Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: rescue

Does the past predict the future?

Past performance is not indicative of future results. 

We see that phrase all over the place, especially when investing money is involved.  It’s the author’s attempt at a legal disclaimer: “Don’t blame me if you lose all your money by trusting this investment I’m recommending.”  And yet, more often than not, the author is basing his or her assessment of “investment worthiness” on the stock’s historical performance.  Strange contradiction, right?

Isn’t that how we treat God sometimes?  We look back at everything He’s done for us, all the times He’s rescued us…and while we confidently say the right things “I trust God with my future.”, we end up worrying about how events will unfold.  Like the unsteady investor, we’re contradicting ourselves as we attempt to point others toward Jesus.

David begins Psalm 27 with his current outlook, looks back at his past, then extrapolates these out to his future.  Do you find any unsteadiness?

Psalm 27:1-3
The Lord is my light and my salvation –
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life –
of whom should I be afraid?
When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,
my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.
Though an army deploy against me,
my heart is not afraid;
though war break out against me,
still I am confident.


David could look back and see that when someone was gunning for his life, God stepped in and took care of it.  We shouldn’t blow this off with the thought of “well, no one’s trying to kill me, so I can’t relate”.  There are many, many ways others will try to take a pound of flesh from us.  Ruined reputations, finances, careers, marriages, community involvement, even volunteer positions could all be targets of those who want to take us down.

Notice, too, that David doesn’t say God prevented all hardship; rather, with the benefit of hindsight, David could see how his foes and enemies stumbled and fell.  Best of all, David recognized that God was the one who handled his foes.  Instead of proclaiming that he survived the ordeal, David gives God the proper credit for his protection.

David’s current confidence and faith in God was rooted in God’s previous workings in David’s life.  So much so that David says he will still trust God even if the future trials are significantly worse.  Previously, individual evildoers threatened him.  Now, David says that even if multitudes come against him – armies or full-scale war – he will remain confident in God’s ability to handle the future.

David is not worried about the future.  He knows that he can find light and rescue and strength in the Lord.  He’s not adding any disclaimers or hedging his bets anywhere else.  Given everything God has done for us in the past, we should also be giving Him our full trust with our futures.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Practicing to be like Jesus

“When am I ever going to use this stuff?”

That phrase is the rally cry of every student who has had their fill of theory and talk.  I wondered it when I was a kid, and now my kids have asked it of me.

Earlier in his letter to Timothy, we observed that Paul made the connection between godliness and being like Jesus.  There were three Jesus-like-ness observations we noted:

·        Jesus knew the Scriptures – He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  Often during His teaching, Jesus would reference the Scriptures by saying “It is written” or asking the question “Have you not read?
·        Jesus was totally focused on His part in God’s plan and kingdom – He was on mission and would not be deterred.  In John 6:38, He said “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
·        Jesus knew both the Scriptures and His mission well enough that He could impact the lives of others – He cared for others, met them where they were, and pointed them toward God the Father.

Just a handful of verses after Paul made the connection between godliness and being like Jesus, he encouraged Timothy with these words:

1 Timothy 4:12-16
No one should despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching.  Do not neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy, with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.

Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all.  Be conscientious about yourself and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Paul’s instructions for Timothy match the three attributes of Jesus-like-ness we noted earlier.  First, Paul told Timothy to know the Scriptures. Through his devotion to public reading, exhortation, and teaching, Timothy would be immersing himself in God’s Word. 

Next, Paul urged Timothy to focus on his part in God’s plan and kingdom.  While he was a unique combination of skills and experience, when you add in the gift given to him by God, Timothy was especially prepared for this work in Ephesus. 

Lastly, Paul encouraged Timothy to practice these things; be committed to them…persevere in these things and his end result would be like Jesus’ – Timothy would know both the Scriptures and his mission well enough to impact the lives of others, or, as Paul put it, Timothy would save both himself and his hearers.  Now Timothy could not add to Jesus’ finished work on the cross, so we know that Paul isn’t referring to an eternal salvation here.  But then what would Timothy be saving them all from?

A few verses back, right after equating godliness with being like Jesus, Paul warned:

1 Timothy 4:1
Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons

As Timothy applies what he’s learned from Paul, as he endeavors to be like Jesus – then he, too, will have the opportunity to save both himself and his hearers from the pitfalls of false teachings.  What a great rescue mission!

What could we do if we also imitate Jesus by knowing the Scriptures and using our God-given gifts?  What kind of rescuing could we do?  Will we trust God and find out?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Completely rescued

Earlier this year, hundreds of fishermen were rescued from a life of slavery on Thai fishing boats.  These men had been trafficked and sold to work on these boats for up to 20 hours a day.  Some were kidnapped, others were lured there with promises of money or work prospects.  Yet instead of these lies, they were paid with beatings, torture, and sexual abuse. 

When the Indonesian government stepped in and rescued them, the world cheered.  Others had done for them what these fishermen could not do for themselves.  However, once they had been freed, they had nowhere to go and no one to help them cope with adjusting into being part of the real world.

There is a spiritual parallel to this story.  Christ has done for sinners what they are unable to do for themselves – He took the punishment for our sin, because we could not pay that debt.  Since the Father accepted Christ’s payment, those who trust in Christ for eternal life have been rescued from the domain of darkness.  Fortunately, though, we are not left to ourselves.  Our story doesn’t end there. 

As Paul began his letter to the Colossian believers, he reminded them that not only were they rescued from sin’s domain, but they were also rescued to a new domain.  Read the verses below and look for where believers have been transferred to:

Colossians 1:11-14
May you be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.  He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

God the Father transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.  While we were removed from sin’s jurisdiction, we also get a complete change of citizenship.  Only those in authority of a country can determine who gets to be a citizen; no other country’s declaration, decision, or complaint can affect a given citizenship.  As such, God can add anyone – from any background, region, or nationality – to the kingdom of the Son He loves.  Those He has chosen to transfer into Jesus’ kingdom are the ones who trust Jesus’ payment on the cross and trust Him for eternal life.

And it’s not like God has rescued us and then placed us into some other far-off area where life is just little better than it was before.  The Father doesn’t just send us on our merry way.  We aren’t left to figure out the question of “What do I do now?” or “How do I deal with the leftovers from my past?”  On the contrary, we have been transferred into the kingdom of the Son He loves.  Given how much the Father loves the Son, then the benefits of that relationship will spill over to those who identify with the Son! 

During His last night on earth, Jesus told His disciples:

John 16:27
For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.

We have redemption, we have the forgiveness of sins, but we are not left behind as orphans without a country.  Instead, we become part of the one Who is dearly loved by the Father!  We now have both a place and a purpose.  We have a new life as citizens in Jesus’ kingdom.

Never forget where we were rescued from, and always remember where we have been rescued to.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

God's faithful love

David’s psalm started with fear and a request for protection from his enemies.  Once God steps in and rescues him, David begins to sing God’s praises.

Psalm 57:9-11
I will praise You, Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your faithful love is as high as the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

God, be exalted above the heavens;
let Your glory be over the whole earth.

The key to David’s rejoicing and praise toward God is found in a special phrase used in this section of the psalm.  David identifies God’s faithful love as the reason for singing God’s praises.

The Hebrew word translated as faithful love is hesed.  Hesed means to have a zeal (in a good sense) in love and kindness toward any one; it especially refers to the grace, favor, mercy God shows toward men or that one person may show to another.

It was this portion of God’s character that David was banking on when he petitioned God for refuge and shelter as his enemies closed in.  David says that God’s hesed is so great that it fills all the skies of the entire earth.  If that aspect of God’s character is true – and it is – then David felt that he could confidently approach God with his request for shelter.

When we recognize the magnitude of grace, favor, and mercy God has shown us…well, take a look at how Paul described God’s feelings for us:

Romans 8:31-32 What then are we to say about these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?  He did not even spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything?

A few verses later, Paul adds:

Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

In a word, he’s crazy about us.  We can count on God’s hesed towards believers.  As a result, when trials come, we can have the same confidence as David to approach God with requests for refuge.  We can find shelter and rest in Him because of His faithful love toward us.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Saved from what?

As modern-day believers, we have a habit of over-spiritualizing everything we read in the Bible.  We tend to read our understanding of words and phrases from one section of the Bible into all other sections.  Instead, we need to remember that the meaning of a word or phrase is always understood based upon the context that word is used in. 

Take, for example, the word run:
I run for public office.
I run marathons.
Allergies make my nose run.

Same word – three totally different meanings.  However, what I am communicating to you in each sentence is clear, based upon the context of the surrounding words.

When we read the Bible, what is the word that we most typically ignore the context of and mis-read the author’s meaning?

It’s the word salvation or save.

In both the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament, the word for save simply means to be rescued or delivered.  What we typically assume is the New Testament concept of Jesus rescuing us from the consequences of our sin and giving eternal life to those who believe in Him for it.  And that is a proper use of the word save – as long as that idea is the author’s topic.  Other things that Biblical authors need saved from include: enemies, danger, circumstances, physical death, illness, captivity, and several others. 

So whenever we come across the word salvation or save, we need to stop and ask the question “Saved from what?”.

When David writes Psalm 57, he’s not asking God to rescue him for eternal life…even though it would be tempting for us to read that into the text:

Psalm 57:1-3
Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me,
for I take refuge in You.
I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings
until danger passes.

I call to God Most High,
to God who fulfills His purpose for me.
He reaches down from heaven and saves me,
challenging the one who tramples me.

God sends His faithful love and truth.

So how do we know that David isn’t talking about (or even alluding to) eternal salvation when he says that God reaches down from heaven and saves me, challenging the one who tramples me?

By looking at the context.

While the numbering system used for the Psalms isn’t original to the text, there are sometimes instructions or notes about the psalm left by the author.  The instructions can vary from what kind of instrument or tune is needed for the psalm, who wrote the psalm, or even give detail as to when the psalm was written.

In the case of Psalm 57, the notes tell us the circumstances which influenced David to write. 

For the choir director: “Do Not Destroy.”  A Davidic Miktam.  When he fled before Saul into the cave.

David was hunted by Saul for four years.  Saul resented that God had chosen David to succeed him as king, and Saul rationalized that if he killed David, then he could continue being King of Israel.  There were many tense occasions during those four years, several times where it looked like Saul had David trapped. 

Psalm 57 was born out of one of those times.  David was in trouble.  Like the text says, Saul was trampling David.  The grace, refuge, and salvation that David was petitioning God for was his physical rescue from Saul.  Based upon the Biblical account of those years, and that David did eventually become King of Israel…we know God’s answer to David’s prayer in Psalm 57.

We don’t have to find inspiration by reading eternal salvation from sins into the text…because a plain reading of what the text is actually talking about is plenty encouraging – from David’s example, we see how God cares enough about our current physical situations to protect us and to fulfill His purpose for us.

God keeps His promises.  He’s willing and able to protect us in this life, even in the times we feel completely trapped.  That great truth is there for us to see, as long as we read the text for what it says and resist the urge to read something else into it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Great grace, great love

Titus 3:5-6 ...He [God the Father] saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior

All three members of the Trinity – God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit – participated in securing our salvation from sin’s ultimate penalty.  Without God acting on our behalf, we would have been eternally separated from God and unable to become whom God created us to be. 

While our rescue from eternal death was God’s primary motivation, it wasn’t the only outcome from what God did for us.  Paul continues and explains God’s motivation in providing such a great salvation:

Titus 3:7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

To be justified means to be declared legally righteous.  Not guilty of the sin I’ve committed.  Since Jesus paid the penalty for all of humanity’s sin, and I have accepted that he took the punishment I deserved, I cannot be condemned to eternal separation from God.  As Paul said in his letter to the believers in Rome:

Romans 8:1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

But did you catch what Paul was saying to Titus?  There is more to a believer’s life, something that goes beyond the initial salvation moment and experience.

Titus 3:7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

I have often heard justification explained as God treating the believer “just-as-if-I-had-never-sinned”, however Paul is saying that there is more to it than that.  We become heirs, we now have hope in an eternal future of life with God.  Perhaps a better statement for justification would be that God now treats the believer “just-as-if-I-were-Jesus-himself”.

While I am now treated as if I were sinless, I am also received as a member of the family and brought into the relationship found within the Trinity.  That does not mean that I become God, but I am loved as much as God the Father loves God the Son…which is an eternal, unbreakable love.  We are given privileges unknown to any other created being…and it’s all because we are associated with Jesus.

Also notice how we are justified…it is by his grace.  Not by anything we did or will do.  We saw earlier that our rescue was not because of righteous things we had done, it’s all a gift. 

How great is God’s love toward us?!

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Our greatest need

Life is messy.  Our selfishness and sin tangles up everything, doesn’t it?  I can make such a tangled mess out of my life that I am bound by knots that I cannot undo…however, our sin-soaked human condition is made even more difficult as each of our tangled messes become interwoven in everyone else’s tangled messes.  Every mess we face is caused by either our own selfishness or someone else’s selfishness. When we recognize our sin for what it is, we quickly realize that life is so messy that we could never un-messy it.

Titus 3:3-4 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But…

In our heart-of-hearts, when we are honest…that is who we were.  Disobedient fools that happily chased and submitted to all kinds of destructive behaviors.  We lived in constant suspicion and envy of others, hating anyone who appeared to have something we did not.  Every aspect of our existence was focused completely on ourselves.

The word “but” always signals a change in direction.  It is a key term to look for when we read the Scriptures.  “But” tells us that the subject matter is about to change, that something different is coming.

Titus 3:4-5 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

In direct contrast to the hateful, envious, disobedient mess that all people are in, God steps in to rescue us.  God intervened in the mess of our sinful lives.  When our lives were full of malice, envy, and hate – God stepped in with kindness, love, and mercy.

These qualities of God and his salvation are the polar opposite of the qualities we possessed.

And just in case we ever think that we maybe earned it, or we somehow convinced God to save us, or that we were “good enough” – Paul instructs us that God’s rescue was not because of righteous things we had done

but because of his mercy – in direct contrast to any outside influence of our works, (because there wasn’t any), God’s motivation for saving humanity comes from his own mercy.  Mercy is defined as the moral quality of feeling compassion and especially showing kindness toward someone in need.  What better way to describe the entire human race? 

We needed someone to feel compassion toward us, to act in kindness on our behalf, someone to deal with our need to have our sin nature resolved.  We couldn’t do it – individually or corporately – and there was nothing about us that could influence God to act on our behalf.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

While we were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures…living in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

We couldn’t fix our mess.  So God did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

Keep Pressing,
Ken