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Guest post from R.P. Amos: “The Tyranny of Choice”

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

America is known as the land of the free with liberty for all. Its very government was built on choice to escape religious oppression and political tyranny. There was the choice to pick one’s leaders, not a royal dynasty. There was the choice to own property, as you were able. There was the choice to choose your education or profession. And as it grew richer the opportunity was there to fulfill that dream of choice. There was the choice to choose your religion (or no religion). There was freedom of speech to express oneself religiously or politically. And government had no power to suppress that personal choice.

Governmentally speaking, Choice was a delightful baby in a world of oppression. It allowed for mutual respect of all citizens and coexistence in peace. It provided the incentive to be all that you could be. And in the free market system America became the richest and most powerful country in the world. The gospel and the church flourished here because of this very freedom and became a beacon of light to darker nations.

Choice, however, did not have a birth certificate (its legal documents) stamped with the gospel of Christ (His cleansing blood) or the Word of God. Choice was birthed in the womb of assumption that its citizens would be grounded in morality and virtue.

 “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”     John Adams

 “Unless virtue guide us our choice must be wrong.”     William Penn

 “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”      An old adage

 “Righteousness exalteth a nation.”    Proverbs 14:34

  Now Choice has grown up and has become a king not a servant. Choice gives a woman the permission to have legal freedom to kill a baby in her womb. Choice grants one the freedom, without being judged, to choose their sexual lifestyle when and with whomever they choose. Choice permits one the liberty to marry the same sex. Choice gives one the right to be a witch or wizard and worship Satan or a plate of spaghetti.

Choice is not a preacher. It does not instruct in absolute morals, ethics or virtue. Choice is conscienceless and sterile. Choice is non judgmental. Choice is not biased. Choice is tolerant. Choice is accepting of all. Choice is kind. Choice is fun. Choice is love.

And now Choice as a master is tyrannical. Choice demands that it be submitted to as the only way and truth. To criticize another’s choice as sin is sin against Choice. To claim there is only ‘one way’ is to deny Choice’s one way – blasphemy. To choose to refuse another’s choice (no matter how void of morals or truth) in your business or school or even a church’s legal functions such as marriage is becoming a criminal act and could be called a felony – worthy of punishment. To not make your restrooms open to Choice is discrimination. To not grant Choice every area of your life and government is looked at as insubjection and insurrection. Choice now wields the sword – bow or be punished. Choice judges those who judge her.

Choice decrees the judging of evil is more wrong than the doing of evil. Choice will not tolerate what doesn’t tolerate her.   Choice will not accept what doesn’t accept her. Choice will absolutely censure what absolutely claims absolutes. Choice will not be kind to those who are not kind to her. Choice will not love those who don’t love her. Choice will not let others choose who don’t choose her. Choice denies only “one God” – but her. Choice is now god. Therefore, Choice will wage war against her atheists. Choice will choose what you’re free to say. Choice has chosen to enslave her subjects.

The Gospel and the Church.

1 Peter 2:4 says of the Lord Jesus, He is disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God”.

The gospel of God in His Son Jesus Christ the Lord is offered equally to all sinners. It doesn’t consider color, sexual gender, age, class, country, lifestyle or religious pedigree. Any sinner who repents of his or her sin (wrong choices) and confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (who fully bore our sins in death and rose again as eternal Priest) is equally blessed. They are saved from sin, self, and Satan (deceptions via choice). They will never see hell-judgment but have eternal life being equally in the body of Christ.

A sinner is not forced to do this. He has a choice. But if he chooses to freely come to Jesus as Lord, then Christ and not Choice will be his Lord. “Not my will, but thine, be done”, like his Savior, will be his new thinking. This is because he is born again of the Spirit with a new heart that now desires and is able to understand God’s choices. The gospel teaches and provides that true virtue and morality must come from within. The believer is to show he agrees with God’s choice that Jesus is Lord by public baptism.

But beware of Master Choice trying to regain control of the mind and God’s church. Choice will tell you that “grace” still allows you to choose. Choice will tell you that choosing to obey the Lord Jesus’ commands is legalism, not love. Choice will tell you that your choices are more logical than God’s choices. Choice won’t tell you that God’s choices free you from sin to be all that you can be for His glory. Choice won’t tell you that in being a slave to God you will be free from master sin that frees you from true joy and spiritual heart satisfaction.

Choice will tell you to go to the church of your choice. Choice will let you choose what you like: your style of “worship”, music or church government. Choice will promise you liberty. And in time, Choice will liberate you and your children – from the wisdom of God and a spirituality that emits from the church functioning by the Lord’s choices. (A plurality of gifted men involved in a church meeting, the man’s headship over the woman, the centrality of the Lord’s Supper in keeping us focused on Christ, and holiness by the purging of sin and bad doctrine that can spread like yeast in the Christian church).

Choice will free you – from God’s growth, joy and rewards. Christ will bless you.

{Some Scriptures for The Gospel and the Church section. 1. Paragraph #2 – Acts 17:30, 31 / Romans 5:9, 10 & 10:9-13 / Gal. 3:28. 2. Paragraph #3 – Rev. 22:17 / Luke 22:42 / Rom. 8:4 / Acts 10:48 / John 3:3-7. 3. Paragraph #4 – Rom. 6 / John 14:15 4. Paragraph #5 – 1Cor. 5 & 11-14   5. Paragraph #6 – Rev. 3:10 / Eph. 1:3 / Psalm 1.}

No Sympathy For The Devil

Monday, May 12th, 2014

i-df02b342033198fb027c2376798aaf6c-Harvard-Seal-Nice*

And they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Tim. 4:4

Today’s headlines sensationally announce a planned “Satanic Black Mass” to be held tonight at Harvard University. It is being co-sponsored by the Satanic Temple (of New York) and Harvard’s own Extension School’s Cultural Studies Club.[1] Predictably, an outcry has arisen from the surrounding community with the Roman Catholic Church being especially vocal in their opposition. The University President Drew Faust struck a modern mealy-mouthed tone by first pronouncing it “deeply regrettable” that the organizers are proceeding with the nefarious ceremony, and subsequently affirming the organizer’s right to hold it on campus in this statement: “Nevertheless, consistent with the university’s commitment to free expression, including expression that may deeply offend us, the decision to proceed is and will remain theirs. At the same time, we will vigorously protect the right of others to respond — and to address offensive expression with expression of their own.”[2] One wonders if it were a group opposing cherished liberal causes like homosexual rights if Harvard would take such a hands-off approach. But the incident touches on a deeper issue: it demonstrates what happens when the truth of Christ’s gospel is rejected in favor of lies.

Bible Schools Gone Wild

America’s oldest college, Harvard was founded to train Christian ministers and was named in honor of a local pastor and benefactor, John Harvard.[3] A pamphlet of that era details the student rules; two will suffice to give the Christian origins of the college:

“2. Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him Prov. 2, 3.

3. Every one shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in theoretical observations of the language, and logic, and in practical and spiritual truths, as his tutor shall require, according to his ability; seeing the entrance of the word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple, Psalm. 119. 130.

4. That they eschewing all profanation of God’s name, attributes, word, ordinance, and times of worship, do study with good conscience, carefully to retain God, and the love of his truth in their minds else let them know, that (notwithstanding their learning) God may give them up to strong delusions, and in the end to a reprobate mind, 2 Thes. 2. 11, 12. Rom. 1. 28.”[4]

After confessing his excessive love of learning in his youth, Harvard’s second President Henry Dunster advised the students: “Take heed of this lest desiring to be as gods ye become devils.”[5] All of this demonstrates the early spiritual climate at Harvard in the seventeenth century, and is a marked contrast from the contemporary secular attitude that thrives there.

Sadly, successive administrations gradually abandoned biblical truth under the influence of Unitarianism, Rationalism, and other false man-made theories. The true Gospel of salvation by faith in Christ alone was jettisoned long ago, and with it the belief in the Bible as God’s Word. Ironically, the school’s original motto was “Veritas pro Christo et ecclesia” (“Truth for Christ & the Church.”)[6] Today it is just “Veritas” in the mistaken belief that truth is lastingly attainable outside of the One who is “the Truth” (Jn. 14:6.) Therefore, it is not surprising that the campus would currently be the site of the celebration of a demonic sacrament.[7]

Enter The Father Of Lies

The Scriptures at the beginning of this post reveal the folly of rejecting the truth, for it always leads to deception. In 2 Timothy 4:4 Paul details the coming time when people would incessantly shop for preachers who appealed to their fancies and predilections rather than proclaiming the truth. In turning from the genuine article, they inevitably are turned to “fables.” People do not exist in a vacuum; if they reject God’s Word, they throw themselves open to multitudinous errors of all types. Satan is always ready to blind human minds (2 Cor. 4:4.) The Lord Jesus rightly called him “a liar, and the father of it” (Jn. 8:44.)

One day the devil’s deceit will culminate in a global humanistic empire, headed by the Man of Sin – who shares the ignominious moniker “son of perdition” with the arch-traitor Judas Iscariot (cf. Jn. 17:12 & 2 Thes. 2:3.) The Bible explains the climate of deception that surrounds his regime: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes. 2:9-12.) By intentionally rejecting the truth and preferring error, people will be deluded by Satan. Having chosen his wicked pseudo-Messiah – a true “Anti-Christ” – God confirms them in their decision by sending them “strong delusion”; this results in their eternal rejection and punishment in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15.)

Truth Must Be Learned And Obeyed

Of course, no one needs to be deceived. Proverbs 8:7-13, 35-36 personifies “Wisdom” and has her say: “For my mouth will speak truth; Wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; Nothing crooked or perverse is in them. They are all plain to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge. Receive my instruction, and not silver, And knowledge rather than choice gold; For wisdom is better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her. ‘I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And find out knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.…For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the Lord; But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death.’” Colossians 2:3 reminds us that the Lord Jesus is the repository of all wisdom. As He said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6.)

If one turns from their sins and receives Christ as their Lord and Savior, trusting that His death paid the penalty for their sinful being and actions and knowing that He rose to freely give them eternal life, they will be saved (read these chapters: John 3; Rom. 3-4.) The Lord transforms them through His Holy Spirit coming to live inside them. The transformation is so radical, the Bible calls it “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17, ESV.) As the Lord said: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32.) Free from delusion; free from an empty life of sin; free to serve God and enjoy Him in the age to come; free to begin a relationship with God through His Son that never ends (Jn. 17:3.)[8]

*Image: http://scienceblogs.com/webeasties/wp-content/blogs.dir/368/files/2012/04/i-df02b342033198fb027c2376798aaf6c-Harvard-Seal-Nice.jpg

[1] Daniel Halper, “’Satanic Black Mass’ will take place tonight at Harvard,” Weekly Standard Blog, electronic ed. accessed on 5/12/14 here: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/satanic-black-mass-take-place-tonight-harvard_791269.html

[2] Quoted in Joshua Rhett Miller, “Harvard’s satanic black mass to be held despite growing outrage,” electronic ed. accessed on 5/12/14 here: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/05/12/harvard-satanic-black-mass-remains-scheduled-despite-growing-outrage/

[3] Likewise, other early universities were founded with religious intentions, e.g. Yale, Princeton, Brown, & Oberlin.

[4]“Rules, and precepts that are observed in the college” in New England’s First Fruits. (London: 1643), 26; modern English version accessed on 5/12/14 here: http://education.byu.edu/edlf/archives/prophets/founding_fathers.html ; the original is here: https://archive.org/stream/NewEnglandsFirstFruitsInRespectFirstOfTheCounversionOfSome/New_Englands_First_Fruits#page/n0/mode/2up

[5] Henry Dunster, quoted in Samuel Eliot Morison, The Founding of Harvard College, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935),  251; electronic ed. accessed on 5/12/14 here: http://books.google.com/books?id=PQMdzhnfaSwC&pg=PA193&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

[6] Anna K. Kendrick, “Harvard’s Secularization: How a college lost its faith,” The Harvard Crimson, 3/8/06; electronic ed. accessed on 5/12/14 here: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2006/3/8/harvards-secularization-harvard-has-never-been/

[7] For a better event held at Harvard, see this talk by Dr. John Lennox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Kz4OgXsN1w

[8] The Bible teaches that there is only one God and that He exists as a triunity of three persons (“Trinity” is the traditional term describing this doctrine.) Mt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14.

Here Comes The Son

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Antarctic sunrise

  The Atlantic magazine’s website recently ran a story on the return of the sun to Antarctica after 90 days of night.[i] Antonio Litterio, a researcher at the Concordia Research Station, eloquently described this event, personifying the sun in this way:

I knew that today you’d come looking for me. Over these past few nights, I’ve looked out of the window, captivated by the beautiful starry sky. But in my mind I was thinking of you and how I would soon see you again. Human beings need light to feel calm and to live: light really is life. Wanting to see you again was not about wanting to feel closer to the end of my time here; it was about recharging my batteries. Over the past few days, even that warm glow has given me so much energy. Seeing you now, entering my bedroom in the morning, is a beautiful awakening…Today, seeing the light after so long, for those few minutes the Sun lingered above the horizon, I felt something that was a mixture of a mother’s caress, the warmth of a hug, and the peace and energy radiating from someone important to you. At the precise moment when the Sun reached the end of its arc, settling on the horizon, we looked at each other and there was nothing left to say. I’ve missed you…[ii]

On the basic level of human emotion these are beautiful and understandable sentiments. If one has been bereft of sunlight for three months, it is bound to depress one’s mood. Conversely, that bright orb’s return would naturally be greeted with joy by any right thinking person. Having said that, Litterio’s comments echoed other famous words that speak of a higher light than the burning mass of hydrogen that naturally illuminates planet earth and the surrounding solar system. As John the beloved apostle wrote: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4.)

Trees, Life, & Light

Under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, John makes frequent use of images from the Pentateuch[iii] – especially the Tabernacle of Exodus (e.g. Rev. 1:12; Rev. 6:9; Rev. 8:3; the symbolism of the table of showbread underlies Jn. 6:32-33, etc.) The lampstand, the only light-source for the Holy place, evokes arboreal imagery. Like a tree it has branches, fruit, buds, and flowers (Ex. 25:31-40.) The imagery hearkens back to the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Eden (Gen. 2:9, 17.) It unites life and light in one object. John draws on this to describe the role of Christ as both life-giver and light-giver. But what do life and light really mean?

The Light Of The World

Life and light are vitally connected. Life in the Bible transcends mere existence. The goal of life is relational. One commentator makes the essential connection in Christ that John 1:4 speaks of:

He was the well-spring of life, from which every form of life—physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, eternal,—flows.…Creation leads on to life, and life leads on to light. Without life creation would be unintelligible; without light all but the lowest forms of life would be impossible…the one true Light, absolute Truth both intellectual and moral, free from ignorance and free from stain. The Source of Life is the Source of Light: He gives the power to know what is morally good.[iv]

The real meaning of life entails knowing one’s creator. As Christ says: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3.) Likewise, light connotes both truth and purity in the Bible (Ps. 119:130.) “…In your light we see light,” says the Psalmist (Ps. 36:9.) The true God wants people to know Him; therefore, He has revealed Himself in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:14-18.)

He wants His creatures to walk with Him in pure and true fellowship (1 Jn. 1:5-7.) Elsewhere John writes: “The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 Jn. 1:2-4.) Knowing truth depends upon knowing God and sharing in His life.

Wandering In The Dark

Life is to be lived in the light of God’s truth and holiness. He is the One who reveals how the world actually is, and what mankind ought to live for. Until one knows Christ by faith, spiritual darkness is one’s inevitable lot (Mt. 6:23; Jn. 1:5.) In fact, people love darkness (Jn. 3:19.) Apart from Christ’s saving work, the human mind is darkened (Rom. 1:21) and alienated from the righteous thought patterns of its Maker (Eph. 4:18.) Spurgeon powerfully depicts the lost man’s darkness:

Now, the power of sin is just like that. It hides from the human mind what that mind ought to see. The man is lost, but he does not know it; he cannot see the rocks that are just ahead. The man has soon to stand before the bar of God and receive his sentence, but he does not know it; I mean his heart does not know it. He trifles on, caring for none of these things…No matter how rich may be the mercy, nor how pure the consolation, he knows nothing at all about them, for he is in the dark. It is all dark, dark, dark with him, amid the blaze of noon.[v]

But after trusting Christ as Lord and Savior, the believer is delivered from “the power of darkness and conveyed [them] into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13.) Conder poetically puts it thus:

Brightness of uncreated light;

The heart of God revealed:

Divine, O Son of God, art Thou,

In Thee God’s fulness find we now.[vi]

The Lord directly states it this way: “…I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12, boldface mine.) As McGee explains: “This world today is in spiritual darkness, and the Lord Jesus Christ has brought the only light there is in the world. He is the light.”[vii] Ryle agrees in these words: “There has never been any spiritual life or light enjoyed by men, excepting from Christ.”[viii]

Out Of The Darkness Into The Light

Mr. Litterio was correct in connecting life and light, but he failed to note that this principle works on a higher level as well. The sun was created by the Creator of all life. He providentially uses it for mankind’s good (Mt. 5:45.) Until one knows the Son of God, however, life is unremitting night. It involves unceasingly groping in the darkness, perpetually wondering what is behind the dim unknown.[ix] To die without the Lord is to enter the eternal night of outer darkness (Mt. 25:30.) Thankfully, the Lord Jesus offers Himself as “the light of the world” to whoever will believe. As a classic hymn urges us:

Come to the Light,

‘Tis shining for thee;

Sweetly the Light has dawned upon me.

Once I was blind, but now I can see –

The Light of the world is Jesus.[x]

 


[i] Rebecca J. Rosen, “The Sun rises again over Antarctica,” The Atlantic, published 13 August, 2013; found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/08/the-sun-rises-again-over-antarctica/278620/ Accessed on 13 August 2013.

[ii] Antonio Literrio, “Return to sunlight,” blog post, 12 August, 2013; Found here: http://blogs.esa.int/concordia/2013/08/12/return-to-sunlight/ Accessed on 8/13/13. [Boldface mine.]

[iii] The first 5 books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy.

[iv] A. Plummer, The Gospel According to S. John, Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1896), 65-66.

[v] C. H. Spurgeon, “Deliverance from the power of darkness,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. LIX. Originally preached on November 29, 1866. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1913), 376–377.

[vi] Josiah Conder, “Thou art the everlasting word”; located here: http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn.php/h/59#ixzz2bxfSfR1c Accessed on 8/14/13.

[vii] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, comment on Jn. 1:4, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 373.

[viii] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 1. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 12.

[ix]

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness ’twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

James Russell Lowell, “The Present Crisis,” located here: http://www.bartleby.com/42/805.html Accessed on 8/14/13. [Boldface mine.]

[x] P.P. Bliss, “The Light of the world is Jesus,” located here: http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/w/lworldij.htm Accessed on 8/14/13.

*Photo found here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/u/TvyamNb-BivtNwcoxtkc5xGBuGkIMh_nj4UJHQKupC5SSBpr5b0RJGiewoNVqo45CZ4QLkuljpza/ Accessed on 8/15/13.

Treating The King Like A Pawn

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him” Luke 23:8.

Rather than seeking Christ to inquire concerning the truth about the world, humanity, and the Creator God, Herod merely wanted to satisfy his idle curiosity. To him the Lord Jesus’ miracles were not signs authenticating His deity and Messiahship; instead they were magic tricks meant for his royal amusement. He wanted to manipulate his notable prisoner into performing instead of preaching; of course, that is exactly what the Lord would not do. Jesus Christ is not a pawn and life is not a game. In order to accomplish the purpose for which they were created, human beings must bow to the King of kings and Lord of lords who alone gives eternal life.

tissot-jesus-before-herod-513x743*Image: James Tissot, “Jesus before Herod”; found here: http://www.joyfulheart.com/easter/images-tissot/tissot-jesus-before-herod-513×743.jpg Accessed on 6/3/13.

Trivializing The Ultimate Truth

Many moderns reenact Herod’s tragic mistake by thinking that they have heard about Christ and therefore know all about Him. But hearsay is notoriously unreliable. One may hear that Christ was a good teacher or a moral man, and the gospels bear this out – yet it is not the whole truth. Jesus was “God manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16.) He was a real, sinless man; yet He was also God walking in our midst (1 Tim. 2:5; Jn. 1:14; Phil. 2:5-8.)

As God incarnate the Lord Jesus is incapable of being maneuvered by humans into doing what they want. During His earthly ministry, He steadfastly held to God the Father’s will and timetable. Thus, He was born, died, rose again, and ascended back to heaven all according to the schedule preordained from before the foundation of the world (e.g. 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Titus 1:2-3.) For a puny would-be potentate – in reality a dissipated, vacillating puppet of the Roman overlords – to suppose that he could make Christ perform on demand was ludicrous. The Lord Jesus is not malleable to men’s perverted notions.

Checkmating Ourselves

Far too many moderns reduplicate the same mistake in different forms. They suppose that Jesus is there to be reinterpreted according to their thinking. Rather than a holy God who “…commands all men everywhere to repent,” they suppose that He is a grandfatherly type of being who would never dream of separating anyone from Himself for an eternity of punishment. Or they simplistically think that He indulgently turns a blind eye to our sinful desires and thought-life. To others, the Lord is little better than a life-ring to desperately grasp when they get into trouble, or a miracle-working genie whom we may call upon to gratify our desires for the sensational or the supernatural.

The Lord Jesus Christ will not submit to a chess game of our own devising. He is not a pawn, but a king. Bearing this in mind, our legitimate response must be to bow to Him and say “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk. 18:13); and “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28)!  Afterwards we say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:10) and “Lord, what do you want me to do” (Acts 9:6)? This is the best kind of life: one lived in obedience to our Lord and King.

Finding The Love Of Your Life

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

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Image found: http://visaodemenina.blogspot.com (via google images)

In much of the western hemisphere, today, 14th of February, is Valentine’s Day – a commercially-driven, overly-sentimental excuse to give flowers, candy, greeting cards, and special dinners to one’s spouse/boy-friend/girl-friend, etc. Many people will experience disappointment today as they have no one to lavish these dainties upon them. Others will be disillusioned by lackluster “dates” with sub-par would-be wooers. Like so many things in this world, this pseudo-holiday will fail to live up to many people’s expectations. Therefore, I offer an encouraging portrait of the perfect lover: one who exhibits sacrificial care by meeting his beloved’s deepest needs, resolute faithfulness amidst all of life’s seasons, and unparalleled generosity in lavishing gifts on them.

 1. His Sacrificial Care

This “glorious bridegroom of our hearts”[1] went to a garbage heap to win His bride. In a true tale far beyond Cinderella’s mythical rise from rags to riches, He left a place of security and beauty to traverse a slum. To prepare His beloved for her new life, He paid her crushing load of debt, and then ushered her into a new life with new values, desires, and blessings. As Romans 5:8-10 describes His self-sacrificing care: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

2. His Resolute Faithfulness

This lover will never leave or forsake those who are in a relationship with Him (Heb. 13:5.) In adversity He is there to comfort and strengthen (2 Cor. 1:3-4.) In times of blessing, He gives joy and rejoices with His loved ones (Zeph. 3:17; Eph. 1:3.) When we are tired, He is unwearied, and watches over us (Psa. 120.) He provides, protects, guides, loves, and assures us that we are completely fulfilled in Him (Col. 2:20.) As the Bible speaks of Him: “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Dt. 7:9.) He promises: “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20.)

3. His Unparalleled Generosity

As a gift of love the Taj Mahal[2] pales in comparison to this one’s generosity: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16.) “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32.) “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9.) There is no gift comparable to the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was poured out as a sacrifice for our sin. Three days later He put the finishing touches on the gift by rising from the dead; now He offers us eternal life and love in Himself. As Bonar rightly called it “the gift of gifts all other gifts in one!”[3]

Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ through faith? Eternal life is a relationship; like other relationships it is personal (Jn. 17:3.) It is no use saying: “I know about Jesus. I know who He was, what He did, and what He taught.” Do you know Him personally? Have you repented of your sins, telling Him that you want salvation from the judgment that you justly deserve? (Rom. 10:9.) Have you left off trying to earn His love and salvation – something that He says we can never do (Eph. 2:8-9)? Tell the Lord that you do not want to live for this world anymore; rather you want Him, and you want Him to change you and take you to glory with Himself (1 Jn. 3:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:17.) If you do so sincerely, you will find the perfect Lover, who will save you and love you for this life and the one to come.

 


[1] C.H. Spurgeon, “Amidst Us Our Beloved Stands,” accessed here: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/a/m/i/amidstus.htm on 2/14/13.

[2] The seventeenth century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built this famous monument as a testament to his love for his wife, Empress Mumtaz Mahal see these links: http://tajmahal.gov.in/shah_jahan.html & http://tajmahal.gov.in/mumtaz.html

[3] Horatius Bonar, “Blessed be God Our God,” accessed here: http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/89 on 2/14/13.

Remembering God’s Goodness

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

feeding5000breadfishes400Image from: http://www.bible-basics-layers-of-understanding.com/Jesus-Feeds-the-5000.html

I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.” Mark 8:2-3

Skeptics frequently allege that God does not care about humanity – if He is good, they reason, then why is the world in such a bad state! Such thinking willingly ignores His many providential provisions for mankind: air to breath, the multifaceted functions of the sun, abundant water (far better than Mars, for instance), etc. On the other hand, the Almighty’s critics lay the blame for human crimes upon the Creator, condemning Him for the skyrocketing violence on planet earth (ironic, since if God does not exist, there is no universal standard of morality; nothing is inherently evil; people merely dance to the chemically encrypted tune of our genes.) This view of reality obviously falls short of doing justice to the facts – or to the Creator Himself.

Catering In The Desert Redux

One incident from God the Son’s earthly ministry will suffice to demonstrate His unrivaled and unerring concern for human beings. The Gospel of Mark 8:1 describes the situation: “In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them.” A large crowd of 4,000 with a presumably ravenous appetite after three days of going without food was standing in front of the disciples; the Lord invited them to help the needy multitude. But the disciples protested, citing their own inability given the tremendous need and the barren setting of their current location. How soon they forgot the Lord’s previous miracle of feeding 5,000 men (plus women and children, cf. Mt. 14:21) in a similar circumstance. Sadly, they were not the last followers of Christ to forget His past blessings, instead worrying over the crisis of the hour.

Without a word of rebuke, the Lord Jesus directed them to bring what they had to Him (in this case, seven loaves and a few small fish.) He took their meager resources and miraculously multiplied them to the complete satisfaction of the hungry listeners. Verse 8 affirms that they all ate and then had seven baskets of leftovers. In Scripture seven often indicates perfection; thus the perfect provision of the Son of God is displayed in this wondrous sign.

You Are The God Who Sees

As impressive as this work of power is in itself, the statement of the Lord Jesus’ intimate knowledge of the needs of the crowd is an equally amazing display of God’s character. His interest in people and their needs is on full view in this episode in Christ’s ministry on earth. He knew their need: they were hungry; and He likewise knew what would happen to them if they departed without eating: some would not make it home without “fainting on the way.” Now someone might aver that these are obvious deductions, just keeping in mind the circumstances. Nonetheless, when would-be presidents address the nominating conventions of their party, they do not begin by inquiring if the party faithful who are in attendance have eaten. No, such leaders are too important to give themselves to the minute needs of the little people that they represent (photo-ops with the politician shaking hands with the unwashed masses notwithstanding.) Yet when the Creator of the universe came to earth, He demonstrated great interest in meeting human needs – especially their spiritual needs.

Come & Dine

It is wonderful to have a God who can miraculously feed the hungry; nevertheless, it is far greater for Him to become the Bread from heaven that a man may eat of and not die (John 6.) In order to give this matchless provision, He died on the cross as a sacrifice that satisfied the divine sense of justice. Then He rose again, proving that He is stronger than death and the grave, and that He will one day raise His people from mortality and corruption to immortality in glorified bodies (1 Cor. 15.)

Having taken care of these enormous spiritual needs for believers, what lesser things will He not provide for them (Rom. 8:31-32)? If you are a Christian, then you may rest assured that whatever trial you are struggling under, He knows your situation. What is more, He is working to use it for your eternal blessing and betterment (Rom 8:28-29.) If you are not yet a Christian, please know that He is ordering the events of your life to give you an opportunity to turn from your sinful life and receive His salvation through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. With Paul, an apostle of Christ, I put this question to you: “…do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4.)

 

New Year, Same Story

Monday, December 31st, 2012

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From my father I inherited a fascination with cemeteries and obituaries – a morbid, but interesting hobby that leads one to the biographies and of “the dead, small and great” (Rev. 20:12.) Accordingly, I was delighted when some friends took my family on a tour of historic Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia on the final day of 2012. We visited the graves of presidents (for the U.S., James Monroe and John Tyler; and for the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis), soldiers (George Pickett, J.E.B. Stuart, along with twenty other Confederate generals plus thousands of other servicemen from every major conflict of American history), governors (six from Virginia), Senators and Congressmen (too numerous to name), a U.S. Supreme Court Justice (Lewis Powell, Jr.), novelists (like Ellen Glasgow and James Branch Cabell) and scholars (historian Douglas Southall Freeman being one of my favorites.) The recurring thought that struck me throughout the day was that despite all of their varied accomplishments, these men and women all experienced the same inevitable reality: they all died. The first genealogy in the Bible is notable for this repeated refrain “and he died” about all the names recorded in the list – with one notable exception – Enoch, a man noted for his fellowship with the Living God (Gen. 5:21-24.) His experience of supernatural translation from earth to heaven prefigures a greater resurrection to come, which gives hope to all those who know and trust in the Creator God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Life Lessons Learned At Gravesides

On the threshold of a new year it is helpful to remember what Christ said when He came to a cemetery. His magnificent promise was articulated to a beloved friend, who was grieving over her recently deceased brother; He told Martha: “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” (Jn. 11:25-26.) This is the best news for 2013 – or any other year!

The Son of God came to make graveyards obsolete. He has transformed their status from long-term storage of mortal remains to temporary holding places of bodies that will one day be reconstituted. For those who received Christ as their Lord and Savior by faith, they experienced spiritual regeneration – a complete transformation of the inner man, also known as being “born again” (see Jn. 3 & Titus 3.) Therefore, their bodies will be raised and transformed into glorious bodies like the resurrected and glorified Christ (1 Thes. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:20-58; 1 Jn. 3:1-3.) But for those who did not believe on the Lord Jesus for salvation, they will be raised for judgment – a horrifying scenario which could have been avoided  (Jn. 5:22-29.) The Lord does not delight in people perishing spiritually; rather “He desires all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9.)

Jesus I Am Resting In The Joy Of Who Thou Art

Complete and sole trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died as a sacrifice for sin, rose again in vindication, and ascended to glory in triumph is what distinguishes a saved person who possesses eternal life with the Lord in heaven from a lost person who is eternally separated from their Maker and banished in the outer darkness of the Lake of Fire (Mk. 9:42-48; Rev. 20:11-15.) One must confess that he is a bankrupt sinner with no ability to earn deliverance or merit a rescue. They must turn to God for the gift of salvation offered through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, forsaking their old life as one that is justly condemned (Jn. 5:24; Eph. 2:8-10; 1 Thes. 1:9-10.) They are receiving Christ as if they died on the cross with Him, were subsequently interred with Him, and then rose in power with Him (see Rom. 6-8.)

When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder

When the dead small and great stand before the Lord, who is the righteous judge of the universe, the only credential that will matter is that their name is inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life. One’s name is only found there because they rely on Christ their spotless, sacrificial Lamb “who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29.) Human works, reputation, and worldly attainment will avail for nothing in that day. Only life as found in the Lord Jesus will matter. So I close by asking the question that He posed to Martha on the way to raise her brother, Lazarus, from the dead: “Do you believe this?” If you do, cry out to Christ for salvation. If you already have, then praise God that He who is the resurrection and the life holds your life in His hands. He will keep you safe for eternity.

 

Buy The Truth

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Buy The Truth

By: Keith Keyser

 

Buy the truth, and do not sell it, Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.” Proverbs 23:23

Pontius Pilate’s cynical query “What is truth?” could be the motto of the modern age. The very concept of absolute truth is disbelieved, negated, or ignored by people of all walks of life. Once upon a time moral relativism was the unique worldview of ivory tower academics, overly speculative philosophers, and libertine authors and artists. From the avant-garde and the intellectual elites, however, this way of thinking has now trickled down to the masses – a phenomenon witnessed in countless contemporary songs and films, as well as in the shifting standards of public and private ethics. Against this devaluing of moral absolutes stands the eternal God of truth, who counsels us to “Buy the truth and do not sell it…” (Prov. 23:23.)

The Source Of Truth

Deuteronomy 32:4 describes the Almighty in this manner: “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” Isaiah also calls Him “the God of truth” (Is. 65:16.) Another psalm gives a similar description: “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth” (Ps. 86:15.) Elsewhere He is addressed as the “Lord God of truth” (Ps. 31:5.) When God manifested Himself in flesh in the person of His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, He affirmed “I am the way, the truth, & the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6.) Put negatively, the Scripture says that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2.) Clearly these verses teach that truth is an aspect of the Divine nature. It is in keeping with who God is, what He says, and everything that He does. Moreover, apart from the Lord, man’s comprehension of the truth is skewed by his sin and incomplete as a result of human fallen-ness.

If people are to discover the truth, they must learn it from the God who is truth. Happily, He discloses Himself in His written Word, the Bible. His usage of the commercial metaphor of purchase for the acquisition of this knowledge demonstrates the seriousness of this pursuit. It is not an endeavor for the half-hearted or the dilettante. A seeker of the truth must be serious and willing to pay a price for gaining the truth.

Appraising Something Priceless

Truth commands a high price: it demands a genuine reception of the living God and His Word at the expense of human thinking and personal preferences. Three quotations from a trio of classic expositors show that nothing is too dear to be given up for the joy of obtaining this greatest of all treasures. As Brooks points out: “Remember you can never over-buy it, whatsoever you give for it; you can never sufficiently sell it, if you should have all the world in exchange for it.”[1] The celebrated Prince of preachers agrees, saying:

the text seems to tell us, that truth is the one pearl beneath the skies that is worth having, and whatever else we buy not, we must buy the truth, and whatever else we may have to sell, yet we must never sell the truth, but hold it fast as a treasure that will last us when gold has cankered, and silver has rusted, and the moth has eaten up all goodly garments, and when all the riches of men have gone like a puff of smoke, or melted in the heat of the judgment day like the dew in the beams of the morning sun…You may give all for it, but you may take nothing in exchange for it, since there is nothing that can be likened unto it.[2]

Lastly, the eloquent words of Matthew Henry manifest the incomparable value of the truth:

When we choose rather to suffer loss in our temporal interest than to deny or neglect the truth then we buy it; and it is a pearl of such great price that we must be willing to part with all to purchase it, must make shipwreck of estate, trade, preferment, rather than of faith and a good conscience…We must not sell it. Do not part with it for pleasures, honors, riches, any things in this world. Do not neglect the study of it, nor throw off the profession of it, nor revolt from under the dominion of it, for the getting or saving of any secular interest whatsoever. Hold fast the form of sound words, and never let it go upon any terms.[3]

An Investment That Breaks The Bank

Personal knowledge of Christ transfers one into His kingdom (Jn. 3:3, 5; Col. 1:12-13.) The Lord Jesus described this kingdom in terms that evoke images of tremendous resources being expended, comparing it to a treasure hidden in a field and a pearl of great price (Matt. 13:44-46.) To obtain the former, the purchaser sells all that he possesses to purchase it; to acquire the latter, he buys the entire field where the treasure is hidden. In both metaphors, no price is too great to gain the kingdom; this is how it is with all aspects of God’s truth.

Paul understood this principle, asserting that “…what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7-8.) Reputation, religious attainments, and a carefully cultivated self-righteous façade were all cast aside in favor of “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus…” Indeed, in comparison with the personal knowledge of the Savior, Paul considered everything else in the world to be garbage, worthy of being discarded in order to gain the true treasure of the truth.

In Times Of Economic Uncertainty, Invest In The Truth

Buying the truth requires a revaluation of everything in life: God must be viewed as supreme, and everything else seen as subsidiary. Personal convictions need to be formed based on the Bible, not merely on one’s own opinions. On the other hand, the truth should never be sold for self-gratification, private comfort, and public reputation. Ironside aptly summarizes the issue:

…he who desires the approval of God above the praise of men will value…[the truth] nevertheless, and be ready to purchase it at the cost of friends, reputation, possessions, yea, life itself. Nor will he part with it whatever the suffering that may result from contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Rationalists may sneer, and the superstitious persecute; but he who possesses the truth will find with it wisdom, instruction and understanding such as all the wise men after the flesh are strangers to.[4]

The believer’s attitude must be: “God’s Word is true; I will obey Him though it costs me everything in this world – even my life itself.” One who buys God’s truth as revealed in Christ discovers that it gains one entrance into an eternal and unshakeable kingdom (Heb. 12:28-29.) As Jim Elliot famously put it: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”[5]


[1] Thomas Brooks,  “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices,” 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. 58.

[2] C.H. Spurgeon, “Buying the Truth,” Sermon No. 3449, June 26th 1870, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 61; Electronic edition: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/3449.htm  Accessed on 6/26/12. Italics original.

[3] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Pr 23:19–28 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), Electronic ed. (Logos.) Italics original.

[4] H. A. Ironside, Notes on the Book of Proverbs, (Neptune, N. J.: Loizeaux Bros, 1908), pp. 324-325. Brackets mine.

[5] Jim Elliot, Journal entry October 28, 1949, The Journals of Jim Elliot. (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1978), p. 174. See here for background on the quote: http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/faq/20.htm

To download in pdf., click here:  Buy The Truth

Spiritual Lessons From A Cup Of Coffee

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Earlier today I took my middle daughter, Nadia, to a local McDonalds for “a Daddy date.” She enjoyed a milk and some fries, while I leisurely sipped a coffee (not exactly gourmet arabica beans, but then again, it was kinder to my wallet than other high end places!) As I enjoyed this java infusion, I noted this inscription upon my cup: “My moment to unwind. It’s these moments I crave. My time to indulge myself…My moment to celebrate.” This credo obviously appeals to the spirit of the age. A new television program in the United States is unsubtly titled “You deserve it.” One of our local billboards boldly proclaimed: “You, you, you…it’s all about you.” All around the message trumpeted to people is their central importance to the world and how they merit special treatment. Yet in reality, the universe is designed to operate with someone else at the center of things: God the Creator is to be of paramount importance.

Rather than being worthy of good things, we actually deserve judgment (Rom. 3:19.) God gives good things to us – life, breath, health, families, friends, intellects, time, food, and much else – because He is gracious. He gives in keeping with His generous character, rather than by human merit. As one Christian friend once reminded me: “On my bad days, I remind myself that by rights I ought to be in hell.” Indeed, so should everyone! Thankfully, Christ died and rose again so that those who receive Him as Savior could pass from spiritual death to eternal life and enjoy the real center of the universe forever: God Himself.

TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF., CLICK HERE: “Spiritual Lessons From A Cup Of Coffee

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