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

*

“. . . [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]

________________________________________________________________________

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]

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[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

 

The Believer’s Position In Christ (A retro-post by Edward Dennett)

Written by krkeyser on August 17th, 2017

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may 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 exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 1:17-2:6

“We are here taught that the mighty power of God was displayed in the resurrection of Christ, that God came in and took Him out of the grave wherein He lay, raised Him up, and set Him down at His own right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named; and then, more wonderful still — more wonderful because of those who were the objects of this perfection of His grace — that His power to us-ward was ‘according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ.’ And if Ephesians 1 gives us the effect of this mighty power in relation to Christ, Ephesians 2 shows us the effect on His people. The chapter thus commences: ‘And you, who were dead in trespasses and sins.’ And the apostle then points out that the exceeding greatness of God’s power met us in the place where we lay dead in sins (for Christ indeed in grace had come down to us — down to the very depths of our condition of death); and that God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us quickened us together with Christ, and raised us (both Jew and Gentile) up together, and made us (Jew and Gentile) sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Christ, for the glory of God, in the accomplishment of His purposes, having identified Himself with His people, God, in response to the One who thus endured all for His glory, came in and wrought, and the effect is seen in a twofold way — in the place Christ occupies, and in the place we occupy in Him — seated in Him in the heavenlies.

But it is objected that we are only in Christ Jesus in the heavenlies in the sense of being seen in Him as the head of the new race. In the first place, Christ is never spoken of as the Head of a race in this epistle: as the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all, He is; and we are also told that all things, whether in heaven or in earth, will be ‘headed up’ in the Christ; but this is a very different thing. Secondly, this would imply that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings through, rather than in, Christ. Of course, He is the only medium through which blessings flow to us, as indeed He is God’s only vessel of blessing for us; but, as united to Him, members of His body — and this is the teaching of Ephesians — we are blessed as in Him. This statement, however, its met by the allegation that the members of the body of Christ are on earth, not in heaven. This is not true in the teaching of Ephesians 2. There everything, being on God’s side, or, as we often say, on the side of purpose, is complete. The counsels of God are accomplished, and He has before Him, in Christ, His whole Church, Jew and Gentile alike, all distinctions abolished, seated in Christ. He reveals this to us to show us our true place, the character of our blessings, and the scene in which in spirit He would have us live and move. It may be furthermore objected that Christ is seated at God’s right hand, and that, as this place belongs only to Him, we could not be said to be seated in Him where He is. True, most blessedly true, is it that the right hand of God is the pre-eminent place of our blessed Lord, the place which God delighted to give Him, and the place which the saints rejoice to recognize as His alone. But this in nowise militates against the fact that believers are in Christ where He is. His place at the right of God is positional — the token of His supreme exaltation; and it would indeed be unholy presumption to intrude a claim to this. But while asserting this, is not Christ before God? And is He not there as the head of His body? And are not saints actually united to Him? And is it not true, therefore, that God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, has quickened us together with Christ, raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus? There is the whole Church now before the eye of God, and He has it there, ‘that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness towards us through (in) Christ Jesus.’ Edward Dennett, “Expository Jottings: What is it to be seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus?” in Christian Friend, Vol. 11, (1884), p. 204; Electronic ed. accessed on 8/17/17 here: http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/dennett/seathvnl.html

 

The testimony of Mitch Zajac

Written by krkeyser on August 17th, 2017

Our friend & brother in Christ, Mitch Zajac’s story may be viewed here; it’s well worth your time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qf528enUQz8

 

Scenes Of God’s Glory From The Cancer Ward

Written by krkeyser on July 27th, 2017

Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted.” Psalm 25:16

*

Authentic Christianity – a living relationship with Christ by faith – is built for real life with all its trials and difficulties. I was practically reminded of this during a recent visit to a believing friend who is currently fighting cancer. Although she is in the hospital in a state far from our home, we were in her area for the preaching of God’s Word, and so decided to visit and encourage her. Even as I type that last phrase, I’m smiling, for what occurred was that my wife, Naomi & I, were the ones who were encouraged. Seeing the reality of the faith of this suffering sister and her devoted husband demonstrated afresh the reality of the Lord’s mercies in the crucible of pain.

From Anger To Praise

Our friend’s cancer was diagnosed shortly after her husband lost his job. Like many of us, this brother was initially dismayed and angry: Why would God allow this to happen now? As he recounted his past bitterness, I thought to myself: “Brother, I’m certain I would’ve harbored hard thoughts too.” Yet our Father “knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14.) It turned out, that the severance package was generous and in God’s good providence, the family insurance continues for a year. What seemed at first to be a major blow, turned out to be the Almighty’s gracious supply for His children’s needs. In addition, the husband was set free from normal working responsibilities in order to care for his wife. Truly, “a man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9.)

Praising From The Sickbed

From her sickbed, this sister repeatedly spoke of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Her husband agreed and could only lament his former doubt. He spoke with the quietness of conviction, affirming that the Lord is to be trusted and is doing all things well. How can people going through such a severe trial praise the Lord? The answer is that it is nothing short of supernatural!

In times of stress and difficulty, Christ’s people have a decided advantage:

  • The Lord promises to never leave or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5.)
  • He died to remove their sins and rose again to give them eternal and abundant life (1 Cor. 15:3-4; John 10:10.)
  • His Spirit lives within them and empowers them to glorify God from the fiery furnaces of this world (John 14:16-18.)
  • They also have the settled assurance that the Lord providentially works all things for good (Rom. 8:28-30.)
  • God works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11) and that will is directing history toward the inexorable enthronement of His glorified Son, Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16.)
  • Part of that will also dictates that His people will be eternally with Him, sharing in His glory and serving in His heavenly administration (John 17:24-26; 2 Tim. 2:11-13.)

As Isaac Watts put it:

Plunged in a gulf of dark despair
We wretched sinners lay,
Without one cheerful beam of hope,
Or spark of glimm’ring day.

With pitying eyes the Prince of grace
Beheld our helpless grief;
He saw, and, O amazing love!
He ran to our relief.
[i]

Glory, Glory, Glory

Present sufferings cannot compare with believers’ future glory (Rom. 8:18.) The Holy Spirit used Paul to write these words. By his own experience, he was an authority on human suffering. Sorrow may endure for the night time, but for the believer, joy cometh in the morning. The great eternal morning when the Lord will come to receive His saints to Himself (John 14:3.) Bodies that are now afflicted with diseases like cancer, will then be clothed with immortality (1 Cor. 15:42-55; 2 Cor. 4:17-5:8.) Spirits that are plagued by the inward struggle against sin will enter into the glorious liberty of the sons of God (Rom. 8:11, 15-23.) As Robert Murray M’Cheyne poetically envisioned it:

When I stand before the throne

Dressed in beauty not my own,

When I see thee as thou art,

Love thee with unsinning heart,

Then, Lord, shall I fully know—

Not till then—how much I owe.[ii]

______________________________________________________________________

[i] Isaac Watts, The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1998).

[ii] Robert Murray McCheyne, The Works of the Late Robert Murray McCheyne, Vol. 1. (New York: Robert Carter, 1848), 360–361.

* J. Hodgson Lobley, “The Special Surgical Auxiliary Hospital At The Star & Garter Hotel,  Richmond (UK)” (1918): Accessed here.

 

Danse Macabre

Written by krkeyser on July 19th, 2017

The timeworn, cynically homespun adage has it that there is nothing certain except for “death and taxes.” Nevertheless, modern science continues its relentlessly optimistic quest to abolish death, with tech entrepreneurs funding ever more ambitious schemes to live forever.[1] End-of-life medical care and the funeral industry – multibillion dollar businesses in North America alone – seek to dull the pain and obscure the ubiquity of death, veiling its grotesqueness under a cosmetically constructed façade of simulated sleep. A more recent concept in mitigating the horror of death came to my attention earlier in the week, appropriately enough in an obituary.

Sunbury, GA Cemetary (Photo by KRK)

The English Approach: Let’s Talk About Death

The late Mr. Jon Underwood of London was a pioneering proponent of the “Death Café” movement. The idea is to gather over tea and cake and discuss one’s own mortality. On the one hand, this is a commendable effort to face reality: death comes to all human beings and it behooves them to face that fact.[2] The only problem is that it does not go far enough in thinking about the matter. This is shown by Mr. Underwood’s comment when asked about his own demise: “It’s not ‘that I’m not scared of dying — I am! . . . But doing this work has given me confidence that whatever happens I will respond with openness and resilience. I know I will cope. That’s really useful!’”[3] Sadly, his Buddhism[4] offers no certainty for what comes after death; of course, that is the momentous issue. What comes after this life determines whether or not one can “cope” with death and its aftermath.

After Death, Eternal Existence, But Where?

The best place to learn about death is to the words of the Creator of life, who vanquished death through resurrection – The Lord Jesus Christ. He has been to the afterlife and returned to tell the tale (1 Cor. 15:3-8.) Death exists in our world because of mankind’s historical and ongoing sin (Romans 5:12; 6:23.) The Lord Jesus came to earth to destroy sin and the Devil who exploits it to human beings’ cost (1 John 3:8.) Not only did Christ physically die, He also suffered and died under the wrath of God for our sin (1 Pet. 3:18.) Thus, He knows what lies beyond this world and has dealt with sin which separates us from our Maker. Those who are trusting Christ for salvation need not fear death, for it is a vanquished foe.[5]

Christ’s words to Martha are revelatory: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25-26.) He can promise life after death because He has defeated death, as Hebrews 2 explains: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15; boldface mine.)

Elsewhere the Lord Jesus described the fruitfulness of His death and resurrection, saying: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24.) Commenting on His future harvest, one preacher remarked:

“The extent of this fruit-bearing we do not yet see. It is only one here, and another there, whom we see quickened from the death of sin by the all-vivifying power of him who, as the last Adam, is made a quickening spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). But, in the day of his glorious re-appearing; when he comes with the ten thousand of his saints, those who have slept in him, and those who shall be alive at his return; when he comes to smite Antichrist, to bind Satan, to deliver creation from its groans, to bless Israel, to be a light to the Gentiles, to set up his righteous kingdom, and to make all things new; it shall be seen what he has done by dying. In that day, when he presents to himself the Church of the first-born, the redeemed from among men, without spot or wrinkle, a great multitude that no man can number, we shall learn the extent and excellency of that fruitfulness which he acquired by dying. Heaven and earth, men and angels, shall then see why it was that this corn of wheat fell into the ground and died.”[6]

Christ For Us, With Us, And in Us

To those who receive Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are promised His presence through His indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:16-23; Col. 1:27.) He lives in them and empowers them for service (John 15:5); even if they should die physically, they are not separated from Him for an instant (2 Cor. 5:1-8.) Their soul and spirit – the incorporeal part of humans – are instantly in glory with Christ (Luke 23:43.) At His coming, their bodies will be raised, transformed into glorified form, and caught up to be with the Lord (Phil. 3:20-21; Psa. 17:15; 1 John 3:1-2.)

If one rejects Christ’s offer to save and transform one into His glorious image, there is nothing left but to suffer a lost eternity of conscious punishment in the Lake of Fire – what people commonly call “hell” (Mark 9:42-48; Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 20:11-15.) The only way to “cope” with life, dying, death and what comes after is to have a living relationship with the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:3.)

Ford Maddox Brown, Convalescent, (Portrait of Emma Maddox Brown); https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/Ford_Madox_Brown_-_Convalescent_-_Portrait_of_Emma_Madox_Brown.jpg, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/Ford_Madox_Brown_-_Convalescent_-_Portrait_of_Emma_Madox_Brown.jpg

Here are afflictions and trials severe,
Here is no rest—is no rest;
Here I must part
with the friends I hold dear,
Yet I am blest—I am blest.
Sweet is the promise
I read in Thy Word:
Blessed are they
who have died in the Lord;
They have been called
to receive their reward;
‘There, there is rest—there is rest.’

This world of care is
a wilderness state,
Here is no rest—is no rest;
But I must bear from
the world all its hate,
Yet I am blest—I am blest.
Soon shall I be
from the wicked released;
Soon shall the weary forever be blest;
Soon shall I lean upon Jesus’ breast;
‘There, there is rest—there is rest.’
[7]

♰        ♰         ♰        ♰         ♰         ♰

Death and the curse were in our cup:
O Christ, ’twas full for Thee;
But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,
’Tis empty now for me.
That bitter cup, love drank it up;
Now blessing’s draught for me.

Jehovah lifted up His rod;
O Christ, it fell on Thee!
Thou wast sore stricken of Thy God;
There’s not one stroke for me.
Thy tears, Thy blood, beneath it flowed;
Thy bruising healeth me.

The tempest’s awful voice was heard,
O Christ, it broke on Thee!
Thy open bosom was my ward,
It braved the storm for me.
Thy form was scarred, Thy visage marred;
Now cloudless peace for me.
 

Jehovah bade His sword awake;
O Christ, it woke ’gainst Thee!
Thy blood the flaming blade must slake;
Thine heart its sheath must be;
All for my sake, my peace to make;
Now sleeps that sword for me.

For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,
And I have died in Thee!
Thou’rt ris’n—my hands are all untied,
And now Thou liv’st in me.
When purified, made white and tried,
Thy glory then for me![8]

______________________________________________________________________

[1] Time, 9/30/13, Cover story: http://time.com/574/google-vs-death/

[2] Heb. 9:27. Of course, Christ promised the notable exception of those believers who are alive when He returns “in the air” to collect His church, 1 Thes. 4:13-18. Even if a believer dies before this event, he will: 1. Not taste of death in the sense that he will never be separated from God’s love in Christ, John 11:25-26; Rom. 8:37-39; Heb. 2:9-13. 2. Be raised to meet the Lord in the sky, 1 Thes. 4:14-16; 1 Cor. 15:20-23.

[3] Quoted in his obituary: Iliana Magra, “Jon Underwood, Founder of Death Café Movement, Dies At 44,” New York Times, 7/11/17, electronic ed. accessed here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/international-home/jon-underwood-dead-death-cafe-movement.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fobituaries&action=click&contentCollection=obituaries&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0 [Boldface mine.]

[4] “As a Buddhist, Mr. Underwood had already contemplated the philosophical questions of dying.” Ibid.; His website also indicates that he was a student at “Jamyang Buddhist Centre,” Accessed here: http://deathcafe.com/profile/2/

[5] As a Puritan writer explained it: “Death to a holy man is nothing but the changing of his grace into glory, his faith into vision, his hope into fruition, and his love into perfect comprehension.” Thomas Brooks, “The Crown & Glory of Christianity,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, Vol. 4. (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1867), 179.

[6] Horatius Bonar, “Sermon XXIII: Life & Fruitfulness Through Death,” in Family Sermons. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1863), 180. In another sermon, he said: “The first Adam died; so also died the second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven. But there is a difference. The first Adam died, and, therefore, we die. The second Adam died, and therefore, we live; for the last Adam was made a quickening spirit; and this is the pledge of final victory over death and the tomb. Thus, the grave is the cradle of life; night is the womb of day; and sunset has become sunrise to our shaded and sorrowful earth. Yet, this is not yet realized. We are still under the reign of death, and this is the hour and the power of darkness. The day of the destruction of death, and the unlocking of sepulchers is not yet. It will come in due time. Meanwhile we have to look on death; for our dwelling is in a world of death,—a land of graves. If, then, we would get beyond death’s circle and shadow, we must look above. Death is here, but life is yonder! Corruption is here, incorruption is yonder. The fading is here, the blooming is yonder. We must take the wings of the morning and fly away to the region of the unsorrowing and the undying; where ‘that which is sown in weakness shall be raised in power, and death be swallowed up in victory.’” H. Bonar, “Sermon XLIII: The Mortal & The Immortal,” in Family Sermons, 418-419.

[7] Anon., Believer’s Hymnbook, #72.

[8] Anne Ross Cousin, “O Christ What Burdens Bowed Thy Head,”; electronic ed. accessed on 7/19/17 here: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/c/ocwbubth.htm