Friday, September 28, 2007

The Puritans (Part 1)

Over the past few weeks I have very much been enjoying the writings of some of the Puritans and thought that it might be good to share some of them here from time to time. I hope they bless and convict you the way that have been blessing and convicting me…

This short article is entitled "It Is Utterly Impossible" and was written in 1852 by Octavius Winslow

It Is Utterly Impossible

It has been the distinctive aim, and the sincere desire of my ministry--to make known and to endear the Savior to your hearts.

Oh, how worthy is He . . .

  • Of your most exalted conceptions,
  • Of your most implicit confidence,
  • Of your most self-denying service,
  • Of your most fervent love!

When He could give you no more--and the fathomless depths of His love, and the boundless resources of His grace, would not be satisfied by giving you less...

He gave you Himself!

  • Robed in your nature,
  • Laden with your curse,
  • Oppressed with your sorrows,
  • Wounded for your transgressions,
  • And slain for your sins...

He gave His entire self for you!

His redeeming work now finished--He is perpetually engaged in meting out blessings to His people, from the exhaustless treasures of His love!

  • He constantly woos your affection
  • Invites your grief

And bids you repair with your daily trials to His sympathy, and with your hourly guilt to His blood. You cannot in your drafts upon Christ's fullness, be too covetous; nor in your expectations of supply, be too extravagant! You may fail, as, alas! the most of us do, in making too little of Christ--but you cannot fail, in making too much of Him!

It is utterly impossible to know Christ, and not become inspired with a desire . . .

  • To love Him supremely,
  • To serve Him devotedly.
  • To resemble Him closely,
  • To glorify Him faithfully here,
  • And to enjoy Him fully hereafter!

Octavius Winslow

Spend some time today meditating on these truths, and thank God for the belssings He has given us in Christ. For some additional study read Ephesians chapter one.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

To Those Who Have, Even More Will Be Given

Matthew 13:12 For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

Jesus said that whoever has will receive more and whoever does not will loose even what he has. This seems like a pretty important teaching, so we would do well to understand what Jesus was saying. In the context of this passage Jesus has just finished telling a parable and His disciples have come to Him and they ask Him why He speaks in parables. He tells them that they have been given the secrets of the kingdom, but these mysteries have been withheld from the crowds. He then tells them that whoever has will be given more than enough, but whoever does not will even loose what they do have.

William MacDonald writes in The Believers Bible Commentary, "The disciples had faith in the Lord Jesus; therefore, they would be given the capacity for more. They had accepted the light; therefore, they would receive more light. The Jewish nation, on the other hand, had rejected the Light of the world; therefore they were not only prevented from receiving more light, they would lose what little light they had. Light rejected is light denied."

We can see this truth lived out by the Pharisees of Jesus day, and the nation of Israel as a whole. They were given the oracles of God (Romans 3:2), they were the God's chosen people, but when their Messiah came, they refused to believe and they rejected Him. As a result they were hardened and the gospel was taken to the gentiles (Romans 11:25).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee says that "this is His reason for speaking in parables. Those who don't want to hear will not under stand them." He goes on to say, " The Lord drew His parables from commonplace things, things that were at the fingertips of the people in that day. He gave them great spiritual truths illustrated by things they knew and could see.." But if they refused to "hear" they would not understand.

The ability to understand spiritual truth is a gift from God, don't ignore it. Apply what He teaches you and even more will be given to you. Jesus promises an abundance to those who do!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Are You In The Family?

Matthew 12: 47-48 Someone told Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.” But He replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”

What an odd question for someone to ask. Do you think that Jesus didn't know who His family was? That is not even a possibility, so the question that Jesus is asking here must have some deeper meaning. But what is it? Well, if we read on we will see that Jesus actually explains what He was saying in the following verses. In verse 49 Jesus gestures to His disciples and says, "Behold, My mother and My brothers!" Was Jesus saying that His earthly family had no meaning to Him? Not at all. What He was doing here was making the point that His spiritual family had a higher place in His life than His physical family did.

Jesus continues in verse 50 by saying, "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." So not only did Jesus say that it was His disciples who were His family, but He also included in that list each and every one of us who do the will of His Father. If you want to be included as a brother or sister of Jesus He tells us how; just do the will of His Father. But this is not something that we con do in our own power; we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit which we get by being in a relationship with Him.

Warren Wiersbe points out here that the word Jesus uses in verse 50, the word "whoever", is the same word He used back in Matthew 11:28-30 when He gave the invitation that whoever was weary and burdened could come to Him and He would give them rest. The invitation here is the same; whoever wants to be in Jesus family just has to come. John MacArthur writes here that "The arrival of Jesus’ family gave Him the perfect opportunity to give a graphic illustration of the need for personal relationship to Him." Physical relationship is of no importance in the kingdom of heaven; no one gets in on the basis of human position or birth. There are no grandchildren in Heaven; we are a child of God, or we are not included. Jesus wants to have a relationship with you and He invites you to come, so repent of you sins and put your faith in Him. Then you too can be called the family of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Assurance of Salvation

The following is from the weekly devotional "Desiring God" by John Piper. I thought this was too good not to share, and it is my prayer that through this you would be able to walk in the assurance of salvation God that wants us to have.

Helping People Have the Assurance of Salvation
John Piper

Full assurance is God's will for us. "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end" Hebrews 6:11.

Assurance is partially sustained by objective evidences for Christian truth. "To [his apostles] He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days" Acts 1:3.

Assurance cannot neglect the painful work of self-examination. "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you - unless indeed you fail the test?" 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Assurance will diminish in the presence of concealed sin. "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long" Psalm 32:3.

Assurance comes from hearing the Word of Christ. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" Romans 10:17.

"These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.

Repeated focusing on the sufficiency of the cross of Christ is crucial for assurance. "Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith" Hebrews 10:21-22.

We must pray for eyes to see the truths that sustain assurance. "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe" Ephesians 1:18-19.

Assurance is not easily maintained in personal isolation. "And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'" 1 Corinthians 12:21.

Assurance is not destroyed by God's displeasure and discipline. "Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, and I will see His righteousness" Micah 7:8-9.

We must often wait patiently for the return of assurance. "I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD" Psalm 40:1-3.

Assurance is a fight to the day we die. "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life" 1 Timothy 6:12.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" 2 Timothy 4:7.
Assurance is finally a gift of the Spirit. "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God" Romans 8:16.

"The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself... And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" 1 John 5:10-11.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

And He Walked With God

I don’t know about you, but I find Noah to be one of the most fascinating people in the Bible. Noah was a man who lived in the most wicked time in all of history, the Bible tells us in Genesis 6:5 “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” and yet, in Genesis 6:8 we see that Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Why? Verse 9 gives us the answer, “ Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God”(emphasis mine). I think many times we hear the story of Noah and we focus only on the ark and the flood, but there is much more to this than a Sunday School Bible story to tell our children. I think there is a lot we can gain by looking at the story of this man who walked with God.

I think that in the life of Noah we can see at least two characteristics that we can apply to our own lives; two things that are indicative of a man (or woman) who walks with God. The first one is a belief that results in an uncompromising obedience to God, and the second is a Trust that manifests itself as an unquestioning faith that believes whatever God says will happen will in fact happen, just as God has said it would.

Let’s look at this first characteristic in Noah which is found in Genesis 6:22. “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did”. Think for a minute what God had asked Noah to do. In a world where it had never rained, God told him to build a boat. From what we can tell, Noah didn’t live at the beach either. He was told to build this boat on dry ground. This was not a little boat either; this boat was 450 feet long 75 feet wide and 45 feet high, this is not the kind of thing that you can hide from the neighbors. Imagine how you would feel if you lived next door to Noah and he started to build this boat. You would probably not be real happy about what it was going to do to your property values. Add to that the fact that Noah was one of only eight righteous people on earth, and they were all in his own family, and you will begin to se the kind of opposition that Noah faced. But not only did Noah obey God, he never tried to compromise or change what God told him to do in any way. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that Noah questioned God or that he attempted to alter the plans for the ark. He never said, “but God, this will take up my whole back yard, and I wanted to put in a pool.” We never hear Noah complain, “What will the neighbors think?” He never said, “I’m 480 years old, I should be relaxing, not building a boat”. He also never said, “this looks OK, but I think I could we put another window over here?” or “this is pretty long, I think it would work just as well if I make this just a little shorter?” No, the Bible says he did all that God commanded. Obeying God takes humility, and Noah had to humble himself and trust that what God said was right, and that it was true.

I think many times we look at what God says and we think, this can’t be what God meant, I have a better plan. This is nothing but pride. We may not think this consciously, but our actions speak differently. There are several examples in the Bible of others who have had to humble themselves and do something that didn’t make sense to them, or to those around them, in order to be obedient to God. Let’s take a look at one.

Joshua is first one that comes to my mind. You remember Joshua, he was the one chosen to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land after the death of Moses. He was told by God that the city of Jericho had been delivered into his hands, but contrary to all human military logic, he was not going to attack the city, he was going to march his troops around the outside of the wall, play trumpets and shout. (See Joshua 6) Imagine if you were the president of a country that was at war and you just told your generals, “we are not going to attack, we are going to walk around the city for seven days and on the seventh day we are going to walk around it seven times and then, instead of attacking we will just shout. God told me that if we do it this way we will win”. Do you think this would take humility and a trust that God knows what is best and that He will do what He said He would do? If you are wrong, your career, and maybe even your life, is over. This is what Noah did when he built the ark. He put his reputation on the line because he believed that what God said was true. He believed God.

The second characteristic that I see in Noah that is another evidence that he walked with God is this. Noah believed what God said even when it didn’t make sense. In Genesis 6:14 God appeared to Noah and told him to build an ark. This may not seem altogether odd to you, but remember, Noah lived in a world that had never seen rain. We read in Genesis 2:5-6 For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth...but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. Think about the faith Noah had to have to take God at his word and take action when everything he had ever experienced told him that this couldn’t possibly happen.

Hebrews 11:7 tell us “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith”. There are a couple things in this verse that each of us should look for in our own life as evidence that we walk with God. First, is the phrase “By faith”. Noah had nothing to base his conviction on, except his faith in God. This is the starting point for anyone who walks with God. In the verse preceding this we read “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) Here we see that in order to please God we must believe that He is; we must believe that He exists, and we must have faith that He will reward those of us who seek Him.

The second thing in this verse that we should emulate is that he “moved with godly fear”. In Proverbs 1:7 we read that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge...” and we would all be better off if we had a little more fear of God. I don’t know about you, but I have been taught that the word “fear” means to have reverence or respect for God, and that is true, but I also think that a case can be made for the fact that to a certain extent fear means just what it says, fear.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 “ And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” I think Noah had a great respect for God, but I think that Noah had some healthy fear as a motivation as well. Noah had to have something to motivate him and to keep working because the next time we see God talking to Noah is 120 years later. So think about this, when Noah was 480 years old God appeared to him and said that the world was evil and had turned away from Him, everyone did what was right in their own eyes and it grieved God that He had even made man on the earth. He said that He had to put a stop to this for the good of mankind so here is what He was going to do. God said, “I will send a flood that will kill every living thing on the earth, but I will spare you and your family because you are upright and righteous and you walk with Me. But the only way for you to be saved is for you to build a boat, here are the plans for it, and when you have finished it then I will send the flood. (Genesis 6:13-21, paraphrased)

The next time we see God talking to Noah is in Genesis 7:1, when He told Noah to enter the ark, 120 years after he told him to build it. There must have been times in Noah’s life when he stopped and wondered, “did I really understand what God was saying to me?” And if you think it took faith to build the ark, imagine this. In Genesis 7:1 God speaks to Noah and says “Come into the ark, you and all your household...” then in verse four He says, “For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth...” If you think the 120 years were a trying time, imagine what was going through Noah’s mind being shut up in the ark for seven days and nothing was happening outside. I am sure that Noah was ridiculed and teased while he was preaching and building the ark, and I cannot imagine that it stopped when he went into the ark. I think it probably got even worse as all the neighbors sat around outside the ark and took bets as to how long that crazy old man would remain in that thing with all of those animals. But Noah remained faithful and God rewarded him for his faithfulness. Seven days later the people were not asking when Noah was coming out, but if he would let them in.

Noah had been preaching for 120 years to these people that they should repent and return to God. God did not want to destroy the world, His choice has always been that men would seek Him and repent of their sin. Peter makes this point in his second letter, 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”. For at least 120 years Noah pleaded with these people to repent and now God’s patients had run out and it was too late to return. The Bible says that it is God’s will that all will come to Him, but it also teaches that a time will come when a person has ignored the calling of God and chosen to disobey Him for so long that God will give them over to their sin and it will be too late to repent. Two examples of this are Romans chapter 1 and Hebrews chapter 3.

Romans 1 says each of us instinctively knows there is a God, and that His invisible attributes are clearly seen in the creation He has made, but that some have chosen to worship His creation rather than worship Him. Then in verse 24 it says “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity”, and again in verse 26 it says “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions”. They chose sin for so long that God let them have what they wanted.

Another example of this is found in Hebrews 3:7-13.

Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS, WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me BY TESTING Me, AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS. "THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SAID, 'THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS'; AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, 'THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST." Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

In these verses we see that there came a time in the history of the nation of Israel when God said that they had gone too far in disobedience and their hearts were hardened against Him. As a result they were denied entrance to the Promised Land. This warning is then given as an example for us to be sure that we do not disobey God and harden our hearts against Him, because as the verses above say, it was God who said “they always go astray in their heart…they shall not enter my rest”.

This is what had happened in the days of Noah; Noah preached and the people hardened their hearts so God gave them over to their lust and passion and once judgment started it was too late to repent.

We each need to examine ourselves daily to make sure we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), confess our sins (1 John 1:9), obey God (John 14:15) and He will be our God and we will be His people (2 Corinthians 6:16). God has promised salvation and protection to all who obey Him, which is clearly illustrated in the story of Noah. This all rests on the faithfulness of God; it is not according to our good works, but according to His grace and His faithfulness. I think A.W. Tozer best sums this up in this quote from The Knowledge Of The Holy, “Upon God’s faithfulness rests our whole hope of future blessedness. Only as He is faithful will His covenants stand and His promises be honored. Only as we have complete assurance that He is faithful may we live in peace and look forward with assurance to the life to come”.

By looking at the life of Noah we are really seeing the grace, mercy, and faithfulness of God as He provides and protects one of His children. It is my prayer that one-day people will be able to look at my life and say, like they said about Noah, “and he walked with God.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

How's Your Heart?

Matthew 12:36-37 "I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted and, and by your words you will be condemned."

This sounds contradictory to the gospel of grace, doesn't it; that we will be condemned or acquitted by our words? But this is exactly what Jesus is telling us in these verses. He said that a tree is either good and it produces good fruit, or it is bad and produces bad fruit (Matthew 12:33). He then went on to say that what you say comes from the overflow of your heart (Matthew 12:34) and that the good person will produce good, or the evil person evil from what is inside of them (Matthew 12:35). So what Jesus is telling us here is that the very words we speak are an indicator of the condition of our heart.

In the book of James we see another warning about the tongue; in chapter 3 James writes "For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body as well." (James 3 2 NASB) This is not saying that perfection comes from being able to control what you say; it is telling us the same thing that Jesus said back in Matthew chapter 12; that what we speak is an indication of what is in our heart. Perfection does not come from what we do or do not say, but what we say makes it obvious what is in our heart.

So how do we go about making sure that what we have in our hearts is pure and holy? We are told in Psalm 119 the importance of what we allow into our hearts, or thoughts. Verse 11 says, "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You."(Psalm 119:11 NKJV). And in Psalm 37 we see the following, "The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip. " (Psalm 37:30-31 NASB).

If you want to have pure thoughts and wholesome words try putting God's word into your mind and heart.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Promise Of Rest

Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Jesus said "Come to Me." How awesome is that! The very God of the universe has invited us to come. He has promised rest for the weary and the burdened, He has promised gentleness, and He has told us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. What does this mean to you today? Are you hurting and weary? Are you burdened by something? Do you feel weighted down by the yoke of this world? Jesus is speaking to you! And all you have to do is come.

Are you afraid that if you come to Him He will not give you the rest that He promised? Jesus said, "The one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out." (John 6:37). There is no need to fear "He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23) and He will do what He said He will do.

So what does it mean to come? Here are a few examples out of the Believers Bible Commentary written by William MacDonald and Arthur Farstad. "To come means to believe (Acts 16:31); to receive (John 1:12); to eat (John 6:35); to drink (John 7:37); to look (Isaiah 45:22); to confess (1 John. 4:2); to hear (John 5:24, 25); to enter a door (John 10:9); to open a door (Rev. 3:20); to touch the hem of His garment (Matt. 9:20, 21); and to accept the gift of eternal life through Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). "

These verses also tell us that the one who comes must be weary and burdened. MacDonald and Farstad go on to say, " In order to truly come to Jesus, a person must admit that he is burdened with the weight of sin. Only those who acknowledge they are lost can be saved."

Spend some time today thanking Jesus for the invitation to come to Him and for the rest that He gives. And if you've never done it before go to Him today and lay down your burden; He promises rest for your weary soul.