Easter

Easter with the King: The Story of Nabal, Abigail and David ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 4-20-14

Since we’re focusing on Resurrection Sunday this week,
I thought we’d take a brief break from our Living Stones study
for an Easter-themed Bible study lesson.
Find the rest of this chronological study here.


Originally published April 20, 2014

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 15 ~ Apr. 13-19
1 Samuel 18-31, Psalm 11, 59,7,27,31,34,52,56,120,140-142,17,35,54,63,18
Easter with the King: The Story of Nabal, Abigail and David

 

Since the whole Bible points to Jesus, the whole Bible tells the story of the gospel. Even the Old Testament. Even the story of David, Abigail, and Nabal.

1 Samuel 25:2-42

flock of sheep in israelFilthy Rich (2)
3000 sheep/1000 goats was definitely rich (even today it wouldn’t be too shabby). While cattle are more valued in our culture for their meat, milk, and leather, sheep and goats were more valued in Israel for these, and also for sacrifices. Sheep and goats were Israel’s “pantry on the hoof.”

I Pity the Fool (3)
The name “Nabal” means “fool.” As we have seen throughout the OT, names weren’t just random labels. They told something about the person’s character or life, where he was from, who he was related to, etc. Sometimes names were changed to reflect life circumstances: Ben-oni (son of my sorrow) to Benjamin (son of the right hand- Genesis 35:18), Naomi (pleasant) to Mara (bitter- Ruth 1:20), Simon (God has heard) to Peter (rock- Matthew 16:18).

It seems odd, even by Israel’s standards, to name an infant “fool,” but we have no way of knowing whether this was the case or whether he acquired this name later in life after earning it by his behavior.

“Abigail” means “My father is joy.”

An Offer You Can’t Refuse? (4-13, Deuteronomy 22:1-4, 18:7, 21:11, 15:7-8, Leviticus 19:10, 23:22)
This incident hits our Western ears as odd or inappropriate, even presumptuous or akin to extortion, but Middle Eastern hospitality etiquette and neighborliness, not to mention God’s Law was, and still is, much different from ours in many cases.

Nabal did not ask David to guard his shepherds and flocks. Indeed, he probably didn’t even know David was doing so unless the shepherds told him when they brought the sheep in for shearing. (And since “one cannot speak to him” {17} maybe they didn’t.) David, however, when he met up with the shepherds, took it upon himself, out of his own good will, to look out for them. Maybe he had sympathy for them because he had also been a shepherd.

michael-corleoneDavid and his men likely put their lives on the line numerous times protecting Nabal’s livelihood. And he didn’t do it with an “I scratch your back; you scratch mine” attitude, thinking he would later demand pay from Nabal. He also didn’t take advantage of the shepherds (such as extorting sheep/goats in exchange for protection) while they were with him. David was obeying the spirit of all those “good neighbor laws” we read about (ex: Deuteronomy 22:1-4). The law is not just “don’t harm your neighbor,” but also, “do good to your neighbor.”

Remember, these shepherds were alone out in the wilderness with the flocks. There was no police force or army to protect them from raiding bands of Philistines. If the Philistines saw a thousand goats and 3000 sheep and wanted them, they just took them and captured or killed the shepherds. No legal redress, no sheep insurance. Nabal’s entire portfolio was at stake. You would think once he found out what David had done –for free and out of the goodness of his heart—Nabal would be extremely grateful. But was he? Nope.

David’s men arrived, explained themselves, and asked politely for whatever food Nabal could spare (kind of hard to make groceries when you’re on the run living in caves). They did not demand his best, and they did not demand he provide enough for their entire company of 600 men. They had even come on a feast day when Nabal was celebrating his wealth, should have been in a good mood, and should have had plenty of extra food on hand. And notice this telling little phrase, “they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited.” (9) Now here’s one way Middle Eastern culture is similar to Southern culture. If someone was standing there telling you about all those nice things he had done for you, how long would it take before you gleefully interrupted him and offered him everything under the sun in thanks? Well, Middle Easterners aren’t as shy about interrupting as we are, and furthermore, they would take it as the highest insult if you didn’t take everything they offered.

Not Nabal, though. First, he pretended not to know who David was. Pretty ridiculous, since David’s conquests were well known throughout Israel (18:7, 21:11- even outside Israel), not to mention the fact that he was next in line for the throne. Next, he insulted David’s men by accusing them of lying about working for David. Of course, if he had been interested in finding out whether or not that was true, he could have brought his shepherds in and asked them if these were the guys who had protected them.

David’s men went back and reported what had happened. David’s immediate response was for everyone to “strap on his sword.” It seems like kind of an extreme response to us, but we have to keep a few things in mind. First, the Law. Nabal was breaking both the letter and the spirit of it. While there was no specific law covering a band of mighty men coming to you and asking for food on a feast day, there were laws about taking care of people who were hungry and poor, such as the gleaning laws (Leviticus 19:10, 23:22).

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 says: “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.”

When we read through Ruth, we saw Boaz doing a great job of fulfilling this law for Ruth and Naomi. Here, Nabal is showing the exact opposite of Boaz’s kindness and generosity.

Second, Nabal’s actions showed disregard and ingratitude for God’s provision and blessing. God blessed Nabal with wealth and protected that wealth (through David) without Nabal even knowing about it. Do we see any evidence that Nabal was humbled that God should do such a thing for him, or thankfulness to God for what He had provided? No. We see only selfishness, stinginess, and a blatant disregard for God as sovereign provider.

Finally, David’s response was likely an answer to Nabal’s accusations. “He wants to know who David is? He wants to know whether or not my men are lying? Well, let’s go show him the answer to his questions and see if he changes his tune.”

The Go-Between (14-31, John 12:14-15)
Abigail was quite a remarkable woman. This was not the first time Nabal had acted this way. He had a long standing history of being harsh and worthless (“son of Belial” is also applied to Satan in 2 Corinthians). And here, Abigail was going behind his back and defying him. This was no small thing for any wife in Israel. But for Abigail, it could have meant a beating or worse when Nabal found out. It’s possible she was even risking her life. And for what? To save him. Without his knowledge that she was saving him. Without his knowledge that he even needed saving.

Why in the world would Abigail want to save someone who was probably making her life a living hell? She could have just let David and his men handle Nabal. Certainly he would have www-St-Takla-org--abigail-entreats-mercygotten what he deserved. But she stepped in because it was the right thing to do. It was right to obey God by providing for David and his men. It was even right to protect her husband from his own foolishness and bringing David’s wrath down upon himself. But even more, she did it because she loved God, and maybe even her husband, too.

She sent the gift on ahead (19) to appease David’s wrath, then presented herself to him on Nabal’s behalf. Notice that she got down off her donkey (23). Kings rode donkeys. Rich people and people of high standing rode donkeys. She left her wealth and position behind and got as low as she could get, bowing down, humbling herself, and submitting herself to David. For Nabal.

Then Abigail did something even more remarkable. She said (24-25), “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he.” She—a completely innocent party to Nabal’s sin (25)—voluntarily takes on the guilt and consequences of his sin. (Is this starting to sound familiar?) In v. 28, she asked David to “Please forgive the trespass of your servant.” It wasn’t her trespass, but Nabal’s. She was asking forgiveness for him.

The King’s Response (32-35)
David blessed Abigail, not just for her prudence and godliness, but also because she had satisfied his wrath and kept him from exercising it on Nabal. Her gift was sufficient, and David granted her petition to extend forgiveness to Nabal.

Happily Ever After (36-42)
Well, except for Nabal. Abigail had to tell Nabal what she had done. She’d been gone for a while and had taken quite a bit of food out of the house. No sense trying to cover it up. Hopefully Nabal would be grateful she saved him from certain death. When she told him, did he repent? Humble himself? The text doesn’t say that he did. It says “his heart died within him.” It’s generally believed this means that Nabal had a stroke (especially since it further says that he “became as stone” and lived for ten more days). Did he become enraged at what Abigail had done, and this physical exertion contributed to a stroke? We can’t know for certain. What seems unlikely is that he genuinely repented, because God “struck Nabal and he died.” As we’ll see later with David, while we usually do suffer the consequences of our sin, God shows mercy and forgiveness to the repentant.

David was thankful he had not taken matters into his own hands and that God had handled the situation. Justice had been served. And for her faithfulness, Abigail—who considered herself the lowliest of servants, only fit to wash the feet of other servants—ascended to the position of Queen. Back on her donkey where she belonged, exalted out of humility to sit at the right hand of the king.

The Backstage Gospel (Psalm 14:1, Philippians 2:6-8, 9-11)
Often, in stories like this, the characters aren’t just playing themselves, they’re playing out the parts of the gospel.

As with Nabal, God blessed His people richly with life, family, provisions, and all kinds of other blessings she wasn’t even aware of. The people didn’t ask God to do these things. God, the Good Shepherd, did these things for them out of the goodness of His own heart, the same way David had done for Nabal. But, as with Nabal the fool, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” (Ps. 14) The same way David presented himself to Nabal and told him what he had done for him, God, over and over, reminded Israel of the way He had protected and provided for them. But just as Nabal rejected David, so, Israel rejected God, and rebelled against Him in favor of their own sin and selfishness. And, like David, God’s wrath was inflamed.

Enter Jesus. Just as Abigail intervened on behalf of Nabal, Jesus intervened on behalf of Israel and all mankind. Just like Abigail, He laid down His life to save us. Before we ever knew Him. Before we ever knew we needed saving. Why? Why would He even want to save us Nabals? He could have let God exercise His wrath on us. We certainly deserve it. But in the same way that Abigail acted in love and in doing what was right, Jesus loved His Father and us enough to fulfill righteousness and to bring God glory by staying His hand of wrath.

In the same way that Abigail got down off her donkey, leaving behind all prestige and humbling herself to the lowest position possible—a servant only worthy of washing other hp-crossshadowservants’ feet— Jesus “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant [one who washed other servants’ feet], being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8) And for whom? Us Nabals. “On me alone, my Lord, be the guilt,” Jesus said, even though, like Abigail, He was completely innocent. He voluntarily took on the guilt and consequences of our sin when He died in our place on the cross, and He did it to win forgiveness for us.

Jesus sent this offering of His life for the atonement of our sin on ahead of Himself to the Father, and God’s wrath was satisfied. Jesus’ offering was sufficient, and God granted His petition to extend forgiveness to the likes of us. And just as David picked Abigail up from her humility and she ascended to the position of queen, Jesus ascended to sit at the right hand of the King, and “God has highly exalted him [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

This story didn’t have a happy ending for Nabal, because Nabal didn’t repent and submit himself to God. Nabal ended up taking the guilt and consequences for his sin himself (death) instead of gratefully humbling himself and being thankful for the gift of Abigail’s intervention and David’s forgiveness. But the rest of us Nabals can have a happy ending. Jesus has paid the price for our sin with His death, burial, and the resurrection we celebrate today. He completely satisfied the wrath of God on our behalf. It is finished. Forgiveness has been purchased with His blood. If we will humble ourselves, repent of our sin, and accept the beautiful gift of forgiveness God is extending to us at the request of His Son, we can be reconciled to God now and live happily in the ever after.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Regrets…I Still Have a Few

 

I know regret should lead us to repentance. My question is: After repentance and salvation what do we do with regret? Is it sinful to continually experience regret? Is it just a consequence we must live with? I feel like I’m being swallowed up by it the more I read the Bible, which is not the end of the world, but I just want to handle it correctly.

Great question. I think correct context and semantics can help us out a lot here.

The verse you’re referring to is 2 Corinthians 7:10 (which I have linked in context in your question above):

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

There are several concepts at play here between your question and the verse, and we need to be sure we’re not conflating them: regret, godly sorrow or grief, shame, and guilt.

When we American English speakers say, Frank Sinatra-style, “Regrets….I’ve had a few….,” what we mean is that there are things we’ve done in the past that we wish we hadn’t done, and that if we had it to do over again, we would do things differently. Every Christian has had incidents we feel this way about, whether they took place before or after we got saved. If your love for Christ and your growing understanding of the blackness of sin have led you to regret rebelling against Him, that’s not a bad thing. What would be bad is if you had no regrets. When we look back on past sins, we should always do so with an attitude of regret for having committed them.

But doesn’t this verse say repentance leads to salvation “without regret”? Yes. But that phrase doesn’t mean we’ll never look back at our past sins and wish we had obeyed God instead. Read the verse in context. Paul had written his “severe letter” rebuking the Corinthian church for their sin. It cut them to the heart in godly sorrow over their transgressions and they joyfully repented, never once looking back and wishing for their old way of life. Even with the hardships and persecution many first century Christians faced, they never, for a single moment, regretted turning from their life of sin and following Jesus. (I think we could all say a hearty “Amen!” to that!) That’s what “salvation without regret” means- we don’t regret casting our lot with Christ.

Another aspect of this verse and question we need to address is this: The verse doesn’t say our regrets produce repentance that leads to salvation. It says “godly grief”, or “sorrow,” or “sorrow that is according to the will of God,” is what produces repentance that leads to salvation. There’s a big difference.

Regrets are more in line with the “worldly grief” mentioned at the end of the verse, which produces death. Even lost people like Ol’ Blue Eyes can look back over their lives and recall their embarrassing or jerky behavior and the choices they made that hurt others or themselves, and they can wish they hadn’t done those things. Why? Because of the natural consequences of sin. He got caught. He lost his job or his wife or a friend.

He had to pay the piper, and he didn’t like the looks of the bill.

Not a thought to the Lord whose laws he broke. Not a twinge of guilt and shame for committing sins that crucified the Savior who loves him. No fear and trembling at the feet of a thrice holy God of wrath who has the power to cast him into Hell for all eternity.

That is godly grief. It’s a grief that goes vertical first…

I have offended a high and holy God.

Woe unto me, for I am a man of unclean lips!

Against Thee, and Thee only, have I sinned.

Father, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

…and then, springing from that godly grief, seeks horizontal forgiveness from and reconciliation with others.

When godly grief over sin produces repentance, repentance leads to salvation. And when Christ saves you, a transaction takes place in God’s legal system in which Christ absorbs the shame, guilt, and penalty for your sin, and God, the righteous Judge, rules you not guilty.

But what can you do when you’ve been genuinely saved and you look back at your past sin not only with regret, but also feeling the weight of guilt and shame? I think maybe that’s the heart of what you’re asking.

You have to hold on to what you know to be true according to God’s Word over and above what you feel. God’s Word is objectively trustworthy. Our feelings are not. Our feelings can be fickle and fleshly. Subjective and deceptive. We have to tame those feelings like wild horses with the bit, bridle, and spurs of Scripture, and rein them in or turn them in the direction God wants them to go.

So what do we know to be true about feeling guilt and shame for our past sin?

• Whatever we may feel, the fact is that, in Christ, we are not guilty, and our shame has been removed:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus…who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:4,8

“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. Isaiah 54:4-5

• It isn’t God who is leading us to feel a way that doesn’t line up with His Word. Satan is the only one who makes false accusations against Christians:

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Revelation 12:10

• It is not God’s will for us to focus on the past, but to move forward like the Christians we are, keeping our eyes on Jesus:

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Philippians 3:13b-16

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

When you look back on your former life and are overwhelmed by guilt and shame, remember the words above are from the very lips of God Himself. Remember that you were guilty and covered with shame, and let that knowledge lead you to thank, praise, and worship the One who took your sin and wretchedness upon His own shoulders. Who absorbed your punishment, your blame – and set you free. Free to honor and obey Him. Free to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Trust

Throwback Thursday ~ In God We Don’t Trust: 3 Ways Bible-Believing Christians Don’t Trust God

Originally published September 28, 2018

“This really is actuallyliterally true,” I found myself urging the ladies to whom I was teaching a Bible lesson.

It was a surreal moment. There wasn’t a woman in that room who would have denied the Bible’s inerrancy or trustworthiness. All of them wholeheartedly agreed with the passage we were discussing and, if asked by anyone, would have said unequivocally that they believed the truth of it.

But there was just this…this thing…nagging at the back of my heart. Why…why did I get the feeling I needed to dig down under their profession of belief in God’s Word and convince them of the gut-level truth of the passage?

I believe these ladies and I were a representative sample of average, genuinely regenerated, Bible-believing Christians. But when I look out across the landscape of denominations and churches and ministries made up of average, genuinely regenerated, Bible-believing Christians, there’s a disconnect between what we say we believe – even what we’re convinced in our hearts we believe – about God, and the way we do life and church.

We’re not living out what we say we believe.

We don’t truly trust who God is, how He works, or what He has told us to do (or not to do) enough to simply take Him at His word and do things His way. And most of the time, we don’t even realize it.

We trust profession over fruit

If someone has walked the church aisle, prayed a “sinner’s prayer”, been baptized, attends an organization that calls itself a church, or simply declares herself to be a Christian, we trust that she’s truly been born again – despite the fact that she follows a myriad of false teachers, gets angry at or argues against the plain reading of God’s Word, lives as a practicing homosexual, runs her life by her own feelings, opinions, and experiences rather than obedience to Scripture, or her behavior is otherwise completely indistinguishable from that of a non-Christian. When it’s our grown children or other deeply loved ones, we cling even more desperately to the belief that “she’s saved because _____”, and she’s safe from an eternity in Hell, regardless of everything we can see in her life to the contrary.

But that is not God’s way. God’s way is that if it walks like a lost duck and quacks like a lost duck, we are to treat it like a lost duck. Yet, we don’t do that. We hide behind “Only God knows the heart,” or “Maybe she’s just backslidden or a ‘carnal Christian’,” when the Bible teaches nothing of the sort. Yes, God is the judge of whether or not someone is ultimately saved, but God has not called us to be the final arbiter of salvation. He has called us to lovingly urge sinners to repent and believe the gospel regardless of their church pedigree or claims of being a Christian. Those who repent and pursue holiness, though imperfectly, are the ones who are genuinely saved.

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:16-21
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

Do we trust the profession faith of someone whose life screams, “LOST!” over God’s Word that teaches us that saved people bear fruit in keeping with repentance and pursue holiness?

We trust man-made solutions over
God’s prescribed methods

Nowhere is this clearer at present than in the social justice movement. Even professing Christians are dreaming up all sorts of ways to right real and perceived wrongs against sexual perversion minorities, blacks (What about other ethnic minorities?), and women. It’s only natural that the world would come up with man-made solutions to these problems, but the church is embracing the ways of the world instead of applying the ways of God.

The world’s solution to the “problem” of sexual perversion not being embraced and celebrated is to socially and legally force dissenters to comply. Financial reparations from people who never owned slaves to people who have never been slaves is the solution to racism. Replacing men in power with women in power will end sexism. Many in evangelicalism are aping these humanistic ploys by accepting the idea of “gay Christianity,” insisting on fabricated “diversity” in congregations, ministries, and denominational leadership, and allowing women to serve as pastors and in other positions of teaching or authority over men in the church.

Again, coming up with our own solutions is not God’s way. God’s way is for us to understand what is sin and what is not, and how to biblically deal with sin.

We need to trust God’s word that there’s a difference between sinfully hurting someone and hurting someone who’s sinning. Just because someone’s feelings have been hurt doesn’t mean she has been sinned against. If I call someone names or treat her unkindly because she is a homosexual or a certain ethnicity or a woman, I am sinfully hurting her. If people are hurt when I humbly, lovingly, and kindly teach what the Bible says about homosexuality or repenting for the sins of my ancestors or the biblical role of women in the church, and call to repentance those who believe and act unbiblically in these areas, they are hurt because they are sinning.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6

We also need to stop viewing sin as systemic – as though racism, “homophobia”, and sexism were living, breathing beings we need to conquer – and start trusting God’s way of holding individuals responsible for their own sins. What is God’s way for us to deal with an individual who is, according to God’s Word, sinning?

Lost sinners: We share the gospel with that person. When God raises a sinner from death in her trespasses and sins to new life in Christ, He breaks the power sin has over her and enables her, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to obey His commands. He changes her from a creature who loves sin into a new creature in Christ who hates sin. If you want someone to stop being racist, sexist, or unkind to sexual perversion minorities, plucking leaves off the weed isn’t going to do it. You need the Master Gardener to pull that pernicious plant up by the roots and plant a rose bush in its place. If we really trusted God to transform the heart of a sinner like He says He will, we’d be out there sharing the gospel with everyone we know and we would stop relying on man-made solutions to sin.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-5,10
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27

✢ Saved Sinners: When a Christian sins, we go to her in love, humility, and kindness, and gently point out what God’s Word says about her sin and her need to repent. If she doesn’t immediately repent, we continue praying for her and calling her to repentance until she proves that she loves her sin more than she loves Christ. Then we regard her as a lost person in need of salvation and preach the gospel to her (see “Lost Sinners” above).

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

God has never asked us to brainstorm solutions to these issues. He has already laid out in the Bible how we’re to handle problems and hurt and wrongdoing. We often give lip-service to His instructions, but we don’t trust that they will “work”, because, fundamentally, we don’t trust God to do what He says He’ll do in the heart of a sinner or a Believer.

We trust our own efforts over the power of God

It’s a good thing – a godly and biblical thing – to want unsaved people to know Christ and avoid an eternity in Hell. All of us who claim the name of Christ should have this burden for the lost.

But we have to sit down and really come to grips with the fact that salvation is all of God. If a person gets saved, it ultimately does not matter what lengths you went to in order to “get her saved”. Your efforts didn’t save that person. God drew her to Himself and gave her the gift of repentance and faith in Christ. He saved her. He knows whom He will save and when and under what circumstances. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing when it comes to salvation.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” John 6:63-65
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

The vehicle God has chosen to deliver the message of salvation to the lost is the preaching of the gospel.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:14,17

We have the joy and the duty to share the gospel with the lost, but our faith should not be in our ability to share, or our method of sharing, but in the power of God working through His Word that is shared.

Every Christian I know would agree with that statement. But do we really believe it? Instead of simply presenting the gospel to people as we go about our daily lives (as the Great Commission instructs us), pastors preaching the gospel, and elders and teachers teaching the gospel, we trust in our own efforts more than we trust God’s sovereignty in salvation.

We change our church services to be “seeker sensitive,” trusting in cool music and coffee bars and skinny jeans to make Jesus appealing to haters of God. We join cultural causes – like the aforementioned social justice movement – to get the world to like us, thinking, “If we can compromise with the world just enough, we can get them to like us, and then we can introduce them to Jesus, and they’ll like Jesus too.” Wives of unsaved husbands nag-vangelize – undoubtedly out of love and concern – thinking if they just keep trying, they’ll manage to come up with the exact right combination of words at the exact right time, and their husbands will get saved. We offer a dumbed-down gospel, simplistic sinner’s prayers, mood-altering music during the altar call, urgency, scare tactics, guilt – anything, anything, anything…as long as it’s the magic formula to get them through the gates of the Kingdom.

It is wonderful and godly to have that kind of zeal for people to know Christ, but zeal becomes the sin of presumption if it leads us to trust in our own efforts to save someone – especially if those efforts conflict with Scripture or alter the gospel – rather than presenting the biblical gospel, stepping back, and trusting God do His amazing work of salvation. Do we really trust God to be able to save someone through the simple proclamation of His Word?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-2

 

If we truly took God at His Word, the visible church would look very different today. We say we want to see God at work in our churches, families, and the world, but, somehow, we think we’ve got to push Him along to make that happen. We over-complicate things and get lost in the weeds of programs and movements and methods and efforts instead of opening our Bibles, believing what God says to believe, doing what God says to do, and trusting Him to do everything else – in His power, in His way, and in His time.

Suffering

Throwback Thursday ~ God’s Good Purposes in Suffering

Originally published June 16, 2017

In my previous article True or False: Is Your Theology of Suffering Biblical? we examined some unbiblical ideas and approaches Christians often have toward suffering. Why is it important to have a biblical view of suffering? Because suffering is painful enough without piling on things like, “God is punishing me,” or “This wouldn’t be happening if I just had more faith,” that aren’t even true. The biblical view of suffering frees you from from the additional agony of inappropriate guilt, the mindset that God is harsh or unloving, and the burden of striving to appease a God who’s not asking you to. A biblical view of suffering sets you free to rest in Christ and trust Him.

God’s purposes toward you, His child, are always good, even when He permits difficult things into your life. Let’s think about Romans 8:28 for just a second:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

It doesn’t say all things are good. It says that God uses all circumstances for good for His people – even the difficult ones – because He is good and His plans and goals are good.

Even Joseph saw this, way back in Genesis. After everything his brothers put him through, he said,

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,

As parents, sometimes we give our child ice cream to eat and sometimes we give him Brussels sprouts. Do we give ice cream because we love him and Brussels sprouts because we hate him? No. Both are done out of love, the ice cream because it brings him joy, and the Brussels sprouts because it has the nutrients he needs to be strong and healthy. It would not be loving for a parent to give only ice cream or only Brussels sprouts. In the same way, it would not be loving for God to give us only blessings or only difficult times. Everything God does in our lives, He does for His glory and our good.

So what are some of God’s good purposes in our suffering?

1. To bring glory to God
We touched on Job’s story in the previous article and saw how his suffering glorified God. Another great passage that talks about God being glorified through suffering is John 9:1-3:

As he [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

If you thought suffering was God’s punishment for sin, you’re in good company- the disciples thought so, too! But Jesus was about to do something amazing in this guy’s life that would showcase God’s glory, and it would not have happened had he not suffered.

2. Suffering can be a witness to the lost
When we suffer without forsaking Christ and trust Him to carry us through it, it’s a testimony to others – especially lost people – that God is faithful and worthy of
their faith and trust. Your suffering might open the door to sharing the gospel with someone.

3. The logical consequences of sin
In the previous article, we dealt with the topic of suffering we “deserve,” and how, even though it’s painful, it’s easier to come to grips with that kind of suffering. That’s because we’re made in the image of God, and one of God’s attributes that is reflected in us is justice. We have this innate sense of wanting to see justice done. And when we, or anyone else, suffer the natural consequences of our sin, that points to God being a just God.
We tend to lump all suffering into the one basket of “that’s unfair!” but this is the kind of suffering that is just.

4. Discipline

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
Revelation 3:19

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
   nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
   and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:5-11

When we stray off into a pattern of sin, God can use suffering (often the natural consequences of our sin) to correct us and point us back to the Christlike direction we ought to be heading. He does that because He loves us.

5. Suffering can teach us humility and dependence on God
“Independence” is pretty much a motto for us here in the United States. Independence from England, rugged individualism, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps…Guess what? God doesn’t want you to be independent. He wants you to be
dependent- on Him. And nothing can grow that dependence and humility like suffering. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

6. Suffering can grow us in spiritual strength and maturity
Romans 3:3-4 says:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

Endurance, character, hope. These are all aspects of Christian character that God wants to build in each of us, and even though we wish He would just hit us on the head with a magic wand and instantly give us these things, that’s not the way He does it. He often produces these things in us by way of suffering.

7. Experiencing suffering gives us compassion for others, and equips us to help them

[God] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:4

God doesn’t do anything, including putting you through suffering, for no good reason. It could be to glorify Him. It could be to do something in you. Or, it could be to help someone else (or all three). God never wastes an experience in your life. If you’ve been through something, God can use that “been there, done that” experience to equip you to minister to someone else who’s going through the same thing.

8. Suffering can cause the lost to cry out to God for salvation
Remember the parable of the prodigal son? Sadly it’s a common tale. Some people basically have to hit rock bottom in their lives before they finally give it up and surrender to Christ, just like the prodigal son.

And how about the story of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood? Sometimes life is great. You don’t need Jesus, you’re doing life just fine on your own…until something devastating happens that you can’t handle, and you get desperate. Mark 5:26-28 tells us she

had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

She was desperate. And God can use desperation and suffering to turn the heart of a lost person to Himself for salvation.

 

God is a good God, and His purposes in our suffering are always good. So the next time you’re suffering, think of those 8‘s in Romans 8:28, and remember these 8 good purposes God has for your pain, purposes that bring Him glory, work out His good plans, grow us in good ways, and enable us to do good to others.

Christmas

The Shepherds’ Gospel

Originally published December 22, 2015

Shepherds' Gospel

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Luke 2:8-20

The Christmas story just wouldn’t be the same without the shepherds, would it? Just a bunch of blue collar guys out doing their jobs one night, when God stepped in and gave them a story they’d be telling for the rest of their lives. We don’t know their names or how many of them there were, but they’re more than just pieces of our nativity sets. They’re a picture of the gospel.

Called Out of Darkness Into Light

The shepherds had no idea God would reveal His Son to them that night. They were just going about their lives, day in and day out, oblivious, until God intervened and brought them the good news of Christ. In a similar way, the Bible says that we walk through life day after day, dead in our trespasses and sins, until that glorious moment when God draws us to Himself, opens our eyes to the gospel, and makes us alive in Christ.

The Clean for the Unclean

The nature of the job put shepherds frequently in contact with the remains of dead animals and insects, rendering them often, if not nearly perpetually, ceremonially unclean according to Mosaic law. While unclean, they were separated from fellowship with God. They were not allowed to enter the temple to worship until they had offered a lamb to atone for their sin. And God chose these unclean men – guilty under the law – to be the first to meet His perfectly clean and spotless Lamb who would offer Himself to make the final atoning sacrifice for their sin, and ours. Through Christ, we are no longer separated from God by our sin and guilt.

Given, Not Earned

Because the shepherds had no way of knowing Christ would suddenly be revealed to them, there was nothing they could do to prepare for His coming or make themselves worthy of Him. God met them right where they were – dirty, smelly, and lower class – and brought them to Christ. Not because they were good people or had earned this honor with commendable deeds, but for God’s own reasons and His own glory.

There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation either. None of us are righteous, all of our so called “good deeds” are like filthy rags, and it’s impossible for us to please God in any way before coming to faith in Christ. Jesus meets us right where we are – dirty, smelly, and in the middle of our sin – and saves us. Not because we’re worthy, but for God’s own reasons and His own glory.

Faithful Messengers for God’s Glory

The angel knew God personally and faithfully declared His word to the shepherds for God’s glory. Those of us who know Christ must faithfully proclaim the gospel, from the Word of God, to others. Proclaiming the good news of Christ brings glory to God.

Hear, Believe, Respond

When the shepherds heard the message of Christ, they immediately believed it and responded by coming to Him. In the same way, when we hear the good news of the gospel, Christ calls us to repent of our sin, believe unto salvation, and follow Him.

Do Tell

Once the shepherds had met Christ face to face, they couldn’t keep it to themselves. With great joy, they went out and told others about Him. Some must have believed them. Others, perhaps not. But the news they spread made an impact on everyone who heard it. If only we would share the good news of Christ far and wide as the shepherds did! Some will believe. Some won’t. But God’s word always impacts people and accomplishes His purposes.

O Worship the King

How could the shepherds help but worship, praising and glorifying God, for all they had seen and heard and all God had done for them? And how can we, after all we have seen and heard from God’s Word, and all He has done for us, help but worship, praise, and glorify our King?

Just a crew of rag tag shepherds tending the sheep that would be sacrificed in the temple. But not for long. A new Shepherd had been born. The Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.


This article was originally published at satisfaction through christ.