Let Yourself Believe, Pt. 2
Study Guide, May 2, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
The famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, in Pisa, Italy was built in the 12th century. Shortly afterwards the tower began to lean, due to the settling of its foundation in a dense mixture of sand, shells, and clay. They went ahead and finished it, even though it still leans over 13 feet to one side. But they claim it is still safe and should stand for another 200 years. So if you’re planning to visit there, no worries…you still have some time. Plus, you can even climb the 300 steps to the tower…that is, if that 200year guess about it being safe is still right.
But this leaning tower is also a picture of something else…it is a picture of us! It is a picture of you and me, in that we each have a leaning toward something in life, or we each are bent toward something in our natural self. And what is that? Well, it is one of the strangest things about the human nature. In fact, we see it mentioned in one of the two things that the Scriptures say that Jesus marveled over. And when Jesus marvels over something…it’s really got to be something! And one of the great things that Jesus marveled over was the great faith of a Roman centurion, as he totally trusted in the sovereignty and veracity of Jesus’ words. But the other thing that Jesus marveled over was not great at all…not good at all…it was something that was pointed out in Mark 6:6 after a time of Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth. And what was that? “And He marveled because of their unbelief.” NKJV
One of the first things to understand about human nature, or about the sin nature of mankind is that we have a serious bent toward unbelief. In fact, we got a really early start on this bad habit. We see it very early on. Now, the first question in the Bible didn’t start with a man, but man quickly latched on to it and has had a terrible time letting go of it. The question started like this: “Indeed, has God said…?” Gen 3:1 NASU And you know the last part of the question, but it’s this first part of the question that mankind latched onto and has had a bent toward thinking about it and tripping over it. From the beginning days of Eden to the times of our everyday lives, this question still lurks in the natural mind of the natural man…. “Indeed, has God said…?” Did God really mean what He said? Can God’s words be trusted? Can I really rest in all that God has said? Can I really believe it? Can I believe it in such a way that I live by it? Which, by the way, is really what the Biblical word for ‘believe’ really means anyway. To believe God’s Word in a Biblical way is to ‘live by’ God’s Word. To ‘believe it’ is to ‘live by it’, for if you don’t live by what you claim to believe…then you are only acknowledging that it is true, but are not believing it for you.
Just intellectually acknowledging that something is true, but not choosing to live by this truth is not Biblical belief, but simply subjective belief. It’s simply an exercise of the mind, but not a change of the heart. One of the clearest differences in this ‘head belief’ versus ‘heart belief’ is found in one of the most striking things ever said about it. Notice James 2:19- “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” NASU Uh Oh! So even Demons believe in God, but that kind of belief has never turned any of them into Angels! No, to only acknowledge something that is true, but to not let what is true change you…that is simply subjective belief, but not saving belief!
That is why there are so many religious people around the world that still do not have a relationship with God. It is often said that many people miss out on Heaven by 18 inches. That is the average distance between the head and the heart. They have some beliefs about God in their head, but they have never let God into their heart. They know about Jesus, but they do not know Jesus. And thus, one day Jesus will say to them: “I never knew you…depart from Me.” For salvation, Jesus does not just want a person’s head beliefs, He wants their heart belief. He wants them to give Him their own heart and then receive His own life. It’s personal. It’s not subjective belief but saving faith that makes a person right with Christ.
Okay, we understand that about how a person comes to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. But what we often overlook, or what often trips Believers up, is that even after we become Born Again Believers, Believers with new natures, we still wrestle with something in our old natures, which is this: ‘lingering unbelief’. And along with this lingering unbelief, clings those lingering questions… “Indeed, has God said? Did God really mean what He said? Can God’s words be trusted? Can I really rest in all that God has said? Can I really believe it? Can I believe it in such a way that I live by it?
Here is a really odd thing about us Believers…we tend to trust God’s Word for our salvation, but we tend to distrust God’s words for our sanctification…or about how we grow deeper in the Word and closer to the Lord. Which, by the way, is how you get closer to the Lord…by going deeper in His Word. And this, Brothers and Sisters, right here, is the key to what it means to ‘abide in Christ and with Christ”. Note Jesus’ instructions to us about this: John 15:3-5- “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” And then Jesus tells us how to ‘abide’ in Him. Notice carefully…7-11 – “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” NASU
In our salvation there is ‘union with Christ’. And in our sanctification there is ‘communion with Christ.’ And it is this ‘communion’ with Christ, this ‘abiding’ in Christ, that is directly connected to our commitment to Christ’s words, to the Scriptures. Again, in order to get closer to Christ we have to go deeper in His Word. And in order to go deeper in His Word we have to let ourselves believe His Word, or to ‘live by’ His Word, to trust in His Word…to rest in His Word. The difference in the Christian life is this: the shallow and unsatisfying life or the deeper and satisfying life. To abide or not to abide…that is the question…to believe or not to believe…to live by or not to live by…that is the question…
But, it is right here that we often stumble, for our belief gets diluted by the old habits of unbelief. Again, we tend to default to that bent in our old nature toward ‘unbelief’. We default to ‘abiding’ in other things than ‘abiding’ in God’s Word. And that becomes our stumbling block to this deeper and satisfying life of communing with Christ and resting in His Word.
Instead of abiding in God’s Word, we tend to abide in our circumstances. But remember, what you abide in is what then controls you. Thus, our joy and contentment both rises and falls based upon the tides of our circumstances. Instead of abiding in God’s Word, we tend to abide in our experiences. Thus, our joy and our contentment both rises and falls based upon the tides of our experiences. Instead of abiding in God’s Word, we tend to abide in our own understanding. Thus, our joy and our contentment both rises and falls based upon the tides of our own understanding. You get the point, right? The point being, we tend to look to other things than the words of Christ to gain a sense of significance and attain some level of joy and satisfaction that we are then okay to live by. But that leaves us either deluded or disappointed because your sense of significance and your joy and satisfaction only comes from abiding in Christ; and abiding in Christ is done by abiding in Christ’s words.
The Psalmist discovered this in his own life. Notice some things he said about it and revealed to us about it. Ps 119:65-68 – “You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word. Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in Your commandments. Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word. You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes.”
71-72- “It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes. The law of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”
76-77- “O may Your lovingkindness comfort me, According to Your word to Your servant. May Your compassion come to me that I may live, For Your law is my delight.”
119:92-93- “If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have revived me.” 119:50- “This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me.” NASU
David not only committed his life to His Lord, he also communed with the Lord through His Word. In other words, he learned the secret of dwelling less on David’s thoughts about God and more on God’s thoughts about David. And that, Friends, will change your life, just like it did David’s life. The more David learned to think on God’s thoughts, to meditate on God’s words, to rest in God’s truths, the more his spirit was revived and the more his soul was comforted. He learned how to delight not in his circumstances, not in his experiences, not even in his own understanding…he learned how to delight in the words of his God to him, to delight in the thoughts of his God about him, and to delight in the statutes of his God for him.
And Brothers and Sisters, it will be the same for you. But you will have to let yourself believe God’s statutes, God’s precepts, God’s words to you, and about you, and for you. And in connection with that, know this as well – you will not find ‘rest’ for the rest of your life until you let yourself rest in the words of God…until you let yourself believe, not only in Jesus, but to believe in the words of Jesus. In order to walk with Christ, you have to abide with Christ, and in order to abide with Christ, you have to abide in Christ’s words.
So again, to do this you will have to let yourself abide, let yourself commune, let yourself believe in the words of God to you. You will have to overcome that natural bent of unbelief in the old nature that suggests those questions of unbelief, like: “Indeed, has God said…?” Did God really mean what He said? Can God’s words be trusted? Can I really rest in all that God has said? Can I really believe it? Can I believe it in such a way that I live by it? You will have to quiet your unbelief with truth. Yes, God has said, and Yes, God really means what He said, and Yes, you can really believe it, and Yes, you can believe it in such a way as to live by it! Yes, Indeed! You will have to let yourself believe God’s words in the Biblical way…believe them so that you ‘live by’ them. And as you ‘live by’ them, they will become to you, like they did to the Psalmist, like they did to the Prophets, like they did to the Apostles – they became the very joy and delight of their lives. And nothing in their circumstances, nothing in their experiences, nothing even in their own understanding could diminish or delete that joy and delight that comes with abiding, with communing, with believing the Savior and His words to us.
In fact, when you let yourself belief all that God has revealed to you about who you really are to Him, and what He has planned for you, and especially what you really mean to Him, as in how much God loves you, really…that is when, as the chorus says, “…the things of Earth grow strangely dim in the light of God’s glory and grace.” And we will explore more about that, too, later.