Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book Review - Believing God Chapter 4 - Wisdom for the Asking: James 1:5

Thankfully there are no "ism"s in this chapter. That makes it much easier to read. But there is a reader hook in here that I did not like. The author writes, "Our inability to believe the promises of God may grow out of our prior inability to believe in the power of prayer. We will look at other promises related to prayer in the coming chapters, but for now, let us consider the question we have all wrestled with since we were children—why do I receive some things I ask for in prayer but not others?" The hook is a reference to better stuff in later chapters. If it's important now, then get into it now. Why don't we believe in the power of prayer?

You'd think the Bible would have recorded numerous questions the apostles posed to Jesus while He was with them on earth. Surpisingly, there are few. One of them was posed more as a request in Luke 11:1b, "...Lord, teach us to pray...." More rightly, teach us HOW to pray. We tend to learn prayer more as rote phrases, WHAT to pray. I have posted many blogs regarding this subject, all stemming from the excellent teaching of Adrian Rogers on Romans 11:36-12:2 and the daily meditations of Oswald Chambers, particularly like today's "My Utmost for His Highest". I encourage you to go back to there references before proceeding with the remainder of "Believing God".

Upon salvation, wisdom was the principle thing I prayed for. One of the first answers to that prayer was a lesson that many others follow. The book of Proverbs was written by the wisest man, Solomon. With God dictating, Solomon penned His wisdom into thirty-one chapters, each conveniently read on a corresponding day of the week for a given month. I have done this diligently for nearly thirty years of my Christian life. Am I wiser for it? Indeed. For my mind at the day of salvation was put into Jesus' hands a ruined waste. It needed not only spiritual renewal and transformation, it also needed physical rebuilding. God indeed answered (and continues to answer) that prayer.

Sproul enters into an interesting supposition in this chapter that bears further exploration. He writes, "We are not yet like Him, however. We are still sinners and still doubters. That may be why we (happily?) cling to what follows as our tool for reducing this promise down to something manageable." (First I must violently oppose his statement that we are still sinners. Saints are not sinners. We still have the sin nature, but through Jesus, and the life we now live in the flesh by His faith, we are free from sin and its power over us. Again I point you to previous blogs to get the full up on this topic.) "Promise reduction" is an interesting phrase he introduces. I see this happen all the time whether in church or business or in casual circumstance. We can read simple words on a medium and even as we read them aloud to someone else, completely different words come out of our mouths. Our eyes and minds "see" one thing, but then our minds (smart as we are) translate/reduce/deduce certain words and out comes our own version. This happened to a colleague of mine just yesterday.

We were presenting a very important briefing. In this case, the words on the chart should have been read word for word, just as they were intentionally written with a very specific meaning. But instead, he paraphrased, and out came something totally different that was just plain incorrect. It sounded good. Most folks in the audience did not catch the error.

So it is with us Christians. Along with our multitude of Bible translations, we actively reduce the Word of God through teaching, conversation, and prayer, sometimes to the point that what comes out of our mouths is just plain incorrect. Now perhaps that does not seem to bad to you. After all, we can be corrected if we or someone else catches the error. That's a good thing. But when such accountability is lacking (II Timothy 3:16) then Satan has an inroad to allow the word to be corrupted and believed. This ultimately is sin for what we have done is added to or taken away from God's Holy Word (Revelation 22:18-19, Proverbs 30:5-6). Observe this process as God describes it in James 1:14-15. Where accountability lacks, lust may enter. When lust enters, Satan comes with it to corrupt. He'll tempt us to get into this "reducing" state. If we succumb, then the fruit of our words have multiplied in the ears of our listeners. If our Words are not holy (the Word of God), then it is possible that they are wicked. Sin has born its fruit of unbelief (or belief in a lie).

So how do we know the truth and remain free? The author allows God to answer that from James 3:13-18. But to recognize truth, we must be walking in the truth. We must be walking in Jesus, His holiness and righteousness. We must not allow sin to stain our minds or twist our tongues. This is a great discipline, and one that God teaches us well through the examples of Paul. The author points out strongly that failure to walk in such a manner quickly lends us to "every evil thing" as found in James 3:16.

Sproul concludes this profound, worthwhile chapter well when he states, "We learn that it exists for God's glory." The "it" here referred to this earth. But indeed it is so much more. We Christians exist for His glory. We are the manifestation of the light of Jesus. Here is a staggering statement/prayer of Jesus that I often quote from John 17:22, "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one."

I have until now focused on the "One" aspect of His prayer. But look again at the first part of His statement. Jesus gave us His glory. Do you believe it? Do you see it? Read Luke 11:34, "The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness."

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