Jesus, Mission, repentance, scripture, sin, textual interpretation, theology

Bible Study comments 1: Knowing that faith is a gift of God moves us (among other lesser things) to Glory in Christ.

The Bible Study I attend in St. John’s is continuing to look into the Word of God, guided by a John Piper book, “When I Don’t Desire God” (available online by clicking on he link). Last week, they went through Chapter 4 of the book, Joy in God is a Gift of God: Doing Ourselves What Must Be Done For Us. There are many things in the chapter to comment on, but besides sharing the point of the chapter, I’ll leave you all to read it yourselves.

The Chapter is about, simply, the fact that the Bible seems to say that it is commanded that we have joy in the Lord, but similarly, that joy in the Lord is a gift given by the Lord. It’s the problem of dead sinners (sinners here meaning people who ARE sinners, rather than simply people who sin, we are not just people who do bad stuff, we are the kind of people that do bad stuff). We are in a very bad position vis a vis God, not simply because we’re doers of bad stuff, but because we desire the wrong things and thus do the bad stuff. The problem is not simply our actions, but the desperately wicked heart that drives the actions (See Jeremiah 17:9-10 for the relation of God’s judgment on deeds and the relation to the heart).

It is that rebellious heart that must come to rejoice in the Lord, which is the Lord’s work.

Now, I hear that there were two very good questions asked at the study. I want to give a stab at an answer for both, one today, and one whenever I next get time. The first is “Why does it matter that believing God’s revealed word about Himself is a gift that He has given?” and the second is “Should we be concerned with those who have not received repentance, and can we blame them for not repenting?”.

Why Does It Matter?

I think there are many reasons why it matters that God’s gift of faith in Him is a gift He Himself is given. I’ll give three of my anwers here.

1) Such knowledge keeps us from thinking of ourselves too highly. Humans have a habit of turning good things that we have into a means of boasting. That is the point of 1 Corinthians 1:23-31. I know in my own mind that I sometimes think of those who reject Jesus as stupid or ignorant, when in fact only God’s grace keeps me in faith. I have no right to boast over others, but rather have a need to boast in the Lord that saves me….from me.

2) Knowing that it is only by the gift of God empowers us to speak openly of Jesus to those who do not believe. Faith in God comes from God, and as such it keeps us from two opinions that might cause us to be silent about His grace around others. In the first place, we could be silent because we believe people are too far beyond the pale.

Indeed they are. Everybody we speak to is as dead in sin as we were, but God saved us, loving us while we were still sinners (1 John 4:10), and calling us to salvation and righteousnes while we were slaves to sin (Romans 6:17).

Do you think that your unsaved family member is too far gone to be reached by your words? Darn skippy! Sin has them enslaved, and sin is a powerful master. They are enthralled by the desires of the world, AS WE WERE. God can save them as He saved us, because we were not saved by our superior intellect or spiritual ability, or a “God gene” but by the sovereign grace of God!

Similarly, we can believe that we should not witness to our friends and family because we do not have powerful convincing words to move them. Instead we should just live holy lives and hope they see it in our lives. This is half true, we should lead Holy lives, like a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14-16), but we should also openly rejoice in God, and tell others. Indeed, not with hugely practiced words and powerful arguments, as that will only stoke the desire to be self righteous (and prove you to be self righteous at the same time), but with the words in your heart.

God may have saved you through an argument, or through reading or through the Godly life of another, but it was God who saved you, not you. In essence, in evangelism, you are not asked to be effective beyond your means, you are only asked to be faithful.

This does not mean you don’t learn arguments for Christ if you can, but do not worry if that is not your forte, God is going to use your faithfulness to save people, and it will be God’s work, so you don’t get to boast in it, you get to be part of what God does.

3) It’s important because it moves us to glory in Christ, our redeemer. Knowing that it is God in Christ who gives us the gift of faith, to understand His word, and to come to Him rejoicing in Him makes the joy in Him far greater. All things, whether it be the truth in Scripture, or a heart that seeks after God, or a Godly spouse and family, or Godly friends, or even our repentance itself, become conduits to praising God alone, feeling Him sweet, and valuable above all else. Honestly, I wanna sing now.

I will glory in my Redeemer
Whose priceless blood has ransomed me
Mine was the sin that drove the bitter nails
And hung Him on that judgment tree
I will glory in my Redeemer
Who crushed the power of sin and death
My only Savior before the Holy Judge
The Lamb Who is my righteousness
The Lamb Who is my righteousness

I will glory in my Redeemer
My life He bought, my love He owns
I have no longings for another
I’m satisfied in Him alone
I will glory in my Redeemer
His faithfulness my standing place
Though foes are mighty and rush upon me
My feet are firm, held by His grace
My feet are firm, held by His grace

I will glory in my Redeemer
Who carries me on eagle’s wings
He crowns my life with lovingkindness
His triumph song I’ll ever sing
I will glory in my Redeemer
Who waits for me at gates of gold
And when He calls me it will be paradise
His face forever to behold
His face forever to behold
His face forever to behold

Words and Music by Steve and Vicki Cook
© 2001 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP).