Facing Fear

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. – Deuteronomy 31:6

If you do an Internet search with the words “Bible verses about fear” you’ll get plenty of returns with Bible-specific sites that offer plenty of scripture verses with the word ‘fear’ in them. Quite often, the first and most verses displayed come from the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. I want to call to the reader’s attention that Psalms is in the Old Testament. To me what is key to consider here is the fact that nobody had encountered Christ in the flesh at this point in human history and had heard His message of salvation through grace and the blood of Jesus. Assurances weren’t made to believers in the manner in which they are in the New Testament and the law was in full effect at the time. Yet, despite that, considering the numerous attempts and failures of people who wanted God’s approval, there were those whose confidence in God’s love for them showed through and was a tremendous source of strength in overcoming fear. God has always shown Himself to be true to His people, knows their hearts and provides victory through faith. Consider the following verses from the book of Psalms:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? – Psalm 27:1

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? – Psalm 118:6

How much more can we be assured of the love of God? We now know what a sacrifice He has made in Jesus. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. – Romans 8:15

Please don’t be a slave to fear. When it pops up, turn to the scripture and friends in the faith to be reminded of the sacrifice of Jesus and the power you have at hand in the presence of the Holy Spirit. It would be such a shame to see a believer turn their back on the One in whom all fears should be laid to rest.

A LESSON IN GRACE

Some excerpts from God’s Word:

This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins. – 1 John 4:10 (GWT)

and…

For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; -Ephesians 2:8 (AMP)

For many years after accepting the fact that Jesus died at Calvary to take away my sins and offer me eternal life through His sacrifice, I would try ignoring the Lord and the conviction of my sin from the Holy Spirit because I failed to fully accept the fact of His grace. By failing to do that and trying to ‘work’ my way into His favor, with each successive failure I would step away from the Lord more and more, falling deeper into sin and its attendant unhappiness. In my case, this happened for a very long time. It was nothing short of God’s incredible grace that has brought me back to Him, restoring me to a wonderful fellowship without comparison.

Convicted of sin:

He will come to convict the world of sin, to show the world what has God’s approval, and to convince the world that God judges it. – John 16:8 (GWT)

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Apart from God, life has no meaning. There is no purpose to getting up, going to work, paying bills, acquiring things and taking care of the physical needs of myself and my family without a point to it all. The more I try to fill that emptiness with things, the worse that emptiness became. There is also no plausible explanation to any of this world without a reference to God as the creator and who sustains the universe.

More from the Bible:

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. -Ecclesiastes 2:11 (ESV)

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As an evangelical Christian, the Holy Spirit gives me a sense of right and wrong as a follower of Jesus and convicts me of my sin when I choose to ignore His directives and chart my own course. Aside from the guilt of my sin, which He ‘convicts’ me of, there are usually unfortunate consequences that result when I am living outside of God’s plan for my life. The farther I go from Him, the worse those consequences often get. Fortunately, in this instance, the journey back is much shorter than the trip away was. It begins with confession and repentance. The forgiveness and blessings it brings begin immediately.

I am almost done reading a really good book on grace by a Calvary Chapel Pastor named Chuck Smith called Why Grace Changes Everything. It’s available for Amazon Kindle and possibly other e readers, as well. He writes about his early days in a pentecostal church and his lack of understanding about how blessings come from faith in God’s grace and not the doing of works to somehow make one ‘holy.’ I can remember [when new in Christ] attending a pentecostal church and wondering why I wasn’t “getting it” like they did. How come they were receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost and I wasn’t? I knew some of them on the outside and they didn’t seem to be any ‘holier’ than I was. In fact, sometimes they seemed ‘less holy’ when I took the time to compare myself and my outward actions to [what I saw as] their behavior. What wasn’t I doing that they were? How could I increase my faith to their level so I could exhibit this new found power of speaking in tongues, healing and prophesying? The answer I have found follows in the next paragraph. I’ll give you a hint: it has everything to do with faith.

My approach to increasing faith was something I thought I could achieve on my own through hard work. Making myself spend extra time in prayer, constant vigilance and continuous repentance (remorse for past conduct) and the begging of forgiveness were key – so I thought. I was afraid that if I did not achieve this thing as others had, I would be “kicked out” of God’s club and somehow robbed of my inheritance in eternity. So what wasn’t I getting? I had not fully surrendered to the truth of God’s overwhelming GRACE. There was no way for me to work for the gifts of the Holy Spirit or have faith sustained only through fearing God and the consequences of my inaction. I had to come to love God and really comprehend that He loves me, despite my sin. In fact, He doesn’t recognize that sin because of what happened at Calvary.

Grace is nothing new. God didn’t suddenly change and bring the New Testament idea of salvation through grace about. He has always shown His grace to mankind. From the days of Genesis on. Noah experienced it: But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. -Genesis 6:8

I stayed away from God for a long time because I figured that’s who I am and maybe God will forgive me anyway, since He is ‘supposed to’ love me. He loves everybody, doesn’t He? I went farther and farther away until He was almost out of sight. I did many sinful things and would some times tell myself I was going to change and make things right with Him again one day, only to continue my downward path into more sin. The things I would use to blot out the reality of my sin became bigger and bigger and eventually even they stopped working. I saw the life I somehow knew I was supposed to have being lived by other people. They seemed to be “getting it.” I wasn’t.

The next thing I know, I found myself in a marriage and having a home and every reason [on the surface] that I should be grateful and happy – but I was not. I was becoming more and more convicted of my sin. Today I thank God for this conviction, because it has pushed me into repentance and consequently into building a relationship with Jesus and feeling the power of the Holy Spirit that I only dreamed of in years past. I have the life I dreamed of – only because of His incredible grace. It keeps getting better as I spend time in His word each day and finding fellowship with other Christians. The bills are far from paid off, the wife and I still have our ‘moments,’ people still don’t drive the way I think they should (especially when I am in a hurry), I still don’t make the money I somehow think I deserve… but it keeps getting better as I focus on what really matters – the gospel of Jesus. As I do, bills get paid, my partner and I get along better, people manage to drive better and I seem to have enough money.

What has changed is me. Not on my own, either. Fortunately, I dropped to my knees in repentance one day and asked Jesus to once again be the Lord of my life, my primary focus, and asked the Holy Spirit to work through me to keep it that way. Through the incredible, wonderful and indescribable grace of God. Today I know the Holy Spirit is active in my life. I feel that presence and inescapable love each and every day – for which I praise God. It is my prayer that you can identify the very same feeling in your life, too.

Of course, the evil one wants me to think that there is no way God can forgive me and heal me from the amount of sin I have committed in my life. He would have me view God through some legalistic lens that somehow avoids the spectrum of His grace and forgiveness that results. He tries really hard to get me to think I am deluding myself and God will never again bless me with His love. He is wrong. Dead wrong. The Bible makes it perfectly clear that I can’t work my way into heaven and the answer is Jesus. Pure and simple. It’s a life time offer of forgiveness and fullness.

We are supposed to be known by our fruits. When I read God’s Word and fellowship with other Christians, I make myself accountable and less prone to sin than. That brings me closer to God and the fullness of life in the Spirit. Even just a few minutes of scripture reading a day can make all the difference. When I made a plan to read the Bible each and every day, I began to notice a change. I began to think more and more of God. Of course, the enemy doesn’t like that and begins working overtime to derail any spiritual growth we have as Christians. Past sins are thrown in my face and he tells me how unworthy I am. He’s right, I am unworthy – apart from Christ. That’s the part he leaves out. Every time I go to the Word in prayer, the weapons I need to defeat the enemy are given to me and I can achieve victory yet again. His grace is sufficient. The Bible says: And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. -2 Corinthians 12:9  God uses us in our weaknesses – no matter what they may be, to His glory. That victory begins and ends with Jesus Christ – the same yesterday, today and forever. God bless you as you open yourself up to that simple truth.

THE LAW

Now, dear brothers and sisters—you who are familiar with the law—don’t you know that the law applies only while a person is living? For example, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, the laws of marriage no longer apply to her. So while her husband is alive, she would be committing adultery if she married another man. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law and does not commit adultery when she remarries.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.
God’s Law Reveals Our Sin
Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.
But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes. -Romans 7:1-13 (NLT)

In a nutshell, I recall in earlier days (and sometimes the more recent ones) times when I desperately sought some way to skirt issues surrounding things I’d done or excuse away things I thought ‘violated the law.’ You know what? They usually did violate God’s laws and were consequentially sinful. The more I thought about how I needed to measure up and fell short, the more frustrated I became. That’s when thoughts like “you’re not really saved” or “you’ll never be good enough” that ignore any thought of God’s grace creep in, undoubtedly to the delight of satan.

As time goes on and I make up for wasted years in exploring God’s Word, I grow more and more in the knowledge of His grace for me. I suspect I can only imagine a drop in the ocean (if that) of His infinite power and grace. Now, when that voice [that the devil loves] tells me I’m not good enough, I simply agree -and give thanks to God for the fact that His grace is good enough.

Under the law, I would make feeble attempts to keep it — only to fail repeatedly and be beaten down by the sinful nature of the flesh. Under grace, I see the law more as God intended us to see it and want to do what is right because I want to please God out of love versus appease His wrath.

Here’s two verses that can never be quoted enough:

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1 (NLT)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. – Ephesians 2:8 (NLT)

Thank you, Lord Jesus. I love You.

An enemy of Christianity

From the title of this post, it would be easy to assume I am referring to none other than satan. However, even though he is truly enemy #1 of all that is holy and loved by God, it is not him I refer to in this instance. In this case I am referring to misguided Christians or those ‘in name only’ (God knows them, so I need not concern myself with trying to identify them). I write about the people who seem to be the modern equivalent of the Pharisees and Sadducees — those who profess to know the mind of God and offer themselves as chief prosecution, judge and jury. Some of our brothers and sisters like to cast judgement on others for the version of Bible they read, the type of worship and songs they sing, some doctrine they may hold or some event from their past. Please don’t get me wrong, I think that doctrine is important (some more than others) and I believe that Jesus calls us to a higher standard of living (THROUGH HIS GRACE).

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:8-10 (KJV)

The Internet is filled with pages by people (some of whom I am sure are well-meaning and interested in our salvation primarily) who preach a rigid, legalistic path to God -full of dangerous pitfalls that can easily lead a believer away from God and His heaven and damn them for all eternity. Any idea of grace and eternal security is replaced with rules and regulations.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. – Matthew 5:17 (KJV)

Do you fellowship with other believers that are open and embracing of all who claim Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, or only to a select few who teach a narrow, rigid path of rules and regulations? If a person knows the Lord and has received the gift of the Holy Spirit as a result of accepting that grace, won’t they wish to do the right thing and not require constant, mean-spirited admonishment to get there?

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. – Matthew 7:20 (KJV)

Study Notes: A Look At Hebrews & The Supremacy of Christ

This month we’re taking a look at the Book of Hebrews at Calvary. From the beginning of Hebrews, the supremacy of Christ is firmly established. (You would think that this would have put to rest any non-Trinitarian cults’ assertion that Jesus is not divine). The first thing I want to know about any ‘denomination’ that calls themselves Christian is whether or not they accept the view of God as a Holy Trinity. If not, I run in another direction because that tells me they fail to believe and teach one of the most important doctrines of Christianity that both affirms the deity of Jesus and firmly establishes the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s look at God’s Word as written in the beginning verses of Hebrews:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

For to which of the angels did He ever say, “YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”?
And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME”?
And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says,
“AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”
And of the angels He says,
“WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS,
AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.”
But of the Son He says,
“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,
AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.
-Hebrews 1:1-8 (NASB)


Now a look at a verse from Colossians:
For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. – Colossians 2:9 (KJV)


Both the KJV and NKJV use the word Godhead; others such as the NASB use the word Deity. I prefer the term Godhead because it implies a plurality within one God.
Why would God our Father refer to His Son as God if He were not the same? Understandably, the Trinity is a difficult thing to comprehend from a mere mortal perspective because it is a term used to describe the nature of God. The fact that the word is not present in the scripture does not diminish its validity at all; the term was later coined to describe God and offer some human explanation for the nature of God as witnessed in the scriptures in three persons, yet one. Clearly, these verses alone establish the divine nature of our one true God as He reveals Himself in three distinct persons. I accept the divinity of Jesus because He is my savior and His words are 100% truth. More from the study notes later. May God bless you as you strive to know His Word better!

Big God = Small Problems

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. – John 4:23-24 (KJV)

I am blessed to receive a daily meditation e-mail from Greg Laurie and today’s message focused on “Strength through worship.” He mentioned the value of worship from a very personal perspective when he recalled his son’s death and how fragile his faith was at that time – and how much he needed the people of God and to worship Him. To quote him: “Sometimes we have big problems because we have a small God.” How big is your God today?

 

Always with us

‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

-Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)

Ever feel like you should be doing something, but fear is stopping you? Fear comes in many guises, often masquerading as ‘common sense’ or the wisdom of ‘thorough investigation.’ In reality, I know I often procrastinate out of pure, unadulterated fear. The longer I put off what it is that God would have me do, the more I suffer for it. More often than not, God does not need to punish me — I do a good enough job of it myself when I refuse to obey His word. Fortunately, He loves me enough to correct me when I stray far enough in the wrong direction.

Sometimes when God is attempting to move us in a different, unknown direction we hesitate. While it is important to know whether or not what we think we are supposed to do is from God or not, that is usually not as difficult as we tend to make it. A simple prayerful consideration of the scriptures will often reveal the path we are to take.

The Holy Spirit is an unbelievable source of strength and security for me in my daily walk with Christ. Left to my own devices, I fall right into sin and the temptation of the flesh, not to mention all its attendant fearfulness. Thank God for His unbelievable grace and unending supply of mercy.

Thank God my salvation is not dependent on ‘works’ as a justification for my sins. His grace is sufficient.