Tuesday, 16 April 2019

All the Lonely People

“I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.” (Psalm 142:4)

This is one of the saddest verses in the Bible. To be all alone, not knowing where to find refuge from problems that bear heavily at times—this is the lot of many lonely people.

Sometimes, of course, one’s feelings of loneliness may be because of unconfessed sin, as when David lamented after his crime of adultery and murder: “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me” (Psalm 32:3-4). Outwardly silent, but inwardly roaring—that’s the way it is when a believer tries to rationalize and hide his sin from God and man. The remedy in such a case is obvious: “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5).

When the problem is not one of unconfessed sin, the Lord is always there to comfort and guide, if we ask Him. Following the sad complaint of our text, David made a statement of hope and faith. “The righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me” (Psalm 142:7).

There was a time, in fact, when the Lord Himself was all alone. When He was arrested, “then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56). But that was not the worst of it. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus died all alone on the cross—the loneliest and most forsaken person in all human history—as even His heavenly Father had to abandon Him when He took our sins and died for us. Thus, He understands our own need and is always there. “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted [or ‘tested’], he is able to succor them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

Monday, 15 April 2019

Answered by a Word from God

“And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:46)

The two dominant sects among the Jews at the time of Christ were the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Although both of these believed in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, they both refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

A climactic confrontation occurred during His final week in Jerusalem. Each group tried to trap Him into a compromising doctrinal argument. To the Sadducees, who rejected the doctrine of resurrection, He said: “Have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:31-32). This exposition silenced the Sadducees.

“But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence” (Matthew 22:34), they then tried to trip Him up. He turned the tables on them by a reference to the 110th Psalm, asking how David could call the Messiah Lord if He was David’s son (Matthew 22:45). As our text indicates, they also were unable to respond.

It is most significant that each group was silenced with one single word from the Scriptures. To the Sadducees, the word was “am” (“I am the God of Abraham” [v. 32]), indicating that Abraham was still living. To the Pharisees, the word was “Lord” (“The LORD said unto my Lord” [v. 44]; that is, “Jehovah said unto Adonai”), proving that the Messiah was both human and divine, descended from David but also David’s Lord. Christ’s argumentation was based in each case on the determinative authority of just one word in the Scriptures. For Christ the Scriptures were inerrant and of full and final authority, and they could not answer His claims without rejecting the Scriptures they professed to believe.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Cain's Way

“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” (Jude 1:11)

Jude compares the awful examples of three Old Testament characters to leaders in the New Testament church who have used their influence for evil. Cain was the first child of Adam and Eve and had every opportunity to excel. Yet, he chose a “way” that not only ended in the horrible murder of his brother but also resulted in an entire culture in rebellion against God.

The murder was preceded by a flagrant disobedience that was expressed when the family came to offer their sacrifices to the Creator. Cain brought an offering of the “fruit” of his own labor from tilling the ground. Abel’s offering was a “firstling” from the flock that he kept (Genesis 4:3-5). Why did God “respect” Abel’s offering and not Cain’s?

God’s commentary on this event (Hebrews 11:4) tells us that Abel “obtained witness” that his sacrifice was a righteous action that testified of his obedience. The Genesis account does not give much information, but it is clear that the first family were following instructions—likely emulating the sacrifice that God made to clothe Adam and Eve after they sinned (Genesis 3:21).

Cain began a “way” many years before (a lifestyle, a broad road) that turned his heart away from simple obedience to God’s instructions. Cain’s occupation (farmer) was certainly OK. He provided food for the growing world population. But when the regular sacrifice came due, Cain decided that he would “show” God his own works rather than follow God’s requirement of bringing an innocent life in sacrifice.

That way, of course, is the way “which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

The Trinity and the Christian

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

The doctrine of the triune God is unique to Christianity. There is only one God, yet three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—each with His own distinct relation to mankind, yet each equally, fully, and eternally God. Although these truths are implicit throughout the New Testament, the doctrine of the Trinity is seldom, if ever, presented explicitly as a formal doctrine.

There are several passages, however, where all three Persons are mentioned in the same context, and each one deals with a significant aspect of the Christian life. There is, first of all, the provision of salvation, “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God” (Hebrews 9:14). Then follows regeneration. “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). Salvation and regeneration are then publicly testified in baptism “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19).

The chief resource of the believer is prayer, and this also involves all three Persons. “For through [Christ] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). He must also continue to learn of Christ, and to bear witness of Him. “The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things” (John 14:26). “The Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness” (John 15:26-27).

Finally, in the words of our text, we have eternal assurance in the triune God. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.”

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Occupied Territory

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

In our ongoing struggle for both survival and victory in this world, we do well to recognize that we are in enemy territory. While it is true that our Captain created the world—indeed, “all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3)—and sacrificed His life to redeem it and will reign over it for eternity, it is also true that “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19), occupied by “the prince of this world” (John 12:31) who is “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).

The fact that we are surrounded by such darkness should come as no surprise, for before we were rescued by His grace, we too were part of the darkness—indeed, we had to be called out of it. John the Baptist came “to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79). Furthermore, as Christ taught, “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

This confrontation overshadows mere human conflict, however, “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). But, praise God, we have been called “out of darkness into his marvellous light” as described in our text. Although we may be still in the world, our King has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13). “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).

Monday, 8 April 2019

Brute Beasts

“But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.” (Jude 1:10)

Both Jude and Peter use essentially the same terms when they speak of people who are like “brute beasts” (2 Peter 2:12). Both use the qualifying adjective “natural” to draw a precise distinction between those who are only alive physically and those who have been given eternal life by the Spirit of God.

Prior to being twice-born, all men are “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3) and have not yet been given “the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). Such “natural” people are “sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 1:19) and therefore cannot receive “the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

These strong pictures are not incidental for understanding the challenge to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). Jude and Peter are describing the intransigence of those who resist the truth—especially of the “tares” who have been planted by the Enemy among the “wheat” in the Lord’s field (Matthew 13:24-30).

The Greek term translated “brute” by both Jude and Peter is a combination of the negative particle a and the basic word for intelligent communication, logos. We must therefore expect the resistance to take form “without reason.” The unsaved cannot understand God’s message without the transformation of the new birth. Their efforts to undermine “the faith” will always be based on human (natural) reasoning.

Contending for the faith will always be a “labour, striving according to his working” (Colossians 1:29). May God grant us a “good fight,” having “kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Sunday, 7 April 2019

As I Have Loved

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34)

No Christian could ever question the preeminent importance of love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16), and the greatest of the Christian virtues is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). The first and second commandments of the law are love for God and love for one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). Christ’s new commandment, however, gives us a definition of love! To love as He loved, we must observe how Christ loved.

In the first place, His love was not ephemeral. “When Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).

The Lord Jesus Himself defined love this way: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). However, Christ died not only for His friends but for all sinners, including His bitter enemies. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:9-11).

The measure of love is the undeserved, yet gladly offered, substitutionary death of Christ for our sins. Whenever we think the love commandment is demanding too much of us, we should compare our love to His. “For the love of Christ constraineth us [not our love for Him, but His love for us] . . . that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and we must live for Him.