Joe Sperling shared a couple of encouraging posts this month on the Assembly board that are especially good for those of us who still have the lovely combo of BG and GG’s messages in our subconscious: GG – “Strive harder or you’re going to lose out eternally “, (we are going to make it, George, God says so), and BG – “You must perfectly excel in every smallest thing you do, even cleaning the grout in the tile, in order to be an Overcomer.” Is anyone else still plagued with these internal rules? GG’s threats don’t bother me any more, thanks to a revised theology, but I still have a little Betty in me criticizing every cotton pickin’ thing I do – not so much the tile grout, but my daily walk with God – “You didn’t pray enough today, you haven’t been reading your Bible enough, your attitude has not been full of perfect joy and peace, I hear inward grumbling,” and on and on and on…..Here’s is Joe’s encouragement:
April 2 – This one is for GG.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”. (Heb. 12:1,2)
I think we can all remember as little kids when we left with our parents on a long drive to a vacation spot, or maybe to visit some relatives. The drive would start out with great excitement and joy. But as we all know, kids are very impatient, so not too long afterward the excitement would abate and the perpetual question “Are we there yet?!!?” would begin to fill the air, followed by squirming, and a lot of moaning and groaning.
What had happened (and it is only natural) is that the “focus” was gone—the future excitement and thoughts of the destination were replaced by the present reality of confinement, repetition, and impatience. Often though, when one of us kids would start talking about what we were going to do once we got there the excitement would return.
The above is a very lame example, I’m sure, but as Christians we need to recall “what we’re going to do when we get there” also, but of course, on a much larger scale. This current life is filled with a sense of “confinement” and repetition. We grow impatient, and all of us truly at heart hate trials and struggles. It is only natural. We are human. So, we need to stir ourselves up at times. We need to remember the day of our salvation and the deep joy, and huge excitement we experienced!! We need to meditate on Scriptures that bring to remembrance our Heavenly hope, and the Loving Savior who will embrace us there!! We need to “look away onto Jesus” and remember that the Bible says he “ever makes intercession for us”—-he is praying for us and cheering us on during this life we are living—and because he prays we will not fail. Even as he said to Peter when he stated that “Satan had desired to sift him as wheat” he added with assurance, “But I have prayed for you that your faith fail not”. Peter may have stumbled greatly, but because Jesus prayed for him he was restored, and ended his life in great victory!!
When we “run with endurance” it doesn’t mean we won’t ever fall. It means we get back up if we have stumbled, and again “look away onto Jesus” and recall our salvation, and the promises that Jesus made to us then. His promises are still the same–“I go to prepare a place for you” is a promise just as real and true now as it was when you read and believed it the first time. We know we aren’t “there yet”, though we may squirm, moan and groan like little kids at times, and complain. The important thing is to focus once again—-read Romans 8, Hebrews 12, Revelation 21 and other Scriptures that speak of that blessed destination we all hope for—–and especially that most blessed person, Jesus, who yearns more for our arrival than we do! That truly is something to get excited about!!
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
April 21 – this one is for BG.
“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them”. (Hebrews 7:25)
I mentioned this verse just recently, but it has really stuck with me since then. The verse mentions “us” and it mentions “Jesus”. And what can a stumbling, mumbling, grumbling person like me do to be saved? Absolutely nothing. All I can do is “come to God through Jesus” and admit my sinfulness, weakness, pride, and inability to do anything. And what will God do? He is “able to save me completely” (The KJV says “to the uttermost”) as a result.
And why? Because of my faithfulness and moral character? Because of my striving and good works? No. It’s because Jesus “always lives to intercede for me”. I mentioned Peter before. Peter denied the Lord. Why did he repent and return? Because Peter was a very moral person? Because Peter was a good-hearted guy who saw how wrong he was? No. Peter repented and returned because “Jesus prayed for him that his faith would not fail”. Jesus KNEW Peter was going to deny him—-but because Jesus prayed for him he did not utterly fall like Judas did.
Sometimes we are tempted after a particularly long streak of being really “good” to think God is looking down and saying “Boy, that Joe sure is a faithful, good guy. Look how he strives, look how hard he works. Because he is doing such a good job, I’ll continue to love him”. But then, as we are all prone to do at times, we fall. Now, we are tempted to think God is looking down and thinking, “Boy, that Joe used to be a faithful, good guy. He used to strive, and work really hard at being good. When he gets back to being a good person again, I’ll love him more also.”
Sounds stupid—but some of us are prone to think that way. We need to remember that Jesus prayed for Peter BEFORE he even denied him. Satan wanted to “sift Peter” and Jesus said “I HAVE prayed for you that your faith fail not”. That is important to see. Jesus ALREADY KNOWS how and when we are going to fail. He saved us DESPITE what he already knew about us, and what we were going to do.
The Father doesn’t love us because of what we do, or how faithful we are—–He loves us because of WHO WE ARE IN JESUS. It’s hard sometimes to see that and remember it–we are so prone to self-condemnation. That is why God gave us Romans 8:1 “There is therefore NO CONDEMNATION to them who ARE IN CHRIST JESUS”. We may “feel” condemned, but God assures us WE ARE NOT. The Father looks to the Son, and the Son is interceding for us weak, stumbling sheep—and because of that alone—-WE CANNOT FAIL. If it were left to me I’d run headlong into hell, and I know it. But I CANNOT FAIL, because Jesus is “always interceding for me”. Like Peter, I may stumble and fall. But I can be assured, because Jesus prays, I will get up again, and finally reach my final destination.
What a comforting, wonderful reality—Jesus is interceding for us. Even at this very moment we are all in his prayers. “Know ye not that it is the goodness of God that leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)