I Am Not Worthy

As servants of Jesus Christ we present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God: after He’s given His Son for our sin and taken us into His own family, it’s the only reasonable thing to do. (Ro 12:1)

We might easily want to do something great for God, to be significant in His kingdom, and if we aren’t careful become frustrated or even resentful if the way before us seems menial, insignificant, unimportant, difficult or painful.

Yet the greatest of mortal men, John the Baptist (Mt 11:11), felt quite differently. John felt unworthy to perform the most trivial, lowly service for Christ, to even loosen His sandal. (Jn 1:26-27) His humble attitude puts things in proper perspective.

What should we consider ourselves worthy of before God? What kinds of blessings do we deserve? What station, position or recognition? To name anything good at all here is to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, carelessly, thoughtlessly, presumptuously. (Ro 12:3)

The fact is that whatever God assigns us, whatever task or duty or suffering He is pleased to call us into, we should be extremely thankful for it, grateful beyond our capability to express it. It is infinite mercy, anything He is pleased to order for us more than what we truly deserve: to burn in Hell, forever cast away from God; we don’t deserve any better.

Measuring the importance of our lot, of what God ordains for us, cannot be our concern; only God Himself assigns ultimate significance and value. What role we play in the eternal drama of God, how critical our task in His strategic plan, how our lives impact others and glorify God, both now and in eternity … only God knows. It is our heart God is watching (1Co 4:5), why we’re doing what we’re doing. In running the race set before us (He 12:1), our unique and precious race, our focus must be to obey Him reverently and serve Him joyfully (Ps 2:11) Our singular desire must be to hear Him say, “Well done!”

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Wherefore Therefore?

In memory work, at times I find myself struggling to recall the correct word in a context which might contain either one of two very similar sounding words, and also very similarly defined words.

For example, does it say wherefore or therefore? Both words relate to explaining the cause of something, providing a reason, but not in exactly the same way. Perhaps there’s a way to help by noting more carefully the nuance between these two words.

If the context is a question, the correct word is always wherefore. Therefore clearly doesn’t belong. For example, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” (Ga 3:19) Therefore won’t work here.

There happens to be a text in Acts which uses both words and the context clearly distinguishes the meanings: “Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.” (Ac 19:32) Both words relate to explaining why, yet in different ways. The therefore could be “for this reason,” but this  wouldn’t work for wherefore, which is more of a “for what reason”. Wherefore seems to be more related to uncertainty than explaining a known cause.

So, what shall we do with this one? “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (Mt 6:30-31) The wherefore is drawing a conclusion based on what has been stated, as and so, while therefore is, again, drawing an inference based on facts:  for this reason.

This suggests that there may be a hint in where the word is placed in flow of the logic: wherefore is often referencing a point just made, something already stated or which occurred in the past, where and so is explaining which is why in light of it (Ga 3:23-24); whereas therefore is often placed before the reasoning or explanation, preceding it in the logic and pointing forward to it. (Ro 2:1)

These thoughts may be somewhat helpful in sorting out the meaning of a text and recalling it more accurately, or useful in employing the nuances of such words to try to more reliably understand the flow of logic in the text.

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Defraud Not

When Christ is discussing salvation with the rich young ruler, elaborating upon which commands to keep to secure eternal life, He lists several from the Decalogue yet mixes in, “Defraud not” (Mk 10:19), which is unexpected.

Torah does contain this command (Le 19:13), but it isn’t one we’d expect Christ to highlight. From context, since Christ is evidently listing commands which relate to how we treat our fellow Man, this might be a reference to the 10th commandment, “Thou shalt not covet.” But if so, why does He reference it this way?

Interestingly, when Luke recounts this same story there’s no reference to this concept at all (Lk 18:20), and Matthew (Mt 19:18-19) replaces it with the 2nd Great Command (Mk 12:31), summarizing the entire horizontal dimension of Torah.  (Ro 13:9) What do we make of this?

If we ponder Thou shalt not covet, we might find it includes Defraud not: coveting leads to defrauding – inappropriate wanting tends to wrongful dispossession. Both concepts violate the law of Love, so including love thy neighbor as thyself as a capstone is reasonable. Perhaps Christ hints that this man’s wealth was fraudulently obtained (Ja 5:4), hence the remedy in returning it. (Mk 10:21) Such a cure for the burden of wealth is by no means universal (1Ti 6:16-8), so we’d expect circumstance to motivate His invitation here.

What the variations of this story reinforce is that covetousness and lust are necessarily a matter of defrauding another, violating the law of love. It isn’t wrong to strongly desire what’s lawfully obtained (De 14:26), or to enjoy the inherent goodness of God’s design in Creation. (Tit 1:15) But if we leave another unjustly the worse in obtaining our desire, we should prayerfully reconsider.

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Call on the Name

One of the most abused texts in Scripture must be Romans 10:13 – “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Today, it’s generally taken out of context to try to help people receive Christ, teaching that those who ask God to save them are guaranteed eternal life.

But the context indicates we must already believe in God in order to rightly call upon Him, (Ro 10:14a), and that those who thus believe are already saved. (Ro 10:10a) Salvation occurs as we first believe in God (Ga 3:6), as our basis of trust changes from ourselves to Christ, not when we ask to be saved.

This exposes a basic contradiction inherent in the typical evangelical gospel message: when we ask Christ to save us we’re admitting we aren’t saved, and if we aren’t saved then it follows that we don’t yet rightly believe on Christ. (Jn 3:18)

So, asking Christ to save us can’t be an expression of faith; it’s an admission of our unbelief. Teaching that one can be saved like this, by rote prayer as they continue in unbelief, is in fact another gospel (Ga 1:6), a false, perverted one, offering a lie for eternal life.

What’s missing from this mechanical gospel is faith: supernatural assurance that Christ’s atonement has already secured our salvation. Apprehending the true nature of Christ’s work produces solid assurance of eternal life (1Th 1:5); without it we’re still lost, dead in our sin. (Ep 2:1)

Trying to mechanize the gospel takes God Himself out of the equation: yet He must enable us to believe unto salvation (Jn_6:29), bringing us to life as He gives us faith in Christ. (Ep 2:5) Until we’ve experienced this supernatural work, we must continue to seek the Lord.

It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve called upon the Lord if we haven’t believed on Him. Do we believe? That’s the question. It’s about who we’re trusting in: Christ or ourselves.

One way to tell whether we’re grounded in Christ is to notice were we look for assurance of our salvation. Do we look to Christ, and to the work He’s done? Do we look first to the cross, and see the efficacy and completeness of His work, how God has made Christ to be sin on our behalf? Or do we look to something we’ve done, to some act of receiving Christ? It makes all the difference in the world.

To call on the name of God means to take Him at His word, to trust that He’s faithful, reliable, to enter into His rest. (He 4:1) Only those who believe on Him can do this. (He 4:10)

To corrupt the Gospel by twisting such concepts is to miss the narrow gate. (Mt 7:14) Strive to enter; give diligence to make your calling and election sure (2Pe 1:10), and be established in your faith as God intended. (Col 2:7)

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A Good Conscience

The conscience is the part of us affirming us in doing right, and shaming us when we aren’t. It’s like a map and compass in the race of life: absolutely indispensable.

But a conscience can become wounded and weak (1Co_8:12), even defiled and corrupted (1Co 8:7) through our lies and hypocrisy, seared with a hot iron. (1Ti 4:2) Then it’s useless, corrupting everything about us (Tit 1:15); then we’re calling evil good and good evil. (Is 5:20)

We cleanse our conscience by continually recalibrating it with God’s Word (Ps 119:9), comparing its assessments with what God says instead of the world, thereby renewing our minds by persistently aligning our conscience with revealed truth. (Ro 12:2) and allowing it time to adjust. At first, a weak conscience troubles us as we persist in obeying truth with our wills, just as it does when it’s clean and we’re offending against the truth, but it eventually heals and aligns with our will when our actions are according to truth. This is, in fact, the very goal of Torah. (1Ti 1:5)

God tells us to hold on to a good conscience, to protect and guard it (1Ti 1:19), to cleanse our evil conscience (He 10:22) from dead works through His blood. (He 9:14) He does this in us as we obey what we already know to be true (Ja 1:22), repenting of sin and walking according to all the truth we have (He 13:18), consistently delivering ourselves from bondage unto more and more freedom (2Ti 2:25), and ever seeking more truth (Ps 119:30), wisdom and understanding. (Pr 4:7)

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Examine Yourselves

The questions we ask reveal our hearts. Are we asking, “Which of God’s law must I obey?” Or are we asking, “Which of God’s laws am I allowed/permitted to obey?”

As God writes Torah into the minds and hearts of His own (He 8:10), He’s revealing that Torah is holy and just and good (Ro 7:12), such that we “delight in the law of God after the inward man.” (Ro 7:22) As He transforms us we’ll be obeying every law that we’re able to obey as well as we can, and continually asking Him to help us obey Torah better, more perfectly. (Ps 119:35)

But if we don’t delight in Torah, we’ll be looking for excuses and explanations that relieve us of any sense of duty (Ec 12:13), and most any deception will do. (2Ti 4:3) This is the posture of the carnal mind (Ro 8:7), enmity against Torah, and ultimately against the heart of God. (Ps 119:136)

So, ask yourself the question: “What kinds of questions am I asking? What does this reveal about my heart?” Examine yourself (2Co 13:5): does your life reflect the things that accompany salvation? (He 6:9) If our questions don’t reveal a delight in Torah, then something’s wrong with our inward man.

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As Little Children

Christ says that unless we’re converted, and become as little children, we can’t go to Heaven. (Mt 18:3) Whatever salvation is, according to Jesus, it includes becoming childlike.

The context of His teaching was a question among the disciples about who would be the greatest in Christ’s earthly kingdom, granted the most privilege and power. (Mt 18:1) The disciples were evidently making comparisons among themselves, trying to exalt some over others, vying for position. Christ tells them that unless they’re changed in the core of their nature, free of such comparison and self-exaltation, they aren’t going to make it into His kingdom at all. In other words, the disciples, at this point in time, are yet unregenerate: lost. Their pride gives them away. It gives everyone away, except the regenerate.

This isn’t the first time the topic has surfaced; in His initial recorded teaching, Christ tells us the poor in spirit own the kingdom of God: they comprise it — all those in the kingdom are poor in spirit, and all the poor in spirit are in the kingdom. Unless pride begins to die in us, until humility begins to flourish in us, and we’re esteeming others better than ourselves, nothing of Heaven can live in us.

Christ continues in His analogy by saying those who humble themselves to become more like little children are the greatest in His kingdom. (Mt 18:4) This relates to a parallel concept: those who obey all of God’s laws and teach others to do the same, are considered great in the kingdom. (Mt 5:19) For both to be true, the two concepts must be equivalent in some way.

Small children tend to be free of pride, haughtiness and ambition; they naturally feel inclined to look up to and emulate their elders; they aren’t preoccupied with judging others, comparing themselves with others, or posing and posturing to be more than they are. They know they’re utterly dependent on others to care for them, and tend to be trusting, not suspicious or jaded. When properly disciplined and loved, young children tend to be obedient and faithful.

In these same ways, those who come to God in salvation as a little child acknowledge their utter dependence on Him, trust Him and believe on Him, taking Him at His Word, obeying Him and seeking to be close to Him.

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Calling and Election

Each of us is created uniquely by God for a purpose, for a reason. God tells us to diligently search this out, to make both our calling and election sure, for if we do both of these things we’ll be eternally successful. (2Pe 1:10-11) How do we go about it?

Alex Honnold free solo climbing El Capitan

To make our election sure, we must examine ourselves to establish that we’re in the faith (2Co 13:5), to ensure we’ve entered into His rest (He 4:3), to verify that our lives evidence and reflect the things that accompany salvation. (He 6:9) Salvation produces certain characteristics in the soul; those who fail to exhibit them should not deceive themselves, but strive to enter the kingdom. (Lk 13:24)

Once we’ve made our election sure, we should also endeavor to make our calling sure, not merely our calling to salvation, but discovering and fulfilling our design and purpose in God, Who has given each of us specific gifts with a certain objective in mind. (1Co 12:7) These gifts are dispositions, skills, passions, talents and opportunities that equip and enable us for His service. As the stones of the altar were not to be polluted with the hammer of Man (Ex 20:25), so those in the service of God, made in His image, need not contrive or force their own orientation, nor force their hearts and minds into a particular mold that does not intrinsically suit them.

Finding our calling in God is an important part of establishing and stabilizing ourselves in our spiritual life. We must observe God’s design in us, and develop it within the boundaries of His Word, to realize His calling in us. If we’re an eye, or a hand, or an ear (1Co 12:14-18), we’re each given gifts to be a gift, both to God and to each other.

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Moses and the Prophets

When we read about the signs and wonders in the early days of Christianity, do we miss them, and long to see them again? Is it an indictment of our faith if we don’t walk in the miraculous today? What are miracles for, and why don’t we see more of them?

A man once pleaded with God to give his family a fantastic miracle so they would repent and be saved. (Lk 16:27-28) God’s answer was they already had Moses and the Prophets; this was all they needed. (29) The man protested saying it wasn’t enough, but that if someone they knew went back to them from the dead to witness to them, they would repent. (30) God refuted saying, if the Old Testament wasn’t enough, they wouldn’t be persuaded by anything. (31)

This is insightful, suggesting that a key purpose of miracles is to establish the reliability of those who, through the gospel, preach Torah (1Pe 1:25) to those unfamiliar with it (He 2:3-4), and to confirm that Torah points us to Christ (Lk 24:27), both for salvation (Ga 3:24) and sanctification. (2Ti 3:16-17)

The souls watching Noah build the ark heard him preaching righteousness (2Pe 2:5) as God waited patiently for them to repent. (1Pe 3:20) They weren’t atheists or agnostics, nor were they deceived and blinded by a false religious system: they knew about the God of Creation and what He wanted; they simply weren’t interested. Only 8 souls from that wicked generation chose the living God. What’s different today?

Nothing; we’re all the same: no one seeks God on their own. (Ro 3:11) People aren’t lost because they don’t have sufficient witness of God (Ro 1:19-20), but because they are at enmity with Him (Ro 8:7); for those who aren’t already seeking Him, miracles evidently do more harm than good. (Mk 6:5)

God never seeks to impress and entertain with miracles; that’s Satan’s domain. (2Th 2:9) God provides supernatural witness when it’s needful to help those who’re looking for Him to find Him, when the Way is so unclear and the lies are so abundant that we need divine assistance to navigate through them. For souls who already have Moses and the prophets pointing them to Christ, and sufficient evidence of the validity of this witness, it appears we should not expect to see the miraculous, at least as a norm.

And those who think they’ve found the living God, but aren’t yet delighting in Torah (Ro 7:22), should examine themselves (2Co 13:5), and diligently make their election sure (2Pe 1:10-11): the very sign of the new covenant is that we have a new heart in which God is writing His laws. (He 10:16)

The preaching of another Jesus prevails today, and false brothers abound who’ve not chosen a love of the truth. (2Th 2:10) Those who claim to know God but aren’t keeping His commandments are lying; they’ve yet to find Him. (1Jn 2:4)

If we’re still cleaving to dust, dissatisfied in what we’ve found of the God of Heaven, thirsty for more of Him (Jn 7:38), and if we’re looking for miracles to bolster our faith and draw us closer to Him — as we’re neglecting the most powerful witness of His character and nature imaginable — perhaps we should start looking for Him in earnest, where He said we’d find Him. (Jn 5:39)

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See Afar Off

Living by faith is acting as if God’s Word is true, as if all His prophesies are already fulfilled, being as certain of the eternal as of the temporal. Faith sees the promise fulfilled as soon as it’s spoken, redemption complete long before it’s started (Ro 4:20-21); it calls real what isn’t yet but will be. (Ro 4:17)

It’s looking back two millennia at the cross, standing before the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Re 13:8) as He sets us free from sin, as if it’s happening right in front of us. (Ga 3:1)

It’s rejoicing in trial, trouble and suffering, counting it all joy (Ja 1:2), letting patience have her perfect work that we might be perfect and entire (Ja 1:4), knowing God is working it all for our good. (Ro 8:28)

It’s enjoying the victory in Yeshua’s eternal shout, in God’s final trumpet blast (1Th 4:16), as if justice and glory has already come, as if God’s already trodden down His enemies (Ps 119:118), even as they steal, kill and destroy (Jn 10:10), confident they’ll never answer for their crimes. (Ps 73:11)

It’s knowing we’ll eventually look back over our lives rejoicing in our Father’s care and faithfulness (He 13:5-6), even as we’re struggling through bewildering circumstances, with no earthy prospect of rescue. (2Co 1:8-10)

Living this way requires adding virtue to our faith, and knowledge to virtue, and temperance to knowledge, and patience to temperance, and godliness to temperance, and kindness to godliness, and love to kindness (2Pe 1:5-7) Apart from this we’re blind, unable to see reality through the promise. (2Pe 1:9)

As we cleave to God we can see afar off, embrace eternal reality, and live persuaded of things to come. (He 11:13)

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