Tag Archive: sanctification


The issue of self-control is much more extensive than we might think initially. We normally think of self-control in conjunction with anger. Typically, we consider a person who is easily angered to be a person with a lack of self-control. But the topic of self-control takes us to the heart of one of the main themes in Scripture, which is our sanctification.

The process of sanctification is largely about self-control or about learning to think, speak, and act according to God’s principles rather than according to what comes “naturally,” which is some manifestation of our fallen natures. Self-control, then, has to do with subjecting our fallen natures—our sinful impulses—to the Word of God.

 

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. (Pro. 16:32)

The importance of this issue is clearly established in this single verse in which we find Solomon’s opinion regarding self-control or self-rule. Note the extreme comparisons he draws. One who is “slow to anger” is compared to “the mighty” and one who “rules his spirit” is compared to “he who captures a city.”

Initially, we would assume there would be no beneficial comparison to be made between a man who is slow to anger and those labeled “mighty.” The word Solomon uses is gibbor, which refers to a man of great strength or a man of great courage. This word conveys the sense of the heroic, the kind of person legends are made of, the kind of person who accomplishes seemingly impossible feats and faces dangers and threats that would make most others tremble. But Solomon says that the man who is slow to anger is better than such a man. He does not simply say that a man who is slow to anger is like a mighty man or similar in constitution to the mighty man; he says that a man who is slow to anger is superior to the man of great strength or the man of great courage.

Who do we admire most—the person who controls his anger or the person who demonstrates unusual strength and bravery? Who should we admire most? The first question is answered by what we observe in this world and the second question is answered by the Word of God. A man who rules his spirit is considered of better character and is considered a better man than he who captures a city.

Implied here is insight regarding the nature of man. If control of our initial impulses is defined as a good thing, then that must mean that those initial impulses are bad things; and that tells us something, therefore, about ourselves. It tells us that we are, by nature, given to reactions and responses that are negative in character. So this verse reflects the Bible’s teaching concerning the nature of fallen man.

Additional Verses

A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated. (14:17 )

Solomon says that a man who is “quick-tempered acts foolishly.” Notice that this description is the opposite of the man in 16:32 who is described as “slow to anger.” There you’ll recall, Solomon uses a word that refers to having patience. Here, two words are used that are translated “quick-tempered” and one of them (qatser) refers to a lack of patience.

This is interesting. In just two verses, we’ve discovered that patience (or the lack thereof) is one of the core elements of self-control. This implies that one of the keys to self-discipline is learning to be patient with circumstances and people. And patience is one of the hallmarks of spiritual maturity in the Scriptures. This is true, I think, because patience implies trust in God and contentment with what He has ordained.

A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again. (19:19)

Briefly, this verse speaks of habitual lack of self-control. There is a danger in failing to exercise self-discipline. The danger is that your impulsiveness, which is nothing more than an immediate expression of your fallen nature, becomes your pattern of conduct. You will rarely find a man who loses his temper in a significant way only once in a while. Normally, if a man is easily provoked by circumstances or words, you’ll find that he is frequently provoked by circumstances or words.

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel. (20:3)

Solomon sets before us two kinds of behavior, two kinds of people, two descriptions of character. Self-control may manifest itself in avoiding a circumstance, not simply in reacting patiently to a circumstance. That’s the idea in this verse. If he can avoid it, a wise man will not put himself in a position where there is likely to be strife. This phrase takes us in yet another direction in our understanding of self-control. Here the notion of discernment comes into play.

When a man avoids strife, Solomon teaches, he has done an honorable thing. How different this is from the way we operate so often! We sometimes think that we must enter into strife in order to make our point and so that we make sure our opinion is heard. Our natural tendency is to create strife, not avoid it.

Practical Responses

I would offer three short suggestions:

One, make sure you understand how fundamentally important this issue is. As I tried to make clear, self-control deals with the very heart of who we are, how we think and behave; self-control is self-discipline and that is what we are concerned with when we think of our sanctification. This is not just a matter of controlling our tempers, it is a matter of determining that by which our lives will be characterized.

Two, understand that self-control, as fundamentally important as it is, begins with our temper or our handling of those natural impulses that rise up in us in response to circumstances. Yes, there is much to the topic of self-discipline because it is such an essential aspect of our existence, but it begins with simple, everyday situations in which we have opportunities to give way to expressions of our fallen natures or subdue them for God’s glory.

Three, every person, from children to adults, has room to improve in this matter of self-control. Don’t think that because you don’t lose your temper often that you have no problem with self-control. Self-discipline touches many aspects of our lives. There are obvious examples where self-control is needed, and then there are some not-so-obvious examples where self-control is needed. Some examples are seen by many people, and some examples are known only to you and God. Therefore, meditate on these proverbs, memorize them, pray that God will cause the characteristics commended in the proverbs to be true of you.

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Understanding Our Trials

James 1:2-18 (part 2)

Introduction

I noted in the last sermon that this letter is addressed to Jewish believers who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire and who were, in some cases, facing severe trials. James is writing to Jews who had believed in Jesus as their Messiah. It appears that these people were formerly associated with the Church in Jerusalem but were forced to flee when persecution broke out following the death of Stephen.

REVIEW

The first section of this epistle has to do with gaining a Biblical perspective on our trials. We covered only the first point made by James, which is concerned with gaining a proper (or Biblical) understanding of our trials. I want to take a couple of minutes to review his teaching, which is found in vv. 2-4:

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Most of us understand from experience that trials interrupt the normal routine of life and can shatter our confidence and disturb our comfort. Trials cause anxiety, sleeplessness, distraction, and even prevent us from being productive. Knowing, as we do, how trials can affect us, we wondered how James could say what he does in v. 2. How could he expect these believers to maintain a joyful countenance when they were being persecuted and when they were seeing friends and loved ones abused, and when they knew that returning home was an impossibility?

The answer comes in the next verse: “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (v. 3) It is knowledge or understanding of the nature of trials that permits the believer to face them and remain joyful. Perspective is the key, as it is in so many areas of our Christian experience. James tells his readers to be joyful and he tells them how they can be joyful: “know that your trial—the testing of your faith—has a design and the design is your endurance or perseverance in the faith.”

Knowing that trials actually purify faith, James adds: “Let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (v. 4) Trials come to us periodically to advance our maturity with the goal of a whole and fully developed faith at some point in the future. Trials, therefore, are beneficial. As God’s people, we should interpret our hardships as grounded in His love and purposes for us.

END OF REVIEW

  1. The Purpose of Our Trials (vv. 5-11)

5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

This second point is taught in vv. 5-8 with an illustration following in vv. 9-11. The key to understanding these verses is remembering the context. James is talking about trials and is addressing Christians presently facing displacement and persecution. Following this passage, the same general topic continues as he explains the difference between trials and temptations.

Verses 5-11, therefore, must be interpreted as having to do with this prevailing theme. When James writes “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…,” he still is thinking in reference to the trials being experienced by these believers. Most interpret vv. 5 ff. apart from the context. But, if taken in context, the “wisdom” promised must have something to do with the trials we endure. It seems clear, then, that v. 5 is written as instruction regarding the particular trials that believers experience.

This passage, nevertheless, has frequently been wrongly interpreted and applied. We have to discern how these verses fit into the overall context of the topic of trials, which is being explained by James. He is saying that if you do not understand why a trial has come upon you, you should pray and ask God for the wisdom to respond honorably and perhaps even discern the purpose. God will give wisdom to the believer who is being tested so that he might better understand particular trials and, therefore, benefit from them more quickly and endure them more gladly.

I look at v. 5 as a marvelous promise from God. James instructs his readers to pray to God and ask for understanding of their trials so that they will be able to see the goal that is being accomplished by their suffering. And this exhortation is accompanied by the promise: “let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

God does not desire to hide from you His purpose in testing you. The purpose of a trial, remember, is the refinement of your faith. How can you be strengthened and caused to grow if you don’t even understand what God is doing or why He is doing it, at least in a general fashion?

Having discernment regarding our trials is a tremendously comforting gift from God. Having discernment helps us fight against despair and it helps us maintain hope since we know God is working in us and there will be an end to the hardship. When we can see the end for which a trial has come, when we can understand what it is about our faith that needs refinement, then we can be thankful for trials, as James taught in the previous section.

Nevertheless, as I said before, I’m convinced that very few Christians avail themselves of this promise in God’s Word. We pray, but we pray incompletely; we pray for God to sustain us, which is proper, of course, but we sometimes don’t go beyond that and seek understanding. We tell ourselves that we must accept whatever comes and in this way, which is certainly true, but we have given a promise and should not hesitate to take advantage of God’s willingness to grant us insight.

We must remember, especially during our trials, that God is a Being with purposes. And He has revealed Himself to be a God of compassion and a God whose nature makes it impossible for Him to treat us in an unrighteous manner. We must keep in mind these facts about God’s nature when we are confronted by trials that He has appointed for us. We should readily seek to understand why He has appointed our times of testing.

Notice the important qualifier added by James: “But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” (v. 6) It does you no good, in other words, to ask God for wisdom regarding your trials if you don’t really believe He will give you that wisdom.

James says that you must ask “in faith,” that is, in the belief that God will do what is promised in v. 5. If you do not ask “in faith,” James warns, you are going to be tossed about like the surf of the sea. He means that you will be unsettled by your circumstances far more than is necessary. You will experience about and that will increase your anxiety and all of this is traceable to a lack of wisdom regarding how God leads us as His children.

James describes such a man. He should expect nothing from the Lord because he is “a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (vv. 7, 8) The word translated “double-minded” means just that—“having two minds.” And the term rendered “unstable” means “restless” or “fickle.” Without faith in God’s willingness to give wisdom, as James describes in v. 5, the man who is passing through a trial is going to be most uneasy. His double-mindedness only ends up adding to the severity of his trial, which only makes matters worse for him and those around him.

Now I must pause for a moment and admit that I do not believe nor expect you to believe that our testings in this life are always easy and that all we have to do is praying everything will be just fine. And as I speak about how to respond to the trials that God ordains for us, I do not mean to discount the harsh aspects of what we must face. And this is not what James is teaching.

He is teaching that there is a measure of discernment that God can provide for His people when they suffer. He is not teaching that there’s a formula for you to implement that will illuminate all of the unpleasant elements of the severe trial to which I referred previously. What James promises is that there is spiritual strength and insight provided by God who ordained the trial. This does not mean that our trials will be free of anxiety and it does not mean that we will simply “breeze through” any situation we happen to face in this life.

It does mean that God is able and willing to shepherd you through whatever it is He has determined is for your good and His glory so that, during those dark times, we may know for certain that God is with us and that He is working out His perfect will for us and that He has not and will not abandon us, but will bring glory to Himself through our misery. And that is knowledge that can cause us to have a measure of peace in our hearts that would otherwise not be possible without this promise from God and His willingness to keep His word.

I am sure you will remember something that the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians as his letter was coming to a close. They, too, had experienced a measure of testing as they embraced the gospel and began to organize themselves and, in particular, provide ongoing support for Paul. As a matter of fact, Paul wrote these words while imprisoned for his labors on behalf of Christ and the gospel.

While he is in the middle of a severe trial himself, the apostle urges the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always, which is an admonition that carries much significance since it was written by this servant during one of his extended trials. After encouraging joy at all times, Paul adds:

4:6 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Is this statement really different from what James writes? What is Paul’s counsel when it comes to being able to rejoice in all things? His counsel is prayer, his counsel is to seek God’s help and reveal your heart to Him. And then there is that wonderful promise, which is so similar to what James says: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

If God supplies that which “surpasses all comprehension,” that means that we cannot attain it without His help. We cannot rejoice in the Lord always unless we are seeking God’s grace to persevere. We cannot count it all joy, regardless of what we face in life, as James exhorts, unless we turn to God and, again, seek his grace so that we had a measure of understanding. And that understanding, that discernment, as Paul declares and as James promises, keeps us grounded and hopeful.

As I stated, what follows in vv. 9-11 is an illustration of what James has just written.

9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

James picks two extremes in the social order to illustrate the manner in which trials should be viewed and the positive results that trials accomplish. First, James speaks of “the brother of humble circumstances.” (v. 9) The word used to describe this first subject (tapeinos) literally means “not rising far above the ground.” Used figuratively, it refers to a lowly condition, a position of humility or, in some cases, a circumstance involving intense grief. Obviously, James has in mind a believer who is not wealthy, a man who, in fact, lacks most of the comforts of life. He is not necessarily destitute, but he is not far from that state.

How does that brother respond to the trials of life? How does he react to the fact that God has ordained such trying circumstances? Remembering James’ earlier command, “Consider it all joy, my brethren,” we have to conclude that James expects a man in such needy circumstances to react in the same manner as any other believer. Here, James says that this man is to “glory in his high position.” Note that language: he is to glory in his high position. How can this be?

The word “glory” here means “to boast” or “to rejoice.” How can the poor brother “boast” in his poverty? How can the poor man “rejoice” in his low estate? How can he give thanks, which is implied by the words of James, for such a life when he is tested daily by his situation? And how can such a circumstance be called a “high position,” indicating that it is a place or condition of honor? The answer is found in the previous section. He is to rejoice and find cause for giving thanks, not in spite of his suffering, but because of his suffering.

This brother knows that his testing is designed by God for his good; he knows that his trials are going to produce in him a complete faith, one that cannot be shaken by adversity. This is a great advantage to the brother of humble circumstances. He is daily being taught that having or not having is not the primary concern that should occupy his thoughts; he is daily reminded that what matters is knowing God and serving Him with all of his heart and strength. The brother of humble circumstances truly is blessed because his life is a continuing testimony to the sufficiency of God, to the willingness of God to supply his needs, and to the fact that God takes care of His own.

Being needy is a blessing, James teaches, a blessing, not a curse. It is a place of honor because the needy man must learn to rely upon his heavenly Father. The needy man cannot rely on his riches, for he has none; the needy man cannot be led away from devotion to God because he is so dependent upon God.

Notice what James says, by way of contrast, concerning the rich man. If the poor brother is to boast in his high position, then the rich man is to “glory” in his humiliation. (v. 10) Here, James offers a perspective on the trials that the rich man encounters. The rich man needs to learn the lessons that the poor man knows because trials are his life. The rich man faces all the temptations that the poor man does not face. The rich man may very well come to count on his possessions or on his ability to provide abundantly for himself. Therefore, his trials are designed to humble him, while the needy man’s trials are designed to exalt him.

The rich man must remember, James writes, that “like flowering grass he will pass away.” The grass that is one day beautiful to behold, is the next destroyed by the hot sun and scorching wind. The rich man must keep in mind that his many things will not endure any longer than he endures in this life—“so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.” Therefore, the rich man’s boast or source of glory must be in something other than his wealth. James says he should boast in the humility that he learns from being tried by the Lord. The rich man who encounters trials has much to lose, while the poor man has nothing to lose.

By citing these two examples, James illustrates how wisdom is to be found in the midst of trials. The brother of humble circumstances prays and discerns that he is, in fact, being exalted by his trials. The brother of considerable means prays and discerns that he is, in fact, being humbled by his trials. In both cases, what is caused by the trials is exactly what each man would need. The poor brother needs to be lifted up so that he does not despair; the rich brother needs to be abased so that he is not overcome by pride and a sense of self-sufficiency.

James shows how trials come to all and are needed by all. It is not just the poor man who needs to learn to trust God more and it is not just the rich man who needs to learn to trust himself less. All Christians need to learn the lessons that trials teach and James shows how there is wisdom in every trial when he cites these two extreme cases. His message is that no matter who you are, your faith needs refinement and no matter what your lot in life, you need to endure testing. No one is an exception because trials refine the heart of man before God.

We have this marvelous promise from God. He tells us to “ask in faith” for wisdom when we are undergoing a trial; He promises to give us wisdom and discernment so that we might develop at least a measure of discernment regarding our trials. We need to understand that this brings great stability to our lives.

A number of years ago, I was in the middle of some trying situation. I don’t even remember exactly what the issue was, but I do remember that I was totally absorbed in it and the trial was causing me a great amount of anguish. It was at that time that I came upon this passage in James and read it in a manner that I had never done before. I saw v. 5 and for the first time in my life, the verse made sense in context. Therefore, I did exactly what James advises and I began to pray for discernment. I asked God to give me an understanding regarding my situation. I wanted to know what outcome was intended by my trial.

One night, while I was sleeping, I woke up suddenly with a clear illustration of my trial in my head. At that very moment—and, as I recall, it was in the middle of the night—the purpose of my present trial became crystal clear. I remember thinking, “Now I understand exactly what is going on and why.” What happened was not a direct revelation of any kind, it was only God answering my prayer and allowing my mind to discern His purposes and the knowledge happened to come to my consciousness at that particular moment—no doubt because, even while I slept, my soul was greatly troubled.

I can tell you that I was so relieved, not because the trial was over, but because I understood why it was happening and I understood what was being accomplished by it. That was a definite turning point in my understanding of how to react to trials. I now pray not just for the grace to endure, but for an understanding or discernment of why the Lord has ordained the circumstance.

Matters do not always become as clear as they did in my quick illustration, but I have found that God does provide comfort, guidance, and, as it pleases Him, some discernment regarding what is transpiring. And this helps me keep in mind that what has come upon me has been appointed by God; and then all of the wonderful things that I know about God’s nature and His magnificent benevolence toward us comes into play.

When you are tested, when your faith is being refined, pray and ask God for wisdom so that you might understand what is being accomplished and pray for the grace to endure. Imagine how much better that is than sitting around wondering and fretting, which only adds to your anxiety.

Trials come to all of God’s people from God. In the illustration which James uses in vv. 9-11, we learn that trials are the great “leveler” of all men. No one escapes trials because no believer is beyond the need of refinement. When you are enduring a trial, you want to ask “Why me?” or “Why now?” Instead, James teaches that we should “consider it all joy” because our trial is for our benefit and we are not alone. Trials convince us of God’s love and His good intentions for us. Trials train us to depend on Him, regardless of our position in life.

Let’s pray.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 2 Number 7

August 29, 2013

Dressing Appropriately

From Pastor Bordwine

 

But you did not learn Christ in this way . . .

(Ephesians 4:20)

As we know, the apostle Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament epistles. He was the premier theologian for the early Church. Paul explains some of the most complex and essential doctrines of the faith. At the same time, Paul used a number of concepts to help believers understand not just the doctrine, but the application of the doctrine.

One of the apostle’s most helpful explanations of how doctrine should affect the day-to-day life of the believer comes in connection with his teaching on the process of change that takes place in the life of the sinner who embraces the gospel and is, consequently, born-again by the Holy Spirit. In the context of the verse quoted above, Paul is urging his readers to give careful consideration to the character of their lives now that they have become part of the Body of Christ.

Paul describes the previous character of those now being addressed as Christ’s people. They walked, he writes, “in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that [was] in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” (v. 18) In this spiritual state, Paul reminds them that they were callous and were given over to sensuality leading to “the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” (v. 19)

At this point, Paul writes: “But you did not learn Christ in this way . . .” He is emphasizing a critical fact, which is the inevitable spiritual change that takes place in the heart of a redeemed sinner. Those former traits had to give way to the Christ-like characteristics being developed in them by the Holy Spirit. They were being taught about truth, Paul goes on to say, as they participated in the new relationship they now had with Jesus, “just as truth is in Jesus.” (v. 21)

The apostle provides an extremely helpful image of this transition from life apart from Christ to life in and for Christ when he writes:

. . . 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Clothing is one of the most fundamental elements in our lives. The act of taking off one garment and putting on another is as common to our daily routines as anything else we do. We know that all clothing has a purpose and all clothing contributes to the image we project. Paul uses this universally familiar action to illustrate the crucial spiritual truth he is conveying.

The spiritual transition in which a born-again sinner gradually curtails former expressions of a fallen nature while increasingly manifesting the new characteristics of a regenerated nature is likened to the changing of garments. The wicked tendencies and displays of “the old self” are “laid aside” while the Christ-like inclinations and demonstrations of “the new self” are “put on.”

Paul continues and exhorts his readers regarding the “clothing” they should be putting on. Instead of falsehood, they should be “wearing” truth; instead of anger, self-control; instead of dishonesty, productivity; instead of destructive words, edifying speech; etc. (cf. vv. 25-32) A saving relationship with Christ will always give evidence of itself in our “appearance.”

The ongoing and inevitable change in character that Paul has been explaining is known as sanctification. Once we are born-again, the Holy Spirit begins remaking us in the image of the Savior. As we live out our days, we become more and more like Him in our desires and actions. Our spiritual “clothing” testifies to the reality of this continuing recreation.

Admittedly, I used the title of this devotional as a play on words, which is what Paul does as he helps believers understand the concept of sanctification. As one who has been regenerated, make sure that you are dressing appropriately.

 

All Saints Weekly Devotional

(volume 2, number 3)

April 18, 2013

Perseverance

Pastor Bordwine

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the topic of perseverance. Scripturally speaking, the term “perseverance” refers to remaining true to all the implications of our callings as Christians regardless of circumstances. Many think of perseverance as an attribute that is desired and needed primarily in conjunction with those times when we are facing some particularly difficult trial (note that the verse above relates to this perspective). The Bible teaches, however, that perseverance is not a quality to be manifested only occasionally under the most pressing of settings, but is a trait of character that must, by necessity, be exhibited at all times and under all conditions.

Because we are born-again and are guided by a holy disposition implanted and nurtured by the Spirit of Christ, we are in constant moral conflict due to the nature of our sinful environment. Our duty to remain faithful to God by interpreting and reacting to our circumstances according to the teaching of His Word is continually relevant throughout every day, in every conversation, and in every decision we make. In fact, the whole Christian experience, from the most routine aspects to the most demanding and painful, is an act of perseverance; it is an act of doing what God says instead of what the world expects (or even demands).

In addition to James 1:12, quoted above, there are several New Testament passages in which perseverance is highlighted. In every case, perseverance is presented as an indispensable component in a well-ordered, prosperous, and honorable life before God. For example, Paul identifies perseverance in tribulation as one of the means by which we develop proven character, which, in turn, strengthens our trust (or hope) in God and His promises. (cf. Rom. 5:3, 4; 8:24, 25) In other texts, perseverance is presented as having an ongoing, always active presence in our lives. (cf. Eph. 6:18, 19; 2 Thess. 1:3, 4; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Pet. 1:5-8)

Perseverance is not a facet of our Christian character that comes into play only now and then. To be a Christian is to persevere and overcome the world, as the apostle John explained. (cf. 1 John 5:4) A believer is a living expression of perseverance. Perseverance is living for God at every moment and in every situation, regardless of duration or severity.

As believers, we understand that we are called to remain faithful in learning and doing the will of God even when we face opposition. In every area of our lives, we are to seek to conform to God’s holy standard, which necessarily creates a state of tension because we exist in an environment that is in rebellion against His will. We are constantly challenged to do that which pleases God, rather than that which comes “naturally” in this fallen world. Perseverance in holiness, therefore, is one of the fundamental components in living as a Christian.

Persevering is “what we do” this side of heaven. As already explained, the Christian life is an extended act of perseverance. I believe that this truth can be especially encouraging to those who find themselves having to endure prolonged trials. If we think that the ability to persevere becomes most significant only when we are facing some unexpected and unusually burdensome ordeal, then we may very well find ourselves losing hope if, in fact, such a hardship continues week after week or even year after year. On the other hand, maintaining the Biblical point of view on this matter of perseverance will prevent us from questioning the wisdom of God, according to which our lives, including the most unpleasant of times, are ordered.

As a child of God, whether my most demanding days are few or many, I am always persevering; I am always overcoming and never surrendering; I am always pressing forward and never stepping backward. (cf. Gal. 6:9; Phil. 3:12; 2 Pet. 1:10)

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 31

September 6, 2012

Restoration

From Pastor Bordwine

 

 

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;

the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

(2 Cor. 5:17)

Among the most popular television shows these days are those having to do with the restoration of old, worn-out products to a “like new” status. The process can be quite tedious, although most of the gritty details are left out of the final video presentation. Typically, the audience sees the “before” picture that shows how dilapidated the item is and how improbable it seems that it could ever be returned to an attractive and functioning condition. After letting us observe a few of the steps involved, such as finding rare parts and straightening bent metal, the show focuses on the finished product, which is always a surprising and pleasing contrast to the original.

The theme of restoration permeates Scripture. It is one of the primary aspects of the gospel, in fact. That which is ruined and offensive is rescued, recreated, and restored to a place of dignity. I’m referring, of course, to us—fallen men and women who were ruined and had no good or honorable purpose to serve except to be the objects of God’s righteous indignation. Although we came from the hand of God pure and capable of bringing glory to Him, disobedience rendered us useless; we became unable and even unwilling to honor our Creator and dedicated ourselves instead to self-promotion and self-preservation.

God would have been completely just had He left us in our state of sin and misery. In spite of His clear warning, our first parents ignored the commandment of their Maker and acted according to their own wisdom. The result was catastrophic. But then a love that we can barely comprehend was manifested toward us in the form of a Savior who was God in the flesh. The penalty of our sin fell upon Jesus, our Substitute. The Holy Spirit gave us new life and began to build us all over again, from the inside out, so to speak.

Any restoration requires at least two critical elements: knowledge of how the finished product should look and the skill to achieve that end result. When it comes to the human soul, only God, our omnipotent Designer, has both knowledge and skill. Salvation, therefore, is a restoration project in which a fallen, deformed, and corrupted creature is returned to a state of honor. This is the most amazing restoration of all and this is how the Bible describes what happens to the sinner who is called out of darkness into the light of redemption.

In the case of a sinner, the primary issue in need of attention is his history of transgressions. This is what stands between the creature and the Creator and this is why the wrath of God hangs over the head of the fallen individual. Therefore, God’s restoration of us includes a provision for taking away our guilt. As just mentioned, that provision is Jesus Christ. By dying in our place, He enabled our full restoration by the Holy Spirit.

As Paul indicates in the verse quoted above, what we were is replaced with what we are becoming. We are “new creatures,” he writes. Throughout our lives, we are engaged in the restoration project. Gradually, the Holy Spirit returns us to a state of purity and dedication to our original purpose, which is the glorification of God. Some days, you may feel as if the work on you has ceased or has been unproductive, but rest assured that, once begun, your restoration will be completed. This is the inevitable conclusion to the sacrifice of our wonderful Savior.

Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Toward the end of Heb. 5, the writer is continuing his explanation of the priesthood of Christ when he refers to Melchizedek, the somewhat mysterious figure who met Abraham as the patriarch returned from rescuing Lot (Gen. 14). The writer intended to explain how Melchizedek was a type of Christ, the High Priest of the New Covenant, but hesitated due to the immaturity of his audience. These believers were not recent converts, which made their lack of understanding even more serious.

The text indicates that they had been trained in basic doctrine at some point in the past. (cf. 13:7) The writer expected them to be capable, spiritually speaking, of receiving and benefiting from some significant and complex teaching regarding the ministry of Jesus Christ. In fact, he declares that these believers should be teaching others by this point. This additional information would help complete their understanding of the ministry of the Savior and more precisely reveal the nature of His relationship to the Church.

The phrase, “elementary principles,” refers to the first in a series or the first element on which every other element in the group depends. In this context, the writer is referring to primary Christian doctrine. The readers of this epistle did not have a solid foundation, doctrinally speaking, which left them unprepared for instruction that necessarily would rest on those first principles. Although they were not new converts, as noted, they still could not accept the “solid food” of Biblical revelation; at their present level of maturity, they could only “digest” the simplest of instruction (referred to as “milk” in this text).

The cause for this situation is identified in vv. 13 and 14. These believers had not made sufficient effort to learn and apply what they already had been taught. They remained “infants” in terms of their theological perception. Therefore, this passage illustrates how adversely we may be affected if we ignore, forget, or count as unimportant our doctrinal “ABC’s.”

In the beginning, a believer learns the rudimentary elements of our belief system. As time passes and by God’s grace, he endeavors to conform to that divine standard. This is the process of sanctification. Maturity comes as the convert progressively builds doctrine upon doctrine, as it were, while also continuing efforts to apply what is being learned.

Regretfully, I recently experienced a real life example of what can happen when a congregation becomes convinced of its theological superiority and, at the same time, neglects the foundational teachings of the Bible in regard to telling the truth, handling offenses, protecting reputations, avoiding gossip, forgiving one another, and demonstrating simple Christian charity (see also my recent post “Remembering What We Have Received”).

In what turned out to be my last sermon for this church, one of the issues I emphasized was my perception that we, as a body of believers, were not giving appropriate attention to many of the elementary commands in Scripture. Over a period of two or three years, I told the congregation that I noticed a disturbing increase in the number of relationships being shattered. In almost every case, it was apparent to me that the basic obligations given to us by God were being neglected (see my partial list in the paragraph above). With such foundational imperatives being discarded, intense turmoil was bound to follow.

The level and intensity of the destruction that has taken place in this church is well beyond anything I’ve ever heard of or witnessed. But, as I just said, it was inevitable. When believers set aside our elementary obligations regarding how we treat one another, the way is cleared for horrendous abuses. Sin that is practically unrestrained is a frightening thing to encounter; it gains momentum rapidly, begins to consume, and expands. But that is what we face when we ignore the “ABC’s” of Christian conduct. In my opinion, much trouble in the church could be avoided if we concentrated on the foundational commands of God; this commitment would keep us from becoming arrogant, overly confident, and hypocritical. We should never allow ourselves to reach the point where our expanded knowledge of doctrine obscures basic relational requirements.

My anxious heart is open

Before You, O Lord, today.

Let your blessed Holy Spirit come

And have His perfect way.

 

Turn my eyes from things not pure,

My mind from things so vain.

Instead let my troubled soul be filled

With joy and praise for Your holy name.

 

Remove from me the dross of sin.

Lead me through Your refining flames.

Hold fast to me, O Father above,

Assuring me You are forever the same.

 

I am weary and my strength runs low,

My sight once clear grows faint.

But I trust You Lord as You reveal Your will

To guide and sanctify this restless saint.

 

When night is gone and the morning breaks new,

The cloudless blue sky will appear.

And I will know without fear or doubt

That You, my God, were always near.

 

Then by Your free and eternal love,

My heart will have known Your boundless grace.

With all wounds healed and hope renewed,

I will eagerly return to my earthly race.