What Kind of Faith Do You Have? Part 2

 

 

“Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, But rebelled by the sea–the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, That He might make His mighty power known. He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it dried up; So He led them through the depths, As through the wilderness . . . Then they believed His words; They sang His praise. They soon forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tested God in the desert.” (Psalms 106:7-9, 12-14)

Israel left Egypt triumphantly. There were no shamefaced pilgrims leaving the Nile Valley and entering the wilderness. The Exodus was victoriously jubilant; God had crushed Pharaoh and his kingdom. However, their tune changed abruptly when they were hemmed in by the Red Sea on one side and Pharaoh’s able army on the other. It takes little faith to rejoice when God answers prayer. The question is can you rejoice in faith when the answer is not apparent?

The Hebrews’ lament was as loud as Pharaoh’s trumpets.

Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:11-12)

Fear turned faith into fainting. Nevertheless, graciously, the Lord made a way for them when there was no way. He parted the sea. And when the pursuing army followed into the watery highway, the Lord made the walls of water tumble down; drowning the entire army.

What was Israel’s response?  The psalmist tells us, “Then they believed His words: They sang His praise.” What interesting phrases! Faith was restored, and they returned to rejoicing.

What kind of faith starts and stops depending on circumstances? Did they really believe? Was faith exercised? The answer depends on your understanding of faith. There is a biblical kind of faith that endures in spite of environment, and there is a natural or human faith that only believes the empirical. Israel could trust God as long as the senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch were satisfied with the evidence. But once the senses experienced something different, faith evaporated and fear entered. Fleshly faith works on the principle, “seeing is believing.” But that kind of faith is not blessed, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

The only kind faith that honors God is the faith that can believe God and does not require observable proofs of His power. It’s the kind that can see Red Seas and Egyptian armies and does not panic but rests confidently in God and His Word.

Why else would the psalmist follow up the report of faith and a worship service with the words, “They soon forgot His works”? Once again, after perhaps the second greatest miracle of all time (second to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus), Israel could not believe the Lord. Three days, not three weeks or three months, but only three days after the great miracle at the Red Sea, Israel again murmured in unbelief at the bitter waters of Marah. How could they forget what they saw three days earlier? Because natural faith can only believe what it momentarily perceives.

Supernatural or biblical faith, on the other hand, puts trust not in what it sees, but in a Person who is “eternal, immortal, invisible,”—the one the One who is Spirit and not material. The faith that saves, sanctifies, and supplies every need is not a faith founded on the tangible. All that is physical is ever-changing. Godly faith is focused on the never-changing God. It does not set its sight so much on what God does, but on who God is. Faith’s eye is on the Person of God, His character, and revealed will.

Therefore, if new challenges assault you, all you need is to look at Him who is faithful. There is no need to comb circumstances looking for a sign that God will intervene. You do not need empirical data to assure your heart. To remember the Lord’s works is to remember who God is. Israel’s fault lied in the fact they did understand what the works of God told them about the Almighty. They never saw the connection. Their faith was of the wrong kind.

What kind of faith do you have? Spiritual or natural? Can you rest in the One who is unchanging, having learned by His works that He is as His Word proclaims? Or with each trial must you once again go through all the same emotions of fear and doubt because all you can see is the obstacle? The “blessed” faith relies not on the senses but sees another opportunity for God to display His goodness.

What Kind of Faith Do You Have? Part 1

 

“Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, But rebelled by the sea–the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, That He might make His mighty power known. He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it dried up; So He led them through the depths, As through the wilderness . . . Then they believed His words; They sang His praise. They soon forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tested God in the desert.” (Psalms 106:7-9, 12-14)

It is known as one of the greatest miracles of the Bible. Moses lifting the rod, the blast of God’s nostrils ripping through the sea; created a dry passageway for God’s people to safely travel between two towering walls of water. The crossing of the Red Sea was omnipotence on display.

But there was a hitch. The psalmist said, “They . . . rebelled by the sea.” How can it be that rational men and women who watched God decimate the greatest empire of their day by ten supernatural plagues, ever doubt God’s intention or power? Ten times, the prophet of God had spoken and prophesied what was to come. And not once, did the Word of God fail. The plagues fell like a hammer shattering Egypt.

God’s people stood between sea and soldier; between life and death—and they believed death. They spoke their words of unbelief with tears and loud lament, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11-12).

The psalmist tells us the root of their problem—they neither understood nor remembered, that it was by the mighty hand of God, rather than the feeble hand of man, that rescued and delivered them. “Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; they did not remember the multitude of Your mercies (Psalm 106:7).

They did not have a grasp of the ways of God. They were not in tune with the redemptive program of God. All they could see was today. They lived by a nature that could not see the trajectory of God. They lived by isolating each moment into the tyranny of the present. They did not connect the dots and come to see what God was doing. In short, they didn’t understand God because they didn’t know God.

Many of us claim to know God. But if we don’t understand His ways, we prove we don’t understand Him. How can you claim to know someone and not understand them? Perhaps the argument of incomprehension would be sensible if the person we are trying to comprehend is deranged and psychotic. However, that argument cannot be leveled against the Lord God. He has given us 66 books to explain Himself to anyone who wants to know Him. If you’re going to understand the Lord, then start studying His Word. In addition to the Bible, He has given His very Spirit to teach us the Bible and reveal Himself to us.

I don’t mean to imply you will know all there is to know about God, because that is impossible. Finiteness cannot contain infinity. Nor do I suggest that you will always discern what God is up to in your life. What I mean is that even though you may not grasp the next step or your last step as you follow God, you will be able to know His heart and that He is trustworthy; even when it doesn’t make sense. How can God’s people have such assurance? Because we know the character of the Person we call the Lord God Almighty.

If you know Him, you will trust Him! The question is, do you truly know Him?

Trusting in the Goodness of Another

 

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

“You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” Matthew 20:4

“Whatever is right I will give you,” is the rub of the matter. Man loves to talk about his rights, but seems unwilling to ask the question, “What is right?” In the parable from which this statement comes, Jesus is exposing the problem of the self-righteous heart. In the parable’s beginning, Jesus tells of a landowner who hires workers in the early hours of a new day. However, before these workers would agree to work, they negotiated their wages. They left nothing unsettled; there was no trust in benevolence or human kindness. They knew what they wanted for their labor, and once the landowner agreed with them, they commenced to work. It doesn’t take much theological training to see that the landowner represents Jesus, while the first hired laborers represent the self-righteous—those unwilling to trust in another. The self-righteous trust only in themselves.

Self-righteousness is a common problem for us all. From our progenitor to you and me, this plague poisons indiscriminately. It manifested itself when Adam defended his dastardly deed and blamed Eve. His words to the Lord were, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” In other words, “It’s not my fault. It’s your fault, God. You gave me this woman who tempted me.” The argument of self-righteousness is as old as the Garden of Eden.

While conversion by the power of regeneration changes the heart of the self-righteous, it does not eliminate the problem. Even Christians must still wrestle with the temptation to trust in their perceived worthiness more than in the goodness of God. Whatever worthiness is perceived is false; it is a mirage. We are never and will never be able to say with any degree of honesty, “Look and see what I have gained from God by my goodness!” The whole lot of us, with no exception, deserve nothing from our Lord’s hand but His wrath, yet He endows us with untold blessings. Each blessing, gift, and kindness is underserved. The Lord will never be in debt to you or me. Despite our knowledge of this, we still battle the urge, if not attitude, of self-righteousness that manifests itself as deserving good and nothing less.

Like the first employees in Jesus’ parables, a believer can slide into the mentality that whatever good in life he enjoys is directly proportionate to his or her good conduct. We’ve earned comfortable stress-free living with the 3-car garage and a car in every stall. We subconsciously feel we are owed good health, behaved children, and great vacations. The motive for decent living is not a love for holiness or the desire to please God but as holding up one’s side of the “negotiated bargain.”

The other men hired later in the day agreed to no arbitrated settlement, but consented to trust the landowner. He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” Later, an hour before sundown, the landowner returned where he had hired his day laborers and found men not working. He asks them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?”

Their reply was, “Because no one hired us.” Such a confession meant they were in some way, inferior workers. No one wanted to take a chance on them. However, to these unworthy workers, Jesus said, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.”

“Whatever is right.” Can you trust the Lord for whatever is right? Are you willing to leave your health and wealth in His hands, accepting whatever He may give? Can you enter into his fields sowing and reaping His harvest, even if your fruit be small? Can you trust Him to be right then? Moreover, can you trust the Lord on that day when you stand before Him on His throne? Will you now trust that “whatever is right you will receive”?

How many of us, God’s servants, fear that hour, fearing we will not get much reward? Death is fearful because we want to do more before we stand before the Lord and death ends the possibility of more time and more fruit. If we were to die today, we fear we will have not much to show for our lives. We should be redeeming the time and not be idle. Moreover, we should desire to be as fruitful as possible. But, I think it is possible that some of us fear the judgment because we fear the Lord will do what is right. And what is right, is little reward.

But the parable suggests that what is right in the sight of God, is much more than we think we deserve unless we are self-righteous. Those whom the landowner hired last were given the same wage as those who had held out for a denarius. What was right was grace—superabundant grace. Whatever we receive in this life or the next, will always be right, and it will be far more than we deserve. What rewards we receive in heaven will be more grace-based than merit-based.

The question is singular, but one you must not dodge—do you trust Him? Do you really believe He will always be loving, even when His hand brings you affliction? Jesus Christ, our Lord, cannot do anything contrary to His benevolent nature. He is much too good to do you wrong, and He is much too wise to make a mistake with you. Do not be self-righteous and want to earn everything you receive from His gracious hand. You will always be disappointed if you work on that basis with God. “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”

 

 

 

 

 

WHY DOES GOD ALLOW WAR?

From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
James 4:1

As I contemplate human nature and human life, what astonishes me is not that God allows and permits war, but the patience and the long-suffering of God. “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). He suffered the evil, perverse ways of the children of Israel for centuries; and now for nearly two thousand years He has patiently borne with a world that in the main rejects and refuses His loving offer, even in the Person of His only-begotten Son. The question that needs to be asked is not, “Why does God allow war?” but rather, “Why does God not allow the world to destroy itself entirely in its iniquity and its sin?” Why does He in His restraining grace set a limit to evil and to sin, and a bound beyond which they cannot pass?

Oh, the amazing patience of God with this sinful world! How wondrous is His love! He has sent the Son of His love to our world to die for us and to save us; and because men cannot and will not see this, God permits and allows such things as war to chastise and to punish us, to teach us and to convict us of our sins, and above all to call us to repentance and acceptance of His gracious offer. The vital question for us therefore is not to ask, “Why does God allow war?” The question for us is to make sure that we are learning the lesson and repenting before God for the sin in our own hearts and in the entire human race that leads to such results. May God grant us understanding and the true spirit of repentance, for His name’s sake.

– Martyn Lloyd-Jones

You Do Not Have Much Time

(Read this slowly and carefully with real meditation-MT)
Of the many video clips I watched of Billy Graham the week of his death, one in particular has stuck with me. Preaching in Southern Seminary Chapel in 1982, Graham said that at sixty-four years old, his greatest surprise in life was the brevity of life: ‘If someone had told me when I was twenty years old that life was very short and would pass just like that — I wouldn’t have believed it. And if I tell you that, you don’t believe it either. I cannot get young people to understand how brief life is, how quickly it passes.’
Time. Flying past us. Not enough of it. Slipping away from us. Always pressed for it. Wishing we were better at managing it. Feeling guilty we don’t have more for someone special or something noble. We are always running out of time. And Billy Graham is right — oh, how quickly it passes.
Time is a profoundly theological entity. An eternal God teaches creatures some of his greatest lessons in the vehicle of time. It has both a linear and a circular form — you can’t repeat time, even as it gives you many things on a repeating loop. All of it educates us about what God loves and about what it means to be human, giving us at least three great lessons.
1. THE PATH OF WISDOM RESPECTS TIME’S RHYTHMS.
‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1). It’s worth pausing right there, at the entrance to this most famous of reflections on time.
Scripture says there is a time for all things, but our world counters that, instead, all things can be done all the time. Most technology, for instance, has harnessed us to the lie that we can throw off the creaturely restraints of time and have access to everything always, without waiting, without stopping, and without needing to rest.
Electricity blurs the boundaries between working while it is day and sleeping while it is night. Our online life has become our timeless master, as several screens ping commands without end which we obey without question. Gyms, fuel stations, libraries, offices, and supermarkets are open 24-7 and we come to believe we can do everything all the time. There is no particular season for anything. We do what we want, when we want.
Wise people respect time’s rhythms. Dawn, morning, afternoon, evening, night. God made six days to work, one day to rest. This structures a week, which repeats over a month, and the months in years.
Many people try to live rhythm-free lives by simply doing whatever they feel like doing in any given moment, without proper attention to whether it is the right time to do that thing; this actually tears at the fabric of what it means to be human. We are now discovering that our constant, season-less attention to digital media is diminishing our personhood.
In years of pastoral ministry, I have not seen many families unravel who unswervingly observe the Lord’s Day together with deliberate joy and routine hospitality. I have witnessed others whose irregular devotion to the corporate body of the church is merely a symptom of the irregular rhythms in other areas of life.
2. THE PATH OF FOLLY SEEKS TO CONTROL TIME’S SEASONS.
Rhythms are not all there is in an ordinary life under the sun — there is ‘a time to be born, and a time to die’ (Ecclesiastes 3:2), there is ‘a time to weep, and a time to laugh’ (Ecclesiastes 3:4), there is ‘a time to love, and a time to hate’ (Ecclesiastes 3:8). These are seasons, not rhythms, for there is no predictability to their appearance in our timelines and often their presence takes us by surprise.
It takes the eye of faith to see that God ‘has made everything beautiful in its time’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11), because we often live with life’s ugliness and pain as much as its beauty and delight. Further, these are relational seasons: they involve people we love and lose, those we wrong and forgive, those we befriend and those who do us harm. We are profoundly relational beings and most of our lives are taken up with navigating the different seasons of our relationships and the effects they have on us.
Such seasons expose how little control we actually have over our lives. Zack Eswine says, ‘Many of our frustrations rise from our blindness to the change of season or to the pain or joy of them, and we struggle to adjust our expectations’ (Recovering Eden, 130). What do we do with those seasons which bring wrecking-ball damage to our tidy little realms? Where do we turn?
Ecclesiastes helps us to see that one of the seasons we do not control is the time for justice. ‘I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work’ (Ecclesiastes 3:17). There will be a time, one day, for divine time travel: ‘God seeks what has been driven away’ (Ecclesiastes 3:15). All the events of human history that have slipped through the hourglass of time into the past might be lost to us — but they are never lost to God. One day, he will dial back time and fetch the past into his present to bring it to account. Every time will have its day in court.
Foolish people seek all the answers to life in each and every season of life. But some seasons yield only questions, not answers. Some seasons bring a wound that will not heal; it might take a lifetime to learn that we ‘cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The story of my life has broken characters, jarring interruptions, unexpected joys and relationships caught up in unresolved tensions and difficulties. In God’s kindness I have, as yet, unfinished chapters. But my story is not the story. ‘The story reveals that there will be a time for judgment, and believers trust that judgment will finally prevail’ (Craig Bartholomew).
3. THE PATH OF LIFE EMBRACES TIME’S REVERSALS.
This perspective is the gospel’s now-and-not-yet voice speaking in the unfamiliar accent of Ecclesiastes. Today is the time of suffering and anguish, of work and pleasure, of toil and terror; tomorrow is the time of glory and judgment, of the resurrection of the body and life everlasting in world without end.
Now, this; tomorrow, that. The Lord Jesus fills our time with the unspeakable comfort of promised great reversals. Lose your life today for the sake of Jesus and his gospel; save it tomorrow. Gain the world now; forfeit your soul then. Be ashamed of Jesus in the time of this sinful generation; witness him being ashamed of you in the time of his coming in the glory of the Father and the holy angels (Mark 8:35–38).
Believers on the road to life know that the experiences of time can be reversed. The gospel turns the world on its head. Marred beyond human resemblance, the Servant of the Lord comes, in time, to shut the mouths of kings; buried with the wicked, he comes, in time, to divide the spoils of the strong (Isaiah 52–53). Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who are meek, who are hungry, those who lose everything in the here and now, for the day of reversal is coming and the reward will be great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5).
– David Gibson

God Works for Us

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. (Psalm 121:1–3)

Do you need help? I do. Where do you look for help?

When the psalmist lifted up his eyes to the hills and asked, “From where does my help come?” he answered, “My help comes from the Lord” — not from the hills, but from the God who made the hills. “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

So, he reminded himself of two great truths: One is that God is a mighty Creator over all the problems of life; the other is that God never sleeps. “He who keeps you will not slumber.”

God is a tireless worker. He never wearies. Think of God as a worker in your life. Yes, it is amazing. We are prone to think of ourselves as workers in God’s life. But the Bible wants us first to be amazed that God is a worker in our lives: “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who works for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4).

God is working for us around the clock. He does not take days off and he does not sleep. In fact he is so eager to work for us that he goes around looking for more work to do for people who will trust him: “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

God loves to show his tireless power and wisdom and goodness by working for people who trust him. The sending of his Son, Jesus, was the main way the Father showed this: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). Jesus works for his followers. He serves them. The gospel is not a “help wanted” sign. It is a “help available” sign.

This is what we must believe — really believe — in order to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and “[give] thanks always and for everything” (Ephesians 5:20) and have “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), and “not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6), and hate our lives “in this world” (John 12:25), and “love [our] neighbor as [ourselves]” (Matthew 22:39).
What a truth! What a reality! God is up all night and all day to work for those who wait for him.

– John Piper

Ministry Update

Beloved,

I know you have not heard much from us lately. And if you are concerned that RTM is going out of business for the Lord, well, don’t be worried. To come to that conclusion would be a judgment based on appearance, or in this case apparent silence, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Lord’s business has led us through a very massive transition in the last 16 months.

During that time, we have moved from full-time pastoral ministry to full-time evangelism, missions, and revival ministry. But that is not all the moving we have done. RTM has relocated to the great state of Texas. It is one thing to relocate personally, but to move a ministry is just as demanding. But we are here and enjoying the favor of a very good and faithful Father.

In the days to come, we will be resuming our weekly blogs and very soon launching a new and improved website. We are incredibly excited about the new site and its features. Also, new sermons will appear on both website and app.

The lack of sermons posted was not because of a lack of preaching in 2017. I preached almost 100 times in churches and conferences. Our failure to deliver to you those messages was due to lack of mobile equipment that I could carry with me. We are working on acquiring the necessary tools that will allow us to provide you both video and audio.

Speaking of preaching, today I leave on an international trip that will take me to a place that is best left unnamed. But I solicit your prayers for my ministry companion, one of the elders of Providence Chapel, Lee Dodd, and me as we speak to pastors and church leaders on the foundational elements of the Gospel. Lee will be addressing the doctrine of the fall and sin, while I will be teaching on the nature and essential elements of the Gospel according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 1-3. We will return next week.

Once home, I then leave for the Memorial Day weekend to Parkway Baptist Church in Carthage, TX, pastored by Barney Bryant. This church is dear to us, and it will be wonderful to see all our dear friends, the saints of Parkway Baptist. Pray that our great God will move in on us as we seek Him through His word.

We are not a large ministry but we serve a big God. Through your prayers and financial support, you and I are yoked in service unto Him who is worthy of our devotion. Christian service is not our ministry, but devotion to Christ is our work. Thank you for your loyalty to Him by your prayers for us.

Heartily,

Michael Durham

 

Timothy Paul Jones on the Necessity of Apologetics

I think the reason it is important for every believer to be able to practice apologetics is because if we are articulating the Gospel truthfully, clearly, and rightly, there is going to be resistance.

When we prepare people to do apologetics, we are doing two things good for them. We’re helping them, first off, not be surprised at resistance. Sometimes believers are surprised. “Oh my goodness, people are resisting my message,” and that’s because we haven’t trained them for apologetics. There is going to be resistance to you.

Secondly, it helps them to be able to recognize within themselves that their faith is not merely experiential or existential; there are reasons that make their faith plausible. That’s important because one of the things we’ve done in contemporary, evangelical Christianity is we have, in some sense, allowed people to think that your own experience of faith is enough. Just tell people about how you came to faith. Tell them your story.

That’s not entirely wrong but people have to realize that, at some level, if all you can tell is your own experience then somebody else is going to say to you, “Well, here’s my experience,” and when you’re in that circular loop of, “Well, I gave you my experience, you gave me your experience, and they don’t match up,” what’s going to get you out of that circularity of experience against experience?

What helps you get out of that, in a human sense, is being able to articulate reasons why your faith is plausible and makes better sense of the world than their faith does.

In a spiritual sense, only God’s Spirit can get you out of that circle of your experience versus their experience. But God’s Spirit works through human means and the means God uses to work through that is us being able to articulate reasons for our faith.

Most of apologetics is not being a guy up on a stage at a debate defending the faith. Most of apologetics is engaging with people at a personal level and being able to defend the faith at that level.

That’s deeply biblical. Look at 1 Peter 3 where it speaks of being able to defend the faith. What is given there in terms of being able to defend the faith is not given to the pastors, it’s not given to even any certain groups within the church, it’s given to the whole church to be able to give a reason for the hope that is in you.

-Timothy Paul Jones, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President for the Global Campus
C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry
Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Ministry

 

Jesus Died for this Moment

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

When the alarm went off at 4:59 am, I had a split-second thought of the utter realness of dying and standing before an utterly holy God with nothing to commend me but my own life.
The horror of it was only surpassed by the flash of reality: Jesus Christ died for this very moment.
Then it was gone.

My immediate sense was: This is the essence of what happens whenever someone is converted. This is how Jesus Christ is discovered to be real. This is how a person comes to cherish the love of Christ. Suddenly, for the first time, they see and feel, with the eyes of their heart, the undeniable reality of having to meet God with a guilty conscience.
The impact of that vision is devastating. It causes us to know that our only hope is a Mediator. Standing alone, with nothing to commend us but our own sinful life, we are utterly lost. If there is any hope for eternity in the presence of this God, we will need a Redeemer, a Substitute, a Savior.

At this point of terrible crisis, nothing shines like the gospel of Jesus Christ — “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). In the split second before he was there, I was granted to see the all-engulfing darkness and horror of the judgment — not a theological inference, not a merely rational conclusion, not a mere thought, but a glimpse with the inward eye full of knowing and feeling and certainty.

Our God is a consuming fire. He will not look upon evil. We are utterly lost. My guilt was so huge, so real, so unquestioned in that split second, that there is not even the remotest possibility of making excuses. It was sudden and all-enveloping and infinitely hopeless.
In this instant, Jesus is all that matters. O Christ! O Christ! Can my heart contain the wave of gratitude?! O Gift of God, my desperate and only need!
– John Piper

His Footsteps our Pathway

Psalm 87 is so good this morning! But one verse in it reminded me of growing up in a small moralistic and legalistic church in West Texas. There was no gospel preached in that church, and it was boring to me. But I have some vivid memories, one of which was the Sunday evening service, when they would always sing s specific song every Sunday night each week. I knew it was coming every time and I dreaded it– The Footsteps of Jesus. The first stanza was forever etched in my mind as a lost sinner growing into adulthood–

Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling,
Come, follow Me!
And we see where Thy footprints falling
Lead us to Thee.
Chorus–
Footprints of Jesus,
That make the pathway glow;
We will follow the steps of Jesus
Where’er they go.
The words meant nothing to me for years except as a religious memory. But I could have sung that first stanza and the chorus anywhere, anytime, by memory. Only later did I realize it was straight out of the Bible in Psalm 85:13–“Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway.”

His footsteps our pathway; what is the pathway for the believer laid out in Psalm 85? It is marvelous! To summarize—

1. The path of favor (vss. 1 and 3); In the gospel is favor. He has made known to us his salvation. Merciful and kind favor so undeserved! In His favor, all His wrath is gone toward us forever because of the cross–“You have taken away ALL your wrath and turned from Your fierce anger.” The redemption of the cross did this permanently for us. Now favor is ours always every moment– forever!

2. The path of restoration (vss. 1 and 4) “You have brought back the captivity of Jacob . . . . Restore us, O God.” Deliverance from the bondage and captivity of sin and being restored to life and freedom. What a path!

3. The path of reviving and joy (vs. 6) “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” The Holy Spirit gives this periodically, as we seek Christ and walk with Him.

4. The path of continual communion and obedience (vs. 8) “I will hear what God the Lord will speak; He will speak peace to His people.” This is the path of walking with Christ, hearing His voice, and joyfully conforming our lives to His ways, purpose, and path.

5. The path of gospel warning (vs 8) “But let them not turn back again to folly.” The gospel not only sets us free and encourages us, it not only strengthens and sanctifies us, it also warns us to not return to a path of past sin and this world again. It warns us to not turn back, not to look back, and to keep our hand to the plow. There is nothing in our past or in this vile world that can satisfy or help us. The past path of sin and worldly pleasure only robs the believer. It offers nothing for us except spiritual grief and danger. Keep on the path! Turn not back again to folly!

6. The path of promise (vs. 12) “Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.” The Lord will give what is good”; all He does is good and whatever He gives is always good for us, regardless of our evaluation of it. If it is not good for His child, He won’t give it; if it will do us true good, He gives it. Scripture says, “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” What promises the gospel gives us, exceedingly great and precious! We should feed daily upon the sweet and true promises of His Word. They are all ours, certain and unfailing–the path of promise!

7. The path of His footsteps (vs. 13) “Righteousness will go before Him and shall make His footsteps our pathway.” Picture it–His footsteps, the way of the Master, the path Jesus walked, the way He lived, the choices He made, the way of God’s commandments, the life of obedience He had–all of it is our pathway, which were His footsteps. His footsteps are the map set before us in Scripture, the highway of holiness, the path of obedience, and the steps of the Lord.

Wherever He leads, I’ll go–whatever He reveals, I will walk in that light–whatever He says, I’m bound with joy to do–what He wants for me is my daily bread, meat to eat that the world knows nothing about. Following Jesus is better than life itself. There is no other way for the Christian than one–His footsteps, our pathway!

– Mack Tomlinson