Bible Study · Writing

Sanctifying Job

I’m finished with Job — and my heart is troubled. This book has is so much more than I had understood in the past. This is something I had not expected: his self righteous cries are all too familiar to me.

We love to talk about the bad theology of his friends and truly, they’re lacking in some areas. But while his refusal to accept their reasoning is correct, he is still prideful in his assertion that he is completely innocent. He is prideful in his reminiscence of the good old days when people rose up to meet him and he was well respected. He is looking to his own righteousness and approval of men, rather than looking to his Redeemer.

He is screaming at God, “I don’t deserve any of this. I am innocent! Look at how I’ve fed the poor, how honest I’ve been, how upright I’ve been. How dare you!”

You can’t tell me you’ve never had the thought when suffering came.

The book of Job is not a prescriptive story of how to handle suffering. Chapter one is often preached that way, but to remain there loses so much. To remain in chapter one is preaching a message of self righteousness. (Sorry to all of you southern gospel song writers.)

Even to simply add his foolish friends to the mix still loses the entire picture.

This story is not about a righteous man defeating all odds and pushing through hard times. This is the story of an all Sovereign God who is in control, who brings us to our knees in fear and trembling to further purify and sanctify us. Job is descriptive – a man who is Godly, who is upright, but still has self righteousness and pride that needs to be pruned away.

I agree with John Piper here, “The pain he causes is like the surgeon’s knife, not like the executioner’s whip.” For the saved, the punishment we deserve was endured on the cross of Christ. But that doesn’t mean God will not use pain and suffering as a means to remove the dross from our lives.

I can’t say I fully understand this. And in my finite mind, I don’t come to a completely restful conclusion with this. There is a bit of tension, because I don’t completely understand why God does what He does. And like Job, I have certainly responded in pride with how I don’t deserve this.

I may begin with the words of his friends, searching myself for some evil in my past. And then I might flip the script to how I simply don’t deserve this.

Job is brought to repentance in Chapter 42. Following the speech of Elihu and God’s correction, he kneels in repentance to a Holy God whose wisdom and knowledge is far higher than our own. He submits in spite of the tension of not having all of the answers.

“Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.””
‭‭Job‬ ‭42:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God is God. And Job is all of us.

As I wrestled through these thoughts this morning, Psalm 73 came to mind. I read it with a bit more clarity, though it has always been one of my favorites. After finally reading through Job in its’ entirety, I suppose I’ll never read this Psalm the same way.

“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭73:1-28‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Bible Study · Writing

Facing Job

I’ve always avoided the book of Job, because it terrified me. After being raised in the hyper dispensational “Left Behind” era, you’d think it was Revelation. However, it’s been Job for me.

The few sermons I heard out of Job was enough for me to shudder in fear over God’s sovereignty even in our suffering. As a mom with four kids and one in Heaven, I’ve never really wanted to visit that.

My Bible reading challenge has me going through Job right now, so I decided to face the beast. I’m only on chapter 14 … and yes, it’s rough.

It’s more fun to read about wars, dysfunctional families, or scandalous kings. But this just feels more personal because of the way my heart crashed into my stomach at the description of Job’s trial.

I’m trying not to skip ahead, although I certainly want to see Job’s resolve after many chapters of wrestling and enduring bad theology from friends. It is really hard, because so much of it is what I’ve heard before.

Sadly, even the bad counsel dished out by Job’s friends has rolled from my lips before.

Either way, my observation of these guys thus far feels like a bad counseling session with a pastor who has really poor theology. Or perhaps they echo a sermon where a lot of half truths are spouted out – they sound good, but they aren’t necessarily true.

It is an emotional rollercoaster to read Job’s prayers and see his friends’ presumptuous responses. Some of what they say isn’t wrong, but their application on Job’s particular situation is poor.

I believe that’s what bothers me about their responses. You can read bits of truth and almost feel manipulated by them.

I’m only on chapter 14. And I’m really only getting the thousand foot view as I’m simply reading, not necessarily digging in yet. (I’ve not avoided any other book – other than maybe Leviticus – like I have Job.) This sermon from John Piper has helped me as I read along.

But this is where my head is at with it right now. Job is suffering immense pain and grief beyond what I could ever imagine. He curses the day he was born. He thinks death might be a valid escape from this misery.

And his friends think God is merely reacting to some hidden sin that must be confessed. His friends see God unveiling the hidden treasures of prosperity and gain if only he would confess and cleanse himself from wickedness. They seem to have a lot of quick, pre-loaded answers, but none seem to truly suffice.

Isn’t that the experience we often have with suffering? Everybody and their mama comes along with some kind of answer for it. It’s how we make sense of nonsensical things. And I don’t think it is always malicious — many times we do want to ease our loved ones’ suffering.

But what gives me hope about ol Job is he just keeps running back to God. He keeps boldly approaching the throne of Grace – begging for relief, begging for mercy, and ultimately pouring his heart out.

His friends crush him with the unbearable weight of judgement and condemnation. It is palpable even from the pages of scripture. Rather than succumbing to this crushing boulder, he continues to pursue his God.

How lonely in the human aspect.

How lovely in the spiritual, knowing we can fall at the feet of our Savior and pour our hearts out even with the ugliest and messiest of prayers.

Bible Study

Greetings from Jude

Part 1: Hey Jude

Did any of y’all ever skim past the greetings in the New Testament epistles? When I was a younger Christian, I didn’t really see what significance there was beyond knowing who the text was written to. I figured it was simply an introduction similar to our “to whom it may concern.”

Whether the author is Paul, Peter, or my new friend Jude, each letter is introduced with an affectionate salutation. Maybe he calls them beloved brothers. Even in the letter of correction to the notorious church of Corinth, Paul opens with grace and peace to you. The audience is established as believers with an encouragement of their place in Christ.

I remember being given a CD of a preacher who began his sermon much differently. This particular pastor/evangelist was hailed as one of the greats, so I remember being hopeful for some encouragement and edification from the man of God. (If you know, you know.) Instead, he began his message by insulting his congregation, boasting about how many people he had run off with his harsh preaching, and then moved to call them whoremongers.

Can you see how that hindered me from ever wanting to hear what this fella had to say?

Though there is no rule on it, I think we can say these greetings are a lovely example of how to begin a message or even a conversation with others. As I said, even a rebuke of a church in chaos received better than that.

With all of that said, I think it is important to take an extra close look at the greeting in Jude. As Jude braces the reader for a discussion on apostasy, he has some very important things to say. These aren’t sweet little nothings to tickle our ears. This is important for each believer to hear.

“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.”
‭‭Jude‬ ‭1:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Who is this book written to?

To those who are called

God calls all of those who believe unto Himself. The Greek word used here is klētos which, by Thayer’s definition, is an invitation from God to eternal salvation. A person cannot be saved apart from the internal call (regeneration). Many will hear the outward call of the gospel from preachers, evangelists, and witnessing Christians. Only those who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, or called, will respond to that call.

Jesus taught that no man could come unto him unless the Father draws that person first. I remember when my eyes were opened to the truth, how everything in the world around me suddenly seemed different. I told everyone, “I have new eyeballs!” Truly, this wasn’t a mere choice to turn over a new leaf or push forward in determination to be moral. This was a working of the Holy Spirit who overcame my pride and drew me to Himself.

Lydia experienced this same effectual call when “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”
‭‭(Acts‬ ‭16:14‬)

In reformed teaching, this is called the effectual call (also known as irresistible grace, a term often misunderstood to mean being forced to be saved) Romans 1:6 confirms this: “Those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Not all who are called with an outward call will receive Christ. However, those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit will belong to Christ.

Romans 8:30 confirms this effectual call in what some theologians refer to the Golden Chain:

“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:30‬ ‭

This article explains it well.

We can be assured of our position in Christ because we have been called. Called from the muck and mire, called from the pit of sin, and called from death to life. Indeed, salvation is of the Lord.

Beloved in God the Father

The basic meaning of this word means dearly loved. You aren’t just a faceless nobody who Jude is writing to. Though the recipient of this letter may or may not have been someone who personally knew him, he understood their value in the eyes of God. Dearly loved by the Father. Before he ever gets into correction and doctrine, he desires for the reader to be rooted and covered in the love of God.

1 John 3:1 echoes this sentiment as he writes, See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

We often imagine the disposition of God as angry and distant. Perhaps we see Jesus as the kind one and the Father is standing in the corner with his arms crossed disapprovingly. Scripture reassures us of the opposite.

You are dearly loved, friend.

Kept for Jesus Christ

As we begin a book on apostasy, false teachers, and people seemingly leaving the faith, it is disheartening to wonder if we could leave as well. We are living in a day where the words of Jude are on full display. Professing Christians are denouncing their belief in Christ or embracing a gospel which isn’t supported in the scriptures. I don’t know about you, but seeing these stories can be jarring and unsettling. They may strike fear or even anger in us.

Jude begins a topic on this issue by establishing those who are truly in Christ as those who are also kept in “God the Father, for Jesus Christ.”

This word kept implies a guardianship and careful tending to the person who is being kept. A strong fortress is being built around them, making it impossible to be taken or to escape. The elect (the saved) are a love gift from God to His Son Jesus. Chosen by grace and without any pre-qualifying conditions, none who are His can be lost.

You’re forever His.

We may struggle with seasons of doubt, crisis, and even rebellion. We may have moments where we feel God is nowhere to be found or where we even question whether Christianity is true. But truly those who belong to Christ will not be lost. His sheep know His voice … and He knows His sheep.

We are kept. Or as the King James puts it, we are preserved.

Rest in that.

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you

Not only was Jude praying for these qualities to manifest in the recipient of his letter, but he prayed they would abound in them.

Our flesh makes it easy to lift our nose in pride at those who struggle to believe or perhaps don’t believe at all. But instead, we should be marked by the love of Christ. (John 13:35) We should reflect His mercy, peace, and love to an unbelieving world. The fruit of all that God has done in us (verse 1) should be reflected in how we treat others. This doesn’t enable us to compromise truth or to soften it. However, my prayer is that in defense of truth, my spirit would remain soft and kind … even if the truth itself seems the opposite.

Final Thoughts

Jude pulls no punches in this little one chapter book. As I read through each verse, I do kind of feel as though he is one of those preachers delivering hard hitting truths and maybe stepping on some toes.

Sadly, I’ve heard many preachers who go straight for the toe smashing and follow with an altar call with no time spent on the gospel. No time spent on Christ. They crush you with the law and, well, they leave you there.

Jude does not follow that pattern. He reminds the reader of their place in Christ, their security in Him, and encourages them of their duty to follow in love and mercy toward others.

Spoiler Alert: He ends his letter the same way.

You are called, beloved, and kept. Look to the Gospel, rest in it, and share the love of Jesus with others today.