Author Photo

Quotes by Scott Hafemann


The message of the Bible provides the only answer to humanity’s most pressing need: to know God himself. Having been created by God for God, the “self” can never be “self-satisfied.” Yet, having lost sight of the God revealed in the Bible, all we can see is our self, with its futile drive to meet its own ever-changing but never satisfied cravings for the second-rate pleasures of this world.


Hope in God’s promises, therefore, is not a wishful longing but a faith-filled confidence for the future. It is simply impossible to trust one of God’s promises and not anticipate its coming true. To know God is to trust Him. And to trust God is to trust His promises. And to trust God’s promises is to be sure of their fulfillment. This assurance concerning the future, anchored in God’s promises, is what the Bible calls "hope."


In the midst of an ever-changing world, the good news is that the life of faith is anchored by the power, provisions, and promises of God. Circumstances may change, but the future is as sure as the character of God Himself. No matter what happens, those who trust in God hope in His word. 


It is inconceivable to think that the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead would come into our lives and then do nothing. Where the Spirit is at work, our love and its "fruits of righteousness" abound "more and more" as we mature in our dependence upon Christ (Phil. 1:9-11).


Even in our time, as the Jewish human rights activist and Hudson Institute scholar Michael Horowitz has observed, "The mounting persecution of Christians eerily parallels the persecution of Jews…during much of Europe’s history."  Worldwide, an average of 159,000 Christians a year are now losing their lives because they believe in Jesus, with 200 million to 250 million believers suffering physical and political persecution, and an additional 400 million not being able to practice their faith freely!  And it is shocking how a scandal of silence has covered up this worldwide persecution of Christians.


Though we mourn this persecution and must resist it vigorously, it is crucial to recognize that such suffering is not the consequence of being out of God’s will but is a direct result of the work of God’s Spirit in the lives of His people.


The New Testament does not teach a doctrine of tithing (i.e., the mandatory giving of 10 percent of one’s income). Nor does Paul define what constitutes giving generously. He does not even provide a target number or general guidelines. The only rule is to give freely and generously as an expression of our continuing trust in God’s grace (9:5-8). Paul simply assumes that believers will give all they can to meet as many needs as they can in order to glorify God as much as they can.


Salvation in its full sense is from the guilt of sin in the past, the power of sin in the present, and the presence of sin in the future.


The fall into sin took place before Eve actually ate from the tree, since she had already fallen to Satan’s temptation in her heart.


Works in [the] negative sense…means thinking that God saves us based on some attitude or activity or ethnic heritage or anything else we might think makes us deserving of God’s love.


So the Gospel is also God’s justifying word about Himself, since under the old covenant, with its symbolic sacrificial system, it appeared as if God was ignoring the sins of those who simply trusted in Him for forgiveness (Rom. 3:25). Now, in the shadow of the cross, it is possible to see that Jesus is the reason that God could justify the ungodly, like Abraham and David (cf. Rom. 4:1-8), without compromising His own integrity. When God forgave His people in the past, He do so looking forward to the cross of Christ as the basis of and revelation of that divine righteousness which makes forgiveness possible. The death of Jesus demonstrated with finality God’s “justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).


"Idolatry" is the practice of seeking the source and provision of what we need either physically or emotionally in someone or something other than the one true God. It is the tragically pathetic attempt to squeeze life out of lifeless forms that cannot help us meet our real needs. 


Mainstream evangelicals are offended by "too much" talk about money, fearing that it may contaminate true spirituality. The real reason for seeking this silence, however, is subtle but clear: Too much emphasis on the spiritual necessity of giving as a matter of our salvation directly confronts our materialism and the individualistic privatization of our lives. The call to give is a call to flee the idolatrous worship of the Dollar and the Self by trusting in God’s grace alone for our happiness and security. To talk about money is to talk about God.


Unfortunately, many pastors are afraid to mention giving too often, lest the congregation think that the "church just wants our money." Such fears are misplaced theologically and often reflect our cowardice in the face of the reigning idols of our day. To speak about our need to give is to emphasize that we are God’s people through whom God glorifies Himself. The Corinthians’ participation in the collection was not "for the church," but evidence that they were the church.


Giving is not motivated by trying to convince people how "smart" and "responsible" and "enjoyable" it is to give…(rather we are to be) savoring and seeking the kingdom of God. Only the greater treasures of the kingdom of God can free us from clinging to the competing treasures of this world. Only the deeper satisfaction that comes from spending ourselves for others can defeat the sinfully natural impulse to use others for our own ends. And giving up ourselves for others can take place only when our own security needs have already been met in the Christ who spent Himself for us (2 Cor. 8:9). Hence, rather than focusing merely on more effective ways to advertise the benefits and obligations of giving, we need to pray for the pouring out of God’s Spirit on His people.  Instead of bigger fund-raising campaigns, we need a bigger picture of God.


"Faith" is not believing the unbelievable but trusting in God’s word because of what one has come to know of God’s character. And faith always "goes public" in acts of obedience, since a "faith" that does not obey is not a true, justifying faith at all (James 2:21-26).


The Sabbath is the first commandment given to Israel, being issued before she gets to Mount Sinai (Ex. 16:22-30); and it is the last commandment given for the people before Moses returns to them from atop the mountain (Ex. 31:12-17). Like bookends, the command to keep the Sabbath secures the content of God’s relationship with Israel.


Those who know God know that He is bound by his own promises and integrity, not by our wishes. Moreover, unlike us, God never finds himself in the uncomfortable situation of having made a promise He no longer wants to or is able to keep. God is never caught by surprise. God’s promises are made in his infinite wisdom as part of His eternal plan and are backed by His matchless power. What God says, He does. God, because He is God, is a promise keeper.


Nothing this side of Christ’s return can be confused with what God ultimately promises for his people. The short-term payoffs of this world pale in comparison to the "precious and very great promises" God grants his people (2 Pet. 1:4). God’s promises cannot be downsized into the idols of temporary health and wealth. The promises of God are so much greater than anything this world has to offer that, when trusted, they fill a person with hope for what is not yet a reality but will one day certainly be true.  


Suffering strengthens resolve and increases the value of Christ for those who, in response to the presence of the Spirit in their lives, genuinely trust God’s love and power. Rather than destroying faith-induced hope, suffering spurs it on. It is the fire that fortifies faith, stripping away the illusion of the world’s glamour and gold and unmasking our powerlessness to solve our own problems, or provide for our own security (Luke 12:16-21). Suffering therefore teaches us to esteem God’s promises as our only hope.


Sinners come to God knowing that although there is no reason in them that God should be merciful, God has every reason in Himself to show mercy (Isa. 43:25).


Genuine obedience is an act of delight-driven duty. The greatest way to honor the one who commands is not to obey because one must, but to do what is required with joy, having willingly given oneself to his authority.


So God prepares His people by giving them a foretaste of the glory to come, in order that the suffering of this present age might be put into its proper perspective. And He gives them suffering so that the glory to come might be put into its proper perspective as well.


Within the covenant structure of the Old Testament the law was an expression of the election and salvation of Israel, not a precondition for it. As a response to God’s acts of deliverance and commitment to provide for His people, obedience to His commands became an outward expression of trust in His promises. Keeping the covenant stipulations is the way God’s people demonstrate that they belong to Him, not a way to become His people.


There is no such thing as luck” or “accident”… We must resist limiting God’s sovereignty in the face of suffering. The comfort of God…is not His empathy with us as someone who feels the tragedy of evil but is helpless in it. Nor does the comfort of God reside in His actions as a “fourth-quarter quarterback,” who is brought in after things have fallen apart to save the day just before the whistle blows. There is no comfort in suffering if God is not sovereign over it. To pare down God’s sovereignty is to render suffering a triumph of evil and sin against the limited will and power of God.


Anybody can worship Santa Claus. But hanging in there with God in the midst of intense suffering, as Christ hung on the cross, magnifies the worth of God as the one who sustains us. God’s goal in suffering, therefore, is to teach us that in life and in death, as in all eternity, He Himself is all we ultimately need.


To be part of the community of faith entails a responsibility to hold each other accountable to Christ as judge, under whom and in whose name we care called to a growing obedience and to an open admission of our faults. Such a responsibility will also entail punishing those who continual and flagrant sins cast scorn on Christ’s call and character as the Lord of the church.


He who has had mercy on us will be the One to judge us, with Christ’s own righteous and merciful character being the essential criterion for evaluation. Those who have received mercy in Christ will be merciful to others, receiving mercy from Christ on the Day of Judgment.


Jesus warns us that in spending our lives we should be wise shoppers, guarding our hearts against the false advertisements of this world. For whatever we value most in life becomes our “treasure.” And our treasure becomes our hope. In turn, our hope determines how we act, since we always spend our lives on whatever we think will make us happy.


There comes a time when God’s patience runs out (Rom. 2:4-10; 2 Pet. 3:8-10; Jude 5). Those living in continual disobedience must not presume upon God’s grace, falsely assuming that God’s kindness means that he is winking at their sin. Nor should we take God’s forgiveness for granted. We must not sin willfully, thinking that by doing so we are simply giving God another opportunity to glorify himself by showing forth his mercy. As Paul would put it centuries later, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (Rom. 6:2). To do so is to reveal by one’s hardened disobedience that the saving power of God is not really in one’s life (see Rom. 6:2b-14),


Trust in God’s promises comes to light in obedience to his commands… It is therefore a contradiction in terms to say that we acknowledge Christ’s rule in our lives if we do not submit to his word… There is no distinction in the Bible between knowing God or Jesus as our “Savior” and knowing him as our “Lord.” Saving faith always expresses itself in obedience (James 2:21-24).


In view of the witness of Scripture, therefore, we do not come closer to solving the problem of evil by diminishing God’s active and purposeful involvement in any sphere of life. To remove God’s sovereignty from the realm of evil before it occurs forces us to conceive of God either as playing “catch-up,” by redeeming evil only after we have carried it out (after all, in this view, to intervene sooner would jeopardize our free will), or as standing on the sidelines, sympathetic in our struggles but unable to help. Apart from God’s sovereignty, God’s love in the midst of suffering is downsized to an emotional response of “caring.”


Jesus’ gospel of forgiveness is not unrelated to the Bible’s demand for holiness. Obedience is not a “second step” added to our faith, so that “accepting Jesus as Savior” must be supplemented by “accepting Jesus as Lord.” We are not saved by grace and then sanctified (made holy) by our own works. Being a Christian is not a matter of adding our will to God’s, our efforts to His. Rather…”putting away sin,” which is faith in action, is the means to persevering, which we do by depending on Jesus from beginning to end. In other words, repenting from the disobedience of disbelief, and the life of persevering faith that this brings about, which entails obeying God, are all one expression of “looking to Jesus.” One cannot exist without the other… There is only one thing, not two, that we must do to be saved: trust God with the needs of our lives. This one thing in God’s provision (now supremely manifested in Christ) will show itself, from beginning to end, in our many acts of repentance and obedience.


God did not demand that we first demonstrate our allegiance to Him before Christ would agree to die in our place. To demand that we somehow show ourselves deserving of forgiveness in order to regain our status as His children would have been futile. What can ungodly, rebellious sinners offer God that would move the holy Creator of the universe to sacrifice His only Son on their behalf? So God acted first, motivated solely by his own sovereign love, to grant mercy to His people as the ultimate expression of His grace (Ex. 33:19; Isa. 63:7; Rom. 9:15-18; Eph. 2:4; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:3). Christ died for us because the Father and the Son loved the unlovable.


If God did not insist that we worship Him alone, we would have to conclude that He is evil, or at least two-faced, since He would not be directing us to the one thing we desperately need.


The difficulty of the commands is merely a reflection of the greatness of the Gospel. Jesus’ expectation is built on his anticipation of what God will do in the lives of His people! Jesus demands the humanly impossible precisely because His provisions are supernatural. The magnitude of Jesus’ commands must mean, therefore, that they are tied to the grandest promise of all, namely, the promise that God himself will work in every circumstance to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29).


For His part, God forgives our sins, reveals His glory, rescues us from our heart of disbelief with its life of disobedience, and brings us back to Himself again and again so that we might learn to live by faith in His promises. For our part, Abraham, as the "father" of the faithful (Rom. 4:16-17), is the beginning of a people who respond by learning over a lifetime to look to God alone to meet their needs.


Suffering as a Christian is a sign that God is powerfully at work in our lives. Longing for our final redemption, suffering for doing right, and being persecuted for our faith are all evidence that God has begun the good work of making us like Christ. Our suffering consequently becomes a great encouragement to our faith, since those who share in Christ’s sufferings know that they will also share in his resurrection (Matt. 5:11-12; Rom. 8:17; Phil. 3:10).


Endurance in the midst of suffering, not success, health, or wealth, is the mark of a genuine Christian life. Furthermore, it is faith and hope in the midst of suffering, not miraculous deliverance from it, that display most clearly the all-sufficiency of God to a despairing world.


When Christians suffer, they, like Paul, can consequently take courage from the fact that their lives will mediate to others the power of the Resurrection, either through God’s act of deliverance or, even more profoundly, through the testimony of their endurance. In either case we are summoned to trust God in the midst of our afflictions in the confidence that God will ultimately deliver us. By so doing, God’s power will be manifest in our weakness.


God did not rescue Paul in Asia (2 Cor. 1:8-11) or spare Epaphroditus from death (Phil. 1:27) in order to encourage others to seek a miraculous deliverance from affliction. Rather, these acts of deliverance were intended to encourage Paul and the rest of God’s people to endure suffering in their own lives as a profound testimony of God’s sufficiency (2 Cor. 1:6; 4:7-12; Phil. 4:6). This side of Christ’s return, God does not reveal His power and love in our lives primarily by performing miracles but by enabling us to persevere in the midst of adversity because of our trust in Him. God rescued Paul in the past to teach him to trust God for his future, in order that he might endure in the present.


Indeed, the existence of fellowship within the Trinity (John 17:23-24) makes it evident that the creation of mankind was not intended to meet some deficiency in God. God was not lonely, bored, or incomplete before he created humanity. God is perfect in Himself, happy in the fellowship and love that exist from all eternity between the Father, Son, and Spirit. Thus, rather than being an attempt to make up for a lack within the Trinity, God created mankind simply because he delights in sharing Himself as an expression of his overflowing self-sufficiency.


To cast God away for the temporary trinkets of this life, as if He were a secondhand piece of jewelry, is deeply dishonoring to the sovereign character of the Creator, who Himself alone can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts (Psm. 16). At the center of our sin is our nonchalant neglect of God, as if we were the creators and rulers of our own lives, doing with them as we please. In short, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Our failure to honor God is an intolerable situation for the Creator and Savior of mankind, who will not share the rightful glory of His sovereignty with anyone or anything else (Ex. 9:16).


Our obedience to God’s commands is the expression of trusting Christ. It is not our words but our deeds that stand the test of Christ’s gaze. Love of Jesus is measured by obedience to what he commands (John 14:15 and 15:14). "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me" (John 14:21). Not even miracles can substitute for doing what God commands (Matt. 7:22).


By repenting of our hope in the promises of this world – the greatest of which become merely rusted metal and short-lived pleasures – and trusting in God’s promises, we develop a new lifestyle of growing obedience to God, rather than following the cadence of our culture. And as our hope in God increases, our obedience to his commands becomes more consistent. 


Faith is trusting God to do what he has promised because we are convinced by his provisions that God is both willing and able to keep His Word.


The greatest expression of God’s grace in a person’s life is not its demonstration toward others, but its response to God and His cause.

Recommended Books

The God of Promise and the Life of Faith: Understanding the Heart of the Bible

Scott Hafemann