Monday, March 31, 2014

Blessed Satisfaction (Matthew 5:6)

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6, NASB95)

Chapters 9-11 of Romans were written largely about the unbelief of the Jewish people—the nation of Israel (and their ultimate salvation). It focused on their rejection of the Messiah sent by God as compared to God’s embracing of those who were once far away—the Gentiles (non-Jews).  Speaking about the issue of righteousness Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone,” (Romans 9:30–32, NASB95)

In these verses we see what made the difference between the Gentiles who were made righteous and the Jews who missed that mark, and that difference was faith. The Gentiles (and even many Jews) believed what was told them of the Son of God who became man to die for their sins and be raised from the dead, and they trusted God for His free gift of salvation. Scripture tells us that they were made righteous not with a righteousness of their own, but with the righteousness of Christ as Paul spoke of in Philippians 3.

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,” (Philippians 3:8–9, NASB95)

The Pharisees, who were in many ways poster children for Jewish legalism, believed that their future was determined by how they lived their lives. And in this they set a standard which continued to evolve of greater and greater adherence to the law and their various clarifications of how that law was to be evidenced. They were not openly opposed to God, but they were opposed to those who pointed to the failings of their works based lives and the demands they placed on people to adhere.

In Matthew 23 Jesus spoke out loudly and strongly against the scribes and Pharisees. Repeatedly Jesus says to them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” And each time he expanded on why they were falling under such great woe. He ended chapter 23 with, ““Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”” (Matthew 23:37–39, NASB95)

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6, NASB95) He recognized that the efforts they made to show themselves good really just pointed to how short they actually came, and in the end they would not be satisfied nor would it last.

Paul wrote, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one;” (Romans 3:9–10, NASB95) Later on in chapter 3 of Romans we read, “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21–26, NASB95)

A life based upon our own works in order to obtain the pleasure of God or man is sure to disappoint. It is a fragile existence that can crumble at any time as a result of the slightest of infractions or a mere change of mind concerning direction. It is a system that is based in failure because there is absolutely no way to live it perfect, and anything less than perfection makes the judgment of how good is good enough an arbitrary judgment and an untouchable standard. God does not operate this way. He knows that we have all sinned and fallen short of His glory, and He has based our acceptance by Him not according to some level of works, but on the work of His perfect Son. What we could not do, Jesus did for us as the God-man going to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and being raised from the dead. As a result when we trust in Him by faith we are saved and His righteousness is credited to our accounts. We receive His Spirit—the Holy Spirit at that moment and are made spiritually alive, even enabled to grow in Christ and become conformed to His image.

This is what the righteousness of Christ does for us. It turns us from those bound as slaves to sin, and makes us such that we can live victoriously in the face of its temptations. It makes us such that we will never be judged by God for that sin because Jesus paid it all. This does not excuse us to keep on sinning, for if we truly have trusted Christ for our salvation, then indeed God will do a work in us and He will never let go of us. When the darts of accusation come in, even when we have sinned, we can stop and look to our God admitting our transgression before Him, thanking Him for His forgiveness, and recommit to walk right before Him with the righteousness of Christ through the power of His Spirit under the direction of His Word.

Jesus said, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” There is no satisfaction in striving to be good enough, to hopefully be pleasing and accepted. But there is great satisfaction in knowing that we are fully accepted in Christ and having been firmly placed in God’s forever family as His adopted children with a full inheritance.

“So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”” (Romans 8:12–15, NASB95)

And a little later we read, “But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”” (Romans 10:6–11, NASB95)

Beatitude facet number 4: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

If you are uncertain of where you stand with God in regard to the standard by which you are judged, Andy Stanley has written a wonderful little book walking through this issue. I would be happy to send you a free to you copy of “How Good is Good Enough?” if you would just contact me and let me know your desire.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Blessed Submission (Matthew 5:5)

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NKJV)

This beatitude runs contrary to much of our American attitude, where we are encouraged to be aggressive and confident in our lives, striving for that which is bigger and better. When we look at those who are touted in the media, whether its sports, or politics, business, or entertainment we find countless stories of those who have boldly stepped out and accomplished great things. Among these are people who widely vary in what they believe (or don’t believe), including many Christians. Some of these people are totally dependent on themselves, while others realize that they have been enabled to accomplish these things.

Do any of these people qualify as meek? What was Jesus talking about when He said, “Blessed are the meek”? What makes a person meek? In order to consider what it is to be a meek person, let’s look at the concept of meekness itself. Looking to a New Testament word study dictionary I read, “Meekness, but not in a man’s outward behavior only, nor in his relations to his fellow man or his mere natural disposition. Rather, it is an inwrought grace of the soul, and the expressions are primarily toward God. It is that attitude of spirit we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute or resist. [Meekness] according to Aristotle, is the middle standing between two extremes, getting angry without reason and not getting angry at all. Therefore [meekness] is getting angry at the right time, in the right measure, and for the right reason. [Meekness] is not readily expressed in English (since the term “meekness” suggests weakness), but it is a condition of mind and heart which demonstrates gentleness, not in weakness, but in power. It is a balance born in strength of character.

While most English translations use the word “meek,” and recognizing the true core of meekness is a form of gentle power, we find a varied translation of this verse in the New American Standard where we read, “Blessed are the gentle.” In this sense we have the picture possibly of the gentle giant, who possesses great power, yet uses it with tender care stemming from a considerate and sensitive heart.

Later in Matthew, we find this same word used again. Here is used to speak of the God-man, Jesus Christ, who is the King of kings and Lord of lords entering Jerusalem according to prophecy which was being fulfilled. “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Matthew 21:5, NASB95)

Jesus tenderly cared for those who were sick and struggling, and Jesus firmly dealt with those who were harsh and hard hearted. He knew when to reach out His hand to draw people in and when to hold up His hand to hold back opposition. Though He was fully God, as man He willingly submitted Himself to harsh treatment, scourging, and even being crucified in order to fulfill the will of the Father. Being meek or humble really does seem to embrace knowing how to walk rightly before men and how to stand strong as we submit fully to God and whatever He might bring our way.

The apostles repeatedly were persecuted and even imprisoned for the message they proclaimed.  Yet we read throughout the New Testament that when they presented the gospel they did it with boldness, while humbly submitting themselves to God as sovereign over how man might respond. Paul prayed in Romans 15:29-32 that he might be delivered from these persecutors in the presentation of the gospel. In Ephesians 6:17-19 he asked for prayer that he might be bold in presenting this message, recognizing that he was ultimately in bondage to God. The apostle Peter wrote, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (1 Peter 3:15, NASB95)

James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:19–21, NASB95)

Clearly we see that this gentleness, meekness, or humility is different than that which the world might paint. It is one that recognizes that God is totally sovereign over the entirety of our lives as well as the entirety of creation. As such, everything we think, say, or do is to be done with this awareness and in subjection to His ultimate leading and hand in our lives. A biblically meek person is one who is not big in himself, but one who if he boasts does his boating in the Lord and not in his own arrogance (James 4:13-16).

The apostle Paul, recognizing his personal weakness, wrote, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10, NASB95)

Continuing in our beatitude for the day we read, “for they shall inherit the earth.” This is a quote of Psalm 37:11. I would encourage you to take some time and read the entire psalm, but for now I have included a brief portion which reads, “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.” (Psalm 37:8–13, ESV)

With Jesus quoting this psalm we clearly can see the end time promise that one day evil will be broken and finally defeated. Even in the hope of the millennial reign when Jesus returns with His saints to rule the earth in a time of peace and righteousness we see the great hope that we are given that our God wins. In fact, He has already won. Evil is allowed for a season while His church is being built and people are turning to Christ for salvation. But one day this door will be closed, the last person will be saved, evil will be put down, and the meek will indeed inherit the earth. And beyond that we have the ultimate promise that our God is preparing a new heaven and a new earth which will last forever and ever.

Knowing the ultimate outcome, we really have nothing to fear here and now. For even in death there is great victory, knowing that we step out of these bodies and into the presence of our Lord while we await the upcoming great and final victory awaiting us all. And in our present trials we are given many assurances in God’s Word that God will never leave us nor forsake us, and that he encloses us before and behind, making us able to stand under any trial which He allows into our lives.

Those who hope in God and not in themselves, find as their ultimate hope the promises of a great and eternal inheritance given to us in Christ. This is a certain fact which makes all that we struggle with here and now tolerable, finding our joy in God so that we might persevere.

Beatitude facet number 3: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Friday, March 28, 2014

Blessed Comfort (Matthew 5:4)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4, NASB95)

Yesterday I started looking at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and the first of what we know as the Beatitudes, or statements that start off with “blessed are” and then describe the condition of individuals. Yesterday it was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,…” Each of these “blessed are” statements are then concluded with a “for” response of answer that directly relates to their condition. Yesterday we saw that those who are humble and dependent in spirit are those who are given the kingdom of God. These are the people who recognize their great need, and find their answer to that need in God.

Today the “blessed are” people are those who mourn. Now those who mourn are not separate from those who are poor in spirit or any of the other “blessed are” groups. But they are those who are going through a difficult season as the result of some brokenness or loss. Prior to writing today I went to Facebook to catch up on a few friends and saw that one of them had posted a picture which had the words embedded, “Today is World Cancer Day, I light this candle in honor of all cancer survivors, fighters and those who have lost their lives to this disease.” And sure enough there is a world cancer day, which was evidently February 4th of this year. That was a single day, but this sentiment is one that burdens many day after day, especially those who are not included in the declaration—those who lost a loved one due to the ravages of cancer. For them they are walking with a hole in their lives and hearts due to someone very close to them not being present in their lives.

Whether it is cancer, heart attack, car accident, or even plane crash we all at some time experience periods of mourning. And our Lord Jesus understands our loss. The prophet Isaiah wrote of Him, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:3–5, NASB95)

Jesus had not yet gone to the cross or suffered those things spoken of by Isaiah at the time of the Sermon on the Mount, but being eternal God He knew what lay before Him and He took it on willingly for us. Because of the suffering He was to endure on our behalf, we are indeed eternally blessed.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 1 we read that our God is truly a God of comfort, and He is able to give it to us abundantly in Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–5, NASB95)

Nowhere does Scripture tell us that we are to “Buck up” and not show our emotions. Rather, we find that our God knows our emotions and He calls us to come to Him and put before Him even our deepest hurts and see how He works to turn those hurts into comfort and blessing. This is especially true for those who are mourning over the loss of a loved one who is a believer is Christ. For in this there is the great hope of being reunited with all believers for all eternity. Even in the face of losing someone for whom we question their salvation or we might even be pretty confident that the person die not having trusted in Christ, as believers we have the blessed assurance that God is faithful to His promises and that while they may have rejected Him, He will never reject us but has eternally adopted us as His beloved children.

In 2 Thessalonians Paul wrote, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16–17, NASB95)

This is where the “for” part of the “blessed are” come is. In Matthew 5:4 we read “for” these people will truly be comforted. The blessing is not necessarily found in the loss, but in how our God responds to meet the needs resulting from the loss. In the meantime we are told to understand this of each other, and in that the Bible says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15, NASB95)

And as we do this with one another, we can do so reminding each other of our great hope. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, NASB95)

Those who mourn in Christ indeed are those who also are poor in spirit, and in the comfort that comes from God we know that he holds firmly in His hands all of the resources of heaven and earth and is fully powerful and wise to use them exactly as He knows best.

Beatitude facet number 2: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Blessed Are For (Matthew 5:1-3)

“When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”” (Matthew 5:1–3, NASB95)

In Matthew 5 we have the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It begins with the simple words from which the things He had to say got their famous name. We read that when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain. Today we are accustomed to people speaking from stages with podiums and amplification of their voices. But when Jesus saw the people He simply went to a visible place from where He could speak to them. He went up the mountain, sat down, and waited on His disciples to come to Him. I imagine the setting with his brand new disciples gathered tightly around him to listen to Him, and behind them the rest of the crowds moved in to hear more from Him. Even at this point in His ministry Jesus was already known and had a large following, for we read in chapter 4 that He had already been doing a large number of healings and, according to Matthew 4:25, “Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.” (Matthew 4:25, NASB95)

So the scene was set, the people were gathered, and Jesus began to speak. The first words we have recorded are what we call the Beatitudes. “Beatitude” is a Latin word which is used to describe a condition of blessedness, which is exactly what they begin with—“Blessed are…,for….” In the next nine verses of Matthew 5, Jesus pronounces nine of these “blessed are for” statements, which are not descriptive of nine different groups of people, but are a description of what is applicable of all of us, though maybe not all of them at the same time.

The first “blessed are for” statement in found in verse 3, where we read “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  “Blessed” is a common theme in Scripture. Psalm 1 begins with “Blessed is the man who…,” and in the footnotes of the MacArthur Study Bible we read, “From the perspective of the individual, this is a deep-seated joy and contentment in God; from the perspective of the believing community, it refers to redemptive favor.” As Psalm 1 continues we read, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1–2, NASB95) The blessed ones are those who find the vast riches of God grace extended to them as they follow after Him and set their hearts on Him and His word. As such there is no single English word which can really summarize what it means to be “blessed,” and so we find Jesus giving this longer listing of how we know how blessed we are by God in the various aspects and attitudes of our lives.

In verse 3, we read that the first blessed ones are those who are “poor in spirit.” This refers to recognizing our full dependence on God and not big in ourselves. The poor in spirit find their life, their strength, and their hope in God alone. Isaiah wrote in chapter 61, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners;” (Isaiah 61:1, NASB95) Then in chapter 66 he added, “For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2, NASB95) From Isaiah we read that God had called him to proclaim help and hope to those who recognized their need, and that the God who created everything would indeed look to those who were humble, afflicted in their spirit, and fearfully considerate of His word, and He would strengthen them.

Jesus said that these people would indeed be given the kingdom of heaven. Jesus had come to give life and soon was to complete that purpose on the cross. The Spirit of God has been given the task of convicting the hearts of man. We read in Scripture that it is by grace that we are saved, not as a result of works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). There was no way we could earn God’s pleasure, but He is well pleased to show us His grace and as a result we believe and are saved. In James 4:6 we read, “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”” (James 4:6, NASB95)

In response to this gift of heaven Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3–9, NASB95)

Beatitude facet number 1: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Certainly Saved (Psalm 20:6-9)

“Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God. They have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stood upright. Save, O Lord; may the King answer us in the day we call.” (Psalm 20:6–9, NASB95)

“Anointed” means to be specially set apart for service as in the case of the priests and kings of Israel. The root of the word means to smear, anoint, spread a liquid, consecrate. David was anointed as king by Samuel at the instruction of God, just as Samuel had anointed Saul before him. When Samuel was a young boy, his mother who had promised to lend her son to God for service (1 Samuel 1:24-28), brought young Samuel to Eli the priest after he had been weaned. Scripture records for us her prayer when as yet Israel did not yet have its first king.

“And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. “There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”” (1 Samuel 2:1–10, ESV)

She closes her prayer with, “He [God] will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” And this was the praise of David in Psalm 20 when He again had seen God’s deliverance. God had proven Himself to David, and David knew for sure the power of God to deliver. It was in this that the people of Israel were to rejoice. It was not their own might, but the power of God. It was not in their own ability to withstand, but God who made them to stand, and God had made them so that they could stand straight.

Jesus Himself, we read was anointed. We read that He was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and power at the time of His baptism, and we read that He was anointed with expensive oil by one of His followers for death. In Matthew 3:13-17 we have the record of His baptism, and in Acts 10:37-41 we have commentary on this event.

“You yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.” (Acts 10:37–41, NASB95)

In these verses we read that Jesus had been empowered by the Spirit to fulfill as God-man the purpose for which He was sent by the Father, and we know that He did this fully. As Jesus neared the end of His ministry, two days before the Passover and His arrest, we find Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) moved to bless Him with the best she had, to which the others were caught off guard. We read, “While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head.” … “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” (Mark 14:3, 6–9, NASB95)

While David had been set apart and anointed to lead God’s people in life, Jesus here was anointed to die. From ages past God had ordained that He would send a Savior for His people and in so doing He would bless all the nations. Jesus, the Son of God, is the One set apart to do this work on our behalf. And as we read the Bible we see that He fulfilled perfectly the mission which only He was qualified to do and for which He was sent.

King David had seen God deliver His people from aggressors. We have seen the King of kings deliver us from all of our sins and deliver us to eternal life.

In 2 Corinthians the apostle Paul, sure of His calling from God, wrote, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” (2 Corinthians 1:21–22, NASB95) The first several times I read this I thought of the special call that Paul and those with him had in bringing the gospel message. And as I continued to reread it I read, “…He who establishes us with you in Christ….” His comment includes “us,” all of us, as those who have been set apart and sealed and given His Spirit as a pledge of His faithfulness and a hope of things yet to come.

In 1 John 2, in view of the end times, we read, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” … “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” … “As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.” … “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” (1 John 2:17-18, 20, 24-25, 27, NASB95)

John is writing to tell believers in these last days that things are going to get worse, but not to become dismayed by the struggles and the spread of evil. Rather he points to the special anointing that we all have as those saved by Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit. He points to the sure knowledge that we have about salvation and the truths of God’s Word. He points to the Spirit who resides in us to make these truths alive in us. This anointing is not a smearing of oil on the head, but one that results from the shedding of blood. This anointing is a living one, and one in which we are to daily abide. If you have trusted Jesus Christ for your salvation you have a living hope, an anointing by God which is absolutely true.

It is not that no one can teach us more of God’s truth, but that God’s truth is complete and man has nothing to add. His Spirit testifies to this and in that we can daily hope. Our God is faithful to finish that which He started. He is our Deliverer and living in us is the certainty of that hope in His Spirit.

In that we can stand with David and loudly proclaim,

“Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God. They have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stood upright. Save, O Lord; may the King answer us in the day we call.”

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hearing Our Prayers (Psalm 20:1-5)

“May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high! May He send you help from the sanctuary and support you from Zion! May He remember all your meal offerings and find your burnt offering acceptable! Selah. May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your counsel! We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.” (Psalm 20:1–5, NASB95) 

Psalm 20 was a prayer prior to entering battle asking for the favor of God, and Psalm 21 a psalm of thankfulness after the victory. In the first five verses of psalm 20 the request of God was that He would answer this prayer when most needed—in their time of trouble. David, as king, had recaptured the ark and had it placed in a tabernacle in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion—the place where God made Himself present to His people.

Prior to going into battle they had made offerings to God and knelt before Him in prayer asking that He would respond and be their help. God’s covenant of protection, provision, and deliverance with Israel was one based upon obedient faith and by faith they worshiped Him, offered sacrifices according to what had been written, and obeyed His statutes and ordinances. All of these were done in response to who God is, what He had asked of them, and in anticipation of what He would do in their favor if they obeyed His commandments. So Psalm 20 starts off with a request of deliverance from a king who had been put in place by God Himself, and who the king (David) knew was really his deliverer and not his own armies.

Two thousand years ago things changed radically. Though man was still to seek after God by faith and God as always remains his Deliverer, now man does not have to look to the temple in Jerusalem for the place where God met with the priests who interceded for man in prayer and sacrifices. No, Jesus Christ offered up the ultimate, final, once-for-all sacrifice on a hill at Jerusalem. And as we place our trust in Jesus for our salvation, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells every believer. Jesus became our Great High Priest and our intercessor who hears and answers our prayers, and we have become the temple of His Spirit.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NASB95)

“Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.” (2 Corinthians 6:16, NASB95) 

We have always been expected by God to worship Him with our whole hearts, regardless of the side of the cross we live on. David was a man called by God as one after His own heart. We, ourselves, are called by God to be the same. And in that same way we can echo the prayer of David for deliverance in our time of trouble, whether that trouble is entering a real battle, a spiritual battle, a battle with disease, personal relations, work, or even direction. 

The prayer of King David was that God would remember them, help them, and deliver them. The Scriptures tell us that our God is our faithful Deliverer, our help in time of trouble. “Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, “Let God be magnified.” But I am afflicted and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.” (Psalm 70:4–5, NASB95)

Our prayer can be the same regardless of the issues we face, and we can know that our God hears those prayers and will answer. And like David and his people, we ourselves can rejoice in the faithfulness of our Deliverer.

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24, NASB95)

“May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.”

Friday, March 21, 2014

Light Up My Life (Psalm 19:12-14)

“Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:12–14, ESV)

In Psalm 19 we read about the intensity of the suns light and how it not only proclaims God’s handiwork, but it also shines its light and warmth on all mankind. We also read about His Word which not only declares the majesty of our God, but also shines its truth on our lives for salvation and growth so that we might know how to walk right before God. As this psalm closes we find the psalmist turning to those faults and sins in himself which might be hidden or presumptuous.

In verse 11 we read that the Word of God serves as a warning to those who submit themselves to His direction in their lives. As we move to verse 12 a rhetorical question is asked. “Who can discern his [man’s] errors?” The obvious answer is God, and from that the psalmist turns to a prayer for his life. Recognizing that he has to deal with his known and exposed sins, David asks God to show to him even the hidden sins, failings, or faults which he might be committing or had committed which needed to be dealt with.

David knew that God knew absolutely everything about him, things which he had no inkling of himself. Repeatedly David asked God to search him and show him those things. In Psalm 139, where we read how intimately God is aware of every aspect of our lives, David closes with “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23–24, NASB95)

David wanted his life to be opened by God and exposed so that he might see its darkest corners. In addition to those hidden things which needed to be exposed, David was also sensitive to those areas in which he didn’t even stop and ask for direction. Here we read David asking to be kept back from presumptuous sins. These presumptuous sins are more than just moving forward without asking, but they have the aspect of presuming that you know best and you don’t need to check in with God. It is when we set our path without looking to God who establishes it, and so frequently when we do this we wind up some place where we are left to wonder how we got there.

David’s son, Solomon, learned something about this in writing Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, NASB95)

James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:13–17, NASB95)

David recognized that his life was intended to be lived under the direction of God and not according to how capable he might have felt himself. And so he asked God to not only show him those areas of arrogant living, but also to keep him from them and not to let them have rule over him. In doing this he declared that he would then be blameless and innocent before God and kept away from one thing leading to the next until he strayed far away from where God would have him be.

He closes the psalm with a prayer and a hope that all that he spoke from his mouth or treasured in his heart would be honoring to God and fully acceptable to Him. It is this heart bent toward God that God knew of David when he was still a shepherd and He spoke through the prophet Samuel to the then King Saul, “But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” (1 Samuel 13:14, NASB95)

From reading God’s Word we know that David sinned and even sinned greatly according to our standards. But in Acts we read this of him, “After He had removed him [Saul], He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’” (Acts 13:22, NASB95) Knowing these things of David and knowing God’s opinion of David gives us great hope. Knowing that Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sins, and through Him all of them are forgiven—past, present, and future—we can find great encouragement ourselves in knowing that God does not turn His back on us. But at the same time, He also expects us to seek after Him with all of our hearts and to lean on Him for His direction in our lives, dealing with sins as they are exposed, and trusting in His Word as the infallible record of what we need to know and how we are to live.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NASB95)

David closed this psalm with, “O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” This is an incredible statement of the unshakable hope that David had in God. And is one that we all can share in and many of us have likely even sung in song.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

His Word Gives Light (Psalm 19:7-11)

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7–11, ESV)

In the first verses of this psalm we read of how the sun so magnificently points to God and shines a light on all of His creation. This light has illumined the hearts of men and pointed them to God from the beginning. Yet even in that we know that there are many who deny the source of the light, and whose hearts have become darkened by their own speculation. In this next section of the psalm we move to a more direct declaration—the Word of God. And the description of God’s Word, given us by the psalmist (David), declares how it shines as a true and perfect light on every aspect of our lives.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” God’s Word is absolutely true, given to us by God Himself as His Spirit moved in the hearts of men to record it just as He intends. Peter affirmed this for us even in speaking about how he and the apostles and prophets received the Word from God.

“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:19–21, NASB95)

Knowing that what we have is the true and accurate Word of God is a huge encouragement. It means that there is no guessing about who God is, how we approach Him, or even how to be saved. He has made Himself known to us, and in doing this He has repeatedly expressed and shown His great love for us. He has shown us who He is so that we might bow before Him in worship. In a world where so much happens around us over which we have little or no control, it is truly refreshing to know that our God knows all things.

David continues to declare the value of God’s Word by using various synonyms which point to multiplied benefits of learning and living according to God’s Word. We read that from God’s Word we grow in wisdom from Him and not according to the convoluted thinking of man. God’s Word is right. It is just right, and in that we can find great peace and rejoice in the assurance which fills it from beginning to end. There is no evil in God’s Word. We are never commanded to do anything wrong or improper. No matter what pressures there might be in the world or even in our own hearts, God’s Word gives us light by which we are to live. And while things might be constantly changing around us, God never changes. He is unable to change by His nature. He is, always has been, and always will be eternally prefect and complete in all ways, and what He tells us is truthful and dependable today just as it was when it was written.

I remember talking to one of my boys who had struggled at a church youth camp because some of the kids weren’t playing according to the rules during some of the games. We had the opportunity to talk about the importance of rules, because they set a framework for our activities. But we also had an opportunity to talk about how man is inclined to break those rules (sin), and that God has been incredibly gracious and merciful toward us in forgiving our sins through His Son and enabling us to live right in response. God’s rules are true and right, and He has given them to us for life. But in giving them, His intent was not that we would become legalistic in observing them for the sake of showing how good we are, but as a worshipful response to who He is. When we trust Christ for our salvation His righteousness is put to our account and we are made righteous in Him. In response we are called to walk in His light, hiding His Word in our hearts, and obeying all that He commands us.

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” (Psalm 119:9–16, ESV)

For a people that get so easily off track, who live in darkness without a clear course, and who really are foolish on their own, God has reached into our lives and made Himself known to us. In this we can greatly rejoice, knowing just how much God who created everything we see desires to have a relationship with us. He has made Himself accessible through His Spirit illumining our eyes so that we might know His salvation and grow in His ways. As beloved children of God there is a great treasure we have been given in our Father speaking to us.

“More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Sun Declares His Works (Psalm 19:1-6)

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Psalm 19:1–6; ESV)

Tomorrow is the first day of Spring and my yard knows it well. As we have been seeing more and more of the sun and feeling its warmth, our trees and grass outside have been flourishing in its life giving rays. I even had to dig find and clean up my sun glass clip last week, and I enjoyed wearing shorts several days this past week. There is something about that huge burning object which we orbit that speaks so loudly of life in times like this. The sun rises in our lives every day and it runs its course without wavering. Its brilliance is like the overwhelming joy in the face and the steps of a groom on his wedding day.

The psalmist wrote that the heavens declare the glory of God. Living in southern Oregon we get to see this glory both during the day and at night (at least when the clouds and fog are gone). On a clear night the stars are absolutely amazing, and all I have to do is walk out back and look. Yet there are many out there who think this was a big poof event with no directive thought behind it. They say that it just happened. When I look at the skies I have to wonder how they can think things such as this. All that we experience here is dependent on the heavens being exactly as they are. It is such a fine line, and it screams amazement and points to the Creator behind it.

The sun is brightly shining and much of the world doesn’t see its source because their hearts are darkened and they grasp to foolish and outlandish speculations. This is what Scriptures tell us. Paul wrote in Romans, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,” (Romans 1:19–22, NASB95)

In verse 2 we read that “Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” The psalmist tells us that all that we see above us declares God’s majesty. It points to Him as our Maker, yet there are those who don’t hear. What they are not hearing is not a literal voice, but that voice of wonder inside them that causes us to stop and worship the Giver of life. They have convinced themselves that there must be another source, and so they live as if God did not exist.

But He does, and He has made Himself known to us. Those who know me, also know that I try to limit how much sun I expose myself to. With my fair skin and my thermostat I can easily become overwhelmed by it. And as I think about the power and majesty of the sun which God has given us, I can’t help but think about His Son who set aside the fullness of His glory to become man so that we might have new life. God was perfectly capable of saving us in any way He chose, and He would have been totally just not to save us at all. But because He loved us He sent His Son for us, and He sent Him in a way that we could really know Him. The very One who spoke things into existence became the same One who brought us new life, and He made Himself approachable as a humble man who came to seek and to save. And after being put to death on a cross, like the sun that goes away and then rises again, the Son of God was buried and then rose on the third day once for all. God knows best how to provide the sun to us for life here, and He knew best what we needed through His Son for eternal life.

When we look to the sun and observe its power and consider the majesty of our God, we also can turn our hearts in praise and thank Him for declaring in His Word the life giving power of His Son so that we might know, believe, and live. 

“but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31, NASB95)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Loved and Adopted (Romans 8:15-17)

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ….” (Romans 8:15–17, NASB95)

Today I was working on a memorial service for this coming weekend. The individual being remembered is one who was adopted as a small child by parents of whom the mother herself was adopted, yet did not find out about her own or her mother’s adoption until she was an adult. This information had a significant impact on her life, and she struggled under it for many years. It was not until she really came to grasp the other side of adoption that she really began to come out of her dark struggle and live with peace and hope.

While I will not pretend to speak for her, there are so many children who have struggled with being rejected in one way or another and along with that battled over their real identity or at least what they thought about their identity. For some they work though this with a great deal of support and do well. Others, however, struggle with depression and more. They question what it was about them that made them so unacceptable and they question why anyone else would accept them. For some their adoption happened early and they don’t have any memory. But for others, their path to adoption was a lot more traumatic, maybe even spending time going from one family member or foster home to another, and they carry with them vivid memories of what came before whether it was good or bad. For them the process of merging into a new family becomes even more dramatic. Today many children are told early about their adoption and there is a great deal of help available for both adoptive children and adoptive parents. But it has not always been that way. Regardless of the age or the steps leading to a new home, it is quite natural to question what might have been and what it or why.

From the adoptive parent side, knowing there are many exceptions some of which are not healthy, bringing a new child into the home is a choice they make based upon need and love. The love they have may not even be for a specific child, but a love placed in their hearts to love a child and to nurture and raise that needy child. They may be unable to have children by birth and they take this path as another alternative. They may be burdened to help a needy child and to share the incredible love and blessings they have with this child. They may even be relatives who because of a great need in the family take on the raising of a grandchild or a niece or nephew or who adopt the child of their new spouse. All of these point to people who bring into their home and into their hearts a child who they love and fully accept, raising as if born to them. They become their children by choice.

It is this picture of adoption that came to mean so much to this individual. She was raised by loving parents and grandparents, but this did not prevent her from having a difficult time when she found out they weren’t her birth family. But as she came to learn more about her God and what He had done for her when she became saved a huge light bulb went on in her mind and significant change in her heart began to happen.

The Bible says that we are born slaves to sin and that our sin keeps us separated from God. And there was not a single thing we could do about it. We were helpless. But God, because of His great love for us, sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins and to bring us into a new and eternal relationship with Him. In this way we were not just part of the crowd of those who God chose to worship Him forever, but we were made children of God, adopted and given an inheritance with His Son. The Bible assures us that we then become totally accepted and secure, and that there is nothing that can separate us from His hands.

He has put us into an eternal family, knit together by His Spirit. And the reason He did this for us is because He loves us. He knows everything about our past. He knows our greatest needs. He knows all of our hidden secrets. He knows the things we like least about ourselves, and He knows the things that bring us our greatest joy. He loves us. He chose us. He called us. And He adopts us as His own.

As I was thinking on this my mind went to a Bill Gaither hymn, “The Family of God.”

I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family, the Family of God.

You will notice we say “brother and sister” ’round here,
It’s because we’re a family and these are so near;
When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.

From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King,
No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;
From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,
I’m not worthy to be here, but praise God I belong!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Suffering for doing Good (1 Peter 3:14-17; Psalm 59)

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:14–17, ESV)

Earlier today I spoke with an individual about a situation in which this person was being attacked because of doing right and preventing others from causing harm to a loved one. These attacks have risen in their intensity and the individual is really feeling the pressure. As I thought about this I thought about just how much of a struggle it can be for us at times to stand in the face of those who want to do evil or abuse those who are not well-defended even if they don’t even recognize your efforts. As the one doing right and standing in this place you then become the one at the center of the attack.

The verses above in 1 Peter speak of suffering for righteousness’ sake. Suffering in this way is really suffering for doing right before God and others. In this we are encouraged not to be fearful of our attackers, but to continue to honor Christ as Lord in our hearts. In doing this we look not to the size and forcefulness of our attackers, but to the size and faithfulness of our God and our Lord. Our God is bigger and more powerful that any created being or institution. He also has given us a way to live, and we are called to live that way regardless of what anyone else might say or do.

And when we are called to defend this position, we are to respond in such a way that we gently and respectfully point others to God as the One who directs our steps and determines our actions. When they choose to revile us for our good behavior we ourselves can know that we are standing before them with a clear conscience. Ultimately God is the One who judges all people and their behavior is answerable to Him. In light of that, verse 17 tells us that it is “better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will.”

Earlier in 1 Peter this subject is also dealt with. And in this instruction we are instructed that we are to be subject to those who are over us, even if that person is unjust in their treatment of us. In this passage we are also given the example of Christ who submitted to the will of the Father to suffer abuse at the hands of man. We are reminded that Jesus committed no sin. He did no wrong, yet He suffered greatly. And in His suffering He did not take it as an opportunity to revile or speak harshly about those who were persecuting Him. It says that, even being God and fully capable, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself fully into the hands of the Father. He did this so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:18–24, ESV)

Everything we do as believers, even on behalf of others, we are encouraged to do as living sacrifices in recognition of what God has done for us (Romans 12:1-2). Standing for right in the face of others who want to do wrong and even accuse you of wrong is a part of that service. Jesus was fully focused on the reason He came and He was determined to fulfill it fully and without slipping into the tit for tat garbage of His accusers. Here we can plug in any kind of intense struggle in which we have to make a choice between doing right and succumbing to any number of pressures to do evil or permit evil under our oversight. Jesus understands that intensity. The very ones He came to save were those who the Father made an everlasting covenant with, and it was them who pushed to the point of putting Him on the cross.

There are things we can control in every situation, and this is what we are to prayerfully attend to. But there are also things over which we have no control, and that most frequently is what other people do. We are to stay focused on what we can do and repeatedly (as often as we need to) hand back to God that which we can’t. In Ephesians 6:12 the Bible speaks of this as a spiritual battle being waged in our minds, and in verses ten and following it goes into how we are to prepare ourselves for battle in Christ.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV)

Many of the psalms in the 50’s range have to do with being attacked in one way or another. Following is one of those psalms, Psalm 59, which has to do with the persistence of our enemy who, in our minds, can rise to such huge dimensions. David was sinless (righteous) in relation to his attackers, but they were out for his life. In this psalm David speaks of our God who laughs at the futility of their efforts to attack him in relation to His own strength and in that David knows he will be delivered.

Psalm 59 (ESV)
To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him.

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me;
2 deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men.
3 For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord,
4 for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. Awake, come to meet me, and see!
5 You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel. Rouse yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah
6 Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city.
7 There they are, bellowing with their mouths with swords in their lips— for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”
8 But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision.
9 O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.
10 My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.
11 Kill them not, lest my people forget; make them totter by your power and bring them down, O Lord, our shield!
12 For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride. For the cursing and lies that they utter,
13 consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth. Selah
14 Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city.
15 They wander about for food and growl if they do not get their fill.
16 But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

To God be Glory Forever, Amen! (Romans 16:25-27)

“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:25–27, NASB95)

With these last few words Paul concludes his letter to the believers in Rome. What an incredible way to wrap up this thorough teaching for believers. Paul concludes with his eyes turned to our God who is the One who provided for our salvation, made us fully righteous with the righteousness of His Son, and grows us to full maturity in Jesus Christ.

These truths were made known to us by both from the prophets and through the numerous men who God moved by His Spirit to record His perfect Word.

“for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:21, NASB95)

As Paul and others were given to the ministry of spreading the gospel news, that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead, Paul here was giving credit back to God for what God accomplished through the message that Paul was called to share. It was clearly not something He did for God, but what God did in and through Him as Jesus Christ was loudly, faithfully, and clearly proclaimed even in the face of imprisonment and the reality of death.

What God had promised two thousand years before to Abram (Abraham) and later spoke of through His prophets, God fully revealed in Christ. The Messiah had come. Salvation had come to all men—Jews and Gentiles, and now the good news was being spread throughout the world and many were responding in obedience to the truth and being saved.

Surely Paul also hurt in his heart seeing his own kinsmen (fellow Jews) reject both the Savior and the spreading of salvation to those who were not a part of the covenant. Paul had known their harsh treatment, and was to endure much more for the cause of the gospel of Christ. But Paul also knew the promises, and he wrote about their fulfillment even in this letter that one day the head of Satan would be crushed and all of Israel would be saved. Paul saw this as a soon coming reality and one in which to rejoice and have great hope.

Two thousand years later, we also continue to see this mass rejection not only by Jews but also by so much of the rest of mankind. But even in this, we see our God continuing to draw people to Himself through the message of the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.

With Paul we can look to our God and praise Him for the completeness of His plan and trust Him for its completion. As Paul said, He is the “only wise God!” And we have full access to Him through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ through whom we have been forgiven, adopted, and made fully acceptable. And in this we can lift our praise to Him and ascribe to Him all of the glory. One day we will meet Him face to face and join in eternal, full, and complete worship. One day also, even those who have rejected Him will bow before Him, but for them their end is eternal judgment and separation. I am so glad He knows exactly how to deal with all of this and I am so thankful that He has called me to be a part of His work. With that it is my prayer that I would gladly and boldly proclaim Him.

God, thank you for your Word and for our brother Paul who You turned from a hater of Christ to a powerful ambassador to proclaim, instruct, encourage, and even suffer that we might hear. May we be found as people who faithfully give ourselves back to you as living and holy sacrifices wholly acceptable to You.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1, NASB95)

To You be glory forever. Amen.