Posts Tagged ‘conditional promises’

Drawing Near, and Dwelling

Drawing Near, and Dwelling

© 5/5/2020 C. O. Bishop

James 4:8-10; Psalm 91:1; Psalm 15 and others

Introduction:

We need to talk about the difference between our position in Christ, and our condition as we attempt to walk with Him. The two are not the same, and, while both are clearly defined in scripture, we tend to confuse the two, or decide that only one of them really matters. Both of those failings are traps we need to avoid.

Remember, as we read, that James is speaking to believers. These “brethren” to whom he addressed himself are all persons who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ; in His righteousness, His Blood, His finished work at the Cross, His resurrection and His coming again. They are already Christians! So, with that in mind, let’s read the next three verses, and ask some questions about their meaning.

Draw Near to God

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

How can one “draw near to God?” Obviously, this is a somewhat rhetorical question: He does not occupy just a single location in space or time, where we can physically go to meet with Him, though many people think of Him in that way: Frequently people feel that if they go to a specific place (a church-house, a temple, a special place outdoors, etc.) then they are “going where God is.” Many churches actually encourage such thinking, referring to their physical building as “the house of God.”) The Old Testament believers had an unusual, special time, during which God promised that He would actually take up residence in the Tabernacle (and, later, in Solomon’s Temple,) and that people literally could approach Him there. So, when Jesus spoke of the Temple as being “my Father’s House,” he was addressing a literal reality. That temple (rebuilt by Herod the Great) was destroyed in AD 70, however, and it had ceased to function as the “house of God” long before it was finally destroyed.

But even the Old Testament scriptures teach that God is Omnipresent…everywhere at once. Solomon (who built that great original temple) acknowledged that the entire creation could not contain God, so how could this building of stone do so? Both the New Testament and the Old Testament teach that God does not “dwell” in a house made by human hands. In fact, in the church epistles, we discover that the Church, proper—the people—are now the “habitation of God!” Together, the people of the Church at large, comprise the “Temple of God,” and He personally indwells every member of the Body of Christ.

Remember, James is only speaking to believers! So, I cannot get more close to God, physically: He already surrounds me entirely, inside and out. Since that is the case, and we are not being exhorted to get physically closer to “wherever God is”, what really is the intent of this passage? What is James encouraging you to do? Let’s compare some other passages:

Hebrews 4:16 exhorts us to “…come boldly unto the throne of Grace…”

Hebrews 10:19-22 says,

19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Neither of these two exhortations could have been literally followed, even though the temple in Jerusalem still existed at the time they were written. No one but the High Priestcould enter the holy place under any circumstances, and he only once a year.

Draw near, by Faith, as a matter of Practice

But all the believers were being encouraged to “enter in”, and to “draw near” by faith. And that is how we do it, too. We enter into the relationship by faith, initially; and every day (indeed every moment,) we can choose to maintain that “holy place” relationship by faith. Hebrews 11:6 states that it is impossible to please God without faith. The rest of Hebrews 11 is called the “faith-chapter” for good reason: it underscores the necessity and vital importance of faith in our walk with Jesus.

Colossians 2:6 says, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” How did you receive the Lord? Was it by works? By reciting a creed? Going to church? Praying a prayer? You may have done all these things, and I have no doubt that they were done in all sincerity; but please remember that is possible to be sincerely wrong. Romans 3:25 makes it clear that faith alone, and specifically faith in the shed blood of Jesus, the Savior, is what makes us eligible to receive the Grace of God, offered through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

So…when I ask someone how they became a believer, that is what I am hoping to hear. If they tell me “I went forward at a tent meeting…” or something, I am worried, because it sounds as though their faith is in something they did…not the finished work of Christ at the Cross.

This is why Paul said, in 1st Corinthians 2:2,”For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” He was preaching the Cross, because he knew that, otherwise, his audience would place their faith in something else—anything else. We don’t like the Cross! It was the equivalent of a gallows, or an electric chair, only worse: a truly “cruel and unusual punishment.” We would rather think that we can do something good, which will put us in good standing before God. But God made the rules: We are saved by Grace through Faith alone (Ephesians 2:8, 9) and that is how we are to walk with Him as well

Walking by Faith denies self—it excludes pride and self-will. It confesses that “I can do nothing.” Jesus said in John 15:3, “Apart from Me ye can do nothing.” If anyone else says that, it is a statement of supreme arrogance, and it is utterly offensive to the hearers. But when Jesus said it, it was the simple truth. There is nothing we can accomplish of eternal value, without Him being the motivator and source of authority and power. This is what Jesus called “abiding.” It is just a fact. On our own, we produce nothing of eternal value. In Christ, walking by faith, everything we do, regardless of how mundane, has eternal worth, because we are in obedience, doing His will! Abide in Christ, abide in the Tabernacle…dwell in His Holy place!

Dwelling with God

Psalm 91:1He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” The Psalmist suggests that it is possible to “dwell in the secret place of the Most High”, not just visit there once in a while. Further, it says that the one who does so, deliberately, by choice and by faith, will “abide under the Shadow of the Almighty.” Surely that is worth the struggle, to maintain that sort of close relationship with the Creator, Savior and Judge of all the Earth.

Psalm 15 reads as follows:

1Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.

So, not only is it possible to “abide in the tabernacle,” and “dwell in His holy hill,” (at that time, the temple mount) but He goes on to say what kind of behavior goes along with the privilege. This is not a blanket promise to all believers: this is very definitely a “conditional promise.” We have read many of God’s unconditional promises, all of which are true of every believer. But this one, and many others like it, are dependent upon how we respond to God, and the resulting ways that we respond to the people around us. Notice, please, that every single one of the “conditions” listed in Psalm 15 are describing how we are to deal with other humans, with the possible exception of “speaking the truth in his heart.” That one may have to do with being honest before the Lord, since only He can see the heart; but it would still affect our interpersonal dealings.

In James 4:8, we are exhorted to “cleanse” our hands, as sinners, and “purify” our hearts, from being double-minded. So my behavior and my heart-motives are both in question, as I attempt to draw near to God. I cannot “draw near” to God, if I am mistreating other people in any way, or even just submitting myself to my Old Sin Nature, in pride, or lust, or covetousness, etc. Psalm 66:18 says that “if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” God won’t even listen to my prayers, if I am sinning…even just in my heart. (Jesus confirms this, when he “upgraded the Law” by saying that if I am angry without cause against a brother, then I am in danger of judgment, just as if I were a murderer; and that if I am secretly desiring sexual sin, I am just as wrong as if I were literally committing adultery…he said that I am already doing so in my heart! There’s that heart-motive thing again!)

 In Ephesians 4:31, 32, it says that I am to lay aside all bitterness, and wrath and anger (all of which are inward attitudes) and clamor and evil speaking (it is starting to come out my mouth, here), along with all malice (the underlying heart-issue.)

Morally, and in terms of His character, God has never “moved” nor changed His “position.” He defines perfection. We embraced His promise by faith, and received eternal life through our Savior. We are also invited to embrace His righteousness by faith, and to see our thoughts, values and behaviors change. As they change, and as we learn to walk with God, we will find that He also continually reaches out to us, to steady us in our walk, and to encourage us to “climb higher”, grow stronger, etc. As we “draw near to Him” on a character plane, He draws near to us, not by changing His position, but by reaching out to us, and helping us along toward Himself.

Proverbs 2 (and, I strongly recommend that you read this, slowly, meditating on the meaning) describes the relational efforts involved with “drawing near to God.” It seems to involve much time in God’s Word, much time in Prayer, and a good deal of soul-searching, for lack of a better word. It is not an easy process. It takes effort!

This part of the Christian life is entirely conditional.  None of the walk of faith is guaranteed to us, except the result of obedience, which is eternal reward. Although the promises of God regarding salvation itself are only conditional upon faith, and the truths regarding the believer’s new position are dependent only upon that position “in Christ”, it is entirely possible to live one’s whole life as a believer, and never learn to enter in and enjoy a close walk with God. In fact, tragically, it is quite common.

All of God’s blessing and relational joy is available to all believers at all times, but none of it is guaranteed, without the deliberate choice, on a moment-by-moment basis, to walk with God. The problem is that it involves a constant battle: our old nature, the Flesh, is not at all in agreement, and the World constantly works to distract and dissuade us, while Satan finds ways to trip us up. (See James 3:15, where these three sources are named.)

How should we respond to knowing that we are NOT walking with God?

James makes it clear that it is far beyond “sobering” to discover that all your investments, so to speak, have been wasted: Knowing that all your life is being wasted, and that your hope of eternal reward is vanishing, should bring total remorse and repentance! Remember that “repentance” means a change of mind. We are to drop our old pattern of thinking, realize what it has cost us, and adopt a new outlook, causing a radical change in our behavior as well.

Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Repentance (Greek, metanoia”…meaninga “change of mind, resulting in change of behavior”) has to result in humility, sufficient to cause us to let go of our old priorities, and begin to seize upon the priorities of God. And He says that if we choose to humble ourselves before Him and change our priorities; then He will reach out to lift us up, and honor us in His way, instead of whatever manner we had been attempting to satisfy our own desires for fulfillment. That may seem a hard choice to make, but it is a good one.

We might take this as meaning to “lift us up” in terms of help, in hard times, and, indeed, it could include that. But, consider Stephen, who had already been walking a humble, Spirit-filled life, and was faithfully serving the poor as described in Acts chapter six; but, as he was being falsely accused (chapter seven) the scripture says he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and his face was literally shining, so that he resembled some heavenly, angelic creature: Then Jesus met Him at the Father’s side, by standing, thus “exalting him in due time” (1st Peter 5:6). But his enemies were still allowed to stone him. He was exalted in that he was martyred. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15) He was not “helped” as we would seek help: being rescued from pain or death, shame, or some financial misfortune.

There are no promises of health or wealth, or physical safety and comfort for Church-age believers. Quite the contrary: Philippians 1:29 plainly states that “unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” This is not a comfortable thought, perhaps; but please bear in mind that we have already been joined with Him in His death, His resurrection, and His ascension: He has assured us of our position with Him for eternity. We are also to expect a certain measure of His suffering as a part of our position in Christ.

To me, the rich promises of the blessings of simply walking with God far outweigh the certainty that there will be rough times. When Psalm 15 was written, the battles were quite real and physical. The blessings of God were in focus in that Psam, so fully that the stresses of daily life were completely off the table…not even being considered. The Psalmist wanted to walk with God, not just be saved. He wanted to dwell in God’s Holy Hill, in the Holy Place with God, not just visit there, once in a while.

I think it is fitting that believers today, indwelt by the Holy Spirit should desire that closeness even more, and seek His face even more earnestly.

Give this some thought, and re-examine the scriptures we have read. Ask yourself where your focus really is, and how it might look different if you were walking by faith, and dwelling in the Holy place with Jesus.

This is a matter of continuous re-examination and continual attention. It isn’t something we can “do once” and be done with it. It is a practical outworking of our real life in Christ.

Blessings upon you as you seek His face.


Justified by Faith

Justified by Faith—What Then?

© C. O. Bishop 9/27/15 THCF 10/4/15

Romans 5:1-11

Introduction:

We have been studying the book of Romans, and have just completed chapter four, where we examined the question of “What saved Abraham?” We were able to determine that it was definitely faith that saved Abraham; that God definitely accounted him righteous based strictly upon faith. We saw that we are saved by the same means. When we placed our trust in Jesus as our savior, we became children of God, and were permanently counted righteous by the Holy God who had once condemned us as lost sinners. The righteousness of Christ was posted to our individual accounts as we trusted in Him.

That is our foundation: the righteousness of Christ. The rest of the epistle to the Romans is building on that foundation-stone, the Person of Christ in the individual’s life. So, the first thing Paul addresses is that particular aspect of our new life in Christ.

We ARE Justified, and we HAVE Peace with God

5

1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Therefore (on the basis of all that we read in chapter four) being justified (declared righteous) by faith (not works), we have (present tense) peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Now there is an awful lot in that verse alone! Notice this is peace with God. Peace between us and Him; He is no longer condemning us as lost sinners, as in Romans chapter three. We are no longer at war with one another. (Did you know that you were an enemy of God, by birth? Take a peek at verse ten, down below! It says that “when we were enemies” he died for us!) But now, we have peace with God through our Lord (Greek; “kurios” — master) Jesus Christ. Later on we will look at a different kind of Peace—the Peace of God. But this Peace is peace with God.

This is a positional truth: my position has changed: my location has changed, so, as a result, my standing has changed. I am now in Christ, so my standing has been changed from “dead in sins” to “alive in Christ”. I went from being condemned by God as a lost sinner to being declared righteous by that same Holy God, on the basis of faith in the blood of Jesus. I went from being an enemy of God by natural birth, to being a child of God by spiritual re-birth. I have peace with God, and it cannot be lost. Romans chapter four states that God will never again impute sin to me. He sees me as permanently righteous. Where? How? In Christ, through Christ, by means of Christ. (By the way, in case anyone is wondering, “Christ” is just the Greek form of “Messiah”— the anointed one.)

Consider, then: my standing has been permanently changed to being “In Christ”. But what about my “state?” My condition? My condition can change from day to day, or even from moment to moment. In fact, the Peace of God, that we mentioned a moment ago is completely conditional. It depends upon my “state”, not my “standing”. My standing is permanently perfect in Christ. My state varies wildly, like Oregon weather. But, in reality, my “state” or condition only has two possibilities, as well. I am either in fellowship, or out of fellowship. There is no “in-between.”

We will address the issue of fellowship more fully as we read more.

We HAVE Access to God

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

In Hebrews 10:19-22, (turn there) we see that we are invited to “draw near” to God “through the veil, that is to say, His flesh”.  Remember the tapestry they called the “veil” in the temple? It was a thick opaque fabric that hung from floor to ceiling (60 feet tall), between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the Holy Place. Only the high priest could enter there, and that only once a year. There was no other approach to the Ark of the Covenant; the Mercy Seat—the throne of God. And the priest had to go under the veil to enter.

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The way was opened for any believer to enter. We are told in Hebrews 10 that the veil represented the body of the Messiah. When he died, the veil was torn; and the way to God is open. We are to enter through that veil: through his broken flesh at the Cross. There is no other access to God. The access we have, initially, at salvation, is by faith in Jesus and his shed blood. The continuing access we have as believers is by the same means. The reason we can speak in prayer, and know that God hears us, is because we have access to him via the Lord Jesus Christ. We enter His presence in the sure knowledge of his sacrifice giving us access to the Father. This is why Jesus said (John 14:6) “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” He meant it quite literally.

This is both a positional and a conditional truth. Because I am in Christ, positionally, I have access to God, and He will never condemn me. He is literally my Father, now; whereas, before I was in Christ, He was only my creator. He is available to me regardless of my condition. But, if I am not in fellowship with Him, then I still cannot approach Him in prayer without confessing my sins. Psalm 66:18 says “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me.” It is not that He cannot hear me; it is that He will not listen, if I am in sin.

1st John 1:5-7 states three things:

  1. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all
  2. If I say that I have fellowship with Him, but I walk in darkness, I am lying. I can’t have fellowship with God when I am in sin…when there is unconfessed sin in my life.
  3. If I walk in the light as He is in the light, I can have fellowship with him (and with other believers.)

There are two uses of the noun “light”, in scripture. One is in regard to natural light—photons—physical light. The other has to do with spiritual light; moral light—the continuing knowledge of God. Jesus is the Light of the world in the second sense, and will someday be the light of the world in the physical sense as well. I think the scripture makes it clear in Genesis that He was originally the physical light of the world, but gave that function to the heavenly luminaries on the fourth day of creation. They will not be needed after the New Heaven and New Earth are in place. The Lamb will once again be the light.

So: for the moment, the light in which we are to “walk” is the light of God’s Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. We are told that if we do not walk in the light, we cannot have fellowship with God. (By the way, this is an eternal truth. There has never been a time when a person could be in sin and have fellowship with God. Amos 3:3 indicates that two cannot “walk together, except they be agreed”.)

We have access to God by faith. We come to him, knowing that we are saved, but still sinners. We approach through confession (1st John 1:9) believing that he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Then we can bring our worship and praise and thanksgiving, or make our petition, praying for others or ourselves.

It helps me to remember the proper order of things when I think of the admonition that we are to “cast” our cares upon Him. (1st Peter 5:7) Using the letters of the word “CAST” in an acrostic:

  • C (Confession)
  • A (Adoration—worship, praise, etc.)
  • S (Supplication…intercessory prayer, prayer for mercy, blessing, specific needs, etc.)
  • T (Thanksgiving)

Now: does my prayer have to take this exact form? Of course not. But if I am hiding sin in my heart, I need to be aware that God does not obligate himself to listen to other issues. The sin issue must be dealt with first. After that, we are free to bring our thoughts and concerns to Him. By the way, this is how we receive the Peace of God. (Philippians 4:6, 7) “Be careful for nothing, but in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God, and the Peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Do you see how that is a conditional Peace?

He gave a command: “Be anxious for nothing, but in every thing, by Prayer…”  Do you see how, if you do NOT obey the command, you will not receive the Peace? So, the condition was obedience…obedience to a specific command.

Before we move on, let’s compare the two ideas; position and condition: When we say that salvation is “positional, not conditional” do we mean that there are no conditions to be met in order to be saved from our sins? No—there were two conditions: Jesus said “He that hears my words” (there’s the first condition) “and believes on Him who sent me” (there’s the second condition) “HAS everlasting life.” There’s the promise. But the fact is, after having met those two conditions (hearing the Gospel and believing in it), there are no more conditions. The transaction is permanent. And our standing in Him is secure forever, because it is unconditional. My state is another matter, entirely, and depends on how I am responding to Him right now.

But our future is secure, and we hope in the Glory of God

We Hope in the Glory of God

We know that the Glory of God is what sustained the nation of Israel during their flight from Egypt; in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. His glory stood between them and the pursuing army the night before they crossed the Red Sea. His glory filled the tabernacle, so that none could enter, on the first day is was completed, and His Glory shone from Sinai, filling the sky and air with thunder and dark clouds. Later, that same burning glory shone from the newly completed Temple that Solomon had built.

The disciples were witnesses of his personal glory: God the Son, in His glorified body, on the mount of transfiguration. We will be transformed to be like him, in our new bodies. And, today, the hope of his glory now sustains us, as we live in a life that is not particularly glorious, and is sometimes filled with grief and pain, disease, and death. We know how life got that way, and are looking forward to seeing the end of the story, as we have already been told how it ends.

We Glory in our Hard Times

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Meanwhile, knowing the glory of God, in the dimmest sense, we ourselves can, and should glory in tribulations, knowing that the hard times we now endure will have wonderful results; increasing our patience, building experience, and deepening hope. The hope we have in Christ affects us in a positive way, not negative. Even if we hope for things we do not live long enough to see, we are not made ashamed, because it results in the Love of God flowing through us by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Consider how many millions of God’s saints have lived their whole lives in hope of His coming, knowing it would happen, but not knowing when…just like you and I. In fact, even the Old Testament believers were looking for the coming Messiah. Job said “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand upon the earth in the latter day…” Job lived about 2000 years B.C.! And he was living in hope, waiting for a coming Redeemer. The effect upon his life was that he trusted God in the hardest of times. His testimony was good, and he has eternal reward.

But where did we start out?

Remember Where We Started

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Paul briefly reminds us that it is specifically through Jesus’ death that we have access to God. He says that we had nothing to offer—we were without strength. And, as a final reminder of our real (former) position outside of Christ, he reminds us that we were not “innocent bystanders”, but decidedly ungodly. We were not “nice little misguided waifs”, but hell-bound sinners!

We would find it a hard decision to deliberately give our life for someone else. All our training and nature says “preserve self at all cost”. Even if we could see that the person involved is a valuable, righteous person, and a good man, to boot, it would be hard. Military personnel receive rigorous enough training that they might do so. A parent might do so, for a child; or a spouse for his or her partner. These are all examples of responding to the need of friends, family, etc. But Jesus did not die for “good people”, or for his friends—he died for bad people, his enemies: us.

What is the Result?

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

So (Paul’s logic continues), since Jesus deliberately died for us when we were lost, rebellious, hell-bound sinners, how much more, now, as the children of God, will we not be kept by Him? He did the hard part of the work to save us when we truly were of very questionable value. Now, since we are the literal children of God, He sees us as being of unquestionable worth… not because of anything we have done, but because of the new creation He has made in us. He will not lose us under any conditions. Paul says that as we were reconciled (permanently) with God through his death, we shall (continually) be saved by his life. As a result, we rejoice in God, through Christ, because we now have that reconciliation. He has declared us righteous, and we are already reconciled to God…whether we feel that way or not.

Jesus spoke briefly on this subject, too: He said that He knows His sheep, and they hear His voice, and they follow Him, and He gives them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

Do you see why this is a critically important doctrine to a believer? Paul is making a point of letting us know the logic of and the security of the believer’s standing with God. He is arming us against the creeping, whispering fear that comes to the believer and suggests, “Well, now you’ve done it! God will never forgive you now! You promised Him you would never do that again, and here you are again, wallowing in sin! You may as well just give up!” (From whom do you think that attack is coming? God is giving you the defense against that attack!)

If you understand that Jesus died for you when you were an enemy of God, and utterly lost, and that as a re-born child of God, you are infinitely more precious to God now than ever before, then you should be able to see that He will never allow you to be lost. He will continue to keep you in Christ, and will continue to shape your life into His own likeness, rebuilding you to be to His Glory.

Let’s daily learn to trust Him more, and allow him to shape us in that way.

Lord Jesus, give us the Grace to trust in your mercy, and in your Love. Teach us to walk with you by faith, and to be a blessing to those around us as a result. Help us to grow to be the men and women of God that you have called us to be.