God and His People (Part Two)

Psalm 30:1-3

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit (ESV).

We all need God to rescue us. Some of these might be very dramatic. Others might be like a parent acting quickly to intercept their child before they get into dangerous situations. We daily require the help of the merciful God (30:1b-3).

In his mercy (cf. 30:10), God answered David’s prayer for help. We act very wickedly and foolishly when we leave God out of our problems, including our physical problems. We ought to pray before we visit the doctor. Think about King Asa of Judah and what happened to him (2 Chronicles 16:12). “As the writer reflects on his experience, the one thing he seems to recall most vividly is how earnestly he fell back upon prayer in his extremity, and how effective prayer proved on this occasion. The entire experience may be said to be summarized in this one verse” (Leupold).

What help did God give David? He gave David physical healing (30:2b-3). David had been in danger of dying, but the Lord restored him to health. He gave David victory over his enemies. They wanted to gloat over his ruin, but God did not permit that to happen. We still have spiritual enemies who would gloat over our destruction, fall or disgrace. But remember the happy truth of 1 John 4:4. You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (CSB).

God lifted David up (30:1b). There is a great and mighty army of people whom God has lifted up, though their problems seemed beyond hope.

  • God lifted up Noah, when the whole race faced destruction
  • God lifted up Jacob, when he was a penniless refugee
  • God lifted up Joseph, when he was sold into slavery
  • God lifted up Gideon, when he hid in fear
  • God lifted up Ruth and Naomi, when they were poverty-stricken widows
  • God lifted up Elijah, when he was a downcast prophet
  • God lifted up Jeremiah, when his enemies had placed him in a well
  • God lifted up the woman at the well, when all despised her
  • God lifted up Peter, when he was a weeping apostle
  • God lifted up Paul, when he was a violent persecutor

How great is the grace of our God! As an old song says, “It is no secret, what God can do! What he’s done for others, he’ll do for you. With arms wide open, he’ll pardon you. It is no secret what God can do!” (Stuart Hamblen)

The God of grace has lifted us up as well! He has lifted us from the pit of hell, from the sewer of sin, from the swamp of depression, and from the slavery of doubts and fears. O brothers and sisters, will you glorify the Lord with me? Come; let us exalt his name forever (Psalm 34:3).

Grace and peace, David

By Faith Joseph (Part Two)

Genesis 50:22-26

In our previous post, we saw how Joseph completed his earthly pilgrimage with joy. We conclude this series on his life with this: By faith Joseph spoke about the future. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones (Hebrews 11:22 NASV).

For their immediate future, he encouraged them to rely on the Lord. He comforted them with the same comfort that he had received from his father (48:21). This is a pattern for our lives. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV). They who believe God’s promises are desirous of persuading others to believe also. That which had sustained him for over ninety years, he now leaves as a heritage of faith to his family.

Joseph had been the means of God’s support and protection for the family. Now that the means was passing away, what would become of the family? He directed them to the actual source of their security: The God who had made covenant promises to his people (50:24). “God’s gracious visits will serve to make up the loss of our best friends. They die; but we may live, and live comfortably, if we have the favor and presence of God with us” (Henry).

For the more distant future, he encouraged them to hope in God. God’s people must journey through this world with their hope (confident expectation) on what God has promised. We don’t look for satisfaction in this present world but in the world to come. Joseph’s family, which would become God’s covenant nation at Sinai, was not to look for satisfaction in Egypt. God had a better place for them, a place where they could flourish as his people. But they would not reach that land for many years. Until then, by faith Joseph spoke two messages of hope.

First, Joseph told them that God would come to their aid. Their way would eventually turn out to be bitter slavery. The people themselves would even turn to idols (Joshua 24:14). But God’s grace is greater than his people’s sins and sorrows. Hear the word of the Lord, “But God will surely come to your aid.”

Second, Joseph prophesied that God will surely take them to the land of promise. Egypt was not to be their home, and as a testimony to them, Joseph ordered that they take his bones out with them in the Exodus. Famous men often want to build monuments to their own honor in this world. Joseph was of a different spirit. Let Egypt do as it wished for the present; he had his sights set on a better country.

God’s people in all ages must keep their eyes on God’s promised rest for them. Let us remember where our home is. We are only strangers and pilgrims here. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth (Hebrews 11:13 NIV). We are looking for a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13).

Let’s focus on some lessons we can learn from Joseph’s life.

  • What made Joseph tick? He had surely seen God do great things for him and through him! But was his experience his consolation in the end? No, it was the word of God. His hope was in what God had “promised on oath” (50:24). Two unchangeable things sustained him at the end, God’s promise and oath (cf. Hebrews 6:18). We will do well to pay attention to the word of the prophets made more certain, for it is the word of God (2 Peter 1:19-21).
  • Let us not be weary of repetition. Joseph repeated that God would surely come to their aid. Weak minds continually lust after new, exotic, spicy spiritual and intellectual dishes. Strong minds are content to feed on meat and potatoes. Make God’s word your delight and rely on it; beware the opinions of people.
  • Joseph endured thirteen years of suffering, but he also enjoyed eighty years of honor. Let us not lose heart concerning any present suffering for Christ. He can abundantly reward us. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV).
  • A godly man may die in the Egypts of this world. That matters not. All the godly will share perfection together someday (Hebrews 11:40). O that it was today!

Grace and peace, David

Heaven (Part One)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV).

One of the privileges of being a pastor or elder is the spiritual care of God’s people, especially as they approach the end of their earthly journey. Then, we see together what is truly important in this life, and it is not houses, cars, career accomplishments, victories by our favorite sports teams, vacations, entertainment, and gourmet restaurants. At the end, family and friends matter most, and if we are wise, our approaching meeting with the Lord. Our present purpose is to examine what the Bible says about life after death for believers, about what most people refer to in a general sense by the word “heaven”.

What do we mean by heaven? The term is used in two general senses in relation to God’s purposes of salvation. The first refers to the past ages and this present age. When we speak of heaven in the first general sense, the term is used in to speak of:

  • The sky (Matthew 8:20; 16:2-3)
  • The region of the stars and galaxies (Acts 7:42: Hebrews 11:12)
  • The place in the present age where God reveals his glory, where Christ resides in his glorified humanity, and where the angels and the spirits of the justified currently reside (Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:45; 18:10; Luke 22:43; John 12:28; Acts 1:11; 3:24; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Galatians 1:8; Hebrews 8:1)

When we speak of heaven in the second general sense, which is the primary subject of this study, we are speaking of the eternal destiny of God and his people. In this second sense, we refer to the new heavens and the new earth, and what the Bible reveals about them. “Heaven is the place where God most fully makes known his presence to bless” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 1159).

Eternity is a most solemn and heart-searching subject. Our present life is but a very brief blip. Think on the following (cf. Ryle, Practical Religion, pp. 472-488):

  • We live in a world where all is temporary and passing way (2 Corinthians 4:18), whether beauty, strength, wisdom, or the worldly wealth we accumulate.
  • We are all going to a future where everything is eternal, whether for eternal happiness with God or for eternal misery under God’s wrath (Matthew 25:46)
  • Our state in eternity depends entirely on what we are in time (John 3:16-18, 36; Romans 2:6-7; Galatians 6:8)
  • The Lord Jesus Christ is the Great Friend to whom we must all look for help, both for time and for eternity (John 6:37-40; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:15; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18)

Next, consider the various terms used in the Scriptures to describe the future blessedness of the saints. Invest some of your time in reading and meditating on these verses.

  • Life, eternal life, live forever (Matthew 7:14; 19:16, 29; 25:46; John 5:24; 6:47, 54-58)
  • Glory, the glory of God, an eternal weight of glory (Romans 2:7, 10; 5:2; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 3:21; Colossians 3:4; 2 Timothy 2:10)
  • My Father’s house, home with the Lord (John 14:2; 2 Corinthians 5:8)
  • Peace (Romans 2:10)
  • Salvation, eternal salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Hebrews 5:9; 9:28)
  • Paradise (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7)
  • The Jerusalem that is above, the city with foundations, the heavenly Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 11:10, 16; 12:22; Revelation 3:12)
  • A better country (Hebrews 11:16)
  • The kingdom, heavenly kingdom, eternal kingdom (Matthew 8:11; 25:34; 2 Timothy 4:18; 2 Peter 1:11)
  • Eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 1:4)
  • Eternal dwellings (Luke 16:9)
  • Glorious freedom (Romans 8:21)
  • To live and reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:11-12)
  • Heaven (Matthew 5:12; 6:20; 19:21; Luke 12:33; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Peter 1:4)
  • New heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1)

Each of the above ought to stir the hearts of followers of the Lord Jesus. They tell us what to set our minds upon. Make room for heaven in your thoughts today!

Grace and peace, David

Resettlement

SAMSUNG

Genesis 47:1-10

Change happens. Change can be unavoidable, as it was for Jacob and his family. God can bring circumstances to us that require us to change, like finding a new job or school, like dealing with the suddenly impaired health of a family member or grief in our separation from them. We must be prepared to act wisely and in faith in new situations. We should act diligently when change comes to us. For example, if you have a flood in your house, (I speak from experience here), you call the insurance and start to clean up. You don’t let the situation drag on and on. Pick up the trash, put it in the dumpster, and have the dumpster taken away as quickly as possible. We must act as swiftly as is prudent and possible in other change situations. God told Jacob to relocate to Egypt, and Joseph, due to his position, took charge in resettling his family. Let’s look at Joseph’s wise policy.

The usual way that men act, who are in positions of authority, is to do everything to advance the prominence and wealth of their family. However, Joseph acted prudently and discreetly to preserve his family’s identity as a separate people. This is in line with God’s plan to make them into a great nation. God had told Abraham generations previously that Israel’s future lay in oppression by Egypt, not in becoming part of it. So, Joseph did not seek influential positions for them at court.

It is obvious that Pharaoh is very pleased with Joseph. He probably would have rewarded his brothers with any titles and positions that Joseph requested for them. But Joseph resisted. All opportunities are not God’s opportunities. Jonah found a boat going away from God’s will. As has been said, some open doors lead to empty elevator shafts. There are many temptations involved in politics, like power-mongering, greed, and sexual immorality. Joseph did not thrust his brothers into positions that they probably, given their history, were unprepared to handle properly. Like other vocations, politics involves a call from God.

Joseph did seek a place where his family could maintain their own identity. In Goshen, they were away from the affairs of state, yet it was a fertile area where they could thrive as shepherds. Don’t despise your Goshen. The Lord has you in a place where you can thrive spiritually. You may not gain much earthly wealth here, but it may be the best place for you to lay up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).

Joseph emphasized their earthly calling. Shepherds were detestable to the Egyptians. If they were known to be shepherds, then the Egyptians would gladly leave them separate from the mainstream of society. In this way, they became outcasts from the world. Joseph “would rather have them to be an abomination than a delight to the Egyptians. Egypt’s frown is better for them than Egypt’s flattery and fellowship” (Candlish). The same holds true for us. “The world’s hatred is safer for the friends of Jesus than the world’s smiles” (Candlish, cf. Lk 6:22.).

To cement their position in the land of Egypt, Jacob met Pharaoh (47:7-10). He went to Pharaoh with a blessing. This may seem strange to the worldly-minded person. What could Jacob give to Pharaoh, ruler of the world’s greatest empire? The eye of faith can see what the worldly eye cannot. Who is Jacob? A detestable old shepherd before a great king? No, he is a child of the King of kings, one who will someday reign with the Lord Christ, and Jacob approached a needy beggar who happened to wear royal robes. What else could Jacob do but give a blessing? God’s people should always try to be a blessing to a needy world. Therefore, let us be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.

However, all Jacob’s words were not words of blessing. Yes, Jacob could acknowledge his misery in this world. Surely, he must speak the truth. But where was his faith? Why not add, “But God has helped me all the way?” Let not God’s people give a wrong view of service to the King of kings. We may wear the scars of many battles for our King, but let us speak of the eternal reward he has promised. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:16-18).

Grace and peace, David

Reunion

Genesis 46:28-30

Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time. Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive” (NIV).

We have seen God’s power at work many times in the life of Joseph. God spoke to Joseph through dreams, enabled him to interpret dreams, protected him from death a couple times, and helped him to endure terrible suffering and the near loss of hope. God also raised him from slavery and imprisonment to become the second in command in the kingdom of Egypt. In this section, we see God at work in a different way.

This incident is one of those times in the Scriptures when faith became sight, when hope received its fulfillment. Events of this type are recorded in the Bible for our encouragement, in order that we may have hope. For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope (Romans 15:4 NIV). Another example would be when the disciples saw Jesus risen from the dead. Let us remember that all Scripture is useful for training in righteousness. Instead of running to the Psalms automatically in your troubles, it might be to your profit to meditate on the historical parts of the Scriptures when you are depressed or discouraged. Think on what God has done for his people in the past and what he is able to do for you.

Jacob and the son he thought was dead had a happy reunion. Here is the mutual love of a godly father and his son for each other. The Holy Spirit shows the reality of these people. They were not wind-up, super-spiritual dolls. They had strong affections just as we do. God approves of such displays of love. Think of the reception of the lost son (cf. Luke 15:20). It is very manly and good to express love for one’s family like they did. There is a strange idea that has been circulating for many years: “Big boys don’t cry.” Perhaps boys don’t, for big boys often have mistaken notions of maturity. But godly men cry when it is appropriate (John 11:35; Philippians 3:18; Psalm 126:5-6).

Jacob acquiesced to what God had done: “Now I am ready to die….” He had seen the fulfillment of a dream. His dearly loved son is alive! God’s word has been proved true! Consider Simeon’s joy at seeing the infant Messiah (Luke 2:28-32).

Yet again, Jacob was mistaken in a way. He was ready to die, but it was not yet his time. In fact, Jacob still had 17 years to live (cf. 47:28). Over the years of being a pastor, I have seen many people live much longer than what the medical professionals thought possible. It is good to be ready to face the Lord, but we cannot determine that any particular event (except salvation) makes us ready. So then, don’t quit too soon! You don’t know what job the Lord might yet have for you to do for him. Old age brings a decline in strength, but it adds the benefit of vast life experience. Use what God gives you for his glory.

Grace and peace, David

A Father’s Fortress (Part Two)

Proverbs 14:26-27

Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death (NIV).

What are the benefits of the fear of the Lord? The man who fears the Lord has a “secure fortress”. He has strength—a stronghold or a strong tower (Proverbs 18:10). Whatever troubles come his way, he can trust in the Lord’s strength (Psalm 61:1-3; 62:5-7). A man, a father needs strength that is far greater than his, in order to handle all life’s pressures. There are many matters beyond his ability. “How can I have a great relationship with my wife? Sometimes we seem to be from different planets! How can I provide for my family? I work hard, but a hundred and fifty dollars seems to buy fewer bags of groceries every week! How can I guide my children in the right way? Everyone else seems to have their attention except me! How can I serve the Lord? Too much else demands my constant efforts!” The answer is found in the strength or security of the Lord’s Almighty power.

He has a fortress—a place of confident expectation (hope). The word translated “fortress” in the NIV in this text has the idea of “the feeling of being safe or secure.” While it means trust, it has the sense of hope. A man’s hope in God is not a questioning sort that seems to be mere wishing, but a confident expectation. It lays hold of God’s trustworthiness. A man who has a strong trust does not act like those who worship false gods and who try to control everything by their ability or sacred rituals. Instead, he relies on the God he can’t control, who nevertheless has pledged to be faithful to whoever trusts in him. An unbeliever wants a god he can control. A believer worships the God he can’t control, but who is totally faithful. And he is content and feels safe in this fortress.

The man who fears the Lord has a “fountain of life”. Since he is convinced of God’s surpassing worthiness, he gains various benefits. In God’s word, he has the “teaching of the wise” (Proverbs 13:14). He has a standard of judgment he can evaluate life by. This gives him understanding (Proverbs 16:22). He can escape the punishment that is the destiny of fools. He recognizes God as the source of life (Psalm 36:9). He does not turn aside to manmade cisterns that break and cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:13). This is because he has received Christ, who is the fountain of life (John 4:13-14). With Christ as his fortress and fountain, the man who fears the Lord has all that he needs for life and godliness. Do you rejoice that you have all you need in Christ?

What is the outlook of the fear of the Lord? The man who fears the Lord has something to offer to his children. What does the worldly focused man have for his children? Perhaps he goes and watches their ballgames, puts food on the table and gives them a shelter from the weather, shows up for their graduations and weddings, and leaves something for them in his will—maybe, if anything is left. Is that all you want from your life? Is that all you can give to your children? The man who fears the Lord has something better for his children. Since he knows the Lord as his secure fortress and fountain of life, he can point to his children and say, “This is the way of true joy and peace. Don’t waste your lives on the pursuit of lesser things. God will be your refuge, too!”

The man who fears the Lord knows what turns aside death. Yes, we all have to die, but for the man who fears the Lord, physical death is but the passing to be with the Lord and eternal life. Why is this? The man who fears the Lord knows that the “sting of death is sin, and the power of the sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56). So, he knows he can escape the power of death through Jesus Christ. He says, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV). I know him who has conquered sin and death. His word teaches me to turn aside from its snares to follow and to trust in the Lord Jesus, who is the fountain of life.” This is the confident expectation of the man who fears the Lord. Is he your fortress and fountain?

Grace and peace, David

Fill Them, Lord (Part One)

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (NIV).

The letter to the Romans is a peerless explanation of the good news of justifying grace. Throughout its length, Paul opened gospel treasures. Our text is the concluding verse of the instructional part of Romans. How will the apostle sum up what he has said? He finishes with a prayer for his readers. Plainly, Paul wants his readers to experience the fullness of gospel grace. Therefore, he calls out to God Most High. His request can be prefaced this way. “Fill them, Lord. Fill them with the most wonderful of your blessings. Then they will be able to live properly for you.”

While I am thankful what the sound teaching I received as a new follower of Jesus Christ, I wish I would have known what is recorded here. It would have helped much during the early years of my walk with God. But none of us can change the past. Let us, then, go forward in the light of this truth!

The apostle worships the living God. Three general observations about this worship.

  • We are too brief in our prayers. We do not invest proper time in conversing with him. God is not a convenience store, where we rush in and rush out.
  • When we begin with worship, we show that it is our chief concern to honor God. If we’re not thinking this way, it shows a clear need for repentance in agreement with the first great commandment. We will then reflect the glory of the Holy One through how we pray.
  • Proper form. When we pray, it is good to address him with his characteristics that are most agreeable with errand we come upon. By so doing we confess his ability to provide what we ask. It is like getting in the correct lane on an interstate highway. In some places in our area, they have painted road markers on the lanes, so that drivers know ahead of time which lane to take. Learn the attributes of God and learn to get in the correct lanes.

Here we encounter a specific example of proper worship. To do this requires a Biblical view of God. A study of the prayers in the Bible can be a helpful refresher course on this subject. Learning from the prayers of the Bible is like having a professional instructor by your side. You not only do a better job, but you also know that you’re doing well.

Hope is confident expectation. Hope energizes every saint to endure in service to the Lord and others. Why is he called the God of hope? This is God’s essential character. He looks forward to the day of his appointed victory. Do you think that the Lord is in danger of losing? Perhaps this is what has happened to some people. They’ve counted heads and wrongly concluded that they were on the wrong team. They lack the zeal to pray with other believers. United prayer doesn’t excite them. They sit and stare at the news, which leads them into deeper depths of hopelessness. It is time to get out of that swamp of depression. Seek out prayer times with other believers. In the practice of prayer, you will experience that God gives hope. The apostle’s prayer depends on this fact. The Lord himself is the hope of his people. He is our portion, inheritance, and dwelling-place (cf. Psalms 73:24-26; 90:1; Revelation 21:3). Draw near to him this weekend. Lord, please fill your people!

Grace and peace, David

On the Pilgrim Way (Part One)

Hebrews 6:11

Now we desire each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the full assurance of your hope until the end (CSB).

Sharon and I recently watched a series of video lectures on Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Many times the lecturer pointed out how Bunyan portrayed the concern of pastors and other ministers for people on pilgrimage. He also commented many times on Bunyan’s emphasis on perseverance. Perhaps both were on my mind the other day as I read the second half of Hebrews six.

In our time in our culture, professing Christians have taken a strange turn from the concepts of pilgrimage and perseverance. For too many, it has become a quasi-religious, entertainment, program-driven experience. It has become something for them to consume. But Christianity is a way of life in which believers endure or persevere to the end. Christians are on a journey to the heavenly city and ought to be motivated with that goal in their thoughts. So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2 CSB). As a minister of Jesus Christ and the gospel, I want to encourage you to follow Christ in the walk of love, and as this and the next verse declares, the walk of faith and hope. One of the first hymns that I can remember hearing says, “O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way, leaning on the everlasting arms.” Our way of life is one of “Leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus, safe and secure from all alarms.” I want to build you up to diligently pursue your hope.

However, we should not skip over the opening words.

The Spirit says through the writer, “Now we desire each of you….” Desire is a strong word. It is used for greediness (Romans 13:9), hunger (Luke 15:16; 16:21), and sexual lust (Matthew 5:28). Ministers, pastors, and elders ought to show a deep desire for the spiritual well-being and progress of those to whom they minister. Part of the problem with American churches is that the pastor(s) and elders are much more interested in running a business than in caring for and nurturing people. As one of these neglected saints recently said of her church leaders, “All that matters is money.” Very sad!

The task of Christ’s servants is to serve him by serving his dearly loved people. They ought to, we dare to say, lust for their spiritual good. If you deeply desire someone, you make sure you are with them, you show that you care about them, and you shower them with kindness. This is a task for spiritually mature people, who possess a strong faith that their Father in heaven has already met their needs.

This strong desire is for each of you. Yes, everyone who is part of a local gathering of believers. However, local churches have become places where the oldest are neglected and the older leaders forced out. The rich are loved, while the poor are mere ministry “projects” or worse. And we could list others. But Christ’s servants are to have a deep desire for the imitation of the Lord Jesus in everyone.

Pray for leaders of your local church that possess strong desires for the spiritual progress of all its people. Pray that the Spirit of the Lord would transform the leaders, so that they follow Christ and pursue others to join them on the heavenward journey. “O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way!”

Grace and peace, David

The Importance of the Resurrection (Part Two)

Romans 10:9-10

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (NIV).

In our previous post on these verses, we saw that Christ’s resurrection is the fulfillment of his crucifixion. Yes, God the Father sent his Son as the Lamb of God to take away our sins, but he also sent him to rise the third day. What did God intend through the resurrection?

Belief in Christ’s resurrection means salvation. Let’s begin with the place of belief—“in your heart”

What is the meaning of the heart? So often in our culture we use heart in reference to the emotions. But in the Bible the heart is the center of personality, which includes the mind and will, along with the emotions. It determines what a person is.

So then, to believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead means that the truth of Christ’s resurrection has so secured the consent of what we are that it determines all our convictions about religion and life. Think of a farmer planting his corn. The seed is sown in the ground, and as it grows, a mature corn plant develops. So it is spiritually, the Holy Spirit puts the truth of Jesus and his resurrection in the heart, and a life develops that conforms to that truth.

The person that is Christian in name, but not in reality, may agree to the fact of the resurrection intellectually, but the truth of Jesus and the resurrection has not taken over his life. Contrast this with the apostle Paul (Acts 17:18, 30-31). What has happened in your heart?

The happy result of this kind of belief—“you will be saved”. What does it mean to be saved? To be saved is to be rescued from the holy wrath of God that is against sinners because of our rebellion against God and his laws and to be brought into the possession of eternal life and joy (Romans 4:5-8; 5:1-2, 9-11). Observe carefully that the Scriptures speak with certainty at this point—“you will be saved.” There is nothing of a “hope so” attitude or a “blind leap of faith”. Not, not at all! Instead, we read a solemn guarantee. Read Romans 8:31-39. Do you have this certain hope?

The belief that saves produces a grand outward confession—“Jesus is Lord”. The confession, “Jesus is Lord,” refers to the lordship that Jesus has because he died and rose again. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living (Romans 14:9 NIV).

  • Since Jesus is Lord, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (Matthew 28:18).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, there is a message of the good news of peace to all (Acts 10:36).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, he rules over all for the good of his church (Ephesians 1:22).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, all angels, authorities and powers are subject to him (1 Peter 3:22).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, he is waiting for his enemies to become his footstool (Acts 2:34-36; Hebrews 10:13).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, he has poured out the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, he is exalted to the highest place, has a name above every name, and every knee will bow to him and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

“The thing to be confessed is that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is, we must openly recognize his authority to the full extent in which he is Lord; acknowledge that he is exalted above all principality and powers, that angels are made subject to him, that all power in heaven and earth is committed unto him, and of course that he is our Lord. This confession, therefore, includes in it an acknowledgment of Christ’s universal sovereignty, and a sincere recognition of his authority over us. To confess Christ as Lord, is to acknowledge him as the Messiah, recognized as such of God, and invested with all the power and prerogatives of the Mediatorial throne” (Hodge). The Christian recognizes Christ’s lordship and bows before him now. But what of you?

The confession, “Jesus is Lord,” is the fruit of faith in his resurrection. Someone might say, but confession is mentioned before belief, so how can it be the fruit of faith? The answer is simple. The apostle is following the order mentioned in verse eight. “Confession is here put before faith, as it is confession which gives visibility to faith—Paul following the order suggested by the words of Moses” (Brown). Notice also how he turns confession and faith around in verse ten.

Confession with the mouth is evidence of genuine faith in the heart. If someone believes that Jesus Christ is risen and so has become Lord of all, he/she will confess that verbally and openly. “Confession verifies and confirms the faith of the heart” (Murray).

A person “becomes righteous, perfectly righteous, through believing God’s record concerning His Son. But the evidence that this faith is genuine is found in the open confession of the Lord with the mouth in everything in which His will is known. Confession of Christ is as necessary as faith in Him, but necessary for a different purpose. Faith is necessary to obtain the gift of righteousness. Confession is necessary to prove that this gift is received” (Haldane).

“Those who are ashamed or afraid to acknowledge Christ before men, cannot expect to be saved. The want of courage to confess, is decisive evidence of the want of heart to believe, vers. 9, 10” (Hodge). Since Jesus Christ is risen indeed and is Lord over all, shouldn’t you bow in faith before him and trust him as your righteousness and so be saved?

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Five)

 Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you (Jeremiah 32:17 ESV).

God is unlimited in regard to power; that is, he can do anything that is in conformity with his nature and that he in his holy wisdom chooses to do and in the way he chooses to do it. The theological word for this truth is omnipotence. Neither the grace of his love nor the wrath of his justice can be hindered. He has the all-ability necessary to carry out his plans. The creation itself is testimony to his infinite power (Romans 1:20). The Scriptures many times assert the all-powerfulness of God. Numerous times he is called “Almighty” (Genesis 17:1) or the “All-powerful One” (Revelation 1:8). (See, for example, Zechariah 8 where this idea is used of God 17 times!) Nothing in creation can stop God from doing what he wants to do (Genesis 18:14; Job 42:2; Psalm 115:3; Jeremiah 32:17, 27; Daniel 4:35; Matthew 19:26; Mark 14:36; Luke 1:37; Ephesians 1:19-20; 3:20). Human agency has no bearing upon God’s power (Exodus 15:6-12; 1 Samuel 14:6; Proverbs 21:1).

God reveals his omnipotence in various ways:

  • Creation – Genesis 1:1, 3; etc.; Exodus 20:11; Psalm 24:1-2; Psalm 33:6-9; Jeremiah 10:12; John 1:3; Acts 17:24; Revelation 14:7
  • Preservation – Psalm 66:9; 104:10-15; Matthew 5:45; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3
  • Protection – 2 Chronicles 14:11-12; Isaiah 14:24-27; 46:4
  • Miracles – Exodus 3:20; 7:3-5; Matthew 8:3; Luke 8:24; John 11:43-44
  • Judgment – Ezekiel 22:13-16; Revelation 20:11-15

“As holiness is the beauty, so power is the life of all his attributes in their exercise; and as holiness, so power is an adjunct belonging to all, a term that may be given to all. God hath a powerful wisdom to attain his ends without interruption; he hath a powerful mercy to remove our misery; a powerful justice to lay all misery upon offenders; he hath a powerful truth to perform his promises; an infinite power to bestow rewards and inflict penalties. It is to this purpose power is first put in the two things which the Psalmist had heard (Psalm 62:11-12)” (Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 2, pp. 15-16).

“Get an interest in God, and then this glorious power is engaged for you. He gives it under his hand, that he will put forth the whole power of his Godhead for the good of his people… It is a comfort in several cases” (Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 81).

  • He can give us power against our remaining sin (Galatians 5:16)
  • He has power to keep us from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13)
  • He is sufficient to support us in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • He can provide for our needs (Matthew 6:30)
  • He is able to protect us from our enemies (Romans 8:31)
  • He will raise us to eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:57)

This attribute of God fuels the faith and hope of his people. We can trust the Holy One, who is able to do much more than we ask or imagine. We can confidently expect eternal glory, because he can get us to be with him forever.

Grace and peace, David