Friday, March 16, 2018

Christian, please fight for your faith (Part 3)

We enter a war zone when we cast ourselves upon Christ and His saving work. We are no longer His enemies. Instead, we have a new enemy, and conscientious objection in this conflict is not an option.

As I said in Part 2 here, the Bible is one of the means of grace God has provided to help us persevere in the battle against falling into unbelief. Here are two more:

2. The gospel

We must not only know and believe the gospel. We must understand the gospel's benefits to us. We must remind ourselves of the gospel. As is often said in evangelical Christian circles, we must preach the gospel to ourselves.

The New Testament describes the gospel work of Jesus in His life, death and resurrection, and it also explains what our Savior accomplished for us. As a result of this saving work, we are counted righteous in Christ by God the Father. There is no longer any condemnation for us. All of our sins are forgiven. We are children of God whom He disciplines and loves with an everlasting love. We are united with Christ. Our identity is in Him. He is our life.

We must rehearse these gospel truths, as well as others, if we would survive and subdue in warfare. We must jog our memories regularly about our gracious salvation and all the benefits that flow from it.

In his book A Gospel Primer for Christians, Milton Vincent says the pieces of the armor of God described in Eph. 6:11-17 are essentially different ways of depicting the gospel. "That God would tell me to 'take up' and 'put on' this gospel armor alerts me to the fact that I do not automatically come into each day protected by the gospel," Vincent writes. "In fact, these commands imply that I am vulnerable to defeat and injury unless I seize upon the gospel and arm myself with it from head to toe."

The gospel of Jesus is a vital weapon in our battle against unbelief.

3. The church

The church isn't an option in or a supplement to the Christian life. Nor is it a frill in the fight for faith. The church -- the local church, that is -- is essential to the perseverance of each follower of Jesus.

The corporate gathering of the church in a weekly rhythm unites us with our fellow saints in confession of our faith in Christ. It involves us in a pattern of worship -- adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication -- we are wise to follow as households and individuals. We proclaim the gospel to one another in singing, praying, reading, preaching, teaching, serving and loving.

With our brothers and sisters, we enter into the kind of friendship and fellowship that provides a safe place for us to share our sins, fears, anxieties, burdens, trials, sufferings and losses. With one another, we learn we are not alone in the battle. With each other, we understand we can be vulnerable, because grace reigns. We need grace, and we give grace. With one another, we are reminded we are united in pursuing the goal of Christ-likeness. We encourage, challenge, pray for and even confront one another so that we all might continue to trust in Jesus.

Enduring in belief is a corporate project. The church plays an indispensable role in each saint's completion of that effort.

-- Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Christian, please fight for your faith (Part 2)

A Christian will "hold fast" (I Cor. 15:2) to the gospel of Jesus and continue in the faith to the end, but that does not mean he or she will do so without a fight. As I said in Part 1 here, the war we enter as Christians when we are saved is real, and it has no conscientious objectors who will survive.

I commend to you three vital means of grace God has provided to help us persevere until we are with Christ. While they apply to overcoming a variety of sins, I point to them in this series of posts as weapons in the fight against falling into unbelief. The first is this:

1. The Bible

If we would continue in the faith, we should maintain trust in God's Word. Our deceitful enemy, Satan, would have us question the Bible's infallibility and authority. Once we doubt -- and continue to doubt -- the trustworthiness of any part of the Word, we are vulnerable to a slide into mistrust of all of the Word, including its testimony to the saving work of Jesus. Such doubt left unresolved leaves us prey to the devourer, who will consume our faith and us.

Billy Graham, who passed away Feb. 21, faced a crisis regarding the Bible's truthfulness nearly 70 years ago. How he responded made all the difference for him and his ministry, and it serves as a model for us.

Some of Graham's friends and associates began to reject the inerrancy of Scripture, and he began to question intellectually if the Bible could be trusted. The crisis reached a climax one night, when Graham settled the issue once and for all in a forest. On one occasion, he said of that pivotal evening:

"And I took this Bible, and I said, 'Lord, I don't understand all about this Bible. There are many things I cannot explain.' And I remember laying the Bible out on a stump, and I said, 'Lord, this is Your book. I'm going to accept it by faith like I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ by faith and He saved me and changed me and transformed me. I'm accepting this as Your Word by faith.'"

Graham's trust in Scripture resulted in his constant appeal to its authority in his preaching. He became known for saying time and again, "The Bible says." The salvation of many in his meetings over the decades seems to testify to the power and fruitfulness that comes from believing Scripture's truthfulness.

While there are questions in Scripture we should try to answer, ultimately you and I are faced with this question: Do we trust the Bible's testimony of itself -- that it is the fully infallible, totally trustworthy Word of God? On numerous occasions since becoming a Christian, I have responded to questions that arise in my own mind about the Bible in this way: God, I don't understand this and I can't explain everything, but I reaffirm my belief that this book is Your Word and I will continue to trust that it is without error.

Trusting God means to trust His Word. The Bible is a gift to God's people. Trusting its truthfulness is critical in the life-long war in which we are enlisted. That means believing all God's promises therein and all He says therein about Himself, about us and about His saving work. Let's not waste the powerful weapon God has armed us with in His Word.

(Part 3 will address other means of grace in this battle.)

-- Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash