Holy Desires (Part Eight)

2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us (CSB).

Every day our hearts are drawn between many competing desires. Some of these are easy, totally up to our preference, and it really doesn’t matter what choice we make. But others concern the eternal destiny of other people, and God wants us to have a holy desire when we are faced with matters of this magnitude. The question before us is: “Do I share God’s holy desire about other people?” Let’s focus our attention on his desire and then evaluate ourselves about whether or not we share God’s holy desire. God desires that sinful people be reconciled to him. By nature, we are separated from God because of sin. Our first parents rebelled against God and we persist in rebelling against the Lord. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear (Isaiah 59:2 ESV).

Consequently, a state of war exists between God and sinners. We were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10a NIV). God must uphold what is holy and good (loving God and loving others), and sinful people oppose God’s desire for what is holy and good (Romans 3:9-20). People by nature are separated or alienated from the living God. Suppose a husband gives his wife a necklace with a one-carat diamond hanging from it. Now suppose that another woman coveted that necklace and began to reject the woman with the necklace because of her jealousy. That coveting and jealousy would be evil and would cause evil. Now suppose that you find yourself thinking, “Why did God allow billionaires to have so much money? Why didn’t he give it to me?” Now that would also be evil. Rebellion against God and his precepts fills our world. The Holy God must act against rebels who would ruin what God has made.

God has made a way of reconciliation, the way to restore the relationship between him and people who are alienated from him. The basis of God’s plan is the saving work of Christ. God meets and matches human rebellion by his love to us in Jesus Christ. For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:10 NIV)

  • Since we couldn’t do anything to remove the alienation and since we didn’t want to anyway, God provided the way for God and sinners to get back together. In order to bring two parties together, one must have a way to negotiate a settlement. Those who follow professional sports see this happen all the time. The management of the team and the athlete must bring offers and counteroffers to the table.
  • At the cross God counteracted the penalty that rebellious people had earned (Romans 3:24-26; 6:23). In the crucifixion of Christ, God demonstrates his justice and is able to declare us right with him because justice has been upheld.

The result is that God doesn’t have to count people’s sins against them, because Christ paid the penalty for sinners. Are you reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you desire to see others reconciled to God?

Grace and peace, David

Holy Desires (Part Seven)

2 Timothy 2:22

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (NIV).

The Lord directs us to grow up our desires among the fellowship of his followers. Notice the words along with those. We must eliminate the “lone ranger” approach to growth in grace. When Christ saved us, the Spirit put us into the Father’s family and Christ’s spiritual body. God wants us to walk the walk of faith with other followers of Jesus. Consider the many “one another” commands and exhortations in the New Testament Scriptures. (See a previous post on that subject.) Certainly, we need to walk with God personally, but that walk must include our spiritual partnership with other believers. Fellowship with other believers will helps us mature, because of what believers are by God’s powerful grace.

Observe how believers are described here. We are focused on the Lord; we are those who call upon the Lord. We are people known for prayer. A Christian prays. Two aspects of prayer to consider:

  • We worship God; we recognize his worthiness. God uses our words of praise and of confession of the benefits of walking in his ways and teaching about God’s significance to stir each other to live in conformity with his reality. There is something encouraging and convicting about hearing another Christian say in a small group, “The other day I experienced this in my walk with God.” We spur each other on when we share how the living God is presently at work among us.
  • We seek help from God; we make bold requests to our Father in heaven (cf. Luke 18:7). God uses the heart cries of others to draw our hearts together to him. In this day when local church prayer meetings have disappeared, we ought to join together in prayer in every small group meeting.

Believers are a pure people; we call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Our hearts were purified by faith in Christ and his saving work. See how the following verses make that plain.

  • He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith (Acts 15:9 NIV)
  • Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14 NIV)
  • How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14 NIV)

We strive to maintain purity, because moral filthiness is disgusting to us, who form the pure bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:27). This begins with a continuing reliance on Christ and his finished work. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9 CSB). The reality of Christ and his work in the gospel provide practical motivation to keep a pure heart. Consider Paul’s example: I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people (Acts 24:16 NLT). Are we maintaining pure hearts together?

Grace and peace, David

Changing Moods (Part Three)

Psalm 30:6-7, 11-12

When I was secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you showed your favor, you made me stand like a strong mountain; when you hid your face, I was terrified… You turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to you and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever (CSB).

People tend to think they are prisoners to their emotions or moods. This might be true of those who do not know the Lord, but the people who are in Christ have been called to freedom. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). We must draw our self-image from what we are in Christ, and not blindly accept the opinions of our culture. We do not have to be subject to our moods. The good news is that God acts to bring his people into a correct emotional condition.

The Lord is not passive about us! We tend to view ourselves as the one who initiates communication and sharing of life with God. That is a very proud, human-exalting view! Instead, God does work directly and indirectly to relate with us. Since we belong to the Lord, he is not satisfied to let us go our own way. He wants us to walk in his way and works to keep us in his way by his word and the Spirit (cf. Colossians 2:6-7; Romans 15:13; Galatians 5:16-26). God’s action in our lives may occur over a long or short time span. Study Psalm 32 for one example.

What should we learn?

A true believer can endure great turmoil due to his or her incorrect thinking. Don’t blame someone else for your joylessness or whatever. “No doubt the trouble is with you.”

Our moods should be viewed as indicators of our spiritual condition. But we in turn must test the readings of those indicators by the standard of the Scriptures and good common sense (cf. Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, pp. 14-19.) Ask yourself, “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” (Read Psalms 42 and 43.) You need to examine yourself. For example, “Do I feel secure because my heavenly Father cares for me or because ‘everything is going my way’?”

You should check various feeling indicators:

  • Coldness to spiritual truth
  • Faultfinding in others
  • Anger about situations
  • Indifference to needs of others
  • Fear of the future
  • Jealousy about another’s prosperity
  • Bitterness about anything or anyone at any time

Warning! Don’t become more involved in looking at your spiritual vital signs than in looking at the Lord Jesus Christ! As John Reisinger said many times, “Take one good look at your heart, and then take ten thousand looks at Jesus Christ!”

Here is an important point, worthy of much emphasis. The way of establishing sound emotional patterns is by focusing on one’s relationship with the Lord, not by seeking an emotional lift. Listen to the words of a man who suffered much for the Lord Jesus, and who surely endured many down times from his afflictions. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8a NIV).

Grace and peace, David

Changing Moods (Part Two)

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Psalm 30:6-7, 11-12

When I was secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you showed your favor, you made me stand like a strong mountain; when you hid your face, I was terrified… You turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to you and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever (CSB).

Our topic is the changing moods of God’s people. When we first experience God’s saving grace, we usually experience great peace or exhilarating joy or a profound sense of acceptance or some other mood that flows from being right with God. Then we begin our daily walk with God, and as we walk by faith or a lack of faith, our moods can vary. Behind the scenes of the saint’s moods lie various actions of God that are the grounds for the saint’s feelings. Here are some examples from David’s experience.

  • When David felt secure (30:6), it was because of the Lord’s favor. It provided the stability that made security possible (30:7a). It is possible to misuse the provision of God, isn’t it? Oh, we know this too well! It is right to feel secure because of God’s grace, but we should not rest in our feelings of security.
  • When David felt dismayed (30:7c), it was due to the Lord hiding his face (30:7b) to correct David. In this condition a believer lacks felt testimony of God’s favor. He or she does not enjoy the light by which he or she can discern God’s nearness.
  • When David felt joy (30:11c), it was because God had intervened in his life (“You turned… you removed… and clothed…”). As we have said, the Spirit of God wants to lead us into the joy of the Lord.

As God’s people, we need to be more God-centered in the evaluation of our lives. Surrounded by the worldview of the ungodly, we tend to adopt its philosophy about the events and condition of our lives. They do not see the sovereign God involved in human life, and so they attribute everything to the action of people, luck, the forces of nature, or determinism (“what will be will be”). Sadly, many believers fail to function like believers; they do not change their minds and view the God who really lives acting in our lives.

Our varying moods need to be owned or acknowledged by us. We ought not to expect other followers of Jesus to wear “Christian happy faces” at our local gatherings. Yes, there are times when we stand like a strong mountain. We want to see others in that condition. However, let’s not be shocked when a brother or sister admits that they are terrified. A local church will only grow when we allow others to act in a real manner in our fellowships. This can make things “messy”, but I’d rather have messy and real than tidy and fake.

We need to take action to develop a “God-involved in our lives” outlook. For example, let’s listen to how Paul speaks about God being directly involved in his life. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10). During the week think through Matthew 6 in this way. What does Psalm 29 teach you about a “God-involved” outlook?

Grace and peace, David

Changing Moods (Part One)

Psalm 30:6-7, 11-12

When I was secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you showed your favor, you made me stand like a strong mountain; when you hid your face, I was terrified… You turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to you and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever (CSB).

In previous posts on Psalm thirty, we considered the relationship between God and his people. Since we are in a covenant relationship with God, he lifts us up when we call to him in prayer, and we joyfully respond by lifting him up in our praise. But as any believer in the Lord knows, we do not always feel the joy that belongs to us through our union with the joyful Lord: You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11 NASV). So, what happens to us? Why can we feel happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8 NLT) one day, and the next feel discouraged, downcast and sorrowful? Part of this experience flows from the changing ways we interact with our God, and the changing moods that come from that interaction. Let us look at this together.

Understand clearly that it is spiritually normal for the people of God to have varying moods. We can see this in David’s experience; we all struggle through this in our own experience. Depending on your personality, you may have a greater difficulty with this than other believers.

God’s people will feel a sense of security at times. To feel secure for the proper reasons is the correct emotional state for a believer. The Bible never presents insecurity as an ideal (cf. Romans 8:38-39; Acts 18:19-20; Philippians 4:4-7, 19; 2 Timothy 1:12).

However, we need to distinguish between spiritual and fleshly security. Spiritual security rests in the Lord (Psalm 28:6-9). Fleshly security rests in oneself or one’s blessings or performance (Dt 8:10-18; Ho 13:4-6).

Think of Mr. Carnal Security in John Bunyan’s The Holy War. (By the way, if you haven’t read this book, I encourage you to do so. He misled the godly inhabitants of the town of Mansoul with deceptive promises of fleshly ease. What would make you feel good about yourself? Your answer will be a signpost pointing to what you really think makes you feel secure. Let’s think about a related question. What would make you feel good about the local church you attend? Be honest!

At other times, God’s people may feel a sense of spiritual depression. Though the Bible does not present spiritual depression as an ideal, it does teach that believers can and do enter into a depressed condition (Psalm 42:1-5; Galatians 4:15). God desires that his children live in joy and peace (Romans 15:13). Yet his children can get themselves into such difficulties that they lose their sense of felt peace and joy. Otherwise, why would the Scriptures encourage us to lay hold of these by faith? In this place, David tells us the he was dismayed. The Hebrew word is a strong way to express being troubled. The normal course of David’s life had become unsettled! So it is when any believer falls into this state. In the Pilgrim’s Progress Christian lost his assurance on Hill Difficulty.

At yet other times, God’s people may feel a sense of joy. The Lord granted David help through this experience, so that David would rejoice again. When David had a sense of joy, he would be able to praise the Lord. God wants his people to be joyful. He wants us to experience joy in him (Philippians 3:1; 4:4). Seek the Lord and find his joy in him.

Grace and peace, David

God and His People (Part Two)

Psalm 30:1-3

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit (ESV).

We all need God to rescue us. Some of these might be very dramatic. Others might be like a parent acting quickly to intercept their child before they get into dangerous situations. We daily require the help of the merciful God (30:1b-3).

In his mercy (cf. 30:10), God answered David’s prayer for help. We act very wickedly and foolishly when we leave God out of our problems, including our physical problems. We ought to pray before we visit the doctor. Think about King Asa of Judah and what happened to him (2 Chronicles 16:12). “As the writer reflects on his experience, the one thing he seems to recall most vividly is how earnestly he fell back upon prayer in his extremity, and how effective prayer proved on this occasion. The entire experience may be said to be summarized in this one verse” (Leupold).

What help did God give David? He gave David physical healing (30:2b-3). David had been in danger of dying, but the Lord restored him to health. He gave David victory over his enemies. They wanted to gloat over his ruin, but God did not permit that to happen. We still have spiritual enemies who would gloat over our destruction, fall or disgrace. But remember the happy truth of 1 John 4:4. You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (CSB).

God lifted David up (30:1b). There is a great and mighty army of people whom God has lifted up, though their problems seemed beyond hope.

  • God lifted up Noah, when the whole race faced destruction
  • God lifted up Jacob, when he was a penniless refugee
  • God lifted up Joseph, when he was sold into slavery
  • God lifted up Gideon, when he hid in fear
  • God lifted up Ruth and Naomi, when they were poverty-stricken widows
  • God lifted up Elijah, when he was a downcast prophet
  • God lifted up Jeremiah, when his enemies had placed him in a well
  • God lifted up the woman at the well, when all despised her
  • God lifted up Peter, when he was a weeping apostle
  • God lifted up Paul, when he was a violent persecutor

How great is the grace of our God! As an old song says, “It is no secret, what God can do! What he’s done for others, he’ll do for you. With arms wide open, he’ll pardon you. It is no secret what God can do!” (Stuart Hamblen)

The God of grace has lifted us up as well! He has lifted us from the pit of hell, from the sewer of sin, from the swamp of depression, and from the slavery of doubts and fears. O brothers and sisters, will you glorify the Lord with me? Come; let us exalt his name forever (Psalm 34:3).

Grace and peace, David

God and His People (Part One)

Psalm 30:1-3

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit (ESV).

What should we think of the relationship between God and his people? Do you experience God interacting with you? Do you think that God gets involved in your life? Do you get involved with God? How does this happen? The exact occasion of this psalm cannot be determined. Even the heading of the psalm can be read in various ways (compare the NIV footnote). But this psalm does show the interaction between God and his people during his people’s difficulties. This psalm discloses the boldness of a saint (that is, a true believer) before his covenant God. We should learn how God’s children should approach him during troubles with the pure confidence that agrees with the saint’s position by grace before the Lord.

Consider the desire of a rescued person. I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up (30:1). The person whom God has delivered from difficulties desires to make known the truth that God is great and glorious. This desire is the response of gratitude. For example, a student who has been helped by a teacher will defend that teacher though other students despise him or her, if there is gratitude in that student’s heart.

This desire is evangelistic in spirit. The rescued person wants others to praise the God who saves (30:4). When people have been helped by someone (like a doctor) or by something (like medicine), they do tell others. The deeper the sense of help, the more fervent desire to tell others. The woman at the well went back into the city to tell everyone she met that she had found the Messiah (John 4). Here is the church’s purpose of evangelism. How are we doing in fulfilling this purpose?

This desire is determined in this course of action (cf. 30:12b). David has one goal—to always praise the Lord (cf. Psalm 27:4-6). We live during a time of distraction rather than focused action. People see too many things to do, and so they endlessly flit from one thing to another. But a sense of what is truly worthy of our lives leads us to life goals, like we see in this verse.

The person whom God has delivered rejoices in exalting his Lord (cf. 30:11). David is careful to point out that God’s deliverance ended in joy for him. It is like David is saying, “Yes, my God did correct me during this time of my life, but he meant it for my good (cf. Gen 50:20; Rm 8:28). For this reason, the product was his joy in God. When we travel through a “long dark tunnel” of our life’s journey, we can lose sight of this much too easily. Then we must believe that God will work for our ultimate joy. Someone might ask, “How can I do this?” You need to think and meditate on God’s holy character and then rest on him. There is no substitute for humble faith in the Holy God.

David was stirred deeply in the inner person of the heart. Notice his repeated “O Lord” throughout this psalm. True spiritual experience of the Lord and his grace overflows into an intense verbal expression like “O”. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:11 ESV). Let us draw near to the Lord our God. In him we find restoration and refreshment for our souls.

Grace and peace, David