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Daniel At The University (a Guest-post by David Gooding)

Friday, January 19th, 2018

“Daniel didn’t object to the opportunity to be educated; he gladly accepted the courses they offered him in the university. Moreover, when they changed his name and the names of his colleagues (names that incorporated the name of God) and gave them names that incorporated the names of their idols, Daniel didn’t object (1:7). You can’t stop people calling you what they will, can you? But when he was supposed to eat the king’s meat in the university dining room, which would have been offered to the gods according to the ceremonies of the time, then he and his colleagues downright refused. They had heard about idolatry from Jeremiah and Isaiah and had seen signs of it amongst the apostates in Israel. But to see idolatry in the university in Babylon, ‘No!’ said Daniel, ‘I will not submit to it.’ Why not? Because an idolatrous interpretation of the universe is a false interpretation. It is not true!

What was the idolatrous interpretation of the universe? To put it as briefly as I can, according to the New Testament the ancient nations knew the true God, but ‘did not see fit to acknowledge God’ (Rom 1:28). When they ceased believing in the true God they didn’t start believing in nothing, they had to make gods of their own. Their gods were, on the one part, the deification of the forces of Nature: the storm, the moon, the sun, the great powers of chaos, and so forth. They also made gods out of the physiological processes of the human body. They worshipped the goddess of love. And when they felt aggressive urges they said a god had got a hold of them, so they worshipped the god of war. When men lose faith in the true God that is what they do.

If ever there was an age in modern times that worshipped the goddess of love (Aphrodite), it is our modern world. Ask this bright young woman who has just murdered her lover’s wife and she will say, ‘It was love that made me do it.’ That’s supposed to be enough excuse? And then the jury lets them off, saying that it was love made them do it. It’s just like the ancients; they would have said, ‘The goddess Aphrodite got hold of me.’ You can’t resist a goddess and if it is love that moves you to murder your lover’s wife you must not call that murder. You will say, ‘I was blinded by love.’

Our modern world may not worship idols made of stone and wood any more. But if you ask our modern atheists and humanists what they regard as the ultimate powers that brought in and will yet destroy our universe, they will answer in their scientific jargon exactly as the old idolaters of the ancient world, ‘There is no God!’

What brought our universe and me into being?

‘Basic energy; the strong atomic power and the weak atomic power, electromagnetism and gravity, a bit of physiology, chemistry and biology put in!’

And the interesting thing about that is, all these powers and processes are utterly mindless. They don’t know what they do, and when they have done it they don’t know they have done it. They have no purpose, they are utterly blind. They have made us without intending to and one day they will destroy us. And when they have destroyed us and our planet they won’t know they have done it. That’s idolatry of the highest order, and it is taught in many of our schools from the infants upwards—atheistic, humanistic evolution.

P 18 Daniel wouldn’t have it. Even if it cost him his university career, he wouldn’t have it. He wouldn’t compromise his faith, so he refused to eat the food that had been offered to idols. Why? Because the idolatrous interpretation of the universe isn’t true. And universities are places where we are supposed to examine the truth. It not only demeans God; it demeans mankind too. What is the value of a human being? Why shouldn’t you kill anyone? If one of these days you had a mind to, and you saw a sophisticated computer coming towards you, you might be tempted to kick it in the ‘ribs’ and destroy the thing. Nobody would charge you with murder. What’s the difference between destroying a sophisticated computer and destroying a human being? Well, if there is no God, there is very little difference; both are the end products of blind evolution.

But if there is a God, there is a difference. Man, says the Bible, is made in the image of God (Gen 1:26–27). Human beings are more important than the whole universe put together. You wouldn’t think of worshipping the sun up in the sky. My poor little brain is but the size of a grapefruit and the sun is millions and millions of miles across, but a human brain is more significant than the sun. I know the sun is there; the sun doesn’t know I am here. I know how the sun works, thanks to the scientists; the sun doesn’t know how I work. It is just so much gas and a few atoms running around—a big atomic furnace, so some scientists say. A human brain is infinitely more significant. And would you hold a view that says that one day the sun in its mindlessness will explode and the earth will evaporate, and that will be the end of the human race? If that is true, then we are not what we thought we were. We are merely the end products of mindless, irrational, purposeless forces with no future ahead of us but ultimate extinction, not only for us as individuals but for the whole human race.

Daniel wouldn’t believe it. He believed there is a God and that man is made in the image of God. It is there that our values are based. Some of us tell the Russians (with as much sympathy as we can), ‘If in years past you had believed that man was made in the image of God, Stalin wouldn’t have eliminated sixty million.’

Daniel stood uncompromisingly for the God of the Old Testament, the unique Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, and mankind made in his image. This is the truth about man.

We should try to understand what the scientists say, both the believing scientists and the unbelieving; and the technologists, believing and unbelieving. We are not to be ignoramuses! Like Daniel, we shall welcome every bit of education; but we shall need to stand within the world of education for the truth about God and the truth about man.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel: Civil Servant & Saint. (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 17-18. For more click here.

“Daniel, A Public Figure Who Trusted The Lord” (A Guest-post by D.W. Gooding)

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Photo by KRK

“. . . [I]n spite of the fact that he lived his life as an expatriate in a foreign culture and rose to such eminence within that culture and in their civil service, he was a man who not only maintained his piety, but he maintained also his faith and hope. He maintained his personal life of prayer, and not only in private. Under the first king of Persia, through an edict of the state that banned prayer to any god except to the emperor for a period of a month or so, Daniel maintained his devotions and made sure that the public were aware that he continued in his life of devoted prayer to his God, in spite of his success in the Gentile world.

There have been many men (and there are still many), having been brought up in a Christian environment, and then rising to great positions in the state or in industry or science, who quietly maintain their devotion, if not always publicly. They say their prayers at night, even if nobody else knows about it. But Daniel did not only maintain his devotion, he maintained his faith and that is another thing altogether. He maintained his Jewish hope. That is all the more remarkable because Daniel’s faith was not some vague kind of religion composed mostly of moral precepts, ‘Do good and try to be kind and honest.’ Daniel’s hope was centred on this, that Israel’s God was the only true God amidst the multitude of gods and goddesses that all the nations of the ancient Middle East worshipped. Daniel held that the God of Israel was the only true God, and that all the other gods of the nations were only nonsense; idolatrous figments of human imagination. You will see at once that that kind of view wouldn’t necessarily have been in great favour in the civil service of Babylon, nor in the temples of that nation, but he maintained it nonetheless.

Daniel’s faith was that not only was Israel’s God the only true god—the transcendent Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, but that that transcendent Creator had chosen Israel to carry a sublime, distinct and special role among all the other nations. They weren’t just one more nation; Israel’s faith was that they had been chosen by God Almighty and raised up to carry a testimony to the true God, to protest in his name against their idolatry and to point the other nations to him who is the true God, in such words as Isaiah would have heralded, ‘Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other’ (45:22).

That was Israel’s faith, a pointer and missionary for the true God, chosen by him for this unique ministry among the nations. It was Israel’s faith; and it was certainly Daniel’s persuasion that grew deeper as the years went by, that it was through Israel that the salvation of the world would come about. Daniel maintained that faith throughout his long years, in spite of all that he came to know about the brilliant civilizations of Babylon and Persia and for all his success in those Gentile fields.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel: Civil Servant & Saint. (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 9; more available here.

So What’s New? – A Guest-post by R.P. Amos

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Behold, I make all things new,” Rev. 21:5

New cars, new smartphones, new technology, new leaders, new homes, new medicines, new clothes, new job and a new spouse are the daily pursuit and dream of many.  Money, education, time, stress, and relationships are spent to gain the rush of something new.  And yet what is new today becomes old tomorrow and the thirst continues unquenched.

However, the believer in Christ Jesus has at least 7 major things called ‘new’ that will never change.  They bring joy.  They endure forever.  And they don’t get old.

  1. New Covenant – “Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (Heb.12:24)

The Old Covenant (Testament) law promised physical blessing or physical cursing in the land of Israel.  The average person would experience such for about 70 years.  But the New Covenant has “better promises.”  It promises spiritual blessings with no cursing.  The promises range from the forgiveness of sins to an eternal heavenly inheritance.

But the new covenant in Christ Jesus is also a “better covenant” by the terms it offers.  The Old gave the blessings only – if – one obeyed the rules; otherwise it would be the promised cursing.  That’s why Israel ended up cursed for it was based on man’s ability to perform according to God’s holy standard.  The new covenant is embraced by an act of faith in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.  The promises are based on what God will do by what Christ did, not what we do.  (See Deut. 28 / Eph. 1-3 / 1 Pet. 1:4 / Heb. 8-10)

  1. New Creature – “in Christ, he is a new creature” [creation] (2 Cor. 5:17)

When one puts their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ he is baptized with the Spirit into a union with the living Lord.  He is an actual member of the body of the eternal Christ as the life of Christ is in him.  Being connected to the Son of God he is now one with Christ.  God now accepts him in Christ – because God has accepted Christ with full privilege.  The old status, destiny, principle of relationship and way to perform has forever changed.  He is a new co-heir with Christ Jesus of all the glory that is ahead.

The one “in Christ Jesus” now has: a new Integrity (holy) – a new Validity (accepted) – a new Amnesty (forgiveness) – a new Eternity (heavenly kingdom) – a new Vitality (Spirit-life) – a new Identity (sons of God) – a new Unity (part of the one body).  (Eph. 1-3, Gal. 3:26-28, 4:6-7, Col. 1:13 / 2 Cor. 3:17 – “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”)

  1. New Man – “…to make in Himself…one new man”                                 (Eph. 2:15)

The new man is God’s creation by His workmanship.  Rather than being dead in our sins (a mind with no life to understand and know God) the believer now has been renewed in knowledge and understanding of God.  “The new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him,” Col. 3:10.  (Also 1 John 5:20 / 1 Cor. 2:10-16)

With that renewed knowledge the believer has the nature and ability of holiness, “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” Eph. 4:24.

  1. New Way – “a new and living way…He hath consecrated for us”          (Heb:10:20)

No longer is there a closed door (the veil) that keeps one from the presence of God with the exception of an ordained religious man.  That door has been opened when Christ’s blood was given to take away all our sin.   Because the Lord Jesus is alive and seated, not in a holy city on earth but in the heavenly Jerusalem next to God, every believer can come through Him to directly commune with God – apart from a human man on earth.

The believer also does not have to come to a holy temple building on earth to be in God’s presence.  This is because he is now a living spiritual stone that is part of the new temple of God  – which is a body of Spirit-indwelt people – not a pile of rocks.  Believers are God’s sanctuary!  (See Heb. 10:19-21, Matt. 27:51, Eph. 2:20-22 / 1 Pet. 2:5, 1 Cor. 3:16-17)

  1. New Commandment – “A new commandment I give unto you”     (John 13:34)

The new commandment is not a “thou shalt not” but a ‘thou shalt’.  It is not only to love your neighbor as yourself but also to love one another in Christ’s body as Jesus loved you.  His love was a sacrificial love that gave Himself.  His love is enduring, patient, longsuffering – and in truth.  This love is now in our hearts, not just a rule on stone.  And love never fails.  It’s even greater than faith and hope.  (See Eph. 5:2 / Rom. 5:5 / 1 Cor. 13:13)

  1. New Song – “And they sung a new song saying, Thou art worthy” (Rev. 5:9)

Israel sang a victory song unto the Lord when they were redeemed (freed) from slavery.  After the blood was applied from the Passover lamb, Pharaoh finally released them from Egypt.  In exuberant song they rejoiced that their masters sank as a stone in the waters and were drowned in the Red Sea.  They could enjoy life for a few years.  (Exo. 15)

The new song is sung not only by believing Jews but also by their former enemies, people from every nation. The theme of the excitement is that the Lord Jesus is their lamb and has redeemed them from the slavery and judgment of sin by His own life’s blood.  They are God’s kingdom of priests to reign on the earth eternally.  This new victory song will be sung in heaven right before the Lord returns to destroy unrepentant sinners.  Then His saints will have freedom on earth, but the new song begins now in faith, (Rev. 5:1-10).

  1. New Heavens and earth – “I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1)

The hope for the future is not reformation of present politics or environmental climate control but re-creation.  Because unrepentant sinners and Satan will be removed and cast into the lake of fire there will be some things missing.  War is gone.  Disease is gone.  Suffering is gone.  Death is gone.  Pain, sorrow and tears are gone, too.  (Rev. 21:1-5)

While things are gone there will be some things present.  God will be there.  The Lord and His bride will be there.  The tree of life will be there in a gorgeous and peaceful environment.  God’s glory in Christ Jesus will be there and be so bright that there will be no need of the sun.  There is no night there because eternal light is shining.  Yes, there will be peace on earth and good will toward men – and unto the Lord Jesus.  (Rev. 21-22)

We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

2 Peter 3:13

That Womanly Influence

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah the granddaughter of Omri. He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother advised him to do wickedly. Therefore he did evil in the sight of the Lord, like the house of Ahab; for they were his counselors after the death of his father, to his destruction. He also followed their advice, and went with Jehoram the son of Ahab king of Israel to war against Hazael king of Syria at Ramoth Gilead; and the Syrians wounded Joram.” 2 Chronicles 22:2-5

My son, keep your father’s command, And do not forsake the law of your mother.” Proverbs 6:20[1]

2

The privilege of having a loving and wise mother is an inestimable blessing to one’s early life. When godliness is added to this list of virtues, she is truly a favorable influence on her family. As Proverbs 31:28 affirms: “Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her.” But in King Ahaziah’s case, his mother was jealous rather than loving, and wicked instead of wise. Under the Queen-mother Athaliah’s malign tutelage, this king continued in the footsteps of his wicked father and his dissipated maternal grandfather and great-grandfather, the vile tyrants Ahab and Omri. Many in this world enter life with similarly bad parents. Is there no hope for them? Thankfully, God’s Word shows that even without good natural parents, people may learn righteous maternal wisdom in the Scriptures (Prov. 6:20), and find the Lord to be “a Father of the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5.)

A Woman Scorned

Athaliah was a poor example and an even worse teacher for her son. Her wicked instruction directly lead to his untimely death with his apostate cousins, slain by Jehu as a judgment from God (2 Chron. 22:5-9.) In Ahaziah’s career one sees the principle that was earlier enunciated by Abijah: “O children of Israel, do not fight against the Lord God of your fathers, for you shall not prosper!” (2 Chron. 13:12.) Another verse notes: “Good understanding gains favor, But the way of the unfaithful is hard” (Prov. 13:15.) In the aftermath, his mother vented her wrath on the remainder of the royal seed (2 Chron. 22:10.) Nevertheless, in God’s providence, a godly woman named Jehoshabeath and her faithful husband Jehoiada the priest intervened to save one heir: Joash, who eventually reigned on Judah’s throne, thereby safeguarding the Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7.

Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child . . .

3

How different from this sad tale was the experience of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and others whose God-fearing mothers taught them the divine promises. Later children in the Old Testament era could join with Timothy in saying: “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15.) But what if some did not enjoy this favored home-life? The Bible offers surrogate maternal guidance in the form of biblical teaching. For example, Proverbs regularly personifies wisdom in feminine form (e.g. Prov. 1:20-33.) Dear reader, you may not have had godly parents, but the Lord offers you parental guidance in His Word. In fact, if you obey their teaching they will lead you to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal salvation (John 1:12-13.) His Spirit will live within you and lead you as you prayerfully read the Bible (1 Cor. 2:7-16.) God will lead you into an increasing knowledge of the truth, mentally and experientially, and you will find Him to be a faithful Father who always blesses His children. ________________________________________________________________________

ENDNOTES

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture citations are from the Holy Bible, New King James Version. The boldface is mine for emphasis.

[2] Edouard Manet, “Berthe Morisot With A Bouquet Of Violets.” Image in the public domain, labelled for non-commercial reuse with modification; accessed on 12/19/17 here: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2c/Edouard_Manet_-_Berthe_Morisot_With_a_Bouquet_of_Violets_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

[3] Camille Corot, “A Woman Reading.” Image in the public domain, labelled for non-commercial reuse with modification; accessed on 12/19/17 here: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/92/Camille_Corot_-_A_Woman_Reading_-_The_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art.jpg/707px-Camille_Corot_-_A_Woman_Reading_-_The_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art.jpg

“Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven!” – A Retropost by C.H. Mackintosh

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

“The present is a moment of deep solemnity. The arch-enemy is putting forth every effort to sap the very foundations of Christianity. In all directions the divine authority and all-sufficiency of Holy Scripture is being called in question. Rationalism is gaining ground to a fearful extent at our seats of learning and polluting the fountains where the streams of religious thought and feeling are spreading over the land. Truth is discounted even among those who ought to be its guardians. We may now-a-days behold the strange sight of professing Christian teachers taking part at meetings where professed infidels preside. Sorrowfully, men who are professed infidels themselves may become pastors and teachers in that which calls itself the Church of God.

In the face of all this, how precious, how weighty is our motto, ‘Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven!’ Nothing can touch this. It is above and beyond the reach of all the powers of earth and hell, men and demons. ‘The Word of our God shall stand forever.’ The Lord be praised for the sweet and solid consolation of this!

Photo by KRK. All rights reserved.

But let us remember the counterpart: ‘Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.’ Here lies the great moral safeguard for the soul in this dark and evil day. To have God’s Word hidden in the heart is the divine secret of being preserved from all the snares of the enemy and from all the evil influences which are at work around us. Satan and his agents can do absolutely nothing with a soul that reverently clings to Scripture. The man who has learned in the school of Christ, the force and meaning of that one commanding sentence, ‘It is written,’ is safe against all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

. . . [T]he one grand point for the people of God at all times is obedience. It is not a question of power or of gift or of external show or of numbers; it is simply a question of obedience. ‘To obey is better than sacrifice.’ To obey what? The Church? No! The Church is a hopeless ruin and cannot therefore be an authority. Obey what? The Word of the Lord! What a rest for the heart! What authority for the path! What stability for the whole practical career! There is nothing like it. It tranquilizes the spirit in a wonderful manner and imparts a holy consistency to the character. It is a divine answer to those who talk of power, boast of numbers, point to external show and profess reverence for antiquity. Moreover, it is the divine antidote for the spirit of independence, so common at the present day, and for the haughty uprisings of the human will and the bold assertion of man’s rights. The human mind is tossed like a ball from superstition to infidelity and can find no rest. It is like a ship without compass, rudder or anchor, driven here and there.”

C.H. Mackintosh, “A Motto For The Year 1872,” in Short Papers, Vol. 2. (Sunbury, PA: Believer’s Bookshelf, 1975), 159-160. [Italics original.]

Authentic Thanksgiving

Thursday, 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!

________________________________________________________________________

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

“Outside The Camp” by R.P. Amos

Sunday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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)

Monday, 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