Thursday, June 30, 2016

Certainty of the Spirit is Certainty of Salvation

The apostle Paul wanted to make sure the church was not “uninformed” about the spiritual gifts, and so he wanted the church “to understand” the difference between things that were not of the Spirit, and things that were of the Spirit.[1]

As I continually grow in my appreciation of how much God has written in his Book to give us certainty of our salvation, my heart breaks for all the uncertainty that is expressed by church-going folk regarding their salvation, and the experience of the Spirit’s work.

Paul knew that, “anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”[2] He knew that the Corinthian church was in danger of receiving “another Jesus”, “a different spirit”, and even “a different gospel”, than what they initially received.[3] He often had to write clear distinctions between the true and false in order to challenge the church to, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”[4]

We must add to this the life-and-death distinction Jesus made when he spoke of people who would say to him in the judgment, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” and Jesus would have to say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”[5]

This is especially painful (and scary) since the things these people said they did in Jesus’ name are the things Paul lists as spiritual gifts in the church.[6] They thought they were relating to Jesus as Lord, and using spiritual gifts in his name. And yet, Jesus did not know them as his own sheep. Somehow, they were “workers of lawlessness” even while portraying themselves as messengers of the kingdom. Did I say, SCARY?!

Paul also spoke of a characteristic of the end times in which people would have “the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”, and added that we are to “avoid such people.”[7] Perhaps the people Jesus spoke of thought that the appearance of power in spiritual gifts equated to the power of godliness spoken of in the gospel. However, Jesus saw that they had denied the power of godliness while idolizing the power of miracles, signs, and wonders, and did not belong to him.

Knowing that we only have this brief earthly lifetime to settle whether we are the children of God, and knowing that pastors are responsible to keep watch over the souls of God’s children,[8] I feel the need to make this my quest: that all my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ would be so certain that we have the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our personal relationship with God, and in the life of our churches, that we would all know that God is both in us and among us.

This morning, this heart-burden focused on these wonderfully encouraging, and gracious, and uplifting words of God in Romans 8:15-17.[9]

15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, (Romans 8)

Paul consistently tells believers we are not under law, but in the Spirit, therefore the fear of never being good enough is gone, and the assurance of peace with God has come.[10] If we have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,[11] but still live with deep-seated fear in our lives, what do we do? We take hold of this passage of Romans 8 and pray for freedom!

15 but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8)

Because the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of adoption as sons,” everything about our relationship with God should be like little children calling out with joy, “Abba! Father!” In fact, God has given us his own Holy Spirit to help us cry out to our Father in this very way. If any of us cannot see the riches of God’s glorious grace in such a ministry, we need to pray for this until we know we have it.

16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (Romans 8)

This is relationship with God, that he has given us his Spirit to “bear witness” with our spirits that we are the children of God. Our assurance of salvation does not come from other believers telling us we are saved, or signing a salvation card, or holding membership in our preference of denomination. Our assurance of salvation comes from the mutual testimony of the Spirit, and the truth of the gospel. If we do not have this, we simply need to seek it until we find it.

17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, (Romans 8)

There are no degrees of children in the household of God. This is why God calls all his children “sons”,[12] and Jesus’ siblings as “brothers”.[13] Every believer has identical standing with God. If we are children at all, we are completely children of God in all the same ways. We are all heirs of God, all equally inheriting the kingdom of God.[14] We are all fellow heirs with Christ, meaning we are not only the same as one another in our relationship to the Father, but we have the same inheritance from the Father as Jesus has. What is his is ours.

17 provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8)

This is not laying down a work we must do in order to be saved (ie: if we do the work of suffering, we know we have the reward of salvation). Rather, it is one more way of speaking of those who persevere until the end and are saved.[15] They are the ones who will keep living by faith even in suffering. If we disown Christ in our suffering (something the Spirit would never lead us to do), we have no assurance we would ever be with him in paradise.[16]

The bottom line is that the Christian life can only be experienced by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit of God,[17] so we must be sure we are in the Spirit before we can even try to understand how spiritual gifts work in the church. If some people can be expressing things that appear to be the miraculous spiritual gifts Paul taught, and yet they did not have eternal life by grace through faith, we must settle the foundational issues of relationship with God in the Spirit before pursuing the evidence of both the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit in our lives. As Jesus said, first we “abide” in him, and then we will “bear much fruit”.[18]

As I said, this is my quest, to help God’s children be so assured that we have the Spirit’s work in us, and among us, that we experience the “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” that is our right in the kingdom of God.[19]

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] I Corinthians 12:1-3
[2] Romans 8:9
[3] II Corinthians 11:4
[4] II Corinthians 13:5
[5] Matthew 7:21-23
[6] I Corinthians 12:8-11
[7] II Timothy 3:5
[8] Hebrews 13:17
[9] Please read the whole chapter! In fact, read Romans 7:1-25 to see how deadly it is to live by the flesh (sark), and Romans 8:1-39 to see how liberating it is to live by the Spirit.
[10] Romans 5:1-2
[11] Romans 10:9-10
[12] Galatians 3:26 (Note: any translation that puts “sons and daughters” where God breathed-out “sons” is not only tampering with the words of God, but denying women the equality of being just as much sons as the men of the church)
[13] Romans 8:29 (Note: any translation that puts “brothers and sisters” where God breathed-out “brothers” is once again not only tampering with the words of God, but denying women the equality of being just as much brothers as the men of the church)
NOTE: the NT references to all believers as sons and brothers does not nullify any of the NT teaches regarding relationships between husbands and wives in marriage, and the role of men in shepherding the church. All fit together to glorify God in both his chosen order in creation, and his gracious gift in salvation.
[14] In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began his list of Beatitudes with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, and ended the list with, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3-12), showing that those who are blessed the way the Beatitudes demonstrate have the same inheritance in our Lord Jesus Christ.
[15] Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:13
[16] Luke 12:9
[17] Romans 8:9
[18] John 15:5
[19] Romans 10:17

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Faith that Does

This morning I was impacted by the connection between what we say about Christ, and what we do about Christ.

Jesus spoke about people who said the words, “Lord, Lord,” and yet had never entered the kingdom of heaven. He said there would be people in the judgment who address him as Lord, and remind him of the mighty works they did for him, and yet he will tell them he never knew them, and banish them from his presence.[1]

In the middle of all that, he tells us who it is who truly enters the kingdom of heaven: “the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Somehow, saying, “Lord, Lord,” and doing miracles (or thinking you did miracles), is not sufficient cause to believe one is in the kingdom of God.

Jesus then followed this glaring contrast with an illustrative simile. He said there was a wise man who built his house on rock, and a foolish man who built his house on sand. The wise man’s house withstood the rainstorms that came against it, while the foolish man’s house collapsed into the shifting sand.[2]

What did Jesus say was the difference between the two men? That, although they both heard what Jesus taught, the wise man did what Jesus taught, and the foolish man did not.

Now, we know that people are saved by grace through faith, not of any works they do,[3] so Jesus could not mean that, if we do what he says he will save us (how can dead people do what Jesus says?[4]).

Rather, he differentiates between those who are his sheep and those who are not. His sheep hear his voice and follow him;[5] the goats hear his voice and keep doing as they please (goats are very much like that, don’t you know).

If we must do the will of the Father in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, and we know the Father’s will means hearing Jesus’ words and putting them into practice, what did Jesus tell us about how to enter God’s kingdom?

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

What does the wise man do when he hears Jesus speak these words? He repents and believes in the gospel, entering the kingdom of God by grace through faith. What does the foolish man do when he hears Jesus speak these words? He continues in his sin, and denies the good news of great joy.

Jesus is our supreme example of what it is like to do the Father’s will. He described it like this: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”[6]

If that is Jesus’ view, and the adopted sons of God are created in the image and likeness of our Savior, it ought to be our view of our Father’s will just the same.

This is why James clarified, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”[7] After all, to hear Jesus’ words without doing what he says is like a foolish man building his house on the sand. It won’t last. We must be the wise man who hears Jesus words and puts them into practice.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Matthew 7:21-23
[2] Matthew 7:24-27
[3] Ephesians 2:8-10
[4] Ephesians 2:1-3
[5] John 10:3-4, 27
[6] John 4:34
[7] James 1:22

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Very Positive Double-Negative

In my quest to train believers in the use of the weapons of our warfare,[1] our home church is moving on into the area of spiritual gifts.[2] Spiritual gifts give us an advantage over our spiritual enemy because they enable us to do things in the spiritual realm that the enemy cannot stop.

Sound important?

I love the way Paul begins introducing this to the Corinthians:

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. (I Corinthians 12)

For starters, I was intrigued with Paul’s use of a double-negative (not… uninformed). Why not a definite positive instead (I want you to be informed)?

First thought: being ignorant (uninformed) is a mark of our old life. Paul wrote the Ephesians about those who were still living in their sins: “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”[3]

When I read this, I noticed the connection between “alienated from the life of God” and “because of the ignorance that is in them”.

Paul did not treat ignorance as merely the absence of knowledge (in the way that darkness is the absence of light, and cold is the absence of heat). He treated ignorance is a real state of being, something like the way being sick is not just the absence of good health, but a state of being something that is very dangerous because of what it could do to us.

While the, “alienated from the life of God” Paul spoke of in reference to our old life referred to complete separation from our heavenly Father (spiritually dead),[4] he treated the church like it could also be led astray, or alienated from God.

When Paul wrote the Galatians, he wrote them as a church that had already turned away from the true gospel. He wrote, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel”.[5]

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote: “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”[6]

Whatever was happening in the Corinthian church (an attack by the “super apostles” and their false gospel), Paul likened it to what the serpent did to Eve in the Garden of Eden. “Thoughts” that are “led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ”, leaves us in ignorance, and ignorance leaves us easy prey to the roaring lion who is always prowling around looking for someone to devour.[7]

All Paul’s letters were aimed at informing the church so we would not be uninformed, because leaving us uninformed sets us up for deception, and going astray from the best of relationship with God. When we see the extent of his defense of his ministry in II Corinthians, we can see how precisely he wants the church informed of truth so that we are not led astray from our “sincere and pure devotion to Christ”.

It is interesting that, when Paul dealt with the Ephesian church uniting to use their distinctive places in the body of Christ to build up the church,[8] he clarified the negative side of why he was giving such clear teaching on the matter. He stated the negative side of his purpose as: “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”[9]

If the church would do things the way the apostles taught in these letters, they would “no longer” be like uninformed little children. We all know the way children can be led astray by someone showing up with a little puppy, or kitten, or candy, or all kinds of dishonest stories. The children are uninformed about the human condition, and how bad people can be. Paul did not want a whole church to be like that (although in a mature church we are always able to help the immature and uninformed grow up in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!).

What alternative does Paul propose to this characteristic of childish ignorance?

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.[10]

The, “rather,” hinges on, “speaking the truth in love”. With that (which is the way we are to read all the apostolic letters to the churches), we can help the body “grow so that it builds itself up in love”. Take that away (leaving us uninformed), and Satan can lead us astray now just as he did with Eve in the garden.

Paul clearly did not want to leave the church uninformed about our use of spiritual gifts. As we begin considering how these gifts help us win the war the world, the flesh, and the devil, have leveled against the church, we must start with this agreement with God’s word. Our heavenly Father does not want us to be uninformed about spiritual gifts, so let’s tell him we are eager and ready to be informed however his word teaches us in this regard, and that we will gladly put into practice his good, acceptable, and perfect will.[11]

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] II Corinthians 10:3-6
[2] We have already looked at the advantage we have in our experience of the gospel, the Holy Spirit, prayer, and faith.
[3] Ephesians 4:18
[4] Ephesians 2:1-3 explains this in painful detail.
[5] Galatians 1:6
[6] II Corinthians 11:3
[7] I Peter 5:8
[8] Ephesians 4:1-16
[9] Ephesians 4:14
[10] Ephesians 4:15-16
[11] Romans 12:1-2

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The “With Faith” That Experiences Peace, Love, and Grace

This morning I was profoundly encouraged with these wonderful words from the Book of God: “with faith”.

The book of Ephesians begins with this word of blessing: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”[1] Paul’s desire for the church was to experience the grace and peace that were from God.

The book of Ephesians concludes with this word of blessing over the church: “Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”[2]

What stands out in this concluding prayer is the connection between the peace, love, and grace, which all come to us from God, and the faith that we express to God in return.

The relationship between these four qualities is that the peace, love, and grace are given to us, or expressed to us. On the other hand, Paul’s desire is that they come to us “with faith” because it is faith that rises up to fully experience these expressions of God.

One of the central pictures of the letter to the Ephesian Christians is the reminder that we begin our experience of salvation as dead people.[3] Salvation is not primarily healing for the wounded (though this is clearly involved), but resurrection for the dead.

Paul says this so clearly when he writes, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ”.[4]

Notice, on one side, the mercy and love originate with God and are expressed to us. On the other side, our contribution to the mix is that we “were dead”.

When we hear that Paul wants us to experience peace, love, and grace, from the Triune, how do we experience those things if we have nothing to contribute?

Picture it the way someone would do CPR on a dead person. The First Responder would do all the work of the CPR, with the dead person contributing only their dead body to the process. However, as soon as the CPR “works”, and the heart, brain, and lungs suddenly burst with living activity, the person immediately gasps in air, fully engaging with the life that has graciously been given to them.

In a similar way, God’s salvation is always expressed towards dead people, and so the salvation must do all the work of saving us. However, the moment that God makes us alive in his Son, our alive condition immediately starts relating to God by faith, just as we were designed to do in the original work of creation.

This is why Paul clarifies, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”[5]

The declaration, “by grace you have been saved” is a complete thought. Paul said the same thing a few verses earlier when he said that God “made us alive together with Christ”, and then quickly interjected “by grace you have been saved”.[6] Salvation is by grace, through and through. This is why it is a gift, and not the “result of works”. It is 100% “by grace”.

However, how is it received? If it is a gift, and it is given to dead people who have nothing to contribute, how do we open the gift? The answer is, “through faith”.

Now, make sure you do not immediately think of the “through faith” as something that wounded people contribute to their own first aid. Remember that the persons we are talking about were dead when grace saved them. When God made these people “alive together with Christ,” the way they now engage with being alive is through faith. Faith is what we do now that we are alive in Christ.

So, when Paul concludes his letter with the express desire that the church experience peace, love, and grace, all which must come from the Triune, and then qualifies these gifts with the expression, “with faith,” he is reminding us that we do not need to work to feel God’s peace, we do not need to labor to feel God’s love, and we do not need to weary ourselves trying to earn the undeserved favor of God expressed in his grace.

Instead, our place in the household of God, living worthy of our gracious calling in the Lord Jesus Christ,[7] expressing the life of loving imitation as God’s “beloved children”,[8] is to exercise the faith we now have because we have been made alive by grace.

If peace, and love, and grace, were to come to us from God, but we have no faith to receive them, our lives are as bad as if they had never come at all. Sunshine over a cemetery does nothing to encourage the residents!

In fact, Jesus himself came from the Father, “full of grace and truth”,[9] and yet not everyone came to know him in this way. Although he was “the true light, which gives light to everyone,”[10] not everyone saw his light. Although, “the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.”[11] He even, “came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”[12]

This was evident when Jesus visited his hometown for ministry, and, “he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”[13] He was just as able to do mighty works and miracles in his hometown as anywhere else, and he was just as full of grace and truth in one place as another, but few in his hometown wanted to connect with him through faith, so few experienced the gifts of his grace.

The message to my own heart, and to yours as well, is that there is no shortage of supply of peace, love, and grace from the Triune. However, since we experience God’s grace “through faith,” Paul’s desire for the churches to live in God’s peace, love, and grace, includes his longing to see these things accompanied “with faith”.

And, just a reminder that, if we feel lacking in the faith department, but we long to know God’s peace, love, and grace as never before, God has even given us a prayer for that. It is very simple, and goes like this, “I believe; help my unbelief!”[14]

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.[15] 
Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.[16]

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Ephesians 1:2
[2] Ephesians 6:23-24
[3] Ephesians 2:1-3
[4] Ephesians 2:4-5
[5] Ephesians 2:8-9
[6] Ephesians 2:5
[7] Ephesians 4:1
[8] Ephesians 5:1-2
[9] John 1:14
[10] John 1:9
[11] John 1:10
[12] I John 1:11
[13] Matthew 13:58 (Matthew 13:53-58 for context)
[14] Mark 9:24
[15] Ephesians 1:2
[16] Ephesians 6:23-24

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Beatitudinal Journey From “I Can’t” to “God Can”

Why do I love it when people say, “I can’t”, to something that would so obviously please our heavenly Father? Because I know that all of us must see our own poverty of spirit in being righteous by our own efforts in order that we may experience the righteousness of God that is by grace through faith.

Why do I not accept it when people say, “I can’t”, to something God’s word calls them to put into practice? Because I know that the grace of God is always working to lead us into the experience of God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will, and that “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (I John 5:4).

In the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus shows a transforming experience of blessing which begins by facing the poverty of our spirits, mourning what’s wrong with us, meekly accepting we cannot fix ourselves, and so hungering and thirsting for the righteousness that can only be experienced by faith. If we miss the “blessed are”, at the beginning of each transforming characteristic, we might see the first half of the Beatitudes as rather negative and hopeless.

However, when we surrender to such a gracious work of God as to convince us there is no hope of us ever attaining righteousness through good behavior, we can then become the people who are merciful as our God is merciful.

We then experience what a pure heart feels like when we truly want to keep in step with the Holy Spirit rather than pursue anything of the flesh.

We are constantly transformed into the peacemakers who are at peace with turning the world upside down in order to find lost sheep they can lead to peace with God through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And, our overriding, single-hearted, sincere and pure devotion to Jesus Christ, leads us to rejoice when we experience the same suffering for righteousness as he experienced when he walked among us in the flesh.

So, when I hear (or see) a professing child of God demonstrating a deep-seated belief that they cannot do the revealed will of God, I seek to know whether they are on the prideful side of, “I can’t”, where they really believe that not knowing how to join God in his work justifies them in saying, “and so I won’t”.

Or, whether they are on the humble and brokenhearted side of, “I can’t”, where they really believe they are surrendering to the grace of their heavenly Father who can do in them everything he pleases.

Once I know where they're at, I know how I am to join God in his work with the ministry they need.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Victim’s Boast

When God tells his children that “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast,”[1] it includes the denial of every kind of boasting.

We might be most familiar with the confident and arrogant boasting of those who truly believe they are better than others because of their ability to perform at a higher standard of accomplishment.

However, there is another kind of boasting that is very common in the church, and all the more insipid in its poisonous influence for not looking like boasting at all.

I speak of the victim’s boast, or the boasting in victimization.

The victim’s boast is the cry that, “I can’t do it because of…” and out comes a story of trauma that is not the appeal of a wounded soul that wants healing in Jesus Christ, but that of a victim who wants their neglect of God’s will to have a stamp of justification. It is all the better if the world gives it some kind of label that encompasses whatever symptoms are evident, and lends a sense of justification for why people continue to remain as they are, unchanged, untransformed, untouched by the realities of the Spirit-filled life in Jesus Christ.

When the apostle Paul reminds the church that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith,” and then clarifies that there is no grounds for boasting in our salvation because it is a gift of grace, uninfluenced by works of any kind, it is to turn us to rest in this wonderful truth.

On one side, it is a declaration of the absolute purity of our salvation, that it is not contaminated by any works of our own, therefore it is so purely the work of God that it cannot fail to do what God has graciously set out to do. You know, the way “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”[2]

However, on the other hand, because the fullness of our salvation is completely in the hands of God’s grace, and there are no works required from us to complete what God has begun in his children, there is no room for anyone in the church to deny the complete transformation of our souls “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”[3]

For us to experience the fullness of God’s gracious gift of salvation, we do not need to work at it ourselves, but experience it through faith. When we tell God we cannot experience something his word promises to his born again children, we are not speaking the truth about what his grace is able to accomplish in our lives, but simply exposing the same “O you of little faith” that Jesus kept confronting in his disciples.[4]

It is time for the church to address (in just as loving ways as Jesus) that we have many among us who have such little faith that they experience little of what God is doing among us. Our problem is not with the ability of God’s grace to operate, but the freedom of our faith to believe him.

To clarify, every time God reveals something in his word that is a promise of God for our salvation, something that, if we received it by faith it would give glory to our Father who is in heaven, and we deny God’s ability to do that in our life because we have some (fill-in-the-blanks) kind of problem that gives us an excuse for why we cannot be expected to experience such a work of grace, we are sneaking in a works-based counterfeit through the back door, and boasting that it is ours.

After all, we easily recognize when someone speaks of salvation as a work they did, or speaks of faith as a good work they are doing to add to God’s work of grace. We recognize why Paul had to confront the Galatians with the grievous way they had turned to a different gospel that included adherence to the law (good works). We feel Paul’s heartache as the Corinthians turned from their “sincere and pure devotion to Christ”[5] because the super-apostles were convincing them to add the law to the gospel.

However, while exposing the dangers of a works-based false gospel is as necessary today as it was in Paul’s day, we must also recognize the equally dangerous false teaching that God’s children can be so traumatized by painful experiences that they cannot experience the purity of God’s grace accomplishing the whole will of God in their lives simply through faith, not of any works required of ourselves.

Now, the grace of God clearly includes God’s children coming to him with the prayer of, “I believe; help my unbelief!”[6] However, it does not give room for us to come to God in explicit denial of his gifts of salvation because we are too wounded, or traumatized, or (fill in the blank), to experience something God promises to do in us by grace, through faith.

As I share this, I am mindful that there will be some people so genuinely wounded by life experiences that they truly believe they are worthless bits of garbage with no hope of that ever changing. I am in no way denying that children of God can believe and feel such things.

Rather, I am speaking to the whole body of Christ and calling us to accept that the gift of our salvation, purely by the grace of God, experienced always and only through faith, is for the whole body of Christ. There may be people in our churches that are so paralyzed with worthlessness, and fear, and unbelief, and trauma, about the deepest issues of their souls, that they need their four friends to have faith for them, and to tear open the rooftops to get them down in front of Jesus.[7] But, what we are looking for in the church is, “when Jesus saw their faith”.

I am so convinced that Jesus is building his church, and that even the gates of hell will not prevail against it,[8] that I know that every child of God who reads this far and still struggles with unbelief about the deepest wounds of the soul can ask God to give them two or three people who will pray for them in Jesus’ name, in faith, that God will make them well.

When we combine this prayer with hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through the words of Jesus Christ,[9] we will find faith growing as a result of what we hear, and we will band together to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”[10]

Whatever God is working in us to will and to work for his good pleasure is the expression of his grace that saves us, and us working out our salvation with fear and trembling is the way God’s grace works through faith.

Which brings me back to a theme verse as of late, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”[11]

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Ephesians 2:8-9
[2] Philippians 1:6
[3] II Corinthians 3:18
[4] Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, 17:20; Luke 12:28
[5] II Corinthians 11:3
[6] Mark 9:24
[7] Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12
[8] Matthew 16:18
[9] Romans 10:17 (this includes our daily time in the word and prayer, listening/watching sermons in church, on the internet, reading books that call us into the promises of God for our healing, sharing in Bible study groups and prayer meetings, any means by which we interact with one another in God’s word and prayer so that our faith can come to life through hearing the words of our Savior).
[10] Philippians 2:12-13
[11] I John 5:4