it reveals to you the goodness that can only be found while looking to Him for all wants and needs.
Let me illustrate this with a personal testimony. If you’ve read my other books, you’ll be familiar with this story, but I’m going to present it from a clearer perspective.
In 1998, God dramatically intervened in my life. My life was in shambles, and though I became a Christian at a young age, I tried to live out my faith through my own efforts. I failed miserably, but that is for another book. In 1998 my internal world collapsed. On the outside, few people knew what I was going through, but inside everything was falling apart. I completely abandoned the church and my faith. Since I couldn’t measure up to Christianity, I would abandon it. Three years later, I realized that abandoning God didn’t work either. I was miserable trying to measure up to God. I was more miserable turning my back on God.
In April of 1998, I took off to walk in the woods and pray. For the next few days I poured my misery out. At last I said the words that summed up my journey, “I can’t do it.” When I gave up completely, the Lord flooded my life with His presence, broke the chains of my bondage to sin, and I walked out of the woods that day praising the Lord for my freedom. I ended my prayer by saying, “Lord, I know this isn’t for me alone. I know you are calling me to study the word and teach it. I cannot pursue my career and you at the same time.”
I worked in IT at the time, and because technology changes so fast, everything that is relevant today will be obsolete in a year. It requires dedication to stay certified and knowledgeable. I knew I couldn’t serve God in the word and serve my career. So I prayed, “Lord, I put my career completely in your hands. I will focus on knowing Your word, and I leave my financial needs in Your trust.”
I could write a hundred pages on the miracles God accomplished through my career. Though I was not faithful as I should be, God was more than faithful. I got raises I did not deserve. I had opportunities to serve in ministry during times when I was paid for projects that were on hold for months at a time. Then my company was bought by a large corporation. By this time I was on a team of eight people who were spread around the country. We were told that the merger was eliminating our positions and we were to find a job in the company or with another company.
It was stressful, but my job was preserved and eventually I was rolled into a department in my new company. As I walked in, they were having a massive layoff. I carried my box in, while hundreds of people were walking out.
Upon my arrival, I found that my new group was going to have a layoff in ninety days. A manager who didn’t even know my name was going to decide my fate. Or was he? I found myself in a position where I knew nothing and had no help. The contractor supposed to help me was let go the next day, and I was responsible for converting the entire building to a new network setup. One I knew nothing about. Nor did my team. Nor did my manager.
I sat down and prayed, “Lord, I’m lost. I’ve asked for help, but no one can help me. I don’t even know how to connect to the network of this new company, and I am falling flat on my face. Show me where to turn.”
Before I finished speaking the words, a man named John Crawford walked by, saw my scattering of papers, and said, “Oh, I see you are on the migration team. I was the guy who worked out the process.” I looked up with a gaping mouth as John told me all about the project and what they did to set it up. He told me about the tools and documentation he wrote. I never even asked him a question. I opened my mouth to say something, but he looked at his watch and said, “Oh goodness! I’ve got another meeting. It’s not easy being indispensable.” And with that, he was gone.
Suddenly I was off and running. Then another person came by. Steve. He was soon to be one of my coworkers. Steve was a geek in the truest sense of the word. He loved technology and he talked about some tools he found on our IT sight and how he was using it to automate some of his tasks. As he talked, I realized that I could use these for my project. I had more than a thousand people to convert and I was working solo.
A few weeks later, teams from other cities were calling my boss and asking how Atlanta was getting done so quickly. It wasn’t long before I was training teams in across the country and before the ninety days was up, every person in upper management knew my name. And everything seemed to drop straight in my lap.
Then the layoff day arrived and my manager was let go. In fact, every person in our department was let go. Then managers would call and offer jobs to those they wanted on their team. The new IT manager was Jack Liggins. I had never met the man, but I was the first person he called. He offered me the position of team lead in his group. Again I stood in amazement. Three months ago, there was no hope that I would survive this lay off, but now my reputation had grown to the point where a manager who never met me was offering me his lead position.
I was in the green pastures. I thought this was the Christian life. Blessings built my confidence in the Lord, miracles showed His power to direct my paths, and I knew God was in control. I was pleased that my reputation was so highly regarded throughout the company. What I didn’t realize is that God was showing me His power so that I would trust Him when hardship threatened me.
I was confident in my job. I was confident with my IT skills. I was confident that God had gifted me to be analytical and I was good at taking processes and improving them. I was confident in my reputation. Then the company had another reduction in staff. I survived the cut, but my manager did not. Two IT teams were combined into one, and I was under a new manager. This time I knew the manager and felt good about the move.
Within a few months, I realized I had a problem. The manager was very unethical and had favorite techs that were not required to even show up for work. Their timesheets were forged and even though all their tickets went past due, the reports always showed them on time. And it was the team lead’s job to make sure the numbers were cooked. My job was to cover for those who weren’t working, and hide the fact that our team wasn’t fulfilling the company’s requirements.
At first, I thought the manager wasn’t aware of what was going on. The manager kept denying there was an issue and acted as if they were ignorant, so I took the true numbers to them and said, “Look at this. This tech is past due on everything. One problem ticket sat without any action for seven months, but it was changed on the reports to show that it was completed on time. I can’t cover for these past due tickets.”
That was the day the world turned upside down. The manager printed something out, came to my desk and threw a handful of reports at me and said, “This is the report I go by.” The manager was shaking with rage and this reaction caught me completely by surprise. Up to this moment, we had a great working relationship. But now a condemning finger pointed at my face and I heard the words, “Eddie, when I write someone off, I never forgive, and I never go back!”
I was demoted from team lead, and the manager went on a campaign to remove me from the company. That’s when I began to hear the stories that this had happened before. Twice. And both people who questioned this practice were let go by the company. Now I was in the gun sights.
Every time a ticket was about to go past due, it was assigned to me. I was given a forty-thousand mile coverage area for retail and office sites. The next highest coverage area was less than a hundred miles. I put in 60 – 80 hours a week to cover my workload. I tried to overcome this adversity with higher performance. Even though I had the highest production in the group, my reputation was being massacred.
When my work was surveyed, my customers gave me the highest possible ratings, but my manager gave me the lowest possible rating. Surely someone has to see a problem with this.
A few months earlier, managers were coming to town and taking me to lunch. I was being invited to be on important projects. I even led a management training class that was attended by managers and prospective managers all over the nation. Now I was hearing things like, “What happened to Eddie?” Why couldn’t they see that this was slander? I had a review a couple of months earlier, and it had nothing but praise. A month later my quarterly review had nothing but failures. No one saw that the tickets were assigned to me after it was past due. Or that the project was given to me right before the deadline. Or that my projects were reassigned to other techs after the work was done.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. I once counted on my reputation, and now it was gone. Though I counted on my high performance to prove my work ethic, no one noticed. I contested my review and disproved every allegation. The specifics were removed, but the law rating remained. Human Resources said they trusted the manager’s evaluation of performance. I was called to attend a conference call a supposed failure where I was sent to one city and was supposed to be in another. I produced the email that sent me to the wrong place, but the director said, “Your manager explained to me that you were instructed that this email was incorrect and you knew what was expected of you.”
Everything I depended upon was gone. My reputation was demolished. My integrity was trashed in the eyes of others. My performance was counted as worthless. My promotion had been taken away. Now my very job was in jeopardy. This had been going on for two years at this point.
“Lord, isn’t my reputation important to you?” I prayed.
The truth is, God doesn’t need my reputation. He gave it to me, and He has the right to take it away if that’s within His purpose.
“Lord, what about my job? This person is going to make me lose my job. And I’ve done nothing but work my tail off.”
It was as if the Lord said, “Have you learned nothing over the last several years? Weren’t you told that your job was being eliminated? What did you have to do? Nothing. I told you to wait, and you saw My ability to make a place for you. And I exalted you when you didn’t work for it. Do I now owe you because you are working for it now? Did I tell you to dedicate every waking hour to your job? Can man take away your job against My will? Who do you trust, your manager or Me? Your efforts or Me? Your reputation or Me? Your abilities or Me?
Then the Lord revealed the scripture, “Christ suffered, leaving us an example…when He was reviled, did not revile in return. When He suffered, He didn’t threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
Now that will cut to the heart. God called me to take my notes where I was keeping a log to protect myself, and cast it away. He called me to forgive and pray for the one who was trying to harm me. Most of all, God called me to release all into His hands, and trust Him. He judges righteously and He will plead my cause or will sustain me in spite of hardships.
What God was doing is breaking me. He broke my confidence in the flesh. My reputation depended upon people. Gone. My performance depended upon myself. Worthless. My defense of myself also depended upon the flesh. Gone. It was easy to see God’s hand in the green pasture and beside the quiet waters, but it took a long time to realize that the turbulent river of stress and the valley of struggle was also His blessing.
As long as I trusted in my abilities or anything of the flesh, I was not dependent upon the Lord. The flesh had become a crutch and now God was calling for me to walk by His power.
We all struggle with the flesh. We depend upon feelings, and God weans us off them as He reveals to us true faith in Him. We depend upon those around us, and tension strains relationships and God calls us to trust in Him and not men. We work in the church, do ministry, and perform in many ways because we are depending on the flesh. We are trying to earn the affirmation and praise of people, or are trying to feel self-worth by performance based religion. God will break these things.
For two years I fought against God’s hand because I clung to the flesh thinking it was a blessing from God. I tried to protect the reputation He gave me. But God didn’t ask me to defend my reputation. He called me to break my reliance on it and place my reliance on Him.
Once my understanding dawned, bitterness also dissipated. How can I be embittered against someone God was using to mature me into His grace? My manager didn’t harm me. This person was a tool of God’s compassion and love, used to show me what I could not have learned any other way. If anything, I should be grateful to God for bringing this person into my life.
Spiritual maturity cannot occur until we are weaned off the flesh and onto faith in Christ alone. God is not looking for self-reliant Christians. In fact, God rejects self-reliance completely. God does not help those who help themselves. God is the help. Christ is our life. Just as He made Himself of no reputation, now He asks us to follow that lead. My reputation means nothing. If God wants to exalt me in His time, He will do so. If God is better glorified by humbling me, I must trust in His will.
The spiritually mature are not those who have been Christians the longest. It is not those who are the oldest in the church. It is not those who serve more. Nor is it those who know the Bible the best. Faith is not based on how many scriptures you have memorized, but whether you are walking by faith. Faith is to have no confidence in the flesh, and complete confidence in Christ and all He provides.
God will break you. By breaking, I don’t mean to destroy, but to break you away from the flesh so you cling to Him. A broken Christian is one who has released confidence in everything but God. We should be in a position to where we cannot be sustained unless God is holding us up.
Is your health failing? Release the hope in the flesh and trust completely in the Lord. Are your finances gasping for life? Release your trust in money and cling to the Lord. God has the right to take anything from our lives, and we trust in His decision because He has promised that everything is good to those who are called into His purpose.
Would I have had to endure three years of stress if I had learned to trust sooner? I don’t know. I do know that God left me in that situation for another year after I released my confidence into His hands. Whether it would have been three years or six months, it doesn’t matter. The burden was not mine to carry, and my stress was needless because I was bearing a burden God had reserved for Himself. God allowed the burden to break me so that I would understand that I could not carry it.
One day when Jesus sat at a table for dinner, a woman came in with an alabaster box of precious ointment. Its value was equivalent of a year’s wages. She broke the box and poured the ointment on Jesus’ head. The room was filled with the fragrance. Many scoffed and called her act a waste. She could have used the box for a special occasion. She could have sold it for a year’s wage and used it to feed the poor. Yet Jesus praised the woman for celebrating His burial.
This is the broken life in the flesh. While the flesh is strong, it’s just a box that houses our pent up life. But when it is broken, the aroma spreads to the world around us. We have died, and the Spirit of God is free to do its work. Many will scoff, but God will rejoice. To celebrate the death of the flesh is to celebrate the life of the Spirit.
Excerpt from The Victorious Christian Life.