1. God’s Sovereignty Over His Souls – Part 2

    July 16, 2024 by Dawn Thomas

    God’s Sovereignty Over His Souls – Part 2

    Before the Foundation of the World (When)

    In part one, I addressed the basic foundation of who God is, and that we are simply His created creatures. This was not meant to insult anyone’s spiritual intelligence, but to simply reiterate how all of us can lose sight of who God is, and what His sovereignty encompasses. We need to be humbled by this realization just as Job had to be when God spoke to him in Job chapters 38-42. Therefore, to continue the journey in helping to answer the questions stated in part one, the second point to address is the “when.” When did God establish and decree it all? Many of you studious readers of the Word know what the Bible says about the when, so the challenge I propose for you is this: Does your faith actively apply, accept, and trust this basic foundation specific to salvation? Considering we all need this, what does Scripture tell us?

    In (Eph 1:4–5), the apostle Paul begins his letter with a grateful heart, specifically referencing salvation as he writes to the Saints in Ephesus. He pens that God, the Father, chose us (believers) in Christ before the foundations of the world, (v. 4). He goes on to say that God out of love predestined us to be adopted by Him through Jesus Christ (v. 5a). Jesus, when speaking about the final judgment in Matthew 25:34 says, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

    There are two points I would like to highlight from this verse. First, God the Father established the blessing and second, His eternal kingdom was prepared before the foundation of the world. Jesus’ words could not be clearer. One more scripture that undeniably points to eternity past—before the foundation of the world—is found in Acts 13, when Paul was speaking to the men of Israel in Antioch with the Gentiles listening in v. 48, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”

    The Westminster Confession of Faith, Section 3.5, describes the when as well by stating:

    “Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, (Eph. 1:4911Rom. 8:302 Tim. 1:91 Thess. 5:9) out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto: (Rom. 9:111316Eph. 1:49) and all to the praise of His glorious grace. (Eph. 1:612)”[1]

    I believe it is important to clarify what the word “predestined” means in Greek. The word comes from the Greek word proorizō, a compound word that means “to determine beforehand.” Predestination refers to setting the destiny, goal, or end of something before it happens. The word, “predestined,” is used six other times in the New Testament, and all with the same meaning in reference to God’s plan or purpose of salvation, as found in (Acts 4:28, Rom 8:29–30, 1 Cor 2:7, Eph 1:5).

    So, from eternity past, before the existence of existence, God designed and planned His kingdom and to whom it would belong. Before the foundation of the world, before it was ever spoken into existence, before time, before all creation, God chose whom He would redeem. Additionally, Paul reiterates in (2 Tim 1:8–9), that God completely removed human merit and works, but chose to save for His own purpose and grace, which He established in Jesus “before the ages began” (in Greek this means – before times eternal). The beauty of when God established it all, is that everything or everyone to ever exist, is by the Trinity’s holy design, will, and purpose. This reality completely eradicates man’s illusion of control.

    To help put this in perspective, as you begin to see the vastness of God’s sovereignty through the lens of a finite brain, think about this: By God’s decree and according to the counsel of His will, He created every angelic being, knowing one would take a stand against Him and bring down a third of His created angelic creatures with him, which took place before God created man. Now God creates man in His image by His decree and according to the counsel of His will, knowing man would fall through the means of deception by one of His created angelic beings. Why? We’ll look at this in part three.

    Challenge Question

    Our finite brains cannot begin to conceive what “eternity” encompasses, yet the Scriptures are clear when speaking about when: “before the foundations of the world.”

    How have you accepted, applied, and trusted what God has stated in His Word in reference to salvation in your spiritual journey?

    [1] The Westminster Confession of Faith, Ligonier Ministries, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/westminster-confession-faith.

  2. The Goodness of God

    July 9, 2024 by David Mataya

    The Goodness of God

    Knowing something of the goodness of God is a profound element of our faith. It is an essential characteristic of His nature. Sinclair Ferguson notes, there is “no affirmation [that is] more basic to our faith than that God is good.”[1] In brief, let’s consider…what is God’s goodness and how do we know that God is good?

    The Goodness of God Eternal

    God’s goodness is not simply tied to our faith or how He treats us. It extends into time eternal, before our faith even existed. God Himself is good. We see this in Psalm 119:68 as the psalmist exclaims, “You are good and do good.” Jesus affirms the exclusive nature of God’s goodness in Mark 10:18, that “no one is good except God alone.” As Herman Bavinck writes, “God is the sum total of all perfections. All virtues are present in Him in an absolute sense… His goodness, accordingly, is one with His absolute perfection.”[2]

    But what is God’s goodness? We see it reflected in His nature throughout Scripture. In Exodus 34:6–7, we receive clarity into the attributes of God, but here in a particular way, the very components of His goodness. God Himself declares, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Bavinck seems to expound this passage when he concludes that “God’s goodness is found in His steadfast love, a binding kindness in action, and in His mercy, patience, grace, and the very essence of Him being love.”[3]

    In seeing that God is good, we can rightly say that all His perfect attributes are either a part of His goodness, or are perfectly good in themselves. God’s omniscience is perfectly good, as is His omnipotence, omnipresence, and certainly, His holiness.

    God’s works are also good because they come from perfect goodness. John Calvin ties these together with the example of Psalm 145, where he states “a summary of the divine perfections is so carefully given that not one seems to have been omitted.”[4] God’s goodness in action, as Louis Berkhof states, “is that perfection that which prompts Him to deal kindly and bounteously with all His creatures.”[5]

    The Goodness of God Made Flesh

    Finding the eternal and essential nature of God being good, how then is this manifest to us? How do we see that God is good? We’ve seen several Old Testament descriptions and expressions of His goodness, so now consider the Gospel itself. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:14, 29)

    With that, the Gospel then represents the fullness of God’s goodness toward us. The hope of the Gospel, the actions of God’s goodness toward us, demands that “we depend entirely on His goodness.”[6]

    Jesus, as the exact imprint of the Father, represents the fullness of God’s inherent goodness. He is the great shepherd of Hebrews 13:20, and says of Himself in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” And again in verses 14–15, “I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” In His identification as our good shepherd, He proclaims His goodness.

    God speaks of this shepherd to Isaiah in chapter Isaiah 40:11… “He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” This is the Jesus who is altogether beautiful, altogether lovely, even as we are not. This should continually overwhelm us!

    The Goodness of God in Us

    Being a portrait of Christ is an idea that should hit us in the face. Who are we to reflect Him? According to Paul in both Romans 13:14 and Galatians 3:27, we are to “put on Christ.” And the Apostle John gives an even clearer picture in 1 John 2:5–6, “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” As Christians, this should be our goal and prayer, to reflect Christ and “walk in the same manner as He walked.” This reflects the trueness of our union with Christ.

    If we wanted a practical roadmap to such a reflection, we may want to start with two truths of God’s goodness in us. First, the fruit of His very Spirit. In Galatians 5:22–23, we see communicable elements of God’s goodness, that we are to walk in and pursue. Goodness itself is listed here, certainly a reflection of the others.

    The second part of our roadmap would lead us to the attributes of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7. These are a picture of goodness as well, a goodness that we are called to offer those around us as we apply the love of God Himself to the benefit of others. In considering God’s love and the Gospel, J.I. Packer points out simply that it is the “supreme expression of God’s goodness.”[7]

    Such is the nature of God. That He is love (1 John 4:8), and in that love, His perfect goodness is applied by amazing grace to us, whereby we then should offer it to others. And in that offering, He is glorified.

    [1] Sinclair Ferguson, Lecture 40: Good & Loving, accessed February 1, 2024, https://wts.instructure.com/courses/2914/pages/lecture-40-good-and-loving-28min?module_item_id=248269

    [2]Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, God and Creation, Vol. 2, ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 211.

    [3] Ibid., 213–15.

    [4] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2011), 47.

    [5] Louis Berkhof, A Summary of Christian Doctrine, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), 26.

    [6] Calvin, Institutes, 47.

    [7] J.I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers/Foundation for Reformation, 1993), 46.

  3. The Seductiveness of Sin

    June 6, 2024 by Darrell Harrison

    The Delight of Sin

    Let’s be honest: sin is attractive.

    Were sin not so appealing to us, we would not struggle so mightily against it (Rom 7:18–19). Make no mistake. It is the attractiveness of sin that makes sin a struggle and a fight for believers in this life. The nineteenth century English minister, J.C. Ryle, addressed that sobering reality, saying, “The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. . . Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water. That heart will never be free from imperfection in this world, and it is a miserable delusion to expect it.”[1]

    Ryle, sadly, is correct. Our sin nature is such that it is a “miserable delusion” to expect that we will ever be free of our struggle with sin in this life. Even as believers, our hearts can be, as Ryle said, “weak” and “unstable” (Matt 26:40–46). That truth is something the apostle Peter learned the hard way. In a moment of what can only be described as fleshly arrogance, Peter, in the presence of Christ, as well as his fellow disciples, dared to boast of his resolute and unwavering loyalty to Jesus only to end up, to his great regret, denying three times that he knew Him (Matt 26:33–35; John 18:25–27).

    The Design of Sin

    The seventeenth century Puritan, Thomas Watson, said, “Sin first tempts and then damns. It is first a fox and then a lion. . . Sin first brings us pleasures which delight and charm the senses, and then comes with its nail and hammer. Sin does to the sinner as Absalom did to Ammon. When his heart was merry with wine, then he killed him (2 Sam 13:28). Sin’s last act is always tragic.”[2]

    Since the Garden of Eden, sin has been a seducer of God’s image-bearers. In Genesis 3:6, three adjectives are used to describe how attractive sin was to Eve after discoursing with the serpent: Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise. “Good,” “delight,” “desirable”—three seemingly innocuous yet theologically profound words that capture the heart attitude of our first parents when they chose to disobey God and, consequentially, plunged the entire world into a state of corruption, the spiritual effects of which the human race continues to experience to this day (Rom 8:19–21).

    The Desire of Sin

    Though it is true that, as followers of Jesus Christ, sin no longer has dominion over us (Rom 6:8–14), that does not mean that sin no longer has any power over us at all. While you and I are in this world (1 Pet 4:2), there remains within us a remnant of our yet-unredeemed flesh that desires to gratify the desires of our old self (Eph 4:22). That spiritual tug-of-war is graphically depicted by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:17, where he says, “For the flesh sets its desire against Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you do not do the things that you want.”

    It would be a serious error, for any professing believer in Jesus Christ, to believe that salvation renders sin completely impotent in our lives. The power of sin is intrinsic to every temptation we face. As the sixteenth century Puritan, John Owen, writes, “All sin is the result of temptation (Jas 1:14). Sin is a fruit that comes only from that root. Even though a man is suddenly or violently surprised by any sin, yet it sprang from some temptation or other. . . . Therefore, when a man is surprised and taken unawares, as it were, temptation was the cause of it.”[3]

    The Deceit of Sin

    Scripture never speaks of our being tempted to obey God, but only to disobey Him. If sin were completely bereft of power, we would not be commanded to resist it (Gen 4:6; Matt 26:41; Gal 5:15; 2 Tim 2:22; Jas 1:13, 4:7). Even as followers of Christ, sin can be so appealing and enticing to us that we will even go so far as to try and hide from God the sins we desire to commit – as if such a thing were even possible (Ps 90:8). King David is a prime example of that kind of deceivable mindset. In an attempt to hide from God his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:1–5), David lied and committed murder, only to eventually have his sin exposed by the prophet Nathan (2 Sam 12:1–15).

    In his book The Wiles of Satan, the seventeenth century Puritan, William Spurstowe, cautions, “Satan is more successful in his undertakings because he acts from experience, and fully understands when and how to apply himself in every age and constitution. All his methods of temptations are like the aphorisms of physicians, which are nothing but the collections of experimental observations drawn into rules to direct and order their practice by.”[4]

    Though sin is not omnipotent, it is potent, and its power is most effective upon us when we attempt to resist temptation in our own strength (Jn 15:5). After withstanding the devil’s three temptations in the wilderness, Scripture tells us that Satan left Jesus alone but only until an opportune time (Lk 4:1–13). Sin is an opportunist. It is always seeking an occasion to decimate us and leave us in a state of spiritual ruin. As believers, however, God has not left us defenseless. Our responsibility is to discerningly employ the weapons God has provided us (2 Cor 2:11; Eph 6:10–17; 1 Pet 5:8), as we strive daily for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14).

    [1] J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (Evangelical Press: 1999), 51-52.

    [2] Thomas Watson, The Mischief of Sin (Soli Deo Gloria Publications: 1994), 20.

    [3] John Owen, Temptation: Resisted and Repulsed (Banner of Truth: 2021), 59.

    [4] William Spurstowe, The Wiles of Satan, Soli Deo Gloria Publications (2004), hardcover, p. 19.

  4. Love Your Neighbor

    June 4, 2024 by Jeremiah Dennis

    Love Your Neighbor

    Living Examples of Courage

    Francis Flaherty. Alfred Nietzel. Ardie Copas. What do these names have in common?

    Each man was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor. To win this medal, a soldier must display unparalleled bravery, courage, sacrifice, integrity, and love for others.

    Francis Flaherty earned the medal at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

    Alfred Nietzel earned the medal in 1944 in Heistern, Germany.

    Ardie Copas earned the medal in Cambodia in May, 1970.

    In each case, the men heroically and sacrificially laid down their lives to save other soldiers, thus earning their place in Medal of Honor history.

    And you know what?

    The same degree of courageous, others-centered love displayed by Flaherty, Nietzel and Copas is required of every Christian. To use Jesus’s words, you’re called to love your neighbor.

    Love Explained by Christ

    Jesus explains in Mark 12:28–31:

    “One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

    Jesus’s words raise two important questions:

    1) What does it mean to love?

    2) Who is my neighbor?

    The Apostle Paul offers some helpful answers in a related passage found in Galatians 5:13–14, saying:

    “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

    Let’s answer our first question: What does it means to love?

    The word “love” used here points to a love that’s supreme and sacrificial, devoted and dedicated. And this love is displayed when we “serve” others. Incidentally, the word “serve” is a present tense command, which means we’re meant to serve in a constant, continual, ongoing manner.

    But there’s more. The word “serve” means to “to conduct oneself in total service to another” and to “perform the duties of a slave.”[1] In other words, real Christian love is described as a form of sanctified slavery. It’s humble, willing, eager, and submissive service driven by sacrificial love for others.

    Paul gives us further instruction on what that love is supposed to look like. Notice the end of verse 14: “as yourself.” Literally, the verse says “love your neighbor as you yourself” (italics mine). Now that doesn’t mean what some people think it means. It doesn’t mean you have to love yourself first. The Bible isn’t advocating self-love.

    Rather, Paul is saying that you should be as devoted to meeting the needs of others as you are to your own needs. Think of it like this. When you’re hungry, what do you do? You find something to eat. What do you do when you’re thirsty? You get a drink of water. In short, your natural reflex is to take care of yourself.

    And that’s exactly what this verse is saying—be as energetic and eager and excited about meeting the needs of others as you are about meeting your own needs. That’s what it means to love.

    Which brings us to our second question: Who are we supposed to love?

    Look at the end of verse 13: “one another.” That’s reciprocal love between believers. But it doesn’t end there. Paul gets even more specific at the end of verse 14: “your neighbor.” Which is the same word Jesus uses in Mark 12:31.

    Biblically speaking, your neighbor is anyone God puts in your path. It would include believers. Galatians 6:10 – “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

    I would also include unbelievers, here, because Galatians 6:10 says “let us do good to all people” It would even include your enemies. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:43: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

    Let Us Exemplify Christlikeness

    Now let’s put it all together. What does Jesus mean when He commands us to love our neighbor?

    Loving our neighbor means we are to adopt the attitude of a humble, diligent slave and love everyone who God puts in our path. Which would include: our family; our parents; the sibling that totally annoys us; the neighbors whose dog barks at all hours of the night; the kids at our school; and the Mormon missionaries who come knocking on our door.

    Francis Flaherty. Alfred Nietzel. Ardie Copas.

    Each displayed a remarkable measure of selfless and sacrificial love for others. But you don’t have to be a Medal of Honor winner to love like that. In fact, all you need to be is Christlike. That’s what it means to be a Christian. So let’s get busy loving like Jesus.

    [1] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL 2000) 259.

  5. The Extraordinary Ordinary Life

    May 28, 2024 by Todd Burgett

    The turn of the century birthed many new trends within Christian culture. One of these trends saw a wave of books that came out with titles including adjectives like “radical,” “crazy,” “wild,” “reckless,” etc. These books became enormously successful and impacted many Christians. At best, maybe there were some good intentions in trying to stir Christians from apathy and a type of easy-believism. No doubt, to follow Christ is to radically take up one’s cross in a life of self-denial which might seem crazy to many.

    Unfortunately, though, at worst, it produced a new type of “Pharisaism,” which said that unless you were “radical,” “crazy,” “wild,” and/or “reckless,” you were either not a strong Christian, or, possibly not a Christian at all. I believe this way of thinking added legalistic burdens upon Christians, which caused many to feel shame and frustration for not being able to sustain a “radical” and/or “crazy” life in Christ.

    Although the call to follow Jesus is radical compared to worldly living, the Christian life is actually quite ordinary. In 1 Thessalonians 4:9–12, the Apostle Paul gives us clear directions of what an impactful Christian life should be like – and it is not crazy, wild, and/or reckless, but rather, surprisingly ordinary. In fact, the Christian life is extraordinarily ordinary. Let’s look at three characteristics from this passage of an ordinary yet impactful Christian life.

    The Christian Life is Lived Out in a Culture of Brotherly Love

    This first characteristic is so familiar to us as Christians that I would be surprised if you were surprised by it. Paul commended the Thessalonian church for their “brotherly love” (v. 9). This is what they had been “taught.” The word for “taught” in the original Greek is theodidaktos. Literally, that word means “God taught.” This makes sense because Paul had also commended the Thessalonians in chapter two, verse thirteen, for receiving God’s Word as it is – it is God’s Word. Thus, His Word was at work in them as believers.

    So, exactly what were the Thessalonians taught by God in His Word? Undoubtedly, they had been taught the following command from Jesus from God’s Word: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35). Not only were they doing this, but Paul encouraged them to continue to grow in loving one another (v. 10, cf. 4:1).

    Being a community that is ever-growing in its love for one another is, in one sense, radical compared to how the world does community. But in a realistic, day-to-day way, loving others can seem subtle, sacrificial, and simple. Very unglamorous. In this life, exhibiting brotherly love doesn’t draw much attention, go viral on social media, or earn accolades on award shows. Yet, it is to be the ordinary way in which a Christian lives out his life. It is quite simply, thedefining description of what a Christian community is to look like.

    The Christian Life Should Aspire to Be Ordinary

    For what do you aspire? Fame? Recognition? Wealth? To be “radical” or “reckless” for Jesus? How about this “radical” list of ordinary aspirations: to live quietly, mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands (v. 11). Does that sound exciting to you? This is what God calls us to in living the Christian life.

    One of Paul’s key themes in both letters to the Thessalonian church is the return of Christ (cf. 1:10; 3:13; 4:13-5:11). It is in this sense that Paul is calling Christians to keep in mind the importance of living quietly, minding your own affairs, and working with your hands. This is how our days should be occupied until Christ returns.

    To “live quietly” does not mean to not speak or simply to be restful. As a general rule, it means to live respectably in the community without causing problems. In writing to Timothy, Paul calls us to pray for this, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim 2:1–2). Yes, there are times we may be called to not bow to the idols like Daniel did. Yet, in the ordinary day-to-day, this is our call: “In anticipation of the Lord’s return, believers are to lead peaceful lives, free of conflict and hostility toward others, which is a witness to the transforming power of the Gospel.”[1]

    To “mind your affairs” quite simply means to “not meddle in the affairs of others.” We might call someone who meddles in other people’s affairs a “busybody.” A busybody is one who wastes their labor and not attends to what they should be doing (2 Thess 3:11–12). Rather than busying oneself with other peoples’ affairs, focus on your own affairs as you serve and love others.

    To “work with your hands” has become the backbone of what has become known as the “Christian work ethic.” Working with one’s hands would have been perceived to be beneath the Greek mindset for work and tasks reserved only for slaves and servants. But that is how a Christian should view himself – as a slave and/or servant.

    In fact, Paul even says, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess 3:10).  That statement is not meant to add stress or a burden to someone who is actively trying to find the right employment, but is rather meant for the one who refuses to go to school, learn a trade, or who is merely not willing to do whatever it takes to provide for their family, all the while holding out for a “management position” that simply does not exist. This is simply the ordinary call to be willing to work hard and not be lazy or dependent on charity.

    Actually, Paul double-downs on this type of work ethic in his letter to Timothy: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8). Working hard and providing for one’s family should be so normative that to deny this is to deny the faith and to be “worse” than someone who has rejected Christ. That should be a sober warning about what God considers not only ordinary but essential.

    The extraordinary ordinary life is simply about living quiet lives, minding your own affairs, and working with one’s hands. This is not the stuff of award shows, exciting social media campaigns, or a guaranteed path to fame and fortune. But it is the pathway to being used by the Lord and pleasing Him as we are faithful to our calling as Christians.

    The Example to Others

    What results from this extraordinary ordinary life? We set an example to outsiders. As we “walk properly, dependent on no one,” Paul tells us that we do this “before others.” In other words, we get an outsider’s attention, not by being loud-mouthed busybodies, meddling with other people’s affairs, being lazy and/or living off of charity, but by living an ordinary life. Here’s how we get the attention of a watching world: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” (Col 3:23). This is the heartbeat that God desires for us to have in winning the world by our example – not that we are crazy, wild, or reckless but surprisingly and refreshingly ordinary.


    Don’t mistake this message! This is not a call to mediocrity or the status quo. We are called to do all things well for the glory of God. Someone may ask, “Aren’t we supposed to ‘Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God”?[2] Wouldn’t this be the opposite?” Of course not! It is defining what those great things truly are – they are extraordinarily ordinary.

    Take heart – if you are not famous, powerful, wealthy, well known, found wanting on the world’s scales, etc. – then this is for you! As an ordinary Christian, you have every ability, through the Holy Spirit, to love one another, live quietly, mind your own affairs, work hard, and walk properly, just as Jesus did. And that is extraordinary.

    [1] John MacArthur. First & Second Thessalonians MacArthur New Testament Commentary (United States: Moody Publishers, 2002), 119.

    [2] This quote is traditionally attributed to William Carey.

  6. God’s Good Gifts

    May 23, 2024 by Peggy Morris

    I got the call on Monday, February 6th a year ago. I don’t remember the words of the caller. I was driving through McDonald’s and had just picked up my coffee. It was probably senior-priced coffee with cream. I drink it black now. A lot has changed since that phone call. I pulled out of the drive-through and immediately called my daughter. “Your dad has died.” I was stoic. That’s my nature. My daughter was not. She meant to disengage our call, but didn’t. The phone line carried her pain through the airwaves. I heard it.

    It was ten AM. We each drove to the Citadel, the senior care facility, where Bob, my husband, had been for less than a day. Tears threatened to flood my face as I drove. When I reached the front office, I couldn’t speak normally. I knew my voice would break if I tried. I saw the looks of sympathy on the staff as I went to Bob’s room. The nursing staff had already taken the roommate out of his room by the time I arrived. No one wants to be in a room with … Well, you know. I held my husband’s hand so very briefly. It was still warm.

    My daughter and I stayed with, I guess you could say … the body … until the designated men came to pick him up. It was just my husband’s body. You see, Jesus had come to get him. How gracious God had been in this whole process.

    Let me tell you about Bob. We met in algebra class in ninth grade at Canon City High School in Colorado. We were both sophomores. I was barely fifteen. He was sixteen. I sat in the front. He sat in the back. During class, he threw a piece of gum which hit me. That drew my attention to him. Later he said he was aiming to hit Russ Dowell. Do I believe him? Well, yes. He was an honest person.

    Shortly after that he asked me to go to the homecoming football game with him. It was probably October, or maybe September. Before the game, he called me to say he couldn’t be at the game because his grandfather had just died. I went anyway. At the game, one of Bob’s friends told me, “Bob doesn’t have a grandfather.” That wasn’t true but some friends are like that. They say things to tease you. Bob’s grandfather had just died.

    Bob and I started dating and continued throughout high school. When he died, we’d been married sixty years, almost sixty-one. We started our married life in a ten by fifty-foot New Moon trailer. Today it would be referred to as a mobile home. We had ups and downs in our marriage. I’m so glad the “ups” kept us together in the end. But what really kept us together was clinging to the Word of God. I clung to the Word. And in our later years, so did Bob.

    What do I want you to know about Bob? Most of all I want you to know he took good care of me. I never worried if I would have enough to eat or a home to live in or where would we get enough money for the mortgage. He always provided for me and our children. He was a good worker. Worked hard. Always had a job. He would secure another job before he left a previous one. He eventually became manager of a Skaggs Drug store, first in Colorado Springs, Colorado and then in Mesa, Arizona, the store on Country Club and Broadway.

    After many years in the retail world, Bob became disillusioned with higher management. One day, he called me from work. He asked for my input about his leaving the corporate world to become a truck driver. I readily agreed. I was confident that he would continue to do what was best for us and our family. Anyway, anything suspended on wheels was his first love. Engines. Motors. Trucks. Cars.

    In becoming a truck driver, he loaded and moved heavy equipment onto a huge semi-tractor trailer. It may have been an eighteen-wheeler. He drove the loaded tractor from one construction site to another in the Phoenix area. He was the best driver his company ever had. He could put his big rig anywhere he wanted without having to back up and try again. He excelled at whatever he did.

    Talk about his skills? Not only could he maneuver a huge tractor-trailer, but he could also craft a piece of wood into a beautiful work of art. With the skill of an engineer and the heart of an artist, he created picture frames, children’s puzzles, and fancy wooden boxes. If anything could be made of wood, he would make it. His grandchildren thought he could fix anything. Even damaged toys made of plastic. He fixed common things too, for me and anyone who requested his help.  I was the recipient of anything he made. First choice was mine. He was always creating some new item. And giving it away.

    He was intelligent. As I assisted in the homeschooling of our grandchildren, sometimes they needed to know the definition of a word. Bob was our go-to dictionary.  When the children said, “What does that word mean?” I would say, “Ask Papa.” He usually could define the words we asked him about. He read a lot. Was curious.

    He was witty. Made me laugh. Once when I found three identical books in my book stash, he said, “One for each eye and one for the back of your head.”

    He was a strong man until the last weeks of his life when he commented, “I’m as weak as a kitten.”

    I trusted him. So did our children.

    When the liver cancer took its toll on his body, he never complained. He worked hard at all his doctors prescribed for him to do. He wasn’t a complainer. Not ever.

    I’m so thankful God allowed me to have him for sixty years. How blessed I was! As Jon Benzinger, pastor at Redeemer Bible Church, said at Bob’s Memorial service, “God gives good gifts, and Bob was a good gift.” That is so true! Bob was a good gift from God.

    And Bob himself was, a good gift giver. A few days after he died, Dionne, my daughter, and I checked Bob’s Amazon account because he had Ensure, the nutritional shake, being delivered automatically. We had to cancel it. In that process, we discovered an unsent item in his Amazon shopping cart. It was a necklace. I was sure he was looking at it to give to me at some time. “Let’s order it,” I said mischievously. And we did. An anniversary gift! Our 61stanniversary was a month after he died. He was a good gift giver even posthumously.

    But the greatest gift he ever gave me was the hand written note he left behind for me to find after he died. He left it in one of our safes where he knew I would have to go soon after his death, as I looked for other important papers. His note said:

    “To my wife,

    The road of life

    has been hard to walk

    But with your love, I fly.

    If I did anything right in my life,

    It was when I gave my heart to you.

                                        Love you,

                                        Sexy old husband”

    So what I have learned since Bob’s death a year ago?

    As time passed, I’ve assessed myself as Bob’s wife. In retrospect, I am disappointed. What I could have been, I wasn’t. And now it is too late. But his death has helped me learn to live each day to the fullest. I’m not beating myself up for what I wasn’t. It is finished. But the Lord has gently brought me to see that from this point on, I can determine to be different. I can love others with my heart, not just going on day after day in the status quo of life. That is what He has always called me to do and to be: first love God and then love others. I’m going to love others better than before. What a wonderful gift that is from Bob, to learn to love a little better today, and a little better each day going forward.

    Bob’s death taught me many lessons about loving others.

    Learning to love others better is really about my heart. My heart is pretty filled with selfishness. Self-centered. Self-focused. Much of my heart is about me, me, me.

    I would make it about Bob, about him, him, him and others. What were some of his other needs? Would I sit by his fire pit with him even though I would smell like smoke afterward? Yes.

    Would I sit by him and engage him in conversation about what he was reading? Or about what he was watching on tv? Or thinking about his medical diagnosis? Or about the last sermon we heard at church? Of course.

    Would I sit with him to watch an NFL football game? Well now, there are some limits. I don’t think I’d go that far.

    I would look at his needs and ask the Lord how I was to help. I think most of all, I’d want to engage his heart to whatever degree he would like. My natural bent toward independence would yield to his needs. I imagine that is what Jesus meant when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    It is my heart that I would shepherd differently.

    All I can say at this point is that both Bob and I did what we could. We lived up to what we were able to do and be. But that doesn’t bind me to that pattern from here on out. I’ll learn from the past and move forward. I’ll walk more closely to God’s ways … because of the past. Can I learn from the past? Yes. And I will shepherd my heart more carefully because of my love for Bob and my thankfulness that God gave him to me for sixty plus years. I’ll shepherd my heart to think of the needs of others. But especially how Jesus’ love is calling me to respond at this time.

    Now, a year after Bob’s death, I have an outright, in-my-face sense that I could have put more attention into caring for him. Of course, now it is too late. What I didn’t do, is left undone. It will never be done. But what do I do now? I was kind to him. I took him to his doctors’ appointments. I didn’t complain. Not even in my heart.

    I was as thoughtful as I knew how to be. I called 911 when we needed someone to pick Bob up from the floor because I couldn’t do it. Three times I called the firemen. When they left each time they said, “Call if you need us.” They never said, “If you only would do this or that, it would work better.” How gracious they were. I’d like to be that gracious to others—on the spur of the moment.

    What would I do if I had it to do it over? Arrange for his care—according to his needs and preferences? The meals for example. Yes, I would do that. Cook what he liked.

    But more than that, I would be more active in serving him. From childhood, I’ve been pretty independent. That’s not a bad characteristic. But another trait that supersedes that one is serving others.

    Love God first and then serve others. I think this is what it is to love others: Serve them out of a heart of love—Serve the lovely ones and the unlovely.

    I loved Bob as much as I knew how; and he did the same for me. In his name and memory, I’ll go forward day-by-day loving and serving others. Even better than I did so with Bob. Because of experiencing Bob’s death, I have learned an even better way to do so: Serve others with my full heart.

    In searching for a life verse, I have finally found it: It comes from Philippians 3:13-14: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

    By the help of the Lord Jesus, I’ll reflect that verse more and more each day—by His grace—as I move forward.

  7. God’s Sovereignty Over His Souls – Part 1

    May 14, 2024 by Dawn Thomas

    God’s Sovereignty Over His Souls – Part 1

    “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” – Matthew 20:15

    In my last blog, I discussed and established God’s Sovereignty Over Death. This time, I would like to focus on God’s sovereignty and the salvation of His souls for the Christian community. As a biblical counselor, I have often been asked about whether or not a loved one was in heaven, especially when the waters are murky. My response(s) has been to help comfort and offer hope through the passages of (Ezek 18:4, Gen 18:25, and Rom 10:9-10). The truth is, only God knows and sees the heart, and only God knows His own. What becomes more relevant in discussions is helping believers comprehend the sovereignty of God. When believers are able to grasp the sovereignty of God in every aspect of their lives, it brings hope to those who are suffering, going through trials, or experiencing the weight of a potentially unsaved loved one. Believers who struggle with understanding or seeing God’s sovereign hand in every aspect of their life will struggle to have hope and may fall prey to victimhood.

    Every one of us, in some capacity of our intimate world, has a loved one who is not saved. For true believers, this is a weight that we can all feel. Just as the Apostle Paul experienced when he stated, in Rom 9:2-3, “the great sorrow and unceasing grief” he felt in his heart, to such a degree, that he wished he could give up his own salvation for the salvation of his kinsmen, the Jews, to whom he was tirelessly preaching the Gospel. How many of us have felt the pain of a loved one reject the gospel, turn to the world, turn to another religion, or just plain love their sin too much to give it up no matter how much knowledge and exposure they have been given? Paul’s pain is our pain, yet even Jesus felt sadness and pain, as He wept over Jerusalem due to their utter rejection of Him and what was coming their way, as described in Matt 23:37 and Luke 19:41-42.

    So there are two questions I’d like to address to believers:

    1) Why do believers avoid addressing and applying God’s sovereignty to their own lives?

    2) How does a believer rest in their heart knowing a loved one may not be chosen by God?

    To answer these questions, we must first lay some basic foundational points that address Who, When & Why to illuminate the width and depth of God’s sovereignty.

    God the Creator—(Who)

    As believers, we know that God is the Creator, and we are His created creatures. So, this is not meant to be a duhmoment, but rather, to emphasize the very basic foundation that God is the Supreme Being, and that absolutely nothing exists, nothing is permitted, nothing is carried out, and nothing is completed outside of Him and His spoken word. All too often we can lose sight that He is the Creator, and we are His creatures. Grasping and applying this basic foundation begins the journey for each of us in understanding the enormity of His sovereignty. Let’s look at the Westminster Confession of Faith, section 2.2, and its definition of who God, the Creator, is.

    “God hath all life, (John 5:26) glory, (Acts 7:2) goodness, (Ps 119:68) blessedness, (1 Tim 6:15Rom 9:5) in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He hath made, (Acts 17:24–25) nor deriving any glory from them, (Job 22:2–3) but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things (Rom 11:36) and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleaseth (Rev 4:111 Tim 6:15Dan 4:2535). In His sight all things are open and manifest (Heb 4:13), His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature (Rom 11:33–34Ps 147:5), so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain (Acts 15:18Ezek 11:5). He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands (Ps 145:17Rom 7:12). To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them (Rev 5:12–14).”

    Throughout scripture God is affirmed as the Creator of everything, beginning with the first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1…“In the beginning, God…”, to John 1:1–3 where the Apostle John affirms the Creator, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, to numerous other scriptures such as Neh 9:6, Isa 45:7, 46:9­–11, 66:2, Col 1:16, Rev 4:11. But, perhaps the most profound affirmation of God being the Creator is found in Job, chapters 38–42 when God speaks directly to Job affirming Himself by asking him “Where were you?”, “Where were you?”, “Where were you?” Job, a righteous man, believing that he “knew” God, was so utterly humbled and crushed beneath the weight of God’s eternal power and greatness, that all he could do was repent and admit that God is sovereign. In verse 5 of Chapter 42, Job states, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” What does he mean that now his eyes see God? I believe that Job now sees God through the lens of a deeper knowledge of the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-wise God. But most importantly, he sees that God, above all, is in control of it all, even down to the most minute detail. The God he had heard of his whole life, and that he now sees, is far greater than he could have ever imagined. Like many of us, I’m sure Job had heard a lot about God growing up, whether it was through family, traditions, laws, or stories. But the reality is that none of us comes to truly “know” God, unless He has given us the faith to open our eyes to truly “see” Him. He removes the blinders and gives us the sneak preview (this side of Heaven) to see His power, His greatness, His majesty, His sovereignty, and His sheer all-sufficient independence as the Creator, just as He did for Job.

    The Souls He Has Created

    To add to the magnificence of who our Creator is, as described above, I believe it is equally important to touch briefly on how God is intimately involved with His creation, and specifically human beings as found in Gen 2:7, Ps 100:3, 139:13, Isa 42:5, Acts 17:26–28, especially since the topic of this blog is about the souls He creates. The most wonderful expression of His intimacy is found in Psalm 139, specifically verses 13–16, which says, “For you formed my inward parts…in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Notice the last sentence of this verse, as David accentuates God’s divine sovereignty in the life and death of every soul created.

    Lastly, to bring this section all together, in Ezekiel 18:4, God clearly states to the prophet that all souls are His. God determines the who, what, when, where, and why of every soul created. He decided our parents, and He decided our gender. He decided the day of our birth and the day of our death (Job 14:5. He decided the why, or the purpose, of every soul created. Look again at Jesus’ words in Matthew 20:15. Every creature He created (including the devil) had no say so as to their existence. When you stop and soak this in, it is extremely humbling. You can almost feel how Job felt after God was done with him.

    Challenge Questions

    Do you have a clear understanding of who God really is?

    Have you ever lost sight as to who God really is?

    If so, who or to whom did you replace Him with? Why?

  8. Our Shepherd Restores

    May 9, 2024 by David Mataya

    Our Shepherd Restores

    “He restores my soul. . .” – Psalm 23:3a

    I often ask people this—what does the unbeliever need most? Some of you are already saying…Jesus. Always a good answer, right? Yes, but I often answer…the Gospel. They need the actions of Jesus to save. His intentional action at the cross, the grave, and beyond. But what about the believer? What do we need most? I would still say the very same thing…the Gospel. Certainly not for repeating our salvation, but for restoring and building us up in our salvation, and to always remind us of what Christ has accomplished on our behalf.

    The Gospel should be the fuel for our souls, and the motivation to love Him because of what He has done for us! As the very centerpiece of this beloved Psalm, and our series on shepherding, is this jewel of grace… “He restores my soul” (Ps 23:3). Our Shepherd leads us here, feeds us for this purpose, and guards this work. And He does this for both His once-forever saving work, and His continued changing work.

    The word soul in verse 3 is nephesh in Hebrew. It can infer the qualities and “aliveness” of our physical life, not just spiritual. But with the context of David’s language, here, it likely is both spiritual and physical. On the one hand, David is talking about physical things, using the picture of shepherd and sheep to physically represent reality. But David certainly isn’t saying, “thank you Lord for taking care of my body, that’s all I’m really looking for here!” No, as we can see throughout the Psalms, the greater context in the entire book is spiritual and eternal. In identifying Himself as Shepherd, Jesus would later refer to the spiritual and eternal in John 10:27–28, saying, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” These sheep were indeed born of the Spirit, not just the flesh (John 3:5–6).

    Our Great Restoration

    The word the Psalmist uses for restore is a redemptive word. It’s the word shuv in the Hebrew, and it means to turn back, to rescue, or to return. And remember our context. Who is doing this work of restoration? It is sovereignly and wonderfully our Good Shepherd, our Lord. In our salvation, in the work of our great restoration, there is both divine accomplishment and human responsibility. But which trumps the other? Who here is the author of the restoration? Throughout Scripture, we see this clearly as being the work of our shepherding Lord. He is the one turning us back, rescuing and returning us to Himself.

    Jesus certainly calls on us to repent, an act we are responsible to obey. In Mark 1:15, immediately as He begins His earthly ministry, Jesus sets the foundation of saving faith and commands us to repent and believe. But scripture is clear—no one seeks after God. We are dead in our sin, unable to respond (Eph 2:1–3). But God… “but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us… made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:4–5). Ephesians 2:1–10 is a wonderful place to revive your amazement of the Gospel!

    In John chapter 14, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” This is the heart of the Gospel… that in love, God sent His Son to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 3:16 says that because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.” In 1 John 4:10, we see this was an act of supreme love, that “in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation [perfectly satisfying payment] for our sins.”

    Yes, we have sin in our lives. Not simply sins on the surface, but sin that is part of our very nature. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And remember Ephesians 2:1–3, that we are all dead in our sin and transgressions against an infinitely holy God. But this is when we remember the good news, the Gospel. That being God Himself, holy and blameless, Jesus alone could live the life we could never live, and pay a price in His death that we could never pay. This is the great restoration—great in value, great in cost.

    Our Continuing Restoration

    The restoration that God works in our lives also has a continuing component. For the believer, His sheep, this is what we call sanctification. Sanctification is that work of God in using “all things together for good,” to the end that we are “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:28–29). Simply put, it is God’s work to set us apart for His glory. This happens immediately in saving us, but then our good and gracious Father begins to mature us, change us, and conform us. This too is restoration and is a progressive process in our lives as He truly is the potter, and we are the clay (Is 64:8).

    We see this played out in Hebrews 12:2, where we see that Jesus is the founder, or author, of our faith. But not only that, we see He is the perfecter of our faith as well. This speaks of Jesus’ ability to provide for our faith, to preserve and protect our faith, but also to mature, mold, and shape our faith. And as our Good Shepherd—thinking of restoration—He restores our faith. Whether in sin or suffering, faith is tested (Jas 1:2–3). In these trials and testing, what a comfort to know that we are shepherded by a perfect Shepherd, who is also a perfecting Shepherd.

    In all things, He sovereignly reigns with love over His sheep. And love is the greatest command, for God and for one another (Matt 22:37–39). In this series, I’ve given you much more about His love and shepherding of you. But the love that He has poured into us should be pouring out to the world around us. Starting in your homes, your families, your church, and seeping into every other avenue He gives. Growing in our love for others is therefore a product, an outworking, of the love of our redeeming and restoring Shepherd. May we be growing faithfully in reflecting Him throughout our lives.

  9. Freedom

    April 25, 2024 by Dale Thackrah


    The concept of freedom is at the very center of what makes the gospel “good news.” Not only have we, as Christians, been set free from our bondage to selfishness, but we have also been released into a freedom that is focused on serving Christ and others.

    The Apostle Paul addresses the topic of freedom in several of his epistles in the New Testament. From those letters, there are at least four aspects of freedom worthy of our consideration:

    Freedom from the Law

    First, Paul’s teaching clearly distinguishes between the Old Testament law, which once bound believers, and the freedom found in Christ. This stark contrast underscores the transformative power of Christ’s sacrifice and the shift in believers’ responsibilities. He emphasizes that believers are no longer under the rituals and regulations of the Mosaic Law, but rather, are now under grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We are called to live by the Spirit and in obedience to Christ.

    Paul often wrote about freedom in his letters to the early Christian churches. He stressed the concept of spiritual freedom in Christ, emphasizing that the constraints of sin and legalistic rules no longer bind believers. Instead, they are free to live in obedience to God and to serve others in love.

    In his letter to the Galatians, Paul declared that, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). He went on to caution against using this freedom as an excuse for sinful behavior, and instead, urged believers to live by the Spirit and to bear the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:13–26).

    Freedom to Love and Serve

    Paul also wrote about the importance of using freedom to serve others and build up Christ’s body. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he taught that believers should use their freedom not to indulge their own desires, but to consider the needs of others and to strive for the common good (1 Cor 10:23–33). Believers are not just called, but are responsible, to use their freedom to serve one another in love, and to build up Christ’s body, thereby fulfilling their purpose as servants of God.

    Scripture speaks extensively about the importance of love and service to others. Jesus summarized the entire law in two commandments: to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37–40). This demonstrates that love is at the core of Christian belief and practice.

    Regarding freedom to love and serve, Galatians 5:13 states, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” This verse highlights that our freedom in Christ is not an excuse to indulge in selfish desires but rather a call to serve others in love.

    Additionally, 1 Peter 4:10–11 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

    The Bible emphasizes that our freedom in Christ enables us to love and serve others selflessly, allowing the using of our gifts and talents to glorify God and benefit those around us. Paul’s writings on freedom emphasize the transformative power of Christ’s sacrifice and the responsibility that believers have to live in accordance with the Spirit, serving others and building up the church. By embracing this freedom in Christ, believers can experience true liberation from sin and live with purpose and meaning in their lives.

    Freedom in Christ

    Next, Paul teaches that through faith in Christ, believers are set free from the power of sin and death. They are no longer slaves to their sinful nature but are significantly empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a life of righteousness and holiness. This emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit reinforces the concept of freedom in Christ and its importance in believers’ lives.

    The Bible teaches that freedom in Christ is a central aspect of the Christian faith. Here are some other key verses that discuss this theme:

    John 8:36 – “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus himself declares that true freedom comes from being set free by Him, indicating that believers can experience true liberation and freedom through faith in Him, which brings them joy and peace.

    Romans 8:1–2 – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” This passage highlights that through Jesus, believers are freed from the condemnation of sin and the consequences of spiritual death.

    2 Corinthians 3:17 – “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” This verse underscores that the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers brings about true freedom and empowerment to live according to God’s will.

    1 Peter 2:16 – “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” This verse strongly emphasizes believers’ responsibility to use their freedom to serve and honor God, rather than indulge in sinful behavior. This stress on responsibility underlines the importance of living in obedience to God and serving others in love.

    With these passages in mind, Scripture is clear: True freedom in Christ is not just about personal liberty, but also about living in obedience to God, serving others in love, and fulfilling the purpose for which believers have been called.

    Freedom from Fear

    Lastly, the Apostle Paul teaches that believers have been set free from the fear of condemnation and judgment because of their faith in Christ. This means that we can approach God confidently and boldly, knowing that we are justified by faith and not by our works.

    One of the most well-known verses about freedom from fear in the Bible is found in 2 Timothy 1:7, which states, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” This verse emphasizes that as believers, we are not meant to live in fear, but rather in faith, power, love, and a sound mind.

    The Bible encourages us, as believers, to trust in God and find peace in His presence, knowing that He is always with us and will never cease to help us overcome our fears. This points us to the reality that true Christian freedom flows from the transformative power of Christ’s sacrifice, and produces within us a desire to obey God from a heart of gratitude for the grace we have received.

  10. The Fear of God

    April 18, 2024 by Darrell Harrison

    The Fear of God

    “ . . . for God has so worked that men should fear Him.” – Ecclesiastes 3:14b (NASB)

    The Fear of God in the Garden

    It was the 17th-century Puritan Thomas Reade (1612–1682) who said, “Fear is a most powerful passion in the human breast. Its natural effect is painful; hence we instinctively fly from everything which excites its agitating influence.”1 It is against the backdrop of those words from Reade that I would venture to say many, if not most, professing Christians today view the fear of God as an “agitating influence,” something that causes them to want to “fly from,” or distance themselves from God, rather than draw closer to Him (Jas 4:8a).

    God’s Word provides a clear-cut reason why, even as believers, we have a tendency to, as Reade put it, “fly from” God, and that reason is our sin (Eccl 7:20; Rom 3:23). The initial reaction of our first parents, Adam and Eve, upon becoming aware of their nakedness, was fear. That reality is recorded for us in Genesis 3:9–10, which reads, “Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He [Adam] said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden and I was afraid.’”

    Adam’s servile fear of God, which was an immediate consequence of his disobedience, was central to a sermon preached in 1870 by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in which he commented, “This disease of fear came into man’s heart with sin. Adam never was afraid of his God till he had broken His commands.”2

    The Fear of God and Original Sin

    Each of us has been endowed by God with an innate awareness of His holiness and our depravity (Lev 19:2; Ps 99:9; Rom 1:18–32). As the Belgic Confession of Faith states, “. . . by the disobedience of Adam original sin has been spread through the whole human race. It is a corruption of the whole human nature— an inherited depravity which even infects small infants in their mother’s womb, and the root which produces in humanity every sort of sin.”3

    More than anything else, it is our sinfulness that causes us to fear God–and rightly so–for God is holy and we are not (Hab 1:13a). As the 17th-century Puritan Thomas Watson (1620–1686) affirms in his book A Body of Divinity, “God sees all the sins of men, but is no more defiled with them than the sun is defiled with the vapors that rise from the earth. God sees sin, not as a patron to approve it, but as a judge to punish it.”4

    Martin Luther’s Dichotomy of the Fear of God

    The 16th-century German theologian Martin Luther (1483–1546) said the fear of God is demonstrated in us in two ways: servile fear and filial fear.5 Whereas servile fear is an uneasy and apprehensive sense of anxiety, filial fear is a reverential and respectful awareness of the holiness of God in contradistinction to his creatures (1 Jn 1:5).

    The late Dr. R.C. Sproul (1939–2017) explained Luther’s dichotomy of the fear of God in this way, saying, “Martin Luther made an important distinction concerning the fear of God. He distinguished between servile fear and filial fear. He described servile fear as that kind of fear a prisoner has for his torturer. Filial fear is the fear of a son who loves his father and does not want to offend him or let him down. It is a fear born of respect. When the Bible calls us to fear God, it is issuing a call to a fear born of reverence, awe, and adoration. It is a respect of the highest magnitude.”6

    But notwithstanding Luther’s doctrine of servile and filial fear, his idea presents us with an interesting irony, in that the distinction between servile and filial fear is not an either/or proposition, but rather is a both/and consideration.

    Fearing God in the Totality of His Being

    That God is loving, merciful, and forgiving toward us is no reason to disregard, ignore, or turn a deaf ear to the reality that He is also a God of wrath, justice, and righteousness (Ps 96:9). As the beloved Puritan John Bunyan (1628–1688) expressed, “The goodness as well as the greatness of God doth beget in the heart of His elect an awful reverence of His majesty.”7

    In that one simple yet profound statement, Bunyan is confronting us with the reality that we cannot embrace the benevolence of God apart from esteeming all of His divine attributes (1 Chr 29:11; Ps 8:1–9; Isa 40:18–20). As the 17th-century Puritan William Ames (1576–1633) declared, “The attributes of God set forth what God is and who He is.”8

    The Wisdom of Fearing God

    God’s Word teaches us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7a). The 20th-century Scottish theologian John Murray (1898–1975) said poignantly that, “The fear of God is the soul of godliness.”9

    The God who gives life and breath to all things (Acts 17:25) is unquestioningly deserving of the heartfelt reverence and respect of His people (Ps 99:5). It is with that truth in mind that, as believers in the one true God (Isa 46:9; Jn 17:3), we would do well to heed the words of Hebrews 12:29–29, which exhort us to “show gratitude, by which we may offer to Him an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”

    [1] https://www.monergism.com/godly-fear (first paragraph)

    [2] https://answersingenesis.org/education/spurgeon-sermons/930-away-with-fear/

    [3] Article 15: The Doctrine of Original Sin https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/confessions/belgic-confession#toc-article-15-the-doctrine-of-original-sin

    [4] https://www.monergism.com/holiness-god-2

    [5] https://www.ligonier.org/learn/qas/throughout-bible-we-are-told-fear-god-what-does-me

    [6] https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/fostering-fear-god

    [7] John Bunyan, A Treatise on the Fear of God, Chapter 1, Audible® audiobook version, 13:41 timestamp. See also here: https://www.sounddoctrine.net/Classic_Sermons/John%20Bunyan/treatise_fear_God.html

    [8] The Marrow of Sacred Divinity, https://www.monergism.com/marrow-sacred-divinity-ebook (pg. 30 of the PDF, bullet 31).

    [9] https://www.monergism.com/fear-god