Counseling One Another

Helping you grow in God's all-sufficient truth and grace

Counseling One Another

February 24, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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Exercising Faith Muscles – Personal Bible Study for this Weekend

This week, another pastor and I were talking about the analogy of faith as a muscle that needs to be regularly exercised in order to grow. This is based upon the simple understanding that true faith is living faith, as opposed to the dead faith warned against in James 2. True faith, because it is living, is continually being exercised toward progress in Christ-likeness. Unpredictably, this morning, I was reading through 2 Peter and noticed this devotional by Joni Eareckson Tada in the Beyond Suffering Bible.

Candy, a fellow quadriplegic, was my exercise partner in physical therapy. Every day the physical therapist positioned our wheelchairs in front of a wall of weights and pulleys for an hour of strenuous exercise. I remember sweating and straining while Candy merely played with lifting weights, not taking the task of physical therapy seriously.

Years later, when I returned to the hospital for a check-up, I ran into Candy. I was shocked. Her arms were thin, and the she looked weak and tired. As quadriplegics, we both had the same potential for gaining strength. But from lack of exercise, her muscles had atrophied and were useless.

There are many Christians who are like Candy—they play around, believing that the Christian life will just “happen” to them without any real commitment or tough obedience. As a result, they have very little power in their lives or stamina when the hard times hit. For this very reason, we must make every effort to remain strong in the Lord. Growth doesn’t just happen; we grow only when we exercise our faith. Are you growing stronger in Christ?

This weekend, spend time meditating upon 2 Peter 1:3-11. Ask yourself some questions, like:

  • What has God given me for my growth (vv. 3-4)?
  • Am I utilizing all these resources to grow in godliness?
  • As I look at my life, do I see steady progress in spiritual, Christ-like virtues?
  • Am I making every effort to grow spiritually?
  • What character qualities mentioned in verses 5-7 are evident in my life? Which are lacking?
  • What does spiritual growth lead to (v. 8)?
  • What does lack of growth reveal about a person (v. 9)?
  • How is steady progress in godliness related to assurance of faith? What might the absence of an increase in these qualities reveal about the genuineness of a person’s salvation? (v. 10)
  • What eternal reward does God promise to those who persevere in the pursuit of godliness (v. 11).

Spend time in prayer. Thank God for the resources that He gives to all those who are in Christ. Confess sins and spiritual laziness to Him. Ask Him to strengthen you in the inner person so that you may persevere in growth. Tomorrow, go to church expecting God to speak to you from the Bible so that your faith muscles may be exercised toward growth.

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February 20, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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Designed for Relationships

As the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always lived in relationship, so we were created to live in relationship—first with God and then with others who are made in the image of God. In other words, when God created mankind, He designed us to have relationships with Him and other image-bearers. Therefore, we must understand what those relationships are for.

Living according to God’s design for our relationships requires the ongoing affirmation of six fundamental truths which are revealed in Genesis 2:4-25.

  1. God formed man, personally, and breathed His life into him (vv. 4-7). These verses flashback to chapter one, providing more detailed information. Clearly the attention is now on the pinnacle of God’s creation—man. The rest of the Bible will now be about man and God’s relation to him. The Lord God formed the man. The word “formed” is from the Hebrew word meaning “to mold or shape a particular substance. The picture Moses paints is one of the personal, intimate creation of Adam. The potter molded the clay just as He wanted (Read Psalm 139:13-15).
  2. God planted the perfect environment for man to live with his Creator (vv. 8-14). Having created man in His image, God—the Gardener—planted an immaculate place for His most valuable creatures to live. Eden was a place of pristine beauty. Indescribable beauty. Made for the pure enjoyment of man (Read verses 8-14). There, in that place of impeccable beauty and inexhaustible delight, God would walk and talk with man.
  3. God designed man to work and live under the authority of God’s word (vv. 15-17). Work is good. It is not the result of the fall of man into sin. Genesis 2:15 makes that clear. After man and woman fell into sin, work became more difficult. However, work was created good, and remains good to the extent that it honors God. Adam and Eve were given abundant freedom to eat from the delightful garden, but one restriction was in place. This command was a test of man’s willingness to live under God’s authority. To trust Him by simply obeying His word.
  4. God identified man’s need for companionship with fellow image-bearers (vv. 18-20). For the first time, God says something is “not good.” Therefore, He made “a helper fit” for Adam. God knew it was not good for Adam to be alone, but He wanted Adam to realize this for himself. So God gave Adam another job—to name the animals. Through classifying and naming the animals, Adam came to an important realization: Animals were not made for companionship. We were not designed to have relationships with animals. And animals were not designed to have relationships with us. Only human beings are made in God’s image and, therefore, have the ability to relate to one another, to think, to communicate, to reason. We are designed to cultivate relationships with other image-bearers.
  5. God handmade a helper to meet man’s need for companionship (vv. 21-23). Here we have the first surgery in the Bible. The surgeon was God and the patient was Adam. A divine anesthetic was given to him as “God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man.” And while Adam slept, God opened up the man’s side, removed a rib, and closed up the wound. And from the bone, God built Eve. Just as Adam was custom-made from the dirt, so Eve was handmade by God for Adam. 
  6. God established the pattern for a healthy marriage relationship (vv. 24-25). Since God created man and woman and brought them together, He alone has the right to define what that union should look like. Most commentators agree that verse 24 contains the words of God, which were spoken when He conducted the first wedding ceremony. Here we see six biblical truths concerning marriage.
  • Marriage was instituted by God. It was God’s design, not man’s idea.
  • Marriage is heterosexual and monogamous. One man with one woman.
  • Marriage should be permanent; it should be ended only by death. Its original design is: one man with one woman, for
  • Husband and wife are to be united spiritually and physically—one flesh.
  • Both husband and wife are required to detach themselves from their parents. Physical, emotional, financial dependence should end. (Massive marriage problems are created when one or both partners do not cut the apron strings).
  • The husband is the head of the wife. Adam was created first, then Eve. He then named her. Eve was created for Adam. The creation order is cited by the New Testament writers to affirm male leadership in the home and the church (Read 1 Corinthians 11:8-9; 1 Timothy 2:13).

When God created man and woman, and instituted marriage, He created the most basic unit (building block) of society. Every other institution builds on this foundation. The perfection of God’s design is made clear in the last verse. Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. Nakedness in the Old Testament “is always connected with some form of humiliation” (Victor Hamilton). But there was no humiliation in Eden at this point. There was nothing between Adam and Eve. This pictures the purity of their relationship on every level. Spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically they were one. Sin had not yet entered the world. Therefore, they lived in perfect harmony. Without sin, there was no conflict. No guilt. No shame. No hiding the “real me” from the other person.

But this points us to Christ.

Though our relationship to Adam caused us to be born sinners, and our own sins have separated us from God, God has provided the remedy in Jesus Christ—the One who was sent to restore our relationship with God. He did this through His death and resurrection (1 Peter 3:18). Earthly marriage points us to the heavenly marriage between Christ and His bride, the church. Through God’s plan of redemption, He will restore to its original state all that was lost. But it will even be better, for we shall know God’s grace.

[Adapted from last Sunday’s sermon at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio]

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February 19, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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Six Steps to Becoming a Church that Welcomes People with Disabilities

Thinking theologically about disability is a massive need in today’s church. That’s one reason I’m thankful to the Lord for recently bringing the Beyond Suffering Bible onto my radar, and into my life and home. In addition to many “Connection Points,” application of biblical truths to personal suffering interspersed throughout, and devotionals written by Joni Eareckson Tada, a wealth of resources is contained in the appendices. One appendix is called, “Becoming a Welcoming Church: God’s Urgent Call to Disability Ministry,” written by Steve Bundy.

Steve begins the appendix with a very personal story of how the Lord used their son to open their hearts to the need for disability ministry in the church. He then calls us to new awareness. Since there are “over one billion people in the world affected by disability, pastors and church leaders must recognize the urgent need for outreach and disability ministry. And churches are uniquely positioned to come alongside these families.”

In Luke 14, Jesus “gave us a new guest list for dinner parties: ‘the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind’ (Luke 14:13).” Steve goes on, then, to challenge us: “If we have the heart of the Master, we will welcome, embrace, and include people affected by disability. This is not only an issue of salvation but of discipleship, fellowship, and full participation.”

The U.R.G.E.N.T. Call

Here are six steps that Steve gives to help our churches get started.

  1. Understanding the Needs – “An inclusive church is an understanding church. It begins with learning the details of each person’s story and accepting that person regardless of his or her physical or intellectual abilities. Remember that God created each person with a unique design.”
  2. Relating Individually – “People with disabilities are not problems to be solved—they are relationships to be embrace. God’s love is expressed through his body—the church.”
  3. Giving Opportunity – “God’s intention is for everyone in the body of Christ to be fully included, giving and receiving from one another.” According to 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, “though some parts [of the body] have more visibility and seem more important, those parts that seem least important could actually make the greatest impact.”
  4. Encouraging Others – “At times, families become overwhelmed by life circumstances and need a word of encouragement.” Encouragement comes in many different ways. “Providing some time away” for parents, or “letting them know they are doing a fine job” can bring refreshment.
  5. Networking for Support – “The church has a unique role in the community, reconciling humanity to God and people to people….There are significant resources within the church that can help parents with finances, support groups, counselors, and therapists.”
  6. Training for Service – “Churches that welcome families affected by disability need to be churches that are willing to learn—to be trained and to train.” Start small “and allow God to grow the ministry in his timing.”

For additional suggestions about how to help start a disability ministry at your church, visit the Joni and Friends website.

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February 17, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS

Here are two videos that I encourage you to watch, and one article to read, this weekend.

Biblical Counseling and Mental Illness – In their latest podcast, the Biblical Counseling Coalition graciously speaks to the issue of mental illness.

Don’t Let Your Children Choose Your Church – “Could it be that parents are capitulating on a serious minded approach to the faith and a serious minded approach to the local church because they want to make their children happy? Why is this a dangerous idea? Why should parents refrain from allowing their children to make the decision regarding the family’s church membership?”

Heath Lambert’s Story of Abuse – Listen to this testimony of God’s grace and hope for those who have experienced abuse.

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February 14, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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A Wonderful Sermon for the Depressed

Yesterday morning, through my involvement in the training of another pastor who wants to be more effective in the personal ministry of the Word (counseling), I became aware of a wonderful sermon Ligon Duncan preached at Capitol Hills Baptist Church. In the afternoon, I was drawn to listen to it. The Holy Spirit used the Word to minister to my own heart and, therefore, I share it with you.

Too many Christians have a very narrow, simplistic view of depression (I once did). As a result, too many think that a godly, mature believer should not wrestle with deep despair of soul. To gently correct that silly (and very hurtful) conclusion, I direct you to Psalm 88, “no sadder Psalm,” and this wonderful sermon, In the Lowest Pit.

Recommended mini-book: HELP! I’m Depressed

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February 12, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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7 Truths to Affirm from Genesis 1:1-2:4

The Bible begins with a dramatic display of the glory of God. The historical account of creation is nothing short of pure majesty. God is clearly the center. Genesis 1 describes the set which God builds to show the drama of redemption. So, let’s look at the first words of God. As we walk through the creation account, we are faced with seven foundational truths we are called to embrace.  

#1: God created everything out of nothing. The Bible begins with a definitive statement: God created the heavens and the earth. “Heavens” refers to the expanse of sky, atmosphere, outer space. The “earth” is our planet. Together, this is another way of saying “the universe.” Hebrews 11:3 affirms what Genesis records as history: By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

The Holy Spirit did not lead Moses to begin the Bible with a defense of God’s existence (Genesis 1:1-2). He simply begins, “In the beginning, God.” His existence is declared, never defended. He is God; we are not. He is the Creator; we are the creatures. We do not appraise Him; He appraises us.

#2: God spoke the universe into existence. God alone has the power to create something out of nothing. He alone has the power to speak life into existence.  “And God said…” is repeated for all 6 consecutive days.

  • Day 1 – 1:3-5 (light)
  • Day 2 – 1:6-8 (sky, atmosphere, “first heaven”)
  • Day 3 – 1:9-13 (God pushes the water aside to uncover the earth, and dry land appears. He then speaks vegetation and plants into existence with seeds already inside.)
  • Day 4 – 1:13-19 (sun, moon, galaxies filled with stars)
  • Day 5 – 1:20-23 (He fills the waters and skies with creatures)
  • Day 6 – 1:24-25 (animals, insects, and human beings)

#3: God was pleased with everything He created. At the end of each day, God appraised His work and said it was good (1:12, 18, 21, 31). In its original state, everything God made was good.

#4: God made living things already mature, ready to reproduce. On Day 3 (Genesis 1:11-12), we see that God created all vegetation and plants with seeds already in them. Trees were already bearing fruit with seeds in them. Likewise, on Day 5 (Genesis 1:20-22), the animals were created with the capacity to reproduce. The stage was now set to receive the pinnacle of His creation: man.

#5: God created man and woman, two genders, as image-bearers. On Day 6, God made man and woman in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). God created man, singular, in two genders: male and female. We are image bearers, reflectors of His glory.

#6: God commanded man and woman to reproduce and dominate the earth. “Be fruitful and multiply” is the first command given to the man and woman (Genesis 1:28-30). As stewards, man was commanded to take the beauty and purity of the Garden of Eden and spread it throughout the whole earth by means of fruitful reproduction and dominion. The Garden of Eden was a mini-kingdom. As Adam and Eve lived humbly and happily under God’s rule, the kingdom would become worldwide.

#7: God established the seven-day week, which included a day of rest. When you read through Genesis 1, you will notice the repetition of the phrase, “And there was evening and there was morning…” Then came the 7th Day (Genesis 2:1-3). In God’s design, there are six days for labor and one day for rest. God’s example, then, became the pattern to follow, as made clear in the fourth of the Ten Commandments, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). God based His command upon the example He set. “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11).

How does all of this apply to us, today?

In contrast to the society in which we live, man is not the beginning and end of all. God is. We are not the center of the universe. God is. We are created beings. Totally dependent beings. We are not free to run our lives independently, doing as we please. The very fact that we received life from God means we now owe Him everything. The point of Genesis 1 is clear. God made everything, and everything He made was good and for His glory. Therefore, when we pattern our lives in simple faith and obedience to His original plan then we live in the fullest experience of His blessing.

[Adapted from yesterday’s sermon, God’s First Words, at Cornerstone Community Church in Cleveland, Ohio.]

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February 8, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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8 Advantages of Heart-Changing, Expository Preaching

Gospel ministry has been the main vocation of my life for over 25 years and expository preaching has been the main part of my calling. Therefore, I am continually blessed and challenged to read books that aim to help guys like me. One book, which I read last week along with our pastoral intern, is Saving Eutychus by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell.

The authors unapologetically defend expository preaching as the best means of declaring God’s Word to God’s people. In Chapter 2, Preaching that Changes the Heart, eight advantages of expository preaching are listed. Notice that each of these advantages also applies to the personal ministry of the Word.

  1. Expository preaching does justice to the biblical material which makes it clear that God works through his word to change people’s lives.
  2. Expository preaching acknowledges that it is God alone, through the Spirit, who works in people’s lives. It is not our job to change people.
  3. Expository preaching minimizes the danger of manipulating people. The biblical text controls what we say and how we say it.
  4. Expository preaching minimizes the danger of abusive power. A sermon driven by the text creates an instant safeguard against using the Bible to bludgeon or caress.
  5. Expository preaching removes the need to rely on our personality. If our focus is on allowing the Scripture to speak then the pressure is off.
  6. Expository preaching encourages humility in those teaching. The preacher is simply the one God has chosen to uncover the power and freshness of God’s words.
  7. Expository preaching helps us to avoid simple pragmatism. Working through books of the Bible takes pressure off feeling like we have to address every single topic. It also forces us to cover subjects we may avoid.
  8. Expository preaching drives us to preaching the gospel. It persistently drives us to the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are a minister of the Word, and haven’t read this helpful little book, I encourage you to do so.

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February 6, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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How to Take Communion

Imagine the Lord Jesus Christ is in attendance when we gather in our churches for worship. Imagine he listens to us sing and pray, and peers into our hearts. I wonder, would He find us prepared to take Communion? Or does He know that some of us walk into church quite flippantly, as if it was any other day of the week? This imagination of the Lord’s presence is actually not fiction; it is based on biblical truth. The last book of the Bible, the book of the Revelation of Jesus to John, begins with a description of the glorified Lord Jesus. The apostle John described Him this way:

He is “clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters…from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:13-16).

But when John saw Jesus in this vision, Jesus was not far away. He was in the midst of the seven golden lampstands which are later identified as the seven churches of Asia Minor. As Jesus commanded John to send a message to each church, he told him what to write. He told him what specifically to commend the churches for, and how to rebuke them.

The Son of God saw…and heard…everything.

But, if I am correct, the conscious awareness of His presence among us probably does not exist most of the time. And yet it is true. Through the Holy Spirit whom he sent, Jesus is present with us. All of this brings to our mind a consistent pattern in Scripture: God cares how we worship. More than that, we see, when His people willfully ignore His commands God is not pleased. And He takes action. Let me give you just three examples: two from the OT and one from the New.

  • Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron the high priest. When they offered strange fire, an unauthorized sacrifice, on the altar, fire came down from heaven and consumed them immediately (Leviticus 10).
  • Uzzah, though trying to help stabilize the Ark of the Covenant when it almost fell off the wagon, touched it. As a consequence, God’s anger struck him down immediately (2 Samuel 6).
  • Ananias and Sapphira deceived the apostles about how much money they were giving to the offering. Within three hours, both of their hearts stopped beating (Acts 5).

From these examples, one thing is clear: God cares about how His people worship. But this goes beyond our offerings, our singing, our praying, and our listening to His Word. It encompasses even how we take Communion.

Take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.

The early church practiced something called love feasts, which were a little bit like our fellowship meals. This common meal was an expression of brotherly love and an opportunity for rich believers to share with the poor. The early believers closed their love feasts with a celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Sadly, in Corinth, the love feasts became an opportunity for some to engage in carnality. As a result, the sacredness of Communion was lost. God was so grieved by their abuses that some church members were even being put to death. Therefore, the Apostle Paul was forced to address this issue. In the passage before us, there is one big, overarching idea: God takes Communion seriously and, therefore, so should we.

Since God cares how we take Communion, we must be careful to prepare ourselves for this mandated element of gathered worship. In today’s Scripture, the apostle gives four directives to us.

Repent of the sins which harm Christian community (vv. 17-22).

The apostle called the Corinthians to repent of two categories of sin: divisions and fleshly sins of self-indulgence. As to divisions, they were guilty of quarreling about which of their leaders was the better preacher (Chapter 1). Some members were suing one another in the courts, divorce was spreading, and there was conflict over what to do with food that had been offered to idols and the roles of men and women in church. As to self-indulgence, they were guilty of immorality, greed, stealing, and drunkenness (even during the Lord’s Supper!).

But a divine mystery to ponder is the truth stated in verse 19; that is, that God allows factions to occur in churches in order to weed out false believers and lift up those who are truly approved by Him. As much as God dislikes disunity among His people, and as much pain it causes believers to be involved in church disputes, He has a purifying and affirming purpose in it all.

Remember the seriousness of the divine ordinance (vv. 23-27).

The Lord’s Supper is an ordinance we have received from Christ himself! Therefore, it must be taken seriously.

  • The bread represents the body of Christ (vv. 23-24). It speaks of His humility and humanity—the humility of His incarnation and death and the full humanity of his body.
  • The cup represents the blood of Christ (v. 25). It speaks of the sacrificial atonement of His death. It is the price of the new covenant.

This is the portrait that Christ intended the Lord’s Supper to paint every time we take part in it, until He comes.

Review your own heart and your own life (vv. 28-32).

Paul urged the Corinthians and, thereby, urges us: Let a person examine himself. This is the required preparation for the Lord’s Supper. Paul is saying, “Don’t take Communion if your heart is not right before God and your fellow believers. Do everything that is your responsibility to be right with both.

The Lord’s Supper is not the time to be examining everyone else around you. It is the time to examine yourself! This is crucial since the neglect of self-inspection leads to judgment (v. 29). To participate in the Lord’s Supper knowing that your heart is not ready, or while possessing ungodly attitudes toward other members of His body, is to take it in an unworthy manner. God takes this so seriously that some in Corinth were being judged through sickness and even death.

Respect others more than you respect yourself (vv. 33-34).

Clearly, the Corinthians were exalting themselves above others. They failed to obey the gospel call to esteem others as more important than themselves. Others-esteem should govern how we relate to one another in the church.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF

In preparation for your church’s next Communion service, ask yourself:

  • Is my heart properly prepared to participate in the Lord’s Supper? What heart sins do I need to confess?
  • Am I being divisive? Refusing to resolve conflict? Refusing to make the first move in conflict resolution, or refusing to respond to the one who is? Am I indulging in self-satisfying sin?
  • Is there financial or material restitution that I need to make to someone?

God takes Communion seriously and, therefore, so must we!

[Adapted from last Sunday’s sermon at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.]

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January 31, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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RERUN: Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart

Trusting God is one of those challenges we as Christians talk about, but may not necessarily define. We encourage one another to “trust the Lord,” but we are not sure what it really means. We also tend to view it as something optional, there are times we trust God and times we do not. But it is more serious than that. Jerry Bridges writes in his book Trusting God, Even when Life Hurts, “I have spent a good portion of my adult life encouraging people to pursue holiness, to obey God. Yet, I acknowledge it often seems more difficult to trust God than to obey Him….Yet it is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him. When we disobey God we defy His authority and despise His holiness. But when we fail to trust God we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness. In both cases we cast aspersions upon His majesty and His character. God views our distrust of Him as seriously as He views our disobedience.” What does it really mean to trust God? Proverbs 3:5-6 answers that question, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

THE REQUIREMENTS FOR TRUSTING THE LORD (v. 5-6a)

  • Our trust must be external: in the Lord. What I mean by external is that the basis of our trust must not be inside ourselves. In other words, biblical trust is based upon something—or someone—outside of ourselves. Trust in God is not something we muster up by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps or psyching ourselves up. Trusting God is placing ourselves in a position whereby we rest upon His promises. The only proper source of trust, and object of trust, is God. He alone is absolutely trustworthy. As Jeremiah wrote, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD” (17:7). In competition to the Lord are the unworthy objects of trust that our hearts often place confidence in; such as man’s strength (Ps 33:16-17), princes, government leaders (Ps 146:3), wisdom and riches (Jer 9:23), or our own heart (Prov 28:26). For faith to be biblical, it must have the right object: God.
  • Our trust must be entire: with all your heart. Biblical trust is wholehearted. Since the heart is the mind, emotions, and will, biblical faith is the entrusting of your total being to God in submission to His Word. The opposite of faith is not doubt; it is unbelief. The Bible frequently calls us to give our whole heart to God. “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:5). “How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart” (Ps 119:2). “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer 29:13).
  • Our trust must be exclusive: do not lean on your own understanding. The most natural thing we do is lean upon our own understanding and then act upon it. However, great danger accompanies trust in ourselves. “You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors” (Hos 10:13). The apostle warns, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12). Proverbs says we are a fool if we trust our heart (Prov 28:26).

Charles Bridges, a minister in the Church of England in the early 1800’s, wrote in his commentary on Proverbs, “Man with all his pride feels that he wants something to lean to. As a fallen being, he naturally leans to himself, to his own foolish notions and false fancies. Human power is his idol. His understanding is his God….This is the history of the fall; the history of man from the fall; the dominant sin of every unhumbled heart; the lamented and resisted sin of every child of God.” Walking in God’s wisdom is the opposite of trusting one’s own heart.

  • Our trust must be expressive: in all your ways acknowledge Him. The word “ways” refers to a journey, the journey of your life. The Christian life is a faith-journey, a daily walk that eventually results in month, years, and decades. This journey of faith is illustrated powerfully, for example, in Hebrews 11:8-19 as the author describes the faith of Abraham and Sarah.

THE REWARD FOR TRUSTING THE LORD (v. 6b) God promises clear direction to those who trust in Him. Throughout biblical history, believers have always sought the Lord’s guidance through pleading in prayer. Here are just a few examples: “O LORD, lead me in Thy righteousness because of my foes; make Thy way straight before me” (Ps 5:8); “Lead me in Thy truth and teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation; for Thee I wait all the day” (Ps 25:5); “Teach me Thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a level path, because of my foes” (Ps 27:11); “Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God; let Thy good Spirit lead me on level ground” (Ps 143:10). In Scripture, we find at least five assurances of God’s guidance.

  1. God will guide into pleasant paths (Ps 23:1-2).
  2. God will guide in making decisions (Ps 25:8-9).
  3. God will guide to the end of life (Ps 48:14).
  4. God will guide by wise counsel (Ps 73:24).
  5. God will guide into understanding the truth (Ps 143:10; Jn 16:13).

Psalm 37:3-5 is a soul-strengthening Scripture for every believer who is struggling to trust God: “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” This is the promise of God when we trust in Him with all our heart.

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January 30, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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What about Restitution?

In the past few weeks, we visited the book of Philemon twice. There we learned of what true, gospel-motivated forgiveness looks like in both heart and actions. One of the actions we saw modeled by the apostle is restitution. Restitution is the act of restoring something lost or stolen, and to compensate for injury or loss. This is modeled by Paul when he assures Philemon that he will repay him for whatever the runaway slave, Onesimus, had taken (Philemon 18-19).

Restitution is rooted in Old Testament law, which required it as an accompaniment of true faith and repentance. The guilt offering described was similar to the sin offering, but there was one distinction. “It is the issue of compensation. The guilt offering, in contrast to the sin offering, was required for the type of offense that created a debt calling for compensation. This compensation applied both to indebtedness incurred by mistreatment of one’s fellow man and for the improper treatment of one of God’s “holy things” (M.F. Rooker).

Leviticus 5:14-6:7 introduces us to the guilt offering, where restitution is the focus of the passage. The main point is to show us that God required restitution from His people before their sacrifice for forgiveness was accepted. Two sections are clearly marked out. These sections are set apart by the opening words, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying…” And both sections finish with the closing words, “and the priest shall make atonement for him…” The two sections are different in that one deals with sins against God, which were sometimes involuntary, and, the other, sins against our fellow man. Here we learn of two expectations.

Make restitution if you have defrauded God, even unintentionally (5:14-19).

Notice this included wrongs that were committed “unintentionally” against the LORD’s holy things (v. 15). These particular sins were not committed in defiance (Numbers 15:30), but ignorantly without willful rebellion. They were sins of neglect, but they were sin nonetheless and restitution was required before an offering could be made for forgiveness. What are some of “the LORD’s things” that may have been sinned against? It could include:

  • Sacred property (the sacrifices themselves: misuse of portions of flesh or grain)
  • Offerings for the Lord (Malachi 3:8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.”
  • Vows made to God, but left unfulfilled. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 5:5, “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”

Whatever these specific sins were, which Moses wrote about, they resulted in damage or loss to God. What was to be done? A “guilt offering” (reparation offering) was to be made. The ram required had to be of a certain value: “valued in silver shekels” (v. 15), plus a 20% fine (and shall add to it a fifth part of it, and give it to the priest). So, the first time restitution is necessary is when God has been defrauded. But the law of Moses also required restitution to be made to one’s neighbor when necessary. Old Testament law instructed the person who was seeking the Lord’s forgiveness to also be sure to correct the wrongs he committed against his fellow man. Knowing this helps us understand the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:23-24.

Make restitution if you have defrauded your fellow man (6:1-7).

In 6:1-7, Moses deals with the need for restitution from man to man. Notice the absence of words like “unaware” or “unintentional.” These sins were not committed in ignorance, but in deceit. This was fraud in its fullness (notice the phrase in verse 1: “by deceiving his neighbor”). Examples include failure to protect another person’s wealth through robbery, embezzlement, or extortion; and failure to return lost property.

Committing fraud against any fellow man included “anything about which he has sworn falsely” (v.  5). A modern example of fraud which we hear about a lot is identity theft, which damages a person’s reputation. In 2015 alone, more than 13 million Americans became victims of identity theft. From these examples, we see fraud wears many different costumes. But the moral expectation of God’s law is clear: restitution must be made (verses 5-7).

But what if the person who was been defrauded is now dead? Then what? God even made provision in His law for that situation (Numbers 5:8-9). God was careful to make provision in His law for various situations so that wrongs could be made right and riches gained through fraud could be returned with interest. If the person who was wronged had died then the restitution was to be given to the Lord’s work.

The New Testament book of Hebrews presents Jesus as our High Priest who offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. His death covers the damage our sin has inflicted on us and others, and His resurrection ensures new life. When we confess our sins to God and trust in the crucified and risen Christ, we are cleansed and accepted by Him. However, the specific point of the Leviticus passage is to show that there are times when repentance and faith must also bear the fruit of restitution.

Sacrificial and ceremonial law has found completion in the death of Christ. However, salvation in Christ does not release us from the obligation to obey God’s moral law. Another New Testament example of restitution as the fruit of repentance and faith in Christ is Zacchaeus (Read Luke 19:1-10).

What about you?

  • Have you defrauded God? Have you stolen from Him?
  • Have you defrauded another person?
  • Is it in your power to repay them?
  • Have you damaged someone’s property and not replaced it?
  • Have you borrowed another person’s belongings and not returned them?
  • Have you embezzled money from your employer?
  • Have you cheated on your tax return?

In cases like these, you cannot simply say, “Well, I’ve asked God to forgive me.” If restitution is possible, you should attempt to make it.

If the Holy Spirit convicts your conscience in regard to restitution you have not made then don’t waste any time making it right. Failing to do so may be a blight on the name of Christ our Lord, and a hindrance to your witness. In his commentary on Leviticus, Allen Ross says,

Failing to make reparation brings the body of Christ into disrepute and invites divine discipline. True believers know deep in their hearts when they have wronged God and others and cannot honestly enter worship and service without trying to make things right. That is the lesson of the reparation offering—one of the most practical of all the sacrifices.

If you have made restitution wherever possible then you may be assured of the fullest experience of forgiveness. But, if you have not, then you will not experience the fullness of intimacy with God as long as your conscience troubles you. Be willing to pray as David did in Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”

That is a prayer that God will surely answer!

[Adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, What about Restitution?]

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