August 11, 2017

God Is Faithful To Finish What He Started

INTERESTING FACTS : "Nobody seriously believes the universe was made by God without being persuaded that He takes care of His works." - John Calvin

DAILY READING : Isaiah 64-66

TEXT : Isaiah 66:9 "Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God."

TRUTH FOR TODAY : God Is Faithful To Finish What He Started

In the beginning of Chapter 66 we find God calling out for the true worshipers, those that worship Him in spirit and in truth, and standing strongly against those that worship him only outwardly in form.? He says "He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol."

But God Himself ordained the sacrificial system - the killing of ox and goats.? And it was God who instituted offerings and incense.? How can He now say that the things He Himself ordained are equivalent with sin and uncleanness?? Because those who were doing them were only doing them outwardly.? There was no repentance or contrition in these acts.? It was just a ritual - a formula.? "And if I just follow this formula", they thought, "then I'll be accepted by God, not matter if my inner position is one of humility or pride."? In other words, this people was near to Him with their lips, but their heart was far from God.

Oddly enough it was these false worshipers who were against the true worshipers.? And in this chapter God is promising the true worshipers that there will be deliverance from the oppression.? But in verse 9 God also addresses a fear about this deliverance.? A fear I think many of us have wrestled with from time to time when it comes to God intervening on our behalf.? That fear is ... when?? And if we dig deeper I believe that fear really is...is it really going to happen?? Is God really going to deliver me?? Is He really going to provide for me?? Will he really keep the promises He says He will - and if so, then...when?

God addresses this issue and says "Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth...shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb?"? What He wants to know is if we really think He's going to start this great work, and then just abandon it.? Do we really think that at the apex of it all God is going to have enough, and quit?

There is a verse written by Paul in the New Testament that I think resounds the sentiment God is conveying in this verse.

"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:[Philippians 1:6]"

I love how Paul starts out this verse.? He doesn't start out saying he has a "pretty good feeling" about this.? He's not saying that he hopes it all ends up ok or that the evidence is leaning in this direction.? No, he says he is confident.? Completely persuaded without a doubt in his mind - this is something that he knows in his soul is a fact.? And what is that?? That he which started the work in us (God) will be faithful to complete it.

I venture to guess that if I asked any of you, "why are you a Christian", there are some answers I most likely won't hear.? From those who are truly born again you probably won't hear answers like :
"Because I thought it was the right thing to do"
"Because I've always been a good person anyway"
"Because I looked over the evidence and it just made sense to"

For the born again, when confronted with the reasoning of why they are a Christian but their neighbor isn't, I venture to guess you'll get one of two answers :
"I don't know"
"The grace of God"

We may not be able to explain to you why we are born again and our neighbor isn't, but this much we do know - it's not our doing.? We didn't start this.? It wasn't because we are smarter than others, or better than others - it wasn't something that came from us.? We love Him because He first loved us.? God initiated this.? God is the one that began this work in us,? God is the author of this new life in us.? And Paul tells us in Phil 1:6 that he is absolutely convinced that the God who started this work in us is going to see it through.? He will not abandon us.

There is a similar verse found in Hebrews, who some assume Paul to be the author of as well.? In Hebrews Chapter 11 we have what some call the "Hall of Faith" as the author of Hebrews lists those who lived by faith.? Just following that chapter we have these verses :

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. [Hebrews 12:1-2]"

In these verses the writer of Hebrews refers to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith.? He lets us know that Christ not only started this work in us by His grace, but is also going to be there to complete it.

One thing about these verses I'd like to point out - In reading about the "great cloud of witnesses" that surround us - I always took it to mean that these heroes of faith where watching us and cheering us on.? Like we were in a coliseum and it was our turn to fight and those that had gone on before us where in the stands witnessing us fighting and encouraging us on.? I always thought they were witnessing "us".? I don't see this verse that way any longer - that the "great cloud of witnesses" is a pantheon of "watchers" cheering us on.? What they are witnessing was not our journey, but rather God's faithfulness.? This is a cloud of people who witnessed God being faithful to them as they put their faith in Him.? I believe what the author of Hebrews is saying is not "let us run well because there are a bunch of people who made it before us who are watching".? But I believe he is saying we should be encouraged to run well and not faint because there are so many people who have gone before us who can witness and testify to the faithfulness and steadfast love of God.

So what is it you are facing this day?? Are you wrestling with a sin that you are wondering if you will ever get the victory over?? Are you going through a hard time where it feels like the darkness and depression around you is so thick that it is suffocating?you and you are losing hope that you will ever see even a stream of light from the end of the tunnel?? Are you trying to grow in a certain area of your Christian walk and just can't seem to get to where you want to be?

Don't be discouraged - God hasn't left you alone. ?He hasn't started this work in you and then walked off to leave you to yourself.? He has promised to see us through, and so though we may not know the answer to "when", we can have confidence that it will happen.
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