Study of Psalm 14 (Part Three)

Will evildoers never understand? They consume my people as they consume bread; they do not call on the Lord. Then they will be filled with dread, for God is with those who are righteous. You sinners frustrate the plans of the oppressed, but the Lord is his refuge (14:4-6 CSB).

Now that we have heard both sinful mankind’s view of God and God’s view of sinful people, David presents what life is like for rebellious people, and how their lifestyle affects the people of God. The psalmist wants us to know that their way of thinking controls their way of living. People do not merely hold to theories in their heads. They live those theories, and the kind of life flowing from their hearts touches others.

David has stated under inspiration that no one understands. Now he asks a question, “Will evildoers never understand …?” Here we may see a great problem of the unregenerate mind. Having rejected the absolute God, and as a consequence the possibility of knowing absolute truth, they descend into irrationality. Humans were made to live in the truth like fish live in water, but since the Fall, the bias of the heart for evil and against righteousness makes the sinner pursue what is evil. Sinners may say that we ought to treat all people with respect and kindness, but their evil heart forces them into endless contradictions and wicked behavior. You need only consider the American political scene to see how people vilify, belittle, curse, and mock other people, when they had hypocritically declared that all people have worth and dignity.

Verse four provides us with two descriptions of their conduct. First, evildoers are against the godly. They consume my people as they consume bread. The people of darkness hate the people of light. In his holy wisdom, God decreed at the Fall that he would put enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. How so? Using Romans 1 as a pattern, God justly gives sinners over to the evil in their hearts, which naturally leads to violence. Why? I suggest a couple reasons: To show the true nature of evil to the righteous; to prevent the righteous from growing too close to evil people and becoming corrupted by them, and to provide opportunity for the righteous to display their character as children of the merciful God.

Observe how completely natural it is for the evildoer to persecute the righteous. It is like seeking to satisfy one’s appetite. “As pikes in a pond eat up little fish, as eagles prey on smaller birds, as wolves rend the sheep of the pasture, so sinners naturally and as a matter of course, persecute, malign, and mock the followers of the Lord Jesus” (Spurgeon).

God’s chosen people need this song, because it is too easy to allow yourself to forget the true character of unsaved people around you. “Oh, how few consult and believe the Scriptures setting forth the enmity of wicked men against God’s people” (Stuckley). Since God the Spirit may be restraining their evil for our good, or they fear the punishment of government, or they may not yet have come into conflict with us because of righteousness, they may act in a civil or kind manner toward us. But when the battle lines are drawn it is another matter! Consider the examples of Haman (Esther 3-7), King Saul (1 Samuel 18:6-12), Herodias (Mark 6:14-29).

 “The world pretends to hate the godly for something else, but the ground of the quarrel is holiness… If the world hated Christ, no wonder that it hates us… John 15:18… this shows the world’s baseness, it is a Christ-hating and a saint-eating world” (Watson).

Second, evildoers do not call upon the Lord. They have an anti-God bias in their hearts that leads them to follow a different course of action from God’s chosen ones who do call upon the Lord (Luke 18:7; etc.) A Christian view of life sees God constantly involved in life, and so it is natural to call upon him for help. Since the evildoer suppresses the knowledge of God, he will not think of calling on him in a time of trouble; in other words, he does not honor God as God, but tries to live self-sufficiently. Therefore, they will think it strange when we suggest that God is involved and that he is able to help.

During this time of Covid-19, we do not see people turning to God in repentance and faith for the forgiveness of sins. That idea is mocked. God and his people are despised. People who are prejudiced against the true and living God will constantly refuse to call upon mercy. So then, what hope is there for them? It is only in the Lord Jesus Christ and the grace of the gospel that comes through him.

Grace and peace,

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 Lord’s Sudden Coming

dscn0009Luke 17:26-30

People like stories. Sometimes we call them movies or plays, but they are all stories. We like to follow the carefully crafted plot where the protagonists encounter various trials or tragedies through all the breadth of human emotions yet emerge happy and victorious in the end. But sometimes we willingly suffer through a tragedy in which the protagonists meet a sad end, such as Romeo and Juliet. We read or listen to movie or book reviews by the critics and recommendations by friends, so that we spend our time and money on the best stories. Who wants to attend a movie and be bored to tears or disturbed needlessly for two hours or more?

Our lives are part of a great story that we call history, and people love to write their own “reviews” about the way the story should go. Basically, people only “write” a couple different kinds of reviews:

  • History is absurd and meaningless. Nothing makes sense. This answer does not satisfy most people, and if it is true, even their review is senseless.
  • History is an unending story, endlessly repeating itself. This view is getting a lot of attention today as people listen to psychics, mediums, and so on. Fabled ancient Atlantis must have been a gigantic place, because “everybody” seems to have lived there at least once! All of this lacks the least proof.
  • History and humanity are getting better and better. Oh, there might be a few downturns, but look at the progress we’ve made! This is the view of most people, regardless of how they vary the story line. This “non-Christian view believes in a gradual and indeed an inevitable progress. It may sometimes describe the progress as being the result of the interaction of action and reaction, or of thesis and antithesis, but it still believes that there is within the world a principle at work which, slowly but surely, is leading steadily in the direction of an ultimate perfection” (Lloyd-Jones, Evangelistic Sermons, p. 282).
  • Opposed to all these is the Biblical view that history is moving toward God’s goal. As has often been said, “History is His story; that is, God’s story.” The plot focuses on God proclaiming to humankind his infinite value and how we can experience joy when we turn back to God. History has a destination, but it involves two destinies for people: glory or judgment. History does not inevitably get better. No, instead it involves a series of crises in which God works in grace and judgment. Think of the Flood, Sodom, the formation of Israel, and the cross of Christ.

In this passage, the Lord Jesus Christ tells us about the great event that will bring about the end of this world’s history: His sudden return in power and glory.

The Lord Jesus will return unexpectedly.

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:26-30 ESV).

Notice that the normal activities of life will be going on (17:27-28). When Jesus lists these activities, he is not condemning them. In fact, he created us to do them, in the proper way (1 Corinthians 10:31). Human life is the same as in ancient times. We like to imagine amazing changes, but the basics of life remain. Only our technology has changed. We might get our water from a reservoir and a water treatment plant instead of a muddy river, but we still drink water.

The problem with the people referred to by Jesus was that those people were immersed in those activities apart from a concern for God. They were not glorifying God and enjoying him as they enjoyed God’s gifts. God was not in their thoughts; therefore, all these things “have become evidences of gross materialism, false security, and often cold selfishness” (Hendriksen). This is the root problem that the Bible calls “worldly-mindedness”. The people who lived in the days of Noah and of Lot committed many acts of wickedness, but the Lord passed by those things to expose the underlying attitude. Greed, violence and sexual immorality spring from the same source or heart attitude, worldly-mindedness. Remove the root and the weeds disappear. Worldly-mindedness ignores the highest part of human nature and lives only for the lowest. People were made to relate to God and not to live solely for the mundane parts of creaturely existence. God made us to eat, drink, marry, buy, sell, plant and build. All are lawful activities, until you begin to live for them. What are you living for? Do you have and make room for God in your thoughts and way of life?

Grace and peace, David

Following a Good Example (Part One)

img_10002 Timothy 3:10

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness… (ESV).

Last week we thought about following bad examples (models, patterns). In our text from this week’s Bible reading, we read of a good example to follow. (A gentle nudge: please join us in our weekly Bible readings. Replace a half hour of television each day with the Holy Scriptures.) You will notice the dots above at the end of verse. Paul went on to talk about his example of suffering persecution, but addressing that now would make this article rather long. Let’s concentrate on the parts of his good example to Timothy and others listed above.

Every believer in God in this new covenant age is, of necessity, a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). Other verses make the same point. But as I have written other times, the Lord also provides other people to be good models for us. For this reason, Paul did not hesitate to affirm Timothy in following him, because Paul followed Christ. Timothy had rejected the evil examples of most people who live in the last days (3:1-9). Notice this. Timothy had been a faithful co-worker in the gospel for many years, since the early days of Paul’s second missionary journey. Yet Paul did not hesitate to encourage his friend. Life in the difficult times of the last days (3:1) requires us to build up and to encourage each other. Paul did not hesitate to encourage a minister of the gospel, which Timothy was. Well-meaning believers wrongly suppose that they encourage the minister in their local church or the leader of their small group by saying, “That was a nice message or good lesson!” That is part of the wrong thinking that pervades “edifice” or “institutional” churches. Fellowship (sharing of life) requires much more than saying pleasant phrases to each other, however kind the intent. Every believer needs to be encouraged in the ways of the Lord. We all need to be in small groups in order to share life and not mere clichés.

Paul commends Timothy for seven ways he followed him. Notice the repeated “my” that lays emphasis on each item he mentions. Each part is essential to the whole. The Christian way of life is not cafeteria or buffet style. It is comprehensive, which accounts for some of its difficulty and need for the Spirit’s power. It is relatively easy to persuade someone to make a few changes to his/her way of life where they recognize the need for change. But minimal, selective change is insufficient.  Such a person lacks understanding of what it means to follow Christ. Our Lord never says, “Pick a few items off this list that you feel you like or might be able to accomplish.” He demands that we follow him completely and from the heart. If you have halted in your growth in grace, it is not because you think what Christ is too hard. In fact, you have underestimated its difficulty. It is impossible (cf. John 15:5). You need to draw fresh strength from the Lord to follow him in every area. We’ll start with comments of the first two ways.

  • “My teaching” – The necessity of sound teaching is disregarded in our time. Many want what is inspirational, exciting, stern, humorous, chic, cutting-edge, traditional, or mysteriously spiritual (“it felt like God was there”). What each of the preceding doesn’t want is teaching that challenges and changes the way they think! It is part of the anti-God way of “the flesh”, which hates God’s words. There is far too much love of the opinions of the world. Paul’s teaching was built on and around the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel (good news). Timothy grasped this and his thinking was transformed by the truth of Jesus and the gospel. God changes us as the Holy Spirit takes the teaching of Jesus and the apostles and uses it by his power to change the thoughts and ideas and attitudes of our hearts. Apart from this change, we easily drift back into our former ways. We must have teaching, not to accumulate information, but to develop practically the ways of Christ’s new kingdom in us. His teaching builds Christ-like character as we learn from him.
  • “My conduct” – The Greek word used occurs only here in the New Testament Scriptures. It has the idea of a kind of life or conduct that results from a particular upbringing. Paul was brought up in the gospel after his conversion and led by the Spirit to conduct himself in a gospel-formed way. Timothy followed Paul in that same upbringing. When we are “baby Christians”, we need to be brought up in new conduct. Yes, honest inquirer or new believer, a person’s conduct can change.

I often walk at Valley Forge Park. If I park my car in the parking lot nearest my house, the trail to the trails starts with a long, steep climb. It can look discouraging the first few times. But repeated walks help the walker to know that the trails are doable. Following Christ and the apostles and others following Christ might seem intimidating. But the Holy Spirit is the believer’s friend and uses these examples to transform us. Would you like to take a walk?

Grace and peace, David

Confidence in God

DSCN2717Psalm 4

In Psalm 3, we saw how David the king turned to the Lord during a painful time of his life, which was the rebellion of his son Absalom against his kingly authority. Psalm 4 doesn’t give us any information about when David wrote these words. Most Psalms lack this information. We do not need to panic that we don’t have it. The Holy Spirit led the Psalm writers to record their experience with God and life, and so we are able to profit in whatever situation we might be in. As we read, let us remember that this is a song, intended for the benefit of God’s people as they sing together. Notice that the superscription tells us that it was written for the director of music, and that David intended that stringed instruments be used when it was sung. God loves artistic expression, and he desires that we use such abilities as we possess in worship and instruction of one another.

  • David sang about his need to receive an answer from the Lord (4:1). It is obvious that he sought a positive answer, as we all do. The Lord wants us to make our requests to him. He doesn’t not tell us to simply state the situation without making known the result we desire. Imagine saying to your wife or husband, “I’m thirsty.” Would you want to hear, “Thanks for the information”? No, usually when we make known our need, we specify what we want. In this example, “I’m going to get something to drink; would you like something, too?” I mention this because some people are of the erroneous opinion that you shouldn’t tell God what you desire. But the Lord wants you to use your mind and emotions and to ask him. With respect (“O my righteous God”), David made clear that he longed for relief from distress and mercy in the form of answered prayer.
  • David sang about the opposition that he endured from other people (4:2-3). The songs of our lives will have melancholy and even dark stanzas. This opposition was of a religious character. David had the task of leading Israel back to the Lord, because the reign of Saul had been a time of spiritual decline. David magnified the Lord, but others did not. His confidence in God was to them a matter of shame. We face the same kind of opposition from the ungodly today. Their attitude involved that they made the “evil exchange”. They turned from God to idols (cf. Romans 1:21-25). Notice that David openly rejected their course of action. He asserted the truth of the Lord’s covenant relationship with his people. Those who know the Lord have been set apart for him. God wants us to share our lives with him. We have become a people for his possession. This means that the Lord will hear us when we call to him. “O beloved, when you are on your knees, the fact of your being set apart as God’s own peculiar treasure, should give you courage and inspire your fervency and faith” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Vol. 1, p.38).
  • David sang about the way of life for God’s people (4:4-5). Though anger is a part of our lives, we must avoid sin in our anger, which is extremely difficult, because our thoughts, ideas, and emotions are easily twisted by sin. This requires self-examination of our ways. We need to consider what motivates our hearts and our actions. Since David wanted to lead his people back to the Lord, he pointed out the need to offer the sacrifices that God required in the law covenant. We live in the new covenant and have a perfect and finished sacrifice, the blood of Christ. So for us, the new covenant application is always and only to approach God our Father through Jesus Christ and his sacrifice.
  • David sang about his hope or confident expectation (4:6-7). He pointed out what his people could expect as they sought the Lord. He told them there would be doubters about God’s concern for them. In response to those who questioned, David boldly restated the source of blessing. Then he gave a personal testimony of the greater joy that the Lord had given to him. His joy was greater than what the doubters experienced in their material prosperity. True, joyful humanity is experienced when we rejoice in the true and living God, our family relationship with him, and contentment with the material provisions that he has given for our joy.
  • David sang about the rest that the Lord had brought to him (4:8). Yes, his situation had been one of distress. But now, through believing confidence in the Lord, he was able to “sleep in peace”. This confidence does not come simply through the exercise of prayer. We must not only pray but also rely on the Lord’s goodness, wisdom, and power as we wait calmly for what he will do.

While you and I do not know the tune of Psalm 4, we still may sing it in our souls. Let its truth resonate through your heart. Meditate on it. “Sing it” with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Seek the Lord through it. Your Father in heaven does want you to have “greater joy”.

Grace and peace, David

Ideas in the Scroll of Kindness

IMG_0839Ruth 1:1-4:22

Today, let’s think about ideas to watch for in this short story that is part of the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. As each appears, there are links forward and back in God’s revelation of his person and purposes. The Lord wants us to grasp these, so that we worship him for all that he has accomplished in our salvation in Christ.

We need to know the general way of life under the law (or old covenant). God’s people lived under the law for approximately fifteen hundred years. The law is good, because it provided a way for God to live among his people. But we ought not to glamorize it, since it was a way of life ruled by law (cf. Acts 15:10). Now we live in a better covenant and Christ is our leader by the Spirit, and God lives in us.

The story of Ruth is about an extended family within God’s people Israel. God (Yahweh, the Lord) made a covenant with Israel at Sinai, and the lives of his covenant people were under the supervision of the law (Torah). The law influences and guides the story of Ruth with its regulations about gleaning, the task of the kinsman-redeemer, and marriage. The question about inheriting the land was important in the old covenant, and also in this story. What we will see in this story is very ordinary people facing very ordinary struggles of life, like food, marriage, children and property. (Is anyone reading this affected by real estate issues?)

The story of Ruth occurs during the time when the Judges ruled (Ruth 1:1). It was a time of turmoil and religious declension. There was famine, foreign oppression, civil war, and danger on the streets. People were living in disregard of God and his laws. But these terrible times were not utterly faithless times. God still had a remnant, chosen by grace (Romans 11:5), and in this story we read about the life of that struggling remnant.

Surprising contrasts – As you read Ruth you will notice many contrasts; for example, Ruth and Orpah, Ruth and Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, Boaz and the unnamed relative, God’s purposes and human plans, grief and joy, and for one more, emptiness and fullness. The Spirit of God wants us to view these contrasts and to learn from them.

We must see the place of kindness and redemption in the story of God’s glory. The book of Ruth highlights both these ideas. We will look carefully at them when we come to them, but as you read and reread Ruth, listen to what God is saying.

A great theme is the providence of God. How beautifully this story illustrates the truth of Romans 8:28 and 11:33-36! What do we mean by God’s providence?

  • It is God’s present activity in the world. God creates, and then he rules his creation to achieve the story of his glory in Christ. The Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742) put it this way. “God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created, according unto his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will; to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy” (Chapter 5.1). About a century earlier, the writers of the First London Confession wrote: “God in His infinite power and wisdom, doth dispose all things to the end for which they were created; that neither good nor evil befalls any by chance, or without His providence; and that whatsoever befalls the elect, is by His appointment, for His glory, and their good” (Article V).
  • In providence God proclaims that God is here, God cares, God rules and God provides, all according to his holiness, wisdom and love.
  • In Ruth we read of no miracle or special word from the Lord, yet we discern his unseen hand active throughout the entire story. People make choices, not on the basis of mystical guidance, but against or within the boundaries of God’s word. When they acted correctly, they acted in wisdom and by trusting God for the outcome. In other words, Naomi, Ruth and Boaz lived like you and I must live—according to the Scriptures and by faith. However, sadly unlike our typical responses, they recognized God’s activity. So then, this book is an invitation to become properly spiritual.

These are hard and uncertain times. The economic future for many is bleak, families are in turmoil, horrific violence spreads like a plague, and addictive sins are destroying lives. Our time is like the days that the judges ruled, as people turn from the living God to false gods, and enter into an increasingly desperate meaninglessness because of their foolish choices. Is there hope in such a time? Yes, there is, and that is one reason we need the message of Ruth in our dark hour. Please read the book of Ruth at least four times this week. And as you read, worship the Lord, as he teaches you about his full and flawless worth and glory.

Grace and peace, David

God’s Faithfulness Is Sufficient to Launch Hope

IMG_1860Hebrews 10:23

God’s faithfulness has been revealed to us in the Scriptures so that we might live in hope (confident expectation). If God made eyes and colors and yet did not make light to see with, then we might properly ask, “Why did he make eyes and colors?” However, God has given us eternal encouragement and good hope (2 Thessalonians 2:16), and he has revealed that he is faithful in order that our faith would have an object to rely on and that our hope would have sufficient reason to confidently anticipate eternal glory in and with Christ.

God’s faithfulness is the ground of hope. All the expectations of good are built on “this is what the Lord says….” Therefore, we need to know the Bible. This does not mean to know the Bible as a collection of facts, but as a way of life. We interpret all events according to the story of God’s glory in Christ and God’s explanation of his story. We make holy choices in the same way. For example, in God’s story he reveals his great patience with his people (Israel in the wilderness). He then expects us to display his patience to people, although we might feel very impatient. To return to the point, if a person could confidently anticipate as firmly and build as strongly on God’s promises as he should, they might do great things. Some years ago, someone invented a new pole to use in the pole vault, instead of the standard wooden pole that was used for years. One man quickly set increasingly higher records because of his strong confidence in what the new pole could do.

God’s faithfulness is the source of hope. That is to say, confident expectation first rises in the soul by some revelation of God’s promises, and then it continues to flow from that same source. One may hear many sermons on the hope of salvation, but a person never hopes until by gospel light he or she sees that God is faithful in saving people through the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is there such variation in true believers from one time to another? One time we look on God’s promise as a steel I-beam and another time as an old, rotten wooden board. Isn’t this true of you? Doesn’t your hope vary? The explanation is that though at all times we have the same word of promise, we do not at all times see the same glory and faithfulness of the God who made the promises. Our hope does not function independently of our whole relationship with God. This is the reason we need the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:17-18).

Some have a problem with God’s faithfulness to his promises, because they do not now see the fullness of blessing that the Scriptures present. The wrong way is to think that God’s faithfulness can be measured by our conception of time. We measure time according to our expected lifespan on this planet, but the eternal God does not measure time that way! Consider an “adult’s” versus a “child’s” concept of time while driving on vacation. This is heard in the expression, “Are we there yet?” To a child a long trip can seem interminable. “Will the rest of my life be spent in the back seat of this car?” Now adults can smile at the limited concepts of their children—they probably don’t amid the whining—but they can understand the child’s point of view. But what if your children begin to question your truthfulness during the long trip? What if their impatience makes them a little nasty? Do we do this to God in our impatience? God’s performance does not usually come soon after the promise is made. Usually we must wait for God’s time to come (Galatians 4:4). The right method is to think about the reality of God’s faithfulness. For example, God promised the resurrection of Christ, and his promise was fulfilled, as Peter capably demonstrated on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:24-32). Now what God did for Christ, he will do for us as well. We, too, will be raised and changed to be like the Lord.  The faithfulness of God is not only the sure foundation of our hope, but it also challenges us to be faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Peter 4:19; 1 John 1:9).

Here are some points to ponder:

  • If you want more hope, then strive to know the faithful God better.
  • Failure in an unswerving confession of hope is linked to failure of comprehending the faithfulness of God.
  • Are you convinced of God’s faithfulness? Spiritual commands and exhortations draw their strength from spiritual motives. Don’t try to do this in your own strength. Have faith in God. Ask the Holy Spirit for help.

Grace and peace, David

The Christian’s Greatest Resource (Part One)


Ephesians 6:10

The Bible was not written for the Christian to sit and read in an armchair and then do nothing. Instead, God gave it to us to help us in our lives. He speaks in the word to us, because we are his dearly loved people. Both the doctrinal and the practical sections were written to help us live. In a general sense the doctrinal sections help us understand God and ourselves, and how to relate to God; the practical sections help us please God in our relationships with other people and with the world. To look at this from another angle, the Bible in a way is the Christian’s “battle plan”, because we, whether we like it or not, are part of a war. We are in a tough fight, a terrible conflict. All followers of Jesus Christ must confront enemies that totally hate us, and we are called to engage the enemy. For this reason, I thought it would be wise for us to consider this spiritual warfare and how we ought to conduct ourselves in the war.

Let’s start with the form of this verse. The Holy Spirit presents a way of life that will please the Lord. God’s commands describe how his obedient children are to act. Military commands are not options; neither is God’s word! “Be strong” is in the imperative mood. You must be strong. This command flows from the teaching of Ephesians 4:1,17, which flows from the prayer of 3:14-21, which flows from the reality of relationship with the living God presented in 1:3-2:22. (In other words, remember the context of the whole letter. Think of how you are richly blessed in Christ. Our way of life develops from who we are in Christ.)

The Holy Spirit directs us to precise activity: “be strong in the Lord”. However, we can too easily be diverted from the Spirit’s guidance. One diversion is to seek strength in our natural abilities and achievements. We wrongly suppose we can figure out “how to live a successful Christian life” and once we know that, we assume we have the capability to do it. Neither should we be diverted to seek strength in our spiritual growth, nor to seek strength in our spiritual gifts. Both are traps to those who rightly sense that they are growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18). You must not depend on your progress or gifts. You need what is much more powerful.

We must only seek strength from the Lord. Compare John 15:5. (Yes, Mission FifteenFive.) How do we receive strength? Since we are united to Christ through faith, we also receive strength from the Lord Jesus through faith—not through works, rituals, or “spiritual disciplines”. Rely on his more than sufficient resources; commit yourself to him (2 Corinthians 12:9). You might be in a very hot part of the battle at this moment. Evil desires might be alluring you, while you’re trying to focus on Christ. You might feel that you can’t cope, that it’s easier to yield to them. I understand, and so does our Lord. Yet the Spirit appeals to you through his word to “be strong in the Lord”. Go to the Ascended Jesus and draw from him by faith the strength you need.

Grace and peace, David

God Proclaims His Majesty


Isaiah 42:8

The name of God is God’s declaration of who and what he is. Here, God’s name asserts his solitariness and supremacy. He is Yahweh, the I AM. No one is like him (Isaiah 40:25); he does whatever he wants to (Psalm 115:3; 135:1-6; Ephesians 1:11), which is always what is wise and right. God’s name should transform our questions in the perplexities of life. For example, “the I AM has placed me in this circumstance to learn the surpassing resources of who he is. I feel utter weakness, but he is strength. I feel despair, but he is refreshing hope. I have no answers, but he is wisdom. Lord, in my instability, I will rely on the certainty of who you are.”

While it is true that the patriarchs knew God by the name Yahweh (Genesis 18:32; 28:13), it was not until the time of the Exodus that God revealed or demonstrated the meaning of the name Yahweh to his people (Exodus 6:2-8). The Lord reveals himself more fully in the events of salvation, whether in the old covenant shadows or the fulfillment of the Messiah and his new covenant. By this name (I AM) God reveals himself as the Covenant Lord and Redeemer of his chosen people. He makes himself known as our light and our salvation (Psalm 27:1; cf. Exodus 15:2).

The Lord does not share his glory with anyone. God is independent of everything else. He is Creator, while everything outside of him is created and dependent. God’s great question to Job is enough to silence everyone (Job 38:4). God lets us know his absolute independence in a number of ways; for example, he is independent in his thoughts (Isaiah 55:8; Romans 11:33-34), in his will (Romans 9:19; Ephesians 1:5; Revelation 4:11), and in his counsel (Psalm 33:11). Listen to the words of A. W. Pink. “Such a One is to be revered, worshipped, adored. He is solitary in His majesty, unique in His excellency, peerless in His perfections. He sustains all, but is Himself independent of all. He gives to all, but is enriched by none. Such a God cannot be found out by searching; He can only be known, only as He is revealed to the heart by the Holy Spirit through the Word” (The Attributes of God, p. 4).

God clearly states that he will not share his glory as God with anyone else. He is far above all that people wrongly imagine to be gods (Jeremiah 10:2-10). In this Servant Song, Yahweh exalts his Son with equal glory to himself. What the Father does, the Son does (John 5:19b). In this way, this reinforces a high evaluation of Christ, the Servant of the Lord. The “bread”, to use our illustration again, enhances the flavor and value of the “rest of the sandwich”. Today, let the glory of the Messiah flavor your way of life.

Grace and peace, David