J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

God Helps You Part 1

I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I have read the commands of scripture and they have seemed absolutely impossible to obey.   Even after following Christ for most of my life, there are some commands that just seem flat out impossible – even with all the promises of God.   Consider some of the daunting commands that we have seen recently in the book of Romans.  Paul commanded the Romans (and us) to bear the failings of the weak and not live lives for the pursuit of self.  Instead, he commanded us to live to serve our neighbors and build them up.

Essentially, Paul says we have no right to complain about the person who annoys us or the person who is incompetent or the person who demands so much of you.  Instead of being annoyed or being indignant or self-righteous, we are to imitate our Savior, serve them, and build them up – deny the pursuit of self, and trust God will take care of us.  Fortunately, Paul reminds us of the Gospel that Jesus has met our primary need of the forgiveness of sin and the removal of guilt, and the closer we walk in and embrace that truth, the more we will be able to deny self and serve others.

Yet, the commands of God still seem daunting in the day to day.  At times, they almost appear alien.  When your husband or wife or co-worker or boss is yelling at you, isn’t it pretty hard to consider their needs before yours or to consider them better than yourself?  Isn’t it at that point and time you want to yell, “Hey what about me?”

Just this week, I spoke with someone who has heard the truths of scripture over and over again.  They have been a believer in Christ a good bit of their life.  But right now, the worries of work and home seem so large that the promises of Jesus along with all the commands, seem like something far, far away.  Well this week at Sovereign King, we are going to learn just how God makes these impossible commands possible.  We’ve always said before at SK that God equips us to that which He calls us.  Well this week we will find out just how He does that.   So with that in mind, let’s answer this Big Picture Question.

Big Question:  How does God equip you to do the things that He commands?

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Remember, verse 4 comes right after the promise that Jesus has taken all of our reproach and guilt and sin upon Himself so that we don’t live in the pursuit of selfish pleasures but in the reflection of Jesus’ love in serving others.  The promise that Jesus has taken our reproach comes from Psalm 69:9 which reads, “9 For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.”  Paul reminds us that the promise of Psalm 69, as well as all the promises of the OT, were written for your encouragement and instruction.

Paul is encouraging each and every one of you to not neglect the encouragement that comes from what has been written in the scriptures.  You know, the Bible was written to tell us about the character of God and to teach about salvation and curb evil in the world, but sometimes we just forget that the scriptures were also written so that we might endure, have encouragement, and find hope.

Practically, how often do you think that way?  Do you think, “What a terrible day, I think I’m going to sit and read my Bible for a few minutes,” or, “Wow, my wife and I just had a terrible fight, let me read a few Psalms.”  Honestly, Gang.  One of the primary means in which God intends to encourage you is through your personal reading of the scriptures, yet so many of use never pursue them at all much less in a disciplined fashion.

You know, growing up a preacher’s kid and then later going to seminary later in life, I’ve been around some folks who really knew their scriptures.   People who could quote chapter and verse all day long.  Now, when working through theology and teaching, the preachers that can effortlessly quote scripture can really make a big impact.  But for me, the folks who have always been most impressive, and subsequently the most Godly in my opinion, have been those folks who live and breathe by the scriptures – the people who live in constant dependence of the scriptures and find their encouragement there.

I spent 4 of my summers working up at a youth camp at Lake Gaston.  There was a quiet humble guy named Kevin who was the camp’s assistant director.  He was about my height maybe smaller believe it or not, but he knew how do everything single thing at that camp.  He could water ski, mountain climb, hunt, fish, and ever make all the crafts.  But the thing that stood out about Kevin was that when you were exhausted or worried about a camper or stressed out about how you were going to pay your tuition in the Fall, he knew a scripture.  Not part of a scripture or “Jesus once said in Luke” – He knew the chapter, the verse, who said it and who they said it to and even better, it was the right word at the right time.

Essentially, when we struggle as to why it is that we can’t live our lives with joy, or why we can’t persevere through difficult times or why we struggle with hope, it is quite often that we neglect our scriptures.  Folks, streams of living water await you.  I know not everyone enjoys reading and I know it may not be everyone’s learning style, so try out books on CD or take the scriptures 5 verses at a time…whatever.  Get in the scriptures so you can get the scriptures into you.  Fortunately though, Paul prays for us, and this is where we begin to see the Big Picture Question really come to life.

5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Knowing that we are quite often too weak to even do the things that are good for us, Paul prays this prayer.   First of all, look who Paul is praying to:  the God of endurance and encouragement who is also the source of all endurance and encouragement.  Have any you ever wondered or prayed to God to ask Him why you were going through a certain situation?  You know those prayers, there are the ones that go like this:

God why in the world did the dish washer have to die this month?  You know we don’t have any money.  God why in the world have you allowed my wife to be sick so long?  Why can’t you just make her better?  God why in the world did I get fired or laid off or not get the promotion I wanted?  God, why can’t I feel good just once?

There are a thousand variations to this prayer, but you get the drift.  You know those prayers, right?  There is nothing wrong with praying those prayers.  In fact, there are many prayers along those lines including Psalm 69 that we looked at last week that had King David saying that his throat was sore from crying out to God for so long.  But just as David did in Psalm 69, we need to remind ourselves to whom we pray:  He and we pray to the God of all endurance and encouragement.  Do you think of God in that way when you need the ability to endure or you need to be encouraged?  Do you think of God in that way when trying to overcome sin?

Well, here Paul wants you to think of God as the God of all encouragement so that you can endure financial problems, marital problems, and school problems but the focus here is Paul’s desire for you to think of the God of all encouragement as the source for your ability to live in harmony with one another within the church.  Now, we are called to live in peace with the world, but Paul is specifically commanding believers here to live in harmony with each other.

How we do that should be “in accord with Christ Jesus.”  We should live with one another in harmony in accord with Christ Jesus.  So, what does that mean?   Generally, the idea of living in accord with Jesus encompasses the idea of Jesus’ commanded will to us and as well as the pattern and example of Jesus.  Essentially, believers are to obey the commands of Jesus as seen in John 17, “Father make them one as you and I are one” and we are to follow the example of Jesus.  We can live in harmony with one another because we are one in Christ.  This is not just a theoretical unity but an actual unity, so we need to explore the idea a bit.

Let me do my best to explain how this works.  Believers are united to with each other because they are united to Christ.  C. H. Spurgeon is the September 1865 Sword and Trowel explains it in this way.

1. Believers are joined to Christ by an everlasting love. Before Jesus was born in a manger and took on the flesh of men or before you became aware of His love for you, Jesus’ heart was set upon each believer and He delighted in you individually and you as the church.  Ephesians 1:3 –  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  Every believer shares the pre-eternal love of Jesus Christ by His choosing of us.

2. Believers are also joined by a union of purpose as well as of love.   Not only are we united in the love of Jesus but we are united in Jesus together for the purpose of reflecting that love.  Ephesians 1:4 “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”  Each believer is united in our purpose to love Jesus and reflect Him in holiness.

3. Believers are also one with Jesus and with each other federally. Let me explain that.  With Adam, every human is united in their sinful nature.  But in Christ, each believer is united in Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:22 – For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.    Adam is the federal head of human race.  Jesus is the federal head of the church.

4. And finally, for the accomplishment of the great works of atonement and perfect obedience, it was needful that the Lord Jesus should take upon him “the likeness of sinful flesh.” Thus, he became one with us in our weakness, for in Holy Scripture, all partakers of flesh and blood are regarded as of one family.  Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

Every benefit you have in Christ you also have with other believer in your union with Him.  When we walk in that truth, we realize that “It is not necessary that Christians think exactly alike on every subject.  But it is necessary that in the lives of all God’s children the love of Christ Jesus be reflected and his will be done.  Thus all will become truly united into one holy and powerful fellowship, one body.”  Hendricksen.

Doing that gives Christians one voice and that one voice glories God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul tells us our next step.

Part 2 will appear tomorrow.


March 15, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] God Helps You Part 2 Part 1 of these notes can be found here. […]

    Pingback by God Helps You Part 2 « J. Gordon Duncan | March 16, 2010 | Reply

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