Healing for Sin-sick Souls

Sin causes pain and death, but the sinless Lord Jesus Christ’s pain and death resulted in a full and final cure for the iniquity of His people.

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 7-8; First Timothy 2

Selected Verses

 For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored? Jeremiah 8:21-22

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. First Timothy 2:5-6

Reflections

Jeremiah was in grief over the sin of Judah. He had a message. It was from God. It was true, but it gave him no joy. He had to proclaim to the people their sin and failure. No wonder people called him “the weeping prophet.” Sin has painful consequences for unrepentant sinners, but also for those who love them and can only watch them spiraling down into judgment. Jeremiah loved his fellow countrymen. He could call them to God, but he could not heal them when they refused to listen. In those days, Gilead was an area east of the Jordan known for its medicinal products. [1]  The prophet longed for some balm or ointment to cure the sinful populace.

I remember an old spiritual we sang in my childhood. The refrain is:

There is a balm in Gilead
to make the wounded whole,
there is a balm in Gilead
to heal the sin-sick soul.

Amen! Paul had the happy work of proclaiming that there is healing in our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who gave Himself as a ransom. Our High Priest Jesus is the mediator between God and men. He took our sin upon Himself, dying on the cross, rising again, sending forth the Apostles to spread the news, and ascending to the right hand of God. Jesus cures not merely the physical body but the “sin-sick soul.”  Jeremiah longed to find such souls. But he found hard hearts, unreceptive to his diagnosis of their need.

Think about it

If you are sin-sick, find healing in Jesus who gave Himself for such as you.  [See Mark 10:45; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19].

[1]  Reformation Study Bible, note on Jeremiah 8:22, page 1276

Complete in Him

Do you feel incomplete in yourself?  We should, because God’s full deity is in Christ and only in Him are we complete having all we could ever need.

Today’s Reading

 Isaiah 43-44; Colossians 2

Selected Verses

But you have burdened me with your sins;
you have wearied me with your iniquities.

I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:24b-25

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,  and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Colossians 2:9-10

Reflections

Isaiah describes the sorry spiritual state of Israel.  He expresses God’s weariness with their empty religiosity but also the Lord’s mercy towards them. Yes, He has had enough of their hypocrisy. They have demonstrated again and again that they only go through the motions of repentance as they offer sacrifices. Their best is worthless. But God will not let them go. He will do for them what they cannot do for themselves. He will not blot them out. No! Instead, He will blot out their sins, the sins which have burdened Him. This is the grace and mercy of God.

But how will He do that?  Later, Isaiah will explain how God will do this, without compromising His holiness and justice (Isaiah 53).

Fast forward to Paul’s letter to the Colossians. We find the Apostle laying out for his readers the glories that are found in Jesus Christ. All the deity of God is in Christ. God is fully and completely with us in Christ. Christ is God incarnate, Deity in human flesh. He is filled with wisdom so we need never seek other philosophies. He died and was raised from the dead so that in Him we are raised to life. In Him we are complete, filled, with nothing more to need or long for.

Think about it

This plan of God revealed partially and progressively in the Old Testament and fully and finally in the New brings God all glory and His believing people salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life.   Let nothing and no one delude you, says Paul. Keep walking with Him deeply rooted and built up in Him (2:6-7). Resist the attraction of anything that promises to fill you apart from Christ.  In Him alone we are complete.

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. Flee from any confidence in your flesh.

Today’s reading

Isaiah 37-38; Philippians 3

Selected Verses

Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 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. 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

Reflections

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 the prophet 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 worshipping his idols.  How fitting!  Sennacherib trusted in his flesh and in empty idols rather than seeking the true and living God of Israel. Meanwhile, Hezekiah and Judah were safe.

Paul warned the Philippians of the “Sennacheribs” that threatened them and 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, but “we put no confidence in the flesh” wrote the Apostle.

Think about it

Beware of false teachers who diminish the need for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who say 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 or in those who tell you to do so.

Judgment–Maybe Today?

God rules in judgment over all. No one escapes.  For you and me, our meeting with Him could be sooner than we think. Are you ready?

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 13-15; Galatians 6

Selected Verses

This is the purpose that is purposed
concerning the whole earth,
and this is the hand that is stretched out
over all the nations.
For the Lord of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back? Isaiah 14:26-27

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8

Reflections

Isaiah saw a clear vision of God, Holy and lifted up.  Now he proclaims oracles against various nations: Babylon, Assyria, Philistea, and Moab. All of these kingdoms were, at one time or other, a threat to Israel and Judah. God assures His people through Isaiah that all these nations are under His control. He will deal with their arrogance and pride and injustice.

Paul has admonished the Galatians to reject the false teaching of those who had come to bewitch and unsettle them (3:1; 5:12). Now he reminds them that God sits on the throne.  He will act in judgment on those who are deceived–who think they can sow to their own flesh and get away with it. Two errors concerning sin are in view. One, that by keeping the law we can be justified before God. This is also called “works righteousness.” Two, that sin is of no importance so we may sin all we please with no consequences. Only through the cross of Christ may we find forgiveness of sin. God will judge those who reject His Son, who is the only Savior and the only means of salvation.

Think about it

The nations of the Old Testament world have gone, removed from their proud perch. They failed to believe that God rules. Judgment is sure, and judgment is final.

We now face death and judgment.  What do you believe will happen to you?  Are you trusting your own good works to be acceptable before the Judge?  Are you presuming that God is not really serious about our sin? Do not fall for those deceptions.  Christ’s death is the only way to salvation. Do not trust in your good works. Do not foolishly assume that God is not serious about our sin. Be ready to meet your God. It could be today.

Amazing grace, indeed!

God controls history including every large and small event, every good and bad situation. Those who trust Him can rest that His grace will get us home.

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 7-9; Galatians 4

Selected Verses

 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.  Isaiah 9:6-7

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:4-6

Reflections

King Ahaz was in a tizzy.  He saw Israel joining with Syria against his kingdom, Judah.  God sent Isaiah to him to reassure him that all would be well, that, in fact, Israel and Syria were the ones who would go down.  Ahaz resisted the message and even turned down the offer of a God-sent sign.  Isaiah gave him a sign from God anyway, and what a sign!  The sign was “the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”- God with us (7:14).

The sign had an immediate fulfillment, but it also pointed ultimately to the Incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary.  He would be Immanuel in every sense of the word.  While the immediate fulfillment of the sign of the birth of a son to Ahaz would show assurance of deliverance of a short term military threat, the ultimate fulfillment would bring deliverance from the guilt and curse of all those under the law.  But not only that, this Son and Redeemer would bring adoption as sons of God, who would send His Spirit into the hearts of His people.  Spirit-possessing sons would cry out “Abba, Father” and not live in fear of any army or any future legal process resulting in their conviction and sentencing.

Think about it

Let this truth sink deep in your heart.  God sent His Son, a sign of His grace for guilty sinners.  Amazing grace, indeed!

Legalism Dies Hard

Eternal salvation is no do-it-yourself project. The gospel tells us that the law was given to point us to Christ, never to save. Why does legalism die hard?

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 1-3; Galatians 2

Selected Verses

 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.  Isaiah 1:11

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.  Galatians 2:19-21

Reflections

Isaiah spoke powerfully against the hypocrisy of the people of Judah.  Their law-keeping was mere window-dressing.  God was not pleased with their offerings and sacrifices.  But wasn’t this what God had commanded in the law given to Moses?  Yes, but they were missing the essential part.  The offerings and sacrifices were not intended to provide a cover-up for their sin.  These should have been an outward expression of their repentance and contrition.  God could see their hearts, and He was not impressed.  He sent Isaiah to call them to act in ways that showed repentance and to seek His cleansing for even the most heinous sin (1:16-20).

In Galatia, a similar thing was occurring.  The believers were abandoning the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and reverting to law-keeping as the basis for their reconciliation with God.  Paul grieved deeply (Galatians 1:6-9).  His letter aims to correct this grave and dangerous error.  To make his point, Paul relates his own experience of receiving the gospel from Christ and, at one point, even having to confront Peter for wavering from that gospel.

Think about it

Why this tendency, of those who should know better, to revert to law-keeping for salvation?  Perhaps, as justified people (but still not fully sanctified), we are prone to a prideful desire to merit our salvation, if just a little. Perhaps this error grows from a desire to cover-up our sin by appearing holy, instead of confessing our sin and trusting God’s forgiveness.  Beware of straying from the basis of our justification, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and not our faulty lawkeeping.  Never rob God of His glory by reverting to trust in good works for your forgiveness.  Legalism dies hard in Judah, in Galatia, and, I’m afraid, in our hearts today.

The Best Is Yet to Be

All this world offers pales in comparison to the glory awaiting those who know God’s grace in Jesus Christ. The best is yet to be.

Today’s reading

Proverbs 21-22; Second Corinthians 4

Selected Verses

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. Proverbs 22:4

Knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.  For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Second Corinthians 4:14-15

Reflections

In Old Testament times, much of the focus of God’s commands and promises was on the way of wisdom and blessing in this life.  Proverbs holds out much hope for reward for those who are humble and reverent before God.  He has made a covenant with Israel to be their God, to keep them as His special people, to forgive their sins as they repent before Him and keep His law.

But behind these great covenant promises was an even greater ultimate end.  God would send the Messiah.  He would be the King in the lineage of David.  He would also be the Suffering Servant, the Lamb of God, who would be pierced and crushed so that we might be healed and have peace (Isaiah 53).

All this was still in the future at the time of Proverbs.  Meanwhile, the faithful would heed the call to humility and the fear of the Lord.  Many would see a reward in this life, but not all.

Then, came the Lord Jesus Christ proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).   Alas, the old covenant kingdom of Israel was a mere shadow of the Kingdom of God.

Paul resisted it until he could resist no more, confronted as he was on the road to Damascus by Christ Himself (Acts 9:1-31).   Now Paul tells the good news of the resurrection.  God’s grace was going out to more and more people.  Thanksgiving shouts went up everywhere that grace went and God was being glorified in places like Corinth, where darkness had ruled with an iron hand.

Think about it

Down through the centuries the gospel that promises life through the resurrected Christ has been proclaimed to the ends of the earth.  Do not lose heart!  Jesus told us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come”  (Matthew 6:10).  He is answering that prayer as the gospel goes forth and grace is received by millions in the most unlikely places.  Most of all, God is glorified.  If you are blessed with riches and honor and life in this world, rejoice!  But remember, the best is yet to be when we enter into His kingdom and glory forever.

The Man of Dust; the Man of Heaven

Thoughts of life and death are never far from our mortal minds. We have death through the man of dust but life through the man of heaven.

Today’s reading

Proverbs 11-12; First Corinthians 15:33-58

Selected Verses

In the path of righteousness is life,
and in its pathway there is no death.  Proverbs 12:28

The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.  As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.  Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.  First Corinthians 15:47-49

Reflections

Proverbs talks about life–but life in this world, for the most part. There are numerous keys to a joyful, peaceful, prosperous life. All things being equal, these maxims hold true, but all things are not equal. So the Proverbs will not “work” 100% of the time. There are exceptions. Sometimes good, industrious people suffer setbacks despite their best efforts. Righteousness leads to life rather than death, yet the only perfectly righteous Man who ever lived died a horrible death.

So Proverbs tell us how we ought to seek to live, being diligent in our work, kind toward others, speaking well of our neighbor, etc. These are good and right ways to live whether we get all the benefits promised or not. But in the gospel we learn that our good deeds are not sufficient to save us from eternal death. Jesus taught that “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). Jesus shed His blood for the forgiveness of the sins of many, because there was no other way (Matthew 26:26-28).

Paul emphasizes the role of Jesus Christ, the second man, the One who, unlike the first man, did not come from the dust, but came down from heaven. He died and rose again. Now we, by faith, are promised a future in which we will bear the image of the Man of heaven. His resurrection gives us assurance that we too will be raised to have new spiritual bodies.

Think about it

Christ’s disciples certainly seek to be righteous in this world, but they do so knowing they are not earning life but demonstrating that they already have it by the grace of the Lord and faith in Him. If you know this hope of life, live righteously, but trust in the only Righteous One, Jesus. He will see us home and give us new spiritual bodies that cannot sin nor die. We will lose the image of the man of dust and bear the image of the Man of heaven.

The Grand Finale of Praise

The final Psalms and the Lord’s Supper prepare us for the coming grand finale of praise to God when Jesus Christ returns in all His glory for His people

Today’s reading

Psalms 148-150; First Corinthians 11:16-34

Selected Verses

Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.    Psalm 148:11-13

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.   First Corinthians 11:26

Reflections

God is worthy of all praise from all people, whether rich or poor, old or young, men or women, for His Son died to redeem sinners and is coming again to reign forever.

The Book of Psalms ends with a grand finale of praise to God. The writers have taken us through the valley of the shadow of death, described unimaginable agonies of body and soul, and cried out to God, “How long?” But now in this last section of five psalms, we break through all the darkness and emerge into the unclouded day of God’s majesty, power, and glory.

In this sense, the Psalter reflects our present life as well as our expectant hope for the joy that we will know when the Kingdom of God comes in all its fullness. Meanwhile, we walk by faith with our fellow believers in the Church Militant, that is, the Church here on earth awaiting the return of our Lord and King.

Paul admonishes the Corinthians in their practice of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. They fail to observe it with reverence. In fact, he says, some have died already as a judgment of God on their sacrilege. The focus is to be upon His death which purchased our redemption and His promised return when we will be with Him forever.

Think about it

There are innumerable ways in which we may praise God every day: in the mundane responsibilities of domestic life, in our work, in our driving, in our kindness and courtesy to others. Praise Him today whether you are in formal, corporate worship with His people, or in the trenches of every day existence. Praise Him for the cross of Jesus Christ, and praise Him for His promised coming in glory. It could be today, so be warmed up to sing His praise in the grand finale of victory.

More than Forgiven

The Psalmist prayed for mercy and forgiveness, but God in Christ has given all that and much more. We are more than forgiven.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 79-81; Romans 8:1-18

Selected Verses

 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!  Psalm 79:8-9

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Romans 8:3-4

Reflections

The Psalmist cries out for forgiveness for the sins of the nation that led to the fall of Jerusalem and the temple. He laments their suffering but, even more, the disgrace brought on the name of God. The writer does not look for excuses, nor does he make promises to do better. He pleads for God Himself to atone for their sins. Truly, he grasps the seriousness of sin. No one is able to justify himself by turning over a new leaf. No one is qualified to repay the debt of offending our holy Creator and Lord.

Paul explains to the Romans just how God has answered this prayer of the Psalmist from so many centuries earlier. The law could only show us our sin, never save us. The law was weakened by the flesh, because our flesh is inclined to use the law as a springboard to rebellion. We do what the law says not to do (Romans 7:13-25).  He has freed us from the law of sin and death, that is, the law that says “you sin, you die.”

Think about it

As usual, God’s answer goes far above what the Psalmist (or we) could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). He has given His Spirit to those who are in Christ. Through Him we have life, peace, and guidance. Through Him we are adopted as God’s children and, so, we call Him, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-17). Sure, we suffer with Christ in this world, but we know that the glory to come far exceeds these present afflictions.

Does your sin and guilt weigh you down? Trust in Christ for the complete forgiveness of your sins. Rejoice that the law of sin and death is overcome, but more than that, in Him you have His Spirit and are adopted as His own child.