The Weekly Epistle 3/20/24

Hi Church,

Too good to be true. That is often the thought when some advertisement claims weight loss of 50 pounds, or that you are the lucky winner of a vacation for two, or “no money down,” or that something is free. Too good to be true. 

We may even have those thoughts when it comes to God’s promises. D.L. Moody said, “God never made a promise that was too good to be true.” God never advertises more than He can deliver. 

In last week’s epistle, I addressed the question of, “Are all Biblical promises to be claimed for us today?” There were some guidelines I gave to help us navigate that issue. We need to keep in mind that some promises were made to all people and others were given to a specific audience. 

When God promises Joshua, “I will give you every place where you set your foot,” is specific to Joshua and the people of Israel he is leading into the Land of Canaan. It is not a promise to be claimed at your next job interview or that piece of property you would love to own. 

However, there are plenty of promises we can stake our lives on. There is the promise of eternal life to all who believe. There is the promise of answered prayer, provision of our needs, rewards for service, help in our weakness, forgiveness of sin, way of escape from temptation, wisdom in times of testing, and on and on it goes. 

I should mention right here that there are some promises that come with an unconditional guarantee while others come with certain conditions. When Jesus promises to build His church even against Satan’s strongest opposition, we can bank on that. When Jesus says nothing can pluck us out of His hands, that all rests in His ability to keep us to the end. No conditions required. To know that those God justifies, he also glorifies, is a guarantee- thank you, Lord! 

God is faithful to all of His promises, but our enjoyment of them, in some cases, is dependent upon certain conditions. It is like that recipe that claims to be delicious. It is conditioned upon putting in the correct ingredients. 

When God promises to give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4) it is conditioned upon our delighting in the Lord. The beatitudes in Matthew 5 come with conditions. If we are poor in spirit, if we mourn, if we are meek, if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, then we can enjoy the blessings God promises. Jesus’ promise to care for our needs is conditioned upon our seeking Him first. 

 

God’s promises play a vital role in our spiritual lives. God wants to bolster our confidence in the truth that “what He says He will do, He will do.” So, having a correct understanding of them is critical to our faith. As you read through God’s Word, spot His promises, jot them down, and faithfully apply them to your life. You will find fresh power as you live these days for Him. 

Blessings, Pastor Brian

The Weekly Epistle 3/13/24

Hi Living Hope Family,

Promises, promises! “But I promise I won’t do it again.” “I promise to love you for better or for worse.” “I promise tomorrow I will clean my room.” Promises made, promises broken. After a while, you can become skeptical about anyone’s, “I promise to…” 

What about God’s promises? Do we ever struggle to believe that God will keep His promise? The Bible records for us a ton of promises. The number of promises varies depending on the source. Whatever the number might be, God is not like people in that He cannot lie. God’s motto is, “a promise made is a promise kept.” 

That raises another question. What Biblical promises are for Christians? You might remember the chorus- “Every promise in the Book is mine. Every chapter, every verse, and every line. All the blessings of His love, divine. Every promise in the Book is mine.” It’s catchy. But is it true? Is every promise in the Bible mine? 

Peter in his second epistle clearly states that God, “Has given us his very great and precious promises” (see 2 Peter 1:3-5). Paul, to the church in Corinth wrote, “For not matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:20). What does “yes in Christ” mean? What precious promises have we been given that we can “claim” for our lives today as Christians? 

In answering that, here are some guidelines to follow.
1. Promises that are true about God all the time should be embraced as true for our lives. For example, when it speaks of God as strengthening and upholding us, that is true of God for all time (Isaiah 41:10). Promises related to God’s presence, favor, power, or pleasure is something we can enjoy, for they come to us today by the Spirit of Christ. 

2. When New Testament writers apply the Old Testament, we can embrace that as true for our lives as well. For example, when Paul cites Deuteronomy 32:35 in Romans 12:19, “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” We can love our enemies because we can rest assured that God will indeed judge rightly in the future. 

3. All our blessings that Christ has secured for us through salvation in Him we are to enjoy as believers (Ephesians 1:3). Our adoption as his children, redemption, forgiveness, sealing of the Holy Spirit, are already yes” in Christ, even those “not yet” enjoyed like the full inheritance. 

4. Don’t confuse a promise with a principle. Proverbs, for example, are not promises to claim, but principles that hold true in most cases. Conditional promises given to Israel (“If” statements) show us something about God but are principles that apply to us today. “If you honor your mother and father, you will have a long life in the land that your God is giving you” is conditional promise to Israel but a principle for us to live by today. 2 Chronicles 7:14 was given to Israel, not a promise to America. But God hears the prayers of those who humbly seek Him. 

5. Remember the three C’s of every promise (and biblical interpretation)- Context, context, context. Land promises and material prosperity promised to Israel are not for us today. For example, the prayer of Jabez (sorry to have you relive that trend in the 90’s). Guess what? That was a specific promise of blessing to Jabez, not for ours to claim. But we can learn to pray with the humility, dependence, and expectation that God does answer prayer as Jabez demonstrated. 

I will pick this subject up further in next week’s epistle…I promise!
Blessings, Pastor Brian