Walking By Faith

Many of you at Town North may wonder why I use the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. After all, what’s wrong with the King James Version (KJV), or the New International Version (NIV), or the New American Standard Bible (NASB)?

      First of all, I would say that nothing is wrong with any of the English translations just mentioned. You will hear the Word from each. It is important to know that you do not need to be a Hebrew or Greek scholar to have confidence that you are hearing the Word of God. You can be fed by God through an English translation.

      But secondly, it is true that there are differences among English translations. Each translation uses a different philosophy for translation. Some translators lean toward a literal “word-for-word” philosophy, and others lean toward a “thought-for-thought” philosophy. There are pluses and minuses with each.

      The English Standard Version leans toward a “word-for-word” philosophy. The translators have termed it an “essentially literal” translation. That means it “…seeks as much as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text…” (Preface to the English Standard Version Study Bible, 19)

      One of the main drawbacks to this type of translation is usually a loss of readability. The more literal word-for-word philosophy is often more clumsy or difficult for English readers. However, the translators of the ESV have done a very good job of maintaining readability.

      Another benefit I have seen with the ESV is consistency. At every possible point the ESV translators have tried to use the same English word for important recurring words in the original. This makes it easier for English readers notice key words, and emphasis, used by biblical writers.

      One example of this is found with the Greek word sarx. This word is often translated “flesh” in English, and has a range of meanings. It can refer to the human body. Or, it can refer to the sinful nature. Or, it can simply refer to a human being, or human existence.

      Paul uses this word many times to emphasize a point, but that emphasis can be obscured by translation. The clearest example is found in Romans 8. Paul uses this word sarx 13 times in this chapter. The NIV translates the word in various ways in order to express the thought. The NIV translates it as “sinful nature” (verses 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, 13), and “sinful man” (verses 3, 6), and “sinful mind” (verse 7). However, the ESV translates the word as “flesh” each time, and due to this consistency Paul’s distinction between living in the “realm of the flesh” or the “realm of the Spirit” appears to leap off the page for the careful English reader.

      I believe it is helpful to lean toward a word-for-word translation, and it is also helpful to have the English flow more smoothly for devotional reading. Therefore, I lean toward the English Standard Version.

      However, at the end of the day the main question is not: Which translation are you reading? The main question is: Are you reading? It’s vital for disciples of Jesus Christ to have regular feeding on His Word.

Rev. David J. Rogers
Senior Pastor, Town North Presbyterian Church

   Our family went on vacation to Washington D.C. several years ago, and I looked forward to seeing the National Gallery of Art. While growing up I always enjoyed looking at great artwork. So the day finally came when our family scheduled a half-day at the museum.

      As we began working our way through the gallery I was especially excited to see one of my favorite artists John Singer Sergeant. As I worked my way through the room of Sergeant paintings I was having a great time. However, it soon became clear that the rest of my family wasn’t having a great time. Most of them were groaning: “Come on dad, we’ve seen it! Let’s go!”

      They wanted go, and I wanted to stay and admire the artwork.

      That’s the way it is with good artwork. You want to keep looking at it. You want to enjoy it. You want to soak it in. The same is true for your favorite music, or your favorite movie.

      The same is also true with the good news of Jesus Christ. As Christians, we want to keep hearing it. We want to enjoy it. We want to soak in it.

      And that’s what we should do as Christians. The Apostle Paul prays that the Christians in Ephesus would “…know what is the hope to which he has called you, [and] what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…” (Ephesians 1:18) In other words, Paul wants these Christians to know just how wonderful this hope and riches in Christ really are. He wants them to spend time enjoying these things.

      That is also my goal for the coming weeks at Town North as we hear these words from Ephesians chapter one. In chapter one the Apostle Paul tells us God the Father has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3) He then unpacks all of those spiritual blessings in verses 4 through 14.

      So enjoy God and His grace in the coming weeks as you hear the spiritual blessings He has given in Christ. I pray that it will cause you to praise His glorious grace (1:6)!

Rev. David J. Rogers
Senior Pastor, Town North Presbyterian Church

God woke me up this past weekend. He didn’t wake me up in the middle of the night – but actually in the middle of the day! Sometimes we need to wake up in the middle of the day.

Gary Waldecker1 came to lead a retreat for our church leaders this past weekend. At that retreat God woke me up from a dangerous sleep. He showed me that I had fallen into a dangerous sleep of unbelief.

What is a sleep of unbelief?

It is living life without really expecting God to do anything. As Christians, we have a tendency to drift into this way of thinking. It’s not something we want to do, or plan to do. But it happens.

We see it happen to people in the Bible all the time. I just saw it this morning in 1 Samuel 17. The people of God were confronted by a sizeable army, and a giant warrior (named Goliath). Goliath threatened the army of Israel – and dared any man to fight with him. Saul and all Israel heard these words from Goliath, and they were greatly afraid (1 Samuel 17:11 & 24).

Why were they afraid? After all, they had God on their side! They had the Creator of the universe promising to fight their battles for them. So why were they afraid? They were afraid because they were sleeping in unbelief.

It took a little shepherd boy to wake them up. David came upon the same situation, and heard Goliath’s words. What was David’s response? “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (17:26)

David believed God. He believed God is the Almighty God who is able to defeat any enemy (as God had promised). He believed that God was with the people of Israel (as God had promised). He believed that God could deliver him from dangerous enemies – as God had shown David in the past (17:34-36). David believed God. He expected God to do the impossible.

What did this belief in God cause David to do? He walked onto the battlefield against Goliath. You know the rest of the story.

It took a shepherd boy to wake up the people of Israel from the sleep of unbelief. They didn’t really expect God to do anything. They were only looking at Goliath, and they were afraid. It took David’s actions to wake them from their sleep of unbelief.

Sometimes we need to see someone step out and believe God in amazing ways to awaken us from our sleep of unbelief. Has that ever happened to you? Have you seen a Christian walk into a dangerous situation or go up against seemingly insurmountable odds – and see amazing things happen? I have. And it has stirred me from a sleep of unbelief.

How do you know if you are in this dangerous sleep?

This sleep of unbelief shows itself in many ways. Sometimes it shows itself in being captivated by “lesser things” in this world. Depending on your weaknesses and personality – those “lesser things” may vary. For some it may be pornography. For others it may be shopping or eating. However, lurking behind it all is the problem that following Christ is simply not captivating you anymore.

What makes that happen? What would make a Christian not captivated by following Christ? It may be the sleep of unbelief. You really don’t expect God to do great things anymore. As a result you haven’t stepped out in faith much lately. You don’t expect much from God. You have become “safe” in following Christ – and as a result you haven’t really seen God do very much.

When this happens it is a self fulfilling prophecy. God doesn’t do very much, because you don’t ever trust Him and step out in faith. (See Matthew 13:58.) Following Christ becomes boring and life-less. As a result, you turn to lesser things for satisfaction and “thrills.” Rather than the “thrill” of boldly following Christ – you settle for the lesser “thrills”of this world.

In what ways is God calling you to boldly trust Him today? In what ways is He prompting you to step out of your “comfort zone” and trust Him today?

I’m thankful that God used Gary Waldecker to wake me up this past weekend. Thanks Gary.

Rev. David J. Rogers
Senior Pastor, Town North Presbyterian Church

1Gary is currently the director of the Missional Learning and Development Team for our denomination’s foreign missions organization (Mission To the World – MTW). This Team is tasked with the job of helping our missionaries throughout Latin America and other places be as effective as possible. Gary has been a missionary since 1980 and was a church planter in Chile through 1995. Then he became MTW’s Regional Director for South America and fulfilled that role through 2001. Gary graduated from Covenant College and Covenant Seminary, has a doctorate in Missiology from Westminster Seminary, and a doctorate in Organizational Development from The George Washington University.

“…for we walk by faith, not by sight.”2 Corinthians 5:7

Why did I choose the title “Walking By Faith” for these regular articles?

One of the reasons I chose this title is that it strikes at the very heart of what God is teaching me about following Christ – and reminded me a few weeks ago at our retreat. You can read about this in my previous article titled “A Dangerous Sleep.”

These words “walk by faith” are not new. They are words that God Himself has used. God used these words to describe what it means to follow Christ on a daily basis in this world.

If you read the context in 2 Corinthians you see that Paul is describing his specific calling as an Apostle (i.e. official messenger) of Jesus Christ. However, it is clear that he is also describing the way all followers of Jesus Christ should view their lives.

Paul says there are many times when he was perplexed (4:8). In other words, things just didn’t look the way he expected them to look. If Christ had overcome the world and we now live in the new age, then why didn’t Christ’s messengers see a string of “successes”? Why was ministry such a struggle? Why wasn’t the Gospel having more impact? Why did it often seem like Christ’s church was going backward rather than forward? (Have you ever asked these questions?)

However, after describing this perplexed state of mind Paul tells us what kept him going. He said there was something that allowed him to endure this confusion and suffering yet “not lose heart” (4:16). There was something that allowed him to be “of good courage” even when things were going badly (5:6). There was something that gave him energy even in the most depressing and difficult situations. (Wouldn’t you like to find something to help you do that?)

What was that “something” that caused Paul not to lose heart? Paul believed God’s promises.

It’s clear that’s what Paul meant when he said: “…we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). He meant that he believed what God said even though he didn’t see it happening yet.

By faith he believed what God said when He told Paul things were getting better for him (his soul had been made alive) – even though things looked worse for him now (he was getting weaker and nearer to death) (4:16).

By faith he believed what God said when He told Paul there were great things ahead for him (eternal glory) – even though things looked bad for him now (affliction) (4:17).

Notice how believing God’s promises affected Paul’s actions. Because he really believed God’s promise about the state of his soul – Paul remained encouraged even while dying (4:16). Because He believed God’s promise about the future – Paul remained encouraged even while suffering affliction (4:17).

As a result, Paul continued to take the gospel into dangerous places, and continued to work even when he saw little fruit.

Believing God (i.e. walking by faith) is the secret to having hope in the midst of failure. It is the secret to having joy in the midst of suffering. It is the secret to having courage in the midst of danger. It is that “something” that will give you the courage to talk to your friend or co-worker about Jesus. It is that “something” that will get you out of bed (or off the couch) to pray. It is that “something” that will give you new energy when you see no immediate fruit.

This is the way we live as followers of Christ. We daily believe God’s promises, and it changes what we do. What will you do differently today as a result of believing God’s promises?

Rev. David J. Rogers
Senior Pastor, Town North Presbyterian Church

I’m writing to share an e-mail I received today that will hopefully encourage you. One of our congregation members sent me an e-mail today explaining how her dad shared the gospel with one of his brothers who is near death. (The names have been changed.)

I know many of you have unbelieving relatives whom you will see this Christmas, and I pray that this will encourage you to pray for your lost relatives and ask the Lord to “open a door” for the gospel this Christmas (Colossians 4:3-4).

As many of you know, it is often very difficult to talk with family members about Christ. There are often many strong emotions and “old wounds” that is brought to the surface in these conversations. But we must continue to call on the Lord, and believe He can open ANY heart. (And it may happen THIS Christmas!)

Hi David,

I wanted to ask for prayer for my Uncle Joe and his family. My uncle, who lives in another State, is being cared for at home under Hospice and isn’t expected to live beyond a week. A little back story…A few weeks ago he began having some small seizures and they discovered that he had cancer in his brain and lungs, possibly other places, and it was pretty advanced. At that time, family members were sharing the Gospel with him and he continued to reject it, as he had done his whole life. His seizures became worse and he has significant paralysis. My dad went up there to see him last week and while my dad shared the gospel with him again, he prayed to receive Christ.

I ask for prayer for my uncle’s faith to grow and that he would know the comfort of Christ in a mighty way. I also would like to pray for his wife and 4 sons. His sons are also unbelievers and have no hope and are really struggling with losing their dad. I have several other uncles and one aunt (my dad has 13 siblings) that are not believers and I pray that there might be a way for the gospel to take root in their hearts as well as they hear the testimony of my Uncle Joe. Pray that there will be opportunity for this to happen especially in the weeks to come.

Let’s all pray for “open doors” with our relatives this Christmas!

Rev. David J. Rogers
Senior Pastor, Town North Presbyterian Church