August 9, 2008

I'm in a battleground, and it isn't Gettysburg

Gettysburg may have plenty of reenactments of the Civil War and the battles fought there, but the Christian life is a continuous battle ground where real fighting is happening all the time. It isn't pretend. I'm not going to write about the Christian battle right now, just throwing that statement out so that it will be clear that the verses I'm about to quote from God's Word to us, will be read in that light.

The first verse is about faith, and faith is probably the least understood part of being a Christian in America today. I could be wrong, but I haven't met too many church goers here who have it, so I'm praying that God would revive real faith in our people, just as He sovereignly and graciously did for me in a dramatic way a number of years ago. I have never been the same since.

I came across this verse while reading this morning in Acts:

"Since they [everyone on the ship] had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.' So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island." (Acts 27:21-26 ESV).

That is another example of faith in the WORD of God. Paul was not saying he 'hoped' it would be as God said, or that it will 'probably' be as God said, or that they 'ought to believe' that it will be so, and then it will be. No. Paul said, "it will be exactly as I have been told."

I'm pretty discouraged by all the people running around saying, "God told me this," and "God told me that." Now, I've been caught up in that kind of excitement before in the past. I've even had supernatural dreams and other experiences I could boast about, but that would be a sickening thing to do in light of real love for others. So I want to simply say that by grace, we believe God's written words in the Bible are absolutely, positively certain. Everything will be exactly as it is written. And faith believes that. Do we believe the written word of God?

Paul, being an apostle and chosen vessel of God in order to write words of truth said, "assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." (Ephesians 3:2-5 ESV).

So, I'm not discrediting supernatural experiences if they are genuine, but I am emphasizing that real faith must be solidly planted in the sure words of God, and not in anything less. And for us, those words are to be found only in the Bible. Now, of course, it will do us no good if we simply believe the words of Scripture are true, but we must trust Him who is faithful, "who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." (Romans 4:24-25). Of course, as the verse on the header says, "it is the gift of God."

Grace to you and God bless.

9 comments:

Angela said...

Penn,
I agree that faith is not where it should be, definitely in the church, and even as someone who desires Christ first in their life, my faith is not where I would like it to be. Sometimes I am surprised when God answers a prayer. I have to remember that he is who he says he is and can do what he says he can do, and something that helps me to do that is remembering what he has done before, and one thing was that God has audibly spoken to me. I don't understand why telling of something God has personally done in your life would be sickening. If it is true, then God did something awesome, and it is not taking any credit for anything, but showing that indeed God is alive and active even in todays disbelieving world. I understand about not casting pearls before swine, and I absolutely think that the most important way to stay grounded in the truth is through God's written word, I just don't think that we have to discount times when God does something personal with us. Are you upset by false witnesses or sensationalism? I would agree with you on that.

Penn (Chief Sinner) said...

Hey Angela,
thanks for your comments. I knew I should probably try to clarify why I said that after I published it. I think because if I went around telling people about my experiences (and I'm starting to realize this more and more), that I would not have the interest of their growth in believing the Word of God in mind, but rather, would be unloving, because it would put me on the spotlight and it would cause them to seek spiritual experiences in search of real faith, instead of being solidly grounded in His Word. The more people I minister to by the grace of God, the more I realize they are looking everywhere for something to give them faith, except for looking in the Bible! That discourages me. I don't mean people should not share these things ever. I have told them to people when it was appropriate, and also learned from when it isn't. You could say I have a pretty strong passion that people seek to read the Bible with understanding and trust God through what it says. Thanks for helping me think through on this more. God bless.

Stephanie said...

"real faith must be solidly planted in the sure words of God, and not in anything less."

A big Amen to that!

This is an area where a lot of discernement needs to be practiced. I think that God can speak to someone in a dream, but...like you said, our faith can only stand strong in God's Word.
The Pentacostal movement has definitely run with this whole thing, putting a lot of faith in dreams and audible voices, etc., but it seems that they neglect the Word of God a lot. I haven't read the whole article yet, but John MacArthur seems to give some wise counsel in this area:

http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/4595

Okay, I'm going to go and finish reading it. :)

Stephanie said...

Here's a bold quote from the above mentioned article:

"Anyone who seeks direct communication with God or Christ is in serious danger of demonic impersonators of deity."

Sounds a little harsh, but it makes sense after reading the article...so go and read it, friends. :)

Penn Tomassetti said...

Stephanie,
Thanks for that link to the article by John MacArthur. MacArthur is by far one of my favorite ministers today, because he is one of very few who preach a balanced message of both judgment and grace, which is so essential to true salvation. Did you see the link I have on the sidebar to his "Grace to You" radio program? Those daily broadcasts are worth listening to for anyone who seriously wants to understand Scripture.

About dreams, visions, voices, etc. I meet so many people influenced by todays popular Christianity, which has its charismatic influences (which are related but not the same as pentecostalism), and it is so hard to communicate any truth to those who have put most or all of their faith in their experience, or in a prayer they prayed, instead of in what God has spoken in the Bible. There is absolute truth. We can understand it. It is found in the Bible and no where else. Of course this sounds harsh... it did to me a couple years ago... but I'm beginning to understand why it is important to speak up on this issue.

I will check out that article. God bless.

Angela said...

Hmm, what Stephanie said makes sense. I agree that it is dangerous to look for those types of experiences because there are plenty who would use those types of situations to mislead. I understand where you are coming from.

Penn Tomassetti said...

I just finished reading the sermon transcript by John MacArthur called "Does God Still Give Revelation" found here
http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/4595

It was worth reading. Thanks to Stephanie from Thirsty Soul for supplying the reference and link. This is one issue I cannot run from or avoid. I've been struggling with questions regarding prophecy for a long time now. If you need help getting clear answers to your charismatic questions, then this article is helpful. John MacArthur is certainly not an inspired author (he doesn't claim to be) but I do believe God uses him to help a lot of Christians become grounded in the truth of Scripture. What I am trying to say is that it is beneficial to read. Thanks.

God bless.

Kalani said...

I was really edified while reading this. Lately, I had been experiencing confusion because I wanted to walk in the spirit but instead of doing that I was going by a deceitful heart/feelings. Just these past few months through my dad, books, and even this post they have all said the same thing: Simply go by the word of God!
Thank you for this post, I'm glad I stopped by! Now, I'm going to be renewing my mind with the word!

Penn Tomassetti said...

Kalani,
Thanks for sharing that. I am so encouraged to hear how God has Sovereignly directed you back to His unchangeable Word, even by using your dad, other resources and this post. Thank you for commenting about it. Grace be with you.