Answers from the Mouth of God (Part 2)
© C. O. Bishop 2010 revised 2021
Introduction: (Part two)
Last week we explored some common questions in believers’ lives: (How can I be sure I am Saved? What should I do when I don’t “feel saved?” and What breaks fellowship?) As a beginning premise, we established that we need to turn to the Bible as the written Word of God, to find answers. It is not just a “rule book.” It is God’s written communication to us. Jesus is identified as being the Word of God, in several places. We can call Him the Living Word, the Word made Flesh, etc. But we are to treat the Written Word, the Bible, as if He himself were speaking to us: because He is! So, today, we need to further explore the questions that cause us doubt, and see whether we can shine the light of God’s Word on those issues. To review, briefly:
What do I do when I don’t “feel saved?”
Think back: review what it takes to be saved. Ask yourself: “Have I ever placed my full trust in Jesus’ blood; His completed work at the cross as being sufficient to pay for all my sins?” If the answer is “Yes,” then salvation is not the issue: probably you are simply out of fellowship with God. (Another possibility: You may just have sad feelings caused by fatigue, guilt, or grief.)
What breaks fellowship?
In a word, “Sin!” Only sin breaks fellowship with God. Amos 3:3 says that two cannot walk together unless they are in agreement; Psalm 66:18 says that if I am holding sin in my heart, God will not hear me. God is not angry at you. He desires to have fellowship with you. If you are not “holding out on Him” by clinging to known sin, then you are free to enjoy His presence and His blessing. Elijah was not in sin, when he was hiding in the desert, under the juniper tree. He was overwhelmed with fatigue and fear. God did not rebuke him: He first met Elijah’s physical needs and only then, afterward, corrected his thinking.
Romans chapter 6 assures me that I do not have to sin. But, Romans 6:16 says that when I choose to submit myself to sin, I temporarily become a slave to it again(and it is always a choice!)
“God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1st John 1:5, 6) So, if we say that we have fellowship with Him, but our lives don’t match His truth, then we are fooling ourselves. We are not in fellowship. Then, how do we restore fellowship? By confession. 1st John 1:9 “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession is not “groveling and begging for forgiveness:” it is agreeing with God (that is what “confession” means) that our behavior or thoughts were sin, and then stopping it. If it happens again, confess it again! Some things take longer to break ourselves of than others.
And, finally, how do we maintain fellowship? By obedience. 1st John 1:7 “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the Blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.”
Walking with Jesus
Can Sin be eradicated from our lives? 1st John 1:8, 10 says that if we think we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and, if we think we have never had a sin problem, then we are actually making God a liar. So, in the same manner as Paul struggled with his indwelling sin nature (Romans 7,) we also must fight against it. It’s just a simple fact.
Colossians 2:6 says we are to walk in Christ in the same way we received Him–(by faith). Walking implies a continuous action, not a one-time action. It also implies a step-by-step, relatively slow action, not an idea of moving by “leaps and bounds”, nor of coasting, gliding, or sprinting. In light of the verses listed above, and the wealth of information given to believers concerning how to live the Christian life, I think I can say that we will not be without sin until the day we see Jesus. 1 John 3:2 says, “ then we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
The Christian life includes battles, in which we are expected to stand fast. (Ephesians 6:10-18 describes the armor of God, and tells who the enemy is, as well as who it is not; James 4:7 says we are to submit to God and resist Satan; 1 Peter 5:8, 9 says that the enemy is deadly, and that he stalks us, but that we are to resist him steadfastly.) The key is to be filled with, or to walk in, or be led by the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18 “be filled with the Spirit”; Galatians 5:16-23 “…walk in the Spirit”; Romans 8:14 “be led by the Spirit”. All three are the same idea.) The Christian life is only possible by the indwelling, presiding Holy Spirit living it through us, moment by moment.
So, What about my “feelings of unworthiness?”
To begin with, let’s stop, and just admit it: if I am examining my own personal abilities, strengths, or righteousness, then of course I’m unworthy! So are you, and so is the whole human race! We are all sinners! But, if you are a born-again child of God, then God is not looking at those things in your life; so why are you? (By the way, false guilt can cause just as much damage as real guilt!)
God has already permanently placed you into the body of Christ; (1 Cor. 12:13 says that we were all “baptized into one Body of Christ, by the same Holy Spirit”), and He has already seated you with Christ in the heavenly places; (Ephesians 2:6 says that we have been raised with Christ and are seated with him in Heaven,) and He has sealed you in Christ. (Ephesians 1:13, 14 says we are sealed in Him by the Holy Spirit until the redemption of the purchased possession …us!)
You are already perfect in Him (Ephesians 4:24 says that your new nature has been created in the likeness of God, in righteousness and true Holiness), and you (past tense) have been made the Righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 says that Christ became sin for us, though He knew no sin, so that we could be made the righteousness of God in Him.) God no longer sees your sin at all, except as a hindrance to the blessing and work He wants to accomplish in you. According to Jesus’ promise, you will never be condemned. (John 5:24).
How would you feel, if, after a few tries trying to learn to tie his shoes, your four-year-old child declared himself a failure, and unworthy to be called your son? The issue of whether he could tie his shoes is ultimately insignificant: it has no bearing whatsoever on whether he is your son. The same is true in our relationship with God the Father. We became children of God by rebirth, upon receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior. Our works have nothing to do with salvation.
Our good works are only possible because we are children of God; they are not required in order to make us children of God. An unbeliever may do good works, possibly even more consistently than most believers, but he does it for a different reason, and his good works will not change his lost standing before God. Works are simply not in the picture, except as a result of Salvation.
Feelings are not Trustworthy.
We need to recognize that feelings are only valid when they reflect reality…they are not usually a safe measure of reality. Amusement parks capitalize on this fact: they make us feel as though we are falling when we are actually relatively safe. Magicians make us think we see things that we actually know are not true. But the fact of God’s Word is reality. We place our faith in His Word, and we change our way of life to match His principles…we embrace His values as our own. Feelings of deep joy and satisfaction, and awe at the majesty of God should follow.
But there will always be the likelihood that our feelings may not reliably reflect the reality of our new relationship with God. So, we need to constantly review the facts, and bask in the glory of God’s presence in His Word and in fellowship with other believers, to insulate ourselves from the negative feelings that besiege us in the unbelieving World. God’s Word reveals which feelings are from Him, and which are from our old sin nature. Satan will try to use my old nature as a tool to render me unprofitable to God. That is part of the battle—avoiding the traps he sets for our minds. In fact, that is what the “Helmet of Salvation” is all about in Ephesians 6:17. The assurance of our salvation is what guards our minds against Satan’s attacks.
What about when I “forgive” someone, but I am still angry?
This is an example where feelings do reveal what is really in our hearts. Consider this: if I forgive a debt someone owes me, it means they no longer owe me! The debt is cancelled, which means I must fully accept and absorb that loss. That is why Jesus had to go to the Cross, in order to forgive our sins. He bore the loss, the broken law, the weight of the shame and guilt of the lost world, and He took the punishment we deserved. So, when I say the words, “I forgive…” it means “I accept the loss, the hurt, the injury received, and I no longer hold the other person responsible.” So, when the angry feelings come back, I need to confess that the feelings are not from God and that they are a manifestation of my old nature. I can confess my anger as sin! I can set it aside, and accept that “yes, I was injured,” and decide again, “I no longer hold anyone else responsible.”
Someone has pointed out that “Anger is like a large, heavy bell: it took several pulls on the rope to get it ringing, to begin with, and just letting go of the rope once will not stop the sound. But if, every time I hear the bell, I yank the rope again, it will never stop ringing!” You must let go of it and give God time to heal your hurt feelings and harsh, sad memories.
So, how can I know God’s will for my life?
For a believer who has already settled the issue of his/her salvation, this is an important question to answer. The Bible gives a great deal of information on the subject, and I won’t try to cover it all right now. But, the basics are as follows:
God gives “General instructions” to all believers–He wants all of us to walk in obedience to Him, and live lives that are pleasing to Him, and which honor him before men. He wants all of us to believe His Word; trust His Grace and Wisdom; and to tell the good news of salvation to others. He wants all of us to consistently fellowship with Him and with other believers. He wants all of us to pray constantly, and be an encouragement to other believers, as well as praying for their needs.
He wants all of us to live without sin, but He knows our frailty, and He is more than fair– if we sin, we are to confess it to Him, restore whatever wrong has been done (if possible,) and go on walking with Him. He wants all of us to love Him, above all things, and to grow in that love. He wants His love to spill over from our lives into those around us, and to bless all those around us.
God wants all of us to serve as His ambassadors, to reach the lost and dying world around us with the Gospel. He gives all of us instructions, as to how this is to be accomplished. He gives all of us instructions as to how to relate to our spouses, to our children, to our employers or employees, the government, the police, the lost people around us, and to fellow Christians.
In short, all the general instructions regarding how to live for God are in the Bible. Specific instructions, as to what school to go to, or who to marry, or how much to give, or where to seek employment, are a matter of applying the principles of wisdom given in God’s Word, and praying for guidance from God’s Holy Spirit. Many things can be a process of elimination, too, if we write down the “pro’s and con’s”, and then apply God’s principles to make our choices.
Start by obeying the things you know, and praying for wisdom on the things you don’t know. (James 1:5) Then search the scriptures to see if there is a governing principle by which you can make the specific decision that is troubling you. If all the truth you know seems to point in a given direction, feel free to go that way. If the answers you come up with really leave two equally good options, feel free to choose on the basis of personal preference. But be cautious; examine why you prefer one over the other. Ask God for guidance. It is OK to seek counsel of other believers whom you consider to be wise in the Word, as well.
Finally, if you have gone as far as you can, and have made the best decision you know how, then commit your way to God, and trust Him to direct your path. (Proverbs 3:5, 6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy path.”) If He “closes doors,” so to speak, it could be that He is redirecting you. On the other hand, it could simply be an obstacle that you are to overcome. At any rate, God wants you to know His will. He does not play games of hide and seek, or make you guess. If you are willing to submit yourself to His will, and are actively seeking it, then you will eventually be directed by Him.
Here is a warning: don’t make the error of “asking God’s will so you can decide whether to submit yourself to it.” He doesn’t “submit directions to us for our approval.” His will is to be obeyed, not just considered. Knowledge is for the purpose of conduct, not curiosity. If you are not willing to do the will of God, then don’t bother asking Him what it is. We are not free to choose whether to obey God; but many of the choices for which we seek His direction are covered by Biblical principles, and He simply tells us to learn to obey the principles in His Word.
You can be assured, as a believer, based on the promise of God’s Word, that you will never be lost, and that God will continue to love you and provide for you, even through trials, sicknesses and death. You can be assured that, as you search His Word for principles to live by, He will lead you in the path of His choosing. You can be assured that, if you apply those principles in His Word, then your choices will be within His will, and you will enjoy his blessing and guidance.
Notice what these ideas all have in common? God’s Word: That is where we find our assurance. You need to establish a regular habit of reading, and feeding on the Bible. That is where you will find assurance and peace. There are five fundamental ways you can feed on God’s Word:
- Hear it
- Read it
- Study it
- Memorize it
- Meditate upon it.
Each of the five in the list requires more effort than the one before—and more time. Guess which end of the list has the most effect upon your life. Yep. The ones that cost you the most in terms of time and commitment are the ones that will do you the most good. The same thing is true for most relationships. The ones into which you put the most time and effort usually become the most valuable and enjoyable. We will continue to feed on God’s Word in this assembly, and we trust that it will be to your encouragement, as well.
You decide how you want to relate to the Lord: If you only want a “life-jacket” in the storms of life, then you may find that when the storms actually come, you don’t really know how to use that “life-jacket.” If you seek his guidance, love, approval, and constant fellowship, then when the storms come, you will find that you are already prepared, and you can rest in Him.
I pray you will find your assurance in the person of Christ, through His written Word, by His Holy Spirit, and in fellowship with other believers. If there are specific questions for which you want answers, any of the leaders in this church will be happy to help you find them. Just ask!
Lord Jesus, continually direct our thoughts toward Yourself, so that we find our assurance in your Word, and fellowship with you by your Grace, and pour out your love to the lost world around us. Make us the ambassadors you have called us to be.