Then Boast

When your mind rocks because of your inept abilities
to judge obscure perplexities, then boast.

When Satan’s power overwhelms the senses, causing you to flit and flitter,
helpless as a falling autumn leaf, then boast.

When your weak flesh has failed in strength and you’re incapable
of bearing one more moment in the fray in your own might, then boast.

When insults well-deserved and laced with piercing truth
cut your already reeling heart like arrows from an expert archer’s bow, then boast.

When your fool mouth is speechless, words escaping your frail mind
in moments too imperative to pass, it seems, without divine remarks, then boast.

When your internal weaknesses inhibit you from tasting victor’s sweet reward
achieved in your own righteousness, then boast.

When messengers of Satan’s host draw near and buffet unrelentingly
the soul already at its breaking point, then boast.

When hardships tear away all earthly comforts,
leaving you without a single foothold as you struggle up the cliff’s sheer face, then boast.

Which mental illness, you may ask, has taken hold so forcefully
that I would bid one boast in utter brokenness?

Not mental illness but new sight affords
the heart sweet joy though it be brought down low.

For there, at rope’s despondent end
and empty barrel’s bottom, Jesus’ grace is found.

It’s there, amid the stench of human weaknesses,
that Jesus makes his power perfect.

So once again I bid your heart and mine to boast when our own frailty manifests itself
to all the world and shame would utterly consume all natural sensibilities.

For when I’m weak, I’m strong, and therefore I will boast so that Christ’s power
might fall hard upon my needy soul and he alone be glorified, not me.

© 2013 Eric Evans

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2 Timothy 2:7

Pastor Sam Crabtree shared some very helpful words on fear from 2 Timothy, which I’d like to summarize here (click here for a video of his sermon and for his sermon notes).

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

God gives us a spirit of three things, each of which is antithetical to fear. That is, where each of these three things exists, fear does not exist.

The first one mentioned is power. Power works to stamp out fear. The example Pastor Sam gave was of a giant football lineman and a frail, 92-year-old woman. He asked if the lineman would be afraid of the 92-year-old. The answer is obviously no. Why? Because he’s a lot more powerful than she is physically speaking. Where power exists fear does not.

Next, God gives us a spirit of love. As is true with power, love and fear do not co-exist. The example Pastor Sam gave was a story he read many years ago in Reader’s Digest of a mother who saw her son grabbed and pulled into lake by an enormous alligator. What did the mother do? She headed straight for that alligator to get her son back, which she did! What compelled the mother to take on an alligator? Her strength? In this case, no. Would she have headed into the water after the alligator had it grabbed a million dollars? Probably not. So what did it? Love for her son overcame any fear she had of alligators and enabled her to perform a superhuman feat.

Finally, 2 Timothy 1:7 states that God has given us a spirit of self-control. (In other versions this word is rendered “sound mind,” “sound” referring to disciplined or controlled.) This, too, does not coexist well with fear. Pastor Sam’s example was of a hockey team who goes out to the middle of the hockey rink after a game to receive their medals. The players with ice skates have more self-control over their movements and therefore are not hesitant or afraid to waltz right out to the middle of the rink. The team’s coach and others who aren’t wearing ice skates and thus do not have much control over their movements are much more shaky and vulnerable and in that way are fearful as they make their way out on the ice.

So these three, power, love, and self-control displace and replace fear. Fear does not exist where these three things exist. It can’t.

Right after the declaration that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-control, Paul says, “Therefore [as a result] do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:8). God’s replacing fear with power, love, and self-control ultimately enables us to be bold witnesses of the gospel to those around us. The one who dwells in us is greater—as in, more powerful—than the one who is in the world, so why be afraid of anyone in this world? The love of an infinitely loving God has filled us. Let’s allow God’s love for others become our love for others and compel us to speak of that same love to others. Let us walk confidently, not fearfully, in the fruit of the Spirit, one of which is self-control. May we master our fear instead of letting it master us, and as we do so, may we speak with confidence the words of life to a dying world.

We believe, Father. Help us in our unbelief.

Undone

As master masons lay foundations strong,
The Lord, too, laid the bricks beneath the earth,
Full knowing it’s dimensions, height and girth,
While angels overflowed in joyful song.
He charges seas that they not pass beyond
The limit set for them by sovereign will.
Proud, raging waves are stayed by his hand still;
As slaves to master’s call do they respond.
His fingers rule the skies where dwells the sun.
His feet traverse the valleys of the deep.
He knows where every creature roams and creeps.
Below him I’m dumbfounded and undone.
What joy when God is big and I am small!
What rapture mine to come and prostrate fall!

© 2011 Eric Evans

God, Both Great and Good

I am quick to recognize God’s infinite power and might. I see how he’s the God who created all the stars in the universe with his fingers (Psalm 8). I see how he holds all the waters of the earth in the palm of his hand and how he has measured out the expanse of the heavens with the breadth of his hand (Isaiah 40). In this sense I understand God’s holiness. I understand his “set-apart-ness.” I understand that he is completely other than his creation, infinitely above and beyond man and all existence. I understand that there is none like him and that nothing and no one can be compared to him. In this sense I get what it means to say that God is holy.

However, something I lack is an understanding of the moral purity of God, and specifically his goodness. I get he’s infinitely great, but my grasp of the fact that he’s also infinitely good falls short.

In The Joy of Fearing God, Jerry Bridges, speaking of God’s holiness, says that if you try to imagine “a God who is infinite in His majesty, but not absolutely perfect in moral purity—with even just a fraction of a tendency toward abuse or contempt”, that “[s]uch a thought is terrifying” (p. 68). An infinitely great God who is not also infinitely good is nothing more than “an infinite monster” (Bridges quoting Stephen Charnock). Bridges goes on to quote Charnock by saying: “It is a less injury to deny his being, than to deny the purity of it; the one makes him no god, the other a deformed, unlovely, and detestable god” (p. 68). So not only do we turn God into an infinite monster when we doubt his goodness, but Charnock says we also commit a greater sin than denying his existence, for we end up making him other than what he really is.

My question is this: Does the fact that God is infinitely great also necessitate the fact that he be infinitely good? Could God be infinitely powerful, for example, without being infinitely also being good? Probably such a question is moving away from theology into philosophy. Regardless of whether or not it could be, what I must remind myself of is what the Bible clearly says: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). This is moral purity John’s talking about here. God is infinite in greatness and infinite in goodness. As infinitely great as God is, he is in the same way infinitely good. For in all his infiniteness there exists no darkness, no moral corruption.

But I still ask, “How can I be sure? What proof do I have that it’s really so? I’ve got the physical creation—the enormity of the cosmos and the grandeur of the stars as well as the intricacy of the cell and the unfathomable depths of the atom—which screams to me that God is as great and powerful as the Bible says he is, and such a scream I cannot deny or ignore. So there’s proof positive that he’s powerful. Now what proof positive do I have that he’s also good? “Long ago and at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2a). Jesus is the way God declares his goodness to us. Creation is God’s way of physically demonstrating to us his greatness. His Son is his way of physically demonstrating his goodness to us. He tells us he’s great by the heavens. He tells us he’s good by the lips of a Jewish carpenter, the Word made flesh. The heavens declare his glory. Jesus declares his love. Proof positive God’s good? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus’ coming, living, and dying among us and for us is just as powerful a declaration of the character of God as is the world around us. Does not the fact that God is also Compassionate Father make God even greater than if he were “merely” Almighty Creator? I believe so.

And so as clearly as the heavens provide proof positive that I can neither deny or ignore that God is almighty, so too does Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection provide proof positive for God’s goodness. He is both great and good. He is to be feared and loved. We should tremble and delight in his presence.

In viewing God’s holiness as both majestic and completely morally pure, we see God more clearly than viewing only one or the other.  Praise God he is both great and good.

The Foundation Beneath Romans 8:28

One of the most often-cited verses in the Bible, and for good reason, is Romans 8:28. That incredible truth promises the Christian this: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Just dwell on that a moment. Really? All things? Even car accidents and tornadoes and miscarriages? Yes. All things. It is a glorious truth. It is a truth that we as Christians must build our lives upon. But have you ever asked yourself “Why?” in regards to that question? Or, “How can that be?”

The Bible tells us in the very next verse. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” The word for is a very important word. It means because. Why do all things work together for good for those who love God and for those who are called according to his purpose, Paul? And Paul answers, “Because those whom God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” That’s why.

So what’s the connection? Verse 28 refers to a specific group of people: those who love God and those who are called according to God’s purpose (which is another way of saying that they were called according to God’s will, instead of according to man’s will, for example). These two designations refer to one group. If you love God, you’re called. If you’re called, you love God. It’s one group about which two things are true.

Verse 29 gives us another designation for this same group. There Paul calls this group “those whom God foreknew.” So you can talk about this one group in three ways.  This group is referred to as a group that loves God, as being called, and as a group that was foreknown by God. So what’s the reason that all things work together for good for those included in this group? It’s because God predestined them to be conformed to the image of his Son.

How can you be sure that all things will work out for your good, you God-loving, called, foreknown one? It’s because God predestined you to be conformed to the image of his Son. That’s why. The fact that God has given you a sure destiny—namely, that you will one day be fully like Jesus—is the basis for your confidence that whatever comes your way in this life, it will ultimately work together to accomplish that destiny.

Think of it this way: Your destination is 100% guaranteed. Christian, you will be like Jesus. Therefore, rest assured that every step along the path you’re travelling getting there is most assuredly helping you get closer to that end. And I mean every step. That’s the destiny God’s given you, and it will happen. That’s what predestined means!

If the truth of Romans 8:28 is incredible, the rock solid foundation beneath it is utterly breathtaking. Rest assured in the destiny God’s given you and his ability to ensure that your every step is getting you closer to that glorious end.

Romans 8:28-29: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Be All

Oh, that this failing, frail, and finite mind
Could grasp a God all-powerful, divine!
For while my lips full well acknowledge him
As God, my heart is many times left dim
To truth that shines as clearly as sun’s beams.
I’m blind to heaven’s light at times it seems.
As my mind sits in darkness, just beyond
My skin the world bids my chained soul, “Abscond
From Satan’s choking hold and cast your eyes
On nature’s unbound witness in the skies!”
Though utterly dumbfounding—near absurd—
At one omnipotent and sovereign Word,
A hundred billion balls of burning light,
Were lit by sheer, unbridled force, and night—
Once barren, black, and bleak—was pierced with rays
That emanated joy and set ablaze
The darkness. Oh, sweet Jesus, may you who
Ignited sun’s ferocious flame, now, too,
Ignite this finite heart and mind that I
May know you ever more and no more fly
To gods with stone-carved lips that cannot speak.
May you, Creator God, be all I seek.