Monday, March 24, 2014

The Deeper Things Behind Spring Fever

Believe it or not, even we desert rats get “spring fever.” Even when spring brings words like dry, brown, dusty, and WIND (which must be know why if you’ve ever experienced it). I want to hit the trails and run. Partly because it’s warmer outside and I like the warmth, but also because it’s Monday. Monday’s the day I start work on the sermon for the following Sunday, and I’m preaching through Genesis 1 right now.

I love what our Creator has made, and I love being out in it. Before dawn this morning I started sermon prep the way I always do when I’m preaching from the Old Testament – I make sure I’m looking at Jesus, because I don’t want to miss Him.

Now that I think about it, this is true when reading the Old Testament or when reading the revelation of nature. I don’t want to miss the point while staring at the Word right in front of me.

So, before dawn, I re-read the text of Genesis and reminded myself that Creation is Trinitarian. This is the full depth of its glory.

“...there is but one God, the Father, from Whom are all things and we exist for Him” (1 Corinthians 8:6). God the Creator is God the Father. Out my early morning window Ursa Minor slowly crawls the sky...most mornings of the year I look out over the cup of coffee I hold near my beard and think, “my Father Who is in heaven put that there...and I’m thankful!”

But it’s not just the Father. God is one, but He is three Persons. The Son Whose earthly life earned my justification and Whose death paid my debt is the very Word by which all this beautiful creation has been made. “...God said...” (10 times in Genesis 1!). This is the only Savior of lost humanity, the King of kings and Lord of lords Who has all authority in heaven and on earth. He is the Word of creation. He is the eternal God the Son Who is one God with the Father but is not the Father. He is the Son.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1-3)

“For [the Father] rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [a statement of authority – see Psalm 89:27] of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:13-17).

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, Whom He appointed heir of all things, through Whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

The Creation moves me to praise this Son Who is the Word of Creation.

God the Holy Spirit is there, too. “...the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). He is the breath of God Who brings the Word forth to create out of nothing. We see them together in the song of the Psalmist: “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host” (33:6).

The Hebrew רוח (and the Greek πνευμα in the New Testament) is translated “Spirit,” “breath,” and “wind.” I think of that often in the desert springtime, when the wind threatens to carry us all off. A lot of folks here grumble about it, but I love it. I think of Him Who moves as He wills and brings the dead to life. We cannot see Him, but we certainly know His effects.

“Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit’” (John 3:5-8). This is one of my favorite of Jesus’ illustrations – mainly because I’m a desert-dweller and I’ve known wind. (By the way, 3:5 is also a really cool allusion to Ecclesiates 11:5!)

Monday morning. Coffee. The beauty of the Creation. The Trinity. The full revelation of the Word of God.

And my salvation.

“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, You know.’ Again He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones and say to them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.” Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, “Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.”’ So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.’”’ So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army” (Ezekiel 37:1-10; cf. James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25)

By the will of God, His Word fills us with the Spirit and we live.

Spring fever. I love being outside. Even if “outside” is the desert in the springtime. As magnificently glorious as the creation is, it tells of an infinitely deeper and glorious Reality. One I look forward to enjoying with all my being forever and ever and ever...
Dust storm, July 2013

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Two Testimonies You Need to Hear Today, Church

“To our dear brothers in the church of Geneva: Grace and peace from our good God and Father through Jesus Christ our Savior be multiplied to you Amen!

Very dear brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ, since you have been informed of our captivity and of the fury which drives our enemies to persecute and afflict us, we felt it would be good to let you know of the liberty of our spirit and of the wonderful assistance and consolation which our good Father and Savior gives us in these dark prison cells, so that you may participate not only in our affliction of which you have heard but also in our consolation, as members of the same body who all participate in common both in the good and in the evil which comes to pass. For this reason we want you to know that although our body is confined here between four walls, yet our spirit has never been so free and so comforted, and has never previously contemplated so fully and so vividly as now the great heavenly riches and treasures and the truth of the promises which God has made to His children; so much so that we seem not only to believe and hope in them but even to see them with our eyes and touch them with our hands, so great and remarkable is the assistance from God in our bonds and imprisonment. So far, indeed, are we from wishing to regard our affliction as a curse from God, as the world and the flesh wish to regard it, that we regard it rather as the greatest blessing that has ever come upon us, for in it we are made true children of God, brothers and companions of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and are conformed to His image; and by it the possession of our eternal inheritance is confirmed to us. Further, we are bold to say and affirm that we shall derive more profit in this school for our salvation than has ever been the case in any place where we have studied, and we testify that this is the true school of the children of God...we therefore praise God with all our heart and give Him undying thanks that He has been pleased to give us by His grace not only the theory of His Word but also the practice of it, and that He has granted us this honor – which is no small thing for vessels so poor and fragile and mere worms creeping on the earth – by bringing us out before men to be His witnesses and giving us constancy to confess His name and maintain the truth of His holy Word before those who are unwilling to hear it, indeed, who persecute it with all their force...we pray you most affectionately to thank our good God with us for granting to us so great a blessing, so that we may return thanks to Him, beseeching Him that, as He has commenced this work in us, so He will complete it, to the end that all glory may be given to Him, and that, whether we live or die, all may be to His honor and glory, to the edification of His poor Church, and to the advancement of our salvation. Amen.”

Sent by five young men imprisoned in Lyon (July 1552), from Philip E. Hughes’ The Register of the Company of Pastors of Geneva in the Time of Calvin (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1966), pgs. 191-192.

They would be burned at the stake.

“Having made profession of the glorious gospel of Christ a long time, and preached the same about five years, I was apprehended at a meeting of good people in the the sessions after I was indicted for an upholder and maintainer of unlawful assemblies and conventicles, and for not conforming to the national worship of the church of England; and after some conference there with the justices, they taking my plain dealing with them for a confession, as they termed it, of the indictment, did sentence me to a perpetual banishment, because I refused to conform. So being again delivered up to the jailer’s hands, I was had home to prison, and there have lain now complete twelve years, waiting to see what God would suffer these men to do with me. In which condition I have continued with much content, through grace, but have met with many turnings and goings upon my heart, both from the Lord, Satan, and my own corruptions; by all which (glory be to Jesus Christ) I have also received among many things, much conviction, instruction, and understanding, of which at large I shall not here discourse; only give you a hint or two, a word that may stir up the godly to bless God, and to pray for me; and also to take encouragement, should the case be their own – not to fear what man can do to them. I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the word of God as now...”

Written by John Bunyan, in his Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Good Things of These Last Days

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1).

The apostle Peter says very much the same thing, and he himself points back to the Lord and the Prophets for the foundation of his conviction: “ should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires” (2 Peter 3:2,3). Note, too, that Jesus issues this warning by way of “commandment.” False teachers will come and will, from the inside of the congregation, attempt to lead the people astray in their beliefs and actions.

Reading both of the last letters of Paul and Peter, we become aware that they were already well-acquainted with the threats of the “last days.” They were themselves living in the “last days.” Their fellow apostle John goes so far as to say “it is the last hour,” and that “now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18). That was some time ago.

I believe the “last days” to be the Gospel Age between the advents of Christ, known in those six verses in the Revelation (and nowhere else) as “the millennium.”

In the midst of the trouble, tribulation, and turmoil that fills most of “last days” discussion these days, we overlook the promised fruit of these days.

In these “last days,” we have the fullness of the revelation of God in the Son of God. We need no other Word. Christ is gloriously all-sufficient to meet our needs, far beyond what we could ever imagine.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, Whom He appointed the heir of all things, through Whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Hebrews 1:1-4).

In “these last days,” we have been given the Person of the Trinity Who is the Gift and Promise of the Father through the Son, the Holy Spirit. We are never alone. We are never without the personal Presence and Power of God.

“But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel [in 2:28-32]: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out My Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”’” (Acts 2:14-21).

In these “last days,” we know that the fruit, purpose, and promised culmination of this age is the resurrection. All else – including the difficulty that overwhelmingly saturates the contemporary discussion like a perverse obsession – pales in comparison to this flowering, this fruit-bearing of this last age.

“And this is the will of Him Who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day...whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:39,40,33,54).

This is the faith of Martha at the tomb of her brother, a faith in which Jesus reveals Himself to be the goal of these “last days.”

“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, Who is coming into the world’” (John 11:23-27).

We are, as the apostles all warn, to be on guard that false teachers do not lead the congregation of the Lord astray (the warning is for the health of the congregation, and not for outside perceived threats, where most of our focus is). However, we must never lose sight of the gift of the Holy Spirit, given by the Father through the risen Son. The glorious gifting and work of the Trinity is the great theme of this final age, and should move us to great praise every one of these “last days.”

If you have not been reconciled to the Father through His Son, repent of your sins and confess Jesus Christ as Lord, believing that He died for your sins and lives forever for your joyful eternal life.

“For He says [in Isaiah 49:8], ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says [in Psalm 95:7,8], ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion...’” (Hebrews 3:7,8).

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Evolved Rebel Against Their God

I do not intend this as a polemic. I am merely pointing out what seems to me to be a logical inconsistency with those who hold to a different worldview than my own.

If homosexuality is a genetic predisposition, it would seem that it is one from the standpoint of Darwinian evolution that would naturally diminish in the gene pool (since those who have it cannot naturally reproduce and thus spread the genetic variation). However, due to advancements in the field of fertility (or arrangements utilizing the natural means of reproduction), individuals with this genetic variance can, in fact, spread this variance in the gene pool through reproduction. Granted, this is a rebellion against natural selection, but we've been doing that for years in our work to save endangered species (which I do not oppose - but then again, I'm not a Darwinian evolutionist). If "fittest" means those most able to naturally propagate the species, we are currently working hard to ensure that nonviable genetic variations do, in fact, spread. Are we are determined to de-evolve?

This would seem to be a logical inconsistency.

On the other hand, from my worldview, this is pretty clear. It would seem that those who did away with God with their theory couldn't escape their rebellious nature. Darwinian evolution became their god, and now, true to fallen human nature, they are rebelling against that god, as well.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Cold, Dark, Dusty Morning with the Inconceivable One

Ah, the week of Daylight Saving Time. I said “week.” I have no idea why it takes me that long to adjust to a single hour’s change to the clock, but it does.

Our Berkhof group met early this morning at a coffee shop in town, and I’m exceedingly glad the fellow there makes good, strong brew. With the time change, the sun didn’t even rise until we were ready to leave. It was a dark, cold, and dusty morning in the high desert.

But the fruit of our fellowship was filling.

We discussed Berkhof’s analysis of agnosticism this morning. Toward the end of his critique, the theologian defends Barth against charges of agnosticism. He then makes this comment: “God reveals Himself exactly as the hidden God, and through His revelation makes us more conscious of the distance which separates Him from man than we ever were before” (Systematic Theology, Part One, II.B.)

I scribbled several verses in the margin of my copy of the “big purple brick” (a slightly more honorable title than the usual “big purple sleeping pill”) that highlight this truth from Scripture. God is knowable to us, but only through His self-revelation in the Scripture, and Scripture’s illumination by the Holy Spirit to those who receive it by faith. The more we know of Him, though, the more aware we are that He is not like us, and that the gracious revealing that makes Him known to us is exceedingly gracious because of the distance between us and Him. The closer He comes, in other words, the more we become aware of how far away He is and gracious He is in drawing near.

And we become ever more aware of the fact that we need a Mediator because of that distance-revealed-in-nearness.

“Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD. And Gideon said, ‘Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.’ But the LORD said to him, ‘Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.’ Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, ‘The LORD Is Peace.’ To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites. That night the LORD said to him, ‘Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down’” (Judges 6:22-26).

“And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, ‘If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.’ (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, ‘What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?’ And the angel of the LORD said to him, ‘Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?’ So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the One Who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground. The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. And Manoah said to his wife, ‘We shall surely die, for we have seen God.’ But his wife said to him, ‘If the LORD had meant to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these’” (Judges 13:16-23).

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for’” (Isaiah 6:1-7).

“On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on Him to hear the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and He saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, He asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets.’ And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Luke 5:1-8).

Other than His self-revelation by the Spirit and the Word, God would be unknowable to us. But in knowing Him, we become more and more acutely aware of just how inconceivable He is. He is not us. In every scriptural account I just mentioned, the revelation of God (or even just His messenger!) made those receiving the revelation aware of God’s holiness and the incompatibility of that with the sinful human being. Atonement must be made. Substitutionary sacrifice must be offered. The infinite gap must be closed or we will not live before Him!

Jesus Christ Himself, in addition to being the full and complete revelation of God (John 1:18; 14:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4,6; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3), is also the mediating Sacrifice that allows us to receive the knowledge and Presence of the Inconceivable One and live. Not live in the small way we usual consider it from day-to-day, but really and truly and abundantly live eternally to His glory and our unimaginably great joy.

Believe what God has revealed, repent of the sin that revelation reveals, and put your faith in the only Mediator that reconciles the knowledge and inconceivability of God.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ash Cake

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But He answered, ‘It is written [in Deuteronomy 8:3], “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”’” (Matthew 4:1-4).

This hunger. It is purposeful. It is the lesson, the test.

“And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:2,3).

The Exodus generation failed it. The true Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, passed the test.

He then ascended the mountain, sat, and taught the disciples more about hunger and bread and the way of the Father between the two...

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven...give us this day our daily bread...’” (Matthew 6:9-11).

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:7-11).

Bread, bread, bread. Pray for it. Be thankful for the good gift of it.

But remember. Never forget. Your life does not come from the bread.

If you are focused on the bread, you’ll miss eternal life. Even if you’re eating that bread from the hand of the Son of God Himself, you’ll find yourself hungry in eternity.

One day the Lord fed 5,000 people bread. Bellies filled, they followed Him. The bread wasn’t enough for eternal life.

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set his seal’” (John 6:26,27).

Pray for the Word from the mouth of the Father. Be thankful for the good gift of it. It is bread that truly brings life, life, eternal life.

“Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He Who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world...I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger...I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever’” (John 6:32,33,35,48-51,57,58).

Hungry? Where are you going to go?

“After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God’” (John 6:66-69).

Seek this bread.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Gospel Suffering

“Remember that Jesus Christ, made of the seed of David, was raised again from the dead according to my Gospel, wherein I suffer trouble as an evil doer, even unto bonds: but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I suffer all things for the elect’s sake, that they might also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:8-10, Geneva Bible).

This suffering is not just Paul’s – he gives a command to Timothy to suffer, as well. Three times.
  • “Be not therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, neither of me his prisoner: but be partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God, Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us through Christ Jesus before the world was, But is now made manifest by that appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality unto light through the Gospel” (1:8-10). This is a command.
  • “Thou therefore suffer affliction as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth, entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, because he would please him that hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2:3,4). This is a command.
  • “...suffer adversity (4:5). Again, this is a command.

The only other place this verb is used in the N.T. is in James, where we are given the means by which we are meant to endure suffering. “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray” (James 5:13). “The grace of also increased and strengthened by the work of the Spirit through...prayer...” This is the “means appointed by God” in our Gospel suffering (1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 14.1).

Growth in grace through prayer is God’s intended purpose in Gospel suffering for the elect.

The Gospel suffering of the elect is also a means of God’s effectual calling in the witness of the Church:
  • “Behold, I send you as sheep in the midst of the wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the Councils, and will scourge you in their Synagogues. And ye shall be brought to the governors and kings for my sake, in witness to them, and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that hour, what ye shall say. For it is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:16-20). We are to suffer for Christ’s “ witness to them.”
  • “...this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongly...and if when ye do well, ye suffer wrong and take it patiently, this is acceptable to God. For hereunto ye are called: for Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that ye should follow his steps, Who did no sin, neither was there guile found in his mouth. Who when he was reviled, reviled not again: when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed it to him that judgeth righteously. Who his own self bare our sins in his body on the tree, that we being dead to sin, should live in righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:19,21-24). This is one of the places where “W.W.J.D.” actually applies.

This is not a defeatist theology. This is the God-decreed means by which we will reign with Christ, Who has “all heaven, and in earth” (Matthew 28:18).
  • “Then Peter said, ‘Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.’ And he said unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children for the kingdom of God’s sake, Which shall not receive much more in this world, and in the world to come life everlasting’” (Luke 18:28-30).
  • “And ye are they which have continued with me in my tentations. Therefore I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me, That ye may eat, and drink at my table, in my kingdom, and sit on seats, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28-30).
  • “Confirming the disciples hearts, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, affirming that we must through many afflictions enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Please not that Paul’s encouragement to them in his preaching and teaching included this teaching on suffering!
  • “If we be children, we are also heirs, even the heirs of God, and heirs annexed with Christ: if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him. For I count that the afflictions of this present time are not worthy of the glory, which shall be showed unto us” (Romans 8:17,18).
  • “If we suffer, we shall also reign together with him” (2 Timothy 2:12).
  • “I John even your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the Isle called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the witnessing of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9).
  • “And I saw seats: and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them, and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which did not worship the beast, neither his image, neither had taken his mark upon their foreheads or on their hands: and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead men shall not live again, until the thousand years be finished: this is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he, that hath part in the first resurrection: for on such the second death hath no power: but they shall be the Priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4-6).

Do we believe His Word? We are to ascend to the throne through Gospel suffering.

If the Church is surprised by suffering, it will be because the Word was not faithfully preached in the pulpit. If the preachers are surprised, it will be because they preached from something other than the Word.

May we preach and hear the full message of Gospel suffering unto growth in grace, unstoppable spread of the Gospel, and Kingdom reign with Christ.

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).