Elijah’s Restoration (Part Three)

1 Kings 19:11-18

But I will leave seven thousand in Israel—every knee that has not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him (19:18 CSB).

We must realize the crisis through which the Lord planned that Elijah must walk. It had been a lonely path. God had sent him to a ravine to hide, where his only companions were the raven that brought him food twice a day. Next, God led him out of Israel to stay with a Gentile widow (Luke 4:25-26) and her son. He was away from the people of God for about three years. He was far off from Jerusalem and worship. When he returned, he saw God’s people devoted to false gods. It was too easy for Elijah to draw the conclusion that he was the only one faithful to the Lord. Yet God always has a people.

God raised up other men for the ministry (19:16). First came Elisha and Micaiah, and after them many others appear. We must not give up when we appear to be alone. How foolish we sometimes feel and act! Our goal should not be to count noses, but to stand for God and his truth, trusting him to bless his word in our generation. When by grace Luther “rediscovered the gospel”, he had no intention of starting a movement. He merely wanted to testify to the truth of the Scriptures. God sent the revival.

Hopefully, Elijah’s heart was filled with joy to know that God had another man to carry on his prophetic ministry. Regardless of how Elijah was affected, The Lord taught him the doctrine of sovereign grace (19:18). Lesson to what the Spirit later said through Paul. I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me.” And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace (Romans 11:1-6 NIV).

Things had looked dark from Elijah’s limited perspective. We only have a small window on the world, a window that is limited by space and time. God was saying to Elijah, “Come here, son, and look through my very large window.” Every time we read the doctrines of grace in the Scriptures, we ought to think, “This is really cool! I’m able to look through my Father’s window.”

There was a remnant because of God’s gracious choice. God did this: I have reserved for myself. “If any are preserved from false worship … it is by his special influence and agency” (Haldane). The Lord did this completely by grace; he did not consider the works of any whom he had chosen. All of us only deserve one destiny, eternal punishment for our countless acts of rebellion against the living God. But thanks be to God, in Jesus Christ he has freely chosen to be gracious to us. How did God restore Elijah? By teaching his prophet about sovereign grace. We do not have a weak God, who is bound by the fickle dictates of the corrupt wills of a fallen people. We serve a God who is infinitely powerful and who is able to save. What has he taught you of his power to save?

Are you discouraged? Then learn what God taught Elijah. Turn your thoughts from your own limited self to the unlimited God. You and I must have the proper starting point for our doctrine and practice. Are you without hope? There is only one way to face the future properly. You need to have hope, confident expectation. You cannot find this in yourself or in the things and activities of this world. God gives certain hope to people like you and me in Jesus Christ. Turn from your sin, which can only bring you to everlasting sadness and despair. Turn to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in him for eternal life. Then you will have a hope that will never perish, spoil or fade!

Grace and peace, David

Where Sin Increased (Part Two)

1 Kings 18:1-15

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more… (Romans 5:20 NIV).

Sin had greatly increased in Israel, and it seemed like there was no hope. The Lord, their covenant God, had sent his prophet Elijah to announce a horrible drought, which was one of the curses, if Israel disregarded God’s covenant with him. The sky above you will be bronze, and the earth beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the rain of your land into falling dust; it will descend on you from the sky until you are destroyed (Deuteronomy 28:23-24). Yet, at this terrible time, the Lord showed his grrace. We see three evidences of his grace.

First, God preserved Elijah for further service to him. God had fed him at the brook and at Zarephath. The Lord also kept Ahab and Jezebel from killing his prophet. He also had taught Elijah valuable lessons about faith that he needed to know in service to God. Elijah was now prepared for the coming contest of God versus Baal on Carmel.

Second, the Lord placed Obadiah in Ahab’s court to protect other of his prophets. When we think all is lost, we can fail to see faithful people whom the Lord has placed near us to help us. Consider Obadiah’s character. He was a godly man (18:3). Like Joseph, Nehemiah and Daniel, Obadiah was faithful to God in a pagan palace. “There is nothing wrong in a child of God holding a position of influence if he can do so without the sacrifice of principle” (Pink). The Lord often has his saints in unlikely places, as in Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22). We can be in the world and not of the world. Obadiah was consistent over a long period of time, for he had worshipped God since his youth (18:12). I am glad to see girls and boys in attendance, when their parents gather to worship the Lord. It is good to begin to serve God when you are young. Don’t let sin ruin you for years! Seek the Lord before the chains of sin harden around you and your mind is polluted with a great deal of sin. Think also of Obadiah’s accomplishments (8:4, 13). He hid the prophets and provided for them. He had bold faith. We thank God for those who have risked their lives to protect God’s persecuted people.

Third, God purposed to send rain again on the land. This was an act of sovereign mercy, for the people still had not called on him in repentance for their idolatry. If we need to wait for any nation to repent before God would act, there would be no hope for any people group. If we even had to wait for the professing church to return to him, we might despair. But God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy (Romans 9:15)! Our hope is in the Sovereign God, not in people! Remember this when you gather with others to pray. This was also an act of faithfulness to Elijah. The prophet had said that there would only be rain at his word (see 17:1), and so the Lord sent Elijah to announce the coming of rain. Here is a principle: God will honor those who honor him (cf. 1 Samuel 2:30).

Let us thank God for the godly who still remain in the nations of the world! Every follower of Christ is a witness to the power of God’s saving grace! If God could save you, my friends, he can save anyone. The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD (Psalm 37:39 NIV). Let us pray fervently for God to send a new great awakening. Greed, self-love and sexual immorality bind the wills of people. They will not come to him and have life (John 5:40). But King Jesus is able to break those chains, for he is the Great God and Savior! Now is the time to seek the Lord!

Grace and peace, David

Christmas Fashions

SAMSUNG

Luke 1:39-45

What is Christmas? It would seem that to some it is the opportunity to give and receive the latest and greatest gifts. Who wants to give something out of style that will never be used? Who wants to receive Nehru jackets, bell bottom slacks, Jade East cologne, G.I. Joe action figures, a “Chatty Cathy” doll, a Hi-Fi Stereo record player, an Atari 2600 game system or an Apple IIe computer? (Some of those items date from fifty or more years ago!)

What is Christmas? It is a holiday whose true message is out of fashion with the world. God, however, determines what is eternally in fashion. Let’s consider somethings that are out of fashion with the world, but in fashion with God.

Some are blessed above others (1:42). We read evidence of God’s choice in action. Mary was chosen from among all women to be the mother of the Messiah. To be a father begetting children or a mother bearing children is to receive a reward from God (Psalm 127:3). How much greater honor to be selected by the Most High to bear his dearly loved Son! Elizabeth heard the message of the Savior’s coming when millions lived in full ignorance of the joyful news. Mary told the humble wife of a Jewish priest while the wives of kings and emperors remained in pagan darkness.

Christmas is a time to remember the teaching of the free and sovereign grace of God. Many do not know what grace means. But these women knew. Was Mary somehow better than all other women? No, the angel Gabriel first greeted her with words of grace (1:28). Mary herself confessed her need for a Savior and her humble nature (1:46-48). Elizabeth humbly rejoiced that she was favored even with a visit from the mother of her Lord.

There is not a person reading this, nor the writer, who even deserves to hear the message that a Savior has been born. Yet God has favored us above many who live and die without hearing the good news of Jesus Christ! It ought to bring us to our knees in humble thankfulness. Perhaps God has even done more for you, sending you not only the message, but also the regenerating Spirit of God that you may believe and be saved. Are you forever grateful?

The child of Mary is the Lord of all (1:43). People naturally resist acknowledging the greatness of Mary’s Son. Mankind in rebellion against the Lord and his Christ wants no part of calling him “Lord” (John 1:11; cf. Psalm 2:2. However, the Holy Spirit emphasizes in this account that Jesus is Lord — both God himself and eternal King (1:17, 32-33, 35, 43, 76; 2:11, 26). Others err in a different way. They rejoice in a Queen instead of a King. Observe carefully that Elizabeth did not say (nor does any other Scripture) that her Lady came to visit her, but that the mother of her Lord came to visit her. Christmas reminds us that the Lord of Glory, the Most High God, came to live among us in human flesh. “the mother of my Lord.” God should be honored for his willingness to give (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 8:9). The main point for sinners is that One has come who is mighty to save from the guilt and pollution of sin. The Son of Mary is the Lord our righteousness.

The Lord can fulfill a believer’s expectations (1:45). The worldly wise person does not believe that there is any reason for the believer’s joy. At best, they think that we are self-deceived. In the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis described the Narnia Lucy first entered as a land in which it was always winter, but never Christmas. That is what the ungodly think of the Christian’s hope — it’s winter, but Christmas never comes. But when the Lion, Aslan, arrived in Narnia, Christmas came and then spring. To the unbeliever, faith in God is a waste of time. All is measured by what oneself thinks is possible. As their philosophers say, “Man is the measure of all things.” They also feel that we are foolish for believing in, what they think of as, sand castles. “Have your dreams,” they say, “but they will all be washed away.”

The follower of Christ has a different perspective. We would agree with the unbeliever’s “sand castles” view, if our hope was in humanity. We understand, even better than they, that to trust in mankind, in what people can do, or even in faith in faith is a foundation for lasting despair. However, our hope is not in mankind, but in the living God! “For nothing is impossible with God” (1:37).

When Elizabeth finished her song, both Mary and herself had months of waiting for their sons to be born. But God fulfilled his word. How are we showing confidence in God? Now is an excellent time to turn to the living God in humble faith and to trust in the Savior. He welcomes all who call out to him (Romans 10:13).

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Seventeen)

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6 NIV).

God is gracious.

Like other words, the word “grace” is used in various ways. All words depend on the context in which they are used to establish their exact meaning. As we study the Scriptures, we find that “grace” is used in three general ways.

  • Grace is the favor God shows or extends to people (Jonah 4:2). In regard to sinners, this favor is always unmerited or undeserved or without cause in the sinner. In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace. Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace (Romans 11:5-6 CSB).
  • Grace is the power of God acting to change a situation or person. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a CSB).
  • Grace is the response of thankfulness that induces worship and service to God. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God (Colossians 3:16 ASV).

The Bible teaches us that God is gracious in his nature—that he has the attitude of showing favor and the power that flows out of that attitude to change situations and people (Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17,31; 111:4; 116:5).

We should know these four important characteristics of God’s grace:

  • God’s grace is eternal. Since it is an essential part of his eternal plan, we must not think that is some sort of “Plan B”. Some teachings give the wrong impression that God first planned to deal with mankind on the basis of works, but when Adam disobeyed, God had to shift to other plan to have fellowship with the now fallen humanity. However, God teaches us that his plan of grace included us in Christ before the beginning of time (2 Timothy 1:9).
  • God’s grace is free, which means that it is without cause in the recipients of grace (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:6). From this comes salvation by grace and not by works (Ephesians 2:5,8-9). No person will ever be able to claim that he or she deserved to be saved or somehow earned salvation. In fact, even repentance (Acts 5:31; 11:18) and faith (Acts 18:27; Philippians 1:29) are gifts from God. In this way God receives all the praise for salvation.
  • God’s grace is sovereign; that is, he extends grace to sinners who deserve his wrath as he decides (2 Thessalonians 2:16; Titus 2:11). Since we all deserved wrath because we have rejected God as our God, no one has anything to complain. What ought to surprise us is that the Lord chooses to show grace to anyone!
  • God’s grace is given in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Romans 5:15, 17, 21). No one can expect to find grace apart from Christ. Throughout all eternity, God’s chosen people will enjoy God’s kindness in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).

How should we respond to God’s grace?

First, our hearts should overflow with gratitude toward God and worship him for his grace (Psalm 86:15). Thankfulness for grace received should form an essential part of the way that we relate to God (2 Corinthians 9:15; Ephesians 1:3). We ought to thank God for his grace to others (Romans 6:17; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Colossians 1:3-4), the blessings we enjoy through those who have also received grace (1 Thessalonians 3:9), and his action in our lives (2 Corinthians 2:14). Second, we should pray that God’s grace would be extended to others (Romans 1:7; Galatians 1:3; etc.). Third, graciousness should be part of our conduct (Colossians 4:6). Fourth, we should live in the expectation of grace from God (Hebrews 4:16) and keep ourselves in the way of grace (Hebrews 13:9).

Grace and peace, David

The Source of Love (Part One)

1 John 4:19-21

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister (NIV).

True Christianity is not involvement in religious activity or keeping a list of rules and rituals. Instead, it is a relationship with the living God. The apostle John likes to use two terms to set forth this relationship. The first is fellowship, which speaks of sharing life with God (1:3, 6-7). The other is know, meaning more than the knowledge of facts or the knowledge of skill, but the knowledge of a person (2:3-4). We know God personally.

In his first letter John is intent on declaring the transformation that occurs when a person has a real relationship with the living God. He says that three changes occur when a person knows God and has fellowship with God.

  • He or she confesses the truth about God (2:22-23; 4:6)
  • He or she obeys God’s commands (2:3-6)
  • He or she loves God and the people in God’s family (3:14; 4:7-8)

In a couple articles this week, we will consider the transforming character that comes from a real relationship with the living God.

God’s love is the source of our love. Humans do not naturally love. Rebellion against God, who is love, has twisted our nature. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another (Titus 3:3 NIV; cf. Romans 3:12-17). Since this is true, there is no starting point in any human from which he or she can develop a relationship with God. We do not “stretch out our finger” to receive God’s life giving touch. By nature, we are opposed to the God of love.

“We must once and forever get rid of the idea that God loved us by way of response either to something that is in us or to something we have done” (Lloyd-Jones, The Love of God, p. 194. God encounters us as enemies, who are spiritually unresponsive (dead in sin). “The love of God is self-generated, self-moved, self-created; and it is the very first postulate of the Christian gospel to realize that” (Ibid).

Therefore, God must take the initiative with any person for there to be a relationship between him and any person. Here are some actions that God took that we might know his love and then love others.

  • This initiative began before the beginning of time. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Timothy 1:9 NIV). God knew what sin would do, so he planned a solution before the problem occurred.
  • The Father sent the Son to rescue us from our sins. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10 NIV).
  • The Son came to carry out the mission of salvation. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10 NIV).
  • The Spirit of God testifies to the truth about the Son of God, so that we can know God’s love for us in Christ. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth (1 John 2:20 NIV; cf. 5:6-10).

On this Valentine’s Day, think on the great story of God reaching out to you in his amazing love? Has the Triune God established a relationship with you? Respond in love to him.

Grace and peace, David