(The following is from a series of facebook posts, I have been doing on boldness in serving the Lord.)
Reason #15 for why you can be a bold Christian: We have peace with God
Judges 6: 22-24 When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the Lord, he said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” The Lord said to him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and named it The Lord is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
In 2011, Damon Gameau began an experiment of eating 40 teaspoons of sugar a day for 60 days. He had a diet of sugar derived from hidden sugars found in juices, sports drinks, cereals, and sports bars. He filmed the experiment in a documentary called “That Sugar Film.” At the end of the two months, he gained 19 pounds, developed pre-type 2 diabetes and heart disease risks, had an extra four inches of dangerous visceral fat around his belly and noticed an enormous impact on his moods and cognitive functions. A diet of sweets is imbalanced and dangerous.
The modern evangelical church has an imbalance in the spiritual food it consumes. Too much of modern Christian radio songs, books, and sermons are filled with only one message, “Jesus loves you just the way you are.” It is a one tracked diet of peace and grace. And this diet like all imbalanced diets is dangerous.
Now you are thinking, what is wrong with grace and peace? Shouldn’t the gospel be central and Christ our focus? Yes, we should never lose the centrality of Christ and the gospel. But our diet is so focused on a syrupy sweetness of love, that we never really get around to what is true peace and grace. In the modern diet, Jesus is a means to an end. He is just something you add to your life to make you feel better when you are down. “Feeling depressed, don’t take an antidepressant; try Jesus, he’s the cure.” “Stressed out? Jesus can bring a little peace to your life.” When all we ever hear is that Jesus loves us and will make us feel good, we lose the foundation of the gospel. We hear about being loved for who we are so much that we begin to think “of course Jesus would love me” or “if he loves me just the way I am, why would I ever change.”
It is a message of peace that lacks an understanding of why we need peace. It is an imbalance at best and it is dangerous. Jeremiah warned about prophets who proclaim peace when there is no peace. Isaiah 57 tells us that there is no peace for the wicked. When Gideon saw the angel of the Lord, he was terrified. This is the response of all men and women in scripture when brought into the presence of holiness. They were afraid and trembled because they revered the holiness of God and were immediately aware of their own sin. Because God is holy, because the wicked have no peace, because they knew they were sinful, they knew that in their nature they were at war with God and God was at war with them. The only reason God could possibly send an angel to them was to kill them. They were face to face with a terrible, terrifying enemy whom they had defied and whom they could not stand against. They were afraid. It is in the context of being undone by the holiness of God and the wickedness of their sin, that God declares peace. Their enemy who would be justified in destroying them declares peace to them. It is the kind of peace that comes at the end of war. And the terms of surrender are repentance and faith. Because God had declared peace upon them, they had no reason to be afraid. They could be bold while still being reverent.
Brothers and sisters, we can have peace through Jesus Christ. But it is not a cheap therapeutic kind of chi and inner peace. It is peace with the God of the universe on his terms. And if we have peace with the God of the universe through our great King, Jesus, then we can be bold. We can be bold to repent. We can be bold to obey. We can be bold to resist the lies of Satan. We can be bold to turn away from worldly pleasure. We can be bold to fight our own flesh. We can be bold to proclaim the full counsel of God. Since we have peace with God, we get to eat at his table in the presence of our enemies. And that is a well-balanced meal.
Titus 1: 7-9 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
Elders are men who are to stand firm. He is to hold fast. That term hold fast is one we take for granted that everyone knows. To hold something fast though is not the opposite of holding something slow. It means to hold something securely. Think of the word fasten your seat belts. You put your seat belt on and lock it into place so that you won’t be tossed out of the car if it crashes. You are tethered in. It means being securely tied to something. It means being unable to be moved. It means standing firm.
The elder must be dialed in, fastened in, locked in, secured, and standing firm to the word of God. They have a deathgrip on the truth and won’t let go. Nothing mentioned in the previous virtues should lead you to think of anything less than firmness. When it comes to a hospitable and loving man who is not pugnacious or self-willed, we cannot see that as a weak man. So often in media, pastors are portrayed as mousy effeminate men who are soft spoken and tender like a gay therapist. We think that being hospitable and loving must mean that a man is timid and soft.
Nothing in these qualifications are about weakness, rather they are a display of masculine humility. Elders are fathers and they therefore will love their flock like a father loves his child. A masculine father can care for his child with tenderness while still being able to protect his family. An elder must be a man who holds firm to the faith.
Even when the scriptures say that God is made strong in weakness, we don’t turn that as an excuse to make a virtue of weakness. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul was not a weakling. He faced shipwrecks, wild animals, hatred, foul weather, and he was beat, left for head, and returned right back to the same place to preach again. He is not a soft man. He doesn’t boast in his own strength but rather that it is the strength of God which makes strong even where he is weak. He does not make a virtue out of being soft, rather he writes in 1 Corinthians Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
The apostle Paul though was not writing anything new. For example we learn from another man of God about standing firm in Joshua 23:6 Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left.
Therefore an elder must be and we all must aspire to be people who stand on the word of God firmly. We must hold fast. We must latch on, fasten, secure ourselves to the truth. We are to know whom we have believeth and not turn from him to the left or the right. We must be men of the word, not tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. We don’t chase after every latest fad but are firmly planted in God’s word. We are to delight in God’s word so that we will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Paul says that the man who is to be an officer in the church must stand firm, hold fast, to the faith word which is in accordance with the teaching. He is to be a man of the word. Not an effeminate man who is always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. There are people who read and read and read theology and they trade doctrines like baseball cards. It is a hobby where they chase all kinds of fads. They are no more secure than pop up tent in a tornado.
On the other hand, the characteristics of humility previously mentioned also means that we cannot be brittle in our holding fast. We must be correctable by the word of God. When we read it and it convicts us of sin or presents to us something we have not practiced before, we need to be able to bend our will to the scripture. A brittle person is just as fragile.
Stand firm and hold fast. Don't be soft or brittle.
I have this tin plated picture I bought that has one of my favorite quotes on it. It is a quote from a western philosopher you might have heard of named John Wayne. It says “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyways.” I love that quote and it is an encouragement to me in a lot of the battles that we do. Sometimes when we are called to go out and engage in different things at the abortion mill or street preaching, I am reminded that even though you are afraid, you do it anyways because it is the right thing to do. I think of the quote when I am doing pastoral counseling and I need to say something, and I am scared to say it, but I know have to do it anyways.
When we think about courage there is more truth in this quote than I think the good cowboy knew and that is this: We will all fear something. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is having more fear in the right object than you do the wrong one.
We live in a time when I think that many in the church in America are scared to death. We are. We're living in a time when it seems as if the enemy is gaining ground. In such a short period of time, it seems as if morality has and is rapidly changing. I say seems because we often have a short sighted view of history. But it does seem that the enemy is taking ground. Persecution is on the horizon and already here.
Fear has captivated the church and keeping it from being effective. Fear in combination with a love of comfort has made so much of the church ineffective. These two things have captivated the church: Comfort and fear.
We are comfortable with the world and the world's things. We are comfortable in our positions. With that comfort comes fear of the loss of it. We fear being hated. We fear being persecuted. We fear the loss of reputation or loss of friends and family. We fear man. This fear makes us ineffective.
This love of comfort and a fear of loss of it has created a new reformation in the church with its own five solas. Instead
Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Glorie, we have today because of cowardness and comfort embraced Sola feelings. My feelings dictate everything. How I feel is the determiner of what is right and wrong. How I feel determines how I will act. With that we have embraced Sola Relationship. I feel that I have a relationship with God. Its all about me and him alone drinking coffee. Christianity has become void of the commands of Christ and hyper individualized in such away to have eroticized it. Salvation is me and my relationship alone and who are you pastor to tell me about my relationship with God.
We get there through Sola Pragmatism by Sola Niceness for Sola Ego- my own glory alone.
Cowardliness makes us unfaithful. It was fear that kept the Israelites from taking the promise land. The twelve spies entered the land and ten of them came back only seeing how wicked and evil and big the people and their gates were. They were afraid and did not believe what God said and so they wondered around the wilderness for 40 years rather than taking the promised land.
Fear led them to not belief God and therefore they wasted away their lives. Fear will lead us into unfaithfulness and compromise in order to not be hated. Fear of man and love of comfort and ease make our love of God grow cold and cause us to compromise on the battles we face.
Yet God calls us to be courageous. He calls us to be bold. Over 50 times the scriptures say “take courage.” 143 times the scriptures say fear not. God calls us to courage and boldness. He calls us to faith. This courage is as I said earlier not the absence of fear. It is fear in the right object that will lead to courage. It is the fear of the Lord. When we fear God rightly and above all else, we find that he upholds us and strengthens us to take courage. He will enable us to take the promised land and to disciple the nations.