Wednesday, 19 June 2019

The Self Life

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)

This despondent cry follows Paul’s disturbing monologue on the inner strife between his two natures (Romans 7:13-24). Here the apostle describes the conflict that goes on in the life of every Christian, until the self-life is completely subjugated and the will of Christ reigns supreme. The ascendancy of self is indicated in these verses by the fact that the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” “my” are used no less than 35 times in verses 15-24 alone as Paul records his inner thoughts and feelings (e.g., “that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I”—v. 15). Such a testimony is pervaded with introspection, relating everything to self instead of to Christ. No wonder the conclusion is so miserable: “O wretched man that I am!”

Unfortunately, this is the status of most Christians whose interests are almost completely self-centered. Most Christian books and sermons are designed to appeal to such personal interests, and the explosive modern growth of Christian professional “counseling” likewise reflects the existence of multitudes of self-centered Christians.

But the happy and useful Christian is the one whose concerns and activities center around others and who earnestly seeks to follow and honor Christ and His Word. And this is exactly the conclusion to which the apostle Paul comes in his melancholy soliloquy. “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” he cries. Immediately the answer comes: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25).

We do still have to battle the old nature, but in Christ we have both the incentive and power to “put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9) and to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Disciples and Servants

“The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.” (Matthew 10:24)

Note the twofold relation of the believer to the Lord Jesus Christ expressed in this verse. We are His disciples and servants; He is our Master and Lord. Each of the two relationships is vital. The word for “disciple” means “pupil.”

The word “master” is the same as “teacher.” The Lord Jesus, therefore, is our teacher, and He teaches us through His Word—the Holy Scriptures. It is our function to learn His teachings and, of course, to believe them. No Christian (one under the authority of Christ) has the right to reject or even to question one of the teachings of His Word (Matthew 5:18-19). The lord-servant relationship goes even further. The word for “servant” is actually “bond slave.” The “lord” of a slave was his owner; the word itself means “supreme ruler” and is the title commonly assigned to God Himself in the New Testament. Thus, if a disciple is to believe the word of his master without question, the servant is to obey the word of his lord without hesitation.

But the world scoffs at the teachings of God’s Word, and will try to persecute those who seek to follow them. The unbelieving world—even the religious world—responded to the teachings of the Master by ridiculing Him, then torturing Him, and finally hanging Him on a tree to die.

Yet we are to go to the same world with the same teachings. “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21). “As thou hast sent me into the world,” He prayed, “even so have I also sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

He does warn us: “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).

Monday, 17 June 2019

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

This is a definitive verse on one of the great themes of the Bible. The preposition “by” is the Greek en, which can take many meanings (by, with, through, etc.) depending on context but is most frequently and most naturally rendered simply as “in.” The baptism in one Spirit is the theme of this passage, teaching us that every one of the “brethren” (v. 1)—those who “speaking by the Spirit of God” have acknowledged Jesus to be their Lord (v. 3)—have been “baptized into one body,” the body of Christ Himself.

This baptism is accomplished in the Spirit for every genuine believer, Jew or Gentile, slave or master, male or female, young or old. Furthermore, the passage is actually in the past tense: “[In] one Spirit [were] we all baptized into one body.” This baptism does not take place repeatedly in one’s life, as may be true of the “filling” of the Spirit, but once, at the time of true conversion. There are only seven explicit references in the Bible to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. All except our text are referring to the initial baptizing work of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). It deals with the ongoing work of the Spirit in all future instances of true conversion to Christ. Since His first baptism of Jewish believers (Acts 2) and then of Gentiles (Acts 11), all—both Jews and Gentiles—are baptized in the Spirit into the body of Christ.

Therefore, let true Christians rejoice that the Holy Spirit has placed each of them securely in the body of Christ, united to Him and sharing His resurrection life, with all functioning together through “the same God which worketh all in all” (1 Corinthians 12:6).

Sunday, 16 June 2019

The Glory of the Children

“[The] glory of children are their fathers.” (Proverbs 17:6)

Most Christian men are aware of the familiar exhortation to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) and the warning “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). Biblical messages to fathers frequently reflect the very real societal need for family discipline and godly leadership in the home (Proverbs 22:6, 15; Genesis 18:19).

Our text is a bit different. Although the message certainly implies godly leadership, the immediate focus is on the children. Children, we are told, receive “glory” from their fathers! How is this to come about?

Glory, in the biblical sense, centers on the value, the worthiness, or the reputation of the person or event so recognized. For instance, the Scripture teaches that the Lord Jesus “shall come in the glory of his Father” (Matthew 16:27; Mark 8:38; etc.), and that the reputation of God the Father was conferred on Christ Jesus: “For he received from God the Father honour and glory” (2 Peter 1:17).

So, fathers, please learn this critical principle. Your reputation is reflected onto your children. Your behavior in the workplace is assumed to be an indicator of your children’s potential. What you say or do in moments of unguarded or uncontrolled passion will pass on to your children—for good or ill. The common saying “like father, like son” is recognized across time and culture as an accurate measure of human existence.

The Lord insists that “the iniquity of the fathers” will be passed “upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7). Would it not be far better that your children receive glory from your righteous life than shame (Psalm 89:45) from your iniquity?

Saturday, 15 June 2019

The Watchers

“This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” (Daniel 4:17)

Who are these mysterious “watchers” who are so concerned that we know that “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), sometimes even including the “basest of men”? They are mentioned in the Bible only here in the fourth chapter of Daniel (see also vv. 13, 23), all three times evidently synonymous with “the holy ones,” beings who come down from heaven. Such phrases could apply only to angels, created to serve the Lord and the “heirs of salvation” (Psalm 103:20; Hebrews 1:14).

The word is used here in reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s vision and period of insanity. Although it is used nowhere else in the Bible, it occurs frequently in such apocryphal books as Jubilees and Enoch, where it refers both to God’s holy angels and to the fallen angels, who have direct interest in people on Earth as they “watch” them—even on occasion directly controlling events that affect them.

In any case, the Bible does indicate that “the angels desire to look into” the outworking of the gospel in the hearts of men (1 Peter 1:12), and that “unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10). Children, as well as adult believers, also seem to have guardian angels who “watch” them (Matthew 18:10; Acts 12:9-15).

This is a mysterious subject because we cannot see these “watchers,” but we at least need to know they are there. In fact, we can praise God that “the angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Psalm 34:7).

Friday, 14 June 2019

Love of Every Love the Best

“And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19)

The love of Jesus has been our theme these last two days, following the insightful hymn “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.” And deep it is, as many Scriptures attest.


O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heav’n of heav’ns to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

The depth of His sacrificial love for us transcends knowledge. His love for us overwhelms any love we have for Him or for one another. His nature of true love drives His love for us, even though we are quite unlovely, for “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Our response? “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Romans 8 lists many aspects of the loving work He has done and is still doing for us. We are fully covered by His love. It asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35), followed by a carefully worded list of the things that cannot sever our place in His favor, our secure position in Christ. The section closes with the affirmation “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

“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).

Thursday, 13 June 2019

O How He Loves You and Me

“That ye . . . may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

The theme of the inspiring hymn “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” is the infinite love Christ displayed for us through His gracious life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection from the grave, followed by His present ministry on our behalf.


O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

His love cannot be earned but was freely extended to us. Even greater than that, it was given when we were sinners by choice and nature. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

His love for us never fails and never changes: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He was willing to die so that our death penalty would be paid and to adopt us into His family. Even now He rejoices over us. “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

He now oversees us from His place at the right hand of His Father, making intercession for us. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Such love is deep indeed.