The Dawn of a New Era

Luke 1:11-18

He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God (Luke 1:15b-16 CSB).

Excitement undoubtedly filled the hearts of Zechariah and Elizabeth, because this was to be a special day. Zechariah the priest had been chosen by lot to offer incense before the Lord in the temple. He boldly entered to do what the law covenant required, and at that moment his life, and the lives of all people began to change, for the Lord was about to make a joyful announcement. But Zechariah knew nothing about God’s message until he entered the temple. The Lord often surprises people when he steps into their lives by his grace. Can you remember when God came to you with a powerful, joyful message? What did he experience when God spoke to him that day?

  • Zechariah was startled and afraid when he saw the angel next to the altar of incense (1:12). We all can understand his fear. Who hasn’t felt alarmed when someone suddenly pops out of hiding? Plus, this was a messenger from the heavenly realm. We’re not accustomed to receiving spiritual visitors. Zechariah is not to be blamed for his reaction.
  • Zechariah heard that his prayer had been answered (1:13). His prayer was to have a son. To have children was very important for God’s people under the law covenant. Since Zechariah was a priest, it was not a matter of passing an inheritance in the Promised Land unto his son, but it was a sign of God’s blessing (Deuteronomy 28:1-4; Psalm 127:3-5). The angel told him that Elizabeth, who had been barren, would be blessed and bear a son, whom they were to name John.
  • Zechariah received information about caring for his son (1:14-15). The birth of John would signal the start of the new covenant age. Not only the happy couple find delight in their son, but many people will rejoice because of his birth. The kingdom of God is a matter of joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17 NIV) and the fruit of the Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22). The time of the promise of the Spirit was about to arrive, and the Spirit comes to produce life (Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5). At the end of the old covenant age, John was to be consecrated to God like a Nazarite (Numbers 6:1-4). The Holy Spirit would fill John from his mother’s womb to do the work that God had called John to do.
  • Zechariah learned the mission of his son (1:16-18). John would be the promised forerunner of the Lord Messiah (Malachi 3:5; 4:5-6; Isaiah 40:3-5). The I AM, Yahweh, was about to come to his people and to enter the temple. John’s task would be to call the people out to the wilderness of a new Exodus, that the Lord himself would accomplish (cf. Luke 9:31). He was to seek a turning or repentance in the hearts of the people. This would involve a restoration of relationships among the people and to wisdom, as in the book of Proverbs. When the Lord himself stepped on the scene, there would be people ready to follow him (cf. John 1:35-51).

So then, Zechariah received exciting news! A new era in the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ was about to begin. He ought to have worshiped joyfully. We who have heard the good news should be filled with joy, because the Anointed Savior and Lord has come. But are we? Or do other concerns fill our hearts? Are we ready for the return of our Lord? Read Luke 12:35-40.

Grace and peace, David

Changing Moods (Part One)

Psalm 30:6-7, 11-12

When I was secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you showed your favor, you made me stand like a strong mountain; when you hid your face, I was terrified… You turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to you and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever (CSB).

In previous posts on Psalm thirty, we considered the relationship between God and his people. Since we are in a covenant relationship with God, he lifts us up when we call to him in prayer, and we joyfully respond by lifting him up in our praise. But as any believer in the Lord knows, we do not always feel the joy that belongs to us through our union with the joyful Lord: You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11 NASV). So, what happens to us? Why can we feel happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8 NLT) one day, and the next feel discouraged, downcast and sorrowful? Part of this experience flows from the changing ways we interact with our God, and the changing moods that come from that interaction. Let us look at this together.

Understand clearly that it is spiritually normal for the people of God to have varying moods. We can see this in David’s experience; we all struggle through this in our own experience. Depending on your personality, you may have a greater difficulty with this than other believers.

God’s people will feel a sense of security at times. To feel secure for the proper reasons is the correct emotional state for a believer. The Bible never presents insecurity as an ideal (cf. Romans 8:38-39; Acts 18:19-20; Philippians 4:4-7, 19; 2 Timothy 1:12).

However, we need to distinguish between spiritual and fleshly security. Spiritual security rests in the Lord (Psalm 28:6-9). Fleshly security rests in oneself or one’s blessings or performance (Dt 8:10-18; Ho 13:4-6).

Think of Mr. Carnal Security in John Bunyan’s The Holy War. (By the way, if you haven’t read this book, I encourage you to do so. He misled the godly inhabitants of the town of Mansoul with deceptive promises of fleshly ease. What would make you feel good about yourself? Your answer will be a signpost pointing to what you really think makes you feel secure. Let’s think about a related question. What would make you feel good about the local church you attend? Be honest!

At other times, God’s people may feel a sense of spiritual depression. Though the Bible does not present spiritual depression as an ideal, it does teach that believers can and do enter into a depressed condition (Psalm 42:1-5; Galatians 4:15). God desires that his children live in joy and peace (Romans 15:13). Yet his children can get themselves into such difficulties that they lose their sense of felt peace and joy. Otherwise, why would the Scriptures encourage us to lay hold of these by faith? In this place, David tells us the he was dismayed. The Hebrew word is a strong way to express being troubled. The normal course of David’s life had become unsettled! So it is when any believer falls into this state. In the Pilgrim’s Progress Christian lost his assurance on Hill Difficulty.

At yet other times, God’s people may feel a sense of joy. The Lord granted David help through this experience, so that David would rejoice again. When David had a sense of joy, he would be able to praise the Lord. God wants his people to be joyful. He wants us to experience joy in him (Philippians 3:1; 4:4). Seek the Lord and find his joy in him.

Grace and peace, David

God and His People (Part One)

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).

What should we think of the relationship between God and his people? Do you experience God interacting with you? Do you think that God gets involved in your life? Do you get involved with God? How does this happen? The exact occasion of this psalm cannot be determined. Even the heading of the psalm can be read in various ways (compare the NIV footnote). But this psalm does show the interaction between God and his people during his people’s difficulties. This psalm discloses the boldness of a saint (that is, a true believer) before his covenant God. We should learn how God’s children should approach him during troubles with the pure confidence that agrees with the saint’s position by grace before the Lord.

Consider the desire of a rescued person. I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up (30:1). The person whom God has delivered from difficulties desires to make known the truth that God is great and glorious. This desire is the response of gratitude. For example, a student who has been helped by a teacher will defend that teacher though other students despise him or her, if there is gratitude in that student’s heart.

This desire is evangelistic in spirit. The rescued person wants others to praise the God who saves (30:4). When people have been helped by someone (like a doctor) or by something (like medicine), they do tell others. The deeper the sense of help, the more fervent desire to tell others. The woman at the well went back into the city to tell everyone she met that she had found the Messiah (John 4). Here is the church’s purpose of evangelism. How are we doing in fulfilling this purpose?

This desire is determined in this course of action (cf. 30:12b). David has one goal—to always praise the Lord (cf. Psalm 27:4-6). We live during a time of distraction rather than focused action. People see too many things to do, and so they endlessly flit from one thing to another. But a sense of what is truly worthy of our lives leads us to life goals, like we see in this verse.

The person whom God has delivered rejoices in exalting his Lord (cf. 30:11). David is careful to point out that God’s deliverance ended in joy for him. It is like David is saying, “Yes, my God did correct me during this time of my life, but he meant it for my good (cf. Gen 50:20; Rm 8:28). For this reason, the product was his joy in God. When we travel through a “long dark tunnel” of our life’s journey, we can lose sight of this much too easily. Then we must believe that God will work for our ultimate joy. Someone might ask, “How can I do this?” You need to think and meditate on God’s holy character and then rest on him. There is no substitute for humble faith in the Holy God.

David was stirred deeply in the inner person of the heart. Notice his repeated “O Lord” throughout this psalm. True spiritual experience of the Lord and his grace overflows into an intense verbal expression like “O”. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:11 ESV). Let us draw near to the Lord our God. In him we find restoration and refreshment for our souls.

Grace and peace, David

Holy Desires (Part Two)

Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers (NIV).

Since the Lord desires our joy, he urges us to turn from every path that would ruin us. The Lord tells us that the happy person does not delight in close companionship with people that he describes as wickedsinnersmockers. People so described do not manifest love for God or godly people in their attitudes, words, and actions. They must be avoided as close friends, because close friends become our “counselors”. They advise us not only by their words, but also by their way of life that they want us to share with them.

The psalmist sings of the importance of the mind. The struggle for our lives begins with our minds. Let’s think a little about how our minds get “tied” up in things. Our minds meditate on various thoughts of differing degrees of truth and value. A running back for the Eagles needs to know the offensive playbook thoroughly; it would be a waste of time for me to learn it, if I could. No one needs to know how to tell a lie, because we all are supposed to tell the truth. However, everyone should know how to be right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. From our thoughts, we form ideas—about God, ourselves, morals, etc., which control our viewpoints on life. Out of our ideas come our feelings or emotions, whether love, fear, joy, hope, etc. Our ideas and emotions join to determine the decisions we make

Everyone is giving and taking advice from others through various channels, such as friendship, books, movies, magazines, TV and radio talk shows, web pages, blogs, social media, schools, churches, and so on. Have you ever mistakenly said to someone, “I’d like to lose a few pounds.” What do you instantly hear—a ton of advice about diets and exercise, especially if that person has actually been successful about losing some weight! Giving advice is okay. Christians are called to be counselors. I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another (Romans 15:14). However, be sure that the advice you give is true and workable.

The Lord warns us about evil counsel. Sinful advice will affect your life in three ways. First, it will provide you wrong ideas to think about (“counsel of the ungodly”). Second, it will shape your behavior (“the way of sinners”). And third, it will change whom you feel you belong to (“seat of mockers”). Your attitude toward people will change. Where you drop your anchor is where your boat is going to end up.

To consider this a slightly different way, the psalmist paints of a picture of what happens to a person. If you listen to ungodly advice, you will shift to an ungodly lifestyle, which will result in attitudes that are far from God. A mocker is a person farthest from the point of having a change of mind (repentance). Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV).

Grace and peace, David

Holy Desires (Part One)

Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers (NIV).

As I write, we are in the second week of preseason football. In our locality, that means the Philadelphia Eagles, and I’m sure that every Eagle’s fan has a great desire to see them win. There is certainly nothing wrong in becoming a little enthusiastic about a sporting event, provided that you don’t let that control your life! Hopefully, the Eagles will have a successful season, although they face determined opponents; if they do, we will celebrate their victory.

God has given us many desires. The desire for victory is just one of them. God has made us to enjoy many things—food, water, beauty, rest, and so on. Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV). Our problem is not that we want to enjoy what God has given us for our enjoyment, but it is that we have too narrow an interest in what we want to enjoy, and far too often, we want to enjoy forbidden pleasures—things and activities that distract from God’s glory and ruin us—what the Bible calls sin. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

In a few articles, I want to direct our attention to holy desires. I call them holy desires, not to give the impression that some good things and actions are sacred and others secular, but because this psalm presents a desire for what is good in contrast to what is wicked. The First Psalm provides a series of contrasts between those who follow the Lord by faith and those who reject him and live according to human wisdom. What we want to focus on is the contrast between the godly and the ungodly regarding counsel or advice.

God wants us to live happy lives. We need to give an important clarification. When I say that the Lord God wants us to live happy lives, I am far from suggesting that the worthiness of a thought, word, action, or thing is determined by whether or not it makes you and me happy. Worthiness and holiness is always determined by God’s holiness and glory, whether we happen to like something or not. We know what God’s glory and holiness is from the Bible, God’s message. I am sure that the apostles totally disliked the experience of being flogged, but they came to know a greater joy in suffering for the glory of Jesus Christ. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Acts 5:41 NIV).

The correct nature of this statement is revealed through the many times that God in the Scriptures marks out for us what a happy life is.

  • Many statements in the Psalms – 1:2; 2:12; 32:1-2; 34:8; 40:4; 41:1-2; 65:4; 84:4-5, 12; 89:15; 94:12; 106:3; 112:1; 119:1-2; 128:1
  • The teaching of Jesus – Mt 5:3-12; 16:17; Lk 6:20-23; 11:28

Do we have a correct understanding of God? He really wants what is for our good. God knows where human happiness can be found, since he knows everything, he designed us to rejoice in God’s glory, and he tells us how we can have happy lives. Will we believe God?

Grace and peace, David

Blessing and Encouragement (Part One)

Genesis 48:8-22

It is remarkable that at the end of his life, Jacob became a prophet. He still had important work to do for the Lord. The latter days of God’s servants can be their best. Moses served the Lord constantly in the last third of his life. Don’t moan your way to glory. Trust God for grace and strength to glorify and to serve him until your last day.

In our text, we first see some common matters of life. When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?” “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father. Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.” Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them. Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” (Genesis 48:8-11 NIV).

Jacob was blind because of his age. It is a weakness of our fallen race (Ecclesiastes 12:3). Everyone who lives by sight rather than by faith will eventually lose their guide. Old age has burdens along with its blessings. You can’t have one without the other. But you can rejoice in what the Lord does in your weakness (cf. Romans 8:26; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17). The eye of faith may be clear when the eye of the flesh is very cloudy. You can see the kingdom of God when you can’t see the kingdoms of this world. By faith like Abraham, look for the city that has foundations (Hebrews 11:10). This we ought to do, rather than groan about the weakness of our failing bodies.

Jacob was affectionate toward his grandsons. He thought he would never see Joseph again, but he had the joy of seeing Joseph’s sons. Older people often have a special affection for their grandchildren, perhaps even more than they had toward their children. Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers (Proverbs 17:6 ESV). In his providence, God often blesses his people beyond what they might expect. Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3 CSB). “God is much better to us than our fears; yea, far better than our hopes” (Spurgeon).

Jacob and Joseph acknowledged God’s providence in their lives. Joseph praised God for the children he gave him. Jacob rejoiced that he could see Joseph and his sons after years of thinking Joseph was dead and sons had never been born to him. Every good thing we enjoy is sweetened when we see that all comes from the hand of a loving Father. Here is the way for the godly to talk. Neither father nor son praised the false goddess Luck, but the true GOD. For what five blessings are you thankful to God right now?

Grace and peace, David


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

The Attributes of God (Part Twelve)

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain (Psalm 139:1-6 NIV).

Each of the “omni” attributes can be very unsettling to humans, and it is good to be disturbed, if this disruption leads us to draw near to God and to worship and trust him. God’s omniscience means that the Lord knows everything. He knows all that has happened, is happening, and will ever happen (Genesis 15:13-16; Isaiah 42:9; Daniel 2:22; Matthew 6:8) in the whole universe. God knows what could happen, though it does not (Genesis 20:6). God does not acquire knowledge; he does not need to be taught; in fact, he cannot learn because he already knows. Such knowledge is far beyond human experience, since we know so little and are always learning new information.

The classic passage setting forth God’s omniscience is Psalm 139:1-6, but God tells us that he is all knowing in many ways (1 Samuel 2:3). God has perfect knowledge (Job 37:16; Romans 11:33; Hebrews 4:13), and it is beyond our feeble understanding (Isaiah 40:28). God knows the hearts (inner personal beings) of all people (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 7:9; 94:11; Proverbs 15:11; Jeremiah 17:10; Ezekiel 11:5; Acts 1:24; 1 John 3:19-20; Revelation 2:23). He knows where we are (2 Kings 19:27; Job 23:10), what we do (Psalm 33:13-15; Proverbs 5:21; 15:3; Hosea 7:2), how we suffer (Exodus 3:7), and what we desire (Psalm 38:9). He fully understands what we do in secret (Psalm 90:8; Matthew 6:4, 18). He knows all about his creation (Matthew 6:8, 32; 10:29-30), including all that is beyond our discovery (Psalm 147:4-5). God’s has perfect knowledge of future events and so he can perfectly predict what will happen (Isaiah 44:7-8, 24-28). This all-knowledge is clearly related to God’s sovereign purpose (Isaiah 46:9-11)

“Neither the darkness of night, the closest curtains, nor the deepest dungeon can hide any sinner from the eyes of Omniscience. The trees of the garden were not able to conceal our first parents. No human eye beheld Cain murder his brother, but His Maker witnessed his crime. Sarah might laugh derisively in the seclusion of her tent, yet it was heard by Jehovah. Achan stole a wedge of gold and carefully hid it in the earth, but God brought it to light. David was at much pains to cover up his wickedness, but ere long the all-seeing God sent one of His servants to say to him, ‘Thou are the man!’ And to writer and reader is also said, ‘Be sure your sin will find you out’ (Numbers 32:23)” (Pink, Attributes of God, p. 14]

What about prayer? Should we pray if God knows everything? What reason do we have for prayer, if we are not informing God of our needs? To ask such questions is to misunderstand the nature of prayer. True prayer is a believer’s communication with God (Psalm 54:2; etc.). In prayer, we do not inform God, but we do express our needs and desires to him. Prayer is not an attempt to change the mind of the Omniscient One, but it is a true means through which God works his purposes.  In fact, “here is an encouragement to prayer. There is no cause for fearing that the petitions of the righteous will not be heard, or that their sighs and tears shall escape the notice of God since He knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. There is no danger of the individual saint being overlooked amidst the multitude of supplicants who daily and hourly present their various petitions, for an infinite Mind is as capable of paying the same attention to millions as if only one individual were seeking its attention” (Pink, p. 15).

At this point, we should say something about God’s foreknowledge. This word occurs only five times in reference to God (Acts 2:23; Romans 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:2, 20). In each case, it does not mean simple foresight, but it expresses the love or purpose of God in choosing his people or planning the work of salvation in Christ.

The doctrine of God’s knowledge should produce reasons for joy in God’s people (Boice, The Sovereign God, pp. 178-182, his emphasis).

  • “First, because God knows all things, he knows the worst about us and yet he has loved and saved us…”
  • “Second… he also knows the best about us, even though that best may be unknown to any other person.”
  • “Third, God knows what he is going to make of us…”
  • “Finally, we can be encouraged in difficulties… All that is needed is that we take these truths down off the high shelf of theology and put them to work as we live our daily lives.”

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Nine)

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 106:1 ESV)

God is Good. “In one aspect of this word, it is merely equivalent to holiness… On the other hand, the goodness of God may be spoken of as kindness, benevolence, or beneficence towards others, in which it is seen to terminate outside of himself. Thus we speak of him as being very good to us.” (Boyce, Abstract of Theology, p. 93). God wants to act for the benefit of others; he desires that others enthusiastically share in the joy and peace of all that he is (Exodus 33:19; 2 Chronicles 5:13; 30:18; Psalm 25:7-8; 31:19; 52:9; 100:5; 119:68; Nahum 1:7; Matthew 19:7). Out of this desire flows goodness toward his creation (Psalm 145:7, 9, 15-16; Lamentations 3:25; Acts 14:17; James 1:17). In fact, since the creation came by the power and will of the One who is good, all that God made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

God’s people should rejoice in his goodness (2 Chronicles 6:41; Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1), and we should seek to experience the goodness of the Lord (Psalm 34:8). And we find that God in his goodness reaches out to his people (Psalm 73:1; Matthew 7:11; Romans 8:32; 2 Peter 1:3). God is “essentially good; not only good, but goodness itself: the creature’s good is a superadded quality, in God it is his essence. He is infinitely good; the creature’s good is but a drop, but in God there is an infinite ocean or gathering together of good. He is eternally and immutably good, for He cannot be less good than He is; as there can be no addition made to Him, so no subtraction from Him” (Manton, quoted by Pink, The Attributes of God, p. 65).

“When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same” (Spurgeon, quoted by Pink, p. 69).

God’s goodness motivates God’s people to act for the good of others. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone (Titus 3:8 NIV). Since we have experienced the goodness of God, we should act for the good and benefit of our neighbors. In this way, we are instruments of his goodness in the lives of all around us.

Grace and peace, David

Fill Them, Lord (Part Two)

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).

In our previous article on this text, we saw that the apostle Paul concluded the teaching part of the letter to the Romans with a prayer. He began the prayer with worship and then stated his request for his brothers and sisters in Christ in Rome. In this request, we discover what the Christian life should be like. Joy and peace are two substantial parts of God’s righteous kingdom. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval (Romans 14:17-18 NIV). Paul prayed that his readers would have a large amount of joy and peace. It would be a strange cake that lacked flour and sugar. It is even stranger to live as a follower of Christ and show only little peace and little joy.

Both joy in God and peace of conscience arise from a practical awareness of justification. (cf. Romans 5:1-2). Peace with God is the foundation for the peace of God in one’s life. There is still spiritual progress to be made from the time of justification, what Peter calls growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18). We cannot become more right with God, but we can have a richer experience of his great joy and peace.

Paul did not neglect the importance of faith in the Christian life. It is good to pray, but there must be more than prayer. We must pray in faith. Prayer without faith is a dead, meaningless ritual. Prayer with faith is living and dynamic. Consider prayer for the sick. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven (James 5:15 NIV). Faith must have the correct object: as you trust in him. We live as Christians when we take our eyes off ourselves and look on Christ (Ephesian 3:12). We need to live according to what someone called “Pioneer theology”. For example, do you view Christ as the sheriff who is out to get the settlers in town if they break the rules, or as the scout whom you gladly want to follow on the journey to heaven?

In the third part of the prayer, Paul declared his purpose. He wanted them to reflect the character of God. This is the goal of the new creation. Cf. Ephesians 4:24: and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (NIV). Let’s rid ourselves of small outlooks. Paul requested overflowing hope! Who would use an old, battered, sputtering push lawn mower if he had a new lawn tractor in the garage? Can you imagine the sweating fellow saying, “I console myself during my frustrations with the thoughts of the better one in the garage.” Silly guy! Use the new one!

The means is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. All progress in likeness to God is the result of the Spirit’s work within us. As we by his grace become confident of treasures in heaven, we will become better witnesses of Christ. His divine power is required in our growth in grace. He makes the new self that we are in Christ advance against the remnants of sin and conquer them. Some view the work of the Holy Spirit in the wrong way. They think his job is to make them feel comfortable with the status quo. But his goal is to stir us up so that we overcome the world by grace that is found in Jesus Christ.

Why do we need this hope? It will serve as an anchor to the soul, to keep it safe and steady, during life’s storms and tempests. To the degree that this prayer is answered in reference to any individual Christian, to that degree he or she will be holy, happy, useful, and full of love and good works. The same is true for a local church. As it is made up of people who are overflowing with hope, so it will grow and multiply. It will then be pure, peaceful and energetic “for promoting the glory of God and the happiness of mankind” (Brown).

Grace and peace, David