We once attended a church where the pastor turned all Scripture passages into admonitions of how we were to behave, even those that directly spoke of the person and work of God. He put focus on our sinfulness instead of God’s grace and saving power. After a time, we had to leave, not out of conviction or rebellion, but oppression.
My hubby says some older preachers come from an era where that was the common thing to do, a “turn or burn” attitude that assumed Christians would obey God if someone’s accusing finger pointed out their problems. I don’t know about others, but I know what that does to me; I become self-focused and depressed. The joy of the Lord is sucked into a whirlpool of accusation and impossibility. I don’t need to be told that I fail; I already know that. I also know that no one can live up to the expectations of God (nor that preacher) without focusing on the goodness and power of God.
Chambers (who often shakes his finger) does sometimes point to the power and wonder of God. Today, he uses this verse to remind me that my Father is wise and taking good care of me . . .
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
Chambers writes about this as a ‘rule of conduct’ for believers and nearly slips into finger-shaking by saying I need to keep my mind filled with the notion of God’s control behind everything, meaning I need to maintain an attitude of perfect trust and an eagerness to seek Him.
By my own effort, I cannot do that.
However, I know that ‘faith comes by hearing the Word of God.’ Maintaining faith is a work of the Holy Spirit in me and a response to God’s revelation of Himself. As He shows me who He is in His book and in His work in my life, I trust and experience His faithfulness. It becomes easier to go to Him rather than rely on my own remedies. As He works, I learn to trust Him, even when I cannot see what He is doing.
Faith is based on God’s character and His promises, not just my experience of Him. He is my Father and has already proven in Christ that He loves me and wants the best for me. Even when my vision of Him seems dark or blurry, I know that He is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow. I know these things because He says so, and because He puts His words into my heart and brings them to mind when I need them, words like . . .
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ . . . ?” (Romans 8:28–35)
Faith believes that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ — because God says so!
I also know that if ‘thinking good things about God’ becomes a ‘rule’ for Christian conduct, I’m sunk. I am unable to live by ‘rules’ — my survival depends on relationship and grace. God made me His child and is my Heavenly Father, a relationship glued together by His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. Abiding in Him is part of responding to His love, not a mere act of self-determination. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. In Him, I can ask — and it is natural to expect that my loving Heavenly Father will give me whatever I need.