Friday, May 20, 2022

He Crowns Us, He Surrounds Us With His Favor!

 The Lord is good, and His mercy endures for ever.

The Lord is good, and His grace endures forever. AMEN!

We don't have to worry about any of the stuff around us.

Let us cast our cares on Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7)

For the longest time, I was so busy trying to be in the right place, or be in a place where I would feel God's presence.

I wonder how many of us do the same thing in our lives. We want to be, think, act, feel a certain way so that we can feel at peace.

Yet the Bible clearly outlines God's promises to care and provide for us, wherever we are!



"For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield." (Psalm 5:12)

and  

"For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour." (Psalm 8:5)

and also

"Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness." (Psalm 65:11)

And finally

"[He] redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;" (Psalm 103:4)

He crowns us, He surrounds us, so therefore there is no reason for us to get downed about anything!

AMEN!

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Sermon: Enlightened, Transformed, Healed by Beholding Jesus in the Word


Thank you, Pastor Gordon and the rest of the pastoral team for letting me speaking to the whole church today.

I really appreciate it!

All of this started out with the blessed opportunity to share a great testimony, which I will share again.

Thursday, April 21, I had a stroke! I am only 41 years old, and I had a stroke! I suddenly had trouble swallowing, and I felt numbness along the right side of my body. When I called 9-11, I could not speak or saying anything intelligible.

But instead of panicking or getting afraid, I remembered God’s Word, God’s promises for me, and I declared in my mind, even if I could not say it out of my mouth:

“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.” (Psalm 118:17)

I have a picture on my door at home, and I declare another promise, that I will live to be 120 years old. That’s a promise we can bank on because of these verses:

“And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3)

The second time that 120 is mentioned, as in 120 years, takes place in Deuteronomy, when Moses dies:

“And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” (Deuteronomy 34:7)

We can rest and receive this promise, because of what God has done for us through His Son Jesus!

Consider the last verse in Psalm 91:

“With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:16)

That last word says it all: Salvation!

We can trust and believe for long life, because of Jesus! He is our Life:

“When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4)

So, when I had my stroke, I called 911, and paramedics arrived on scene to assist me. By the time they arrived, all the symptoms were gone. I could talk, I could drink, and I felt no numbness in the right side of my body. They told me to go to urgent care, which I did. The doctor told me “You’re going into emergency. This is very serious. It’s better to have long period of aggravation than to take a chance, suffer later.”

So, there I was in the emergency room. And then they told me that I was going to stay for the evening. They didn’t know why I had a stroke. My blood pressure was OK, and they did some initial scans, and they found evidence of a suspected stroke. But that was it.

While I was in the hospital room, I started praying the first prayer that Paul the Apostle shares with the Ephesians church. That has been a prayer that I have been praying a great deal for the last year and a half:

“15Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,” (Ephesians 1:15-18)

I want to see more of Jesus! I want to see Him!

I want to share with you the New Living Translation of Ephesians 1:18:

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.” (Ephesians 1:18, NLT)

In these really tough times, when there are troubles on every side, it’s so important to see Him!

Jesus is alive! He is alive in our everyday lives, because He is our life. I feel that many believers in the Body of Christ know that Jesus died for them, but they don’t see Him as a living, moving, active Savior in every day of their walk on this earth.

Now, the question comes up: how do I see Jesus? What is the best way to see Him?

Jesus Himself provides the way!

Turn with me to Luke 24: [Spence, I will tell you how to bring up the verses, one at a time---Luke 24: 13-24]

“13And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. 14And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.” (Luke 24: 13-15]

Check that out! Jesus HIMSELF! Drew near!

 16But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.

Some people have suggested that Jesus withheld the two of them from seeing Him. I don’t receive that, because Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12). I will explain later why I think these two disciples did not recognize Jesus at first.

17And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? (Luke 24:17)

I want to park here for a second. Notice how Jesus, who has risen from the dead, purged all our sins, fulfilled so many prophecies, steps into the life of these two downcast disciples. He cares for your, believers, and now matter how bad the situation may seem, Jesus is there with you!

18And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? 19And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: 20And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. (Luke 24:18-20)

Notice how Cleopas refers to Jesus as a prophet. Yes, He served as a prophet during His earthly ministry. But Jesus did not come to earth to reveal God’s judgment against us, nor to remind everyone of their sins. He came to become sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

The fact that Jesus was crucified, the worst death imaginable, was a really crushing blow to the disciples. And why?

21But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. 22Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. 24And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.” (Luke 24:21-24)

Notice that the disciples major focus is Israel. They saw Jesus as a means to an end. They saw Jesus as a political Messiah who would restore the glory of Israel. Don’t get me wrong. Israel is being restored right now, and when Jesus comes back, He will be reigning from Jerusalem.

But the focus is on Jesus, on Himself!

And Jesus gently corrects them:

25Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)

When Jesus opened the Scriptures to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, He taught of HIMSELF!

He didn’t talk about having a good marriage, or how to improve your bank account, or how to get healing. He didn’t even talk about how to have great faith. Jesus is not a means to an end. He is the means and the end. He declares the end from the beginning. It’s all about Him!

He taught of Himself!

We want to be caught up in Himself! We want to see more of Himself! It’s all about Him!

“15Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1:15-17)

Peter’s last words in the New Testament are:

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)

Paul was really clear about his focus when he ministered to the Corinthian church:

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

I used to struggle with this verse, because it seemed to impractical to me. When Paul says that he knew nothing among them but Christ and Him Crucified, I immediately start asking “But how does that help me with this problem or that problem? What I am supposed to do with myself, with my life?”

The mistake that I made was thinking that Paul was talking about Jesus as though He is some static figure. But Jesus is alive, active, working in our lives, working behind the scenes caring for us! When we see Him in the Gospels, we see a living Savior who provides for our needs, who over-answers our prayers! (Ephesians 3:20)

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)

Now, I mentioned above how Jesus taught of Himself. He didn’t teach about faith, did He? It’s not that faith is not important.

But how do we get faith?

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

That’s the KJV, but let’s take a look at the NIV:

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

And here’s the American Standard Version:

“So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

The original Greek reads “Rhema Christou.” It’s the Word of Christ, not the Word of God. We want to see everything in the Word through the Finished Work of JESUS! We need to see everything in the Word, from Genesis to Revelation, through the lens of the New Covenant, in which Jesus has paid for all our sins, and brings us into a New and everlasting covenant.

Let me take a little time to share with all of you what is in the New Covenant. We are all hearing about it, but what does it actually say?

“10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

11And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

This new covenant is all about what God does. It’s not about us keeping commandments, following the steps, but believing in Him, that Jesus has taken all our sins and has justified us, brought us into right relationship with God the Father, our Father!

Jesus himself—there’s that “Himself” again!—said to the Israelites during His earthly ministry:

“Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:29)

We have to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)!

There are some passages in which God declares to the Israelites:

“I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me,” (Deuteronomy 5:9)

But that’s the Old Covenant! We are now longer under law, under the Old Covenant, but under grace, under the New Covenant! (Romans 6:14)

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

And

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Under the Old Covenant, God will curse those who don’t keep the law:

“Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.” (Deuteronomy 27:26)

But under grace, under the New Covenant:

“10For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 12And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. 13Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:10-14)

Whenever we open up the Scriptures, we want a revelation of Jesus, our Messiah, who suffered, died, was buried, rose from the dead for our justification, and who ministers for us after the power of an endless life! (Hebrews 7:16)

Some may counter: How is it practical for us to look at Jesus in the Word? How does that help me?

Check out this wonderful verse:

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Notice how Paul writes “we are changed,” or rather we are transformed. We do not transform ourselves. The Holy Spirit transforms us. When we see Jesus, when we receive greater revelations of Himself, He transforms us! God the Father shows us His Son Jesus! When we see Him, we are transformed from glory to glory!

Jesus is the answer to every problem, to every challenge, to every question we face:

“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (1 Corinthians 1:30)

He is our new identity! We are in Christ, and Christ is in us! Therefore, we want to spend as much time as we can knowing Him, seeing Him in the Word!

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)

That verse is translated in accurately, because it is not our live that is perfected, but His love is perfected among us. That’s the proper translation of the verse there.

To wrap up, I want to get back to a point I brought up earlier. In Luke 24, Cleopas and the wife could not see Jesus, or rather they did not recognize Him. Why?

2 Corinthians 4 gives us the answer:

3But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.(2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

And we find the solution back in 2 Corinthians 3:

“12Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 13And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 3:12-14)

When you show people JESUS in the Word, and stop looking for yourself or at yourself, you see what the Word is really all about!

Cleopas and the wife did not believe that the Messiah would suffer for our sins, and by His stripes, we would be healed. They were focused only the political restoration. They missed the other part. But I would also add, if people are going to the Bible to look for themselves, to look for tips on how to live, how to make ourselves right, we are going to miss Jesus. We are not going to see Him, and we will nto be transformed.

If you look for yourself, you are going to be depressed and frustrated. But if you look for Jesus, you will be transformed from glory to glory, fortified with His Wisdom, filled with a greater revelation of our Loving Father’s love for us, gaining a greater awareness of all that He has done for us, is doing through, and will do with us! AMEN!

And one last thing to tie together the revelation I received last week. I talked about living to 120 years old right? We know that Moses lived to 120 years, and his eyes did not grow dim, not was his natural force abated.

How was this possible? Because He saw Jesus!

“By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27)

He renews our youth like the eagle’s!

It’s all about Jesus, and it’s all about seeing Him!

[Preached at Believers Victory International Church, Carson CA, May 1, 2022]

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Look at Jesus, and You Look Away from Yourself

 


 

"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." (Hebrews 12:2)

We are not supposed to look at ourselves.

But the problem for so many of us is that we focus on "not looking" at ourselves.

We need to look at Jesus!

The word "looking" is ἀφοράω aphoraó in the original Greek, which means "to look away from all else."

We want to look at Himself, not at ourselves.

It's not about us. It's never been about us, our feelings, our thoughts, our trials, our troubles.

Jesus, who holds the Universe and everything in it altogether (Colossians 1:15)

There are lots of noises, fears, premonitions, concerns, regrets, bitter feelings, bad memories, worries, outrages that can well up insde of us.

For me, there was often drama in the back of my head. That's the locus for those distractions. For other people, they may sense something in front of their minds, on the side, etc.

All of these fiery darts can distract people in such terrible ways.

But again, the solution to these distraction has to be more than a mere negation. We need to look at something, or better yet SOMEONE better!

That Someone is Jesus!

He is the Author and Finisher of Faith! He is the one who inspires our trust, and causes us to rest from all our painful toil and self-serving slavery.

It's all about seeing Him at work in and around us. He is our life. He is our health, He is our new identity before God the Father:

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:" (Ephesians 2:4-6)

and

"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4:17)

We have a new identity in Christ. We are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

It's all about him.

We no longer look at ourselves, as though we have to compensate for God missing something or overlooking a need in our lives:

"1If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:1-4)

Too many Christians are not looking to Jesus. They look to Jesus and something or someone else. They look to Jesus and their problems. They look to Jesus and other people in their lives. They look to Jesus and the church, their traditions, their past, the opinions of others, their memories.

All of this is doomed to fail. Jesus is our success, our life, our new Gospel hope. There is no reason, no right for us to look to anyone or anything else to see us through.

For this post, and I hope for all future posts, there will be less focus on myself, but more on Himself.

I will add this part, though: for a long time, I was quite confused about what the thoughts, drama, issues, hurts, worries that would emerge in the back of my mind. For too long, I was convinced that I had to do something about them.

Today, I realize how all of this is just focus on self. That is precisely what Daddy God frees us from when we look at Jesus!

We look to Him, and we look away from everything else, including ourselves!

All of the negative thoughts and feelings, all of the pains and the hurts, all of this mess just falls away as I look to Jesus!

He is indeed the End of all our Struggles! YES!

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Christ and Him Crucified


 

"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2)

This verse seemed so limited, and so limiting.

When I thought of Paul preaching "Jesus Christ," I just thought of Paul talking about a person.

How silly of me! But that was the result of so much wrong believing. I was convinced that this Christian life is all about my self-effort, my strain, my exertion to live godly in my own efforts.

Yet what does the Bible say?

"When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:4)

Christ is our life!

"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1 Peter 5:7)

He is caring for you and me now! He is a living Savior, folks! He is not off somewhere not caring about us!

"Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)

He is praying for us, petitioning on our behalf to Daddy God!

There's more, too!

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13)

He is working in us! He is working through us!

Jesus is not some static Hallmark card or faraway cartoon figure. He is our life, He is our Savior, and He is in us, and we are in Him!

So, as this revelation has grown for me (He has continued to enlighten the eyes of my heart! Ephesians 1:18), I realize that Jesus is doing so much, and there is so much I want to know.

I want to know Him, and I want to understand more and more about what He accomplished for me--for the whole world--when He died on the Cross! Amen!

Monday, March 14, 2022

Seeing Him Who Has Been From the Beginning


 

"I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning." (1 John 2:13)

Jesus is Him who is from the beginning:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)

For the longest time, I used to think that Jesus would come or go depending on how I felt or what I was thinking. I was truly convinced that I had to control whatever thoughts or feelings were percolating inside of me to ensure that I was able to see God, to perceive that He is with me.

What does Jesus say about seeing Him?

"Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)

I am born again! I do not have to strive or try harder to see God. I do not have to watch what I am thinking or feeling. Daddy God does not come or go in my life just because of the sin in the flesh.

Consider the great victory that we have in Christ Jesus!

"1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus … 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:1-4)

There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. PERIOD!

We are free from judgment, from condemnation, from punishment for sins because Jesus took all the punishment. He is our heavenly Ark, and on Him fell all the outpourings of God's wrath and anger for our sins. YES!

Therefore, because of this great work that Jesus accomplished for us at the Cross, the sin in our flesh is also condemned! We do not have to do anything about it!

Once again, the problem for me was that I was confusing faith with feelings. I was convinced that God would not be real in my mind if my mind was cluttered with bad thoughts, bad feelings, etc.

Yet God is real, unmatched, unrivaled in the power and presence He has in our lives, and none of it has anything to do with us. He does not come or go depending on what we think or how we feel. He is here for you and me, and He will never leave us nor forsake us! (Hebrews 13:5)

No longer am I dealing with this constant ping-pong game in my head. I recognize now that bad feelings,  unwelcome thoughts, unpleasant urges are not me. I really understand this wonderful promise from Paul to the Galatians:

"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16)

"Walk in the Spirit" is not some mental attitude or exercise. It is all about identifying with the Spirit of God in you, not with your flesh, your feelings, your thoughts, whatever else is going on inside of your body.

"But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." (Job 32:8)

and

"The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly." (Proverbs 20:27)

We do not need to "do something more" in order for God's Holy Spirit to communicate with us. What we need to do is look at Jesus, see Him in God's Word!

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18)

It's all about seeing Jesus in the Word! This truly is effortless transformation!

"And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27)

and thus:

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2)

It's all about seeing Him who has been from the beginning! This is not an effort we do through mental exertion, but by resting in His promises, His peace, and His presence in our lives:

"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people" (Ephesians 1:18, NIV)

When we focus on Him who has been from the beginning, we become more and more like Him. It's not about our effort, but the work of the Holy Spirit transforming us, renewing our minds and enlighting the eyes of our heart to see more of Jesus! AMEN!

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

What is the Biblical Definition of Faith? By Pastor Paul Ellis

 

What is a Biblical Definition of Faith?

by Paul Ellis
A son holding his father's hand

What is faith?

We talk about faith all the time, but what is it? Do you know what faith is? Of course you do, right?

Are you sure?

Maybe a better question to ask is, “Do I have a Biblical definition of faith?”

Contrary to what you may have heard, faith is not wishful thinking or some sort of spiritual currency that you trade for heavenly favors. Nor is faith something you manufacture through sheer determination.

So what is faith?

Here’s my definition: Faith is knowing and trusting your Father’s love. Faith is resting in the confident assurance that God is good and he longs to be good to you.

What, too gushy? Not Greek enough for you?

In the original language of the New Testament, there is a family of words that are translated as faith (pistis), believe (pisteuo), trustworthy (pistikos) and faithful (pistos). Then there is another family of words that can be translated as unbelief (apistia), unbelieving (apistos), disbelief (apeitheia), disbelieve (apeitheo), and unpersuadable (apeithes).

All these words derive from a common word (peitho) that means to convince, win over, or persuade.

Abraham “was fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:21). That’s faith. Faith is being fully persuaded or convinced that God is good and trustworthy and that he cares for you.

Abraham’s faith

Manmade religion preaches blind faith, but Biblical faith is based on knowing God. Faith is not a leap in the dark, it’s walking in the light of God’s love.

Again, consider Abraham. God said go and he went (Gen. 12:1). When Abraham got to Canaan, God said stay and he stayed. That’s faith.

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise… (Hebrews 11:8-9)

Then God said “I will bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars,” and Abraham said “okay.” Also faith.

We tend to overthink faith, but faith is saying yes to God. When we pray the prayer of faith, we are simply saying yes to the Lord.

[Sidebar: When you agree with God that’s called confession. Agreeing with God makes you right with God and that's called righteousness (Rom. 3:28). Good things happen when you agree with God.]

Where does faith come from?

Manmade religion says you have to faith your way into heaven, but that’s not how faith works. True faith is always a response to something God has said or done.

We might say that faith stems from hope which comes from love. It’s the unfailing love of God that inspires us to trust him. Here’s a verse that explains the proper order:

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. (1 John 4:16)

God loves us (that’s the first bit), then we come to trust in his love (that’s the faith bit). His love for us inspires our faith in him.

And since the love of God is revealed in Jesus Christ (John 17:26), we can also say that faith comes from hearing the good news of Jesus:

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:17)

We don’t get faith from hearing a good sermon; we get it from hearing about Jesus.

When we hear about the love of God that is revealed in Jesus, our faith is activated. “Wow! God is so good! How can I not trust him?” In the Bible, believing in Jesus is called the work of God.

Are you starting to see what faith is? Let’s finish with some quick contrasts:

Religion says, “you need to believe,” without giving you a reason to believe, but the gospel declares “God is good and completely trustworthy.”

Religion says “impress God with your faith,” but the gospel says we have been justified “by the faith of Christ” (Gal. 2:16). We love because he loves us, and we believe because God believes in us.

Religion says “faith comes from within,” but the gospel reveals Jesus “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).

He is truly the supplier of our faith, hope, and love.

Faith is…

Tradition portrays faith has damp ticket to heaven that may or may not be valid for entry, but the faith that God gives us is nothing like this.

Faith is not just the means by which we come into union with Christ; faith is the very flavor of our relationship.

Faith is living each day in total dependency on the One who spoke the universe into existence and flung the galaxies across the heavens.

Faith is knowing your heavenly Father has great dreams and good gifts for you.

Faith is an invitation to smile at the storm, stride over the mountains, and live supernaturally here and now.

How boring life would be without faith.

Those are my thoughts; I'd love to hear yours. How do you define faith? What does trusting God mean in your day-to-day life? Let me know in the comments.

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If you liked this, you will love Paul’s rapidly-expanding Grace Glossary. Learn the language of the new covenant by discovering the treasures hidden within words like grace, faith, and forgiveness.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Woman is Saved by The Bearing of the Child: JESUS! (From Pastor Paul Ellis)

 

One of the strangest verses in the Bible is found in Paul’s first letter to Timothy:

But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (1 Timothy 2:15)

If there was ever a verse that could be misused to promote patriarchy and dead works, it’s this one.

“Stay home, make babies, earn salvation!”

Sounds ridiculous, right? Yet it’s not far removed from what some of the Church Fathers actually taught.

Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, taught that women were put on earth to serve men and make babies:

I do not see in what sense the woman was made as a helper for the man if not for the sake of bearing children.

Martin Luther likewise taught that the chief purpose of women was to reproduce:

Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children.

Raising children is a noble occupation, but the picture of a man ruling from his throne while his wife raises the kids alone, is contrary to God’s plan for partnership. It comes from Athens, not Eden.

The scriptures are full of exhortations for men to be proactive and engaged fathers (e.g., Pro. 4:1–4, Eph. 6:4, 1 Thess. 2:11). Men and women are both called to raise children.

And this idea that women can be saved by having babies?! That can’t be right. Can it?

Some translations try and wriggle out of it by translating the word saved as preserved. But the original word (sozo) is almost always translated as save or saved elsewhere in the Bible.

Are women really saved through childbearing?

The first thing to note about this strange verse is the word women. This word should be in italics as it has been added by translators. Paul never said it.

Other Bibles translate his words as “she will be saved through childbearing.” Who is she? It is the woman Paul has just been talking about, namely Eve.

For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve… but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Timothy 2:13–14)

Eve was deceived and became a sinner, but that wasn’t the end of her story. She was saved through childbearing, meaning her Offspring - the Seed of Eve otherwise known as Jesus - undid the damage.

Recall the promise God made to the serpent:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head… (Genesis 3:15)

Are women saved through childbearing? No, but women (and men) are saved because Eve bore a child. No baby, no Jesus.

Imagine if fallen Eve had refused to bear children. Imagine if she had been so racked with guilt and shame that she said, “I will not bring any children into the world.” That would have been a disaster! God’s redemptive purposes would never have come to pass.

Thank God Eve bore children or none of us would be here and none of us could be saved.

Which is a lovely way for Paul to close out what he has been saying. “Because Adam failed to train his wife, Eve fell into deception, and humanity was lost. But God redeemed their mess by giving us a Savior, born from the couple who fell.”

What a Great Redeemer is our God.

Continue in faith, love and holiness

Now that last bit:

– if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Some read this as though Paul was preaching conditional salvation. “As long as you maintain propriety or self-control, you’re saved. But have a bad day and you’re out.”

Paul was not saying this at all. Paul’s frequent exhortations to continue in the faith or continue in the grace of God should not be read as threats to your eternal salvation.

He’s saying, “Don’t be tossed and turned, but keep your eyes on Jesus. Continue trusting him and you won’t be seduced into dead works or religious superstition.”

Again, the context is the key. The immediate context is Eve; the larger context is Timothy’s church in Ephesus.

The Ephesians worshipped the many-breasted Artemis, the goddess of childbirth and midwifery. Artemis was just about the ugliest, most-repulsive idol you could imagine, yet the superstitious and fearful came from miles around to pray to her.

Now imagine you are an Ephesian believer facing a difficult birth. You live in a world without antibiotics, painkillers, and C-sections. You know people who have died during childbirth, and you worry that it could happen to you. What can you do?

For an Ephesian woman, the temptation would be to fall back on old habits and offer sacrifices to Artemis.

“Don’t do that,” said Paul. “There’s no salvation there. Fear not and continue to trust God. Just look at the mighty salvation he wrought through the childbearing Eve.”

What does this mean for us?

We may never be tempted to worship an idol with more udders than a herd of cows. For us, superstition and dead works take other forms.

When facing a trial, we might be tempted to pray a little more or give a little more or go to church a little more in the misguided belief that we can bribe God with our efforts.

“I’ll do something for you, if you do something for me.”

It's very easy to think like this but when we do we are no longer continuing in faith, love and holiness. We're walking after the flesh.

The word for propriety means sound mind. If you want a sound mind in times of trouble, don’t look to yourself for salvation, but fix your eyes on the Savior. Hasten to enter his rest and let nothing move you.

Paul is not saying women are saved by making babies. Nor is he saying a woman’s place is in the home or women must raise children alone.

He’s saying continue to trust the God who saves, and you will have grace for your trials.