Thursday, January 28, 2010
How often we fail to live as if this were actually true. Like Peter, we begin to move in faith only to find ourselves glancing about in fear. The waters begin to roll over us and we lose sight of Jesus.
We understand Peter and empathize with him because we realize how much faith it took to even get out of the boat, especially when we compare his faith with ours. No one else even got out of the boat. But we must remember the lesson. Jesus is on the waters. He bids us to come to Him. We must go in faith. He is mightier than the waters, the floods of the sea. Peter did not continue walking in faith but at least He called out to Jesus to save him in the tumultuous waves.
We may not literally walk on the sea but we have very real fears, waves and wind that pull our eyes from looking to Jesus. Perhaps we are distracted by money problems or health problems or personal doubts or theological conundrums or simply fear of the unknown that lies ahead in 2010. We find many reasons to fear and too few reasons to have faith.
Stop looking at the waters, the troubles, the enemies. We have weapons enough in our arsenal to walk, to overcome, to win. The Lord Jesus is on our side. He bids us walk through all of our troubles in faith. Confess your doubts and fears. Receive the forgiveness of the Lord and walk forward into this new year with full faith in Jesus Christ.
But the there are those, and reformed types, too, who may insist on receiving the blessings of Christ simply because they once prayed a prayer or because they believe they are of the elect or because they are churchmen or have been declared forgiven by a minister. All of these things are good and true blessings but unless you believe in the Lord Jesus today, right now, then what you did back then doesn’t do you a lot of good.
This does not mean that if you have weak faith or doubt or have fallen into sin, that you are left out of God’s blessings. He grants mercy for all His bruised reeds and shimmering lights. But you should renew your commitment to Him, your need for Him, your trust in Him, your hope in Him on a regular basis, even daily, each morning. At the very least, you should do this weekly, in our liturgy, in our prayers, our songs, our hearing of the word, our confession of sin, the absolution from the minister and especially here at the Lord’s Table.
Renew covenant with God, the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the ever present Holy Spirit. Be filled up with God as you eat and drink. Take heart, make strong the hands that hang down and the knees that grow weak. All things are new in Christ.
If we do not forget, if we remember what God has done, how can we not be thankful? How can we not have hope? How can we not be encouraged?
This meal is one of thankfulness but it is also a meal of remembrance. God has done things. He has been faithful to His people through all ages and He has been faithful to us. So, it is fitting that we give Him thanks.
There may be very real troubles in our day. There may be troubles in your life. These troubles look to Christ and when we do so, we remember that He has always rescued us in our time of greatest need. So, we give thanks and we hold onto this hope for the times that we are in and for the uncertain times that lie ahead.
Remember and give thanks.
What do we mean when we say we are to have faith or that we are to be a people of faith? It means that we put our trust in the Lord. Faith is not some substance we store up. Faith is believing God, laying hold of His promises, bowing before Jesus Christ because we know He is our King. When we say that we are to have faith, what we really mean is that we are to put our faith, our trust, our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.
You do not have to worry about storing up enough faith or losing some of your faith. But you do need to practice your faith. You do not need to worry if you have enough faith but you do need to look to the one in whom we have faith.
God makes promises. God keeps His promises. His people are blessed by His promises. You are God’s people. Do you believe this? Do you believe Him? Do you believe that He is able to save you from your sins and overcome the world, the flesh and the devil? If so, that is faith. Do you believe? Do you need the Lord to help your unbelief? He is faithful in this as well.
Come to the Lord Jesus. Confess your unbelief and have faith in Christ for He is ever faithful.
And while this sort of danger is clearly seen over centuries or even generations, the danger can become reality much quicker than that.
Even in your own homes, you have realized how quickly a practice can become a regular routine. The prayer before dinner, the good night hug, the departing farewell: all of these are good and meant for good. But when they grow stale and lifeless, the very blessing of them begins to mock us. We often continue on with the outside of the thing when the inside, the heart and soul, has already grown hollow and cold. The thing, the hug, the kiss, even the prayer may eventually begin to disgust us as it points out our own failure or even hypocrisy.
Formalism in the church does much the same thing. We have all these wonderful traditions, full of meaning and meant to bless us. They do so as long as we are paying attention, as long we actively participate, as long as our hearts are warm and our minds are engaged.
But let hold fast to the outside of the thing, only, and the slow death begins to set in. It is a slow death, so we may not notice it until there is no chance of resuscitation. Where are you? Are you holding on to the center of our liturgy? To Christ, Himself? Is the service real and lively and life producing? Or do you know these dance steps and they are starting to bore you and you are beginning to wander in mind and heart? This day, renew yourself in Christ’s Spirit. Turn to Him once again and participate in this service, in your family, in your walk as one who is alive from the dead.
While these are spiritual truths, they are no less real, no less important than your own relationships by birth. Our bond of brotherhood is kept for us by the bonds of faithfulness of Jesus Christ. It is kept for us in heaven by His grace and might and recognized on Earth through His beloved bride.
Do not take this lightly. To the extent that you seek peace and fellowship with your own earthly parents, seek peace and fellowship with God, our Father and His Son, through His Spirit, and the bride of Christ, our Mother, the Church, through faithful living and loving.
To the extent that you seek fellowship with your born brothers and sisters, seek peace and fellowship here in the bonds of brotherhood through baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
To the best of your ability, you must be at peace with your parents and your brothers and sisters. So, too, here, to the best of your ability, you must be at peace with God and with His people. This meal says that you are. If this is true, God bless you all. But to the extent that it is not true, make sure that you are doing all that is in your power to be at peace with Father, Mother, Sister and Brother.
And so eat and drink of this blessing of unity in Christ.
Shortly after the fall of man, the broken will of man was revealed. Cain rose up and slew his brother because "Yahweh had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell."
We do not know exactly why the Lord had respect for Abel and his offering but not to Cain and his offering. The text makes us think that Cain was already broken and sin was looking for an opportunity to express itself in a large way.
But what we can note is that Cain was jealous and envious of his brother. If Abel was going to receive respect and honor from the Lord, Cain was not going to be happy. He determined to destroy Abel.
This is the pre-eminent lesson. We must desire the good of our brothers. When they are respected, honored, enriched, blessed, or glorified, we must not complain and grumble. We must not lament that we are overlooked. Perhaps you are as honorable as your recognized brother, or perhaps, like Cain, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.”
Whether or not you are happy for the elevation of those you think beneath you reveals much about the state of your soul. Let me say that again, Whether or not you are happy for the elevation of those you think beneath you reveals much about the state of your soul. Perhaps they do not deserve it. But that is up to God. If He thinks so, don’t you think you should agree with Him?
So, let us not be like Cain, unhappy towards God because of the envy in our hearts towards others. This envy must die so that Abel and you may live.