Sunday, August 2, 2020

For Your Consideration


Last week, I finished up a lengthy blog series on faith. I am going to launch a new blog series on September 14, this one focusing on something very practical and containing information I have never seen anywhere in print or online. In between, I am going to publish some miscellaneous poetry I have written over the years. And, having just bought a house, I am going to focus on moving. But today, I am going to ask you to consider supporting Brennan's Pen.

Through the years Brennan's Pen has grown substantially. Directly and indirectly, with it I minister to hundreds of pastors, missionaries, professors, Bible college students, Sunday School teachers, and local church leaders around the world. Whether it is a brief selection from a book I have been reading, or a blog article I have published, an audio sermon I have preached, a Zoom class link, or a personal interaction with a reader, I send out nearly 15,000 emails a month. Those emails contain completely free content, including every one of my audio sermons via Brennan's Pulpit. The Zoom classes I teach via Brennan's Pen are done at no charge.

The problem that has arisen as this ministry has grown is simple. Providing this much free content on this wide of a scale has begun to cost me more and more money. I view this as a ministry, not a money-making opportunity. I have never charged for any of it. But the cost of providing such a ministry to so many people is becoming onerous. If you see value in a ministry to local church leaders like this, and you would be willing to help me bear the cost of doing so I would be grateful for your support. Again, to be clear, I am not trying to make money. I am trying to simply pay the costs associated with providing this much free content so widely.

As a way of saying thank you for helping me in this I want to offer my patrons two unique things. The first is access to the digital files of all the quotes I have sent out over the last ten years. These files contain 2,400 quotes from hundreds of books about ministry. The quotes are organized into hundreds of categories by subject and more are being added daily. The second unique thing available only to patrons is access to my organized sermon notes. These are not notes to stand alone sermons. They are the notes to in-depth series I have preached over the years, expository series, biographical series, doctrinal series, subject studies, Bible institute curriculum, etc. There are detailed notes for nearly 1,200 messages available with more being added regularly.

If any of this interests you - supporting Brennan's Pen as it ministers to local church leaders, and/or receiving access to the quotes or sermon files - I would simply ask you to consider signing up for a monthly subscription. I suggest $1 per month though I would happily take a more if you want to give it. Patreon is a widely reputable organization, and your financial information will be kept secure. To sign up simply click the blue link below.


Thank you for your consideration. And to those of you who already support Brennan's Pen my sincere thank you.

Tom Brennan



Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Author and Finisher of our Faith

Faith 24


          Hebrews 11 is often called the Hall of Faith and for good reason. It contains a plethora of worthy examples and we do well to dwell thoughtfully there. The following chapter builds contextually on that list of worthies. It tells us that all those worthies are currently in Heaven watching us so we ought to live holy. Additionally, it informs us that the way to live holy is by looking to Jesus, by focusing on Him and patterning ourselves after Him.

Hebrews 12:1–3

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.  

          Tucked away in this passage is a phrase, a descriptive phrase about Jesus. He is the author and finisher of our faith. For the past eight months on this blog I have been discussing faith. I did not originally intend the series to stretch this long, but when the pandemic became a reality I felt the series ought to be extended. Extended it has become. As I draw it to a close with today’s post it is only fitting that we turn our attention to Jesus Christ. For our faith begins with Christ, and is perfected by Christ. He alone will bring our faith to a gloriously divine conclusion.

          Our faith begins with Him. He is the author of it. I mean this in two senses. First, in that God gives us our faith in the first place. God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Romans 12.3).

Years ago, as a young boy, I can remember my parents hauling us through the snow of a December day to the local Kmart in Girard, Ohio. It was Christmas and we needed to buy gifts for one another. Naturally, the only people in the store with less financial resources than my parents were their children. Accordingly, they gave each of us $10 and a shopping cart, accompanied by instructions to use the proceeds to purchase gifts for each of our siblings and themselves. I can still remember the fun of that occasion – meeting each other in the aisles, coats covering the carts, howls of insistence that someone was peeking and injured protests of innocence. Amazingly enough, we accomplished it and Christmas morning found us unwrapping our gifts around the tree. At least this is how I remember it, though my mother, who regularly reads my blog, will probably call me tomorrow to fix the particulars that I have wrongly remembered. <grin>

How did I give my parents a gift? Using the money they themselves had given to me. In a sense, this is precisely what God has done with faith. He demands we place it in Him. Under the curse of sin, we find ourselves unable to comply. So in His grace He furnishes us with the faith He asks us to place in Him.

The second sense in which our faith begins with Him is in the realization that our lifelong journey of living by faith began when we placed our faith in Christ alone. A religion that does not begin with faith in Jesus Christ is no religion. It is a fraudulent front of an empty shell of one. Paul mentions Jesus by name sixty-seven times in the six short chapters that make up Ephesians. By no means, is this a stretch of an illustration. Cut the Word anywhere and it positively bleeds Jesus. It is all built on Him.

Not only does our faith begin with Christ, it is also perfected by Christ. He is the finisher of it. Negatively, this does not mean we do not work at faith. Paul complimented the Thessalonian church about its work of faith and labour of love (I Thessalonians 1.3). God is a not a European socialist government dispensing His largesse on Christian welfare queens. No, we must work at developing our faith. Positively, however, it does mean that the work we undertake must be done depending upon Him to help us to do it. We cannot accomplish anything of any value in the Christian life without work, without effort, without toil, without striving, but each of these are enabled through the grace of God.

Twenty-three years ago yesterday I stood before a congregation as a pastor for the very first time. The crowd, counting me, numbered eleven. My pulpit was a cardboard box covered with a bathroom rug. My salary was $200 a month. My parsonage was an office off the platform four feet wide and seven feet long. My bed was a cot. The building in which we met had no physical address, no mailbox, and no phone lines. Our church had no membership list, no Sunday School classes, no parking lot, and precious little money. Our tables were saw horses with planks laid across the top. Our chairs were a garage sale mishmash. The sound system was a boom box placed strategically within reach so I could press play on the cassette tape while I walked the aisle to take the offering. Our church was a church in name only, hanging on by a thread.

Twenty-three years later so very much has changed, both in myself and in the churches in which I have labored. I will not bore you with enumerated details. Pride is already too much of a temptation to me. Suffice it to say in this context that any progress that has happened in my life and in the life and ministry of the churches committed to my care has been as a result of Him. He is the doer of it. Yes, I have laboured along the way, but He has done the work.

Paul expresses this balance beautifully in Philippians 2.13-13. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. We work and He works. But He is ever the only finisher.

How glad I am that He is! For when my faith falters, as it does too often, I am reminded that He finishes what He begins. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1.6).

Just a short time ago, I stepped onto my back porch. It blazed with the humid remnants of a scorching July day. Underneath, the air conditioner strained to keep up. I walked to the edge, rested my arms on the wood that braces the screen, and wept. I did not weep for myself. I wept in fear for the spiritual direction of someone I love. And through the tears the Lord whispered to my heart, “They are my child. I love them more than you. They are mine to care for. And I will do so.” I know not when or how, but beyond a shadow of a doubt I will see them someday conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. He has promised this (Romans 8.29). He has begun this. And He always finishes what He starts.   

          Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (I John 3.2).

          It begins with Him. And He will make sure it is accomplished in the end. He is the author and finisher of our faith.

          Now, pardon me, while I go and shout a while…


Sunday, July 19, 2020

Substance and Evidence

Faith 23


 

          I like the word “is” in the Bible. It often defines for us what God thinks about something. Grace is sufficient. Mercy is everlasting. God is, well, nearly three-score specific things in Scripture. There’s a blog series there, for sure. At the moment, however, we are studying faith. Nine times in the King James Version we find the phrase “faith is”. Only one of them is a definition. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11.1).

          Faith, then, is two things. First, it is the substance of things hoped for. Allow me to illustrate the meaning of substance here with a foundation. Before you raise a house, you dig a foundation. The foundation supports all else you place upon it. I have a solid hope of eternal life (Titus 1.2, 3.7). What puts the foundation under that hope? Only faith. When I am soul-winning and I ask the question, “What is your hope for eternal life based on?” I rarely receive the right answer, sadly. The only right answer, the only possible foundation is faith. Things hoped for without a sure foundation under them are only wishes. I can dream of salvation or I can have a solid hope for it founded upon obediently placing my faith in Christ. Like the psalmist, I will take the latter. Lord, I have hoped for thy salvation, And done thy commandments (Psalm 119.166).

          This is why “hope” is used in the KJV in a different sense than how we use it in 21st century America. We use the word as the equivalent of desire or wish. I hope the Cubs win the World Series, for example. But in the Bible the word implies not wish but rather expectation. Hope is something I expect to obtain. Why does the Word of God use it in the stronger sense? Because Scripture puts a sure foundation under it, an actual substance – faith in God.

          There are, of course, examples of hope used in the Bible that imply wish or desire rather than expectation. Herod comes to mind here. When Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. Then he questioned him with many words; but he answered him nothing (Luke 23.8-9). Herod had a desire that went unrealized. Why? Because he did not put faith underneath of it. Jesus came looking for belief. He did not find it in Herod. So Herod’s hopes went unfulfilled.

          On the other hand, we find the beauty of this truth well displayed in our expectation of our Lord’s return. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2.13). I desire the Lord’s return but that is not what I mean when I talk about the Blessed Hope. No, I mean I expect it to happen. Indeed, I am counting upon it. All my eggs are in that basket. What gives me such surety? I have placed the foundation of faith underneath of it.

          Second, faith is the evidence of things not seen. A few nights ago a storm blew through overnight. I could not see the wind as I lay in bed but I heard it howling in the eaves. When I got up the next morning I found the yard covered in twigs and branches. What were those branches? Visible evidence of the passing of the wind which I did not see.

          Evidence is a term usually used in a criminal sense. In the Chicago suburb of Palatine in 1993 two men robbed a Brown’s Chicken restaurant. In the process, they murdered five employees and two customers. Unsolved for fourteen years, the case was finally broken open when DNA techniques progressed to the point that a half-eaten piece of chicken could finally be tested. It had been frozen in an evidence locker all that time. There were no witnesses alive to testify at the trial but Juan Luna’s DNA on that chicken was evidence of things not seen.

          Evidence is something we can see that points to the existence, reality, or fact of what we cannot see. Evidence is proof.

          Where is the proof of God’s existence? In the hundreds of millions of souls who have placed their faith in Him, in every generation, in every culture, and in every social class. In every condition, whether it be war or peace, happiness or heartbreak, victory or defeat, wealth or poverty, sickness or health, we find God’s people by the millions have faith in Him. That is evidence indeed.

          As a teenage boy I had to decide if the religion of my childhood was going to become the religion of my adulthood. Was I going to make it mine? I did not understand apologetics then. I had not yet read the thousands of books I have since read of Biblical commentary and study. What evidence did I have that God existed, that the Scripture was the inspired Word of God, that Heaven and Hell were real, that the miracles happened, that this thing called Christianity was real? I had the faith of my parents, and it spoke eloquently to me.

          In Chattanooga, Tennessee my oldest sister lost her bubble gum ring in a leaf pile. Child-like, she asked my Dad to find it. He prayed with her, walked up to the leaf pile, parted them, and picked up the ring. Twenty years later I was swimming with my family in Lake Erie. Another one of my sister’s felt her class ring slip from her finger and descend into the muck of the lake floor. Again, my father prayed. Again, the ring was found. 

          My mother has never worked outside the home, and as a pastor my father never made very much money. I have seen groceries, appliances, and cars show up as gifts in our driveway more times than I can count. I saw the Lord pay for my sisters’ college educations. I saw my parents somehow end up with a beautiful home. For the past ten years, during their retirement, I have seen the Lord provide for them even though they had no retirement funds, not even Social Security. For nearly five decades now I have seen in their life an evidence of a real Bible and a real God. My life in God’s service is a direct result of their faith. I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also (II Timothy 1.5).

          “Ok, Bro. Brennan, but people can be fooled. They can believe in something with sincerity all the while it isn’t actually true.” I agree, people can be fooled. For a while. The anti-christ will offer people a lie that they will gladly believe. But not over thousands of years, in every culture, in every condition, up to and including martyrdom. The lives of my parents, my Sunday School teachers, my Christian school teachers, and the adults around me at the church in which I grew up pointed like an arrow toward God. They did not point perfectly, but they did point constantly. And I found that to be compelling evidence indeed.

          Does your life point anyone toward God? Is your faith anyone else’s evidence? At school? At work? Online? Anyone? Anywhere? Ever?

          Is your hope of eternal life a wish or an expectation? It must be founded upon Christ or it is nothing. Are you doubting the truth contained in Scripture about God? I invite you to consider the evidence of the faith of millions. Is someone around you in need of God? Let your faith in Him shine like a beacon.

          I will walk on golden streets. I will have a mansion on Hallelujah Square. I will leave behind sickness, sorrow, death, and sin. I will love forever and never grow old. I will hold my daughter’s hand again. I will be face to face with my Saviour. The testimony of millions is evidence of these unseen things. And the faith in my heart is the foundation I put under my hope that makes this hope not just a wish but an expectation.

          What is faith? It is substance and evidence.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Shield of Faith

Faith 22


Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked (Ephesians 6.16). 

          As Paul draws to the end of that matchless epistle, Ephesians, he discusses spiritual warfare and the equipment that is necessary for us to use in such battles. He references our loins being girt with truth, putting on the breastplate of righteousness, having our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel, putting on the helmet of salvation, and taking up the sword of the Bible. Amongst other things on this list, Paul likens faith to a shield, particularly a shield that protects us from the fiery darts of the wicked.

          This idea – that we are to depend upon God to protect us or that as we place our faith in Him He protects us – is found elsewhere in Scripture. In him will I trust: He is my shield (II Samuel 22.3). He is a buckler to all them that trust in him (II Samuel 22.31). My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My buckler (Psalm 18.2). The Lord is my strength and shield; My heart trusted in him, and I am helped (Psalm 28.7). Three times in consecutive verses the psalmist wrote, Trust thou in the Lord: He is their help and shield (Psalm 115.9-11). My shield, and he in whom I trust (Psalm 144.2). He is a shield unto them that put their trust in him (Proverbs 30.5). There are at least ten specific times when Scripture says faith in God is a shield for us.

          Before we delve into what that means let us briefly examine what it does not mean. Faith in God is not a magic force field that keeps anything bad from happening to me. Such a position is nothing more than the prosperity gospel, a “gospel” that guarantees you health, wealth, and happiness. To the contrary, sometimes it is God’s will for you to undergo periods of testing, the trial of your faith, Peter called it. After all, what would faith be if everything always went well and made sense? Job said it so well when he wrote, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him (Job 13.15). Job had faith in God, and yet he had no money, no health, and a bad marriage to boot. No, faith does not guarantee us that everything will always go smoothly in this life.

          To establish what the shield of faith is I think it is helpful to clarify what the darts are that Paul references here, for the shield of faith protects us from these. By definition, darts appear suddenly. Darts usually come from unexpected places. Darts pierce. They penetrate and torment beyond the immediate vicinity i.e. poisoned darts. Sometimes, they even set things on fire.

          There are two primary kinds of these unexpected, vicious, sudden, fiery darts. The first is temptation. For example, look at the perverted triangle of Jacob, Rachel, and Bilhah.

Genesis 30:1–4 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.

          While it can be argued that Rachel’s sin here is premeditated, Jacob’s temptation struck suddenly. It was rooted in the heat of a temper suddenly kindled toward Rachel. She offers her premeditated solution; he quickly yields. What was this? An attack on the sanctity of marriage and family, an attack that pierced Jacob’s defenses because he did not have faith in God’s plan and God’s timing.

          The word “kindled” is used most often in the Word of God to describe wrath or anger. It refers to that which rises with sudden heat and ferocity in our hearts. How does faith shield us from such things as anger? Faith says, “What do I have to be angry about? My plans aren’t being thwarted for my plans are God’s plans, and God is not thwarted. Thus, neither am I.” Faith says, “What right do I have to be angry with someone for their actions? They don’t answer to me; they answer to God. He will hold them accountable. It is His courtroom and He is the judge.” Faith rests the timing of events and the judgment on events securely in the Lord’s hands. Anger finds no purchase there.

          Can I confess something to you? I have had a temper problem all of my life. Indeed, I lost my temper grievously with one of my sons just the other day. But when I examine it I see that my temper comes out when I do not get my way, when something I am trying hard to accomplish seems to be failing, or when I think I am being disrespected or ignored. Faith protects me from that. Faith says, “This is God’s business. This is God’s plan. This is God’s will. This is God’s responsibility.” Faith says, “This is a God problem not a me problem.” Thus faith shields me when the devil hurls that sudden, unexpected fiery dart of temper my way. Faith keeps my wrath from being kindled. Faith keeps the exponentially raging fire from swallowing up hundreds of spiritual acres by preventing it from ever setting fire to anything in the first place.

          The second type of fiery dart is trial. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you (I Peter 4.12). Suddenly, unexpectedly, your world falls apart. Suddenly, unexpectedly, your husband walks out, your doctor says it is cancer, you fall prey to abuse or crime. Your fiery trial has commenced.

          How does the shield of faith protect you from such darts? Faith says, “God knew this ahead of time. God is doing this for His glory. God is doing this for my purging, for my growth. God is doing this so I may comfort others.” Faith constantly points the soul toward God. It reaches out desperately, urgently, immediately and lays hold on God for all it is worth. And in that reaching out for God, in that precipitous headlong rush for the throne of grace we find glorious protection.

          If you want to quit on God the devil will happily furnish you the excuse. Faith says, “My God is too good to be unkind and too wise to make mistakes.” Faith says, “I trust that God knows what He is doing.” Faith sweeps that fiery dart aside and keeps charging hell with a squirt gun. Faith says, “God is right, all the time. Now let us go forward in serving Him.”

          If anyone had the fiery darts of the devil hurled at him it was Job. How did he handle it? Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him. Beloved, lift it up and hold it high, your shield of faith. It is a tremendous gift of protection from Almighty God.

          Trust Him. Just trust Him.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Faith of the Son of God

Faith 21

Galatians 2:20

 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

 

        As a child of God, our position is one of freedom. One of the most precious and least emphasized doctrines is our identification with Christ. It frees us from having to fulfil the demands of sin in our lives. For he that is dead is freed from sin (Romans 6.7).

          The lost man cannot stop sinning no matter how much reformation, education, hypnosis, or psychology you throw at him. You can place him in a new environment, you can immerse him in the self-help movement, and you can enroll him in twelve steps of this, that, or the other and he will still sin. He cannot cease from sin (II Peter 2.14). Jeremiah rhetorically asked a question that already had an answer. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leapard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil (Jeremiah 13.23).

          The saved man, however, is in a different position altogether. Because of his identification with Christ’s death/burial/resurrection he does not have to sin anymore. He has been freed from the dominion or rule of sin in his life. Why do saved men still sin then? Because salvation does not eradicate the old nature. It crucifies the power of the old nature, but those desires remain in us. If we so choose, we can yield to those fleshly desires if we want to. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6.16) But the power that demands we live in sin has been broken by Christ.

          To greatly abbreviate my book, “Freed From Sin”, grace leads to justification, justification is married to sanctification, thus grace leads us to holiness and prevents us from continuing in sin. How? By breaking the stranglehold of sin’s power in our life. Is there any law that has authority over a dead man? Patently, no. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin (Romans 6.6). “Destroyed” is not annihilated, for clearly our fleshly desires are still present, rather it means sin can no longer reign over us. “Henceforth” or because of this reason, we do not have to be sin’s slave.

          I repeat, our position is one of freedom. Being crucified with Him I am free of the power or dominion of my flesh. And being resurrected with Him I have the power to live right.

Romans 6.4-5 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

          This new life – radically different than the old life – is not lived out by me in my own strength, however. It is lived out in me as I rely upon Christ. I depend upon Him and He lives out His life through my own. This is holiness. This is becoming like Christ. This is how it is done – in faith, depending upon Him to help me to do it; yielding myself to Him so that He may live through me. I refer you again to the text at the top of this post: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. He lives His life through faith depending on His Father. I am supposed to live my life the same way that He did – in faith.

          The faith of the Son of God… What was it like? What was Jesus’ faith like? In a word, it was complete. It was entire. It was total. Consider Paul’s introduction in Galatians. Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised him from the dead;). To proffer a somewhat controversial statement, nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus raised Himself from the dead. Again and again it says He was raised, a passive tense meaning the subject is being acted upon. Recently, one of our church members put a new flag on the flag pole in front of the church. The flag was raised. The flag did not do the raising; the man did the raising. The flag simply accepted.

       What does that have to do with the faith of the Son of God? Everything. It means Jesus went willingly into the valley of the shadow of death entirely depending on His Heavenly Father to raise Him up. That is the faith of the Son of God, a total/complete/entire/wholly/everything-on-the-line kind of faith.

          Do you want to succeed in the Christian life or just muddle through? Beloved, to thrive we must realize sin has no more power over us for we are crucified with Christ. We must yield ourselves to the Lord and let Jesus live His life through ours. In faith, we must depend upon God to help us just as Jesus depended upon God to help Him. With the same total/complete entire faith that Jesus had.

          We must live by the faith of the Son of God.


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Walk by Faith

Faith 20


 

          Are you worried? Uncertain? Frustrated? Discouraged? Hear me out and I will send you away with the instructions necessary to obtain blessing. In II Corinthians 5, while discussing the issue of death, Paul makes a staggering statement: For we walk by faith, not by sight (II Corinthians 5.7). Death comes to all of us. Likewise, it comes to all those whom we love. Eventually and inevitably, it marches in to claim its own.

          Death is a large part of life, and a larger part the older we get. We are forced to deal with the death of those around us. We find ourselves faced with the necessity for preparing for our own, both spiritually and practically. At the same time, we strenuously try to avoid it. Without death our concept of life would be a very different thing, especially eternal life. Some people struggle with these concepts very much, some few all the time but all of us struggle with it at some point. Thus it is that Paul aims in this chapter to remove our fear of death.

2 Corinthians 5:1–10

1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

          It is illogical to be confident in the face of death. It is illogical to be confident regarding our certain future blessing in the afterlife. It is illogical to structure out lives now in relation to what is impossible to see but which immediately follows this life. Such illogical confidence is the blessing and the challenge of the Christian life.

          I began this series months ago by proposing that faith is seeing with our heart. Generally, we identify what is going on around us via our senses – sight, hearing, touch, etc. – and make adjustments accordingly. In a decision making context we use sensible logic combined with observation and experience. For example, I look out the window and see the sky darkening and the trees blowing. It just makes sense that it is about rain so I take an umbrella with me. Yet in the spiritual realm, faith ignores all of that. Faith sees, instead, with our heart. It believes and acts on something regardless of whether our logic/senses/experience agrees with that belief. And it continues to maintain that belief in spite of all evidence to the contrary. We walk by faith, not by sight.

          When Peter’s mind conceived the idea of stepping out of the safety of the boat and walking on the stormy seas to Jesus his senses told him it was a bad idea. His experience told him it was a bad idea. His logic told him it was a bad idea. But his faith drove him to step out of the boat anyway. Faith is making decisions based on what you believe. It is making decisions based not on what you see with your experience or your logic but what you see with what you believe down deep in your heart.

          This is precisely how God’s people are to live. “Walk” is routinely used in the Word of God as a descriptive term for the course of our daily life. Abraham was told by God to walk before me, and be thou perfect (Genesis 17.1). The sweet psalmist of Israel implores us to walk uprightly (Psalm 84.11). Our Saviour told us that if we follow Him we will not walk in darkness (John 8.12). Understanding this then, we understand what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. We are to live our lives by faith. We are not trust the evidence of our senses or our mind. We are not base our decisions on them or structure our lives around them. No, we are to live our life by faith, seeing with our heart, believing in God and in God’s Word, and structuring our life according to these things.

          If I am going to do this thing, to walk by faith, I must then acknowledge God’s will instead of my own as first in every area of my life. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3.5-6) These paths are the way in which we are to walk. I trust in my heart. I do not trust what my own understanding, what my senses and reason tell me. I acknowledge Him, which means I recognize His claim of authority over me. And I am instructed to do this in all my ways, all my paths, the totality of my walk.

          There is a career path that makes sense to you and another that makes sense to Him. Choose His. There is a dating path that makes sense to you and another that makes sense to Him. Choose His. There is a way to spend money, a way to parent, and a way to do a thousand other things that makes sense to you. Do not choose your own. Choose His. We are not called to live our life according to what we think is best or according to what makes sense to us. We are to walk by faith, seeing with our heart not with our sight.

          In so doing, we will discover that not only is our daily life rearranged but so is our approach to that most human and divine of subjects, death. To walk by faith is to live and die in confidence. It is to live untroubled by worry, uncertainty, fear, discouragement, or frustration. It is to live confident in the Lord’s timing, in the Lord’s provision, in the Lord’s power, in the Lord’s will, and in the Lord as the master of the harvest i.e. the result. It is to say, “God’s got this. I’m going to sit down over there, have a lemonade, and watch to see how He will handle this.” Such is not a self-confidence birthed out of my experience in my own abilities, rather it is a God-confidence birthed out of my faith in His abilities.

          By the same token, to walk by faith is just as much to die well as it is to live well. The same man who penned II Corinthians 5.7 wrote the end of his own story in II Timothy 4.7-8. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. What confidence at the end!

          There may be some reading this who have no faith and lots of confidence. If there are some such, I pity them. They are in for a disaster and a face full of dirt. Others perhaps reading this have no faith and no confidence. I hurt for them. They are missing out on the hope and delight of the Christian life. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness they murmur, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? (Psalm 78.19) Of course He can. Have a little confidence. Have some faith in God.

          Beloved, trust Him today. See in belief with your heart rather than your mind. And then roll your burdens off onto the Lord. Walk by faith and live in confidence.


Sunday, June 14, 2020

How Faith Comes

Faith 19


      Our Christian life is birthed in faith. But how does that faith come? How does one get enough faith in the first place? It is one thing to hear a thing and a different thing to believe what you hear. It is especially difficult to believe it enough to stake your eternal existence on it. Additionally, the Christian needs faith not only for the new birth, but faith for every moment after that. As we wrote last week, it is from faith to faith. That which is birthed in faith must then be lived out in faith. The same substance that surrounds and enfolds us as we are born again is the same stuff in which we must live and breathe for the rest of our life. To accomplish that, we must have ready access to faith, a steady supply, a constant acquisition. So how do we get it?

          Paul gives us his wonderful answer in Romans 10.

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

          Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. In the original language “by” means “out of”. Faith rises out of hearing the Word of God. The simple truth is we do not know what we ought to have faith in until we hear it. How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? We must begin with hearing the Word of God. What is the Bible? It is the revelation of God, the revealing or unveiling of Who He is and what He thus expects of us. The Scriptures ever direct us toward Him, and with sufficient specificity that our steps can be guided. This is the first step – hearing the Word.

          Once heard, we begin to grow toward it, be begin to gradually see the validity of the Word. This is the gracious work of the Spirit in our hearts. When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth (John 16.13). We hear the truth of the Word and the Spirit compels us to admit that it is the truth. He compels us logically, evidentially, and experimentally until we come to agree.

          Once that process has begun, once we have begun to admit the validity of God’s Word, we naturally come to gradually turn over ever-increasing aspects of our lives to God’s control. We hear the Word. We believe the Word. We act on that belief. We hear more of the Word. We believe that too. We act on that too. This is faith growing. It is faith that first depends upon God for salvation, then for parenting advice, then for money advice, then for marriage advice, then for our view of government, then for our perspective on entertainment, then for etc. etc.

          Having said this, it behooves us to understand that not all who hear the Word of God will respond in faith. But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esiais saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? The Bible is not magic. It does not do its work outside of a willing reception. Jesus was God come in the flesh. Every word He spoke was a Word of God. And yet He said, Who hath ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew 13.9). With mingled sorrow and anger in my heart, I can point you to young people who grew up under my preaching who walked away from the Lord the first minute they could. They heard me preach hundreds of times. That does not mean the Word of God is ineffective. It means God’s design does not overpower man’s free will. God wants to be wanted. The entire Scripture record shows us that.

          Assuming this – that you receive the Word when it comes – and understanding that faith comes to us as the Word comes, it stands to reason that each of us must prioritize a healthy diet of preaching. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? I am all for reading the Scriptures, for meditating upon them, for singing them, for putting them up on the wall as art, for listening to them read to you on your phone, and for every other way you encounter the Word of God, but if you do not regularly sit yourself down in front of an old-fashioned, leather-lunged preacher you will inevitably find yourself drifting into the spiritual weeds. No, the preacher does not have more access to God than you. No, the preacher has no more inherent ability to see things in the Word than you do. But he has more experience studying it, he has more time to dig it out, and – above all – he has a different perspective than you do. It is so easy to get tunnel vision, to let your vision be filled with what is directly in front of you. Preaching breaks us out of that. The best preaching presents God’s Word to us from another spiritual man’s viewpoint and compels us to examine ourselves in the light of the written revelation of God.

          This is why preaching, real preaching, is so resisted in our day. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears (II Timothy 4.3). We do not want to know that we are wrong. We do not want to feel uncomfortable. We do not want to feel that we do not measure up. We do not want to hear thus saith the Lord because we would rather go on secure in the ignorance of thinking we already know what the Lord said. Just try knocking on a stranger’s door and turning the conversation toward the Gospel and see how quickly the resistance comes.

          This foolish rejection of the preaching of the Word of God is not limited to the unsaved on his doorstep. It is practiced by many a person occupying the rolls of the average independent Baptist church of our day. Apparently, they already know everything. Apparently, they are not interested in hearing the Word preached. Apparently, they are more interested in watching television or taking Junior to his soccer practice or chillaxing on the back deck then they are soaking up ever increasing amounts of the Word of God.

          …and then they wonder why their faith is so weak. It is not complicated. Faith grows as you encounter the Word of God through preaching. Open your heart and head for the Lord’s house. Sit yourself down, Bible in hand, to see what the Lord will show you. And watch your faith grow.