God bless you, fellow sower of the good seed. Here we are once again–on the edge. As I begin this, my third “On The Edge” column, I wonder how many readers have decoupaged the first two and have them mounted prominently in their homes. Hey, I’m just kidding. A scrapbook is fine. Actually, I get a real kick out of writing this column and I do hope that you get a kick out of reading it — a kick in whichever direction you need to go.
Well, anyway, I hope this finds you on the edge of your comfort zone, stretching out toward the Lord day by day so that your faith continues to increase. Isn’t it great to know that, really, all we have to do is trust God? As I say on the bi-monthly tape titled Take My Word For It, faith (synonymous with “trust”) is the simplest thing that God could require of us human units. To be successful, all I need to do is know what God says, believe it and act accordingly. Cool, huh? If I were a robot like R2D2, I wouldn’t have to do anything. God would control me and life would be great. But, of course, God wanted much more than a heartless “bucket of bolts” without free will and the capacity to choose to love and obey Him. Perhaps one reason is so that He could one day lavish upon us all the rewards that He longs to give us, in keeping with His indescribably magnanimous nature.
So, to be “on the edge” means to be seeking occasions to obey your heavenly Father and see your trust in Him grow. Remember, this will often mean that you are uncomfortable, but that is the only way to increase your comfort zone, i.e., your faith. God will never ask you to do anything that you cannot do, right? The problem is that you are a human unit, riddled with a sin nature, so there is something in you that will never go along with the program. You have to tell that old “Mr. Naa-ah” to “put a sock in it.” Spiritual growth is a matter of systematically paying attention to what you are thinking about, as well as to the fruit in your life (feedback from others is vital in this process). Hey, guess what? This is not always pleasant, because God and Jesus are relentlessly trying to bring to our attention the slightest deviation from how they want us to live. This can often be downright agonizing. But that is the message of the Cross, remember? And we are called to walk in the steps of The Man who was the first to go from death unto life. That is definitely going “against the grain,” and if we are to be like him, we must follow that pattern by choosing to die to our self-will and allowing him to raise us so we can walk in newness of life and serve in newness of spirit (those are Bible phrases).
As Christians, we are called to repel the constant onslaught of the Enemy designed to fill our minds with his “stinking thinking.” We are daily to be transformed by choosing to put in our minds new and better thoughts, thoughts that our Creator designed us to think, thoughts of trust in Him and His Son, thoughts that are the seeds of the words and deeds that the Lord Jesus would say and do if he were in our shoes.
In Exodus 33:16b, when conversing with Yahweh about whether or not He would go with him and the Israelites he was asked to lead, Moses asked an incredibly profound question, a question that I must constantly ask myself: “What else will distinguish me…from all the other people on the face of the earth?” What but being in the presence of God and “glowing” as a result, like Moses did when he came down from Mt. Sinai? So, how do we “glow”? Well, it must be by way of something tangible, something that other people can perceive via their five senses, don’t you think? How about the fruit of the spirit and the manifestations of the spirit? Wouldn’t they qualify?
As a Christian, you are different (distinguished) from all those on the planet who do not have the gift of holy spirit, the nature and power of God. I have to say also that because of the treasure of the knowledge of the gospel of the glory of Christ that you have, you are distinguished even among Christians. But how can those around you (the people in your life) recognize that you are so distinguished? They must be able to see and hear something different in your actions, your words, your face. God’s goal is that you sow the good seed of His Word into your heart to the end that, by internalizing it, you live it as a shining witness in a dark world. If this is not available, then Jesus died in vain.
The United States is still in shock about the tragedy in Littleton, Colorado on April 20. In the context of this column, let’s explore some aspects of it. As we do, let us stay anchored to the firm rock of God’s Word, because we are going to consider some very deep and emotionally-charged issues. Ready? OK, how do we know that God, the Creator, the most powerful One in the fight, could not stop those two boys from murdering those other people? We know by taking His Word for it. Yes, because in His Word He tells us that He is love, light, good, kind, holy, etc., etc., etc. Thus, His very nature prohibits Him from “allowing” evil (I am defining “allow” as being able to stop something, but choosing not to do so).
That brings up another question, doesn’t it? Why wasn’t God able to stop the horrible events of that day as they unfolded before His eves? The biblical answer is because He did not have anyone cooperating with Him to the degree necessary to shut down the forces of evil at work in the two killers. Think about it – what other answer could there be? With the gift of holy spirit, do we as Christians have the power to overcome demons? Sure we do, but it doesn’t happen automatically. In every situation, God and the Lord Jesus are right there with us, virtually “drooling” to destroy the works of the Devil, but they need our cooperation. They need us to think, speak and act according to what Jesus made available, so as to unleash the power of God in the moment.
Some might say, “Wait a minute, isn’t God sovereign?” The word “sovereign” basically means “ruling,” but the way most Christians think of it is not how God expresses it in His Word. Scripture clearly says that God’s overall plan will come to pass–those who believed in Him will win and the Devil and those who didn’t believe will lose. But–by giving man free will, God severely limited Himself as to how much He can intervene in our lives. Thus, God is not in control of everything that happens, and neither is everything that happens the will of God. The will of God comes to pass when a person knows what it is and acts accordingly. Then God can do His part and accomplish His will.
Our best example of what is available in terms of God’s protection is found in the life of Jesus Christ. He was threatened on several occasions, yet no one was able to harm him until it was his time to be taken. On the day he opened his public ministry, as recorded in Luke 4, an irate crowd took him to the brow of the cliff and was going to throw him off. But he walked away, right through the midst of them. Since Jesus is called “the author and finisher of faith,” it is he to whom we must look as the example of what is available from God, and that is complete protection, in keeping with God’s character of love.
Some might say, “Then what about Paul or other great saints who died at the hands of their executioners, was that because they didn’t have enough faith?” No, the cause was the Devil. Well then, could greater faith have saved Paul in that moment? Well, Jesus did say, “Be it unto you according to your faith,” didn’t he? Yes, I believe that greater faith on Paul’s part would have allowed God to do the part He clearly wanted to do–deliver Paul from death. God’s very nature would not allow Him to do any less than that, if it were possible.
Now think about it–are there not only two possible alternatives here? The first is that if Paul had had more faith, God could and would have saved him. That raises a question–could Paul have had more faith? Can faith grow? The answer is yes. The second alternative is that it simply was not available for Paul to be delivered in that situation, because God would not do so, for whatever reasons. Wouldn’t you agree that it comes down to either a need for “improvement” in Paul (and you and me) or a need for improvement in God? So then which alternative is more biblically plausible? Number one, don’t you think?
When trying to understand such a deep issue, let’s remember what God’s Word says, that is, what we know for sure. I say this because we must not relinquish what we do understand in the face of what we do not understand. First, God is love. Second, He therefore will always do for us what is loving. Third, we are not robots–He requires faith on our part. Fourth, our faith will grow if we build His Word in our hearts. Before I go on, I beseech you to read our book Don’t Blame God! if you have not done so. It much more thoroughly delves into the critical issues we are considering here.
Thank God for Cassie Bernall, the precious young Christian who reportedly responded affirmatively when asked by one of the killers if she believed in God. Her bravery has rightly been lauded, and her courage is a great inspiration to all believers, but I have not heard anyone address something I believe must be addressed in regard to what took place that day at Columbine High School. As I do, please keep in mind what you have read so far in this column, so that you do not hear me blaming Cassie for her own death, which was caused by two demonized humans. In light of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the Cross, is it wrong to ask the following question, and then seek the biblical answer? Was there another course of action Cassie might have taken? There is no question that she stood up for God as best she knew, and that, I believe, must lead us to wonder if perhaps no one had told her there was anything else she could have done.
Because of what she did that day, Cassie has become a worldwide symbol of Christian courage and martyrdom. It was reported that at her funeral a number of people came to Christ. But honestly, is it unloving, callous, condescending or picayune to consider what else could have taken place in that school library, and what then would have been the results in terms of people’s physical lives being saved in the moment, their spiritual lives being saved forever by seeing the power of God and thus believing in Him, and God being glorified? I don’t think so. I think someone has to say these things, and, since the name of this column is “On The Edge,” I’m willing to be the one.
If we could run back the tape of those gruesome moments, suppose that in response to the gunman’s question, Cassie had risen up with all the power of God inside her, jumped down the throats of those demons and commanded them in the Name of Jesus Christ to come out of those guys now?!!! Suppose they had come out, and the two punks had dropped their guns and wilted on the floor at her feet? Shades of the book of Acts! What kind of a symbol do you think she would be had she done that? I hate to say it, but had that been the scenario, I think the media would have given it much less coverage than they have given what did happen. Can you really see Dan Rather interviewing Cassie and making a big deal about it if she said to him, “Yes Dan, God gave me revelation that those two boys were demonized, and I took charge in the name of Jesus Christ and cast out those foul spirits. Praise the name of the Lord!”
Had Cassie shut down those spirits, her bravery in so doing might not have been any greater than the bravery she showed on the day she died, but the results would have been much different, and God and His Son would have been much more glorified. I am afraid that more than a few cynical unbelievers, and maybe even some Christians, thought afterward, “What’s the point of believing in God if you have no more power in such a situation than the unbelievers who also died?” In assessing the tangible results of that terrible day, some might have honestly asked, “What distinguished Cassie from all the others who died?” Is that not a logical question? There most assuredly is something that distinguished her and each of the other Christians who died that day, and I will get to that in a moment.
But first I have to say that the Greek fable that Cassie is “now in a better place” without question contributes to diluting the magnitude of the loss of her young life, which was “precious in the sight of the Lord.” Her death (the end of her life) cost God dearly (despite what I just heard on a Christian radio station, that “death is the happy servant that brings us to heaven”). Reportedly having recently renounced Satanism, she was becoming a bright light for God, but that light has been put out. As I said, there was something that distinguished Cassie from the unbelievers who died, and in fact she did “stick it down the Devil’s throat.” How so? Because she believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore she has “overcome the world.” Praise God that He raised Jesus from a state of death just like Cassie’s, and that at his appearing the Lord will, at his appearing, raise her to everlasting life. I look forward to meeting her and telling her how proud of her I was and that she inspired me greatly. I also look forward to standing beside her (and you) as we revel in the pyrotechnics of the Devil’s lengthy demise (Ezek. 28:18 [“brought to ashes”] & Rev. 20:10 [“forever and ever” (KJV) is actually “for ages and ages.”] Hallelujah!!!
So what would you do in such a situation? In case you don’t know, I can tell you. You would do exactly what you had sown in your heart day by day until that moment. The sum total of your response in a “crisis” is dictated by how you have previously (educated your conscience) (developed your mindset) (acquired your worldview) (built the Word in your heart) (all of the above). Personally, I do not ever want the opportunity to find out how I would respond in a situation like Cassie’s. I would much rather avoid it. How might I do that? One way might be to so build my faith in God and so sharpen my skill in wielding the spiritual weapons He has given me that no demon would confront me that way. The biblical principle is “peace through strength.”
Probably none of us really expects to find himself face-to-face with a sawed-off shotgun any time soon. But what are you doing each day to stretch your faith, to increase your spiritual flexibility and strength, to prepare your heart for your own quality of life, as well as for the benefit of other people whom you might find around you in such a situation, or just in the daily routine of your life? Does anyone in your life notice that you are distinguished? Would they in a crisis? You may very well be the only person in a given situation who knows who and what you know. You could save the lives of others, as well as your own. There is much direction in the Church Epistles to help you: “Put off the old man and put on the new,” for example, and see all other imperative verbs! You and I really can be like Christ, because he is right beside us in the trenches of life–ready, willing and able to mentor us and teach us how to trust the same God he trusted, all the way to the Cross. We can not only wear the bracelet, we can do what Jesus would have done! See John 14:12, et al, and go for it!!!!!!!