Saturday, November 30, 2013

Comparison of worldly affections to spiritual ones

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.   Psalm 84:10

A life of faith builds upon lasting principles.  The life of sense lives on fading objects.  What can he lack who lives by faith in him that is all and never changes?  When the mariner puts out to sea, he quickly loses sight of land, but no matter how far he sails, he will never lose sight of heaven.  The soul of faith sees a greater beauty in God, than in all worldly comforts, and tastes a greater sweetness in communion with Christ, than in all earthly friendships.  Grace weans the believer from all worldly things, and discerns between perishing and durable comforts. How do we know we are weaned from the world? (1.) We are weaned when we have heavenly affections amidst earthly possessions.  (2.) When we reckon our happiness by divine fruit instead of worldly accommodations.  (3.) When we bear worldly evils, troubles, and losses with a holy quietness and satisfaction of spirit (Heb. 10:34).  (4.) We choose holiness, affection and loss, rather than sin, pleasure and preferment (Heb. 11:24-26).  (5.) We are able by faith to overcome both the smiles and frowns of the world.  When the world smiles upon us with its splendours, honours, riches, pleasures, delights and glories, can we look upon all these as small things in comparison with Christ?  Or, when the world frowns upon us with crosses, losses, sufferings, reproaches, can we overcome them by laying aside carnal fears, and by patience, look upon afflictions and sufferings for Christ as our honour and happiness?  To have the world, and yet to be weaned from it; to possess the world, and not to be possessed by it; to live above all, amidst the enjoyment of all – these are mercies.  To see greatness only in God, and beauty only in holiness, O what a mercy is this!  Do not dote on the comforts of the world but wean your soul from them.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Cut off my arm?!

I thought this was an excellent article from World Magazine by Andree Seu Peterson. She takes the passage in Matthew 18:8 where Jesus says, "If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away."  He goes on to say that it is better to be maimed than to go to hell with all of our body parts present. The author challenges us to realize that God would have us face up to our temptations and defeat them. We need to die daily to self and sin and we need to be willing to struggle against sin and not just roll over and play dead.

Excellent article. I encourage you to check it out.

 WORLD | Cut it off? | Andrée Seu Peterson | Aug. 10, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankfulness for the Giver More Than the Gift

Recently my wife, Ruth, shared with our children some thoughts about thanksgiving that had been on her mind lately. On this Thanksgiving Day, I would like to take some of those ideas and share them with you. From a book by Cynthia Heald called Becoming a Woman of Prayer, came this quote by Matthew Henry. It is part of his commentary on 2 Samuel where Hannah had been praying for a son. Following the answer to that prayer, Hannah praises God. Here is what Matthew Henry writes:

What great things she (Hannah) says of God. She takes little notice of the particular mercy she was now rejoicing in, does not commend Samuel as the prettiest child, the most toward and sensible for his age that she ever saw, as fond parents are apt to do. No, she overlooks the gift and praises the Giver; whereas most forget the giver and fasten only on the gift. Every stream should lead us to the fountain; and the favors we receive from God should raise our admiration of the infinite perfections there are in God.”

Ruth has been focused on gratitude as a way of life for some time now. Most of us are not as thankful as we ought to be. However, when we are thankful, we usually focus on the gift. As children we may receive something we really wanted for Christmas from our grandmother. Our mom may whisper, “Go thank your grandma for this.” And we may dutifully obey, but actually, even though we are thankful to have received the gift, we may be so focused on the gift that we really don't think much about the giver.

There are several implications for teaching our children and ourselves to focus on the giver. We may receive a gift that really isn't our favorite. Or we may receive something that we already have or is perhaps not our style. If we are focused on the gift, we will subtly or maybe not so subtly be whining or be discouraged that we didn't get the gift that we had hoped for or that was more to our liking. However, if we are focused on the giver, we will be thankful that grandma or Aunt Suzie or mom or dad loved us enough to give us something. We will be grateful for that person and how much they care about us and the time and effort that went into choosing or making the gift. The ultimate giver of every good gift is God and so we will be thankful to God for bringing such a person into our lives who would care enough about us to bring us a gift.

So may I encourage us on this Thanksgiving Day to really work at developing a thankful spirit that focuses on the giver rather than the gift itself. May those of us who are parents strive to teach our children to focus on the giver rather than the gift. That's not an easy task and it certainly won't happen if we make sure our children always get exactly what they want, or if we too quickly replace what gets broken. Let's turn our eyes and the eyes of our children to the giver and ultimately to the One who gave everything, the Lord Jesus Christ.

With our best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving Day,  Ruth and Roger

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Victory in Christ - Part 9

This is the next installment of a series I am writing concerning what Romans 6-8 teaches about our sin problem and God's plan for victory. To find previous installments do a search for the title: Victory In Christ. You can find the first installment here.

5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

When we were in the flesh.” When was that? This is an important phrase that I want us to keep track of as we go along, especially when we get to chapter 8. It looks to me when we get into verse 6 with the “but now” beginning to that sentence, being in the flesh was our state before we came to Christ, while we were still in our sins. At that time, verse 5 tells us, the law aroused sinful passions in us that worked in the members of our body to bear fruit to death. This is in contrast to what we just saw in the preceding verse that now we are married to Christ and bear fruit for God.

But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by. As mentioned earlier when we died with Christ, we died to the law. The law held us in its grip and sinful passions were awakened and brought fruit for death. Before this, we were “in the flesh”. Now we are said to be “in the Spirit”.

Now that we are not under the law anymore, we serve in a new way. This way he calls the newness of the Spirit as in comparison to the old way of the letter. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church to tell them that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). This is a contrast he discusses in several places in Scripture. Romans chapter 8 will discuss this newness of the Spirit in greater detail. So let's go on.

Principle 11: We serve now with the Spirit being the motivator of our actions rather than the external command of the law.

Part 10 will be posted on Tuesday, December 3.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Victory in Christ - Part 8

This is the next installment of a series I am writing concerning what Romans 6-8 teaches about our sin problem and God's plan for victory. To find previous installments do a search for the title: Victory In Christ. You can find the first installment here.

Chapter 7 – 1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.

Paul is bringing us back now to the discussion of the law as it relates to us as Christians. He had previously told us that we are not under law, but under grace. The law about marriage and adultery applies to a person only while they are living. If a spouse dies, a person is no longer under the law that says she cannot marry another man. So if a husband dies, the wife is free to marry another man. She is not under that law. It has no jurisdiction over her because it is for a different situation. The law is not gone. It just doesn't apply in this case.

4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.

In the same way, since we have died with Christ when He died on the cross, we have become dead to the law. As far as the law is concerned we died. The law says that the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4). Jesus Christ, having born my sins on the cross represented me there and so the law that says I should die was fulfilled way back then. The punishment has been meted out and the law no longer applies to me. It has already been applied in Christ. The law can't punish the same person twice for the same crime.

The result is, according to verse 4, that now I'm free to be married to Christ so that I can bear fruit for Him. I've died to the old husband, sin, and no longer bear fruit for it. Just as a wife who marries a man can bear his offspring, so I can be married to Christ so that the fruit of his life in me can be born out into the world. It's similar to Jesus' parable of the vine and the branches. We bear fruit by abiding in Christ. Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). The idea of bearing His offspring is a hint to the answer to the question how is it possible to live the Christian life successfully. It is a matter of His bearing His life out through us by His Spirit. Even though this doesn't happen perfectly because of our weaknesses, we can have the confidence that the law that would smack us down has no jurisdiction in our case because we have died to that phase of life.

Principle 10: When you died with Christ you died to the jurisdiction of the law and are set free to bear fruit for God.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Memorization Monday -- Hebrews 10:24

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,

This verse comes immediately after the admonition to hold fast and not to waver. Going right along with that is the importance of stirring up one another in that same effort. We can't do this alone. We need one another to prod, encourage and to come along side sometimes and tell us we need to straighten up and do right. The next verse is going to tell us not to forsake assembling together. We can't live the Christian life very well as loners.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hymn of the Week --How Firm a Foundation

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said
To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee – I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, tho all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never – no never—no, never forsake!”

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Crucified to the World -- A Devotional by Matthew Mead

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.     Galatians 6:14

The grace of God makes the soul like a weaned child to all worldly things.  This does not mean we are without earthly comforts and contentments.  You may have much of the world, and yet still be weaned from it.  Others have little of the world, and are not.  To be weaned from the world does not mean we undervalue our enjoyments either.  There are real mercies to us.  They are gifts from above, and the bounty of God’s providence.  But to be weaned means that we are content in every condition and providence of life.  When the Lord designs to work grace in a heart, and redeem a soul to himself, he first weans it from the world.  This is how God dealt with the prodigal son.  God is never better to us than when the earthly is most bitter.  To forsake God to live upon earthly pleasures is a great loss; it is to forsake a living fountain for a broken cistern, and leads us out of God’s blessing.  An excess in creature-enjoyments drowns our reason in sense, and our judgment is extinguished by our appetites.  When God weans a soul from the world he makes the earthly bitter by some affliction or disappointment.  Thus he leads the soul to look out for a more pure and lasting satisfaction in Christ.  In times of outward prosperity we are full of the world, and the Lord can find no room in our hearts.  Present comforts have taken possession and thrust him out.  When Christ was born, there was no room for him in the inn.  Thus it fares with the Lord Jesus Christ in the world yet.  Most of us lay him in the manger out of the way.  How do you treat the blessed Jesus?  Do you receive him into your hearts and affections?  Please deal plainly with God and your own souls and tell me; what entertainment do you give to the Lord Jesus?  Please let him into your hearts and affections!


Friday, November 22, 2013

When your world caves in - Reformation21 Blog

From an article by Paul Levy:

Recently I've spent some time with two friends who were in ministry but have fallen morally and so now find themselves out of a job that they loved, separated from their families and, in all honesty, struggling. I've showed what I've written to them and I wouldn't say they were overjoyed at what I had to say but both agreed I could put this on here.
There's a number of things that need to be said but, first of all, we need to recognise how fragile we are. These men were more gifted and more able than I ever will be. They are bright guys who were, in lots of our eyes, 'successful' in ministry. I've prayed with these men and shared in ministry with them.  After meeting with them I came away upset and sad and slightly afraid; the reason being it could have been me. No one who has met with people who've just seen their lives implode and the speed at which sin can destroy a man can ever be proud. You can be angry with them and what they've done but you'll be more aware of the fact that it could so easily have been me. 'Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall'.1 Corinthians 10:12

 Read the whole article here:

  When your world caves in - Reformation21 Blog

Victory in Christ -- Part 7

So that brings us to a familiar verse, Romans 6:23:
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The interesting thing about where this verse fits in the context is that it's just not a statement about sin and the comparison of being lost and saved, although it is that. It is in the context that we just discussed where there are two different paths a person can take in presenting ones self either to righteousness or to sin and the consequences of those choices. This is a verse written to Roman Christians in the middle of this discussion of which choice we might make as we faced with opportunities to yield to one or another. So this is a warning that to yield to sin leads to death.

Here's where it gets tricky and I want to be careful not to contradict other teachings in the Scripture. It is clear to me that when a person comes to know Christ in a saving way, his behavior cannot undo the justification he has received. In other words, sinful behavior does not cancel the justification we have in Christ. Instead, his behavior will change because if we are in Christ we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). And because we are under the new covenant, we have the new covenant promise of the removal of our old stoney heart, the giving of a new heart and new spirit, the presence of the Holy Spirit of God in our lives and the motivation to be obedient (Ezekiel 36:26, 27).

But, given these truths, it is also clear that this verse is a warning not to yield to the sin nature. Yielding our members to sin is a path that ultimately leads to death, so why would a Christian want to venture down that path? Warnings are given to help us avoid the dangers along the way and we should heed them.

We should not look at promises and warnings as contradictions. In the story of the shipwreck on one of Paul's journeys, Paul was told by God that no one would be lost in the wreck. Later on however, some of the frightened sailors started to lower some lifeboats to escape the doomed ship. Paul warned them that if they took a lifeboat, they would not survive. Was that a true warning given the fact that Paul had already promised no one would be lost? Of course it was. The result was that the sailors did not take the lifeboats, their lives were saved and God's promise to Paul was fulfilled. Promises and warnings can both be true and valid. I believe the same thing is true in the passage we are studying.

Principle 9: Remember yielding to sin leads to ever increasing lawlessness and ultimately to death.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Victory in Christ -- Part 6

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!

Now another question arises. Since we are not under the law, but under grace, should that be a motivation to sin? And the answer is the same as before. Of course not! Then he goes on to explain the implications of that answer.

Principle 7: You are not under the law but under grace.

16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

First he points out that even though we have been set free from the dominion of sin, yet to whomever we present ourselves for obedience, we are that person's slave. Verse 16 tells us there are two choices: we can present ourselves to sin leading to death or we can present ourselves to obedience leading to righteousness. So even though we aren't technically in bondage to sin any longer, by offering ourselves to sin as a servant, we are in effect a slave of sin. Whoever's will we do, we are a servant of that person.

Let's follow those two lines of thought through these verses. First, the train of thought he uses when we present ourselves to sin. In vs. 16 he shows us the end or result: “whether of sin leading to death.” In verse 19 he pictures a person presenting his members as slaves of uncleanness and lawlessness with the result that it leads to further lawlessness. In verse 21 he focuses on the end which is death. So it goes like this: self --> sin --> uncleanness --> lawlessness --> death.

What is the alternative? Presenting ourselves to obedience. Beginning in verse 16 we present ourselves to obedience, and then to righteousness in verse 18, and then to holiness in verses 19 and 22, and the end of that line is eternal life. So that sequence goes like this: self --> obedience --> righteousness --> holiness --> eternal life. Reread the Scripture passage with these paragraphs in mind and I think you'll see it laid out for you there.

So there are these two choices – either present ourselves to sin with the result of death or present ourselves to obedience with the result of eternal life. Here again, it's a decision we make moment by moment.

This is similar to Paul's teaching in the book of Galatians where he tells us that when you sow to the flesh you reap corruption but when you sow to the Spirit you reap life everlasting (6:8). His warning there reminds us that we reap what we sow. Christian or non-Christian, corruption results from sowing to the flesh.

Now this isn't salvation by obedience and living righteously. That would contradict other passages of Scripture some of which we will be looking at as we go along. But I think it is saying that grace and salvation take us down the obedience, righteousness, holiness path. In other words it's a mistake to think that you can possess salvation and yet be on the path that leads to death. That would be a contradiction.

Principle 8: In effect you are a slave to who you obey--either sin which leads to death or righteousness which leads to life.

Part 7 can be found here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Victory in Christ -- Part 5

(Part 1 of this series can be found here:

Back to Romans 6
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Because of these facts, we are not to allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies. We have the power not to allow it to reign because its dominion has actually been broken. It has strong lusts and desires, but we are not to give into them because we have died to all of that. One of the things I struggle with is the fact that when we reckon these things to be true, we still find ourselves surrounded by sinful temptations and the admonition not to let sin reign is easier said than done. So I acknowledge that right from the start. But he goes on with some other principles that help.

In verse 13 he tells us not to present our members as weapons of unrighteousness to sin. In other words, our hands, feet, eyes, etc., are our members and sin can use them as weapons against us. So we should not be handing these members over to sin to use against us in the battle we're in. In a real war we can see that it would be foolish to give our guns to the enemy so that they could shoot us with them. The same thing is true in our spiritual battle. Instead, we should hand our members over to God as instruments of righteousness. Almost moment by moment through life we can make that choice. And since we have reckoned ourselves to have died to sin, we are free now to use our members as weapons of righteousness.

In verse 14 Paul tells us that the reason we can do this is because of the amazing truth that sin shall not have dominion over us. It's reign has ended. But isn't it true that sometimes it doesn't feel all that much like it has no dominion? That's because sometimes we are in the habit of sin and we have to acknowledge that some sins we just plain like to do. But the power of sin to dominate us and rule us has been broken. How is it broken? The verse says, “for you are not under law but under grace.” The Bible tells us that the law actually increases sin. In a passage that we'll look at a little later, Paul writes, “ What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.” (Romans 7:7,8). And in 1 Corinthians 15:56 he writes, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” (Emphasis mine) So by removing us from the subjection to the law, God has removed one of the most powerful forces toward sin. I have thought about this a lot and I still don't have it in my mind how this all works, but that is what this scripture is saying, isn't it?

Principle 6: Since you have died to sin, do not allow it to reign by giving your members to sin to be used as weapons against you.

Part 6 can be found here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Victory in Christ - Part 4

Other passages in scripture stress this same truth. For example, in Colossians 3:1-5 we read, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, ....”

Later in verses 9 and 10 we read, “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,” (Emphasis mine)

In Ephesians 4:22-24 Paul writes, “that you put off, ... the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

So in the Colossians passage especially we see that since we died with Christ and since we have been raised with Christ, we are to behave in a certain way. These things are truths to be believed and acted upon. It's not just a rule out of no wher that we're supposed to seek those things that are above. That would be an arbitrary law that the flesh is not able to keep. But since we are resurrected people and our lives are actually on the other side of death and the grave, our sights can be set on heavenly things.

It's also important to note here that when he tells us to look on things above and not on things of the earth, he is not talking about a far off heavenly gaze that is transfixed on angels, streets of gold and the like. And when he tells us to turn our gaze away from things of the earth, he is not talking about the normal aspects of earthly living. He is telling us to turn away from sinful things such as fornication, covetousness and wrath and put our attention on heavenly things such as mercy, kindness and humility.

In the Ephesians passage, he tells us to put off the old man. In our Romans passage Paul had said that the old man had died with Christ. I don't think this is a contradiction. I think he is telling us to put into practice what is true. The old man was crucified with Christ. Therefore, when you feel those rustlings of the former life that have become habits and ways of thinking, we are to consciously, purposefully and regularly set that stuff aside. These things are the vestiges of the old life that need to be removed.

Principle 5: Consciously take your eyes off of earthly, sinful ways and focus them on righteous heavenly things because you died with Christ and have been raised with Him.

Part 5 can be found here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Memorization Monday - Hebrews 10:23

Heb 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

One of the things the author of Hebrews keeps encouraging is for us to hold fast, to stay faithful. Here the basis for our holding fast is that the One who made the promises is Himself faithful.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hymn of the Week -- Speak O Lord

 Speak O Lord by the Gettys

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility;
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of pow'r that can never fail-
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us-
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we'll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we'll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Poor in spirit by Jeremiah Burroughes

As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!   Psalm 40:17

The poor in spirit view themselves as destitute of all true spiritual good whatsoever; ‘I am deprived of your image, and have no spiritual life that in any way will work for me to eternal life.’  The poor in spirit are sensible of all the spiritual evils that are upon them, and the corruptions that are in the soul: ‘O the vermin that creeps about me continually!  If I could work for myself, I would not be so extremely poor, but I can do nothing for myself to enrich my soul.  If I but had a friend that could help me, but there is no one to help me in my poor condition, no angels in heaven or men in the world. If there was some excellence in me, there might be some hope that someone will consider my worth, but I have none.  By nature I am worthless.  If perhaps, though I cannot do something now, maybe later I might be able to do something.  This might give me some hope, but I am so much in debt, that as soon as I earn anything, my creditors take it all away.  I am so poor before God, that, though I make some payments for my current bills, I can never pay the debt that is past.  Suppose that I receive something to help me for the present, I will need more later.  I must live under continual alms.’  This is poverty of spirit.  The poor in spirit live upon continual dependence.   They have nothing in themselves but that which is given to them.  They do not know how to use what they have without help.  They are dependent upon new supplies of grace every moment. They are destitute of all spiritual good, they have woeful spiritual miseries upon them; they are not able to work at all, having no friend or worth to commend them to another.  O what a poor creature that is in such a condition!  Now for a man to see this, and to be made aware of it, here is a man that is poor in spirit.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Victory in Christ - Part 3

This is the next installment of a series I am writing concerning what Romans 6-8 teaches about our sin problem and God's plan for victory. To find previous installments do a search for the title: Victory In Christ.  Part 1 can be found here.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Since we died with Christ, we shall also live with Him. It's important to realize that not only will we live with Him sometime in the future, but we live with Him now. Galatians 2:20 says, “20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Here are a couple of other key passages:

Colossians 3:3, 4 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Christ is our life.)

Romans 5:17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

So Christ's life and our life are intertwined already. He is our life. We live by His strength and power. He is at work in us, living out His life in us.

Next he shows us that since Christ died and rose again, He will not die again. Death no longer has any way of overpowering Him. When He died, He died to sin once for all. Now we know that Jesus didn't sin, but the Bible does tell us that He was tempted in every way like we are yet without succumbing to sin's pull (Hebrews 4:15). So since He died, He died to sin, but now having been raised from the dead He lives to God. He is not living in the environment where sin is surrounding Him on every side with its pull. Rather, He is living focused on God and what God has for Him. Now verse 11 gives us an important step in understanding how to have victory. We are to reckon or count ourselves also to be dead to sin. This is not mind over matter, it is a matter of believing the truth that we died with Christ and have been raised with Him. Since these things are true, we are to believe and live like and have a mind-set of having died to the sin-centered focus and are now alive to a God-centered focus. This is to be an active mind-set. We are to count it as true moment by moment. When tempted, we are to remind ourselves that this sin has no power over us and that we have died to it. It belongs to our old life.

Principle 4: Based on the truth we should reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. 

Part 4 can be found here. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Victory in Christ - Part 2

This is the next installment of a series I am writing concerning what Romans 6-8 teaches about our sin problem and God's plan for victory. To find previous installments do a search for the title: Victory In Christ.  Part 1 can be found here.

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

The question then arises that since when sin increases, grace increases more, should we sin more so that there will be more grace? The answer in verse 2 is 'of course not!' Paul goes on to say, almost with a tone of incredulity, “How could we go on living a life of sin if we died to sin?” The fact is that when we were baptized into Christ at our salvation, we were baptized into Jesus' death. (I don't believe he is talking about water baptism here, but spirit baptism as in 1 Corinthians 12:13.) Being baptized into His death means that Jesus' death counts as our death. We went to the tomb with Him.

The result is that just as Christ was raised from the dead and was at that point free from the temptation and trials that sin brought before His death, we too should view ourselves as having died with Christ and should look at it as though we are on the other side of the resurrection. The truth of the matter is that we are on the other side of the resurrection as far as God is concerned. Ephesians 2:5-6 says, “even when we were dead in trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Our identity with Christ is so thorough that in a sense we are already in Christ in heaven. The goal then is to walk in newness of life, just as Christ does because we too were raised on that day.

Principle 2: Our identity is Christ and our position is 'in Christ'.

5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Paul then goes on to say that just like we have been united with Jesus in His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection. We were raised spiritually with Christ when He rose again, and our bodies in the future will also be raised.

The crucial point he makes in verse 6 is that when we died with Christ, what he describes as “our old man,” which I take to be the old sin nature went to the cross with Jesus so that the body of sin might be done away with, with the result that we would no longer be slaves to sin. The phrase “done away with” in some versions is translated as “destroyed”. As an argument in this direction he says in verse 7 that he who has died has been freed from sin. In other words after we die, sin won't be an issue. And we are to see ourselves as having died with Christ when He died. Even though we are actually still in the body and subject to temptation, the truth is that we have died to sin. Having died to sin means that sin has no power and no authority over us any longer to keep us in bondage. The chains have been broken.

Now, unfortunately, it doesn't often feel that way. It feels like sin still has a lot of power over us because of all of the habits we have formed in living our lives. But we should focus on the truth of what God tells us and not on how we feel at any given moment. Sin is deceptive and our flesh is vulnerable to habits and patterns of thinking. Both of these create a situation where we feel like sin still has the mastery. But it does not!

Principle 3: Because we died with Christ, we have been released from sin's power and authority.

Part 3 can be found here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Victory in Christ - Intro and Part 1

In my life experience, one of the most important passages of Scripture has been Romans 6-8. I believe that most of us have at least one area in our lives where there are nagging temptations; areas where we have a hard time gaining victory. I believe this passage along with some parallel passages provide us with the truths that are essential to victory and to receive grace and forgiveness. Perhaps the thoughts and meditation that I will share on this passage will be helpful to you as well.

The key idea here is that we need to know and believe the truth about God and what He has done for us. Then we need to act on that truth as if it's really true because it is. And finally, we need to allow our feelings and emotions to follow. We normally act on our feelings, letting them lead rather than the truth.

What I'm going to do is provide the text to this passage beginning in Romans 5:19 and then after each section comment on it bringing in other passages as necessary to explain how I think these verses can help us to become the kind of men God would have us to be. Sin is a fierce foe and these thoughts are not meant to imply easy steps that immediately solve all of our temptation problems. But if you take time to think through these Scriptures and meditate on them, I think you will find them helpful in the battle.

All of the scripture texts are from the New King James Version.

Part 1:

Romans 5:19-8:3919 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In Romans 5, Paul explains that Adam's sin was attributed to us because Adam was our representative. His decision to sin was counted as the decision of everyone in the human race and thus we all were made sinners at that point. We are sinners in our own right, but we were born sinners and guilty because of Adam's position as a representative of the race. In a similar way, Christ serves as a representative for all who are in Him. His obedience is counted as the obedience of His people. What we need to see here is that just as truly as we were made sinners by Adam's sin, those who are in Christ are made righteous through Christ. Often we think of the sin side as being more dominant than the righteousness side. Not so. In the passage just quoted, many were made sinners by one man's disobedience and many will be made righteous by another Man's obedience.

We also learn in this passage that the law entered so that the offense might abound. Romans 4:15 tells us that where there is no law, there is no transgression and 5:13 tells us that sin is not imputed against a person when there is no law. So God brought the law to people who were already sinners so that the offense might be increased. But, and that is an important 'but', where sin increased, God's grace increased all the more. The result is that just as sin reigns and is triumphant in the death that it causes, grace will reign and be triumphant unto eternal life. Sin cannot gain the upper hand over grace. Grace is always greater.

Principle 1: Sin abounds but grace abounds more! 

Look for Part 2 here 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Love of God - Matthew Mead

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

Love is the most comfortable attribute in God, and the best name by which we know him (1 John 4:16).  Love acts with a priority to all other attributes.  Wisdom plans the happiness for man, and power and providence bring it to pass, but love has the first hand in the work.  It was love that first summoned the great counsel held by all three persons in Elohim before man or angels existed.  Love marked the Sin as the foundation of the world structure of man’s salvation and blessedness.  Love sent Christ into the world, put him to death, and made him an offering for sin.  All the attributes of God act in the motions of love.  Electing love is the proper source of all our other mercies (Eph. 1).  He has chosen us before the foundation of the world, bestowed grace freely upon us and has given us redemption through his blood.  Paul lays all these blessings at the feet of electing love (verse 11).  Love is the only attribute that God has acted out to the utmost.  We have never seen the utmost of his power, but we have seen the utmost of his love.  He has tabernacle divinity in flesh (1 Tim. 3:16).  He has made his soul an offering for sin, and laid upon him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:10-11).  He has made us the righteousness of God in him (1 Cor. 5:21); he has made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 2:6), and written our names in heaven.  How can divine love put forth any greater effort of love than this?  It is infinite love and it gives the soul an interest in an infinite good.  It entitles it to an infinitely blessedness, and fills the soul with infinite satisfaction.  Is not having an interest in this electing love the highest cause for rejoicing?  Love gives us a ‘name in heaven’, which causes eternal rejoicing.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Memorization Monday - Hebrews 10:22

Heb 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hymn of the Week -- Blessed be the Name

All praise to Him Who reigns above
In majesty supreme,
Who gave His Son for man to die,
That He might man redeem!


Blessèd be the Name! Blessèd be the Name!
Blessèd be the Name of the Lord!
Blessèd be the Name! Blessèd be the Name!
Blessèd be the Name of the Lord!

His Name above all names shall stand,
Exalted more and more,
At God the Father’s own right hand,
Where angel hosts adore.


Redeemer, Savior, Friend of man
Once ruined by the fall,
Thou hast devised salvation’s plan,
For Thou hast died for all.


His Name shall be the Counselor,
The mighty Prince of Peace,
Of all earth’s kingdoms Conqueror,
Whose reign shall never cease.


Friday, November 08, 2013

See the love of the Father -- to be called children of God. by Matthew Mead

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 1 John 3:1

Our present enjoyments should be a window for the soul to see the goodness of God.  Faith can see divine goodness and bounty beaming through every mercy, but to rest in present mercies is to make them our idols.  Whatever you love, let it also be your fear.  Fear will bridle it lest it steals your heart from God.  If what you love is not also your fear, it will be your loss and sorrow.  If Samson had feared his Delilah as much as he loved her, he would have saved both his locks and his life.  You will find whatever you over-love to be a cross or a curse.  Live above the pleasures of sense; we have a nobler delight.  We have God to delight in and Christ to comfort us.  What a poor thing it is to satisfy your soul with the delights of brutes.  They have no peace with God, no joy in the Holy Spirit, no peace of conscience, and no hope of glory.  Is not the greatest ground of joy imaginable to have a name written in heaven?  This is a truer cause of rejoicing than anything this world can afford.  Riches and honours are no proofs of God’s love.  A man may have life, but be dead in sin; he may be rich, yet be wretched; he may have children, and yet be under the wrath of God.  The names of the greatest part of the world are written in the dust.  They have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.  A name in heaven is only the portion of a few, and a special privilege and cause of rejoicing indeed.  We are his adopted children.  What greater ground of joy imaginable is there than this?  With God as our portion, all he is and all he has is our inheritance.  We have title to all our Father’s riches and honours.  God is our Father forever.  How we should rejoice in this!  To be a son or daughter of God, our everlasting Father, is the highest title in the world.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Forgiveness of Sins

Psalm 32:1     Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity.

Psalm 103:8     The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
Psalm 103:10     He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
Psalm 103:12     As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Isaiah 1:18     “Come now, and let us reason together,”  Says the Lord,  “Though your sins are like scarlet,   They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.
Isaiah 55:7     Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts;  Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him;  And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
Jeremiah 33:8 I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me.
Micah 7:18 Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy.
Micah 7:19 He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.
 Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
Acts 13:38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins;
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Blessed are the poor in spirit. -- by Thomas Watson

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.    Matthew 5:3

The glass is first emptied before you poured in wine. God first empties man of himself, before he pours in the precious wine of his grace.  Until we see our own poverty, we will never see Christ’s value.  Poverty of spirit makes Christ sweet to the soul.  When a man sees himself as wounded to death, how precious is the balm of Christ’s blood.  When he sees himself deep in arrears with God, how glad he is for the promise of payment. Some think they are rich if they fill their bags with gold, but the poor in spirit are the rich men.  Reason laughs at it, but the poor in spirit are blessed, and the proud in spirit are cursed.  There is a generation who commits idolatry with themselves.  There is no idol like self.  They admire their own moralities and self-righteousness, and upon this stock they graft the hope of their salvation.  They have commodities of their own creation, and they scorn to be beholden to Christ.  These balloons the devil has blown up with pride, and they are swelled in their own conceit (Luke 18:11).  Before his conversion, Paul thought he was in a good condition, and he was building a tower of his own righteousness.  God showed him the crack in this foundation and led him to the ‘rock of ages’.  There is not a more dangerous precipice than self-righteousness.  This was Laodicea’s attitude, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing’ (Rev. 3:17).  How many does this damn!  We see some ships that have escaped the rocks but are stranded on the sand.  Some have escaped the rocks of gross sins, yet are cast away upon the sands of self-righteousness.  How hard it is to convince such men of their danger!  They believe they can be saved with these rotten rags.  How many have perished by being their own saviours!  O that this might drive the proud sinner out of himself!


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Some Prayer Requests from Psalm 25 for this November morning.

As I was reading Psalm 25 this morning, I was impressed by the number of prayer requests that David included in this psalm. So often when I pray, I do not pray for the kind of important spiritual requests like the ones David uses here. So, this morning, I'd like to share some of them with you with a few comments.

Let me not be ashamed --  What things shame us as Christians? Aren't they the things that in one way or another sin against God? Are they not the sins that get a hold of our lives? Perhaps David is praying that God would guard his actions so that he would not do those things that would bring shame on his testimony for God.
Show me your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. -- God's ways and God's paths are not the same as ours. God, help me understand the way you work and the path you take. Help me submit to your ways.
Lead me in your truth and teach me. -- We are slow to learn and we are easily sidetracked by falsehood. Here David is asking God to keep him on the path of truth and to teach him how to walk on that path. Is that not what we need also?
Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your loving kindness. -- Many prayers in the Bible remind God of who He is and what He has promised. It's not that God doesn't remember who He is, but it is a reminder to God that we know what He has said. It's an encouragement to our faith.
Do not remember the sins of my youth. For your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity for it is great. -- God has promised forgiveness of sin. This is the kind of God He is. Therefore it is right and biblical to go to Him with our sins and iniquities and to ask Him for forgiveness. As Christians, are forgiveness is granted because Jesus Christ bore the full penalty of our sins in His own body on the cross.
Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted. -- God is a God of mercy. It is one of His core characteristics. Therefore we can and should turn to Him to ask for mercy in the middle of difficult circumstances.
Consider my enemies for they are many. They hate me with cruel hatred. -- When I read the Psalms regarding enemies, I realize that I don't have human enemies the way David did. But I transfer the prayer request toward the spiritual enemies that we as Christians have. Satan and his minions hate us with a cruel hatred and they are constantly working for our downfall. 

Keep my soul and deliver me. -- With respect to the enemies just mentioned, then, we need to pray as David did for the keeping of our soul. 

Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. -- It's important to have a life of integrity. These in and of themselves do not merit our salvation, but these characteristics do preserve us from many a downfall to which we might be vulnerable. In the meantime, we need to wait patiently on the Lord for His ultimate salvation.


Monday, November 04, 2013

Memorization Monday - Hebrews 10:14

 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Don't just read by this verse. It has important implications. Here are verses 1 and 2 from the same chapter:

 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.

From these verses we learn that the law could not make the worshipers perfect. If they could have, the sacrifices would have ceased and the worshiper would no longer have a conscience of sins. The great thing about the gospel is that what the law could not do, God did through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice was successful in perfecting those He is sanctifying as verse 14 says. The conclusion is that Jesus should only have to die once. That is certainly the case as all of the New Testament testifies. But in addition, we need to grasp by faith that the sin question has been completely dealt with and so rather than being reminded of our sins day after day as the sacrificial system caused, we should be able to live in the light of sins forgiven and our conscience should not be in a continual state of turmoil over sins that have already been forgiven and removed from us.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Hymn of the Week: Immortal, Invisible, God only wise

Stanza 1:
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

Stanza 2:
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

Stanza 3:
To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish, but naught changeth Thee.

Stanza 4:
Thou reignest in glory; Thou dwellest in light;
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render: O help us to see
'Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee.