Do Not Grow Weary

In recent news the hostile subject of marriage has come before the Supreme Court of our country.  There is no question that our country is divided over the issue of marriage, with the balance sliding more and more in the wrong direction.  The Bible is clear on the definition of marriage (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18-25; Mt. 19:1-12; Eph. 5:22-33) with all of its benefits.  Of course there are many, whether on blogs or television or radio, who misquote and misunderstand Scripture.  They, like the devil himself, seem skilled in twisting the words of God and are like the blind leading the blind.  Nevertheless, with all that is going on in our country over the issue of marriage it can be quite maddening as well as disheartening to say the least.  What can the righteous do when the foundation seems to be shaking?  What can the people of God do when it seems that the wicked are prevailing, whether it is in the case of marriage or any other subject?  How are we to live in this present evil age?  Well, there are several things to consider.  This is by no means an exhaustive list for Christians.  But it is at least a start…

1. Let us remember where we live (Gen. 3; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 2:2; 1 Pt. 2:9; 1 Jn. 5:19).  It is good to be honest.  This world, including America, is fallen and sinful.  We live in a place where evil is present and seemingly prevailing.  We praise God that we have been delivered from such a place by grace through faith in Christ and that we are secure in Him with the Holy Spirit as our guarantee.  But let us not forget where we temporarily live.  This place is not paradise.  This place is full of men and women, boys and girls, who are evil and who do evil things, even with a smile on their face.  We would do the same but for the grace of God!  But let’s be honest about where we live.  We shouldn’t expect anything different from those who are evil.

2. Let us remember who is on the throne (Ps. 2; Rev. 4-5).  Don’t loose heart.  There is a righteous King ruling and reigning who knows all and sees all.  No one is getting away with anything.  The battle belongs to the Lord and He will win in the end.  It is the Lord who laughs last.  We must hold fast to our confession and be ready to give a defense.  The Lord reigns and is sovereign.  Let us remember that we have a Father who knows what He is doing and is working all things together for our good.  Our sovereign Lord knows how to keep us and defend us and bring us safely home, even though it is through the valley of the shadow of death.  We need not fear any evil because the Lord our Shepherd is with us to the very end.

2. Let us pray down heaven (Ps. 7, 10; Dan. 6, 9; Heb. 4:16; Rev. 5:8; 8:1-5).  In so many of the psalms we have David or others who find themselves in distress.  It seems their first recourse is prayer.  They run to the throne of grace for help.  In fact it seems that all throughout the Bible God’s people pray in regards to the injustice and wickedness and sin they see all around them and even within them.

3. Let us not forsake the assembling for worship (Ps. 73; Heb.10:23-25).  The worse thing to do in times of difficulty or crisis is to abandon corporate worship.  Forsaking the gathering together of the saints is detrimental to our spiritual vitality, especially when we realize that we are in spiritual warfare and are not playing a game.  Worship gives us the right perspective and it is where the Lord teaches us and rebukes us and corrects and trains us and calms us.  There our Lord grants us contentment and joy in Him so that the things of this world tend to fade into the background and we once again have the right perspective.  Worship is meant to stir us up and encourage us to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering because he who promised is faithful.

4. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus (Heb.12).  The Christian life is one of struggle and weariness.  The race of faith is difficult as we learn daily.  How will we endure as we face the increasing hostility of the world in things such as marriage and all else?  We must keep our eyes on the “founder and perfecter of our faith”.  He despised the shame and joyfully accepted the abuse and is now at the right hand of the throne of God.  Let us also remember where our heart is and our eternal home.  Let us not trade in such a great salvation for such meagerness as this world.  Let us be even willing to suffer and die as we struggle against sin, knowing that our Father has our holiness and good in mind.

5. Let us speak the truth and do good (Mark 1; Rom. 1; 1 Peter 4:12-19).  Those to whom the apostle Peter wrote lived under ungodly civil government and were surrounded by an ungodly society.  How were they to handle it?  They were not to be surprised, to rejoice for being associated with Christ and sharing in his sufferings, to consider themselves blessed, and to “entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good”.  If we must suffer, then let it be for doing what is good and righteous.

6. Let us remember that this is not our home (Heb. 11:13-16; 13:14).  Here we have no lasting city and are therefore not tied to it.  We are citizens of heaven more than we are citizens of this earth.  And we await with eagerness and joy the great Day when Christ will return to get rid of evil once and for all and usher in the New Heavens and Earth where we will spend eternity with our Lord and Savior.

7. Let us trust God, His power, & His design (Acts; Rom. 1:16-17; 1 Thess. 1).  We are told that the gospel is the power of God to salvation and that faith comes by hearing through preaching.  And we know that the Holy Spirit is God and will prevail whenever and wherever He chooses.  Let us not doubt the power of God but boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  There is no other hope for us or for our country.  Let us leave it to God and faithfully believe, know, love, & proclaim the Word of God.  We don’t have to do this with screaming however.  Let us proclaim the gospel boldly and winsomely and calmly and patiently though uncompromisingly, knowing full well that God’s Word is sharper than any two-edged sword and is living active.  His Word works whether we see it or not.  Let us trust and obey.

Fight the good fight of the faith and run the race with endurance and know that the same grace that has brought us safe thus far will lead us safely all the way Home.  Our God is a mighty fortress whose truth and Kingdom are forever.

We always have every reason to “give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and…sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” (Psalms 7:17).

Advertisements

Mighty Weakness

Douglas Bond, in The Mighty Weakness of John Knox, explains how the Scottish Reformer, though he was intent on silencing the enemies, he was equally intent on empowering the weak through education.  Bond writes of Knox:

“John Knox had a vociferous tongue and, when provoked, as we have seen, he could lay on the invectives against wickedness and the enemies of Christ and His church.  But it is important to observe that he reserved his thunder for the influential elite.  For the commoner, however, Knox had nothing but compassion and patience…”

Knox sought to defend and educate the weak, those the current establishment in the church and country sought to suppress.  Reading Bond’s comments on the Scottish Reformer, I couldn’t help but think that John Knox was so much like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who reserved his most fierce words for those who were of their “father the devil” (John 6:44) and his most tender words for those who knew themselves to be sinners in need of His sovereign saving grace.  Bond says that Knox “saw himself as a weak man made mighty by God’s grace…”  Such is the attitude fostered by those who are followers of Christ.  It is when we are weak that we are strong because God’s grace is sufficient.  And John Knox sought to promulgate that truth to those who were weak so that the joy of the Lord would be their strength.  To do so, among other ways, Knox set about the task of educating the people with the Word of God.  Bond continues… 

“Medieval religion had worn itself out attempting to dazzle the masses with images and candles, vestments and ceremony, but Reformation Christianity was a religion of the Word, and Knox wanted that Word accessible to everyone.  Rich or poor, male or female, he was determined that Christ’s glory be known in all Scotland through literacy.  Hence, he urged the nobility, ‘Of necessity it is that your Honors be most careful for the virtuous education and godly upbringing of the youth of the realm.’ He saw the grand objective of education as ‘the advancement of Christ’s glory,’ and urged that Christ-centered education be established for the ‘continuing benefit of the generations following.’

“To accomplish this, Knox, in the Books of Discipline, established the first national education system in the Western world.  Hence, the prototype nation for universal literacy is Reformation Scotland, and every one of the ‘public’ schools throughout the land — awkward though the fact may be to moderns — was distinctly Christian, with the Bible in English and ‘the catechism of Geneva’ as the curriculum.”

What was the objective of Knox in this?  It was to empower the weak to acknowledge their weakness and turn away from themselves and cling to Christ Jesus and so grow in his grace and knowledge.  Bond concludes his book on John Knox with these encouraging words to those who know they are weak but God is strong:

“How can strength ever be wanting for the least saint who finds his might in the fullness of God’s omnipotence?  What might God do in our world if ordinary Christians acknowledged their frailty and found rest in God’s grace and power?  Knox, the quintessential ‘simple, sincere, fervent, and unfeigned’ man, summed up what happened in his world: ‘God have his Holy Spirit to simple men in great abundance.’  May he do the same in our world.  And may we be Christians, like John Knox, who know our mighty weakness, turn from ourselves, and find strength in the inexhaustible power of God alone.”

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~ 2 Cor. 12:10

The Blood of the Eternal Covenant

Rick Phillips, in his commentary on Hebrews, gives a wonderful description of the doctrine of the atonement and its importance in our lives:

The atonement is a repulsive subject to many; they flinch to think that God would require blood-shedding in order to achieve his goals. There is hardly a more arresting sight than that of human blood being spilled.  People see blood and they faint.  They stumble upon a crime scene, perhaps, or a traffic accident, and stop dead in their tracks to realize they are looking at a stain of human blood upon the ground.  Blood is the very presence of death and suffering and lament.  Yet it is with the shedding of his own Son’s precious blood that God makes his most important and essential and final statements to this world, statements we must hear and receive if we are to come to God for salvation.

 

The first statement that the blood of Christ makes is God’s holy judgement on our sin.  It is only, really, when we see the blood of the Son of God spilled upon the earth that we comprehend anything of the sinfulness of sin. The Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs wrote: “From hence we see what is the evil of sin.  How great it is that has made such a breach between God and my soul that only such a way and such a means must take away my sin.  I must either have lain under the burden of my sin eternally, or Jesus Christ, who is God and man, must suffer so much for it.”  J.C. Ryle adds, “Terribly black must that guilt be for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction.  Heavy must that weight of human sin be which made Jesus groan and sweat drops of blood and agony at Gethsemane and cry at Golgotha, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? (Matt. 27:46).”

 

Second, the blood of Christ also shows the great magnitude of God’s love for us.  It is in dimensions appropriate to a cross that Paul speaks of God’s love in Ephesians 3:18, praising its width and length and height and depth.

 

Third, the blood of Christ proclaims God’s full involvement in our world, at every level… In light of the cross of Christ, the accusation that God is far off and aloof from the reality of this world is in fact the greatest of all blasphemies.  For the cross displays God’s involvement in this world in a way that is not only far greater than we could demand, but is far more gracious than we could imagine.

Praising the God of Sovereign Grace

Recently our church worked its way through 1 & 2 Samuel in our evening worship service on the Lord’s Day.  One thing struck me in particular as we came to the end in 2 Samuel 24.  The sovereign grace of God is pervasive.  In 1 Samuel we read of Elkanah (Hannah’s husband) going up on a continual basis to “worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts” (1 Sam. 1:3).  Now go to the very end of 2 Samuel and find king David building an altar to the LORD and offering “burnt offerings and peace offerings” (2 Sam. 24:25).  The twin books of 1 & 2 Samuel are about the everlasting kingdom of God.  And we are meant to see that it would neither exist nor last were it not for the sovereign grace of God who made precious and very great promises to that end.  Again and again we are reminded that David is not the King of kings but is a type of Jesus who is himself dependent upon His sovereign and gracious and good and glorious reign over the Kingdom of God.  This is why David is offering sacrifices on the altar to the Lord.  The king is resting in the work of the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus the Christ.

John Knox, perhaps known best as the father of Presbyterianism, was hated and persecuted for many things, especially for preaching the sovereign grace of God in salvation.  He spoke and wrote boldly for the sake of Christ and His Church.  He understood that there were always men and women and children opposed to the gospel.  Like the apostle Paul, Knox was determined to attribute “all praise and glory of our redemption to the eternal love and undeserved grace of God alone” because, as he said, “absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God” (John Knox, The Works of John Knox, V:24.  Quotes from Douglas Bond, The Mighty Weakness of John Knox, Reformation Trust, p.80,81).

For Knox, central to God’s sovereign grace were the doctrines of election and predestination.  He saw the doctrine of predestination not as an optional doctrine but one that is most necessary if one wants the gospel and to truly praise God:

“The doctrine of God’s eternal predestination is so necessary to the church of God, that, without the same, can faith neither be truly taught, neither surely established; man can never be brought to true humility and knowledge of himself; neither yet can he be ravished in admiration of God’s eternal goodness, and so moved to praise Him.  And therefore we fear not to affirm, that so necessary as it is that true faith be established in our hearts, that we be brought to unfeigned humility, and that we be moved to praise Him for His free graces received; so necessary also is the doctrine of God’s eternal predestination… There is no way more proper to build and establish faith, than when we hear and undoubtedly do believe that our election… consisteth not in ourselves, but in the eternal and immutable good pleasure of God.  And that in such firmity that it can not be overthrown, neither by the raging storms of the world, nor by the assaults of Satan; neither yet by the wavering and weakness of our own flesh.  Then only is our salvation in assurance, when we find the cause of the same in the bosom and counsel of God.” (Bond quoting Knox, p.85,86)

Surely David would add his “Amen!”.  This is why David was at the end of his life at the foot of the cross of Christ, which was typified in those sacrifices.  King David surely knew that it was the Lord who first sought him and called him and established him and taught him and grew him.  He was tending sheep and had no ambitions to be king.  God sought him and made him a shepherd of His people as their king.  As we read the end of David’s life, we should not forget all of his sins and blunders and weaknesses.  Beginning with 1 Samuel 1 and ending with 2 Samuel 24, it isn’t too hard to see that though David was a man after God’s own heart by the grace of God, he surely would have brought the kingdom crumbling down due to his own sins and failures and weaknesses.  Over and over we learn that the kingdom really only advanced because of God.  And though David himself was a “mighty man”, he could not have held the kingdom together.  The enemies were too strong and plentiful.  The Philistine giants seemed to have multiplied at the end of his life!  David’s sacrifices at the end of 2 Samuel were so as to say: “But for the sovereign grace of God…”

The author of Hebrews reminds us that we have an altar, not like that of the ceremonial kind, but that to which the old covenant sacrifices pointed.  We have the cross of Christ as our altar (Hebrews 13:10-11).  We have the sacrifice of Jesus as the table upon which we feed and so grow by faith.  And at the cross we learn to say of our own lives and of the unshakable Kingdom to which we belong through faith in Christ: “But for the sovereign grace of God…”  It is good to continually eat at this altar of grace before we eat our breakfast and throughout the day.  For our hearts are only strengthened by grace (Hebrews 13:9).

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares,

I have already come;

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.