Friday, October 20, 2006

Certainty, in our circumstances (1)

This is intended to be the first of a series of posts about God's promises. Starting with a adaptation my last post (on James 2), and then moving into the book of Esther, and possibly some considerations of Galatians 5-6. The essential thesis is that the way to live is by faith in the promises of God - real Biblical active faith that effects the way we live, by believing that God's great promises reflect reality rather than circumstances and senarios.

Remember then, James is provocative. A bit of a John Piper or Mark Driscoll of his time (sort of...). He uses shocking illustrations and words that make us stop and think. He kicks off in James 2 by saying there is a thing we might call faith which is actually demonic faith rather than real faith. That is to say that demons believe good doctrine. They probably have better doctrine than much of the church and they also shudder at God, where we may often only saunter before the LORD. Note that in the early chapters of Mark's gospel it is the demon possessed people who recognise Jesus, but that's not saving sight.

Demons can say the right words but their "faith" is blatent rebellion against God. They have ok theology, though they probably still think the cross is foolish. Real faith is more than this. Real faith is like Abraham and Rahab. It has works. It has action.

Consider some of God's promises....
  • 1v2-3
    Christians face trials. God promises that these trials are for our benefit because they teach perseverance. How then should we respond to trials? Not by mourning or complaining. No, they are to be counted as joy.
  • 1v22-26
    Christians read the Bible. God promises that he blesses those who take his word seriously and remember it. How should we read God's word? Not forgetting it but taking what he says seriously. Don't look in the mirror and then forget what you look like.
  • 4v6
    Christians are easily proud. But God promises that he will give grace to the humble, and oppose the proud. A Christian should therefore be humbled. And humility is more than a state of mind.
  • 4v12-14
    Christians plan for the future. God says our lifes are vapour. They'll be gone before we know it. We don't know if we'll have tomorrow so we should plan lightly about our futures. That doesn't mean we shouldn't plan but that we don't trust in our future.
Abraham the pagan and Rahab the prostitute put their faith in the promises of God and it made difference. Lives changed by the promises of God.

When we come to the Bible its cliche to think that the application of sermons and bible studies is "read the Bible and pray". That's a fallacy. There are a few passages that aim to drive us to the Bible afresh (like Psalm 119?) and others command prayer (Colossians 4?) but basically it's pretty much assumed. Think about it... If when we read God's word we become less inclined to read it again that means we're hardening our hearts to it. And that's a very bad thing! No preacher makes that his goal. And neither should we as we read the Bible.

If all we want to do is understand what God's word says then we're likely to end up with faith like demons – very badly deceived. Comprehenision is not enough. If we persue that we're all to likely to become self-decieved in the face of the word.

The word of God is the promise of God. Promises that are YES in Jesus. Promises that require active responses like....
Repentance. Being humbled. Killing sin. Being corrected in how we live. Changing the inclination of our hearts. Pursuing purity. Not showing favouritism. Changing the use of our hands and feet. Being encouraged in our hearts. Becoming obedient to a command. Loving. Rejoicing. Being wisened. Having our hearts broken. Reveling in the promises of God. Mourning over our sin. Boasting in the Cross of Christ. Trembling. Weeping. And many, many more responses...
Hearing the Word of God is not an academic exercise. It is not merely comprehension of a text. It is an encounter with the voice of God. An encounter with God himself. And it will not do to simply understand and shudder. Demons do that. God's word is meant to effect change.

And so it will transform our living. The application of the promises of God is the way to keep in step with the Spirit and to kill our sin. When we act on the basis of God's promises then we will live differently. And that is as true today in the 21st Century, as it was in the 1st Century...

...or back in the time of Esther, which I'm growing to love as a part of Christian Scripture, not to mention its genius comedy and drama. More on that to follow..


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