Job Shows Perseverance Doesn’t Mean Perfection

Job is the New Testament example of a persevering saint. James 5:11b says, “You have heard of the perseverance of Job.” How did he persevere? He persevered the same way everyone perseveres—by maintaining faith in God. Twice Satan predicted he would curse God, and at one point his wife even told him to do so (Job 1:9-11, 2:5, 9). He rebuked his wife saying:

“You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (2:10a).

Basically, he said, “As readily as we accept God’s blessings, we must also accept the trials.” Then he succinctly described what it means to persevere when he said:

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (13:15a).

He declared that no matter what happened to him, he would maintain his faith in God.

Be Encouraged Comparing Yourself with Job

Comparing ourselves with Job can be discouraging. Who wants to think they must endure trials as well as he did? We should be encouraged though because he was far from perfect. Trials bring us closer to perfection, which means we are not yet perfect. Sin has affected every part of us, including the way we respond to trials. Job is an example of this.

James 5:11 says, “You have heard of the perseverance (or patience) of Job,” but did he look patient? Did he remain calm, speaking up only to give praise to God? Did he “count it all joy” when experiencing his trials, or did he express frustration and even criticism of God, regarding his suffering?

Job’s Criticisms of God

9:23—“If the scourge slays suddenly, He laughs at the plight of the innocent.”

This is a strong accusation. He said God mocks the pleas of those killed. Continue reading “Job Shows Perseverance Doesn’t Mean Perfection”

3 Reasons to Be Encouraged by God’s Discipline

When we experience God’s discipline because we sinned (versus suffering because of a trial) it hurts. Hebrews 12:11 says:

For the moment all chastening seems painful rather than pleasant.

Making it more difficult is the fact that God expects us to receive His discipline well. First Peter 2:20a says:

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?

God expects us to humbly accept His discipline the way parents expect their children to receive discipline without kicking and screaming. This can be very difficult! Fortunately, the author  of Hebrews provides a number of reasons believers can still  be encouraged by God’s discipline.

1. God’s Discipline Means You Are His Child

Hebrews 12:6–8 records:

“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

When we sin and God disciplines us, we can be encouraged that He does so because He loves us. We want to be confident in our salvation, and experiencing discipline allows us to say, “God is my Father. I am His child.” When I see other people’s children misbehaving, I do not discipline them because they are not my children. God acts similarly toward unbelievers. Sometimes people sin and it looks like “they are getting away with it.” Either God is giving them time to repent, or they are not His children.

2. God’s Discipline Means You Are in His Hands

Prior to pastoring, I taught elementary school for almost ten years. When students disobeyed, I regularly found myself wondering what the appropriate punishment would be—detention, suspension, time out, or call parents? Circumstances make things even more complicated. What is the punishment for a student who lies once, versus a student who demonstrates a pattern of deceitfulness? What about a student who mistreated a student for no reason, versus a student who acts out when provoked? Continue reading “3 Reasons to Be Encouraged by God’s Discipline”

Am I saved? Seven tests to know!

“Am I saved?” is one of the most important questions we can ask. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said many people are deceived about the answer:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul commands:

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”

Here are seven ways to do that, but first, two introductory points:

  1. I taught messages on six of the tests at Woodland Christian Church. Links to each message are below.
  2. First John was written, “that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). As a result, 1 John is referenced more than any other book.

Test 1: Have I experienced godly sorrow that produces repentance?

Here’s the accompanying message.

Repentance is required for salvation, and it comes from godly sorrow over our sin:

2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly sorrow produces death.

Worldly sorrow is the sorrow in:

  • Courtrooms across the country when the verdict is read
  • Children when they find out they’re going to be punished
  • Adults when they find out they’re going to suffer because of something they’ve done

Basically, worldly sorrow is regret or shame, not because of the sin itself, but because of the consequences. It has no redemptive value. Continue reading “Am I saved? Seven tests to know!”

Responding in Anger

Responding in Anger After King Jeroboam set up his golden calves and introduced the nation into idolatry (1 Kin 12:25-33), a prophet was sent to rebuke him and give him a sign that the altar he’d recently built would split apart (1 Kin 13:3). At that point Jeroboam faced the same two choices we face when we’re confronted:

  1. Be humble and repent.
  2. Get angry at the person confronting us.

You can probably guess his choice…

1 Kings 13:4 When King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God [he said], “Arrest him!” Then his hand, which he stretched out toward him, withered, so that he could not pull it back to himself.

Proverbs 9:8 says, “Do not correct a scoffer or he will hate you” and that’s exactly what happened with Jeroboam.

When we’re confronted we might all feel like pointing at the person and saying, “Arrest him!” but the verse shows how God felt about Jeroboam responding the way he did, and I believe it’s instructive regarding how God feels when we respond angrily when we’re confronted.

1 Kings 13:5 The altar also was split apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.

Jeroboam’s anger didn’t change anything: the prophecy still came true. And the same is true for us: getting angry doesn’t change anything. Usually it just makes things worse. This is exactly what happened with Jeroboam:

  • He continued with his wickedness: 1 Kings 13:33 After this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way.
  • His lack of repentance led to his death and the death of his descendants: 1 Kings 13:34 [Jeroboam’s sin] led to the destruction of his house from the face of the earth.
  • Jeroboam’s son Nadab became king, he was murdered by Baasha who took the throne in his place, and that was the end of Jeroboam’s dynasty (1 Kin 15:25-33).

If Jeroboam had repented instead of getting angry, he and his descendants could’ve been spared judgment, but he’s an example of what Proverbs clearly shows: responding poorly to correction always leads to terrible consequences…

  • Proverbs 13:18a Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction.
  • Proverbs 15:10b He who hates correction will die.
  • Proverbs 15:32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul. Why does it say this? Because the consequences of getting angry when corrected are so severe it’s almost like punishing yourself.
  • Proverbs 29:1 He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

The next time you feel yourself getting angry, remember your anger won’t improve anything. It will probably just make things worse: James 1:20 the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

The situation with Jeroboam can serve as an example…

When we’re confronted and we feel ourselves getting angry – we want to point at our husband or wife or children or parents or friends or coworkers – picture Jeroboam pointing at the man of God and having his hand wither as a result.

  • Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger…be put away from you.
  • Colossians 3:8 Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice…9 since you have put off the old man…10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.

When we respond in anger we’re forgetting who we are in Christ and we’re living as the old man instead of the new one.

Fasting in Response to Sin?

Fasting in response to sin

Yesterday’s sermon briefly discussed restitution and whether it’s an appropriate response to sin. This got me thinking about other responses to sin (besides the most obvious: repentance), and in particular, fasting. If you’d like a more detailed discussion of fasting please listen to these two sermons I preached:

  1. 3/30/14 “When you fast…”
  2. 4/6/14 Fasting and Food

For now I just want to discuss the two instances in Scripture of people fasting following sin…

The first situation involves – believe it or not – King Ahab, one of the wickedest men in the Old Testament. He learned he was going to be judged by God and “He tore his clothes…and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning. [God said], ‘Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days.’” (1 Kin 21:27-29).

The second situation involves one of the wickedest groups of people in the Old Testament: the Ninevites. When they learned they were going to be judged it says, “[They] believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jon 3:5, 10).

In both situations the people’s actions clearly pleased God, but it’s important to know it wasn’t their fasting that moved God:

  • In Ahab’s case it was his grieving and humility that delayed judgment.
  • With the Ninevites it was their mourning and repentance that brought God’s forgiveness.

The real question is whether fasting is an appropriate response to sin for us, Church Age Believers? The answer is…maybe. While it seemed to be pleasing to God in the Old Testament, we don’t see it commanded, encouraged, or even modeled in the New Testament as an appropriate response to sin. The closest verse would be Jesus’ words about fasting when mourning: “The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days” (Luke 5:35). If mourning is an appropriate time to fast, and you happen to be mourning over your sin, then it could be appropriate to fast too. For many people if they’re really upset about what they did, they probably don’t feel like eating anyway.

Finally, I think it’s very important to point out this isn’t penance. You don’t fast to be forgiven. Forgiveness only comes from what Jesus has done, and not from anything we could do.

2 Examples of Receiving Correction Well

The bible has a lot to say about the importance of receiving correction well. Consider the following verses just from the Book of Proverbs:

  • Rebuke a mocker and he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you—Proverbs 9:8-9
  • Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid—Proverbs 12:1
  • He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored—Proverbs 13:18
  • A fool spurns discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence—Proverbs 15:5
  • He who hates correction will die—Proverbs 15:10b
  • He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise—Proverbs 15:31-32
  • A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool—Proverbs 17:10
  • Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise—Proverbs 19:20
  • Rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge—Proverbs 19:25b
  • When a wise man is instructed, he gets knowledge—Proverbs 21:11b
  • Like a an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear—Proverbs 25:12
  • A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed – without remedy—Proverbs 29:1

Two recent examples of people receiving correction well…

A young man asked me to listen to a message he preached. I was a little hesitant to do so for two reasons: Continue reading “2 Examples of Receiving Correction Well”

3 Reasons Conversion Doesn’t Involve Restitution

One of the more common questions I receive as a pastor sounds like this: “What sort of restitution do I need to make for my sins after conversion? I committed all these sins before becoming a Christian, so what should I do about them now?” Here’s the most recent question I received on the subject:

Scott,
As I reflect on my past and my many sins I am more aware of how wretched and worthless I am. I am also convicted of sins I wonder If I need to undo.

For example, when I was 16 and I worked at Ross I stole clothes. I am pretty sure I don’t own any of those clothes now, nor do I know the amount or worth of what I took. However, will I go to hell if I don’t find a way to pay them back? There are so many other things I could list.

I feel like my past is like Humpty dumpty, and I can’t fix it.

Here are the three reasons I don’t believe we need to try to go back and make right all (or even some) of the sins we committed before becoming Christians…

First, restitution doesn’t need to follow conversion because there are too many sins to count.

We can’t remember all the sins we committed before becoming Christians. Even for the sins we can remember, we often don’t have the means to make restitution. Using the previously mentioned theft from Ross as an example, the person doesn’t still own the clothes, know the value, etc.

If we thought restitution should follow conversion, for most of us it would take the rest of our lives trying to make things right. My heart would really have to break for any deathbed conversions: “I want to be saved, but I don’t have the time to…” When I was saved I knew the importance of living for Christ and dealing with the sin currently in my life, but past sins are in the past. They’re paid for by Christ.

Second, restitution doesn’t need to follow conversion because Zacchaeus is descriptive, not prescriptive.

We can experience many problems in the Christian life when we look at accounts in Scripture and think we’re commanded to do the same. For example, Acts 4:32 says:

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.

The early church shared all their possessions and lived very communally. This is descriptive, but not prescriptive (commanded). How do you know what is descriptive versus prescriptive? Simple. Look for a command in the epistles. In this case, there is no command that our possessions be shared with all other believers.

Zacchaeus is another example. Luke 19:1-9 says:

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.”

Although Jesus commanded Zacchaeus to come down from the tree, he didn’t command him to give away half his possessions and restore fourfold. Zacchaeus chose to do this on his own, but we’not commanded to do this prior to becoming Christians.

Third, restitution doesn’t need to follow conversion because salvation involves repentance, not restitution.

Salvation involves repentance, which means turning from our sins. As a result, when we’re saved we must strive to ensure patterns of sin in our lives are broken. But nothing in Scripture says repentance also means going back and fixing the mistakes we’ve made.

If restitution was required for salvation not only could nobody be saved, salvation wouldn’t be by grace through faith. The point of the famous hymn, “Just As I Am” is God wants us as we are, not as we would be after we make some number of things right. We don’t have to do anything to be accepted by God except repent and put our faith in Christ.

With that said, restitution could need to follow conversion if…

Soon after college I badly hurt a girl, and by extension, her family. My actions bothered me for years. At first I thought it was guilt. Then I thought the Holy Spirit was burdening me to apologize.  I found the girl’s mother on Facebook and asked her to forgive me. Although I thought of messaging the girl too, I thought hearing from me would probably cause more pain than comfort. I did invite the mother to share with her daughter how sorry I was if she thought that best.

The Holy Spirit can convict you to make some form of restitution for past sins:

  • Ask for forgiveness from someone you hurt
  • Repay someone for something you stolen
  • Tell someone the truth after a lie you told
  • Fix the reputation of someone you slandered

If God convicts you to perform some form of restitution, by all means obey the Lord. Will it affect your salvation? No, but it will affect your sanctification and spiritual peace.

Discuss questions for the comments section:

  • Why do you agree or disagree with this post?
  • Can you thin of any other reasons restitution is not needed following conversion?
  • Has the Lord ever burdened you to make some form of restitution? Can you share the details?
  • Can you think of some other ways God might convict people to make restitution?