Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Difference is …

To say that words hold significant meaning might be an obvious understatement. Just reading the sentence to myself causes me to roll my eyes and ask, “What were you thinking?” But that is precisely the way I want to start answering the questions I posed at the end of June. If it were not for the significance in the definition and meaning of words, I would not have asked those questions. In fact to trace back further down the rabbit trail this entire blog would not exist. After all it is modeled on the idea that the words that we say (or write) matter, and we must choose careful how we use those words. The words in question are childlike and childish. It is important that we exhort one and avoid the other.

In Mark 10:15 Jesus tells his disciples that in order to enter the kingdom of God, one must receive with childlike faith. Childlike faith is a faith that is relentless in its adoration of a perfect and loving Father. It requires that we correctly focus our gaze on God and be undivided in worship of Him. Childlike faith is genuine awe in the goodness and graciousness of God. It is simple in construction, uncomplicated by the lures of this world. In much the same way as a child trusts that their parents are looking out for them and providing for their every need, childlike faith takes the focus off what we can do for ourselves and places it squarely on what God has done for us in sending his Son, and continues to do for us by his own volition. Matthew Henry sums it up best when he says,

Little children depend upon their parents’ wisdom and care, are carried in their arms, go where they send them, and take what they provide for them; and thus must we receive the kingdom of God, with a humble resignation of ourselves to Jesus Christ, and an easy dependence upon him, both for strength and righteousness, for tuition, provision, and a portion.[1]

Childlike faith frees us to be joyful children sitting at the foot of the throne of our heavenly Father who gives us every good and perfect gift. Childlike faith frees us to ask questions and learn things anew. That’s the message that Jesus was conveying to his followers, the message that he wanted them to really understand. Childlike faith is what we are to chase.

The word childish is defined in many ways, but the most striking definition, the one I will focus my attention on is “marked by or indicating a lack of maturity”. To be childish is to be self-centered, to think of your own wants and needs, and literally sulk and cry until you get them (or not). Childish believers spend their time stuck sucking down milk and stunting their growth. Borrowing from a sermon by Jeremy Myers, we can learn a little bit more of childishness and its effect on a believer:

“What is childishness? Childishness is childlike behavior gone sour. Childishness is a refusal to grow up. Childishness is when a person of any age acts younger than they are. While it is natural for children to act like children, it is expected that they will grow up and stop acting like children. When they do not, they are being childish. Childishness is when people who should know better throw temper tantrums and pout when they don’t get their way. Childishness is when people are irresponsible and behave as if the world revolves around them. Childishness is when people make petty demands and selfish complaints.[2]

Paul’s admonition is to move from being a child, to grow up, as is the natural order of things, to move onto solid food, food designed for those that are maturing. Just as growth applies to nature, it applies also to spirituality. And we must live in light of this reality. We must pursue maturity, not just cross our fingers and hope that one day we will be strong enough to move from milk to filet mignon. We must guard against self-centeredness, which entrenches us in childishness and instead strive for gospel-centeredness. In the gospel we get the clearest picture of God and His selfless love for His creation; The sending of His prized possession, His only begotten son. There was nothing childish about Jesus’ unwavering obedience to the Father; there was nothing immature in His willingness to lay down His life for the joy set before Him. But all these actions exuded the characteristics of childlikeness. Jesus fully and completely trusted the Father, and he knew that even though the cross meant pain and suffering, it also ultimately meant joy.

So the difference is not the same, the words may look similar but what they convey is not. Understanding how both words function transforms our relationship with the Lord. It is choosing the difference between death and life. Which one will you be drawn to?



My Assurance of Salvation

“How did this happen?” That’s been a constant question in my mind over the past month. The past year or so has been a very rough time with the Lord for me. There has been nights I laid awake truly believing I didn’t know Jesus. I thought he left me. His voice was too faint, his grace too bland and my heart too hard for me to believe I ever actually knew the living God. But, here I am now, more vibrant in my faith than ever before. Here I am, experiencing the waterfall of God’s grace yet again. So this question bothers me. How did this happen? How did I make it through that? I have an answer, and I want to share it with you. I’m no fool. I know some of you believers have as cold a heart as any pagan out there. I know you’re doubting God’s faithfulness, and you need fresh wind in your sails. I know that’s out of my power to create that in you, but I’m here to use my gifts to share my experience and what I learned in hopes that God will do something in the hearts of my readers… even through a measly blog post.


So first off, how do we get to places like this? Well to make it as short and simple as possible, there’s only one answer: the sovereignty of God. He is sovereign over your heart. He’s in control of your spiritual state and determines the amount of authentic joy in Christ you’re experiencing. He’s sovereign over that, but I think there are two different disposition of hearts that can be found in these dry seasons.

To the Unfaithful and Far Off

The first disposition is the consistently disobedient. Personal and habitual sin that we are absolutely responsible for has sent you into a dark place. The quickest way to to silent the Holy Spirit is to quench him with your constant disobedience. Most likely, there was some specific besetting sin that He called you to floor on, he called you to repent of, and you’ve been stubborn to repent. And as a result, that Holy Spirit that would illuminate, teach, and instruct has now gone silent, withdrawn His light and caused darkness. He that grieves the Spirit quenches it; and he that quenches the Spirit vexes it; and he that vexes the Spirit sets himself against it. So, sure enough, here you are, hard hearted as ever because of your unrepentant sin.

The Spirit called, you continually rejected, and the result is now a dull faith that’s too weak to trust in God. Christ seems so far off that you can’t even imagine that you ever truly knew Him.

Now, let me say, for some of you that’s the truth. You haven’t really come to know Christ. You thought you did because you answered a bogus and manipulative altar call. Maybe some of you came to Christ for some gift you thought He would give you. Your whole “faith” has just been an outworking of your idolatry. You had the same luggage, Jesus was just another bellhop. It was the same meal you wanted served, just a different butler. You never knew him, but that doesn’t mean you can’t now. Turn from your idolatry and in truth cling to Christ. He’ll take you in.

But for others of you, the accusation of a false faith is a lie. You have truly come to faith, and the Holy Spirit, though faint, still does reside in you. How do you know if that’s true for you? Well, the thought of being separate from Christ, what does it do to you? Does it make you fearful? It should. And if so, what kind of fear? Fear that makes you think you have to get yourself together or fear that makes you cling to Christ? Where does the fear find it’s end and is quenched? Is it calmed by a delusion of your ability to get good with God in your strength or is it calmed at the foot of the cross? The true believer will always make his way back to the cross, no matter how long it takes to get back.

So now, to you, the genuine believer in Christ, know you are loved deeply. I know you feel abandoned because of your sin. You aren’t. You are still covered. For you, the blood of christ is an objective reality, not subject to your emotions or feelings. Its there, covering you and pardoning you, whether you feel it or not. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful- for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13. The Father gave up His own image, the Son, at the cross. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature..” Hebrews 1:3. It was that radiance of glory that took on the stench of your shame. It was this Blessed Name that became a curse for you. This sacrifice is too final and the blood of Christ too potent for you to wiggle your way out or wash it off with your sin. You, believer, are covered, redeemed, and kept. Persevere; He will be faithful to you.

To the Faithful Yet Cold

But then for some of us, God’s sovereignty has brought this about in a different way; He himself has hidden His face from the faithful. You’ve been faithful in trusting God’s promises in such a way that brought about obedience, yet the presence of God seems to have gone out from you. That flame is just a flicker, and you feel like one more day of desperation or silence will blow it out. Has God forsaken you? No. Quite the opposite.

God is good and He does good. You believe this. If you didn’t, you would have walked away a long time ago. God is good to his people and is in control of their experience of him. For you, God in his wisdom has hidden his face, regardless of you being obedient and not provoking such a season.

Be careful here. Yes you have been faithful, and at a surface level it seems like God has not been. That’s a lie. Don’t ever think you’ve been more faithful than him. He’s the perfect Husband. Never has he had eyes for someone other than His people. And quite honestly, you’ve been faithful cause he’s being faithful to you. He’s the one who worked that into you. It’s his hand thats held you up, and his strength that has brought you this far.

So dont’ believe the lie that he’s forsaken you. It’s impossible for him to forsake you; he made you his child through his Son. And he is a good Father who gives good gifts to his children, and this season is a good gift for you. It doesn’t feel like it, but it is. And the only thing the Enemy wants you to believe is that it’s not good. If it’s not good, then he must not love you. As with a deadly wound, he taunts you all the day long, asking, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:10). Your tears have been your food day and night as he pesters you, “Oh he’s forsaken you. He’s forgotten.” It’s a lie. God will vindicate you (Psalm 43:1), and will break the teeth of your accuser. (Psalm 3:7). He will not delay forever. “For the LORD will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love…” Lamentations 3:31-32. His love is in abundance for you. He showed that at the cross. He who gave up his Son initially, how could he not now give you himself eternally? (Romans 8:32). He didn’t spare his Son, and because of that we can have confidence he won’t withhold any and every grace he has for us. He will make his presence known. He will deliver you from the deadly pestilence of doubt and unbelief in his love for you. (Psalm 91:3). Hope in him. In him is your salvation from dullness.

My Assurance

So I realize I haven’t answered my question yet. How did this happen? After all those nights I was pestered with lies of abandonment and condemnation, how am I still here? The answer is simple, and it’s found in John 17. Jesus prays:

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name… John 17:9-11

What’s interesting about this is when Jesus says “Holy Father.” This is the only time in the New Testament that this form of address is used with reference to the first person of the Godhead. It’s an echoe of the assertion of God’s awesome purity described in Lev. 11:44. God is our Father, but he’s a Holy Father. His Fatherhood is set apart from and transcends any other weaker and less pure father. So here again we see, he is the perfect Father.

But more than that, Jesus says, “keep them in your name…” He’s asking God, in and by his name, to keep those of true faith. And what’s his name?? Yahweh. I AM. His name is “I AM.” Jesus is asking the Father to preserve his people by his very Being. By the absolute reality of the existence of God, believers are kept. That’s what Jesus is praying for here. To say it more clearly, because God is still God, believers are kept. The day God stops being God is the day true believers will fall away from the faith.

So why am I still here? Because God is still God. He’s still reigning, which means he’s still sustaining. The assurance of my salvation is, at it’s core, tied into the very Being of God. Oh, believer, what a sure and firm Anchor of hope you have.