The BlogShipwrecked Faith from a Shipwrecked Church
One of the most powerful tools in our arsenal of evangelism is our testimony about Christ. We, like John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, and millions of others have a first-hand, personal account to proclaim about our Lord. And our testimony, like the testimony of John the Baptist, is something our detractors cannot argue against. Why? Because it happened to us. We are not proclaiming truth they can claim is not true, we are sharing our story, which is just that: Our story.
It is our witness to what Christ has done for us.
It is our proclamation as to who Christ is.
And it is our story that tells our deliverance from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of our God.
Our story is a powerful tool in the hands of our Lord.
The word “testimony” or “witness” is used of John the Baptist six times in the first thirty-four verses of John. It seems that word defined his ministry.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for (what) a witness, to bear (what) witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear (what) witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. (John 1:6-9)
How is your testimony or witness for Jesus? Is it sharp, like a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12)? Or has it grown rust and decay from neglect or lack of use? Remember, we are the only ones that have our witness about Him? Everyone else has their own. And it is our responsibility to tell others what He has done for us. That is what love is. And it can be as simple as this:
“One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25).
Let’s look at the testimony of John the Baptist.
Whenever God reveals truth, Satan and fallen man try to deny it. Or at least confuse it in some way. And we see this clearly in the relentless attack on the Doctrine of the Trinity. Throughout the history of the church there have been many false views about the Trinity.
Some of these have been adequately dealt with by church creeds and councils. And some still persist today. Remember the three unchangeable truths found in Scripture about God:
One, God eternally exists as three persons.
Two, each person is fully God in every aspect.
Three, there is one God.
The problem now is to try to explain these truths without elevating one at the expense of another.
Let’s list a few we will discuss today.
First, there is Modalism that claims God is one Person who appears to us in three different forms, or personalities, or modes (hence the name).
Then there is the Arian Controversy, named after Arius, a Bishop of Alexandria, whose views were condemned at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Because of the problems Arius and his views caused the early church, the Nicene Creed was written which affirmed, among other things, that Christ was ‘begotten, not made.”
“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (ὁμοούσιον) with the Father.…”
And following these are Subordinationism, Adoptionism and Tritheism, and others.
Let’s take a look at these together and see how our enemy tried to confuse the church with false views of the Doctrine of the Trinity.
Once again, we find many passages in the Scriptures that appear to imply Jesus assumed a subordinate role to the Father while on earth, and possibly even in heaven. And, as in the past, we are faced with some questions. But the answer to those questions and, at least on the surface, inconsistencies are found in the reality that Jesus lived to do the will of His Father. Both then, in the pages of Scripture, and even now, in heaven. This is a truth clearly revealed in the Gospels. Consider the following:
Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” (John 8:28-29)
Note, Jesus does not do things to advance His own agenda. He purposes His life to “always do those things that please Him (Father).”
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:37-39)
Again, taken at face value, this implies the Father has something the Son doesn’t and then gives it to Him to act on the Father’s behalf or best interest.
What can we learn from this?
We have many passages in the Scriptures that appear to imply Jesus assumed a subordinate role to the Father while on earth, and possibly even in heaven. But how is that possible if both Jesus and the Father are, in fact, God? And this question brings us to the complicated doctrine of the trinity. What is the doctrine of the trinity? How is that doctrine revealed in Scripture since the word “trinity” doesn’t even appear in the Bible?
These are great questions that we will be tackling today and in the coming sessions.
But first, let’s define the truth of the doctrine of the trinity. We can summarize the teaching of Scripture into three key points:
One, God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Two, each person is fully God.
And three, there is one God.
So how does all this pan out in real life?
Hence, the doctrine of the trinity. It is clearly taught in Scripture but is often hard to reconcile in our finite minds which demand logical closure.
Let’s start with a verse that shows both Jesus, God’s Son, and God the Father are both fully God. We’ll begin with the familiar passage from John 1:1-2:
In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word (Jesus) was with God (Father), and the Word was God (One). He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God (Father).
Note, we have God existing as separate persons, in this case, the Father and the Son. And we have both Father and Son assuming the same identity, God. But how is this possible?
Join us as we begin to unpack the doctrine of the trinity and the relationship among the persons of the Godhead in regard to deference and subordination. It should be a wild ride!
As we look at the life of John the Baptist, one of his most endearing characteristics is his ability to fully grasp his place in redemptive history. In other words, John the Baptist had a part to play, but that part was secondary to Jesus. John was the opening act. Jesus was the headliner. And this was much the same type of relationship Jesus had with His Father. Both were God, yet Jesus seemed to take a subordinate role to that of His Father. We can see that in the way Jesus describes His relationship with His Father.
For example, consider the following:
“You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28)
Uh, what? What did Jesus mean when He said His Father is “greater” than He is?
It appears in Scripture that Jesus chose to assume a subordinate relationship with His Father yet, as we know, Jesus and His Father are one (John 10:30). But this raises a few questions we will be addressing as we move forward. Some of them are:
Are they each equally God?
And, if so, is there a subordinate relationship between members of the Godhead?
Is that relationship based on worth or merit or something else?
And why is this even important?
These are some of the questions we will be answering as we dig deeper into John’s statement in John 1:30:
“This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.'” (See also John 1:15, 27 where John the Baptist makes the same claim about Jesus.)
If you have a desire to know more about the relationship between Jesus and His Father and, at the same time, uncover some incredible truth, then keep listening.
We have been looking at how to live in the victory Christ provided for us over our past sins and failures. And it is really quite simple: Choose to believe what God says about you (and your past regrets) and not what you feel or what seems right to you. After all, He is God and we are… dust. Yet, because of His great love for us, He chose to provide victory over the consequences of our sins by sacrificing His Son on the cross. And for us to wallow in self-condemnation and despair over the sins and regrets Christ died to forgive, makes light of His great sacrifice.
If His death provided us victory over sin, then our reasonable duty would be to walk and live in that victory. Period. End of story.
But how do we go about living in His victory over our past regrets?
In this message, we’ll give some tools to help you experience freedom from self-condemnation and unforgiveness. And these tools are centered around turning the enemy’s temptations and taunts into praise. After all, Satan hates it when we praise our Lord.
There is also one last Scripture we will look at that clearly puts our life and relationship with Christ into perspective. It’s 1 Corinthians 6:20, and reads:
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
And finally, as we shared before, the choice offered to each of us when we struggle with past failures and regrets is to believe what the Lord says about our sins and transgressions or to hold on to what we feel about them. And most Christians, especially when it comes to a choice of grace or condemnation, choose the latter. Why? Because it somehow feels good to punish ourselves for something God has chosen to forget.
If you want to know more, keep listening.
We have been taking the plaguing problem of self-condemnation and unforgiveness regarding our past sins and regrets and using it as a means to learn how to surrender our lives to the Lord. And the crux of the issue always has to do with what we choose to believe. We can base our relationship with the Lord on how we feel, or on what He says. Which brings us to the great question we looked at yesterday: What does God do with our sin? We listed five of ten truths from His Word. And for today, we have the followup question: What else does God do with our sin?
Trust me, you’ll be surprised to see the great lengths the Lord goes to make sure we are not only forgiven but feel forgiven and experience the joy of full forgiveness. Here are the first five we discovered:
One, God forgives our sins and transgressions. Period. You can find this truth in Psalm 32.
Two, God covers our sins so they can be seen no more. This truth is also found in Psalm 32:1.
Three, God throws our sins into the depths of the sea. This, and the next truth, are both found in Micah 7:18-19.
Four, God tramples our sins under His foot. The imagery is of a father crushing the head of a serpent who threatens his children as they walk together on a trail.
And five, God removes our sins from us. How much or how far? As far as the “east is from the west”, according to Psalm 103:10-12.
But this is only the beginning.
God has a limitless supply of grace He freely bestows on those who confess their sins to Him. Let’s quickly list the last five things:
Six, God puts all our sins behind His back. This is from Isaiah 37:17. Let the imagery of this verse sink in for a moment.
Seven, God chooses to forgive our sins and failures. His choice. Our blessing. This wondrous truth is found in Isaiah 43:25 and Jeremiah 31:34.
Eight, God cancels the debt of our sin. Literally wipes it out. See Colossians 2:13-14.
Nine, God cleanses us from all unrighteousness. This is the second part of 1 John 1:9.
And ten, God “takes away” or removes our sins from us. And we now end where we started, back at John 1:29.
Again, the choice offered to each of us when we struggle with past failures and regrets is to believe what the Lord says about our sins and transgressions or to hold on to what we feel about them. And most Christians, especially when it comes to a choice of grace or condemnation, choose the latter. Why? Because it somehow feels good to punish ourselves for something God has chosen to forget.
To unpack these truths and learn how to get victory over this, keep listening.
One of the ways to learn how to totally surrender your life to the Lord is to also learn how to deal with your past regrets, no matter what form they may take. Your past regrets may be a habitual sin, a failed marriage, or the betrayal of a friend. The substance of your regrets may take on many forms. But at the root, it is always the same problem. And that problem is the fact we refuse to believe what the Scripture says about what God does with our sin and instead hold on to what we feel is right and justified. For many Christians today, that is penance, self-condemnation, and our refusal to forgive ourselves.
Which brings us to the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” final question: What does God do with our sin once we repent of it? Or, what does the Scripture say about how God views our sins after we confess them to Him?
These are excellent questions. But the answer depends on who we choose to believe: God, and what He says about our sins in His Word, or the ever-increasing lying voice of self-condemnation we hear in our own head. And as with most of life after regeneration, God leaves the choice of victory or defeat entirely up to us.
It is ours to lose.
Before we begin with the specifics, remember what His Word says about condemnation. Romans 8, that incredible chapter begins like this:
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
But it gets much better. Look how the same chapter ends:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Today, we will look at ten things God does when we sin, five today and five tomorrow. Then, you will have the choice of where to place your faith. In Him and His Word, which always leads to victory and a surrender of our past regrets. Or to your flesh and its demand for restitution and penance, which leads to self-condemnation and loathing.
And as always, God gives the choice to us.
We have been talking about a life of total surrender or total abandonment to the Lord. We see examples of this kind of life in Scripture and in church history, but are pressed to know anyone personally who lives that way? Which begs the question: How do I surrender my life to the Lord? Or, what are the steps to total surrender? To my giving my all to Him?
These are great questions. But when you ask someone the answer, they usually respond with something like this:
Give everything to God.
Really? That’s all you’ve got for me? Ok, like what? What exactly do I surrender to the Lord? And how exactly do I go about doing that? You make it seem so easy with your pat answer, but I know it can’t be that simple.
Remember, to surrender your life to the Lord means to “yield ownership or control over what we consider ours: our property, our time, our rights, our self.” And the focus of our surrender is our past, present, and future.
We are to give Him our past regrets, our present problems, and our future ambitions. This means we freely give Him our fears, our dreams, our weaknesses, our habits, our hurts, and our issues (hang-ups). In essence, we give all of who we are, good, bad, and ugly, and allow Jesus to take control.
And what do we get in return? It’s so wonderful it’s hard to put into words. But let’s start with this:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
And we’ve just scratched the surface. If you want to know more, keep listening.
One of the key requirements for having the kind of spiritual life we see in the heroes of our faith is an often neglected term: total surrender or total abandonment to God. Or, to make it personal, to be surrendered totally or become totally abandoned to Him. We see this concept in the works of Oswald Chambers and Andrew Murray and many of the other “higher Christian life” proponents of the last century. It was a major theme in the Keswick Movement that had such a lasting effect in the first half of the twentieth century. And the idea of total surrender or total abandonment to God is the foundation in the teaching of Jesus in John 15 about the vine and the branches and the art of “abiding in Him.”
But what does it mean to experience total surrender or total abandonment to God?
First, to surrender or experience total abandonment means to “yield ownership or control over what we consider ours: our property, our time, our rights, our self.” This is the key that unlocks the door to the
“abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10). There is no other way.
In “My Utmost for His Highest”, Oswald Chambers defines total surrender this way:
Genuine total surrender is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself.
Then he gives this warning:
Beware of stopping anywhere short of total surrender to God. Most of us have only a vision of what this really means, but have never truly experienced it.
If you desire to surrender more of yourself to Him, by all means, keep listening.