Women Embracing Faith

Thinking Through the Bible

Reading Philippians 2:12-3:1 March 12, 2010

Filed under: Philippians — womenembracingfaith @ 4:48 pm
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“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

Following Jesus’ example of putting others before ourselves is really hard. He was always able to do it; He never sinned once. He was even able to die for people who didn’t deserve it: us. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). Now that is unselfish.

Because Christian love and humility is so difficult, Paul reminds us to CAREFULLY think about how we love and act toward others; especially since we are to shine like lights amid the ignorance of God all around us. It is with awe we remember that God works in our lives as He wishes. Our salvation proves that! And this awe, translated into “fear and trembling,” is over God’s ability to do as He wishes, to even work within us mysteriously. Paul’s command, then, so we can together be those lights, is to

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning…” (2:14).

Ah, that is the rub, isn’t it? Working together to show and tell others about the good news of salvation; striving side by side for the faith of the gospel; without being afraid of opposition. No grumbling or complaining about the way life or the struggle for the gospel goes. Instead, we are to rejoice in who God is–loving, in control, full of grace and truth (Philippians 3:1).

Joy is the emotion which comes from this certainty of what God is like and how He acts toward us. Rejoicing in the truth about God is what it means to strengthen yourself in God. (David did that when things went badly for him.) It is to remember and be happy about God’s sovereignty in life events and in our salvation–and the way things may go as we work together to spread the gospel.

You know, this is not positive thinking. That is mentally to set up how you want things to be or to look for the best in the hand you’ve been dealt. Instead, this is being careful how you think about God. As Paul put it, “holding fast to the word of life..” especially about what the Bible says about God, so that when Jesus our Lord and Savior comes again we, and our pastors and teachers, won’t be embarrassed at how we have been behaving.

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Grandsons Are Fun May 21, 2009

Filed under: devotional,Family Life — womenembracingfaith @ 5:02 pm
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Here is a good teaching tip from a reformed perspective:

As you are cleaning a kid up a million times a day, say:

“Clean face,

Clean hands,

New heart!”

You can add “Clean feet” when you need to!

Why do this? You are laying a foundation in the child’s mind to accept the biblical principle of the Holy Spirit’s sovereign work in salvation.  And you are reminding yourself of this doctrine of  our salvation and our need of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”  (Romans 5:6)

“”As it is written, “There is noe righteous, no, not one.  They are all gone out of the way,they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.’ ”  (Romans: 3:10

“And you hath he quickened, wo were dead in trepasses and sins.  Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ;  (by grace you are saved.)”   ( Ephesians 2:1, 5)

“…I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  (Jeremiah 31:33)

You need this doctrine too!  How else are you going to raise this kid unless strengthen, encouraged, revived to do it?  Stop now,  thanking God for His work in your own heart and praise Him for His whole plan of salvation.  Or ask Him for a new heart for  yourself or plead with Him for the salvation of your children.

And don’t forget that children are fun.  We are to delight in them and their childishness.  Keep your balance.  They are little sinners but aren’t they cute.  My grandsons sure are.

 

THE BIG PICTURE September 22, 2008

Filed under: Teaching Tips — womenembracingfaith @ 5:54 pm
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Shelling is a lot like Bible study. Focusing on the little things can get in the way of the big picture. I’ve learned to suck in a deep breath as I cross the dune. I pause and let my eye sweep across the horizon and down the beach. Color dazzles. Light flickers. Tide in or out? Is it rough on the Gulf Stream? I take in the whole picture. I enjoy it all as I move down to the water’s edge. Before my eye begins its search for that one special shell or shark’s tooth.

Understanding the Bible is like that too. You can’t let the details block out the whole picture. You need to pause; think about the sweeping themes. Don’t focus on the details of Goliath’s armor and size before tying the story into God’s plan of salvation. One of David’s great, great, etc. grandsons would be the Savior. Jesus would live without ever sinning, then die and be cast into hell because He took on all David’s (and our) sins. His glorious resurrection dazzles, lightens, gives us hope. God’s mercies to and thru David were certain! That is the broad image behind David’s whole biography.

Of course details matter. David was heroic and charismatic. He was sensual, relied too much on his cousins in war and governing. His family was dysfunctional. Yet, he never lost sight of the big picture. He was assured of his own salvation:

“As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;

I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

So whether you’re telling a story to three year olds or studying for yourself, always relate the details to the main theme of God’s purpose to save sinners, not by anything we could be or do, but only by faith in Jesus Christ’s perfect life, shameful death, and eye-witnessed resurrection.

 

Reassuring Our Hearts, Part 4 May 14, 2008

Filed under: applications — womenembracingfaith @ 2:24 am
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The Bible can be so confusing! Sometimes it seems to contradict itself. Maybe after all the Mother’s Day stuff, thinking your way thru some biblical principles will be refreshing for you…. I’ve been dealing with “old age” medical problems this week so I could use a little refreshment myself.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (I John 5:1).

“Whoever has the Son has life: whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (I John 5:12).

Actually, these two verses aren’t very confusing. God must work in your heart and mind in order for you to believe that Jesus is THE Savior, Your Savior. If He is yours and you “have” Him, then you have life. Spiritual life forever. If you “have” Him, then you have His perfect righteousness to fall back on even when your own heart and mind condemn you and whisper doubts.

That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’ But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his (Abraham’s) sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4: 22-24).

Bank On This

“Whoever has the Son has life…” not shall have life. In a sermon preached on July 20, 1884, Charles Spurgeon points out this present tense of spiritual life. It is not just that we will go to heaven. It is having spiritual life (and therefore, Christ’s righteousness) right now.

So if your Christian character doesn’t measure up too well or the whispers come back about that one great sin of yours, bank on this: Whoever believes in all that Jesus is and all that He did HAS eternal spirituality.

Practical Christianity

The Apostle John wanted you to joy in assurance that you have Jesus’ perfect life to bank on. But, he didn’t allow that to be an excuse for sin.

“…and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (I John 5:1).

Love everyone who believes in Jesus!!! “It can’t mean that can it? That’s not even possible,” we retort. “How confusing and unassuring can you get?” someone might sadly say.

Cling To Jesus

When you see your own sin and failure in a verse like this, you have to come back to your belief in Jesus. Hold fast to who He is: fully God, fully man. Rejoice in what He did: sacrificed His perfect life for you. Seek to love others as you would like to be loved by not stealing from them, or lying about them, or wishing you had what they have, or being involved sexually in some way that affects them, or killing them. Love is all really very plain and just common sense; not very mysterious at all (I John 5:2-5). But, Oh how we mess up! And need to fall back on the righteousness of Christ. He loved perfectly and God puts that to our account.

The biblical principle here is that loving other Christians is a mark of faith. It is evidence that we have believed. Loving shows us that God is working in our desires and we have Jesus and spiritual life.

But when we fail miserably, what we have left is Our Savior, the Lord Jesus, and His righteousness. It is all about loving Him and leaning on His work. In the end, when doubts assail and our sins assault, clinging to Jesus is all we have left. Learn to apply all of this to your heart. Little by little… It may take a lifetime. The process is very reassuring. Clinging to Jesus no matter what is the most reassuring of all.

 

Reassuring Your Heart: Part 2 April 14, 2008

Filed under: applications — womenembracingfaith @ 2:28 am
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We are looking at how to rightly use three biblical principles to know for sure that our belief in Jesus Christ is the real thing. And how to use these three principles to counsel others instead of giving someone false assurance.

Romans 8 tells us our assurance rests upon our having the Holy Spirit. I John 4: 1-6 tells us the Holy Spirit always points us to Jesus as the Savior and makes real to us the promises regarding Him.  The Holy Spirit applies these promises to our hearts and minds leading to our belief and faith. That is the first principle. Learn to recognize if and when this has occurred in your own  personal experience.

The Second Principle

The second principle is the Holy Spirit will have another effect upon our heart. He will give us a sense that we are a child of God–that God is our father.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,…(Romans 8:14-16)

Being Led Is Not Hearing a Secret Voice

The key to understanding this second principle is to see the context in which “led” is used in this passage.  Paul is telling us in these verses that our spirits and our bodies will be strengthen by the indwelling Spirit to resist sin and not live according to our fallen nature.  The context is about holy living not seeking to determine God’s will in our circumstances.

Jonathan Edwards pointed out in the 1700’s that being led by the Spirit was not hearing a “secret voice saying you are a child of God.” Unfortunately, “being led” is often used that way today and can lead to false assurance while living a life of worldliness and carelessness.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors–not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8: 11-13).

So look at yourself closely when you hear the whispers that you might not be a Christian after all. See if you live within a consciousness that God is your father:  you are loved and cared for; you are no longer under condemnation and fearful of the coming Judgment Day. But, this consciousness is in the midst of a childlike desire to please your father, seeking to live a holy life in body and spirit.

See how this is a matter of the heart? How can you know this about another person? It is possible for a friend to be burdened by her sins and to hate the consequences of them. Don’t give her false assurance to make her feel better.  Instead, rightly apply this principle by showing her there is no condemnation ahead for her if she trusts in Christ and lives in the consciousness of His love.  She can recognize it in her own heart and have assurance of her salvation. You can too.

 

Reassuring Our Hearts:Part 1 April 9, 2008

Filed under: applications — womenembracingfaith @ 3:00 pm
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John, a personal friend of Jesus, eye-witness to the resurrection, and a founding leader of the Jerusalem church, wrote I John. His purpose was to show how they could be sure of their own relationship with the risen Lord and have confidence their prayers would be heard (I John 5:13-14). He wanted their joy to be complete now (1:4) and their confidence strong in the Day of Judgment (2:28;4:17). Sometimes our hearts whisper, “You really aren’t a Christian. You have just fooled yourself and others.” At times like that, we need to be able to rightly reassure ourselves or plainly admit we have been deceived.

Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us (I John 3:24).

Our assurance rests on our having the Holy Spirit. We know we are accepted by God because we possess His Spirit. But, during times of whispering, how do I know I have the Spirit?

Effect On Our Heart and Mind

The Holy Spirit takes the promises of God about Christ and makes them come alive and personal to us, resulting in belief and faith. For instance,

For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

It (i.e. righteousness) will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:24).

When promises like these are made to come alive to us, they are personalized. Our emotions are stirred. Our minds are stimulated to believe the promise.   It is  the Spirit working in us having an effect on our heart. Another effect is that we believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose again so we could be declared right with God. We believe He was the final sacrifice. Both the mind and the heart are affected.

When you hear the whispers, call to mind times when promises like these were real and personal to you. Make a list of those that have come alive to you.  Read them again and again or memorize them, asking God to renew their reality to you. It is one of the ways you can reassure your heart before God.

Seeing these promises made real to us by the Holy Spirit is also a cure for other types of spiritual depression. Sometimes falling into an especially grievous sin with all its consequences can be pretty depressing! How could we do that? Can we ever be of service to our Lord again? Remember the promises. Pray for the Holy Spirit to enliven them to you.

In addition to helping yourself, you can use this principle with others. Can you know your child’s heart? Or your friend’s? Then don’t give someone false assurance. “You’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer, haven’t you? Of course, you are saved!” Wrong. Instead, take them back to the promises of God in Christ and teach them to watch for the Holy Spirit’s work in their heart. Even two year olds can begin learning these promises now so they can use them later.

The promises made real is the first of three principles we can use to reassure ourselves. All three are to be used together. If you use only this first one, you could become antinomian. Watch for the other two in later posts.

 

Knowing and Weeping March 20, 2008

Filed under: applications — womenembracingfaith @ 1:31 am
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The details of Jesus’ life between Palm Sunday and Easter have been of particular interest to me over the years. Luke paints a contrasting picture between the palm-waving entry and Jesus’ tears of reality as He thinks about Jerusalem’s attitude toward Him. He knew the palms didn’t mean much. They really had rejected Him. They had hardened their hearts. They refused to hear! And He knew what sorrows lay ahead for them because of that. In less that forty years, the Romans would destroy the city, tearing it down rock by rock. He weeps as he predicts this judgment to come (Luke 18:41-44).

Often we have something to cry about. A friend’s failing marriage, perhaps. Cancer reoccurance. .Hearing that one in four teens have some kind of sexual disease to pass on to others. Or that our leaders still muck around with whomever and we have to hear the details on the evening news.

They could have known “the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” What things? As Paul would later explain, we have peace and hope only by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-2). This was nothing new to the residents of Jerusalem. They knew the story of Abraham’s belief in God’s promise and how his faith was counted as righteousness. And now, Jesus had just raised Lazarus from death a couple of weeks earlier as a public demonstration of His power and claims. He was continuing to say He was the promised Savior and would be killed for our trespasses and raised for our right standing with God. In explaining this hardened unbelief, Paul quotes Isaiah’s prediction of a “spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear” (Romans 11:8). Hidden truths, blind eyes, deaf ears….

We can’t know or predict in the same way Jesus did. Our knowing is limited; we don’t always know the whys. But, notice Jesus wipes His tears, then calls for the temple to be a house of prayer and continued proclaiming the good news of salvation each day (Luke 19:45-20:1). That is what we need to be doing too. So wipe away your tears, and keep on praying and telling others why you have hope. Jesus is alive! The Holy Spirit is with us.