What is Christian Joy?

Here is part one of a two part sermon series on Christian joy that I preached this past Sunday (if you prefer, you can listen to it here):

Charles Spurgeon, instructing a group of seminary students on sermon delivery, said, “When you speak of heaven, let your face light up with a heavenly gleam. Let your eyes shine with reflected glory. And when you speak of hell–well, then your usual face will do.” As funny as that is, there is some truth to it. Sadly, too often, Christians lack joy in their life. And I am hear today to exhort you with Paul the apostle, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). Elsewhere Paul wrote, For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). As Christians, joy ought to be a characteristic of our life. Others should know of your joy in the Lord. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit AND Jesus says in John 15 that one of the reasons that he came is so that His joy may be in us and so that our joy may be full (John 15:11). So once again we are called to rejoice in the LORD, and not just some times but ALWAYS. But in order to understand and appreciate and heed this command we need to understand what true Christian joy is this morning, which is fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Theme: Christian Joy

  1. What Christian Joy Is and Is Not (Part 1: morning sermon)
  2. How We Cultivate Christian Joy (Part 2: afternoon sermon)

1. What Christian Joy Is and Is Not

Phil Ryken says that, “Joy. . .is not so much happiness as contentment. Joy is the ability to take good cheer from the gospel. . . It is not, therefore, a spontaneous response to some temporary pleasure. It does not depend on circumstance at all. It is based rather on rejoicing in one’s eternal identity in Jesus Christ.” And is this not what Paul says in Phil. 4? He doesn’t just say, “rejoice!” He says, “rejoice IN THE LORD!”, not rejoice that things are going well for you right now or even though things are going bad for you right now, stop being such a Debbie Downer and rejoice anyway. NO! Paul says, rejoice IN THE LORD. In fact, speaking of contentment, Paul goes on and says: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13). And remember, Paul was writing all of these things while he was in prison for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.

Another way to define what Christian joy is and is not is as Tim Keller puts it: “Joy is delight in God and his salvation for the sheer beauty and worth of who He is. Its opposite is hopelessness/despair, its counterfeit is elation that comes with blessings not the Blesser! Mood swings based on circumstances.” So you see Christian joy is NOT simply a happy-go-lucky attitude despite what I am going through; Nor is it mere optimism for the future; Nor is it mere happiness in present circumstances that are good (these are all counterfeits to what real Christian joy is. . .not that these things are necessarily wrong. . .they just aren’t to be confused with genuine Christian joy because even a non-Christian can have these things). Furthermore, Christian joy is not incompatible with sorrow and grief. . . You see, the opposite fruit of joy is not sorrow as one would think. Rather the opposite fruit of joy is as Keller points out, hoplessness/despair.

You see, Christian joy is much more deep and profound than these things. It truly is a fruit that can only be produced by the Holy Spirit that only Christians can have. Simply put, Christian joy is rooted in the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ and is produced in us by the Holy Spirit through faith in God’s Word. R.C. Sproul: “The mandate of Christ, “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world,” is not superficial cheerfulness or irrational escapism but is grounded in cosmic reality.” And so, a Christian sermon on joy is not a superficial happy clappy pep rally despite our present circumstances. . .rather it’s a deep, heartfelt, Spirit-wrought rejoicing in the Lord that’s rooted in God’s Word to us about Christ’s present circumstances and our union with Him. Now, all of that said, where do we see this in the Bible?

Well, once again, the Bible reveals this to us in many places. Joy is an attribute of our Triune God. All three members of the Trinity delight in one another and they delight in the work of their hands in Creation and Redemption. But the supreme revelation of God for us is the person and work of Jesus. He is the one who bore the fruit of the Spirit perfectly in his life on our behalf, for our salvation, and as our supreme example. And He is the vine and we are the branches, apart from Him we can do nothing. But as we abide in Him and behold His glory we will bear much fruit by the Holy Spirit. And so we must look to Jesus to know what Christian joy looks like. And the author of Hebrews talks about Jesus’ joy in Hebrews 12: “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).

Here we see that Jesus had joy in his life. But as I said earlier joy in the Christian life is not incompatible with sorrow. It often overlaps with sorrow in our life. And we see that especially with Jesus. The author of Hebrews tells us that it was for the joy that was set before him that Jesus endured the cross. And when he says that Jesus had joy, he doesn’t mean that Jesus had some kind of superficial happiness on the way to the cross, and especially while he was on the cross. In fact, we know from Isaiah 53 that Jesus is characterized as being a man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief. But you see his delight, his joy, was in the knowledge that he was being obedient to His Father’s will and redeeming His people. Isaiah 53 also tells us that through suffering, Christ would see his offspring, and that his days would be prolonged and that the will of the Lord would prosper in his hand. He goes on and says, Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous” (Isa. 53:11). You see, Jesus didn’t take joy simply in suffering and dying on the cross. Rather, he took joy in knowing that he was redeeming his Bride. He took joy in knowing that one day he would see his bride walking down that aisle, white and glorious, at that wedding supper of the Lamb in the new heavens and new earth. And he took joy in knowing that it would please his Father and bring him great glory.

How do we cultivate the joy of Christ in our life, that same kind of joy that he experienced even as he went to the cross? We all long for that kind of indestructible joy, don’t we? J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the epic trilogy Lord of the Rings, in his essay “On Fairy Stories”, says that every good story is a reflection of the Gospel story. All good stories have some kind of catastrophe that gets to a point where it seems like the protagonist has no way out, where all hope is lost, and it’s all going to end in tragedy. But then there’s that great turn of events where the hero is saved, his enemies are conquered and they all live, what?. . .happily ever after. Tolkien even came up with his own word for this type of story. He calls it a eucatastrophe. Eu is a Greek prefix which means good. So a eucatastrophe is a catastrophe that turns to good in the end. And Tolkien says that the stories we love most are eucatastophes. And it’s true. I saw three movies this week with my wife (we went on a date night binge since grandparents are in town to babysit our kids). And all three movies had some catastrophe that turned to good in the end. And that’s because we are all longing for redemption. In this world of sorrow, we are all longing for indestructible joy in the end. And Tolkien says the only difference between those stories that we love and the Gospel is that the Gospel is the eucatastrophe that came true! The life, death and resurrection of Christ is the eucatastrophe of human history. And Jesus says to you and me today, as he said to his disciples: So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). 

But we don’t have to wait until heaven to experience that joy now. Jesus was originally speaking about his death and resurrection appearances. They had great sorrow when Jesus was in the grave but then he rose from the dead on the third day and appeared to his disciples and they rejoiced greatly to see him face to face once again, risen victorious over the grave. And Jesus gave them his Spirit so that no one would ever be able to take their joy from them (John 20:22). And he gives you and me His Spirit as well to produce the joy of the Lord in our hearts more and more until Christ comes again to bring us into the glory of the new heavens and new earth where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore at God’s right hand (Gal. 3:13-14; Gal. 5:22; Ps. 16:11). In the words of Peter: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:8-9).

Faith is a Gift: Don’t Give Up Praying For Your Loved Ones

This is the first point of a sermon I recently preached in two parts entitled “We Believe: The Doctrine of True Faith.”

The first thing that we confess about faith is that faith is a gift from God.

Saving faith is not something that we can, in and of ourselves, conjure up from within. Remember that the Bible describes our condition before conversion as being dead in our sins and trespasses. And so if we are to ever believe, God must first regenerate our hearts by his Holy Spirit. The way the Bible describes this is as a new birth or a spiritual resurrection, both of which are images of something that we can’t initiate or do.

What were you doing before you were born? Did you decide to be born? Did you say, you know what I would really like to be born and I want these parents over here and I want to be born in this country in this location (perhaps you would or wouldn’t have chosen Saskatchewan if you had a choice!)

The same could be said of dead people. Dead people don’t do anything. They can decide to be raised. Lazarus didn’t say, “you know what I would really like to be resurrected by Jesus today, and so, I have decided to make myself alive again.” Nor did he say, “I hear you telling me to rise up and come forth Jesus, now that you’ve done your part, I will now do mine.” I mean these things are just funny and absurd to think about.

You see the new birth is a miracle! And faith is a gift from God. If you believe in the person and work of Christ, it’s because God made you alive and gave you the gift of faith. This is the clear teaching of the Bible:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul tells us that faith comes, not of one’s strength or virtue, but only to those who are chosen of God for its reception. Paul puts it this way: “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”

“Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 6:23).

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:29)

“One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14).

More verses could be given. But these are enough to prove that our confession is based on what the Bible clearly teaches. And so we confess that: “We believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts an upright faith” (Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 22).

One Qualification

That doesn’t mean that God believes for you. Rather, once God makes you alive you are the one who believes. It’s like when a blind person is given the gift of sight again. Once that miracle takes place they are the one’s seeing. But without the miracle in the first place they would never see.

Two Applications

1. Give thanks to God for the faith that you have! If you believe in the person and work of Christ it is because God loved you unconditionally before time began in Christ (Eph. 1:3-6). It has nothing to do with anything good in you but everything to do with God’s unconditional electing love in Christ. To God alone belongs the glory in your salvation (Rev. 7:10)!

2. Pray for God to open the hearts of others like he did Lydia in Acts (Acts 16:14). It should give you hope for your loved ones who do not know Christ, no matter how stubborn they are, that faith is a gift from God. If he could open the heart of Saul of Tarsus, who was once one of the greatest enemies of Christ and His church, and transform him into Paul the Apostle, who wrote most of the New Testament and suffered and died for the faith, then surely he can open the heart of your friend or family member who does not know Christ and refuses to repent and believe. And so don’t give up praying for the salvation of your loved ones, (even your enemies!), who don’t know Christ. Faith is a gift from God. May He be pleased to “kindle in [their] hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ with all His merits, appropriates Him, and seeks nothing more besides Him.” Amen!

Faith After Failure

Here is the first point of a sermon I recently preached on Genesis 13. The context is that Abram just failed a test of adversity in Genesis 12 when he forgot God’s promises and walked by sight instead of by faith. That got him into a worse situation but God came to his rescue and demonstrated his unchanging faithfulness to his promises. Here then is how Abram responded after that failure, a lesson that we all need to learn:

As Chapter 13 begins, we see how Abram dealt with his failure. And what’s the first thing that he did? He went back to square one. He didn’t mope around in Egypt or look for somewhere else to dwell. Rather, he returned to the Lord and retraced his steps. And so, we read in v. 1ff: Gen. 13:1  So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb. . .3 And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the LORD. So Abram returns to the promised land and calls upon the name of the LORD.

Beloved, what kind of faith do you have? Does failure lead you away from the Lord or does it cause you to return to the Lord in repentance and faith? Trust me, I know that after some moral failure it is easy to just spiral downwards, where you’ve sinned in some way and you are acutely aware of that fact and so it leads you to perhaps become depressed and to sulk, or it leads you to sin even more in the same way or in some other way. Either way, you feel so terrible that you avoid God altogether, as if that’s going to help. How many of you have ever been there?

I believe that David understood this feeling when he said in Ps. 32: 3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. You see, when we are aware of our sins and failures we sometimes feel sick within and we just turn inward and avoid God which only makes it worse. But then David goes on to say: 5  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. 6 Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; You see, now is the day when we find God in forgiveness and grace in Christ. The opening of the Psalm says: 1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity.

Our God is a gracious God. As we sang earlier the words of Psalm 103, “Good is the Lord and full of kind compassion, most slow to anger, plenteous in love; rich is his grace to all that humbly seek him, boundless and endless as the heavn’s above.” Beloved when you sin and fail like Abram did when he didn’t trust God’s promises, you need to remember that God is merciful and gracious. He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). It would be unjust for him not to forgive us in Christ, because Christ is our advocate and the propitiation for all of our sins (1 Jn. 2:1-2). And so, return to God in Christ without delay. He is like the prodigal son’s Father to us. He runs to us in forgiveness in Christ. Nothing will separate us from his love for us in Christ, even our own failures (Rom. 8:37-39).

And so, that’s the first thing that we learn from our text, that the life of faith after failure returns to the Lord to seek His forgiveness and to worship Him once again as our Lord. A genuine sign of maturity in the faith is how quickly you return to the Lord in repentance and faith after you have failed.

(If you’d like, you can listen to the rest of this sermon on Gen. 13, entitled “The Life of Faith After Failure,” here under “morning sermons”).

What the Bible Has to Say About Demons

Yesterday I posted the first half of my catechetical sermon on the topic of angels and demons. You can listen to the whole sermon here. Here is the second half of that sermon on what the Bible teaches on demons. Once again it’s important to consider this because God has revealed to us in his Word these things and because far too many Christians have gotten their theology of Satan and demons from movies like The Exorcist or other science fiction movies and books. And we learn at least three things about demons in the Bible.

II. The Biblical Teaching on Demons

A. The Origin of Demons

First, we learn about their origin. They are once again created beings. And as I said before they were originally created good. But with Satan they fell into sin and rebellion. And the Bible doesn’t go into great detail about that sin and fall, but it seems to imply that in some way Satan sought to exalt himself above God. This would make sense in connection with the way that he tempted Adam and Eve in the garden. It also ties in with 1 Tim. 3:6 which seems to imply that pride led to the fall of angels: 1Tim. 3:6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Also, there are two texts that speak of the fall of the angels: Jude 6 and 2 Pet. 2: Jude 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 2Pet. 2:3 And in their greed (speaking of false prophets) they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; (so too will he not spare the wicked from judgment though he will spare the righteous). And in the gospels we see that the demons are quite aware of their future judgment: Matt. 8:29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” So with regard to their origin, they were originally created good but they rebelled with Satan.

B. The Head of the Demons

And this brings us to the second teaching of the Bible concerning demons, namely their head is Satan. The name “Satan” means “Adversary” or “Opposer.” And that’s because he opposes God and his people. He is also called “Abaddon/Appollyon” which means “the Destroyer” because he is bent on the destruction of God’s plan of redemption and destroying the image of God in man (Rev. 9:11). He also is known in the Bible as “the Devil” which means “the Accuser” because he loves to accuse God’s elect (Rev. 12:10). We of course know of his roll in the temptation of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3). Jesus describes him as a “liar” and “the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44) and as the “ruler of this world” who has been cast out (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Paul refers to him as the “god of this world” who “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2Cor. 4:4). Paul also says in Eph. 2: Eph. 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. And of course, Peter tells us that he is our “adversary” who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1Pet. 5:8). As Berkhof notes, “he is depicted in the Bible as a superhuman, but not divine; has great power, but is not omnipotent; wields influence on a large scale, but is destined to be cast into the lake of fire.” As we sing in the hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God, “one little Word shall fell him.” Even though he is great in power. Christ has triumphed over Satan and bound him from deceiving God’s elect.

C. The Activity of Demons

And thirdly then, we learn about the activity of demons in the Bible. And demons basically follow in the footsteps of the devil. They are enemies of God and their goal is to ruin the Church and its members. And it’s not so much that they attack the church by causing its members to be demon-possessed or to blaspheme God, rather Satan and the demons try to ruin the church by distorting, denying or attacking the Gospel. As the late Donald Grey Barnhouse once put it, “Satan’s purpose is not to make good men bad, nor bad men worse, but to make people good without Jesus Christ.” But once again we ought not to despair over demons. We must remember that they too are bound in chains and destined for destruction. As John Calvin used to put it even though they are not yet limited to one place, “they drag their chains wherever they go.”

Are there a lot of demon possessions today?

Now you may be wondering are there a lot of demon possessed people in this world today? When you read the gospels you can sort of get the impression that there are a lot of demon possessed people everywhere. But I think we have to acknowledge that the reason we read of so many demon possessed people in the Gospels is because this was Satan’s final attempt to prevent Jesus from accomplishing our redemption. Furthermore, the gospels are teaching us that Jesus has authority over the demons and that the fact that he is casting out demons is proof that he has inaugurated his Kingdom (Matt. 12:28).

Now I am not trying to say that there are no demon possessed people in the world today. There certainly are. But where ever the gospel is being preached, the demons scatter and people are saved from their power. And so, there are probably a lot less demon possessed people where the gospel is being proclaimed faithfully and the Kingdom of Christ is advancing. And in rural parts of the world where the gospel has not been preached yet, there are probably a lot more demon possessions. But the Word of the gospel and the name of Christ causes them to flee because Christ has all authority in heaven and earth and the gospel is going forth in power. Children, you are safe and protected from demons by Jesus Christ. His Holy Spirit dwells within believers and protects us from them.

All of this is summarized in our Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 12: “The devils and evil spirits are so depraved that they are enemies of God and every good thing; to the utmost of their power as murderers watching to ruin the Church and every member thereof, and by their wicked stratagems to destroy all; and are, therefore, by their own wickedness adjudged to eternal damnation, daily expecting their horrible torments.”

Conclusion (Applications)

1. Don’t ignore or downplay the existence of angels and demons. They do exist. With regard to the elect angels, we should be thankful to God that he made them and that they serve us as God’s people. I mean stop and think about that. God created these majestic and powerful spirit creatures for his glory and our good. And you and I have benefited from the revelation they have brought from God, from the battles they have fought for God’s people, and from the protection that they have perhaps given you or me at times. And so, be thankful to God for them even as you would be thankful to God for a person in the church who serves you.

And with regard to the demons, don’t downplay their existence either. Paul alerts us in Ephesians 6 of their role in spiritual warfare:  Eph. 6:10  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. There definitely is a spiritual war that we fight on a daily basis and demons are one of our enemies in that war.

2. Don’t be overly obsessive about angels and demons. Angels are not to be worshipped, nor are demons to cause us crippling fear as if they could possess us or move objects in our homes. And so, let’s not ignore or downplay the existence of angels and demons nor be overly obsessive about them. Let’s seek to find the Biblical balance concerning them.

3. And finally, remember and be thankful that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ and he rules all things for the sake of his church. All the angels worship Him, and when he returns, every knee will bow and tongue confess in heaven and on earth, even the demons will confess that he is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11)! As we sing, in the hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God: “and though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us. We will not fear for God has willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim. We tremble not for him. His rage we can endure. For lo his doom is sure. One little Word shall fell him.”

Christ ultimately is the commander of the angels in heaven and he will return with all of his angels in glory and will judge both the ungodly and the fallen angels forever, and will cast them into the lake of fire. And so, you can be confident in the salvation that has been won for you in Christ. And you can say with Paul, Rom. 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen!

What the Bible Has to Say About Angels

This past Sunday I preached a catechetical sermon on what the Bible teaches about angels and demons. You can listen to the sermon here. I’ll post the transcript here in two parts. I must say that this is really just a summary of Louis Berkhof’s excellent treatment of this topic in his Systematic Theology. But if you don’t have that book, this is the gist of what the Bible teaches on angels:

Introduction

This is important for us to consider for two reasons. First, because some of us tend to downplay the existence of angels and demons, either because they are unseen or because we find the topic superstitious and unscientific. Or on the other hand we have lost track of the Biblical testimony concerning angels because so many unbelievers as well as Christians have believed and spread numerous myths/falsehoods about angels. Perhaps you are one who has bought into a few of the myths and just assumed that it was biblical (like the belief that everyone has a guardian angel assigned to them or that angels look like “Precious Moments” figurines). Or perhaps you have become overly preoccupied with angels and demons. Either way, it’s important that we find the Biblical balance of what to believe and confess concerning angels. And so, let’s consider what the Bible teaches about angels and demons. First we’ll consider the Bible’s teaching on angels and then on demons.

I. The Biblical Teaching on Angels

A. The Nature of Angels

First, God created the angels and he created them good. This is what we confess in Article 12 of the Belgic Confession of Faith. They are not eternal beings, they are creatures who were created good as part of God’s original creation. i.e. they were not created in a fallen state. In Psalm 148 we read: Psa. 148:2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!. . .5 Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. Likewise in Col. 1:16, Paul speaks of the fact that Jesus was active in the creation of all things including the angels: Col. 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And so, Angels are created beings distinct from God. And they were originally created good. That’s the first thing we confess based on God’s Word.

Secondly, the Bible teaches that they are different from human beings in that Angels are spiritual beings (i.e. immaterial). They don’t have bodies as Luke 24:39 teaches us. According to Colossians 1:16 they are invisible. The fallen angels are often referred to as “evil spirits” in the Gospels (e.g. Matt. 8:16; 12:45; Luke 11:26). Now while they don’t have bodies, that doesn’t mean that they are somehow omnipresent. Rather, they are finite and limited. They can’t be in more than one place at a time (even the devil!). And yet, they are probably more free than we are with regard to space. For example we read in the Gospels accounts of a man who was possessed by a legion of demons (about 5,000). And even though they are invisible they are able to appear to us when God enables them to according to his purposes. And so, angels are spiritual/immaterial beings.

Third, the Bible teaches that Angels are rational, moral and immortal creatures. They are personal beings with intelligence and a will. Paul says in Ephesians 3:10 that as a result of his ministry the manifold wisdom of God has been revealed to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 1 Peter 1:12 says that the good news that has been revealed to us is something that angels long to understand more fully, but they can’t understand it as we do because they haven’t experienced God’s redemption personally. We also read in Luke 15:10, that they rejoice when sinners repent. We read in Hebrews 1:6 that they worship God. So they are intelligent creatures who can possess and grow in knowledge.

Furthermore, they are moral creatures. The vast number of them are described as “holy angels,” a reference to those angels who remained loyal to their creator, rather than following Satan in his rebellion against God (Matt. 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26). Those who did follow Satan in his rebellion we refer to as fallen angels or as demons. So they are depicted as rational and moral creatures in the Bible.

They are also immortal creatures in that they are not subject to death as we are. Those who are fallen will experience eternal punishment, but they don’t have bodies that die. Thus believers, who have died and gone to heaven are said to be like the angels in that their souls are in heaven as they await the resurrection of the body (Luke 20:35-36). They are also very powerful creatures who form the army of God and are always ready to do the Lords bidding (Ps. 103:20; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:14).

Fourth, the Bible teaches that there are some who are elect angels and some who are fallen angels. As I said earlier they were originally created good. But some of them rebelled. Those who didn’t rebel are referred to as elect angels in 1Tim. 5:21. And so, these angels seem to have been confirmed in their state of holiness and are now incapable of sinning. Furthermore, the elect angels are examples to God’s people of doing the will of God and worshipping the Lord with reverence and joy, which is why we pray: Matt. 6:10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. They love to do God’s will and so should we (cf. Ps. 103:21).

So this is what the Bible teaches about the nature of angels. They are created beings. They are created good. They are spiritual beings. They are rational, moral and immortal beings who are very powerful. And there are some who are good and some who are evil.

B. The Number and Organization of the Angels

Besides the nature of angels, the Bible also teaches us something about their number and organization.

First, with regard to their number, the Bible teaches that there is a multitude of angels. The Bible doesn’t tell us how many angels there are, but that they constitute a mighty army. They are often referred to as the host of heaven and are pictured as an innumerable multitude. You’ll remember when the multitude of the heavenly hosts appeared to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus in Luke 2. We often see that there is a multitude of angels in the throne room of God, praising his thrice holy name.

When it comes to their organization we see that there are several types of angels and there seems to be a sort of hierarchy. The name angel in general means “messenger” or “one sent by God”. But there are also specific names for angels we find.

There are Cherubim angels in the Bible. They guard the entrance of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24) and are depicted as guarding the holy of holies in the temple and tabernacle. They also gaze upon the mercy seat (Ex. 25:18) and make up the chariot that God descends upon to the earth (Psa. 18:10 He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind; cf. 2Sam. 22:11). They are also depicted symbolically as a combination of various majestic and powerful creatures. In Ezekiel 1 they are depicted symbolically as part human, part ox, part eagle and part lion. i.e. They are not the cute little cupid-like angels that we often see depicted on Hallmark cards. Louis Berkhof notes, “more than other creatures they were destined to reveal the power, the majesty, and the glory of God, and to guard His holiness in the garden of Eden, in tabernacle and temple, and in the descent of God to the earth.” (146).

There are also Seraphim angels in the Bible. These are those angels who are mentioned in Isaiah 6: Is. 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And when Isaiah says: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” And we read: 6  Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. Thus, we see that Seraphim are distinct from Cherubim in that they are servants around the throne of God. If Cherubim are guardians, we might think of Seraphim as nobles who worship around God’s throne and are ever ready to do his bidding, especially to serve the purpose of reconciliation.

Elsewhere in the Bible we also read of Principalities, thrones, and dominions (cf. Col. 1:16, Eph. 3:10; 1Pet. 3:22). These names seem to refer not to different kinds of angels but to differences in rank and dignity.

Finally we read of two angels who are very special in Scripture: Michael and Gabriel. In distinction from all the other angels these two are mentioned by name. Gabriel is mentioned in Daniel 8:16; 9:21 and in Luke 1:19, 26. And it seems to be his special task to mediate and interpret divine revelation. He helped Daniel understand his vision of the Ram and the Goat in Dan. 8 and helped him understand the “seventy weeks” of Jeremiah’s prophecy. He also is the one who appeared to John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, while he was serving in the temple and announced to him the birth of John the Baptist. He also had the great privilege of announcing the birth of Jesus to Mary.

Michael is also mentioned by name. In Daniel 10 he is referred to as a prince and in Jude 9 he is called the “archangel” who contended with the devil and said “the LORD rebuke you.” These indicate that he occupies an important place among the angels. We also read of him in Rev. 12: Rev. 12:7  Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back. Thus, Michael is a valiant warrior who fights the battles of the Lord against the enemies of God’s people and against the evil powers of the spirit world.

C. The Service of the Angels

Well not only does the Bible teach us about the nature and organization of the angels, it also teaches us about their service. Some of this has already been mentioned in passing. But we see that the angels have both ordinary and extraordinary service.

Ordinary Service: Their ordinary service is praising God day and night (Isa. 6; Rev. 5:11), rejoicing at the conversion of a sinner (Luke 15:10), ministering to the heirs of salvation, watching over believers (Psa. 91:11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.), protecting little ones (Matt. 18:10), and marveling at the riches of God’s grace toward man (Eph. 3:10; 1Pet. 1:12). And there is nothing in Scripture that supports that every believer has an angel assigned to them called a guardian angel. They simply guard believers in general.

Extraordinary Service: Their extraordinary service consists of mediating the special revelations of God, communicating blessings to his people and executing judgment upon God’s enemies at key points in redemptive history. But when the period of God’s special revelation closed, the extraordinary service of the angels ceased, to be resumed only at the return of our Lord.

Conclusion

So this is what the Bible teaches concerning the nature, organization and service of the angels. And so, we confess in the Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 12 that: “He. . .created the angels good, to be His messengers and to serve His elect; some of whom are fallen from that excellency in which God created them into everlasting perdition, and the others have by the grace of God remained steadfast and continued in their first state.”

What then does the Bible teach us about fallen angels or demons? I’ll post the rest tomorrow, along with a few application points drawn from the Biblical teaching on angels and demons. If you can’t wait, once again you can listen to this message here at our church web-site.

The Struggle to Walk by Faith

Here is a sermon I just preached on Genesis 12:10-20 called “The Struggle to Walk by Faith.” You can listen to it at our church web-site here. I hope it encourages whoever reads it or listens to it. I was greatly encouraged meditating on God’s faithfulness to Abram and preaching this text from God’s Word.

Well last week we saw how God is faithful to his promises to his people. We saw this in that he preserved Shem’s line all the way down to Abram, the one who would be blessed by God and be a blessing to all the nations. In spite of the rebellion at Babel and the dispersion of the nations, God graciously chose to call Abram out of the world so that he might continue his redemptive plan to unite one people under his great name. And we saw how even though it was a simple call, it was a very difficult call for Abram. You’ll remember that Abram was in his seventies, and God asked him to leave his country, his people, and his family and to go to an unknown land. But even though this would be a very difficult call to obey, God promised Abram: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3). So Abram responded to these promise in faith and obeyed God’s call. He went to the land of Canaan where he began to build altars to the LORD and worship him as a pilgrim in the land. And so, we were left last week with a picture of Abram’s remarkable faith and obedience, one that challenged us to have faith in God’s promises and to live thankful lives as well. But this week we get to see a different side of Abram. We get to see that as great as he was last week, he’s not much different from you in me in that he struggles to continually walk by faith and trust God’s promises. And so, notice with me our theme: The Struggle to Walk by Faith. And we’ll see this as we look at the following two points from our text: 1. Abram’s Failure; 2. God’s Faithfulness

1. Abram’s Failure
Our story begins with v. 10 where we read: Now there was a famine in the land. So here is Abram and he has just arrived in the promised land and immediately his faith is put to the test. God promised him a land and a people. And not only is Sarai barren, but now the land is barren as well. No doubt this would have been a great test for Abram’s faith. He has God’s promises, and yet what he sees is a land that can’t support him and his family. And so, what is he to do? Well he does the most natural thing one could do. He starts looking around for a place where HE can provide for his family. We go on to read in v. 10: So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. It’s stressed that the famine is real. And so, it’s not just that he’s tired of eating the same old meal for dinner, it’s that he and his family are really starting to go hungry. And the future is uncertain. But he sees that there is food in Egypt and so he figures Egypt is his only certainty of survival.

But what is wrong with this picture? What is Abram forgetting? He’s forgetting God’s promises. It’s not that it’s such a bad idea to go to Egypt to get food for his family. Later in Genesis when there is a famine in the land, God will provide for Jacob and his family in Egypt through Joshua. But here, Abram is pictured as having no regard for God’s promises as they aren’t even mentioned. You see, he hasn’t denied God, he’s just forgotten about Him. It seems as though he has bought into the philosophy that “God helps those who help themselves.” And often it’s the case in the Old Testament that going down to Egypt is the alternative to trusting in the LORD, and we see that here. He doesn’t call on the name of the LORD. Abram’s not really walking by faith in God’s promises here. Rather, he is walking by sight. He sees that the grass is greener in Egypt and so he turns his back on the promised land, at least temporarily, and heads south to Egypt. No doubt it was a natural choice, but not a wise one. Because immediately God’s whole promise is placed in jeopardy. Remember, God promised him not only a land but also a people. And through his offspring all the nations would be blessed. But Abram put’s these promises in jeopardy not only by leaving the land of promise but by his plan when he gets to Egypt.

Notice his plan in v. 11 and following: “When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” 

So Abram, is worried about being killed when he gets to Egypt because his wife is beautiful and surely the Egyptians will want her as a wife (i.e. his philosophy is “better defiled than dead”). Now, you may be wondering about Sarai’s beauty because she is sixty five at this point in her life. And so, you may be thinking would the Egyptians really find her so attractive? But we have to remember at least two things here. First: the standards of beauty in the Ancient Near East are not necessarily the same standards that we have today. And secondly: remember that the patriarch’s and their wives had a longer lifespan than we do today. Sarai lives to be 127 years old. And so, she may have been more like the equivalent of a thirty or forty year old woman today.

Either way, Abram is greatly worried about this. And so, his plan is to be deceptive by telling a half-truth about his wife. It was true that Sarai was Abram’s half-sister as we find out later in Gen. 20:12, but he’s not being completely honest here. But once again this seems to be the natural choice according to human wisdom. His fears are not completely unfounded as it was common in those days for men to take wives, especially evil rulers, even as we saw with the “sons of God” in Genesis 6. Later, even King David would commit such an evil act when he sinned with Bathsheba and disposed of her husband. And so, he has good reason to be afraid. And even though it appears that he is willing to give up his wife in order to save his own skin, it may just be that he sees it as a way to stall so that they both can escape later. Remember that Laban, who was the brother of Leah and Rachel, was pretty good at stalling when it came to giving his sisters in marriage, so that Jacob would end up working for him for 14 years. And so, it may be that he is totally selfish here, or that he has a plan for him and Sarai to escape later.

Either way, once again, Abram is forgetting that the God whom he served was greater than his problems. God didn’t need Abram to help him fulfill his promises. God said:  “I WILL make of you a great nation, and I WILL bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I WILL bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I WILL curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” And then when Abram arrived at the promised land God said: “To your offspring I WILL give this land.” So God never mentioned to Abram, “I’ll do my part if you’ll do yours.” He simply said, “this is what I am going to do. Now, just trust me, and you’ll see me do even the impossible for you, in order to keep my Word” because nothing is impossible with God and nothing can ultimately thwart his promises.

Now how does this relate to you and me today? Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? According to the New Testament those who have faith in Christ, are children of Abraham and are heirs according to the same promises (Galatians 3). Only we have even greater reason to trust God. Abram saw these promises in seed form but we have received the promises in full flower. We see the big picture of Christ’s incarnation, his life, his death, his resurrection, his ascension and his future return. And so we rejoice in the following promises of God in Christ:

Eph. 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

Rom. 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

1Pet. 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

We have such sweet and precious promises in God’s Word. In Jesus Christ, all of the promises of God are “Yes” and “Amen”. And yet, like Abram, we so easily struggle to walk by faith, and we walk by sight instead. What is it in your life right now that is causing you to doubt or forget God’s promises? Is it something at work that is troubling you, perhaps a co-worker that get’s on your nerves, perhaps your computer crashed and you lost a bunch of files, perhaps your boss is always so negative. Or is it family drama? Perhaps your parents are domineering, perhaps your children are so rebellious, perhaps your brother or sister always teases you. Or is it that you are single and are struggling with loneliness? The list could go on and on. What is it right now that you are struggling with? We all go through trials in the Christian life. And when we go through trials like this it tests our faith. And we tend to go into survival mode (what am I going to do to get myself out of this mess?) before we cast all of our anxieties upon the Lord in prayer and trust in his promises by faith. But God allows us to go through trials for a good purpose. It’s not that we are to view these things as good circumstances in and of themselves, but that we are to trust that God has a good purpose behind all of our trials. This is what God’s Word teaches us:

James 1:2  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Rom. 5:3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

You see trials mature us in the faith. They cause us to come to the end of ourselves and to trust God and to look to Him alone for grace. They wean us from putting our trust in idols, whether it be our own strength, money, sex, power, you name it. God brings us through trials so that we might give up on our idols, trust in him alone for joy and peace, and it increases our hope of heaven.

And so, in the midst of the trials of your life, you need to cling to God’s promises by faith and cast all of your anxieties upon him because he cares for you. Jesus encourages us in Matthew 6 that God cares for us as a Father cares for his children. And so, we need not be anxious about our life ultimately. Paul tells us in Rom. 8: “28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. . .31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?. . .38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Beloved, you can trust your heavenly Father, that behind a frowning providence, he hides a smiling face. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. In Psalm 66 the Psalmist records: 10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. 11 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; 12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. And so, trust that God is always with you in trials and is for you in Christ. He has brought you to a place of abundance in Christ and one day you will no longer walk by faith but will walk by sight in the new heavens and new earth. God is always faithful to his promises. And we see God’s Faithfulness in our text: 

2. God’s Faithfulness 

Abram carries out his plan as we go on to read, but what happens is not what he had expected. He probably figured that just some joe schmoe Egyptian would want Sarai as a wife. But we read: “14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.” WHOA! So Pharaoh ends up taking Sarai into his house to be a part of his harem. This is not what Abram had planned. No way can he expect to negotiate and stall with Pharaoh himself and later escape with Sarai. Sarai is now destined to live as one of Pharaoh’s many wives and to be buried in Egypt as a mummy. Abram’s plan was NOT A-Team caliber. He wouldn’t be able to say like Hannibal, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Rather, this was a disaster. And Sarai is probably sitting in Pharoah’s palace thinking, “Great plan honey! Now what!”

However, besides this unexpected tragedy, he unexpectedly prospers. Because he just gave up his sister to the Pharaoh and the Pharaoh is so pleased, Abram becomes rich: “16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.” Now, female donkeys and camels might not seem all that great to us today, other than at the zoo, but as one commentator notes, “female donkeys were far more controllable and dependable for riding and therefore the ride of choice for the rich. . .the camels (note the plural) had just been introduced as domesticated animals and were a rarity. . .prestige symbols for show by the rich, not for utililty.” And so, this commentator notes that, in modern terms it’s as if he’s given multiple BMW’s in the female donkeys and multiple Ferari’s in the camels, and this on top of all the food and male ad female servants! (R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, 193)

So in spite of Abram’s lack of trust and deceitfulness he’s inundated with these luxuirious gifts, while Sarai is probably freaking out as she hangs out with Pharaohs harem. And as great as these gifts were, they would only be a reminder to Abram of the loss of his wife and they would pale in comparison to the eternal blessings that God had promised him.

But the good news for Abram is that God wasn’t about to let his promises go unfulfilled right after calling Abram. And so, he sovereignly and graciously intervenes to save Abram from his faithlessness and the mess that he has got himself into. We read in v. 17: “But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.” So much for being a blessing to the nations! Because of Abram’s failure to trust God’s promises he ends up bringing a plague on Pharaoh and his household (literally a skin disease).

Now at this point in the narrative you should start to notice that there are a lot of similarities here with Israel. Remember that later in Genesis it will be because of a famine that Jacob and his twelve sons and their family all end up in Egypt. And even though it’s good at first, eventually they’ll be stuck in Egypt, afflicted by the Egyptians. But God will plague the Egyptians with the 10 plagues. The Egyptians then let them go with great wealth and so they travel back to the land and eventually make it back and worship the LORD in the promised land. All of these things Abram goes through here. And not only does he go through it here, he’s going to go through it again (Gen. 20) and Isaac his son will go through the same experience as well (Gen. 26). All of this foreshadows the Exodus account. In the Bible God’s people are constantly learning to trust God and that God is faithful to his promises to save and preserve his people and his promised land. And the Israelites would have received great comfort from these accounts of the patriarchs. They would have seen that God is faithful to His promises in every generation.

One difference however in this story is that unlike the Pharaoh that Moses faces, this Pharaoh quickly realizes what is going on and releases his captive after one plague. Abram doesn’t even have to tell him, “Let my Sarai go!” God simply sends a plague and Pharaoh is ready to let her go immediately. In fact, he rebukes Abram: “18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” Literally he says in four Hebrew words, “here. . .wife. . .take. . .go” (virtually the same words that the Pharaoh will say to Moses, Ex. 12:31-32). The abruptness expresses his anger and frustration. And Abram’s silence in the matter indicates that he knows that he is guilty.

And so, we read in v. 20: “Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.” It’s really remarkable that he didn’t just kill Abram for wronging him. This would have easily been worthy of death in those days. But Pharaoh knows, that God is with Abram, and so in spite of Abram’s lack of trust, in spite of his deceitfulness, in spite of him putting the whole plan of God in jeopardy, he is able to leave Egypt alive, with his wife and with a bounty of luxurious goods. In fact he goes from severe famine in Genesis 12:10 to severe riches in Genesis 13:2 (the same Hebrew word is used to describe each situation, highlighting the reversal of his circumstances).

Beloved, do you not see how AMAZING God’s grace is to Abram? Is this not a perfect picture of 2 Tim. 2:13?: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” Now that shouldn’t lead us to test God and to have a sinful attitude that says, “well, I can do whatever I want, because God will bless me regardless.” That’s not the point of this story. In fact, it’s worth noting that Abram’s new found wealth will bring more drama to his life later. We’ll see this first in the drama with Lot’s herdsmen and then later with the Egyptian Hagar, whom he most likely acquired here. And so, we shouldn’t test God and think it’s ok then to just live however we want. Rather, it’s his kindness that is meant to lead us to repentance and to a greater amount of trust in Him.

And doesn’t the faithfulness of God in spite of your sins and failures comfort you? It comforts me to know that even when I screw up royally, God will not abandon his promises to me in Christ. I can continue to trust God and walk by faith. The only thing that causes us to worry and fear in this life is when we start to doubt or forget God’s promises and to walk by sight. But beloved, NOTHING will ever separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our LORD. Your God is a promise-keeping God. He made a promise in Genesis 3:15 that the seed of the woman would one day crush the serpents head. He made promises to Abram that he would bless him and give him a people and a land. And he made promises to you in Christ that he would never leave you nor forsake you. And he is always faithful to his promises.

And you can be sure of that because of Jesus. Jesus is the one who perfectly trusted his Father’s will. He too went down to Egypt when Herod tried to kill him so that the prophesy would be fulfilled “our of Egypt I have called my Son” (Matt. 2:7-15). And he is the perfect servant of the LORD who always trusted his Father’s will. When he was hungry for forty days in the wilderness, and Satan tempted him to forsake his Father’s will and to take short cuts to glory, he resisted by trusting and obeying God’s Word (Matt. 4:1-11). Instead of turning stones into bread he said, “man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Later he said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). And yet, it wasn’t easy for him. He didn’t just face hunger. He faced rejection and ridicule, he faced sorrow and grief, he would be mocked and tortured and ultimately die on a cross as a criminal and suffer the wrath of God, even though he was innocent and without sin. But he continued to trust his Father through it all. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2: “22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”  

And he did it, so that if you have faith in his person and work you might be forgiven for all the times that you and I have failed to trust God’s promises and have gone ahead in sinful survival mode. And because of his life, death and resurrection, you are now viewed by God in Christ as one who has always trusted and obeyed. And therefore, he will never leave you nor forsake you. He forsook his only begotten Son on the cross and purchased you as his adopted child so that he will never forsake you. And just as he raised Christ from the dead, so too will he raise you and me on the last day when Christ returns in glory to deliver us from all of our trials and tribulations!

What are we to do in the mean time? We are to look to Jesus and trust God’s promises to us in Christ. We are to walk by faith and not by sight. We are to walk in hope. And we are to walk in love towards God and each other because of the love that he has shown us in Christ. We’ve gone from severe famine to severe riches in Christ. And so, expect trials to come your way in the Christian life. Don’t be surprised! Rather trust God’s promises to you in Christ and walk in faith, hope and love, because nothing will ever separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen!