Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Psalm 91:9-16 God's Promises Are Conditional

KEY TEXT: Ps 91:14-16 "Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."

KEY THOT: God’s promises are gracious but not unconditional. The idea that grace means we don’t have to do anything to experience it does not have sound biblical support. Here the psalmist writes: “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will…” (v.14, NKJV) and also “because he knows my name”. God says “I will…” to us only because we have set our love on him and have known his name. So, before we start “claiming” the promises of God, we have to ask ourselves if we have met the pre-conditions for grace to operate in our lives. For the believer who has met the conditions, God has promised to (1) deliver (2) protect (3) answer when he or she prays (4) be present in trouble (5) rescue (6) honor (7) grant long life (8) show His salvation.

Grace is not “unmerited favour”. Grace is God’s offering us the opportunity to be blessed. But it’s not unconditional—for Ephesians 2:8 has clearly stated: “For by grace are you saved through faith…” The pre-condition is faith, though faith itself is a gift of God. Faith is God’s ability to believe, but the choice whether to act on faith is still within our control. So, for those who use the faith received from God to commit himself or herself to know God and to love Him, His promises of his presence, protection and provision are secure. Anyone who claims God’s promises without first meeting the pre-conditions is not exercising faith but presumption.

God’s grace is not a one-way street. I have to do my part so that God can fulfill His promises. As St. Augustine has famously written: “Without God we cannot; without us, He will not.” Faith is God’s gift to help me respond in love. But the response is still mine to make—or not. Believers who are unwilling to be totally committed to know God and love God have no promise from God to be present to deliver, protect, answer their prayers, rescue, honor them or grant them long life. These are promises for those who have met the pre-conditions of love. So the Apostle John agrees: “whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” Grace is not unmerited favour—it is favour bestowed in response to obedience motivated by faith.

I need to reject the lie that God will always do my bidding no matter what I do. All the promises of God are conditional and given to those who know God and love Him. I should not be selective in reading Scriptures. Jesus’ words to the Seven Churches in Revelations ought to help me see things in perspective:
  • Rev 2:7 “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.' 
  • Rev 2:11 “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.' 
  • Rev 2:17 To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.
  • Rev 2:26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.
  • Rev 3:5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.
  • Rev 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. 
  • Rev 3:21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne.
The repeated refrain is “one who conquers”. In other words, after we have received the gift of faith, what we do with our faith is our response to divine grace. Jesus expects us to exercise our faith to be faithful to Him till the end, so that we may be "more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:37).

Father, help us never to take grace for granted. Thank You for the gift of faith You have given us. Help us to use the faith You have given us to respond to Your grace with love and obedience. Amen.

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