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The Beautiful Body

Monday, January 28th, 2013

And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Acts 28:15

358px-El_Greco_ApostlesImage found here: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/06/El_Greco_Apostles.JPG/358px-El_Greco_Apostles.JPG

People sometimes imagine that Paul was a spiritual superman: an intrepid missionary, theological genius, and multi-gifted polymath, who never shrank from duty or danger in the cause of Christ. Doubtless, he braved hardships and opposition that would overwhelm most human beings – a survey of his multifaceted trials in 2 Corinthians 11:22-29 makes this apparent (see also 2 Cor. 12:10 & 1 Cor. 4:9-13.) This, however, is only one side of the story; the apostle also depended upon the encouragement of the other parts of the Body of Christ – that well-known metaphor for the spiritual body composed of believing Jews and Gentiles who are indissolubly linked in the church.

“Remember The Prisoners As If Chained With Them”

Paul’s journey as a prisoner being transported to Rome provides an excellent window into the fellowship that he enjoyed with believers – even some who were heretofore unknown to him. When the ship landed at Sidon, the officer in charge of the prisoners permitted Paul to go to his “friends” for refreshment (Acts 27:3); they were probably Christians that he knew from previous trips. Upon coming to territory unknown to himself in Italy, Paul enjoyed the hospitality of local saints (Acts 28:14) and was further cheered by the approach of representatives of the believers from the imperial capital city. As verse 15 says: “…when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Though he relied on the Lord throughout his service, the Almighty also saw fit to use His people to comfort and strengthen His apostle to the nations.

“If One Member Suffers…”

So often in life’s hard times I have been similarly comforted by the Body of Christ. When by the bedside of a dying loved one, who can calculate the value of a fellow-believer standing by to pray and weep with those who weep? When in a sickbed, faithful saints who visit, write, or call often make the difference between sadness and circumstance-defying joy. At funerals, in times of family trouble, and even visiting Christians who are in prison, members of the body serve each other by their presence and their prayers.

Like Head, like Members

These activities bear the unmistakable mark of the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 1:18.) He is a master at consoling the mourning (Jn. 11), visiting the sick (Mk. 1:29-31), and dealing with family dysfunction (Mt. 20:20-28.) As His people abide in Him they produce the fruit – righteous acts of beauty – that savor of the Lord’s mercies and goodness. In His Spirit’s power, believers use their time, talents, and spiritual gifts to edify and strengthen one another. Where would we be without such a beautiful body to aid us under the guidance of the perfectly wise Head, the Lord Jesus Christ? Thank God, we need not contemplate this possibility for long, for the Body is eternally linked to Christ and will be with Him forever in glory.

Patience Produced By Love

Monday, June 11th, 2012

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.” Genesis 29:20

Despite his scheming spirit, Jacob was a first class lover. Even after he was duped into marrying weak-eyed Leah by his new father-in-law, Laban, he still sought to wed his first love, Rachel. Seven additional years of sweat equity is the price that he paid for this honor.[i] Nonetheless, the Bible comments on the strength of his affection for this maiden, saying: “…they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Gen. 29:20.) This quality is a worthy description of the spiritual devotion that Christians may experience as they serve the Lord Jesus while awaiting His return.

Worthwhile Work

  Some things merit hard work. Parents who migrate to a new nation in hopes of giving their children a better life and more educational and commercial opportunities exemplify this principle well. They toil for long hours in difficult conditions because of their love for their families. In like manner, believers are to live for the Lord, laboring diligently in His service, even if it means suffering hardships, privations, and persecution. Nevertheless, in all of these troubles, they must always keep in mind that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Mt. 11:30.) This is because Christian work for the Lord is motivated from their possession of salvation by faith in Christ – not as a means of obtaining salvation or favor from Him (as in the Pharisees’ teaching.) Thus, believers do not work to be saved; rather they work because they are saved (Eph. 2:8-10.) Like Jacob’s attitude regarding his work, their service – as fatiguing as it sometimes is – comes from hearts full of loving gratitude towards the God of grace who has given them eternal life.[ii] Additionally, in all of their trials and sorrows they have the assurance of the Holy Spirit’s help and the risen Christ’s abiding presence.

Paul sums up the worthiness of rigorous service for Christ in these words: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58.) The underlying Greek word for “labor” in this verse comes from the root for a beating or a blow[iii], and the word-group is defined in this manner by two authorities: “To engage in hard work, implying difficulties and trouble—‘hard work, toil, to work hard, to toil, to labor.’[iv] The able classicist Mr. Vine adds: “[It] primarily denotes ‘a striking, beating’ (akin to kopto, ‘to strike, cut’), then, ‘toil resulting in weariness, laborious toil, trouble’.”[v]

Someone might ask: “But how do we know that this labor is not in vain?” The context of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 gives the answer: The Lord Jesus’ triumphant resurrection, which opens the way for His people’s resurrection, proves that God will ultimately be victorious over evil. Work for the Lord will abide for eternity, because the Son of God has conquered every foe. The universe merely awaits His return to reveal the comprehensive nature of His victory.

Ye Fearful Saints, Fresh Courage Take

Imagine the joy of Jacob coming home after a difficult day at work to the one who motivated it all: his beloved Rachel. Similarly, Deck’s classic lyrics describe the consummated pleasure of the saints when the Lord returns in the air for them:

‘A little while’ — He’ll come again;

Let us the precious hours redeem,

Our only grief to give Him pain,

Our joy to serve and follow Him.

Watching and ready may we be,

As those that wait their Lord to see.

 

‘A little while’ – ‘twill soon be past,

Why should we shun the promised cross?

O let us in His footsteps haste,

Counting for Him all else but loss;

For how will recompense His smile,

The sufferings of this ‘little while’!

 

‘A little while’ – Come, Savior, come;

For Thee Thy bride has tarried long:

Take Thy poor waiting pilgrims home

To sing the new eternal song,

To see Thy glory, and to be

In everything conformed to Thee![vi]

 

In the same vein, the Puritan preacher Thomas Brooks also eloquently depicts Christian hardships in perspective against the backdrop of heavenly glory with God: “Though the work be hard, yet the wages is great. Heaven will make amends for all. Ay, one hour’s being in heaven will abundantly recompense you for cleaving to the Lord and his ways in the face of all difficulties. This carried the apostle through the greatest difficulties. He had an eye ‘to the recompense of reward;’ he looked for ‘a house that had foundations, whose builder and maker was God,’ and for ‘a heavenly country.’”[vii] Paul himself puts it this way: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18.) Let the saints then be impelled to labor out of their great love for the Lord who loves them, died for them, and is taking them to glory.

 

 



[i] A close reading of the passage demonstrates that he was able to wed her prior to the seven year period, but that was the time that he afterwards labored as his payment for his bride. Additionally, he labored for seven years for marrying her sister Leah and six for his flocks, bringing his total time of servitude to twenty years. See Gen. 29:19-30 & Gen. 31:41.

[ii] Unlike Jacob, believers do not work to gain their Beloved. Christ is the prime mover in seeking His church; He secures their place with Him as the Bride through His work on the cross as well as the resurrection, ascension, and coming again that follow it. See Eph. 5:22-33.

[iii] Friedrich Hauck, “kopiazo/kopos,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 3. Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich. electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), p. 827.

[iv] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, “kopos,” in Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, Vol. 1, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), p. 514.

[v] W. E. Vine, “Labor” in Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Vol. 2. Eds. Merrill F. Unger and William White (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), p. 349. Brackets mine.

[vi] James G. Deck, “A little while, our Lord shall come” found here: http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/173  Accessed on 6/9/12. Emphasis mine.

[vii] Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), p. 76.

To download in pdf., click on Patience Produced By Love.

The Necessity Of Thankfulness

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

“Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.” Psalm 92:1

Given that He is their Creator and Sustainer, human beings ought to naturally overflow with thanksgiving towards God. Sadly, man’s everyday existence does not conform to this most basic principle. In fact, unthankfulness is at the root of man’s problems. Romans 1 lists a catalogue of odious sins; heading the list is the failure to “glorify” God as God – i.e. giving the Almighty His rightful honor as sovereign Lord over the universe. Secondly, the verse says they were not thankful towards Him (Rom. 1:21.) Therefore, it is apparent that ingratitude is a most grievous iniquity, for it is listed before various types of perversion, violence, and other ills that most in society would recognize as bad.

Many Reasons For Gratitude

Why should people be thankful? Firstly, because God is the author of life and made them to know Him and live with Him for all eternity. When man chose to violate God’s word in the garden, he was severed from this life. As God said to Adam and Eve: if they disobeyed Him by eating, they would surely die (Gen. 2:17.) The death sin produces is physical, spiritual, and – if not remedied by receiving the gift of salvation in Christ – it becomes an eternal condition known as the second death (Rev. 21:8.)

Despite the adverse affects of the fall on human bodies and physical life, day to day existence in this world is contingent upon God giving us every breath and maintaining every heartbeat. Daniel the prophet pointed this out to the Babylonian king Belshazzar: “The God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified” (Dan. 5:23.) In presenting the gospel to the skeptical Athenians, Paul brought forth this truth as well, pointing out that “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28.) Yet, so many humans live as if God does not exist – or act as if He exists for their pleasure, not the other way around. In spite of this, He providentially gives people what they need to live and maintains the universe in the proper equilibrium for sustaining life (Acts 14:17.)

Eternal Thankfulness

In addition to being thankful for physical life, those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can also thank God for spiritual life. This life begins at conversion and is characterized by a living relationship with the triune God. Believers daily thank Him for saving them by not sparing the Son from the horrors of the cross (Rom. 8:30-32.) Furthermore, they are thankful for Christ’s glorious resurrection which declares His triumph over sin, the grave, death, and hell. They may thank God for a new standing in His sight: accepted in the Beloved, declared righteous, and eternally secure by His promise and power (Eph. 1:6; Rom. 5:1; Jn. 10:27-30.)  Christians can also be grateful that the Lord Jesus will one day return for them and call them to meet Him in the air, transform them into glorified bodies, and take them home to live with Him in the Father’s house for eternity (John 14:1-3; 1 Thes. 4:13-18.) This Thanksgiving, let everything that has breath give thanks unto the Lord – especially those who have eternal life in Christ.

To download in pdf., click here: The Necessity OfThankfulness

 

 

 

The Unparalleled Cross

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF., CLICK HERE: The Unparalleled Cross

“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:8

People sometimes read the account of Jesus’ crucifixion as if it is an ancient event that does not pertain to them. Yet the Scriptures make it plain that everyone – Jews and Gentiles – must reckon with the crucified Christ and what His death on the cross means for them personally. One may not remain neutral in Calvary’s shadow. The Lord Jesus’ death on the cross sets Christianity apart from all other belief systems, and reveals the truth about everyone: ancient or modern; rich or poor; educated or illiterate – as well as every other human demographic.

A Unique Event In The Annals Of Human History

No humanly devised philosophy or religion could invent the Lord Jesus’ unparalleled sacrifice on the cross. Numerous belief systems have martyrs like Socrates or Joseph Smith; others have noted prophets and teachers like Gautama Buddha or Muhammed. Yet only biblical Christianity has the propitiatory offering of Christ, taking place on a despised gibbet of shame. As the classic commentator J.C. Ryle notes:

The cross is the grand peculiarity of the Christian religion. Other religions have laws and moral precepts, forms and ceremonies, rewards and punishments. But other religions cannot tell us of a dying Saviour. They cannot show us the cross. This is the crown and glory of the Gospel. This is that special comfort which belongs to it alone. Miserable indeed is that religious teaching which calls itself Christian, and yet contains nothing of the cross. A man who teaches in this way, might as well profess to explain the solar system, and yet tell his hearers nothing about the sun.[i]

A modern writer agrees in these words:

 

The cross is the focal point of all of Christianity. Everything hangs on the cross—everything. In the cross the Christian church has something no other religion or philosophy has…None but Christianity has a salvation plan so strong, so poignant, or so absurd to human thinking. None but Christianity has a point in time where God, evil, and mankind collided so violently that it abolished the sin that separated man from God and changed man forever. Men and religions have long despised and stumbled over the cross. The Jews of Jesus’ day could not fathom their Messiah coming and dying. After all, messiahs don’t die. The Romans saw a dying god as weak and unworthy of their allegiance—gods aren’t slain by mortals. Islam flatly rejects the cross, saying it is inappropriate that God’s prophet would succumb to such an end.[ii]

The cross uniquely demonstrates God’s perfect righteousness. It shows that He hates sin, and yet justly extends mercy and forgiveness to repentant sinners while justifying them – declaring them righteous in His sight (Rom. 3:25-26.)

Who Knows What Lurks In The Hearts Of Men?

The cross exposes the human heart by stripping away the façade of human wisdom, culture, religion, and politics. The best and the brightest from Rome and Judea united to put the Son of God to death. An early Christian prayer describes it thus: “       For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27-28; boldface mine.) As Paul further explains it: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:7-8; boldface mine.) Human jurisprudence was found wanting due to human pride, envy, and the desire for personal advancement. The exalted ethical and legal system crafted by the Jews over centuries pronounced God the Son to be a blasphemer (Matt. 26:65.) Additionally, the vaunted Roman justice system executed a patently innocent man, whose perfect righteousness was clearly demonstrated by His many acts of kindness (John 18:38; Acts 10:38.)

Why did religious people like the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees reject their Messiah? The answer lies in Christ’s relationship to their carefully-cultivated religious image. As Stott points out:

Ostensibly Jerusalem rejected Christ on theological grounds, and outwardly the Pharisees condemned Jesus for blasphemy.  But beneath these intellectual and doctrinal objections was a hostile will.  Jesus had exposed their hypocrisy and unmasked their sins.  Their pride was wounded.  They felt humiliated.  They hated him for his holiness.  They were jealous of his influence on the common people.  These things were at the root of their repudiation of Christ.  But it was more respectable to find fault with his theology than to admit their moral embarrassment.  Their doubts were a cloak for their sins.  It has often been so.  I do not say it is always so, because of course many people have genuine theological problems.  But frequently a man’s deepest need is not intellectual but moral, and his supposed inability to believe is really an unwillingness to obey.[iii]

Why did a veteran Roman civil servant knowingly condemn an innocent man to death? The Bible says that what finally swayed Pilate to crucify the Lord Jesus was this jibe: “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar” (John 19:12.) So there it was: career and ambition versus truth and justice; advancement in this world or in the next; Caesar or Christ – all people must take a side on this issue. Either one lives for this world or they live for the one to come. If they love this evil age, they will be condemned with it. But if they love the age to come and lose their life here to gain it there, then the risen, eternal Christ will deliver them unto His kingdom and glory (Gal. 1:4-5; Matt. 16:24-27; Rom. 8:17-18.)

So the dividing lines are drawn. The cross shows man’s wisdom to be foolishness, his religion to be a sham, and his justice a travesty. Jew and Gentile, secular and religious – the crème de la crème of society condemned Jesus to death. Still today people line up for or against the slain Savior. Many invite a fabricated bloodless and cross-less Christianity, vainly pretending to please God by their religious ceremonies and good works. Others – most notably the Muslims – deny that Jesus died at all. Still others think He got what He deserved on the cross. In interpreting the events of the crucifixion thus, they but repeat the folly of their ancient unbelieving predecessors who brutally executed the Lord Jesus. Nevertheless, many willingly come to the cross and say: “Yes. Lord, Your cross reveals how bad I am: a Christ-rejecting, hell-deserving sinner. But Your shed blood also shows that You died for my sins according to the Scriptures and you have risen again to demonstrate Your triumph to give me eternal life as a free gift. Thank you for dying for me and rising again so that I might be raised to sit in the heavenlies with You” (Eph. 2:1-10; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1 John 1:7; John 3:16.) Thanks be to God, that the cross uniquely demonstrates the Lord’s perfect righteousness and love. It reveals mankind to be sinful and evil, but also reveals God to be holy, merciful, and good; the two are accurately depicted in the historic events at Calvary.

Oh, how our inmost hearts do move
While gazing on that cross!
The death of the Incarnate Love!
What shame, what grief, what joy we prove,
That He should die for us!
Our hearts were broken by that cry,
“Eli, lama sabachthani?”

Worthy of death, O God, we were;
Thy judgment was our due;
In grace Thy spotless Lamb did bear
Himself our sins and guilt and shame;
Justice our surety slew,
With Him our surety we have died,
With Him we there were crucified.[iv]


[i] J.C. Ryle, “The Cross of Christ,” in Old Paths: Being Plain Statements of Some of the Weightier Matters of Christianity. London: Charles J. Thynne, 1898,  p. 256. [Italics original.]

[ii] Timothy L. Sanford, “Cross Purposes: Calvary Reveals The Passionate Heart of God.” in Discipleship Journal, Issue 110 (March/April 1999). NavPress.

[iii] John R.W. Stott, Fundamentalism and Evangelism. London: Crusade Booklets, 1956, p. 29.

[iv] James G. Deck, “Oh, solemn hour, that hour alone” in Spiritual Songs, hymn #215, found here: http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/215 Accessed on 5/18/11.

The High Cost Of Liberty

Monday, February 28th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD THE ARTICLE IN PDF., CLICK HERE: The High Cost Of Liberty

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19

The author of the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson once penned the following regarding armed revolution:

We have had 13 states independent 11 years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s [sic] liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s [sic] natural manure.[i]

Despite this incendiary rhetoric and all of his contributions to the founding of the United States of America, Jefferson never shed a drop of his own blood to create or defend liberty.

You Say You Want A Revolution?

The recent unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Iran, and other despotically ruled nations once more shows the innate human desire for freedom from tyranny. It remains to be seen whether these protests will produce political situations where freedom may flourish. Yet on a higher level the Lord Jesus Christ “preached freedom for the prisoners…to release the oppressed” through the shedding of His own blood (Luke 4:18; Eph. 1:7.) He was willing to suffer the heinous torture of crucifixion in order to free repentant sinners. Rather than sending others to die for spiritual liberty, Christ Himself gave His life on the cross. By pouring out His blood He paid the redemption price to liberate people from the tyranny of sin, Satan, the grave, and hell. His resurrection shows that the rescue has been accomplished. Only the Lord Jesus can grant true eternal freedom to lost sinners.

To obtain “a better resurrection” many of the Lord Jesus’ followers have suffered physically and emotionally (Heb. 11:35.) Old Testament Israel experienced tremendous oppression from numerous occupying powers. As a nation Israel currently disbelieves in their true Messiah Jesus (“Yeshua” as His name is in Hebrew); for them the “times of the Gentiles” continue (Lk. 21:24.) They will not recognize Him until He comes to defend and rescue them from the ire of the nations at the end of the Tribulation period (Zech. 12:1-13:1; Matt. 23:37-39.)

Freedom Worth Suffering For

Today millions of Christians around the world continue to suffer and die for their faith; yet their stories often go unreported in the western media. Nonetheless, one day the great Deliverer the Lord Jesus Christ will come to rescue His servants from those who mercilessly persecute them (2 Thes. 1:4-10.) What is more, He will liberate both them and the creation itself from the bondage and pain that sin produces in this world (Rom. 8:14-24.) The freedom that Jefferson and other people pine for is but a pale reflection of the far greater program of liberty that God will inaugurate through His peerless Son. His work will encompass every nation and extend far beyond this planet as it currently is (Rev. 21-22; Isa. 9:6-7.) If you have never done so, call on Him for salvation, confessing your hopeless condition as a sinner, and He will save you (Rom. 10:9.) Or if you already have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, continue on in the struggle – “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12)! The kingdom that God will establish in the age to come is worth suffering the loss of everything in this age (Acts 14:21-22; Matt. 16:24-27; Mk. 10:30.)[ii]


[i] Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to William S. Smith, 13 November 1787;” accessed here on 2/28/11: http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/P/tj3/writings/brf/jefl64.htm ; emphasis mine.

[ii] An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared on the Carryduff Gospel Hall website (http://www.carryduff.org/ ) the week of February 21, 2011.

The School Of Adversity

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF., CLICK HERE: Adversity

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” Philippians 1:12

Paul was probably the most effective Christian missionary in history. His dynamic evangelistic and Bible teaching ministry resulted in many conversions and the subsequent formation of several Asian and European churches. Far from robbing the apostle of his effectiveness his imprisonment actually led to the advancement of the gospel. First, Paul diligently witnessed to his captors who were taken from the ranks of the elite palace guard (Phil. 1:13; in this verse “palace” is literally Praetorium, i.e. the place of the powerful  royal bodyguards.) Second, the curtailment of his public preaching ministry, coupled with his resolute courage in the face of danger, motivated other Christians to begin proclaiming the good news of Christ in place of the incarcerated apostle.

Paul’s example leads one to ask oneself: Am I willing to suffer that the gospel may progress to lost souls? Do the problems of life open up avenues to glorify the Lord? Christians must pray to discern how they may use every occasion to witness to the lost, as well as grow in personal dependence on the Lord. A good friend once told me how terminal cancer opened doors for him to share the good news of Christ with many people that he otherwise would not have met. I can testify that my personal affliction of cerebral palsy has taught me much about the Lord’s powerful mercy, as well as providing numerous opportunities to share Christ with people who suffer physically. Praise God that He sovereignly uses the hard things of life to bless and save people!

Originally published on www.carryduff.org (The website of Carryduff Gospel Hall, Carryduff, Northern Ireland.)

Another gem from the past: “The True Grace of God Wherein We Stand” by J.N.D.

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF., CLICK HERE: The True Grace of God wherein we stand

1 Peter 5: 12.

God is made known to us as the “God of all Grace,” and the position in which we are set is that of “tasting that He is gracious.” How hard it is for us to believe this, that the Lord is gracious. The natural feeling of our hearts is, “I know that thou art an austere man”; there is the want in all of us naturally of the understanding of the Grace of God.

There is sometimes the thought that grace implies God’s passing over sin, but no, grace supposes sin to be so horribly bad a thing that God cannot tolerate it: were it in the power of man, after being unrighteous and evil, to patch up his ways, and mend himself so as to stand before God, there would be no need of grace. The very fact of the Lord’s being gracious shows sin to be so evil a thing that, man being a sinner, his state is utterly ruined and hopeless, and nothing but free grace will do for him – can meet his need.

We must learn what God is to us, not by our own thoughts, but by what He has revealed Himself to be, and that is, “The God of all Grace.” The moment I understand that I am a sinful man, and yet that it was because the Lord knew the full extent of my sin, and what its hatefulness was, that He came to me, I understand what grace is. Faith makes me see that God is greater than my sin, and not that my sin is greater than God. . . . The Lord that I have known as laying down His life for me, is the same Lord I have to do with every day of my life, and all His dealings with me are on the same principles of grace. The great secret of growth is, the looking up to the Lord as gracious. How precious, how strengthening it is to know that Jesus is at this moment feeling and exercising the same love towards me as when He died on the cross for me.

This is a truth that should be used by us in the most common everyday circumstances of life. Suppose, for instance, I find an evil temper in myself, which I feel it difficult to overcome; let me bring it to Jesus as my Friend, virtue goes out of Him for my need. Faith should be ever thus in exercise against temptations, and not simply my own effort; my own effort against it will never be sufficient. The source of real strength is in the sense of the Lord’s being gracious. The natural man in us always disbelieves Christ as the only source of strength and of every blessing. Suppose my soul is out of communion, the natural heart says, “I must correct the cause of this before I can come to Christ,” but He is gracious; and knowing this, the way is to return to Him at once, just as we are, and then humble ourselves deeply before Him. It is only in Him and from Him that we shall find that which will restore our souls. Humbleness in His presence is the only real humbleness. If we own ourselves in His presence to be just what we are, we shall find that He will show us nothing but grace. . . .

It is Jesus who gives abiding rest to our souls, and not what our thoughts about ourselves may be. Faith never thinks about that which is in ourselves as its ground of rest; it receives, loves and apprehends what God has revealed, and what are God’s thoughts about Jesus, in whom is His rest. As knowing Jesus to be precious to our souls, our eyes and our hearts being occupied with Him, they will be effectually prevented from being taken up with the vanity and sin around; and this too will be our strength against the sin and corruption of our own hearts. Whatever I see in myself that is not in Him is sin, but then it is not thinking of my own sins, and my own vileness, and being occupied with them, that will humble me, but thinking of the Lord Jesus, dwelling upon the excellency in Him. It is well to be done with ourselves, and to be taken up with Jesus. We are entitled to forget ourselves, we are entitled to forget our sins, we are entitled to forget all but Jesus.

There is nothing so hard for our hearts as to abide in the sense of grace, to continue practically conscious that we are not under law but under grace; it is by grace that the heart is “established,” but then there is nothing more difficult for us really to comprehend than the fulness of grace, that “Grace of God wherein we stand,” and to walk in the power and consciousness of it. . . . It is only in the presence of God that we can know it, and there it is our privilege to be. The moment we get away from the presence of God, there will always be certain workings of our own thoughts within us, and our own thoughts can never reach up to the thoughts of God about us, to the “Grace of God.”

Anything that I had the smallest possible right to expect could not be pure, free grace – could not be the “Grace of God.” . . It is alone when in communion with Him that we are able to measure everything according to His grace. . . . It is impossible, when we are abiding in the sense of God’s presence, for anything, be what it may – even the state of the Church – to shake us, for we count on God, and then all things become a sphere and scene for the operation of His grace.

The having very simple thoughts of grace is the true source of our strength as Christians; and the abiding in the sense of grace, in the presence of God, is the secret of all holiness, peace, and quietness of spirit.

The “Grace of God” is so unlimited, so full, so perfect, that if we get for a moment out of the presence of God, we cannot have the true consciousness of it, we have no strength to apprehend it; and if we attempt to know it out of His presence, we shall only turn it to licentiousness. If we look at the simple fact of what grace is, it has no limits, no bounds. Be we what we may (and we cannot be worse than we are), in spite of all that, what God is towards us is LOVE. Neither our joy nor our peace is dependent on what we are to God, but on what He is to us, and this is grace.

Grace supposes all the sin and evil that is in us, and is the blessed revelation that, through Jesus, all this sin and evil has been put away. A single sin is more horrible to God than a thousand sins – nay, than all the sins in the world are to us; and yet, with the fullest consciousness of what we are, all that God is pleased to be towards us is LOVE.

In Rom. 7 the state described is that of a person quickened, but whose whole set of reasonings centre in himself . . . he stops short of grace, of the simple fact that, whatever be his state, let him be as bad as he may, GOD IS LOVE, and only love towards him. Instead of looking at God, it is all “I,” “I,” “I.” Faith looks at God, as He has revealed Himself in Grace. . . . Let me ask you, “Am I – or is my state the object of faith?” No. faith never makes what is in my heart its object, but God’s revelation of Himself in grace.

Grace has reference to what GOD is, and not to what we are, except indeed that the very greatness of our sins does but magnify the extent of the “Grace of God.” At the same time, we must remember that the object and necessary effect of grace is to bring our souls into communion with God – to sanctify us, by bringing the soul to know God, and to love Him; therefore the knowledge of grace is the true source of sanctification.

The triumph of grace is seen in this, that when man’s enmity had cast out Jesus from the earth, God’s love had brought in salvation by that very act – came in to atone for the sin of those who had rejected Him. In the view of the fullest development of man’s sin, faith sees the fullest development of God’s grace. . . . I have got away from grace if I have the slightest doubt or hesitation about God’s love. I shall then be saying, “I am unhappy because I am not what I should like to be”: that is not the question. The real question is, whether God is what we should like Him to be, whether Jesus is all we could wish. If the consciousness of what we are – of what we find in ourselves, has any other effect than, while it humbles us, to increase our adoration of what God is, we are off the ground of pure grace. . . . Is there distress and distrust in your minds? See if it be not because you are still saying “I,” “I,” and losing sight of God’s grace.

It is better to be thinking of what God is than of what we are. This looking at ourselves, at the bottom is really pride, a want of the thorough consciousness that we are good for nothing. Till we see this we never look quite away from self to God. . . . In looking to Christ, it is our privilege to forget ourselves. True humility does not so much consist in thinking badly of ourselves, as in not thinking of ourselves at all. I am too bad to be worth thinking about. What

I want is, to forget myself and to look to God, who is indeed worth all my thoughts. Is there need of being humbled about ourselves? We may be quite sure that will do it.

Beloved, if we can say as in Rom. 7, “In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing,” we have thought quite long enough about ourselves; let us then think about Him who thought about us with thoughts of good and not of evil, long before we had thought of ourselves at all. Let us see what His thoughts of grace about us are, and take up the words of faith, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

J.N. Darby, “The True Grace of God wherein we stand,” Similar to, perhaps extracted from, ‘Why do I groan?’ C.W. 12 Evangelical vol. 1, page 186, electronic ed.: http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/darby/New8_95/38True_Grace.html Accessed on 2/5/11.

True Sainthood

Monday, January 10th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF., CLICK HERE: True Sainthood

The recently deceased journalist, diplomat, and scholar of South East Asia, Phillips Talbot once wrote: “I’ve been a Christian, and in particular a Presbyterian, and yet in Gandhi I saw saintliness…He was a 77-year-old ascetic and the physical ordeal did not worry him. Here, if I ever saw one, is a pilgrimage. Here is the Indian – and the world’s – idea of sainthood: a little old man who has renounced personal possessions, walking with bare feet on cold earth in search of a great human ideal.”[i] His profession to be a Christian notwithstanding, Talbot betrayed a common misunderstanding of the nature of true saintliness. His comments on the Indian statesman Mohandas K. Gandhi depict a saint as a really good man or woman, whose abstemious or extremely religious behavior directs attention towards himself or herself in the pursuit of “a great human ideal.”

Saints: The False & The True

The biblical usage of the term is far different: it depicts bad men and women who have been set apart by the grace of God to receive a life of eternal glory with the Lord Jesus Christ. This eternal life is a gift from the Lord, stemming from His generosity and love – not based on any personal merit in the recipient of this gracious position. It results in a transformed life, that displays the character and reflective glory of Christ Himself as given through the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-26.) The destiny of saints culminates in their being conformed to the image of their Lord through “the redemption of the body” which results in glorification (Rom. 8:17, 23, 28-30; 1 John 3:1-2.)

Some world religions believe in calling upon saints to intercede for them with God. In contrast, the Bible says that true saints need the Son of God to intercede for them (Rom. 8:27.) Their good deeds earn no favor before God; He must mediate His blessings to them through His Son’s high priestly work. Nevertheless, if one is a saint by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, then they have been saved to live separated lives. They belong to the Lord and must not form entangling alliances with the world (2 Cor. 6:14-18.) As they walk with Him in the power of His Spirit they will live differently than the lost ones around them; good works will be produced like fruit (John 15:1-5; Eph. 2:8-10.) As Titus 2:11-15 expresses it:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

The Wardrobe Of The Saints

The saints’ righteous deeds are actually crafting their future wedding garment (Rev. 19:8.) This metaphor shows that their anonymous and unnoticed service in this world will one day be manifested to the universe by the Lord of glory (Eph. 2:7.) Because their very existence – as well as their works – are the result of His work in and through them, the Lord will receive the honor from the saints’ activities (Phil. 2:12.) Genuine sainthood turns people’s gaze to the Almighty. Real saints say: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30.)


[i] Haresh Pandya, “Phillips Talbot: Journalist and diplomat who became an expert on South Asian affairs” (Obituary) in The Independent,  3 January 2011; electronic edition: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/phillips-talbot-journalist-and-diplomat-who-became-an-expert-on-south-asian-affairs-2174491.html Accessed on 1/10/11.



New Year’s Podcast: What people really need

Friday, December 31st, 2010

To listen click here:  KRK.NewYear’sPodcast.12.31.10

Christmas Podcast: The Gifts of Gifts

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

To listen click here: Christmas Podcast.12.25.10.The Gift of gifts