Judgment on EgyptJeremiah 46 1 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations. 2 About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah:
3 “Prepare buckler and shield,
and advance for battle!
4 Harness the horses;
mount, O horsemen!
Take your stations with your helmets,
polish your spears,
put on your armor!
5 Why have I seen it?
They are dismayed
and have turned backward.
Their warriors are beaten down
and have fled in haste;
they look not back—
terror on every side!
declares the LORD.
6 “The swift cannot flee away,
nor the warrior escape;
in the north by the river Euphrates
they have stumbled and fallen.
7 “Who is this, rising like the Nile,
like rivers whose waters surge?
8 Egypt rises like the Nile,
like rivers whose waters surge.
He said, ‘I will rise, I will cover the earth,
I will destroy cities and their inhabitants.’
9 Advance, O horses,
and rage, O chariots!
Let the warriors go out:
men of Cush and Put who handle the shield,
men of Lud, skilled in handling the bow.
10 That day is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts,
a day of vengeance,
to avenge himself on his foes.
The sword shall devour and be sated
and drink its fill of their blood.
For the Lord GOD of hosts holds a sacrifice
in the north country by the river Euphrates.
11 Go up to Gilead, and take balm,
O virgin daughter of Egypt!
In vain you have used many medicines;
there is no healing for you.
12 The nations have heard of your shame,
and the earth is full of your cry;
for warrior has stumbled against warrior;
they have both fallen together.”
14 “Declare in Egypt, and proclaim in Migdol;
proclaim in Memphis and Tahpanhes;
say, ‘Stand ready and be prepared,
for the sword shall devour around you.’
15 Why are your mighty ones face down?
They do not stand
because the LORD thrust them down.
16 He made many stumble, and they fell,
and they said one to another,
‘Arise, and let us go back to our own people
and to the land of our birth,
because of the sword of the oppressor.’
17 Call the name of Pharaoh, king of Egypt,
‘Noisy one who lets the hour go by.’
18 “As I live, declares the King,
whose name is the LORD of hosts,
like Tabor among the mountains
and like Carmel by the sea, shall one come.
19 Prepare yourselves baggage for exile,
O inhabitants of Egypt!
For Memphis shall become a waste,
a ruin, without inhabitant.
20 “A beautiful heifer is Egypt,
but a biting fly from the north has come upon her.
21 Even her hired soldiers in her midst
are like fattened calves;
yes, they have turned and fled together;
they did not stand,
for the day of their calamity has come upon them,
the time of their punishment.
22 “She makes a sound like a serpent gliding away;
for her enemies march in force
and come against her with axes
like those who fell trees.
23 They shall cut down her forest,
declares the LORD,
though it is impenetrable,
because they are more numerous than locusts;
they are without number.
24 The daughter of Egypt shall be put to shame;
she shall be delivered into the hand of a people from the north.”
27 “But fear not, O Jacob my servant,
nor be dismayed, O Israel,
for behold, I will save you from far away,
and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
and none shall make him afraid.
28 Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
declares the LORD,
for I am with you.
I will make a full end of all the nations
to which I have driven you,
but of you I will not make a full end.
I will discipline you in just measure,
and I will by no means leave you unpunished.”
Judgment on the PhilistinesJeremiah 47 1 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines, before Pharaoh struck down Gaza.
2 “Thus says the LORD:
Behold, waters are rising out of the north,
and shall become an overflowing torrent;
they shall overflow the land and all that fills it,
the city and those who dwell in it.
Men shall cry out,
and every inhabitant of the land shall wail.
3 At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions,
at the rushing of his chariots, at the rumbling of their wheels,
the fathers look not back to their children,
so feeble are their hands,
4 because of the day that is coming to destroy
all the Philistines,
to cut off from Tyre and Sidon
every helper that remains.
For the LORD is destroying the Philistines,
the remnant of the coastland of Caphtor.
5 Baldness has come upon Gaza;
Ashkelon has perished.
O remnant of their valley,
how long will you gash yourselves?
6 Ah, sword of the LORD!
How long till you are quiet?
Put yourself into your scabbard;
rest and be still!
7 How can it be quiet
when the LORD has given it a charge?
Against Ashkelon and against the seashore
he has appointed it.”
Judgment on MoabJeremiah 48 1 Concerning Moab. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
“Woe to Nebo, for it is laid waste!
Kiriathaim is put to shame, it is taken;
the fortress is put to shame and broken down;
2 the renown of Moab is no more.
In Heshbon they planned disaster against her:
‘Come, let us cut her off from being a nation!’
You also, O Madmen, shall be brought to silence;
the sword shall pursue you.
3 “A voice! A cry from Horonaim,
‘Desolation and great destruction!’
4 Moab is destroyed;
her little ones have made a cry.
5 For at the ascent of Luhith
they go up weeping;
for at the descent of Horonaim
they have heard the distressed cry of destruction.
6 Flee! Save yourselves!
You will be like a juniper in the desert!
7 For, because you trusted in your works and your treasures,
you also shall be taken;
and Chemosh shall go into exile
with his priests and his officials.
8 The destroyer shall come upon every city,
and no city shall escape;
the valley shall perish,
and the plain shall be destroyed,
as the LORD has spoken.
9 “Give wings to Moab,
for she would fly away;
her cities shall become a desolation,
with no inhabitant in them.
11 “Moab has been at ease from his youth
and has settled on his dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
nor has he gone into exile;
so his taste remains in him,
and his scent is not changed.
14 “How do you say, ‘We are heroes
and mighty men of war’?
15 The destroyer of Moab and his cities has come up,
and the choicest of his young men have gone down to slaughter,
declares the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.
16 The calamity of Moab is near at hand,
and his affliction hastens swiftly.
17 Grieve for him, all you who are around him,
and all who know his name;
say, ‘How the mighty scepter is broken,
the glorious staff.’
18 “Come down from your glory,
and sit on the parched ground,
O inhabitant of Dibon!
For the destroyer of Moab has come up against you;
he has destroyed your strongholds.
19 Stand by the way and watch,
O inhabitant of Aroer!
Ask him who flees and her who escapes;
say, ‘What has happened?’
20 Moab is put to shame, for it is broken;
wail and cry!
Tell it beside the Arnon,
that Moab is laid waste.
28 “Leave the cities, and dwell in the rock,
O inhabitants of Moab!
Be like the dove that nests
in the sides of the mouth of a gorge.
29 We have heard of the pride of Moab—
he is very proud—
of his loftiness, his pride, and his arrogance,
and the haughtiness of his heart.
30 I know his insolence, declares the LORD;
his boasts are false,
his deeds are false.
31 Therefore I wail for Moab;
I cry out for all Moab;
for the men of Kir-hareseth I mourn.
32 More than for Jazer I weep for you,
O vine of Sibmah!
Your branches passed over the sea,
reached to the Sea of Jazer;
on your summer fruits and your grapes
the destroyer has fallen.
33 Gladness and joy have been taken away
from the fruitful land of Moab;
I have made the wine cease from the winepresses;
no one treads them with shouts of joy;
the shouting is not the shout of joy.
37 “For every head is shaved and every beard cut off. On all the hands are gashes, and around the waist is sackcloth. 38 On all the housetops of Moab and in the squares there is nothing but lamentation, for I have broken Moab like a vessel for which no one cares, declares the LORD. 39 How it is broken! How they wail! How Moab has turned his back in shame! So Moab has become a derision and a horror to all that are around him.”
40 For thus says the LORD:
“Behold, one shall fly swiftly like an eagle
and spread his wings against Moab;
41 the cities shall be taken
and the strongholds seized.
The heart of the warriors of Moab shall be in that day
like the heart of a woman in her birth pains;
42 Moab shall be destroyed and be no longer a people,
because he magnified himself against the LORD.
43 Terror, pit, and snare
are before you, O inhabitant of Moab!
declares the LORD.
44 He who flees from the terror
shall fall into the pit,
and he who climbs out of the pit
shall be caught in the snare.
For I will bring these things upon Moab,
the year of their punishment,
declares the LORD.
45 “In the shadow of Heshbon
fugitives stop without strength,
for fire came out from Heshbon,
flame from the house of Sihon;
it has destroyed the forehead of Moab,
the crown of the sons of tumult.
46 Woe to you, O Moab!
The people of Chemosh are undone,
for your sons have been taken captive,
and your daughters into captivity.
47 Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab
in the latter days, declares the LORD.”
Thus far is the judgment on Moab.
What I'm Reading
Why Is God So Hidden?
By J. Warner Wallace 9/25/2013
As a young atheist, I denied the existence of Godfor practical, experiential reasons. During my elementary school years, I found it difficult to understand why anyone would believe in God without visible evidence. I knew my parents, teachers and friends were real, because I could see them and I could see their impact on the world around me. God, however, seemed completely hidden. I often thought, “If God exists, why would He hide in this way? Why wouldn’t God just come right out and make it obvious to everyone He exists?” As I examined these questions many years later, I began to consider other factors and considerations, particularly related to the nature of “love”.
I held love and compassion in high regard, even as an unbeliever. These were values I embraced as essential to our survival as a species, and values I considered to be foundational to human “flourishing”(as many atheists commonly describe it). But love requires a certain kind of world, and if loving God does exist, it is reasonable that He would create a universe in which love is possible; a universe capable of supporting humans with the ability to love God and love one another. This kind of universe requires a number of pre-requisites, however, and these pre-requisites are best achieved when God is “hidden” in the way He often seems to be:
Love Requires Freedom | True love cannot be coerced. We love our children and we want them to love us. We cannot, however, force them to do so. When we give our kids direction and ask them to accept this direction as a reflection of their love for us, we must step away and give them the freedom to respond (or rebel) freely. If we are “ever-present”, their response will be coerced; they will behave in a particular way not because they love us, but because they know we are present (and they fear the consequence of rebellion). If God exists, it is reasonable that He would remain hidden (to some degree) to allow us the freedom to respond from a position of love, rather than fear.
Love Requires Faith | Love requires a certain amount of trust; we must trust the person who loves us has our best interest in mind, even in times of doubt. There are occasions when trust requires us to accept something as true, even though we can’t immediately see this to be the case. In essence, trust often requires “hiddenness” on the part of the “lover” if love is to be confident, powerful and transformational.
Love Requires Evidence | Love does, however, require sufficient evidence. While we may not want to coerce our children, we do need to give them sufficient reason to believe we exist, support and love them. While many non-believers may deny there is any evidence for the existence of God, the natural world has provided us with sufficient (albeit non-coercive) evidence God exists. We have the ability, however, to deny this evidence if we choose.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
Romans 14:11 & Isaiah 45:23
By James S. Stewart
(Is 45:23) 23 By myself I have sworn,
from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
“To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear.” NRSV
(Ro 14:11) For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.” NRSV
The first is the subject-matter of the teaching itself. What are Paul's leading themes ? The righteousness of God, the death of Jesus on Calvary, the reconciliation of the world, the eternally living and present Christ. Paul at least recognised, if some of his commentators have not, that where themes like these are concerned, you cannot in the last resort measure and explain : you can only wonder and adore. We may take it for certain that any formula or system which claims to gather up into itself the whole meaning of God's righteousness, or of Christ's redeeming work, is ipso facto wrong. The only right way to see the cross of Jesus is on your knees. The apostle himself reminds us of that, when he declares, immediately after one of his greatest accounts of his Lord's atoning death, "Before the name of Jesus every knee should bow." In this world, men kneel to what they love. And love has a way of breaking through every carefully articulated system : it sees so much more than the system-makers. Hence it is a right instinct that bids us beware of reconstructions of Paul's doctrine which claim to co-ordinate every aspect of the apostle's religious thought into a complete and perfect whole, leaving no loose ends anywhere. It is one of the great services of the Barthian movement to our generation that it keeps up an energetic protest against what it regards as a quite arrogant tendency to push systems and definitions into that ultimate region where God alone can speak. Such definitions merely indicate, as Barth declares, that "man has taken the divine into his possession ; he has brought it under his management" \ he has been forgetting that "only God Himself can speak of God." 2 But Paul never forgot that; and therefore at point after point his line of thought is interrupted by a sudden burst of doxology. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God ! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out !" "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!" "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory."
(Ro 11:33–36) 33 O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him,
to receive a gift in return?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. NRSV
(2 Co 1:3–5) 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, 4 who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. NRSV
(1 Co 15:57) 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. NRSV
Your Inner Pharisee
By Josh Moody 8/11/2017
The Pharisees are boogeymen among evangelicals, and as such, it is hard to conceive that we ourselves might be Pharisees. They are other people—bad people, legalists, judgmentalists, those who attack Christ and defend fake, hypocritical religion. “Hypocrites” is the most important descriptor. Pharisees act as if they are righteous; while they “strain out a gnat” of sin, they “swallow a camel” of evil (Matt. 23:24). They travel over land and sea to win a single convert, only to make him twice a son of hell as before (Matt. 23:15).
Surely, we are not them.
In a strict historical sense, Christians are not Pharisees. Pharisaic religion rejected Jesus as the Christ, and therefore when someone worships him as God’s Son, he is no longer a Pharisee.
But is there an essence of Pharisaism alive today, even active within creeds that embrace the divinity of Jesus, the doctrines of grace, and Trinitarian orthodoxy? If we leave aside the doctrinal and historical elements of Pharisaism, the following six areas of examination might expose our own inner Pharisee.
1. Our Prayers | Are our prayers, even if explicitly God-honoring, implicity self-exalting (Luke 18:9–11; Matt. 6:5)? For instance, do we pray to sound impressive to those who hear us?
Josh Moody (PhD, University of Cambridge) is senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, in the Chicago area, and the author of several books. His latest is John 1–12 for You.
Josh Moody Books:
- 1 John 1-12 For You
- 2 Journey to Joy: The Psalms of Ascent
- 3 Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections (Proclamation Trust)
- 4 7 Days to Change Your Life: Find Focus Through Intentional Living
- 5 How Church Can Change Your Life: Answers to the Ten Most Common Questions about Church
- 6 No Other Gospel: 31 Reasons from Galatians Why Justification by Faith Alone Is the Only Gospel
- 7 The God-Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today
Elijah And The "Still Small Voice"
By Michael Comins Spring 2001
Elijah lives in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of Ahab, the king who "did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him" (I Kings 16:30). Ahab had married a Phoenician princess named Jezebel who established the cult of Ba'al in the palace and persecuted the Israelite prophets of God. Elijah informs Ahab of God's displeasure with a threat; a drought will ensue until Elijah, on God's behalf, announces the coming rain (ch. 17). Elijah, fleeing the king's wrath, hides in a desert canyon above the Jordan valley. There, he is miraculously fed by ravens until the drought dries up his water supply (17:6). He moves to Phoenicia, where he and his household, once again, are fed in supernatural fashion. God finally commands Elijah to return to Israel, where he challenges the prophets of Ba'al to the famous contest on Mt. Carmel (ch.18). King Ahab and the people gather to see whose sacrifice will be accepted, that of Elijah or the prophets of Ba'al. This is Elijah at his best - angry, daring, dramatic. The fire of God descends from the heavens, consuming Elijah's offering. "Adonai, He is God!" shout the people. Under Elijah's command, they slaughter the prophets of Ba'al. Rain falls shortly thereafter. The text tells us that "the hand of the LORD had come upon Elijah" (18:45) and, with supernatural strength, he runs before Ahab's chariot like a racehorse, as the king returns to his palace. It is hard to imagine a more graced or gifted person. Elijah is God's right-hand man, the people's hero and the king's herald.
Elijah's story continues in 1 Kings 19.
When Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and how he had put all the prophets to the sword, Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "Thus and more may the gods do if by this time tomorrow I have not made you like one of them." Frightened, he fled at once for his life. He came to Beer-sheba, which is in Judah, and left his servant there; he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness (vv. 1-4).
How suddenly Elijah's fortunes have been reversed! God's favorite, the hero of Israel, the worker of miracles who ran before the king's chariot, is now running for his life! Ahab is unwilling or unable to stop his wife, Jezebel. Elijah flees to the southern Israelite kingdom of Judah, and then to its southern border, Beersheba. Not wishing to endanger his servant, he leaves him behind as he flees Jezebel's agents into no-man's land, into the desert.
He came to a broom bush and sat down under it, and prayed that he might die (v. 4).
Elijah repeats Hagar's experience (Gen. 21:14) and learns the bitter truth of desert travel. If you do not know how to navigate the serpentine dry riverbeds, if you get lost amidst the formless dunes, if you cannot find shade and water, your life can end in one, short day.
Perhaps Elijah is not surprised at all. It takes many days to travel to Beersheba. In all that time, God does not communicate with Elijah. After years of literally being fed by God, Elijah feels abandoned, his prophetic mission terminated. Perhaps he loses himself in the desert intentionally!
 Unless otherwise noted, this and all other biblical quotations are from the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh: the traditional Hebrew text and the new JPS translation, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1999).
Rabbi Mike Comins is the Founder of TorahTrek. He grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) with a BA in Near Eastern Studies, and served as regional advisor for the Southern California Federation of Temple Youth and Rosh Eida at UAHC Camp Swig before making aliyah (moving to Israel) at age 26. While guiding Jerusalem for American youth and serving as chairperson of Netzer Olami (the International Reform-Zionist Youth Movement), Mike studied classical Jewish texts for four years at Machon Pardes, a yeshiva in Jerusalem. In 1996, he was ordained by the Hebrew Union College – Israeli Rabbinical Program. Exploring his lifelong interest in philosophy and theology, Rabbi Comins’ rabbinic thesis, Borowitz and Beyond: Towards a Hermeneutic Account of I-thou Encounter, received a score of 97 from referee Professor Paul Mendes-Flohr. He holds an MA in Jewish Education from Hebrew University, and worked for five years as education director of Kehilat Kol HaNeshama, a Jerusalem congregation he helped to establish. Upon ordination, Mike earned his license as an Israeli desert guide. He founded “Ruach HaMidbar Desert Trips and Retreats,” leading many trekkers, often rabbis, rabbinical students and students for the ministry, on spiritual journeys through Israel’s deserts and the Sinai mountains.
Returning to the U.S. in 1998, Rabbi Comins spent his first years back in North America on an extended spiritual sabbatical. He participated in several two-year institutes for rabbis: the Mindfulness Leadership Training program at Elat Chayyim with Sylvia Boorstein, and the Metivta Spirituality Institute, with Boorstein, Arthur Green and Jonathan Omer-Man. He participated in four- and six-week silent meditation retreats at the Spirit Rock meditation center under the tutelage of Boorstein and Jack Kornfield. To date, he has completed five solo wilderness retreats (four days of meditation, prayer and fasting in a small circle, generally known as a Vision Quest) under the guidance of different teachers, notably John Milton of Sacred Passage.
He founded TorahTrek Spiritual Wilderness Adventures in 2001 while serving the Jackson Hole Chaverim in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for three years. The community’s first resident rabbi, Mike helped the Jackson Jewish community establish itself while developing TorahTrek into a nationally recognized program.
Currently, Rabbi Comins lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jody Porter. He continues to grow TorahTrek, and devotes himself to writing and teaching. Rabbi Comins also contributes to various books and periodicals.
Michael Comins Books
A Wild Faith: Jewish Ways into Wilderness, Wilderness Ways into Judaism
Making Prayer Real: Leading Jewish Spiritual Voices on Why Prayer Is Difficult and What to Do about It
Five Things We Forget About Heaven
By Gavin Ortlund 8/11/2017
In 1952, Florence Chadwick tried to swim from Catalina Island to the coast of California. For fifteen hours, she endured choppy waters, possible shark attacks, and extreme fatigue. Then a thick fog set in. She gave up.
Two months later, she tried again. This time, though it was foggy again, she made it. When asked what made the difference, she said, “The first time all I could see was the fog. The second time I kept a mental image of that shoreline in my mind while I swam.”
For me, Chadwick’s comment gives a great image of how heaven should function in our lives as we follow Jesus. In order to persevere through the fog and fatigue of life, we need a mental image of the eternal shoreline toward which we swim.
But if you’re like me, you tend to think about heaven far less than you should. Many days it’s completely off my radar screen. What’s more, when we do think about heaven, we have a lot of misconceptions about it, as Randy Alcorn has helped us understand.
So lately, I’ve been trying to think more about heaven. As I’ve done so, several features of heaven have surprised me. Think of these as qualities we often forget about heaven — parts of the shoreline most likely to be overlooked.
Click here to go to source
But Jesus Never CLAIMED to be God? Actually, He Did—3 Times
By Alisa Childers 8/2/2017
One of the most common objections skeptics raise to the deity of Christ is the idea that Jesus never actually claimed to be God. Sure the church ended up worshiping Him as such, but this was a later development that was projected onto Jesus but wasn't something He intended to claim for Himself....or so the argument goes.
If you are expecting to find a Bible verse in which Jesus stands on the Mount of Olives and proclaims in English, and every other known language, "I am God!" You won't find it. He actually did one better....but we'll save that for the end.
Biblically, there are several ways to know that Jesus is God. He accepted worship, possessed all the eternal attributes of God, did things only God can do, and was given titles of deity. (Those are all great subjects for future blog posts.)
But Jesus did also CLAIM to be God, and here are 3 times He did just that:
Mark 14:61-62 | After His arrest, Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court. The high priest asked him point blank: "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?" Jesus replied, "I am...and all of you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven."
As a lifelong church-goer, follower of Jesus, and former CCM recording artist, I experienced a period of profound doubt about my faith in my early thirties. I felt as though I had been tossed in a stormy ocean of uncertainty with no life jacket or lifeboat in sight. I didn't know where to find answers to my questions, or if answers existed at all. Did I have to accept it all on some kind of blind faith? This is my journey from unreasoned doubt into vibrant, intellectually informed faith.
Whether you're a seeker, a doubting Christian, or strong Christian wanting to become better at articulating your faith, I pray that this website will be a lifeboat for you. So jump in and let’s tackle the tough questions together.
I am currently a member of Grace Chapel Church in Franklin, TN and an artist in residence at Whitewater Crossing Christian Church in Cleves, Ohio.
Feel free to contact me with any questions or subjects you would like me to write about.
The Final Divide
By John Piper 11/29/1998
(Ro 2:6–11) 6 For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. NRSV
Heaven or Hell Awaits | Whatever else this text teaches — and it teaches many things — one thing is abundantly clear and immeasurably important for us and for our mission in this modern, secular world: namely, when your life is over on this earth, and this present age is over on this planet, God will give you either eternal life or wrath and indignation. You will receive either glory and honor and peace or you will receive tribulation and distress. Heaven or hell awaits you when you die. And both will last forever.
Let’s make sure we see this fundamental reality in this text. Verse 6: “God will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, [he will render] eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, [he will render] wrath and indignation. [Now he reverses the order and gives the same alternatives again, lest we miss the point.] There will be tribulation and distress [corresponding to verse 8: “wrath and indignation”] for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace [corresponding to verse 7: “eternal life”] to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
So, whatever else you see here, please don’t miss this. What could be more important or more relevant or more urgent or more immense or more captivating than your happiness or misery for all eternity?
For all Stages of Life | Children, this is very important for you. Someday you are going to die. I hope it will be when you are very old and full of years. But you might be six or sixteen when you die. And when you die, you will either enter eternal life with God or go away under his eternal anger and misery forever. You don’t have to be afraid about this. God has given his Son, Jesus, to die for sinners so that everyone who trusts in him will not go to hell, but have eternal life (John 3:16). But you do need to care about this. So listen carefully today and ask your daddy or mommy to help you be sure that you will go to heaven and not to hell.
And teenagers, be wise and set your minds to think about what really matters in this world. Don’t be foolish and give your best energies to things that last a moment and then are gone. Don’t think that you will live a long time and deal with heaven and hell when you are old. Every day the news carries stories about teenagers dying suddenly. And if you put it off, what you may find is that your heart is so infused with the mindset of this world that you are no longer able to feel a serious spiritual affection. Oh how many times I heard my father say the ominous words of Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” Few things are more to be feared than a godless, miserable old age unable to delight in heaven or fear hell. Do not presume that you will get serious about eternity when you are old. Do it now.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Trusting His Word
By Mike Malone 4/1/1995
Every parent knows that children have a way of exposing the real issues of life in an innocent yet unsympathetic manner. “Where did God come from? Where did I come from? Where will I go when I die?” are questions which raise ultimate philosophical concerns. The most important of questions, however, is “How do you know?” Answers may be offered to all sorts of questions, but this most basic one begs to be asked when any of those answers
Imagine that you have just awakened from a deep sleep and you find yourself in a concrete bunker with a dozen other people. You all are suffering from amnesia. You don’t know where you have come from, who you are, what you should do, or how you might travel to some other place. It is clear that you are headed somewhere because each person possesses various provisions, food, clothing, medicines, etc.
As others awaken, you begin to engage them in conversation. “Who are you? How did we get here? What shall we do? When?” Each person in the room will offer observations. Each will offer opinions, suggestions, solutions, and preferences. Each person will, sooner or later, develop convictions about the situation and what, if anything, should be done.
In a sense, this is our plight. We are gathered on this planet and faced with questions demanding answers. A cafeteria of responses is available. But the critical question is, Who shall we believe and why? Shall I believe my New Age neighbor? Shall I believe my Lutheran cousin? Shall I believe my carefree work associate? Where shall I go to find the truth?
Think back to the people in the bunker. Christianity claims that a road map has been provided in order that we might find our way from where we are to where we want to be (and we do want to be somewhere else, we realize).
But it is more than a road map. It tells us that we were made for something greater than life in a concrete bunker. It offers explanations of the world in which we find ourselves, the One who created it, and His great desire that we might know Him. It describes us and explores the inner workings of our minds and hearts, revealing what is true but not altogether pleasant about us. It points us to a goal, an end, which is purported to satisfy the deepest longings of our aching hearts. And it tells us that, while the road is long and arduous, we may expect to experience great personal joy, comradery, and beauty along the way.
While the Bible is much more than this, it is not less. And it may be trusted to “deliver the goods.” How do we know that?
The question of the reliability and authority of the Scriptures revolves around the person central in them, Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible is not a book which simply fell out of the sky or was discovered on the side of a mountain with a peculiar pair of spectacles enabling its discoverer to read it. The Bible is the record of the mighty acts of God in human history, acts which prepare for and lead to the appearing, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. The claim of the Bible is that these are matters of history. They may be examined. They should be expected to withstand the scrutiny of any who would bother to investigate them.
When people argue for the trustworthiness of the Scriptures they will, rightly, refer to the majesty of its themes, the fundamental unity of its message, its power to influence the lives of men and women, and the remarkable way in which it has been preserved over centuries of use. But in the end the issue is Jesus Christ. At bottom, confidence in the Bible is a matter of loyalty to Him. Until one has come to terms with Jesus Christ, other issues are merely academic.
True, we must trust the Bible at some level if we are to come to terms with Jesus of Nazareth. Given this book’s claims and given what it offers us, the only responsible thing is to investigate whether or not we ought to trust it. And that may be done by examining what it and history have said about its central character, Jesus Christ.
In a conversation with a friend of my mother, I had the temerity to suggest that anyone who was not a Christian was one of two things: ignorant or irresponsible. That still seems to me wholly true. Life is much too short and filled with too many important questions to fail to take seriously this remarkable thing which has occurred on the stage of human history. It matters infinitely what one thinks about Jesus. Be neither ignorant nor irresponsible.
Mike Malone, could not find bio
The History of the Reformation
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/1995
“A cesspool of heresies.” This was the judgment rendered by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V on May 26, 1521, shortly after Luther took a stand at the Diet of Worms.
Earlier, in the bull Exsurge Domine, Pope Leo X described Luther as a wild boar loose in the vineyard of Christ and as a stiff-necked, notorious, damned heretic. On May 4, 1521, Luther was “kidnapped” by friends and whisked off to Wartburg castle, where he was kept secretly hidden, disguised as a knight. There Luther immediately undertook the task of translating the Bible into the vernacular.
Frequently the Reformation is described as a movement that revolved around two pivotal issues. The socalled “material” cause was the debate over sola fide (“justification by faith alone”). The “formal” cause was the issue of sola Scriptura, that the Bible and the Bible alone has the authority to bind the conscience of the believer. Church tradition was regarded with respect by the Reformers but not as a normative source of revelation. The “protest” of Protestantism went far beyond the issue of justification by faith alone, challenging many dogmas that emerged in Rome, especially during the Middle Ages.
In a short time, the Reformation swept through Germany but did not stop there. Aided by the translation of the Bible in other nations, the reform spread to the Huguenots in France, to Scotland, England, Switzerland, Hungary, and Holland. Ulrich Zwingli led the Reformation movement in Switzerland, John Knox in Scotland, and John Calvin among the French Protestants.
In 1534 Calvin delivered a speech calling the church to return to the pure Gospel of the New Testament. His speech was burned, and Calvin fled Paris to Geneva. Disguised as a vinedresser, he escaped the city in a basket. During the next year, some two dozen Protestants were burned alive in France. This provoked Calvin to write his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion, which was addressed to the King of France. His thought contained in the Institutes developed into the dominant theology for the international expansion of the Reformation.
The first edition of the Institutes was completed in 1536, the same year Calvin was persuaded by Farel to come to Switzerland to build Geneva into a model city of Reformation. In 1538 Farel and Calvin were forced to leave Geneva. He lived and ministered in Strasbourg for three years until he was recalled to Geneva in 1541.
Calvin’s theology stressed the sovereignty of God in all of life. His chief passion was the reform of worship to a level of purity that would give no hint to or support of the human penchant for idolatry. Geneva attracted leaders from all over Europe who came there to observe the model and be instructed by Calvin himself.
During this period turbulence spread to England when King Henry VIII resisted the authority of Rome. In 1534 Henry became the Supreme Head of the Anglican Church. He undertook the persecution of evangelicals, which escalated under “Bloody Mary,” causing many to flee to Geneva for refuge.
The persecutions were suspended under “Good Queen Bess,” Elizabeth I, whose stance provoked a papal bull against her in 1570. The Reformation spread rapidly to Scotland, largely under the leadership of John Knox, who served 19 months as a galley slave before he went to England and then to Geneva. In 1560 the Scottish Parliament rejected papal authority. In 1561 the Scottish Reformed “Kirk” was reorganized.
One interesting footnote to this is that the first man John Knox ordained into the ministry of the church was an obscure clergyman by the name of Robert Charles Sproul, of whom I am a direct descendant.
In the early 17th century, the Reformation spread to the new world with the arrival of the Pilgrims and colonies of Puritans who brought Reformed theology and the Geneva Bible with them.
Reformation theology dominated Protestant evangelicalism for decades but became diluted later under influences of Pietism and Finneyism.
By the end of the 20th century, Reformation theology declined dramatically in the Western world, being assaulted by 19th-century liberal theology on the one hand, and the influence of Arminian theology on the other. This was especially true in America.
In the present scene of American evangelicalism, Reformation theology is a minority report. The dominant strands of theology that reign in current evangelical circles are dispensationalism and neo-Pentecostal charismatic thought. The phenomenal spread and growth of dispensational theology in America is a fascinating chapter in church history. Having its roots in British Plymouth Brethren suppositions, dispensationalism spread rapidly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fueled by the Bible School movement, prophecy conferences, and the preaching of men like D. L. Moody, dispensationalism gathered enormous popular support.
The American version of dispensationalism got a great boost by the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible. The Scofield Bible, with its study notes, served as a popular tool for the spread of dispensational theology. This theology was forged by men who had their roots predominately in Reformation thought. The themes of classical Reformed theology were modified significantly by this movement.
The New Geneva Study Bible is the first distinctively Reformed study Bible in English to appear since the Geneva Bible in the 16th century. It seeks to recover the theology of the Reformation and provide a guide for the laity to understand its historically, doctrinally, and biblically rich system. Its importance to American Christianity is enormous. It is my hope that it will help guide English-speaking evangelicals back to their Reformation roots. More importantly, it is designed to call evangelicals back to the Bible itself and to their historic confessions of biblical theology.
Beyond the borders of America, the New Geneva Study Bible may be used to expand the light of the Reformation to lands where the original Reformation never reached, especially to Russia and Eastern Europe.
In our day we have seen a revival of interest in the Bible and a renewed commitment to the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture. But the Reformation was more than a doctrine about the Bible. It was sparked by a deep and serious study of the Bible. It is not enough to extol the virtue of Scripture—we must hear the teaching of Scripture afresh. It is only by a serious and earnest recovery of biblical truth that we will be able to avoid falling into a new cesspool of heresy.
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 | Go to Books Page
The Gnawing Worm of the Soul
By Cyprian of Carthage 8/23/2017
In her book Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies, author Rebecca DeYoung writes about envy and its destructive power:
“Why are we envious? Whom do we envy? And why does envy lead to such destructive impulses? While there is something ugly and malicious about envy—Gregory the Great lists anger as a vice that arises from it—there is obviously something self-destructive, self-hating about envy too. A poem by Victor Hugo recounts an opportunity granted to Envy and Avarice to receive whatever they wished, on the condition the other receive a double portion. Envy replied, ‘I wish to be blind in one eye.’ The envious person resents another person’s good gifts because they are superior to his or her own. It’s not just that the other person is better; it is that by their comparison their superiority makes you feel your own lack, your own inferiority, more acutely”.
Cyprian of Carthage joins us today to offer some thoughts on this vice and ways to guard against it. —Renovaré Team
But what a gnawing worm of the soul is it, what a plague-spot of our thoughts, what a rust of the heart, to be jealous of another, either in respect of his virtue or of his happiness; that is, to hate in him either his own deservings or the divine benefits—to turn the advantages of others into one’s own mischief—to be tormented by the prosperity of illustrious men—to make other people’s glory one’s own penalty, and, as it were, to apply a sort of executioner to one’s own breast, to bring the tormentors to one’s own thoughts and feelings, that they may tear us with intestine pangs, and may smite the secret recesses of the heart with the hoof of malevolence. To such, no food is joyous, no drink can be cheerful. They are ever sighing, and groaning, and grieving; and since envy is never put off by the envious, the possessed heart is rent without intermission day and night.
Other ills have their limit; and whatever wrong is done, is bounded by the completion of the crime. In the adulterer the offense ceases when the violation is perpetrated; in the case of the murderer, the crime is at rest when the homicide is committed; and the possession of the booty puts an end to the rapacity of the thief; and the completed deception places a limit to the wrong of the cheat. Jealousy has no limit; it is an evil continually enduring, and a sin without end. In proportion as he who is envied has the advantage of a greater success, in that proportion the envious man burns with the fires of jealousy to an increased heat. …
Cyprian of Carthage (c. 200 – September 14, 258 AD) was bishop of Carthage and a notable Early Christian writer of Berber descent, many of whose Latin works are extant. He was born around the beginning of the 3rd century in North Africa, perhaps at Carthage, where he received a classical education. Soon after converting to Christianity, he became a bishop in 249. A controversial figure during his lifetime, his strong pastoral skills, firm conduct during the Novatianist heresy and outbreak of the plague, and eventual martyrdom at Carthage vindicated his reputation and proved his sanctity in the eyes of the Church. His skillful Latin rhetoric led to his being considered the pre-eminent Latin writer of Western Christianity until Jerome and Augustine.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 92How Great Are Your Works
92 A Psalm. A Song For The Sabbath.
1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
4 For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
5 How great are your works, O LORD!
Your thoughts are very deep!
6 The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
7 that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
8 but you, O LORD, are on high forever.
9 For behold, your enemies, O LORD,
for behold, your enemies shall perish;
all evildoers shall be scattered.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
8/1/2017 Searching for Truth
Whenever people ask me what I do for a living, I respond by telling them I am a pastor. When I tell them I am a pastor, people appear to be instantly filled with a range of emotions as they try to figure out how to respond. Depending on their spiritual state and their relationship to Christ and the church, their responses range from fear to comfort, from anxiety to delight. Some people attempt to change the subject as quickly as possible, some want to tell me all about their spiritual journey, some want to unload all their burdens, some talk about why they left the church, and others rejoice in our common faith in Christ. But more often than not, when I tell people I’m a pastor, they have questions–questions about our church, about what I believe, about the Bible, God, and the afterlife. All people have questions. We are inquisitive by nature. And in this age of pluralism, atheism, and skepticism, many people are searching for truth and the answers to life’s ultimate questions.
In some ways, pastors have more opportunities than other Christians to proclaim and explain the gospel and do the work of an evangelist and apologist. It is one of the joys of being a pastor. By the very nature of what we do, pastors are theologians and apologists. But in truth, every Christian is a theologian and an apologist. The question for all of us is whether we are good theologians and apologists and whether we are serious students of Scripture and the theology and answers that come from Scripture. Every Christian is called to be ready to give an answer for the hope that’s within us, as Peter commands us, and never to forget that we are to give our answers with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
As we do our good works before the watching world—not to be seen by men in order to get glory for ourselves, but so that the world might see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven—people will naturally ask us why we do all that we do, why we believe what we believe, and why we hold to the hope that is within us. And when they do, we must not be afraid, for Christ has promised that the Holy Spirit is with us to give us the courage and compassion to speak the truth in love. For this is one of the chief ways we shine as lights in the darkness of the world, knowing that people can only see the light if the Holy Spirit opens their eyes, expels the darkness, regenerates their hearts, and makes them alive to the light of the glory of Jesus Christ.
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)
by Bill Federer
An English astronomer, he became world renown for the discovery of the planet “Uranus.” He was noted for his recognition of double stars. Using the technology of the late eighteenth century, he constructed the greatest reflecting telescopes of his time, and with them cataloged and studied the nebulae and galaxies as had never been done before. For his accomplishments, he was knighted by the Royalty. His name was Sir William Herschel, and he died this day, August 25, 1822. Commenting on the grandeur of the heavens, Sir William Herschel stated: “The undevout astronomer must be mad.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
There is another kind of virtue that may find employment for those retired hours in which we are altogether left to ourselves and destitute of company and conversation; I mean that intercourse and communication which every reasonable creature ought to maintain with the great Author of his being. The man who lives under an habitual sense of the divine presence keeps up a perpetual cheerfulness of temper, and enjoys every moment the satisfaction of thinking himself in company with his dearest and best of friends. The time never lies heavy upon him: it is impossible for him to be alone. His thoughts and passions are the most busied at such hours when those of other men are the most inactive. He no sooner steps out of the world but his heart burns with devotion, swells with hope, and triumphs in the consciousness of that presence which everywhere surrounds him; or, on the contrary, pours out its fears, its sorrows, its apprehensions, to the great Supporter of its existence.
--- Joseph Addison
You don’t have to read very far in your Bible to discover that God forgives His servants and restores them to ministry. --- Warren Wiersbe” Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Speak, Lord, in the stillness while I wait on Thee;
Hushed my heart to listen in expectancy.
Speak, Thy servant heareth! Be not silent, Lord;
Waits my soul upon Thee for the quick’ning word!
--- E. May Grimes
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
4. But now there fell out a terrible sedition among them within the city; for the inhabitants themselves, who had possessions there, and to whom the city belonged, were not disposed to fight from the very beginning; and now the less so, because they had been beaten; but the foreigners, which were very numerous, would force them to fight so much the more, insomuch that there was a clamor and a tumult among them, as all mutually angry one at another. And when Titus heard this tumult, for he was not far from the wall, he cried out, "Fellow soldiers, now is the time; and why do we make any delay, when God is giving up the Jews to us? Take the victory which is given you: do not you hear what a noise they make? Those that have escaped our hands are in an uproar against one another. We have the city if we make haste; but besides haste, we must undergo some labor, and use some courage; for no great thing uses to be accomplished without danger: accordingly, we must not only prevent their uniting again, which necessity will soon compel them to do, but we must also prevent the coming of our own men to our assistance, that, as few as we are, we may conquer so great a multitude, and may ourselves alone take the city."
5. As soon as ever Titus had said this, he leaped upon his horse, and rode apace down to the lake; by which lake he marched, and entered into the city the first of them all, as did the others soon after him. Hereupon those that were upon the walls were seized with a terror at the boldness of the attempt, nor durst any one venture to fight with him, or to hinder him; so they left guarding the city, and some of those that were about Jesus fled over the country, while others of them ran down to the lake, and met the enemy in the teeth, and some were slain as they were getting up into the ships, but others of them as they attempted to overtake those that were already gone aboard. There was also a great slaughter made in the city, while those foreigners that had not fled away already made opposition; but the natural inhabitants were killed without fighting: for in hopes of Titus's giving them his right hand for their security, and out of a consciousness that they had not given any consent to the war, they avoided fighting, till Titus had slain the authors of this revolt, and then put a stop to any further slaughters, out of commiseration of these inhabitants of the place. But for those that had fled to the lake, upon seeing the city taken, they sailed as far as they possibly could from the enemy.
6. Hereupon Titus sent one of his horsemen to his father, and let him know the good news of what he had done; at which, as was natural, he was very joyful, both on account of the courage and glorious actions of his son; for he thought that now the greatest part of the war was over. He then came thither himself, and set men to guard the city, and gave them command to take care that nobody got privately out of it, but to kill such as attempted so to do. And on the next day he went down to the lake, and commanded that vessels should be fitted up, in order to pursue those that had escaped in the ships. These vessels were quickly gotten ready accordingly, because there was great plenty of materials, and a great number of artificers also.
7. Now this lake of Gennesareth is so called from the country adjoining to it. Its breadth is forty furlongs, and its length one hundred and forty; its waters are sweet, and very agreeable for drinking, for they are finer than the thick waters of other fens; the lake is also pure, and on every side ends directly at the shores, and at the sand; it is also of a temperate nature when you draw it up, and of a more gentle nature than river or fountain water, and yet always cooler than one could expect in so diffuse a place as this is. Now when this water is kept in the open air, it is as cold as that snow which the country people are accustomed to make by night in summer. There are several kinds of fish in it, different both to the taste and the sight from those elsewhere. It is divided into two parts by the river Jordan. Now Panium is thought to be the fountain of Jordan, but in reality it is carried thither after an occult manner from the place called Phiala: this place lies as you go up to Trachonitis, and is a hundred and twenty furlongs from Cesarea, and is not far out of the road on the right hand; and indeed it hath its name of Phiala [vial or bowl] very justly, from the roundness of its circumference, as being round like a wheel; its water continues always up to its edges, without either sinking or running over. And as this origin of Jordan was formerly not known, it was discovered so to be when Philip was tetrarch of Trachonitis; for he had chaff thrown into Phiala, and it was found at Paninto, where the ancients thought the fountain-head of the river was, whither it had been therefore carried [by the waters]. As for Panium itself, its natural beauty had been improved by the royal liberality of Agrippa, and adorned at his expenses. Now Jordan's visible stream arises from this cavern, and divides the marshes and fens of the lake Semechonitis; when it hath run another hundred and twenty furlongs, it first passes by the city Julias, and then passes through the middle of the lake Gennesareth; after which it runs a long way over a desert, and then makes its exit into the lake Asphaltites.
8. The country also that lies over against this lake hath the same name of Gennesareth; its nature is wonderful as well as its beauty; its soil is so fruitful that all sorts of trees can grow upon it, and the inhabitants accordingly plant all sorts of trees there; for the temper of the air is so well mixed, that it agrees very well with those several sorts, particularly walnuts, which require the coldest air, flourish there in vast plenty; there are palm trees also, which grow best in hot air; fig trees also and olives grow near them, which yet require an air that is more temperate. One may call this place the ambition of nature, where it forces those plants that are naturally enemies to one another to agree together; it is a happy contention of the seasons, as if every one of them laid claim to this country; for it not only nourishes different sorts of autumnal fruit beyond men's expectation, but preserves them a great while; it supplies men with the principal fruits, with grapes and figs continually, during ten months of the year 7 and the rest of the fruits as they become ripe together through the whole year; for besides the good temperature of the air, it is also watered from a most fertile fountain. The people of the country call it Capharnaum. Some have thought it to be a vein of the Nile, because it produces the Coracin fish as well as that lake does which is near to Alexandria. The length of this country extends itself along the banks of this lake that bears the same name for thirty furlongs, and is in breadth twenty, And this is the nature of that place.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
and set your mind on the right way.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The fruitfulness of friendship
I have called you friends. --- John 15:15.
We never know the joy of self-sacrifice until we abandon in every particular. Self-surrender is the most difficult thing—‘I will if …!’ ‘Oh well, I suppose I must devote my life to God.’ There is none of the joy of self-sacrifice in that.
As soon as we do abandon, the Holy Ghost gives us an intimation of the joy of Jesus. The final aim of self-sacrifice is laying down our lives for our Friend. When the Holy Ghost comes in, the great desire is to lay down the life for Jesus; the thought of sacrifice never touches us because sacrifice is the love passion of the Holy Ghost.
Our Lord is our example in the life of self-sacrifice—“I delight to do Thy will, O My God.” He went on with His sacrifice with exuberant joy. Have I ever yielded in absolute submission to Jesus Christ? If Jesus Christ is not the lodestar, there is no benefit in the sacrifice; but when the sacrifice is made with the eyes on Him, slowly and surely the moulding influence begins to tell.
Beware of letting natural affinities hinder your walk in love. One of the most cruel ways of killing natural love is by disdain built on natural affinities. The affinity of the saint is the Lord Jesus. Love for God is not sentimental; to love as God loves is the most practical thing for the saint.
“I have called you friends.” It is a friendship based on the new life created in us, which has no affinity with our old life, but only with the life of God. It is unutterably humble, unsulliedly pure, and absolutely devoted to God.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Song (Song at the Year's Turning)
Wandering, wandering, hoping to find
The ring of mushrooms with the wet rind,
Cold to the touch, but bright with dew,
A green asylum from time's range.
And finding instead the harsh ways
Of the ruinous wind and the clawed rain;
The storm's hysteria in the bush;
The wild creatures and their pain.
BIBLE TEXT / Leviticus 4:1–3 / The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelite people thus: When a person unwittingly incurs guilt in regard to any of the Lord’s commandments about things not to be done, and does one of them—If it is the anointed priest who has incurred guilt, so that blame falls upon the people, he shall offer for the sin of which he is guilty a bull of the herd without blemish as a sin offering to the Lord.
MIDRASH TEXT / Leviticus Rabbah 5, 6 / If it is the anointed priest who has incurred guilt. The anointed priest brings about atonement, and [he himself] requires atonement. Rabbi Ḥiyya taught, “Since the anointed one brings about atonement and the community [requires] atonement, it is best that the one who brings about atonement should come before those who require atonement, as it has been taught, ‘[Aaron shall then offer his bull of sin offering,] to make expiation for himself and his household’ (Leviticus 16:11). ‘His household’—this is his wife.”
Another interpretation: If it is the anointed priest who has incurred guilt. Does the anointed priest sin? Rabbi Levi said: “Pitiful is the province where the physician has gout, and the foreman has only one eye, and whose defender turns prosecutor in capital cases.”
CONTEXT / The first section of chapter four of the Book of Leviticus (4:3–12) deals with the priest who has sinned. “If it is the anointed priest who has incurred guilt.…” It is followed by paragraphs that then deal with the whole community of Israel, which has sinned (13–21), a chieftain who has sinned (22–26), and finally the individual who has sinned (27–31). The Midrash is addressing the question: Why this particular order? A logical response is that the anointed priest must first seek atonement for himself before he can effect it for others: It is best that the one who brings about atonement should come before those who require atonement.… A proof for this view comes from Leviticus 16:11, in the description of the Yom Kippur ritual on the great Day of Atonement. The text says Aaron was to make expiation “for himself and his household.” The Rabbis interpreted this as meaning first for himself, next for his wife, and finally for the whole house of Israel.
“His household”—this is his wife. In the Talmud (Gittin 52a), we read: Rabbi Yosé taught, “I never referred to my wife as ‘my wife’ … but rather as ‘my house’.” Rashi explains this by saying, “For all the needs of the house were taken care of by her hands, and she is the essence of the house!”
Does the anointed priest sin? The Midrash has a hard time believing that a religious leader like the anointed priest could actually have committed a sin. There is an expectation that such a figure would live by a higher moral code than the average person. Rabbi Levi emphasizes this point by the analogy to a doctor, a foreman, and a lawyer. If a doctor can’t keep himself healthy, how can he be expected to take care of his patients? If the building foreman, the one who levels walls during construction by means of his expert eye, is half blind, then he can’t do an adequate job. (The rare Aramaic word is alternately explained as “overseer of the treasury,” “watchman,” or “guide.”) If the defending attorney acts like the prosecutor, woe to the client!
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. --- John 3:35.
Let us come to and believe in this glorious One.
(The RS Thomas And Other Practical Works Of The Late Reverend And Learned Mr. Ralph Erskine V9) For a stimulus to action, consider, is it possible that we can desire a better pattern to follow in trusting in Christ than his eternal Father, who has entrusted him with everything? “Here is my servant, whom I uphold” (Isa. 42:1), or, as the word signifies, “my servant, whom I trust.” Isn’t it best loving whom God loves and trusting whom he trusts?
Consider, too, that those who believe cannot miss salvation, for it is in the hands of Christ to give to all comers. Those who do not believe cannot escape damnation, for, “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3)—so great a Savior, who has everything in his hands?
His Father crowned Christ with this honor, so you cannot put more honor on the Father or on Christ than by putting everything you have in his hands and going to him for everything you stand in need of. When you go to him and make use of this treasure, you join with his Father in putting a crown of glory on his head.
Consider for reason to look to this Jesus that everything is placed in Christ’s hands so that he may give it out to you. Why has our Lord Jesus received gifts, even the gift of everything? He “gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8).
Do not say, then, “It cannot be for me”; yes, it is for you. Let faith say, “It is for me—for me—that everything was placed in Christ’s hands.”
It is not possible that he will keep all closed in his hands and give out nothing. No; it stands on his honor as Mediator; it stands on his credit as the church’s treasurer and the Father’s trustee to give from that treasure of grace and fullness that is given to him for our behalf. He would not be faithful to his trust if he would give out none of that treasure to poor sinners. When unbelief says, “Oh! He will give out nothing to me,” let faith step in and say, “I hope he will give to me from his fullness, because his name is Faithful and True.” And here is a door of faith even for sinners who are yet unbelievers, that there is a glorious and sweet necessity lying on Christ to give from his grace and fullness to human sinners—and why not to you?
--- Ralph Erskine
Curtain Call August 25
The last great Roman persecution against the church occurred during the reign of Diocletian, a son of slaves, who became emperor in 284. Diocletian seemed tolerant of Christians at first. His wife and daughter studied Christian writings. But as the new faith grew and large church buildings began appearing in major cities, the emperor put Christianity to the rack. One of the strangest incidents occurred in 303 when Diocletian attended a play in Rome. In the performance, actors clothed in white made fun of Christian rituals and habits. One of them, Genesius, ran onto the stage and fell to the floor crying, “I feel so heavy. I want to be made light. I want to die as a Christian that on that day I may fly up to God as a refuge.” A mock priest and an exorcist ran to his side, performing rituals including a fake baptism.
The crowd roared with laughter. But Genesius had grown up in a Christian home, and his pagan ways had failed to destroy his Christian roots. He was suddenly haunted with pangs of conviction so strong that he cried out, “I want to receive the grace of Christ, that I may be born again, and be set free from the sins which have been my ruin.”
Many in the crowd thought he was still acting. But he rose, interrupting the play. Looking at the audience he said, “Illustrious emperor, and all you people who have laughed loudly at this parody, believe me! Christ is the true Lord!”
Diocletian, enraged, immediately ordered Genesius stretched onto a device of agony called the hobbyhorse. As the tortures increased, his skin was torn with sharp hooks and his sides burned with torches. But the actor kept repeating, “There is no king except Christ, whom I have seen and worship. For him I will die a thousand times. I am sorry for my sin, and for becoming so late a soldier of the true king.”
The tortures failed to dissuade him, and the curtain fell on his life when he was beheaded on this day, August 25, 303.
The LORD our God was with our ancestors to help them, and I pray that he will be with us and never abandon us. May the LORD help us obey him and follow all the laws and teachings he gave our ancestors. I pray that the LORD our God will remember my prayer day and night.
--- 1 Kings 8:57-59a.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 25
“His fruit was sweet to my taste.”
--- Song of Solomon 2:3.
Faith, in the Scripture, is spoken of under the emblem of all the senses. It is sight: “Look unto me and be ye saved.” It is hearing: “Hear, and your soul shall live.” Faith is smelling: “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia”; “thy name is as ointment poured forth.” Faith is spiritual touch. By this faith the woman came behind and touched the hem of Christ’s garment, and by this we handle the things of the good word of life. Faith is equally the spirit’s taste. “How sweet are thy words to my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my lips.” “Except a man eat my flesh,” saith Christ, “and drink my blood, there is no life in him.”
This “taste” is faith in one of its highest operations. One of the first performances of faith is hearing. We hear the voice of God, not with the outward ear alone, but with the inward ear; we hear it as God’s Word, and we believe it to be so; that is the “hearing” of faith. Then our mind looketh upon the truth as it is presented to us; that is to say, we understand it, we perceive its meaning; that is the “seeing” of faith. Next we discover its preciousness; we begin to admire it, and find how fragrant it is; that is faith in its “smell.” Then we appropriate the mercies which are prepared for us in Christ; that is faith in its “touch.” Hence follow the enjoyments, peace, delight, communion; which are faith in its “taste.” Any one of these acts of faith is saving. To hear Christ’s voice as the sure voice of God in the soul will save us; but that which gives true enjoyment is the aspect of faith wherein Christ, by holy taste, is received into us, and made, by inward and spiritual apprehension of his sweetness and preciousness, to be the food of our souls. It is then we sit “under his shadow with great delight,” and find his fruit sweet to our taste.
Evening - August 25
“If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” --- Acts 8:37.
These words may answer your scruples, devout reader, concerning the ordinances. Perhaps you say, “I should be afraid to be baptized; it is such a solemn thing to avow myself to be dead with Christ, and buried with him. I should not feel at liberty to come to the Master’s table; I should be afraid of eating and drinking damnation unto myself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” Ah! poor trembler, Jesus has given you liberty, be not afraid. If a stranger came to your house, he would stand at the door, or wait in the hall; he would not dream of intruding unbidden into your parlour—he is not at home: but your child makes himself very free about the house; and so is it with the child of God. A stranger may not intrude where a child may venture. When the Holy Ghost has given you to feel the spirit of adoption, you may come to Christian ordinances without fear. The same rule holds good of the Christian’s inward privileges. You think, poor seeker, that you are not allowed to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; if you are permitted to get inside Christ’s door, or sit at the bottom of his table, you will be well content. Ah! but you shall not have less privileges than the very greatest. God makes no difference in his love to his children. A child is a child to him; he will not make him a hired servant; but he shall feast upon the fatted calf, and shall have the music and the dancing as much as if he had never gone astray. When Jesus comes into the heart, he issues a general licence to be glad in the Lord. No chains are worn in the court of King Jesus. Our admission into full privileges may be gradual, but it is sure. Perhaps our reader is saying, “I wish I could enjoy the promises, and walk at liberty in my Lord’s commands.” “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” Loose the chains of thy neck, O captive daughter, for Jesus makes thee free.
TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE
Frances R. Havergal, 1836–1879
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31)
In this day of self-centered living and pleasure-oriented lifestyle, the total commitment to God of body, mind, and possessions portrayed in this text is difficult for many Christians to achieve. Even though we realize that we have nothing we have not received and that we are only stewards of the good gifts God has entrusted to us, we often fail to apply this basic truth to our daily lives:
The gold that came from Thee, Lord, to Thee belongeth still;
Oh, may I always faithfully my stewardship fulfill.
It was said of Frances Ridley Havergal, author of this text, that the beauty of a consecrated life was never more perfectly revealed than in her daily living. She has rightfully been called “The Consecration Poet.”
“These little couplets that chimed in my heart one after another” were for Frances Havergal the result of an Evening in 1874 passed in pursuing a deeper consecration of herself to God. “Take my voice and let me sing always only for my King” was personally significant for Frances. She was naturally very musical and had been trained as a concert soloist with an unusually pleasant voice. Her musical talents could have brought her much worldly fame. However, she determined that her life’s mission was to sing and work only for Jesus. The line “Take my silver and my gold” was also sincerely phrased. At one time Frances gathered together her many fine pieces of jewelry and other family heirlooms and shipped them to the church missionary house to be used for evangelizing the lost. Nearly fifty articles were sent with “extreme delight.”
Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee; take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love;
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee; take my voice and let me sing always only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages for Thee; take my silver and my gold—not a mite would I withhold.
Take my love—my God, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store; take myself—and I will be ever, only, all for Thee, ever, only, all for thee.
For Today: 1 Chronicles 29:5; Matthew 22:37; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20
Express once more your gratitude for all of God’s gifts. Dedicate yourself more completely to His glory and service. Sing these words of consecration as you go ---
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
Use I. It serves for information.
1: It gives us occasion to admire the wonderful patience and mercy of God. How many millions of practical atheists breathe every day in his air, and live upon his bounty who deserve to be inhabitants in hell, rather than possessors of the earth! An infinite holiness is offended, an infinite justice is provoked; yet an infinite patience forbears the punishment, and an infinite goodness relieves our wants: the more we had merited his justice and forfeited his favor, the more is his affection enhanced, which makes his hand so liberal to us. At the first invasion of his rights, he mitigates the terror of the threatening which was set to defend his law, with the grace of a promise to relieve and recover his rebellious creature. Who would have looked for anything but tearing thunders, sweeping judgments, to raze up the foundations of the apostate world? But oh, how great are his bowels to his aspiring competitors! Have we not exerimented his contrivances for our good, though we have refused him for our happiness? Has he not opened his arms, when we spurned with our feet; held out his alluring mercy, when we have brandished against him a rebellious sword? Has he not entreated us while we have invaded him, as if he were unwilling to lose us, who are ambitious to destroy ourselves? Has he yet denied us the care of his providence, while we have denied him the rights of his honor, and would appropriate them to ourselves? Has the sun forborne shining upon us, though we have shot our arrows against him? Have not our beings been supported by his goodness, while we have endeavored to climb up to his throne; and his mercies continued to charm us, while we have used them as weapons to injure him? Our own necessities might excite us to own him as our happiness, but he adds his invitations to the voice of our wants. Has he not promised a kingdom to those that would strip him or his crown, and proclaimed pardon upon repentance to those that would take away his glory? and hath so twisted together his own end, which is his honor, and man’s true end, which is his salvation, that a man cannot truly mind himself and his own salvation, but he must mind God’s glory; and cannot be intent upon God’s honor, but by the same act he promotes himself and his own happiness? so loth is God to give any just occasion of dissatisfaction to his creature, as well a s dishonor to himself. All those wonders of his mercy are enhanced by the heinousness of our atheism; a multitude of gracious thoughts from him above the multitude of contempts from us. What rebels in actual arms against their prince, aiming at his life, ever found that favor from him; to have all their necessaries richly afforded them, without which they would starve, and without which. they would be unable to manage their attempts, as we have received from God? Had not God had riches of goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, and infinite riches too, the despite the world had done him, in refusing him as their rule, happiness, and end, would have emptied him long ago.
2. It brings in a justification of the exercise of his justice. If it gives us occasion loudly to praise his patience, it also stops our mouths from accusing any acts of his vengeance. What can be too sharp a recompense for the despising and disgracing so great a Being? The highest contempt merits the greatest anger; and when we will not own him for our happiness, it is equal we should feel the misery of separation from him. If he that is guilty of treason deserves to lose his life, what punishment can be thought great enough for him that is so disingenuous as to prefer himself before a God so infinitely good, and so foolish as to invade the rights of one infinitely powerful? It is no injustice for a creature to be forever left to himself, to see what advantage he can make of that self he was so busily employed to set up in the place of his Creator. The soul of man deserves an infinite punishment for despising an infinite good; and it is not unequitable, that that self which man makes his rule and happiness above God, should become his torment and misery by the righteousness of that God whom he despised.
3. Hence ariseth a necessity of a new state and frame of soul, to alter an atheistical nature. We forget God; think of him with reluctancy; have no respect to God in our course and acts: this cannot be our original state. God, being infinitely good, never let man come out of his hands with this actual unwillingness to acknowledge and serve him; he never intended to dethrone himself for the work of his hands, or that the creature should have any other end than that of his Creator: as the apostle saith, in the case of the Galatians’ error (Gal. 5:8), “This persuasion came not of Him that called you;” so this frame comes not from him that created you: how much, therefore, do we need a restoring principle in us! Instead of ordering ourselves according to the will of God, we are desirous to “fulfil the wills of the flesh:” there is a necessity of some other principle in us to make us fulfil the will of God, since we were created for God, not for the flesh. We can no more be voluntarily serviceable to God, while our serpentine nature and devilish habits remain in us, than we can suppose the devil can be willing to glorify God, while the nature he contracted by his fall abides powerfully in him. Our nature and will must be changed, that our actions may regard God as our end, that we may delightfully meditate on him, and draw the motives of our obedience from him. Since this atheism is seated in nature, the change must be in our nature; since our first aspirings to the rights of God were the fruits of the serpent’s breath which tainted our nature, there must be a removal of this taint, whereby our natures may be on the side of God against Satan, as they were before on the side of Satan against God. There must be a supernatural principle before we can live a supernatural life, i. e. live to God, since we are naturally alienated from the life of God: the aversion of our natures from God, is as strong as our inclination to evil; we are disgusted with one, and pressed with the other; we have no will, no heart, to come to God in any service. This nature must be broken in pieces and new moulded, before we can make God our rule and our end: while men’s “deeds are evil” they cannot comply with God; O much less while their natures are evil till this be done, all the service a man performs riseth from some “evil imagination of the heart, which is evil, only evil, and that continually;” from wrong notions of God, wrong notions of duty, or corrupt motives. All the pretences of devotion to God are but the adoration of some golden image. Prayers to God for the ends of self are like those of the devil to our Saviour, when he asked leave to go into the herd of swine: the object was right, Christ; the end was the destruction of the swine, and the satisfaction of their malice to the owners; there is a necessity then that depraved ends should be removed, that that which was God’s end in our framing, may be our end in our acting, viz. his glory, which cannot be without a change of nature. We can never honor him supremely whom we do not supremely love; till this be, we cannot glorify God as God, though we do things by his command and order; no more, than when God employed the devil in afflicting Job. His performance cannot be said to be good, because his end was not the same with God’s; he acted out of malice, what God commanded out of sovereignty, and for gracious designs; had God employed an holy angel in his design upon Job, the action had been good in the affliction, because his nature was holy, and therefore his ends holy; but bad in the devil, because his ends were base and unworthy.
4. We may gather from hence, the difficulty of conversion, and mortification to follow thereupon. What is the reason men receive no more impression from the voice of God and the light of his truth, than a dead man in the grave doth from the roaring thunder, or a blind mole from the light of the sun? It is because our atheism is as great as the deadness of the one, or the blindness of the other. The principle in the heart is strong to shut the door both of the thoughts and affections against God. If a friend oblige us, we shall act for him as for ourselves; we are won by entreaties; soft words overcome us; but our hearts are as deaf as the hardest rock at the call of God; neither the joys of heaven proposed by him can allure us, nor the flashed terrors of hell affright us to him, as if we conceived God unable to bestow the one or execute the other: the true reason is, God and self contest for the deity. The law of sin is, God must be at the footstool; the law of God is, sin must be utterly deposed. Now it is difficult to leave a law beloved for a law long ago discarded. The mind of man will hunt after anything; the will of man embrace anything: upon the proposal of mean objects the spirit of man spreads its wings, flies to catch them, becomes one with them but attempt to bring it under the power of God, the wings flag, the creature looks lifeless, as though there were no spring of motion in it; it is as much crucified to God, as the holy apostle was to the world. The sin of the heart discovers its strength the more God discovers the “holiness of his will.” The love of sin hath been predominant in our nature, has quashed a love to God, if not extinguished it. Hence also is the difficulty of mortification. This is a work tending to the honor of God, the abasing of that inordinately aspiring humor in ourselves. If the nature of man be inclined to sin, as it is, it must needs be bent against anything that opposes it. It is impossible to strike any true blow at any lust till the true sense of God be re-entertained in the soil where it ought to grow. Who can be naturally willing to crucify what is incorporated with him— his flesh? what is dearest to him—himself? Is it an easy thing for man, the competitor with God, to turn his arms against himself, that self should overthrow its own empire, lay aside all its pretensions to, and designs for, a godhead; to hew off its own members, and subdue its own affections? It is the nature of man to “cover his sin,” to hide it in his bosom, not to destroy it; and as unwillingly part with his carnal affections, as the legion of devils were with the man that had been long possessed;. and when he is forced and fired from one, he will endeavor to espouse some other lust, as those devils desired to possess swine, when they were chased from their possession of that man.
5. Here we see the reason of unbelief. That which hath most of God in it, meets with most aversion from us; that which hath least of God, finds better and stronger inclinations in us. What is the reason that the heart of man is more unwilling to embrace the gospel, than acknowledge the equity of the law? because there is more of God’s nature and perfection evident in the gospel than in the law; besides, there is more reliance on God, and distance from self, commanded in the gospel. The law puts a man upon his own strength, the gospel takes him off from his own bottom; the law acknowleges him to have a power in himself, and to act for his own reward; the gospel strips him of all his proud and towering thoughts, brings him to his due place, the foot of God; orders him to deny himself as his own rule, righteousness, and end, “and henceforth not to live to himself.” This is the true reason why men are more against the gospel than against the law; because it doth more deify God, and debase man. Hence it is easier to reduce men to some moral virtue than to faith; to make men blush at their outward vices, but not at the inward impurity of their natures. Hence it is observed, that those that asserted that all happiness did arise from something in a man’s self, as the Stoics and Epicureans did, and that a wise man was equal with God, were greater enemies to the truths of the gospel than others (Acts 17:18), because it lays the axe to the root of their principal opinion, takes the one from their self-sufficiency, and the other from their self- gratification; it opposeth the brutish principle of the one, which placed happiness in the pleasures of the body, and the more noble principle of the other, which placed happiness in the virtue of the mind; the one was for a sensual, the other for a moral self; both disowned by the doctrine of the gospel. 6. It informs us, consequently, who can be the Author of grace and conversion, and every other good work. No practical atheist ever yet turned to God, but was turned by God; and not to acknowledge it to God is a part of this atheism, since it is a robbing God of the honor of one of his most glorious works. If this practical atheism be natural to man ever since the first taint of nature in Paradise, what can be expected from it, but a resisting of the work of God, and setting up all the forces of nature against the operations of grace, till a day of power dawn and clear up upon the soul? Not all the angels in heaven, or men upon earth, can be imagined to be able to persuade a man to fall out with himself; nothing can turn the tide of nature, but a power above nature. God took away the sanctifying Spirit from man, as a penalty for the first sin; who can regain it but by his will and pleasure? who can restore it, but he that removed it? Since every man hath the same fundamental atheism in him by nature, and would be a rule to himself and his own end, he is so far from dethroning himself, that all the strength of his corrupted nature is alarmed up to stand to their arms upon any attempt God makes to regain the fort. The will is so strong against God, that it is like many wills twisted together (Eph. 2:3), “Wills of the flesh;” we translate it the “desires of the flesh;” like many threads twisted in a cable, never to be snapped asunder by a human arm; a power and will above ours, can only untwist so many wills in a knot. Man cannot rise to an acknowledgment of God without God; hell may as well become heaven, the devil be changed into an angel of light. The devil cannot but desire happiness; he knows the misery into which he is fallen, he cannot be desirous of that punishment he knows is reserved for him. Why doth he not sanctify God, and glorify his Creator, wherein there is abundantly more pleasure than in his malicious course? Why doth he not petition to recover his ancient standing? he will not; there are chains of darkness upon his faculties; he will not be otherwise than he is; his desire to be god of the world sways him against his own interest, and out of love to his malice, he will not sin at a less rate to make a diminution of his punishment. Man, if God utterly refuseth to work upon him, is no better; and to maintain his atheism would venture a hell. How is it possible for a man to turn himself to that God against whom he hath a quarrel in his nature; the most rooted and settled habit in him being to set himself in the place of God? An atheist by nature can no more alter his own temper, and engrave in himself the divine nature, than a rock can carve itself into the statue of a man, or a serpent that is an enemy to man could or would raise itself to the nobility of the human nature. That soul that by nature would strip God of his rights, cannot, without a divine power, be made conformable to him, and acknowledge sincerely and cordially the rights and glory of God.
7. We may here see the reason why there can be no justification by the best and strongest works of nature. Can that which hath atheism at the root justify either the action or person? What strength can those works have which have neither God’s law for their rule, nor his glory for their end? that are not wrought by any spiritual strength from him, nor tend with any spiritual affection to him? Can these be a foundation for the most holy God to pronounce a creature righteous? They will justify his justice in condemning, but cannot sway his justice to an absolution. Every natural man in his works picks and chooses; he owns the will of God no further than he can wring it to suit the law of his members, and minds not the honor of God, but as it jostles not with his own glory and secular ends. Can he be righteous that prefers his own will and his own honor before the will and honor of the Creator? However men’s actions may be beneficial to others, what reason hath God to esteem them, wherein there is no respect to him, but themselves; whereby they dethrone him in their thoughts, while they seem to own him in their religious works? Every day reproves us with something different from the rule; thousands of wanderings offer themselves to our eyes: can justification be expected from that which in itself is matter of despair?
8. See here the cause of all the apostasy in the world. Practical atheism was never conquered in such; they are still “alienated from the life of God,” and will not live to God, as he lives to himself and his own honor. They loathe his rule, and distaste his glory; are loth to step out of themselves to promote the ends of another; find not the satisfaction in him as they do in themselves; they will be judges of what is good for them and righteous in itself, rather than admit of God to judge for them. When men draw back from truth to error, it is to such opinions which may serve more to foment and cherish their ambition, covetousness, or some beloved lust that disputes with God for precedency, and is designed to be served before him (John 12:42, 43): “They love the praise of men more than the praise of God.” A preferring man before God was the reason they would not confess Christ, and God in him.
9. This shows us the excellency of the gospel and christian religion. It sets man in his due place, and gives to God what the excellency of his nature requires. It lays man in the dust from whence he was taken, and sets God upon that throne where he ought to sit. Man by nature would annihilate God and deify himself; the gospel glorifies God and annihilates man. In our first revolt we would be like him in knowledge; in the means he hath provided for our recovery, he designs to make us like him in grace; the gospel shows ourselves to be an object of humiliation, and God to be a glorious object for our imitation. The light of nature tells us there is a God; the gospel gives us a more magnificent report of him; the light of nature condemns gross atheism, and that of the gospel condemns and conquers spiritual atheism in the hearts of men.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXXVIII. — WHAT, therefore, the Diatribe cannot do in its affirmative, I will do in the negative; and though I am not called upon to prove the negative, yet I will do it here, and will make it by the force of argument undeniably appear, that “nothing,” in this passage, not only may be but ought to be understood as meaning, not a certain small degree, but that which the term naturally signifies. And this I will do, in addition to that invincible argument by which I am already victorious; viz.. ‘that all terms are to be preserved in their natural signification and use, unless the contrary shall be proved:’ which the Diatribe neither has done, nor can do. — First of all then I will make that evidently manifest, which is plainly proved by Scriptures neither ambiguous nor obscure, — that Satan, is by far the most powerful and crafty prince of this world; (as I said before,) under the reigning power of whom, the human will, being no longer free nor in its own power, but the servant of sin and of Satan, can will nothing but that which its prince wills. And he will not permit it to will any thing good: though, even if Satan did not reign over it, sin itself, of which man is the slave, would sufficiently harden it to prevent it from willing good.
Moreover, the following part of the context itself evidently proves the same: which the Diatribe proudly sneers at, although I have commented upon it very copiously in my Assertions. For Christ proceeds thus, John xv. 6, “Whoso abideth not in me, is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” This, I say, the Diatribe, in a most excellent rhetorical way, passed by; hoping that the intent of this evasion would not be comprehended by the shallow-brained Lutherans. But here you see that Christ, who is the interpreter of His own similitude of the vine and the branch, plainly declares what He would have understood by the term “nothing” — that man who is without Christ, “is cast forth and is withered.”
And what can the being “cast forth and withered” signify but the being delivered up to the devil, and becoming continually worse and worse; and surely, becoming worse and worse, is not doing or attempting any thing good. The withering branch is more and more prepared for the fire the more it withers. And had not Christ Himself thus amplified and applied this similitude, no one would have dared so to amplify and apply it. It stands manifest, therefore, that “nothing,” ought, in this place, to be understood in its proper signification, according to the nature of the term.
Sect. CXXIX. — LET us now consider the examples also, by which it proves, that “nothing” signifies, in some places, ‘a certain small degree:’ in order that we may make it evident, that the Diatribe is nothing, and effects nothing in this part of it: in which, though it should do much, yet it would effect nothing: — such a nothing is the Diatribe in all things, and in every way.
It says — “Generally, he is said to do nothing, who does not achieve that, at which he aims; and yet, for the most part, he who attempts it, makes some certain degree of progress in the attempt.” —
I answer: I never heard this general usage of the term: you have invented it by your own license. The words are to be considered according to the subject-matter, (as they say,) and according to the intention of the speaker. — No one calls that ‘nothing’ which he does in attempting, nor does he then speak of the attempt but of the effect: it is to this the person refers when he says, he does nothing, or he effects nothing; that is, achieves and accomplishes nothing. But supposing, your example to stand good, (which however it does not) it makes more for me than for yourself. For this is what I maintain and would invincibly establish, that “Free-will” does many things, which, nevertheless, are “nothing” before God. What does it profit, therefore, to attempt, if it effect nothing at which it aims? So that, let the Diatribe turn which way it will, it only runs against, and confutes itself which generally happens to those, who undertake to support a bad cause.
With the same unhappy effect does it adduce that example out of Paul, “Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God who giveth the increase.” (1 Cor. iii. 7). — “That (says the Diatribe,) which is of the least moment, and useless of itself, he calls nothing.” —
Who? — Do you, pretend to say, that the ministry of the word is of itself useless, and of the least moment, when Paul everywhere, and especially 2 Cor. iii. 6-9, highly exalts it, and calls it the ministration “of life,” and “of glory?” Here again you neither consider the subject matter, nor the intention of the speaker. As to the gift of the increase, the planter and waterer are certainly ‘nothing;’ but as to the planting and sowing, they are not ‘nothing;’ seeing that, to teach and to exhort, are the greatest work of the Spirit in the Church of God. This is the intended meaning of Paul, and this his words convey with satisfactory plainness. But be it so, that this ridiculous example stands good; again, it stands in favour of me. For what I maintain is this: that “Free-will” is ‘nothing,’ that is, is useless of itself (as you expound it) before God; and it is concerning its being nothing as to what it can do of itself that we are now speaking: for as to what it essentially is in itself, we know, that an impious will must be a something, and cannot be a mere nothing.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library