Matthew 17:14-23 & A Check that Clears

Gardner’s Bookstore in Tulsa boasts being the largest used bookstore in Oklahoma with over 23,000 square feet packed with books. When I would browse the religion section looking for a jewel in a mountain of straw my frustration would be alleviated by humorously observing two of the titles that most populated those shelves. There were regularly at least half a dozen copies of Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now, and Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez each.

People generally discard user’s manuals, especially if those manuals prove faulty. A lot of people bought these books hoping they were true. I speculate that a lot of people sold them having found they were false. The prosperity premise may not necessarily be rejected, this just wasn’t the right how to for them. “This plastic must be old; run a different card and I can stil have the goodies, right?” The results are diabolical. They think they took God’s check to the bank and it failed to clear. Keep the major premise and you can only come to two conclusions. God has limited funds, or you’ve irritated Him such that He put a hold on that check. You can only doubt God, either as regards His funds or His love. Either this isn’t by grace, or there just isn’t that much of it. Here is a text that is meant to bolster faith but when the prosperity wolves finish chewing on this bone it leads only to doubt. That is unless the manual worked for you, but then the results are still diabolical, for you are worshipping mammon and using God instead of worshipping God and using mammon. Doubt is still the end result, for your faith is in a different God.

Why is it a faith issue for the disciples to fail to drive out this demon? In Matthew 10:1 Jesus gives them “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal ever disease and affliction.” Jesus says they have little faith, but it is not themselves they are doubting. They are dumbfounded as to why they can’t handle this (v. 19). They are doubting Jesus. Faith is anchored in the word of Christ, not the abilities of self (Romans 10:17). What is being bolstered by this promise then is not faith to move whatever mountain you desire, but faith to move whatever mountain Christ has commanded. To properly appropriate this promise you need to ask yourself not, “What mountain do I want to move,” but, “What mountain have we, the church, been commanded to move.”

What mountain can we move in faith?

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).’”

Jesus had just gone up a mountain and glory was breaking through while the disciples were powerless below. Christ has ascended higher into greater glory, powerlessness should doubly not be our state.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight (Acts 1:8-9).”

The Pilgrim: Faith vs. Presumption

The design of Satan is to tell the presumptuous, that their presuming on mercy is good; but to persuade the believer, that his believing is impudent bold dealing with God. I never heard a presumptuous man in my life fay that he was afraid that he presumed ; but I have heard many an honest, humble foul say, that they have been afraid that their faith has been presumption. -John Bunyan, The Jerusalem Sinner Saved

Matthew 14:22-36 & Great Faith Is a Belly Full of Jesus

Our works are born out of our faith. Faith is not born out of our works. Many sincere Christians long for deeper faith, but dig for it in all the wrong places. A better shovel may help you dig better, but it won’t make water exist below the surface. They think if they read the Bible more, they will have more faith; or if they pray more, then they will have more faith. Surely the Bible and prayer are means of grace, but not because we use them. Faith is not something we cook up in the empty kitchen of our own souls borrowing God’s ingredients. Faith grows when we feast on the Bread of Life God has already spread before us. God’s Word holds out faith-producing grace for us, not because we’ve read it or heard it, nor because some godly man has studied it or preached it, but because God spoke it, and He has spoken of His Son (Romans 10:17).

The point this text is not, “if you have faith, you can walk on water,” but, “Jesus walked on water and therefore He is worthy of your faith!”

It’s as if we go to a wine tasting and expect it to be great because we emphasize our technique. Perfect technique does not make a wine tasting excellent when the wine is wretched. The highlight of a great experience is the wine, not the technique; the tasted, not the taster. The emphasis here isn’t on the disciples faith, but the one “faithed”. What makes faith great is stressing not the beholder, but the Beheld; not the taster, but the Tasted (Psalm 34:8).

Man since the fall has tried to be a self-sustaining cannibal. Eating the apple was an infant’s attempt to be self-feeding. We were meant to be children reliant on our Father’s provision. Though made in the image of God, man is finite. When man tries to be self-reliant, to be his own source of life and thus eat on himself, there is always less of him after the meal. Seeking to be god, man becomes less godlike. Instead of living, he dies.

Better technique might help your Bible reading, but it is not decisive. It’s a shovel, it’s not water. You can’t quench thirst with a shovel. If you want good nutrition, it might help to chew your food better, but it is even better to chew better food. Introspection is good to see if you are of the faith, it is not good to grow faith. Faith will come when you look without, not when you look within. Look within for a faith-checking evaluation, look without for faith-giving revelation.

Put the emphasis on your conjuring up more faith, and you will eat yourself to death. Look to Jesus and see the feast that is. Great faith is a belly full of Jesus.

Tolle Lege: Future Grace

Readability: 3

Length: 401 pp

Author: John Piper

Here is savory truth, slow cooked to intensify flavor over thirty-one days.  Here are thirty-one meditations that are deeply theological and deeply practical. With all of the contemporary discussions concerning the gospel, law, and sanctification, this book written more than a decade earlier is now even more helpful and needed. Piper shows that we are sanctified by faith, but that we must fight for faith, and that specifically the faith that we fight for is faith in future grace. Future Grace will show you the God-glorifying nature of faith, the promises it leans into, and give instruction on how to fight for faith in those promises. Most helpful are the smattering of chapters that deal with fighting the specific sins of pride, anxiety, shame, impatience, covetousness, bitterness, despondency, and lust. This will prove to be a hard read for some. I’ll give you Piper’s own words why you should read this book anyway:

Every book worth reading beckons with the words, “Think over what I say.” I do not believe that what I have written is hard to understand – if the person is willing to think it over. When my sons complain that a good book is hard to read, I say, “Raking is easy, but all you get his leaves; digging is hard that you might find diamonds.”

There are diamonds here. Here are a few:

Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God. No one sins out of duty. We sin because it holds out some promise of happiness. That promise enslaves us until we believe that God is more to be desired than life itself (Psalm 63:3). Which means that the power of sin’s promise is broken by the power of God’s. All that God promises to be for us in Jesus stands over against what sin promises to be for us without him.

I conclude that the New Testament teaches us to obey the commandments of God – the law of Christ – by faith in future grace. The commandments of Christ are not negligible because we are under grace. They are doable because we are under grace.

Hell will not be able to blackmail heaven into misery. God’s judgment will be approved, and the saints will experience the vindication of truth as a great grace.

The test of whether our faith is the kind of faith that justifies is whether it is the kind of faith that sanctifies.

WTS Books: $10.00               Amazon:$10.87

The Pugilist: It Is Not Faith that Saves…

It is not faith that saves, but faith in Jesus Christ: faith in any other saviour, or in this or that philosophy or human conceit (Col. 2:16, 18, 1 Tim. 4:1), or in any other gospel than that of Jesus Christ and Him as crucified (Gal. 1:8, 9), brings not salvation but a curse. It is not, strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith. The saving power resides exclusively, not in the act of faith or the attitude of faith or the nature of faith, but in the object of faith; and in this the whole biblical representation centres, so that we could not more radically misconceive it than by transferring to faith even the smallest fraction of that saving energy which is attributed in the Scriptures solely to Christ Himself.  -B.B. Warfield, The Biblical Doctrine of Faith

The Pugilist: The Law Presupposes Grace

The piety of the Old Testament thus began with faith. And though, when the stage of the law was reached, the emphasis might seem to be thrown rather on the obedience of faith, what has been called ‘faith in action,’ yet the giving of the law does not mark a fundamental change in the religion of Israel, but only a new stage in its orderly development. The law-giving was not a setting aside of the religion of promise, but an incident in its history; and the law given was not a code of jurisprudence for the world’s government, but a body of household ordinances for the regulation of God’s family. It is therefore itself grounded upon the promise, and it grounds the whole religious life of Israel and the grace of the covenant God (Ex. xx. 2). It is only because Israel are the children of God, and God has sanctified them unto Himself and chosen them to be a peculiar people into Him (Deut. xiv. 1), that He proceeds to frame them by His law for His especial treasure (Ex. xix. 5, cf. Tit. ii. 14). Faith, therefore, does not appear as one of the precepts of law, nor as a virtue superior to its precepts, nor yet as a substitute for keeping them; it rather lies behind the law as its presupposition. – B.B. Warfield, The Biblical Doctrine of Faith