A Successful Day

I don’t want to teach what I know. I don’t want to teach what I believe. I want to teach what is true.

My dad gave me some of the best advice I ever received so that I could consider each and  every day a success. My dad told me over and over to learn something new every day. If I did that, I could view that day as a successful day rather than a wasted day. I’d like to say that I aways heeded that advice but, sadly, I haven’t always learned or wanted to learn something new each day. This is even more important when we consider our progressive sanctification. Am I really dedicated to learning God’s word each and every day of my life? Does the Bible even address this attitude that my dad tried to instill in me? Let’s take a look at a passage of Scripture and observe some important points regarding our learning His word.

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” 2 Timothy 2:15-19 (NASB)

There is a lot to unpack in these few verses. I want to consider a few important truths regarding how we should learn and what the effect of learning not only the proper things but also the proper way. Let’s dive in and see what we can observe regarding this very important topic of learning God’s word.

The first observation I want to bring to the front is that this passage is about false teachers. Paul dealt with people like this all the time. He worked on defeating them and did battle with them willingly. But for the purposes of this article, I want to focus on the steps we can take in order to be prepared for each and every challenge of life – each and every challenge to biblical Christianity.

In v. 15, NASB translates the beginning as “Be diligent”. Some other translations use the word “study” here. So which is it? The Greek behind this word means “to hasten, exert ones self, or to give diligence.” So both ideas could be included though I personally like “be diligent”. I think it captures the idea here better and the emphasis is on exerting one’s self toward be properly prepared. So the first thing I want to observe about learning is that it is a process that takes effort on our part.

We need to work at learning – and stick to it – to be properly prepared. There are no shortcuts. Learning God’s word is hard work. It is rewarding work, but hard. Don’t be afraid to embark on a new study. Don’t be intimidated by it. Embrace the challenge and be diligent in pursuing to know the truth.

The next thing I want to draw your attention to is the idea of “accurately handling the truth”. This is really important to understand. To handle the Word of God is one thing. To handle it accurately is whole  different thing. Simply memorizing the Bible is not enough. Simply memorizing some Greek terms to impress others is not enough. To accurately handle the Word of God means that we research it. It means we look into the background of it. It means we endeavor to understand the various contexts of it – the culture it was written in, how it was written, and the grammar used to write it.

Once we understand these things, then we can observe what it says, interpret it correctly and then apply it to our lives. If we miss any of these steps, we may as well not even try. Whatever conclusion we draw will be incomplete at best and at worst dead wrong and false.

We are not to mess around arguing about a word here and there. We are not to have empty conversations about nothing edifying. We need to be diligent –  theres that word again – to seek out the essential and true meaning of any passage of Scripture. If we don’t diligently seek to understand His truth, then we will teach what we think is correct. We will teach the bias we have. We will teach what we think is right and it may not be right.

I don’t want to teach what I know. I don’t want to teach what I believe. I want to teach what is true.

 I must be willing to change what I know and change what I believe in order to conform myself to His truth. Then, and only then, am I truly learning the truths of His word. Then, and only then, can I accurately handle His truth. Then, and only then, may I share His truth with others.

After all, isn’t that the goal of learning something new each day. To share it with others so that they are then able to pursue the truths of God’s word for themselves.

Now THAT is what I call a successful day!

Ears on my Heart

How often do we listen to God? I mean REALLY listen to God! I’ll bet that we hear God sometimes but listen to Him less than we like to admit. In fact, listening to God is probably one of the most neglected habits we have while we are being progressively sanctified. We hear Him but don’t listen to Him. So what’s the difference? 

I believe the difference between hearing and listening has to do with our attitude. Sometimes there is something blocking us from hearing, so that can be difficult at times. I remember when I was much younger – 16 or so – I was helping my dad in our house. He had been talking to me but I continued to do what I thought he had wanted me to do. The issue was that something had changed, he told me to do something else, and I failed to hear him. When he asked if I was simply not paying attention or if I had not even heard him, I said I was ot paying attention to him. But, in reality, I had not even heard his voice. Eventually I admitted that I was having trouble hearing him and my teachers in school. I went to the doctor and found that my inner ear canal was blocked with something. I was given some medicine to help clear it out. Eventually my inner ears cleared and I could hear again. Listening, though, was another issue! After all I was a teenager and already knew everything!

We treat God like this sometimes, don’t we. We go about what we THINK He wants us to do. All the while He is saying that we need to do something else but we don’t hear Him or listen to Him. Sometimes, like me at 16, there is something in the way of our hearing Him and thus preventing us from listening to Him. This could be sin in our lives, unbelief, or simply being too busy with our own life to hear Him. But sadly I think we are all-to-often too enamored with our own plans to hear Him. You see, much too often we are spiritual teenagers…we already know everything so why do we need to hear God?

But hearing and listening to God is vitally important to our progressive sanctification. If we hear Him and then listen to what He says, we will become progressively more like Him. If we decide to do things our way, we will be, well, spiritual teenagers…we’ll continue to be legends in our own mind! But this should never be! 

You may wonder why I keep writing about “hearing” and then “listening” to God. Well, let me explain.

Hearing” is a simple process of processing sound waves that travel through the air, strike the eardrum, which in turn vibrates some bones which then cause nerve impulses to travel to the brain. The brain then interprets these impulses as sounds and, voila, we hear something! But listening is something else. 

We listen not so much with our ears…not so much with our brain. We listen – at least we should listen – with our heart. We have some really great examples of this in Scripture. I will concentrate on only one.

Let’s look at 1 Kings 3:5-9: 

5 In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” 6 Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. 7 Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. 9 So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

1 King 3:5-9 (NASB) 

In this passage we see that Solomon is now King of Israel. Solomon recounts how God had shown kindness to David in David’s life. God kept His word to place a descendant of David’s on the throne (who is Solomon). Solomon states the reality that he is young and inexperienced (v. 7) and that he has a big job to do governing Israel (v. 8). In verse 9, Solomon responds to God’s question in a majestic way. He responds as we should pray each day. The NASB does a great job translating the Hebrew here in v. 9. I want to zero in on the words “understanding heart”. 

. So Solomon wants to hear with his heart. He wants to have understanding, knowledge, and wisdom in dealing with the governance of Israel. He wants his judgments to be correct and discerning. In short, he doesn’t want to just hear…he wants to listen. 

  (The Hebrew here is leb shema. This means hearing (shema) heart (leb) – the term leb is oftentimes used for the center of mental faculties in the human. However, here I think the context is clearly more than simple mental faculties and employs more than acquisition of knowledge)

We need to listen with our heart to actually hear with understanding as God speaks to us.

This doesn’t mean that we hear God’s voice audibly. I believe the vast majority of the fantastic conversations with God with Him speaking audibly are not true. God typically speaks to us through his word. But we need to understand that listening to God is more than just reading His word. It is more than just praying to God. It is more than just sitting down and emptying our mind of the daily clutter. 

Listening to God means we hear with understanding. That means we both study the Bible on a deep level AND read it on a devotional level. That means that we pray to God asking for wisdom AND walk through the circumstances that bring us wisdom. That means we worship God with our voice AND with our Spirit. When we incorporate understanding into our hearing we have listening. And listening to God is a very good thing. 

When we listen to God we can’t help but grow closer to Him. We can become closer because we don’t simply hear what He is saying to us through His word but we also understand its application to us AND we apply it. Far too many folks just skim the Bible without ever really studying it so that they can apply it to their lives. That is like hearing someone on the phone tell you how to avoid a major pothole in the road then going out and ignoring everything they said. Then, when we drive through the pothole and damage our vehicle, we complain about the pothole. 

If we want to continue to draw closer to Christ – if we want to be progressively more sensitive to sin, more like Him and less like ourselves, we must – MUST –  practice putting ears on our heart. We must listen with our heart and not just our ears and brain. 

No Soup for You!

If we properly understand the purpose of trials, then our attitude about them and about God will change.

I used to watch a TV show years ago titled “Seinfeld”. It was a wildly popular show about nothing. It really didn’t have much of a story line or plot. Most of the time it simply observed the mundane aspects of daily life in New York City. The “best” part of the show were the characters. They were overblown for sure. But they were funny. So very funny.

One character I really liked was called “The Soup Nazi”. This guy, who operated a soup restaurant, had a very particular way he wanted people to order his soup and conduct themselves in his shop. If one failed to obey his policies to the letter that person would be denied soup with a loud “No Soup for You!” and kicked out of the store. I guess you had to see it to laugh.

Sometimes I think that we see God as the Soup Nazi. If we fail to do everything exactly as He wants us to, He will kick us out of His shop with a loud “No Grace for You!” This attitude is fueled by our lack of understanding regarding the purpose of trials.

Trials are a part of the Christian’s life.

We need to understand that trials are essential to our development as Christians. But there are some who profess to belong to Christ who see trials differently because they misunderstand the purpose of a trial. For these, a trial is a sign of judgment from God because of a Christian’s disobedience to Christ. For these folks, if anything but smooth sailing is experienced by Christians then there is something very wrong in that Christian’s life. They could not be more wrong about this. If we properly understand the purpose of trials, then our attitude about them and about God will change.

In James 1 we get to see the purpose of trials. Lets take a look at a few verses in James 1:

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

In v. 2 our attitude should be one of joy. Lets keep this in mind when considering trials. In v. 3 we see that when our faith is tested through a trial, it produces endurance – translated “perseverance” in a previous article. But this is not the purpose of a trial. This is a step toward the purpose of the trial. To understand the purpose of the trial and why we should have an attitude of joy while encountering a trial, we must look intently at v. 4.

in v. 4, endurance has its perfect (or complete) result. That result is that we are “perfect and complete lacking in nothing.” So, when we endure a trial, the result of the endurance is that we get a part that is missing. That missing part, whatever it is, is necessary for us to be Christ-like. SO our experiencing trials, while seldom pleasant, is always necessary to our development. We wont arrive at our “perfect and complete” state in this life. But we will (or at least should) be progressing more and more toward Christ-likeness.

So how are you doing enduring trials? How is your attitude? Do you think that persevering through a trial is because you have done something wrong and the great Soup Nazi in the sky is saying “No Grace for you! Now get out!” If you do think this way, you need to rethink your position.

If you get bummed by trials, think about how God is perfecting you. Think about how He is getting rid of the impurities of your life through the heat of the caldron of trials. And focus on where God is taking you. He is moving you toward perfection. He is making you more Christ-like. More like Christ. More like Him.

“Whatever it Takes”

Hymn by: Lanny Wolfe

There’s a voice calling me
From an old rugged tree
And He whispers draw closer to me
Leave this world far behind
There are new heights to climb
And a new place in me you will find

For whatever it takes to draw closer to you Lord
That’s what I’ll be willing to do
For whatever it takes to be more like you
That’s what I’ll be willing to do

Take the dearest things to me
If that’s how it must be
To draw me closer to thee
Let the disappointments come
Lonely days without the sun
If through sorrow more like you I become

For whatever it takes to draw closer to you Lord
That’s what I’ll be willing to do
For whatever it takes to be more like you
That’s what I’ll be willing to do

Take my houses and lands
Change my dreams, change my plans
For I’m placing my whole life in your hands
And if you call me today
To a place faraway
Lord I’ll go and your will obey.

I’ll trade sunshine for rain
Comfort for pain
That’s what I’ll be willing to do
For whatever it takes for my will to break
That’s what I’ll be willing to do
That’s what I’ll be willing to do

Fahrenheit 1763.4714

The process of refining brings out the beauty of the metal that is hidden by the impurities.

Fahrenheit 1763.4714.

Hmmm. Lets see, what does this mean. It isn’t the title of a new documentary about alleged government cover-ups. It isn’t a song about some nonsensical subject. It isn’t about a new dish to eat or place to go. Fahrenheit 1763.474 isn’t about any of those things. It IS about sanctification. It IS about how we get progressively more like Christ. And, by the way, it IS the melting point of silver. What??! What does the melting point of silver have to do with the progressive sanctification of believers? And what does this have to do with the previous article about trials? Confused yet? Good. Let me explain.

The human condition is an interesting one. On one hand we see ourselves as independent,

self-sufficient individuals. On the other hand we seek the approval of others.

This paradox is one of the most vexing confronting those who study human behavior.

As Christians we seek approval. Sometimes this means we will compromise how we behave or believe. Sometimes we change ourselves in order to get the approval of others. Still other times we will do things we have great reservations about in order to be approved by others. In fact, there is probably no limit to which we will go in order to be accepted and approved of by others.

We also fear the converse: we fear being rejected or disapproved. This is best seen in our relationship with God. Most often Christians mistake trying to curry favor with God for serving God.We desperately seek His approval and try like crazy not to be rejected or disapproved by Him. This is a monumental mistake that leads people to do many weird and sometimes wicked things. We treat God like a mere human with whom we may curry favor with empty words, powerless actions, and vain flattery. We insult God and His holiness and power. We spit in His face by substituting our weak and vain actions for His wonderful and matchless grace.

If we belong to God –  if we have accepted Christ’s sacrifice as the only work that can save us from the flames of hell – we must never fear we will be rejected or disapproved by God.

How do I know this? Well, the answer is quite simple: the Bible tells me so!

In James 1, the word that is translated “testing” is the word dokimion. It comes from the word dokimazo. So, you may wonder, what does that have to do with the title of this article. Well my inquisitive friend, I have an answer for you! The term dokimazo was used in the Septuagint and other literature for the refining process of silver and gold. The idea was to heat up the silver (or gold) so it 1) melts and 2) releases the impurities that were part of the metal.

This process had two consequences. These consequences have a direct bearing on our progressive sanctification AND the use of the term dokimazo in sections referring to our trials. The first consequence of the refining process of either silver or gold is that as the impurities trapped in the metal are released due to the heat the metal is experiencing, that metal becomes more pure. That goes to reason doesn’t it? The fewer impurities, the purer the metal. Which brings me to the second consequence of the refining process. When a metal becomes purer, it reflects its true nature and beauty better. Have you ever seen pure gold? Or pure silver? Pretty impressive, right? The process of refining brings out the beauty of the metal that is hidden by the impurities.

The process is rather straightforward. Lets look at silver. You would take a bunch of it throw it in a pot of some kind and start a fire under the pot. The fire would be fanned and its heat output would rise until the silver melted. Silver melts at 1763.474 degrees Fahrenheit. Ahh, the title makes sense now! Once the silver melted, some of the impurities that were trapped in it would bubble to the top. These impurities are commonly referred to as the “dross”. Then the heat is increased and more impurities come out. This is repeated until the metal releases no more impurities.

How does this relate to our sanctification? Quite simply this IS the process we undergo in order to be more like Christ.

God places heat under us.

He heats us up until the initial impurities bubble up. He removes those impurities. Instead of leaving us there, He turns the heat up again. More impurities come out. He does this again and again until there are no more impurities bubbling to the surface. When does that happen? Why go through all this if we are still surrounded by sinful mankind? Well, not to be cruel, I will post that article next Monday. Until then, think about how you are viewing the trials you are experiencing. Some will say that severe trials are an indication that God is judging you and is a sign of your rebellion against Him. But I don’t think so. God refines those that are His. Those of us who belong to Him can expect to have progressively more heat applied to our lives so that more impurities come out.

After all, isn’t the aim of this life – and God’s call on us – to resemble Christ more and ourselves less.

But It’s a Dry Heat!

No one enjoys being the heat of a trial, whether that heat is a dry heat or not. I get uncomfortable when the heat is on. I get tired when the heat is on. I sometimes lose energy when the heat is on. I get focused on Christ far less than I should when the heat is on.

In the 1980’s I was stationed aboard MCAS El Toro in Southern California. I remember “volunteering” for a special duty at the annual air show. I say “volunteering” in quotation marks because the Marine Corps has a neat way of getting folks to volunteer: they simply say “You have volunteered” and, voila! they have volunteers.

Anyway I was part of traffic control/guard duty for the air show. Guard duty isn’t much fun but at least I got overtime…just kidding! So I was guarding a rope (actually I was standing guard near a sensitive area) in the heat of the day. I was sweating like crazy and was quite uncomfortable in my uniform. By the end of the day I was tired, my knees ached, I was sun burned and I stunk to high heaven. But I stood at my post. I heard a civilian remark about my plight as he walked by. The comments went something like this:

Civilian #1: Man, it looks like that dude (me) is about to die!

Civilian #2: Yeah…should we offer him something to drink? That might help

Civilian #1: I don’t think he is supposed to drink when he is on duty.

Civilian #2: If he isn’t supposed to drink…

Civilian #1: But it is so hot out (it was over 100 at my post). Where is his OC? (I think he meant C-O)…

Civilian #2: But it is a dry heat!

All I could think of was “An oven on broil is a dry heat too!” No wonder I didn’t like civilians so much on that particular weekend. Man it was hot. I’m sweating now just remembering how hot it was.  Even though I felt like I was on the face of the sun, I stood my ground and didn’t leave. I stood in the heat and took it. It wasn’t easy or enjoyable but I did have a mission that I felt honor-bound to fulfill. “After all” I thought, “I’m a Marine. I can take this.”

Do we have the same attitude when we stand in the heat of a trial God has brought to us? Are we willing to sweat, aches, and stink to high heaven? Or, do we want to escape into the nearest air conditioned hut? What should be our attitude when we find ourselves in the midst of a trial?

When we seek out teaching about trials, we needn’t go anywhere else than James 1:2-4:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.   And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The first think we notice is what our attitude should be: consider it all “joy”. But what is “joy”? And why should we have it when undergoing a trial. Well, first joy is not an emotion and it is not to be confused with happiness. being joyful does not mean that we have a smile pasted across our faces. NO, joy is a result of knowing there is purpose in everything. Finding joy is as simple as knowing there is a purpose behind whatever you and I are experiencing. So now the question becomes, What is the purpose of trials? We’ll get there but first lets look at some other things in this passage.

In v. 2 we see that trails are a sure thing…Notice the use of “when you encounter”. It isn’t “if you encounter…’ If you are a Christian who is being sanctified by God, then you will face difficulties in this life. Having difficulties is not a sign of God’s judgement. No, facing difficulties as a Christian is a sign of God’s blessing.

In vv. 3 – 4 we see the purpose: the trial produces endurance (or perseverance) which leads us to the ultimate purpose of the trial which is to be complete, lacking in nothing. We see one of the key terms in progressive sanctification used here. That term is the one translated “endurance”. here. In NT Greek, that word is hupomone. It is a compound word made from the words hupo, which means “under”, and meno which means “to remain”. So the word means “to remain under”. Here in James the reference is to remain under the pressure and heat of a trial.

No one enjoys being the heat of a trial, whether that heat is a dry heat or not. I get uncomfortable when the heat is on. I get tired when the heat is on. I sometimes lose energy when the heat is on. I get focused on Christ far less than I should when the heat is on.

How about you?

Focusing on Christ  isn’t an easy thing to do but it is a simple thing to do. Oftentimes the simplest things are the hardest things.

So here we see that the aim of the trial is that we get everything we need to be complete. You see, that is the goal of progressive sanctification. Now, with all due respect to Wesley, this completeness won’t happen until we are in glory. For now, we need that perseverance to develop so we can joyfully stand in the heat of the trial without wanting to get into the nearest air-conditioned Quonset hut.

So how are you doing? My first pastor, Dr. Braun, once said that a Christian is “either going into a trial, in a trial or coming out of a trial.” Trials are a way of life for us, we might as well approach them joyfully since we know that the goal of the trial is not to break us but to make us more complete.

 

Ready to be Committed?

“Pray as if everything depends on God, then work as if everything depends on you.”

                                                                                                                                        –Martin Luther

We should never ask God to use us then make ourselves unavailable. That is what Nehemiah did here in chapter 1. This attitude should permeate us in our sanctification.

Do you see the progression in Nehemiah’s prayer? His concern about the problem led him to brokenness. While he was weeping and fasting, he expressed his conviction about God’s character. As he focused on the greatness and awesomeness of His holy God, he was quickly reminded of his own wickedness and therefore cried out in confession. After owning his role in the nation’s depravity, he prayed boldly and with confidence in God’s promises. This then leads him to a commitment to get involved. We see this in verse 11:

“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the

prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant

success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man. I was cupbearer

to the king.”

 

While Nehemiah was praying, his burden for Jerusalem became greater and his vision of what needed to be done became clearer. He didn’t pray for God to send someone else – he simply said, “Here am I, send me!” He knew that he would have to approach the king and request a 3-year leave of absence and so asked God for “success,” in his request to the king.  He wanted to see God break out on his behalf when he goes in front of the king to make his request. Proverbs 21:1 states “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse where He pleases.” Nehemiah was committed to get involved and not just sit on the sidelines and lament the condition of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was a different type of guy. We should be like him. He saw a problem with Jerusalem, was burdened by it, asked God to bless him with a plan, and then acted on the plan. How often do we follow these steps in our prayer time. Far too often we treat prayer as a one-way device: we summon God to listen to us but we fail to listen to Him. We lay our requests at His feet and then walk away. Instead of waiting and listening, we just move on as if God is constrained to do as we please.

No, God is not at our call, we are at His.

And this is how we should approach our responsibility in our progressive sanctification. As we saw in the last article, God has promised to fully sanctify every person He calls to salvation. We can count on His promise to do that. But we do have a responsibility to participate in our sanctification. God’s plan for each of us may vary greatly. The trials we face may be different – well, they WILL be different. Their difference may be in the nature, depth, intensity, or length of the trial. But there will be differences. All trials make us more like Christ and we need to embrace them fully…wait, I’m getting ahead of myself!

In our prayer life, as we fully participate in our sanctification, we must be willing to commit to God’s plan for our sanctification, rely on His promises, be very honest with God, understand our problem and ask God to bless us with a plan rather than for Him to bless our plan.

Where are you in this prayer process right now? Are you concerned about your problems? Do you have a conviction about God’s holy character? Are you ready to confess your sins? Do you have confidence in God’s promises? Are you ready to make a commitment to get involved in God’s kingdom work?

The walls of our lives have been toppled by our sin nature, deafness to God’s voice, selfishness, and arrogance. We are confronted with only two choices now:

  • learn to live in the rubble of our lives
  • or  to be bold enough to admit our sins, ask God for His plan for our sanctification, and then commit to be involved in that plan.

 

Which way are you going to proceed?

 

 

 

God Keeps His Promises

 If God said it in His Word, you can believe it and rely on it.

 

While Nehemiah spends time in broken confession in vs 6-7, he doesn’t wallow in a prolonged introspective examination of his failures and those of his brothers and sisters. He owns what he did wrong and then he quickly expresses confidence in God’s promises in verses 8-10:

“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my name.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and mighty hand.”

 

In this part of his prayer, Nehemiah recalls the words of Moses about the danger of Israel’s apostasy and the promise of divine mercy. His words are a skillful mosaic of great Old Testament warnings and promises, with quotes coming from Leviticus, Deuteronomy, 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles and Psalm 130. What was the promise Nehemiah was getting at? It was twofold. First, if Israel disobeyed, they would be sent to a foreign land. That had been fulfilled. The second part was that when the captivity was over God would send them back to Jerusalem. They were still waiting for that to be fulfilled. Nehemiah prayed, “Lord, the first part is true. We’ve disobeyed and we’re in captivity. But Lord, you’ve made a promise to bring us back home and protect us there – and that has not happened yet.”

Nehemiah is saying that since God kept His promise to scatter Israel because of he apostasy, he has confidence that Israel will be regathered because God promised to do that when Israel repented. So Nehemiah is expressing utmost confidence not only in God’s promises but also in God’s character. If Nehemiah doubted God’s character he would not have prayed the way he did.

But what about us? How does this relate to our sanctification? 

 

God promises in Romans 8 to glorify each and every person He calls:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

There is great comfort in knowing that the God who makes that promise to me is the One who will keep that promise to me. I have my part in  my sanctification but I can be sure that it will happen based on what God said through Paul in Romans 8. “How can you be so sure Mr. Bald Theologian?” you may ask. In Romans 8:28-30, all those things God talks about – HE “called..justified…glorified” are in the aorist tense in Greek. The aorist is the simple past tense. So if I’m not yet glorified (and who among us is!), then why did Paul use a aorist tense here? Well, it is a grammatical thing with Greek. When one wants to guarantee that a future event is going to happen, one uses the simple past tense. This use is called a “proleptic aorist” or “futuristic use of the aorist”.

Since our glorification is yet future and Paul (under inspiration) uses a past tense to describe it, we can be sure that we will be glorified one day. He who started a work in you will make sure it comes to completion.

 

Someone has calculated that there are over 7,000 promises in the Bible. The better we know the Word of God, the better we’ll be able to pray with confidence in God’s promises. 1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Are you as confident of God’s promises as Nehemiah was?

If God said it in His Word, you can believe it and rely on it. Nehemiah knew God would keep His covenant of love with his people. He also knew that, even though God did not need his help, he was ready to make a commitment to get involved.