Friday, November 21, 2014

Don’t Panic—Be Still…

Last December this writer posted a blog based on Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. Since that posting, as so often is the case when someone preaches on something, times and events provided circumstances that have tested my faith concerning the things I wrote. Yesterday, one more opportunity to learn in the School of Trust has presented itself following a routine visit to my doctor. My yearly check-up revealed something that needs immediate attention. While arrangements for treatment for this condition have been made, along with much prayer, concerns over how serious the matter could be, along with guarded statements from my doctor, have fed my natural inclination to panic. Amid the countless thoughts swirling inside my brain since the hour of my visit to my doctor, I hear the still small voice of God’s Word saying, “Be still.”

It seems, sometimes that it takes circumstances such as these when I am forced to face my own mortality, to remind me of what is the basic principle of the Christian life—be still and know that God is God and I am not. When problems come up, whether they are my own or those of others around me, I want to fix things, to make everything right. And so, I begin my mental calisthenics through which I attempt to work out solutions to problems I soon find I am ill equipped to solve.  So much futile effort and much frustration on my part could be avoided if I can only learn to first go in complete faith and trust to my Heavenly Father, Who has been and always will be, in complete control.   In fact, this is what the Gospel that leads to salvation is all about.

To fully understand why this matter of being still and knowing that God is God is so central to the whole teaching of the Bible we have to go back to the Garden of Eden. It was there that the old serpent made the promise that man did not need God. In fact, by disobeying God man would know good and evil and would “be as (on the same level—equal to) God (Genesis 3:5).” This is now the state of man, having cast God out of our lives we substitute our own selves attempting to be little gods. While the knowledge of what is good is still within us according to Romans chapter one, we all “like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; Isaiah 53:6a. The Bible is clear that there is none that is truly good (Romans 3:12). This then, is why there is so much evil in this world. Men, having rejected divine authority,  do what is right in their own eyes (judges 17:6). While many esteem themselves to be good, this is only by comparing themselves to others. God, however sees our hearts and has declared that the heart of man “… is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked:…(Jeremiah 17:9”.

This indeed is the hopeless situation of man until we consider the rest of Isaiah 53:6,  “and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” The New Testament more fully explains what this all means. Man has sinned (Romans 3) but Jesus died for our sins, blotting out the ordinances that were against us, “… and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross (Colossians 2:14)”. Man can be restored to his intended relationship with God by receiving God’s Son, trusting and relying upon what He did for us on the Cross (John 1:12; 3:16). This is what Jesus meant when He said “…Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Man died in the Garden of Eden, just as God promised in Genesis 2:17. Man’s spiritual death was immediate. His physical body began to die immediately as well. Paul calls man’s present condition as being in a body of death from which he (Paul) yearned to be freed. (Romans 7:24). And so, the words of Jesus make sense, “we must be born again.” This is the great salvation from man’s sinful condition offered to each and every one of us. We begin a new relationship with our Heavenly Father which includes a new nature that is alive to Him. We have a promise concerning our physical bodies as well. They too will be changed at the coming of Jesus Christ and this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54)”. What a wonderful salvation we are promised.

There are two words in the New Testament that are used in relation to receiving this salvation. In John 1:12 we see them both. There we are told to receive and to believe. The connection between these two words is strong. We are to receive the Lord Jesus Christ into our lives and to believe in Him, by accepting Him to be Who He said He is, God the Son John 8:58, and trusting in His provision for us on the Cross. Romans 10:13 says, it clearly, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.Where man died in the Garden of Eden by rejecting God’s authority over him, he now has the opportunity for new life through receiving God back into his life by trusting the Son of God to do what we cannot. When we make such trust, the words of Psalm 46:10 resonate within us. “Be still”—cease from your own efforts to achieve what I have promised, and “know”--understand and acknowledge—“that I am God”.

Unfortunately, we have versions of the Gospel today that promise a relationship with God on man’s terms instead of what God has outlined for us. Foremost is religion where men seek to earn God’s favor through works.  Instead of placing faith in what God did for us on the Cross at Calvary, religion binds men to a system of dos and don’ts in an effort to earn God’s favor. More insidious though is a very common teaching that sounds close to the Gospel but would have us remain as little gods. Naming a Jesus that is anything but God the Son described in Scripture, this false gospel contains the concept that we have the authority of God to name what we desire and to claim it. While some who teach the “name it—claim it” practice of faith, do not openly hold to the doctrines of a false Jesus, they do reduce God, to the subservience of men, subjecting Him to men’s wishes. While claiming to hold to the principles of salvation by grace, the name-it, claim-it teachers replace works religion in which man seeks to earn God’s favor, with one that demands it. This is so far from the teaching of Psalm 46:10 as to be its direct opposite.

The teaching if Psalm 46:10 is clear, not only in the matter of salvation where I am to trust that He has done for me what I cannot do for myself, but also in my daily walk. When I receive the Lord Jesus Christ into my life, I acknowledge that He is God and I am not. This is salvation, the new life and the rebirth that I so desperately need. However, I don’t always live accord to this faith. Paul in his tongue twister section of Romans seven described the situation as knowing what to do but not always doing it. Living in the new life that God gives is something of a battle between my old and new natures. So often do I forget and begin to take back control of my life. So often do I forget to be still and to know that God is God and I am not.

And so this morning, as I reflect on the circumstances before me, I am reminded of Who God is. He is the One Who created all there is to see. He made me. He brought me to saving faith in His Son. He has supplied all my needs and has promised to continue doing so. He knows my circumstances, and while I do not know exactly what he will do, I do know He loves me and has promised to work all things together for good to those that love Him. I can only pray, “Lord, I love you. Help me to love you more. Help me to love You enough to trust Your love for me. Help me to be still and know that You are God.”

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