How To Strengthen Your Faith

Last week we took a look at the life of Abraham from the book of Genesis. We saw how God gave a promise to Abraham and it wasn’t until 25 years later that Abraham witnessed the fulfillment of the promise through the birth of his son, Isaac. During these 25 years, Abraham doubted time and time again even though God kept reminding him of His promises. At one point, Abraham even tried to fulfill the promise in his own time, using his own means.

This week we will be looking at another event in the life of Abraham from Genesis 22. A number of years have passed since Isaac’s birth. We do not know how old Isaac was at this point, but we do know that he was old enough to have a conversation with his father and was able to carry a heavy burden up a mountain ( 22:6-7).

Abraham, now over 100 years old, was reminded every day of the faithfulness of God, every time that he saw his son. There was  no reason to doubt God anymore or to try and take things into his own hands now because the fulfillment of God’s promise was living and breathing before his very eyes. But I can’t help but wonder if maybe Isaac’s parents were very protective of him. I wonder if they had a long list of rules and safeguards for him to protect him from any kind of danger. Yes, the promise had been fulfilled, but what if something happened to him? What if he got attacked by a wild animal and never lived to marry and continue on the family line? That’s what I would be thinking! But the text doesn’t tell us what Abraham was thinking.

Here, in chapter 22, things take a turn for the worst. After waiting for 25 years, Abraham had finally received a son. And now, after a number of years watching his son grow, learn and play, Abraham receives this command from God,  ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mariah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I tell you.” Just in case you missed that, He said BURNT OFFERING! That means that Isaac would die! Isaac, the child that Abraham had waited 25 years for, the only child that God promised to bless, the child through whom the promises were to be fulfilled. Abraham was over 100 years old now and there was no way that Sarah was going to have another child. If Isaac died then the promises of God would be buried in the grave with him, along with Abraham’s faith. Yet God commands him to do it. Why would God do such a thing? Is God not fair, would He promise something and then take it away? Could anyone trust God if He did such a thing?

Knowing Abraham’s track record, we fully expect him to question God’s request and maybe even fall on his face laughing. But here is the crazy part, he doesn’t. Instead, “Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.” Wow. No shouts of frustration, no questioning of God’s command, no laughs of disbelief, no doubt…nothing but plain and simple obedience. I can honestly say that my response would probably not be so calm.

So this begs the question, “what changed in Abraham”? The man of a weak and inconsistent faith was now an unshakeable rock amidst one of the greatest trials found in the Bible. Did Abraham simply determine to have a greater faith? Did he just pull up his bootstraps and tried harder to trust God? I don’t think so. The kind of transformation that Abraham went through was not possible through mere human will. This was a work of God. And just in case you aren’t convinced that Abraham’s faith was a work of God, let’s take a closer look at it.

The first display of Abraham’s rock solid faith is found in verse 3 when Abraham obeyed God and set out on the journey without a single if, and , or but! The second display is found in verse 5 when Abraham says, “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” The third is found in verses 7 and 8. Isaac asks his father where the lamb for the burnt offering was and Abraham replied, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Abraham believed that God would provide a lamb for the sacrifice and that he and Isaac would both return from this. And in Hebrews 11:19 God’s Word tells us that Abraham even believed that God would raise Isaac back from the dead! And Abraham kept trusting God up to the point where he was holding the knife over his son, ready to sacrifice him to God, when “the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’…’Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

How did this happen? How did Abraham’s faith become so strong? And can we have this kind of faith in our lives? I believe that Abraham’s faith grew so strong because he had seen God fulfill his promises firsthand. Even though it took 25 years, Abraham witnessed God’s faithfulness. He knew that God was a covenant keeping God. He knew that God could be trusted. And that’s how we can have the kind of faith that Abraham had. We need to stop trusting in ourselves and our circumstances. We need to stop trusting in our strengths and abilities. And we need to stop trusting in our will. And most of all, we need to start putting all of our trust in God, who is faithful!

But maybe you haven’t witnessed such an incredible display of God’s faithfulness in your life. Maybe you are still where Abraham was before God gave him Isaac,trapped in a cycle of hearing God’s promises, doubting God and trying to fulfill His promises yourself. So how are you supposed to grow in faith? Do you have to wait for God to give you a miraculous display of His faithfulness? No. One of the core beliefs of Christianity is that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. We believe that the Bible is absolute truth. And guess what? The Bible contains 66 books that all attest to the faithfulness of God. God has always been faithful to His covenant people and He has never failed to fulfill His promises. So pick up your Bible and read the accounts of God’s faithfulness. Read about King David, or Samson, or Ruth. These accounts of God’s faithfulness are more than enough the strengthen your faith in Him.

By the way, you may not realize this, but if you are a Christian, you have certainly witnessed a miraculous demonstration of God’s faithfulness. Back in the book of Genesis, Satan tempted man to sin and man listened to Satan, bringing God’s curse upon the whole world. Because of this we have all sinned and are worthy of God’s punishment. But in Genesis God promised that one day He would send One who would crush the head of the serpent. And God fulfilled this promise in the person of Jesus Christ. The fact that you are a Christian is a result of God being faithful to fulfill a promise that He made to the very first human beings. You have been forgiven from your sins, adopted into the family of God, and promised eternal life because God sent Jesus into this world to die on a cross and destroy the works of the devil, that ancient serpent! You already trust God with your eternity. You have witnessed His faithfulness, you know that He can be trusted to fulfill His promises. Will He not also be faithful to fulfill His other promises to you? Let the testimony of scripture bear witness to the fact that God will be completely faithful to fulfill all of His promises. And by learning of His faithfulness, may your faith be strengthened as Abraham’s was, and may you be able to trust God in all areas of your life, even those of great difficulties.

 

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Does God Keep His Promises?

Recently, I have taken an interest in the topic of Biblical Theology. This study has taught me a lot about the meta narrative (overarching story) of Scripture. As a result of this, I have been inclined to read more of the Old Testament, which is something that I have struggled with in the past. In the last few days I have read through the books of Ruth and Esther, and am now working my way through the book of Genesis.

Today I was reading about Abraham (called Abram at this point) in Genesis 12-17. In Verses 2-3 of Genesis 12, God makes a covenant promise with Abraham, and it was as follows:

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

That is an incredible promise! Not only that, but God Himself spoke this promise to Abraham! Abraham believed God’s glorious promise, trusted in Him completely, and patiently waited for it’s fulfilment. Okay, so that’s not exactly how the story goes. You see, there was a slight problem with this scenario. Abraham and his wife , Sarah ( Sarai at this point) were aging and they still had no children of their own. As much as Abraham probably wanted to trust in God’s promise, it couldn’t have been easy.

“How can God make a great nation through someone who has no offspring?”, “We aren’t getting any younger and we haven’t had children yet, I doubt we will now”. Abraham must have had questions and doubt flooding his mind at this point. In fact, we encounter the doubtful thoughts of Abraham in Genesis 15:2-3 when he expresses them to God,

“But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.'”
At this point we could be tempted to look down on Abraham and rebuke him for not trusting in God’s promises, especially since he heard it straight from God’s mouth! But aren’t we often guilty of the very same thing? 2 Peter 1:4 tells us that God “has granted to us his precious and very great promises.” And He have us these promises through His Word. So before we pass judgment on Abraham, let’s ask ourselves a question, “Am I doubting the promises of God?” Are you doubting that He will use all of your trials for your good and growth in godliness (Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4), or that His love for you will never end (Romans 8:37-39), or that He will bring to completion what He started in you (Phil. 1:6)? Maybe you are struggling with sin or temptation and you have trouble believing that God will provide a way of escape in every temptation (1 Corinth. 10:13) or that He will not let sin have dominion over you (Romans 6:14).

It is a difficult thing to trust in the future promises of God. We need faith to believe that God will do what He has promised to do, even when we can’t see it. In verses 4-5 of Genesis 15, God confirms His promise to Abraham, and verse 6 tells us that “he (Abraham) believed the LORD.” When we are doubting the promises of God it is a good practise to remind ourselves of His promises in His Word. Read them over and over and pray for faith until you believe them, then wait for God to act.

But Abraham’s story doesn’t end there and neither does ours. Even when we come to the place where we trust and believe in the promises of God, doubt can creep back into our lives in a moment. This temptation to doubt can come from our flesh, the devil, or even from other people. In Abraham’s case, the seed of doubt was planted by his wife, Sarah. In Genesis 16:2 we read, “And Sarai said to Abraham, ‘behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children from her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”

It has been approximately eleven years since Abraham had received the promise and once again he gave into the temptation to doubt. He married Sarah’s servant and caused her to become pregnant with a son. The son was named Ishmael.

Sometimes when we can’t see God’s promises being fulfilled we try to fulfill them ourselves, in our own timing, using our own means. The results usually aren’t that great. Sarah and her servant began to have strife in their relationship and the Lord did not allow Ishmael to be the son through whom the promise would be fulfilled. How many times have we grown weary of waiting for God to fulfill His promise and have taken things into our own hands? How has that worked out for you? It has never worked out well for me! So what do we do after we have doubted God’s promises and tried to take matters into our own hands? The same thing that we did the last time we doubted His promises. We remind ourselves of God’s promises in His Word, we trust Him, and we wait!

In chapter 17 God comes to Abraham and once again He reminds him of the covenant that He had made with him. This time, God commands Abraham to have himself, all of the men in his house, and all of his offspring to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant that God had made with Abraham. At this point Abraham was ninety-nine years old. His doubt had become so strong that he fell on his face and laughed when God declared His covenant to him (17:17). Abraham said to God,

“‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before you!’ God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting Covenant for his offspring after him.”

Abraham must have placed at least some trust in God again for he had himself and all of his household circumcised (17:23-26). You don’t get circumcised at age ninety-nine unless you really trust that God is going to do something great!

Finally in Genesis 21 we see God fulfill His promise to Abraham through the birth of his son, Isaac. Abraham was now one hundred years old and it had been approximately twenty-five years since God had made the covenant with Abraham! God fulfilled His promise, the way He planned it, and at the time that He had ordained. His promise and His plan never changed for a moment. Oh how Abraham must have grieved over his lack of trust in God’s promises and how he must have regretted the decisions that he has made under the influence of doubt.

Thankfully God was gracious toward Abraham, and when He recounts Abraham’s story in Hebrews 11, He leaves out the part about the doubt that Abraham and Sarah struggles with. Instead, the author of Hebrews proclaims the faith that Abraham and Sarah had in God’s promises, even though their faith was inconsistent and weak.

Let this be a lesson to us, that God can be trusted and that He is always faithful to fulfill His promises. But don’t forget that His plan, His ways, and His timing are above ours. We must trust in God and wait patiently for Him to work. We must remind ourselves daily of His promises and ask Him for the faith to believe them. And we can be thankful that God is faithful even when our faith is inconsistent and weak. And we can wait patiently, knowing that we will see the fulfillment of His promises.

Calvinism Isn’t Cool

Calvinism isn’t Cool.

 

Calvinism isn’t cool.

 

I am a Calvinist. That doesn’t mean that I am a devout follower of a dead theologian who wrote some good books. In fact, I haven’t read a whole lot of John Calvin’s works. I am, however, a follower of Jesus Christ, who holds to some doctrines that some call “Calvinism”. I prefer to use the term, “doctrines of Grace”, but for the sake of this note, I will use the word Calvinism. Basically what that means is that I believe God is sovereign over ever single thing that happens in our universe, including our salvation. Yes there are calls in scripture for us to have faith, repent, believe in Jesus and obey Jesus, but it is also clear in scripture that God is the author behind all of this. “No one comes to the Father unless God draws them.”-Jesus. God is in control of salvation and only those whom He predestined for His glory will end up putting their faith in Christ. And whether you agree with these doctrines or not we should agree that there is something wrong with many people who hold to these doctrines. And that is this, they think being a “Calvinist” or being “reformed” is cool. They don’t just believe these doctrines to be true, they think it’s cool. And I am one of them. But it’s not “cool”. There was a lot of blood sweat and tears put into these doctrines by our forefathers. If it wasn’t for their hard work, who knows whether or not we would still have them. Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Lloyd Jones and many others put countless hours into preaching these truths and defending these truths, and it wasn’t so that we could be the cool kids of Christianity. We probably all know someone who is like this. They have the occasional beer, smoke the occasional cigar, all while quoting dead theologians and marvelling at the sovereignty of God. Not only that, but we have T-shirts. We get tattoos that somehow incorporate the five points of grace or the five Solas of the Reformation. We have rap artists. We have that look we give our Calvinist friends when we hear a reference to predestination in our favourite reformed rap song. We have memes on the internet that generally poke fun at our Arminian brothers. We love to use our freedoms in Christ to have a good time. We love to read Calvinistic authors and talk about what we read. But sadly it is not always for the sake of our edification, it is often because we think it’s cool. We love hanging out with fellow Calvinists and keeping these glorious doctrines to ourselves instead of pleading with our brothers and sisters and reasoning with them from scriptures. Why? Because it’s cool to hangout with other Calvinists. But Calvinism isn’t cool. It was never about being cool. It was never about the right to drink a beer, smoke a cigar, get a tattoo, getting our own t-shirts, making our own memes etc. The Doctrines of Grace are some of the most amazing, breath taking doctrines of the entire Bible(when properly explained and understood). These doctrines have changed us and helped us to see a side of God that many of us once refused to see. Our eyes have been opened to see His sovereignty and His glory like we never saw them before. We have seen the depths of His love and the riches of His grace explode off the pages of scriptures. And we sit around and talk about how great it is to be reformed. In the book of Ephesians, Paul talks about seeking to understand the breadth, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ. And he instructs us to do this TOGETHER. I truly believe that the doctrines of grace help us to see the depths of the love of Christ. So let’s stop getting together and talking about how cool Calvinism is and let us search together with our Calvinist and non-Calvinist brothers alike, and explore the word of God together. There is no room in Christianity for “the cool kids”. Every follower of Christ is entitled to the deep doctrines of the Bible, some just need your help to see them in the scriptures. So together, let’s stop being cool. If we really believe that these doctrines are life changing then we are obligated to discuss them with those who hold to a different view. Let us invite them to our hangouts, let us discuss and debate with them. It’s not about being cool, it’s about being faithful to the scriptures and seeking together to search the depths of Gods love. I know it’s going to take me a while to apply this to my life, but I will try. I hope you will join me.

 

Single For The Holidays

 

 

Ah, Christmas holidays. A time to take a much needed break from work and regular weekly activities. A few days to spend some quality time with relatives and friends, some of whom you haven’t seen all year! A time to eat great food and share gifts with the people that you love. And most importantly, a time to reflect upon the fact that a little over 2,000 years ago God sent His son Jesus into this world to be our Saviour. All of these things are wonderful and many of us look forward to this time of year. But, even Christmas holidays can come with some drawbacks. Though there are many different holiday drawbacks I am going to focus on one, being single for the holidays. Admittedly, this wasn’t a huge drawback for me this year, but it has been in the past. I remember going to family gatherings and seeing my other family members with the people that they were dating or the people that they recently married. I remember wanting to have that special someone to bring with me to the family dinner, but ended up going alone. And let’s be honest, even though I despise cold weather, winter can be one of the most romantic seasons of the year. Skating hand in hand with the person you love, going sledding, walking through a park lit with Christmas lights, going on a horse drawn carriage ride…you get my point. So for some single people, this time of year can be a sad reminder of the fact that they don’t have that special person in their lives. You enjoy all of the things that you get to do with your family and friends, yet you can’t help but think about how much better it would be if you weren’t single during the holidays. I’ve had these thoughts and you probably have as well. So I want to take a few minutes and share some things with you that have helped me enjoy the holidays as a single person.

 

It is true that I am single. In one sense I am alone, but I don’t have to be lonely. God has promised me that He will never leave me or forsake me and that He will be with me always (Hebrews 13:5, Matt. 28:20). Not only that, but God has made us a part of the body of Christ, His church. He has called us into community with those around us who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:27). I encourage you to be a part of a local church. I encourage you to get involved and to serve in whatever way you are able. If you are a guy you should find other godly young men to hangout with. Let them encourage you and strengthen you in your walk with God. You don’t need a girlfriend to have heart to heart talks with. Find some guys who are willing to invest in your life and talk you through your struggles. Ladies, surround yourself with godly women who are able to help you move forward in your walk with God and who are able to be there for you in times of need. Lastly, spend some time with older wiser Christians (including married couples) who are able to bless you with sound wisdom and advice.

 

As single Christians we have to realize that our singleness doesn’t define us. Our identity is not “single” or “married”. Our identity is found in Christ alone. We are all chosen, loved, adopted, and secure in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14). Your relationship status can change. Maybe you have been there. You thought that you were in a relationship that was going to last a life time and then it ended after 6 months. I’ve been there. Some of us might have multiple relationships until we find our future spouse. Yes it’s not ideal, yes it’s hard, but don’t let a failed relationship define you. Remember your identity in Christ because that will never change and He will never leave you.

 

Christian singles can sometimes be tempted to forget who they are in Christ, especially the truth that they are greatly loved. We got let down by someone who claimed they loved us, or we are looking for a spouse to love and have always come up empty handed, and it’s tempting to feel unloved or unlovable. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you are single, you probably have some free time (I know I do:p). I encourage you to use this time to reflect upon God’s great love for you during the Christmas holidays. Remember the Christmas story, how God sent His son Jesus in the form of a human baby over 2,000 years ago. It was God’s love for you that led Him to send Jesus. God loves you before the foundation of the world. But we sinned and separated ourselves from Him. God sent Jesus to this earth, born of a virgin, 100% man, 100% God. He lived the perfect life that we should have lived, died the death we deserved to die, took the wrath of God for our sins, and was raised from the dead defeating sin, death, and the grave. Because of His life, death, and resurrection we are fully forgiven, fully loved, and guaranteed eternal life with Him forever. No human being can love you this much. This is the greatest love that has ever been displayed (1 John 4:9-19).

 

Another truth that has been very helpful to me is the fact that God is absolutely sovereign. He knows the beginning from the end. His ways are above our ways. None of his purposes can be thwarted. He is Lord and He is in control. Everything that He does is good, and He works all things together for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Job 42:2, Psalm 135:6, Romans 8:28, Isaiah 55:8-11, James 1:17). He cares for you, He is absolutely in control, and He loves to give good gifts (like marriage). Keep trusting in Him and wait on His perfect timing.

 

Just because you aren’t married yet doesn’t mean that it isn’t God’s will for your life. The desire for marriage is a good desire. God created marriage and declares it to be a good thing (Genesis 2:24, Proverbs 18:22). But we have to be careful not to take a “good” thing and make it into a “god” thing. God loves marriage but He abhors idolatry. If we expect marriage to complete us then we are setting ourselves up for disaster. And maybe God hasn’t given you a spouse because you hope to find in a spouse what only God can give you. Marriage is a good gift from God, but it makes a terrible god. Let marriage have it’s proper place, desire it, pursue it, and trust in God’s good sovereign will for your life.

 

One last thing to keep in mind. We are to wait on God’s perfect timing, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing. A spouse isn’t just going to fall from heaven and land in our lap. That might happen in a Disney movie, but this is real life. We should not waste this time that God has given us, we should use it wisely. God has graciously given us this time to mature in our faith, prepare ourselves for marriage, to learn about what we should look for in a spouse, and to serve Him with our free time. So read some books on the subject, read articles, listen to sermons, and get advice from other godly people in your life (especially seasoned married couples). Get involved at church, and serve Him the best that you can. Put yourself in positions where you can meet other Christian singles your age. And then continue to pray for God to give you a spouse. And do all of this for His glory.

 

Is Expository Preaching Cheating?

 

In a recent Q&A pastor Andy Stanley was asked the question, “What do you think about preaching verse-by-verse messages through books of the Bible?” This is how he replied, “Guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible – that is just cheating. It’s cheating because that would be easy, first of all. That isn’t how you grow people. No one in Scripture modelled that. There’s not one example of that.” Wow. As a person who hopes to be a full time expositor one day, and who attends a church where expository preaching is the norm I find this insulting. My first response was one of anger. I was angry with Andy Stanley. I wanted him to take back his harsh words and apologize. I wanted to tell everyone how disgusted I was with his comment. But after I cooled down, the Lord reminded me of a time when I would have wholeheartedly agreed with Andy’s statement. I was attending a Christian college when I first felt the call to preach. I went to church three times a week and chapel four times a week. Needless to say, I was exposed to a lot of preaching. Some of it was good, some of it was bad. Much of the preaching could have been classified as expository preaching. Unfortunately the man who did most of the preaching was not a preacher…he was a Bible teacher. There is a difference. His teaching was good, but his preaching wasn’t. His preaching was dry as dust and he could put you to sleep even if you were drinking espressos throughout the sermon. Not only that, but finding application in his sermons was about as likely as finding a blue unicorn at your local zoo. This was my first exposure to expository preaching and you can probably see how this would have given me a negative view of it. I had determined in my heart that this kind of teaching was good for Bible classes and Bible studies but certainly not for church. I believed that topical sermons with heavy application were what we needed to hear on Sunday mornings. I held that view up until a few years ago when I started hearing expository preaching of another nature. I started listening to expositors like John Piper, John MacArthur and others. These men could preach through a passage and do it with passion. These preachers were also capable of giving life changing application in their sermons. This completely changed my opinion on expository preaching. In fact, nothing else would do now. These sermons were keeping me fed. I was learning and I was growing. I no longer cared for sermons that were light, entertaining, and somewhat applicable. I couldn’t get enough of these life altering expository sermons. Others sermons would leave me hungry for more. And then a few years ago I started attending a church that has a huge emphasis on expository preaching. We listen to a guy teach through a passage for about 45 minutes. And guess what? We are growing numerically and spiritually all the time! People are hungry for God’s Word and God’s Word is exactly what expository preaching offers. Maybe Andy has never experienced this kind of expository preaching. Maybe he has just had a bad experience with someone who did it wrong. If so, I hope that he hears a really good sermon from a faithful expositor. If he has heard good expository preaching then I cannot give him the benefit of the doubt. His statement is absolutely false. Expository preaching is not cheating, and it certainly is not easy. A week ago Sunday I preached a 45 minute long sermon on the first three chapters of Genesis. This was no easy task. I want to share a few things about my sermon prep with you so that you can see for yourself that expository preaching is not cheating. The first thing that I would like to share with you is my conviction to be faithful to God’s Word. When I approach a passage of scripture my first goal is to be as faithful as I can to the true meaning of the text. God doesn’t take it lightly when someone alters the meaning of His words. This conviction haunts me as I prepare a sermon. If I ever feel like a thought in my sermon is from my own mind and not from the Bible I end up throwing it out. I will be held accountable to God for what I teach people. I take that seriously. The next step is prayer. I pray for the sermon. I pray that God would help me be faithful to the text. I also pray that God would use the message to change hearts and lives. And I pray for God to help me write the sermon since I am but a weak man. The next step is study. I spend multiple hours reading commentaries and articles, listening to sermons on the passage, and looking up the original meaning of some difficult words. I read through the passage multiple times to try and get a understanding of the text from the plain reading of it. For this last sermon I ended up with about 25 pages of notes. After the research is complete I make an outline. I break down the passages into different sections to make it more manageable and then I gather my thoughts for each section within the passage. I had a three page outline for this last sermon. The last step is the actual writing of the sermon. This is the hardest part for me. I probably spent about 10 or more hours taking all of my notes and trying to put them into a sermon. Sometimes getting my words into a page feels like pulling teeth. I usually lose a lot of sleep leading up to the sermon as a burn the candle at both ends to get this thing on paper. My sermon on Genesis was 24 pages long and I got hardly any sleep the weekend that I was to preach it. I don’t say all of this to boast about all of the work that I put into a sermon. I share this with you because most people just see the Sunday morning. Most people see a preacher preach his sermon but they never see him prepare it. They joke that he only works one day a week. The sermon is on his mind all week, he pours out hours of prayer, study, and preparation into his sermon. Andy Stanley is wrong, this is not cheating. This is preaching. And this is what God has called us to do. It is hard work, but when God uses a sermon to change lives it is all worth it.

 

When Our Hearts Condemn Us

One of my favourite hymns starts with the words,

 

“Blessed Assurance Jesus is mine Oh what a foretaste of glory divine Heir of salvation, purchased of God Born of the Spirit, washed in His blood”

 

There have been many wonderful moments of my Christian life where this has been the song that my heart was singing. Moments when I was overwhelmed by God’s amazing love and grace, where all of my confidence was in Christ and His perfect atonement for my sins. Moments when I truly grasped the extent of God’s forgiveness, that He had cast my sins as far as the East is from the West. But in all honesty, this hasn’t always been the case. Blessed assurance hasn’t always been my hearts favourite song to sing. Though my confidence in Christ has increased greatly over the years, I remember times in my Christian infancy when I had many struggles with doubt and lack of assurance. So I thank God for the increase of my confidence in Christ and that the temptations to doubt are once in a blue moon compared to my weekly battles in the past. But I also realize that this isn’t the case for everyone. I recognize that some dear brothers and sisters in Christ struggle with the assurance of their salvation more than others. If this is you, I want you to know that I am praying for you as I write this. My prayer is that your heart will become more prone to sing “blessed assurance, Jesus is mine” and that your confidence in God’s glorious gospel would become so strong that the doubts you struggle with now won’t be able to find a place to settle in your heart. Speaking of your heart, is it not your heart that is the cause for so much of this doubt? Is it not your heart that is so quick to condemn you when you have sinned against God? Is it not your heart that slams the gavel and cries, “guilty!” when you haven’t touched your Bible in a week and your prayer life has been less than desirable? Indeed, it is your heart that has been so quick to condemn you. Sometimes when we feel guilt and shame due to our sin and when we feel distant from our Heavenly Father, our hearts gather evidence against us, put us on trial, and declare us to be guilty and worthy of God’s condemnation. Beloved, I want you to know that your heart is not the judge and it can’t always be trusted. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” So when your heart rushes to condemn you, don’t be so quick to trust it. 1 John 3:19-20 says, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our hearts before Him, for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and He knows everything.” God knows everything that we have ever done and will ever do and He is greater than our heart. So when your heart condemns you, bring your case into God’s courtroom for a retrial. Your heart has no authority in God’s courtroom! And if you are a child of God, His verdict is that you are innocent and free from condemnation. Not because we haven’t sinned and not because we don’t deserve condemnation(because we certainly do!), but because Christ already paid the penalty for our sins and gave us His righteousness so that we could stand blameless before God(2 Corinth. 5:21). When we placed our faith in Christ, God declared us to be forgiven, accepted, loved, and adopted into His family for all of eternity(Ephesians 1). Our assurance does not come from how we feel in certain moments of our Christian life, it comes from what Christ accomplished on the cross. That doesn’t mean that we need to stop feeling guilty for our sins or that we stop asking for His forgiveness when we have sinned and gone astray. It is good to feel godly sorrow when we have sinned against God and grieved His Holy Spirit who dwells within us. We do need to repent and seek forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. But instead of allowing our hearts to condemn us, we can declare with confidence that, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”(Romans 8:1). Remind yourself daily of the gospel of Christ and strive to obey Him, knowing that you are already loved, forgiven, and accepted by God.