If Jesus isn’t concerned or taking action, the next move is ours.
I love listening to sermons, and then listening to the Holy Spirit as he develops further revelation for me.
My pastor delivered a powerful sermon this morning here in my home town of Branson, Missouri. This article, while different than what I heard this morning, is a result of God’s anointing on his life and on the teaching he brought.
A NEW PRAYER STRATEGY WILL SET YOU FREE
“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4:40 (ESV)
When I consider going to God with my issues, concerns, troubles, needs and other personal trials, I first ask myself a question. Is God going to respond to me by asking, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” It’s quite possible that I should not bring my issue to God at all.
I realize that God loves it when we pray, and there are many types and ways to pray that are applicable for various situations, but I have learned to consider my heart condition and motive behind the prayer. Both matter.
It’s extremely easy to function from a place of doubt when we consult with God. It’s common, for example, to doubt our needs will be met, and this can manifest through prayer, hoping that God does something to remedy our situation. While it’s good to have any sort of conversation with God, we also need to know that his response will be tied closely to our faith that’s connected to our prayer.
Let’s look at the entirety of the well known passage in Mark chapter four:
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:35-41 (ESV)
DON’T BOTHER JESUS
The obvious thing for Christians to do when in a time of trouble is to go to God. I want to propose you may have more success at times by not going to God.
If you are in relationship with him, and are living a life of overcoming faith, and you know your authority, it’s not necessary to have a consultation with God every time you have to make a decision or every time the going gets tough.
Quite often, the correct step is to refuse to bother Jesus. He was asleep on the boat in the midst of the storm—and he should have been left alone.
This principle is true for us today as well.
Many of us have a habit of attempting to shake God awake to our situation, and instead of him resolving the problem, he asks, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
The correct thing to do would then be to resolve the situation ourselves!
WHEN GOD SLEEPS
In the midst of storms, or at the point of decision, God may “sleep” (be unresponsive to our petitions) for at least a couple of reasons:
- The storm or situation needs to play out. Possibly God is using the situation to help us reach our destination. The disciples were attempting to go across to the other side, and though the storm was threatening, was it possible that the winds would assist them in their journey? Maybe.
- We are to stop the storm or make the decision ourselves. This is the scenario more often than we realize. It’s extremely common for my wife and me to make decisions, to power through obstacles and deal with attack without nervously yelling for Jesus to wake up and come to the rescue. We’ve been granted authority to bring the resolution ourselves. Don’t forget, this is only possible since we are in relationship with Jesus and we are submitted to his plan for our lives. It’s possible that the disciples could have silenced the storm themselves. Jesus’ stern reaction to them awakening him revealed that they needed to relax and know that all will be well, whether they rode the storm out or commanded it to end.
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. James 1:6-8
The disciples were afraid. They doubted. They were blown and tossed by the wind and the waves. If they would have responded in faith, the wind and the waves would have been under their command and would have either settled down or carried them exactly where they needed to go—to the other side.
WHO THEN IS THIS?
“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Instead of being asked, “Why are you so afraid,” people will be asking about us, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
The passage indicates that there were other boats in the storm as well. The story most probably should have been quite different. With Jesus still asleep, those on the other boats would have pointed to the disciples and fearfully and joyfully asked with great passion, “Who then is this!”
The answer would have been remarkable as they directed everyone’s attention to a sleeping savior. Jesus would receive all the glory and his power would have been undeniable—calming the storm as he slept, manifesting his plan through the authority of his followers.
KNOWING OUR AUTHORITY IS CRITICAL
It’s important that I make it doubly clear that I in no way am attempting to say we are to advance without Jesus or without living a life of fervent prayer. We must be so intimately connected to Jesus on a continual basis, that our prayer shifts from mostly needy, clueless and concerned to mostly relational. We can pray in the Spirit, make decrees and declarations and legislate from a place of great strength and spiritual authority because of our life of relational prayer and intercession.
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. Luke 9:1-2
When casting out demons or praying for the sick, we never have to go to God petitioning for him to deliver the oppressed or make the sick whole. Why? We can let God “sleep” and do it ourselves! We are to cast the demons out. We are to heal the sick.
TWISTED AND AFRAID
And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Matthew 17:14-18 (ESV)
In the above passage, Jesus should not have been disturbed. His disciples should have handled the situation themselves, but they couldn’t. They didn’t have faith (even the faith the size of a mustard seed). The result? Jesus called them twisted!
Not only don’t I want God to respond to my prayer by asking why I’m afraid and why I have no faith, but I really don’t want him calling me twisted!
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Luke 10:17-19
We have been given authority over all the power of the enemy! Nothing shall hurt us! No storm is powerful enough! We can let Jesus sleep as we administer his truth and power in the world.
Instead of being called twisted and afraid, this generation will be looking on from their boats and ask, “Who then is this?”
God is ready to promote you from a life of struggle to a life of power, peace, strength, confidence and breakthrough!
Jesus might be sleeping, but he’s not disconnected. He’s waiting for you to manifest his peace and his power as you annihilate obstacles, calm waves, move mountains, heal the sick and set the captives free!
Misunderstanding grace as it relates to salvation has compromised the theology of millions.
False-grace adherents, Universalists and the millions who subscribe to the doctrine of eternal security (once saved, always saved) arrive at their related positions via a theological journey that takes them all right through Ephesians 2:8-9.
They have been so inoculated by this belief system that anybody who suggests that faith is not enough, or that works play a part in salvation, must be following another Jesus and subscribing to another gospel.
Antinomianism is often the result for those who reject works in relationship to salvation. Antinomianism states that God forgives sins fully, and sinning has no disadvantage. Additionally, obedience has no impact. If it did, it would taint what Jesus did at Calvary.
Regarding Antinomianism, Steve Hill wrote:
Purveyors of this poisonous teaching fail to realize that Jesus calls us beyond the requirements of the law in His teaching, stating, for example, that adultery refers to adultery of the heart and not just the physical act (Matt. 5:27-28).
This, folks, is an eternally destructive theology.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? James 2:14 (ESV)
The question is answered several verses later:
You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. James 2:24 (ESV)
In order for that verse to register rightly, we’ll have to talk about the difference between our own works and works that are graced and mandated by God. There is much more to the salvation equation than simply exhibiting faith.
The idea that all we have to do is believe in faith to gain salvation leads many to believe that all is well after we profess that faith. We are forever secure no matter how we live.
The manifestation of that belief is destructive in many ways, on many levels. Just yesterday someone quite adamantly told me that Hitler most definitely could have been saved. They also said that Hillary Clinton’s recent comments about possibly entering the ministry and preaching as a United Methodist should be celebrated. Since she believed on Christ long ago, she should be affirmed in her pursuit, no matter what abominable fruit she may produce.
Where did the basis of the argument come from? A misunderstanding of salvation, of faith and of works of righteousness. Many professing Christians simply are not saved. Some were at one point and their unrighteous decisions cost them their relationship with Christ.
WHAT KIND OF WORKS ARE NECESSARY?
A lot of people get tripped up when considering works as a part of our salvation process. Many have flashbacks to Catholic penance, where repetitively reciting the rosary is the prescribed answer to their sin. This, friend, is not the type of works that we should be endeavoring to accomplish. In no way should we attempt to trade work for an eternal paycheck.
Let’s look at a passage of Scripture:
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 (ESV)
This is a solid, clear truth. Our own righteousness is a non-player. Works that come from our own righteousness are fruitless. Jesus alone could atone for our sins and make it possible for us to be in relationship with God. Jesus alone could make a way for us to spend eternity with him. So, on the front end, we don’t have anything of worth to offer.
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; Romans 3:10 (ESV)
You are indeed angry, for we have sinned– In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved. But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; Isaiah 64:5-6 (NKJV)
Understand, our own attempts to atone for our own filthiness is futile. It’s laughable. We deserve Hell and we are absolutely helpless outside of Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.
But, works of another type absolutely do play a role in our salvation. Obedience and a right response to be holy is critical. If we don’t play our part, our salvation was either never secure, or it can be surrendered.
Above, in Titus chapter three, it was made clear that our righteousness and our works were powerless in regard to salvation. However, the message continues:
This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. Titus 3:8 (NKJV)
True faith must manifest works that are not empowered by our own ability, but rather graced by God himself.
Let’s look at Ephesians 2:8-9 a little more closely:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved…
Another way to say it would be, “God, through divine favor and influence, has empowered you to be made whole.”
Since it’s impossible for us, in our humanness, to work the miracle of salvation, to bridge that uncrossable chasm, no matter how hard we work at it, God granted the power necessary.
You could reword this by saying, “by being convicted and convinced of truth, and becoming reliant upon Christ…”
Faith is a loaded word. We know that even demons believe. They are convinced that Jesus is Lord, but their reaction is very different. If simple belief was all that was necessary for salvation, we’d be living in our heavenly mansions next door to demons of every stench. Of course, that will not happen, so just what defines faith? Our response. Our obedience. Our works. I don’t believe works that are empowered by God’s grace are simply an “expected outcome” for one who comes to Jesus. (Have you ever met someone who “got saved” and still struggles with obedience?) I believe they are an integral, strategic part of the salvation process. God’s grace and our response are both key.
And, yes, I’ll agree to a point that you are probably thinking about right now. Consecration takes time. However, I believe a repeated failure at consecration can threaten our justification. We can’t take God’s calls to obedience and works lightly. Faith is not enough.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…
God initiated the relationship. He did what we could not do. Our wretchedness wouldn’t keep him away and our righteousness wouldn’t draw him near. God recognized that we all had hit rock bottom as we realized we had no power whatsoever to save ourselves. His love required that he simply rescue us by offering a relationship with him, and we didn’t have to pay for it, work for it or convince him we were worthy. We could never be.
Our humility is required as we allow God to move in and take over. Outside of Christ there is no grace to live in obedience so the only option was for God’s gift to be given.
…not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
God knew any hope of relationship with him would be compromised if we ever thought we could find salvation through our own effort. Our pride would take over and we’d boast about our remarkable abilities to find eternal life outside of God.
Here’s how this works: We can’t say, “Thanks God, but no thanks. I really don’t want to subscribe to your methods, protocols or mandates. I want to do this on my own terms, so I’m going to give one million dollars to charity. I’ll also do good, be good and think good thoughts. I’ll pay my own way. See you in Heaven some day (but don’t bother me too much. I’ll be busy doing my own thing there too.)”
We need God. Period. So, we are graced when we truly believe to be in relationship with Jesus AND adopt his way of life. We cannot simply have faith and then live according to our own plans. Works are not simply an evidence of faith, they are a key part of the salvation process. What trips people up so often is a misunderstanding of our own works versus works that are graced by God to fulfill. When God gives us power to respond, we must respond.
In order for this article to be written, I need the free power that the laptop receives by being plugged into the outlet in the coffee shop. I couldn’t type this out without the gift of electricity. Because of that grace, I can now get to work. God will anoint me, inspire me, grace me and empower me to write, but he won’t write it for me.
OUR WORKS ARE FRUITLESS BUT WORKS EMPOWERED BY GOD’S GRACE ARE MANDATED
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
Immediately after our human works were deemed to have no value in regard to our salvation, the very next verse highlights a primary purpose of our salvation—good works that we must walk in! Again, works are not an automatic result of salvation, nor are they disconnected from salvation. Works are mandated and God gives us the grace to those who are saved to fulfill them.
God absolutely will grace us to obey, but we must be the ones to respond. If we live a life of disobedience to God, a life devoid of works, the salvation that we freely received via faith will quickly be surrendered.
We have been given a gift that’s much greater than spending eternity in Heaven (and not in Hell). God’s grace enables us to work miracles! We can be full of supernatural joy and life every day! The works we now can do could never be done in the old covenant. Jesus made it possible to work wonders!
Yes, I believe calls to obedience and work that are fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit do impact our salvation, but they also launch us into a phenomenal, remarkable, other worldly life!
We absolutely can live free from sin! If we do sin (not when), we have access to Jesus and the same grace that we discovered when we initially gave our lives to him.
Let’s be sober regarding the issue of grace, faith and works but also exuberant! Jesus has made it possible to live the most amazing life—now, and forever with him in eternity!