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Exodus 35     John 14     Proverbs 11     Ephesians 4

Exodus 35

Sabbath Regulations

Exodus 35:1 Moses assembled all the congregation of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do. 2 Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3 You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.”

Contributions for the Tabernacle

4 Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. 5 Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; 6 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; goats’ hair, 7 tanned rams’ skins, and goatskins; acacia wood, 8 oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 9 and onyx stones and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece.

10 “Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded: 11 the tabernacle, its tent and its covering, its hooks and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; 12 the ark with its poles, the mercy seat, and the veil of the screen; 13 the table with its poles and all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; 14 the lampstand also for the light, with its utensils and its lamps, and the oil for the light; 15 and the altar of incense, with its poles, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the door, at the door of the tabernacle; 16 the altar of burnt offering, with its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils, the basin and its stand; 17 the hangings of the court, its pillars and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court; 18 the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the court, and their cords; 19 the finely worked garments for ministering in the Holy Place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests.” 20 Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. 22 So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the LORD. 23 And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them. 24 Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the LORD’s contribution. And every one who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work brought it. 25 And every skillful woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. 26 All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. 27 And the leaders brought onyx stones and stones to be set, for the ephod and for the breastpiece, 28 and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. 29 All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD.

Construction of the Tabernacle

30 Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, 32 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. 34 And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.

John 14

John 13:1–17:26 These five chapters recount the ministry of Jesus to the disciples in the upper room, a ministry accompanied by a meal. The other Gospels indicate that the Lord’s Supper was instituted on this occasion, but John does not say so, perhaps because he viewed the institution as sufficiently covered in the three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

The relationship between the Synoptic accounts and John’s Gospel has been extensively discussed by many commentators. The Synoptic Gospels all state that the meal alluded to in 13:2 was the Passover meal (Matt. 26:17–30; Mark 14:12–26; Luke 22:7–23). John, on the other hand, implies that the meal took place on the eve of the Passover, and that Jesus died at the precise time when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered (13:1, 29; 18:28; 19:14, 31, 42).   ESV Reformation Study Bible

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

Proverbs 11

Proverbs 11:1 A false balance is an abomination to the LORD,
but a just weight is his delight.
2  When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom.
3  The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
4  Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
5  The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
6  The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
7  When the wicked dies, his hope will perish,
and the expectation of wealth perishes too.
8  The righteous is delivered from trouble,
and the wicked walks into it instead.
9  With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.
10  When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
11  By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.
12  Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
but a man of understanding remains silent.
13  Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
14  Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
15  Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm,
but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.
16  A gracious woman gets honor,
and violent men get riches.
17  A man who is kind benefits himself,
but a cruel man hurts himself.
18  The wicked earns deceptive wages,
but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.
19  Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
but he who pursues evil will die.
20  Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD,
but those of blameless ways are his delight.
21  Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished,
but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.
22  Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
is a beautiful woman without discretion.
23  The desire of the righteous ends only in good,
the expectation of the wicked in wrath.
24  One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
25  Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.
26  The people curse him who holds back grain,
but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.
27  Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,
but evil comes to him who searches for it.
28  Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
29  Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind,
and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
30  The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and whoever captures souls is wise.
31  If the righteous is repaid on earth,
how much more the wicked and the sinner!

Ephesians 4

Unity in the Body of Christ

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

The New Life

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

ESV Study Bible

How Can God Allow Horrific Evil Like School Shootings?

By J. Warner Wallace 3/12/2018

     Unsurprisingly, our national conversation about gun violence intensifies following any well-publicized shooting or murder, especially if it occurs in a school or public setting. The recent massacre in Parkland, Florida, for example, leaves many of us searching for answers. As a Christian who happens to be a homicide detective, I’ve wrestled to understand how an all-powerful, all-loving God would allow the horrific evil I’ve observed over the years. Human free-will is an important part of the answer. If God exists and wants us to genuinely love one another, He must first allow us something dangerous: personal freedom. This kind of liberty is risky, because it must, by it’s very nature, also allow the freedom to do great harm. Human free agency is a double-edged knife, and each of us must decide how we will handle it responsibly.

     So, as I talk with others about what happened in Parkland (or in any other recent shooting), I do my best to address the issues as both a detective and a Christian, balancing the relationship between our God-given freedoms and our civic responsibilities:

     Our Freedoms and Responsibilities Related to Gun Possession | Many, in response to gun violence, are inclined to call for the elimination (or drastic restriction) of guns in our country. Others resist any such limitation. Once again, we must balance both our freedoms and our responsibilities. As a Christian, I believe deadly force can be properly justified, but as a detective (and a gun owner), I’ve seen this freedom abused. For this reason, I find myself asking measured questions: Who should be disqualified from gun ownership based on prior criminal behavior or mental illness? What forms of gun security (i.e. locks or safes) should be legally required? What kinds of consequences should be expected for people who allow their guns to fall into the hands of others (even their own kids)? As a Christian, I understand the importance of retaining the freedom to defend ourselves from evil, but as a detective I understand the responsibility that comes with such a liberty.

     Our Freedoms and Responsibilities Related to Mental Illness | It doesn’t surprise me that authorities were aware of the killer in Parkland, even before he acted. This is often the case, given our national approach to mental illness. As a culture, we are hesitant to restrict people’s freedoms, and we lack the financial resources to do so, even if we wanted to. We have a system in place to house someone once he or she commits a crime, but far fewer options to house someone once they are declared mentally ill. In times like this, it’s easy to say that Parkland would never have occurred if the killer didn’t have access to guns. But it’s just as accurate to say that Parkland would never have occurred if the mentally ill killer had been institutionalized. As a Christian, I understand the need to freely love those who are struggling with mental illness, but as a detective I understand the responsibility we have to protect society from harm.

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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and author.

J. Warner Wallace Books:

Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels
God's Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe
Alive: A Cold-Case Approach to the Resurrection
Cold-Case Christianity for Kids: Investigate Jesus with a Real Detective
Keeping Your Kids on God's Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith
Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith

You Must Fight Hard for Peace

By Jon Bloom 3/13/2018

     The dove is a nearly universal symbol of peace. And a very appropriate one. Doves are beautiful, gentle, faithful creatures. They’re also, well, flighty creatures. It doesn’t take much to send a dove fluttering away. A harsh word, a rash gesture, and off she goes. If you want a dove to stay around, you have to be very careful how you speak and act. Which is a lot like what it takes to be at peace with other people.

     The author of Hebrews tells us to “strive for peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14). His implication: peace — real, honest peace, not dysfunctional conflict avoidance — is hard to keep. How hard? Well, pursuing peace fits into the list of hard things he groups around this statement:

  • It’s hard like lifting drooping hands and strengthening weak knees when you’re tired and discouraged (Hebrews 12:12).
  • It’s hard like continuing to walk when your leg is injured (Hebrews 12:13).
  • It’s hard like living in a holiness that evidences the reality of your faith even though your indwelling sin continually tries to derail you into unholy passions (Hebrews 12:14).
  • It’s hard like not allowing the constant barrage of deceitful sin to harden our hearts and lead us away from God into apostasy (Hebrews 3:12–13), which is what the writer means by being defiled by a “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15, quoting Deuteronomy 29:18).
  • It’s hard like the constant vigilance required to remain sexually pure (Hebrews 12:16).

     Striving for peace with everyone is hard, like all aspects of the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). It’s spiritual warfare. Peace will always be attacked, and we have to do everything we can to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13) and live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18). It’s a great kingdom irony that we must fight hard for peace.

     “Persecute” Conflict | The Greek word translated as “strive for” in Hebrews 12:14 is diōkō. It’s a strong word — stronger than modern English speakers typically mean when say “strive.” Versions of diōkō are used many times in the New Testament. Here are a few familiar examples (in italics):

  • Jesus: “Blessed are you when others . . . persecute you” (Matthew 5:11).
  • Jesus: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).
  • Paul: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14) — and Paul meant “by any means possible” (Philippians 3:11).
  • John: “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child” (Revelation 12:13).
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     Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.

Jon Bloom Books:

Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith
Things Not Seen: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Trusting God's Promises
Don't Follow Your Heart: God's Ways Are Not Your Ways

What’s So Funny about Easter?

By Glen Scrivener 3/13/2018

     You know how they categorize Shakespeare’s plays, right? If it ends with a wedding, it’s a comedy. And if it ends with a funeral, it’s a tragedy. So we’re all living tragedies, because we all end the same way, and it isn’t with a . . . wedding. ― Robyn Schneider, The Beginning of Everything

     What is life, a tragedy or a comedy?

     I’m not asking whether life is a barrel of laughs. We all know it’s not. “Comedy” and “tragedy” have particular meanings. In literature, “comedy” and “tragedy” refer to the shape of a story, not so much its content or even its tone.

     Shakespeare’s tragedies, for instance, were full of jokes. Or at least that’s what our English teachers told us at school. If we’re honest, we probably hadn’t noticed the gags—I hadn’t anyway. When the alleged “humor” was pointed out I dutifully said, “Oh,” and wrote in my exercise book: Hamlet is making a joke, apparently.

     Frown or Smile? | Tragedies can have jokes, and comedies can have heartache. In fact, much of comedy depends on the banana-peel moment, the pompous being brought down a peg or two, or the grand farce where everything falls apart. Tragedies contain joy, comedies contain pain, but the distinguishing mark of each is the ending. At the end of a Shakespearean tragedy the bodies are piled up on the stage. At the end of a Shakespearean comedy—in all 14 of them, in fact—there is a wedding. Or four.

     To help fix it in your mind, think of it this way: a comedy is shaped like a smile. You go down then up—descending into darkness before rising up to joy. A tragedy, on the other hand, is shaped like a frown—up then down. You climb to prosperity then tumble into the pit.

     So then, now that we’ve clarified the question, let me ask it again: What is life, a tragedy or a comedy?

     Life as a Tragedy | Tragedy, surely! That’s what professor Lawrence Krauss would tell us:

     "The picture that science presents to us is . . . uncomfortable. Because what we have learned is that we are more insignificant than we ever could have imagined. . . . And in addition it turns out that the future is miserable."

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     Glen Scrivener is an evangelist and author of several books, including Four Kinds of Christmas: Which Are You?. Glen also directs the charity Speak Life, which released a four-episode evangelistic mini-film, Meet the Nativity, in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2017.

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The Moment of Truth: Its Rejection

By Steven J. Lawson 3/7/2018

     Today, it is often said, “I have my truth, and you have your truth.” Our generation likes to deny absolute truth, saying that something can be true for one person but not true for someone else. This view is not new. In John 18, our Lord stood trial before Pilate. It was the day before His crucifixion, and He would soon be sentenced to death. But before Pilate gives the final verdict, we read this conversation:

     (Jn 18:36–38) 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”   ESV

     Pilate, standing before the Lord Jesus Christ, who is truth incarnate, voices an age-old question. But it is not an honest question from one searching to know the truth. Rather, it is a defiant denunciation of the truth. It is spoken with a tone of derision. It is dismissive. It is spoken with contempt. This response is asserted mockingly by Pilate. It is a disparaging chide, dripping with sarcasm. It is a caustic rebuttal, intended to belittle the notion that there is any such thing in this world as a truth claim. This is a barbed jab by Pilate into the ribs of the Lord Jesus Christ, meant to deflate Him and denigrate any notion that Jesus could claim to know and speak the truth. Pilate objects to the very idea of an exclusive truth claim.

     This question has echoed down the centuries and corridors of time, and it is growing louder and louder today. In this very generation in which we live, we hear this malignant mantra: “What is truth?”

     The spirit of Pilate lives in our day. The spirit of Pilate is alive and well on college campuses. It sits in the halls of our government and legislates our moral code. It reigns in our media. It teaches in many of our seminaries. It stands in pulpits today. We live in a culture that is defiant of any notion of truth. We live in a day that not only denies truth, but is against truth. This is an age that is tolerant of anything and anyone except one who claims to know the truth.

     In this blog series, we will examine these verses that contain this exchange between Pilate and Jesus in John 18. We will learn some key distinguishing marks related to truth: first, the rejection of the truth; second, the reality of the truth; and third, the reception of the truth.

     What Is Truth? | We are surrounded on every side in this culture by the question “What is truth?” This is really the mother of all sins. It is a deliberate setting aside and an intentional rejection of the truth of God.

     This is the way it was in the very beginning. In Genesis 3, Satan the serpent slithered on to the pages of human history, and he came to launch an attack on the truth. He said, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Satan knew very well what God had said, but he came to call God’s words into question—to dismiss the truth of God. The original sin was a rejection of the truth—a rejection of God’s way. Man chose to go his own way, to decide for himself what is true, to make his own choices in defiance of the truth.

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     Steven J. Lawson is president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today, as well as the Professor of Preaching in the masters and doctoral programs at The Master's Seminary, Sun Valley, California.

Steven J. Lawson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 33

The Steadfast Love of the LORD

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

ESV Study Bible

Exodus 35; John 14; Proverbs 11; Ephesians 4

By Don Carson 3/24/2018

     The farewell discourse, beginning in John 14, includes some extraordinarily rich material on the Holy Spirit. Some highlights:

     (1) In Greek, every noun is grammatically designated masculine, feminine, or neuter. The word for “spirit” is neuter. When a pronoun referring to “spirit” is used, it too should be neuter. In this chapter, however, the pronoun is sometimes masculine, breaking grammatical form, a way of gently affirming that the Holy Spirit is personal.

     (2) Among his titles is “Counselor” (14:16), or, in some English versions, “Comforter” or “Helper.” When Comforter is coined, it drew from Latin words that meant “to strengthen” or “to strengthen along with.” Today a comforter is either a thick quilt or someone who helps the bereaved, and is therefore too restrictive to convey what is meant here. The Greek word is capable of a variety of nuances, so some do not translate it but merely transliterate it (i.e., put it into English spelling) as Paraclete. He is certainly someone who is called alongside to help and to strengthen. Sometimes the help is legal: he can for instance serve as prosecuting attorney (16:7 -11), and he may be our legal “Counselor.” (The word should not conjure up pictures of camp counselors or psychological counselors.)

     (3) He is, Jesus says, “another Counselor” (14:16, italics added). In older Greek, this word for “another” usually had overtones of “another of the same kind.” By the time of the New Testament, that meaning is fairly rare; it cannot be assumed, but must be demonstrated from the context. In this case, Jesus is clearly promising to send someone who will stand in his place. Intriguingly, apart from its use in the Farewell Discourse, the word rendered “Counselor” is found in the New Testament only in one other place, viz. 1 John 2:1 (NIV: “one who speaks to the Father in our defense”). So Jesus is the first Paraclete. At his impending departure, he promises to send the Holy Spirit, another Paraclete, to and for his followers.

     (4) He is also called “the Spirit of truth” (14:17). This not only means he tells the truth as opposed to lies, but that he is the true Spirit, the one who mediates the very presence of the Father and the Son to the believers (14:23).

     (5) The Spirit, Jesus promises, “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (14:26). Since the “you” are being reminded of what Jesus said, in the first instance they must be the first disciples. The Spirit will enable them to recall Jesus’ teaching, and flesh out its significance in the wake of the cross and resurrection. How secure would the links have been without his work?

Click here to go to source

Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

Don Carson Books:

Roots in the Pepsi Generation

By R.C. Sproul 5/1977

     The column’s title, “Right Now – Counts Forever” is designed to focus attention on the relevancy of our present lives to the eternal destinies we all face. We live in a culture that places the stress on “Right Now.” It’s called the “Pepsi Generation”—we are told to live life with “gusto” because we “only go around once.” Short range goals, pragmatic methods of problem solving, a quiet hysteria to make it happen “now,” all point to modern man’s despair regarding the future. The unspoken assumption is that it’s “now or never” because there is no ultimate future for mankind.

     Our Christian assertion is that there is more to our lives than “now.” If there is not, then even the now is meaningless. But we say now counts. Why? Now counts because we are creatures who have an origin and a destiny which is rooted and grounded in God.

     Did I say “rooted?” Why is that word so important? Recently we’ve experienced a cultural phenomenon of epic proportions. The televised drama, Roots has already had a shaking effect on our people. Can we explain the national reaction to Kunta Kinte and “Chicken George” merely in terms of our raw feeling of years of racial strife? I don’t think so. Neither does Alex Haley. Roots typifies a problem that transcends race. It is the problem of identity for all of modern man. Who am I?

     The question of identity can never be answered merely in terms of the present. To know who I am involves a discovery of my past (my origin) and at least a glimpse of my future (my destiny). If I am a cosmic accident springing from the dust and destined for more dust then I am nothing. I am a joke… a tale told by an idiot. But if my ultimate roots are grounded in eternity and my destiny is anchored in that same eternity, then I know something of who I am. I know I am a creature of eternal significance. If that’s so then my life counts. What I do today counts forever. Now, the now means something.

     Roots stirred us deeply because it provoked the hope that if we go back far enough we might find continuity and stability. Roots had its messiah figure in Chicken George. The program went through an entire episode with Chicken George never visibly present. Yet his “invisible presence” permeated every scene. I have never seen a television production where a character was so obviously present while not appearing on the screen. When George did appear he led his family in a new exodus to a new land of promise. Roots looked backward and forward in such a way as to give the present meaning.

     As T.V. treated us to Roots so Hollywood has treated us to Rocky—this film has captured the public imagination in a fresh way. Perhaps it represents merely an exercise in nostalgia, a throwback to Frank Merriwell and the original happy ending. Or perhaps it represents a protest to the age of the anti-hero and the story line of chaos that characterizes modern filmdom. Whatever the motive the movie reflects not in the Cinderella motif but the portrayal of human sensitivity displayed in Rocky’s mercy as a bill collector for the loan shark and his tenderness on the ice rink.

     Applaudable warmth is seen in Rocky’s “Lennie-like” love for animals and wayward teenagers and his sentiment for his manager. The fruit of discipline, endurance, and devotion to dignity are actually cast in roles of virtue. Rocky worked and fought not for a momentary prize but for a stand of valor that lasts.

     Maybe Rocky is a milestone. Maybe we are beginning to see there is more to life than Pepsi-Cola. It’s not now or never, but now and forever. Right now counts. It counts… for eternity.

Click here to go to source

Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

R.C. Sproul Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 10.


The divisions of this chapter are, I. The necessity and usefulness of this doctrine. Extremes to be avoided, if we would rightly use the present life and its comforts, sec. 1, 2. II. One of these extremes--viz. the intemperance of the flesh--to be carefully avoided. Four methods of doing so described in order, sec. 3-6.


1. Necessity of this doctrine. Use of the goods of the present life. Extremes to be avoided. 1. Excessive austerity. 2. Carnal intemperance and lasciviousness.

2. God, by creating so many mercies, consulted not only for our necessities, but also for our comfort and delight. Confirmation from a passage in the Psalms, and from experience.

3. Excessive austerity, therefore, to be avoided. So also must the wantonness of the flesh. 1. The creatures invite us to know, love, and honour the Creator. 2. This not done by the wicked, who only abuse these temporal mercies.

4. All earthly blessings to be despised in comparison of the heavenly life. Aspiration after this life destroyed by an excessive love of created objects. First, Intemperance.

5. Second, Impatience and immoderate desire. Remedy of these evils. The creatures assigned to our use. Man still accountable for the use he makes of them.

6. God requires us in all our actions to look to his calling. Use of this doctrine. It is full of comfort.

1. By such rudiments we are at the same time well instructed by Scripture in the proper use of earthly blessings, a subject which, in forming a scheme of life, is by no mean to be neglected. For if we are to live, we must use the necessary supports of life; nor can we even shun those things which seem more subservient to delight than to necessity. We must therefore observe a mean, that we may use them with a pure conscience, whether for necessity or for pleasure. This the Lord prescribes by his word, when he tells us that to his people the present life is a kind of pilgrimage by which they hasten to the heavenly kingdom. If we are only to pass through the earth, there can be no doubt that we are to use its blessings only in so far as they assist our progress, rather than retard it. Accordingly, Paul, not without cause, admonishes us to use this world without abusing it, and to buy possessions as if we were selling them (1 Cor. 7:30, 31). But as this is a slippery place, and there is great danger of falling on either side, let us fix our feet where we can stand safely. There have been some good and holy men who, when they saw intemperance and luxury perpetually carried to excess, if not strictly curbed, and were desirous to correct so pernicious an evil, imagined that there was no other method than to allow man to use corporeal goods only in so far as they were necessaries: a counsel pious indeed, but unnecessarily austere; for it does the very dangerous thing of binding consciences in closer fetters than those in which they are bound by the word of God. Moreover, necessity, according to them, [400] was abstinence from every thing which could be wanted, so that they held it scarcely lawful to make any addition to bread and water. Others were still more austere, as is related of Cratetes the Theban, who threw his riches into the sea, because he thought, that unless he destroyed them they would destroy him. Many also in the present day, while they seek a pretext for carnal intemperance in the use of external things, and at the same time would pave the way for licentiousness, assume for granted, what I by no means concede, that this liberty is not to be restrained by any modification, but that it is to be left to every man's conscience to use them as far as he thinks lawful. I indeed confess that here consciences neither can nor ought to be bound by fixed and definite laws; but that Scripture having laid down general rules for the legitimate uses we should keep within the limits which they prescribe.

2. Let this be our principle, that we err not in the use of the gifts of Providence when we refer them to the end for which their author made and destined them, since he created them for our good, and not for our destruction. No man will keep the true path better than he who shall have this end carefully in view. Now then, if we consider for what end he created food, we shall find that he consulted not only for our necessity, but also for our enjoyment and delight. Thus, in clothing, the end was, in addition to necessity, comeliness and honour; and in herbs, fruits, and trees, besides their various uses, gracefulness of appearance and sweetness of smell. Were it not so, the Prophet would not enumerate among the mercies of God "wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine," (Ps. 104:15). The Scriptures would not everywhere mention, in commendation of his benignity, that he had given such things to men. The natural qualities of things themselves demonstrate to what end, and how far, they may be lawfully enjoyed. Has the Lord adorned flowers with all the beauty which spontaneously presents itself to the eye, and the sweet odour which delights the sense of smell, and shall it be unlawful for us to enjoy that beauty and this odour? What? Has he not so distinguished colours as to make some more agreeable than others? Has he not given qualities to gold and silver, ivory and marble, thereby rendering them precious above other metals or stones? In short, has he not given many things a value without having any necessary use?

3. Have done, then, with that inhuman philosophy which, in allowing no use of the creatures but for necessity, not only maliciously deprives us of the lawful fruit of the divine beneficence, but cannot be realised without depriving man of all his senses, and reducing him to a block. But, on the other hand, let us with no less care guard against the lusts of the flesh, which, if not kept in order, break through all bounds, and are, as I have said, advocated by those who, under pretence of liberty, allow themselves every sort of license. First one restraint is imposed when we hold that the object of creating all things was to teach us to know their author, and feel grateful for his indulgence. Where is the gratitude if you so gorge or stupify yourself with feasting and wine as to be unfit for offices of piety, or the duties of your calling? Where the recognition of God, if the flesh, boiling forth in lust through excessive indulgences infects the mind with its impurity, so as to lose the discernment of honour and rectitude? Where thankfulness to God for clothing, if on account of sumptuous raiment we both admire ourselves and disdain others? if, from a love of show and splendour, we pave the way for immodesty? Where our recognition of God, if the glare of these things captivates our minds? For many are so devoted to luxury in all their senses that their mind lies buried: many are so delighted with marble, gold, and pictures, that they become marble-hearted--are changed as it were into metal, and made like painted figures. The kitchen, with its savoury smells, so engrosses them that they have no spiritual savour. The same thing may be seen in other matters. Wherefore, it is plain that there is here great necessity for curbing licentious abuse, and conforming to the rule of Paul, "make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof," (Rom. 13:14). Where too much liberty is given to them, they break forth without measure or restraint.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain      Institutes of the Christian Religion

  • Doers of the Word
  • Inerrancy
  • Sproul Q & A

     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     9/2006    Worldly Standards

     I was asked recently what my favorite sports and hobbies are. My reply was simple: My favorite sports are hunting, fishing, and eating, and similarly, my favorite hobbies are talking about hunting, fishing, and eating. Although my abilities to hunt and fish will take a lifetime to refine, I have already perfected the art of eating. And having always had a keen interest in the social and psychological sciences, I could easily add the sport of people-watching to my list of favorites. I am simply fascinated by people — the way people dress, how people communicate, and what people do.

     Several years ago, while patiently sitting in a shopping mall studying those passing by, one young man in particular caught my attention. He was dressed in black from head to toe. His pants were falling down and dragging on the floor, and he was carefully adorned with several types of chains. What caught my attention, however, was not his typical teen-age, “grunge” attire; rather, it was his hair. It seems that in order to make it appear that he did not care about his appearance and his hair, he styled his hair to make it look messy. It was most probable that he used more than a bottle of hair spray and spent far more time in front of a mirror than a man should in order to make it look like he didn’t care about his hair. All this seemed to be one rebellious young man’s attempt to demonstrate to the world that he didn’t care, to show that it’s perfectly acceptable to have a mediocre appearance.

     This same attitude pervades our culture. We see it everywhere, within the realms of music and art, architecture, and business. In just about every sphere of life, our culture has become addicted to mediocrity. In fact, in some ways it has become the popular thing to lower our standards of excellence. Arrogant apathy and proud mediocrity have become the hallmarks of our postmodern society. But what is most confounding is how the church has lowered its standards of excellence in order to win the affections of the world. Many churches have dressed themselves in the culture’s attire in order to make themselves appear more attractive to the world. However, in their attempt to win the world’s approval by lowering their standards, many churches have left behind the unchanging standards of the Word of God. If we seek to live with the highest standard of excellence before the face of God, coram Deo, we must remember that He has set the standard, for it is in Him that we live, move, and have our being — for His glory. Acts 17:28

     click here for article source

     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Rufus King was born this day, March 24, 1755. He was one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution, Minister to England; and a Senator from New York. A Harvard graduate, he was aide to General Sullivan during the Revolutionary War. At 32 years old, Rufus King was one of the youngest delegates at the Constitutional Convention. In a speech made before the Senate at the time Missouri was petitioning for statehood, Rufus King stated: “I hold that all laws… imposing… [slavery] upon any human being are absolutely void because [they are] contrary to the law of nature, which is the law of God.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Don't join the book burners. Do not think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.
--- Dwight D. Eisenhower   Especially for CHRISTIANS: Powerful Thought-Provoking Words from the Past

Nothing is more needed among preachers today than that we should have the courage to shake ourselves free from the thousand and one trivialities in which we are asked to waste our time and strength, and resolutely return to the apostolic ideal which made necessary the office of the pastorate. (We must resolve that) we will continue steadfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the Word.
--- G. Campbell Morgan   The Ministry of The Word

We make a living by what we get,
we make a life by what we give.
--- Sir Winston Churchill   Churchill: A Life

Nobody is stronger, nobody is weaker than someone who came back. There is nothing you can do to such a person because whatever you could do is less than what has already been done to him. We have already paid the price.
--- Elie Wiesel   Conversations with Elie Wiesel

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 3/24
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     Twenty-fifth of ninth month, 1764. -- At our Yearly Meeting at Philadelphia this day, John Smith, of Marlborough, aged upwards of eighty years, a faithful minister, though not eloquent, stood up in our meeting of ministers and elders, and, appearing to be under a great exercise of spirit, informed Friends in substance as follows: "That he had been a member of our Society upwards of sixty years, and he well remembered, that, in those early times, Friends were a plain, lowly-minded people, and that there was much tenderness and contrition in their meetings. That, at twenty years from that time, the Society increasing in wealth and in some degree conforming to the fashions of the world, true humility was less apparent, and their meetings in general were not so lively and edifying. That at the end of forty years many of them were grown very rich, and many of the Society made a specious appearance in the world; that wearing fine costly garments, and using silver and other watches, became customary with them, their sons, and their daughters. These marks of outward wealth and greatness appeared on some in our meetings of ministers and elders; and, as such things became more prevalent, so the powerful overshadowings of the Holy Ghost were less manifest in the Society. That there had been a continued increase of such ways of life, even until the present time; and that the weakness which hath now overspread the Society and the barrenness manifest among us is matter of much sorrow." He then mentioned the uncertainty of his attending these meetings in future, expecting his dissolution was near; and, having tenderly expressed his concern for us, signified that he had seen in the true light that the Lord would bring back his people from these things, into which they were thus degenerated, but that his faithful servants must go through great and heavy exercises.

John Woolman's Journal

Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender
     Practical religion. The Christian life

     How much Christian work is being done in the spirit of the flesh and in the power of self! How much work, day by day, in which human energy--our will and our thoughts about the work--is continually manifested, and in which there is but little of waiting upon God, and upon the power of the Holy Spirit! Let us make confession. But as we confess the state of the Church and the feebleness and sinfulness of work for God among us, let us come back to ourselves. Who is there who truly longs to be delivered from the power of the self-life, who truly acknowledges that it is the power of self and the flesh, and who is willing to cast all at the feet of Christ? There is deliverance.

     I heard of one who had been an earnest Christian, and who spoke about the "cruel" thought of separation and death. But you do not think that, do you? What are we to think of separation and death? This: death was the path to glory for Christ. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross. The cross was the birthplace of His everlasting glory. Do you love Christ? Do you long to be in Christ, and not like Him? Let death be to you the most desirable thing on earth--death to self, and fellowship with Christ. Separation--do you think it a hard thing to be called to be entirely free from the world, and by that separation to be united to God and His love, by separation to become prepared for living and walking with God every day? Surely one ought to say:

     "Anything to bring me to separation, to death, for a life of full fellowship with God and Christ."

     Come and cast this self-life and flesh-life at the feet of Jesus. Then trust Him. Do not worry yourselves with trying to understand all about it, but come in the living faith that Christ will come into you with the power of His death and the power of His life; and then the Holy Spirit will bring the whole Christ--Christ crucified and risen and living in glory--into your heart.

     I am using the 1895 Public Domain version. Below is an Amazon link for a modern copy.

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 13:9-10
     by D.H. Stern

9     The light of the righteous [shines] joyfully,
but the lamp of the wicked will be extinguished.

10     Insolence produces only strife,
but wisdom is found with those who take advice.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Reformation vs Liberalism
     by Dr. David Wells

     With respect to the ideas about the individual, we will begin with the Protestant Reformation and note how its views were mediated on these shores by the Puritans. Subsequently, there emerged a new kind of individuality with a doctrine that was not Christian at all, having arisen, instead, from the Enlightenment. Each source, the Reformation and the Enlightenment, has produced its own kind of individualism. As a rough generalization, we might say that Reformation individualism produces people whose life choices and values have a seriousness and intensity about them that reflect their recognition of an ultimate, divine accountability. It is this sense of a moral universe presided over by God that drives this individualism to eschew all competing authorities, including those of the state, the Church, and, most importantly, the self.

     The individualism from the Enlightenment may have superficial similarities to that from the Reformation, but its form of accountability is actually quite different. The eighteenth- and nineteenth-century deists may have believed in an ultimate judgment, but in the twentieth century that sense has faded. The modern children of the Enlightenment have themselves taken God's place. It is to ourselves that we are now accountable. It is because of a sense of self-interest, or self-duty, that we decline to relinquish decisions to others such as the state or the Church — an attitude reflected in the popular assertion that "you have a duty to yourself" to do this or that.

     These two streams of thinking have both contributed to the American experience, and at times they have had common interests, differently justified as those might have been. They managed to make common cause in the Revolution, for example. But in other instances they have sharply diverged, as in the current struggle over abortion: Reformation individualism refuses to snuff out the life of an unborn child on the grounds that such an act would be morally reprehensible before God, but Enlightenment individualism suffers few qualms in doing so on the grounds that duty to the self and to personal convenience is the central, overriding consideration.

     It is important to realize, however, that human beings are not simply storage facilities for ideas. They are social beings who are in constant communication with their social environment, and this is the other part of the amalgam from which modern individualism has emerged. Indeed, ideas sometimes have an appeal precisely because the social environment makes them seem plausible, makes them seem the "obvious" way to look at life. That being so, it is quite inadequate to look merely at the intellectual sources of modern individualism if we are to understand why modern Americans act as they do.

     What, in fact, has happened is that the stream of individualism that flows beneath the surface of American life has had to turn in on itself because of one of the inescapable consequences of modernization — alienation. This is what really differentiates the early individualism of the eighteenth century from its contemporary, secular expression. Today, people increasingly find that they are unable to forge and hold meaningful connections in the outer world, whether in their work, their community, their family, their nation, or their past. Modernity obliges us to turn inward, to relocate the sources of our satisfaction and fulfillment from these connections in the outer world to sources within our selves. Modernity obliges us to psychologize life, to look to the states and vagaries of the self for the reality that was once external. For the most part, evangelicals have failed to see that this shift from the objective to the subjective, this new fascination with the self, is invariably inimical to biblical and historical faith. Robert Nisbet has argued that this self-absorption, which has been passed off by many as the very essence of evangelical faith, is in fact one of the most telling indications of our cultural decay. He quotes Goethe's comment that "ages which are regressive and in process of dissolution are always subjective, whereas the trend in all progressive epochs is objective."

     The subjective obsession that also confronts us in religious dress (as is often the case in evangelicalism) sometimes appears in dress that is quite irreligious. Whatever the garb, however, it exhibits the same underlying mentality, the same habits of mind, the same assumption that reality can be accessed only through the self (and by intuition rather than by thought), the same belief that we can attain virtually unlimited personal progress if only we can tap into our own hidden resources. This fascination with the self, made bright with hope by the belief in progress, has proved to be a gold mine for the publishers. In the overall religious book market today, 31 percent of all books sold fall into the inspirational and motivational category, and a further 15 percent work these same themes from a New Age angle.

     There is, of course, a certain affinity between the Enlightenment vision of the human being at the center of reality, fashioning the world in better and more pleasing ways, and this new modern person who looks for reality only in the self. The modern, self-absorbed individualist is in continuity with the Enlightenment ideal but, in most cases, is not the direct product of the Enlightenment. This person is also the product of the modernization that has been brought about by market economies, technology, urbanization, bureaucracies, and mass communication. The collective effect of these products of modernization — modernity — has coalesced with Enlightenment ideals to produce the new individualist: the Enlightenment posits ultimate authority in the self, and modernity severs the self from any meaningful connections outside itself. Thus, the inward and outward environment become as one; they depend on and reinforce each other.

     This confluence of thought and social environment has produced great turbulence and disorder in the modern psyche. It has reshaped the modern understanding of who people are, how they gain access to reality, and how they should govern their behavior. These are themes to which we will return shortly. Before that, though, we need to consider the Protestant Reformation in order to see how its understanding of the individual has been transformed over time to the extent that only a perverted version has survived in contemporary evangelicalism.

     What was revolutionary about the Protestant Reformers was their insistence that God is not savingly known through created nature as paganism had proposed, or through human nature as the medieval mystics had thought (and some evangelicals now think), or through the Church and its sacraments as the Roman Catholic Church taught, but directly, by the work of the Holy Spirit and the truth of the biblical Word, the internal and supernatural work of the Spirit creating the spiritual climate in which Scripture might be received. The Reformers rejected all assertions that there are channels of saving grace in nature, human nature, or the Church. They held that there are no intermediaries between God and the sinner save for Christ himself, and they insisted that this unique role could not be usurped without destroying the faith that claimed his name. Christ's role is a sine qua non, they argued, because the judgment of God on the one side and human corruption on the other have produced a double alienation with which he alone can deal. Only through Christ is God's wrath turned aside and human disaffection from God and his rule replaced by a submissive affection.

     There are combined in this conception two ideas that it has proved exceedingly difficult to maintain in union: human dignity and human depravity. The Reformers argued for the possibility, based on the image of God and the Spirit's re-creation of that image, of an individual knowledge of God.6 In this consists our dignity. Modern individualism really arises from this, from the sense that it is the individual who must decide life's ultimate questions and that neither the state nor the Church can legitimately encroach upon this preserve, though each has a Godintended role. At the same time, however, the Reformers professed a belief in human depravity, the corruption of the whole of human nature in all of its parts, which meant not only that no one can know God apart from his sovereign work of grace but also that no assertions about the human knowledge of God are beyond criticism. The Reformers were always conscious of the ease with which people slip into ways of thinking or behaving that need to be reformed afresh, and so they were always suspicious of the human enterprise, not least in its religious aspects. They maintained a deep reserve about the self, about the reliability of human reasoning (Luther referred to reason as the devil's whore), about human feelings and perceptions — a reserve that is conspicuous by its absence in evangelical thought and practice today. The Reformers held that human beings should be loved but, because they are sinners, they ought not to be blindly trusted. And they granted that personal experience is powerful because it is intense, but they insisted that we should not allow this power to delude us into thinking that experience is always right. They hammered out an abiding distinction between what is true and what personal experience insists is true in a series of stiff encounters with various Anabaptists.

No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?

The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis


     ‘What was it like?’

     ‘Not worth looking at. They’re all advertisement stunts. All run by the same people. There’s a combine, you know, a World Combine, that just takes an Atlas and decides where they’ll have a Sight. Doesn’t matter what they choose: anything’ll do as long as the publicity’s properly managed.’

     ‘And you’ve lived—er—down there—in the Town—for some time?’

     ‘In what they call Hell? Yes. It’s a flop too. They lead you to expect red fire and devils and all sorts of interesting people sizzling on grids—Henry VIII and all that—but when you get there it’s just like any other town.’

     ‘I prefer it up here,’ said I.

     ‘Well, I don’t see what all the talk is about,’ said the Hard-Bitten Ghost. ‘It’s as good as any other park to look at, and darned uncomfortable.’

     ‘There seems to be some idea that if one stays here one would get—well, solider—grow acclimatised.’

     ‘I know all about that,’ said the Ghost. ‘Same old lie. People have been telling me that sort of thing all my life. They told me in the nursery that if I were good I’d be happy. And they told me at school that Latin would get easier as I went on. After I’d been married a month some fool was telling me that there were always difficulties at first, but with Tact and Patience I’d soon “settle down” and like it! And all through two wars what didn’t they say about the good time coming if only I’d be a brave boy and go on being shot at? Of course they’ll play the old game here if anyone’s fool enough to listen.’

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Decreasing into his purpose

He must increase, but I must decrease. --- John 3:30.

     If you become a necessity to a soul, you are out of God’s order. As a worker, your great responsibility is to be a friend of the Bridegroom. When once you see a soul in sight of the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been in the right direction, and instead of putting out a hand to prevent the throes, pray that they grow ten times stronger until there is no power on earth or in hell that can hold that soul away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we become amateur providences; we come in and prevent God, and say—‘This and that must not be.’ Instead of proving friends of the Bridegroom, we put our sympathy in the way, and the soul will one day say—‘That one was a thief, he stole my affections from Jesus, and I lost my vision of Him.’

     Beware of rejoicing with a soul in the wrong thing, but see that you do rejoice in the right thing. “The friend of the Bridegroom … rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is spoken with joy and not with sadness—at last they are to see the Bridegroom! And John says this is his joy. It is the absolute effacement of the worker, he is never thought of again.

     Watch for all you are worth until you hear the Bridegroom’s voice in the life of another. Never mind what havoc it brings, what upsets, what crumblings of health, rejoice with divine hilarity when once His voice is heard. You may often see Jesus Christ wreck a life before He saves it. (Cf.
Matt. 10:34.)

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

Careers (Not That He Brought Flowers)
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           Careers (Not That He Brought Flowers)

Fifty-two years,
most of them taken in
growing or in the
illusion of it--what does the mem-
ory number as one's
property? The broken elbow?
the lost toy? The pain has
vanished, but the soft flesh
that suffered it is mine still.

There is a house with
a face mooning at the glass
of windows. Those eyes - I look
at not with them, but something of
their melancholy I
begin to lay claim to as my own.

A boy in school:
his lessons are
my lessons, his
punishments I learn to deserve.
I stand up in him,
tall as I am
now, but without per-
spective. Distant objects
are too distant, yet will arrive
soon. How his words
muddle me; how my deeds
betray him. That is not
our intention; but where I should
be one with him, I am one now
with another. Before I had time
to complete myself, I let her share
in the building. This that I am
now - too many
labourers. What is mine is
not mine only: her love, her
child wait for my slow
signature. Son, from the mirror
you hold to me I turn
to recriminate. That likeness
you are at work upon - it hurts.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Teacher's Commentary
     The Lost Rest: Hebrews 3:7–11

     This New Testament passage is a divine commentary on the event we have just reviewed. Hebrews 3 also contains one of the clearest explanations of our personal responsibility to God today.

     The writer of this passage quotes from Psalm 95:7–11,

For he is our God,
     and we are the people of his pasture,
     and the sheep of his hand.
that today you would listen to his voice!
Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your ancestors tested me,
     and put me to the proof,
     though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people
     whose hearts go astray,
and they do not regard my ways.”
Therefore in my anger I swore,
“They shall not enter my rest.”

which focuses on the attitude of the Israelites who came out of Egypt. Their hearts were hardened against God, and they were “always going astray.” But for us:

     Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried Me and for 40 years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, “Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known My ways.” So I declared on oath in My anger, “They shall never enter My rest.”

The Teacher's Commentary

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Pesaḥim 50b


     We live in a world that is very complex. In order to try to make sense of it, we often fall into the trap of simplifying things. Issues are black or white, people are good or bad, countries are allies or enemies, statements are true or false. But experience teaches us that life is not so simple. Truth is to be found in many places, in many shades.

     There is a well-known tale called “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” Four men, unable to see, are led to an animal they know nothing about. One touches the trunk and concludes that the elephant is like a hose. Another feels the tusks and assumes that the animal is as hard as a rock. The third pats the body, and thinks the beast is like a mountain. The fourth blind man holds the tail and conjures in his mind the image of a rope. Which of the four was right? They all were correct. There was truth in what each thought, but alone, each had only part of the truth. The total story could be discovered if they accounted for their own limitations and sought to share what they knew with their fellows.

     There was truth in what Bet Hillel thought and truth in what Bet Shammai thought. Both of their teachings contained the words of the living God. The secret of Bet Hillel’s success was that it understood that arrogance and self-righteousness only blind us to discovering the whole truth. By admitting that other people have much to teach us, we open our eyes and see things that were hidden from us before. By recognizing that our answers are not the only answers, we open ourselves up to learning and understanding. Modesty and humility are the keys that enable us to search for, and find, the subtleties of truth in all places.

     Even if for the wrong reason, eventually it will be for the right reason.

Text / Rava contrasted two verses: “It is written: ‘For Your faithfulness is as high as heaven’ [Psalms 57:11], but it is also written ‘For Your faithfulness is higher than the heavens’ [Psalms 108:5]. How is this possible? In the latter case, it refers to those who do [a mitzvah] for the right reason; in the former case, to those who do it for the wrong reason. This follows Rav Yehudah, for Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: “A person should always occupy himself with Torah and mitzvot, even if for the wrong reason, for eventually it will be for the right reason.”

Context /
I will praise You among the peoples, O Lord;
I will sing a hymn to You among the nations;
for Your faithfulness is as high as heaven;
Your steadfastness reaches to the sky.
Exalt Yourself over the heavens, O God,
let Your glory be over all the earth!
     (Psalms 57:10–12)

I will praise You among the peoples,
O Lord, sing a hymn to You
     among the nations;
for Your faithfulness is higher than the heavens;
Your steadfastness reaches to the sky.
Exalt Yourself over the heavens, O God;
let Your glory be over all the earth!
     (Psalms 108:4–5)

     Rava notices two biblical verses which are identical except for one word. This seeming discrepancy in the book of Psalms allows Rava to ask: Is God’s faithfulness as high as the heavens (as Psalms 57 attests) or higher than the heavens (as Psalms 108 claims)? (The translation uses “Heaven/the heavens,” but the verses use the same Hebrew word, shamayim, for both. This word can be translated either way.) This inconsistency allows Rava to expound on the verses and make a point.

     If one does a mitzvah for the wrong reason, then God’s faithfulness to that person is as high as heaven. However, when one performs a mitzvah for the right reason and with the correct motivation, then God’s faithfulness extends higher than the heavens.

     Rav Yehudah explains that it is best that one live a life of Torah and perform mitzvot with the right intentions; but it is better to do a mitzvah even with the wrong intentions than not to do one at all, for “even if for the wrong reason, eventually it will be for the right reason.” That is, even if one performs a mitzvah without the proper intent or with totally wrong intent, that person may, by virtue of having done a mitzvah, eventually learn to do the mitzvah for the right reason.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Fifteenth Chapter / How One Should Feel And Speak On Every Desirable Thing


     MY CHILD, this is the way you must speak on every occasion: “Lord, if it be pleasing to You, so be it. If it be to Your honor, Lord, be it done in Your name. Lord, if You see that it is expedient and profitable for me, then grant that I may use it to Your honor. But if You know that it will be harmful to me, and of no good benefit to the welfare of my soul, then take this desire away from me.”

     Not every desire is from the Holy Spirit, even though it may seem right and good. It is difficult to be certain whether it is a good spirit or a bad one that prompts one to this or that, and even to know whether you are being moved by your own spirit. Many who seemed at first to be led by a good spirit have been deceived in the end.

     Whatever the mind sees as good, ask and desire in fear of God and humility of heart. Above all, commit the whole matter to Me with true resignation, and say: “Lord, You know what is better for me; let this be done or that be done as You please. Grant what You will, as much as You will, when You will. Do with me as You know best, as will most please You, and will be for Your greater honor. Place me where You will and deal with me freely in all things. I am in Your hand; turn me about whichever way You will. Behold, I am Your servant, ready to obey in all things. Not for myself do I desire to live, but for You—would that I could do this worthily and perfectly!”


     Grant me Your grace, O most merciful Jesus, that it may be with me, and work with me, and remain with me to the very end. Grant that I may always desire and will that which is most acceptable and pleasing to You. Let Your will be mine. Let my will always follow Yours and agree perfectly with it. Let my will be one with Yours in willing and in not willing, and let me be unable to will or not will anything but what You will or do not will. Grant that I may die to all things in this world, and for Your sake love to be despised and unknown in this life. Give me above all desires the desire to rest in You, and in You let my heart have peace. You are true peace of heart. You alone are its rest. Without You all things are difficult and troubled. In this peace, the selfsame that is in You, the Most High, the everlasting Good, I will sleep and take my rest. Amen.

The Imitation Of Christ

Take Heart
     March 24

     They are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name …so that they may be one as we are one. --- John 17:11.

     Argumentative prayers are excellent prayers. ( The Whole Works of the Reverend Mr. John Flavel ... ) The strength of everything is in its joints; how strongly jointed, how sinewy was this prayer of Christ. Some think we need not argue and plead in prayer but only present the matter and let Christ plead with the Father—as if the choicest part of our prayers must be kept back because Christ presents our prayers to God. No, Christ’s pleading is one thing, ours another; his and ours are not opposed but subordinate. His pleading does not destroy ours but makes it successful.

     God calls us to plead with him: “Come now, let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18). God reasons with us by his word and providences outwardly and by his Spirit inwardly. We reason with him by framing (through the help of his Spirit) certain arguments, grounded on allowed principles, drawn from his nature, name, word, or works. What was Jacob’s wrestling with the angel but his holy pleading and persistence with God? Let God frown, strike, or wound, a blessing Jacob came for and a blessing he will have; “I will not let you go,” he said, “unless you bless me” (Gen. 32:26). His limbs, his life might go, but there is no going from Christ without a blessing. The Lord admires him and honors him to all generations.

     We are not heard either for our much speaking or our excellent speaking; it is Christ’s pleading in heaven that makes our pleading on earth effective. But surely when the Spirit of the Lord suggests proper arguments in prayer and helps the humble suppliant to press them home, when he helps us to weep and groan and plead, God is greatly delighted in such prayers. “I will surely make you prosper”
(Gen. 32:12) is your own promise. This is pleasing to God, we can come to him crying, “Abba, Father, hear, forgive, pity, and help me. Am I not your child?”

     To whom may a child be bold to go, with whom may a child have hope to succeed, if not with its father? The fathers of our flesh are full of tenderness and pity their children and know how to give good things to them. And is not the Father of spirits more full of tenderness, more full of pity? “Father, hear me.” This is that kind of prayer which is melody in the ears of God.
--- John Flavel

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day   March 24
     “By the Teeth of God”

     Christians should respect those in authority, pray for our leaders, and be lights in the world. Seems simple enough. But relations between church and state have vexed believers from the time of Constantine to the days of the Christian Coalition. And never were they more complicated than during the days of Lotario de’ Conti, who was born to aristocratic parents near Rome in 1161. Lotario was brilliant. Though he was short of stature, his keen eyes and dark face were magnetic. He was blessed with social ease, excellent speech, a warm smile, and a flare for poetry and song. He was religious.

     He was elected Pope Innocent III at age 37.

     The young man immediately asserted that Christ had given the successors of Peter the right of ruling the whole world as well as the church. “The state should be related to the Church as the moon is to the sun.”

     But when Innocent appointed Stephen Langton as England’s Archbishop of Canterbury, King John defied him. An irreligious man, John forbad Langton to set foot in Britain and swore “by the teeth of God” to banish every clergyman from the land, to put out their eyes and cut off their noses.

     On March 24, 1208 Innocent placed England under an interdict, a religious ban. All religious services were cancelled, churches were closed, church bells silenced. The dead were not given Christian burials and the Mass was not celebrated. Innocent released the British people from loyalty to John and nudged France to prepare to invade England.

     Brought to his knees by the ensuing public outrage, John acknowledged Innocent the victor; and his surrender so weakened him before the English people that shortly afterward at Runnymede on the Thames he signed the most famous document in English history, the Magna Carta. The first article affirms “That the Church of England shall be free.…”

     Innocent III raised the papacy to its zenith, but the pressures of it led to premature death. “I have no leisure,” he mourned. “Scarce can I breathe.” He died from exhaustion at age 55, finding the task of ruling both church and state too much for mortal man, even one of his skill and brilliance.

     Be strong and brave! Be careful to do everything my servant Moses taught you. Never stop reading The Book of the Law he gave you. Day and night you must think about what it says. If you obey it completely, you and Israel will be able to take this land. I’ve commanded you to be strong and brave.
--- Joshua 1:6b-9a.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 24

     “He was heard in that he feared.” --- Hebrews 5:7.

     Did this fear arise from the infernal suggestion that he was utterly forsaken. There may be sterner trials than this, but surely it is one of the worst to be utterly forsaken? “See,” said Satan, “thou hast a friend nowhere! Thy Father hath shut up the bowels of his compassion against thee. Not an angel in his courts will stretch out his hand to help thee. All heaven is alienated from thee; thou art left alone. See the companions with whom thou hast taken sweet counsel, what are they worth? Son of Mary, see there thy brother James, see there thy loved disciple John, and thy bold apostle Peter, how the cowards sleep when thou art in thy sufferings! Lo! Thou hast no friend left in heaven or earth. All hell is against thee. I have stirred up mine infernal den. I have sent my missives throughout all regions summoning every prince of darkness to set upon thee this night, and we will spare no arrows, we will use all our infernal might to overwhelm thee: and what wilt thou do, thou solitary one?” It may be, this was the temptation; we think it was, because the appearance of an angel unto him strengthening him removed that fear. He was heard in that he feared; he was no more alone, but heaven was with him. It may be that this is the reason of his coming three times to his disciples—as Hart puts it ---

     “Backwards and forwards thrice he ran,
     As if he sought some help from man.”

     He would see for himself whether it were really true that all men had forsaken him; he found them all asleep; but perhaps he gained some faint comfort from the thought that they were sleeping, not from treachery, but from sorrow, the spirit indeed was willing, but the flesh was weak. At any rate, he was heard in that he feared. Jesus was heard in his deepest woe; my soul, thou shalt be heard also.

          Evening - March 24

     "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit."Luke 10:21.

     The Saviour was “a man of sorrows,” but every thoughtful mind has discovered the fact that down deep in his innermost soul he carried an inexhaustible treasury of refined and heavenly joy. Of all the human race, there was never a man who had a deeper, purer, or more abiding peace than our Lord Jesus Christ. “He was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows.” His vast benevolence must, from the very nature of things, have afforded him the deepest possible delight, for benevolence is joy. There were a few remarkable seasons when this joy manifested itself. “At that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” Christ had his songs, though it was night with him; though his face was marred, and his countenance had lost the lustre of earthly happiness, yet sometimes it was lit up with a matchless splendour of unparalleled satisfaction, as he thought upon the recompense of the reward, and in the midst of the congregation sang his praise unto God. In this, the Lord Jesus is a blessed picture of his church on earth. At this hour the church expects to walk in sympathy with her Lord along a thorny road; through much tribulation she is forcing her way to the crown. To bear the cross is her office, and to be scorned and counted an alien by her mother’s children is her lot; and yet the church has a deep well of joy, of which none can drink but her own children. There are stores of wine, and oil, and corn, hidden in the midst of our Jerusalem, upon which the saints of God are evermore sustained and nurtured; and sometimes, as in our Saviour’s case, we have our seasons of intense delight, for “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of our God.” Exiles though we be, we rejoice in our King; yea, in him we exceedingly rejoice, while in his name we set up our banners.

Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

Amazing Grace
     March 24


     Words and Music by Philip P. Bliss, 1838–1876

     Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
(Matthew 5:16)

     I do not ask for mighty words to leave the crowd impressed,
     But grant my life may ring so true my neighbors shall be blessed.
     I do not ask for influence to sway the multitude;
     Give me a “word in season” for the soul in solitude.

--- Unknown

     The lower lights surrounding a lighthouse guide the boats in the harbor away from the treacherous rocks and into the channel. The interesting analogy in this hymn was suggested to author and composer Philip P. Bliss as he listened to D. L. Moody tell a sermon anecdote about a pilot during a storm.

     “Brethren,” concluded Mr. Moody, “the Master will take care of the great lighthouse. Let us keep the lower lights burning.” Bliss, as he often did, immediately put this challenging thought into a hymn. He usually worked rapidly, completing both the text and the music in one sitting.

     Bliss first met Dwight L. Moody in Chicago in 1869 and soon joined him and his music associate, Ira Sankey, in their evangelistic campaigns. A prolific composer of gospel hymns, Bliss continued to write and publish until his death at the age of 38 in a tragic train accident at Ashtabula, Ohio, during the Christmas season of 1876. Yet his many songs, including “Jesus Loves Even Me,” “Hold the Fort,” “Hallelujah, What a Savior,” “Wonderful Words of Life,” and many more, still live on today to bless and inspire our lives.

     We may not all be powerful lighthouses, such as Mr. Moody, Ira Sankey, or Philip Bliss, but God calls us each to be “lower lights” wherever we are to guide some fainting, struggling person to the eternal haven with deeds that direct all the praise to our heavenly Father.

     Brightly beams our Father’s mercy from His lighthouse evermore, but to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.
     Dark the night of sin has settled. Loud the angry billows roar; eager eyes are watching, longing for the lights along the shore.
     Trim your feeble lamp, my brother! Some poor sailor tempest tossed, trying now to make the harbor, in the darkness may be lost.
     Chorus: Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave! Some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save.

     For Today: Daniel 12:3; Matthew 5:1–16; James 5:19, 20.

     Resolve to keep a gleam burning for Christ by words and actions so that some seeking individual may be directed into a calm and secure relationship with the Lord. Use this musical message as a reminder ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

A Guide to Fervent Prayer
     A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)

          Chapter 03 | Hebrews 13:20, 21

     “Now the God of peace. . . make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” As previously intimated, there is a very close connection between this verse and the preceding one. Here we have the request that the apostle offered up on behalf of the Hebrew saints, whereas the contents of the previous verse are to be regarded as the plea upon which he based his request. Just how appropriate, powerful, and moving that plea was, will readily be seen. The appeal is made to “the God of peace.” As the One reconciled to His people He is besought to grant this blessing (cf. Rom 5:10). Moreover, since God had brought again our Lord Jesus from the dead, that was a most proper ground upon which He should quicken His spiritually dead elect by regeneration, recover them when they wander, and complete His work of grace in them. It was in the capacity of “that great Shepherd of the sheep” that Our Lord Jesus was raised by His gracious Father from the prison of the grave, in order that He might be able, as One alive forevermore, to care for the flock. Our great Shepherd is presently supplying every need of each of His sheep by His intercession on our behalf (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). By this efficacious means He is now dispensing gifts to men, especially those gifts that promote the salvation of sinners such as we are (Eph. 4:8ff). Furthermore, the same everlasting covenant that promised the resurrection of Christ also guaranteed the glorification of His people. Thus the apostle calls upon God the Father to perfect them according to that engagement.

          A Prayer for Holiness and Fruitfulness

     “The God of peace. . . make you perfect in every good work to do his will.” Substantially, this request is for the practical sanctification and fructification of God’s people. While the everlasting covenant has been suitably denominated “the covenant of redemption,” we must carefully bear in mind that it was designed to secure the holiness of its beneficiaries. We do well to reflect upon the prophetic, Spirit-filled cry of Zecharias, that “the Lord God of Israel . . . [should] remember his holy covenant;…That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our [spiritual] enemies might serve him without [servile] fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:68, 72, 74, 75, brackets mine). And while it has also been appropriately designated “the covenant of grace,” yet we must also remember that the Apostle Paul said, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men [Gentiles as well as Jews], Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope. . . “ (Titus 2:11-13, brackets mine). The grand purpose of the everlasting covenant, as of all the Divine works, was the glory of God and the good of His people. It was designed not only as a display of the Divine munificence, but also for securing and promoting the claims of Divine holiness. God did not enter into that compact with Christ in order to set aside human accountability, nor did the Son fulfill its terms so as to render unnecessary for His redeemed a life of obedience.

     Christ agreed not only to propitiate God, but to regenerate His elect. Christ undertook not only to meet all the requirements of the Law in their stead, but also to write it on their hearts and to enthrone it in their affections. Christ engaged not only to take away sin from before God, but to make it hateful and heinous to His saints. Before the world began, Christ undertook not only to satisfy the claims of Divine justice, but to sanctify His seed by sending forth His Spirit into their souls to conform them to His image and to incline them to follow the example that He would leave them. It has been far too little insisted on, in recent times, by those who have written or preached upon the Covenant of Grace, that Christ engaged not only for the debt of His people, but for their duty, too: that He should make a purchase of grace for them, including a full provision to give them a new heart and a new spirit, to bring them to know the Lord, to put His fear into their hearts, and to make them obedient to His will. He also engaged for their safety: that if they should forsake His Law and walk not in His judgments, He would visit their transgressions with the rod (Ps. 89:30-36); that if they should backslide and stray from Him, He would assuredly recover them.

          Paul Turns Messianic Prophecy into Prayer

     “Make you perfect. . . to do his will.” It was with the contents of the Covenant in his eye that the apostle offered up this petition. In the preceding chapters it has been shown that Old Testament prophecy presented the promised Messiah as the Surety of a covenant of peace and as the “Shepherd” of His people. It now remains to be demonstrated that He was therein portrayed as a Shepherd who would perfect His sheep in holiness and good works. “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd” (Ezek. 37:24). Here the LORD declares that Messiah, the great Seed of David, shall in days to come unify the Israel of God as their King and shall shepherd them all without rival. In the same verse He further declares, “they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.” Thus, having owned God as “the God of peace,” who has delivered our Lord Jesus from death’s dominion “through the blood of the everlasting covenant,” Paul makes request that He work in His sheep “that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” For though God has promised to do this, He declares, “I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel” (Ezek. 36:3 7). It is ever the bounden duty of God’s covenant people to pray for the fulfillment of His promises (witness the various petitions of the Lord’s Prayer). We see, then, that this Spirit-indited, comprehensive prayer is not only an epitome of the contents of this entire Epistle, but also a summary of the Messianic prophecies.

          Faith in a Reconciled God Produces Desires for His Glory

     “Make you perfect in every good work to do His will.” Such a petition as this can be rightly offered only as one contemplates God as “the God of peace.” Faith must first regard Him as reconciled to us before there will be any true desire to glorify Him. While there be any sensible horror at the thought of God, any servile fear produced at the mention of His name, we cannot serve Him nor do that which is wellpleasing in His sight. “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6), and faith is quite opposite to horror. We must first be assured that God is no longer an Enemy but our Friend, before love’s gratitude will move us to run in the way of His commandments. That assurance can only come to us by realizing that Christ has put away our sins and satisfied every legal claim of God against us. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Christ has made a perfect and eternal peace “through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20), in consequence of which God has made with those who surrender to Christ’s yoke and trust in His sacrifice “an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure” (2 Sam. 23:5). This must be apprehended by faith before there will be a confident seeking from Him of the grace necessary thereto.

     From yet another angle we may perceive the appropriateness of this request being addressed to “the God of peace,” that He would now perfect us in every good work to do His will. For the doing of God’s will is most essential for our enjoyment of His peace in a practical way. “Great peace have they which love thy law” (Ps. 119:165), for Wisdom’s “ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Prov. 3:17). Therefore it is utterly vain to expect tranquility of heart if we forsake Wisdom’s paths for those of self-pleasing. Certainly there can be no peace of conscience while any known sin is entertained by us. The road to peace is the way of holiness. “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them. . .” (Gal. 6:16). Unless we genuinely resolve and strive to do those things that are pleasing in God’s sight, there will be a state of turmoil and unrest within us instead of peace. There is a deeper spiritual significance than is usually perceived in that title “the Prince of peace,” which pertains to the incarnate Son. He could say, “I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29), and therefore an unruffled calm was His portion. What emphasis was there in those words, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27)!

          Paul Prays for the Strengthening of the Saints in Their Duties

     “Make you perfect in every good work to do his will.” This petition sets before us, by clear implication, the human side of things. Those things for which the Apostle Paul made request on behalf of the saints were concerned with those duties that they were obligated to perform, but for the performing of which Divine assistance is imperative. The everlasting covenant anticipated the entrance of sin, and it thus made provision not only for the putting away of it but also for the bringing in of everlasting righteousness. That righteousness is the perfect obedience of Christ by which the Divine Law was honored and magnified. That perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed to all who believe, but none savingly believe in Him until His Spirit has implanted a principle of righteousness in their souls (Eph. 4:24). And that new nature or principle of righteousness evidences itself by the performing of good works (Eph. 2:10). We have no right to speak of the Lord Jesus as “The Lord our righteousness” unless we are personal doers of righteousness (1 John 2:29). The everlasting covenant by no means sets aside the necessity of obedience on the part of those who partake of its benefits, but supplies the most affecting and powerful motives to move us thereto! Saving faith works by love (Gal. 5:6), and aims at pleasing its Object.

     The more our prayers are regulated by the teaching of Holy Writ the more they will be marked by these two qualities: the Divine precepts will be turned into petitions; and the Divine character and promises will be used as our arguments. When the Psalmist, in the course of his meditations upon God’s Law, declared, “Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently,” he was at once conscious of his failure and said, “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” (Ps. 119:4, 5). But He did more than just lament the hindrances of indwelling sin; he cried, “Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes;…Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight” (Ps. 119:33, 35). So also, when seeking the establishment of his house before the Lord, David pleaded the Divine promise: “And now, O LORD God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as thou hast said” (2 Sam. 7:25; see also 1 Kings 8:25, 26; 2 Chron. 6:17). As we become more familiar with God’s Word and discover the details of the exalted standard of conduct there set before us, we should be more definite and diligent in seeking grace to perform our several duties; and as we become better acquainted with “the Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1:3) and His “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4), we shall count more confidently upon Him for those supplies.

A Guide to Fervent Prayer

The Daring Mission of William Tyndale

Steven J. Lawson | Ligonier

Purity in a Digital Age

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A Puny God | Isaiah 40:12-18

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The Least of These

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John Barros, R.C. Sproul Jr., and Lee Webb

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It's Just a Book

W. Robert Godfrey | Ligonier

Jesus Made in America

Steve Nichols | Ligonier

A Bruised Reed

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Don't Answer a Fool, Answer a Fool

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The Attack on the Bible

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This Means War!

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Five Errors

W. Robert Godfrey | Ligonier

Rightly Dividing 2

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6 Sermon On The Mount

Love Your Enemies | Sinclair Ferguson