Where Is The Center Point of Our Faith?

A drawing of a plumb line attached to a small wall

Builders constructing a building make regular checks as they go to be sure that it does not lean in any direction. In spite of all the advanced technology available today, there is one ordinary, non-technical device still being used to make sure a structure being built is straight: the plumb line. This tool consists of just two simple components—a line, such as a string, a rope, or a strong, flexible wire, and the plumb—a small metal weight attached to the end of the line. When it is held at a specific position on a structure, it will show how far off center the building being constructed is, by revealing how straight the framework is in relation to the line itself. A plumb line left unhindered will always swing back to the center point in relation to where it is hung.

A photo of a gold pendulum swinging on a printed diagram

A pendulum also follows the same principle as a plumb line. It is essentially a weight attached to a string, a rod, or a flat decorative piece of metal that is connected to a pivot point. A pendulum may swing back and forth in many different directions, but when left to itself, it eventually slows down and comes to rest at the center point.

We can apply these examples to our walk with God. If a plumb line was held next to our spiritual position with God, how far off would we be in relation to His straight standard? Our center point must always be Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. If we lean in any direction toward anything other than Him, the faith we are ‘building’ will become off center. And, if left unchecked, it will eventually lean so far off center that our faith will collapse and fall. Therefore, our central focus has to remain on Jesus and nothing else.

In order to stay right in the center of what God has planned for us, we need to stop trusting in our own efforts and start trusting in His Son instead.

Now, the question for us is, where is the center point of our faith? Is it in Christ and His finished work on the cross, or in something else? It doesn’t matter what we do that is good, bad, or somewhere in between—if Jesus is not the focus, the center, of our life, then we will always be ‘off.’ Whenever we turn to anything other than Him, we are swinging away from the center point of true peace in our heart.

When we put our efforts into other areas, we are basically saying that His sacrifice was not enough, that we also have to do something ourselves to make our life right with God. The more we try, the more we move away from the plumb line, and lean the wrong way spiritually. We need to stop swinging back and forth, like the pendulum, away from our center point.

The Apostle Paul said, “But to him that worketh not [himself], but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). Who is “Him that justifieth the ungodly”? Jesus.

By believing on Him and what He has done for us on the cross, our“faith is counted for righteousness.”

That’s it. We have no need for special programs and rituals, or counseling and treatment, or anything else. We just need to place our total trust in Him, keeping Him continually as the center point of our faith—not the world, not religion, not our own ideas, not anything else. Then we will be able to rest secure, trusting in the center point of our faith—our Lord Jesus.

 

[Image credits:(plumb line) Pearson Scott Foresman [Public domain]; (pendulum) Manfred Antranias Zimmer/Pixabay]

Don’t Blame God For Your Problems

a graphic showing Adam and Eve behind bushes with a tree, snake, dark clouds and sun in background

After having moved furniture for their boss in a large old truck since five in the morning, the two young men were now exhausted. The one driving turns to the other and says, “Let’s finish this last delivery and quit for today. I’m beat!” His partner agrees without any hesitation. The driver starts up the truck and eases it into gear. The engine roars loudly with a lot of creaking and groaning; everything shudders, but nothing happens. He backs off of the accelerator, shakes his head, puts the old truck into reverse, and tries again. Still, the truck doesn’t move.

Tired and frustrated, the driver puts the transmission back into neutral and shuts the truck off. He slides out of the cab and manages to get up onto the front bumper.

“Man, I’m fed up with the junk our boss keeps giving us to haul with. Every time I try to go somewhere, this old thing acts up. If I had a mind to do something, I’d…”

He then interrupts himself with a series of loud clunks and opens the hood of the vehicle. After looking around the engine and then grumbling some more, he jumps back down to the ground.

Once again he gets into the cab and starts the engine. He tries several times to rock the vehicle by pushing the transmission into gear, accelerating, then quickly shifting into reverse and stepping on the accelerator again. Now thoroughly exasperated, the driver crawls up on the front of the truck, slams the hood down and starts jumping up and down on it. Yet nothing has changed and the truck is still in the same place as before.

Practically admitting defeat after an hour of trying, the man crawls back into the driver’s seat and slumps over the steering wheel. His partner glances over at him from the other side of the cab and mumbles, “Did you pull the chocks out from under the wheels?”

The driver, still resting over the steering wheel, opens his eyes without turning his head and replies, “What?”

Now with more of a weary drawl, his partner responds a little louder, “I said, Did you pull the chocks out from under the back wheels?” The driver bursts out of the vehicle and disappears around to the backside. After a somewhat muted scream, a large pair of wheel chocks goes flying over the front of the truck, followed by immense laughter from his helper still in the front seat.

While humorous in itself, this anecdote provides a good example of how we are often quick to blame someone else for a problem or oversight of our own creation.

In Genesis 3, we find the first instance of blame, and this time it involved God also. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons…And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Gen. 3:6, 7, 11-13).

In the same sense as the moving truck driver, Adam and Eve created a situation that they could not overcome as it stood. In their case, they disobeyed God by allowing themselves to be persuaded by the devil, via a serpent, and they ate from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then, following their own futile wisdom and efforts, Adam and Eve tried to correct or hide their sin (a spiritual concern) with fig leaves (a natural or non-spiritual solution).

When God confronted them, Adam resorted to blaming Him and Eve, while she blamed the serpent—yet neither one mentioned that that they were at fault.

We, as children of God, often fall into disobedience by doing the same thing.  Not only do we criticize Him, we are also determined to resolve the situation in our own strength, without even a thought of asking Him for assistance. Oftentimes we will practically knock ourselves out trying to correct the problem, when the source is, figuratively speaking, right under our nose. Of course, God is not going to rush in and take care of everything for us. He will patiently wait until we reach that place where we finally give up and call out to Him for forgiveness and help. Sadly, it usually takes most of our life before we finally reach that particular point and surrender to Him, if we ever do at all.

As our loving Heavenly Father, God will never put a problem before us that we cannot overcome. We are the ones who, knowingly or unknowingly, create an insurmountable situation for ourselves. When the issues that arise in our circumstances get us down, let’s not fall into the ‘blaming God’ trap that the devil often sets before us. Instead of getting upset with God over the difficult situation at hand that we have created ourselves, why not seek Him in prayer first, and then allow Him to lead us to the solution.

 

[Image credit:OpenClipart-Vectors/Pixabay]

Would You Die For Your Friend?

graphic of blue background with a silhouette of person kneeling at a cross

“Greater love hath no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

This verse emphasizes that Jesus laid down His life for His friends. There is no better way to show a dear friend how much you care than to lay down your life on his or her behalf if it becomes necessary. And this is the kind of love Jesus has for us if we are His friends. He laid down His life for the ones He loved, and He wants us to be willing to do the same for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

God lives in all those who belong to Him. Others are thereby able to see God, because He is in us. They can recognize Him in us by His love shown forth to them through us. God approves of the kind of love that we transfer from ourself to our brothers and sisters in Him. He is looking for this kind of love which makes us forget ourself and pursue the good and well-being of others.

The love referred to here is the love of God in Christ—because Christ is love. And how do we know for certain that He loved us? He was willing to give up His life for us on the cross.

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us…” (1 John 3:16). And if we have the love of God in us like Jesus did, then we will be willing to die for one another if necessary to prove it is so. Therefore, the life of a believer should not be more important to him than the life of God’s own Son was to Him. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11) emphasizes what the love of Jesus really is, and what our love should be.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another(John 13:34). Not long after He said this to His disciples, Jesus did lay down His life for them. This explains what He meant when He said “as I have loved you.” And those who believe in Christ should come up to this level of love also. When Christ came down from Heaven to Earth, He laid His royal majesty and glory aside. He loved man more than all of it—enough to give His very life for those who are so very dear to Him. This was the great love of Christ for His people, the very highest example of love among men.

The love Christ has for us He demonstrated in “laying down My life for My friends.” Jesus was referring to His atoning death which everyone needs, whether His enemies or His friends. It was His high purpose to display the greatest love there can be—the sacrifice of ourself for those we love. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). He confidently stated that the friendship kind of love He had was so strong, so intense, that He was willing to make this ultimate sacrifice for those He loved so dearly.

There are some people who would be willing to give time, or money, or position, etc. to benefit their friends. But the one element we all recognize as proof of love and friendship is when a friend is willing to deny himself on our behalf.

And the highest proof there can be of human love is when someone is willing to give up his or her life for the sake of a friend’s life. God gave the very highest proof possible to prove His love. Nothing could be more precious than the life of the One who is the Word of God, who was made flesh for our benefit. The most precious proof was the sacrifice Jesus made of His own life on behalf of His friends.

It was by Christ’s teaching that man received knowledge about God. But it was by His death on the cross that man was able to receive salvation. Jesus willingly sacrificed His life to win our hearts and make us His true friends. He brought a spiritual principle and power to our nature to tie us to Him in devotion and thankfulness for all time. Jesus was saying that we should love our brothers and sisters in the Lord with love of the same kind and high degree that He manifested for us. For the good of our friends, we must be ready even to die. Christ is love, and if we love as He loved, then we must be willing even to die for each other—one of the greatest needs among God’s people today. Ask yourself today—how high is my love for others, compared to Christ’s love for me?

 

[Image credit:Gerd Altmann/Pixabay]

Watch Out for Doubt – It’s Contagious!

Clouds, blues sky and a billboard with words: Warning: Doubt and Unbelief Aheadquarantine highway sign

If misery loves company, then doubt and its close companion, unbelief, are like a contagious disease. Since we are more inclined to not believe in something, it only takes one doubting person to infect a large group of people. Let’s look at an example from the Bible and see how a little unbelief spread across most of a whole nation.

“And they…said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.

But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!” (Numbers 13:27-32; 14:1-2)

The Israelites had finally finished their journey through the wilderness and were about to enter the land God had promised to them. But first, Moses sent a handful of men to spy out the land, who obediently went and traversed the region. Upon their return, they reported that they found the area fruitful and abundant, much more than they had experienced before. They also saw that there were many inhabitants there, and they were great in stature and number. But one of the spies did not see that as a problem, because he felt that they were “well able to overcome it.”

Yet the other spies did not share his optimism. They looked more at the inhabitants overcoming them than the other way around. They were full of doubt and unbelief.

As a result, their doubt quickly spread to the rest of the people. Most of the nation then became bent against Moses and God for leading them out and setting them up to be destroyed by the inhabitants of the neighboring lands.

They forgot again about all of the miracles God performed during their time in the wilderness—how He parted a mighty sea, destroyed the whole Egyptian army, gave them ‘perfect’ food and water from a dry rock, provided full light at night and the shade of a cloud by day, and the list goes on.

From the negative word of the spies’ unbelief, practically a whole nation became doubtful.

This resulted in God ultimately barring their entrance into the Promised Land. This also meant that all of that current generation, excluding Caleb and Joshua (two of the spies who did not doubt), had greatly sinned against God. If Moses had not interceded for all of the people at fault, God would have destroyed them.

This is how great the sins of doubt and unbelief are to God. Of course, in this instance it is rather obvious, as God had promised this land, and He does not fall short on His word. All the people had to do was to obey Him and enter into it. But instead they chose to follow by sight and not by faith. The Israelites let the problem overcome them and doubt entered in. There was never any consideration that God was more than able to take care of the situation—if only they had put their trust in Him.

Jesus said, “If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea…” (Matthew 21:21). The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). God wants us to have faith and believe in Him concerning that which is unseen. If we could see the outcome or results first, then what is there to believe? Anybody can do that.

It is God’s plan that we trust Him. When we doubt or show unbelief, we are demonstrating that we think He is not capable of solving the problem.

As His children, we are to put our faith in Him and not in others or ourselves. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Remember, doubt is contagious. Don’t become the next victim. Don’t follow the example of the Israelites and allow unbelief to keep you from that which God has promised us.

[Image credits:Billboard (modified by author) by ilker/freeimages; Quarantine sign by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alphastock Images]

How to Fail God

man with head down, eyes closed and hand over face

If we want to know how to succeed in life, we should turn to the Bible. But how many realize that the Bible also gives many instances on how to fail? It’s true! Take a look at a few examples:

Man’s first failure came right at the beginning of the human race. God specifically told Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This commandment was simple: Don’t eat the tree’s fruit and your relationship with God will remain good. But, sadly, it did not work out well. Eve was deceived by the serpent into taking a bite of the forbidden produce. But this was only part of the actual act of failure. Then she gave the fruit to Adam to eat. At this point, he could have refused and rebuked her for yielding to the deception. But he willfully decided to go ahead and eat the fruit.

His point of failure came when he deliberately chose to disobey God. Now their relationship with God was broken and sin entered the picture.

And from that point forward, all of humanity-to-come became destined to inherit a sin nature. This means that we are born inclined toward sinning rather than against it—all due to the failure of Adam and Eve.

Now see what happened with the Israelite’s King Saul. God told him to “go and [strike] Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and [donkey]” (1 Samuel 15:3). The Amalekites hindered and tried to destroy the Israelites when they left Egypt and journeyed through the wilderness.

So Saul mustered thousands of soldiers and headed over to Amalek, dutifully following God’s command. He even warned the Kenites, who dwelt among the Amalekites, to leave the region or they would also be killed. (The Kenites had been kind to the people of Israel in their past journey, unlike the Amalekites).

Upon reaching Amalek, Saul and his forces“…took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword” (1 Samuel 15:8). So far, so good. But the problem was that Saul did not fully obey what God had ordered. “…Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly” (1 Samuel 15:9). He let their king live and kept the best of the livestock.

Saul acted upon his own best interests, not what God required of him.

And not only did Saul disobey God, he also lied to Samuel, the priest. “…Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites” (1 Samuel 15:20). In the next verse he plays the victim, shifting the blame to his people. “…the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.”

Samuel saw though all of this. He proclaimed to Saul that obedience to God is more important than sacrifice. Then the Lord led him to declare, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23).

Saul failed by doing what suited him rather than God. He was therefore rejected as king because He would not fully obey God.

A New Testament example of failure can be found in one of Jesus’ own disciples. “…Peter…said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water. And He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31).

Peter was not bashful, to say the least! He spoke his mind, as portrayed later when he insisted that he would stand by Jesus even unto death—only to be informed by Him, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The [rooster] shall not crow, till thou hast denied me [three times]” (John 13:38).

Peter did believe that he could walk on the water, all the way out to where Jesus was standing. His downfall came when he took his focus off of Jesus and put it onto the conditions around him, where the winds were still rough. And then, “…when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.”

Peter failed when doubt found room to work in his heart. No longer did he trust in Jesus’ faithfulness.

Instead, he slipped back into believing in himself, and then grew fearful and began sinking. But “there is no fear in [godly] love; but perfect love [drives] out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Peter dearly loved Jesus, but his faith failed because it was not yet strong enough to let go completely and totally trust Him.

Throughout the Bible failure comes after God’s Word is disobeyed. When we listen to or follow anything other than what God has commanded, we will fail. Adam and Eve obeyed a serpent. King Saul looked to himself. Peter let the wind distract him. Over and over, the Word of God reveals that failure is a product of disobedience.

But God does not desire for us to fail Him. We find so many occasions of failure recorded in His Word because He wants us to see that we will ultimately fail when we turn away from Him and do what we consider to be right. He wants us to not just read His Word, but to follow it. Let’s read the Bible therefore, and learn from the downfalls of others—and not become another example of failure ourselves.

 

[Image credit: Darwin Laganzon/pixabay]