Tag Archives: trials

The Day Of Temptation

Sorry for the length of this one but I feel an urgency about this; please read it when you can give it good time.

Some of the oldsters who read this blog will remember Keith Green’s song, “I don’t wanna fall away from You.”

Neither do I.

But, the Bible speaks of a time called the great apostasy—the great falling away—prior to the coming of the day of Christ (2 Thes. 2:3).

Surely that could not happen to me… could it? I am not trying to sow doubt in my heart; at the same time I don’t want to kid myself either. Things can get so difficult that any of us might be tempted to throw in the towel. Jesus promised in the parable of the unjust judge that God will certainly avenge His elect who cry day and night unto Him, though He bears long with them. He will be faithful. He will avenge them speedily. But then Jesus added, “Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh [to avenge them] shall He find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8).

Meaning that even with the certainty of this promise being fulfilled, its delay will leave many in such overwhelming circumstances that they will be tempted to abandon their faith. This is especially true in this hour when it seems the whole of Christianity is on trial; even here in the “free” western world it is becoming a heavy reproach to be a Christian in a society that increasingly ridicules God and hates Christians.

And so the temptation is there. God, it seems, is slow to vindicate Himself, and His own. Will I be able to continue on?  Will I be able to stay faithful in spite of this delay?

I want to answer this question by first framing a picture from the book of Hebrews, which I was reading through recently, when suddenly the light came on.

First I read this:

Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted (Heb. 2:17,18).

That reminded me of this a couple of chapters further on:

 Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession [our confession].
For we have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:14-16).

Now, these verses have been a great comfort to me in times of temptation all through my Christian walk. But, as I said, suddenly the light came on. For it dawned on me that sandwiched between these two passages about temptation is another passage about temptation.

 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith), Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work forty years” (Heb. 3:7-9).

The Grand Scheme of Hebrews

Suddenly I was able to connect the dots. This is the centre of the picture framed by those two other passages about the Son of God being able to help those who are in a time of temptation.

The writer of Hebrews—whether it was Paul or someone else doesn’t concern us—was writing in the days of the early church to Hebrews who in a time of increasing persecution were being sorely tempted to draw back from the high and holy calling with which they had been called—to be partakers of Christ Himself, and thus of the great salvation He had wrought for them on the Cross of Calvary, and which He would unfold to them in all its fullness… as they continued to hold the beginning of their confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

This is grand scheme of the writer of Hebrews. He wants to find ways to encourage his brothers and sisters in a time of sore trial to continue on and not fall away. So he goes back to the days when in the wilderness the children of Israel on their way to their Canaan inheritance did the exact opposite. They didn’t hold fast the beginning of their confidence steadfast to the end. They abandoned their hope. In the day of temptation (or, testing) they failed God… and themselves.  Instead of going on, they drew back.

The original Greek has, “in the day of the temptation,” speaking of a specific temptation, or test. The context shows that it was the day when the people, instead of believing their God and pressing on into their heritage, were filled with unbelief and turned back in their hearts to Egypt. The enemies before them, and the obstacles, were just too much. They were filled with fear, not faith. And they turned their backs on God. (See Numbers Chapters 13 and 14.)

They failed the great temptation. In fact they turned the tables on God, as this passage says (and it seems to include other occasions when the people refused to believe their God; see Psalm 95:8, Num. 14:22, Ex. 17:7, Num. 20:13). “Your fathers tempted me…” That is, they put God to the test when it was they who were being tested; they questioned God, doubted that He could actually do what He had promised.

And so instead of going on, they drew back, they fell away.  Incidentally, the passage in Hebrews about those who crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh does not have in mind someone who has stumbled in sin; it’s about those who have “fallen away” (Heb. 6:6). That is, they walk no more with Christ; they have turned their back on Him. This is far different from one who has stumbled in a sin, and is still crying out, “I don’t wanna fall away from You.”

And so the writer of Hebrews seeks to encourage the new converts; he wants them to know that in this calling, difficult as it is, they are attended by a faithful and merciful High Priest who Himself knows all about temptation and is able to help those who are tempted.

This is why he urges them to come boldly to the throne of grace knowing that this High Priest will not look down on them because of their weaknesses and fears; He will sympathize with them because He Himself had been tempted in all things just like themselves, yet without sin. (And what is sin but falling short of the will of God?) All they need do is accept His invitation to come boldly to the throne of grace for the mercy and grace they need in their present trial.

After I read this, I put my Bible down with that question in my heart. (And when you think of it, every temptation has in it this very question.) Will I continue to be faithful? Will I continue on in this hour, or draw back? As I said, I am not trying to sow doubt—to myself or to others—but some of us know that the test can be very severe at times, and it’s not once or twice that I have cried out, Lord, I can’t go on any further, please just take me home. Not that I am saying I don’t want to go on, but I am certain that with my own resources I simply can’t go on.

But this is just why I am urged to come to the Throne of Grace, is it not? Yes, it’s a very high throne, but the One seated there—reigning there with all power in Heaven and earth—is my priest, my very own great High Priest, who has deeply identified Himself with my cause, and is touched with the feeling of my infirmities, and sympathizes with my weaknesses.

So, if I am certain I will never make it by my own resources, I am just as certain that if I come boldly to this throne of Grace I will find the provision I need in order to abide faithful, and continue on.  And that is the answer to my question.

Faith… that pleases God

This present hour is a difficult hour… which is going to get even more difficult. We are in the beginnings of a final onslaught against God and His Christ, and it will take faith to continue on. And—have we learned this lesson?—yesterday’s faith will not do for today. And so we must come to the Throne of Grace… again and again. At the Throne of Grace we will be able to renew our faith in order to continue to live by faith… today as yesterday, though today’s trial be very severe. At the Throne of Grace we will find the mercy and grace we need in order to continue believing God and pleasing God (for without faith it is impossible to please Him) regardless how great the obstacles before us, and impossible the situations, and dark the day. We will also find—this is my conviction because the present day is calling for this—the release of some very powerful things from the Throne of Grace to enable us to triumph and glorify our God in this day, the Evil Day.

Beloved, let us remember that every problem we face, the impossible ones, the insurmountable ones, the ones we have cried to God about till we have no more tears to cry… these will be answered not by our drawing back, but by our going on. God’s answer to the cry of our hearts lies in an inheritance in the light (Col. 1:12). I don’t think we appreciate just how powerful an answer this inheritance in the light is. Suffice it to say that it means the absolute ruin and complete downfall of all the hosts of darkness in the heavenly realm that have wrought such havoc in the family of man.

The psalmist wrote of “a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God” (Ps. 78:8). I believe he had in mind that same generation who, on their way to their promised inheritance, failed God in a great temptation in the wilderness.

I don’t wanna join them.

What I want to do is receive the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews.

 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward (Heb. 10:35).

For we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;
While it is said, Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation… (Heb. 3:14).

Today if ye will hear His Voice, harden not your hearts… (Heb. 3:7).

For we which have believed do enter into [the] rest… (Heb. 4:3).

Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back my soul shall have no pleasure in him (Heb. 10:38).

…Notice that last little phrase? Beloved, this is what living by faith is all about. It’s about pleasing God. It’s about believing in Him, and continuing to believe… every step of the way. This brings Him great pleasure. When we are in a great trial and much difficulty… and we are not sure we can even continue on… and yet we don’t draw back, we come again to our great High Priest on the Throne of Grace seeking mercy, and grace, and a fresh inspiration for our faith so that we can continue on no matter what… oh, how this pleases Him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uu6dR7cz1_o

 

I’m Not Tired Yet

I mentioned a while ago that I hoped to share with my readers some things that were opened to me about the realm of the Spirit during a time of fasting.  It’s still on my heart to do that, but my leading is to first emphasize what the Spirit of the Lord is emphasizing—that at this particular juncture in the purposes of God when many are finding it very hard to go on, and prayer is difficult, and there is so little of His Presence with us, our Lord is saying strongly, “Keep seeking Me earnestly!  Don’t quit!  Don’t give up!”

We’ve had several confirmations the last while that this is what He is urging upon us.  I sensed that again earlier today—that our Lord is bursting with hope for each one of us in the same way we would be cheering and shouting encouragement to our favourite runner in a marathon race.  I don’t know how He manages to make each and every one of us His favourite runner, but He does, and He wants to see us finish and win the prize.

The shape this is taking in my own thinking is along this line:  although we have a measure of this now, God is about to bring His people into a realm of the Spirit and a walk in the Spirit more wondrous than anything we have ever known.  But necessary to this is the time we are now in—a very grievous time of spiritual drought and famine in which many at times can’t find enough of the water of the Spirit so much as to wet their tongue.  So there is a lot of weariness and discouragement.

Part of the reason for this dark and desolate time, I believe, is that it emboldens the evil spirits to come out and make their play, like the psalmist said when the sun goes down and it is night, “wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth” (Ps. 104.20).

There are certainly a lot of beasts creeping around these days seeking their prey.  And not just out there in the “world.”  They are finding their prey even in many churches.  In fact this is the hour when the man of iniquity is being revealed in the temple of God “shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thes. 2.4).  He’s beginning to reveal himself, manifesting signs and lying wonders, and many are being deceived by it all.

And so it’s a very difficult time for the true of heart, and our Lord wants to reassure us.  Don’t give up!  Don’t quit!  Keep seeking me!  I am with you more than you can know, and what I am about to do with your help will deal with all this like a snail in the sun.

It’s a wonderful prospect.  BUT.  We are being very foolish if we think we can just wait for this and meanwhile fill our lives with earthly things.  If there was a time when a Christian could keep his or her walk with the Lord on the back burner and just enjoy the earthly life, that time is gone now.  We have entered a time when, as my friend Terry said recently, “if we are not in the Spirit we are going to be dead meat.”   To trust the arm of the flesh to get you through something is to court total disaster.  We are entering a time—have already entered it—when our own wisdom and earthly zeal will no longer get us through things.  Our own strength will fail us.

And it’s for this very reason, I think, that God has permitted the great spiritual drought we are in.  That’s how I’m beginning to see things.  He has dried us up, has caused our own strength and zeal to shrivel, because He knows it just won’t cut it in the day that’s coming.  So He dries us up to prepare us for what He has in mind to bring us into– a totally spiritual provision, a totally supernatural strength and sustenance, with no admixture of the earthly whatsoever!

Perhaps that’s a fearful thought.  Personally I find it exciting.  And why should it be less than exciting to the new-creation man?

So, with this in mind, the other day I was looking for a song on YouTube.  (I go to YouTube very very cautiously, by the way; there are beasts there ready to eat you if you let your guard down even for a second.)  I was looking for that old song, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  That’s what I have been wanting to do more fully—trust Him with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.  Anyway, somehow I came across a song called, “I’m Not Tired Yet” by the Mississippi Mass Choir.  Please forgive me: I was intrigued by the title, so I listened to it.  🙂  My old ear couldn’t make out the words, but “I’m not tired yet” was the continual refrain.  I thought, they’re singing what God is saying: “I’m not tired yet.”  Amen, I said to myself, God never gets tired.  He’s not discouraged.  He’s going to do what He said He would do.

I wanted to get the words to the song so I searched for the lyrics.  When I found them I was a little disappointed.  They were along the lines of… well, here they are, read them for yourself:

Been working for Jesus a long time.
(I’m not tired yet.)
Been running for Jesus a long time.
(I’m not tired yet.)
Been working for Jesus a long time.
(I’m not tired yet.)
Been singing for Jesus a long time.
(I’m not tired yet.)
Been running by day and praying by night.
(I’m not tired yet.)
I’ve gotta get going it’s a mighty hard fight.
(I’m not tired yet.)
No… I’m not tired yet.
No… I’m not tired yet…

There’s more, but see what I mean?  I wondered if it was just human zeal boasting about a conflict they’ve never engaged.  I know by experience that a painful revelation awaits those who zealously lean on the arm of the flesh in the trials of life.  But then I thought… I’m probably not being very generous here.  These people are no doubt singing because they have been through a lot and actually have discovered the secret of never growing tired.  And that old familiar passage in Isaiah came to me.

Hast thou not known?  Hast thou not heard?  That the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?  There is no searching of His understanding.

So, yes, it’s true—and we need to remember this—God never gets tired.  It’s a very difficult hour and it’s going to get even more difficult.  But God is not tired yet.  God is not tired yet.  He is going to finish what He started.

“Well and good,” you say, “He is God.  What about me?  I’m starting to get so tired.”  Let me say that I too know what it’s like to grow very weary in the trials of life.  At times I have been filled with such inner emotional pain that I have said, “Lord, please just take me home, I can’t do this anymore.”  Even the apostle Paul spoke of being “in weariness, and painfulness.”  Christians are not made of plastic, and the Lord knows it.  He Himself knows our frame.  He remembers that we are dust.  But when Isaiah reminds us that God never grows weary and never faints, he is leading up to something.  This God who never gets tired, what does He do?

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.

He gives power to whom?  To the faint.  To them that have no might.  Can you relate?  These are the ones whose strength He increases in a day when the strong and the zealous are falling and fainting on every hand.

Now the verse we all love:

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles: they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.

We love that old song, don’t we.  “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…”  In other words, no matter what they are going through, those who are waiting upon the LORD will be able to say, “I’m not tired yet.”  Why?  Because they have tapped into a hidden strength, the resources of Almighty God Himself.  Human zeal and strength—the arm of the flesh—will never carry the day.  But those who wait upon the Lord will, because they have exchanged their strength, as the Hebrew word renew means.  They are no longer walking in an earthly realm.  They are walking in a spiritual dimension, and are being sustained with an entirely spiritual strength—God’s own strength.

And as I said, more and more we are entering the day when this is not optional.  We are up against such complex problems, such grievous things, such difficult things, and forces in a heavenly dimension… forces that are far too great for us, far greater than any human resource can deal with.  We must be in the Spirit, meeting all things with spiritual provision. This is what the day at hand is calling for and requires.

But if it is required, this can only mean that God has it for us, beloved!  He has the provision for us to run this race and not get tired, to walk and not faint.  And it begins by waiting upon Him, looking expectantly to Him… and mounting up into the realm where the eagle flies—the realm of the Spirit, the realm where we discover the wind under our wings, and find those thermals in the Spirit that draw us upward, upward, upward… and we have loosed the surly bonds of earth.

Let’s not be afraid of this.  Maybe it’s frightening, the prospect of being so totally in the Spirit that we have none of the familiar earthly moorings to hold on to any more.  But oh… what an adventure is before us!

…As it turns out this blog entry wasn’t a detour after all.  In fact it’s already leading into what I have been wanting to share about the realm of the Spirit.

 

What World Do You Walk In?

Habakkuk the prophet spoke of a time when he could find nothing but desolation all around him.  The fig tree had not blossomed, nor seemed likely to blossom.  There was no fruit in the vine.  The labour of the olive had failed.  The fields had yielded no food.  The flock was cut off from the fold, and there was no herd in the stalls (Hab. 3.17).

This was a spiritual scene Habakkuk was prophesying about—signs of a frightening spiritual crop failure, and therefore severe famine at the door.  Yet what was Habakkuk’s reaction?

Yet will I rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and He will make me to walk upon my high places (Hab. 3.19).

Joy?  Rejoicing?  How can it be possible to be in the midst of such grievous circumstance and yet tap into a source of joy?

Let me tell you of one high place higher than all others—the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who is seated at the right hand of God in heavenly places “far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1.21).

And we are called to walk in Him there.

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving (Col. 1.7).

Fellow Christian with the hinds’ feet of the Holy Spirit, though we live in an evil world of trouble and great darkness, it is our heritage to be living and walking in the high places of an entirely different world.  In Christ we have the opportunity—and the provision by the Holy Spirit—to walk no longer dependent on this world for our peace and wellbeing and happiness and security.  Those who walk in this world, when evil circumstance—trouble or affliction—comes upon them, their peace and wellbeing evaporates like the morning cloud in the heat of the sun.

I know this happens to you and me too at times.  But it need not.  There is another realm in which we can walk.  Those who have received Christ Jesus the Lord, we can walk in Him.  Regardless of present evil circumstance or affliction, JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, and so, rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, we can be living and walking in One who is seated upon the Throne of God in a kingdom and dominion that transcends and rules over all.

Let us consider this earnestly, and meditate upon it, and sow to it.  It is quite the thing that there are people on this troubled planet who are actually rooted and living in a different world.  They are not subject to the vagaries and transience of earthly things. There may be some deeply galling circumstance in our life, or deep affliction, something from which, like a prison, there seems no escape.  But right there we can be living in another realm.

Consider the apostle Paul when he was a prisoner (Phil. 1.13)… and not quite sure how things would go for him (2.23).  How long would he be in this prison?  Perhaps he might even be executed?  And yet he is filled to overflowing with joy.  Read his letter to the Philippians remembering he is in prison while he writes this.  Yet he is filled with joy, so much so that his joy just spills over to those he is writing to.  You have to read the whole letter in one sweep to get the feel of it, but here are two or three verses.

…Christ is preached, and therein do I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice (Phil. 1.18).

Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.
For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me (Phil. 2.17,18).

Paul expects it could well be that his days here on earth are over, but he is filled with joy, and seeks to infect his friends and brethren with the same joy.  Like Habakkuk, he is rejoicing in the midst of the worst possible circumstances.

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 3.1).

These are Habakkuk’s words, aren’t they.  And it appears Paul is about to sign off.  “Finally, my brethren…”  But the joy continues to well up, and now something else comes on his heart,  and it is not till he has given us one of the most precious chapters in the whole of the Bible (Philippians Ch. 3) that he picks up his benediction again:

Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice (Ch. 4.4).

How can he be so full of joy considering his circumstances?  It’s simply because he is rooted in a heavenly Ground that transcends his present evil circumstance.  He knows that the Gospel of Christ in him is a power that rules over all; whatever comes it is not possible for him to be disappointed.

…According to my earnest expectation and my hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Ch. 1.20).

We find this same confidence in Paul’s second letter to Timothy written when he is again in prison.  This time he is chained like a common criminal—and this time he knows for certain his end is at hand.  (He was executed under the Roman emperor Nero, likely in 67 AD just after writing this letter.)

And note what we glean from this letter; it’s enough to sink anyone in despair.  All in the province of Asia where Paul has laboured so earnestly have now deserted him (2 Tim. 1.15).  That in itself is enough to take the heart out of anyone—to see their life’s work disintegrate before their very eyes.  The flock, it seems, has been cut off from the fold; Paul’s labour of the olive has failed… or so it seemed.  And it appears it’s a rare thing that anyone comes to visit lonely Paul in prison; he makes special mention of a certain Onesiphorus who came from Ephesus and searched hard to find him and came often and refreshed him, “and was not ashamed of my chain” (2 Tim. 1.16).

What is more, Paul tells Timothy that the first time he stood before Nero no one showed up to stand by him and defend him (2 Tim. 4.16).  My.  One would think the Lord Himself had abandoned Paul… until we continue reading.

Nevertheless the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me… and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory forever and ever, Amen (2 Tim. 4.18).

And so we see in Paul an unshakable faith and confidence that springs from a source other than this present evil world.  Paul is rooted in another world, a heavenly world—actually in Christ Himself, who never ever forsakes him.  He is being built up in Him, for he is established, grounded, in the faith, abounding therein with thanksgiving.  His letter is filled with words of encouragement for Timothy, whom he knows to be somewhat timid of nature, and vulnerable to fear and anxiety.  Paul reminds him it is for the Gospel that he is suffering these things, and regardless of the present scene, he is confident in the triumph of the Gospel—to be revealed in a certain Day.  And so he rejoices in the Lord, in the God of his salvation.

For which cause I suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that Day (2 Tim. 1.12).

Beloved Christian, there is a Day coming.  There is coming a Day.  But this does not mean that the Gospel is not triumphant even now in our present troubles—for the one who with hinds’ feet walks in Christ in the high places of a different world… while we confidently await the Day when that triumph will be openly manifested.

My Battle With Diffidence

The psalms in my Bible (I use the old King James Version of the Bible) are introduced with a superscription—a brief preview describing the contents of the psalm.  The heading above Psalm 77 reads, “The psalmist sheweth what fierce combat he had with diffidence.”

Diffidence?  I had to look it up in the dictionary.  I discovered that diffidence is “lack of confidence, mistrust, doubt.”  And… I can relate.  That superscription could as easily read, “Allan sheweth what fierce combat he hath with diffidence.”  It is truly very difficult at times.  At times I could put my own signature under the psalm as something I had written myself.

I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and He gave ear unto me.
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.  Selah.

I go through times like this.  My heart is sore with unanswered prayer; I am troubled, and refuse to be comforted by anything this world has to offer.  I remember God… but it troubles me to remember.  For, where is my God?  I complain, I am overwhelmed.

I have worried at times that my complaining is displeasing to God… except that I actually find this same kind of troubled honesty in the psalms God Himself inspired—a man pouring out his honest complaint before his God, a man emptying out his troubled heart into the heart of his God.  So, if God Himself has inspired this kind of psalm, it can’t be true that He is displeased with such a cry.

…And then all these questions the psalmist asks.  They too are my own.

I call to remembrance my song in the night:  I commune with mine own heart, and my spirit made diligent search.
Will the Lord cast off forever?  And will He be favourable no more?  Is His mercy clean gone forever?  Doth His promise fail for evermore?
Hath God forgotten to be gracious?  Hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies?  Selah.
And I said, This is my infirmity (or, my anguish): but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High (from Psalm 77).

This then was the cry of the psalmist’s heart:  where are the years of the right hand of the Most High?  (The right hand always signifying God’s unequalled power– the right hand of power.)

It is my own cry.  Where is Your Right Hand, O Lord, with which at one time You redeemed your people, going so far as to part the very waters of the impossible sea to make a way of them?  But now?  Your work has failed, Your people languish.  You have forgotten us, Lord—forgotten the work of Your own hands.  You have forgotten Your promise—that we Your people should be a blessing to the nations.  Instead we are a burden to the nations.  They mock us, laugh at us.  Where is our Holy and our beautiful House where our fathers praised You?  It is burned up with fire, and all our pleasant things are laid waste.  You started a work… You raised up a people from the Valley of Dry Bones… but did You start to put flesh and sinew on our bones only to leave us to languish unfinished?  Why do you start a work and not finish it, Lord?  We know we’re not dead in trespasses and sins anymore.  But we’re not really alive, either—not with the life that You promised when You said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  Where is this abundant life, Lord?  Where is the fountain You promised when You told the woman at the well of Samaria that the water You would give would become a fountain leaping up unto eternal life?  But Lord our wells are dry!  We live in a dry and thirsty land where no water is.

…This is the cry of my heart.  And I know it is the cry of many others these days.

I recall from The Pilgrim’s Progress that Christian with his companion Hopeful on their journey to the Heavenly City ended up in the territory of Giant Despair, who locked them up in the dungeon of Doubting Castle.  Giant Despair had a wife named Diffidence. She encouraged her husband Despair to beat the captive pilgrims mercilessly day after day… even counseling him to advise them to do away with themselves since it was certain they would never see the light of day outside the thick walls of that castle ever again.

Until suddenly Christian remembers he actually has in his pocket a key out of that dark place—a key called Promise.

So with this psalmist.  He has his fierce battle with diffidence.  But then he turns the key of promise in the lock.

Thou art the God that doeth wonders: Thou hast declared Thy strength among the people.
Thou hast with Thine arm redeemed Thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph.  Selah.
The waters saw Thee, O God, the waters saw Thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.
The clouds poured out water, the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows (lightnings) also went abroad.
The voice of Thy thunder (rolled) in the heaven; the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.

And so with me.  I have my own fierce battle with diffidence.  But then I rally.  I embrace these words the psalmist wrote.  For they are prophetic.  A great eternal Storm is about to break.   The God of wonders will reveal Himself in the midst of it.  He will come forth in great power—with words like thunder and lightning.  In the midst of the mighty storm He will redeem His people with a stunning display of sovereign power and glory.

And make a way for us.  Where?  Right through that impossible sea.

Thy way is in the sea, and Thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.
Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Right in the midst of overwhelming destruction—a destruction that destroys all His enemies—The Shepherd of Israel leads His people like a flock by the hand of a priestly leadership.

That’s a promise—a prophetic promise.  Let me complete now that superscription above Psalm 77 I mentioned at the start.  For, there’s more to it.  “The psalmist sheweth what fierce combat he had with diffidence.  The victory which he had.”

What would we do without those last few words?  How did the psalmist get the victory over diffidence?  With that same key of promise Christian had in Doubting Castle.

I’m so thankful to discover I have the same key.  What begins in diffidence becomes my cry of intercession– and I know my God will answer.

Are You Still Saved?

Last time we talked about holding fast the title deed of our salvation—which is faith.  “Faith is the title deed of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”

Back in the old days when I lived in Calgary—yes I know, I am going back a long way—I used to know an old saint named Andy Svensen.  He was an amiable old man with a permanent twinkle in his eye—and a permanent question on his lips whenever he greeted me.

“Are you still saved?” he would smile, eyes twinkling, as he shook my hand.  I had no idea how long Andy had been saved—a long time.  I had only been saved a few months.

“Yes,” I would smile back confidently, “I’m still saved.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but I realize now that Andy was making a doctrinal statement by asking that question.  Once-saved-always-saved.

It’s good doctrine… as long as it’s held in tension with the many ifs in the Bible.

And you that were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled
In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight:
IF ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel… (Col. 1.21-23).

For we are made partakers of Christ IF we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end (Heb. 3.14).

Today, IF ye will hear His Voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness, when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work forty years (Heb. 3.8).

The writer of Hebrews applies the whole story of Israel failing to enter their promised land to us in our day.  For we too have a promised heritage—and that’s what salvation is all about.  God’s purpose is to bring us into our inheritance, the fullness of the salvation Christ purchased for us on Calvary with His own blood.

The implication is that it is possible for us to fall short of this salvation as they of old fell short… if we do not continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.  Instead of overcoming in the wilderness, they were overthrown in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10.5).  The same with us… if we believe not, as they believed not—that is, disobey as they disobeyed (Heb. Ch. 3).  It is possible to fall short of the Promise if we cast away our confidence, which hath great recompense of reward (Heb. 10.35).  It is possible to fall short in the trial of faith if we don’t continue to come to the Throne of grace for the provision we need in every trial.  The provision is there at the Throne of grace—no matter how great the trial.  The greater the trial the greater the grace, and the greater the provision.  But neglect or disobedience on our part—call it lack of faith—could sever us from our promised salvation.

It’s quite the thing to discover that God charged those in the wilderness of not believing in Him.  “…They believed not in God, and trusted not in His salvation” (Ps. 78.22).  That’s quite the statement, but that’s what God said.  Whatever they held doctrinally, He said, “they believed not in God.”  They had been saved from destruction in Egypt by the blood of the lamb, and rejoiced as they crossed the Red Sea.  “There did we rejoice in Him” (Ps. 66.6).  But now in the wilderness… where did their faith go?  God was in the process of unfolding this great salvation, but “they trusted not in His salvation.”  They lost the joy.  This did not look like salvation—this huge trial they were in.  “They believed not in God.”  The true test of whether or not we believe in God is what happens in the fiery trial.  It may be affliction, or difficult circumstances, or unjust treatment, or persecution… or the furnace of time when God’s promise seems nowhere in sight.  “Manifold trials,” Peter calls them.  It’s all the fiery trial where our faith is assayed—whether it is genuine or not.  Do we continue to believe in God… or not?  Do we continue to come to the Throne of Grace for the provision God has for us in this trial, or like Israel of old in the wilderness, do we draw back?  They drew back.  Drew back unto what?

For we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe unto the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10.19).

…So there are ifs in the Bible.  If we do not heed them there is no guarantee of salvation.

The beautiful thing about the New Covenant ifs is that they do not rest upon our own shoulders alone.  Yes, we have a part in it, we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.  But this work is working with God.

For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2.13).

What a wonder.  This is cause for great rejoicing and comfort.  We have an Advocate—the Holy Spirit—who is committed to securing our part in the New Covenant as much as God’s part.  If it were not so, the New Covenant could not rightly be called a better covenant (Heb. 8.6).  Why is it better?  Well, what was wrong with the old one?  It was the people.  God found fault with the Old Covenant because of the people.

For if the first had been faultless, then should no place have been found for the second.
For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come when I will make a New Covenant… (Heb. 8.8).

The New Covenant, then, is better because it contains provision for our complete success!  Jesus our great high priest is—not only on the Throne of Grace in Heaven, but also right here in our hearts by the Holy Spirit—“the surety of a better covenant” (Heb. 7.22).

So there is cause for much rejoicing.  We can have the joy of the Lord every step along the way as much as when we first crossed the Red Sea.  Yes, “there did we rejoice in Him.”  But let us “hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope steadfast unto the end” (Heb. 3.6).  We can do this step by step along the way—all along the way—as we continue to tap into the provision of the Throne of Grace.

Which brings me back to my old friend Andy Svenson.  He’s gone to his reward now.  But I recall once when I visited Andy in his little three-room house in Bowness—he was a bachelor, had never married.  He greeted me at the door with a handshake and a smile– and his favourite question– and invited me in.  I liked the little place: it was a bit cluttered, but clean.  The good, homey smell of coffee had long since percolated into everything in the house.  We visited for a bit—this old man with his wisps of white hair and this young man who had not yet parted ways with his hippy-style locks.  And then Andy asked me: “Do you like to sing?”

Without waiting for me to answer he got out a tattered old hymn book and started to, well, sing… holding the book so I could read the words too.

Sweeter as the years go by, sweeter as the years go by,
Richer, fuller, deeper, Jesus’ love is sweeter,
Sweeter as the years go by.

This is how it should be with us, beloved.  Yes, the ifs are there.   And we must heed them.  But as we heed them with the help of the Holy Spirit, this will be our song all along the way.

…Which, it just comes to me, is what A Mending Feast is all about.

Hold Fast Your Title Deed Of Faith

We have been talking about the day of recompense.  The day of vengeance.  But before we go any further we need to remember that this is God’s right alone.  We are not to take vengeance into our own hands.  We must leave it all to God.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord (Rom. 12.19).

And He will.  The day comes when God recompenses all men according to their works.

Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with the him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
Woe unto the wicked!  It shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him (Isa. 3.10,11).

In other words, God repays them in kind—repays them out of their own pocket, actually.  For some this means trouble, and wrath.

But for the faithful Christian it means the recompense of salvation.

So above all things, beloved  Christian, in the fiery trial hold tightly the certificate of your faith.

Faith is the substance—the title deed—of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen (Heb. 11.1).

As long as we have this title deed in our hand we are the possessors of a very great salvation—a salvation so great that even the angels desire to look into it.  This is why the testing of our faith is so important.  It is tragic when in the fiery trial someone draws back or turns aside.  What loss… when God meant the whole thing to be for our great gain.  Whatever the Devil or wicked men have in mind, God’s intent is to purify our faith in the fire—not that we draw back unto perdition, but that we believe unto the saving of our souls (Heb. 10.39).

Our salvation is sure—as long as we maintain faith and hope.  Our salvation is in the sphere of faith and hope—and we are to arm ourselves accordingly lest this hope be robbed from us.  For the day comes when we obtain this great salvation.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for an helmet the hope of salvation.
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who died for us, that whether we wake (Gk. watch) or sleep we should live together with Him (1 Thes. 5.8-10).

Notice this, it’s very beautiful.  If you and I are faithful on our watch, and then when the watch is over, fall asleep (in death)… our salvation is just as sure as for the one who is still awake and watching when Jesus comes with His salvation.  We don’t miss out on anything.  We shall live together with Him.

So let us be faithful on our watch!

And let us always remember how important our faith is, and the trial of that faith.  The trial of our faith is “more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire” (1 Pt. 1.7).  As we are faithful in that trial, and endure, it will be found “unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing (in the revelation) of Jesus Christ.”  My.  That is something.  Help us dear Lord not to be short sighted when we are in the midst of the trial of our faith!

Yes, we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ—we are saved.  But our salvation is in the sphere of faith.  We are saved by grace—through faith.  That faith is the title deed to what we hope for.  And so we guard it, protect it, nurture it in one another against the day when that salvation is revealed.  We are saved—but we anticipate the day when this salvation is revealed.  We in this day are “kept by the power of faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pt. 1.5).  It is a “great salvation,” and we dare not neglect it (Heb. 2.3)—so great a salvation that “the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you; searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow…” (1 Pt. 1.10,11).

This theme is much on Peter’s mind as he writes his first epistle—that this day is the day of suffering, the day of the trial of our faith—which is followed by the day of glory.  (We don’t wonder that Peter would write so much along this line; he went through a very severe trial of faith himself.)  He exhorts us:

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (1 Pt. 4.12,13).

And still further he says:

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed… (1 Pt. 5.1).

There is a salvation ready to be revealed to us—in the day of Christ’s glory when we are glorified with Him.  If we suffer with Him, we shall be glorified together with Him.  And the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to us.  Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory… as we come out of it all with tried, and tested, but unshaken faith.

The Christian’s portion in this world, this present evil age, is trouble—humiliation, suffering, alienation, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution… hatred from a world that hates God and His Christ.

But what is coming?  Another day.  The day of judgment.  The day of recompense.  The day of vengeance.  For some, this means wrath.  But for some it means salvation, as we are faithful to take up our Cross in this age, and wait for His Son from Heaven, who has delivered us from the wrath to come (1 Thes. 1.9,10).

We can sum it all up by saying that we who are saved anticipate salvation in the day of wrath which is at the door.  Our judgment will be salvation—not wrath.  And so we are not afraid of what is coming.  We anticipate it!  We anticipate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ—our Salvation Himself.  Those in all ages who have suffered for His Name have cried out, “O Lord Jesus, how long, how long, till we shout the glad song:  Christ returneth, Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!…”

He comes—His recompense with Him, and His work before Him—to the joy and rejoicing of our hearts.

God Will Get Even

Notice from last time that Paul encouraged the Thessalonians with the hope that the righteous God would recompense trouble to those that troubled them, “and to you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ… (2 Thes. 1.5-8).

Notice this also.  Paul does not say merely “them that know not God,” but “them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  He equates the two—knowing God, and the Gospel.  None of us start out with the knowledge of God.  It is only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that any man comes to know God.  And He will deal justly with those who had opportunity to know Him through the Gospel, and rejected it.  He will also deal justly with those who received His Gospel.

…Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
And to you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ… (2 Thes. 1.3-8).

It’s important to understand that word recompense.  Many there are who accuse God of being vindictive and just plain mean—coming in flaming fire to wreak vengeance on all those nice people that know not God and obey not the Gospel.  What they fail to realize is that God is merely recompensing them that which is their own.  They heaped trouble on His own, who did not deserve it.  Now their trouble comes back to them.  For God is just.  He renders to every man according to his own works (Rom. 2.6).  The Christians in  Thessalonica patiently endured the trouble that was being heaped on them, not rendering evil for evil, but trusting in their God.  And so now God recompenses them rest in the day of wrath.  He gives them what is their own.

And He repays in their own currency those who troubled the church.  He troubles them.

In other words—and this is a wonderful mystery—as they heaped trouble on the Christians they were actually building and stoking their own fire.

For God is the God of recompense.  The merciful obtain mercy.  Those who deal in wrath get wrath returned to them in the day of the righteous judgments of God.

God says He is coming in vengeance.  Here’s another word that gets the Christian’s God a lot of bad press.  But once again it is a matter of the just God merely giving others their own.

And so, yes, the day of vengeance is much to be dreaded by the wicked—for He gives them the fruit of their own wickedness.  But it is a day to be much longed for by those who accepted God’s kind offer of salvation in the day when He stretched forth His arms to receive any who would come to Him—the acceptable year of the Lord, as He calls it (Isa. 61.2).  There is a time when God proffers salvation with open arms to all men no matter how wicked they are.  “Seek ye the LORD while He may be found,” He cries, “call ye upon Him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our  God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55.6,7).

It’s the acceptable year of the LORD; His arms are wide open to all; there is no excuse for any man to continue in his wickedness.

“I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored (helped) thee: behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6.2).

But if the wicked are not willing to receive what is God’s… what can He do but give them what is their own?

And those who turned from their wickedness and received God’s gracious offer of salvation… and subsequently endured “manifold temptations,” afflictions, persecutions… shall not God get even with them also?

For the time comes when that day of salvation, that acceptable year of the Lord, draws to a close, and the day of vengeance dawns.

Those who laughed… they cry now. (Lk. 6.25).

And those who wept now laugh (Lk. 6.21).

He comforts those who mourned.  He gives them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isa. 61.2,3).

He comes with vengeance… and saves us!  The salvation He opened to us in the day of salvation, and which we embraced by faith and hoped in… and walked in patience, and trust, enduring hard things… now He delivers that salvation in full.

“Behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense…”  Sounds so frightening.  But keep reading.  “…He will come and save you” (Isa. 35.4).

His vengeance means He pays out in full the salvation His people believed Him for in the day when what they got for their faith in Him was nothing but trouble, affliction, suffering, ridicule, persecution.

Let us nurture this hope, then, fellow Christian.  It is not a strange thing when the fiery trial comes our way.  In the midst of the fire let us hold tight our certificate of faith—the title deed of what we hope for (Heb. 11.1).  That faith may be tried severely.  But it will mean great joy for us in the day when God gets even with all men.