Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Perfect Result of Endurance

James 5:7 exhorts us Christians to be patient.  Patience is going through affliction without murmuring against God, and suffering injury from others without taking revenge on them.  Endurance, or long-suffering, is patience extended and lengthened out.  Remarkably, James 1:4 says that enduring affliction or injury has more effect on perfecting a Christian, and taking us further along the road to spiritual completeness, than anything else.  Why?  I think the answer is to be found in how strong the feelings are that the quality of patience must overcome.  The suppression of the emotion of revenge, conquering the fiery desire to get even with those who hurt us, takes great power. I grew up with westerns as the staple of television and the movies.  Almost every western is built around the motive of revenge.  The plot is driven by the main character’s efforts to even the score.  We can all identify with such characters; the feelings run deep.  Patiently controlling self-centered desires to complain and strike back, in view of a greater good to be attained from God, is at the heart of Christian moral change. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Press on Toward the Goal

Philippians 3:8-12 is a stunning passage!  The way Paul writes about salvation by faith here may sound quite foreign to modern Christians.  We do not often hear or read about salvation in these terms.  The apostle presents salvation by faith as a goal that will be attained only by the most intense and  persevering effort.  Does this contradict the truth that we are not saved by our own good works?  Paul seems to have no trouble accepting both.  He affirms them both many times throughout his letters.  Salvation by faith is both a gift and a reward, both a blessing given freely and a prize that is won.  Consider what Paul says he will do for the prize: “I press on in order that I may lay hold of... forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal.”  He could rest assured he would reach the goal, and yet Paul actively labored with all his might, as if anything less would prevent him attaining it.  He commands us all to think the same way (Phil 3:15). 

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Offer of Eternal Happiness

Why do unbelievers reject God’s gracious offer of eternal life?  The gospel promises happiness that is everlasting and completely satisfying to everyone.  Why do people then reject the gospel?  Surely everyone wants to be happy.  And they do not want their happiness to end.  So how can people say “No!” to something so good?  Writer Sinclair Lewis, an alcoholic and skeptic, had a character in one novel say about the gospel, “I would love to believe it, but I don’t.”  There must be something about God’s offer that makes people refuse it.  In Philippians 3:8-11, the apostle Paul wrote that the value of possessing salvation in Jesus Christ surpasses the value of everything else to such a degree that he is willing to lose everything to obtain it.  Paul was willing give up anything and use “any means possible to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:11).  If the pathway to eternal happiness is one of self-denial and suffering, nothing will deter him.  But there is the great obstacle.  People want lasting happiness, but not by the means God has ordained.  God’s demand that saving faith must include repentance, i. e., turning away from sin, is what they will not accept.  In order to rule their own lives for a few score years in this life, without God’s interference, unbelievers pay a very high price.  

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Best Christians

n 1 John 2:12-14, the apostle addresses the Christians using the terms “little children,” “young men,” and “fathers.”  John is clearly applying these terms to indicate differing levels of spiritual maturity.  The “fathers” are characterized by one thing—they know God.  They are twice described as those who “know Him who is from the beginning.”  Thomas Manton had this to say about these spiritual fathers: “They that have the most effectual apprehensions of the greatness. goodness, wisdom of God, and of their own sin, the need of Christ and grace, the truth and excellency of the life to come, and the vanity of this life, are the best Christians.  They who are most conformed to Christ in humility, meekness, and lowliness of mind, esteeming others better than themselves, that have the most hatred of sin, and care to subdue it, and victory over it, and can most deny the flesh, its evil desires, and bear the troubles of it, and whose greatest delight is in God himself, these are the fully grown Christians.”  Manton calls their knowledge “effectual apprehensions.”  This means that their knowledge of God and spiritual things has been effectively applied to their lives.  It is not just knowledge of the head, it is knowledge acquired by experience.  In the case of these “fathers,” they have acquired spiritual maturity by consistently applying what they have learned over the years.  That is what made them “fathers.” 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Holy Spirit and Our Thoughts

In many places in Scripture we find that the Holy Spirit works within us by giving us thoughts.  He brings to mind thoughts and verses from God’s word that address our need of the moment.  The spiritual strength of the Christian lies in the comfort and encouragement that comes from the Spirit of God.  Observe carefully, and you will see that the Spirit most often works by awakening and stirring up proper thoughts in the mind.  While He was with His disciples on earth, the Lord Jesus taught them many things to strengthen their faith and encourage them in affliction.  Christ promised that after He left them, the Holy Spirit would come and “bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”  The Spirit would teach them by reminding them of Christ’s words (John 14:26).  In Hebrews 12:5 spiritual weariness and loss of heart is attributed to forgetting what had been taught.  Remembering and forgetting are both acts of the mind, having to do with our thoughts.  Throughout the Bible, our strength for faithful obedience and patience in afflictions lies in our thoughts.  The Spirit influences us by bringing to mind appropriate promises and commands, according to our specific need at that moment.  Our part is to have the word of God “richly dwelling within us,” giving the Spirit a storehouse of truth in our hearts, ready for His use.   

Friday, March 26, 2010

The God of John Calvin

B. B. Warfield wrote that Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, has given the church a comprehensive description of God in some of the most moving and beautiful passages in Christian literature.  Calvin characterized the believer’s response to God as a two-fold religious emotion of fear and love.  This corresponds to the double aspect in which God is known by His people.  God is our Lord, the almighty creator and sovereign governor of His universe, who has the right to judge us; He is also our loving Father.  Our God, as He is revealed to us in the Scripture, is to be feared and loved.  Calvin wrote that the knowledge of God produces true godliness in the soul, a godliness that combines the most profound reverence with heart-felt love.  He said that true godliness is not born until “we are persuaded that God is the fountain of all that is good and cease to seek for good elsewhere than in Him.”  People will never subject themselves in willing obedience to the Lord until He is apprehended in this double aspect.  The modern world quickly accepts a God who is loving, but balks at the conception of a Lord who is to be our final Judge.  Concerning Calvin’s view of God, J. I. Packer wrote, “If Calvin could come back, he would tell us, I think, that our God was too small; and he would ask us whether we had ever seen the vision of God on His throne.”  In our world of political and cultural chaos, this is the vision we need.  John Calvin’s writings give us assurance that it will be found where Calvin himself found it—in the Bible. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Debt We Owe John Calvin—2

The Reformation gave the Bible back to ordinary people, freeing them from dependence on the priests of Roman Catholicism.  That was a gigantic step forward!  Calvin deserves a great deal of the credit.  His writings established the foundation of the reformation, and for the first time in history provided a convincing defense of biblical Christianity.  He affirmed in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, as no one had done so clearly before, that in order for people to have knowledge of God and the way of salvation, They must have two things.  First, they must have an objective source of knowledge, in which God reveals Himself to them.  The Lord has given us that in the written Scriptures—the Bible.  Second, because their hearts are darkened by sin, people must have the Holy Spirit working in their hearts, to enable to them understand the Bible.  Here we have the great foundation of biblical religion.  The soul is cast wholly on the grace of God.  Calvin’s Institutes is the magnificent masterpiece that gave these principles to the churches of the Reformation.  Without Calvin there would be no evangelical Christianity today!  B. B. Warfield wrote that the Christian’s relationship with God attains its purist expression only when an attitude of absolute dependence on God is sustained through all the activities of life.  He continued: “Evangelical religion reaches stability only when the sinful soul rests in humble, self-emptying trust purely on the God of grace as the immediate and sole source of all the efficiency which enters into salvation.”  These things are the basis of what we term Calvinism, and formed the battering ram that broke down the walls of Roman Catholicism.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Debt We Owe John Calvin

John Calvin is associated with the biblical doctrine of predestination, often in a very negative way.  His teaching of predestination has been badly misrepresented, sometimes to the point of sarcastic caricature.  Calvin believed in predestination because he was convinced the Bible taught it, and that it was an indispensable part of God’s revelation of Himself, with important consequences for the gospel.  B. B. Warfield explains with clarity and insight the context of Calvin’s zeal for predestination: “It was that we might know ourselves to be wholly in the hands of this God of perfect righteousness and goodness—not in those of men, whether ourselves or some other men—that he was so earnest for the doctrine of predestination: which is nothing more than the declaration of the supreme dominion of God.  It was that our eternal felicity might hang wholly on God’s love—and not on our sinful weakness—that he was so zealous for the doctrine of election.”  Warfield has given us a fine assessment of the great reformer and his achievements when he writes, “Here we have the secret of Calvin’s greatness and the source of his strength unveiled to us.  No man ever had a more profound sense of God; no man ever more unreservedly surrendered himself to the Divine direction.  No one has spoken of the majesty of God and the insignificance of man with such feeling and truth as Calvin.  If there is anything that will make a man great, surely it is placing himself unreservedly at the disposal of God.  This is what Calvin did, and it is because he did this that he was so great.” 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Bedrock of the Reformation—Calvin’s Institutes

John Calvin wrote his Institutes of the Christian Religion to encourage believers that were suffering persecution.  Concerning this masterpiece of biblical theology, Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “No book has had such an influence on man and on the history of civilization.”  Lloyd-Jones went on to say that it was the Institutes which upheld the Protestant Reformation and remains the clearest declaration of evangelical faith ever penned.  More than any of the reformers, John Calvin is responsible for giving the Protestant churches a body of theology that proved to be its greatest defence and support.  B. B. Warfield agreed that Calvin’s Institutes are “at the foundation of the whole development of Protestant theology, and has left an impress on evangelical thought which is ineffaceable.  After three centuries and a half, it retains its unquestioned preeminence as the greatest and most influential of all dogmatic treatises.”  It is a shame that so few Christians today have ever opened its pages.  Far from being “dry as dust,” I have found the Institutes to be easy to read and understand, and more importantly, very edifying and encouraging.  Calvin designed his book to be a doctrinal introduction to the study of the Scriptures that any Christian could benefit from.  Lloyd-Jones wrote that “in addition to its massive and sublime thought, it is written in a style which is most moving, and at times thrilling.  No book repays reading more than this.”  Lloyd-Jones concluded that the most urgent reason why all should read the Institutes of the Christian Religion is to be found in the superficial times in which we live.  Like the rest of our culture, modern evangelicals are very fragile, and nothing is so calculated to strengthen and stabilize the soul as the glorious doctrine of the sovereign God that fills Calvin’s pages.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Heart of John Calvin

Many believers today are unaware of the debt all Christians owe to John Calvin.  Both the man himself and the understanding of Scripture that is associated with his name are by many either totally ignored or tragically misunderstood.  B. B. Warfield, a great theologian and teacher in his own right, devoted much time and effort to understand Calvin and to correct the misconceptions and prejudices people have of Calvinism.  I want to further this endeavor by looking at Calvin through Warfield’s eyes.  Calvin had a passion to glorify God.  Warfield contended that this passion, and the underlying view of God which created it, is the foundation of Calvinsim.  He stressed that the heart of Calvin’s theology is not predestination, or the so-called “five points,” but first and foremost a view of God as the Sovereign Lord of the universe.  Warfield wrote: “It is the vision of God and His majesty which lies at the foundation of the entirety of Calvinistic thinking.  The Calvinist is the man who has seen God, and who, having seen God in His glory, is filled on the one hand, with a sense of his own unworthiness to stand in God’s sight as a creature, and much more as a sinner, and on the other hand, with adoring wonder that nevertheless this God is a God who receives sinners.  He who believes in God without reserve and is determined that God shall be God to him, in all his thinking, feeling, willing—in the entire compass of his life-activities, intellectual, moral, spiritual—is by the very necessity  of the case, a Calvinist.” 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Faith and Joy

Puritan teaching emphasized that without faith joy cannot be maintained.  Thomas Manton carefully analyzed their connection, and wrote of faith:  “It is a help to joy, it represents the excellency, truth and reality of spiritual things.  That which we rejoice in, must be good, true, present.  All joy arises from the presence of some good, either in actual possession, or in firm expectation.  It is the nature of faith to make things that are absent, present to us, it gives being to hope.”  Richard Baxter echoed these thoughts: “”It is only a life of faith that will be a life of holy, heavenly joy.  Exercise yourselves therefore in believing contemplations of things unseen.  It must not be now and then a glance of the eye of the soul towards God, but a walking with Him, and frequent addresses of the soul to Him, which must help you to the delight which believers find in their communion with Him.”  All of the Puritan teachers exhorted their congregations to regularly contemplate the unspeakable joys of heaven.  Do this and everyday for the Christian will be a festival of rejoicing.  Baxter wrote: “God  is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.  If once you have a God, a Christ, a heaven to rejoice in, you may rationally indulge in constant joy.”  And whether you are in poverty or prosperity doesn’t matter.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Duty of Joy—2

God has given us hearts that are capable of enjoying Him.  He has given us sufficient knowledge of Himself in the Bible to make Him the object of our highest delight.  The Lord has united the labor of a Christian in seeking Him with delight, so that believers obeying God’s commandments becomes the believer’s greatest joy.  Richard Baxter, one of the most eminent Puritan authors, wrote: “Delight in God is the health of your souls.”  John Howe wrote that Christians should greatly admire the wisdom of God in making a connection between the duties of the righteous and their happiness; that He has given us laws in the keeping of which there is great reward.  Joy is so fundamentally important as an evidence of godliness that the Christian who does not consistently manifest happiness is in a dangerous condition.  Baxter held that people dishonor God if they do not consider Him the most worthy object of their delight.  He further affirmed that, “The want (lack) of delight in God and holiness is the way to apostasy itself.  Few men will hold on in a way that they have no delight in.”  He warned that if we do not “taste that the Lord is good,” our hearts will easily be drawn away to forbidden pleasures. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Duty of Joy

To the Puritans, joy in the Christian was not just a matter of personality, neither was it optional.  John Howe, affirming that God requires joy of all believers, wrote: “Settle this persuasion in your hearts, that the serious, rational, regular, seasonable exercise of delight and joy is a matter of duty, to be charged upon conscience, from the authority of God, and is an integral part in the religion of Christians.”  Another stellar Puritan, Richard Sibbes, agreed with that, stating: “Joy is that frame and state of the soul that all who have given their names to Christ either are in, or should labor to be in.”  We are not only required by God to have joy, but in salvation we have abundant reasons for joy, regardless of our outward circumstances.  Consider, Christians have been freed from the most terrible condition possible—being subject to the just wrath of God.  Knowing they have been set free from the greatest harm and that they now possess the greatest good, how can joy not be an eminent characteristic of the lives of Christians?  For such blessed ones, to lack joy is utterly irrational.  The Puritans emphatically insisted that that joy is the only rational response believers can make to these things.  More tomorrow.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Puritan Joy

At the top of my list of favorite Christian authors are the great Puritan teachers of the 17th century.  When most people today hear the word “Puritan” they think of Nathanial Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter and the infamous Salem witch trials.  No other group of people have been so castigated by history as the Puritans.  They are presented as the most sour and stern group of conscience-ridden, fun-haters you could possibly find.  Why?  Probably because they were profoundly God-centered Christians. Jesus Himself said “If they hated Me, they will hate you.”  The Puritans were Christ-exalting.  The irony is that they were also the most joyful, happy people you could ever hope to meet.  I have found in their magnificent writings a consistent emphasis on the happiness of the Christian life.  More than any others, I think the Puritans accurately reflect the biblical teaching concerning joy.  They present happiness not only as the privilege but also as the duty of all Christians.  I will explore this a little more tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Be Strong in the Lord

In the first three chapters of his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul sets forth all that God has done for us in Christ.  In the following chapters the great apostle shows us how the redemption we have found in Christ will manifest itself in our lives.  We learn what is God’s will for every relationship and aspect of the Christian’s life.  Instruction is given to fathers, mothers, children, and servants. That last part of this profound and magnificent epistle is also intimately connected with what precedes.  Paul concludes by writing: “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).  What follows is his great statement that the Christian life is a war, which requires spiritual weapons for victory, such as faith and hope.  But what are we fighting for?  What is the victory we are to strive for?  This is a fight, not to make us great in the world, but to have God’s will supreme in our lives.  We must be strong in the Lord to obey all of the commands Paul has set down in this letter.  The Christian must have God’s strength to do what He requires.  We are engaged in a lifelong spiritual war against evil in the world, and in ourselves.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Christian Joy

1 Peter 1:8 is a magnificent statement that one effect of faith in Christ and love for Him is that “you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”  While the overall thrust of this verse is clear enough, getting a practical handle on it is more elusive, at least it has been for me.  Thomas Manton’s thoughts on this passage have been very helpful to me, the gist of which follows.  He said that this is a joy that can better be felt than explained.  No one can know the strength and sweetness of this glorious joy until it is experienced.  Those who do not believe cannot conceive of such a profound and holy joy.  One drop of this is more than an ocean of worldly pleasure.  Jonathan Edwards penned a famous description of the joyful raptures of his wife Sarah.  Once you have enjoyed something of this godly joy in your soul, no power on earth can turn you away from Christ.  Generations of martyrs stand as a shining monument to the power of rejoicing in Christ.  Those who believe in and love Christ will taste this joy, even in the midst of life’s trials (1 Peter 1:6), and such glorious experiences are unshakable evidence of salvation.  

Monday, March 15, 2010

Our Inheritance

The question asked in Psalm 4:6 reflects what is in the heart of every person: “Who will show us some good?”  Everyone on earth is seeking good, seeking what will satisfy their desires and give them happiness.  The human soul is a hectic storehouse of desires; like a sponge that ever soaks up more and more, but is never filled.  The soul is not sufficient in itself; it was made by God for something outside itself.  Everyone is seeking something permanent, something that will give rest and satisfaction to their hearts.  Our culture is swamped with seminars promoting self-esteem, self-consciousness, and self-empowerment.  Psychology has taught generations to look inside themselves for answers.  They are all empty.  God has created us for more than ourselves.  “Who will show us some good?”  Psalm 4:6-7 goes on: “Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!  You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”  The Bible tells us that God is the only all-sufficient source of good for all that we need.  All the world cannot give what God can.  The poorest Christian who has God’s testimonies as his inheritance will lack nothing through all eternity (Psalm 119:111).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Flee for Refuge"

Hebrews 6:18 describes Christians those who have “fled for refuge.”  This is not referring to an act of faith subsequent to conversion, but the act of faith by which a person receives eternal life.  It is a very striking way to describe what is involved in saving faith.  That being the case, this passage teaches us something very fundamental about conversion, and what motivates a person to look to Christ for salvation.  To “flee for refuge” is a dynamic metaphor that implies three things: first, that this person is in some sort of danger; second, this person is aware of the danger; third, this person is seeking a place of safety.  No one will ever seek Christ as a Savior if they do not see their need of Him.  People do not seek safety when there is nothing threatening them.  So, the first step in salvation is seeing the danger we are in because of sin.  We must realize that we are in deadly peril to appreciate the hope that is held out to us in Jesus Christ.  It is the awareness that we are in danger of perishing eternally that makes Christ such a priceless treasure.  He is a safe and certain refuge to those who flee sin to embrace Him.  To find the one you must flee the other.   

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Our Eternal Inheritance

Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart”  (Psalm 119:111).  I have been reading Thomas Manton’s marvelous sermons on Psalm 119.  Again and again, Manton has given me a more thorough understanding and a deeper appreciation for the truths revealed in this psalm.  In verse after verse, he has led me to a gold mine.  For example, I have never had such a rich understanding of verse 111 before I read Manton’s sermon on it.  To have God’s testimonies as our inheritance is to value them as our permanent possession because of our relationship to God; it is to esteem them as the source of our happiness.  God’s testimonies are to the Christian what lands and estates are in the world.  An inheritance is a person’s wealth and treasure.  The inheritance of believers is the ground of their future hopes, and the divine storehouse from which they receive all that is needed.  In the world, people inherit houses, lands and all manner of material possessions.  The Christian can say, “The God who created heaven and earth is my God!  He is my inheritance.”  All of the riches and honors of the world are poor things compared to what is in store for the most humble believer. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Desire Rules

If you ask people why they do what they are doing, many times their response will be “I do it because it is fun.”  They do it because it makes them happy, because they desire to do it.  The choices and actions of people are determined by their desires.  This is a law of our nature.  This is the way God has made us.  Desire rules the world.  The trick is to desire the right things.  Because our nature has been driven off course by sin, our hearts desire things that are ultimately harmful to us.  The goal of the Bible is to get us to desire things that are truly for our eternal benefit.  That is what the word of God does to our hearts as we read it every day.  It gives us reasons and motives to turn away from desires that are contrary to God and our own good.  It commands, exhorts, and warns us in every way possible to set the affections of our hearts on God and noble things.  The result will be breathtaking, magnificent and eternal happiness.  

Thursday, March 11, 2010

God's Word is Pure

I am continually impressed by how profoundly Thomas Manton, John Owen, and other Puritan teachers considered each verse of Scripture.  Reading them is like striking gold on every page.  They continually emphasized that the written word God is perfect, sufficient for the Christian’s every need.  Scripture reveals to us the holiness, excellence, and glory of God in such a way that every heart influenced by grace must love it.  The human heart seeing the divine glory mediated through the written word can respond in no other way.  To a person who is very hungry, food is good to them.  To someone with a terrible thirst, water is exactly what they want and require.  Even so, the word of God meets the needs of our souls as nothing else can.  God knows everything about us; the deepest and most tangled parts of our lives are not hidden from Him.  The Lord’s blessed word is so filled with divine encouragement that it draws our hearts to love it.  But we must also love God’s word for its holiness.  In Psalm 119:140 David says “Your word is very pure, therefore Your servant loves it.”  When a person would not want God’s law to be less strict than it is, when a person loves it because it is pure, strict, and holy, then you know that God has been doing a mighty work in that person’s heart.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Maintaining Faith

Maintaining Faith

One of the most important lessons we can glean from Hebrews 11 is that all believers in all times must exercise the same kind of faith.  We can do nothing without faith; we can do all that God requires with it.  You may as well be without Christ as to be without faith. In His sovereign wisdom, God has assigned to faith a work of preeminent importance.  Virtually every spiritual problem or defect in a Christian’s life is preceded by a weakening of faith.  Because faith is the most important grace, it is the most assaulted.  In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus warned Peter that he was about to be severely tested.  It was not his love or courage that needed the Lord’s support in prayer, but his faith.  That is the devil’s main target.  Faith is like a shield that guards all of the other virtues of a Christian (Ephesians 6:16).  Only by faith can we overcome the world (1 John 5:4).  All of this shows us the priority and vital necessity of nourishing and maintaining our faith every day.  Serious reading and thoughtful contemplation of God’s word is the great fuel of faith. Faith cannot be maintained or strengthened without a sincere resolve to keep God’s word abiding in our hearts (1 John 2:14).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Necessity of Faith

The Old Testament believers in Hebrews 11 are commended for a wide variety of righteous conduct.  Some displayed great courage, others were cheerful in suffering.  Self-denial, great personal sacrifice, and patience are among the many virtues celebrated in this catalog of saints.  But one grace shines over all the others—they were all commended for their faith.  This is the spiritual common denominator.  All of the other virtues depend on faith.  We see here a great many effects, some exactly the opposite of others, yet all are grounded on faith.  Verse 34 mentions those who by faith “escaped the edge of the sword,” while verse 37 includes those who “were put to death with the sword.”  God’s sovereign will for one Christian at one time may be the opposite of His  purpose for another; He treats us as individuals.  And yet faith will always be required of each of us.  Faith is so important because we receive all of the influences of the Holy Spirit by faith.  One of the most precious of His influences will be such an esteem of Christ that the worst that can befall us in His service will be better to us than the best things of the world.  We should take great care to daily nourish and maintain our faith.  More on that tomorrow.       

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Life of Serving God

Thomas Manton wrote “The true value of life is by service to God.  It is not who lives most plentifully, but who lives most serviceably to God’s glory. All our care in the world should be to serve  God in our generation, to be an instrument to serve his pleasure.”  In other words, we discover life to its fullest while we are serving our Lord.  Satisfaction is never experienced when we are pursuing our own self-centered purposes, but when our great aim in life is to bring God the most glory.  The particular service we are called to is determined by God’s providence.  God is our potter; He decides what will be our lot in life.  God called Moses to a specific work, and prepared him for it throughout the first forty years of his life.  Every Christian is appointed and fitted by God to be an instrument to do what pleases Him.  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).  The Lord not only prepares us for good works, but the good works are sovereignly appointed by Him as well.  That just takes your breath away!  We can grasp and appreciate the utter magnificence of such biblical statements only by faith—faith that comes to us as a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Moses' Faith—3

Moses left all of Egypt behind him because by faith his values had been turned upside down.  He has come to believe that no earthly thing, no matter how highly valued by the majority of people, is to be compared to the favor and fellowship of God.  His example is a testimony across the centuries that even the most painful condition of life, with God’s favor, is better than the most opulent prosperity without it.  Psalm 4:7 is one verse among a multitude in Scripture that affirms that God can give us more happiness than the world’s best of everything can give: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”  No earthly profit or pleasure can compare with the bounty of the Lord.  Moses had come to terms with this; what he valued in life had been radically changed.  One of the main things we should take away from this man’s extraordinary life is that it should put a check and restraint on our ambitions for worldly greatness.  Tomorrow I’ll close with one more thought concerning the lessons we can learn from Moses’ experience. 

Saturday's Post Moses' Faith—2

What did faith do in the heart of Moses?  Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 1:15, that we looked at yesterday, leads us in the right direction to answer this question also.  Paul wrote that God’s word is “trustworthy and deserving full acceptance.”  Biblical faith is more than strong confidence and trust.  It is an appreciation of the worth and value of God and His word, particularly in comparision to other things.  It is such high esteem for Christ and His benefits, that all the things of this world lose their attraction and value in our eyes.  By faith we fully comprehend how fleeting and temporary they are in comparison with eternal blessings.  One of the most striking statements of this is found in Philippians 3:7-10, where Paul tells us that in comparison to Christ he considered everything else to be worthless!  This is how faith influenced Moses to reject all of the world’s pleasures and treasures that could have been his.  Believe it or not, Moses was far happier among the people of God, oppressed and suffering cruel slavery, than he was in the palace.  “Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked” (Psalm 37:16).  What is your great ambition?  What is your most fervent desire?  To excel in grace or to grow great in the world?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Moses' Faith

What did faith do in the heart of Moses to make him choose to reject what most people would do anything to get?  And what makes up biblical faith; what does it consist of?  I’ll take up the second question first.  In 1 Timothy 1:15, in a very important statement concerning what is central to Christian faith, the apostle Paul says that the gospel is “trustworthy and deserving full acceptance.”  Note those two things.  The gospel is worthy and deserving of something—of a certain kind of response.  And this response must be full or wholehearted.  The word of God must be accepted as true.  But that is not enough.  We acknowledge a lot of things to be true, that are of no importance to us or which we dislike and have nothing to do with.  God’s word must be accepted as not only true, but embraced as good.  We must see the great value of biblical truth to us personally and pursue it with all our heart.  That is the complete response that Paul affirmed, and of which Moses was such an auspicious example.  We must wrap our hearts around the doctrines of the Bible, and not let go for anything!  I’ll look more closely at the first question tomorrow. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Moses' Extraordinary Choice—2

Yesterday I wrote that the self-denial that so graced the life of Moses was not unique to him.  God requires the same of all Christians.  Let me prove this to you from Scripture.  Hebrews 11:24-26 tells us all what Moses chose to reject.  First, he refused the great honor of being called “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” Second, he gave up “the passing pleasures of sin.”  His high position in Pharaoh’s court would have afforded Moses a tempting array of the finest pleasures and enjoyments the world has to offer.  Third, he turned his back on “the treasures of Egypt,” which would have been immense.  So, Moses renounced the honor that we all crave by nature, the pleasures of the flesh, and great wealth.  We find these same three things in 1 John 2:16, where the apostle John warns all Christians that loving the things of the world will making loving God impossible:  “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”  Christians in all ages must overcome these evil desires in the same way Moses did, by faith. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Moses' Extraordinary Choice

What Moses gave up in making his decision to forsake the wealth and honor of Egypt is genuinely amazing.  The extraordinary self-denial that Moses was called upon to exercise was not meant to be a solitary, unique instance of that virtue.  What Moses did, the choice he made, is required of all Christians.  We may not have as much to put on the altar as Moses had, but every believer is called on by God to give all that they have.  What motivated him to make such a choice?  The answer to that important question is worth whatever effort we must exert to find it.  We should seriously ponder what the Bible means when it says that Moses’ choice was made by faith.  God must have done a deep work in his heart.  What does faith do to produce self-denial?  That is what I will explore for a few days. (For more on Moses’ choice, see my post for January 4.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Need For Hate

God has given us the ability to hate as well as love.  We need both because we cannot fully understand or experience one without the other.  Hatred has its proper uses just as love does.  Love and hatred are natural affections which are good or evil depending on the objects to which they are applied.  If we set our love on sinful objects or hate righteous ones, we are inverting God’s design in giving us these affections.  The purpose of love is to cling to God and whatever brings us to the enjoyment of Him.  The purpose of hate is that we may reject and abhor all that is evil.  We need to be able both to choose and pursue some things as well to reject and detest others.  Our hatred of sin must flow from a principle of love to God.  The only hatred that is proper arises from loving what is contrary.  We should hate sin because we love God.  We are to hate what is contrary to God because it is contrary to God.  No other hatred will serve His purposes.  As His grace does its work on our hearts daily, more and more our affections will be set upon proper objects. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hostility to God

Romans 8:7 states unambiguously that the heart of an unbeliever “is hostile toward God;” and will not submit to His law.  No matter how kindhearted, generous, or good they appear to be, people who reject Christ have a deep-seated hatred of God.  Many people who think of themselves as agnostics would not admit that they are hostile to God.  They claim they are neutral.  But neutrality is not possible.  Jesus said “He who is not with Me, is against Me.”  So, why are people hostile to God? Why do they have such enmity in their hearts towards His law?  In John 14:21, Jesus connected love for God with keeping His commandments.  There is also an inseparable connection between hating God and breaking His law.  The hostility that people have for God and His word is determined by their love of sin.  People hate God because they love sin (John 3:19-20)!  Habitual sin is evidence of malice or hatred of God and His holy law.  Whether they think so or not, at the root of their actions is a rebellion against God’s right to govern His creation as He sees fit.  They really wish God did not exist, so there would be no final judge to call them to account.  That is what people really hate about the biblical conception of God.  If the Lord would just love them, without placing restrictions on their actions, they would be glad to acknowledge and honor Him.  But the minute He takes His rightful place as the moral Governor of the universe, asserting His right to measure and judge their behavior by His holy law, they rise up in hot rebellion.  What finally determines what they think about God is their love of sin.