Let Yourself Believe
A Devotional Communion Service
Study Guide, April 18, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
We’ve all heard the saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” And while that often applies in a lot of false advertising and merchandizing offers, when it comes to the promises and assurances of God’s Word, that is where this warning stops. We’ve also heard the saying, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” That can be helpful for us in order to live with a settled attitude about the revelations of God’s Word. However, that, too, falls short of the full reality and implications of revealed truth from our Heavenly Father. For, we should say, “If God said it, that settles it, whether I believe it or not. So I just need to believe it!”
We live in an unsettled world. It’s often hard to know what we can count on or depend upon. And this unsettled atmosphere that we live in day after day tends to seep into our attitudes and even our faith, so that we often live with a nagging skepticism about even the wondrous revelations of God that God intended to be rock solid assurances for our lives. This is right where we are in need of understanding a few realities about ourselves and in need of understanding many realities about our God. So let’s explore.
One of the things we are to understand about ourselves is that we really are born skeptics, as well as rebels. Here’s one example of the ‘rebel’ part of us…and it shows up very early on in life. In fact, whenever Parents begin statements to their children with ‘Don’t’, what’s the common response in the head of the kid? Right…something like, “Do!” I remember Dr. Dobson giving this example about his son when his son was a little tyke. They were at a basketball game, and Dr. Dobson told his son that he could play anywhere up to the baseline where the games were in action. So he said, “Don’t cross over that line because that’s where they are having the game.” Okay…that settled that, right? Yeah, right! So as Dr. Dobson was looking down from the bleachers to check on his son, what was the first thing he sees him doing? He sees his son standing at the baseline with both feet over the line, looking up at his Dad, like, “Nah…I’m going to do it my way.”
And that’s that little rebel part that roams in each of our sin natures. We be rebels from birth! One of the most intriguing verses about this is from 1 Cor 15:56-57- “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” NASU
One way to picture the message of this is by realizing that sin is actually ‘the death agent’ in the world. If there were no sin in the world there would be no death in the world. ‘Sin entered the world, and death spread, because all have sinned.’ Again, sin is the toxin or the poison in this world…the death agent. Therefore, sin is the sting of death like poison in the sting of a wasp brings death to its victims. Okay, so what about the law being the power of sin? What’s that all about? How can the law be linked to sin?
As the Apostle Paul said, the problem is not anything in the perfect law of God…God’s law is good. But the problem was within him and within us, as well as within every human that has ever lived. The problem is that when the perfect law connects with the imperfect nature of man, it’s like connecting a new power line with an old corroded outlet…boom, sparks…maybe even a fire! The problem is not with the power line, but within the outlet that is all shorted out. That’s the problem with our old sin nature…it’s all corroded by sin and so it negatively affects everything around it…including our mind and heart and emotions and attitudes and such. And even though, by the saving grace of God and the implantation of a new spirit within us…a new nature within us, we will still have to counteract the powerful influences of our corroded old nature as long as we live.
Which bring us back to this other problem; this problem of our innate ‘skepticism’ that dogs our faith and beliefs. J. Oswald Sanders said, “God’s Word needs no outer props.” Once God says something…that’s the way it is. We may be skeptical about it, but that doesn’t change the absolute truth of it. It’s like when God said to Abraham: “I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” Gen 17:16-17 NASU Here is a classic example of although God’s words can be beyond our understanding, they are never beyond our trust…they are never beyond our ability to choose to trust. We may, by nature, be a little skeptical, but that doesn’t change the fact that God’s words are fully and completely ‘trustworthy’!
The problem is that whenever we put more trust in our own understanding than we do in God’s Words we set ourselves up as the judge of what is true and what is false, or the judge of what is good and what is not good, and so on. And that just sets into motion things like confusion, disillusionment, disappointment, and so on. Fortunately for Abraham, he chose to trust, chose to believe, and then rested in that belief. Why, Abraham rested so strongly in this promise by God to raise up descendants from this child of promise, Isaac, that when he was tested in the command to sacrifice his only begotten son on Mount Moriah, he told his servants that traveled with them this: Gen 22:5- “Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” NASU Did you catch that? “…we will worship and return to you”…not “…and I will return to you, but WE!”
And later in the ‘heroes of the faith’ chapter in Hebrews 11 we get further insight into the thinking of Abraham in connection with this incident: Heb 11:17-19- “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.” NASU
So Abraham believed that he was going to witness Isaac’s resurrection after the sacrifice. He knew that God promised that through Isaac God was going to build a great nation through him, and thus he believed that God was going to raise Isaac from the dead. Why, God had already raised Isaac from he and Sarah, whose childbirth abilities were essentially ‘dead’.
This is one of the reasons I’ve always been so disappointed by those movies about the sacrifice of Isaac where they show Abraham going around ranting and raving in anger and frustration about having to sacrifice his only begotten son. Wrong! Abraham wasn’t fuming and fussing over it at all…the Scriptures inform us that he was expecting to be astonished and amazed in seeing God raise Isaac from the dead before his very eyes. And then both of them were going to go back down the mountain to rejoin their servants and return home. Now, of course we know that God’s intention in all of this was to illustrate the coming sacrifice of His own only begotten Son, Jesus. This experience was to demonstrate that although God stayed Abraham’s hand from sacrificing his only begotten son on Mount Moriah, that one day He would not stay His own hand from the sacrifice of His only begotten Son on a Cross on the hill of Calvary.
But the point here is that we have this persistent tendency to believe in our own understanding about our lives and about life itself more we believe in and trust in God’s revelations about our lives and about life itself. Jump ahead to Jesus’ revelation to His disciples about His own upcoming sacrifice. Jesus plainly told the disciples three different times in descriptive detail that the time of His sacrifice was near. And He also talked about it over and over in many other illustrative ways. But here’s just one of those times of clear explanation: Matt 16:21- “From then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, and that He would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day He would be raised from the dead.” NLT
To which the disciples said, “Okay, we’ve got it. And when that time comes, we won’t have any doubts about what is happening, but we will fully trust these words that You just told us and will be at peace in our hearts and minds. And, we will begin reminding everyone else about this promise.” What? Is that what they said? No, not at all. Instead, what they did was that they fell back on their own distorted reasoning and let the hard circumstances control their beliefs. And as such, they let their doubts and discouragement rule their heart and minds.
Plus, since they had been carrying around some pre-conceived and distorted notions about what they thought the Messiah was supposed to do when He came, and their false notions got in the way of them believing what Jesus was saying to them about the fact that the Cross was going to have to happen before the Crown was going to happen.
Here’s an example of this from another prediction that Jesus gave to His disciples in Luke 9:44-45- “Don’t forget what I will tell you now: The Son of Man will soon be handed over to the control of other men. But the followers did not understand what he meant. The meaning was hidden from them so that they could not understand it. But they were afraid to ask Jesus about what He said.” ESV So the question is: Why was it hidden? Or, who was hiding it? Jesus wasn’t hiding it from them. No, Jesus had been telling them over and over that He was about to fulfill all of the prophecies about His sacrifice as the final Lamb of God to take away the sins of the people. So why was this hidden? Or, the real question is; “What was hiding it from them?” Remember, the common notion among so many in the Jewish society was that when the Messiah would come, He would come as a conqueror and would overthrow the Romans and deliver the Jewish people from all their enemies. That’s what they believed, or we should say, that’s the distortion they chose to believe. So if now the Messiah is telling them that He was going to be delivered over to die for the sins of the people at the hands of His enemies, how did that fit in with their own understanding? It didn’t. But that’s the point. The disciples should have supposed that their previous notions of the Messiah were wrong, and they should have renounced them. They should have believed that what Jesus was revealing to them was consistent with His being the Christ. Or, at least, should have gone back to the writings of the Prophets to learn more about the sacrificial mission of the Messiah before His return to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords over all the world.
But they didn’t. So, what it was that was hiding or interfering with them choosing to believe these truths of Jesus’ words to them was they had chosen to believe things that were never true in the first place. Again, it’s not that they couldn’t believe Jesus’ new truths…it’s that they chose to hold onto old lies, or at least distortions of the truth, which pretty much leaves you in a mess either way. It’s like Barnes Commentary put it in discussing this passage: “In this way it was hid from them—not by God, but by their previous false belief. And from this we may learn that the plainest truths of the Bible are unintelligible to many because they have embraced some belief or opinion before which is erroneous, and which they are unwilling to abandon. The proper way of reading the Bible is to lay aside all previous opinions and submit entirely to God. So “we” should believe that “all” that God says is consistent with truth, and should forsake all other opinions.” Well put, Brother Barnes!
Mark it down: Whenever people embrace some belief or opinion that is false, especially about God, as in what God is like, or what God will do, or what they imagine God is supposed to do, and so on, and if they are unwilling to let go of those false beliefs when God’s Word tells them otherwise, then they have chosen to have that truth or truths remain hidden from them. It’s a self-imposed ‘hiding’, a self-imposed problem. And like with the disciples, if you won’t let Jesus change your finite understanding by His infinite Word, then you set yourself up for more problems and more stumblings and more heartaches, like what they went though until the Resurrection of Jesus shook them into realty. And then they were able to rejoice in Jesus’ words and enjoy peace in their hearts and minds. And they were careful to never confuse Jesus’ words with their own distorted thinking or with other people’s false notions ever again. Whatever Jesus said to them, that settled it, and they believed it! They chose truth over everything else, over their own understanding, over other people’s opinions, over confusing circumstances, over anything and everything else. Truth reigned in their minds because Jesus reigned over everything and does reign over everything!
And that’s the way it is intended to be with every disciple of Jesus Christ. And that’s why we have to choose, not just once, who we will serve and who we will believe, no, we have to choose every day. Will we choose to just believe our own minds or just believe others around us, or will we choose to believe God first and above all others? We have to choose each day who we will serve, and who we will believe. Other’s lives around us depend upon it, and our own wholeness and our own peace of mind and joy and experience in following God depends upon us choosing to believe God’s words…choosing to believe God’s truths day after day, as long as we live. It’s almost like we have to say to ourselves each day… “Today, I’m going to let myself believe…believe God’s Word!”