A Wise Folly

 
 

Is God good at expressing Himself?

 
The question matters, especially if we profess to have the ultimate God of the Bible as our own deity.  Faith produces avid listeners and we can reasonably assume that our Creator will speak at least as effectively as we do.
Why, then, do many people who claim to know this great God find it hard to connect with him?  Can it be that the problem might be on our side and not on his?
The issue, for instance, might be an affective gap—that some of us really aren’t very avid to hear what he has to say.  Jesus said as much: “This people honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6).  To solve that problem we might want to pray that he would open the eyes and ears of our hearts to see and hear him.
Uncertainty may also play a role.
Many experts in divinity—academic theologians—profess a great God but in practice they treat him as a poor communicator.  Non-evangelicals, especially, seem deeply skeptical about God’s ability to speak clearly.
But even those with a high view of the Bible as God’s Word may give God poor marks for his communication skills.  The greatest areas of challenge in hearing him seem to be found just where God’s opinion is most needed: in the cultural debates about sexuality, marriage, child bearing and rearing, and the nature of freedom.  Some teachers offer clear face-value-readings of Scripture that say one thing; but other equally informed speakers then tell us the meaning of the same texts are opposite to what the first teachers taught.
Once again, the problem may be our own, not God’s.  The Apostle Paul, for instance, assured the believers in Corinth of their immediate Spirit-to-spirit access to God in Christ and summed it up by saying, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
But in that context Paul was speaking to a divided church and it was clear to him that only some in the church actually had this access in practice.  Paul offered reasons for this divide.  Here are two of them.
God’s message is cloaked in humility.
Sin operates through pride—the ambition to be like God—so all who are proud remain blind to the actual being of God.  How so?  Because in adopting the serpent’s Genesis 3 invitation to be “like God” humanity embraced a Satanic deceit—and his own ambition—that God is self-absorbed and motivated by an ambition to rule others.
The true God, by contrast, is ever-caring, ever-devoted, and ever-giving in his eternal Triune being.  The greatest expression of his own self-giving humility is found at the cross–”For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son . . . ”
So Paul told the Corinthians that those who have a power-driven version of God or a logic-based portrayal will always miss the true God whose actual power and wisdom is expressed in ways opposite to what children of Adam would expect, given the serpent’s false portrayal of deity in Eden.
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1:22-24).
Power and prominence can mute God’s voice.
In a problem tied to pride Paul also reminded his readers that the wise, the wealthy, the mighty, and the strong are poor listeners.  Why?  Because they readily mistake themselves for God.  That is, the Edenic premise that we can “be like God” makes sense to those who prosper in a fallen world using fallen wisdom.
The poor, the plain, the weak, and the weary, on the other hand, are able to spot the idolatry involved in the worship of status and stuff.  So when the authentic God speaks they more readily hear him.  And in the end the distinction between the truly wise and the foolish will be clear.  Listen, again, to Paul.
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1:26-28).
In sum God overturns human wisdom with what seems to the world to be utter folly: he makes the cross the doorway to his heart.  And to the delight of all who live in the realm of weakness we begin to hear God’s voice as we embrace the cross.
This is the sort of “foolish” wisdom we can live with.
Thoughts? You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo.
~ Ron
 
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].
Visit Spreading The Goodness
Visit the Cor Deo Blog
 

Facts Fourteen through Seventeen

[Series Index]

A. Ward Brandenstein's To Walk In The Spirit

Part 2 – Who are we?

CHAPTER 3 continued – WHO I AM IN CHRIST BECAUSE OF WHO CHRIST IS IN ME

EXPOSITION OF THE 50 FACTS OF SALVATION

 
 
 
[learn_more caption=”CMC Editor’s Note”] In Ward Brandenstein’s introduction to chapter three he writes: “There is freedom from living a guilt-ridden life to those who have received Christ, once the person learns his true identity in Christ. All of the amazing facts occur at the moment that a person receives the Lord Jesus Christ as his or her Saviour!” Towards the close of his introduction to the 50 Facts he adds: “All of the facts are positional truths. Some may not be apparent as an evident experience at the moment of salvation. (What the believer is to do as a practical result of knowing who he is will be considered under the last section of walking in the Spirit.) These wonderful facts of salvation allow us to know who we are in Christ.” In our online presentation of these 50 facts of salvation we will consider one or more facts per week. We trust that you will be blessed as you follow along Ward Brandenstein’s unfolding of these precious truths.[/learn_more]  

FACT 14 – DELIVERED FROM THE POWER OF DARKNESS

John 11:10, But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.

John 12:35, …he that walketh in darkness knoweth not where he goeth.

Colossians 1:13, Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.

I Peter 2:9, But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people of His own, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

The child of God is removed at the time of his salvation from Satan’s realm (characterized by darkness) into the realm of God who is characterized by light.  Darkness would imply death, treachery, subtlety, shame, confusion, stumbling, and being lost, things that a person experiences under Satan’s control.
[In the printed version the significance of light is described in Fact #8, Children of the Light, p. 19, and in Fact #29, Light in the Lord, p. 19.]

FACT 15 – ETERNAL OR EVERLASTING LIFE

John 3:15,16, That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:36, He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life…

John 5:24, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.  KJV

John 6:40, And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone who seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:47, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.

John 10:27,28, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

John 17:2,3, As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.  And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.

Romans 5:21, That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

I Timothy 1:16, Nevertheless, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.

I John 1:2, For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.

I John 2:25, And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.

I John 5:11, And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

I John 5:13, These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

I John 5:20, And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true; and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God, and eternal life.

Eternal life is God’s life.  Moses declares in Psalm 90:2,

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.

The eternal life which the child of God receives by placing his faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour, Lord, and Life, is life that goes forever into the past through Christ, as well as going forever into the future with Christ, John 1:1,2,4: I John 5:11,12.
The translators of our English Bible have used eternal and everlasting interchangeably to translate several Hebrew Old Testament or Greek New Testament words.[1]  The Hebrew word for everlastingcarries the idea of concealed.  From man’s viewpoint, God’s life, His existence, extends back before any point that man could envision and will go beyond the farthest point in the future that man could envision. God’s life, eternal life, is life unending.  It is life in the present tense to eternity; thus, God declared to Moses in Exodus 3:14, I AM THAT I AM.  That is the name by which God identifies Himself with His people.  It speaks of the Eternally Present One as being present with His people!
God’s presence with His people was signified by the shekinah glory in the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34,35) and subsequently, in the temple (I Kings 8:10,11).  At the incarnation, Christ, “the Word tabernacled in our midst,” is the literal translation of dwelt among us, John 1:14.  The shekinah glory of God’s presence which was in the Old Testament Hebrew tabernacle and in the temple was a prelude to the truth of the glory of God manifested in Christ’s presence incarnate declared by John in John 1:14,

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.

It is further stated in John 1:18,

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He (Christ)hath declared Him (the Father).

In summary, then, we see that God, the Eternal I AM, the Eternal Life One, came into time in the incarnation of Christ.  Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, He gives to those who believe in Him His eternal life.  (See John 6:38-40; 10:28.)
Eternal life is Jesus’ life!  (See I John 5:11 above.)  When a person receives Christ by believing in Him (John 3:15,16), Christ’s life, eternal life, becomes the life of the believer!  This eternal life is given to all who believe in Christ (John 6:40), and becomes the ruling principle of life in the life of the believer (Romans 5:21; 6:23).  What a glorious provision God has made for us through Christ!

FACT 16 – FORGIVEN ALL TRESPASSES

Ephesians 1:7, In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.

Colossians 2:13, And you…hath He made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.

The noteworthy thing is that redemption through Christ’s blood is the provision of God in order to make it possible for all the sins a believer ever commits to be forgiven; literally, his sins are sent away from him.  This was all accomplished when Christ shed His blood as a sacrifice for our sins.  Forgiveness of sins could only be accomplished through death – Christ’s death.  Christ’s death is followed by His resurrection, and His resurrection then provides the believer with new life by his or her being identified with Christ in His death and resurrection.  (See Fact #49, Translated into the Kingdom of God’s Dear Son, p. 19.)

FACT 17 – GIVEN A NEW, PURE HEART

Jeremiah 17:9, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

Ezekiel 36:26, A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Matthew 5:8, Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.

Acts 15:8,9, And God, who knoweth the hearts, bore them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as He did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

Galatians 4:6, And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

II Corinthians 1:21,22, Now He who establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God, Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

Romans 10:9,10, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Ephesians 3:17, That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith…

The manner in which the Scriptures describe the heart clearly shows the reference is not to the heart as the organ that pumps the blood throughout the body.  The word, heart, is used as a simile to show that just as the physical heart affects the health and well-being of the individual, so in a moral sense (and even in a spiritual sense) the heart of a person will determine his conduct or behaviour.  To illustrate, Proverbs 4:23 states, Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.  In a similar sense, Jesus taught in Matthew 5:28 and 15:19 that sinful deeds begin in the heart.
The Scriptures quoted at the beginning of this Fact of Salvation, page 19, assure the one who believes in Christ that there is a work that God does within the center of the person, the heart, that is an essential part of salvation.
The heart is also vital to the changed person’s being able to continue to be well-pleasing to the Lord. This subject will be discussed later in the book in regard to the believer’s spiritual walk.
The giving of a new heart to the person and the purifying of the heart are accomplished by the Holy Spirit in cleansing the individual through the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration, using the Word of God (Titus 3:5; John 3:5; 15:3).  The evidence of this is realized as the individual believes in the heart that God hath raised Him (Jesus) from the dead…For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness…(Rom. 10:9b,10a).  The condition of the heart undergoes the necessary change before such belief can be expressed.  All of this happens within the person as to appear as if it were one instant of time, but it is better understood as a chain reaction as the Holy Spirit accomplishes His work.
It is God’s purpose that Christ continue to dwell in the believer’s heart by faith, but when the believer walks in the flesh, the heart can revert to its fleshly desires, resulting in fleshly conduct.  Even a new heart needs to be kept clean and in right relationship to Christ by the person himself.  It is not automatically done by Christ, who still continues to dwell in the Christian.  This responsibility is seen in the passage by the psalmist, when he said, Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart(or, the desires the heart should have), Psalm 37:4.
The psalmist, David, also wrote:

He will fulfill the desire of those who fear (have reverential trust in) Him; He also will hear their cry, and will save them, Psalm 145:19.

Jesus himself taught, He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spoke He of the Spirit, whom they that believe on Him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.), John 7:38,39.

Thus, it can be seen that God designed the complete work so that from the heart (the inner well-spring) should flow, not evil and corruption, as in Matthew 15:19, but the blessings of the Holy Spirit as the divine Source through the believer to minister to others who are thirsty.  In other words, the new heart, from the time it was given at salvation, is the continual source from which the Holy Spirit flows out of the believer to other people.  This flowing of the Holy Spirit from the life of the believer out to others is the ultimate result of the creating of a new, pure heart.

________________
[1] From the Greek New Testament, aionios is the most frequently used word, with the root meaning ofperpetual, and extended meaning of eternal or everlasting.  Aidios, used only a couple of times, has as its primary meaning, ever-during, with its extended meaning as eternal or everlasting. In the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, three words are translated as eternal or everlasting (or as eternity in one instance), “olam,” used the most frequently with its primary meaning of concealed, vanishing point, and seldom-used words, “qedmah,” with primary meaning of fore, front, antiquity, east, and “ad,” with the primary meaning of duration, advance, perpetuity.
 
Next Week: Facts 18+
Copyright © 1996 A. Ward Brandenstein

Used with permission.
[Series Index
 
A. Ward Brandenstein
Pastor Ward earned an M.A. in Guidance and Counselling from Eastern Michigan University after taking special courses in psychology at Wayne State University, and earned a Bachelor of Theology (Th.B.) from Baptist Bible College and Seminary with Greek and Hebrew studies, and earned a diploma from Philadelphia Bible Institute (now Cairn U.), including New Testament Greek studies. His knowledge of the Bible and close walk with God are appreciated by all who know him and have sat under his teaching. Pastor Brandenstein and his wife Rose Ann reside in California, teaching college level singles and married couples, young professionals, and retired pastors and missionaries.
 

Proverbs: Christ Is God’s wisdom (II)

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 4″] 1 Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
2 for I give you good precepts;
do not forsake my teaching.
3 When I was a son with my father,
tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
4 he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.
5 Get wisdom; get insight;
do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
love her, and she will guard you.
7 The beginning of wisdom is this:Get wisdom,
and whatever you get, get insight.
8 Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
she will honor you if you embrace her.
9 She will place on your head a graceful garland;
she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”
10 Hear, my son, and accept my words,
that the years of your life may be many.
11 I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
12 When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
13 Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
14 Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of the evil.
15 Avoid it; do not go on it;
turn away from it and pass on.
16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
17 For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.
20 My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
24 Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
25 Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
26 Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil
(Proverbs 4:1-27 ESV)
[/learn_more]

..

 It is always what I love most, which will win out.

 

Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Man’s wisdom says: Find out what you love, and pursue it. God’s wisdom says: Find out if what you love is worthy of pursuit. If not – get a new love.
Guard and govern what you let yourself love. Moths are attracted to the flame, and often so are we. We can be intrigued with brazen sin, and with diversions in study and even religion. With our mates, careers, hobbies, etc. Enjoy them, we are supposed to enjoy them – but do not love them the same.
The Worlds’ wisdom and God’s are ever at odds. And when you stumble across passages like this one, the differences are highlighted with stunning clarity. For there is probably no place where the very core of what it means to live – to live life – is better unfolded than in examining the loves of our own hearts. Who and what we love speaks volumes.
In fact, it is those loves which set the entire course for our lives and determine how and what we do.
We decide what to do and when based upon what we love.
Yes, sometimes those loves are competing and complex – but the main thought here runs true. I may not “love” the idea of having my body cut open and parts removed while I am asleep and helpless, but if I love the idea of remaining alive, I’ll subject myself to the surgeon’s knife anyway.
Love of one thing will make me forsake other things I love – like love for health making me forsake a diet of nothing but ice cream cakes. But in the final analysis, it is always what I love most, which will win out. This holds the key to each of us analyzing the decisions we make. Hence, we have this admonition from the writer of Proverbs 4 to “keep” our hearts, guard them with all “vigilance”. Because the waters of your life and mine, flow out from that place. What we love, will determine how that river flows. Violently after certain loves; Purely after others; Consistently after still others, and Refreshingly to those around us out of other loves yet.
If we were to contrast the World’s wisdom at this point most clearly against the backdrop of God’s wisdom – we could perhaps do it this way: Man’s wisdom says: “Find out what you love, and pursue it.” It is the mantra not only of career counselors, but also of the Church at times. But the wisdom from above says instead: “Find out if what you love is worthy of pursuit. And if it isn’t – get a new love.” This is what it means to guard or keep you heart – to govern what you allow it to love.
In our day of people literally being victims of “falling in love” as though it is utterly involuntary, the Bible bids us to live higher, and infinitely free-er. So my friend – what are the things you love? Are they worthy? If not – get new ones. You’ll find that will ALWAYS lead you to the most worthy One of all. And there – you can love and pursue with utter abandon and joy.

Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Keeping the heart is a call of dire need. The heart of the human being – is the core of life. Of course the organ that pumps blood is not being referred to here – but the organ of the soul that communicates life and purpose and passion to the whole being is intended. It is what the old theologians used to refer to as inward “inclination” – what each of us is inclined toward as the governing direction of our life’s pursuit – the gravitational pull of our inward man. What, when all else is stripped away, drives and motivates us.
The truth is, many of us never even take the time to find out what exactly DOES motivate us above all else. We often flit from thing to thing still looking for an all consuming passion. But in reality, we already have one. It is at the bottom of all the choices we make in life. We simply haven’t identified it yet. For some it is safety. For others, pleasure. Still others seek meaning above all else, or a sense of accomplishment, approval, validation or simply to consume what seems most desirable at the moment.
So how does one then “keep” or guard the heart, so that we are walking in wisdom and in fellowship with God and His eternal plans and purposes? What am I to be “vigilant” over for that to happen – so that the “springs of life” – the fountain of true joy and refreshment and sustenance remain unpolluted by the poisons of the Fall?
Our Teacher points out four things.

1. (24) One must cultivate honesty with themselves, and with others. If we are willing to entertain duplicity – to have secret lives, to live dishonestly with others, we will inevitably be habitual hypocrites. We must be brutally honest with ourselves about our own sinfulness and unwilling to seem better than we are to others – even if that invites rebuke. Passing ourselves off as Mr. or Ms. Altogether-Christian for the public consumption of others will lead us to hide, and at the same time to live in constant judgment of others. If you are constantly avoiding letting people see who you really are, or pointing the finger at other’s sins – this is probably your area of need.

2. (25) We must be actually aimed at the goal of Heaven and Christ’s likeness. If that is not our goal and aim in life – if that is not where we are traveling to in life – then we are headed somewhere else. No one stumbles into Heaven – we go there intentionally or not at all. There will be no accidental tourists there. Those who have no clear destination will wander – emotionally, spiritually and in every other area of life. Are you on your way to meet the King? Are you actually plotting a course there? If not, you will not arrive.
3. (26) We must examine and re-examine our decisions to see if they are commensurate with our stated goal and direction. The heart is distracted and polluted when our decision making practice does not at least include (at SOME point) the question as to how this decision fits with where I am going and who I am becoming in Christ. Countless woes would be avoided if we would ask this of ourselves before we entered into things. How does X fit with my journey to see Jesus? Does it help? Does it hinder? Is it compatible?
4. (27) We cannot move off of the path that the Scripture has given us, and still get there. Isaiah calls it a “highway of holiness.” There is only one way to follow Christ – I must walk the same way He does, I must go WITH Him. And He is not going certain places. He is not heading into sexual immorality. He is not moving toward theft, or lust, or dishonesty, or coveting this world’s goods, or fame or pleasure. He is headed home to His Father. And there but one road there – Him. He Himself IS the truth, the life and the way.
So my friend – where are you off to today? And how will you be getting there?

~ Reid

Next week: Chapter Five
Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.