Let Yourself Believe, Pt. 3
Study Guide, May 16, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
Unbeknownst to him, (by the way, ‘unbeknownst’ is a word that is far too underused, don’t you think? Like, “Unbeknownst to us, the gas station was completely out of gas.” Now that’s a current event! Or, “Unbeknownst to him, so were all of the other gas stations in the area!” See how useful that word is? Say, doesn’t it seem that every other week there is just one more crazy thing to add to the other hundred crazy things going on in our world? Sometimes my Dad would say, “You know, it seems like the whole world has gone crazy, except for you and me. And sometimes I’m not too sure about you.” Yeah, he was a character!) But really, unbeknownst to a Father in the Bible, whose son was healed by Jesus, this man taught us a prayer; a prayer to which God will always answer with: “Yes, I will.” And how great is that, to know that whenever you pray this particular prayer that God will answer it with: “Yes, I will.” So what is the prayer? The prayer is this: “Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.” Oh yes, God will!
No doubt, you have already prayed that prayer, or something like it…perhaps many times, as many of us probably have. And how wonderful to know that God is not only willing to help us, but God loves to take us from where we are in our faith walk and help us go further, go higher, go deeper, go wider in our walk with Him, especially in helping us know and understand and believe more and more about one thing in particular. And what is that? Let’s let the Apostle Paul point that out. Eph 3:14-19- “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” NASU
For how many is that one of your favorite passages of Scripture? Right, for many of us. And for how many is that one of the hardest wonders to let yourself really believe…to really believe in this matchless, marvelous, measureless, limitless, boundless love of Christ for you…a love which even surpasses all knowledge?
How strange that the world knows what it needs, but the world doesn’t know what it is! Nearly everyone knows the song – “What the world needs now is…..right…love, sweet love.” Well, yeah, of course the world needs love, but until they know what love really is, they won’t know what it is that they really need. Just like with ‘Truth’, the world asks, ‘What is Truth?” Wrong question! The right question is “Who is Truth?” The same applies to ‘Love’. The world asks, “What is Love?” Again, wrong question. The right question is “Who is Love?” And the answer is “God is Love”. Or God is the source of Love, just as God is the source of Truth. What the world need now is God…who is also the very source of Truth and Love.
And yet, even though, as Believers in Christ, we have come to know the love of God in Christ, we still have trouble, as Paul put it: ‘comprehending’ the breadth and length and height and depth, and ‘knowing’ the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled up to all the fullness of God. And, yes, part of the reason for that is ‘comprehension’, but another part is ‘apprehension’. Yes, many conscientious believers tend to live in a condition of apprehension when it comes to letting themselves believe and live by and live in and experience more and more of the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ for them. And of course, the reasons are many. Sometimes it is due to unfortunate past experiences, where they experienced little love from family or friends, or they associate their relationship with God with shallow relationships they have had with others, or they simply tend to keep their focus on their own knowledge and habits instead of letting themselves be transformed in their thinking and their understanding about God. One of our main problems for nearly all of us in life is, as has been aptly stated…is that ‘We tend to know ourselves too well and our God too little.’
For example: Even when we come into a saved relationship with God through repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, our focus often gets hung up on our repentance and our faith instead of Jesus Christ. In other words, believers are often looking to their repentance and looking to their faith in order to feel better, instead of using their repentance and their faith like lenses through which they can look and see Jesus better. Now certainly, even after our salvation we need to be repenting or turning more and more away from ourselves toward Jesus and acting more and more in faith, trusting in Jesus to lead us and guide us. But again, the focus is always to be on Jesus, not us. Repentance and faith are merely the channels or doorways we use to go to Jesus and to look to Jesus. Remember, even in our salvation, many are focused on their faith…thinking that they are saved by faith, which is just enough to get them off to a confusing start. We are not saved by faith…we are saved by Grace. We are saved by God’s grace through our faith…through faith, like through a channel or a doorway. But always know that it is God’s grace that saves us…GRACE: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Use your faith to focus on God’s grace.
Here’s another example that contributes to our ‘apprehension’ about fully experiencing our Savior’s love. It’s like when asking why Jesus died for us…Believers often answer: “…to save us from our sins.” Yes, that was certainly our need, but that’s not the central reason why Jesus died for us. The central reason that Jesus died for us is because He loved us. “For God so loved the world…”, loved us, and loves us still. The reason that Jesus had to die was to save us from our sins, but the reason that He died is because He loved us so much that He was willing to go through that so that He could then bestow His love on us. Love was the foundation, always was the foundation, and will always be the foundation of our relationship with God. In other words, our relationship with God is based upon the foundation of the love of God. God’s love is the foundation…of everything!
We will explore that more, but here is yet another example of our apprehension of why we are hesitant to let ourselves believe in the love of God for us. And it is linked to another tendency that conscientious Believers have of almost thinking that God loved them more when He saved them than He probably does now…now that He sees and knows what they are really like. That even sounds kind of odd, doesn’t it? But isn’t that often the case? Many people rejoice that Christ has forgiven their sins when they received Him as their Savior, but they’re not too sure about this forgiveness of their sins since they were saved? It’s kind of like, now that God knows them better, and now that they should know better, the whole forgiveness thing is a little harder to rest in and rejoice in. Where they once rejoiced in the mercies of God, now they are thinking more in terms of the reluctance of God. It’s hard to enjoy singing “Blessed Assurance” if you’re thinking about God with ‘Bad Assumptions’. It’s hard to ‘feel blessed’ if you’re not sure.
It’s like Bruce Wilkinson once said that many Christians tend to live their lives thinking that God is always a little bit mad at them…a little ‘put off’ about something. That’s a good way to put it. They live their lives thinking that God probably still has a little bit of a grudge against them. Yes, they confess their sins to God and ask for forgiveness over and over, but they still don’t feel like they can let it go, because they are not sure that God has let it go. But as A.W. Tozer so clearly put it: “Jesus Christ knows the worst about you, nonetheless, He is the One who loves you the most.”
Here are a couple points to further help clear the air on ‘foggy thinking’…Note this carefully: When Jesus died for your sins on the Cross, which ones did He die for? Which sins did He forgive? Col 2:13-14- “You were spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were not free from the power of your sinful self. But God gave you new life together with Christ. He forgave all our sins. Because we broke God’s laws, we owed a debt—a debt that listed all the rules we failed to follow. But God forgave us of that debt. He took it away and nailed it to the cross.” ERV
Now then: When Jesus died for the forgiveness of your sins, which of them were still future? All of them. That means that all of the past sins which you still feel guilty about were all future at the Cross. Jesus paid for the forgiveness of your sins before you ever charged them to Him. Jesus provided the cleansing of your sins before you ever committed them. Yes, Jesus knows all about you, yet loves you all the same.
So that judicial penalty, that record of our debt for our past, present, and future sins has been nailed to the cross. Therefore, our relationship with God is eternally secure. Now, as the Apostle John instructed us…now we are to daily confess the presence of sin in our lives in order to experience daily fellowship with God and to enjoy this fullness of God. 1 John 1:9- “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” NASU This is our daily trip to the sink, to receive daily cleansing from the presence of our sin, as we confess and forsake sin so that we honor Christ more and more, and can also be more and more useful to Him, and experience that relationship that we have with Him.
But even here, as we confess our sins by faith, we have to let ourselves believe, we have to let ourselves rest, not in our faith, but in the faithfulness of God, that He has indeed cleansed us from all unrighteousness. We have to let ourselves believe that God is even more anxious to forgive us than we are to be forgiven. Which brings us to another help in clearing the air…and that is: Why is God so willing to forgive our sins anyway? Once again, God is able to forgive us because of what Jesus did for us, but God is willing to forgive us because of how much He loves us. Everything begins and ends with breadth and length and height and depth of the love of God for you and for me. Both the foundation of our relationship and the foundation of our fellowship is this immeasurable love of God for us. And that is what we must let ourselves believe.
Just think: What if you were to let yourself believe and rest in how much God really loves you, like this, for example: Ps 103:11- “For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.” NLT In other words, it surpasses knowledge, just like the Apostle Paul said, therefore God’s love for you is greater than anything and everything. It’s the driving force in the Universe, therefore it is to be the driving force in your life!
And then, what if you were to let yourself believe and rest in this revelation from the Apostle John? Actually, it’s a prayer that Jesus prayed for you. Let’s listen in: John 17:20-26- “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as You and I are one—as You are in Me, Father, and I am in You. And may they be in Us so that the world will believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You gave Me, so they may be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent Me and that You love them as much as You love Me. Father, I want these whom You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they can see all the glory You gave Me because You loved Me even before the world began! O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know You, but I do; and these disciples know You sent Me. I have revealed You to them, and I will continue to do so. Then Your love for Me will be in them, and I will be in them.” NLT
This prayer of Jesus’ is about us. And not only does it reveal the amazing union that we share with the very life of God, it also reveals the amazing love that God has for us. So we ask again, what if you were to let yourself believe what Jesus said in His prayer to the Father about you? “ …You love them as much as you love Me.” How can we even fathom that? How can we even imagine that…that the Father loves us as much as He loves His only begotten Son, Jesus? Well, we can’t, fully! We can’t comprehend it completely, we can’t understand it really, because it’s a love that surpasses knowledge! However, we can let the breadth and the length and the height and the depth of this love of God do one thing in particular in our life. And that is, we can let it ‘control us’; control our thoughts, control our attitude, control our conduct, and so on. We can let ourselves believe exactly what God has said to us about how much He loves us, and then we can let our lives be controlled by His love. That’s what happened with the Psalmist and what happened with the Apostle John, as this love of Jesus for him became the very way he identified himself, remember? In John’s writing he referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Of course, Jesus loved each of His disciples, but again, John was so overwhelmed about Jesus’ love for him that this became his central identity. This is the way he thought about himself, as a disciple whom Jesus loved! He not only let himself believe in the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of God for him, he even let it control his very identity. As if he was ever asked the question: “And who are you?” John would answer: “I am the one whom Jesus loves. It’s amazing!”
And so, What if you were to let the love of God become your central identity…“I am the one whom Jesus loves”? How about you go ahead and begin letting it become your central identity. And if you do, then it will also become what controls your life, just like it did with the Apostle Paul: 2 Cor 5:14-15- “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” NASU
It’s when you let the love of Christ be the foundation of your life, and let the love of Christ then fill your life, and let the love of Christ life then control your life that you are then able to live your life for Christ…just like the Apostles learned to do. But it all starts with letting yourself believe in this love of God for you that passes all understanding.
So again, how about it? How about from today on, just let yourself believe that God loves you as much as He says He loves you. And then let that become the central focus of your life day by day. Spend more time and effort pondering the love of God for you than you spend pondering anything else. Let yourself be controlled by the love of Christ, and then watch what happens to your attitude about everything else in your life, and even your actions toward everyone else in your life. And if you find yourself having trouble believing it, just pray that prayer that God will answer every time: “Lord, I believe…help me in my unbelief.”