Health and Healing, Sickness and Suffering
When it comes to health and healing, and sickness and suffering, there are a lot of questions and a lot of confusion.
This topic hits home for me because I serve as Care Pastor at Crossroads Church. But, more than that, it hits home because it is home. All the time. My wife has various diagnoses all adding up to making her chronically ill.* That is, she’s sick. She’s sick a lot; more or less all the time.
Does God want us to be healthy and happy? Then why is there suffering and sickness? And why are some people healthy and some people sick? Why is my wife sick? Did she do something to deserve it? Did I do something? Do we lack faith?
The answers to these questions are not simplistic. They are complex. And they are mysterious. It’s always good to remember that God as God is not like us. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9). That shouldn’t be surprising for us since He’s God, but it is vital that we remember that truth.
So, why sickness and suffering?
Sickness and suffering?
First, we should acknowledge how big and how relevant that question is. People have been asking this question for eons. The Bible gives some very valid and convincing reasons (especially when understand in the context of redemptive history).
The Fall (sin in general, natural evil)
Sickness was introduced into the world as a result of sin (Gen. 3). When God made the world, it was very good (Gen. 1:31). So, sickness is an intruder. Sickness is not welcome and will not always be in the world. But it is certainly here now. Now in the natural course of the fallen world, people get sick and they die, and people die as a result of old age (Gen. 5 [notice the refrain of “and he died”], 48:1, 21).
Individual Sin (specific personal sin, moral evil)
Sometimes sickness is a result of a specific personal sin (1 Cor. 11:28-30). Of course, all sin leads to separation from God and death. But some sins bring especially pungent consequences. Some sins, as 1 Corinthians says, are against our own bodies (1 Cor. 6:18). Some sickness results from disobeying God (Ex. 15:26). It seems king David himself experienced the physical consequences of sin (Ps. 32:3-4; 38:3-5).
From reading the New Testament it seems clear that some sickness is a result of demonic forces. The Gospel of Mark talks about a young boy that has “a spirit that makes him mute” (Mk. 9:17-18 cf. Lk. 11:14). The Gospel of Luke talks about a woman that had a disabling spirit for 18 years (Lk. 13:11). Acts 10:38 tells us that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (cf. Matt. 8:16). Yet, Luke also distinguishes between the casting out of demons and healing (see Lk. 4:40-41) and thus shows that not all sickness is due to demonic forces. When we take into account the points below, it is clear that not all sickness comes from demonic forces.
For God’s Glory
Scripture also explicitly tells us that some sickness is for the glory of God. The most cogent and explicit is the story of the man born blind. Jesus says that the man was not born blind because of sin but instead “so that the works of God would be displayed in him” (Jn. 9:3).
Even the death of Lazarus was for the glory of God, so that Jesus might be glorified through it (Jn. 11:4). And Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” whatever it was, was so that the power of Christ would rest upon him (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
In these examples, sickness was not a result of sin or a lack of faith. Sickness was for the glory of God.
We don’t always know why
At other times we simply do not know for sure what the reason for the sickness is. In Philippians 2:25-30 we see that Epaphroditus, a faithful co-laborer of Paul, was so sick he nearly died. Yet, we are not given a reason for his sickness. And we have no hint at all that it was because of lack of faith or because of a personal sin. And in 2 Timothy 4:20 we see that Trophimus is left in Miletus.
Paul was an apostle, had faith, and had healed others (Acts 19:11-12; 2 Cor. 12:12) and yet that didn’t guarantee that people—even his close and faithful co-workers—would be healed. We know God, by His Spirit, can heal and we can certainly pray that He will. But prayer and even the gift of healing is not a mechanism that we can simply push and guarantee that healing will be the result. God is sovereign over sickness. And for whatever reason, He doesn’t always heal. We don’t always know, as Paul the Apostle didn’t know, why some are healed, and others aren’t. But, just like Paul, we must trust God. He is good. And He has explicitly and repeatedly demonstrated His goodness.
So, sickness is clearly not always a result of sin or a lack of faith.
What should we do when we’re sick?
Look at James 5:13-18. Notice first that before it talks about healing it talks about patience in suffering (v. 7-11). So, even in the context of asking for healing, there is an expectation of suffering.
Next, notice that whatever situation we are in, good or bad, we are always to go to the LORD in it, with praise or lament (v. 13). Then we see what we are to do if we’re sick. First, we need to realize our need. That is what leads to the calling of the elders. So, humility is necessary. When we are sick, we should realize our need.
Second, we are to realize that our need is not just physical, but spiritual. That is why we call for the “elders of the church.” And that is why we ask for prayer. Prayer is a supernatural beseeching of God; it’s going to God as Father and asking for help.
Third, I think the “anointing” with oil could have at a least a twofold significance. In the Old Testament the king would be anointed with oil and that symbolized the Spirit’s presence and blessing. Oil was also used for medicinal purposes (Mk. 6:13) or used as shorthand for medicine as we see when the Good Samaritan took care of the wounded man (Luke 10:34). Therefore, in anointing with oil we are calling on the Spirit to work and we are also confirming the goodness of medicine and imploring God to make it effective to heal.
Fourth, sickness uniquely reveals that we are but dust, that we soon pass away and are no more (Ps. 39). Yet, the “prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (v. 15), even if it is on the last day that he is raised up (Jn. 6:39-40, 44, 54). I don’t believe this passage means that just because the elders prayed over someone, and they had faith, they will be healed. But I do believe the prayer of faith saves. I believe this because that’s what the Bible teaches elsewhere (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 1:9). Also, as we have said, some sins uniquely lead to sickness. If someone commits one of those sins, they too can be forgiven (v. 15), but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be healed.
But, fifth, we do have a strong encouragement to confess our sins and pray for one another that we may be healed (v. 16). We know from elsewhere that sin can hinder our prayer (1 Pet. 3:7). It is the prayer of a righteous person that has great power (James 5:16). Just because people are not always healed when we pray does not at all mean they cannot be healed when we pray. James 5:17-18 goes to great lengths to tell us that Elijah was a normal enough guy and yet God moved mightily through his prayers.
So, when we’re sick, we must realize our utter need; we certainly cannot heal ourselves. We should realize the nature of our need as well as who it is we need help from: supernatural help from God. And we should realize that medicine although good, is no good apart from God’s intervening grace. So, even in our use of medicine we must be reliant and thankful to the Lord. If we have unconfessed sin we should confess and repent, knowing that sin can lead to sickness. Lastly, we should pray in faith knowing that God can and does heal.
We should seek the Lord and medical help
I believe that it’s important that we seek the Lord and medical help. We must remember that every good gift comes from the Father (James 1:17). And so, we should receive our Father’s good gifts with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4).
Yet, it is vital that we not just seek out medical help and not seek the help of God. He’s God! He holds every molecule together. It would be utterly foolish to seek out the help from a person who has limited knowledge on a limited number of things, and not seek out God—the All-Knowing-One.
As great as Asa king of Judah was, this was one of his main sins. Second Chronicles 16:12 tells us that “Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.” That’s sad. And that’s foolish.
We should not follow Asa’s example. Rather, we should follow what I propose is the biblical example. We should seek the Lord and we should seek out the good physicians He has graciously provided. Paul even tells Timothy to make use of wine for help with a stomach problem (1 Tim. 5:23).
Does God promise health and healing?
Yes and no
In the story of Scripture, the story of Christ’s cosmic rescue, it starts out and the world is flawless, there’s no suffering or sin. But then the cosmic problem comes in. There’s a tear in time, a warp in the world, a curse in the cosmos. And it’s all because of sin.
Yet, the story of Scripture is the story of Jesus—God in flesh—coming to fix the broken world. The story starts in the Garden with God, and it ends in the Garden with God. It starts with no pain, suffering, sin, or sickness, and it ends that way.
Revelations 21 tells us of the glorious reality of God the Father wiping ever tear from all of His children’s faces. We, however, are not at that place in this true cosmic story.
Yes, that will happen—no suffering, sin, sickness, sadness, or death. But we are not there yet.
Yes, the LORD both forgives iniquities and heals our diseases (Psalms 103:3-5), but that doesn’t mean that the effects will be fully felt at the same time. For instance, the LORD has not yet brought “justice for all the oppressed” (v. 6). But that will happen. Jesus will bring complete justice. Jesus will satisfy His people with good thingsand He will renew our youth (v. 5). But not yet.
We are forgiven and welcomed into the Kingdom in and through Jesus Christ and yet we are not yet in the full realization of the Kingdom. It is true that Jesus has “took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matt. 8:16-17; Is. 53:4). And our main illness and disease is that of sin and in taking that on Himself He enables access to the New Creation in which there is no illness or disease.
As Sam Storms has said, “To whatever degree we experience healing in this life, it is the fruit of Christ’s atoning death.” It is by Jesus that we receive the undeserved grace of God, and God taking our illnesses and diseases is certainly undeserved. “But it doesn’t necessarily follow that where there is atonement there is immediate healing.”
That’s a biblical and verifiable reality. Paul, Epaphroditus, Trophimus, and many other faithful Christian brothers and sisters have had their sins bore by Jesus and thus been accounted righteous (Is. 53) and yet died with various sicknesses. Therefore, Jesus’ atoning and propitiatory death does not equal healing in this life.
There’s also another real sense in which “yes, God wants us to be healthy and happy.” That’s part of why God gives His good commands, so that it may go well with us (Deut. 4:40; 5:29, 33; Eph. 6:3). Yet, following God’s commands does not in any way guarantee that things will go well with us from an earthly perspective. Just look at Jesus’ 12 disciples…
Does God promise health and healing? No. Not in this life. However, because of the love of God in Christ Jesus we know that in spite of sickness we have a surpassing hope. We know that all things will actually work together for good (Romans 8:28, in context).
“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 4:17-5:4).
God does not promise health in healing in this life. In fact, persecution and plague are very likely to await us. That’s what Jesus repeatedly said (see The New Testament on Suffering). Yet, we are “waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). This place is not our home. And our current bodies are not our final bodies (1 Cor. 15:35-49).
As you can see, a simplistic answer to the question of sickness and healing will not suffice. Yet, God gives the answer. And the answer is Jesus Christ the Lord. But the answer may be “yes” now, and it may be “no” now, but for all who trust Jesus it’s a “yes” later. Healing will happen. Suffering will cease. But that doesn’t mean it will happen now.
Theologically what is the difference between self-confidence and pride?
God does gift individuals. And it is good to acknowledge that truth. The manager in Jesus’ parable that invested his talents and earned a good return for the owner had to have a type of confidence (Matt. 25:14-30).
Further, God created us as a “work of art” to carry out the good deeds and mission He wants us to accomplish (Eph. 2:10). So, in a sense, we can have confidence in the self that God intended us to be. Therefore, self-confidence is not in itself bad.
Of course, these truths need to be balanced by the humbling reality that we are sinners and that every good thing we have is a gift. What do we have that we did not receive (1 Cor. 4:7)? And we should always recall that every good gift and every perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). It’s not innately ours.
Self-confidence can mean prideful evaluation of one’s ability. It does not, I don’t think, have to be understood that way though. It could mean something like: confidence in who God made you to be and in your God-given abilities. If understood that way, perhaps “God-confidence” or “God-acknowledgment” would be better.
Either way, it does not seem to me that self-confidence is inherently bad. I also think considering the opposite term can be helpful to consider: “self-skepticism” or “self-suspicion.” The Bible does say that our hearts are desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). So, does “self-skepticism” better describe what the view of ourselves should be?
I don’t think so. I don’t think self-confidence or self-skepticism gives us the whole picture. And if left with just one of them or even a balance of both of them together, we still miss something huge! We miss our self in relation to God.
If we consider ourselves without relation to or thought of God, we’re going to get it wrong. We’ll error on either over-confidence or over-suspicion about our self. Yet, when we consider ourselves with reference to what God can and does do, we can be confident in who He has made us to be. While at the same time not obsessing about our self, because we’re focused on Him. We can have a healthy suspicion of our self but that’s not crushing. Because we know that God can and does overcome our sin.
“Pride,” at least how I think about it, has to do with what one has done. In my mind, it means someone is proud of what they themselves have accomplished. Pride is less an evaluation of one’s ability and more so a belief that’s one’s ability is simply a result of one’s own efforts. There’s no grace in pride, given or received; all is earned.
So, with pride, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of who humans are and who God is. God is the giver we, as humans, are receivers. God is, and we are contingent. Pride is a foolish misunderstanding of ontology. God is independent, humans are dependent.
Notice, King Nebuchadnezzar was humbled after he praised himself and all he thought he himself had accomplished. Nebuchadnezzar found out that God humbles those who walk in pride (Dan. 4:37). When pride comes, then comes disgrace (Prov. 11:2).
We should, however, understand that there is a difference between “pride” and “pleasure.” King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t just take pleasure in his kingdom and in all that God had entrusted to him, he took pride in it. That is, he acted as if he was responsible for it all himself. He exalted himself and failed to exalt God.
I believe it is good to take pleasure in the abilities God has given us—whether preaching, building cabinets, or whatever. In a movie about Eric Liddel, a Christian Olympic runner, he says, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” There’s nothing wrong with taking pleasure in what God has given us to do. But, notice an important point: Liddel said, “God made me fast.” Liddel acknowledged God even in his abilities.
But wait, didn’t Liddel run? Didn’t Liddel sweat? Didn’t Liddel sacrifice? He showed amazing discipline to be an Olympic runner, right? Yes. And every good gift is from God. Including Liddel’s ability to do each of those things and also his ability to breathe and his very existence was from God.
So, I believe one could evaluate themself as very good at what they do and that it required a lot of work on their part to become effective, without being prideful. How so? They acknowledge that it is all a gift. Discipline—a gift. Breathing—a gift. Etc.—a gift.
Perhaps the fundamental difference between “pride” and “self-confidence” as we are considering the terms is this: One is an exaltation of self without reference to God, the other can be confidence in God with reference to who He has made you to be.
The apostle Paul had a sort of confidence—we see it demonstrated through his letters and missionary work—but he also said it was not him but Christ in him (Gal. 2:20). Paul, after He met and was radically transformed by Christ, was not so much confident in himself as what God was able to do through him, though he was a mere disposable jar of clay (2 Cor. 4:7).
So, I believe it is right and good to have a kind of self-confidence in who God has made us to be even while we work at killing pride.
*Photo by Nicolas I.
In the book of Revelation the Church is not called to react to the End or the antichrist by moralistic, militaristic, or political means. The Church is called to return to Messiah Jesus, remembering that those who continue faithful to the End will receive the “crown of life.” The way of resistance of evil, is the way of Christ. That is, loving Christ Jesus, and loving others. Taking up our crosses and following Jesus and loving others, even when it hurts, is a sure sign that we don’t and won’t have the “mark of the beast.”
What if the clearest mark of the beast is the mark of hatred and hostility? Many have thought it stood for Nero (the numerical value of 666), and perhaps it did in a way. He was, as history showed, marked by the beast. He was, as history showed, like his father the devil. He was proud and unloving, destructive and devilish.
Is not the mark of the Messiah, the mark of beatific love?1 Do not His followers, follow Him? If Jesus is love, should not His followers be loving?!2
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (Corinthians 13:4-7).
And would it not make sense that the converse also follows? If the mark of the Messiah is true sacrificial love, is not the mark of the antichrist hatred? And what if the serpent of old, the father of lies, the great deceiver, is adept at what he does? And what if he wants to destroy and divide even what Messiah Jesus died to bring together? And what if he even uses the means of media and the marketplace and various views on certain medical opinions regarding COVID-19? What if?…
And what if the worst thing that can happen to Christians is not that they’d lose earthly freedom(s), but that they’d lose heavenly crowns? not that their earthly country would be divided, but that their heavenly one would be? not that they’d have to wear a mask, but that they’d have a mask put over their eyes? What if Satan’s not primarily trying to destroy a country, but what if he desires to destroy Christians and Christian witness? What if Satan doesn’t want the nation to descend into debauchery, but wants Christians to be desensitized to their hatred and fear?
Revelation also talks a lot about Babylon. Babylon was what a lot of people cared about and had their hopes fixed on. However, Christians, are marked by and are members of a different city. Christians have their hope wrapped up in a city, but it’s a different city, a city that comes down from heaven, a city that couldn’t be built here. It’s beyond and better than here.
Christians live, labor, and love in Babylon, but they’re waiting for something better. They’re waiting for Jerusalem to come down.
Christian brothers and sisters, are you showing the mark of your Savior? The characteristics of Christ? The mark of your true city? Or, are you too wrapped up here? Are you betting on Babylon3 or are you “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”?!
We, as Christians, are sojourners here in Babylon. Our time is short. Let’s be a blessing as Scripture exhorts us (Jeremiah 29:7). But, let’s remember, any castle we build with our hoarded cash, will soon wash away with the tide of time. Let’s not lay up hoards here or place our hope here. But in heaven.
1 Ephesians 1:13 tells us that all who are in Messiah Jesus have been sealed (or marked?!) with the promised Holy Spirit. Notice also that it is the Holy Spirit in Jesus followers who produces the fruits of the Spirit, one of those fruits being love.
2 God alone provides access to the Garden of Eden and the pathway there is through the Golgotha of sacrificial love.
3 If politics has you overly down, perhaps it’s because you placed your hope in a ship that must inevitably sink.
Recently, I’ve seen a lot of Christian leaders be criticized or criticize, and even call other Christian leaders names because of disagreement on such things as politics, the pandemic, and policies regarding justice. And not surprisingly, those who are not leaders are also jumping into the fray and lobbing grenades too.
How many people, however, actually think through the appropriate way to evaluate Christian leaders? And how many people know what reasons Scripture gives for concern? How many Christians have a sort of theological triage they use to evaluate and make these important decisions?
There are doctrines of “prime importance and great weight” that we must insist on. “There is a time to fight. There are certain hills that must not be surrendered, even if the cost is losing our lives.” Some of the hills that we must be willing to die on are the deity, life, death, resurrection, and Second Coming of the Lord Messiah Jesus.
Other doctrines, beliefs, and convictions are, or should be, a little further down the list of importance. Just as a doctor would jump to help the patient with a gunshot wound to the chest before she would help someone with a broken pinky finger. It is not that the pinky finger is not important; it is that the gunshot wound is more important and dire.
So, let’s look at some biblical criteria by which to evaluate Christian leaders. It should be understood that these criteria do not have the same weight. The criteria of “Christology,” for example, should be given more weight of importance than “Clarity.”
1. Christology (& sound doctrine)
Christian leaders have the duty to communicate God’s transforming truth, exalt Jesus Christ, teach the Bible so that people understand and apply what God has said, and encourage conformity to Christ (see e.g. Neh. 8:7-8; 1 Tim. 3:2). Faithfulness to the revelation of God and preaching Christ are paramount (Col. 1:28). If the word of God and Jesus the Messiah are not being preached then you have reason for concern.
If false or unhealthy things are said or taught about God, His word, or Jesus the Messiah then you have great reason for concern and should share your concern and likely leave that individual’s leadership. It is important that we are aware that leaders sometimes don’t preach the truth. Peter told us that there will be false teachers among us, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought us (2 Pet. 2:1).
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions” (1 Tim. 6:3-4).
So, in evaluating a Christian leader, ask yourself:
- “Does this person preach/teach true, healthy doctrine? Does this person preach/teach the goodness and glory of Messiah Jesus?”
- “Do I like the style etc. of the person?”
See also: Deut. 13:1-5; 1 Jn. 4:1-3; 1 Cor. 12:3; Col. 1:28; 2:8 2 Thess. 2:15; 1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3; Titus 1:9, 13.
The leaders own life should be in order. That is, the leader should have Christ-like character. Leaders and teachers can “profess to know God” and yet “deny Him by their works” (Titus 1:16). That’s partly why it’s so important that Christian leaders meet the biblical qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:1-9).
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6).
Rules are given for a reason. We may not always like them but as we saw last week, rules are good. It is no different this week as we look at rule #2.
The rule this week—don’t worship fake gods, they’re fake—just kinda makes sense. We can just see that it makes sense. We may not at first see, however, how common it is for us to disregard this rule. We disregard it all the time. Even though we may not even know it.
This rule comes with caution. If we don’t listen there’s trouble. So, we’ll look at the warning. But, on the positive side, it also comes with a promise of blessing to those who keep it.
1) The Rule (v. 4)
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them.”
What’s the big deal? I mean, I get not bowing. That seems weird. But why can’t week make stuff?
The Bible does not mean we can’t make things like painting, portraits, or sculptures. We know this because just a little bit later in Exodus God tells His people to make various things (e.g. Ex. 25:18-20, 33-34). The Bible means don’t make things that will lead you or someone else away from worshiping God, and worship Him in the right way, the way He has told us to worship Him.
As John Frame has said, “It is the misuse of an image that God condemns, not its existence or presence.”
God is invisible so we are not to try to make visible by making images of Him (cf. Deut. 4:15-19). God is living (e.g. Deut. 5:26; Josh. 3:10) so we can’t represent Him with something that is not. Unlike idols, for the one true God, “there is no assembly required.”
God is. He is that He is.
As Acts 17:24-25 says, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”
It is important that we worship God in the way He has told us to. For one reason, as Albert Mohler has said, “The wrong worship implies the wrong god.” It implies that He is not Lord of the universe. But He is. So, we must worship Him in the right way.
In the last post, we looked at “God the Spirit and the Filling of the Spirit.” In this post, we will be looking at…
Next, we need to understand that God the Spirit gives “grace gifts.” God’s abundant grace that we see demonstrated all throughout redemptive history issues in grace gifts. God expresses His grace concretely in the rich number of grace gifts He bestows upon the Church for its upbuilding. Schreiner observes this and says, “I would define spiritual gifts as gifts of grace granted by the Holy Spirit which are designed for the edification of the church.”
The Spirit was vital at the beginning of the church and He continues to be on through to the consummation. He brought the birth of the Church, He hovered over the Church like He hovered over the water at the beginning. The Spirit does not bring charismatic chaos but the creation of order. That was the Spirit’s work at the beginning and it is the Spirit’s work today. There is no biblical warrant for believing in some big discontinuity between the work of the Spirit then and the work of the Spirit now in the last days. Actually, Scripture says, “in the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17). We are in those latter days today and we still need the empowering presence of the Spirit.
The hodgepodge, unlearned, and often unimpressive group of Jesus followers did not see the messianic movement die. Instead, the people of the way (Acts 9:2) actually exploded in growth, this group of people that followed a crucified and cursed man who claimed to be God, this group of people who had no leader on earth. How did this group survive let alone thrive?
Because Jesus did not leave His disciples without what they needed. Jesus sent the Helper.
Jesus said, that it was better that He go. That seems shocking. As it should. And as it did for the first disciples. We are left asking, how could it be better that Jesus’ bodily presence not be with us?
Thankfully Jesus answers that question. He tells us that He will not leave us as orphans. He gives us the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to be with us (See John 14).
The Grace Gifts Continue Today
“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Will we? Will we receive power?
This post is from chapter 11, “Hello, My Name is _____ and I am
an Addict Transformed,” from my book, Gospel-Centered War: Finding Freedom from Enslaving Sin.
The Bible does not deny that we were various things—addicts, homosexuals, hateful, prideful, pornographic masturbators—but that is what we were (past tense) (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Titus 3:3-5). The emphasis in Scripture is on what we are and what we are called to be. The Christian does not say, “Hello, my name is _____ and I am an X Y or Z.” The Christian says I was dead, but now I am alive. The Christian says I am a struggling sinner, yet I am a saint. The Christians says, I am a new creation; I am transformed.
We must remember however that we are “simultaneously saint and sinner.” This is the biblical balance. We are holy in Christ and yet we are progressively becoming holy (see 1 Cor. 1:2; Heb. 10:14). I like how John Owen says it: We, who are freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it our business all our days to kill the indwelling power of sin.
Paul wrote a letter to a church located in Ephesus back in the day. The people there had many struggles. Many of them use to worship various false gods and perhaps were even involved in cult prostitution. But you know what Paul called them when he wrote to them? He called them “God’s beautiful creation,” “God’s masterpiece” (Eph. 2:10). He didn’t say, “Now church, make sure that you are constantly reminding yourselves that you were part of the occult. In fact, when you meet together say, ‘Hello, my name is ______ and I am an occultist.’” No! He said, “You are new! In Christ! Transformed!”
One of the problems in claiming the identity of “addict,” “alcoholic,” or “overeater” is that we deny that addiction is a habit that can be finally overcome. I am not saying it won’t be a struggle. I am not even saying that it will even finally be overcome in this life. Yet, the Bible teaches the freeing and empowering truth that in Christ we are currently a new creation. It says we are adopted children of God. We are even God’s beloved; His treasure.
Labeling may not seem like a big deal but it is. In hospitals, it is important for people to be labeled correctly. If someone has a gunshot wound on their leg, they should not be taken to a cardiologist and someone that has the flu, they should not be life-flighted. Labels are important for treatment. Labels are important for our own treatment. The treatment of ourselves. How we look at ourselves, talk to ourselves, think of ourselves.
“Know that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
How surprising and sad that we need to be reminded so often of God’s truth. And yet we do. I’m thankful that God accommodates to our forgetful ways.
We are told to know something. Our knowledge is not to be merely intellectual. Though it is intellectual. We need to know actual things about God. In this verse, we are to grasp with our minds that the LORD God is actually God.
It is not only that the LORD is really God but that the LORD your God is really God. There is a relational aspect to our knowledge of God. The LORD your God is the supreme being and Creator of the universe. The LORD is not distant and uncaring, He is not a god, but our God.
Wow. That’s a game-changer.
It doesn’t stop there, though.
The supreme being and Creator of the universe that is our God is also faithful. Amazingly faithful.
Deuteronomy 7:9 heaps good news upon good news. If you have the LORD as your God then that means that God—The supreme being and Creator of the universe—is your God. It means the Faithful One is your God.
Our intellectual knowledge of God has a huge practical impact on our lives. It means we do not need to be afraid because the LORD our God is powerful (Deut. 7:18).
So, fight forgetfulness. Work to remember and intimately know your faithful God. And don’t be terrified because the LORD your God, a great and awesome God, is among you (Deut. 7:21).
I wrote the blog series, “Psalms of our Suffering Savior,” to help us “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (2 Tim. 2:8)…
We all have emotions. How often do we consider emotions from a biblical perspective though?… Yet, what better place to turn than God’s word! So, what does the Bible say about emotions?…
1. Call out to God
There are all sorts of Psalms in Scripture in which the psalmist calls out to God in distress. The Bible encourages us to call out to God and be real with Him about where we’re at…