Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many’” (Matthew 24:4). Deception is defined as acts to propagate beliefs that are not true, or not the whole truth (as in half-truths or omission). Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda, and sleight of hand, as well as distraction, camouflage, or concealment. There is also self-deception, as in bad faith. In the context of Scripture, bad faith is understood as taking a position that is either known to be false or is false but believed to be true. In either case, the one holding the position is self-deceived. It is interesting to me that Jesus, when speaking of the time period just prior to His return to this earth, said more about deception than He did anything else. In Matthew 24, He warns against being deceived three different times (Matt. 24:4-5, 11, 23-24). There are at least 25 instances in the New Testament where the biblical writers warn against being deceived. This is why it is crucial for us to understand not everyone who claims to speak for Christ actually does. In fact, I would venture to say no one speaks for Christ as He has already spoken for Himself in His Word given through His Prophets and Apostles. The warning is clear: Don’t be misled.
The writer of the book of Hebrews writes, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus..." (Heb. 12:1-2a). This passage is rich in theology and practical theology at that. By "practical" I mean the passage is easily broken down into easily understood principles for running the race known as the Christian life. The three principals here are (1) Focus on the Saints - "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us," (2) Focus on Self - "let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us," and (3) Focus on the Savior - "fixing our eyes on Jesus..." It is the second principle -- Focus on Self--that I want to consider in this blog entry. Primarily, I want to focus in on the part of the passage that tells us to deal with sin.
“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil” (Hebrews 6:17-19).
I confess to you, at times I simply do not understand God’s purpose and promise. In fact, I would say that this is the case most of the time. I would venture to say the case is the same for most folks reading this article. We are quick to offer up praise to God when all blessings flow. However, we have a tough time believing when those blessings seem to go. It is during times such as these, when the trials and tribulations of life come, that we must learn to think theologically rather than logically. This is exactly the message of the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 6:17-19. God does not expect us to understand all the ins and outs of life. Neither does He expect us to be able to explain it all away. From this passage of Scripture we know two theological facts: (1) With God, there is an unchangeable purpose; and (2) that purpose is guaranteed with an oath.
So let’s think theologically for a moment. In Ecclesiastes 3:11, Solomon writes, “God has made everything appropriate in its time.” Therefore, theologically we can conclude, God is in control all the time. From that we can further conclude that because He is in control all the time, all time is under his control. Since God is in control all the time and because all time is under his control, then we must equally conclude that God is in control of every single event that occurs within time, and to take it one step further, eternity. Finally, we must conclude that He is in control of every single event within our lives. There is nothing about us over which God is not sovereign. He is in control!
Thinking theologically rather than logically provides three benefits. First of all, there is encouragement. The writer of Hebrews tells us that logical thinking will discourage but theological thinking will encourage. He says you will have, “strong encouragement.” Secondly, there is hope. This is not the hope the world offers, which can be summed up by the statement, “I hope so.” This is a sure and eternal hope! Therefore, he says we can “take hold of the hope set before us.” If we truly understand God is in control all the time of all time of all events within time then we know He is in control of the good times and the bad times. Therefore we can hope. This hope yields a sense of divine refuge, because the hope is in God and not yourself. Finally, this encouragement and hope we have serves as an “anchor for the soul.” It reminds us that because God has a purpose and because He cannot lie, we will not lose. And we will discover, as one preacher said, “In the mysterious manner of God’s own timing, for some unexplainable and yet unchangeable purpose, those of us who trust Him ultimately win – because God ultimately wins.”
“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
As believers, it is very important that we know what we believe and why we believe it. Unfortunately, too many people who profess Jesus Christ have no idea what they believe or why they believe it. Furthermore, if asked to give a defense for what they believe, many Christians would be unable to do so. It ought not to be this way. The Bible says we are to “always [be] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
Often times, when I speak in churches, I will ask the congregation if they believe the Bible contains the Word of God. Without hesitation, I usually get 100 percent of those in attendance responding with a resounding Yes! Then they are all shocked to learn that I do not hold this same belief. Because the truth is, the Bible does not contain the Word of God – the Bible is the Word of God. When I say the Bible contains the Word of God then I am free to pick and choose just what part of the Word of God is contained therein. However, when I understand the Bible is the Word of God, then there is no room for picking and choosing. I have to accept the entire Bible for what it is – The Word of God (to the exclusion of all other writings said to be God’s Word). Then I can proceed to explain to those in attendance exactly what I believe about the Bible.
I believe that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). This means that the whole Bible is the Word of God. It is infallible, that is to say, that everything that it affirms is absolutely true. It is inerrant, that is to say, it is without error. It is complete, that is to say, it is all God wanted to inspire. It is authoritative, that is to say, when it speaks, we would do well to listen. It is sufficient, that is to say, it is all God wanted to say. It is effective, that is to say, it is powerful, it impacts lives, and it accomplishes divine purpose. It is determinative, that is to say, it distinguishes between those who will go to heaven and those who will spend eternity in hell. Furthermore, the entire theme of all Scripture is God’s glory and its central character is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible says we must be prepared to defend what we believe. This is especially true given the times in which we live. What makes Christianity different from Islam? How is it different from Mormonism? What about the Watchtower (Jehovah’s Witnesses)? What sets the Bible apart from the Book of Mormon, the Koran, and others? How is it that only those who have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ will be in heaven? As believers, we must be able to answer these kinds of questions. The only way we will be able to give a satisfactory answer is we must know what we believe and why we believe it.
“But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling. My steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked. When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight. Until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end” (Psalm 73:2-3, 16-17).
Why does God allow evil and suffering in the world? This is a question we are confronted with everyday. We turn on the news and see images of passenger jets slamming into buildings. We listen to the radio only to learn a sniper has taken yet another innocent life in and around our nation’s capital. We pick up the newspaper and learn of abuse allegations within the Church. We answer the telephone and receive news a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. We read and hear about the fact that in many parts of the world there are wars, famines, natural catastrophes, and epidemic diseases. It seems that everywhere we look, people are suffering. Furthermore, evil abounds and the evildoers seem to be getting away with the evil they perpetrate. It is no surprise that such evil and suffering and the supposed prosperity of the evildoer causes many to question how a good God can allow such evil and suffering. Such was the case with Asaph, the author of Psalm 73. He begins by saying, “But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling.” Why? Because he was “envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Like many believers today, Asaph almost lost his confidence in the Lord because he was envious of the prosperity of the wicked. Like most believers, Asaph struggled with why? Why does God seemingly allow the evildoer to prosper while the believer, who seeks to live righteously, suffers? To understand the answer to this question, we must look to eternity.
Our problem is that too often we view the purpose and promises of God in terms of our present personal happiness. However, we fail to realize that the purpose and promises of God are more about the coming of Christ’s kingdom than our individual enjoyment here and now. God’s focus is eternal. Therefore, as believers, we must focus on eternity. For us, life is more about eternity than it is about the here and now. For Asaph, the turning point for him came when he “came into the sanctuary of God.” It was there that his focus began to shift from now to eternity. He came to recognize that God would reward the righteous in eternity and destroy evil and the evildoer. Clearly, eternity makes all the difference. Paul says, “For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). This is the Word of the Lord!
I do not know what you are struggling with today. I do not know what losses you have experienced in life. I have no idea what evil you might have experienced. I can only testify to my own experiences. But this I do know, our citizenship is in heaven (1 Peter 1:1), and as believers, our questions will one day be answered. When? When we all get to heaven. Paul put it this way: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). I do not understand fully now. However, in eternity I will know fully.
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