Holiness Yet To Come: 1 Corinthians 15.20-23

This week’s topic finds us right where we are. All of us!

For a number of years, in my former ministry in Iowa, I served as our church’s pastor of care. That meant I got to sit with people as they were dying—while they were preparing to leave their bodies here on earth, while they were preparing their souls to meet the Lord. That’s a complex thing in every way, complex even for those who are ready and really want to be with the Lord.

One of my favorite saints was named Verne Joslin. Vern and I visited weekly during the last year of his life. We read Scripture together, we prayed together, and sometimes—when I just wanted to get out of the church office—we just passed time together.

When it came time for Verne to die, I visited one last time. With his vitals failing, he looked straight at me and asked softly, “What shall I do now?”

Most of us need two or three reps before we respond rightly to surprise questions, and I’m no different. But this time I paused a minute, asked the Lord for insight, and gave an answer I’m still happy with …

“Verne,” I said. “Don’t do anything. You’ve understood what Jesus has done for you. You’ve placed your trust in Him. You’ve cooperated with God’s Spirit all these years. Now, let Jesus take you. Let Jesus present you to the Father clothed in His own righteousness. Rest.”

And so Verne died, two days later.

We’ve been thinking about how our holiness is the provision of God in which those who have trusted Christ have been changed (in the past, when we trusted Christ), are being changed (in the present), and will be changed (in the future) to take on God’s character … Holiness Past, Holiness Present, Holiness Yet To Come. Through God’s holiness project, we’ve been saved from the power of sin, are being saved from the practice of sin, and will be saved from the presence of sin.

But, what will God do to bring to completion His work of holiness in us? That’s what we’re thinking about this week.

God will complete His work in our souls and bodies. We’re talking here about the work of God we call glorification. This is where God’s holiness project is going, the end-point we’re all waiting for. Except for those who are alive at Christ’s coming (and we might be!) glorification takes place in stages.

Holiness Present for our souls takes place at death (2 Cor 5.6-8; Phil 1.21-23; 1 Thess 4.14; Heb 12.22-23). As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, … we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Cor 5.6-8).

Paul recognizes that death involves a separation. While death would be good, in that he’d be with the Lord, it’s also bad (in the moment) in that he’d be divided, body from soul. For that work of future holiness in his body, Paul will have to wait for Christ’s return (Rm 8.11; 1 Cor 15.20-23, 42-49; 2 Cor 5.1-8; Phil 3.20-21). As Paul had written to the Corinthians in an earlier letter, But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor 15.20-23).

That’s true for us too. Christ’s return is the focal point for everyone who has trusted Christ and now struggles to learn holiness in this life. While we make progress, by the power of the Spirit, we won’t be fully formed in God’s character until we’re with Him, body and soul. And when we finally are, God will fulfill our hopes. God will provide final relief from sin and death. And, God will make us like Christ, in every aspect of our being. This is the completion of God’s divine surgery when my actual condition will match what God says about me in Christ.

My grandmother on my father’s side is buried on a hillside in a beautiful place named Pratum, Oregon. Soon after her passing, the family gathered to stand next to her graveside and reflect. Suddenly, my grandfather said, with finality, “She’s not here!” He was right. “She” was with the Lord. But, my grandfather was also becoming right, because her body was there with us. The exercise in standing there together proved hopeful, because it drew our attention from death to Christ. God’s completed work of Holiness Future for us lies yet in the future and is all bound up in Christ’s return.

What will God do to complete His work of holiness in me? God, at the return of Christ, will free me completely from sin making me like Himself in His own holiness. 

This is humbling. Apart from Christ, I have nothing I need to dwell with God. In Christ, there’s nothing else I need. And, this is hopeful. My life is really going somewhere because God is at work in me, in Christ.

 

Here’s some questions to think about as we consider Holiness Future. They involve some passages to look up together. No reason to look them all up, but pick a few.

How will God work in our souls and bodies at our death and at Christ’s return?: 2 Cor 5.6-8; Phil 1.21-23; 1 Thess 4.14; Heb 12.22-23; Rm 8.11; 1 Cor 15.20-23, 42-49; 2 Cor 5.1-8; Phil 3.20-21.

How will God fulfill our hopes?: Rm 8.23-25; 2 Cor 4.13-18; Titus 2.11-13.

How will God provide final relief from sin and death?: 1 Cor 15.54-55; 2 Cor 5.1-5.

How will God make us like Christ?: Phil 3.20-21; 1 Jn 3.2-3; Col 3.3.

And, have a great week in the Lord!

Holiness Present: Romans 6.12-14

Here’s a thinker for you …

Let’s suppose there is a couple who is living together. They’re not married, they don’t know Christ, and they aren’t following God’s plan for their lives.

Then, one of them (let’s make it the guy) gets invited to a small group or men’s ministry meeting. He hears the Gospel and trusts Jesus. Then, he returns home, goes to sleep and wakes up with his partner with whom he is certainly not serving God.

Question: Is this guy holy?

Well, YES … and NOT YET.

He’s holy because he has been joined to Christ. Just like we learned last week from Romans 6.1-11 in our lesson on “particular” holiness, those who have trusted in Jesus can say that they are holy because they’ve been joined to the death, burial and resurrection life of Jesus! Romans 5 tells us that, like a judge, God has changed our status or position. The minute we trust in Christ we’re declared righteous before God, based on Jesus and His work. But, Romans 6 tells us God has also changed our condition. Like a surgeon, God has gone into us and changed something about our moral condition. 

The guy in our story has been freed from the Power of Sin. He doesn’t have to sin anymore! But … He is not yet free of the Practice of Sin. And, frankly, like the rest of us, he won’t be entirely free from the practice of sin until he’s with Jesus. He needs to grow.

This week in our study on Holiness Present we’re asking: what is my part in the pursuit of holiness? The answer(s) are a scatter-shot gathered from all over the New Testament. They’re like a kind of irreducible complexity: you can say more than what we’ll say, but I don’t think you can say less.

We’ll drill down into the first answer, reference the others and let you discuss them with your small group or family.

  • Holiness Present begins at conversion and is the process in which the Christian practically separates from sin and YIELDS herself to God (Romans 6.12-14).

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions (Romans 6.12, ESV). Notice the heart-language here. The business of growing in holiness is a battle for our desires. And it’s a battle for what we want in the moment.

Imagine you’ve just settled down to watch the Packers. And then, at the opening kickoff, you remember that the kitchen is full of dirty dishes, and in the economy of your home that means you need to do the dishes. What do you want most in the moment? I bet you’d know the right thing to do and even what is best for you, but I also bet you’d actually follow your immediate desires.

Holiness is about growing strong desires for righteousness that we follow each moment. Sin doesn’t reign in us anymore. We have a new Master, and our desire to serve Him grows and overwhelms our desires for our former practices.

That’s still a struggle, isn’t it? But, the growing Christian who has been made holy in the past will make progress in the present, as he yields to God who helps him.

J.C. Ryle, in his book Holiness, writes of this struggle: Are we conscious of two principles within us, contending for the mastery? Do we feel anything of war in our inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification. All true saints are soldiers. 

Here’s six more truths about Holiness Present, along with verses to look up. They’re all about the ways that we make progress in holiness as we aggressively put ourselves in the place to be changed by God. They’d make a great study, for individual or group study:

  • Holiness Present involves the work of the Spirit who FILLS and controls the Christian (Acts 4.7-8; 13.52; Eph 5.17-19).
  • Holiness Present requires active PARTICIPATION from the Christian who depends on the Spirit to change her heart (Romans 8.13-14; 12.1-2; 2 Cor 7.1; Phil 2.12-13). 
  • Holiness Present affects the whole PERSON: the intellect (2 Cor 10.5; Col 1.9-10), the emotions (Gal 5.22), the will (Rm 13.14) and the body (1 Cor 9.27). 
  • Since the Christian will not be without sin till he is in Christ’s presence (Rm 6.12-13), Holiness Present will not be COMPLETED in this life (Gal 5.17; Phil 3.20-21).
  • The Spirit works through MEANS: Bible study (2 Tim 3.16), prayer (1 These 5.17), meditation on the Gospel (Phil 3.8-11) and endurance in suffering (2 Cor 1.3-4). 
  • The ultimate goal of Holiness Present is conformity to the IMAGE OF CHRIST (2 Cor 3.18; 1 Jn 3.2-3).

So, what is my part in the pursuit of holiness?

My part in the pursuit of holiness is to yield myself increasingly to God, becoming more like Jesus in His perfect obedience, until I’m with the Lord. 

Take some time to discuss Holiness Present with someone else: Which of the seven truths above do you find to be most significant or helpful for you? 

Can you point to moments or periods of time in your walk with Christ when that truth helped you? 

Next week, we’ll consider where all this is going. We’ll discuss the end of holiness—Holiness Yet To Come (1 Cor 15.20-23).

 

Holiness Past: Romans 6.1-11

This week at Woodland we begin a short season of thinking about holiness.

While we’ll be in the Book of Romans, we’ll start off with that picture of God’s holiness we receive in Isaiah 6.1-7. Read it, why don’t you? When you do you’ll realize what a special glimpse we’re given through the prophetic vision of Isaiah as he witnessed the presence of God, and became overwhelmed, even, by the angelic beings who spent their strength doing nothing but worshipping God.

We also get a picture from Isaiah’s vision of what happens when we encounter God in His holiness. There is dread … confession of sin … and God’s provision that allows Isaiah (and us) to go on living. Then, we come to the New Testament and consider verses like 1 Peter 1.13-16, especially verse 16: … “You shall be holy, for I am holy”. 

So, here’s the question for us: How is this going to work? How are we going to be changed to share God’s character, so that we are holy like God?!

Our holiness, we’ll learn, is the provision of God in which those who have trusted Christ have been changed (in the past), are being changed (in the present), and will be changed (in the future) to take on God’s character. Holiness past … holiness present … holiness yet to come. 

That brings us to Romans 6. In verses 1-4, I come to understand that I’ve been joined to Christ in His death and burial. To see where Paul is coming from in Romans 6 we have to catch his meaning in Romans 5, especially verse 19: For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 

Romans 5 teaches us that just as Adam brought sin into the world, Jesus entered the world and obeyed God where Adam had failed. We are, then, declared righteous when we trust in Jesus by faith. In biblical language, we are “justified”. Justification changes our legal position  before God. Before we were guilty. Now, we are declared righteous based on Jesus’ active obedience, since He kept God’s law for us, and declared righteous on Jesus’ passive obedience, where He took the sins of lawbreakers on Himself, and died in our places.

But something else takes place in time at the moment we trust Jesus and are declared righteous in Christ: We are also changed in our moral condition. That is the business of sanctification (or holiness). Holiness, as we’ll see next week, is a more-or-less thing in our lives. We grow in it, so we become more holy than we were. But it begins with a positional, bottom-line act of God in which He changes our moral condition and frees us from the power of sin.

One Anglican preacher from the last century said it this way: I fear that is is sometimes forgotten that God has married together justification and sanctification. They are distinct and different things, beyond question, but one is never found without the other (J.C. Ryle, in Holiness).

Paul argues like a rabbi in these verses with questions: How should we respond to God’s judgment about us? … Will saved people continue to live the same way? … How can a dead person continue to live as he did? … Don’t you know that we joined Christ in His death? But, his basic meaning is that we’ve been joined to Christ in His death and burial experience, and because we’re in Christ WE ARE DEAD TO OUR FORMER SINS, AND WE ARE CHANGED!

A second reason we ought to regard ourselves as having been made holy is that I’ve been joined to Christ in His resurrection life (:5-10). Christ’s death led to His resurrection (:5). My death (in Christ) leads to my new condition in which I’m free with respect to sin (:6-7). My life in Christ will lead to my future resurrection (:8-10). The result of being joined to Christ’s resurrection with respect to my sins is that I now have freedom not to sin.

The high point of this critical passage about holiness comes in verse 11. Here I learn that I am alive to God in Christ! So  you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. That’s our new reality. That’s where we need to live and the true place where we need to let our minds dwell.

I can say that I’ve been made holy because I’ve been joined to the death, burial and resurrection life of Jesus, so that (in Christ) I am alive to God. 

Take a few to consider holiness.

Are you, in fact, holy? Why would you say that you are? Or aren’t? 

If you don’t feel holy, why might that be?

What if you don’t experience regular victory over sin? Why might that be? 

As we’ll see next week, holiness is both a past provision for us (think Romans 6.1-11), but it’s a present, progressive and on-going process as well (Romans 6.12-14).

Why not cheat and look ahead at the rest of Romans 6 to learn how God is making His set-apart people more holy?

 

 

Pictures of Faith: Certain Faith—Hebrews 11-12.2

“Free advice,” the sign read. These were my student days. I was biking around our inner-city lake were I used to exercise, and there he sat—a man next to the bike path, comfortable, in his lawn chair and with his sign.

Not able to pass up a curious encounter, I stopped but didn’t get off my bike.

“Totally free?” I asked.

“No charge,” he answered.

“All right,” I said, thinking what I could ask. “I’m considering getting married. What should I do?”

“Do it!!” the man offered, with great enthusiasm, and for free.

“Right on!” I said and went back to riding.

While at that juncture in my life I don’t think I even had a girlfriend, the encounter had just confirmed one thing: faith is only as good as good as the object (or person) in whom it is placed. Lawn chair guy and his advice wasn’t going to change my life.

This summer at Woodland we’ve considered a number of the Old Testament historical figures we meet in Hebrews 11. While few followed God without fault, all of them trusted God with a kind of faith God finds acceptable.

Faith God accepts embraces God’s real but invisible plan (11). This faith, we learn, involves confidence that comes from trusting in what is true. I like the NIV translation of verse 1: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Such faith operates like a kind of spiritual vision that helps us rest in what our eyes can’t see, possibly (like with Old Testament figures) because it hasn’t happened yet.

God accepted the faith of those who lived before Christ, even though He hadn’t revealed His entire plan. For by it the people of old received their commendation from God (11.2, ESV). They trusted in the God of Promise based on what He told them would happen, and this pleased God. Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain, by faith. Enoch lived in obedience as one who walks with God, by faith. Noah believed when nobody else did, by faith. Abraham offered Isaac, by faith, believing God would raise him. Moses passed on the riches of Egypt to see God, by faith … God accepted their faith because they placed their trust in the right object.

But, what was that object, really? 

Verses 39-40 close the loop in Hebrews 11: And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. 

Each of these Old Testament saints died with their heart’s desire yet unfulfilled, because God hadn’t finished His plan yet. God hadn’t finished His plan yet, because He wanted to include us. And what was God’s plan? It was to provide a Redeemer. Those whom God accepted in the Old Testament were saved by faith in a Redeemer who would come! These were saved not on the basis of the intensity of their faith but because of the One they believed in. Jesus was the object of their faith!

Faith God accepts embraces Jesus and endures in dependance on Him (12.1-2). So, we come to chapter 12 which is really an application for those of us who live after the cross. We’re to run with this “cloud of witnesses” before us. We’re to run putting away sin and impediments that distract. But, most of all, we’re to ” … run with endurance the race that is before us” (12.1b).

This is a reminder that the Christian life is a life of endurance. And, how do we endure? By looking to Jesus (12.2a). Jesus is the “pioneer” of our faith. Jesus is the completion of everything God is doing. Jesus endured the cross, because He wanted to please God. Jesus is sitting at the Father’s right hand. Jesus is the One we’re to look to while we respond to the circumstances God has allowed into our lives (the “race” or “course,” verse 1b).

The “race” has been particularly hard here at Woodland this past week. Floods in the southern part of the state stranded one Woodlander in a hotel as she was driving home from work. A three-year-old fractured his leg. Cancer is among us in the Westboro-Rib Lake community. (Three situations come immediately to mind.) And, one of our own at Woodland is presently at the Mayo Clinic having been diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma on Monday.

All of this calls us to think carefully about our faith in the object of One who is worthy. We’ll need to learn to depend on God and His plan and live the life of faith together, especially since we can’t see everything God is doing right away.

Mostly, we’ll need to look to Jesus, whom the Ancients longed for, but whom we know. This is what our summer study has prepared us for. Would that we go forward into the school year ready to endure with joy.

Faith God accepts embraces Jesus and endures in dependance on Him. 

How has trusting Jesus helped you endure in your “race”? It’s a personal question, but sharing encourages others. Why not hit the “comments” field at the top left of this article and encourage us with your story?

And have a great week in the LORD.

Pictures of Faith: Certain Strength—Judges 16.4-31

What’s the source of your strength?

That might sound like a funny opener, so just think of your strength as being your “thing”—that part of your life that gives you significance and helps you get ahead. Up here in the Northwoods, our “things” might be our connection to our possessions (especially boats, guns, wheelers), our ability to spend our time the way we want, or even our special relationships—families even.

This week in our annual Ice Age Days service in Rib Lake we at Woodland are thinking about an historical figure who lived in the 11th century before Christ in the Ancient Near Eastern nation of Israel. Everybody wanted to know where this guy’s strength came from. “How’d you get that ‘thing’?” they might have asked.

The account of Samson begins in Judges 13 when the LORD himself appeared to Manoah and his wife and informed them they’d have a very special child. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines (:5).

Nazarite. The word means “set apart one”. Ancient Israelites would take Nazarite vows (sometimes for only a period of time) and then abstain from alcohol and from the touching of dead bodies, and from cutting of the hair. This boy would be set apart for God’s purposes for his whole life.

Samson is born, but at age 20 and by the beginning of Judges chapter 14, he’s not grown into a choir boy. In fact, he’s like a tatted-up bar fighter. It’s my imagination, but I can see him walking the streets of Rib Lake—about 275 pounds, tattoos, really long dreadlocks. He’d once gone out for football, maybe, but now he’s flunked out of school, and he’s just mad. Alcohol doesn’t mix right with his meds;  he’s a little bi-polar, and the cops are scared to death of him. Samson.

The rest of chapters 14 and 15 describe Samson’s great strength. He meets and marries a Philistine woman from among Israel’s enemies. Leading to the engagement he kills a lion with his own hands. After the engagement he visits the lion’s carcass and extracts honey and eats it—so much for being a Nazarite! He throws a wild party with lots of drinking, then kills 30 Philistines, so that  he can give their garments to the 30 men who’d won a bet against him by bribing his new Philistine wife for the answer to a riddle. After his wife is given to another man he captures 30 foxes and ties torches to their tails so that they burn the Philistine crops and vineyards. Then, he hides in the wilderness. After the international incident, the Philistines encamp against Israel. Three-thousand Israelites find Samson who allows them to bind him, since he’d caused so much trouble for them. But, he snaps the ropes and kills 1,000 men once he’s delivered to the Philistines. He goes to Gaza where the Philistines find him with a prostitute. His enemies wait to catch him at dawn, but he slips out at midnight, wrenches the city gates from their moorings and plants them on a nearby hill.

Who is the source of Samson’s strength? What is the secret of Samson’s strength? His hair? … really? 

The story comes to a climax in chapter 16 when God’s enemies seek the source of Samson’s strength (16.4-22). 

Samson meets another woman named Delilah. As they’d done before, the leaders of the Philistines bribe Samson’s girl to get the secret of his strength. “Please tell me where your great strength lies,” Delilah pleads. In three separate incidents, Samson deceives Delilah and her fellow-conspirators. “Bind me with fresh bowstrings” (probably woven-up animal guts) … “Tie me up with new ropes” … “Weave my lovey-locks into the loom and pin them to the floor”. In three separate incidents Delilah puts Samson to sleep, performs the hinted-at action, then calls out “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”

Samson responds with strength. He’s got the tiger by the tail, having a great time. But then, Delilah appeals to his love for her. Now Samson must choose between his God and and his girl. And here, he strays too close to the source of his strength.

“If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man” Samson tells her (:17).

Delilah put him to sleep on her knees and has his hair shorn. At her signal to the Philistines hidden in the room, Samson thinks, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free” But, as the text tells us, he did not know that the LORD had left him (:20).

The Philistines seize him, shackle him, put out his eyes, and put him to grind grain in the prison. But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved (:22).

Does Samson know the secret of his own, former strength? we have to ask.

Samson finds the source of his strength (16.23-31). God’s enemies boast over Samson. They gather at the temple of Dagon saying, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand“. Big mistake. They call for Samson to have him perform for them. But after entertaining them Samson plays on his own weakness. “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them,” he tells the boy leading him by the hand.

The temple would have been supported by two pillars with the majority of the 3,000 guests seated on a balcony above where they could view the courtyard below. Pretending to be exhausted, he rests his hands on the two pillars and prays, “O LORD God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God …” (:28). Then the Spirit of God returns, and Samson pulls the house down, on himself and on God’s enemies … so the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life (:30).

The lesson of Samson is that God through His Spirit is the source of Samson’ strength, not Samson himself … and not his hair.

In the years that followed God would raise up the great prophet Samuel and the great king David, who prefigures the once and forever King Jesus Christ. Jesus came not to reign at His first coming, but to die and be raised from the dead to newness of life. That’s where we are today, awaiting Jesus’ second coming in power. And, those of us who live between Jesus’ two comings find our connection to Jesus through the Spirit of God.

One of the lessons I can take from the account of Samson is that God’s Spirit is the source of my strength.

Locating myself in God’s plan of redemption like this allows me to realize some truths about God’s Spirit in my life.

First, God’s Spirit enters my life when I trust in Jesus. (See Galatians 3.2). In contrast to the time before Jesus when God’s Spirit came on people for specific purposes and then left, we receive the Spirit who connects us to Jesus and then stays, preparing us for the time when we’ll really be with Jesus. Incredible!

Then, and second, God’s Spirit remains with me to remind me that I am set apart for Jesus. Romans 9.15-16 says, For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. 

God’s Spirit is now the warm, internal witness to the truth of the Gospel. It’s like He takes up residence in me to say, “It’s real! It’s real. You are set apart to God!”

Finally, the Spirit of God brings about life change. We didn’t really see this in Samson, did we? But, when God’s Spirit enters our lives, He comes to make us holy in our thoughts, words and deeds.

And that’s really important for each of us in our situations. Some of us are in tough places. Maybe, we have a young adult child who’s rebellious like Samson. We just can’t see a pathway forward. But, God can change hearts, so we pray the our child will trust God and that God’s strength will be released in his or her life. Or, we’re in an impossible family situation where there appears to be no human way our family tailspin will be stopped. Here again, God through His Spirit can be the source of our strength, and God wants to be approached by faith.

God’s Spirit is the source of your strength! What do you have to trust Him for, in Jesus? In the end, it’s not your “thing” that gives you strength. He is the Lord, and He would do business with you today.

See you Sunday in Rib Lake. And, have a great weekend, in the Lord …!

 

Pictures of Faith: Certain Manipulation—Judges 10.6-11.40

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!” So said a famous football coach who once lived up here in the North.

This week at Woodland we meet an Old Testament figure who clearly believed in winning at any cost. It’s a tragic and horrific story that (frankly) I wish weren’t included in the Bible. Even so, I believe with Paul in Roman 15.4 that ” … whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” 

So, let’s look for this hope.

The account of Jephthah begins in Judges 10 with Israel returning again, in a pattern that has now lasted for 300 years, to the worship of its neighbors’ gods. God’s people are now oppressed in the west by the Philistines and in the east by the Ammonites. And this time, maybe, God is really finished with His rebellious people!

Anticipation of God’s deliverance (10.6-18). Important for understanding this account is the recollection that, east of the Jordan River in the region known as Gilead, Israel has three cousin nations. The Edomites descend from Esau, Jacob’s older brother. The Moabites descend from Lot, Abraham’s nephew, through his incestuous relationship with his older daughter (see Genesis 19). The Ammonites descend from Lot through his relationship with his younger daughter. God never gave the land of these three nations to the Israelites. But, God did give the land of the neighboring Amorites (also called Cananites) to Israel, and that’s where the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh settled, east of the Jordan in Gilead.

Now, in chapter 10, the Ammonites have moved into Gilead and massed for war. Israel is without a champion, and it looks like God has forgotten them. But, wait …

Negotiation toward God’s deliverance (11.1-28). We meet Jephthah. Beginning life behind the 8-ball as the son of a harlot, he’s been disposed and has run off to the wilderness where he’s become a renowned fighting man. When the leaders of Gildead approach him, he promises to lead them, if they will give him total command.  Notice, God doesn’t “raise up” Jephthah. Jephthah promotes himself to be their “head”. Then, Jephthah negotiates with Ammon. Basically, the Ammonite king stakes claim to Israel’s land east of the Jordan (11.11b). Jephthah responds with a history lesson (11.27). The exchange doesn’t avert war, but it’s good. Jephthah remembers God, and I have to believe that his faith at this point is genuine, registering him even for the list in Hebrews 11.

But, there is a serious flaw in his thinking!

Manipulation of God’s deliverance (11.29-40). The Spirit of God comes on Jephthah, and God’s Spirit should have been enough for him. But, look what he does. Instead of trusting God, Jephthah makes a vow: And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’S, and I will give it up for a burnt offering. 

What’s gone wrong here? Well, Jephthah has begun to think about people like the Ammonites think about people. Worshippers of Molech (or Chemosh, as the same god is named here) offered their children to try to manipulate circumstances in their lives. The better the sacrifice, the better the expected results. Jephthah wants to give God his best, but he can’t imagine it will be his own daughter.

And, here’s what God thinks of this: … Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people … (Leviticus 20.2-3b).

Even worse, if possible, Jephthah has begun to think about God like the Ammonites think about their god. He’s assuming that the One, True, God of Israel must be  (can be) won over by something he has to offer!

Jephthah wins the war. His daughter runs out to greet him. And, Jephthah responds by blaming the victim: You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow (11.35).

He’s ruined his family, because he doesn’t have another heir. And, he can’t take back his vow, because, apparently, his reputation and self-righteousness is at stake. (See Leviticus 5.4 to learn how, even at this juncture, his oath was not binding, but who’s paying attention to God in Israel?)

Jephthah’s daughter the submits to her understanding of God’s will. She laments she’ll never have children, then offers herself to her father: My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the LORD has avenged you on your enemies (11:36).

And, so, she’s sacrificed needlessly, so her father can save face, even though Jephthah could have glorified God by taking any curse on himself. His account ends in the next chapter with civil war and the desolation of Ephraim, Israel’s strongest tribe.

Jephthah’s daughter becomes the heroine of this account. She credits God with the victory, doesn’t try to manipulate the situation, commits herself willingly to her understanding of what God wants, and (I believe) points us to Christ.

In Matthew’s account Jesus prayed: My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will (26.39). Jesus didn’t go to the cross because of a blunder, but willingly out of design. And Jesus didn’t go to the cross to manipulate the Father.  Instead, He went to satisfy the wrath of a holy God who allowed all the sins His people to be covered—Jephthah’s and mine.

The lesson of Jephthah is that God doesn’t have to be manipulated for blessing, but gives freely to this who depend on him by faith. 

There’s applications in this account we need to hear: First, bad things happen when God’s people misplace God’s Word. At a number of points in the account, Jephthah might have turned back. And His thinking about God could have been repaired, if the Israelites had risen up and opposed his sin. But, they’d forgotten God’s law. Disaster also results when we forget what God has said!

Also, many of us who read this account have done some terrible things. This account reminds us that we don’t need to go the rest of our lives trying to manipulate our way back to God’s good graces. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1.8).

Finally, the Spirit of God came on Jephthah to win a battle. On this side of the cross, He baptizes us and fills us when we trust Jesus by faith. Then, He works in us for a changed life. Romans 12.1-2 describes us as living sacrifices. So, we offer ourselves to God, not to manipulate our circumstances, but out of gratitude to our good God who gives freely.

God won’t be manipulated for blessing, but gives freely to those who depend on Him by faith. And, knowing this gives me hope and helps me understand why I find the account of Jephthah in my Bible.

 

Pictures of Faith: Certain Advantage—Judges 7

This week at Woodland it was “Game on” with VBS! Our hook for the week involved sports, and we naturally talked about some of the things teams and athletes do to get a competitive advantage—training, exercises, drills; that sort of thing.

Really, though, we weren’t talking about games, but life. And, like this week’s passage from Judges 7 teaches us, we learned that God doesn’t always work through our advantages but through our disadvantages.

Judges 6-8 starts with an apparent problem for Israel: the Midianites have overrun God’s people, and everybody is afraid. The actual problem is that Israel has not obeyed God (6.8-10).

The Angel of the LORD visits Gideon who, out of fear, is threshing grain underground, because he too is afraid. The LORD charges Gideon with delivering God’s people, to which Gideon responds by listing his disadvantages (6.12-16), but then asking for a sign. Two signs are given. One involves the lighting of a sacrifice in Elijah-like fashion, the other is the famous account of the fleece which is first wet then dry. Pretty arbitrary really, but clearly from God.

Does Gideon now believe that having the LORD on his side is a good enough advantage? 

Chapter 7 opens with Gideon having raised a decent army—32,000. The Midianites, however, have a much bigger army and are encamped in the Jezreel Valley, probably about four miles to the north of the Israelites.

Gideon receives his “advantage” (:1-8). Here, we get the crucial verse in the account: The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, “My own hand has saved me” (:2).

In other words, Israel, disadvantaged as they are, is still too strong to trust in the LORD. God thins their ranks. Those who are afraid are allowed to leave, and 10,000 remain. Then, all are given an opportunity for a drink, and those who lap up water like a dog are told to stay. Only 300 now remain, and that’s finally looking like an impossible disadvantage.

Gideon recognizes his “advantage” (:9-14). At this juncture, Gideon gets his third sign. He’s told to go down to the enemy camp and listen in to a conversation. In the dark, listening outside a tent, Gideon hears a soldier give an account of a strange dream involving a piece of barley bread (eaten by the lower classes and clearly representing Israel) tumble into the Midianite camp and destroy it. Strange indeed, but the Midianites interpret the dream as an omen and recognize Gideon’s imminent victory. Gideon responds by worshipping God and beginning, finally, to act like a general.

Gideon respons to his advantage (:15-25). Now, Gideon divides his troops, gives each man a trumpet and a torch concealed in a jar, and then leads his small company to surround the enemy camp. At the signal, everybody blows, jars are broken, torches are lifted up, and the Israelites just stand there while the Midianites run around killing one another and then running for their own country. The battle scene ends with Israel pursuing their enemies right out of their land and the heads of the two Midianite generals coming back to Gideon as a couple of souvenirs.

God’s lesson for Gideon was that Gideon’s advantage wasn’t in what he thought, but that his real advantage was in his relationship to Him.

How about us? Where do we have a perceived disadvantage in life? Could it be that some of us grew up without a father or mother, and we now have kids but feel clueless? Or, maybe some of us have adult children who are now making decisions that aren’t good, but we feel like spectators? Or, maybe, some of us are students, and we’re excluded from the group and wondering how this growing up thing is going to work when we feel alone?

This week at VBS our theme verse was 2 Peter 3.1: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life an godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his glory and excellence. 

Can you believe it? God is creating a new reality all based in the power of a man who died on a cross. The work of the (apparently) seriously disadvantaged Jesus Christ is God’s way of overturning every other perceived advantage in the universe. And, like Gideon, we sometimes have to endure our apparent disadvantages to learn that God through Jesus is enough! And when we do, we boast in the LORD and not in ourselves.

God wants to meet you in your perceived disadvantage and be enough for you, so that where you are weak He will be strong.

My greatest advantage in this life isn’t where I (often) think but it is in Christ’s work … And God loves a (dis)advantage. 

 

 

Pictures of Faith: Certain Deed—Judges 4

During these summer months we’ve been watching a good bit of baseball in the Northwoods. In the age groups in which most of our Woodland kids play, games are a battle between the pitcher with himself and the batter with himself, the catcher somehow figuring into the action and helping a little.

Most kids start the season knowing they’re to hit the ball. But, as pitchers struggle to find the plate, batters get used to just kinda standing there. So, in the event of an actual good pitch, lots of kids just choke. Lots of walks, lots of called strikes, lots of strikeouts. So it goes …

Today’s account from Judges 4 is about a military leader who couldn’t swing at a strike. God wins the game, and Barak (ever heard of him?) gets to play on the team, but somebody else gets the glory.

The Book of Judges begins with Israel’s failure to occupy the land. Joshua dies, and the people turn from God. God provides judges who act as both civil and military leaders, but the people return again and again to the gods of their neighbors, so that there is a downward spiral in society: And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD … That’s the refrain that separates the different sections of the book.

Women figure prominently in Judges, both as heroines and as victims. Men are halting and hesitant to obey God. It’s an R-rated book that glorifies God by giving us a realistic picture of what it looks like to mess around with sin and not follow God.

Have a read through Judges 4. When you do, you’ll notice that God disciplines so that Israel is oppressed by her enemies (:1-3). And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD … (:1). In response, God delivers the nation to Jabin, a Canaanite king whose general is Sisera who commands iron chariots. At the end of the Bronze Age when warfare involved punching holes in soft metal, a nice hard, iron chariot would have been the final deterrent, and Sisera has 900 of them. After 20 years of oppression, the Israelites cry out to God.

Deborah judges while Barak chokes (:4-10). Now, we meet Deborah. She’s the first of the heroines in the book and she judges Israel while sitting under a tree in the hilly country of Ephraim. These are primitive times in Israel, but God has a witness, always. God, through Deborah, summons Barak: Has not the God of Israel, commanded you, Deborah tells Barak, Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into you hand? (:6b-7).

Barka hesitates. If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go, he answers Deborah (:8). This might or might not have been fear, but clearly God isn’t enough for Barak. He’s choked, and Deborah agrees to go with him, but announces Barak’s loss of blessing: And she said, ‘I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.’ Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh (:9).

God glorifies Himself, and two women act (:11-24). Before giving us the outcome of the battle to follow, we’re given a picture of Heber the Kenite, who has pitched his tent in the vicinity of the battle. Then, Sisera calls out his chariots to Mount Tabor where Barak and Deborah have assembled their army. Sisera camps near the river Kishon. And, Deborah gives the command: Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the LORD go out before you? 

God then delivers Sisera’s army into Barak’s hands. The text is sparse in description, but the song of victory that follows in the next chapter gives us a hint as to the natural means God used: The torrent Kishon swept them away, the ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon (5.21). It seems Sisera had camped near a wadi that suddenly made the chariots about as useful as 900 iron folding chairs.

Sisera escapes on foot and makes his way toward his friend Heber the Kenite. Heber isn’t home, apparently, but his wife is. Unknown to Sisera, Jael the wife is a good Israelite, and when she invites him into her tent and covers him up, he’s secure enough to fall asleep. Bedouine women, I have read, are good with hammers and tent pegs, and Sisera never wakes from his nap. Jael hails Barak who is running by, and Deborah later celebrates Jael in her song: Between her feet he [Sisera] sank, he fell, he lay still; between her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still; where he sank, there he fell—dead (5.27).

The lesson of Barak is that hesitation in obedience results in loss of blessing. 

We all need to take seriously the perils of hesitating to obey God. Failure for the Christian will not result in judgment (this fell on Christ!), but loss of blessing, and the discipline of the Lord.

The writer to the Hebrews, addressing Jewish believers in a season of hesitation, writes: 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 (Heb 12.11).

This is a good word for all of us who have trusted Christ. Sometimes, we feel dry in our faith, distant from others who usually refresh us, discouraged. It might not be, but could it be that we’ve choked. Like Barak, God has asked us to put to death some fleshly pattern or practice, but God wasn’t enough for us. It’s worth thinking about.

Even so, the lessons from Judges 4 aren’t all in the negative. It’s not enough not to sin; it is enough to seek God’s glory! This is because the Christian life isn’t simply a list of rules to obey, but an opportunity to seek God’s glory in any and every situation.

Seeking God’s glory in my obedience magnifies God and blesses me. 

Hitting the ball is the fruit of a good swing of the bat. And, seeing God made big in my circumstances is the fruit of obedience. This blesses me. I am alive with hope and the best of all desires when I see God change my heart and the hearts of other people.

So, how does God desire to bring glory to Himself through your obedience in your situation today? It’s worth thinking about, because God’s glory is the biggest window through which we can view reality. Don’t choke, then; swing the bat. Seek to serve the LORD in obedience today!

 

Pictures of Faith: Certain Mercy—Joshua 2

Heaven will be home to some unlikely people, and Hebrews 11 records some of them—Barak, Jephthah, Samson. But today, we’re thinking about the most unlikely figure from that list of Old Testament persons who trusted in a Redeemer who was to come.

Rahab not only came from among Israel’s enemies, the Amorites, but she was a professionally immoral person, a harlot. What does it look like when a harlot from among Israel’s enemies is saved by faith?

In the backstory to Joshua 2 Israel has long since been freed from Egyptian bondage. But now, after God’s great feats under Moses and Aaron, the nation has wandered for forty years. Joshua leads Israel, and he’s urging its people to take the land God has promised: … be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God is with you wherever you do (1.9).

Then, Joshua sends spies. Will the debacle of Numbers 13-14 be repeated from forty years earlier—when only he and Caleb believed the LORD would deliver the land to them? No, this time things will be different, largely through the ministry of an Amorite prostitute named Rehab.

Rahab tells a falsehood (:1-7). After crossing the Jordan, the spies slip into Jericho and mingle in the home of Rahab. This home might have been a brothel—perhaps a loud and seedy place where a stranger could get lost, mind his business (or not!), and gather news. But, somehow, the spies’ cover is blown. Soldiers arrive, and Rahab hides them on her roof and covers for them with some barefaced lies: I didn’t know where they were from … they went out last night … I don’t know where they went (:4-5).

Some have struggled with the way the New Testament rewards Rahab for her deceit. (See Hebrews 11.31 and James 2.35). Important to remember is that God has removed the authority of the Jericho leaders. So, we’re justified  in concluding that they know longer deserve to know the truth. Rahab is changing her allegiances. Her faith “looks” like something. That’s the point James 2 makes. And living out her newborn faith will look like a heart-change toward the one, true, God of Israel.

Rahab falls on God’s mercy (:8-14). Late at night, when the bounty hunters have departed, Rahab visits the spies on the roof of her house. It’s here we see her heart, together with the evidence of God’s mercy and her right response to God’s work. She shares what’s been going on in Jericho, and in her own heart. She cites God’s work in Egypt, the destruction of the Amorite kings Og and Sihon, and gives her new estimation of the God of Israel: … the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on earth beneath (:11b). Then, Rahab falls on God’s mercy: Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign (:12). “Kindly” … that’s the Hebrew word hesed, “unfailing, loyal love based on a covenant relationship”. Rahab is saying, “Show me how to be on the side of the one, true God; I want to be in relationship with Him and you!”

The evidence of God’s mercy in Rahab’s life is a changed heart toward God. That’s what faith looks like in the life of an Amorite prostitute, or anybody for that matter!

Then, Rahab enters into covenant (:15-23). The rest of the passage is about how Rahab helped the spies escape, and about the terms of the deal they make with her. She’s spared their lives; they’ll spare hers in the coming invasion, but she’s got to stay at home and reveal her whereabouts with the scarlet cord they give her. But, here I have a question and an observation. Why is the wall mentioned in verse 15? Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. 

We join the original readers of this account in knowing what is going to happen to these walls. They’re all coming down, right? (See Joshua 6). And, we get to puzzle over the irony that Rahab is being told to stay at home on the wall that’s about to fall. I’m not sure how the mechanics of this worked, but we know that Rahab kept the terms of the covenant and was spared. The point here, though, is that there’s only one way out of Jericho, and it’s through God’s mercy!

The picture of Rahab and her family huddled on the wall trusting in the one, true God and flinging herself on God’s mercy because of her changed heart makes an easy intro to talking about the cross of Christ, doesn’t it?

Among many New Testament verses, Romans 14.10b-12 makes it clear where we’re all headed: For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God’. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 

We’re not all prostitutes, but we’re all sinners. And, we’re all in need of God’s mercy. For us who live after the coming of Jesus, bowing the knee before we meet God looks like trusting God’s mercy in the work of Christ. The wall of Jericho involved God’s judgment but involved a way out through God’s mercy. God’s judgment on Jesus at the cross is all about God’s mercy, because Jesus took our sins on Himself. We show we “get” this truth by a changed heart toward God, involving trust in Jesus and His work. This looks like a changed heart toward, just like it did for Rahab.

So we say, my right response to God’s mercy is a changed heart toward God. 

The account of Rahab in Joshua has a happy ending. Rahab is not only numbered among the faithful of Hebrews 11, she’s numbered among those who joined Israel (6.22-25). She’s also numbered among the physical ancestors of King David and Jesus Himself! (Matthew 1). Most importantly, she joined the family of God through God’s mercy and by faith.

How about you? Have you ever read this Old Testament account this way? Have you ever seen before how it points toward Jesus and His work? And have you recognized your need for God’s mercy, understood how Jesus took your sins on Himself at the cross and then trusted Christ?

If not, why don’t you trust Him right now? And then, you can say with all God’s people: “the LORD [MY GOD], he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. And, I have received His mercy, in Christ!”

Pictures of Faith: Certain Remembrance—Exodus 2.23-4.17

Have you ever felt forgotten by God? Maybe you were serving with all your might, but the circumstances (the ones we talked about last week, maybe) didn’t line up with your best efforts.

When you (and I) feel forgotten by God, maybe we need to ask a follow-up question: What would it look like for God to remember you? 

In Exodus 2.23-4.17, God remembers Israel by sending the Nation a (reluctant) deliverer. Israel is oppressed in Egypt as slaves. All the good will we see at the end of Genesis has melted away into 400 years of bondage. But then … God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. And God saw the people of Israel—and God knew (2.25, ESV).

God raises up a deliverer in the person of Moses—a burnout figure pasturing his father-in-law’s sheep in the wilderness. But when God appears to, summons and commissions Moses at the burning bush (3.1-9), it isn’t like Moses is thrilled to be God’s deliverer. Moses has tried the delivering thing before (see Exodus 2), and now he’ll need to get over himself to recognize God’s remembrance. And, it’s here that we see that nothing has changed for us. Moses’ objections to God strike us as remarkably contemporary. We who live after the cross and know Jesus sometimes have the very same objections when we realize that the cross of Christ is all about God remembering us!

Here are Moses’ four objections to God’s remembrance, in the way we’d say them:

Objection #1: “I’m not worthy” (3.11-12). 

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? (:11). Shepherds were untouchables in Egypt, and now Moses, who used to be in Pharaoh’s court, has identified with the Hebrew people, shepherds. And he probably figures he’s in retirement from the delivering business. How does God respond? But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain (:12).

Do you ever feel unworthy? The self-esteem movement might respond to our sense of unworthiness by telling us that we’re good enough, smart enough and have a right not to be bullied. But what does the New Testament say? We are worthy because Jesus is worthy. For as by the one man’s disobedience [that’s Adam] the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience [that’s Jesus] the many will be made righteous (Romans 5.19).

Through the perfect life and the holy God-satisfying death of Jesus we are made worthy for right relationship with God when we trust in Jesus. God’s answer to Moses anticipates this. I’m worthy, and I’m going to do this for you, God tells Moses. But, you’ll need to respond in faith to see it … God remembers you by giving you His Christ!

Objection #2: “I can’t do this by myself!” (3.13-22). 

If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?; what shall I say to them?” (:13). Moses expects to be asked about the nature of the god who has sent him, and God responds: I AM WHO I AM (:14). God is the one who is always present. Moses won’t be by himself!

Do you ever feel alone? The New Testament reminds us that Jesus, by His very nature, is with His people. Before Abraham was, I AM, Jesus says in John 8.58 (and was killed for saying it). And then in His final words to his disciples: And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28.20) … God remembers you by giving you His Christ!

Objection #3: “I won’t be believed” (4.1-9). Here, God gives Moses three signs involving his staff turned into a serpent and then changed back to a staff (God’s power over nations); Moses’ hand turned leprous and then healed (God’s power to restore broken health); and, Nile water turned to blood (God’s power to judge). Importantly, these are power signs for God’s people, Israel. Moses is afraid he won’t be taken seriously by his own people.

Do you ever worry that you won’t be taken seriously if you bring up the cross of Christ as a serious solution to peoples’ problems? You hear of fellow Christians’ struggles and learn of their work with counselors and psychiatrists and then just feel so silly asking, “So … what does your pain have to do with the Gospel?”

The New Testament assures us that Jesus will make Himself known through you in the hour of your need. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Sprit of your Father speaking through you (Matthew 10.19-20). Jesus is talking about our testimony to His cross! And there we encounter ultimate reality in Christ’s work that is supremely real! … God remembers you by giving you His Christ!

Objection #4: “I don’t know how!” (4.10-17). 

I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue (:10). Moses is not really a local-yokel, but he knows the rhetoric necessary to persuade Pharaoh.

God responds: Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now, therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak? (:11-13).

Do your problems ever seem too complicated for you? The New Testament tells us to go to the cross of Christ. The Apostle Paul got this. In 1 Corinthians 2, pressured by Greeks in love with smooth, Sophist teachers, Paul proclaimed the Gospel of the cross of Christ, crisp and clean: And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (:1-2).

God’s remembrance of Israel looked like His providing a deliverer—Moses, reluctant as he was. God’s remembrance of you and me looks like His providing Christ and His cross—Jesus, willing and able. The problem we each have is that so often we don’t really believe God remembers us by giving us Christ. We’re like Moses, trying our hand at self-deliverance and then being a burnout in the end. We worship on Sunday, but search for worthiness, feel alone, worry about the evaluation of others and don’t know how to solve our problems during the week.

The Good News here is that Christ meets us in every area of our lives and then goes with us as we learn to trust Him.

God remembers you by giving you His Christ!