Why Everything is Going Wrong

We will never find the solution to all our problems, until we find the cause of them.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 39-40; Philippians 4

18 To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?                             Isaiah 40:18

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;                                  Philippians 4:4-5

Where did we go off track? Easy question, if you believe the Bible. God made man (male and female) in His likeness (Genesis 1:27), but sin entered into man’s experience when the woman succumbed to the temptation to be “like God, knowing good and evil.” She then invited the man to join her, and he did (Genesis 3).

Now Isaiah asks, “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?”  The correct answer, before the fall, would have been, “Man is like God”, but fallen man responds, “God is like me. I am God. No one is over me.” All sin stems from this attitude of autonomy and rebellion. It results in every evil which we now experience on a daily basis throughout the world: mass murder on campuses, terrified refugees fleeing war by the thousands, hostile legal battles over personal rights, etc. Solutions elude us as a society because we fail to recognize the real problem. We have made ourselves gods, rather than to recognize Him, our eternal Creator as the One whom we must fear, love, and worship.

Paul, in writing to the Philippians, urges them to rejoice in the Lord. Perhaps their circumstances did not contribute to a joyful atmosphere. Never mind. Rejoice in the Lord. He tells them to be reasonable, and then follows that with “The Lord is at hand…” The petty divisions and quarrels, they were apparently having, revealed a lack of conscious awareness of God’s presence (Philippians 2:1-5; 4:2-3). So, we see again, that ignorance of God, who He is, and how near He is, results in gloom at best and great acts of presumptuous evil at worst.

All our troubles stem from sin, and all our sin stems from failure to recognize that God is God. He is near, yet He is far above us, He is holy, He is eternal.  Peace, joy, and reasonableness will characterize those who heed Paul’s admonition to be conscious that “the Lord is at hand.” God came in human flesh to save us from our sin, to reverse what our first parents did. Make the gospel of Jesus Christ your focus today. Believe in Him. Live in Him.

No Confidence in the Flesh

The only path to acceptance before God is the way of the Savior, Jesus Christ, who alone can make us righteous.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 37-38; Philippians 3

18 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20 So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.” Isaiah 37:18-20

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— Philippians 3:2-3

In Isaiah’s day, Sennacherib king of Assyria and his army romped across the world destroying kingdoms at will. He boasted that Judah would be next. After all, he reasoned, all the nations had their gods and none of them had been able to stand up to mighty Sennacherib. Hezekiah was intimidated, but he made the right response. He called on Isaiah for help and prayer. He prayed and repented himself. He asked God to intervene in such a way “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”

God heard and answered in a decisive way.

Sennacherib was diverted from Judah and then murdered by two of his own sons while he was worshiping his idols. How fitting! Sennacherib trusted in his flesh and in empty idols rather than seeking the true and living God of Israel. Judah was safe.

Paul warned the Philippians of the “Sennacheribs” that threatened them. Those latter day Sennacheribs elevated themselves as if they were perfect by their own law keeping. They trusted in their flesh. Paul said to look out for them. They seek their own righteousness and their own glory. Paul said, “we put no confidence in the flesh.”

Beware of any false teacher who diminishes the need for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who says we are capable of attaining righteousness apart from Him. These do not glory in Him but, like Sennacherib, trust in themselves. Flee them. Put no confidence in your flesh.

It’s About God

There is coming a day of restoration, and God will be glorified by all.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 34-36; Philippians 2

1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
2 it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.                                                                         Isaiah 35:1-2

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.                                                                                            Philippians 2:9-11

No matter where we open and read in our Bibles, we are never far from the glory of God. His glory is proclaimed everywhere but between the fall of man and the final judgment man falls short of that glory. Contrary to popular culture, it’s not about me, it’s about God.
Isaiah prophesied of a day of restoration when deserts would blossom and dry land would be refreshed. In that blessing of the earth, God’s glory would be seen.

The eastern United States just went through ten days of rain. In Virginia, our joy at seeing rain after weeks of drought began to give way to gloom as the cloud cover remained day after day and the ground was saturated. A flood took out a covered bridge that had stood for 100 years. We prayed for relief and safety from trees falling before expected high winds.

Then yesterday, here at Thistle Dew Farm, we woke to clear skies. Not a cloud could be seen. The sun shone brightly, drying up the mud and restoring the beauty of early autumn. I praised God and I’m sure I was not alone. God was glorified.

Jesus knew the suffering of becoming a human, a servant, and a prisoner. He knew condemnation and the unspeakable pain of flogging and crucifixion. He bore that to save His people from their sin. God exalted Him and glorified Him. One day every knee will bow and recognize His Lordship. This will bring glory to God the Father.

We live in a time characterized by fanatical self-worship. To be free, to be autonomous, to act however we please with no consequences, to be enraged that any one should call us to bow to God — these are the values of our day. But it’s not about us. It’s about Him. Be sure you are trusting in Christ for forgiveness and life. Do not let the day of restoration be your day of condemnation.

 

A City Filled with Righteousness

The ultimate aim of our lives is to bear the fruit of righteousness that comes from God and brings Him glory and praise.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 31-33; Philippians 1

5 The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,
6 and he will be the stability of your times,
abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.                                            Isaiah 33:5-6

9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.                                         Philippians 1:9-11

The fall of man in Genesis 3 touched off the millennia-long battle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, Jesus Christ. The enmity goes on, but the final victory is assured through the resurrection of Jesus that defeated Satan. Those in whom God has begun His work will be perfected at the day of Jesus Christ, the day of resurrection, the final judgment, and the glorification of the elect (Philippians 1:6).

The work of Christ in His people has already begun. It bears the fruit of righteousness through the Lord. God is pleased with this fruit which brings Him glory and praise. It is not to the credit of any human but to God. It fulfills the original purpose of man who was made in God’s image and according to His likeness.

Isaiah makes a similar connection between the glory of God and the righteousness He produces in His people. “The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness…” God wants Zion filled with righteousness and He will do it.

Meanwhile, we pray for growth in righteousness and eagerly await that day when it will be completed. In a city filled with righteousness, God “will be the stability of your times,   abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge…” Rather than trust in gold and silver, “the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.”

World leaders promise to bring about stability and prosperity, but most disregard the need for the fear of the Lord who produces true stability and prosperity through righteousness. When Christ returns, there will be no more competition for dominance or for honor. Until then, pray that day may come soon when we shall dwell in Zion.

Everything Good

Today’s reading: Psalm 82-84; Romans 8:19-39

11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.                                                                Psalm 84:11

32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?                                                         Romans 8:32

God promises that those who are “in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) will never lack any good thing.

Paul doesn’t downplay the reality of pain and suffering in this world. We groan as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. To help us, we have hope that gives us patience. We have the Holy Spirit to help us pray and to intercede for us. We have the promise that all things work together for good and that God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. We are called, justified, and glorified by God.

We can be confident that all this is true because if God has given us His Son, and He has, He will certainly give us every other necessary thing with Him. God will see that we lack nothing.

The Psalmist also finds his complete fulfillment in God. He literally longs to be in God’s presence. There he sings for joy (84:2). One day in His courts is better than a thousand anywhere else. Being a doorkeeper for the Lord is better than being in prominence in the “tents of wickedness.”

If you are in Christ, you know what Paul and the Psalmist are saying. Your heart longs to be with the Lord. This world is not your final destination. Nothing here totally satisfies you. You are a citizen of heaven and you want to be home (Philippians 3:20-21). But you are not home. Not yet. Be confident and patient. Your way may be difficult, but the victory is sure. You are more than a conqueror “through Him who loved us.”

 

Jesus Christ: His Person and Work in a Nutshell

Today’s reading: Philippians 3:1-Colossians 2:23

My selection: Colossians 1:19-20

19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

My reflections: Here in a few words is a concise statement of the Biblical teaching on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

  • Who is He? He is the God-Man in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. There is nothing lacking in His person that is in God the Father. “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father,” said Jesus to Philip (John 14:8-11). Through Christ we know fully and accurately God the Father.
  • What was His work? In a word, it was reconciliation. He came to reconcile fallen, sinful Man to God, but, not only that, His reconciliation includes all things as well. The creation was delivered from its bondage to corruption through Him. This reconciliation brought peace between the fallen world, including humanity, and God.
  • How did He do this work? All this was accomplished by the blood of his cross. By Jesus’ death God’s wrath was satisfied against sinners. Believers in Him, trust His work as the basis for their peace with God.

My challenge: Do you glory in Christ Jesus? Is all your confidence in Him? Do you resist the temptation to look for new or novel ways of knowing God apart from Christ? If you believe in Him, give Him praise for His faithful submission to death on your behalf. Trust Him alone, not in any worthiness in you or your works, for your reconciliation and peace with God.

Tomorrow’s reading:Colossians 3:1-I Thessalonians 3:13

Having the Mind of Christ

Today’s reading: Ephesians 6:1-Philippians 2:30

My selection: Philippians 2:5-7

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

My reflections: Paul commanded the Philippian Christians to have the mind of Christ among themselves. What is that mind? It is the mind of One who gave up the greatest glory in the universe to assume the lowest form of humankind, a servant. It is the mind of One who, after becoming a man and a servant, humbled Himself submitting to the most horrific death possible: crucifixion. Indeed, He was honored by God for all this and will be recognized by every person in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

That is the mind, says Paul, that Christians are to have.

My challenge: It should be a small thing for us to relinquish our position, prestige, and pride to serve others. We have so much less to give up than Christ had. We are already human so we are partly there toward being servants and dying to ourselves for the good of others. Why is this so hard?

Jesus modeled what He taught. He who loses his life will find it. Do you believe that? Have you learned that by experience?

Look for the areas of your life where you put yourself first. Look for the ways that you are liable to get angry or depressed when slighted or underestimated. Confess sin and pray that you may have the mind of Christ in your dealings with others. Actively seek to serve others as Christ did.

Tomorrow’s reading: Philippians 3:1-Colossians 2:23

Walking as Children of Light

Today’s reading: Ephesians 3:1-5:33

My selection: Ephesians 5:5-6

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

My reflections: Paul makes a powerful statement here of warning to the Christians in Ephesus and to us in the twenty first century. In this passage, we see:

1. Certainty. “You may be sure of this.”

2. Absolute terms. “…everyone who…has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

3. Specificity. Sexual immorality and impurity and covetousness (aka idolatry) are listed. Even talk, that is foolish, and joking, that is crude, is condemned (vs. 4). Sin is defined by God’s law, not by the latest public opinion polls.

4. Warning. Paul tells them to beware of deceiving words. Someone out there is attempting to contradict this teaching.

5. Consequences. “…because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

How clearly is this truth being preached in American evangelical churches today? As the issue of redefining marriage to include homosexual relationships rages, many Christian leaders err either by caving in to public pressure to approve this new definition or by arguing against it based on historic traditions rather than Scripture. Some seem to have ignored the general level of sexual immorality in the church, refusing to discipline open fornication, while rising to condemn the equally sinful approval of homosexual conduct in the general society.

My challenge: As you have opportunity, seek to influence our society to respect the moral law of God. A vote against homosexual marriage is not the imposition of your morality on unbelievers, but the protection of our society against evil so blatant that it will bring down the wrath of God on us all. Meanwhile, work to strengthen a fear of God and His law in your home and church. Walk as a child of the light.

Tomorrow’s reading: Ephesians 6:1-Philippians 2:30