Friday, May 16, 2014

Overcoming the Enemy with a Wildcard

"This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!"
Psalm 34:6-8

This passage has become one of my favorite over the years because it is a personal testimony of how God has given me increased victory in spiritual battles that I have faced. A few weeks ago I came upon it in my Bible reading plan, and I just felt the need to journal about how God has been encouraging my heart and teaching me victory over the enemy.
The heading of Psalm 34 tells us that David wrote this Psalm right after he escaped the clutches of Achish (also called Abimelech), the king of Gath (See 1 Samuel 21). David was so afraid of being destroyed by this king that he pretended to be insane, and he sat there spitting and slobbering into his beard. This is a worse case scenario, an act of desperation; a wild card so to speak. Perhaps David had rehearsed this in his mind, or maybe he was thinking on the fly. Either way, his plan worked, and King Achish wants nothing to do with him. David is free from his enemy, and so he pens the words of Psalm 34.
Given what David had just experienced, here are 3 quick thoughts about overcoming the enemy.

  1. It is our inadequacy that drives us to rely on the Lord.
    We will never "have what it takes" to conquer sin. It isn't until we come to the end of ourselves (and our tactics and methods) that we will be truly desperate for the Lord and the power of His gospel. Often we find ourselves like David - embarrassed, inadequate and in shame - with metaphorical saliva running down our beard. But it is in this place of humility that we find Jesus Christ is everything we cannot be.
  2. It is God's power alone that delivers us.
    We are sinners, unable to secure our righteousness. But Jesus was our substitute. He lived a perfect life, died a cruel death, and came to life again securing victory over sin! This gospel is a sweet sound (truly good news) to those beat up by the struggle against sin. Only when this marvelous gospel overtakes us and we stand in awe and fear of God can we begin to experience deliverance over sin. We must see God for who He really is - the God who created the universe with the breath of His mouth; the one who can take life just as easily; the one who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. He is the only one who can destroy the powers of darkness. Our battle with sin is a cosmic struggle, and we need the angel of the Lord who encamps around those who fear God.
  3. God's victory is satisfying.
    This is the truth. No doubt about it. The only satisfaction we will find is in a pure relationship with our Maker. When we begin to experience increasing victory over a life-dominating sin, we find ourselves singing David's song of "Taste and see that the Lord is good!" However, too often believers settle for anemic portions of the Word of God and prayer, all the while filling themselves with the sinful fare of the world. This does not satisfy, and always leaves us empty. After the initial burst of sin's sweetness is gone, we are left with a rancid, rotting taste that brings shame, frustration and disillusion.  
There are times in life where we find ourselves like David did in 1 Samuel 21 - helpless and hopeless. But take heart! We have a wildcard that trumps Satan every time - the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. 
Victory does not come through the numeric value of our "hand". We cannot play the "card" of our accomplishments.
Let's lay our hand down and play the wild card.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

With all that is in me

Psalm 103.1.ESV
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.

This is the Bible verse I am memorizing this week, and after Sunday's sermon about loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength I began thinking about what it looks like to bless the LORD with all that is within me.
How can we bless the LORD anyway? Seems He is the one who is keeper of all blessing; and what could we possibly give to Him to increase His worth? Surely our God is infinitely worthy, and we cannot improve His nature or character in any way, and yet we are told to bless Him repeatedly.
In this passage we are to bless Him with all that is within us!
Here is the main takeaway for me - when I take everything I am (my body, my mind, my heart, my energies, my passions, my dreams) and I exert them all to declare God as the beautifully supreme God that He is - I am blessing Him.
This must bring Him joy, and while it doesn't "improve" His character, it does shine glory on Him, which is why I'm here.
And why shouldn't I give all that is within me for His honor and blessing? Let us remember "all His benefits", how He "forgives all our iniquity", how He heals the disease of selfish sin in us, how He "redeemed our life from the pit", and how He "crowns us with steadfast love and mercy".

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Responses to the Gospel

Last night we talked about different responses to the Gospel, and this morning I read Matthew 26 for my devotions.
I am always amazed by the stark contrast between the woman who lavishly and literally poured out everything for Christ, and Judas - who greedily gives up Jesus for some shiny silver.

Those who embrace the gospel and love Jesus will give up whatever it takes to have him. However, those who reject the gospel will ignore Jesus and embrace other things as their savior - and some of these individuals appear to have walked with Jesus for years.

How do we view possessions - to be used up for Christ's glory and fame, or to be sought after at any cost?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

When God brings poverty
14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.

When we are confident in our abilities and resources, we wrongly assess that we don't need God. And so we live our life selfishly and extravagantly - not extravagance for the glory of God but for our own desires.
This of course saddens God's heart and is a major attack against His glory - which is why we have all been created in the first place. In fact, that is the  very reason that we are given abilities and resources -to make much of Him.
An inheritance like the one the prodigal son received was intended to be invested, and yet it was squandered on self-gratification. How many times do we do the same?

It is in these times that God awakens us to our real need for Him. Without his provision, we find ourself bankrupt and impoverished. In our independence we are reduced to the position of a farm animal.
I don't believe it brings God joy to bring this poverty into our life, but He brings it all the same so that our focus shifts from us to Him and the richness of His salvation.
At the end of the day it matters very little how much is in our bank account or how much spending money we have. Instead, the real question is - are we in communion with our Father, feasting on the bounty of Jesus Christ? That is true extravagance.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Something Old and Something New

Our hope for this new year can be found in:

Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."

I love the last 6 words in this passage - "Therefore I will hope in him."
Why do we hope? I find two key reasons in this passage.

First, hope in something old -The steadfast love of the Lord.

I am so thankful that year to year, God's character never changes. He remains faithful to His promise, and this is something we can take refuge in.

But there is also hope in something new: The fresh mercies of God.

While God never changes, we do all the time, and sometimes our life seems upside down. Whether we are going through the valley or we are on the mountaintop, we have access to the grace of God, which is supplied each new morning.
Great is His faithfulness!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Better than Gideon

This passage was in my reading this morning -

"As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. And the people of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side."

As you read through the book of Judges, one is struck with the crucial influence of each judge. Just when the nation of Israel gets into deep trouble, God graciously provides a deliverer who leads the people out of oppression and towards more authentic worship of Yahweh.
Yet as soon as that leader dies (if not before), the people plunge themselves straight into idolatry once again.
It causes me to wonder why so much hangs on individual men (and a few women like Deborah) who are made of flesh and blood like every other human ever created.
Where are all the good men? Where are all the leaders who are able to carry Israel through the difficult times without a judge? Perhaps if there were more men with integrity God's people would not have experienced such yo-yo conditions.

Of course, when we examine even Gideon's character, we come to grips with the fact that even he was not above reproach during his life. Particularly towards the end it seems that his many wives and concubines led him astray and he himself flirted with idolatry.

All of this drives me to focus my attention more on Christ, who was far better than Gideon ever could be. He is the True Judge, the Great Deliverer, who lived a life of uncompromisable integrity. Even in His death (especially in His death) our Savior was righteous, and because of His perfection we can also be righteous.

What would our churches look like if they were filled with mighty men like Gideon?

Better yet, what would our churches look like if they were filled with men  better than Gideon; men who are living with the integrity that only Christ can provide? Imagine that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tasting Death for all Mankind

As I was reading this morning in Leviticus, it struck me that one of the differences between the animal sacrifices of the Levitical system and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (who was the perfect and final sacrifice) was suffering.
As far as I can gather from reading through the Old Testament Law all animals were killed for the sacrifices in a quick and exact way. The point was not to make the animal suffer-  rather the point was that the price needed to be paid; and it seems that God was merciful in the way that He instructed the priests to slay the animals.
But, when we think of Christ and how He suffered for hours it causes me to pause and consider this difference. Why did Christ suffer? Wouldn't it have been more humane for God to arrange a quick death for His Son? Wouldn't the price have still been paid and sins atoned for? Wasn't it most agonizing for the Father to see His Son suffer as He did?
We certainly can not plummet the depths of why God arranged redemption as He did, but we do know a couple things from Scripture-

  • Old Testament prophecy demanded that Christ suffer.

Acts 3:18
"18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled."

Hebrews 2 gives the following reasons:

  • That Christ might be crowned with glory and honor

  • That Christ might taste death for everyone

  • Christ's obedience was perfected through suffering

  • So that Christ might be a merciful and faithful High Priest

  • So that Christ might help us when we suffer temptation

Hebrews 2:9-18
"But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,12 saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

13 And again,“I will put my trust in him.” And again,“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

  • Christ suffered as an example so that we might know how to endure suffering in this life

1 Peter 2:20-23

20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly."

I believe that the wretched nature of our sin required that Christ suffer, and I am filled with joy this morning that my Savior took that upon Himself so that I will never have to taste the death that should result from my sin.

Praise God for the glorious gospel!