Believing God: Promises Kept

Blog Graphic_ Smoke (orange overlay)Hello, friends. I’m so glad you’ve stopped by to take a peek at what’s new in my little corner of cyberspace. This post is my attempt to share the speaking material I brought to a women’s event last week, though I’m not sure any of it exclusively pertains to women. I think you’ll see why.

The overarching theme for the night was settled: Becoming a Woman Who Walks with Jesus. When I began to think about “walking with Jesus,” I noodled what it might mean to walk with Him, and if there might be significance to the “what” and “how” of that.

My own story includes a sweet moment in time when a friend told me about the “relationship” part of Christianity. Through that conversation I knew Christianity was attending church, but I suspected it was also more than attending church. I knew it was knowing what the Bible said, but I secretly hoped it was also more than knowing what the Bible said.

Twenty-five years ago I didn’t know that being “saved” wasn’t the one-and-done prayer I prayed. I had no idea that life could still be hard after I prayed. And I really didn’t know how sweet that relationship with God could be.

Maybe that’s why, when I thought about this night, one word dominated my mind: Believe. The verses I trust Holy Spirit brought to mind almost immediately and very strongly were the ones about Abraham believing God.

Do you know those verses?

For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. Romans 4:3 CSB

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Romans 4:18 NIV

So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness , and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23 CSB

Believing God
What was Abraham believing? He must be believing in the existence of God—and His good, loving heart
. He must have trusted the words he heard—the promises from God
. And he believed in the truth and permanence of both
. Ultimately, he trusted in God’s power to keep the promises.

Let’s talk about Promises…
A promise’s value and worth lies somewhere within the promise itself. Some are better than others. In the Bible some are for specific people (in a place or time). The promises are still good and reveal something to us today about the character and power of God. Some of the promises are for us today, and I think we should pay special attention to those.

Most importantly, a promise is nearly completely dependent upon the one making it! When someone speaks a promise but never makes good on it, we question their integrity or sanity, or both. (Or we question our own for believing the lies so many times, don’t we?)

These aren’t ordinary promises; they are God’s.

Is God a Promise Maker…and Keeper?
For me to trust any of God’s promises, I would want to see what’s true of His character first. If even one was broken, then trust in any of them would be altogether foolish. If God is even a little wishy-washy, I don’t want to trust Him. Period. Who would? Any list of promises I could compile might be full of half-truths, lies, or bait-and-switch moves, right?

So what does the Bible say?

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

Furthermore, the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or change His mind, for He is not man who changes his mind.” 1 Samuel 15:29

…in the hope of eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, Titus 1:2

Joshua, who experienced the leadership of Moses, up-close-and-personal, testifies to the promises of God:

Not one good thing that ADONAI had spoken of to the household of Isra’el failed to happen; it all took place. Joshua 21:45 CJB

“Not one good thing.” Every one of the promises was fulfilled. Joshua would know (Numbers 11:28).

God was truthful in in Moses’ time, but what about now? Are the promises for a group of people in a land far away who are long dead and gone?

I’m thankful Paul writes

For however many promises God has made, they all find their “Yes” in connection with him; that is why it is through him that we say the “Amen” when we give glory to God. 21 Moreover, it is God who sets both us and you in firm union with the Messiah; he has anointed us, 22 put his seal on us, and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee for the future. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 CJB

God’s promise to Abraham
God’s foundational promise to Abraham was made in sacrifice and covenant. In Genesis 15 we notice the “blood path” covenant made. I see that the LORD walked through, but not Abraham. Long story short, only God could keep the promise being made. Making this kind of promise was saying “May it be to me—may I be torn apart and killed as the animals lining the path—if this covenant is broken.” The LORD makes this covenant and is saying, “If you (Abraham) break this covenant, may it be to me, not you.”

God’s Promise to Us
God’s foundational promise of love to us was made on a hill outside Jerusalem on an execution stake. Jesus, the God-man, at the cross is our covenant with God fulfilled.

For it is clear that He [Jesus] does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. Therefore He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:16-17

“May it be to Me…”
Jesus was beaten, torn apart, and killed. For us. That promise was kept.

God said, “I will…” We say, “I believe You” with our all our hearts when we give Him our lives!

We have been given an incredible gift at the cross. The payment for sin is death, and none of us could pay the debt to holy, perfect God. In His great love for us, God has given us a second gift.

The Promise to Help Us
Ultimately, God promised to rescue us, and He did at that execution stake. Yet we still live in this world, as messed up and distorted as it is. But it’s not the end. God promised those who love Jesus a “seal…a guarantee for the future,” Holy Spirit in us.

In our covenant with God, He waits for us ask the Father to show Himself and His love, to be near and present as our Daddy-God. He waits for us to choose Him, to ask Him to intervene, to ask Jesus to forgive and cover our sin, and to ask Holy Spirit to teach, lead, help us moment-by-moment. Out of that relationship with God, through Jesus—we live out of that and have the ability and desire to obey His wise and loving direction.

Friend, the promise of redemption is real, and it’s for everyone. Better yet, we can be sure it was made to us and kept! From Genesis to Revelation, the story is all about one single promise: our redemption.

That begins with an intimate moment with Jesus at the cross and continues every day until we see God face-to-face (when our redemption is complete).

“B-b-b-but, God…”
God makes and keeps promises. In faith on a good day, I can believe that. But I’m human and faith-challenged sometimes. Truthfully, I have a lot in common with “doubting Thomas” (John 20)
 and the desperate father of the boy controlled by a spirit (Mark 9). I can just hear my heart saying the same words—

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

I ask myself, How would I, or anyone, know I believe His promises? I answer that question differently today than at other times.

Some time ago, I thought listening and repeating truth equaled belief. Now I know truth informs belief, but believing God’s promises is more than that.

Trusting the words I read to be true begins to get at it. But want to be very clear I’m not talking about blind or misplaced faith in the words. Thankfully, as we look closely at Scripture, we can see that studying the whole of the Bible informs the whole of it. Authors agree across the distances of time and space.

Now, living like it’s true—thinking, speaking, and acting according to the belief—that’s when believing the promises has legs!

I find it helpful to remember these things:

God’s promises are written down in the Bible.
God’s character is revealed in the promises He makes and keeps.
His promises to me show His love for me.

What are God’s promises to me?
I’ve been on the hunt for some of God’s individual promises (in addition to the foundational two I fleshed out: the cross and the Spirit). I think I found two kinds of promises.

Some are what I might call “blanket promises” that are gifts.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9a CSB

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 CSB

The grace and the good work are His to do. Blanket promises sound a little like these two, and they show the beautiful heart of God to us in the things we cannot earn or increase in any way. When you read Scripture, take a close look to see if there is a promise embedded in the passage you’re reading. Is it a gift to you from God?

Then there are the promises we participate in. These are some of my favorites because they speak to the relationship with Him that I desperately need and want to cultivate.

All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. Matthew 11:29 CSB

When I’m in relationship with God through Jesus, I can choose to learn God’s ways (and do them), as Jesus teaches and the Spirit empowers. Then I see there is the promise of rest. I don’t see striving or living up to some imagined expectation. I see relationship leading to a beautiful life.

For me, as one who often strives for so many things (including perfection), this promise of rest means more to me than many others. What does that rest mean to you? When you read, be on the lookout for opportunity to partner with God, knowing He infuses you with all you need.

One Final Thought…
What have we done to the Christianity and its Gospel? An old, broken, distorted view reigns until we understand the truth and reality of the Gospel (which is every redemptive promise God makes to us).

I’ve noticed a new theme when we discuss the Christian life: we do Christianity. We have an unspoken hope to attain some kind of spiritual maturity through the disciplines—all of which are beautiful gifts to cultivate our relationship with God, but are never the things by which we reach relationship with Him.

I’ve also seen a “one-and-done” mindset when it comes to being saved and

I might suggest that we believe God.

Is there a difference? What do you think?

Thanks for reading along. This is a good deal of my talk, with a few additions and minimal eliminations. I’d love to hear what you think!

Below you’ll find the discussion questions made available to the groups that night, too.

Enjoy!

Jennifer

 


Group Questions:

Do I believe God’s promises? Why or why not?

 

God, what are your promises? Which ones can I recall? (Make a list including promises you think you know and the ones you’ve found in Scripture.)

 

Which promises are for me? (List verses, so you can go back to them when you need to.)

 

Verses from tonight:
Abraham: Romans 4:3, 18; James 2:23
Truthful God: Numbers 23:19; Joshua 21:45; 1 Samuel 15:29; Titus 1:2
Abrahamic Covenant: Genesis 15
God’s promises (Jesus and Holy Spirit): 2 Corinthians 1:20-22; Hebrews 2:16-17
“Blanket promises” or gifts: 2 Corinthians 12:9a; Philippians 1:6
Promises we participate in: Matthew 11:29

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