Armed with Faith

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:4-6).

“I know God is the boss, but it’s like the Devil is my direct supervisor,” lamented the young man as he unburdened his heart.  It sounds easy to say, just remember who is the boss and do what he says, regardless.  But in this case it is not just easy, it is biblical.

Why does God delight or find pleasure in those that fear Him?  In Hebrews 11 we are told that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the confidence in things unseen.  When we are sure that we are believing in the God who created the universe, who sustains our every breath, and who purchased our salvation with his own Son, then we are in a position to face the worst of supervisors.  In Hebrews 11:6 we are told that this is the faith that pleases God.  In this confidence Job could say, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him” (Job 13:15).

When I worked in Indonesia, I was determined to live with my family despite the conditions that led everyone else to fly in for 5 days and out for 2 every week.  We chose to live at the company’s transshipment port on the tip of a small island.  At the time, the work camp had an active bar and brothel, and in his correspondence with me and senior managers, the port supervisor made it clear that my family, as “Little House on the Prairie” representatives, was not welcome.  When I asked Jim Wilson about how hard I should push, he said, “Pray and go.”  But to pray and go, I had to believe that God as The Boss was at my back.

Similarly, the fount of sin inevitably bubbles quietly out of deep cracks in our faith or belief about the God we serve.  When our fear in the Lord is shaken, we are not in the position to delight, commit, or trust our ways to Him.  Without this faith, we are without armor and vulnerable to deepening doubts and more presumptuous and flagrant sin (Psalm 19).  So, when temptation strikes, look upstream to see what you are fearing.

“The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.  Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty” (Psalm 93:3-4).

Identity in Christ

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” (Ephesians 5:1)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8)

For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ʻFor this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.ʼ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:30-32)

In this well-known chapter of Ephesians, it is easy to focus on the “to dos,” particularly for husbands and wives. We should pay attention to the context as Paul continues to frame the expectations for our behavior on an underlying identity. The theme of “in Christ” or “in Him” runs like a strong current through this letter, and Paul does not miss the chance to reinforce this identity even while giving instructions for imitating Christ. But if we stop with just the command to imitate Him, we will quickly find ourselves overwhelmed.

Paul begins chapter 5 with an exhortation to imitate God because we are His children. Our imitation should follow the fact that we have been connected to Christ such that we are indeed children of God (1 John 3:1-2). The family resemblance naturally follows being part of the family. Paul continues this theme with verse 8: “But now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” As he works through the roles of submission and servitude in marriage, Paul does not miss the opportunity emphasize that he is tying these expectations to our identity in Christ. So in verse 30 he says, “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” Then he follows this up with a quote from Genesis 2:24 where he says that the union of Adam and Eve is a description of Christ’s relationship to the church. The great mystery is that we are intimately joined with Christ. That is our identity.

Based on this reality in Christ, we can make practical applications to what we do. For example, our intimate relationship with Christ means that when we pray we are not asking God to cross the universe to hear our prayer. No—we are like a nerve in His body sending a signal to the brain. We are in pain! We are in distress! We are in pleasure! Our “Head” knows because He is connected to that nerve. Our Savior responds, nourishing and cherishing us individually and corporately as His body. The lesson for us is to remember our identity and the church’s position in Christ (our forgiveness, redemption, sanctification and son-ship) so that we naturally imitate our Savior who is all things.


Dearly Loved Children

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:2-6)

This familiar passage will be read at many Good Friday services. But we may know it well enough to miss the totality of the message. Jesus did not leave the Father and Spirit to take on flesh for a possible salvation. Jesus did not suffer the shame and pain for a partial victory. Jesus was not punished by God for most of our righteousness. Jesus was not crushed for our iniquities so that we might be set on the road to recovery. No—God laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all to heal us completely and to make our peace with Him.

While this truth seems self-evident, many live by a different standard. Paul reminded the Roman believers that the Jews were zealous for God, but they were ignorant of God’s righteousness and sought to establish their own. We can celebrate the completion of Christ’s work on Easter and then slip back into a life marked by striving to gain God’s pleasure through our efforts to be better. Frustrated by God’s standard of perfection or even our own watered-down version, we stumble along bereft of the joy of knowing that we are His beloved because we are in the Beloved!

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Hold fast to the truth that you are dearly loved children. It was Christ’s death that purchased adoption. Only as we look to our loving Father will we see clearly to imitate the love of Christ in the power of the Spirit—giving thanks in all circumstances as we are led by our Father’s hand.