Four Pillars of the Christian Life
I. Knowledge of the Truth
A. When we read any passage of Scripture, we must first try to understand what the passage tells us about who God is. Specifically, we should seek to understand what it tells us about God in light of the Gospel. Without seeing God’s attributes through the lens of the Gospel, His holiness terrifies us and His righteousness condemns us. However, when we see in the Gospel that God is for us, His divine attributes become precious to us. His holiness assures us that He will never act corruptly toward us and His righteousness means He can never do us wrong. The knowledge of who He is that terrified us as sinners without Christ is now a joy to us as Christians.
B. In reading the Scriptures, not only should we seek to know what it tells us about who God is, but also what it says about what God has decreed. In His foreknowledge, involving the full force of all His perfect mental faculties, He set forth a perfect plan of what He will do with us. In His perfect wisdom, He determined that He would get glory for Himself by taking something like us in our awful sinful corruption, and making us glorious. The only hero in the story is God; everyone else fails. He is the only covenant keeper, faithful to carry out all that He has decreed.
C. We should also seek to know what He has done. He gave us the Scriptures in order that we might have hope. We can never have joy by looking at ourselves in the mirror, unless we are deluded. We find joy by looking at the Scriptures and seeing the history of the great sinners He has saved. He spared not His own son for us, and He did it in order that He might lavish grace upon His people throughout all eternity! The peace that we have with God is not a temporary peace dependent upon our own performance, but it is eternal, immutable, covenantal peace that endures forever. We are justified, and we now have a perfect and right standing before Him. Even in our glorified state, we will not be more right with Him than we are right now. We must walk in light of the love that He has poured out on us, and realize that included in a high view of God is a high view of the love with which He has loved us. When we start to doubt His love, it is because we are failing to see the great price that He paid to make us His own children.
D. We must also seek to know what God will yet do. In the ages to come He will forever show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us. When we walk into glory, it will be an object lesson for all creation. As they look at what we were and what we now are, and when they see what God has done and the grace that He has poured out on us, they will worship God in a way that they could have never worshiped Him if He had not done this great thing for us. God will only lavish more and more grace upon us each day throughout all eternity and there will be a greater and greater revelation of how good God is, and the heavenly creatures will worship Him all the more!
– What passages of Scripture are particularly encouraging to you with regard to what they reveal about who God is, what He has decreed, what He has done, and what He will do?
II. Faith in the Truth of God
Not only must we know these truths, but they must be believed upon to such an extent that though they are unseen, they become to us a greater reality than that which is seen. We must preach the Scriptures to our heart, and stop letting our heart preach to us. Satan kills by lying, and in order to walk in joy, we must believe what God says rather than what the enemy tells us. Abraham demonstrates great faith when he contemplates himself and his wife, now as good as dead in their old age, and yet believed God when He told them He would give them a child. Rather than dishonoring God by calling Him a liar, Abraham glorified God by his faith. Faith flows from realizing who God is and what He has promised, and by recognizing that He has never failed once. It is faith that causes what God says to be more real to us than what we see in the mirror or what we see around us.
– What is the difference between merely knowing truth and having faith in the truth? Are there any truths that you know, but are not believing because of inward or outward circumstances? What does unbelief in the truth of God reveal about what we think of God’s integrity?
Joy might be described as assurance, confidence, hope, gladness of heart, peace, etc. It does not come from our own performance, but from God’s. Basking in who God is, what He has done for us, and what He will do for us produces and energizes obedience. When Nehemiah says that the joy of the Lord is our strength, he is referring to the joy that flows from who God is and what God does. When all that God is, all that He has done, and all that He will do is apprehended and believed, it produces a joy in us that is independent from everything but God. Such a joy will not be governed by circumstances or performance, but by the knowledge of an immutable God who does all things perfectly. The foundation of the Christian’s joy rests on who God is, not on who we are.
– What are some of the wrong foundations you have sought or are now seeking to build your joy upon? What would it look like to replace those false foundations with the unchangeable foundation of who God is and what He has done and will do?
The joy that was set before Jesus energized and invigorated Him to obey, even to the point of death on a cross. Joy makes us ready for action. Fear and sorrow depress and overwhelm the soul, keeping us from encouragement and from extending encouraging relief to others. Joylessness keeps us from praying, speaking, or doing anything with pleasure. But a joyous frame of mind exhilarates the soul and prepares us to face any trial with hope and gladness. All disobedience begins with doubting God. Obedience is founded upon faith and occurs because we believe that God is right and what He has told me to do is really best for me. In order to have this heart of encouragement in God’s truth and a life of joyful obedience, we must be renewing our minds in the Word as the only source of this true knowledge, and we must be cultivating our relationship with God as we draw strength through prayer.
– In what specific ways have fear and discouragement affected obedience in your own life? In light of points I-III, what practical steps could you take this week to grow in joyful obedience?