The Struggles of the Believer (Part Twelve)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 ESV).

Currently, we are looking at the struggles that some believers in Jesus Christ have about “that one sin”. They continually fret about how they could ever do such a sin or keep doing it or whether God would ever forgive such a person. So far we have considered that such struggles come from the work of Satan and the spiritual forces of evil and from a failure to apply Biblical teaching about God’s grace. This brings us to a third cause.

The person with this condition may be struggling about actually trusting the Scriptures. Is their confidence in what God says or in what they think about sin, grace, and their reception of it? Some Christians act like prosecuting attorneys against themselves. They refuse to accept a clear promise of God about forgiveness (1 John 1:9) about themselves. In theory, they admit that the Lord will forgive their sins, but they fail to rest in confidence on God’s words. They tell themselves that God cannot forgive them when he has promised that he will. Beware of getting into an argument with God—telling him “no” when he says “yes”. Don’t do what Peter did in a different situation. Don’t argue against God’s words (Acts 10:13-16).

This is another instance in which you may need to stop praying and simply start believing. Merely saying words is not praying in faith. God does not answer people’s prayers because they ritually or franticly or repetitiously pray. Your prayer might be an evidence of unbelief instead of faith. Listen to what God says in his word, pray on that basis, and then act in conformity with God’s promise of forgiveness.

A fourth cause is this. The person who struggles over “that one sin” may be deficient in his or her understanding of Christ’s redemptive work. Earlier in this series, I presented the concept that we are not saved by the amount or clarity of our understanding. Praise God that that is true, or we would all be in serious difficulty! However, knowing, understanding, and by faith acting on the truth revealed in the Bible provides us with a great advantage amid our struggles.

Some people know that it is the sacrificial work of the Lord Jesus on Calvary’s cross that saves them, but they have not fully grasped the significance of what he accomplished. They know enough to be saved, but not enough to rejoice always. They know enough to rely on Christ, but not enough to rest on him. What this person must do is to become intimately acquainted with the truth of Christ’s saving work. Learn the meaning and significance of passages like 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:24-26; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; Hebrews 9:11-15; Revelation 1:5-6; 5:9-10; etc. As you do, ask the Holy Spirit for his help. “Holy Spirit, help me know the power of God’s love for me expressed in these words!”

A person in this condition may feel unworthy to participate in the Lord’s Supper, but this remembrance of Christ’s death is the very thing that can help them. We need to know the Lord’s Table is not a ritual conduit of grace that works simply by participating in it. No, it is a remembrance of Christ and his saving work that points us afresh to our Lord, who is mighty to save. A woman was once weeping over her sinfulness and felt unworthy to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. Her minister wisely told her, “Take it; it’s for sinners!”

The Lord’s Supper is a proclamation that Christ paid for our sins fully and that now we have a new and better covenant with God. Yet some avoid “Communion Sunday” out of guilt and fear. Please do not make this mistake. Before you go to a meeting, boldly confess your sins and boldly receive God’s promised forgiveness. Then boldly go to worship with your brothers and sisters in the Lord and boldly remember the Savior with them.

We must see that our justification is not based on who we are or what we have done, but on the finished work of Christ. He secured our justification, our righteousness with God, by his saving work. So then, rejoice in what he did for you and find your access to God through him. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2).

Grace and peace, David

The Promise of God’s Presence

img_08952 Chronicles 20:15b-17

In a fast-paced society with ever-broadening technological advances, it is easy to be overcome by the flux. We can crave to hear about something that is “new”. This desire is not a byproduct of the information age, but comes from the human heart in our insatiable desire to know. Luke commented in Acts that this was the condition of the Athenians. Now all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new (17:21 HCSB). And so, we desire new phrases and ideas, and so disclose our pitiful condition.

However, the Spirit of God repeats redemption themes to build God’s kind of world and life view into us.  In our text from 2 Chronicles, notice how the Spirit repeats words that he had previously used to form God’s story into his people in the past. God’s people need to be renewed and reformed by basic ideas that speak about our relationship with God. Ponder the ideas that the Holy Spirit used.

  • Do not be afraid or discouraged: This idea points them back to when the Lord was about to lead them into the Promised Land. The task ahead was huge and daunting. How could it be done? For this reason, the Spirit imbedded this idea into their outlook (Deuteronomy 1:21; 3:2, 22; 31:6; Joshua 1:6-9). We need this very much to overcome our paralyzing fears. We need to look at our resources (God and the gospel) more than the obstacles in our way (hatred, idolatry, greed, violence, arrogance and prejudice). If you suppose that your problems are unsolvable, you need to listen to what God says. Don’t be afraid or discouraged! In the darkest situations, God can work for your eternal joy. He can bring sweet out of what is bitter. Remember the story of the waters of Marah (Exodus 15:22-25).
  • The battle is the Lord’s: This idea points them back to David’s great victory over Goliath, when defeat seemed certain (1 Samuel 17:47). Everyone was afraid to act, yet the Lord brought about a great victory through unlikely means. In Bunyan’s masterpiece, The Pilgrim’s Progress, consider Christian’s stay in the church, where they showed him many unusual ways that the Lord had given victory to his people.
  • The Lord will be with you: This idea comes from God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:1). The Lord repeated this concept many times: Isaac (Genesis 26:3), Jacob (Genesis 28:15), Joseph (Genesis 39:2, 21, 23), and to the people about to enter the land (Deuteronomy 2:7; Joshua 1:5). It is repeated to us by the Lord Jesus, in order to encourage us on our mission (Matthew 28:20). The Lord uses it during reassure his servants during the most discouraging times (Acts 18:9-10). Always remember that the Lord is on mission with us. If you’re not certain that God is with you, then listen to the good news. In Jesus Christ, God offers to enter an agreement with you that will change your life. If you will turn from your empty way of life and trust in Christ who died and rose to life, he will change your heart, be your God, give you knowledge of him, which involves eternal life, and forgive your sins (Hebrews 8:10-12). Now is an excellent time to believe in the Lord Jesus and receive these gifts.

Through the prophet, the Spirit of God announced the battle plan (20:16-17a). They needed to believe and obey in order to see God at work. God expects the same from us today. God sent them out. This is a picture of where we need to be to see God at work in the world. Here’s a hint: you usually won’t see him at work in the safety of your home. Jesus has sent you out into the world.

  • March – God had full intelligence of the location of the enemy army. “Here is where to find them; just punch this address in your GPS.” Shortly after this, God would do the same for Elisha (2 Kings 6:8ff).
  • Take positions – Get to the places where they would want to fight; find the best locations that offer a tactical advantage over their army. If you have visited Gettysburg, you have seen the high ground the Union army occupied on Little Round Top.
  • Stand firm and see – Surprise! They would not need to fight. The Lord was going to handle this by himself in some unspecified way. Too often we depend on our own insights, plans, gimmicks, strategies, and abilities. The Lord wants us to trust and obey. Do we know the missional “battle plan” (Matthew 28:18-20)? Then go and make disciples with the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).
  • Do not be afraid or discouraged – Go out to face them tomorrow. Yes, the Lord repeats the core of his message to them! “But that vast army is out there!” Yes, it is, and the way they would see it overcome was to do what the Lord told them. This is also true for us.

What are your deepest fears right now? Take a moment and write them down on paper. Next, look at what you’ve written. Now ask yourself, “Am I ready to trust God with my fears? Will I trust him, even if things do not work out as I’d like? Will I believe that nothing is too hard for the Lord (Genesis 18:14)?” In the presence of God, face your fears and trust in the Lord with all your heart.

Grace and peace, David