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Category: Freedom

Divine Permanence and Our Doubts


What a wonder to realize, truly realize, the importance of divine permanence. God’s own lack of change amidst our ever-changing world is hard to grasp at first. We are told in Romans 8:38, “For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” Nothing in creation can separate us from the love of God . What a marvelous wonder! So what does this biblical promise mean then in regards to our struggles with doubt?
As all-encompassing as our doubts can feel at times, we can surely be encouraged that our doubts are not divine. They are not eternal. Our doubts are man-made and created things. This means that the above mentioned passage applies to them as well. Our doubts can NOT separate us from the love of God! No matter what fear or dark thoughts might spawn from them in ever realistic fashion, God is immutable and unchanging. When He said, “My Child, I love you.” He didn’t stutter and he didn’t mean only as long as you hold strongly to certainty. He meant merely that He loves you and that, reliably, will not change.
We can take solace then in knowing we have a freedom in doubt. We are safe to ask questions and struggle with doubt. We can lay that fleece on the ground and expect and answer from our God. We don’t have to hide from our doubts, afraid of what they might mean. But instead, we can turn and face them, assured of the safety we are promised in God’s permanence written of in Romans 8. God’s divine permanence guarantees that we can struggle with and overcome our doubts without fear of rejection or failure. Take heart.


Doubt by the Numbers

Occasionally, we may find ourselves in a seemingly self-perpetuating cycle of doubt. By virtue of there being so much doubt, it begins to procreate and generate doubt upon doubts. We begin to take stock of our doubt and due to the sheer number of them, begin to ascribe more credence to them. We find ourselves thinking more, “if there are so many, there must be a reason.”

It is in times like these, that we must remind ourselves that truth is not found in popular opinion or sheer numbers. Ten men stating that a tree is a marshmallow is no more true than if only one man had made the statement. While one might be occasioned to stop and consider perhaps the why behind the large amount of doubt, one must not skip the intervening steps leap right to the “therefore” stage.

Instead we follow the example given in scripture. “I believe, help my unbelief!” Accept the damp fleece on the dry ground, and accept God’s charge. Pray and ask God to address those doubts, because often He will. One way He can address that challenge is to strongly adjust our perceptions. So self-focused on our doubt, we can easily forget those around us that struggle with so much more. Here I am complaining about being riddled with doubt and another person isn’t even sure when they will eat next, or perhaps another who cannot ever believe she will be free of heroine. I recently heard the testimony of a man who was using drugs at 6 years old, and in and out of foster homes. What realignment! How insignificant my worries and doubts become in the onslaught of that harsh reality.

Good perspective, active prayer and a firm foundational understanding of the logic of the self-perpetuating doubt. These will give you a good starting point in order to begin dealing with doubt in our lives.

Fear of Sin

We so easily fall into legalistic pits. We like rules, as a people, no matter how often we rail against them. Very few of us actually desire anarchy. We like or even crave structure and rules, so when we ascribe to a worldview, it is not uncommon for us to immediately begin to look for its dos and don’ts. Something practical we can hold on to or even begin to use to gauge our success. In ancient Israel, this led to the rise of the pharisaical law and its required list of moral laws and guidelines. While rooted in good intentions, this led to a structure that the Son of God himself despised. These men were so afraid of sin that they built up a false religion around their true one in hopes of protecting it.

Can we begin to see the parallels here with our modern-day way of doing things. The Enlightenment, for all of its wonderful outworkings created a flood of anti-scriptural and severely liberal theologies. Men, believing themselves and their intellect to be the apex of creation,  believed themselves capable of knowing God without the virtue of His special revelation. Out of this rash of deviant theologies was born the neo-orthodoxy movement in Europe , and the fundamentalist movement in North America. These were the pendulum opposite reactions to the widespread liberal thought that the Enlightenment had birthed. North American fundamentalism developed from a well-meaning attempt at addressing heresy and misleading doctrine into a full-blown recreation of the pharisaical law. Suddenly, not only were more traditional theologies being preserved, but more conservative social structures were becoming law as well. One could not drink, smoke, dance or even attend the theater. These became the rules we would obsess over the next couple hundred years. They were the moral structure we would set up in order to gauge a man’s spirituality. We began to wonder if drunkenness is wrong, then to drink must be as well. If our body was a temple, then to smoke is evil.

I find myself then, asking, how much drink is too much? If my lips feel tingly, am I an alcoholic? If my head feels light have I sinned? I am so scared of crossing that line that the line becomes all that I can think about. I do not believe that Christ or the apostles wondered when they drank (which they undoubtedly did) if their lips were tingly, or their heads a little light, if they were drunkards after one drink or two. Scripture does not define what a drunkard was as it was generally and easily understood who the drunkard was, and what drunkenness was.

Ephesians 5 says “Do not become drunk with wine, for this leads to reckless behavior, rather be filled with the Spirit.”  The passage goes on to talk about what positive things you should be doing in order to be more like God. It is more focused on the need for a Spirit filled life, than it is on the need to expunge alcohol from one’s life.

Do not misunderstand me, though, I fully agree with the importance of grasping the weight  of your own sin, and what a price that was for Christ to pay for you. I do not wish to cheapen that by any means, but the Bible is clear in this. We are victors. We win, and we are righteous already, because we are made righteous by the one who paid our sin’s debt. We no longer owe that Strong Man anything and we are free to live in the hope of righteousness.

Stephen Mattson

Inspiration. Faith. Christian Culture. Writing.

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