The Struggles of the Believer (Part Eight)

1 John 5:13

I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (CSB).

The third support is the witness of the Spirit. The one who keeps his commands remains in him, and he in him. And the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he has given us (1 John 3:24 CSB). This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit (1 John 4:13 CSB). It is clear that the Spirit is the way of knowledge, and that his presence with the believer is convincing testimony that we are sons and daughters of God.

But there is more. We mean the direct testimony of the Holy Spirit to the inner person of the heart. He tells us that we are sons of God. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:14-16 NIV). Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6 NIV) The Spirit himself testifies to the inner person of the believer.

“This is something subjective, something which essentially belongs to the realm of feeling and subjectivity, and the emotions. It is something within us at a deeper level than the level of the intellect… In other words this does not result from certain actions on our part; it is the Spirit that produces it in us. It is not something of which you persuade yourself” (Lloyd-Jones, The Sons of God, p. 235). The Spirit produces a sense or consciousness of assurance, and not merely a belief in a fact.

Think of this illustration to make this clear. “You do not persuade yourself that you are in love; at least, if you do, or have to do, you are not in love!” (Lloyd-Jones) It is something that you just know and feel in your heart.

The person who has the witness of the Spirit is certainly orthodox and God-fearing. The adopted son of God with assurance loses none of his or her reverence for God. In fact, the reverence will increase! But there is an experience of love and delight in the heart that the assured saint alone can sense.

For example, you may listen to a message and say, “That was a nice sermon, good content and illustrations, etc.” You know what we all (preachers included) think and say! But it is far different when the Holy Spirit “catches you” with the truth and lifts you up with the wings of a mighty eagle. Then you know in the inner person of your heart that your soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken (Psalm 62:1-2 NIV). Do you know this? Are you enjoying this facet of blessed assurance?

The existence of his precious fruit in us (Galatians 5:22-23; John 7:37-39). Everyone who follows Christ as Lord and Savior has received the Holy Spirit. If you don’t have the Spirit, you do not belong to Christ (cf. Romans 8:9-13).

At this point, it is common to focus on outward actions of godliness. They are important. But is there are heart for God? In your inner attitudes, do you desire the ways of godliness. Do you long for the fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) that the Spirit produces. One of chief signs of a confident saint with full assurance is joy! This is something that cannot be manufactured by the saint. You may sing about it, but only the Holy Spirit can give it (1 Thessalonians 1:6). Only he can make, as in the words of an old hymn,  “floods of joy o’er my soul, like the sea billows roll”. If you grieve or quench the Spirit, do not be surprised when you feel bitter while others rejoice. This is the joy of being able to say “I have heard and continue to hear his vows of covenant love to me. He tells me that I am part of his family; indeed, that I am one of his adult sons and heirs!” This is one reason for you to understand the new covenant teaching of adoption.

Each of these supports or bases or foundations of assurance is important to a full assurance of faith. It is a serious mistake to think that you can have errors or failings in regard to one or two of the pillars and still make proper spiritual progress. Today is the time to start repairing the foundational supports of your assurance.

But perhaps you have come to read this blog without repentance and faith. God has brought you here to hear his word. Now, respond wisely and turn from your life of rebellion against him and rely on the Lord Jesus Christ alone as your way to be accepted by God and to enjoy eternal life with him forever. God is able to save you today. Call on him while he is near!

Grace and peace, David

Psalm 63 (Part Four)

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory (63:2 NIV).

We are looking at the believer’s experience of God in the sanctuary. As already said, to David and other law covenant believers, this sanctuary was the physical tabernacle or temple. For us in Christ’s new and better covenant, Christ’s people in union with him by faith form this spiritual temple. It is the experience of the glorious God that is the key to everything that David writes in this psalm. This is one reason to guard carefully a Biblical way of thinking and acting about the church. When we realize that God is in the gatherings of his people, we can behold his power and glory! We will see him living and shining with glory in his chosen and dearly loved ones (cf. Colossians 3:12).

“Why does David thirst for God above everything else…? The answer is simply because God is who and what He is… The glory of God, to be in the presence of God! There is nothing that is comparable to this!” (Lloyd-Jones, Enjoying the Presence of God, p. 103) In his inner being, David has acquired a sense of God’s excellent nature. His soul is in love with God, for he knows personally something of the majesty of Almighty God. “This man has been in the presence of God. He has seen something of the God’s glory and he says, ‘There is nothing which is of any value by contrast with this and nothing that I may receive from the whole universe is of any value compared with it.’”

O Lord, I would delight in Thee
And on Thy care depend
To Thee in every trouble flee
My best, my only Friend…

He that has made my heaven secure
Will here all good provide
While Christ is rich, can I be poor?
What can I want beside?

O Lord, I cast my care on Thee
I triumph and adore
Henceforth my great concern shall be
To love and please Thee more.
(By John Ryland)

To review briefly, we ask, “What does a believer do in a desert place, when all around is or seems to be bleak and barren? David was in a desert place, but while there, he called upon the Lord. His circumstances could not separate him from his God, and neither did David act like the circumstances had. He had had the experience of seeing God’s power and glory in the sanctuary. When he was in the desert, he had a fresh, spiritual experience of God—the experience of praise.

Grace and peace, David

Thinking about God and His Friendship with His People (Part Five)

Psalm 25:8-15

Our focus in this series concerns God as the friend of his people. The Lord is good and upright, he forgives great sin, and he confides in his people. We are now considering how to respond to God’s friendship. What does God expect of us in friendship? This text mentions four ways to express friendship with God (humility, obedience, godly mindedness and fear of the Lord). Last time we learned that we express friendship with God by being humble before him (25:9).

Let us think, next, about a matter that troubles many: friendship and fear of the Lord (25:12, 14).

Their concern can be traced to a misunderstanding of 1 John 4:18. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love (ESV). What they overlook is that John is talking about having fear on the Day of Judgment. That fear is cast out by the love of God set forth in Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice (1 John 4:8-17). However, it is still very clear that we are to fear God (Luke 12:4-5; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:28-29; 1 Peter 2:17). That a correct fear of God is consistent with friendship with God is clearly seen in our text (25:14).

What does it mean to fear God as part of friendship with him? Consider the relationship between knowing God and fearing him. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (Proverbs 9:10 ESV). In this connection, we can say that the fear of the Lord is the inner responsiveness to learn of the Lord in his majestic greatness. So then, if we are learning God, as he has revealed himself in nature and in the Scriptures (cf. Psalm 19), what are we learning? People who learn the Lord carry with them a deep awareness or awe or reverence for God’s infinity, transcendence, immanence, power, wisdom, holiness, grace and love. Let’s think of some truths that God reveals about himself. Read and meditate on the texts below and pray for the Spirit of God to cause you to react in awe of your covenant Lord. God (is):

  • the First and the Last. I am the Living One (Revelation 1:17-18)
  • the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God (1 Timothy 1:17)
  • Holy, holy, holy… the whole earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3)
  • the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he (Deuteronomy 32:4)
  • from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2)
  • (does) not change (Malachi 3:6)
  • wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom (Isaiah 28:29)
  • the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25)
  • His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed? (Job 9:4)
  • is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him (Psalm 115:3)
  • Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? (Psalm 113:5-6)
  • is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other (Deuteronomy 4:39)
  • is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27)
  • works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11)
  • eyes are too pure to look on evil… cannot tolerate wrong (Habakkuk 1:13)
  • does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17)
  • does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)
  • everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him (Hebrews 4:13)
  • from him and through him and to him are all things (Romans 11:36)

As we learn the Lord and communicate with him by faith, we will experience a deeper, richer, more vibrant friendship with him.

As we experientially learn who the Lord is, various characteristics will develop in us, though perhaps at unequal rates from believer to believer.

  • We cherish an awesome sense of God’s infinite greatness and excellence. Consider a scene from heaven (Revelation 15:1-4). We can see this in our time, for example, in many of the newer worship songs. An unexpected event has occurred through these songs. Where there has really been the desire to worship God, they have become the doorway for many to a more Biblically correct and mature theology. As people have studied God’s revelation of himself, they have come to regard God as far greater than they ever have previously to that study. We could say that such people become “treasure hunters”. Once they get a glimpse of God’s surpassing value and brilliance, they start out on a quest for more of it. They avoid what hinders them finding the treasure. Are you a “treasure hunter” of God’s glory in Christ?
  • We come to a conviction that God’s favor is the greatest of all blessings and his disapproval is the great of all evils. In other words, we take God seriously, living consciously in his presence.
  • This leads us to seek practically God’s favor as our chief good, and to avoid his disapproval. This remakes the way we live in this present age (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). For example, a missional attitude flows from the fear of the Lord.

How is your growth in perceiving the greatness of the Lord? Are convictions in your inner person about God remaking your ideas, values, and attitudes? What new godly choices have you made? We all must think practically. Let’s avoid the trap of merely listening to the word, while not doing it.

Grace and peace, David

Confidence in God

DSCN2717Psalm 4

In Psalm 3, we saw how David the king turned to the Lord during a painful time of his life, which was the rebellion of his son Absalom against his kingly authority. Psalm 4 doesn’t give us any information about when David wrote these words. Most Psalms lack this information. We do not need to panic that we don’t have it. The Holy Spirit led the Psalm writers to record their experience with God and life, and so we are able to profit in whatever situation we might be in. As we read, let us remember that this is a song, intended for the benefit of God’s people as they sing together. Notice that the superscription tells us that it was written for the director of music, and that David intended that stringed instruments be used when it was sung. God loves artistic expression, and he desires that we use such abilities as we possess in worship and instruction of one another.

  • David sang about his need to receive an answer from the Lord (4:1). It is obvious that he sought a positive answer, as we all do. The Lord wants us to make our requests to him. He doesn’t not tell us to simply state the situation without making known the result we desire. Imagine saying to your wife or husband, “I’m thirsty.” Would you want to hear, “Thanks for the information”? No, usually when we make known our need, we specify what we want. In this example, “I’m going to get something to drink; would you like something, too?” I mention this because some people are of the erroneous opinion that you shouldn’t tell God what you desire. But the Lord wants you to use your mind and emotions and to ask him. With respect (“O my righteous God”), David made clear that he longed for relief from distress and mercy in the form of answered prayer.
  • David sang about the opposition that he endured from other people (4:2-3). The songs of our lives will have melancholy and even dark stanzas. This opposition was of a religious character. David had the task of leading Israel back to the Lord, because the reign of Saul had been a time of spiritual decline. David magnified the Lord, but others did not. His confidence in God was to them a matter of shame. We face the same kind of opposition from the ungodly today. Their attitude involved that they made the “evil exchange”. They turned from God to idols (cf. Romans 1:21-25). Notice that David openly rejected their course of action. He asserted the truth of the Lord’s covenant relationship with his people. Those who know the Lord have been set apart for him. God wants us to share our lives with him. We have become a people for his possession. This means that the Lord will hear us when we call to him. “O beloved, when you are on your knees, the fact of your being set apart as God’s own peculiar treasure, should give you courage and inspire your fervency and faith” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Vol. 1, p.38).
  • David sang about the way of life for God’s people (4:4-5). Though anger is a part of our lives, we must avoid sin in our anger, which is extremely difficult, because our thoughts, ideas, and emotions are easily twisted by sin. This requires self-examination of our ways. We need to consider what motivates our hearts and our actions. Since David wanted to lead his people back to the Lord, he pointed out the need to offer the sacrifices that God required in the law covenant. We live in the new covenant and have a perfect and finished sacrifice, the blood of Christ. So for us, the new covenant application is always and only to approach God our Father through Jesus Christ and his sacrifice.
  • David sang about his hope or confident expectation (4:6-7). He pointed out what his people could expect as they sought the Lord. He told them there would be doubters about God’s concern for them. In response to those who questioned, David boldly restated the source of blessing. Then he gave a personal testimony of the greater joy that the Lord had given to him. His joy was greater than what the doubters experienced in their material prosperity. True, joyful humanity is experienced when we rejoice in the true and living God, our family relationship with him, and contentment with the material provisions that he has given for our joy.
  • David sang about the rest that the Lord had brought to him (4:8). Yes, his situation had been one of distress. But now, through believing confidence in the Lord, he was able to “sleep in peace”. This confidence does not come simply through the exercise of prayer. We must not only pray but also rely on the Lord’s goodness, wisdom, and power as we wait calmly for what he will do.

While you and I do not know the tune of Psalm 4, we still may sing it in our souls. Let its truth resonate through your heart. Meditate on it. “Sing it” with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Seek the Lord through it. Your Father in heaven does want you to have “greater joy”.

Grace and peace, David