Cross Connections

9-1

For all the promises of God find their “Yes” in him. ~2 Corinthians 1:20

“Faithfulness” simply means keeping your promises. All the places in the Bible that talk about God’s faithfulness have this aspect of his character in mind– he is a promise-keeping God. “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23) means that his promise of unending supplies of new mercies to meet each new day’s new troubles is a promise you can absolutely bank on. And when the Bible talks about our faithfulness, it means the same thing: keeping your promise, doing what you say you will do, fulfilling your obligations, etc.

Of all the fruits of the Spirit, this one seems to be (at least on the surface) the most “secular” one. At least, the character trait of faithfulness is widely practiced and recognized in society. Certainly, love and joy and peace-making and patience and kindness are evident even in the lives of unbelievers. But we’ve seen how the quality and essence of Spirit-filled, cross-connected fruit is actually very different from the virtues we see in society. Unbelievers, made in the image of God, can love one another– sort of. But the Bible’s definition of real love pushes past romantic notions and takes on the shape of a cross; it means sacrificially giving yourself away for the eternal good and holiness and joy of the beloved. Unbelievers cannot love like this; only born-again, Spirit-indwelled, gospel-driven believers have the renewed emotional capacity to love in a cross-shaped way. The same goes for the other fruits as well; these are much more than simply good virtues that can be copied by the world. Joy as a fruit of the Spirit looks through all physical gifts to the Giver and draws on the unending fountain of gospel promises. Real peace-making is only possible where peace with God has first happened. Patience and kindness– the kind of redemptive and repeated extending of mercy that the Bible calls for– is only truly possible in a heart filled with the mercy of God. And goodness– the treasuring of God above all things– is one of the defining marks of the new birth.

But what about faithfulness? Promise-keeping is promise-keeping, regardless of motive or means, right? Sure, Christians should be held to a higher standard of faithfulness than, say, your unbelieving co-worker, but since the academic and business worlds so highly value honesty (ever heard of plagiarism, or insider trading?), does that mean faithfulness for believers looks just like faithfulness for unbelievers?

No. There is actually a world of difference between the simple, secular virtue of faithfulness and the fruit of the Spirit that goes by the same name. Just like every other fruit of the Spirit, this can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and empowering, and must be connected to the cross in order to function properly. Real faithfulness is just as supernatural as real love, or real goodness. True faithfulness looks forward to the fulfillment of all of the blood-bought promises of God as the foundation for all of its own promise-keeping.

YES AND NO: PAUL’S BIG PROBLEM

This insight into the true nature of biblical faithfulness comes from a fascinating argument that Paul makes in 2 Corinthians 1. In it, Paul explicitly and profoundly connects God’s faithfulness with our own.

Poor Paul was always having problems with the Corinthian church. In 1 Corinthians, he had to address a raft of appalling abuses, sins, and misunderstandings that make even our weak and worldly 21st century churches look positively Puritan by comparison. But to make a hard job even harder, Paul also faced opposition from leaders of several of the splintered factions competing for dominance in the church (ever sat in on a church committee meeting? It was like that, but worse). A significant portion of the congregation was in open revolt against Paul’s apostolic authority and, by extension, his gospel. It was a bad situation indeed.

By the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, things had begun to turn around. The church, by God’s grace, had responded well to Paul’s correction; several of the people involved in wanton sin had repented, and some of the divisions had begun healing. But like all new works of grace, the progress made in Corinth was very fragile. So when Paul had to back out of his plans to visit the church at the last minute, his remaining opponents jumped on his broken promise as an example of “flip-flopping” and claimed he was being deceitful. This fresh outbreak of hostility threatened to undo all the valuable progress that had been made.

So how would Paul respond to these accusations, especially when they were based on some truth? Ever been in a situation similar to this? What did you do?

What Paul did was profound. He went to the promise-keeping character of God in the gospel and found the motivation for his costly act of faithfulness, and used God’s faithfulness to defend himself and point the Corinthians, and us, back to the cross.

Before we can unpack the argument he makes, we need to see the whole text and the situation he had gotten himself into. This is the whole thing, 2 Corinthians 1:16-22:

I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say, “Yes, yes,” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

You can see the problem; Paul had intended to visit them both on his way to Macedonia and on his way back from Macedonia, but then had to change his plans. He tells them later in the chapter that “it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth… I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you.” So it was actually Paul’s love and concern for the Corinthians that forced him to change his plans. That’s important to see, because it shows that, at least on the surface, the accusation Paul’s opponents made was correct. He said one thing, and then chose to do another. The question is, why?

Paul’s opponents accused him of “vacillating,” of saying, “Yes, yes” and “No, no,” at the same time. They accused Paul of saying, “Yes I will keep my promise,” and “No I will not keep my promise,” at the same time, of speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

In order to defend his own faithfulness, Paul proceeds into a dense, tightly argued appeal to God’s faithfulness. To be completely honest, this was a very difficult argument for me to trace. I had a lot of trouble understanding the connections Paul was drawing between God’s faithfulness and his own. To help you see these connections more easily than I did, let’s break down his argument phrase by phrase.

AS SURELY AS GOD IS FAITHFUL

The first way Paul appeals to God’s faithfulness is to hold it up as the standard of his own trustworthiness in the matter at hand. “As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No.” In other words, “Our integrity in this matter is as faultless as God’s own integrity.

That’s quite a claim to make, and when we look at the next phrase we’ll hold that claim up to closer scrutiny. But in a study on faithfulness, we would be miss out on something precious if we skipped over this phrase too quickly. “As surely as God is faithful” presupposes something obvious yet profound: that God is surely, certainly faithful. Expounding on that precious truth is worthy of an entire book. We don’t have that long, but let’s take a few moments to stop and meditate on that phrase.

God is faithful; that means that he always, always does exactly what he says he will do. He fulfills every promise, with such absolute certainty that in Romans 8 Paul can refer to a promised future event as if it’s already happened: “those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). In Paul’s mind, God’s promise to one day glorify all those who are justified by faith is so rock-solid certain that it’s as good as done; having a promise from God is just as certain as having the thing promised. If God said it, he will most certainly do it.

In Exodus 34, the central revelation of God’s character in the Old Testament, when he revealed his glory to Moses, God’s faithfulness is on full display. “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” God doesn’t just have steadfast love and faithfulness; he abounds, he overflows, with steadfast love and faithfulness. Steadfast love– his steady, relentless, unchanging commitment to keep his promised covenant love with his people– is not in short supply in the heart of God. Faithfulness is not something he measures out sparingly. No, he overflows with this kind of promise-keeping relentless love.

The Psalms are full of praise for God’s faithfulness. “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds” (Psalm 36:5). This is a poetic way of saying, “Your commitment to promise-keeping extends beyond my ability to measure or comprehend. As far as I could possibly imagine you going to keep a promise, you will go farther.”

In speaking of the covenant God made with David, fulfilled ultimately in Jesus and the new covenant, God says in Psalm 89, “I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.”

This verse lies very close to the heart of our hope as Christians. My confidence that God will receive me as a son, adopted and forgiven and reconciled through Jesus, and never cast me out or forsake me, is surely not based on my faithfulness to God, my worthiness as his child, or my performance and obedience. No, my confidence is that God’s promise-keeping depends on him, not on me. If God has promised something, Psalm 89 says he will never be false to his faithfulness and will never violate his covenant with me. And Jeremiah 32:40 tells me what this inviolable new covenant is: “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.” This is the new covenant that Jesus bought for me with his blood (Luke 22:20). It tells me that all of God’s omnipotence is directed toward infallibly securing my everlasting good, both by never turning away from me, and by working in my heart so as to keep me from making shipwreck of my faith and ultimately falling away from him. Backsliding and sin are sometimes permitted by his wisdom, but this new covenant assures me that if I am his, I will be kept his forever.

The fact that we can say, “Surely, God is faithful,” is one of the most overlooked, but inestimably precious gifts, of the new covenant. Because Jesus died to secure the new covenant for me, I can confidently say, “On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground in sinking sand.”

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

When darkness seems to hide his face
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
Support me in the ‘whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

OUR WORD HAS NOT BEEN YES AND NO

This is the faithfulness that Paul appeals to in defense of his own. “As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No.” What he means is, “Just like God never lies and always keeps his promises, so too we haven’t been simultaneously saying, ‘Yes I will keep my promise,’ and ‘No I won’t keep my promise.'”

Seeing that Paul uses “Yes” and “No” in his argument as shorthand for “Yes I will keep my promises” and “No I won’t keep my promises” is incredibly helpful in seeing how he’s about to connect his promise-keeping to God’s promise-keeping.

THE SON OF GOD WAS NOT YES AND NO

Paul now connects his trustworthiness to Jesus’ trustworthiness. “Our word to you has not been Yes and No, because the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes.”

Paul gives Jesus’ trustworthiness as both the basis and driving force behind his own trustworthiness. “We have not been duplicitous in our dealings with you, because the Son of God, whom we proclaimed to you, is never duplicitous.”

Let’s look at how Paul starts building this argument. “Our word has not been Yes and No, for the Son of God, Jesus Christ… was not Yes and No.” Remember back to the introduction, when we looked at how to follow the Bible’s logical arguments? Here’s a prime example, with Paul moving from conclusion– “Our word to you has not been Yes and No,” to foundation– “Jesus Christ was not Yes and No.” The foundational reason Paul gives for keeping his promises is that Jesus Christ is the Promise Keeping One.

This is the point I struggled most with in my own attempts to understand what Paul is saying. What’s the actual logical, motivating connection between Paul’s trustworthiness and Jesus’ trustworthiness? In verse 18-19, Paul just states the motivation without really explaining it. But stating that his trustworthiness is a result of Jesus’ trustworthiness is not a sufficient argument in and of itself. That would be like me saying, “I always love pizza, because Bob always loves pizza.” Why is that logical connection valid? Is the argument here that Paul wants to imitate Jesus? Or is he saying that Jesus empowers his trustworthiness? At this point in his argument, we just can’t tell. (Don’t worry, we’ll eventually see where he’s going).

We do have one glimpse, though, into something that, at the very least, is a partial reason why Paul is committed to faithfulness in his own life. Look again at verse 19: “For the Son of God, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes.” Why does Paul interrupt himself to point out that this Son of God was proclaimed by him and his fellow workers Silvanus and Timothy? What does that add to his argument?

It seems that what Paul is saying is, “Jesus Christ is always true, always faithful, always keeping his promises. He is the content and substance of my message to you. And so if the Promise Keeping One is the whole content of my message to you, my own life and words had better align with that.” Paul felt the burden that his life and his message must both reflect the character of the Christ he proclaimed. He was gripped by the breathtaking faithfulness of God in the gospel, the abounding promise-keeping of Jesus that took him all the way to the cross, and he knew that his own life dare not contradict that message, lest Jesus’ own trustworthiness be called into question. Paul saw that the perceived trustworthiness of Jesus was at stake in the trustworthiness of the messenger, and so he was radically committed to faithfulness in his own life.

This is incredibly practical in its application to our lives. As Christians, we bear the name of Christ and are his representatives and ambassadors here. Thus, his reputation to a watching world is largely determined by how we, his ambassadors, conduct ourselves. How often has the name of Christ been defamed by the high-profile failings of a prominent pastor who, caught in a downward spiral of sin, not only wrecked his own ministry but gave the gleeful watching world another reason to discredit his Savior? And closer to home, we are probably all well aware of unbelievers who have rejected the claims of Christ, not because they have examined him and found him untrustworthy, but because their experience of Christians has been so distasteful. Paul was intensely aware of this reality, and so made it his firm commitment to not bring dishonor or disrepute on his Savior because of his own failings.

ALL THE PROMISES OF GOD FIND THEIR YES IN HIM

However, as important and practical as that perspective is, that was not the sum and substance of Paul’s argument. His representing Christ was only an side comment in the main flow of his argument. He continues building his case into verse 20. Here’s the flow of the argument thus far:

Our word to you has not been Yes and No, for the Son of God, Jesus Christ… was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes, for all the promises of God find their Yes in him.

You can see that Paul is thinking far beyond merely representing and imitating Christ. In defending his own trustworthiness, he now reaches deep into the eternal purposes of God fulfilled in Jesus.

The depths and heights of what Paul claims about Jesus here is simply staggering. “All the promises of God find their Yes in him.” All of God’s faithfulness that we reviewed earlier, every Old Testament promise, every covenant, every impulse in the heart of God to direct his omnipotent and unchanging love towards us, every time he vows to never break his promise, all of God’s eternal purposes to save a people for his own possession– are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is the great, final, “Yes, I will keep all my promises” declaration of God, the exclamation point at the end of every promise, the purchaser and guarantor of every covenant blessing. Every gracious act of God toward sinful people flows from and points to Jesus.

Think of all the promises that we’ve seen so far in this lesson. “Those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:30); this promise finds its “Yes!” in Jesus. That means that it is only through Jesus’ perfect life and atoning death that the ungodly can be declared righteous before a holy God (Romans 4:5). And it is only through our union with Christ that we will one day share in his glory (Romans 6:5). Jesus is the “Yes, I will keep this promise!” of Romans 8:30.

Or think of the revelation of God’s faithfulness in Exodus 34. Where is God most clearly shown to be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty?” At the cross of Christ, where mercy, grace, steadfast love and promise-keeping overflowed to forgive iniquity and sin, while simultaneously punishing the guilt of sinners. Jesus is the fulfillment of Exodus 34.

Or think of the assurances of the new covenant in Jeremiah 32:40, this new covenant, with its divine promises to never turn away from us and to infallibly keep us as his own. Why can a guilty sinner like me become the recipient of such promises? Because every promise of the new covenant was bought for me and secured by the blood of Jesus. “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood,” (Luke 22:20), Jesus said on the night before the crucifixion. The new covenant promises of God find their Yes in Jesus.

Or consider the much-loved promise in Lamentations 3:22-23, the source verse for the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness:” “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Where do these new mercies come from? Where does the spring of never-ending, never-failing mercy originate from? Why can we confidently sing,

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

The fountain of pardoned sin, enduring peace, ten thousand blessings, and ever-new mercies flows from the cross of Christ where he died to purchase them for you. He is the Yes, the exclamation, to the declaration, “Great is your faithfulness!”

THROUGH HIM WE UTTER OUR AMEN

At the conclusion of his argument (which we’ll return to in the next section in order to finally unpack fully), Paul can’t help but make a point of application: the fact that Jesus is the “Yes!” to all God’s promises is the reason why we pray in Jesus’ name. “All the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”

Have you ever wondered why we often say, “In Jesus’ name, Amen,” at the end of our prayers? That’s not just a closing phrase, like “Okay, I’m hanging up now, God.” It’s not just an empty formula, although I fear that we often use it that way.

No, “In Jesus’ name, Amen,” is actually a precious and powerful phrase, and the reason we pray like that is found right here in this verse. At the end of our prayers, after asking for God’s help, God’s intervention, and God’s promises, we say in closing, “The only reason I can ask for any of these things, Father, is that all your promises find their fulfillment in Jesus, and I come to you asking for these things in his name. I’m praying through Jesus, in his name, and therefore I have confidence that you will answer me. So let it be done!” (That’s what “Amen” means, by the way: “Let it be done!”)

This is basically Paul’s restatement of what Jesus himself said in John 14:13– “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” When we pray in Jesus’ name and “utter our Amen to God for his glory,” we are asking God to fulfill his promises for Jesus’ sake, so that will will get all his grace, and he will get all the glory.

BECAUSE!

So how does all of this freight load of glorious truth connect back to Paul’s argument, and to the fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness? Look again at the logical flow of the argument, especially the logical connecting words:

Our word to you has not been Yes and No, because the Son of God, Jesus Christ was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes, because all the promises of God find their Yes in him.

I’ve changed the “fors” to “becauses” so that you can see it more clearly. Now, do you remember from the Introduction that “because” is the reverse of “therefore?” “Because” moves from conclusion to foundation, and “therefore” moves from foundation to conclusion. Let’s follow the argument from the foundation up to the conclusion. Here’s how Paul reasons:

1. All the promises of God find their Yes in him, therefore
2. the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was not Yes and No, therefore
3. our word to you has not been Yes and No

Because Jesus is the fulfillment, purchaser, and exclamation mark of all God’s promises, therefore Paul keeps his promises. What’s the connection? Here’s what I think is going on; judge for yourself whether this lines up with the text:

Paul’s decision to back out of his planned visit was not a hasty or deceptive decision; rather, it flowed from his love for the Corinthians and his desire to spare them pain and instead work with them for their joy (1:23-24). Paul certainly knew this would get him into trouble in Corinth (after all, that’s why he’s writing this letter), but his love compelled him to make the change of plans. Therefore, his change of plans was not because of a lack of faithfulness, but because of a commitment to love the Corinthians, whatever the personal cost to him.

But where did Paul get the courage to make such a costly decision, and the confidence to move forward with this new plan? His answer is that his trustworthiness in this decision– that is, his faithful love for the Corinthians– was rooted in seeing all of God’s promises fulfilled in Jesus. He knew God’s promise to the Corinthians, that “he will sustain you guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9). And so Paul was confident that God would use his loving decision in the life of the Corinthian church for their good. And Paul knew God’s promises to him– “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). That promise, and others like it, were enough to give Paul the courage to make a difficult, loving decision.

In order to faithfully love the Corinthians and keep himself from deceitful motives and promises, Paul looked forward to all the promises of God and said to himself, “Yes, that’s enough to sustain my faithfulness.”

ESTABLISHED, ANOINTED, SEALED, GUARANTEED

I think this understanding of Paul’s argument is supported by the very next thing he says. After finishing building his argument that his faithfulness was motivated and supported by God’s faithfulness, he breaks into celebration of how both he and the Corinthians are joint heirs and beneficiaries of God’s promises.

Paul is so confident in God’s promises, that he was able to make the risky and costly decision to change his plans. And he wants the Corinthians to be confident in God’s promises along with him. So he highlights four ways God has been faithful, not just to him, but to the Corinthians (and us) as well.

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

ESTABLISHED

“It is God who establishes us with you in Christ.” That means God has anchored us to the unchanging, faithful foundation– Jesus himself. We aren’t just placed on the foundation and then left to hopefully keep ourselves there; no, we are “established” on that foundation. We have been anchored, secured, established. And what God establishes will never be moved.

Paul wants the Corinthians (and us!) to see themselves as the beneficiaries of God’s promises, and so he explicitly includes them; he doesn’t just say, “It is God who establishes us.” He reaches out and brings the Corinthians into that experience– “It is God who establishes us with you.” “We’re in this together, Corinthians. He’s faithful to me, and he’s faithful to you.”

To know yourself, and all your fellow believers, to be established in Christ is a sweet and precious security. Knowing that you are anchored to the rock of Christ in every storm will sustain your faith in suffering, as you cling to this promise. “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). No matter what suffering, hardship, or cost you are called to endure on the Calvary road of love, God’s promises assure us: it’s worth it.

ANOINTED

The next thing Paul wants us to know is that we have been anointed by God. In the Bible, to be anointed is both a sign of God choosing someone, and in particular, choosing them to be royalty. When God chose David to be king, he had the prophet Samuel come an anoint him. Jesus himself is the Anointed One (that’s what the word “Christ” means). So when Paul says that we have been anointed by God, it means we have been chosen by God, set apart for his purposes, gifted and provided for, and called to reign with Christ forever.

Do you see yourself like this– called, set apart, gifted, and a royal child of the King? That’s how, in Christ, God looks at you. Knowing promises like this will bring your self-identity in line with the truth of what God says about you. You don’t have to grasp at straws and build esteem and worth and value for yourself, and protect yourself from risk and difficult relationships. Instead, give yourself away, knowing that God has given you everything you need for life and godliness.

SEALED

In biblical times, a seal was a mark of ownership, often used by kings to signify ownership. So when Paul says that God has put his seal on us, he simply means, “He bought you and owns you.” Just like God establishing us and anointing us, this too is a priceless blessing of the gospel. “You are not your own, for you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19). “You were ransomed… with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

You were sealed to belong to Jesus, and to belong to Jesus forever. That which he has bought with his precious blood, he will never give away or let slip out of his hand. To be sealed by God is to be absolutely and eternally secure in the relentless faithfulness of God. Ephesians 1 says that “when you believed in him, [you] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” To be sealed and owned by God means that your glory is guaranteed.

GUARANTEED

And that’s precisely what Paul says next. God “has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

Oh, how we need to meditate deeply on the word “guarantee!” I think that one reason our Christian lives are often so weak and shallow, and don’t resound with bold, risk-taking acts of reckless love and faithfulness, is that our assurance and confidence in God’s promises is so shaky. We simply don’t believe his guarantee, and so we hoard our resources, guard ourselves, and do “safe” church things with “safe” people, instead of being the radically going, life-giving kind of people God calls us to be.

Here’s an illustration of what I mean– this is an illustration of how God’s faithfulness to his promises is meant to propel us to make costly choices of love and faithfulness just like Paul. I have a waterproof, drop-proof case on my smartphone (this is necessary because I’m a klutz). This particular case comes with pretty incredible guarantee: if water gets in the case and ruins the phone, the company will not only refund my case– they’ll also replace my phone. Because of the confidence that guarantee gives me, I’ve done some pretty high-risk, high-reward things with my phone, like taking it into the ocean with me to get some spectacular pictures of waves crashing over me. If I wasn’t sure that my case would perform as promised, or if I wasn’t confident in the company’s extensive guarantee, there’s no way I would have put my phone in such a risky situation. But my confidence in the guarantee gives me the confidence to take risks.

That’s exactly how God’s guarantees are supposed to function in our Christian lives, and exactly how God’s blood-bought faithfulness is supposed to motivate our own. Without the rock-solid assurance that God is absolutely for us in Christ; that all things will work together for our good; that he himself will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us; that he will always give us what we need for life and godliness, how will we ever have the confidence to step out of our comfort zones, give ourselves away in love, spend ourselves in kindness, and make promises in love and keep them no matter the cost? Only by trusting in the guarantees of the gospel will we find the confidence to live bold, mission-driven, life-giving, risk-taking Christian lives.

This was the basis of Paul’s own commitment to faithfulness; this is the foundation of his argument to the Corinthians. “No, I didn’t break my promise; I acted in costly, risky love towards you because I am absolutely sure that God is faithful to me and to you.” And this is how the promises of God are supposed to function in our lives; not as cushions to make us comfortable, but as wartime lifelines meant to propel us into battle and sustain our sacrifices.

So here’s the practical question at the heart of this fruit of the Spirit: do you know the promises of God? Are they etched on your mind and burned into your heart? And more importantly, do you really believe them?

Father, The length and depth and height and breadth of your loving promises to me amazes me. Who am I, that you would make me the beneficiary of such precious promises? Thank you for your Son who purchased every promise for me, who bought me and made me his own, so that I could enjoy all your blessings and be freed to a life of radical faithfulness and risk-taking love. Help me, by your Spirit who sealed me, to know your promises better, to fully believe them, and then to venture my life and my all on them. Great is your faithfulness, Lord; make my own costly promise keeping a reflection of your own.

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