Believers or Quenchers?

Sadly the church in the affluent comfortable west is full of unbelief and unbelievers. It is the home of religious game-players instead of disciples.

Christianity has become a religion of convenience, where God is merely another commodity to add to life: a “fire insurance” to save us from a fiery eternity.

It has become a dead religion with no promise of life here and now.
A religion of excuses intended to rationalise our failure to experience what God has promised.
The result has no resemblance to the full life promised by Jesus.

All of the above smothers the gospel. Quenching it of any effect upon the lives of those who identify themselves as “believers” – and as a consequence rob the world of any hope of seeing Jesus as HE really is through their witness.

When Jesus said anyone wanting to be His disciple needs to “deny themselves” – He did NOT mean that we deny ourselves of the benefits God has provided to make us effective and fruitful ambassadors for His Kingdom.
In denying ourselves through excuses and unbelief, we are also denying the world of the gospel it needs to hear and see (in word and deed).

Many who identify as believers have no idea what “believe” means or what they are supposed to be believing. They claim relationship with God and yet have little idea of what God requires of them or what God desires for their lives. God becomes a lifestyle accessory instead of the LORD of their life.

Many have no desire to know or understand God’s will and put more effort into trying to avoid it (or explain it away) than accepting and submitting to it and desiring to grow in spiritual maturity.

For me the days of complacency and avoidance are over.

To live is Christ.

He is my life. I will love Him, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.

I will proclaim what He has done.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt 5) NIV

 

Choose Life 2: To Live IS Christ (13)

Sadly, many professing believers selectively reject God’s promises, having been taught to push aside His clearly stated will and obscure it behind convoluted, faithless theologies.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits –
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases (Psalm 103)

Why have we become so disobedient when remembering?
The Psalm commands that we “forget not all his benefits”.

All Christians gladly cling to the promise of the forgiveness of all sins – but many balk at the promise of all diseases being healed.

In previous posts I’ve looked at numerous OT and NT healing references, and have even considered the handful of cases where Paul and his companions experienced sickness. Overall I found the BIBLICAL evidence of God’s will regarding the health of His people is overwhelming.

God wants us to live a full life span
He wants us healthy.
He wants to heal when health has failed.

But all of those are conditional on our faith.

However, countless years (centuries) of faith-destroying traditions and theologies, have robbed God’s people of an important benefit that we have been told should NOT be forgotten.

If we can no longer believe in the promise of healing, how can we continue to believe in the forgiveness of sins?

Unless the validity of the promised healing ALL our diseases is accepted as equally valid as the promise to forgive ALL our sins, it will be impossible to have the faith required to be healed.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5) NIV

That promise regarding answered prayer highlights an essential requirement – knowledge of God’s will. Without that knowledge we cannot have the confidence to approach Him with our request, fully assured that He will hear us and give us what we ask for.

As Hebrews 11 says “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

If we lack confidence and assurance, we cannot act or pray in faith.

…when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1)NIV

Considering the above, how can anyone pray in faith for healing without first being convinced it is God’s will to heal?
Uncertainty leads to doubt – and therefore a failure of faith.
That uncertainty, instilled by tradition and false theology, exacerbated by the unanswered prayer for healing that false teachings have caused, has robbed many of their health and life.

I do not intend to be one of them and thank the Lord throughout every day for healing.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11) NIV

Does this all seem extreme?
My situation is extreme with no more room for playing it safe. no more room for compromise.
No more time to waste on man’s traditions, theologies, excuses and doubt-filled arguments.
Just time to seek God for HIS truth – which is the only Truth.

Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word (PS 119) NIV

turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body. (Prov 4 NIV)

Choose Life 1: To Live Is Christ (12)

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…

…The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die. (Genesis 2) NIV

God gave Adam a choice between life and death.
Two trees in the middle of the garden. One gave life. The fruit of the other led to death.

God also made it clear that His will was for Adam and Eve to choose life, by His command that they NOT eat the fruit of the tree that would bring them death.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God and chose death instead of life.

Fast forward to the time of Moses, after God freed Israel from the slavery of Egypt.
Just before the surviving Israelites were to enter the Promised Land, Moses gave them a message from God.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life… (Deuteronomy 30) NIV

Effectively God offered the same choice that He had given to Adam and Eve. Between life and death. Both choices were conditional upon obedience to God.
If they continued in obedience, life was promised.
Disobedience would lead to death.

The purpose of life was relationship with God: to love Him, listen to Him, and hold fast to Him. And HE made HIS will totally clear. He wanted them to choose LIFE, and to choose it NOW.

I find it interesting that God prefaces this promise by calling “the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you” – those last two words seem to clearly indicate that God knew that His chosen people would fail to keep the conditions of the promise, and by doing so choose death and curses. God wanted witnesses when His offer of life and blessings was rejected. Witnesses to attest to the fact that it was the people who had failed, it was not God going back on His word.

I mentioned previously, that although this life or death choice was part of the Old Covenant with Israel, and that Covenant was rendered obsolete by the introduction of a New Covenant – the new is based on better promises, and instead of obedience to a law with hundreds of separate requirements, the new covenant and its better promises are entered and obtained through faith. Through believing in Jesus, trusting Him and His word.

Too often Christians try to distance themselves from promises made under the Old Covenant by pushing them into the next life, as if the New Covenant is all about eternity in heaven, and no longer applicable to life on earth now.

Promises of healing? There will be no sickness and disease in heaven.
Promise of life? We’ll have everlasting life after death.

But the promises of abundant life, and everlasting life do not come with a clause delaying their commencement until after death.
Jesus said “whoever lives by believing in me will never die”. Eternal life begins by living a life of faith NOW, not after death. If we don’t enter eternal life now, it will be too late when we are dead.

There is a reason to desire life and health and its no different to the reason why God has always wanted His people to have them, to the extent that HE commanded the choosing of life.

Now Choose life so that you may live and you may love the Lord your God for the Lord is your life.

Or to put it in NT terms:

To Live is Christ

We are also misled if we look to the post-death healing of our bodies instead of believing for health now when we need it.

Some try to give Isaiah 53: 4-5 a spiritualised interpretation, insisting that any healing mentioned has an entirely spiritual, not physical application. They are aided a little by the English bible translators who used the word “suffering” to translate a word that elsewhere is always rendered as “diseases”;

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. (NIV)

Compare to the Complete Jewish Bible translation into English

In fact, it was our diseases he bore,
our pains from which he suffered;
yet we regarded him as punished,
stricken and afflicted by God.

But he was wounded because of our crimes,
crushed because of our sins;
the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him,
and by his bruises* we are healed

The latter rendering is later reflected in Matthew’s reference to Isaiah’s prophecy, which makes it clear in more than one way that Isaiah WAS referring to physical, not spiritual healing: not only in the rewording of the prophecy, but also in the events he said the prophecy was fulfilling.

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases. (Matt 8)NIV

In my attempt to discover God’s will regarding healing, the finding of a definitive answer was quite easy. Scripture makes His will very plain. We are not left in the dark with nothing to pin our faith to.

God wants His people to be healthy and to live a full life span. His command to choose life (now) is still valid – to enable us to serve Him and to love Him.

I recently read a healing testimony from the early 20th century.
A young man dying from tuberculosis wanted to see his family one last time to say goodbye. Instead he was confronted by a woman who combined selling bibles with preaching the gospel, who told him:

…you are young, you are a Christian, and if you died today, you would go straight to heaven. But I am here to tell you that if you die today it will be the most selfish act you have ever committed. God’s plan is that we should live to be at least three score and ten. What about all the people that God ordained you to reach?

(Christ the Healer, F.F.Bosworth, 2008 ed. Chosen Books p251 – chapter by Bob Bosworth)

He asked the woman to pray for him and was instantly healed. He then lived into his eighties, dying peacefully at home, suffering no sickness, after many decades of preaching the gospel (including healing) all over the world.

I can’t help but compare this testimony to Paul’s conclusion when he considered the alternatives: “to live is Christ, to die is gain”.

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith. (Philippians 1) NIV

I am convinced that scripture leaves no room for doubt about God’s desire for our health and life. I have to confess how hard it is for me to understand why so many people are not only ignorant of, or doubtful about, but are actually OPPOSED to the thought that healing remains valid, and would therefore reject any suggestion that God actually wants us to be equipped with health and life.

By declining to accept, believe and obey God’s command “Now choose life”, Christians follow the examples of Adam and Eve, and the people of Israel, choosing the alternative to God’s desire to give life and blessings to His people (i.e. death and curses).

Being Transformed: Testimony 9

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12)

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world.”
A simple command, but how seriously is it taken?

Clearly not seriously enough in my case.

We are surrounded by the world. We are in it every day of our lives. Remaining untainted by it is impossible, without taking active measures. We can’t afford to be passive, thinking we’ll remain immune from its effects while casually going with the flow. That’s as likely as staying dry if we are walking into a swimming pool.

While we won’t get noticeably wet at first, (just our feet on the top step), it only needs another step to be taken for our knees to be submerged, and not many more before we find ourselves committed to a full drenching.

Conforming to the pattern of the world is rarely as sudden or intentional as taking a headlong dive into the water. It starts with a dipped toe, then a tentative paddle.

The only prevention is the right kind of change. Transformation. We can’t remain static and expect to escape the effects of the world in which we live.

Paul reveals the MEANS of transformation: the renewal of the mind. Changing the way we think, amending our point of view, to bring us into line with and able to recognise God’s will.

But how do we do that? How is our mind renewed?

Psalm 1 gives a good indication.

Don’t walk in step with the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers, but delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate on it day and night.

Proverbs 4 echoes the Psalmists instructions.

“Do not set foot on the path of the wicked,
or walk in the way of evildoers.

Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.”

And

turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.

But we should not be lulled into the false security that may come with church membership, or the fact we are listening to sermons, or reading Christian books.
While they can sometimes be helpful aids, it is only through a personal connection to God’s word that we’ll get the essential mind-renewal leading to the right kind of transformation.
But it needs more than a regular bible reading plan. Meditating on what is read, BELIEVING it and putting it into action is essential.

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1) NIV

If we deny ourselves that personal, active involvement with scripture, we will inevitably expose our thinking to unhelpful, even dangerous patterns, that may not necessarily have a worldly appearance or flavour. They may even seem to be spiritual, and be endorsed by your church.

So if we want our lives to conform to truth, we need to choose to love the truth, and not be satisfied with anything less.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17) NIV

When To Live is NOT Christ (1): Testimony 6

My recent posts have been looking at the issue of God’s will regarding healing.
As I made clear at the beginning of this series of brief studies, it is MORE than an academic exercise, and for me is literally a matter of life and death.

What surprised me is how blatantly obvious the answer is: that God’s will for His people is health and a full life, so that we can live and love the Lord our God.

The scriptural evidence for this is overwhelming and should be indisputable, however, it’s a truth that many seem reluctant to recognise. At first that reluctance seemed puzzling, but then I realised I only needed to look at my own life to understand why.

Until recently it didn’t seem to matter too much to me. I’d never had any serious health issues, and anything I had faced was relatively easily fixed by a trip to the doctors – even if on the rare occasion it might mean the inconvenience of minor surgery.

It was a very pragmatic approach, requiring very little commitment from me, as well as no real challenge to my faith. And by challenge to my faith – I mean I never had to really consider the question of whether I actually HAD faith – at least faith that mattered; faith that actually achieved anything, to produce any fruit. There was never any urgent need, I had a mostly comfortable life and any difficulties were minor in comparison to so many others.

What a difference a serious cancer diagnosis can make!

Complacency was no longer an option.

Not only did I need to consider God’s willingness to heal – there was also the question of why I found myself in this situation.
But don’t get me wrong. The question of “Why Me?” didn’t arise, and neither did any feeling of unfairness. I know these things happen. A lot of people get sick. A lot of people die from their sickness. The fact that I’d previously lived a reasonably healthy life seemed to be a blessing in itself.

However, if I was going to consider, and discover, God’s will regarding the health of those professing to love Him, the answer could also mean facing the reasons that His will might not have been done regarding my own health.

If God’s will is for health and life [AND IT IS!] then what went wrong in my case?
Why did my health fail to such a serious extent?

Clearly the problem came about through MY shortcomings  – not God’s.

To Live IS Christ (11). God’s Clearly Stated Will.

In previous posts I’ve tried to address what scripture says about God’s will regarding healing, to see what kind of foundation we have to believe that He wants His people in health.
So far I’ve given mostly New Testament references, however there are many in the Old Testament. Rather than address selections individually, I’ll provide links to several after this post.

However, I consider the quote I give below embraces and confirms everything else that could be said about God’s healing and the physical well-being of His people.

I tried to emphasise, as much as possible (uppercase, bold, italics), what I see as the they key phrase in the quote.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. NOW CHOOSE LIFE, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life… (Deut 30 19-20)

God starts this section by saying he has set before the people of Israel clear choices.

Life or death.
Blessings or curses.

However He doesn’t merely offer them the choice, then step aside to let them consider it. He continues with a command – HIs choice – HIs will for them.

HE tells them “NOW CHOOSE LIFE”.

Any other choice is NOT God’s will for them. HIS will is NOT the death of His people.

He continues with the reasons why they should choose life:

so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

He then makes a statement that I understand is echoed in Paul’s later words to the Philippians, that I have used as the theme for this series of posts. “To live is Christ”.

He says: “For the LORD is your life”

Now some might try to dismiss the Deuteronomy quote as being part of the Old Covenant and related to the law given through Moses to the people of Israel, and therefore try to deem it as now irrelevant, outdated or superseded.

But the writer to the Hebrews takes care of those objections when he writes of the superior ministry of both Jesus and the covenant over which He is mediator:

the new covenant is established on better promises.

The New Covenant does not come with lesser promises and assurances than the Old. *

The New Covenant does not deny us the choice of life that God offered (commanded): A life lived to love Him , listening to His voice, and holding fast to Him.

For He IS our life, and to live IS Christ.

NOW CHOOSE LIFE!!!

_____________________________________

*  Also see Romans 10 and compare to the wider context of Deuteronomy 30. This confirms the continuing relevance under the new covenant, through Jesus.

OT healing references.

NOTE:  The context for the following promises include conditions of obedience found in the full reference linked.

Exodus 15:26  “For I AM the LORD who heals you.”

Exodus 23: 25-26  “I will take away disease from among you…I will give you a full life span.”

Deuteronomy 7: 12-15 “The LORD will keep you free from every disease.”

Psalm 91: 14-16  “With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 103: 1-3  “Praise the LORD… Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.”

Psalm 107: 17-21 “He sent out His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave.”

Proverbs 4: 20-24  “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”

Isaiah 53: 4-5  “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. (refer also Matthew 8: 16-17 and 1 Peter 2:24 for confirmation of the continuing relevance of the Isaiah prophecy. Particularly note that Matthew makes it clear it refers to physical healing and not merely a spiritual application as some now insist.)

Psalm 119 has many references to God’s promises of health and life – as an outcome of obedience to His word. (“preserve my life according to your word”,  “Your promise preserves my life”, “give me understanding that I may live”.

To Live IS Christ (10): Testimony 5

Previously, I asked:

So why do we so often make excuses and try to find reasons to justify ongoing sickness?

A possible reason is that sections of scripture, even the New Testament, can be cited as examples that seem to suggest that God doesn’t always choose to heal.

As you know, it was because of an illness that I [Paul] first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn (Gal 4)

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses (1Tim 5)

Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. (2 Tim 4)

Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier… longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him.(philippians 2)

Surely those examples of sickness in the lives of Paul and his companions offer countering evidence to the idea that God always desires to heal?

It seems so – but do they?
Firstly, none of those illnesses led to death. They recovered.

At best those examples can show that God doesn’t always heal miraculously or instantly, (but He didn’t leave them sick), while the last one actually credits God mercy with Epaphroditus’s recovery, so is not a good example of God not being willing to heal.

And then there’s the favoured anti-healing reference to Paul’s thorn in the flesh; often linked to the illness mentioned in Galatians, but with no real justification for doing so. According to Paul the thorn was not an illness, it was a satanic messenger (angel) sent to torment him because of the great revelation he had received (and was sharing).

I addressed this issue here many years ago : Thorny Thoughts so won’t go over it again here.

Compare those four references and one dubious thorn interpretation to the many cases detailed in Jesus’s healing ministry and the continued ministry of the church throughout Acts, and the provision of healing gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit, and the instructions given by James , and Peter’s reaffirming of Isaiah’s prophecy  and where does the overwhelming New Testament evidence point regarding Gods will and willingness to heal? (examples here).

In closing this post I have two suggestions.

Firstly it might be more productive to take note of that overwhelming evidence of God’s willingness to heal than in trying to find reasons why He doesn’t. Which of those practices do you think would be most effective in building the faith required to pray in genuine faith?

Secondly, also considering that overwhelming evidence of God’s willingness, we ought to expect that IF God’s will is not to heal a particular believer in a particular case,  then that outcome ought to be considered SO out of the ordinary that He would give a specific and personal unmistakable direction to that person regarding the denial of healing.

In other words, instead of trying to find if it’s God’s will to heal, be confidently assured of healing according to what He’s clearly revealed in His word. And if He has some reason to withhold healing in a rare particular exemption, expect Him make THAT known through some form of personal revelation.

Expect healing unless personally advised otherwise by divine revelation.