1 John 1
The Word of Life1 John 1 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
Walking in the Light5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1 John 2
Christ Our Advocate1 John 2 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
In the The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible , Scot McKnight illustrates scripture after scripture that clearly show none of us are living according to the Bible. My pastor, Brett Meador, would say, "...and none of us can." So what are we to do? Good book.
The New Commandment7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
12 I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
14 I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
Do Not Love the World15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Warning Concerning Antichrists18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.
Children of God28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
1 John 31 John 3 1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
Love One Another11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
1 John 4
Test the Spirits1 John 4 1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
God Is Love7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Love, like beauty and glory, is a God-haunted human experience. We all know love is transcendent because we innately know “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
The knowledge that love is meant to be a sacred thing is a deep, often suppressed memory in the human soul that God exists (Romans 1:18–19), that he is holy (Revelation 4:8), and that love is at the core of his nature. And therefore, love, in all its unsullied forms, is from God (1 John 4:7), which is why it’s beyond words: love is ultimately inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Peter 1:8). --- Jon Bloom
9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
... the moral influence theory has a fatal flaw in its own central emphasis. Its focus is on the love of Christ, which both shines from the cross and elicits our responsive love. On these two truths we desire to lay an equal stress. We too know that it is because Christ loved us that he gave himself for us. (E.g. Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:2, 25; 1 John 3:16.) We too have found that his love awakens ours. In John’s words, ‘we love because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). We agree with Denney when he wrote: ‘I do not hesitate to say that the sense of debt to Christ is the most profound and pervasive of all emotions in the New Testament.’ (Death of Christ) So far then we are agreed. The cross is the epitome of Christ’s love and the inspiration of ours. But the question we desire to press is this: just how does the cross display and demonstrate Christ’s love? What is there in the cross which reveals love? True love is purposive in its self-giving; it does not make random or reckless gestures. If you were to jump off the end of a pier and drown, or dash into a burning building and be burnt to death, and if your self-sacrifice had no saving purpose, you would convince me of your folly, not your love. But if I were myself drowning in the sea, or trapped in the burning building, and it was in attempting to rescue me that you lost your life, then I would indeed see love not folly in your action. Just so the death of Jesus on the cross cannot be seen as a demonstration of love in itself, but only if he gave his life in order to rescue ours. His death must be seen to have had an objective, before it can have an appeal. Paul and John saw love in the cross because they understood it respectively as a death for sinners (Rom. 5:8) and as a propitiation for sins (1 John 4:10). That is to say, the cross can be seen as a proof of God’s love only when it is at the same time seen as a proof of his justice. Hence the need to keep these two demonstrations together in our minds, as Berkouwer has insisted: ‘In the cross of Christ God’s justice and love are simultaneously revealed, so that we can speak of his love only in connection with the reality of the cross.’ (Studies in Dogmatics: the Work of Christ) Again, ‘God’s graciousness and justice are revealed only in the real substitution, in the radical sacrifice, in the reversing of roles’ (p.311). Similarly, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14–15, Christ’s love compels us (literally ‘grips us’ and so leaves us no choice), because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
The constraint of Christ’s love, Paul says, rests upon a conviction. It is because we are convinced of the purpose and costliness of the cross, namely that we owe our life to his death, that we feel his love tightening its grip upon us and leaving us no alternative but to live for him.
R. W. Dale’s great book The Atonement: The Congregational Union Lecture for 1875 (Classic Reprint) was written in order to prove that Christ’s death on the cross was objective before it could be subjective, and that ‘unless the great Sacrifice is conceived under objective forms, the subjective power will be lost’ (p. li). The cross is the supreme revelation in history of the love of God. But ‘the revelation consists essentially in a redemption, rather than the redemption in a revelation’. (Suffering Human and Divine.) The Cross of Christ
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Always ask, What is my life like since this is true, and how shall I speak and act because of this? You may wish to turn the passage into a prayer of praise or request. Perhaps you are reading the great “God is love” passage from 1 John 4. You find written here, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (v. 18). You may prayerfully dwell on the ways in which love—God’s love for us, our love for him and love among people on earth—pushes fear out of all relationships. You may think of the fearless child surrounded by loving parents, of how loving neighbors give us confidence and relieve our anxieties. You may dwell on how the assurance of God’s love given to us in the death of his Son suggests that we will never be beyond his care. You may seek God’s help in comprehending this and in seeing what your fear-free life might be like. Then you may lift your heart in joyful praise as you realize how things are for you, living in God’s kingdom. God’s word now speaking in you, not just at you, creates the faith that appropriates the fact for you. Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
1 John 5
Overcoming the World1 John 5 1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Testimony Concerning the Son of God6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
That You May Know13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.
18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
What I'm Reading
Christmas is Christmas Because Jesus is God
By J. Warner Wallace 12/22/2017
As we approach Christmas in just a few days, I’ve been thinking about what separates Jesus from other great religious figures of history. Many faith traditions lay claim to famous religious leaders and founders, but Jesus is different. Jesus claimed to be more than a good teacher or leader. Jesus claimed to be God. Some deny this truth about Jesus’ teaching, but the New Testament leaves little room for doubt: Jesus claimed to be God and taught this truth to His followers.
He Spoke As Though He Was God
While all Biblical prophets of God made statements on God’s behalf, they were careful to preface their proclamations with “This is what the LORD Almighty says,” or “This is what the LORD says,” but Jesus never used such a preface. Instead, Jesus always prefaced his statements with, “Verily, verily, I say to you,” (KJV) or “I tell you the truth,” (NASB). Prophets spoke for God, but Jesus consistently spoke as God.
He Claimed the Title Used by God
Faithful Jews recognized the fact that God identified Himself to Moses as the great “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). Yet Jesus (in referring to Himself) told the Jewish religious leaders that “before Abraham was born, I AM”. They immediately recognized that He was identifying Himself as God and were so angered by this ‘blasphemy’ that they “picked up stones to stone him.” (Jesus also identified Himself as the great I AM in Mark 14:62, John 18:5-6, 8:24, and 8:28).
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Is There Evidence Jesus Was Born of A Virgin?
By Sean McDowell 12/23/2017
You don’t have to know much about the “birds and the bees” to know that virgins don’t have children by remaining virgins. Human reproduction requires that a female’s ovum (egg) be fertilized by a male’s gamete (sperm) to achieve human conception. There simply is no other option short of a miracle. So what proof is there that Jesus was miraculously born of a virgin?
Those who don’t believe in miracles of course dismiss the virgin birth. In fact, Mary, Jesus’ mother, questioned the whole concept herself when the angel Gabriel announced it to her. “Mary asked the angel, ‘But how can this happen? I am a virgin’ ” (Luke 1:34). The angel explained that the conception would happen by the Holy Spirit, “so the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The angel acknowledged that all this was miraculous and added, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). God does perform miracles, and in this case he caused Mary’s pregnancy.
The prophet Isaiah foretold that Jesus would be born of a virgin seven centuries before the event took place. One objection that critics make is that the New Testament writer “misquotes” the word virgin from Isaiah 7. The Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 is ’almah, meaning “young woman.” Yet the Gospel writer Matthew, quoting the Greek translation of the Old Testament, used the word parthenos, meaning “virgin.” Critics say that Matthew is twisting what Isaiah was saying. Truth is, the Hebrew word 'almah' can mean either “young woman” or “virgin,” even though there is a specific word for virgin in Hebrew. However, because of the word’s traditional usage, readers of Isaiah’s time understood he did mean that a virgin would conceive. And that is why the Jewish scholars over 200 years before Jesus was born rendered the Hebrew word ’almah as the Greek word for virgin when translating Isaiah 7:14 for the Septuagint. Matthew wasn’t twisting things at all—he was quoting the Greek translation, considered both then and now to be accurate in translating Isaiah.
How People Reacted
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell
Sean McDowell Books:
Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter
The Christmas Miracle of the Incarnation of the Omnipresent Word
By Jared Wilson 12/10/2011(Heb 13:8) 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. ESV
Every year at this time as we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus to the virgin Mary, I don’t suppose it occurs to too many merrymakers that what they’re really celebrating is the Incarnation. All of the other miracles are in service of that central miracle: God became man. And in becoming, through Spiritual conception, the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Word of God did not cease to be God. Baby Jesus, from the moment of conception to the straw habitation of the manger, was fully God and fully man. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
When we put our minds long to the idea of Jesus being one hundred percent God and simultaneously one hundred percent man, they naturally feel overwhelmed. The orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation is compelling, beautiful, biblically sensible, and salvifically necessary, but it is nevertheless utterly inscrutable. And that’s okay. In the end, the Incarnation is not for analysis but for worship.
But when we read Colossians 2:9 — “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” — the inscrutability of the Incarnation widens. The baby Jesus who was wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, was also omnipresent Lord of the universe. Omnipresence is one of God’s impassable attributes; God cannot not be omnipresent. So for Jesus Christ to be God incarnate must not mean he was no longer God omnipresent.
Louis Berkhof concurs, | The doctrine of creation and the doctrine of the incarnation always constituted a problem in connection with the immutability of God . . . However this problem may be solved, it should be maintained that the divine nature did not undergo any essential change in the incarnation. Systematic Theology
Wait a second, you might say. Didn’t Jesus disregard his deity as something to be grasped? Yes, but what Paul is getting at in Philippians 2:5–8 is not that Jesus did not “hold” or “maintain” the fullness of his divinity but that he did not exploit it or leverage it against his experiencing the fullness of humanity. He didn’t pull the parachute, in other words.
Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church. Per Amazon, Jared C. Wilson is a pastor and an award-winning writer whose articles, essays, and short stories have appeared in numerous publications. A minister for over a decade, he has become known for his passionate gospel-centered teaching and strong calls for missional Christianity. Encounter his passion for the ongoing reformation of the evangelical church almost daily at www.gospeldrivenchurch.com.
Jared C. Wilson Books:
- 1 The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can't Get Their Act Together
- 2 The Explicit Gospel (Paperback Edition)
- 3 Romans: A 12-Week Study (Knowing the Bible)
- 4 The Pastor's Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry
- 5 The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo
- 6 The Story of Everything: How You, Your Pets, and the Swiss Alps Fit into God's Plan for the World
- 7 The Storytelling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables
- 8 Gospel Wakefulness
- 9 Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus
- 10 The Wonder-Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles
- 11 Your Jesus Is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior
- 12 Otherworld: A Novel
3 Points About Christmas: Evidence for Biblical Truth
By Paul Rutherford 12/04/2017
Pine scent inside my home, the quick defensive tightening of my skin as I walk outside into the cold brisk air, and then the reflexive opposite – the slow relaxation of my whole body as I stand in front of a fire warming
These experiences during the holidays warm my heart.
As we look toward Christmas and hear the nativity story this season, I want to share with you one conversation starter I use to defend my faith.
Let me share it with you. It’s rather simple. It’s easy to remember because it comes entirely out of Matthew’s second chapter. It’s not long and involved either—just three points.
Skeptics ridicule the Bible for its many supposed “errors,” “holes,” and “inconsistencies.” They conclude that it’s unreliable. Sharing this quick three-point apologetic can assure them that the Bible is reliable and can be trusted.
Paul Rutherford | Researcher, writer, and speaker for Probe. He joined staff in 2008 after earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies from Rice University. His areas of interest include philosophy of religion, world religions, and faith and culture. Paul’s ministry experience includes campus ministry, cross-cultural ministry, and he has spoken in churches and schools throughout Texas. He and his wife Kelly have two young children. Paul’s hobbies include playing saxophone, singing, acting, swing dancing, and sometimes Texas two-step.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 145Great Is the LORD
145 A Song Of Praise. Of David.
145:1 I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
8 The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
The Joyful Mystery Of Christmas
By C.C. Pecknold 12/24/2014(Lk 2:7) 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. ESV
A Pew study has found that instead of being at war with Christmas, Americans love it. Three-quarters of Americans believe that Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary, and that angels appeared to shepherds to tell them that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. Over 80 percent of Americans believe Luke’s account that Jesus was laid in a manger. The study found that about 65 percent believed in all the historical aspects of the Nativity—about the same percentage who will attend church this Christmas.
Of course, these statistics can be misleading. They don’t tell us whether people really believe in the Incarnation. They don’t tell whether all this Christmas cheer is manufactured by moral therapeutic deism, or simply the gods of commerce. But the statistics do tell us something. Namely that, when pressed, Americans don’t think that Christmas is about Santa, snowmen, talking reindeer, or even shopping. Americans aren’t terribly reflective about what they believe about Christmas, but they are certain that it celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ to a virgin in Bethlehem roughly 2,000 years ago.
My own sense is that Christians wring their hands a bit too much over Christmas. They worry about Santa and the rest. We Christians can look like theological scrooges rather than celebrants of a sumptuous medieval feast that has the power to captivate a whole culture. We can forget how deeply attractive Christmas is to people. Christmas is beautiful, it is joyful, it is charitable. It speaks to everyone’s desire to be happy, and also speaks to their awareness—however dull—that their happiness cannot be manufactured, it can only be given as a gift. Despite all the confusions of secularizing commercial culture, the joyful mystery of Christmas still attracts.
We can embrace the simple pleasures of Christmas by recalling Aquinas’s distinction between two kinds of joy. There is the joy of rejoicing in the Lord which perfects us, and there is also a kind of participated joy when we rejoice in lesser goods. Think of the first smile of an infant dawning before us, or even that cup of coffee that awakens us. Thomas thinks these participated joys are real too—because we are rejoicing in something which God has made good.
The perfect joy of rejoicing in the Lord doesn’t require us to be scrooges with respect to the not-yet-perfected joys of ordinary, everyday life—or even the not-yet-perfected (even trivial) joys of Rudolf and Frosty, or A Charlie Brown Christmas, and (here we ascend) It’s a Wonderful Life. Whether the tree is a humble sprig decorated with popcorn, or a magnificent seven-foot Douglas Fir bedecked with lights and ribbon, the lesser joys of Christmas pulsate with praise—even if we aren’t always sure why.
C. C. Pecknold is associate professor of systematic theology at Catholic University of America.
The Key to Experiencing Christmas Peace in Your Life Today
By John Piper 12/25/2015
Christmas has arrived. And from the entire team who serves at Desiring God, and from Pastor John and from myself, we all want to wish you a very merry Christmas. The incredible Christmas story of God breaking into this world is true, and it is incredible. God taking on humanity is a story that rings of God’s glory and rings of a new peace that is given to the globe. We saw that yesterday. But it all raises the question: How do I enjoy the Christmas peace of God right now, personally? Today John Piper explains in a clip from his 2011 Christmas sermon, explaining Luke 2:14.
When I say “peace,” I don’t simply mean the absence of conflict or animosity. I mean the presence of joyful tranquility and as much richness of interpersonal communication as you are capable of: a back and forth richness and sweetness, open, free, sweet, eyeball-to-eyeball, no-agenda peace. That is what we are after.
So let’s look at these. Let me start with the key. There is more than one. The key to each of these three relationships of peace is keeping together what the angels kept together. Glory to God, peace to us — together (Luke 2:14). If you say: I don’t have any interest in, love for, admiration of, treasuring of the glory of God — I just want the peace — then you won’t get it. You can’t separate the two. The angels won’t let you. God won’t let you. God’s purpose is to give you peace by being the most glorious person in your life.
Five times in the New Testament, God is called the God of peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). And Paul said, “[Jesus] himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Therefore, if you say: I want the peace; I don’t want the glorious God — I want the peace; I don’t want the sovereign Jesus — then you won’t have the peace. He will be our peace by being our God. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace.” The angels have it right. The angels keep it together. If we want peace to rule in our lives, God must rule in our lives. He is our peace.
So the key to peace is glory to God and peace to men kept together. A heart bent on showing the glory of God will know the peace of God. What holds these two together: a heart that is bent on glorifying God, making much of God, displaying the beauty of God, admiring God, treasuring God, cherishing God, hallowing God’s name, and enjoying tranquility and peace and candor and openness and readiness to forgive and receptive hearts — not pushing people away, but welcoming people in, even long-lost enemies? What keeps those together? Faith. Believing the promises of God bought by the blood of Jesus. And there is a key text. It is so precious in my life. I love this text — just a little simple verse from Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.”
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
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
5. As Adam's spiritual life would have consisted in remaining united
and bound to his Maker, so estrangement from him was the death of his
soul. Nor is it strange that he who perverted the whole order of nature
in heaven and earth deteriorated his race by his revolt. "The whole
creation groaneth," saith St Paul, "being made subject to vanity, not
willingly," (Rom. 8:20, 22). If the reason is asked, there cannot be a
doubt that creation bears part of the punishment deserved by man, for
whose use all other creatures were made. Therefore, since through man's
fault a curse has extended above and below, over all the regions of the
world, there is nothing unreasonable in its extending to all his
offspring. After the heavenly image in man was effaced, he not only was
himself punished by a withdrawal of the ornaments in which he had been
arrayed--viz. wisdom, virtue, justice, truth, and holiness, and by the
substitution in their place of those dire pests, blindness, impotence,
vanity, impurity, and unrighteousness, but he involved his posterity
also, and plunged them in the same wretchedness. This is the hereditary
corruption to which early Christian writers gave the name of Original
Sin, meaning by the term the depravation of a nature formerly good and
pure. The subject gave rise to much discussion, there being nothing
more remote from common apprehension, than that the fault of one should
render all guilty, and so become a common sin. This seems to be the
reason why the oldest doctors of the church only glance obscurely at
the point, or, at least, do not explain it so clearly as it required.
This timidity, however, could not prevent the rise of a Pelagius with
his profane fiction--that Adam sinned only to his own hurt, but did no
hurt to his posterity. Satan, by thus craftily hiding the disease,
tried to render it incurable. But when it was clearly proved from
Scripture that the sin of the first man passed to all his posterity,
recourse was had to the cavil, that it passed by imitation, and not by
propagation. The orthodoxy, therefore, and more especially Augustine,
laboured to show, that we are not corrupted by acquired wickedness, but
bring an innate corruption from the very womb. It was the greatest
impudence to deny this. But no man will wonder at the presumption of
the Pelagians and Celestians, who has learned from the writings of that
holy man how extreme the effrontery of these heretics was. Surely there
is no ambiguity in David's confession, "I was shapen in iniquity; and
in sin did my mother conceive me," (Ps. 51:5). His object in the
passage is not to throw blame on his parents; but the better to commend
the goodness of God towards him, he properly reiterates the confession
of impurity from his very birth. As it is clear, that there was no
peculiarity in David's case, it follows that it is only an instance of
the common lot of the whole human race. All of us, therefore,
descending from an impure seed, come into the world tainted with the
contagion of sin. Nay, before we behold the light of the sun we are in
God's sight defiled and polluted. "Who can bring a clean thing out of
an unclean? Not one," says the Book of Job (Job 14:4).
6. We thus see that the impurity of parents is transmitted to their children, so that all, without exception, are originally depraved. The commencement of this depravity will not be found until we ascend to the first parent of all as the fountain head. We must, therefore, hold it for certain, that, in regard to human nature, Adam was not merely a progenitor, but, as it were, a root, and that, accordingly, by his corruption, the whole human race was deservedly vitiated. This is plain from the contrast which the Apostle draws between Adam and Christ, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned; even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord," (Rom. 5:19-21). To what quibble will the Pelagians here recur? That the sin of Adam was propagated by imitation! Is the righteousness of Christ then available to us only in so far as it is an example held forth for our imitation? Can any man tolerate such blasphemy? But if, out of all controversy, the righteousness of Christ, and thereby life, is ours by communication, it follows that both of these were lost in Adam that they might be recovered in Christ, whereas sin and death were brought in by Adam, that they might be abolished in Christ. There is no obscurity in the words, "As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Accordingly, the relation subsisting between the two is this, As Adam, by his ruin, involved and ruined us, so Christ, by his grace, restored us to salvation. In this clear light of truth I cannot see any need of a longer or more laborious proof. Thus, too, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, when Paul would confirm believers in the confident hope of the resurrection, he shows that the life is recovered in Christ which was lost in Adam (1 Cor. 15:22). Having already declared that all died in Adam, he now also openly testifies, that all are imbued with the taint of sin. Condemnation, indeed, could not reach those who are altogether free from blame. But his meaning cannot be made clearer than from the other member of the sentence, in which he shows that the hope of life is restored in Christ. Every one knows that the only mode in which this is done is, when by a wondrous communication Christ transfuses into us the power of his own righteousness, as it is elsewhere said, "The Spirit is life because of righteousness," (1 Cor. 15:22). Therefore, the only explanation which can be given of the expression, "in Adam all died," is, that he by sinning not only brought disaster and ruin upon himself, but also plunged our nature into like destruction; and that not only in one fault, in a matter not pertaining to us, but by the corruption into which he himself fell, he infected his whole seed. Paul never could have said that all are "by nature the children of wrath," (Eph. 2:3), if they had not been cursed from the womb. And it is obvious that the nature there referred to is not nature such as God created, but as vitiated in Adam; for it would have been most incongruous to make God the author of death. Adam, therefore, when he corrupted himself, transmitted the contagion to all his posterity. For a heavenly Judge, even our Saviour himself, declares that all are by birth vicious and depraved, when he says that "that which is born of the flesh is fleshy" (John 3:6), and that therefore the gate of life is closed against all until they have been regenerated.
7. To the understanding of this subject, there is no necessity for an anxious discussion (which in no small degree perplexed the ancient doctors), as to whether the soul of the child comes by transmission from the soul of the parent.  It should be enough for us to know that Adam was made the depository of the endowments which God was pleased to bestow on human nature, and that, therefore, when he lost what he had received, he lost not only for himself but for us all. Why feel any anxiety about the transmission of the soul, when we know that the qualities which Adam lost he received for us not less than for himself, that they were not gifts to a single man, but attributes of the whole human race? There is nothing absurd, therefore, in the view, that when he was divested, his nature was left naked and destitute that he having been defiled by sin, the pollution extends to all his seed. Thus, from a corrupt root corrupt branches proceeding, transmit their corruption to the saplings which spring from them. The children being vitiated in their parent, conveyed the taint to the grandchildren; in other words, corruption commencing in Adam, is, by perpetual descent, conveyed from those preceding to those coming after them. The cause of the contagion is neither in the substance of the flesh nor the soul, but God was pleased to ordain that those gifts which he had bestowed on the first man, that man should lose as well for his descendants as for himself. The Pelagian cavil, as to the improbability of children deriving corruption from pious parents, whereas, they ought rather to be sanctified by their purity, is easily refuted. Children come not by spiritual regeneration but carnal descent.  Accordingly, as Augustine says, "Both the condemned unbeliever and the acquitted believer beget offspring not acquitted but condemned, because the nature which begets is corrupt."  Moreover, though godly parents do in some measure contribute to the holiness of their offspring, this is by the blessing of God; a blessing, however, which does not prevent the primary and universal curse of the whole race from previously taking effect. Guilt is from nature, whereas sanctification is from supernatural grace.
8. But lest the thing itself of which we speak be unknown or doubtful, it will be proper to define original sin. (Calvin, in Conc. Trident. 1, Dec. Sess. 5). I have no intention, however, to discuss all the definitions which different writers have adopted, but only to adduce the one which seems to me most accordant with truth. Original sin, then, may be defined a hereditary corruption and depravity of our nature, extending to all the parts of the soul, which first makes us obnoxious to the wrath of God, and then produces in us works which in Scripture are termed works of the flesh. This corruption is repeatedly designated by Paul by the term sin  (Gal. 5:19); while the works which proceed from it, such as adultery, fornication, theft, hatred, murder, revellings, he terms, in the same way, the fruits of sin, though in various passages of Scripture, and even by Paul himself, they are also termed sins. The two things, therefore, are to be distinctly observed--viz. that being thus perverted and corrupted in all the parts of our nature, we are, merely on account of such corruption, deservedly condemned by God, to whom nothing is acceptable but righteousness, innocence, and purity. This is not liability for another's fault. For when it is said, that the sin of Adam has made us obnoxious to the justice of God, the meaning is not, that we, who are in ourselves innocent and blameless, are bearing his guilt, but that since by his transgression we are all placed under the curse, he is said to have brought us under obligation.  Through him, however, not only has punishment been derived, but pollution instilled, for which punishment is justly due. Hence Augustine, though he often terms it another's sin (that he may more clearly show how it comes to us by descent), at the same time asserts that it is each individual's own sin.  And the Apostle most distinctly testifies, that "death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned," (Rom. 5:12); that is, are involved in original sin, and polluted by its stain. Hence, even infants bringing their condemnation with them from their mother's womb, suffer not for another's, but for their own defect. For although they have not yet produced the fruits of their own unrighteousness, they have the seed implanted in them. Nay, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed-bed of sin, and therefore cannot but be odious and abominable to God. Hence it follows, that it is properly deemed sinful in the sight of God; for there could be no condemnation without guilt. Next comes the other point--viz. that this perversity in us never ceases, but constantly produces new fruits, in other words, those works of the flesh which we formerly described; just as a lighted furnace sends forth sparks and flames, or a fountain without ceasing pours out water. Hence, those who have defined original sin as the want of the original righteousness which we ought to have had, though they substantially comprehend the whole case, do not significantly enough express its power and energy. For our nature is not only utterly devoid of goodness, but so prolific in all kinds of evil, that it can never be idle. Those who term it concupiscence use a word not very inappropriate, provided it were added (this, however, many will by no means concede), that everything which is in man, from the intellect to the will, from the soul even to the flesh, is defiled and pervaded with this concupiscence; or, to express it more briefly, that the whole man is in himself nothing else than concupiscence.
9. I have said, therefore, that all the parts of the soul were possessed by sin, ever since Adam revolted from the fountain of righteousness. For not only did the inferior appetites entice him, but abominable impiety seized upon the very citadel of the mind, and pride penetrated to his inmost heart (Rom. 7:12; Book 4, chap. 15, sec. 10-12), so that it is foolish and unmeaning to confine the corruption thence proceeding to what are called sensual motions, or to call it an excitement, which allures, excites, and drags the single part which they call sensuality into sin. Here Peter Lombard has displayed gross ignorance (Lomb., lib. 2 Dist. 31). When investigating the seat of corruption, he says it is in the flesh (as Paul declares), not properly, indeed, but as being more apparent in the flesh. As if Paul had meant that only a part of the soul, and not the whole nature, was opposed to supernatural grace. Paul himself leaves no room for doubt, when he says, that corruption does not dwell in one part only, but that no part is free from its deadly taint. For, speaking of corrupt nature, he not only condemns the inordinate nature of the appetites, but, in particular, declares that the understanding is subjected to blindness, and the heart to depravity (Eph. 4:17, 18). The third chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is nothing but a description of original sin; The same thing appears more clearly from the mode of renovation. For the spirit, which is contrasted with the old man, and the flesh, denotes not only the grace by which the sensual or inferior part of the soul is corrected, but includes a complete reformation of all its parts (Eph. 4:23). And, accordingly, Paul enjoins not only that gross appetites be suppressed, but that we be renewed in the spirit of our mind (Eph. 4:23), as he elsewhere tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2). Hence it follows, that that part in which the dignity and excellence of the soul are most conspicuous, has not only been wounded, but so corrupted, that mere cure is not sufficient. There must be a new nature. How far sin has seized both on the mind and heart, we shall shortly see. Here I only wished briefly to observe, that the whole man, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, is so deluged, as it were, that no part remains exempt from sin, and, therefore, everything which proceeds from him is imputed as sin. Thus Paul says, that all carnal thoughts and affections are enmity against God, and consequently death (Rom. 8:7).
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Continual Burnt Offering (Jude 20)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
December 24Jude 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. ESV
This passage stresses four things which characterize a consistent Christian faith.
First: Building up on the faith. That is finding edification in the careful study of the Word of God. The “faith” here is not the faith by which we lay hold of God for salvation, but the faith once for all delivered to the saints by which they live.
Second: Praying in the Holy Spirit. We can only do this as we walk in the Spirit. Then He who dwells within us encourages our prayers and guides us as we present our supplications.
Third: We are to keep ourselves in the conscious enjoyment of God’s unchanging love. This is the place of blessing and of spiritual repose.
Fourth: The hope of our Lord’s return must be kept before our souls as the beacon light which leads us on to the Father’s house.
The Word, prayer, divine love, and the blessed hope sustain all along the way.
Everlasting arms uphold thee,
Love divine surrounds thy way;
Why should earthly fears distress thee
Or thy trembling heart dismay?
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
What is Christmas all about?
12/24/2017 Bob Gass
‘Nothing…can separate us from God’s love.’
(Ro 8:39) nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ESV
That first Christmas, God did something extraordinary. Max Lucado puts it this way: ‘Stepping from the throne, He removed His robe of light and wrapped Himself in skin: pigmented human skin. The light of the universe entered a dark, wet womb. He whom angels worshipped nestled Himself in the placenta of a peasant, was birthed into the cold night, and then slept on a cow’s hay. Mary didn’t know whether to give Him milk or give him praise, so she gave Him both – since He was, as near as she could figure, hungry and holy. Joseph didn’t know whether to call Him junior or father. But in the end he called Him Jesus, since that’s what the angel said, and since he didn’t have the faintest idea what to name a God he could cradle in his arms.’ Lucado continues: ‘Don’t you think their heads tilted and their minds wondered, “What in the world are You doing, God?” Or better phrased, “God, what are You doing in the world?” “Can anything make Me stop loving you?” God asks. “You wonder how long My love will last? Find your answer on a splintered cross, on a craggy hill. That’s Me you see up there, your Maker, your God…That’s how much I love you.”’ Paul asks, ‘Can anything separate us from the love of Christ?’ (v. 35 CEV). Then he answers his own question: ‘Nothing can separate us from God’s love – not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love’ (vv. 38-39 CEV). And that’s what Christmas is all about!
(Ro 8:38–39) 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ESV
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
On Christmas eve, December 24, 1492, one of Columbus’ ships, the Santa Maria ran aground on the island of Haiti and had to be abandoned. Columbus left 40 men on the Island in a settlement he named “La Navidad,” meaning “The Nativity.” He promised to return the next year. On this same day, Columbus wrote in his Journal to the King and Queen of Spain, stating: “In all the world there can be no better or gentler people. Your Highnesses should feel great joy, because presently they will be Christians, and instructed in the good manners of your realms.”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Chapter 20 December 24
I feel-can you work it out for me and tell me if it is more than a feeling?-that to make the life of the blessed dead strictly timeless is inconsistent with the resurrection of the body.
Again, as you and I have agreed, whether we pray on behalf of the living or the dead, the causes which will prevent or exclude the events we pray for are in fact already at work. Indeed they are part of a series which, I suppose, goes back as far as the creation of the universe. The causes which made George's illness a trivial one were already operating while we prayed about it; if it had been what we feared, the causes of that would have been operative. That is why, as I hold, our prayers are granted, or not, in eternity. The task of dovetailing the spiritual and physical histories of the world into each other is accomplished in the total act of creation it self. Our prayers, and other free acts, are known to us only as we come to the moment of doing them. But they are eternally in the score of the great symphony. Not "pre-deter mined"; the syllable pre lets in the notion of eternity as simply an older time. For though we cannot experience our life as an endless present, we are eternal in God's eyes; that is, in our deepest reality. When I say we are "in time" I don't mean that we are, impossibly, outside the endless present in which He beholds us as He beholds all else. I mean, our creaturely limitation is that our fundamentally timeless reality can be experienced by us only in the mode of succession.
In fact we began by putting the question wrongly. The question is not whether the dead are part of timeless reality.
They are; so is a flash of lightning. The question is whether they share the divine perception of timelessness.
Tell George I should be delighted. Rendezvous in my rooms at 7:15. We do not dress for dinner on ordinary nights.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Every Morning I spend fifteen minutes
filling my mind full of God;
and so there's no room left
for worry thoughts.
--- Howard Chandler Christy
God will give you the blessings you ask
if you will not go any further without them;
--- Oswald Chambers
I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion. You would never get me interested in the old maids’ social club with a little bit of Christianity thrown in to give it respectability. I want all that God has, or I don’t want any.
--- A. W. Tozer
Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.
--- Carl Sandburg
I Don't Have Time: 222 1/2 Top Tips in Time Management and Effectiveness for Busy People
We should take care not to make the intellect our god. It has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.
--- Albert Einstein
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
and works with willing hands.
ה 14 She is like those merchant vessels,
bringing her food from far away.
ו 15 It’s still dark when she rises to give food
to her household and orders to the young women serving her.
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 hidden life
Your life is hid with Christ in God. --- Col. 3:3.
The Spirit of God witnesses to the simple, almighty security of the life hid with Christ in God, and this is continually brought out in the Epistles. We talk as if it were the most precarious thing to live the sanctified life; it is the most secure thing, because it has Almighty God in and behind it. The precarious thing is to try and live without God. If we are born again it is the easiest thing to live in right relationship to God and the most difficult thing to go wrong, if only we will heed God’s warnings and keep in the light.
When we think of being delivered from sin, of being filled with the Spirit, and of walking in the light, we picture the peak of a great mountain, very high and wonderful, and we say—‘Oh, but I could never live up there!’ But when we do get there by God’s grace, we find it is not a mountain peak, but a plateau where there is ample room to live and to grow. “Thou hast enlarged my steps under me.”
When you really see Jesus, I defy you to doubt Him. When He says—“Let not your heart be troubled,” if you see Him I defy you to trouble your mind, it is a moral impossibility to doubt when He is there. Every time you get into personal contact with Jesus, His words are real. “My peace I give unto you,” it is a peace all over from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet, an irrepressible confidence. “Your life is hid with Christ in God,” and the imperturbable peace of Jesus Christ is imparted to you.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
They come in from the fields
with the dew and the buttercup dust
on their boots. It was not they
nor their ancestors crucified
Christ. They look up at what
the town has done to him,
hanging his body in stone on a stone
cross, as though to commemorate
the bringing of the divine beast
to bay and disabling him.
He is hung up high, but higher
are the cranes and scaffolding
of the future. And they stand by,
men from the past, whose role
is to assist in the destruction
of the past, bringing their own beasts
in to offer their blood up
on a shoddier altar.
is malignant. It grows, and what
it feeds on is what these men call
their home. Is there praise
here? There is the noise of those
buying and selling and mortgaging
their conscience, while the stone
eyes look down tearlessly. There
is not even anger in them anymore.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. --- 1 Corinthians 10:31.
To glorify is to make glorious or to declare to be glorious. The Whole Works of the Late Reverend Thomas Boston, of Ettrick: Now First Collected and Reprinted Without Abridgement; Including His Memoirs, Written By Himself (Classic Reprint) God glorifies, that is, makes angels or people glorious, but we cannot make God glorious, for he is not capable of additional glory, being infinitely glorious. So God gets no advantage to himself by our best works. God is glorified, then, when his glory is declared. This is done by the inanimate creation—the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1). Humanity declares his glory actively.
And this we ought to do by our hearts: “Glorify God… in your spirit” (1 Cor. 6:20 KJV). Honoring God with the lips and not with the heart is lame and unacceptable. He ought to be glorified by our understanding, esteemed in the glory that the Scripture reveals him in. So, they that know him not can never glorify him, and they that esteem any person or thing more than or as much as him dishonor him. We glorify him by our wills, choosing him as our portion and our chief good; by our affections, loving him and rejoicing and delighting in him above every other.
By our lips: “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me” (Ps. 50:23). The human tongue is our glory not only because it serves us for speech, which exalts us above the brutes, but because it is a proper instrument for speaking forth the glory of God. So it is a strange perverting of the tongue to let it loose to the dishonor of God and fetter it as to his glory.
By our lives: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). A holy life is a shining light to let a blind world see the glory of God. Sin darkens the glory of God, draws a veil over it. The holy life says, “God is holy,” just as a well-ordered family tells what the head of it is like.
O how much God is dishonored by our hearts, lips, and lives! O what self-seeking mixes itself with our best actions! How eagerly do we pursue created things and how faintly the enjoyment of God! How dishonorable to a holy God! It is saying that God is not the chief good, that he is not a suitable portion for the soul, and that the creature is better than God. How we should be ashamed of ourselves on this account and labor earnestly to make God the chief and ultimate end of all our actions and the enjoyment of him our chief happiness!
--- Thomas Boston
Behold Your God!
Many people spell Christmas without Christ, the glory of a Holy Day being supplanted by the glitz of a holiday—a problem that reaches back to the days of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis was born in 1182 in central Italy, son of a rich merchant. After a scanty education, he joined the army and was captured in war. He came to Christ shortly after his release, and soon he began traveling around the countryside, preaching the Gospel. At a February 1209 Mass, Francis was gripped by words being read from Matthew 10: As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff … (NIV).
Francis felt that Christ himself was speaking directly to him. He decided to obey those words as literally as possible, preaching the kingdom and possessing nothing. It is as though a 1,200-year bridge were crossed, putting Francis in the shoes of the original wayfaring apostles themselves.
He spent his remaining days making Christ real to everyone he met—a passion leading to history’s first living nativity scene. On December 24, 1223 Francis found a cave near Greccio, Italy, and brought in animals traditionally associated with the birth of Christ. (Francis loved animals and sometimes even preached to them.) He built the crib, arranged the hay, and finished the scene. Crowds gathered full of curiosity and wonder; and there on Christmas Eve Francis preached the wonder of God made man, born a naked infant and laid in the manger. “Behold your God,” he said, “a poor and helpless child, the ox and donkey beside him. Your God is of your flesh.”
Glitz gave way to glory that Evening as the people of Greccio learned afresh how to spell the word CHRISTmas.
She gave birth to her first-born son. She dressed him in baby clothes and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn. That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord’s glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you … a Savior was born.”
--- Luke 2:7-11a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (Day 7)
The One Who Became Human
Who is this God? This God is the one who became human as we became human. He is completely human. Therefore, nothing human is foreign to him. The human being that I am, Jesus Christ was also. About this human being Jesus Christ we say: this one is God. This does not mean that we already knew beforehand who God is. Nor does it mean that the statement "this human being is God" adds anything to being human. God and human being are not thought of as belonging together through a concept of nature. The statement "this human being is God" is meant entirely differently. The divinity of this human being is not something additional to the human nature of Jesus Christ. The statement "this human being is God" is the vertical from above, the statement that applies to Jesus Christ the human being, which neither adds anything nor takes anything away, but qualifies the whole human being as God. . . . Faith is ignited from Jesus Christ the human being.... If Jesus Christ is to be described as God, then we do not speak of his omnipotence and omniscience, but of his cradle and his cross. There is no "divine being" as omnipotence, as omnipresence.
And now Christmas is coming and you won't be there. We shall be apart, yes, but very close together. My thoughts will come to you and accompany you. We shall sing "Friede auf Erden" [Peace on Earth] and pray together, but we shall sing "Ehre sei Gott in der Hohe!" [Glory be to God on high] even louder. That is what I pray for you and for all of us, that the Savior may throw open the gates of heaven for us at darkest night on Christmas Eve, so that we can be joyful in spite of everything.
Maria von Wedemeyer to Bonhoeffer, December 10, 1943
Go to Luke 2:1-7 Click Here
(Lk 2:1–7) 1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. ESV
Pulpit Commentary Vol 7
FIFTY-SEVEN years after the completion of the temple and its dedication, when the long and eventful reign of Darius was over, and his son Xerxes, probably the Ahasuerus of Esther, had also lived and reigned and passed away, and the grandson of Darius, known generally as Artaxerxes Longimanus, occupied the Persian throne, a further return of Israelites from Babylon, on a tolerably large scale, took place.
Ezra, a member of the high priest’s family, a descendant of Seraiah, the “chief priest” at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:18), and probably a third cousin of the existing high priest, Eliashib, having access to Artaxerxes, and, apparently, a certain influence with him, asked (ch. 7:6) and obtained the royal permission to reinforce the colony in Judæa by a fresh body of emigrants, and at the same time to convey to Jerusalem a sum of money, which the Babylonian Jews had subscribed towards the temple service (ibid. ver. 16). Artaxerxes appears to have had a high respect for Ezra; he recognised in him one possessed of wisdom from on high (ver. 25), and readily granted him, not only the request that he had made, but an important commission, which was mainly one of inquiry (ver. 14), but which made him for a time paramount civil ruler of the province, with power of life and death over its inhabitants (ver. 26); and also conferred upon the Jewish people certain valuable gifts and privileges.
The terms of the decree are set forth in ch. 7:12–26, where the Chaldee version of the text, as published by Artaxerxes, is probably given verbatim et literatim. After reciting it, Ezra breaks out into a brief but earnest burst of thanksgiving and acknowledgment of God’s goodness, which concludes ch. 7, occupying the last two verses.
He then proceeds, in ch. 8, to give an account of the number of the Jews who returned with him, with the names of their leaders, whom he calls “chief of the fathers.” Having completed his list in ver. 14, he goes on (vers. 15–31) to describe the circumstances of the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, which occupied exactly four months, commencing on the first day of the first month and terminating on the first day of the fifth month (ch. 7:9).
In conclusion, he tells us how, after a rest of three days, he discharged himself of the most pressing of the commissions intrusted to him, delivering over to the priests in charge of the temple the gifts sent by Artaxerxes, and making known to the various Persian officials of the district the terms of the royal decree so far as they were affected by it (ch. 8:32–36).
This section may be subdivided into seven parts:—1. The genealogy of Ezra (ch. 7:1–5); 2. The fact of his journey, with its dates (ibid. vers. 6–10); 3. The decree of Artaxerxes with respect to Ezra (ibid. vers. 11–26); 4. The thanksgiving of Ezra (ibid. vers. 27, 28); 5. The numbers of those who accompanied him to Jerusalem, with the names of the chiefs (ch. 8:1–14); 6. The circumstances of the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem (ibid. vers. 15–31); and 7. The three days’ rest at Jerusalem and execution of the more pressing commissions (ibid. vers. 32–36).
The Pulpit Commentary (Volume VII, Vol 7) Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther & Job
Word Biblical Commentary
The treatment described in these two chapters of how Ezra tackled the problem of mixed marriages is among the least attractive parts of Ezra-Nehemiah, if not of the whole OT. Responsibility dictates that we should endeavor first to understand the reasons that justified it in the participants’ own eyes before going on to evaluate it in the light of Scripture as a whole.
The Jewish community in Judah and Jerusalem to which Ezra returned found itself in an ambivalent situation, trapped between a political and religious sense of identity. The edict of Artaxerxes that provided Ezra with his mandate was intended, in our view, ... to encourage the development of Judaism as a religious community. That being so, the qualifications for membership had to be redefined; otherwise, there was (or at least was felt to be) a danger that the distinctive elements of the Jewish faith would be watered down, perhaps beyond the point of recognition, by assimilation to the surrounding cultures.
This danger was heightened by the economic power wielded by some of those who are here labeled “the peoples of the lands.” During the exile foreign landlords had apparently assumed control of a good deal of the territory of Judea, and the difficult economic circumstances that the returned exiles faced could soon have placed them at the mercy of these powerful neighbors.
Against this precarious background, five points may aid an understanding of why events took the turn that they did. The Mosaic law, which by now was the constitutional foundation, as it were, for this emerging community, gave no direct guidance on the central issue that Ezra had to face. In consequence, as our exegesis of 9:1–2 has tried to show, he taught, and the community accepted, an interpretation of the law according to its “spirit,” as he understood it. We may not agree with certain aspects of Ezra’s interpretation, but his motivation and method here remain ones we would still acknowledge as valid today.
We have noted in connection with the list in the second half of chap. 10 that only the leadership of the community was directly involved in these proceedings. The survival of the whole stood no chance at all if the center became “soft.” Israel’s election was not merely for her own comfort, but so she might shine as a witness to the nations for God and his standards (see Gen 26:4). This could not be achieved without the maintenance of her distinctive self-identity, and this was thought to be threatened by mixed marriages.
It appears from Mal 2:10–16 (from roughly the same period) that in some cases the men had already divorced their Jewish wives in order to enter into these new partnerships. Though not mentioned here, knowledge of this fact may have reduced the sympathy of the majority for the families concerned. It also serves to remind us that divorce was in any case regarded in a rather different light than it is today when the Church has had its expectations of marriage raised by Jesus’ high estimation of its value.
We have emphasized repeatedly that Ezra did not impose his solution from above upon an unwilling population. He may in the meantime have been teaching them his interpretation of the law, but the initiative for response and action throughout the narrative comes from the community itself and its leaders. According to the record we have, there is not even an expression of opposition from the parties most directly involved.
Finally, it should be noted that no indication is given of what provision may have been made for the divorced families. The concerns of the narrative lie elsewhere, and what we regard as mitigating factors may have been considered irrelevant by the author.
It is thus evident that in the circumstances the divorce of foreign wives was considered the lesser of the two evils. However, while a commentator should make every effort to understand his text, he need not accept it uncritically in its entirety. These chapters are descriptive. That does not automatically make them prescriptive for the Christian faith. Consideration of the wider context of Scripture brings other conflicting voices into play.
First, it appears from 9:2 that the clinching factor in deciding the course of action to be followed was racial. This is not taught directly in Scripture, but was part of the interpretation derived by combining various passages in a way which we today must reject. The passages in Deuteronomy prohibiting mixed marriages do so on religious grounds alone—the danger of the Jewish partner being enticed away from faithful observance of the law. In a case like that of Ruth, where the foreign partner was converted to Judaism, the situation was naturally rather different. The present passage, however, shows no awareness of such a possibility. It misinterprets the principle of the law along racist lines. The OT’s own rejection of this standpoint is strongly reinforced in the NT (e.g., Acts 17:26; Gal 3:28; etc).
Second, in the most nearly analogous situation in which a Christian is ever likely to find himself or herself—namely, married to an unbelieving partner—the NT explicitly rules out divorce as an available option (1 Cor 7:12–13). Indeed, 1 Cor 7 and 1 Pet 3:1–7 encourage, rather, a life-style by the believer of such a manner as may win their unbelieving partner to the faith.
Nevertheless, concentration on the narrow, racist aspects of this passage should not blind us to the more general biblical teaching that for a believer to enter marriage with an unbeliever is likely both to endanger his or her faith and to weaken their marriage, since they cannot share together those things which one partner holds most dear. This was the intention of the Deuteronomic laws already referred to, and it remains true for the Christian as well (e.g. 2 Cor 6:14).
Finally, there are a number of separate points raised in these two chapters that are of abiding value and that should not be overlooked in any general evaluation.
The nature of Ezra’s leadership repays careful study. While we may not fully agree with the direction in which he was taking the community, we may nevertheless learn from the manner in which, by teaching, patience, and example, he was able to bring the people without coercion to make for themselves the decisions he considered beneficial, even though they might be painful in the short run.
Clines has rightly drawn attention to the creative interplay between community and Scripture. On the one hand, we have seen how circumstances led them to an interpretation of Scripture that we do not accept; this should act as a solemn reminder that acceptance of the authority of Scripture is only the start of the problem of setting the guidelines that should govern our actions. On the other hand, however, “the biblical text is not only the object of the community’s interpretation, but also an active subject in the life of the community.” It is astonishing the extent to which Scripture as then understood became the creative element in the formation of Judaism.
Ezra’s prayer of confession, and the people’s response to it, is free of any taint of pride or self-justification. This is noteworthy in view of the exaggerated sense of election by race which underlies their self-awareness. Their unaffected humility still speaks to those who are conscious of an election by grace through Christ.
Also lessons may be learned from the presentation of repentance as a unified step of confession and action to eliminate the wrong perceived.
Finally, if we may overlook for the moment the details of how Ezra worked out the principle of Jewish distinctiveness, his underlying concern was absolutely right. Israel’s mission could only make headway if she maintained the servant identity that separated her from the nations to whom she should mediate the revelation of God. In just the same way, Christians individually and collectively as the Church are called to be “light” and “salt,” elements that function effectively precisely because of their difference from the setting in which they are placed; “But if the salt has lost its savor …” (cf. Matt 5:13–16.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 24
“For your sakes he became poor." 2 Corinthians 8:9.
The Lord Jesus Christ was eternally rich, glorious, and exalted; but “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor.” As the rich saint cannot be true in his communion with his poor brethren unless of his substance he ministers to their necessities, so (the same rule holding with the head as between the members), it is impossible that our Divine Lord could have had fellowship with us unless he had imparted to us of his own abounding wealth, and had become poor to make us rich. Had he remained upon his throne of glory, and had we continued in the ruins of the fall without receiving his salvation, communion would have been impossible on both sides. Our position by the fall, apart from the covenant of grace, made it as impossible for fallen man to communicate with God as it is for Belial to be in concord with Christ. In order, therefore, that communion might be compassed, it was necessary that the rich kinsman should bestow his estate upon his poor relatives, that the righteous Saviour should give to his sinning brethren of his own perfection, and that we, the poor and guilty, should receive of his fulness grace for grace; that thus in giving and receiving, the One might descend from the heights, and the other ascend from the depths, and so be able to embrace each other in true and hearty fellowship. Poverty must be enriched by him in whom are infinite treasures before it can venture to commune; and guilt must lose itself in imputed and imparted righteousness ere the soul can walk in fellowship with purity. Jesus must clothe his people in his own garments, or he cannot admit them into his palace of glory; and he must wash them in his own blood, or else they will be too defiled for the embrace of his fellowship.
O believer, herein is love! For your sake the Lord Jesus “became poor” that he might lift you up into communion with himself.
Evening - December 24
“The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” --- Isaiah 40:5.
We anticipate the happy day when the whole world shall be converted to Christ; when the gods of the heathen shall be cast to the moles and the bats; when Romanism shall be exploded, and the crescent of Mohammed shall wane, never again to cast its baleful rays upon the nations; when kings shall bow down before the Prince of Peace, and all nations shall call their Redeemer blessed. Some despair of this. They look upon the world as a vessel breaking up and going to pieces, never to float again. We know that the world and all that is therein is one day to be burnt up, and afterwards we look for new heavens and for a new earth; but we cannot read our Bibles without the conviction that ---
“Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run.”
We are not discouraged by the length of his delays; we are not disheartened by the long period which he allots to the church in which to struggle with little success and much defeat. We believe that God will never suffer this world, which has once seen Christ’s blood shed upon it, to be always the devil’s stronghold. Christ came hither to deliver this world from the detested sway of the powers of darkness. What a shout shall that be when men and angels shall unite to cry “Hallelujah, hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!” What a satisfaction will it be in that day to have had a share in the fight, to have helped to break the arrows of the bow, and to have aided in winning the victory for our Lord! Happy are they who trust themselves with this conquering Lord, and who fight side by side with him, doing their little in his name and by his strength! How unhappy are those on the side of evil! It is a losing side, and it is a matter wherein to lose is to lose and to be lost for ever. On whose side are you?
Morning and Evening
SILENT NIGHT! HOLY NIGHT!
Joseph Mohr, 1792–1848
English translation by John F. Young, 1820–1885
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)
When this beloved hymn was written by two humble church leaders for their own mountain village parishioners, little did they realize how universal its influence would eventually be.
Joseph Mohr, assistant priest in the Church of St. Nicholas in the region of Tyrol, high in the beautiful Alps, and Franz Gruber, the village schoolmaster and church organist, had often talked about the fact that the perfect Christmas hymn had never been written. So Father Mohr had this goal in mind when he received word that the church organ would not function. He decided that he must write his own Christmas hymn immediately in order to have music for the special Christmas Eve mass. He did not want to disappoint his faithful flock. Upon completing the text, he took his words to Franz Gruber, who exclaimed when he saw them, “Friend Mohr, you have found it—the right song—God be praised!”
Soon Gruber completed his task of composing an appropriate tune for the new text. His simple but beautiful music blended perfectly with the spirit of Father Mohr’s words. The carol was completed in time for the Christmas Eve mass, and Father Mohr and Franz Gruber sang their new hymn to the accompaniment of Gruber’s guitar. The hymn made a deep impact upon the parishioners even as it has on succeeding generations.
When the organ repairman came to the little village church, he was impressed by a copy of the Christmas carol and decided to spread it all around the region of Tyrol. Today it is sung in all major languages of the world and is a favorite wherever songs of the Christmas message are enjoyed.
Silent night! holy night! all is calm, all is bright round yon virgin mother and Child, holy Infant, so tender and mild—sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night holy night! shepherds quake at the sight; glories stream from heaven afar; heav’nly hosts sing alleluia—Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born!
Silent night! holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace—Jesus, Lord at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.
For Today: Matthew 2:9, 10; Luke 1:77–79; Luke 2:7–20
Allow the peaceful strains of this carol to help you worship in awe with the shepherds and sing alleluia with the angels for God’s “redeeming grace” ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
By Ryan Nicholson
The Confirmation Of God
The Christmas season once again has come and gone, and I find myself reflecting on God’s great mercy. I marvel at His awesomeness and how His unfailing love not only provides hope of salvation to humanity, but brings affirmation and confirmation to a simple carpenter and his wife.
Joseph was shaken to the core by the news Mary was pregnant. I can only imagine he was hurt, angry, ashamed, and heartbroken. Despite Mary’s attempt to assure him this was from the Lord, Joseph (not having access to the unwritten New Testament) was not buying the story. But God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream to assure him what Mary saying was true. When he awoke, he lived on faith that what he heard in his dream, and what Mary was saying were true.
Joseph and Mary saddled their donkey, despite the possible ridicule from their friends and loved ones, and marched forward just as God commanded. They weren’t greeted by a parade filled with ticker tape, and trumpets playing, instead they were greeted by closed doors and the smell of a cold, damp barn filled with animals. Joseph knew Mary was almost due, and he held on to his belief that this was God’s will.
Being a father of four myself, I know the anxious feeling of a child being delivered, and I was surrounded by a state of the art medical center filled with trained doctors and nurses. I can’t help but wonder if Joseph ever felt like he was doing the right thing. Yes he felt God’s affirmation in a dream, but that was many months before, and now they found themselves in what would be considered unsanitary conditions by today’s standards. And that’s where I get overwhelmed with how awesome God is. The simple carpenter and his wife, living by faith that they are doing God’s will, kneeling on the ground to give birth to a child, were greeted by a heavenly host singing, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Not only did God bring salvation to the world to those who believe, he brought confirmation to one man that what he heard was the truth. A dream can be questioned, but to see the night sky filled with angels, Joseph never doubted again. Despite the most significant event in human existence, God took the time to comfort one man and his wife, and confirm they had carried out his will.
I can’t compare anything I’m going through in life to the birth of Christ, but what I can say is God will affirm you in your trials if you put your faith in Him. Lift your eyes towards Him, and He will confirm that his promise to never leave you nor forsake is true.
Ryan Nicholson is a follower of Jesus Christ and is married to Crystal. They have four children; Autumn, Connor, Heidi and Aubrey. Ryan is a District Manager for Pepsico. Links to his other articles are listed below:
2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
3 You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
4 For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. ESV
Reformation Study Bible (2015) ESV, Crimson Hardcover
They are the first words I intend to insist upon, to treat of the Patience of God described in those words, “The Lord is slow to anger.”
Doctrine. Slowness to anger, or admirable patience, is the property of the Divine nature. As patience signifies suffering, so it is not in God. The Divine nature is impassible, incapable of any impair, it cannot be touched by the violences of men, nor the essential glory of it be diminished by the injuries of men; but as it signifies a willingness to defer, and an unwillingness to pour forth his wrath upon sinful creatures, he moderates his provoked justice, and forbears to revenge the injuries he daily meets with in the world. He suffers no grief by men’s wronging him, but he restrains his arm from punishing them according to their merits; and thus there is patience in every cross a man meets with in the world, because, though it be a punishment, it is less than is merited by the unrighteous rebel, and less than may be inflicted by a righteous and powerful God. This patience is seen in his providential works in the world: “He suffered the nations to walk in their own way,” and the witness of his providence to them was his “giving them rain and fruitful seasons, filling their heart with food and gladness” (Acts 16:17). The heathens took notice of it, and signified it by feigning their god Saturn, to be bound a whole year in a soft cord, a cord of wool, and expressed it by this proverb: “The mills of the gods grind slowly;” i. e. God doth not use men with that severity that they deserve; the mills being usually turned by criminals condemned to that work. This, in Scripture, is frequently expressed by a slowness to anger (Psalm 103:8), sometimes by long-suffering, which is a patience with duration (Psalm 145:8; 8; Joel 2:13). He is slow to anger, he takes not the first occasions of a provocation; he is long-suffering (Rom. 9:22), and (Psalm 86:15) he forbears punishment upon many occasions offered him. It is long before he consents to give fire to his wrath, and shoot out his thunderbolts. Sin hath a loud cry, but God seems to stop his ears, not to hear the clamor it raises and the charge it presents. He keeps his sword a long time in the sheath; one calls the patience of God the sheath of his sword, upon those words (Ezek. 21:3), “I will draw forth my sword out of his sheath.” This is one remarkable letter in the name of God; he himself proclaims it (Exod. 34:6): “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful, gracious, and long-suffering.” And Moses pleads it in the behalf of the people (Num. 14:18), where he placeth it in the first rank; the Lord is “long-suffering and of great mercy:” it is the first spark of mercy, and ushers it to its exercises in the world. In the Lord’s proclamation, it is put in the middle link, mercy and truth together; mercy could have no room to act if patience did not prepare the way; and his truth and goodness, in his promise of the Redeemer, would not have been manifest to the world if he had shot his arrows as soon as men committed their sins, and deserved his punishment. This perfection is expressed by other phrases, as “keeping silence” (Psalm 50:21): “These things hast thou done, and I kept silence,” אלת עשׂית והחר שׁתי; it signifies to behave one’s self as a deaf or dumb man. I did not fly in thy face, as some do, with a great noise upon a light provocation, as if their life, honor, estates, were at the stake; I did not presently call thee to the bar, and pronounce judicial sentence upon thee according to the law, but demeaned myself as if I had been ignorant of thy crimes, and had not been invested with the power of judging thee for them. Chald. “I waited for thy conversion.” God’s patience is the silence of his justice, and the first whisper of his mercy. It is also expressed by not laying folly to men (Job 24:12); men groan under the oppressions of others, yet God lays not folly to them, i. e. to the oppressors; God suffers them to go on with impunity. He doth not deliver his people because he would try them, and takes not revenge upon the unrighteous, because in patience he doth bear with them: patience is the life of his providence in this world. He chargeth not men with their crimes here, but reserves them, upon impenitency, for another trial. This attribute is so great a one, that it is signally called by the name of “Perfection” (Matt. 5:45, 48). He had been speaking of Divine goodness, and patience to evil men, and he concludes, “Be you perfect,” &c., implying it to be an amazing perfection of the Divine nature, and worthy of imitation.
In the prosecution of this, I. Let us consider the nature of this patience. II. Wherein it is manifested. III. Why God doth exercise so much patience. IV. The Use.
I. The nature of this patience.
1. It is part of the Divine goodness and mercy, yet differs from both. God being the greatest goodness, hath the greatest mildness. Mildness is always the companion of true goodness, and the greater the goodness the greater the mildness. Who so holy as Christ, and who so meek? God’s slowness to anger is a branch or slip from his mercy (Psalm 145:8): “The Lord is full of compassion, slow to anger.” It differs from mercy in the formal consideration of the object; mercy respects the creature as miserable, patience respects the creature as criminal; mercy pities him in his misery, and patience bears with the sin which engendered that misery, and is giving birth to more. Again, mercy is one end of patience; his long-suffering is partly to glorify his grace: so it was in Paul (1 Tim. 1:16). As slowness to anger springs from goodness, so it makes mercy the butt and mark of its operations (Isa. 30:18): “He waits that he may be gracious.” Goodness sets God upon the exercise of patience, and patience sets many a sinner on running into the arms of mercy. That mercy which makes God ready to embrace returning sinners, makes him willing to bear with them in their sins, and wait their return. It differs also from goodness, in regard of the object. The object of goodness is every creature, angels, men, all inferior creatures, to the lowest worm that crawls upon the ground. The object of patience is, primarily, man, and secondarily; those creatures that respect men’s support, conveniency, and delight; but they are not the objects of patience, as considered in themselves, but in relation to man, for whose use they were created; and therefore God’s patience to them is properly his patience with man. The lower creatures do not injure God, and therefore are not the objects of his patience, but as they are forfeited by man, and man deserves to be deprived of them; as man in this regard falls under the patience of God, so do those creatures which are designed for man’s good. That patience which spares man, spares other creatures for him, which were all forfeited by man’s sin, as well as his own life, and are rather the testimonies of God’s patience, than the proper objects of it. The object of God’s goodness, then, is the whole creation; not a devil in hell, but as a creature, is a mark of his goodness, but not of his patience. There is a kind of sparing exercised to the devils, in deferring their complete punishment, and hitherto keeping off the day wherein their final sentence is to be pronounced; yet the Scripture never mentions this by the name of slowness to anger, or long-suffering. It can no more be called patience, than a prince’s keeping a malefactor in chains, and not pronouncing a condemning sentence, or not executing a sentence already pronounced, can be called a patience with him, when it is not out of kindness to the offender, but for some reasons of state. God’s sparing the devils from their total punishment—which they have not yet, but are “reserved in chains, under darkness for it” (Jude 6)—is not in order to repentance, or attended with any invitations from God, or hopes in them; and, therefore, cannot come under the same title as God’s sparing man: where there is no proposal of mercy, there is no exercise of patience. The fallen angels had no mercy reserved for them, nor any sacrifices prepared for them; God “spared not the angels” (2 Pet. 2:4), “but delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment,” i. e. he had no patience for them; for patience is properly a temporary sparing a person, with a waiting of his relenting, and a change of his injurious demeanor. The object of goodness is more extensive than that of patience: nor do they both consider the object under the same relation. Goodness respects things in a capacity, or in a state of creation, and brings them forth into creation, and nurseth and supports them as creatures. Patience considers them already created, and fallen short of the duty of creatures; it considers them as sinners, or in relation to sinners. Had not sin entered, patience had never been exercised; but goodness had been exercised, had the creature stood firm in its created state without any transgression; nay, creation could not have been without goodness, because it was goodness to create; but patience had never been known without an object, which could not have been without an injury. Where there is no wrong, no suffering, nor like to be any, patience hath no prospect of any operation. So, then, goodness respects persons as creatures, patience as transgressors; mercy eyes men as miserable and obnoxious to punishment; patience considers men as sinful, and provoking to punishment.
2. Since it is a part of goodness and mercy, it is not an insensible patience. What is the fruit of pure goodness cannot be from a weakness of resentment; he is “slow to anger;” the prophet doth not say, he is incapable of anger, or cannot discern what is a real object of anger; it implies, that he doth consider every provocation, but he is not hasty to discharge his arrows upon the offenders; he sees all, while he bears with them; his omniscience excludes any ignorance; he cannot but see every wrong; every aggravation in that wrong, every step and motion from the beginning to the completing it; for he knows all our thoughts; he sees the sin and the sinner at the same time; the sin with an eye of abhorrency, and the sinner with an eye of pity. His eye is upon their iniquities, and his hatred edged against them; while he stands with arms open, waiting a penitent return. When he publisheth his patience in his keeping silence, he publisheth also his resolution, to set sin in order before their eyes (Psalm 50:21): “I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thy eyes.” Think me not such a piece of phlegm, and so dull as not to resent your insolences; you shall see, in my final charge, when I come to judge, that not a wry look escaped my knowledge, that I had an eye to behold, and a heart to loathe every one of your transgressions. The church was ready to think that God’s slowness to deliver her, and his bearing with her oppressors, was not from any patience in his nature, but a drowsy carelessness, a senseless lethargy (Psalm 44:23): “Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord?” We must conclude him an inapprehensive God, before we can conclude him an insensible God. As his delaying his promise is not slackness to his people (2 Pet. 3:9), so his deferring of punishment is not from a stupidity under the affronts offered him.
3. Since it is a part of his mercy and goodness, it is not a constrained or faint-hearted patience. It is not a slowness to anger, arising from a despondency of his own power to revenge. He hath as much power to punish as he hath to forbear punishment. He that created a world in six days, and that by a word, wants not a strength to crush all mankind in one minute; and with as much ease as a word imports, can give satisfaction to his justice in the blood of the offender. Patience in man is many times interpreted, and truly too, a cowardice, a feebleness of spirit, and a want of strength. But it is not from the shortness of the Divine arm, that he cannot reach us, nor from the feebleness of his hand, that he cannot strike us. It is not because he cannot level us with the dust, dash us in pieces like a potter’s vessel, or consume us as a moth. He can make the mightiest to fall before him, and lay the strongest at his feet the first moment of their crime. He that did not want a powerful word to create a world, cannot want a powerful word to dissolve the whole frame of it, and raze it out of being. It is not, therefore, out of a distrust of his own power, that he hath supported a sinful world for so many ages, and patiently borne the blasphemies of some, the neglects of others, and the ingratitude of all, without inflicting that severe justice which righteously he might have done; he wants no thunder to crush the whole generation of men, nor waters to drown them, nor earth to swallow them up. How easy is it for him to single out this or that particular person to be the object of his wrath, and not of his patience! What he hath done to one, he may to another; any signal judgment he hath sent upon one, is an evidence that he wants not power to inflict it upon all. Could he not make the motes in the air to choke us at every breath, rain thunderbolts instead of drops of water, fill the clouds with a consuming lightning, take off the reverence and fear of man, which he hath imprinted upon the creature, spirit our domestic beasts to be our executioners, unloose the tiles from the house-top to brain us, or make the fall of a house to crush us? It is but taking out the pins, and giving a blast, and the work is done. And doth he want a power to do any of those things? It is not then a faint-hearted, or feeble patience, that he exerciseth towards man.
The Existence and Attributes of God
Wonderful Counselor, Part One
Wonderful Counselor, Part Two
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
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