Wait till you hear this!

The story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is amazing and inspiring, but it’s nothing compared to what God did next. Wait till you hear this!

Today’s Reading

Psalm 78; Romans 7

Selected Verses

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.  Psalm 78:4

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. Romans 4:4

Reflections

With the perspective of the New Testament and the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, we could say “Wait till you hear this!” to the Psalmist who reveled in God’s mighty works to Israel. God had done for Israel something unthinkable, unimaginable. He brought ten plagues on Egypt, delivered an enslaved people from that world powerhouse, led them out of the land loaded with spoils, opened up the Red Sea for them to cross, and drowned the pursuing army in the water behind them. This is a story that needs to be told generation after generation.  Pass it on!

But wait till you hear this!

In the New Testament we learn that God took on human flesh and lived on earth. We know Him as Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Christ, God’s Anointed One, the Messiah. His people rejected Him and crucified Him, but His death bought redemption from the guilt of sin under the law.  His death was not a terrible tragedy but the greatest victory ever accomplished.

How do we know?

He rose again from the dead. Since that time millions have believed in Him. They trust Him, not their own good works, for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of eternal life. These millions understand themselves to have died with Him so that His death for sin serves as their death for sin.  They are free from any remaining condemnation because their debt was fully paid by Jesus. As a result, these believers from every nation and language in the world belong to Him and live to bear fruit for God.

Think about it

God delivered a nation of a million people out of Egypt, some 3500 years ago, but in the past 2000 years, right down to today, He has been delivering untold millions of people from spiritual death and slavery to become His fruitful people. Tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He is doing. Pass it on! Wait till they hear that!

When the Prosperity Gospel Goes Bankrupt

The prosperity gospel teaches “Believe in Jesus and you will have health and wealth.” But many of us find this isn’t true. What then?

Today’s Reading

Psalms 73-74; Romans 5

Selected Verses

 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.   Psalm 73:25-26

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings.  Romans 5:1-3

Reflections

As Psalm 73 opens, the writer is not satisfied at all—not in God, not with life.  He lays out a common complaint. “Why do the unrighteous prosper while good people suffer?” His observation is accurate in many cases.  You’d think the opposite would always hold. But keep reading.  The Psalm gives us two answers to that question.

The first, and most obvious, answer is that though the present life may be comfortable for them the end of the wicked is ruin, destruction, and terrors (vs.17-19).   In light of this, the Psalmist’s complaint turns into a confession of his ignorance and brutishness toward God (vs. 21-22).

Second, the righteous clings to the hope of a good final end, unfazed by the suffering of his present life.  He has the Lord with Him and enjoys God’s guidance.  The godly anticipate the glory to come (vs. 23, 24). God is all he desires, all he needs. He has everything in Him. Why complain and compare?

Paul in Romans 5 expands this thought as he describes the relationship which the justified sinner has with God. That new relationship is one of peace, grace, joy, and hope all through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Are there sufferings? Yes! But even sufferings are a cause for joy, because they serve to build endurance, character, and hope. How is this possible? Because of the love God has “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (vs. 5).

Think about it

Even for us who know Christ, envy of the wicked and complaints about our lot in life will crop up from time to time in our hearts.  Don’t let them take root and flourish. Instead find joy in the hope of coming glory and be satisfied in God alone. As pastor and author Dr. John Piper, famously says “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” We will not learn to be satisfied in Him without a good portion of suffering after the prosperity gospel has gone bankrupt.

 

Shut Mouths; Believing Hearts

God’s Law and Christ’s Gospel combine to change us from arrogant unbelievers to grateful disciples–people with shut mouths and believing hearts.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 68-69; Romans 3

Selected Verses

More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
those who attack me with lies.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.  Psalm 69:4-5

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.   Romans 3:21-22

Reflections

The Psalmist cries out in anguish for the injustice heaped on him, but, at the same time, he recognizes his own folly and wrongs.  He knows that God knows them.  He may have tried to hide them, but they are not hidden from the Lord.  No one is completely righteous before God.  True, some suffer great injustice, but such suffering does not blot out the record of sin committed and establish the sufferer as righteous before God. We are all both victims and perpetrators.

Paul tells the Romans that the law is given to shut our mouths and to hold the whole world accountable to God.  Where can we turn?  We can only turn to Jesus Christ through Whom the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested.  By God’s grace, salvation from the condemnation of the law is through Him for all who believe.  In Christ, there is justification (the declaration that all debts have been paid in full), redemption (the price paid to purchase freedom from slavery to sin and guilt), and propitiation (the offering made to satisfy the just wrath of God).  It is a gift.  So it cannot be earned but can only be received by faith.

Think about it

Beware of trusting in your own works for acceptance before God.  A careful look at God’s law and our own works will show that we cannot satisfy its demands.  We can only shut our mouths and flee to Christ.  In Him alone, we find the gift of salvation which encompasses everything we need to restore us as God’s beloved children.  Be sure you trust Him as the only basis for your justification, not your works or a life relatively better than someone else’s.  We should have shut mouths and believing hearts.

Two Ways to Live–Your Choice

Mankind is divided into two lifestyle groups according to a basic issue of world view. Both are vividly contrasted in today’s readings. Which one is you?

Today’s Reading

Psalms 62-64; Romans 1

Selected Verses

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  Psalm 63:5-7

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Romans 1:21

Reflections

David opens his heart again and again showing us how much he longs for God. His attitude is like someone desperate for air and water–he simply cannot live without God.  He finds his satisfaction in Him.  The psalmist finds shelter and protection in Him.  He praises God with joy as he sings of Him.  To him, the worship of God is not a necessary and unpleasant chore for he finds delight in God.

By contrast, Paul describes people who take no interest in God.  They have no time to praise Him nor give Him thanks.  They presumptuously go on their merry way in foolishness. Their negligence is inexcusable because God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature are clearly perceived in creation (vs. 19-20).  Rather than worship and thank God, they grow even more foolish and exchange the glory of God for images of animals.  They worship creatures, not the Creator.

Think about it

We humans are united by the characteristic of being worshipful beings, but we are differentiated by the object of worship which we choose.  Mankind was made to worship the true and living God and if he will not worship God he will worship something less than God for anything that is not God is less than Him. We must have an object of worship.  It is common to call our celebrities “idols”.  Why not?  We worship them and they encourage it.  But they are fallen creatures, like us, not worthy of worship.  God will  call them and us to answer for our idolatry.

Find your satisfaction and joy in the eternal triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He is magnificent.  He is worthy of all our praise and worship.  There is only one true object of worship and there are only two ways to live. The choice is clear. [1]

 

[1] For further information go to: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/

Flee to the Banner

Would a soldier in dire straits not flee to the banner raised by his commander?  Not likely.  So why do some refuse to flee to the banner of Christ’s gospel?

Today’s Reading

Psalms 59-61; Acts 28:16-31

Selected Verses

You have set up a banner for those who fear you,
that they may flee to it from the bow.
That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer us!  Psalm 60:4-5

When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.  And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved.

Acts 28:23-24

Reflections

David uses a military analogy to faith and salvation.  The troops are scattered and about to die.  The commander sets up a banner to rally them back.  They see the banner and head for it.  There they are saved from defeat and the tide of victory is turned in their favor. Would a soldier who is in dire straits not flee to the banner raised by his commander?  Not likely.

Yet look what happened when Paul raised the banner of the gospel among the Jews in Rome.  He used their Scriptures in his efforts to convince them.  Some believed and some did not.  Why not?  It was not that Paul had failed to be clear.  He diagnosed their condition from the prophet Isaiah.  Their hearts were dull, ears nearly deaf.  They closed their eyes. The banner was raised.  They refused to flee to it.

They had their opportunity, but they did not grasp it.  Paul told them he would take the message to the Gentiles, and they would listen.

Think about it

Those who fear God are His beloved.  They show their true identity by fleeing to the banner He has raised, the gospel of Jesus Christ.  There they find salvation.  But dulled hearts do not respond to the message despite its clarity.

Have you fled to the banner?  If not, Christ has sent out the command to all to repent and believe the gospel now. Pray that God would deliver you from a dull heart and grant you faith that leads to repentance.

If you are one of His disciples, your task  and mine is to keep proclaiming the good news of life in Jesus Christ from the Bible, accurately and faithfully, as Paul modeled.  Some will believe. Some will not.  Take courage. Stay the course, because to everyone who flees to the banner, God will grant salvation.

 

Two Truths in Focus

Two truths must be kept clearly in focus at all times if we are to not lose sight of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Do you know what these are?

Today’s Reading

Job 23-25; Acts 10:24-48

Selected Verses

How then can man be in the right before God?  How can he who is born of woman be pure?  Job 25:4

And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Acts 10:42-43

Reflections

Bildad sees some things very clearly. God is holy, and man is sinful. But he misses the mercy and grace of God, so he asks, “How then can man be in the right before God?” This pessimistic view is not common in western society today. We are apt to hear more words extolling the greatness of humankind. “How enlightened we are! How noble are our works! God? Who’s that?” We pray to whomever, but only in times of extreme desperation. Then we revert to faith in ourselves and “confidence in confidence alone,” as Julie Andrews sang in “The Sound of Music.” (Although to be fair, I suspect that the real Maria Von Trapp would have sung “I have confidence in God.”)

Peter’s message to Cornelius and his company shows this accurate understanding of the holiness of God and the promise of forgiveness through faith in Christ. Cornelius had been a devout man, but devout men are depraved like all others, corrupted by sin in every part. He sought God and God provided for the centurion to hear the gospel from Peter himself. Not only that, but God sent His Holy Spirit on that group as they listened to the Apostle. Peter was getting the picture. God had sent him to preach to Gentiles. They believed. God sent the Holy Spirit upon them, and Peter immediately baptized them. The Gentiles were being saved. Jesus did die for the world.

Think about it

An accurate understanding of the gospel will keep in focus both the holiness of God that will result in Jesus’ judging the living and the dead, and the grace of God which manifests itself in Christ’s redemption of all who believe in Him.

Be sure you keep a clear vision of the holiness of God and the grace of God. By so doing, you will not lose sight of both the need of humanity and the power of the gospel for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew and to the Gentile. Remember: Jesus is both Judge and Redeemer.

God’s Ambassadors

God has appointed His people to be His ambassadors to those who do not know Him. The gospel goes out by word of mouth from those who have believed.

Today’s Reading

Job 13-15; Acts 8:26-40

Selected Verses

You would call, and I would answer you;
you would long for the work of your hands.
For then you would number my steps;
you would not keep watch over my sin;
my transgression would be sealed up in a bag,
and you would cover over my iniquity.  Job 14:15-17

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.  Acts 8:35

Reflections

Scholars believe that Job lived about the same time as Abraham. Before his call from God, Abraham was a polytheist (believing in many gods). Job on the other hand, seems to grasp a theology of a single sovereign and holy God. But Job has no clear understanding of the resurrection or of life after death. Yet Job does show a longing for reconciliation with God through some kind of covering for his sin. He seems to have an inkling of hope of a resurrection, perhaps like a tree that is cut down but grows back up from its roots (14:7-17). It’s just not very clear. He longs to know more and, soon, God will tell him more.

In the period following the stoning of Stephen and the subsequent persecution, God sends Philip to speak with an Ethiopian eunuch, the queen’s treasurer, who had been in Jerusalem to worship. Philip is able to explain to him the meaning of Isaiah’s writing and the good news about Jesus Christ. This results in the official’s baptism. In these touching words, Luke records that the eunuch, after this one-on-one Bible study with Philip, “went on his way rejoicing.”  We can only imagine the impact of this man’s testimony before the court officials of Ethiopia.

Think about it

God knows the hearts of those who seek Him, Job, the Ethiopian, and everyone else. He may directly intervene, as He will do with Job later on in our reading, or He may send someone to explain the gospel as He did in the case of Philip and the queen’s treasurer.  Did He send someone to you? Has He sent you to be a light to someone else? Give thanks for His providence in sending those who can help us understand His truth and in sending us to pass on the good news of Jesus. If you belong to Christ, God has appointed you His ambassador because the gospel goes out powerfully by word of mouth (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).

The Importance of Expository Preaching

Good preaching is modeled in the Bible.  But it is too scarce in pulpits today.  Are you hearing sound preaching as the Bible commands and demonstrates?

Today’s Reading

Nehemiah 7-8; Acts 3

Selected Verses

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.  Nehemiah 8:8

But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,  that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,  whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.  Acts 3:18-21

Reflections

In both Old and New Testaments, the importance of clear preaching is demonstrated.  Expository preaching includes both the reading of Scripture and the explanation of the meaning of it.

In Nehemiah’s day there had been a lack of reading and teaching the Scriptures. When the people heard the Word, they were grieved by what they heard and understood. They wept. It was natural that they should feel the weight of their failure and sin, but then the preacher (whether Ezra or Nehemiah, is not clear) exhorts them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (8:10).

In Acts, another preacher stands proclaiming God’s Word, also in Jerusalem but centuries after Ezra and Nehemiah’s day. Peter takes the opportunity, afforded by the crowd attracted by the healing of a lame man, to proclaim the good news of the risen Christ. The bad news  precedes the good news, they have killed the Author of life, Jesus, but Peter tells them they may repent, turn back, and have their sins blotted out. God will hear their prayer and send times of refreshing from His presence. Then they may wait expectantly for Christ, who promised to come back for His people.

Think about it

The gospel teaches us of our sin, but it doesn’t end there. It takes us to the mercy and grace of God who saves His repentant people, restores us to Himself, and gives us joy. Are you both grieved by your sin and relieved by God’s joy? Good expository preaching is a means of grace that takes us to both repentant grieving and unspeakable joy. Be sure you hear God’s word from faithful expository preachers. .

The Lessons of Mount Moriah

Do you know the lessons of Mt. Moriah?  What happened there shows us the gospel.  Your response to those lessons is a matter of life and death.

Today’s Reading

Second Chronicles 1-3; John 12:1-19

Selected Verses

Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.   2 Chronicles 3:1

The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.  John 12:17-18

Reflections

Mount Moriah is significant in biblical history. We hear about it first when Abraham went to that location to offer his son, Isaac, in response to God’s command (Genesis 22:2). A thousand years later, David buys property from a Jebusite named Araunah in order to make an offering there to avert the plague, he had brought upon the nation by taking a census. The location of that property is none other than Mt. Moriah.  It would become the location of the temple which Solomon built.

Long before Jesus’ time, the first temple (Solomon’s) had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian invasion. After the captivity the temple was rebuilt. That second temple is the one which is mentioned in the gospels and which Jesus cleansed (John 2:13-17), but it was in the same location, Mt. Moriah. That temple would later be destroyed by the Roman general Titus in 70 AD.

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He rode into Jerusalem as the crowds hailed Him as King of Israel (John 12:13). John points out that it was because of the resurrection of Lazarus that the crowds came to see and welcome Jesus.  All this is occurring in the vicinity of Mt. Moriah and the second temple which would soon to be destroyed.

Think about it

On Mt. Moriah Abraham learned that God would provide His own sacrifice for sin.  There David learned that the punishment for his sin demanded an offering. Near Mt. Moriah Jesus offered Himself as the ultimate offering. He referred to it when He cleansed the temple of money changers and sellers of sheep, oxen, and pigeons. “Destroy this temple,” He told the Jews, “and in three days, I will raise it up.” He was, of course, referring to His body, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. (John 2:18-22)

Don’t miss the important lessons of Mt. Moriah where God’s mercy met mankind’s desperate need and our Lord Jesus Christ reconciled His people to God forever.

The Spirit of God: the Water of Life

Biblical genealogy shows us that even kings do not leave much of a legacy. Jesus calls us to something more than temporal significance.

Today’s Reading

First Chronicles 1-2; John 7:32-53

Selected Verses

These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the people of Israel: Bela the son of Beor, the name of his city being Dinhabah.  Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his place. 1 Chronicles 1:43-44

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  John 7:37-39

Reflections

In our reading today, we find a long list of those who lived, ruled, and died.  Some, like the kings of Edom, ruled for a time, but they died and someone stepped up to rule in their place.  One after another, they ruled, died, and were replaced.  You might wonder, “Is this all there is to life?”  You and I may be less significant in our time than these Edomite kings were in theirs.  Will we leave anything for future generations?  Will our life really have long term significance?

Jesus called His disciples to come to Him, to believe in Him, to receive the Spirit, and to know the living water that flows out of the believer’s heart.  He has been promising eternal life for those who eat His flesh and drink His blood.  He calls us not to live and die and be forgotten, but to live, believe, and live forever.

Think about it

The history leading up to Christ’s coming is important because it shows the need for something more than ruling for a time in this world.  It points to the fallen state of man and the need for a savior.  My fellow believer, do not think your life is of no lasting importance.  You have God’s Spirit, the living water that wells up to eternal life (John 4:14).  Rejoice in His mercy and goodness to you.  No wonder the officers who failed in their attempt to arrest Him said, “No one ever spoke like this man!”