Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Great Faith (Part 1) - Reflections on Matthew 15:21-28

OK, so every 6 months or so, I decide I need to type something.  Actually, one of my desires is to have time to update this blog more often, not because I think I'm all that important.  Mostly, I want to reflect on my understanding of Scripture so that those who end up reading this have a greater appreciation and love for God.  SO... I am going to attempt to be a little more persistent (which will come into play in a few days when we get to that issue in this passage in Matthew).

When Jesus went into the region of Tyre and Sidon, He was approached by a woman who was in desperation.  She wanted help.  She had nowhere else to turn.  So, she came to Jesus.  As we looked at this passage this past Sunday (the sermon will be posted on later tonight), we saw that Jesus described her as having great faith.  In our consideration of this proclamation by Jesus, we sought to find out what about this woman's faith was so great.  Because WE want great faith.  Wouldn't it be (dare I say it) great to have Jesus say that about us?  So, what made this woman's faith so great?

Well, the first thing we noticed was that she came to the right person for the right reason.  In this post, I'll deal with the first part of that.  The right person.  You see, the object of our faith is just as important, if not more so, as the faith itself.  You can have a lot of faith, have it be in the wrong object, and be lost for eternity.  Everybody has faith, but most of it is misplaced.  No, this woman came to the right person.  The object of her faith was the King of kings and Lord of lords.

If we are to have great faith, we must, first of all, have God as He is described in the Bible as the object of our faith.  We can't just trust in some god of our own making.  We must trust in the one true God.  And, apart from the Scripture, we do not really know who God is.  So, we must turn to the Bible to see who we are to trust.

There is a lot about God that the Bible reveals.  John tells us that God is love.  Both in his gospel account and his epistles, he emphasizes that God loves His creation and sent His Son to save His people.  So, yes God is love.  We also see that God is merciful and gracious.  He is a God who, despite our sinfulness and war against Him, consistently and continuously forgives us because of the death of His Son in our place.  In Genesis 18 (as we noticed Sunday night), Abraham recognized that God is a just God.  As the "Judge of all the earth", God will always do what is just and right.  We could go on and on talking about God's sovereignty, His power, His omnipresence, His omniscience, His perfection, etc.

BUT (and this is a big "but"), the one aspect of God's character that the Bible emphasizes over and over is His holiness.  We must understand that the God we approach is holy.  He is not like us.  The basic definition of the word "holy" is "separate, distinct, other".  God is not like His creation.  In fact, all of His other characteristics are bound up in His holiness.  His sovereignty is a holy sovereignty.  His justice is a holy justice.  God is completely different from any other thing in existence.  He is holy.

In Isaiah 6, shortly after the death of a very powerful and popular king in Israel, the prophet Isaiah was given a vision of the King of kings.  He describes the Lord as "high and lifted up" and seated on His throne.  Around Him are angelic beings known as seraphim, or burning ones, who are described as having multiple wings and flying around constantly.  Over and over they call out to each other, describing the character of God.  And the one aspect they choose to proclaim is God's holiness.  They cry out, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts."  The tripling of the word "holy" is a Hebrew method of emphasis.  Notice the seraphim don't say, "Love, love, love" or "sovereign, sovereign, sovereign."  They say, "Holy, holy, holy."  Above all else, the God we approach is holy.

This is why, in Matthew 6, when Jesus begins instructing us in how to pray, he starts by telling us to address God as "our Father, who art in heaven".  And immediately, we are to pray for God's name to be hallowed.  In other words, as we come to God as little children to their daddy, our initial and primary concern should be the holiness of His name.  Everything else takes a back seat. Before we ask for stuff either for ourselves or for others, we should plead that God's name would be set apart from all else.  That He would be considered holy by His creation.

So, when we approach God, as we come to Him to plead with Him for His mercy and grace and help in time of need, let's remember that we are coming to a God is not at all like us.  He is not given to weakness or unjust anger.  He is not capricious or needy.  He is not forgetful or mistake-prone.  He is not greedy or sinful in any way.  He is preeminently holy.  And "as He who has called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy'." (1 Peter 1:15-16)

**If you're looking for a good resource to do deeper study of the holiness of God, I recommend the book by R. C. Sproul with that same title (The Holiness of God).  You can buy the book or watch the teaching series here.

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