This sermon is number 4 in a series of 13
Behold Your God - Part 4
"The Faithfulness Of God"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2000 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now we're looking, as I have already said, at the fourth study in our series: 'Behold Your God' - and specifically we're looking today at 'The Faithfulness Of God'. We're turning to 1 Peter - the New Testament this time - 1 Peter and chapter 4, and only one verse, and then we're looking at Psalm 37 - so if you want to find that as well, we're looking at one verse in it also. Let me just say, while you're looking for that passage, there has been found a jewel of great price (I don't think it really is of great price, but I don't want to offend anyone!) and it was found in the ladies toilets. So if you've lost that from your ring or from a necklace or something like that, it's up here and you can get it if you wish.
1 Peter chapter 4 and verse 19: "Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator". 'Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator' - now remember that term 'a faithful Creator'. And then turn over to Psalm 37, Psalm 37, a well-known Psalm, a great encouraging Psalm, verse 3: "Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed". Now that literally, in the Hebrew - 'verily thou shalt be fed' - translates like this: 'feed on His faithfulness'. So let's read it again: 'Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness', or, 'be fed on His faithfulness'.
So there are two phrases concerning our God. Peter says He is a faithful Creator, and David encourages us to feed on His faithfulness. Now, faithfulness is a concept that isn't very - what would you say? - 'in vogue' in our world today. In fact, unfaithfulness is one of the outstanding sins of today - many of you in business will realize that - disloyalty and unfaithfulness. And also in the social realm, and especially we see it in our world in the marital realm, there is so much infidelity and unfaithfulness. Even within the church of Jesus Christ there are men who promise to teach and carry out the word of God as it is written in the apostle's doctrine and right throughout the whole counsel of God - but we find that when they get to their position, or when the world's pressure comes in upon them, or the pressure within the church, they fail to walk in those paths of righteousness and theoretically they're unfaithful to the word of God. There is unfaithfulness all around us in every single sphere, and indeed if we are honest with ourselves we must say that there are times that we are unfaithful ourselves, in transactions that we give, in the words that we speak, and more severely and seriously in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. There's a measure of unfaithfulness in our part, therefore it strikes us and it is totally foreign to us when we read a verse such as Deuteronomy 7 verse 9 that says: 'Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God'.
It's remarkable, isn't it, that there's no taint of doubt? It's absolute, 100%! And it staggers us - living in an unfaithful world, living around unfaithful people, and when we look at the unfaithfulness in our own heart - to realise that there is one who personifies absolute faithfulness, there is a 'Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God'. Indeed the fact is that if He was not faithful and if He was not absolutely faithful, He would not be God. Paul said to Timothy, 2 Timothy 2:13: 'If we believe not' - in other words, in our context, if we are not faithful, yet God is faithful, 'he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself'. It doesn't matter what we believe about ourselves, or what we see in the world around us, that doesn't matter really because God is - as we have learnt - transcendent. He is above all of this universe, all of our standards - in fact He sets His eternal holy standard, as we were looking at last week. And even if we believe not in this faithfulness, yet He abideth faithful, He cannot deny Himself. If He was unfaithful, He would deny Himself, He would topple from His throne and He would cease to be God.
Perhaps one of His most radiant glories is God's holiness that we pondered last week. But you know, God has many glories, doesn't He? And this is another: His faithfulness. The Psalmist glorified in it in 89 and verse 8: 'O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto thee? Or to thy faithfulness round about thee?'. God is a strong God, and God clothes Himself - His aura round about Him, His sphere and environment is absolute faithfulness. Again the Psalmist in 36:5: 'Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds' - in other words, it is beyond us, it is above us, it spans us. It's no wonder that we have been singing the inspired word of God from Lamentations 3:22-33: 'His compassions fail not, they are new every morning'. You see, we've said it in weeks gone by: God is not a man that He should repent, nor a son of man. He does not lie, there is no unfaithfulness in Him, and we dare not compare Him to men or men's standards or men's attributes. And that's when we fall down, and indeed let me say this: that is when we fall down when we look at our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, when we compare Him to other humanity. Therefore we must - as the hymnwriter says:
'Judge not the Lord with feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace.
Behind the frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.
Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are rich with mercy and shall break
In blessing o'er your head'.
Why? For we have a faithful Creator! I want that to be branded upon your heart today: a faithful Creator! It's as if - or at least it should be as if - we've inherited a fortune! A faithful God! When all are unfaithful, when we are unfaithful ourselves, we have this great One, this One who is God, who is a faithful Creator! That is why the Psalmist David, in our Psalm 37, tells us to feed on His faithfulness. Do you feed on His faithfulness? Do you use that as your diet of the soul? That's what I want us to do now, as we look at the word of God, I want us to feed on the great faithfulness of our faithful Creator. And do you know what will happen if you do that? You will find mental relief. The Lord knows there are many of us need that, isn't that right? But if you learn to feed on your faithful Creator, you will find mental relief. And that mental relief will go beyond your human suffering, because it means that you are beginning to realise that there is a God greater than the universe, there's a God greater than the 'falling-shorts' within our world, greater than the failures, greater than the infidelities, greater than the indiscretions - there is a faithful God and, wonder of wonders, glory to God, He's our God!
We can feed on that today. Now, I know the world can be so frightening, and we hear so many things that come in upon us, right into our hearts and grip us with fear and anxiety - but when we realise that He is faithful, and He is our God we ought to have no fear! Sidlow Baxter observes this: 'The faithfulness of God is like a gigantic archway, spanning human history from its beginning to its ending'. God's faithfulness like an archway, right from the beginning to the end of time. And he goes on to describe how that archway spans the pillars of God's attributes, what do I mean by that? Well, you will know - hopefully - through studying these Lord's Day mornings, that to understand God we must see all His attributes as one. He isn't just faithful, but He is loving, He is angry, He is holy, He is omnipotent, all-powerful, all-knowing, He is omnipresent, He is everywhere. He has many attributes and parts to His being, but you can't separate those - just like you can't separate God Himself, or you can't pull you apart, you have many parts but you can't separate those. And in the same way, God's faithfulness - as Baxter says - is arching over all of His attributes, you can't pull any of them apart and make them separate or single entities of themselves. And that's seen within His faithfulness: no one of God's attributes contradicts another of His attributes - in other words, God's love never contradicts God's justice. That's what some would teach today, that it doesn't matter really what you do, God will just love you anyway and take you to heaven: universalism. But that's taking one of God's attributes and looking at it and forgetting about His justice. But the justice of God and the love of God together mean that God's justice came down on Christ - hallelujah! - and His grace was shown toward me.
It's the same with God's faithfulness, it harmonises with absolutely everything. Now I want to show you this: there are seven pillars that you find of God's attributes, and every single one of them, that arch of God's faithfulness overflows it. The first is God's righteousness. You see, if God was not faithful what would His righteousness mean? It would mean absolutely nothing. You see, God cannot go back on His word, He is absolutely righteous in everything He says and everything He does - and you see there God's faithfulness in His righteousness. In His omnipotence, in other words all-powerful, He is Almighty God - God never starts a thing and is unfaithful to finish it, isn't that right? When God starts a thing, God carries it on and God accomplishes it and brings it to completion - so you can see there in His omnipotence, His faithfulness over-arching it. Thirdly, God is truth, isn't He? He does not just say the truth, He is the truth. Now, untruth and faithfulness don't go together, so you see there again marked and stamped on God's truth is His attribute of faithfulness. His immutability, and that simply means 'Thou changest not', He never changes. Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday and forever, and God is the same, He never changes, there is never any deviation or declination in His goodness, or in His grace, or in His anger, or in His mercy - and that is absolutely trustworthy, absolutely faithful. Then there is His wisdom, if He's to be wise then He has to be faithful - He's got to know everything before we know He's faithful, isn't that right? We couldn't say that God did something faithfully if He didn't know all the facts, if some of the facts were hidden from God and He made a wrong decision. But He is the all-wise God, and that makes Him faithful! He's a God of love, and when I know He is a God of love, and loves me, I can be sure that He has only good for me - isn't that wonderful? You see, the love of God reeks of the faithfulness of God, it's got the grains of it right throughout it!
There are seven texts corresponding to those seven truths, corresponding to faithfulness of God, in the New Testament that I want to bring you to today. And it shows this: that the God of the Bible is the one and the only true God. The first is the faithfulness of God in forgiving, 1 John 1 and verse 9, you may need to turn to it, you may not: 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'. Now you know that verse well, and that speaks of the righteousness of God in faithfulness, doesn't it? If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just - Greek word 'righteous' - He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. His faithfulness and His righteousness are linked together in forgiveness, isn't that wonderful? God is faithful in forgiving.
Now, let's explain it: because the Saviour died, because the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified and God laid on Him the iniquity of us all, a righteous and a holy God can now forgive - and this is the point - now can forgive righteously. In other words, He's not papering over the cracks, He's not turning a blind eye to our sin, but He is being a holy God and He is completely, legally and righteously pardoning us - and because of that He is faithful and just, faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So, listen: you can be sure that God, according to His righteousness, according to His faithfulness, has forgiven your sin - hallelujah! Do you know that? You can be sure because He's faithful. He's stamped the seal of His faithfulness upon your soul if you're saved, if you're trusting in the blood of Calvary, if you've put your faith in the grace of God found in Christ, the bleeding Lamb at Calvary. If you've done that, hallelujah, God will forgive you.
You'll remember last week we said that God can't just forgive sin, and He can't! His holiness demands justice, that's another of His attributes. He requires atonement, and without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins, without atonement He could never be faithful to forget but now He Himself, the great Judge of sin, becomes the sacrifice for sin and He judges His own sin at Calvary. And that holiness that demanded a sacrifice provides the Lamb - God will provide Himself a Lamb! Bless God, He did. It's wonderful to think, isn't it, that this God, this holy God, this faithful God, this righteous God received the chief of sinners and He did it righteously. That's what Paul says in Romans 8:31: 'What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?' - verse 33 - 'Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.' - or in other words: it is God that counts us righteous. Who can throw anything at you and say 'You did this, you did that, you did the other'? It is God, God who condemns you, it is God who justly makes you righteous, how can anything be against us when God is for us? Wonder of wonders, and this is mighty, listen to this: 'He is faithful and just to forgive us' - faithful and righteous to forgive us - 'our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness'. He is righteous, a holy God is righteous in cleansing sinners from unrighteousness. No wonder the hymnwriter said, as we heard this morning:
'Because the sinless Saviour died,
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God, the just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me'.
He is faithful in forgiveness. Secondly, in 2 Thessalonians 3 and 3 we find this verse: 'But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil'. It reads like this: 'But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and guard you from evil'. Now, we've seen God's faithfulness in forgiving, and this is God's faithfulness in protecting. He will establish you and will guard you - now that's His omnipotence, His all-powerfulness, that's God's faithfulness in His omnipotence - that great arch spanning over that pillar of omnipotence! It's lovely to think that God's guarding us, and in the Greek language that's a military term, it means 'to garrison around'. Think of it! Not even Satan himself can penetrate the great bulwarks of God's omnipotence! We are protected by God. Now, there are times, mark, that our outward man and our outward boundary sometimes can be penetrated by the Devil himself - but around the spirit of God's elect there is fiery circle and, if Satan should try or attempt to get in there, he will get scorched because God is faithful to protect us in His omnipotence!
Now listen: maybe you're here today and you're not long saved, and you're having trouble with things, [and Satan says to you] 'You're not saved! You couldn't have done what you just did and be saved!'. He's telling you: 'You can't go to the meeting the way you are, all that sin that you've been committing all week and you're going to portray that you're this great spiritual Christian?'. Now, maybe you're a secret backslider, and you're backslidden, and your heart's backslidden - you know it, but others don't know it, everybody else thinks you're OK - and the Devil's telling you: 'Well, if you come back to the Lord everybody will wonder what's happening! You'll be embarrassed, they'll be surprised because they thought you were alright, and you'll be embarrassed and maybe your family will be embarrassed'. Are you a Christian wanting to go on with God but the Devil's telling you 'You'll never amount to anything, look how many times you've failed before. You've tried that before and, sure, you've failed'? Listen: shut him up by laying your hands on God's protecting faithfulness! He will establish you - yes, the Devil's powerful, in fact he's probably the most powerful creature that He created, but remember this: that the Lord has beaten him under the ground by His own blood! He has crushed him and we shall overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and the power of His testimony. So look: don't listen to him, but grab hold of the great faithful protecting power of God and use it! When temptations come and when the doubts enter your mind, and the worries, and the fears - put an end to them, in fact put an end to them now and today! Do you believe God is faithful? 'Oh, I believe He's faithful' - well, step out upon it - now! Put your foot of faith out and, today, fall upon that bed of roses of His faithful protection. The old hymnwriter said in another verse:
'When Satan tempts me to despair,
Telling of evil yet within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin!'
Do you look up? He's faithful in forgiving and in protecting, and then He's faithful in promising. Hebrews 10 and verse 23, you read this: 'Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised' - He is faithful that promised, that's His faithfulness in promising. It literally reads like this: 'Let us hold fast the confession' - that's more outward, when you tell people all about the Lord - 'hold fast the confession of our hope' - that's what it literally means, the hope that lies before us. Now that is the faithfulness of God's truth, you have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, and that is God's truth - and because of that God will be faithful to bring you to your final destination and Christ will come again for you one day, and that is your hope that is in God's truth. In fact, verse 25 of Hebrews 10, we see this statement: '...as we see the day approaching' - He's coming soon, you know. Sure, you can see it all around, you'd need to be blind not to see it, and He's coming for us! And it doesn't matter what the world says, it doesn't matter what some modernistic, liberal theologian says - it doesn't alter God's truth and indeed God's faithfulness in His truth. He said it, we can rely on it. It is God's word, He has promised it. Well might they say: 'Where is the promise, then, of His coming? Sure, you've been saying this for years! Where is the promise?'. We respond: 'Though it tarry, it will not tarry' - why? For He is faithful that promised.
Do you see it? That goes for all the promises of God, you can have faith in them because they're absolutely faithful, because they rely on God's truth and God's truth is faithful. Do you believe God? 'Imagine asking a Christian 'Do you believe God'! Of course I believe God, aren't I a Christian? Don't I read my Bible? Don't I try my best, by the grace of God, to live it everyday?'. You know, that must be the hardest thing for me in my life: to just nakedly, without any qualifications or trying to make a deal with God, just believe in Him! Just hang on to Him! In the essentials, to believe God and leave those things resting upon His promises. We can give a loyal adherence and an agreement to His promises, but do we take up the faithfulness of God's promise and believe? And if you need any thing today, that's what you need! You need a good dose of the promises of God! You need to rely on God's word, in your prayer life claim His promises, look for them and claim them and see them! You need to do it in your life of worry, my friend, for it'll wreck you, it'll destroy your health and it'll warp your mind - and if you don't decide that you're going to be careful for nothing, but in all things by prayer and supplication [with] thanksgiving [make your] requests to God, if you worry about nothing, pray about everything, God will give you the peace of God that passeth all understanding. But you have to do it, you have to take God's word, His promises, you have to stand on them, you have to act upon them, you have to believe on them. If you want to be blessed by God, and father and mother you want your family to be blessed by God, you're going to have to get the promises of God out and start claiming them. Take His word and believe it, and what a medicine that would be to calm your nerves, just to believe in God! You remember in Luke chapter 8 verse 50 we read these words: 'But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole'.
Fourthly, He is faithful in producing. 2 Corinthians 1:18 and 20: 'But as God is true', and that word is 'faithful', 'as God is faithful, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us' - that's His immutability, that's His unchangeableness. He says: 'You're not going on our word, you know! God is faithful!' - this is not what Paul the apostle says, it's not what David Legge says, not what the Iron Hall says - this is what God says! He is faithful and He will produce! Now this isn't just empty faith, this is evidence of that faith in our lives - you can actually see the produce of God's faithfulness in your life. God is not only faithful to promise, but He is faithful to perform in us what He has promised! Sure, all the Old Testament promises, weren't they fulfilled and filled up in our Lord Jesus Christ and His coming? And all the promises of the New Testament are fulfilled in us! All the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us! Grab hold of that! 'By us'! In my life, yes, in your life - in your life the promises of God, and that word 'Amen' just means 'let it be so'. Will you let it be so? Will you start believing in God? Start trusting that He will produce in your life what you've longed for, what you've hoped for, what the word of God says you can have in the Lord Jesus.
A saintly old grandmother, she was a godly woman, used to rejoice in the promises of God. She would rock in her rocking chair with the Bible open on her knee, looking at her favourite passages. And there was times that she would doze off in that old chair, and woke up again and began to read. But there was one day she dozed off, she never awoke - and the Bible was left open on her knee, and when her family came in to find her they found it open, and they took that Bible. Her son took it and he began to read it day by day, with his wife, before the Lord. And day by day, as they were reading, they would come across little passages, and etchings and jottings that she would have made at the side of the margin - and they would find these two letters 'TP' all the time, right beside verses. And they noted it, and they didn't know what it meant until eventually they came to it written in full beside one promise - she had written: 'Tried and Proved'. How many promises can we write that beside? God is a forgiving God, and many of us can write it beside that, can you?
God produces in us, God protects us and then, again, fifthly: God sanctifies us. He is faithful in sanctifying. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and 24: 'And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it' - and that is the arch of God's faithfulness over His holiness. What does God call you to? He's called you to holiness, and if you're not called to holiness, you're not a Christian. That's no new doctrine by the way, that's what I've just read from the word of God - if you don't want to be holy you're not a Christian, Christians want to be holy because God's life is in them! That's what God has called them to: to be holy in their lives. But how hard it is to be holy, I don't underestimate that, but God calls us to it. But God, as always, never calls unless He enables - and He calls you to be holy, and here's the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5: '...who also will do it'. He's going to do it, don't you worry about it, He'll do it! But the implication there is: if you will let Him. He'll only do it if you let Him - if you don't want to be holy, He's not going to make you holy. But God will be faithful in sanctifying you - the God that calls you to be holy is faithful in His holiness and will do it! Now beware of looking for it in yourself, like many do, for you'll not find it in yourself - but if you believe God, be encouraged today if you're seeking God to take that step towards God in holiness. Don't fear it will fail, don't fear it will go wrong like all the other times, but just believe God is faithful and will do it!
Sixthly: He is faithful in temptation. 1 Corinthians 10 and 13: 'There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is' - let's hear it - 'faithful'. 'God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it' - now that is the faithfulness of God over the wisdom of God. 'Boy, this temptation's terrible, you don't know what I'm going through. It's alright for you, you've no problems, you're a Pastor' - huh! Temptation? Tell me about it. Temptation - but temptation according to the wisdom of God. Now, God tempteth no man, that's what we have from the word of God - don't blame God for your temptation. Satan tempts you, but God is the one - if I can say it reverently - who holds His hand on the thermostat of your temptation. He will never let it get to hot for you. He is faithful, that's His wisdom - He's wise, He's not going to put you under something and you're going to break, and your Christian life's going to be over! That's the Devil tells you that! Listen, think about it, it's him says: 'Oh, here we go again, on your face again, you're just going to give into it like you've always done!' - that's the Devil, that's the accuser of the brethren, for God is faithful, He makes a way of escape, He will make you able to bear it!
One of the open secrets to temptation in life is to see it as God sees it - and that's not to trip you up, it's because God is wise and God is faithful, and just like the rough winds and the rains strengthen the little sapling of a tree until it grows stronger, and stronger, and stronger, and can withstand those puny winds that nearly blew it over before - God is just tempering the wind for you so that you can get stronger, and stronger, and stronger, until you're in glory and you're like Christ. Will you trust His wisdom, that He's made a way of escape in your temptation and you can be, and are able, to bear it?
Seventhly and finally: He is faithful in keeping. And what a beautiful note to end on today, 1 Corinthians 1:8 and 9: 'Who [God] shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord' - that's His faithfulness in love. You know the thought that came to me when I was reading that passage? It's this: He'll get us there, isn't that wonderful? He'll get us there! When no one else could get us there, He by His own blood will get us there. And one day, because He's a faithful God, because He said it, we will stand before Him righteous, pure. For Peter says we are kept by the power of God through faith, unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last day. The old saint was gardening and a man stopped by him and said: 'How are you keeping?', and he says: 'I'm not just keeping, I'm kept!'. Isn't that beautiful? Do you know you're kept? You don't need to worry! You're kept! You're there! And if you're not saved, you can be kept today if you would believe that faithful God!
'The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
He will not desert to its foes.
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake
He'll never, no never, no never, forsake!'
Will you eat of His faithfulness now? Will you eat, drink and be merry in the faithfulness of God? Why not reach out this morning, Christian, and hold on to God's faithfulness? And if you're not saved, if you confess your sins and repent and turn from them, He will be faithful and just to forgive your sin, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
Father, we thank Thee that Thou art faithful. Oh, Lord that we should even tell Thee that Thou art faithful! But yet, we must know that and we must come to know it, and learn that in our lives we can rely upon Thee. We ought not worry, fear, fret, but feed upon Thy great faithfulness, for we have - even in our suffering - a faithful Creator. Lord, we believe - but help Thou our unbelief today, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth tape in his 'Behold Your God' series, titled "The Faithfulness Of God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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