Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"The Line of Demarcation"

The dividing line between the Divine and the human is often violated in our generation by not only unbelievers, but by some who profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Both directly and tacitly, the pagan notion is promoted that began in Eden when Satan told Eve that partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil would result in deification: "Ye shall become as gods" (Genesis 3:5). We must keep a sharp eye and ear for such spiritual error, and when detected, we should not walk away from it. We should run.

God has drawn us into vital union with the Holy Spirit. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6). The bond is dynamic, heart-filling, powerfully enabling, and blessedly graced with the affection and devotion of God's love. Metaphorically, the Bible likens the union of "one flesh" human marriage with the "one spirit" union of our hearts with our Lord's heart (I Corinthians 6:17). However, just as united husbands and wives do not become each other, neither do we become Christ, nor does He become us. Any notion that crosses the line of demarcation between God and ourselves conflicts with this clear Biblical analogy, and with the truth of Scripture definitively stated in the writing of Isaiah: "Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and His redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside Me there is no God" (Isaiah 44:6).

Again, we must flee any notion to the contrary. Satan originated the delusion that created beings can somehow share the substance and glory of the Creator. "I will be like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:14). Nothing could be further from the truth, and our enemy is always the instigator of such deception. "Thou art God alone" declared the Psalmist to the "one God" revealed in Scripture as existing in three distinct, but perfectly united persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Psalm 86:10; I Timothy 2:5). Our Lord does not, will not, and cannot share this substantive essence of His being with anyone, including those birthed into living relationship with Him through the Lord Jesus. Christ is Christ, we are ourselves, and "the hope of glory, which is Christ in you" does not violate the eternal line of demarcation between the Divine and the human (Colossians 1:27).

"I am the LORD: that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another."
(Isaiah 42:8)

Monday, August 30, 2010

"A New Heart"

In 1967, Dr. Christiaan Banard performed the first heart transplant on a man named Louis Washkansky. The operation was considered a success, although Washkansky died of pneumonia 20 days after surgery because of immunosuppressive drugs administered to prevent his body from rejecting the donor heart.

Since the first transplant, many people have received new hearts, and while the procedure is always the most major of surgeries, the rate of success has increased to the point that some people have survived for decades with the implanted heart of another. Improved knowledge, methodology, machinery, drugs, and the skill of doctors, nurses, and medical technicians have made heart transplants a fairly common and often successful marvel of modern science.

There is, however, one fact about the advancement of the procedure about which we can be certain: there will never be a "do it yourself heart transplant." We will never be able to go to drugstore to ask, "Which aisle are the heart transplant kits on?" Someone else will always have to perform the operation, and the transplant recipient will always require the knowledge, skill, and willingness of others on his behalf.

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).

Salvation involves our very Creator acting on our behalf to not only forgive us and assure us of eternal life, but also to change the very core of our being. He does for us that which we could never do for ourselves. The new birth through the Lord Jesus Christ provides a "new heart," and "a new Spirit." We literally become "a new creature" in the innermost sanctuary of our being, and a "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" (II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24). The entrance of the Holy Spirit births a person who did not exist before we believed, a spiritual being inhabited by the Spirit of God Himself. Our earthly faculties and members remain, referred to in Scripture as "the flesh." Sin therefore remains possible if these natural components of our being control us. However, nothing changes the fact of the new heart and the new Spirit given by God, and united together and forever for His glory. "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (I Corinthians 6:17).

If we have believed in the Lord Jesus, we must know and affirm that this transplant has taken place. While we could never perform the procedure, it is our privilege and responsibility to affirm the reality of newness that exists within us. "Reckon ye also yourselves to dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11). We must believe that in the innermost part of our being, a literal death and resurrection has taken place that changed the very fact of who we are. Again, God did for us that which we can never do for ourselves, but He did it in such a manner that we must presently believe the Truth in order to consistently experience the fact of a new heart and a new Spirit. The Word of God and the Spirit of God unite to bear witness to this blessed gift of saving grace, and we must join in the holy union. To the degree we believe the truth of the holy transplant performed by our Great Physician, our lives will flow in the spiritual vitality and health it makes possible. Or, as the Apostle Paul counseled Philemon...

"I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."
(Philemon 1:4-6)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Freely Received, Freely Appreciated"

(Another Saturday devotional. This seems to be becoming a habit, and thanks for letting me add this to your weekend email box. Glen.)

"Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and His wonderful works to the children of men!" (Psalm 107:15).

Humanity's woeful deficit of appreciation expressed toward the One who gives to us "life and breath and all things" reveals an important opportunity for prayer in a personal sense, and also for each other (Acts 17:25). We should pray for an increasing awareness of our utter need for God's provision, and His inutterable generosity in supplying it.

"Lord, make us truly grateful for Thy bounty which we are to receive." This was a frequent mealtime prayer request in days gone by, and such intent remains a vital sensibility in the hearts of believers. The doctrinal content of the request is somewhat faulty, however, because being made to give thanks by God would make gratitude meaningless in both His heart and in our own.

"Accept, I beseech Thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD" (Psalm 119:108).

Love coerced is no love at all, and thanksgiving is a chief expression of a heart freely and lovingly devoted to its Benefactor. Believers' offerings, while certainly the product of the Holy Spirit's moving within us, must necessarily ascend to God from a place deep within our hearts where we ourselves consciously determine to express our thanks. By doing so, we sacrifice the natural bent of our flesh to a wandering mind, ingratitude, and callous indifference to God. Only eternity will tell what such loving expression of appreciation does in the heart of our Heavenly Father, and our own hearts are blessed whenever we kneel at the warm hearth of thanksgiving that exists in the heart of every born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The presence of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus forms the hearth within us. On eleven occasions in the New Testament, our Savior is recorded as expressing gratitude to His Father. His thankful heart now dwells in us through the Holy Spirit, and our hearts would be bereft of any true thanksgiving apart from the Father having "sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6). Nevertheless, in the mystery of Divine/human relations, we have a real and vital role in the matter of gratitude. The "freewill offerings" of our mouth spring forth from freewill determinations in the heart that we will join the Psalmist in his loving determination: "O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever!" (Psalm 30:12).

Perhaps we might pray for each other that greater awareness will be given of God's kindness and generosity. Certainly every true believer's response to such light will be greater wonder and awe that we could be so loved by the One who made and sustains our being. Gratitude felt and expressed will follow in this wake of grace, and rather than being "made thankful," we will bless the heart of God with "the freewill offerings of my mouth." Knowing that we are able through Christ to love our Heavenly Father so genuinely will also bless our hearts with the joy of love freely received, and freely appreciated.

"I will love Thee, o Lord my strength."
(Psalm 18:1)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Truth Considered, Truth Understood"

"Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things" (II Timothy 2:7).

The Apostle Paul's words to Timothy apply to us as well. We are to consider, and the Lord is to give understanding.

The original Greek of this statement means that we are to "exercise our minds" to Paul's teachings (and by implication, to all Scripture). We are also to trust the Lord for "understanding," defined in the original Greek language of II Timothy, as "putting together" truths, promises, and commands communicated in His Word.

"Whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:9-10).

Our relationship to Scripture is both a Divine and a human endeavor. First, we must trust God to lead us by the Holy Spirit to rightly coordinate the content of His Word. A thought in Genesis may correlate to one in 1st Timothy. A promise in Romans may fulfill a prophecy of the Psalms. A command in 1 Corinthians may be understood in light of truth found in Isaiah. As the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle unite in both scene and shape, so must the Spirit of God ensure that precepts and lines rightly fit together. As they do, the primary reason for the Bible's existence is fulfilled, namely, to reveal the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Search the Scriptures," declared our Savior, "for in them ye think ye have eternal life. And they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39). Only the Holy Spirit who perfectly knows the Lord Jesus can coordinate the component parts of Biblical truth to render for us a faithful "scene and shape" of Christ whereby we are enabled to authentically worship God.

Our calling is to consider, to exercise our minds. We read the Bible. We infuse our hearts and minds with the Word of God. Then we ponder its meaning, content, and intent, determining to "think on these things" with the seriousness befitting the fact that our brain's first reason for existence is to ponder God and His truth (Philippians 4:8). Finally, we apply Scripture by seeking to believe its promises, obey its commands, and communicate its truth in the power of the Holy Spirit. Believers remember and incorporate the truth of God's Word into our daily lives, exercising our minds in order that our hearts may be "directed" into the love of God (II Thessalonians 3:5).

The union of our Lord's giving of understanding and our exercising of the mind is a thrilling thing. His dynamic working in our lives becomes more consistently known and experienced. Our working in response becomes more consistently actualized and realized. True relationship between God and ourselves ensues. He is glorified, we are fulfilled, and others are blessed by the love of Christ revealed in us. Life becomes what only Truth considered and Truth understood can provide. It becomes the union of the living Word, the Lord Jesus, and the written Word, the Bible, revealed in us...

"Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures... Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart."
(Luke 24:45; Jeremiah 15:16)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Inhabitants of the Dot"

In reading a book on astronomy, I was confronted with a notion often proposed by some who study the stars. According to one notable scientist, the earth is merely a "pale, blue dot" in the vast expanse that comprises the known universe. Man is even less, and thus our "insignificance" is declared to be one of the great implications of astronomical study.

Countering this idea is the Bible that declares humanity to bear a significance far more vast in importance than the universe is in dimension. God Himself became a man, and in this act of wondrous condescension, exalted the human race to the most privileged and important of any other created order. Our Lord esteems the creation made "in His image" so highly that He became as one of us to make atonement for our sins, and to eternally unite Himself with us in order that humanity might fulfill its intended purpose. Man matters to God. The evidence of wounded Hands and Feet bears witness to such a wonder of love, mercy, and redeeming grace made possible at the highest cost to our Maker.

Our spiritual enemies would have us believe that there is no true meaning in our existence. According to these voices of despair, we are born, we live, we die, and all too soon our bodies are less than dust. Whatever footprints we leave along the paths of our lives will not stand the test of more than a generation or two. Indeed, even the most notable among us quickly become little more than ink on the pages of a human history that will one day melt in the fiery heat of a Milky Way supernova that some scientists believe is overdue. The outlook portrayed by Satan and his minions is bleak, and if it were true, any notion of human meaning, purpose, and significance would be rendered null and void.

If, however, the living and true God of the Bible made us, and if His purpose for us is fraught with such meaning that He Son died for us, notions of human meaning, purpose, and significance become so important that we must consider the entirety of our lives in their Divinely inspired context. This moment, and all to follow, are discovered to be vital components of an eternity in which everything and everybody matter so infinitely much that God became man in order to make possible the redemption and fulfillment of our significance. "He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21).

Most of our moments won't be lived with this significance consciously in mind. Too many will even be lived in a manner that belies the truth. Nevertheless, we must plant deeply within our hearts and minds the truth that the human race matters, we matter, and those with whom we live our lives matter. For most, this will not lead to an outwardly spectacular life, or to fame and obvious significance. We will rather quietly walk our paths, leave our footprints, and disappear when our earthly journey concludes. However, if we have trusted the Lord Jesus, and if we believe His Word, somewhere deep in our hearts we will known that He has woven eternal consequences into our lives that will help to form the tapestry of a creation that will never end. Yes, we live on a "pale blue dot." But it is God's dot, and it is the sphere of matter and influence where His Son lived, died, and rose again to become the Lord of the universe (and from which He will forever reign -Jeremiah 3:17). The dot is therefore important beyond words, and more importantly, the inhabitants of the dot are important not only beyond words, but beyond comprehension.

"I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him."
(Ecclesiastes 3:14)

"Someone To Trust"

No one has ever trusted in the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and been disappointed for doing so. And no one ever will.

I love thinking these words, saying them, writing them, and communicating them in whatever way our Lord grants as the vehicle for declaring His faithfulness. There is someone to trust in this life and forevermore, Someone who "cannot lie," and whose "faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds" (Titus 1:2; Psalm 36:5). God will be today who He was yesterday, and He will be tomorrow who He is today. Of no one else can this be said, and our Heavenly Father's trustworthiness is so vast that as long as He "abideth faithful," all others can forsake us without jeopardizing the peace of our hearts (II Timothy 2:13).

"At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me (II Timothy 4:16-17).

We must build this altar of God's perfect faithfulness in our hearts. That is, we must choose to believe, as enabled and confirmed by the Holy Spirit, that "as for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31). We will not always live in the light of this sacred conviction, and we will often need to revisit the altar for remembrance of Divine faithfulness. However, the brilliant flame that burns in the candle of our spirits must illuminate our path as life winds its way through venues of blessing and difficulty. God has given the Lord Jesus Christ to super-abundantly meet our need in this moment, and forevermore (Philippians 4:19; Ephesians 3:20). We can trust Him without reserve no matter where the path may lead. Because no one has ever trusted in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and been disappointed for doing so. And no one ever will.

"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True."
(Revelation 19:11)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"The Family"

It does no violence to the Scriptural record to propose that God exists in the nature and substance of family.

The Bible states plainly that "there is one God" (I Timothy 2:5). It also teaches that three distinct personalities exist in the oneness of Divinity.

"Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation" (Psalm 89:26).
"Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, o God, is forever and ever" (Hebrews 1:8).
"But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?... Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" (Acts 2:4-5).

God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three sublime personalities so intrinsically united in nature, character, and being that "They" are one. A plurality in unity, a unity in plurality, and herein lies the reference to family. Our own experience tells us that distinct persons can be so bound in heart that oneness is easily the best way to describe the loving union. The love of husband and wife, parents and children, and sibling with sibling united in the bond of family reveals that in God's creation, unity and plurality are mutually inclusive rather than exclusive.

We need little understanding or explanation for such glory. Some realities are best known in that light of the heart so sublimely beautiful that no description is possible. I recall an evening with our family many years ago, when our children were still young and all lived at home. We were gathered around a table at a favorite restaurant, and the banter was lively. For a brief moment, I sat back to gaze upon and listen to the four people so dear to my heart. I cannot explain or describe that moment, but deep within my depths, I knew then (and I still know) that God gave me a glimpse of something so beautiful that tears streamed down my face in the blessed moment (as they do now in recollection). The "something" concerned my own family, no doubt. I realized the amazing gift I had been given. However, I also believe that the glimpse involved more. I think it involved God Himself, and a hint at the wonder of His triune heart and being.

I came away from the moment believing that God can be defined, in His essence, in terms of family. He is one and yet He is three; He is three and yet He is one. The Bible unapologetically proclaims the enigma, and the God of the Bible provides the most definitive and influential aspect of our lives - family - as a window into who and what He is. Indeed, family is elemental in the existence of humanity because humanity's Maker exists in the same wonderful reality. Yes, in essence, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit comprise a family.

Amazingly, born again believers in the Lord Jesus are now part of "the whole family in Heaven and earth" (Ephesians 3:15). We are adopted sons and daughters, of course, and will never become God as He exists in His essence. However, we are so spiritually united to the Lord Jesus that we are "in Christ," our Heavenly Father having drawn us as near to Himself as created beings can be. Our Savior prayed for our entree into such glory, and then died and rose again to make Heaven our eternal home not only in place, but in personal kinship to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us."
(John 17:20-21)

Monday, August 23, 2010

"A Measure of Mercy"

"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Frances and I were talking this morning about the blessing that patient and kindly affectioned friends are to us. Indeed, one of the great truths about human friendship is that at times we fail each other, whether in minor details (forgetting commitments, being late for get togethers, careless words, etc), or in major and inexcusable acts of commission or omission. Failure to understand this about our friends - and ourselves - makes deep and longlasting friendship uncertain at best, and impossible at worst.

A measure of mercy, a big measure of mercy, provides a large part of the spiritual glue that binds Christian friendship and fellowship. No friend of ours is yet glorified, nor are we. Expecting lapses of faithfulness, without excusing them, must therefore form our understanding of relationships with those whom God graciously brings into our lives. True friends understand this, speak honestly to each other about it when necessary, and thereby encourage each other to faithful commitment to the relationship, and unfailing mercy when steps falter.

Paul writes that it is "for Christ's sake" that we relate to each other in such grace. The Lord Jesus is glorified and revealed in godly friendships, and this is actually the primary reason for our bonds of affection. It is a sublime thing to realize that God brings people into our lives in order reveal the loving and joyous devotion to each other that exists in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and which now resides in us if we have believed. "I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them... the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us" (John 17:26; Romans 5:5). An eternally ancient bond reveals itself in good and godly friendships, and the love of God is known in ways that can only be revealed in this blessed way.

There is no need for mercy between the persons of the Godhead. There is much needed, however, between the children of the Godhead. Thus, a wondrous aspect of the character of God displays itself in us that can be known only as the human heart receives His forgiveness, and then becomes its holy means of transmission to others. Our friendships provide a wonderful vehicle for the glory, and let us expect much opportunity to "be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

"A man that hath friends must show himself friendly."
(Proverbs 18:24)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"I Have Repaid"

(We don't usually send out a Saturday devotional, but this one's ready to go so I thought I'd send it along. Thanks, Glen).

Onesimus was a slave who escaped from his master Philemon. He ended up in prison with the Apostle Paul, who led him to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon the departure of Onesimus to return to his master, Paul writes Philemon a letter of intercession, requesting that Onesimus be received by Philemon as a brother in Christ.

As part of this request on Onesimus' behalf, Paul writes, "If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account. I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it:" (Philemon 1:18-19). This, of course, vividly typifies and portrays the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. Our Savior once said the same thing to our Father about us. Let us put our own name in that blessed place. "Father, if Glen hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on My account. I will repay it." Long ago, the Father did just that, resulting in His beloved Son being tortured to death and forsaken by all, including God, in order to bear our sins on the cross of Calvary. The only difference is the tense. The Lord Jesus would say to the Father, "That was on My account. I have repaid it."

Such grace results in the wonder that God "will not impute" sin to His trusting children (Romans 4:8). He will not put sin on our account because He long ago put them on the account of our Savior. God rather deals with us as His children, administering affirmation, encouragement, edification, challenge, and discipline as needed. His heart is tender toward us because it was furious against the Lord Jesus on the cross. To the degree He was rejected in wrath, we are "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). Of course, His hand can also be firm, and we do well to remember that it was of His children that Scripture declares, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). We are beloved and accepted enough to be the subjects of "fiery indignation" toward attitudes and actions in our lives that are destructive of ourselves, and of those to whom we are called to exemplify Christ (Hebrews 10:27). Whether in gentleness of firmness, however, it is vital to remember that God is "for us," and that sin in never imputed to in any manner that jeopardizes our relationship with Him (Romans 8:31). Again, He "will not impute sin" to us.

The more we understand the exponential extent of the atonement in providing forgiveness and the favor of God, the more our hearts and minds will be moved to avail ourselves of "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:7). Beholding such glory results in our "being changed into the same image" as the Lord Jesus, that is, His love for the Father more and more becomes our love for the Father (II Corinthians 3:18). To truly know our Lord is to love Him because no heart can ever venture into the wonder that is God without being overwhelmed by the infinite torrents of goodness that spring up and flow in His glorious being. "Put that on My account, I have repaid" forever echoes in the heavenlies, and as it echoes in us, the love of God and love for God will fill and fulfill us forever.

"Where sin abounded, grace did much more, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
(Romans 5:20-21)

Friday, August 20, 2010

"The Blessing He Finds"

In human terms, we consider a person who desires praise and thanksgiving to be faulty in character and far too focused on themselves. Such ones believe themselves to need the adulation of others in order to feel good about themselves.

In Divine terms, God's desire for our adoration and gratitude reveals just the opposite about His character, disposition, and nature. Our Lord does not need our adulation. He needs nothing from us, or from anyone or anything (Acts 17:25). Therefore, our praise and thanksgiving do not fill an emotional void in God, or cause Him to be more personally fulfilled than He already is. Why then does the Bible so often command that we offer praises and thanksgivings?

Since God is perfectly unselfish, any desire on His part for anything from us cannot be for His own benefit (I Corinthians 13:5). It must rather be for the benefit of ourselves and for others. He calls us to praise and thank Him because He knows that such expressions are the fruit of faith in us, and also an encouragement and strengthening to more trust and confidence (in both ourselves, and in those encouraged by our expression of devotion). The blessing He finds in our offerings is based on the blessing we find in making our offerings. God loves being our all-providing Father, and He loves it when we know and apply ourselves to the blessed reality that "my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). Praise and thanksgiving express such faith, honoring our Lord by declaring that He is the source and supply of all in our lives, and revealing that we are living in the blessed reality. "Who offereth praise glorifieth Me" (Psalm 50:23).

We bring great blessing and pleasure to the heart of God when we praise and thank Him. This is our motivation because we love Him. His motivation in commanding us to do so is also love. He knows who He is, and He knows that we are dependent upon Him for our next breath and for all things. Expressed adoration and gratitude reveal that we also know this great fact of our existence. Nothing more pleases our Father's heart, and nothing will more fill our own hearts with peace and joy than our affirmation that "He giveth to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High."
(Psalm 92:1)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"A Journey To the Past"

"We will be glad and rejoice in Thee; we will remember Thy love" (Song of Solomon 1:4).

Every breath we have ever breathed has been the direct gift of God. The fact that we exist is the same. And "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (Acts 17:25; James 1:17).

There are countless implications that proceed from this blessed truth. The one that has most been on my mind of late is how far behind I am in the matter of gratitude expressed toward the Benefactor of such generosity. In one sense, of course, there is no possibility of our thanksgiving matching God's giving. As the beautiful old hymn declares, "Out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again." We don't even begin to know all that our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us throughout our lifetimes, and His known blessings come at us too fast and furious for our thanksgiving to match His lavish outpouring.

This consideration has of late led me to backtrack in my heart and mind on a journey to the past for the purpose of being sure I have specifically said "Thank You" to the God who has so blessed my life. People, events, places, experiences, blessings, and also the trials, tribulation, heartaches, and heartbreaks that the Lord has woven "together for good" in my life - all are places I want to go in my heart to kneel at the altar of thanksgiving (Romans 8:28). I know without a doubt that my deficit of gratitude is great, and it's long overdue that the Heart that gave should be the Heart that hears the sound of my voice saying "Thank You."

I will not complete the journey in this lifetime. The trail of "He giveth and giveth and giveth again" is long, and it winds through countless venues wherein Divine lovingkindness, wisdom, provision, protection, and the presence of God have always been waiting for me. It is a blessed journey, and of course, I share this to recommend it to anyone who may not have considered such a venture of gratitude. Praise and thanksgiving warm the heart of God, and they warm our hearts as well. A.W. Tozer once referred to gratitude as a "the sweetener of the soul," and it is that and far more. Indeed, thanksgiving is actually a journey into reality. "Life and breath and all things... every good and perfect gift" - all have come us and continue to come to us from the God who could rightly have given us just the opposite. We venture into grace, mercy, and the very heart of God when this journey to the past takes us to places where altars have long been awaiting our hearts and voices of gratitude.

"He shall hear my voice."
(Psalm 55:17)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Beautiful Union"

(A repeat, with an update)

Walking with God involves the beautiful union of His involvement in our lives and our continuing response to that involvement.

"I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

Note Paul's exit and reentrance, as it were, regarding his relationship with the Lord. First, he is crucified and seems to be out of the picture. But then he returns - "I live." He seems to leave again - "yet not I but Christ liveth in me" - but only to again return - "the life I now live in the flesh". Finally, the Apostle culminates the mystery with the blessed union of two persons living, with one being the originator, motivator, and power, while the other responds in trust and submission to his Lord's love and the giving of that gift beyond compare - Himself.

A lifetime can and should be spent seeking to better know the meaning of these wondrous words. Authentic godliness involves both the Spirit of Christ living in us, and our living by Him. The new birth results in a redeemed and actualized human self united to the Holy Spirit, and completely dependent upon the Lord Jesus. "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). This "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" nevertheless lives, utilizing the particular God-given gifts of his distinct personality, history, interest and environment to discover and minister life in its most vibrant and meaningful reality. "To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). Christ lives, we live. Genuine spirituality involves this beautiful marriage of the Divine and the human wherein God is the sublime and beautiful Light, and "the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord" (Proverbs 20:27).

Many have crashed on the rocks of passivity by believing that Christ living in us is the fullness of truth regarding our walk with God. Many have also struggled in the dark sea of futility by seeking to live apart from the growing knowledge that our Lord has drawn nearer to us than our next breath. The Truth is that Christ lives in us, and we live by Him! Or as Paul stated so perfectly in another blessed declaration of the mystery of the Divine and the human united for the glory of God...

"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."

(Philippians 2:12-13)

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Dove

Occasionally I hear preachers and teachers propose that "the Holy Spirit is the most neglected member of the Trinity," and "there's not enough teaching about the Holy Spirit."

I'm sure there's truth in these notions, and an adequate appreciation and understanding of the Holy Spirit's presence and role in our lives is a good thing.

However, I suspect that the Holy Spirit Himself has at least something to do with the supposed neglect.

"Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:13-14).
"When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me" (John 15:26).

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are coequals in substance, personhood, and importance as the personalities of the godhead. They nevertheless serve different roles. In the case of the Holy Spirit, His function is to direct our attention to the Lord Jesus Christ and His relationship with His Father. Numerous passages in the New Testament confirm this, passages wherein the Father and the Son are spotlighted by the Holy Spirit's direct inspiration, but with no mention of Himself.

"This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).

Where is the Spirit of God in this definitive declaration? He is in the very inspiration of the words, but with no mention of Himself in one of the most vital teachings of the New Testament. This tells us something about the function and ministry of the Holy Spirit, namely, "He shall not speak of Himself... He shall glorify Me... He shall testify of Me."

If there is neglect about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, much of it relates to this truth of His self-deference. Personally, I find this so beautiful that I never think about it without tears coming to my eyes. The blessed Dove of the Godhead ever and forever works so quietly and unobtrusively, and in such deference to the Father and Son, that He inspired an entire Word of God that contains no systematic "doctrine of the Holy Spirit." This is precisely as He would have it to be. Therefore, when we hear about "too little teaching on the Holy Spirit," we do well to consider that He Himself may be leading us, as His Bible plainly states and implies, to focus rather on the Father and the Son.

Few truths will cause us to more understand, appreciate, and love the Spirit of God. The beauty of His humble character is sublime, and it is His indwelling presence in believers that makes our faith real and living and true and dynamic and consciously known. On rare occasions, His manifest presence will accompany His working in our lives. The norm, however, is "a still, small voice" (I Kings 19:12). Little wonder then that the Bible refers to the Holy Spirit's presence within us as a "gift" (Acts 2:38). Because it is hard to imagine any bestowal of God more wonderful than being spiritually united with Someone so beautiful in heart, character, and manner.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance."
(Galatians 5:22-23)

Friday, August 13, 2010

"The Trench Warrior"

Part 1

I don't follow football much anymore, but when I did, the offensive linemen were always my favorite players.

The case can be made that these "men of the trenches" are the most important players on any football team. Points must be scored in order to win games, and the offense is the part of the team that normally accomplishes this task. Except in the rarest cases, quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers are the players who literally cross the goal line, and their skills are vital and to be much admired and appreciated. However, without offensive linemen, the so-called "stars" of any football team would soon be lying in the hospital with concussions, broken bones, and torn ligaments. The trench warriors, the offensive linemen, ensure that this does not happen. Even more, they make possible the touchdowns scored by the fleet-footed luminary who then usually proceeds to act in a manner so as to draw all attention to himself and his supposed accomplishment.

A brief example before getting to my primary point. In a Super Bowl many years ago, an unheralded and almost unknown running back set a record for the most yards gained (which still stands). He rushed for more than 200 yards, scored several touchdowns, and amazed everybody by his performance. Sadly, however, just as he had never performed well before the game, he never performed well after it either. Analysis of the game films revealed the reason for his one shot success. As one commentator said, "With all due respect to grandmothers, my grandmother could have run through the holes made by the offensive line in that game!" Watching the films confirms the fact that the one shot wonder, while certainly playing well himself, owed much of his success to the trench warriors, the offensive lineman.

In life, including and perhaps especially the body of Christ, this is always the case. Those who do the hardest and most important work are never the ones noticed or affirmed. The primary work of the church is not done by those who stand in pulpits, or who have their names on books, or sing with beautiful voices. Such ones have their place, but the work of the church is mostly done along the hidden pathways of life by the trench warriors whose names we've never heard and will not hear until we get to Heaven. Their labors are the product of the Lord who lived 90% of His life so quietly and unobtrusively that when His ministry began, His own brethren did not know who He was (John 7:5). Indeed, the Lord Jesus was the ultimate trench warrior. He lived and died not only in lack of appreciation, but in shame, despite, and rejection.

I've met a number of well known believers in my lifetime, and been blessed by some. Honestly, however, such ones don't interest me. I rather love meeting those saints who, as it were, block for the quarterbacks and running backs. The mother who daily rears her children for the glory of God. The officeworker who realizes that his workplace provides opportunity to reveal the Lord Jesus by attitude, work habit, and when appropriate, a word spoken in His name. The pastor known only by his congregation, and whose labors for their benefit even they just barely see. The stilled and broken one whose body languishes on a sickbed, but whose spirit soars on the wings of prayer uttered for family members, fellow believers, and lost ones who need to know the Savior. And dozens, hundreds, thousands, and millions of others who faithfully serve the Lord with few knowing they even exist. These are the ones who bless me, although I don't know their names or anything about them other than the fact that their lack of notoriety directs all glory to the One who alone is worthy of it. "Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory!" (Psalm 115:1).

I am convinced that the trench warriors are the most important members of any endeavor. I'm even more convinced that this is God's opinion in the matter. Most of His work in the world is done without anyone ever knowing it is Him doing it. Even His most faithful followers must look hard to see the quiet ways He expresses His faithful devotion to humanity's benefit. He is unknown by most, and often underappreciated by those who do know Him. Yes, God Himself is a trench warrior, and whenever we cross the goal line of life in any manner, He alone is worthy of attention, praise, and honor.

"He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him."
(Isaiah 53:2)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Epistles of the Heart"

"Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." (II Corinthians 3:3).

The Apostle Paul wrote epistles of two varieties, the written letters with which we are most familiar, and the living letters penned in the hearts of people.

Whether Paul knew that his writings would become the literal Word of God preserved for the ages, we do not know. He was aware, however, that his ministry to the contemporaries of his day involved the spiritual forming of Christ in believers, both in doctrine and in living experience (Galatians 4:19). The Apostle was an "ambassador for Christ" sent by God and sent with God to ensure that the Lord Jesus was known in vibrant reality rather than in mere principle and ritual. Solomon wrote that the issues of life are matters of the heart, and Paul had no interest in anything other than trusting hearts being consciously aware that salvation involves the presence and dynamic working of the living Christ (Proverbs 4:23).

"To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). In the mind of Paul, the Lord Jesus was not merely someone in whom we believe. He is rather someone we know, and more importantly, someone who knows and regards us (Galatians 4:9). This was Paul's experience, and he would not be content with ministry that involved anything less than people saturated with the wonder of God. We must join our brother in the same passionate intent, both in ourselves and in our ministry to others. We do not believe "cunningly devised fables" as born again Christians. We believe the truth, and we are spiritually united to He who is the Truth (John 14:6). Paul wielded the pen of the Holy Spirit in his day to ensure that Christ was imprinted on hearts to the degree that He was known in every aspect of life and being. We must be content with no less. Let us encourage and challenge one another to "know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge," and thus to wholeheartedly love God and others as the natural (or supernatural) response to the living Word of God written in our hearts (Ephesians 3:19).

"My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,"
(Galatians 4:19)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"But a Moment"

(Thanks to my friends Jay Grelen, the undisputed King of sweet tea, and John Severn, my supplier of great English, Welsh, Irish, and Scottish tea, for inspiration on this one).

In the American South, sweet tea (cold, with ice) is so important that some have referred to it as the "house wine" of the region. Every family is almost morally required to skillfully brew the elixir, and in our family, Frances is the sweet tea alchemist.

Her method is very interesting (I'll send it to anyone interested). The tea and the water spend very little time in contact with one another, so little that it's difficult to see how the water is actually flavored by the tea. Somehow the chemical process works, however, and everybody who tries her tea raves about it. Thankfully, including and especially, me.

This causes me to think of how brief contacts with people, sometimes perhaps just once in a lifetime, can be life changing. We've all met someone in a single and fleeting encounter whose influence remains with us, and we've all likely been the same to others. The result may be good or bad, and the effect does not seem commensurate with the brevity of the moment and the contact.

Consider the life of the Lord Jesus Christ in this regard. It's striking to realize that many of the Gospel accounts with people He encountered involve relatively small amounts of time in their physical presence. He saw them for a few moments, they were touched in some blessed way, and life was never the same. A moment became prelude for eternal glories that will echo and resound in the blessed ones' hearts and in their testimonies. Perhaps in Heaven we will hear the stories. "I was there when He was baptized... I heard His Sermon on the mount... I was in a crowd of thousands, and He looked right into my eyes... I saw Him give sight to a blind man. I was that blind man!... I barely touched the hem of His garment and He healed me... I saw Him bleeding and dying, and I heard Him praying, Father, forgive them... I was there after His resurrection and saw the wounds on His hands and feet... I saw Him for the first time when He ascended to Heaven. I wept in that moment."

Just a moment. Just a word. Just a smile. Just a touch. Just one look into the face of the Lord Jesus. That's all it took to change time and eternity for those so blessed. We do well to consider this because believers are now "the face of the Lord Jesus" to our world. We never know what those brief and "chance" encounters with people will mean to them because the living Christ dwells and walks in us (II Corinthians 6:16). Moments matter, and our God is willing and able to infuse fleeting moments with the glory of forever.

Let us expect that this very day may offer opportunity to be the living temple into which some needy heart may seemingly do little more than glance. The Light shining therein may nevertheless fill that heart, or prepare it to be filled. Indeed, I am sure that in Heaven people will come up to us and tell us that just a moment in our presence somehow became an open doorway into God's eternal presence. Doubtless on golden streets we will fall to our knees and faces together, giving glory to the One who needs but a moment to transform forever.

"For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night."
(Psalm 90:4)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"New Things"

"Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (II Timothy 3:3-4).

Our spiritual enemies deny Divine intervention and the change wrought when God transcends the cause and effect that governs the natural creation. "All things continue as they were," they sneer, "true change is not possible."

Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ do not believe this. We rather see the hand and heart of God continually effecting differences between yesterday and today. The interventions and subsequent change may be subtle, and only known to the eye of faith. But we "see" them, and perhaps more importantly, we expect them. Believers are people of hope, hope in the active involvement of the God who "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11). "All things do not continue as they were" - this we affirm in the context of "the new and living way" of the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 10:20). Thereby we live with expectant hearts, countering any and every notion that mere cause and effect governs the universe.

What will God do today in His ongoing purpose of glorifying His Son, and conforming us to His image? We don't know in this moment, and at the end of the day, we still may not have the slightest clue regarding the specific doings of the One whose active and dynamic involvement sustains our very existence (Hebrews 1:3). Of this, however, we can be sure: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). The Lord Jesus uttered these words of vibrant hope, and the truth continues in this moment and forevermore. Change is possible, and as we trust and submit to God, His new and living way will continually transform both ourselves and our lives for His glory.

"Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them."
(Isaiah 42:9)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

"Confessing the Commands"

Our Lord's way of overcoming temptation by Satan in the wilderness is fascinating.

"It is written... It is written... It is written... It is written" (Matthew 4:4; 6; 7; 10).

Four times the Lord Jesus Christ affirmed the written Biblical commands of God, properly applied and interpreted, in response to the devil's enticements to sin (in contrast to Satan misusing Scripture as a means of temptation).

Never does the text of Scripture state that the Savior prayed in order to overcome. He may have done so, but Scripture does not directly say so. Nor does the Bible record that the Lord Jesus affirmed the promises of God, although, again, He may have done so. The only record we have of the Lord's way of overcoming is His affirmation of the Scripturally declared will of God.

In that we are to "walk, even as He walked," is there a lesson in the wilderness temptation for our own times of challenge? I think so. There is something elemental in affirming the "It is written" of the Bible's commands when we are being tempted that can greatly strengthen our capacity to overcome temptation.

For example, suppose a believer is tempted when doing his taxes to claim a questionable deduction. Or perhaps it isn't questionable at all. The believer knows that he can't honestly take the deduction, although he is sure that noone will ever know that he has skirted the rules. The temptation is strong. Perhaps it involves a significant amount of money, and countless rationalizations come to his mind. Nevertheless he knows he must overcome, regardless of how strong the fleshly desire.

If the believer literally follows his Lord's pattern revealed in the wilderness temptation, he doesn't pray for strength to overcome, or trust God to enable him to do so (although certainly such expressions of faith are deep within his heart as part of the process). No, the believer rather affirms the "It is written" of God's Biblically revealed will.

"It is written, Let him that stole steal no more" (Ephesians 4:28).
"It is written, Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake" (I Peter 2:13).
"It is written, Abstain from all appearance of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:22).
"It is written, Now I pray to God that ye do no evil... that ye should do that which is honest" (II Corinthians 13:7).

The power of such affirmation in the heart of a born again, consecrated believer is, well, it is as powerful as it was in the heart of the Lord Jesus. Indeed, let us remember that our Lord did not face temptation in His divinity because "God cannot be tempted with evil" (James 1:13). He rather faced temptation in His humanity, as a man trusting His Father. And His precisely Biblical way of overcoming was the confession of His Father's written declaration of His will. The Lord Jesus obeyed by confessing the command, and the Holy Spirit empowered His heart, mind, hands, and feet to follow in the holy wake.

I almost hesitate to say, "Try this," because I don't want to imply that faithful obedience to God is merely a method. However, it is true that we are to walk as did the Lord Jesus. May I suggest, therefore, that times of temptation offer to us the honor of obeying God through the same Spirit and Truth that empowered our Lord. As we confess the commands that our spiritual enemies tempt us to disobey, we will doubtless find the blessed Holy Spirit consistently transforming our own wilderness into scenes of triumph. Long ago, the Savior did so, and He now lives in us to enable the same.

"And this is love, that we walk after His commandments."
(I John 2:6)

Friday, August 6, 2010

"With An Offering"

"Heavenly Father,

As this day begins, we come to You with an offering burnt by fire, even as did the priests of old in Israel.

We do not, however, offer a bullock, or goat, or fowl incinerated by earthly flames. We rather bring to You the Offering that You have Yourself provided, the Lamb who passed through the terrible fires of Your wrath against sin.

"Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin" (Isaiah 53:10).

Dear Father, we come with the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for us in an agony such as we will never know or even imagine. We come with the knowledge that we have no other way to come, but with complete assurance that we can come by this holy way. We come with many praises and much thanksgiving, but also with the awareness that David was correct when he declared of Your wondrous works, "If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered" (Psalm 40:5). We come with love, indeed, with the love You have "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" because our Savior knew Your fiery hatred of sin (Romans 5:5). And we come because where else can our hearts go to find life and love and peace and rest?

We come, Father, with the remembrance of Calvary, with the joy of the empty tomb, and with the vision of the Throne occupied by our Lord Jesus. This is Your day, dear Father. Do with and within us as You will, and keep us continually aware that the Light we know shines forth from a fire that once raged against the soul of the Offering we bring. We come, holy Father, by Your Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and in His name, Amen."

"We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
(Hebrews 4:15-16)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Secret Things, Things Revealed"

Everything that happens in God's creation is either directly determined or permissively allowed by Him.

"He... worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11).

Furthermore, everything determined or allowed happens within the framework of God's perfect love, wisdom, and power. "As for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31). Creation, including all who dwell therein, belongs to the Lord who inexorably works all things according to His "eternal purpose in Christ" (Psalm 24:1; Ephesians 3:11). This we believe, and safely rest our hearts in the harbor of Divine intent and determination.


"Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity... Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man" (Habbakuk 1:13; James 1:13).

Such truth escorts us to the summit of unfathomable mystery. Our Lord is so pristinely pure in His nature, character, and way that He cannot even be tempted to sin, nor in any manner entice others to do so. God nevertheless allows sin to exist, and even uses it to reveal His glory and further the fulfillment of His eternal purpose in Christ (Proverbs 16:4). Indeed, the Lord Jesus who died "by wicked hands" was also delivered to His demise "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). As we gaze upon the panorama of truth from this summit of mystery, we must admit to ourselves that as much as we see, there is far more that we do not see. Some truths that perfectly correlate in the mind of God are irreconcilably contradictory in our thinking. Our best response is simply to bow the head and the heart, acknowledging that God is God, we are not, and that His inexplicable mysteries lead us to confess the vital truth, "Thou art God alone" (Psalm 86:10).

A.W. Tozer once wrote that "we must make room for mystery," reflecting Moses' declaration that "the secret things belong to the Lord our God" (Deuteronomy 29:29). While there is much of God and His truth that we can understand (not perfectly, but adequately), there is much we cannot. We are on a "need to know" basis, as it were, and our Heavenly Father illuminates much of the path, while leaving unnecessary venues dark. Walking with God is not for the curious who seek intellectual titillation, but for the consecrated who seek the Truth that changes us into the spiritual and moral image of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29; emphasis added). Knowledge that accomplishes this holy purpose will always be available and understandable, and this light will fully satisfy our hearts and minds. More importantly, our Lord will be glorified as His goodness is revealed in and through us.

"Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous."
(Psalm 112:4)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"There But For the Grace of God..."

"There but for the grace of God go I." We all have likely thought or said these words when encountering someone particularly down in his fortunes. Usually the person has inflicted the hardship upon himself, and the thought occurs to us that our sins and mistakes could have led us to the same end.

The axiom, however, may often be more accurate when we are viewing those who have achieved great power, riches, and notoriety. Nebuchadnezzer, king of Persia, had reached such a lofty place of delusion.

"The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?" (Daniel 4:30).

God mercifully judged Nebuchaddnezzer for the king's wicked insanity, bringing him to his senses. Many rulers, however, are allowed to continue in their folly because there is no heart in them that would repent even if the living and true God brought great judgment upon them. Sadly their day will come. When considering these seemingly powerful ones, therefore, it may be more than appropriate to think or say, "There but for the grace of God go I."

The powerful, wealthy, and notable often have more opportunity to act out the delusion that exists in the flesh of every human being. "Ye shall be as gods" said Satan to Eve (Genesis 3:5). When she and Adam believed the devil and disobeyed God, the flesh of humanity became infected with a delusion that is difficult for most people to act out in many ways. The Lord brought hindrance and difficulty to the human experience in order to counter the notion of our personal divinity. We still express it in many ways, of course, but the thorns and sorrow of life in a fallen world tell us continually that something is amiss in our thinking, and even more, in our hearts.

The powerful, however, have far more reign in acting out the delusion. Their ability to control things and people, their notoriety, and their access to abundance tell them day by day that not only shall they be as gods, but that they are gods. They may not literally think in such terms, but their attitudes and actions reveal the delusion of their perceived divinity. Great and terrible destruction awaits in the future, but for now, the world seems to kneel and confirm the delusion. Ultimately, "there but for the grace of God go I" may therefore be more appropriately directed toward those whose earthly power seems to confirm the devilish notion, "ye shall be as gods."

David understood this and prayed, "Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men" (Psalm 9:20). We do well to pray the same for those whose very lifebreath comes from God, but who think themselves to be self sufficient. All too soon the truth will be known, and for many who proudly boast in their supposed power, influence, and riches, it will be too late. "There but for the grace of God go I."

"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His anointed, saying, let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure."
(Psalm 2:2-6)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Without Money and Without Price"

"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves" (Matthew 21:12-13).

In a "house of prayer," the Holy Spirit moves upon and within human hearts to reveal the all sufficient provision of God, and the abject need of humanity. By Biblical definition, this is the very essence of prayer. There is no barter in this holy place, no buying and selling, and no quid pro quo that clouds the truth of freely given grace received through humble and empty handed faith. As the old hymn so beautifully declares, "Nothing in my hand I bring; only to Thy cross I cling." As the Lord Jesus even more beautifully declared, "freely ye have received" (Matthew 10:8).

"What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel" (I Corinthians 9:18).

The Apostle Paul fully understood the above truth, and also that the gospel of the Lord Jesus was a gift that had already been paid for. In full. By the Savior's very lifeblood. Thus, Paul found it to be the joy of his heart and life to preach "without charge" the freest gift ever given, which was purchased by One at the highest cost ever remitted. "The church of God, which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28).

Believers are "the temple made without hands" (Mark 14:58). Not only is there no barter in this house of God. The very house itself exists only because the temple of the Lord Jesus' body was destroyed. In His resurrection and subsequent giving of the Holy Spirit to all who believe, our Savior raised "a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (II Corinthians 5:1). The temple itself was erected solely by Divine provision and activity. Grace and truth are therefore the commodities of this abode, and they are forever the "wine and milk without money and without price" (Isaiah 55:1).

The freest gift ever given, purchased by the highest cost ever remitted. This is the gospel of the Lord Jesus. This is the exchange of His temple. This is grace and truth received by repentance and faith. And this was Paul's "reward," and our reward as we joyfully go forth to freely bear witness to the gift we have so freely received.

"What hast thou, that thou didst not receive?"
(I Corinthians 4:7)

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Treasure Chest

Of the many reasons that believers read the Bible, first and foremost is to know the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39).

I was struck by this today in my reading of Psalm 1. David depicts the godly man in this chapter who delights in the law of the Lord, walks not in the counsel of the wicked, and who will be "like a tree planted by the rivers of water" (Psalm 1:3). Only one person in all history perfectly fits this description, the Lord Jesus, and a reading of the Psalm becomes an opportunity for grateful praise, thanksgiving, and appreciation of our Savior as we see Him as the first and best expression the Psalmist's theme.

The Bible should always be read with this theme as the foundational context. Who is the Lord Jesus? What has He done? What is He doing, and what does He promise to do forevermore for those who trust Him? We either begin here, that is, with He who is "the Beginning," or we do not adequately begin at all (Revelation 1:8). The Lord Jesus declared that the Scriptures "testify of Me." Therefore, we must approach them always with the expectation that the knowledge and understanding of Christ awaits us in every book, chapter, verse, word, and letter. Certainly we will see only glimpses of His glory, and sometimes as we read, we may feel that we've seen little at all. However, consistent consideration of Scripture with the centrality of the Lord Jesus in mind will result in growing apprehension of His person and work, and the changing of ourselves into His spiritual and moral image, as promised by the Apostle Paul:

"Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Corinthians 3:18).

Very early in my Christian life, I was taught that until we have seen the person and work of the Lord Jesus in any passage of Scripture, we have not adequately interpreted the passage. If the Scriptures testify of Christ, this is true. However, I must be honest with you that despite my longheld conviction about such an emphasis, I still find this to be a great challenge in the reading of the Bible. The world, the devil, and the flesh unite to divert our attention from the holy theme, and how easy it is to read without remembering that the written Word exists to reveal and glorify the living Word.

The Lord Jesus is the Treasure of the ages, and of our hearts if we have believed. We might say that the Bible is the treasure chest that reveals "the unsearchable riches of Christ" as we open it with expectation to be illuminated by His glory (Ephesians 3:8). May the Holy Spirit who also purposes to exalt and reveal our Savior remind us often that the Scriptures exist for testimony of the Lord Jesus. Every sub-subject, as it were, will gleam and glimmer in His reflected glory as we expect the crucified, risen, and ascended Christ to shine forth from the pages of the Book devoted to the revelation of His Person and work.

"He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence."
(Colossians 1:18)