Resources / Thinking Biblically in Difficult Times

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    Here are some recommended resources to help you guide you in biblical principles during difficult times.

    Resources are posted in chronological order, with most recent resources at the top.

    Roadblock Your Heart - George Zemek

    Waiting Isn't Easy - George Zemek

    How a Christian May Keep His Heart from Relapsing Under Suffering, by John Flavel

    “Wholly His in the Kingdom, Worry-Free” by Whitney Oxford

    “A ‘Fear Not!’ Follow-Up” by George Zemek

    I’m just old enough to remember some of FDR’s “Fire-side chats” as WWII was raging. One of his most famous quotes to the nation was, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” As I pointed out from Matthew 10:28 last time, the only real One to Fear is God Himself. That reality sets all things in perspective, including COVID-19.

    However, for blood-bought believers in Christ, fearing God is not a bone-shaking terror that He might condemn us in the end. Romans 8:1 well stands as a theological heading for the significance of that guarantee: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1, NASB). The Apostle John contextually connects this no fear of final judgment with agape-love in 1 John 4:15-19 (NASB):

    15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has [a]for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear [b]involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us.

    Today I want to use this text from 1 John as a theological and eminently practical launching pad. Generally speaking, these verses are built upon a core principle, namely that agape-love and fear are unequivocally incompatible. But before I apply that principle more widely than John’s specific focus on the believer not to fear any final condemnation, I need to bring to light a few theological and exegetical pieces that relate to the puzzle of 1 John 4:15-19, especially verses 17-18.

    First we must always keep in mind the importance of the indicative / imperative teachings found throughout the Scriptures. Positionally, true Christians stand “not guilty” before God by grace through faith in the Person and work of Christ. At the same time we have not arrived; therefore, we must keep on pursuing holiness. The charge from God to “be holy for I am holy” not only echoes throughout both the Old and New Testament, it also comes packaged with the use of other terminology in other places. Compare, for example, Matthew 5:48: “48 Therefore [a]you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, NASB). By the way, I’m going to put this perfection terminology on the back burner just for a minute. But for now one of the obvious implications relating to this indicative / imperative doctrine is that when it comes to us sinners God always takes the initiative. In our 1 John 4 context that’s exactly what verse 19 affirmed: “19 We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, NASB). His absolutely perfect agape-love is the impetus for our maturing love.

    As you’re well aware of, the Apostle John connects God’s expectations of our growth in agape-love with other things, preeminently obedience (cf., e.g. John 14-16). This maturing of a loving obedience to Him requires a continuing walk by faith, namely trusting in Him no matter what circumstances might come our way. So as we make a transition back to 1 John 4, we need to take with us the immutable truth that faith and love go together, fear and love don’t. Any manifestation of fear, except in a  worshipful response to God Himself, is SELF-protective and therefore sinful. A disciple of Christ must not to be characterized by a fleshly, i.e., an autonomous m.o.:

    “5 Thus says the Lord,
    “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
    And makes flesh his [a]strength,
    And whose heart turns away from the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:5 NASB).

    Rather, he must live dependently trusting in the LORD: “7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
    And whose trust is the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:7, NASB).

    Now it’s time to bring back into our considerations that word group that I mentioned earlier. Its renderings, depending upon various contexts, can be nuanced as perfect, complete, mature, etc. Remember that this is the same word family that occurred in the command and the comparison of Matthew 5:48 cited previously. Perfection is found in God, and we’re to be maturing as believers toward that goal. As a matter of fact Jesus used this terminology in His ‘High Priestly Prayer’ revealing a process with a final goal for us. Listen to John 17:23: “23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected [a]in unity, so that the world may [b]know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23, NASB).

    1 John 4:17-18 exhibit three occurrences of this word group conveying either God’s absolutely perfect love and/or a believer’s growing maturity in love (v.17a, v.18a) in stark contrast with a person that fears (v.18b). Concerning that middle occurrence, “perfect love casts out fear,” when it applies to God it reveals the basis for believers never having to worry about being condemned at the final judgment. For disciples maturing in this love it means they should not be afraid of any trying circumstances that may come their way. No matter what, they trust in the Author and Supervisor of all trials. Consequently, they cast out, i.e., throw out of the doors of their minds, any and all fears.

    How have you been doing in ‘evicting’ fears like the corona virus? Although not a quote from Scripture, FDR’s famous statement during those most trying times exhibited some very practical wisdom: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

     

    “Stir Crazy” by Dr. George Zemek

    “Stir crazy,” “cabin fever,” and similar ‘syndromes’ have ‘infected’ many people because of the restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 virus. Believers also have been feeling the effects of it. Modern society up until a few weeks ago was characterized by phrenetic  over-schedulings. And once again we believers have not proven to be immune to this tendency.

    Many outside of Christ in virtual panic are seeking anything and everything to satisfy this period of withdrawal from their squirrel cages of sustained activities. But for us who love the Lord, we understand that this seeming “down time” is a gift from God for our good. Therefore, instead of seeking activities for activities sake, concentrate on those spiritual disciplines that had often ended up short-changed just a couple of weeks ago. How many of you back then were convicted that you didn’t pray enough? Or how many felt like you were not spending enough time in God’s Word?

    Well, the ordained time is upon us to dedicate ourselves to these priorities. As the old gospel song urged, “Take time to be holy; speak often with your Lord!” Concerning Bible study: it’s wide open. After all, there are 66 books in God’s special revelation, all designed to mature us into the image of Christ. However, if any of you want to focus more on a theme, let me make an initial suggestion. Since, that old ‘time issue’ of “How long?” pops up in our minds as we wait for our sovereign Lord to bring an end to this particular COVID-19 test, get your Bibles out and your exhaustive concordances then research the Scriptures by tracking down the words for “waiting,” “waiting patiently,” etc. Go slowly, noticing how often the contexts demonstrate that waiting on the Lord is an exhibition of faith mixed with hope. I think all of us could use a good dose of that spiritual elixir today.

    Churchmen Podcast

    Jon Anderson, Northlake Bible Study

    Weekly update from Pastor Jerry, March 18th

    Daron Roberts

    Dr. Zemek: Thoughts to Renew Your Mind

    Part 1: Obeying Civil Authorities
    Part 2: Pep Talks
    Part 3: Lessons from Lamentations and Habakkuk
    Part 4: Stir-crazy, Cabin Fever

    External Links

    John MacArthur: The Promise of Peace in a Worried World
    Spurgeon and the Cholera Outbreak of 1854
    Tom Ascol: Thinking Christianly about the Coronavirus
    Grace Bible Church AZ: Thanksgiving-filled Prayer

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