Sunday, April 28, 2013

How Can the Snake Preach?

“The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth. They have venom like the venom of a serpent...and men will say, ‘...surely there is a God Who judges on earth!’” (Psalm 58:3,4,11). I can read this Psalm and never hear it as part of the soundtrack of my life.

Then I hear Paul preaching: “...we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is none even one. Their throat is an open grace, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.’ Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:9-20).

And in the song (Psalm 58) and sermon (Romans 3) this desert rat of a preacher is reminded once again of the miracle that is going to occur this Lord’s Day: this sinner (and many, many others), whose mouth is full of snake venom, will preach and teach the holy Word of God this day in worship with the Church in the presence of the King (2 Corinthians 2:17; ).

How does this miracle happen? Oh, that’s the rest of Paul’s sermon: “But [sometimes this little conjunction is one of the most joyful words in Scripture!] now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (3:21-26).

Great God, today display Your perfect righteousness in condemning Christ on my behalf and forgiving me on Christ’s behalf through the proclamation of Your perfect Word to Your redeemed people through this justified earthen vessel (2 Corinthians 4:7), all for Your infinite glory!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Fruit of the Spirit Hardest to Remember

“Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:28).

  • “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (16:32).
  • “Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way(23:19).
  • “But some days later Felix...sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus...he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:24,25).
  • “...the fruit of the Spirit is...self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).
  • “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you...the overseer must be...self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:5-9).
  • “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control...if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1:1-11).

Father, today produce in us the Spirit-originating fruit of self-control that is found by faith in the Son for Your glory. Amen.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone

After lifting up the gift of repentance with the Church in the Philippines, on the way home over the Pacific I thought about the warnings in Scripture that the gift can be withdrawn. May we be warned into diligence!

Choosing the world over the promise of God: "But Jacob replied, 'First sell me your birthright.' 'Look,' said Esau, 'I'm about to die! What use is the birthright to me?' But Jacob said, 'Swear an oath to me now.' So Esau swore an oath to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew; Esau ate and drank, then got up and went out. So Esau despised his birthright" (Genesis 25:31-34, N.E.T.).

Consequence: "When Esau heard his father's words, he wailed loudly and bitterly. He said to his father, 'Bless me too, my father!'...Esau said to his father, 'Do you have only that one blessing, my father? Bless me too!' Then Esau wept loudly" (Genesis 27:34,38).

Application: "And see to it that no one becomes an immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that later when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no opportunity for repentance, although he sought the blessing with tears" (Hebrews 12:16,17).
John Bunyan’s illustration from “Pilgrim’s Progress,” Book 1, Stage 2:

“Now,” said Christian, “let me go hence.” “Nay, stay,” said the Interpreter, “Till I have showed thee a little more, and after that thou shalt go on thy way.” So he took him by the hand again, and led him into a very dark room, where there sat a man in an iron cage. Now the man, to look on, seemed very sad; he sat with his eyes looking down to the ground, his hands folded together, and he sighed as if he would break his heart. Then said Christian, “What means this?” At which the Interpreter bid him talk with the man.

Then said Christian to the man, “What art thou?” The man answered, “I am what I was not once.”

“What wast thou once?”

The man said, “I was once a fair and flourishing professor [Luke 8:13], both in mine own eyes, and also in the eyes of others: I once was, as I thought, fair for the celestial city, and had then even joy at the thoughts that I should get thither.”

“Well, but what art thou now?”

“I am now a man of despair, and am shut up in it, as in this iron cage. I cannot get out; Oh now I cannot!”

“But how camest thou into this condition?”

“I left off to watch and be sober: I laid the reins upon the neck of my lusts; I sinned against the light of the word, and the goodness of God; I have grieved the Spirit, and He is gone; I tempted the devil, and he is come to me; I have provoked God to anger, and He has left me: I have so hardened my heart, that I cannot repent.”

Then said Christian to the Interpreter, “But is there no hope for such a man as this?” “Ask him,” said the Interpreter.

Then said Christian, “Is there no hope, but you must be kept in the iron cage of despair?”

“No, none at all.”

“Why, the Son of the Blessed is very pitiful.”

“I have crucified Him to myself afresh [Hebrews 6:6]; I have despised His person [Luke 19:14]; I have despised His righteousness; I have counted His blood an unholy thing; I have done despite to the Spirit of grace [Hebrews 10:29]: therefore I have shut myself out of all the promises and there now remains to me nothing but threatenings, dreadful threatenings, faithful threatenings of certain judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour me as an adversary.”

“For what did you bring yourself into this condition?”

“For the lusts, pleasures, and profits of this world; in the enjoyment of which I did then promise myself much delight: but now every one of those things also bite me, and gnaw me like a burning worm.”

“But canst thou not now repent and turn?”

“God hath denied me repentance [desert rat note: remember that repentance is granted by God, Acts 3:26; 5:31; 11:18; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Timothy 2:25,26]. His Word gives me no encouragement to believe; yea, Himself hath shut me up in this iron cage: nor can all the men in the world let me out. Oh eternity! Eternity! How shall I grapple with the misery that I must meet with in eternity?”

Then said the Interpreter to Christian, “Let this man’s misery be remembered by thee, and be an everlasting caution to thee.” “Well,” said Christian, “this is fearful! God help me to watch and to be sober, and to pray that I may shun the cause of this man’s misery.”

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

You Are That Nation, Church

“Blessed is that nation, whose God is the Lord: even the people that He hath chosen for His inheritance...behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, and upon them that trust in His mercy, our soul waiteth for the Lord: for He is our help and our shield. Surely our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we trusted in His holy Name. Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, as we trusted in Thee” (Psalm 33:12,18,20-22, Geneva Bible).

Church, God has, by His blood (Acts 20:28), redeemed us from “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9). We are that blessed “nation,” that “people that He hath chosen for His inheritance.”

“Having purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, to love brotherly without feigning, love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born anew, not of mortal seed, but of immortal, by the Word of God, Who liveth and endureth forever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man is as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower falleth away. But the Word of the Lord endureth forever: and this is the Word which is preached among you. Wherefore, laying aside all maliciousness, and all guile, and dissimulation, and envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes desire that sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby, because ye have tasted that the Lord is bountiful. To Whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also as lively stones, be made a spiritual house, an holy Priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus are a chosen generation, a royal Priesthood, an holy nation [Exodus 19:5,6], a people set at liberty, that ye should show forth the virtues of Him that hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, which in time past were not a people, yet are now the people of God: which in time past were not under mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 1:22-25; 2:1-5,9,10).

The Exodus quote, originally applied to that single race, that lone nation in the old covenant, is now applied to the “strangers that dwell here and there...elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father unto sanctification of the Spirit, through obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1), the gathered “pilgrims” (2:11) who are the Church, that most blessed “nation” on the earth whose God is the new covenant God of the Bible through the only Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, sealed and preserved by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Give thanks for this grace and blessing this day and every day, forever and ever.