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5 Encouragements for the Spiritual Desert Wanderer

In your daily “quiet times,” do you ever feel like Moses and the Israelites just wandering around the desert waiting for Promise Land?  

You might think that having graduated seminary means that my daily time with the Lord in the morning is full of His Shekinah Glory every time I open my Bible and close my eyes in prayer. 

Let me assure you, it’s not. In fact, if anything, having been in seminary made my times with the Lord dryer and more difficult. I did not expect that this was going to happen in seminary. Yet, I found myself in quite the barren spiritual desert 6 months ago and I had been wandering for a long time. Knowing (some) Greek didn’t help. Knowing the cultural background and context of the text didn’t help. Honestly, it made it worse. I couldn’t just enjoy God’s Word for what it is: His Word! The Bible had become another textbook I had to read. 

Can you relate to this at all? Maybe it’s not because of seminary, but have you ever felt like the Bible was something that you “had to read” and not something that you have the joy and privilege of reading? Have you ever felt like you were in a spiritual desert and your Bible reading and prayer weren’t helping? Are you in that desert now? 

Whether you have been, you are, (or will be someday), in a similar place, let me give you five encouragements that I pray bless you in those times: 

1. You’re not alone. I can’t say for certain, but I think that ALL Christians go through this at some point in their journey with the Lord. Take heart! The spiritual desert you find yourself in has been traveled before and others have made it through. Therefore, you will too. But… 

2. Just because you don’t “feel” close to God in your Bible and prayer time doesn’t mean that you should abandon it. I know many people who simply stop reading and praying during desert times and you know what? It doesn’t help. What would happen if I stopped talking to my wife every time I didn’t “feel” love towards her? If I did this, waiting for the morning where all of a sudden the lights came on, I’d be in the dark for a long time waiting to “feel” love for her. How do I “feel” love for my wife? I spend time with her. I talk to her. I share my heart with her. Spending more time, not less, stirs my affections for her. I believe that’s how it is with God. It’s a relationship after all, right? To put it another way: a sailboat won’t move unless the wind blows the sails. Therefore, raise the sails of your spiritual life (read and pray) and wait for the wind (the Spirit) to blow.  

3. I’ve been using John Piper’s IOUS acronym daily for the last 5 months and it has helped a ton: 

  • I—Incline “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.” (Psalm 119:36) 
  • O—Open “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) 
  • U—Unite “Unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11) 
  • S—Satisfy “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14) 

4. Repent. Is there sin in your life that you need to repent of? Could there be some sin that is stifling your walk with God? I don’t know. Only you and God know. But if there is, then I urge you to repent and turn from your sin. Often, this is all it takes.  

5. Beg God to grow your affections for Him. Ask Him to give you the desire to even want to read and pray. Pray this daily, even if you’re in a good spot. This is a request our heavenly Father wants to answer. 

There’s more to be said here, but I’ll leave it at those five encouragements for now.

Everyone is different and everyone’s walk with the Lord is different. I’ve just laid out what I have learned and what has helped me. If this doesn’t encourage you, then go find someone whose Bible-Prayer life is one you want to have for yourself ask them how they do it. Then, go and do the same! 

It’s okay to be in a spiritual desert. It’s not okay to stay there.  

Here’s the really good news though… spiritual desert or not, if you’re in Christ, then Jesus loves you just the same. So take heart, beloved brother or sister.  

 

Gabriel Pech is married to Hannah and they have 3 beautiful children. They have been members at FCC since April 2017. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with his M.Div. in May, 2018. The Pech family now lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where they are missionaries to the 80,000+ Americans/military members and their families who are stationed there.  

 

 

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Role of Old Testament Law to the Church

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By Marty Beamer

The Old Testament has baffled believers for centuries. What do we obey? Is it applicable for us at all? There are some people who think that the Old Testament law has no bearing on people today while others believe that it should be obeyed. The former will quote verses like Galatians 2:16, “… yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…” The latter usually take their position based on 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” However, the second group will usually do their best to avoid passages like Leviticus 11:17 “And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you.” So what role should the Old Testament law play in the church today?

Let me start by addressing those who say that the Old Testament has no bearing on the life of the church. While these people are usually right in stating we are under a different covenant, they are wrong in their application of the covenant. Usually, the book of Galatians is the go-to defense for this position. But a close reading of the book will easily refute this interpretation. Paul never once says in the letter that the law has no bearing on the life of the Believer. What Paul repeatedly says is that the law cannot save a person. Those who take this position are falling into a common fallacy known as the “either-or-fallacy.” Either the law has complete bearing on our life or it has none at all. The problem is that this creates a false dichotomy and places the New Testament against the Old Testament. Paul himself will strongly go against this when he says, “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not!” (Gal. 3:21). What these mistaken interpreters fail to realize is that a New Testament faith has its foundations on an Old Testament faith. In fact, I am bold enough to say that there is no New Testament faith without the Old Testament faith because they are one and the same. Those who had faith in the Old Testament looked forward to what God would do, and we look backward to what God has done. To say the Old Testament has no purpose for the life of a New Testament believer is to lay the ax to our very own roots. We need the Old Testament. And, it is just as much the breathed Word of God as the New Testament.

So then, what do we do with the law? If it is the foundation for the faith we hold today and the Word of God, then wouldn’t we be negligent to skip over portions of Scripture? If you answered yes, then how do you read the law and interpret it correctly? Let me try and give you a few principles that might help. These aren’t exhaustive but it might get you started.

First, try to understand the reason God gave the specific law you are looking at. What is going on in Israel’s history when the law is given? What is God’s main concern in giving the law? Almost all of the laws are dealing with how Israel is to live with a holy and perfect God. God demands holiness for those who dwell with Him. The law usually answers the question: What does it take to be His people?

Secondly, understand that the reason behind God giving the law is still applicable today. God still demands holiness to be in His presence. Christians today question what it means to be in communion with a holy God. The difference is that the sacrificial demands have now been met by Jesus. We are holy and beloved before God because the sacrifice has been made! There is nothing we could ever do to be made right with God (the argument of Galatians). But that does not mean we shouldn’t live holy lives. God desires for us to be in communion with Him and still desires for us to live in obedience for that to happen. Sin still breaks that communion. Again, the difference is that we do not go to the temple to sacrifice in order to restore that communion. It has already been restored by Christ!

Finally, let the New Testament help inform your view of the law. The New Testament, specifically the teachings of Jesus, are an extension of the Old Testament law, and consequently, the correct interpretation. If it is said in the New Testament, you can be sure that it has binding implication on your life. For instance, Jesus says adultery is sinful (Matt. 5:27), therefore the Old Testament law is still binding on us. However, the law about not eating pig (Lev. 11:17) is not restated in the New Testament. Instead, Jesus says in Mark 7:19 that it isn’t the food that makes us unclean but what is in the heart. Therefore, the principle of being holy before God stays the same, the practice of being holy before Him looks different.

I hope we will not take the Old Testament law lightly. The New Testament church should honor the law and understand the principles God taught, and still teaches, today. But, we should not be bound to it for our salvation. We are under a different covenant and so the application of the law looks different, but it is still, as Paul said, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” Do not neglect it but profit from it.

Marty Beamer is the Assistant Pastor at Faith Community Church.

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Role of Old Testament Law to the Church

BY MARTY BEAMER

The Old Testament has baffled believers for centuries. What do we obey? Is it applicable for us at all? There are some people who think that the Old Testament law has no bearing on people today while others believe that it should be obeyed. The former will quote verses like Galatians 2:16, “… yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…” The latter usually take their position based on 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” However, the second group will usually do their best to avoid passages like Leviticus 11:17 “And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you.” So what role should the Old Testament law play in the church today?

“All Scripture” is profitable. Wait. “All?

Let me start by addressing those who say that the Old Testament has no bearing on the life of the church. While these people are usually right in stating we are under a different covenant, they are wrong in their application of the covenant. Usually, the book of Galatians is the go-to defense for this position. But a close reading of the book will easily refute this interpretation. Paul never once says in the letter that the law has no bearing on the life of the Believer. What Paul repeatedly says is that the law cannot save a person. Those who take this position are falling into a common fallacy known as the “either-or-fallacy.” Either the law has complete bearing on our life or it has none at all. The problem is that this creates a false dichotomy and places the New Testament against the Old Testament. Paul himself will strongly go against this when he says, “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not!” (Gal. 3:21). What these mistaken interpreters fail to realize is that a New Testament faith has its foundations on an Old Testament faith. In fact, I am bold enough to say that there is no New Testament faith without the Old Testament faith because they are one and the same. Those who had faith in the Old Testament looked forward to what God would do, and we look backwards to what God has done. To say the Old Testament has no purpose for the life of a New Testament believer is to lay the axe to our very own roots. We need the Old Testament. And, it is just as much the breathed Word of God as the New Testament.

So then, what do we do with the law? If it is the foundation for the faith we hold today and the Word of God, then wouldn’t we be negligent to skip over portions of Scripture? If you answered yes, then how do you read the law and interpret it correctly? Let me try and give you a few principles that might help. These aren’t exhaustive but it might get you started.

First, try to understand the reason God gave the specific law you are looking at. What is going on in Israel’s history when the law is given? What is God’s main concern in giving the law? Almost all of the laws are dealing with how Israel is to live with a holy and perfect God. God demands holiness for those who dwell with Him. The law usually answers the question: What does it take to be His people?

Secondly, understand that the reason behind God giving the law is still applicable today. God still demands holiness to be in His presence. Christians today question what it means to be in communion with a holy God. The difference is that the sacrificial demands have now been met by Jesus. We are holy and beloved before God because the sacrifice has been made! There is nothing we could ever do to be made right with God (the argument of Galatians). But that does not mean we shouldn’t live holy lives. God desires for us to be in communion with Him and still desires for us to live in obedience for that to happen. Sin still breaks that communion. Again, the difference is that we do not go to the temple to sacrifice in order to restore that communion. It has already been restored by Christ!

Finally, let the New Testament help inform your view of the law. The New Testament, specifically the teachings of Jesus, are an extension of the Old Testament law, and consequently, the correct interpretation. If it is said in the New Testament, you can be sure that it has binding implication on your life. For instance, Jesus says adultery is sinful (Matt. 5:27), therefore the Old Testament law is still binding on us. However, the law about not eating pig (Lev. 11:17) is not restated in the New Testament. Instead Jesus says in Mark 7:19 that it isn’t the food that makes us unclean but what is in the heart. Therefore, the principle of being holy before God stays the same, the practice of being holy before Him looks different.

I hope we will not take the Old Testament law lightly. The New Testament church should honor the law and understand the principles God taught, and still teaches, today. But, we should not be bound to it for our salvation. We are under a different covenant and so the application of the law looks different, but it is still, as Paul said, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” Do not neglect it but profit from it.

Marty Beamer is Assistant Pastor at FCC and an M.Div. and Biblical Languages student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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