God’s “IF’s”

God has declared many things that are true no matter what. For example: He knows all things (omniscience), He has power over everything (omnipotence), He cannot lie, and He has no beginning or end. But, in contrast to those unchangeable truths, the Scriptures reveal many things that are conditional. In other words, God will base certain things that He does on what we do. In light of that fact the choices we make are extremely important!
The word “if” occurs over 1,500 times in the Bible. Many of those “if’s” are conditional promises. Here are a few instances where God promises certain things IF we meet certain conditions:
Gen 4:7 - “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
Exodus 15:26 - . . . the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, saying “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.”
Exodus 19:5 - “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine . . . “
Isaiah 1:18-20 - “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Proverbs 17:13 - If anyone returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.
Pro 28:9 - If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
John 10:9 – “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved . . .”
Although “if” is a very small word, it can have massive consequences! For example, if you arrive too late to the airport you will miss your flight. If you are found guilty of a crime you may end up in prison – or worse. Ultimately, if you reject Jesus you will spend eternity separated from God.
One great example that comes to mind is the policy that my son and his wife have adopted in regard to dessert. Their children are keenly aware of it. Dessert is a major priority for them! They know that if they finish their dinner before the adults finish theirs, they can have dessert. Sometimes, although they know the rule, they are too slow finishing their meal to get dessert. When that happens there can be wailing and gnashing of teeth when they see their siblings enjoying dessert while they get none. In a much more profound, but similar way, Jesus warned that “. . . many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12) We will avoid the consequences IF we choose wisely.
But we often fail to see how cause and effect operate in the spiritual realm, even though God has given us hundreds of examples in His Word for our instruction. For example, the way you respond to those who hurt you will affect their reaction. As Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” If you choose to respond with a soft answer – instead of reacting in kind – you will see much better results.
Another common problem is a lack of true repentance. Jesus has warned us “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3) Another way to say that would be “If you don’t repent, you will be lost forever.” The fact is, when we are not honest about our own sin but instead choose to blame others we will never change. It could be described as a failure to appreciate Spiritual Cause and Effect.
Let’s take a look at some of other “IF’s” that are found in the Bible:

IF You Confess Your Sins
IF we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) God’s promise of forgiveness and cleansing only apply to those who confess their sins. Unconfessed sin will grieve God’s Holy Spirit, and without the power of the Spirit of God in your life all you have left is your own strength, which is no match for the world, the flesh, or the Devil. Romans 8:11 says that IF the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
If you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit you must first confess your sins to God. That simply means agree with God! James 4:8 tells us to “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (IF you draw near to God He will draw near to you.) And how do we do that? If you continue reading, he says you need to cleanse your hands (repent of evil deeds), purify your hearts (repent of evil attitudes), and mourn and weep (come to grips with how God sees your sin and be truly sorry).

IF You Forgive
“ . . . but IF you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15) God puts a condition on whether or not He will forgive us: IF we want to be forgiven we must forgive! Paul tells us “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32) and “. . . as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13). In spite of this, many believers struggle with forgiving those who have hurt them. It’s a battle we must win!
Whenever I forgive I lay down my right to “get even” with the offender. Instead of retaliating, I seek what’s best for them. I choose instead to love them, help them, pray for them. Stephen was a great example of this as he prayed “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” while they were stoning him to death. (Acts 7:60) He was more concerned about their well-being than his own, probably because he was at peace with God and he knew that they were in big trouble. And the greatest example is our Master, who prayed while on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

IF You Humble Yourself
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, IF my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (7 Chronicles 7:13-14) This is one of many places where God promises trouble to His people IF they turn away from Him, but IF they humble themselves and return to Him, He will forgive them and heal their land. Humility is the key, because IF they humble themselves they will pray, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways. The first step toward God always involves humbling yourself.
What is true humility? In a word: Honesty. We see in the story of the Pharisee and the publican in the eighteenth chapter of Luke that the honest man went home justified. The religious man, on the other hand, was merely a “legend in his own mind” who had delusions of superiority. Despite this man’s proclamation of his magnificent religious performance, God was not impressed. 1 Peter 5:5 tells us that God pours out His grace on those who humble themselves, but He actually opposes the proud. When Jesus spoke about the sower, who spreads the word of God, He said that those that have an honest and good heart bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15) The Scripture also says we have to love the truth in order to be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:10) Have you ever tasted humble pie? It tastes terrible, but it’s so good for you! On the other hand, refusing to humble yourself is like shooting yourself in the foot – only much worse.
Humility can also be described as dependence on God. How can you be sure that you are truly depending on Him? Check out your prayer life!

IF You Believe
IF you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9) When God looks at mankind He sees two kinds of people: Those who believe what He says and those who don’t. Jesus said that those who believe Him pass from death to life: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) No amount of religious devotion can pay for your sins or bring you from death to life spiritually. Only Christ’s death on the cross can do that. And we only benefit from what He did IF we believe.

IF You Pursue God with All Your Heart
But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, IF you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29 ) God says He will be found by those who seek Him earnestly. And He is searching for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24) “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him . . .” (2 Chronicles 16:9) Becoming a Christian is not just getting a fire insurance policy, it is the beginning of a lifelong pursuit with our Creator, who has “. . . saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace . . .” (2 Timothy 1:9)

IF You Pray
“IF you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14) is a wonderful promise, but it is also conditional: It must be in His name. In other words, you have to be asking what He would ask. 1 John 5:14-15 says it this way: And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. In contrast to that, James tells us “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3) In order to pray effectively we must be in a right relationship with God. You might fool everyone else (even yourself!) but you cannot fool God. In the spiritual realm it does not matter how you look – what matters is who you are. IF you are a child of God, you can be certain that God will hear your prayers IF you pray in faith, confess your sins, forgive others, and humble yourself. He promises to be near to us IF we seek Him with all our hearts!

(All Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version.)