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Faithful Obedience, Not Miracles

“When Herod beheld Jesus, he was very pleased for he had wanted, for a long time, to see him because he had heard about him and he hoped that he might do some sign for him. So, he questioned him with many words, but he would not answer him.”

(Luke 23:8-9)

 

We all want a magic show, don’t we. We want the skies to part and God’s blessed voice to pronounce to us what by faith we ought to embrace. We want rumbles of thunder to accompany our preaching and miracles abounding to attest to our ministry. I had a friend who once told me, “It would be easier for me to believe that God is real if he would just come down from heaven and show me.” The sad thing is that God has done just that and it did not change the unbelief of wicked men. God spoke from heaven at Jesus’ baptism and people wrote it off. Jesus worked numerous miracles during his ministry and people were attracted to the performance. Everyone wanted to see the spectacle…even the jaded Herod…but unbelief is unbelief no matter how many miracles are worked in one’s presence. Judas witnessed many of Jesus’ miracles firsthand, yet still sold his master into the hands of the wicked.

Miracles do not generate faith. Faith is generated by the Holy Spirit as he gives new life to our sin-dead souls. Miracles are meant to confirm faith — to attest to the truth of who Jesus really is — not to set up a circus act. Thus Jesus did no miracles when he was in the midst of his unbelieving home-town and he will do no miracles here in the presence of Herod. Such is the judgment of God — the wicked left in their rejection and wickedness, the blind remaining so.

Pastors and churches, too, often fall into this trap in a different way. They call a new pastor and expect that in a year or so all of the problems of the church will be resolved, it will be growing and thriving, and they will be enjoying the good fruit that is characteristic of a long and enduring ministry. But that is the point, to see the fruit of a long and enduring ministry, the congregation must learn the patience to allow their pastor, barring any major sin, to have a long and enduring ministry while also submitting to his teaching and leadership. The miraculous is not the mark of the true church; faithful obedience to God’s word is.

Driving out the Nations; Crushing the Strongholds

“He drove out peoples under us;

Nations under our feet.”

(Psalm 47:4 {verse 3 in English Translations})

 

“The God of Peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet — the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”

(Romans 16:20)

 

The Biblical testimony is consistently that if you remember the things that God has done for you in the past, that ought to help you remain faithful in the present. In other words, it is coming to terms with the principle that God has always shown himself faithful, why do you think that this particular crisis will prove to be any different. Historically, when the people remember their roots, God blesses them as they seek to pursue Him; when they forget, they fall into sin and disobedience — often in extreme ways.

In this case, the psalmist is looking back to the conquest of Canaan. A time when none of the opposing nations could stand before the people of Israel as they entered. Even that event, though, was marked by the disobedience of the people and ultimately some Canaanites remained in the land. God allowed them to remain to be a thorn and a snare (Judges 2:3) and to teach them war (Judges 3:2). Even so, it is God that established them in the land; it is God who is the warrior of Israel; and it is God that will cast out the nations before them. Had they been faithful to God in that task, things would have been quite different than they ended up.

Yet need we simply see this as an ancient mandate? By all means, no! The God we worship today is the same God that led Israel through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. He is quite capable of leading us through whatever situation and trials we face in our lives today. Granted, we are not facing wild tribes of Canaanites that want to kill us and whose cities we are to commit to destruction, but we are facing the devil who wants to kill us spiritually and whose strongholds in this world (including those in our lives) we are called to tear down (2 Corinthians 10:4; Matthew 16:18). Will you be faithful is putting these sins to death and tearing down the strongholds that they have created in your life? Will you engage the strongholds of sin in your community as well, seeking to marginalize their influence over your life, your family, your church, your school, your nation? Praise be to the God who crushes those strongholds underneath our feet.

This is Our Message (1 Corinthians 15:11)

“Wherefore, if from me or them, in this way I preached and in this way you believed.”

(1 Corinthians 15:11)

 

            Paul has returned to his starting point.  This fact of the resurrection of Christ, he says, is the heart of his preaching.  Without the resurrection, there would be no good news for man.  There would be no hope for anything beyond this life except eternal condemnation.  The resurrection of Christ is the surety we have been given that points to our own resurrection.  This is an essential of the faith.  Paul is saying that there is no Christian preaching apart from this fact and no one can come to faith apart from this fact.  If one denies the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ, one cannot be a Christian.  It is that simple.

            All too often, when we think of the afterlife, we only think in terms of the spiritual.  Some of this is a result of the tremendous influence that Greek philosophy has had on our culture, which taught that the spiritual was good and the physical was bad.  One of the things that Paul goes out of his way to show us in this chapter is not only the reality of the physical resurrection of Christ, but later on he will talk at length about the physical resurrection of us.  The point is that the Greeks were wrong and the conception of floating around in spiritual bodies forever is also wrong.  There is indeed an intermediate state, where we will be with God in spirit and our bodies will be kept in the grave, but that state is not final.  There will come a time when Christ will return as he left, with a shout all of those who are dead in Christ will rise up from the grave and be reunited with their spirits and they, along with all believers who are still alive, will be caught up in the air with Christ in glorified bodies.  Those who are unbelievers will also rise to life once again, but will be raised for the purpose of eternal condemnation.  Eternal life will be physical—though without the negative effects of sin.

            Friends, I hope that you look forward to that day.  It will be a day where you will be restored to a body that will be free from sickness and disease, free from aches and pains, and free from weakness.  It will be a day where we will work, but without frustration or toil.  It will be a day when hope is transformed into the reality of Christ’s presence.  What a glorious time that will be!  Praise be to God!