Authentic Thanksgiving

Written by krkeyser on November 23rd, 2017

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.” Luke 6:32-35 [Emphasis mine.]

Photo by KRK, All rights reserved.

As Americans gather to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday there is much cause for gratitude.[1] God’s providential goodness towards His creatures is repeatedly extolled in the Bible. Natural life itself is our Creator’s gift; if we possess eternal life through faith in Christ, moreover, they may also give thanks for full pardon and a righteous standing in the Almighty’s sight – indeed they are blessed with “every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3; John 5:24; John 17:3; Rom. 3:23-26.) Lesser – but still important – temporal blessings like health, food, friends, and family all provide ample cause for thanksgiving today and every day. It is never amiss to thank God for His goodness towards us, as the Psalmist says: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:1-2.)

A Thousand, A Thousand Thanksgivings

It is striking to read our Lord’s own description of His Father’s kindness: “. . . He is kind to the unthankful and evil” (Luke 6:35.) He enunciated a similar principle in Matthew 5:43-48, saying: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Emphasis mine.) God gives even to those who are undeserving of His largesse. His generosity flows out of grace: it is unmerited favor lavished on the unworthy. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8.)

Eternal, Unending Kindness

God did not wait for mankind to clean up its collective act, before initiating the plan of salvation. In grace, He shows kindness to the least, even offering His incomparable forgiveness, adoption, and love to those who receive it by faith in His Son (Eph. 2:8-9.) He manifests His grace and goodness by continuing to maintain the universe notwithstanding the deleterious effects of human sin on our world and us. Despite our history of poor choices and bad behavior, He offers us a new creation relationship with Himself (John 17:3; 2 Cor. 5:17.) We may walk with Him in this world, enjoying His friendship, practical provision, and wise guidance (Prov. 3:5-6; 1 Cor. 1:30.) To put it succinctly, we may begin to enjoy Him in this life and continue enjoying Him for all the future eternity.

Now that is cause for Thanksgiving!

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[1] The same applies to our Canadian friends who celebrated their own Thanksgiving holiday in October.

 

“Outside The Camp” by R.P. Amos

Written by krkeyser on November 19th, 2017

“Go forth therefore unto Him without the camp”  Hebrews 13:13

The Hebrew believers were asked to make a most costly choice.  It’s called “without the camp”.  The camp in OT language was the center of Jewish religious life.  It’s where the tabernacle-temple was with God’s presence centered among the tents of His people.  So being outside the camp was usually not a positive thing.  However, if “the camp” became corrupted, they then were to separate from their corrupted religious heritage to stay true to God – even though shame and unpopularity would be waiting for them outside.

At the time of Christ, the Jewish religion (camp) was out of God’s ways in Christ the Son.  They had ritualistic sacrifices, clergy priesthood, holy days of worship, moral ethics, family values and Moses as their law authority.  However, they crucified the One Moses wrote about, Christ (Messiah) Jesus.  Thus the Jewish camp of that day disbelieved the gospel of God’s Son in His redeeming sacrifice, resurrection as high priest, and risen authority as Lord.  (Philp. 2:6-11, Acts 2:36, Rom. 10:9, Col. 3:17. Heb. 1:3).  His gospel of saving grace was spurned for their religious law keeping.

So for a believer to be faithful unto God, he had to go by faith unto the Lord Jesus Christ.  But the Lord Jesus was not in the religious temple in Jerusalem.  He was in heaven on God’s right hand – outside the camp.  For the camp did not enthrone Him in the holy city, but crucified Jesus outside the city gates in a place of execution and shame for criminals.  But God raised Him from the dead.  Thus going forth to God now involved separation.

A Jewish believer in Messiah Jesus would know all too well what being “without the camp” meant.  Following is a list of things that were to be outside the camp.

  1. The Sin Offering – burning of flesh and its dung – sin and its stench  (Ex. 29:14 / Lev. 4:12)
  1. The Ashes of Death – where the ashes from the burnt offering would be taken  (Lev. 6:11)
  1. The Dishonorable Dead – where those who died under God’s judgment were           disposed                                                (Lev. 10:4-5)
  2. The Leper – where the diseased unclean lived in an isolated and quarantined state (Lev. 13:46 / Num. 12:15)
  1. The Lawbreaker – where the blasphemer and sinner were executed and removed         from society                                        (Lev. 24:14-16 / Num. 15:36)
  2. The Defiled and Unclean – contamination – where the removal of those who             could endanger others were sent          (Num. 5:1:4)
  3. The Slayed Red Heifer – where the solution for uncleanness had to be killed        and totally burnt                                          (Num. 19:3,9)
  4. The Gentile Captives – where strangers (foreigners) were judged: either         executed or spared – but not with full privilege          (Num. 31:13-20 / Josh. 6:23)
  5. Human Dung – where the garbage-filth was buried. Because God is                                                        holy there is no human filth permitted in His camp   (Deut. 23:12-14)
  6. The Enemies of God – war: where Gideon saw the Midianites destroyed (Judges 7:17-19)
  1. The Separated from the Corrupt Religious Mainstream – where one would have to go in unpopularity to be apart from the popular                 (Ex. 33:7)
  2. Jesus – capital punishment outside the city walls where criminals were crucified                        and removed from society as unfit                                           (Hebrews 13:12)
  3. The Faithful Christian – where believers are exhorted to identify in shame and reproach with their rejected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ                 (Heb. 13:13)

It is interesting that the first and last mention in Scripture of being outside the camp has to do with meeting with God.  The first mention is in Exodus 19:17 where Moses brought the people “out of the camp to meet with God”.  The last mention is in our text from Hebrews 13:13 where Christians are to go by faith “unto Him without the camp”.  This is to meet with the Lord Jesus, who though rejected on earth is now glorified in heaven.

The believers were reminded that the Lord Jesus is not identified with any one city on earth as the holy headquarters of their faith.  It was no longer Jerusalem for it had rejected God’s Son.  Nor would it be Mecca or London or Vatican City in Rome or Varanasi or Bodhgaya or Plymouth or Nashville or Ottawa or Salt Lake City or Washington.  They were told, “here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come”, Heb. 13:14.

So what now?  Through Christ Jesus we offer the sacrifices of praise and doing good to God, who called us by His grace into this blessed minority, Heb. 13:15-16.  We now suffer outside the camp but will glory later at the coming of the Lord Jesus.  Whether we meet in a cave or building, we don’t have an authoritative city on earth but a Person in heaven.

…Come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant … .  Heb. 12:22-24

 

“Looking Unto Jesus” – A Thought From The Past by John Newton

Written by krkeyser on November 8th, 2017

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

“I still reflect with pleasure on the opportunities I was favoured with among you; and if, as I hope, my little visits were not unacceptable to each or any of you, let us not lose a moment in apologies or compliments to each other, but refer the whole praise where it is wholly due. Salvation, in its whole extent, and in each particular step, is of the Lord. Though we can but lisp a little word about his goodness, yet when he is pleased to be near us, his presence and blessing can work by the meanest instruments, and cause our hearts to burn within us. On the other hand, when he withdraws, we can no more help each other than we can help ourselves: then, the very best of us prove miserable comforters, fruitless teachers, and blind guides. Could I bring my heart to this point, to regard myself as insufficient to think one good thought, or to speak one profitable word, any further than is influenced by that enlivening Spirit which Jesus is exalted on high to bestow, I should be well; but, alas! I am often hurt by a fond desire of being or doing something considerable, and this, so often as it prevails, like a sudden fatal blast, spoils my fairest blooming prospects of comfort and usefulness. It is a great point to be constant and diligent in the use of all appointed means, and yet to have our souls waiting only upon God, in a deep persuasion that neither the best means, nor the closest attendance upon them, can do any thing for us in themselves; and that nothing short of renewed communications from him, can either satisfy or sanctify our hearts.

The best advice I can send, or the best wish I can form for you, is, that you may have an abiding and experimental sense of those words of the apostle, which are just now upon my mind,—‘Looking unto Jesus.’ The duty, the privilege, the safety, the unspeakable happiness, of a believer, are all comprised in that one sentence. Let us first pray that the eyes of our faith and understanding may be opened and strengthened; and then let us fix our whole regard upon him. But how are we to behold him? I answer, in the glass of his written word; there he is represented to us in a variety of views; the wicked world can see no form nor comeliness in the portraiture he has given of himself; yet, blessed be God, there are those who can ‘behold his glory as the glory of the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth;’ and while they behold it, they find themselves, ‘changed into the same image, from glory to glory,’ by the transforming influence of his Spirit. In vain we oppose reasonings, and arguments, and resolutions, to beat down our corruptions, and to silence our fears; but a believing view of Jesus does the business. When heavy trials in life are appointed us, and we are called to give up, or perhaps to pluck out, a right eye, it is an easy matter for a stander-by to say, ‘Be comforted;’ and it is as useless as easy;—but a view of Jesus by faith comes home to the point. When we can fix our thoughts upon him, as laying aside all his honours, and submitting, for our sakes, to drink off the bitter cup of the wrath of God to the very dregs; and when we further consider, that he who thus suffered in our nature, who knows and sympathizes with all our weakness, is now the Supreme Disposer of all that concerns us, that he numbers the very hairs of our heads, appoints every trial we meet with in number, weight, and measure, and will suffer nothing to befall us but what shall contribute to our good;—this view, I say, is a medicine suited to the disease, and powerfully reconciles us unto every cross. So when a sense of sin prevails, and the tempter is permitted to assault us with dark and dreadful suggestions, it is easy for us to say, ‘Be not afraid;’ but those who have tried, well know that looking to Jesus is the only and sure remedy in this case;—if we can get a sight of him by faith, as he once hung between the two thieves, and as he now pleads within the vail, then we can defy sin and Satan, and give our challenge in the apostle’s words, ‘Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again; who also maketh intercession for us:’ (Romans, 8:34.) Again, are we almost afraid of being swallowed up by our many restless enemies? Or, are we almost weary of our long pilgrimage through such a thorny, tedious, barren wilderness? A sight of Jesus, as Stephen saw him, crowned with glory, yet noticing all the sufferings of his poor servants, and just ready to receive them to himself, and make them partakers of his everlasting joy, this will raise the spirits, and restore strength; this will animate us to hold on, and to hold out; this will do it, and nothing but this can. So, if obedience be the thing in question, looking unto Jesus is the object that melts the soul into love and gratitude, and those who greatly love, and are greatly obliged, find obedience easy. When Jesus is upon our thoughts, either in his humbled or his exalted state, either as bleeding on the cross, or as our nature by all the host of heaven, then we can ask the apostle’s question with a becoming disdain, ‘Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?’ God forbid. What! Shall I sin against my Lord, my Love, my Friend, who once died for my sins, and now lives and reigns on my behalf; who supports, and leads, and guides, and feeds me every day? God forbid. No; rather I would wish for a thousand hands and eyes, and feet, and tongues, for ten thousand lives, that I might devote them all to his service: he should have all then; and surely he shall have all now! Alas, that in spite of myself, there still remains something that resists his will! But I long and pray for its destruction; and I see a day coming when my wish shall be accomplished, and I shall be wholly and for ever the Lord’s.”

John Newton, “Letter I: Letter To Miss M****, September 10, 1760,” in Eighteen Letters To Several Ladies in The Works of John Newton, Vol. 6, ed. Richard Cecil. (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 3–6.

 

My Natural Way (Is A Total Shipwreck!) Or The Horror Of Myself

Written by krkeyser on October 31st, 2017

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(Photo by K.R. Keyser, September 2017, all rights reserved.)

Shame is absent from modern thinking. People argue that their natural inclinations are right. If they feel something, then it must be natural and therefore, it is permissible. This mindset is especially evident in the increasingly permissive sexual mores. Lust is legitimized, and immorality and perversions are no longer viewed as harmful or aberrant. Premarital chastity, marital fidelity, and heterosexuality are increasingly mocked and set aside as abnormal. In particular, homosexuality is not only tolerated it is celebrated and privileged as a sacrosanct lifestyle that one may not question. Since the essence of sin is dethroning God and usurping His right to determine our behavior, it is not surprising to see the suppression of shame along with the proud vindication of one’s lifestyle choices. The Lord, however, views things differently.

A Once Beautiful Ship, Now Marred

   Mankind is not currently in the same condition as when the Creator fashioned it (Gen. 1:26-31; Gen. 2:25.) We are fallen, broken, and sinful rebels (Gen. 3:1-19; Rom. 3:23.) Sin twists our minds (Rom. 1:28), hearts (Jer. 17:9), wills (Rom. 7:8-11), and ultimately destroys our bodies. (Rom. 3:9-20; Rom. 5:17-19; James 1:15; 1 Cor. 15:18, 21-22.) So, looking to ourselves for legitimacy is a fool’s errand. It is just as absurd as looking at a ship (like the one in the photo above) and deeming it appropriately sea-worthy. When it was first launched, it sailed with no difficulty, but after it was irreparably damaged it was condemned as worthless and beached on the rocks of Spanish Wells. Similarly, we human beings are twisted and broken by sin and in ourselves are condemned in the eyes of a holy God.

Thankfully, our Maker does not scrap us like the pictured fishing boat. Instead, He decided before the foundation of the world to save us: a process that includes deliverance from condemnation to a righteous standing before God, as well as becoming new creatures with minds, hearts, and wills that function in accordance with His pleasure (John 3:3-21; John 5:24-25; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Heb. 10:16.) As Titus 3:4-7 expresses it:

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

God works to transform our natural state – both spiritually and physically – into the glorious liberty of His children and to conform us to His Son’s own image (Rom. 8:9-30.) By His Spirit living within and working within Christians, He transforms their hearts to love what He loves and hate what He hates. Their minds begin to think His thoughts after Him (Rom. 12:1-2; Phil. 2:5) and their wills desire to do His will (John 7:17; Phil. 2:12.)

I Once Was Lost, But Now Am Found

 John Newton, the infamous slave-ship captain turned preacher and hymn writer, put it beautifully:

“The image of God, in which he was formed, was defaced, and a far different image set up in his heart, even of him who had seduced him from his allegiance; darkness in the understanding, rebellion in the will, sensuality in the affections; the justice of God threatening a penalty he could neither satisfy nor sustain; the commandments of God still challenging an obedience he had no longer any power to yield. The very gifts and bounties of God, with which he was encompassed, designed not only for his comfort, but his instruction, to lead him, as by so many steps, to their gracious Author, became eventually the occasions of withdrawing him farther from his duty, and increasing, as well as aggravating, his ingratitude. Thus stood man towards his Maker. With regard to his fellow-creatures, self-love and inordinate desires having raised a variety of interfering interests in the breasts of all, peace withdrew from the earth. Every man’s heart and hand was set against his neighbor; and violence, rage, envy, and confusion, overspread the world. Nor could he be easier in himself; hurried by restless desires towards things either unsatisfying or unattainable, haunted with cares, tortured with pains, tired with opposition, shocked with disappointment; conscience, like the hand that appeared in Belshazzar’s feast, Daniel 5, writing bitter things against him, when outward circumstances allowed a short repose: and vanity, like a worm, destroying the root of every flower that promised the fairest bloom of success. Behold a few outlines of the picture of fallen man! Miserable in his life, more miserable in the continual dread of losing such a life; miserable, most of all, that neither his fancy can feign, nor his fear conceive, the consequences of the death he dreads,—which will introduce him to the immediate presence, to the tribunal, of an incensed, almighty, ever-living God!

Such was the state from which Jesus Christ came to save us. He came to restore us to the favor of God; to reconcile us to ourselves, and to each other; to give us peace and joy in life, hope and triumph in death, and after death glory, honor, and immortality. For he came, not merely to repair, and to restore, but to exalt; not only, ‘that we might have life,’ the life we had forfeited, but ‘that we might have it more abundantly,’ John 10; that our happiness might be more exalted, our title more firm, and our possession more secure, than the state of Adam in paradise could boast, or than his posterity could have attained unto, if he had continued unsinning . . .” [i]

Transformed Vessels, Sailing For Glory

Like a reclaimed and restored ship, the Lord is transforming believers into an eventual form where we will be suited to live with Him in glory for all eternity (2 Cor. 4:16-5:8.) Morally, emotionally, mentally, and physically they will be suited for the Father’s house (John 14:2-3.) Their formerly “natural” fallen and sinful state, will give way to the supernatural transformation of God’s saving work. Shame and self-justification will be things of the past. God’s glorified people will realize the purpose for which they were created and redeemed (Phil. 3:12-4:1.)

God’s redemptive work allows us to be honest about ourselves: we are damaged and cannot fix ourselves. It also removes our shame, because Christ’s sacrificial death enables God to forgive our sin and declare us righteous (Rom. 3:19-26.) We bow to the legitimate lawgiver – the only arbiter of truth – our Creator who made us to enjoy abundant life with Him forever. We do not need to redefine ourselves in unrealistic (or debased) ways. If we know Christ as Lord and Savior then we are said to be “in Christ,” or to say it differently, we are “accepted in the Beloved One” (Eph. 1:1-6.)

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[i] John Newton, “Sermon II: On The Savior & His Salvation,” in Six Discourses (Or Sermons) As Intended For The Pulpit in The Works of John Newton, Vol. 2, ed. Richard Cecil. (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 282-284.

 

The Wonders of Grace (Spurgeon on the Savior’s interaction with the Centurion)

Written by krkeyser on October 23rd, 2017

“When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed that same hour.” Matthew 8:10-13

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“. . . [I]n the narrative before us, he marvelled at the faith of the centurion. From this we learn that we ought not to be so engrossed with the wonders of science and of art, or even with the wonders of creation and of providence, as to become indifferent to the marvels of grace. These should occupy the very highest place in our estimation. The seven wonders of the world are nothing when compared with the countless wonders of grace. That man must be foolish who does not admire the works of God in nature; he is frivolous who does not trace with awe the hand of God in history; and he is even more unwise who despises the masterpieces of divine skill and wisdom which are to be seen in the empire of grace. In the kingdom of God the wise man only wonders once in his life, but that is always: fools think not so, but they are void of understanding. The museum of grace is richer than that of nature. A heart broken on account of sin is a far greater wonder than the rarest fossil, whatever it may tell of ancient floods of the sea or convulsions of the land. An eye that glistens with the tears of penitence is a greater marvel than the cataract of Niagara, or the fountains of the Nile. Faith that humbly links itself to Christ has in it as great a beauty as the rainbow, and the confidence which looks alone to Jesus, and so irradiates the soul, is as much an object for admiration as is the sun when he shineth in his strength. Talk not of the pyramids, the Colossus, the golden house of Nero, or the temple of Ephesus, for the living temple of God’s church is fairer far. Let others glory in the marvels they have seen but be it mine to say unto my Lord, ‘I will praise thee, for thou hast done wonderful things. Thy love to me was wonderful. Surely I will remember thy wonders of old.’”

C. H. Spurgeon, “A Blessed Wonder,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 16. Originally preached on June 12, 1870. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 337–338.

* Paolo Veronese, “Jesus & The Centurion,” in The Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain; public domain; accessed on 10/23/17 here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jes%C3%BAs_y_el_centuri%C3%B3n_(El_Veron%C3%A9s).jpg

 

Hope, Real & Imagined

Written by krkeyser on October 3rd, 2017

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12[i]

And He said to them, ‘What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?’ And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, ‘Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?’ And He said to them, ‘What things?’ And they said to Him, ‘The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.’” Luke 24:17-24, NAS

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:19-20

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20

“Before we get to today’s interview, I want to say how profoundly saddened I am by the series of catastrophes, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and now the mass shooting in Las Vegas. To everyone who is suffering, to everyone who has lost a loved one, or been injured, or lost their home, or their job, to everyone who is still in shock from being a witness, we are thinking of you, and hope you find whatever it is you need to carry on.” Terry Gross[ii]

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Ms Gross’ compassionate words express the shared unspoken longings currently of multitudes on our planet. In the face of ongoing wars, famines, natural disasters, and the steady ongoing march toward eternity of humans great and small – of every race, class, and socio-demographic – our hearts cry out for something or someone to give us hope. The only suitable response to this cri de coeur is found in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hope In The Face Of Hopelessness

On the third day after His death, Christ’s disciples were perplexed and demoralized. In their minds, Messiah was both a political and spiritual Deliverer. How could He die as a cursed outcast on an ignominiously cruel Roman cross? Where now were their hopes and dreams of salvation? Life seemed at once hopeless and incomprehensible. In that moment of painful confusion, the Lord Himself drew near to remind them of all that the Scriptures prophesied concerning this mighty victor. In His words: “Ought not the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26.) In the wake of seeming tragedy, He pointed them to what Paul later called “the hope and resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23:6.) Hope for believers is not a vague wish that is hopeful of finding “whatever it is you need to carry on,” as Ms Gross phrases it (and many others in the world would agree with that amorphous sentiment.) The Christian hope is not merely for this world: it connects us with eternal life that emanates from beyond this sorrowful scene of pain and death. As Paul points out: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:19.) To suffer for Christ in this world, and then have no resurrection or life after death would be a false hope of immense magnitude! But the next verse promises that through His resurrection Christ triumphed over death, and is the first in what will be a long line of physically and spiritually raised ones; the Captain of their salvation is bringing many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10.)

Comfort From Beyond The Grave

  [iii]

The believer’s hope is focused on a person: The risen Christ! Our trust in Him is pictured as a “sure and steadfast” anchor, which is secured in the presence of the triune God Himself (Heb. 6:19.) As David Gooding eloquently writes: “What a hope Christians have! They have cast their anchor not in their fluctuating moods or feelings, or in their varying circumstances, or in anything else in this changing world. Christ himself as their precursor has taken their anchor right through into heaven itself and embedded it in the immovable ground of the presence and throne and character of God (6:19–20).”[iv]

We Have An Anchor That Keeps The Soul 

One of my friends from the crew of the Sea Gem (pictured above) told me of the importance of a good anchor. He told me that formerly the ship had the wring anchor; consequently, they would wake up in the middle of the night drifting – a dangerous situation for a seagoing craft! Imagine if one tried to use an anchor from a much smaller boat (like the Boston Whaler pictured below) on a crawfishing ship like the Sea Gem. What would happen?

 [v]

Clearly the smaller boat’s anchor would not do anything for the much larger vessel. Likewise, the rough seas of human life require a large anchor.

Only the hope provided by Christ, who died, rose from the grave, and ascended to glory can provide the unwavering assurance that is linked to God’s trustworthiness, justice, and holy love (Heb. 6:20.) Because the believer’s Forerunner, the Lord Jesus Christ has entered into the Father’s glorious presence, they shall certainly be there as well. As He said: “‘A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also’” (John 14:19.) Later He prayed: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24.) This is a sure and steadfast hope by which to live!

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[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible (NKJV.) Words in boldface and italics are my emphases.

[ii] Terry Gross, Introductory remarks to the broadcast, “Tom Petty to ‘Fresh Air’: ‘The Songs Meant a Lot to People, and it Means a Lot to Me’,” 10/3/17, Fresh Air with Terry Gross; electronic ed. accessed on the same date here: http://www.npr.org/2017/10/03/555302003/tom-petty-to-fresh-air-the-songs-mean-a-lot-to-people-and-it-means-a-lot-to-me [Emphasis mine.]

[iii] Photo by K.R. Keyser, 10/1/17, Spanish Wells, Bahamas; all rights reserved. Special thanks to the crew of the Sea Gem.

[iv] David W. Gooding, An Unshakeable Kingdom: The Letter to the Hebrews for Today, Myrtlefield Expositions. (Coleraine, Northern Ireland: Myrtlefield House, 2013), 141. [Boldface mine.]

[v] Photo by K.R. Keyser, 10/1/17, Spanish Wells, Bahamas; all rights reserved.

 

Christ’s preciousness – A Retro-post by C.H. Spurgeon

Written by krkeyser on September 8th, 2017

“To every sinner who feels his sin, Christ is precious; to every child of God who is saved, the Saviour must forever be fairest among the fair; to every heir of heaven who has experienced the sweetness of his saving grace, Christ must appear to be ‘the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely.’ A world destroyed I see if it had not been for a Saviour born; a world for ever cast into hell I see if it had not been for a Saviour dying on the cross. As a Saviour, O earth, thou as yet knowest not his preciousness; as a Saviour, O heaven, thou canst not reach the full merit of his praise. He is precious, then, if you think of him as he is, as God and man, and as a Saviour, in which office the two natures are combined in one.

Brethren, Christ is so precious that he cannot be bought. If a man should give all the substance of his house to purchase an interest in Christ, it would be utterly contemned. Rich men might gather together all their goodly things, yea, India might be exhausted of its wealth, Peru drained of its silver, and California of its gold, but no part nor lot in Christ could be bought, even with sapphires and diamonds. He gives himself away right freely, according to the riches of his grace, but he is utterly unpurchasable, for he is so precious that he cannot even be priced. A whole world can never weigh against him any more than a single grain of dust would weigh against the universe. There is no measuring line with which to form a unit for calculation, with which to measure him; he is infinite, and finite judgments will never be able to comprehend his unutterable value. He is God’s unspeakable gift. Heaven itself is nothing as compared with him, and if a man had to wade breast deep through a thousand hells to come at Christ, it were well worth the venture, if at the last he might but say, ‘My Beloved is mine, and I am his.’

Jesus is so precious that he cannot be matched. There is none like him. The fairest of the fair are uncomely and deformed when compared with him. As Rutherford would say, ‘Black sun, black moon, black stars, but, O bright, infinitely bright Lord Jesus.’ ‘He is the express image of his Father’s person, and the brightness of his Father’s glory.’ Ye shall find none that can be likened unto him, if ye ransack time and space. Miss him as your Saviour, and you have lost the only salvation possible; gain him, and you will want no other, for he is made of God unto you ‘wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption,’ and all your souls can want; yea, he himself is all. If heaven and earth were sold, ye could not match Christ in any market if ye gave the price of heaven and earth for his like. If you search eternity, and ransack immensity, there shall ne’er be found one fit to be second to him, he is so precious.

Precious, brethren, he is to us, because he cannot be lost. All the precious things in this world are loseable. The jewels may be stolen, the house may be broken into by the thief, and the casket may be taken away, but Christ is such a jewel that even Satan himself can never rob the soul of him when once it hath him. My heart evermore rejoices in that precious truth. Let Jesus Christ be once mine as the gift of God, I am safe, for ‘the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.’ The Lord never repents of what he has done, he never plays fast and loose, or takes back a boon which he has once bestowed. Is not Jesus a priceless, precious jewel, since he cannot be lost!

And what is equally as delightful to remember, he cannot be destroyed. Even the diamond can be dissolved; bring but sufficient heat to bear upon it, focus upon it the full rays of the sun, and the sparkling crystal dissolves into a little gas; but though men have tried to focus all the heat of persecution upon the Christian, they have never been able to separate him from the love of Christ; and though earth and hell have stirred up their malice, and the furnace has been heated seven times hotter, and the child of God has been tossed into it, and apparently deserted to the fury of his enemies, yet never in a single case has the precious gem of Christ Jesus in the heart been destroyed, nor the believer’s interest in it; for Jesus and his servants have lived together, according to the glorious promise, ‘Because I live, ye shall live also.’ See the preciousness, then, of Christ, the intrinsic preciousness, the essential preciousness of Christ, because he cannot be bought, he cannot be priced, he cannot be matched, he cannot be lost, he cannot be destroyed. Happy and rich beyond expression are they who can truly say, ‘Unto us Christ is precious.’” C.H. Spurgeon, “Three Precious Things,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 16. Originally preached on May 8, 1870. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 278-280. [Italics original.]

 

Missionary Material (A Retro-post by C.H. Spurgeon)

Written by krkeyser on September 7th, 2017

“The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” Acts 10:36-43

“To crown all, our blessed Lord was one who knew how to die! Oh, when shall we have men and women sent among us who are prepared to die, in order to accomplish their life-work? I have shuddered, and all the more so because I might do no better myself, when I have heard excuses for avoiding risks of life, and reasons for escaping hardships in foreign lands. It has been even questioned in some quarters, whether a man would be right in exposing himself to danger of life in order to preach the gospel. I could say much, but would be sparing of censure. Only this I must say, until grace shall restore to us the ancient apostolic self-sacrifice, we may not expect to see the gospel conquering to any high degree. Zeal for God’s house must eat us up; love of life must yield to love of souls; trials must be counted as nothing for Christ’s sake, and death must be defied, or we shall never capture the world for Jesus. They who wear soft raiment will never win Ireland, or Africa, or India, for Christ. The man who considers himself, and makes provision for the flesh, will do little or nothing. Christ revealed the great secret when it was said of him, ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save.’ In proportion as a man saves himself he cannot save others, and only in proportion as he is carried away with self-sacrifice, willing to renounce luxuries, comforts, necessities, and even life itself, only in that proportion will he succeed. I trust that no missionary’s life may be lost, but I trust that if the church can only bring the world to Christ by the deaths of her ministers, all our lives may be sacrificed: for what are we, my brethren, what is any one of us, compared with the accomplishment of our Redeemer’s work? Our sires went to the stake with songs upon their lips. Our ancestors were confessors who dared the barbarous cruelties of Northern hordes, and the refined persecutions of Southern superstition; men who could die, but could not refrain from witnessing for the Lord. We must quit ourselves like men for Christ, and though we may not all be called to make the extreme sacrifice, we must be ready for it, and if we shrink from it we are not the men for such a time as this.

We want men who can toil, men who can pray, men who can weep, men who can die. In fact, we need for Christ’s work men all ablaze with consecrated fervour, men under a divine impulse, like arrows shot from the bow of the Almighty flashing straight to the target; men like thunderbolts launched by the Eternal to go crashing through every difficulty with irresistible energy of aim. We want a divine enthusiasm to fire us, an almighty impetus to urge us on. Only men thus filled with the Holy Ghost shall accomplish largely the work of God.” C. H. Spurgeon, “The Model Home Mission and the Model Home Missionary,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 16. Originally preached on April 14, 1870.  (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 262. [Italics original.]

 

Take a look at Mitch Zajac’s new gospel website

Written by krkeyser on August 23rd, 2017

Take a look at Mitch Zajac’s new website: http://mitchzajac.com/

 

When Darkness Falls

Written by krkeyser on August 21st, 2017

Today the United States is seized by eclipse-mania, as millions of people across the nation don odd-looking spectacles to observe a rarely glimpsed solar eclipse. Many are traveling large distances to get the best vantage point for the complete – or in some cases near complete – obscuration of the sun. Yet the most dramatic historical darkening of the skies was global, and concealed the central event of human history: Christ’s vicarious, sacrificial death. As the Gospel records it:

Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, “into Your hands I commit My spirit.”’  Having said this, He breathed His last.” Luke 23:44-46 [Boldface mine.]

Degrees Of Torment

When thinking of the Lord’s historical death, modern people tend to concentrate on His physical sufferings. The awful scourging, psychological torment, and beatings that He endured prior to the cross, as well as the nails through His extremities and the physical pain that accompanied crucifixion. This attention to His physiological sufferings likely stems from our own human understanding of sorrow. We can identify with bodily pain; sooner or later, we all endure sickness and corporeal affliction. Accordingly, we can picture Jesus’ physical sufferings.

Without minimizing the physical pain that Christ endured, His spiritual sufferings were the worst part of the cross. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 describes it: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” During the three dark hours the Lamb of God sacrificially took away the sin of the world by becoming a propitiation where the righteous judge condemned and punished sin but spared and justified believers in Jesus (John 1:29; 1 John 2:1-2; Rom. 3:23-26.) During that supernatural darkness on the cross, “the Lord . . . laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6.) It was a sight too terrible and too holy for fallen human eyes to behold. As George West Frazer poetically expresses it:

“‘Twas on that night of deepest woe, when darkness round did thicken,
When through deep waters Thou didst go, and for our sins wast stricken;
Thou, Lord, didst seek that we should be with grateful hearts remembering Thee.

How deep the sorrow, who can tell, which was for us endured?
O love divine, that broke the spell which had our hearts allured!
With heart and conscience now set free, it is our joy to think of Thee
.”[i]

The great hymnist and preacher, John Newton adds:

How bitter that cup no heart can conceive,
Which Jesus drank up, that sinners might live!
His way was much rougher and darker than mine:
Did Jesus thus suffer, and shall I repine
?”[ii]

From Darkness To Light

Thankfully, the Lord’s redemptive sufferings are over. He never needs to repeat His perfect sacrifice (Heb. 10:10-18.) The One who endured the deepest darkness, now inhabits unimaginably brilliant light – in keeping with His identity as “the Light” (John 1:4-5; 1 John 1:6-7; 1 Tim. 6:16; Acts 26:13.) After the darkness of the cross and the tomb, He arose from the dead and later ascended back to heaven’s glory (Rom.1:4; Acts 1:2-11.) For those who repent and believe on Christ for salvation, trusting in Him to save them through His finished sacrifice and resurrection, He promises eternal life in His kingdom which knows no darkness (Rom. 10:9; Rev. 21:23.) To ignore or disbelieve His offer of gracious salvation by faith is to remain spiritually lost, under God’s righteous sentence of condemnation (John 3:16-21, 36.) If one leaves this world in that state, they will endure eternal punishment in “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30.)

Solar eclipses are temporary, lasting only a matter of hours across a continent like North America. By contrast, suffering God’s wrath in the lake of fire lasts forever for those who have not trusted the Lord Jesus. Since Christ died for guilty sinners like you and me, there is absolutely no need to eternally perish in this way. As He says: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24.)

A Future So Bright

The believer’s bright destiny is well-expressed in a classic hymn:

The glory shines before me, I cannot linger here;
Though clouds may darken o’er me, my Father’s house is near:
If through this barren desert a little while I roam,
The glory shines before me, I am not far from home.

Beyond the storms I’m going, beyond this vale of tears,
Beyond the floods o’erflowing, beyond the changing years:
I’m going to the better land, by faith long since possessed:
The glory shines before me, for this is not my rest.

The Lamb is there the glory! The Lamb is there the light!
Affliction’s grasp but tore me from phantoms of the night:
The voice of Jesus calls me, my race will soon be run;
The glory shines before me, the prize will soon be won.

The glory shines before me, I know that all is well;
My Father’s care is o’er me, his praises I would tell:
The love of Christ constrains me, his blood hath washed me white;
Where Jesus is in glory, ‘Tis home, and love, and light.
[iii]

___________________________________________________________________

[i] G.W. Frazer, “‘Twas on that night of deepest woe,” electronic ed. accessed on 8/21/17 here: http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/188

[ii] John Newton, “I will trust and not be afraid,” electronic ed. accessed on 8/21/17 here: http://ehymnbook.org/CMMS/hymnSong.php?folder=p01&id=pd01601

[iii] Hannah K. Burlingham, “The glory shines before me, I cannot linger here” electronic ed. accessed on 8/21/17 here: http://ehymnbook.org/CMMS/hymnSong.php?id=pd16544