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God is (still) at work in you

Romans 8:28–30: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.”  

The headlines have come crashing into all of our lives this past week. What started across the world has invaded our homes, relationships, work and worship. In this overwhelming tidal wave of implications, don’t lose sight of a precious truth:

Child of God, God is still at work in you.

One awe inspiring truth about God is that he never misses a detail. It’s impossible for him. Even as he works in the broadest strokes, broad enough to bring down nations, he never loses sight of you.

In the depth of his sovereignty, not only does he not lose sight of you, but he is actively pursuing his plans for you. You are not caught up in the devastating aftertow of God’s work—cosmic collateral damage lying broken on the stage of world history. If you are God’s blood-bought child, then right now he desires to conform you more and more to the image of his Son.

What is God doing in your life? 

By faith we know he is at work in us, but what does he specifically call us to? The answers are found in our temptations and trials, in our neighbor and in our world.

Are you plagued with anxiety right now? Are the headlines crushing you? Perhaps your own life buries you in worry without even looking at the headlines. In this season of anxiety, the Lord calls you to a new depth of trust. Trust in his goodness, trust in his plans (Matt. 5:25-33). He wants to strengthen your faith through the furnace of this world (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Are you suffering right now? Have you been laid off? Does your health put you at great risk such that you don’t know how to take care of your own needs? Please, do not suffer silent and alone. If you are in need, please reach out to someone in your church family or another brother/sister that you trust. We are not meant to live this life alone; God designed us to live in fellowship (Eccl. 4:9-12). Please, reach out.

Is your neighbor suffering right now? Do they lack the foundation of faith to stand in this season? Do they lack something of the world’s necessities? In this season of their need, the Lord has vital Gospel work for you to do. Please stay in touch with loved ones and lonely ones alike. Your testimony is a shining light in a dark world (Matt. 5:16) and your neighbor needs you (Gal. 6:9-10). Even more, consider that many without Christ are thinking about death right now and they are not equipped for it. They need the grace that you have received, they need the comfort that you know. They need Jesus Christ— and who will share the good news if it’s not you? 

Is this world overwhelming your decision making? Does the complexity of our world’s issues stump you? God calls his people to wisdom. We have in the Scriptures an overflowing fountain of wisdom. The question is usually whether we will take the time to drink. Seek the wisdom of God in his Word, nothing in this world compares with God’s wisdom (Prov 3:13-15). Still stumped? Seek Godly counsel from a brother or sister (Prov 15:22), submit your thinking to others and seek God’s wisdom together. 

All of these are just examples and your specifics will vary widely one from another. The overarching truth remains this: God is still at work in you. This time of trial is meant for your blessing and transformation. So take the time to take hold of God’s blessings. Ask yourself today (and every other day): 

What is God doing in my life?

Marriage and Spiritual Warfare, Part 6

“And take the helmet of salvation,” Eph. 6:17a

Marriage is emotional. So many of the components of married life are emotional components. The heart is involved, for better or worse. I say for better or worse because marriage should engage the affections. We should fervently love our spouse from the heart. God wired us this way and healthy emotions in marriage is a good and godly thing. But sometimes such emotions as anger or irritation rise and control the heart so that there is always tension or conflict. Other times the emotions have become detached. Cold and distant is still a heart issue. Emotional entanglement and disengagement are devastating in a marriage. But once again, the armor of God helps us to deal with these common issues.

Each piece of the armor so far has required us to understand the truth. The belt of truth only strengthens our core if we understand the truth. The breastplate of righteousness is protection only if we understand the righteousness of Christ. The shield of faith is only effective when we understand the faith by faith. The Gospel of peace footwear only gives us stability if we understand the Gospel of peace. it is the same with the helmet of salvation. The helmet of salvation is a crucial piece of our defense in this spiritual battle, so let’s understand it and apply it marriage.

The Roman helmet was made of bronze, equipped with thick leather straps that covered the cheeks and kept the helmet firmly in place. Its purpose? Simple- Protect your head! Even though some heads are harder than others, all need protection in warfare. The helmet of salvation protects the mind, the understanding. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “The apostle is drawing attention to the head, to the mind, the brain, the understanding, the thinking of a Christian.”

Our thinking and our understanding are critical in the Christian life and in spiritual warfare. The helmet of salvation helps us to keep our head in the battle and keep your head in battle. (Go ahead and read that last sentence again).

The OT background to the helmet of salvation is Isa. 59:17. The Messianic Warrior puts on salvation like a helmet. The image is the Messianic Warrior comes to us, for us, to deliver us, and give us what we need, which is salvation. This salvation is brought to us and now we can wear it like a helmet. But what does that mean?

Right thinking about God’s work of salvation protects my mind in the battle. It gives me the emotional toughness to stay in the fight. If I am to renew my mind (Rom. 12:1-2), if I am to “be renewed in the spirit of my mind” (Eph. 4:23), and take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5), then I must think correctly about salvation. I must see the truth, the doctrine of salvation, as my motivation, my strength, and confidence in the battle. If I have a minimalist view of salvation, that is, a small gospel. A tiny savior, and a small salvation, then I might as well just be putting a beanie on my head. I need to understand the full gospel, in its biggest, most sweeping and glorious truths. What best protects my mind? A view of salvation rooted in the Trinity, planned in eternity, accomplished by the glorious person and work of Jesus Christ, applied by the Holy Spirit, anchored in the Covenant of Grace, built upon immutable promises, fueled by joy in the Holy Spirit, guaranteed by grace, secured all the way to the end, and which produces holiness of heart and life. What best protects my mind? A rigorous understanding of redemption, propitiation, reconciliation, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, and preservation and perseverance. Yep, a rigorous understanding of salvation means I understand those words in their biblical context. A rigorous understanding of salvation means that I understand what God in Christ has done in the past, what He is doing in the present, and what He will do in the future. I understand the already and the not yet. I understand my inheritance, glorification, and the future state.

How does the helmet of salvation help me in marriage? Remember, marriage is emotional. My emotions are attached to my thinking. When Satan is hurling his ballistic missiles at me and my marriage, the best way I can control my emotions is by protecting my mind with the truths of salvation. Here are a few applications on how we can do this:

My relationship with Christ and my spouse’s relationship is the most important relationship in our lives. I need to see her, she needs to see me, as a saved but still needy, child of God. This assumes my spouse is a believer. Some may be married to an unbeliever, and the principle still stands. My unbelieving spouse’s most important relationship is one he/she does not have yet, and they will be forever lost without it. Keep that in mind.

When things are getting choppy in marriage, when emotions are running high, take a breath and a fresh look at yourself and your spouse, as a child of God. God is my Father, Christ is my Savior and High Priest and King, the Spirit indwells me. Take a breath. I am forgiven. She is forgiven. I am justified. He is justified. His High Priest prays for him, He prays for me. Force yourself to think these things. Force yourself to see them as more important than a momentary conflict.

When things seem hopeless in marriage, when emotions are cutting deep with despair, remember, you have an inheritance which will not fade away (1 Pet. 1:4-5). Despair is not forever. Salvation is. When anger rules the heart, when sin abounds, take a breath and realize that the only remedy for sin is right at your disposal, the crucified and resurrected Christ. He stands ready to empower you to forgive (Eph. 4:31-32). He stands ready to give you grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). My Messiah, my Warrior-King, lives to help me love and forgive. My Messiah, my Warrior-King, is my spouse’s Warrior-King too. What can I do right now to help us both see Him? What can I do right now to tighten the straps of the helmet of salvation? Husbands, maybe in the heat of battle you can say, “We are Christians, God is here to help us. He loves both of us. Christ lives, He has forgiven our sins. He has given us the Holy Spirit. Let’s pray for each other right now and ask for help to get past this.” Don’t pray imprecatory Psalms against your spouse! Pray for the grace and peace of Christ.

So many times, our identity is what controls our hearts. If I only see myself as a wronged spouse, a neglected spouse, the perfect spouse, then my emotions will rule. I need to see myself as a saved spouse, a justified spouse, a spouse who has peace with God. Let those truths govern your identity, think those thoughts, and the fruit of a saved life will start to show. If you only see your spouse as sinful, selfish, annoying, or worse, your emotions will rule your heart towards them. If you see his/her identity as a child of God, saved, being sanctified and in definite need of more sanctification, then you will treat them as family, not as a foe.

The helmet of salvation can change our perspectives about ourselves and our spouse. The helmet of salvation shapes my identity and my spouse’s. The helmet of salvation can help mortify ungodly feelings towards my spouse and vivify true affections of love. Put on the helmet of salvation. Help each other keeps the straps tight.

Pursue Love

On the way home I was thinking that I was thankful that we didn’t get into 1 Cor. 14:1. That one little phrase, “pursue love,” has gripped me. First, “pursue” comes from diōkō, which in some contexts means “to persecute.” It is to follow hard after something. As Roscoe P. Coltrane used to say, “I’m in hot pursuit.”

There is nothing easy about love, the love the Bible commands. It is something that must be conscientiously pursued, it requires effort. This kind of love doesn’t come without pursuit, without effort. Why? Because we are proud and selfish. We are all prone to wanting our own way. Everything we are by nature fights against Biblical love. So when we are in conflict, we need to ask that all important question, what is the source of this conflict? (see James 4:1-3). When we are in conflict, we need to ask, where is the love? What am I really pursuing here?

So here is how I meditated on “pursue love.” I hope it helps you. It is simple, taking the command of 14:1 and applying to 13:4-7.

  • Pursue patience.
  • Pursue kindness.
  • Pursue understanding and tolerance.
  • Pursue self-minimization.
  • Pursue humility.
  • Pursue that which is fitting.
  • Pursue the good of others above yourself.
  • Pursue self-control and self-restraint.
  • Pursue forgiveness.
  • Pursue joy in doing right.
  • Pursue joy in the truth.
  • Pursue suffering well.
  • Pursue believing the best about others.
  • Pursue enduring difficulties.

Perhaps we will pursue this line of meditation more in the future. For now, read slowly again through the list. Run your conflicts through this grid of pursuing love and see where you need to confess your sin, turn from it, make things right with others, and get in “hot pursuit” of the characteristics of love.