Revelation 9 - 12
Revelation 9Revelation 9:1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. 2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. 3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. 4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; 9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. 11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.
12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.
13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. 17 And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.
20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
The Angel and the Little ScrollRevelation 10:1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. 2 He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, 3 and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. 4 And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” 5 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, 7 but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.
8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. 11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”
The Two WitnessesRevelation 11:1 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.
The Seventh Trumpet15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying,
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
18 The nations raged,
but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
The Woman and the DragonRevelation 12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
Satan Thrown Down to Earth7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.
What I'm Reading
Jesus Is Evidence That God Exists
By J. Warner Wallace 3/27/2015
Ever try to make a case for God’s existence with a non-believing friend or family member? I have. For some reason, I usually find myself beginning with the broader evidence for God’s existence. From the cosmological argument to the evidence from the fine-tuning of the universe, to evidence from teleology or the existence of transcendent moral laws, I usually begin by making a case for the existence of any God before I focus in on the evidence for the Christian God of the Bible. I typically take an “outside-in” or “macro-to-micro” approach: first argue for God generally, and then argue for Jesus specifically.
The Gospels Make A Case For God’s Existence
But that isn’t how I came to faith. I first became interested in the existence of God after reading the gospels. I read them as a curious atheist. A local pastor aroused my curiosity by providing a few choice samples of Jesus’ teaching, and I was simply curious to see if the gospels contained any additional wisdom. I was no more committed to Jesus as an ancient teacher than I might be to Buddha, Socrates or any other ancient sage.
But the gospels resonated with my experience as a detective and demonstrated many characteristics of eyewitness testimony. I was quickly engaged in a forensic statement analysis of the gospel of Mark and it wasn’t long before I was taking what the gospels said seriously. I discovered:
1. The gospels were written very early
2. The gospels were transmitted carefully
3. The gospel information was protected and preserved
4. The gospel claims about Jesus were consistent with non-Christian sources
5. The gospel accounts were testable
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.
Sing for Your Life
By Tony Reinke 12/26/16
The devil covers the hook of sin with tempting bait coated in sugar. So how should we fight in the moment when our hearts are lunging toward sin? We grab for the spiritual weapons forged by God and strategies to meet temptation and make a way of escape.
But for too many of us, we ignore one of the single greatest weapons in the battle.
The Art of War | We lose against sin when we grow blind to the nature of the war. Holiness is not simply about minding the right prohibitions. The deeper reality is that sin is fought in the wrestling of our desires and wants. Our heart is a craving beast, clawing ceaselessly for something more, something new, to quench its voracious hunger pains.
Hungering for the infinite, we are creatures who have been designed to find solid joy in what endures forever, turning away from the flimsy, cheap, plastic delights offered to us by the world. All of this means that so much of the Christian life, then, boils down to the affections of our hearts.
Thomas Manton knew this well. Manton (1620–1677) remains one of the Puritan’s great thinkers and pastors. His sermon legacy — about 10,000 published pages long — is clear, powerful, and deep.
Tony Reinke is senior writer for Desiring God and author of three books. He hosts the Ask Pastor John podcast and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and three children.
Tony Reinke Books:
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Augustine
By Kenneth Richard Samples 03/08/16
I’ve heard it said that evangelical Christians don’t study our church history very deeply. As a fellow evangelical, I think there is, unfortunately, a lot of truth in this statement. Contemporary Christians can learn a great deal from the history of their faith. But where to start? This series, “Christian Thinkers 101,” provides a snapshot of some of the faith’s key theologians and apologists and their important books and ideas.
Let’s begin with the man who is the most popular church father.
Though he lived 1,600 years ago, St. Augustine remains revered. But what exactly did he believe and what did he contribute to Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of St. Augustine—and why he still matters today.
Who Was Augustine? | St. Augustine (AD 354–430) was born in North Africa to a pagan father and a Christian mother. Following a youth and an early career steeped in debauchery and ambition, Augustine experienced a dramatic conversion to Christianity when he turned from his pagan beliefs. His classic book Confessions details his conversion story and, to this day, remains widely acknowledged as the first Western autobiography.
Augustine was a prolific author, a robust theologian, an insightful philosopher, and a tenacious apologist for the truth of historic Christianity. He is a universal Christian voice within Western Christendom and remains today as important to Protestants as he is to Catholics. He is also the only Christian thinker to be mentioned in songs by Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.
Philosopher and theologian Kenneth Richard Samples has a great passion to help people understand the reasonableness and relevance of Christianity's truth claims. Through his writing and speaking as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), he encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical worldview level.
An intellectual even at a young age, Kenneth's journey to faith in Christ began in earnest during his teenage years as he wrestled with a deep sense of longing and restlessness. His older brother's suicide spurred his efforts to seek answers to life's "big questions." Eventually, he began reading the Bible and attending church, but it was his sister's gift of Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis that helped Kenneth to truly understand the Christian Gospel and to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying and deeply personal faith.
Today, Kenneth focuses on demonstrating the unique compatibility of Christianity's great doctrinal truths with reason and logic. He is the author of several books, including God Among Sages, Christian Endgame, 7 Truths That Changed the World, A World of Difference, and Without a Doubt. He leads RTB's Straight Thinking podcast and also writes Reflections, a weekly blog dedicated to exploring the Christian worldview. Kenneth has spoken at universities and churches around the world on such topics as religion and worldview, the identity of Jesus, and Christian apologetics. He also makes frequent guest appearances on radio programs such as The Frank Sontag Show, Issues Etc., and Stand to Reason, lectures as an adjunct professor at Biola University, and teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California.
An avid student of American history, Kenneth earned a BA in social science with an emphasis in history and philosophy from Concordia University and an MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. Prior to joining RTB in 1997, Kenneth worked for seven years as senior research consultant and correspondence editor at Christian Research Institute, where he regularly cohosted The Bible Answer Man, a popular call-in radio program founded by renowned apologist Dr. Walter Martin. In addition, Kenneth's articles have been published in Christianity Today, Christian Research Journal, and Facts for Faith, and he holds memberships in the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the International Society of Christian Apologetics.
Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan. They have three children.
Kenneth Richard Samples Books:
- 1 God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
- 2 A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Reasons to Believe)
- 3 God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
- 4 Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times
- 5 Christianity's Most Dangerous Idea (Ebook Shorts)
By Noreen Hayes January 1995
Most of its dry needles lost with star
and spheres and angels, the tree we children dragged
the short way to the bonfire, tossed
crushed boxes, giftwrap on the pyre,
handfuls of snow so flames would crackle,
dart up the night to warm
our last caroling circle of the season-
a fragrant burning splendor.
In middle age we fed our mulcher
limb by limb our Christmas trees
drawn and quartered even to the trunk.
Wasting nothing, we husbanded our joys,
returned them layer by layer to earth.
And now grown smaller by Nativities,
our family watches the evening
caretaker wheel our smaller tree
away for curbside pick-up—a harvesting
of still green conifers
bound for lakes as habitats for fish,
for sudden darting, gleaming Chrismons
rippling dark branches in January waters.
Click here to go to source
Noreen Hayes ??
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 147He Heals the Brokenhearted
147 Praise the LORD!
12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and rules to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.
Praise the LORD!
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
5. In general, they are wont to place under the free will of man only
intermediate things--viz. those which pertain not to the kingdom of
God, while they refer true righteousness to the special grace of God
and spiritual regeneration. The author of the work, "De Vocatione
Gentium," (On the Calling of the Gentiles),  wishing to show this,
describes the will as threefold--viz. sensitive, animal, and spiritual.
The two former, he says, are free to man, but the last is the work of
the Holy Spirit. What truth there is in this will be considered in its
own place. Our intention at present is only to mention the opinions of
others, not to refute them. When writers treat of free will, their
inquiry is chiefly directed not to what its power is in relation to
civil or external actions, but to the obedience required by the divine
law. The latter I admit to be the great question, but I cannot think
the former should be altogether neglected; and I hope to be able to
give the best reason for so thinking (sec. 12 to 18). The schools,
however, have adopted a distinction which enumerates three kinds of
freedom (see Lombard, lib. 2 Dist. 25); the first, a freedom from
necessity; the second, a freedom from sin; and the third, a freedom
from misery: the first naturally so inherent in man, that he cannot
possibly be deprived of it; while through sin the other two have been
lost. I willingly admit this distinction, except in so far as it
confounds necessity with compulsion. How widely the things differ, and
how important it is to attend to the difference, will appear elsewhere.
6. All this being admitted, it will be beyond dispute, that free will does not enable any man to perform good works, unless he is assisted by grace; indeed, the special grace which the elect alone receive through regeneration. For I stay not to consider the extravagance of those who say that grace is offered equally and promiscuously to all (Lomb. lib. 2 Dist. 26). But it has not yet been shown whether man is entirely deprived of the power of well-doing, or whether he still possesses it in some, though in a very feeble and limited degree--a degree so feeble and limited, that it can do nothing of itself, but when assisted by grace, is able also to perform its part. The Master of the Sentences (Lombard, ibid). wishing to explain this, teaches that a twofold grace is necessary to fit for any good work. The one he calls Operating. To it, it is owing that we effectually will what is good. The other, which succeeds this good will, and aids it, he calls Co-operating. My objection to this division (see infra, chap. 3 sec. 10, and chap. 7 sec. 9) is, that while it attributes the effectual desire of good to divine grace, it insinuates that man, by his own nature, desires good in some degree, though ineffectually. Thus Bernard, while maintaining that a good will is the work of God, concedes this much to man--viz. that of his own nature he longs for such a good will. This differs widely from the view of Augustine, though Lombard pretends to have taken the division from him. Besides, there is an ambiguity in the second division, which has led to an erroneous interpretation. For it has been thought that we co-operate with subsequent grace, inasmuch as it pertains to us either to nullify the first grace, by rejecting its or to confirm it, by obediently yielding to it. The author of the work De Vocatione Gentium expresses it thus: It is free to those who enjoy the faculty of reason to depart from grace, so that the not departing is a reward, and that which cannot be done without the co-operation of the Spirit is imputed as merit to those whose will might have made it otherwise (lib. 2 cap. 4). It seemed proper to make these two observations in passing, that the reader may see how far I differ from the sounder of the Schoolmen. Still further do I differ from more modern sophists, who have departed even more widely than the Schoolmen from the ancient doctrine. The division, however, shows in what respect free will is attributed to man. For Lombard ultimately declares (lib. 2 Dist. 25), that our freedom is not to the extent of leaving us equally inclined to good and evil in act or in thought, but only to the extent of freeing us from compulsion. This liberty is compatible with our being depraved, the servants of sin, able to do nothing but sin.
7. In this way, then, man is said to have free will, not because he has a free choice of good and evil, but because he acts voluntarily, and not by compulsion. This is perfectly true: but why should so small a matter have been dignified with so proud a title? An admirable freedom! that man is not forced to be the servant of sin, while he is, however, ejthelodou'lo" (a voluntary slave); his will being bound by the fetters of sin. I abominate mere verbal disputes, by which the Church is harassed to no purpose; but I think we ought religiously to eschew terms which imply some absurdity, especially in subjects where error is of pernicious consequence. How few are there who, when they hear free will attributed to man, do not immediately imagine that he is the master of his mind and will in such a sense, that he can of himself incline himself either to good or evil? It may be said that such dangers are removed by carefully expounding the meaning to the people. But such is the proneness of the human mind to go astray, that it will more quickly draw error from one little word, than truth from a lengthened discourse. Of this, the very term in question furnishes too strong a proof. For the explanation given by ancient Christian writers having been lost sight of, almost all who have come after them, by attending only to the etymology of the term, have been led to indulge a fatal confidence.
8. As to the Fathers (if their authority weighs with us), they have the term constantly in their mouths; but they, at the same time, declare what extent of meaning they attach to it. In particular, Augustine hesitates not to call the will a slave.  In another passages he is offended with those who deny free will; but his chief reason for this is explained when he says, "Only lest any one should presume so to deny freedom of will, from a desire to excuse sin." It is certain, he elsewhere admits, that without the Spirit the will of man is not free, inasmuch as it is subject to lusts which chain and master it. And again, that nature began to want liberty the moment the will was vanquished by the revolt into which it fell. Again, that man, by making a bad use of free will, lost both himself and his will. Again, that free will having been made a captive, can do nothing in the way of righteousness. Again, that no will is free which has not been made so by divine grace. Again, that the righteousness of God is not fulfilled when the law orders, and man acts, as it were, by his own strength, but when the Spirit assists, and the will (not the free will of man, but the will freed by God) obeys. He briefly states the ground of all these observations, when he says, that man at his creation received a great degree of free will, but lost it by sinning. In another place, after showing that free will is established by grace, he strongly inveighs against those who arrogate any thing to themselves without grace. His words are, "How much soever miserable men presume to plume themselves on free will before they are made free, or on their strength after they are made free, they do not consider that, in the very expression free will, liberty is implied. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,' (2 Cor. 3:17). If, therefore, they are the servants of sin, why do they boast of free will? He who has been vanquished is the servant of him who vanquished him. But if men have been made free, why do they boast of it as of their own work? Are they so free that they are unwilling to be the servants of Him who has said, Without me ye can do nothing'?" (John 15:5). In another passage he even seems to ridicule the word, when he says,  "That the will is indeed free, but not freed--free of righteousness, but enslaved to sin." The same idea he elsewhere repeats and explains, when he says, "That man is not free from righteousness save by the choice of his will, and is not made free from sin save by the grace of the Saviour." Declaring that the freedom of man is nothing else than emancipation or manumission from righteousness, he seems to jest at the emptiness of the name. If any one, then, chooses to make use of this term, without attaching any bad meaning to it, he shall not be troubled by me on that account; but as it cannot be retained without very great danger, I think the abolition of it would be of great advantage to the Church. I am unwilling to use it myself; and others if they will take my advice, will do well to abstain from it.
9. It may, perhaps, seem that I have greatly prejudiced my own view by confessing that all the ecclesiastical writers, with the exception of Augustine, have spoken so ambiguously or inconsistently on this subject, that no certainty is attainable from their writings. Some will interpret this to mean, that I wish to deprive them of their right of suffrage, because they are opposed to me. Truly, however, I have had no other end in view than to consult, simply and in good faith, for the advantage of pious minds, which, if they trust to those writers for their opinion, will always fluctuate in uncertainty. At one time they teach, that man having been deprived of the power of free will must flee to grace alone; at another, they equip or seem to equip him in armour of his own. It is not difficult, however, to show, that notwithstanding of the ambiguous manner in which those writers express themselves, they hold human virtue in little or no account, and ascribe the whole merit of all that is good to the Holy Spirit. To make this more manifest, I may here quote some passages from them. What, then, is meant by Cyprian in the passage so often lauded by Augustine,  "Let us glory in nothing, because nothing is ours," unless it be, that man being utterly destitute, considered in himself, should entirely depend on God? What is meant by Augustine and Eucherius,  when they expound that Christ is the tree of life, and that whoso puts forth his hand to it shall live; that the choice of the will is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that he who, forsaking the grace of God, tastes of it shall die? What is meant by Chrysostom, when he says, "That every man is not only naturally a sinner, but is wholly sin?" If there is nothing good in us; if man, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, is wholly sin; if it is not even lawful to try how far the power of the will extends,--how can it be lawful to share the merit of a good work between God and man? I might quote many passages to the same effect from other writers; but lest any caviller should say, that I select those only which serve my purpose, and cunningly pass by those which are against me, I desist. This much, however, I dare affirm, that though they sometimes go too far in extolling free will, the main object which they had in view was to teach man entirely to renounce all self-confidence, and place his strength in God alone. I now proceed to a simple exposition of the truth in regard to the nature of man.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Passing Down the Truth of God
By John MacArthur 5/1/2017
I learned a vital spiritual lesson while participating in a track meet during my college years. I was running in the 4x400-meter relay at the Orange County Invitational. As a baseball player moonlighting in track and field, I wasn’t the fastest runner on our team. So, I ran the second leg.
Our strategy was simple. The first runner, a speedy sprinter, would get as big a lead as possible right out of the starting blocks. My job was merely to run a clean lap without dropping the baton. Our third man was strong and fast, and our fourth man was a blur. They could make up the whatever ground I might lose.
Several prestigious teams were competing that day, and our team managed to get into the finals. We were convinced we had a good shot at winning.
Our first man ran a great leg and made a perfect baton pass. I managed to finish my lap in a tight battle for first place. The third man went around the curve, came halfway down the back stretch, stopped, walked off, and sat down in the grass. The race kept going.
We thought he had pulled a hamstring or twisted an ankle. We all ran across the infield, expecting to find him writhing on the grass or at least wincing in pain. He wasn’t. He was sitting passively. We anxiously asked, “What happened? Are you hurt?” He said, “No, I’m OK. I just didn’t feel like running.”
I confess that all my thoughts in that moment were carnal. My teammates and I spontaneously responded with an outpouring of frustration, all three of us basically saying the same thing: “You can’t do that! You’re not in this by yourself! Do you realize the effort we have all put into training for this? Too much has been invested in you!”
I’ve thought often about that moment in relation to our duty as believers. We are supposed to take the truth that was handed to us by our ancestors in the Christian faith and run with it — not aimlessly (1 Cor. 9:26), but always pressing on toward the goal (Phil. 3:14) — so we can hand off the faith, intact and uncorrupted, to the next generation.
The Apostle Paul gave this charge to Timothy in his final epistle: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Paul was facing imminent martyrdom (4:6), and he was of course concerned with the question of who would continue his missionary work and who would lead the church after his departure. He therefore outlined for Timothy this simple pattern of succession and stability.
The command itself looks beyond Timothy to younger men whom he would train. It lays out a perpetual strategy for raising up generation after generation of church leaders. The baton that was passed from Paul to Timothy would ultimately be handed off to faithful men, who in turn would pass it to a fourth generation — and so on.
Although Paul’s primary concern here is leadership development, the principle he gives Timothy has clear implications for every Christian in the every era. We are all part of a living chain. Each of us has been taught by someone who learned the truth from someone else. If you follow that chain backward, link by link, it goes back to the original Apostles — and beyond them to Christ Himself.
In order to be faithful stewards of what we have received, each of us needs to pass on to others what we have been taught. In other words, every Christian ought to be a teacher. No matter who you are, you can find someone who knows less than you and teach them. That responsibility is inherent in our Lord’s Great Commission: “Make disciples” (Matt. 28:19).
The writer to the Hebrews scolded believers who were derelict in this duty: “Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God” (5:12). Because of their failure to become teachers, they needed to start learning from the beginning again. No wonder. What you teach you retain, and what you don’t teach you tend to forget. Passing on what you have learned not only helps the person who is being discipled; it also strengthens the teacher.
Paul’s charge to Timothy is carefully focused. He doesn’t tell Timothy to be innovative. He doesn’t encourage him to adapt his style to the fads and fashions of secular culture. He doesn’t employ words like fresh, original, or imaginative, the verbal glue that binds so many twenty-first-century church-growth strategies together.
In fact, Paul gives Timothy practically the opposite mandate. It is a clear, narrowly defined directive. Timothy is to guard the deposit of truth he has received (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14) and pass it on, unmodified and unadulterated, to the next generation. Being an effective disciple-maker is not about being chic or creative. It’s about faithfully guarding “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) and accurately transmitting it to an other generation.
It sounds paradoxical, but each Christian has a personal responsibility to keep the faith and to pass it on to others. That’s what is required of those who would win the prize (1 Cor. 9:24; 2 Tim. 4:7).
Anyone who breaks that centuries-old chain is like a relay runner who abandons the race before finishing. And what’s at stake in this race is infinitely more important than any earthly trophy. Failure to run well and with endurance would be an inexcusable insult to our Lord, an offense against those who have taught us, a disappointment to those who have trained alongside us, and a grievous sin against those to whom we must hand the baton.
From 1964 to 1966 Dr. MacArthur served as an associate pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Burbank , California and from 1966 to 1969 as a faculty representative for Talbot Theological Seminary, where he graduated with honors.
In 1969, John came to Grace Community Church . The emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage.Under John's leadership, Grace Community Church's two morning worship services fill the 3,000-seat auditorium to capacity. Several thousand members also participate each week in dozens of fellowship groups and training programs, led by members of the pastoral staff and lay leaders. These groups are dedicated to equipping members for ministry on local, national, and international levels.
In 1985, John became president of The Master's College (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College ), an accredited, four-year, liberal arts Christian college in Santa Clarita , California . In 1986, John founded The Master's Seminary, a graduate school dedicated to training men for full-time pastoral roles and missionary work. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, John regularly teaches Expository Preaching at the seminary and frequently speaks in chapel.
John is also president and featured teacher with Grace to You. Founded in 1969, Grace to You is the nonprofit organization responsible for developing, producing, and distributing John's books, audiocassettes, free sermons (MP3s) and the Grace to You, Portraits of Grace, and Grace to You Weekend radio programs. Grace to You airs thousands of times daily throughout the English speaking world reaching all major population centers in the United States, as well as Australia, Canada, Europe, India, New Zealand, the Philippines, and South Africa. It also airs more than 450 times daily in Spanish reaching 23 countries, including Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia.
Since completing his first best-selling book The Gospel According to Jesus, in 1988, John has written over 100 books and, through Grace to You and retail bookstores, distributed millions of copies worldwide.Many of John's books are available on CD-ROM and many titles have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and several other major languages.
John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four grown children: Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda.They also enjoy the enthusiastic company of their eleven grandchildren--Johnny, Ty, Jessy, KD, Olivia, Susannah, Gracie, Kylee, Andrew, Brooke and Elizabeth.
"MacArthur calls himself a "leaky dispensationalist"--meaning he rejects any and all "dispensational" soteriological innovations, holding to classic Reformed (i.e., Protestant, not "covenantal") soteriology. MacArthur's "dispensationalism" is eschatological and ecclesiological only. And given the fact that soteriology is central to our whole understanding of Christianity, whereas eschatology and ecclesiology deal primarily with secondary doctrines, it would be my assessment that MacArthur has far less in common with Ryrie than he would have with anyone who believes 1) that God's grace is efficacious for regeneration and sanctification as well as for justification, and 2) that God graciously guarantees the perseverance of all true believers." - Phil Johnson
John MacArthur Books | Go to Books Page
Will Beauty Save the World?
By Albert Mohler 5/1/2017
In his work ISBN-13: 978-1986662673 — a novel drenched in Christian content and deeply engaged with Christian theology — the great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky posits what seems like an odd notion. He says that beauty will save the world. It’s an interesting idea, but is it a Christian one?
As I think about this question, two biblical texts immediately come to mind: Isaiah 53 and Psalm 27. In Isaiah 53:2, the prophet states that the Messiah “had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him.” But compare these words with the psalmist’s declaration of the Lord’s beauty in Psalm 27:4: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”
What do we make of that juxtaposition? In Isaiah 53, the Christ has “no beauty” as people gazed upon Him; rather, He was stricken and afflicted. He was One from whom men turned their faces. Is that talking primarily about His physical appearance? Clearly not. Isaiah has in view Christ’s substitutionary atonement and the judgment on sin that occurs in that great event. Yet the psalmist requests “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” Are the works of God in Christ beautiful or not?
In one sense, the Bible begins and ends in beauty. In Genesis, Moses repeatedly emphasizes that God’s verdict on His creation is that “it was good,” even that “it was very good.” But this statement has a deeper meaning than our English word good. The Hebrew also carries the connotation beautiful. It was beautiful. It was very beautiful.
Now consider how Scripture ends. In Revelation 21:22–27, the Apostle John describes the New Jerusalem:
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
The New Jerusalem and the river of life are a testimony to beauty.
Humans are instinctively drawn to beauty. This fact is the reason why we go to museums, art shows, or the Grand Canyon. But how should we think about beauty from a Christian worldview? How does beauty fit within our understanding of the framework of redemption?
THE PROBLEM OF BEAUTYBeauty itself is not necessarily problematic. The problem is that humans are not good at recognizing true beauty when they see it. In a fallen world, even our perception of beauty has been corrupted by sin. This is nowhere more evident than in the magazine racks found at checkout lines of grocery stores. Magazines that airbrush models and mask physical flaws are making claims about the character of beauty. But while these images may be “pretty,” they are certainly not, from a biblical perspective, beautiful.
The Christian worldview posits that anything pure and good finds its ultimate source in the self-existent, omnipotent God who is infinite in all His perfections. Thus, the Christian worldview reminds us that the “transcendentals” — the good, the true, and the beautiful — are inseparable from one another. So, when Psalm 27 speaks of the beauty of the Lord, the psalmist is also making a claim about the goodness of the Lord and the truthfulness of the Lord.
In our fallen state, we often separate the good, the true, and the beautiful. But the Bible reminds us that if something is true, it is good and beautiful. If something is good, it is beautiful and true. Finally, if something is beautiful, it is good and true. Thus, while beauty magazines may present an image that is “pretty,” those images are not rightly beautiful because they do not faithfully represent the truth. But the Christian worldview teaches that the face of a child with Down syndrome is far more beautiful than any fake image of a professional model. True beauty is found in what is good and true.
Similarly, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is certainly not attractive from the world’s perspective. The agony of the Savior, the blood of His self-sacrifice, and the horror of His crucifixion are not pretty. Yet, while the cross is not pretty, it is certainly beautiful. The cross is beautiful because on it Jesus paid the penalty for sin. The cross is beautiful because in it we see the grace and justice of God. The cross is beautiful because it is also good and true.
So Dostoevsky was right: beauty will save the world. Our job as Christians is to remember the difference between the beautiful and the pretty.
THE PRIORITY OF BEAUTYWe must also recognize the priority of beauty in every human heart. Part of what it means to be made in the image of God is that we yearn for things that are genuinely beautiful. Even the most hardened secularist marvels at a sunset. Augustine explained in his Confessions that every human heart is directed to beauty. The problem with the sinful human heart is that we can be bought off by something less than beauty. Of course, Augustine also pointed to the fact that the human craving for beauty is not mere sentiment. Rather, true beauty reveals an objective origin and source of beauty, God Himself. Our longing for beauty ultimately reveals our desperate need for God.
THE POWER OF BEAUTYI’m entirely confident that beauty will indeed save the world because nothing could be more beautiful than the work of Jesus. And because Jesus’ work is beautiful, it is also true. And because His sacrifice is true, it is also good. The atoning work of the Lord Jesus is the epicenter of all that is true, good, and beautiful. The cross of Christ may not be pretty, but it certainly is beautiful.
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Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.
By Erik Raymond 6/1/2017
One humorous privilege dog owners enjoy is watching their pet respond to unfamiliar sounds. It’s almost impossible not to laugh when you see a dog cock its head to the side and stare with confused curiosity. These foreign sounds have a way of arresting a dog and captivating its attention.
When I read through the gospel narratives, I can’t help but imagine a number of captivated and curious hearers when Jesus explained God’s Word to them. In the familiar section of Scripture called the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus walks through a number a Bible verses that His hearers knew well. But then He deviates from the script and begins to expound these passages, teasing out implications for them. It is at this point that I imagine the original audience cocking their heads with curiosity. This was something they weren’t used to. The King was there, speaking His Word and laying out His expectations for those who would follow Him.
One particularly arresting aspect of Jesus’ teaching has to do with forgiveness. He says:
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23–24)
As followers of Jesus, our entire lives must be oriented around the kingdom of God. Therefore, anything that belittles, obscures, or contradicts the glory of God must be dealt with urgently. Here the issue is forgiveness, and the context is the covenant community. It is also important to notice that the exhortation is given to the one who has done the offending, not the offended party. What are we to do? We are to go and be reconciled with our brother. To reconcile means to make peace. So in other words, we have Jesus commanding His followers, especially when others may be offended by them, to take it upon themselves to initiate the recovery of peaceful relationships within the church. That will raise a few eyebrows.
We can press this a bit further to see the need to develop humble hearts that seek forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a PriorityJesus ratchets up His original command by elevating this reconciliation to the top of our to-do lists. He says that even if we are doing something very important and good like offering a sacrifice, we must step away and give attention to something even more important, namely, reconciling with a brother. This is shocking. If we are honest, our first thought would probably be to postpone the reconciliation and give attention to the worship. But Jesus flips this over and reorders our steps in accordance with what He prioritizes. God’s Word directs us to seek after what He seeks and to prize what He prizes. And, as we see, God prizes reconciliation in His church.
Forgiveness is EssentialIf we were to boil down Christianity to a few key practices, what would they be? Certainly, we would consider prayer, Bible reading, taking the sacraments, and the gathering of God’s people at the top of the list. As we continue to think, we would doubtless include serving one another, evangelism, and the intentional pursuit of personal godliness. But at what point would we say that we must be a people who pursue reconciliation with one another? Jesus seems to put it pretty high up on the list. In fact, it seems very closely related to our own understanding and application of the gospel. How, after all, can we expect God to be pleased with our worship when our hearts and hands are filthy with sin against our fellow believers? Jesus seems to be saying that our other religious works, however good they may be, are not acceptable before God if we are ignoring conflict with or personal sin against other brothers and sisters in Christ.
In short, seeking the forgiveness that comes through reconciliation is essential; it’s a top priority.
Forgiveness is PreciousWe have all experienced the painful persistence of unresolved conflict. Like a fox in the field, it eats away at the harvest of our joy. Christians who are supposed to enjoy a closeness sealed by love are tripped up by the common tactics of this fallen world. As a result, we distance ourselves from each other physically only after we do so emotionally. Reconciliation is needed. But what happens when peace is achieved? Consider a sinning brother going to his fellow church member and humbly owning his sin, and with the teary-eyed contrition that comes from time with Jesus, asking for forgiveness. After a discussion of the matter at hand, there is forgiveness. The matter is resolved, reconciliation achieved, and the grace of Christ applied. Looking across the sanctuary during the Lord’s Table, brothers lock eyes and smile. They are good now. Forgiveness is precious. This newly restored relationship is like a freshly arranged bouquet of grace. It is a delightful fragrance from another world.
Forgiveness is CostlyIf we are honest, we will admit that this is easier said than done. It is uncomfortable to humble ourselves and seek reconciliation. It is true; to do so will cost us our pride, and comfort will be sacrificed. But friends, isn’t this what it means to follow Jesus (Luke 9:23)? After all, it is Christ who paid the ultimate price to secure our forgiveness. Our Lord had done nothing wrong, but He came to live and die for people who have done everything wrong. And why did He do it? To reconcile us to His Father (Col. 1:21–22). When you read Jesus’ words in Matthew 5, read them under the shadow of the cross cast in Matthew 27. Jesus knows the high cost of forgiveness; He earned it. May we never forget it. Rev. Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church in Boston, Mass. He is author of Chasing Contentment and blogs at Ordinary Pastor on The Gospel Coalition.
How Will We Live Now?
By Albert Mohler 6/1/2017
The year 1976 continues to reverberate throughout evangelical Christianity. The towering giants of the evangelical world at that time seemed to see our world in increasingly hopeful terms. The urgent cultural crises of the 1960s appeared to be in recession.
As we now know, it was not really so. In 1973, the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion on demand nationwide. Larger intellectual currents were setting the stage for a massive shift in the culture. Evangelicals were wearing “I Found It” buttons and building massive megachurches, but the culture was shifting toward a hostile secularism that would not be fully apparent for a generation.
Still, some saw it coming. I turned 17 in 1976 and was facing my last year of high school and trying to figure out the world around me. An apologetic crisis had troubled me for a couple of years by then, and I needed help. I was already facing some of the issues and questions that would soon explode onto the American scene.
Thankfully, I did get help, and from multiple sources. D. James Kennedy introduced me to the writings of Francis Schaeffer. At that point, I had not met Schaeffer, but his writings were a form of theological rescue for me. They gave me a way of understanding how the Christian faith related to and answered the questions of the world around me.
In 1976, Schaeffer released ISBN-13: 978-1581345360, and I bought one of the first copies. I read it from cover to cover with intensity, knowing that Schaeffer was telling the story of Western civilization.
How Should We Then Live? was both a book and a multi-episode video project, just like Lord Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, a 1969 series on the history of Western society told from a humanistic perspective. This was not a coincidence. Schaeffer was deliberately answering Clark and telling a very different story. The subtitle of the book made that clear — The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. That was virtually the opposite of Lord Clark’s story. Schaeffer did not disagree with every argument of Clark’s Civilisation, but he did disagree with many of Clark’s arguments and, more importantly, with Clark’s humanistic interpretation of the main story.
Francis and his wife, Edith, founded and directed L’Abri Fellowship, a ministry in the Swiss mountains, drawing disaffected and confused young people from around the world, presenting them with the gospel of Christ, and answering their questions with a rational and demonstrative apologetic for biblical Christianity. While other leaders were building the evangelical empire, the Schaeffers took in scores of long-haired and intellectually agitated young people, engaging their minds and interpreting the culture.
I read How Should We Then Live? straight through, but the book troubled me. Who was right about the main story of Western civilization, Schaeffer or Clark? I wasn’t sure when I first read the book. Lord Clark pointed to the continual rise of the culture over centuries, right down to the present. Schaeffer saw modern culture as overwhelmingly opposed to God and disintegrating, cut off from any ability to make transcendent judgments or truth claims. He saw the looming humanism as a direct challenge to Christianity. I realized then that Lord Clark believed the same, and yet he saw the new humanism as a liberation from ancient but persistent religious beliefs. To my chagrin, I had not realized the presuppositions behind Clark’s story of civilization.
The collision between Clark and Schaeffer introduced me to the great collision of worldviews that became such a central interest and urgency of my life. On the one hand, I felt embarrassed that I had not recognized the problems with Lord Clark’s storyline. On the other hand, I knew that I desperately wanted to understand the intersection of ideas, morality, art, culture, architecture, music, science, philosophy, and biblical Christianity.
Years before words such as worldviews and truth claims entered the common evangelical vocabulary, Schaeffer was introducing the terms and stressing their importance. He knew that the great conflict of world-views was under way, and he cared deeply about a generation of young people who were even then deciding between Christianity and intellectual revolution.
Schaeffer was absolutely right when he began How Should We Then Live? with these words: “There is a flow to history and culture.” Yes, there is such a flow, and Christians had better know which way the culture is flowing.
“People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of those presuppositions than even they themselves may realize,” Schaeffer wrote, and he was talking this way when most evangelicals were unaware of the storm of worldviews that was coming. He perceived the presuppositions of the looming humanistic and secular worldview as showing up first in art and high culture. He was right. While most evangelicals were watching Gunsmoke and taking their kids to the newly opened Walt Disney World, Schaeffer was listening and watching as a new worldview was taking hold of the larger culture.
He was also right that the greatest threats to evangelical faithfulness were the promises of personal peace and affluence. He was prophetic in criticizing the Christian church for a legacy of racism and the abuse of economic abundance. He was right when he looked to developments such as Roe v. Wade and knew that something seismic had shifted in the culture, and that bigger shocks were yet to come.
He was also asking precisely the right question: How should we then live? That question that troubled Schaeffer so much in 1976 troubles all of us now. We are about to find out if professing Christians in this generation are going to believe and to live authentic biblical Christianity.
Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
The Continual Burnt Offering (Revelation 2:7)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
December 28Revelation 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ ESV
We need to distinguish between the church, the body of Christ which includes all God’s children in this dispensation of grace, and local churches of God which are responsible groups of believers meeting together for Christian fellowship and testimony. Christ Himself builds what He calls “My church” (Matthew 16:18). The building of local churches is committed largely to His servants (1 Corinthians 3:10). As Paul went from place to place, he was used of God to gather believers into the fellowship of the churches where they would be nurtured and edified and could maintain a testimony in their respective communities. These churches were directly responsible to Christ Himself, while they maintained communion with each other as representatives of the one glorified Head. (See 1 Thessalonians 2:14). In the beginning there was only one great circle of Christian fellowship. Throughout the centuries, however, many divisions have come in through human weakness. The closer the churches keep to the divine pattern laid down in the New Testament, the more they will have the Lord’s approval and blessing. Why don't we get this? It is in the Word of God. We cannot undo the mistakes of the past, but we can cling to the Lord and the Word of His grace, and be kept from much that is unscriptural and divisive.
Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.
1 Thessalonians 2:14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, ESV
Head of the Church triumphant,
We joyfully adore Thee!
Till Thou appear, Thy members here
Would sing like those in glory.
We lift our hearts and voices,
In blest anticipation,
And cry aloud, and give to God
The praise of our salvation.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Bearing fruit and sharing fruit
12/28/2017 Bob Gass
‘By their fruits you will know them.’
(Mt 7:20) Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. ESV
When we speak about ‘the fruit of the Spirit’, we are talking about these nine qualities of character: ‘love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’ (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV). These fruits are not for ‘show’, they are for sharing with others; otherwise they’re no better than fruit that was never grown in the first place. Suppose you drive up to a roadside produce market with your heart set on buying fresh vegetables. You see home-grown tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and several varieties of peppers – everything you need and more. Just as you start to select your items, the farmer who owns the stand says, ‘Sorry, this produce isn’t for sale. I just like to grow it and enjoy looking at it until it rots. Then I throw it away.’ Huh? Now you likely haven’t encountered such an absurd situation, and probably never will. That’s because farmers and customers know that produce is for consuming. Sure, it’s beautiful to look at, but its God-ordained purpose is to bring nutrition and health to people. If all we do is go to church and preach about fruit, analyse fruit, and examine each other’s fruit, we are failing miserably. It’s not enough to bear fruit, we must share that fruit with others so they can be blessed and impacted by the kingdom of God. Paul writes, ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago’ (Ephesians 2:10 NLT). Bearing fruit and sharing fruit are two sides of the same spiritual coin.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
While he was President, he married Edith Bolling Galt, who was a direct descendant of Pocahontas. Under his administration, the Panama Canal was completed, the Federal Reserve Bank was formed and America entered World War I. His name was Woodrow Wilson, born this day, December 28, 1856. During World War I, he proclaimed: “I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim… a day of public humiliation, prayer and fasting, and do exhort my fellow-citizens of all faiths and creeds… to pray Almighty God that He may forgive our sins and… give victory to our armies as they fight for freedom.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Chapter 22 December 28
By not belonging to a press-cutting agency I miss most of the bouquets and brickbats which are aimed at me. So I never saw the article you write about. But I have seen others of that kind, and they'll break no bones of mine. Don't, however, misjudge these "liberal Christians." They genuinely believe that writers of my sort are doing a great deal of harm.
They themselves find it impossible to accept most of the articles of the "faith once given to the saints." They are nevertheless extremely anxious that some vestigial religion wh1ch they (not we) can describe as "Christianity" should continue to exist and make numerous converts. They think these converts will come in only if this religion is sufficiently "demythologized." The ship must be lightened if she is to keep afloat.
It follows that, to them, the most mischievous people in the world are those who, like myself, proclaim that Christianity essentially involves the supernatural. They are quite sure that belief in the supernatural never will, nor should, be revived, and that if we convince the world that it must choose between accepting the supernatural and abandoning all pretence of Christianity, the world will undoubtedly choose the second alternative. It will thus be we, not the liberals, who have really sold the pass. We shall have reattached to the name Christian a deadly scandal from which, but for us, they might have succeeded in decontaminating it.
If, then, some tone of resentment creeps into their comments on our work, can you blame them? But it would be unpardonable if we allowed ourselves any resentment against them. We do in some measure queer their pitch. But they make no similar contribution to the forces of secularism. It has already a hundred champions who carry far more weight than they. Liberal Christianity can only supply an ineffectual echo to the massive chorus of agreed and admitted unbelief. Don't be deceived by the fact that this echo so often "hits the headlines." That is because attacks on Christian doctrine which would pass unnoticed if they were launched (as they are daily launched) by anyone else, become News when the attacker is a clergyman; just as a very commonplace protest against make-up would be News if it came from a film star.
By the way, did you ever meet, or hear of, anyone who was converted from scepticism to a "liberal" or "demythologized” Christianity? I think that when unbelievers come in at all, the … come in a good deal further.
Not, of course, that either group is to be judged by its success, as if the question were one of tactics. The liberals are honest men and preach their version of Christianity, as we preach ours, because they believe it to be true. A man who first tried to guess "what the public wants," and then preached that as Christianity because the public wants it, would be a pretty mixture of fool and knave.
I am enlarging on this because even you, in your last letter, seemed to hint that there was too much of the supernatural in my position; especially in the sense that "the next world" loomed so large. But how can it loom less than large if it is believed in at all?
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The will of God will never lead you
where the grace of God can’t keep you
and the power of God can’t use you.
--- Warren W. Wiersbe
The Wiersbe Bible Commentary OT: The Complete Old Testament in One Volume (Wiersbe Bible Commentaries)
Then ascend higher through the heart of Christ to the heart of God, and see that Christ would not have been able to love you if God had not willed it. Be thus drawn to the Father through Christ. That means to know God aright, if we understand him by his goodness and love, there our faith and confidence can then stand unmovable. A person is truly thus born anew in God.
--- Martin Luther
The Essential Martin Luther (Regimen Books Christian Classics)
A CHRISTIAN IS …
A mind through which Christ thinks;
A heart through which Christ loves;
A voice through which Christ speaks;
A hand through which Christ helps.
--- St. Augustine of Hippo
Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.
--- Billy Sunday
The Key to Perpetual Joy
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
when he sits with the leaders of the land.
ס 24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she supplies the merchants with sashes.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Except ye be converted, and become as little children.… --- Matthew 18:3.
These words of Our Lord are true of our initial conversion, but we have to be continuously converted all the days of our lives, continually to turn to God as children. If we trust to our wits instead of to God, we produce consequences for which God will hold us responsible. Immediately our bodies are brought into new conditions by the providence of God, we have to see our natural life obeys the dictates of the Spirit of God. Because we have done it once is no proof that we shall do it again. The relation of the natural to the spiritual is one of continuous conversion, and it is the one thing we object to. In every setting in which we are put, the Spirit of God remains unchanged and His salvation unaltered but we have to “put on the new man.” God holds us responsible every time we refuse to convert ourselves, our reason for refusing is wilful obstinacy. Our natural life must not rule, God must rule in us.
The hindrance in our spiritual life is that we will not be continually converted, there are ‘wadges’ of obstinacy where our pride spits at the throne of God and says—‘I won’t.’ We deify independence and wilfulness and call them by the wrong name. What God looks on as obstinate weakness, we call strength. There are whole tracts of our lives which have not yet been brought into subjection, and it can only be done by this continuous conversion. Slowly but surely we can claim the whole territory for the Spirit of God.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
The water is the same;
it is the reflections are different.
Virgil looked in this
mirror. You would not think so.
The lights' jewellery sticks in the throat
of the fish; open
them, you will find a debased
coinage to pay your taxes.
The cicadas sing
on. Looking for them among
the ilex is like trying to translate
a poem into another language.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
[Saul] asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way,… he might take them as prisoners.… Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
--- Acts 9:2, 22.
What wonderful contrasts in the character of Saul of Tarsus! Classic Sermons/Apostle Paul (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) Contrasts so sharp as almost to make him into another person. Saul, who went out to persecute, remained to pray. His breath was a fierce blast; in a little time his face is turned upward in prayer. Have any of us passed from fierceness to gentleness, from darkness to light, from blasphemy to worship? This is precisely the work that Christianity undertakes, to cool your breath, to subdue your rancor and your malignity, and to clasp your hands in prayer at your Father’s feet. The religion of Jesus Christ would have nothing to do if this were not to be accomplished.
A second contrast is quite as remarkable. When Saul was a Pharisee he persecuted; when he became a Christian he proved. How many miles of the moral kind lie between? Let this miracle stand as an argument invincible and complete. Standing with the Scriptures open before him, he reasons and mightily contends; he becomes a luminous speaker of Christian truth. Has all the persecuting temper gone? Yes, every bit of it. Christianity is a plea, a persuasion, an address to reason, conscience, heart, and to everything that makes us human. Christianity uses no force and asks for no force to be used on its behalf.
How far is it from persecuting to praying? From threatening and slaughter to proving? That distance Christ took Saul, who only meant to go from Jerusalem to Damascus, some 136 miles. Christ made him accomplish the entire journey that lies between persecution and prayer, slaughter and argument. It is thus that Jesus Christ makes us do more than we intended. He meets us on the way of our own choice and graciously takes us on a way of his own.
Christianity does not merely alter a person’s views or prejudices. Christianity never makes a little alteration in a person’s thinking and action. Christianity makes new hearts, new creatures. This Redeemer, who bought us with his own blood, does not make a little difference in our attitudes and our purposes. He wants us to be born again. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). Scales drop from our eyes, and with pure hearts, we see a pure God.
--- Joseph Parker
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Seeing the Stars
Vance Havner once lamented that many churchgoers sit and yawn over the truths for which their forefathers shed blood; thus “the living faith of the dead has become the dead faith of the living.” It wasn’t so for Charles Hodge, one of America’s greatest theologians, who was born on December 28, 1797. He studied the old and familiar Scriptures with fresh excitement. Three thousand pastors prepared for ministry in his theology classes at Princeton, and multitudes have benefited from his three-volume Systematic Theology. In a sermon once, Hodge warned his listeners against becoming bored with the Bible. Referring to Romans 3:29 (Does God belong only to the Jews? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, he is!), Hodge said:
We are so familiar with the truth contained in these words that we do not appreciate its importance. Accustomed to the varied beauties of the earth, we behold its manifold wonders without emotion; we seldom even raise our eyes to look at the beauteous canopy of heaven, which every night is spread over our heads. The blind, however, when suddenly restored to sight, behold with ecstasy what we regard with indifference. Thus the truth that God is not a national God, not the God of any one tribe or people, but the God and Father of all men, and that the Gospel is designed and adapted to all mankind, however little it may affect us, filled the apostles with astonishment and delight. They were slow in arriving at the knowledge of this truth; they had no clear perception of it until after the day of Pentecost; the effusion of the Spirit which they then received produced a most remarkable change in their views and feelings. Before that event, they were Jews; afterwards, they were Christians.
Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that if the constellations appeared only once in a thousand years, what an exciting event it would be. Because they’re there every night, we barely look.
“Don’t lose the wonder,” Gipsy Smith said. God’s mercies are new every Morning, and his Word is fresh every day.
You, LORD, are all I want!
I praise you, LORD, for being my guide.
Even in the darkest night,
Your teachings fill my mind.
With all my heart, I will celebrate,
And I can safely rest.
You have shown me the path to life,
And you make me glad by being near to me.
Sitting at your right side, I will always be joyful.
--- Psalm 16:5a,7,9,11.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
men like Ezra and Nehemiah
Hollis was a good man: a sincere Christian, well liked by everyone who knew him. Yet whenever there was an altar call in the church he attended—an invitation to those who felt a need to rededicate themselves to the Lord—Hollis was always the first to respond.
It was hard to understand why. One of his sons was a friend of mine when we were teens. In the time I spent in their home I saw no evidence of faults or failings. My parents were sure that Hollis was the last man in that congregation who needed rededication. Yet in his own heart Hollis must have felt a need for new beginnings and must have seen each altar call as an opportunity for a fresh start.
As an adult, I’ve learned many times for a fresh start myself. Not that my spiritual commitment or relationship has changed dramatically. But somehow, many little things get warped and twisted. Habits develop, ways of thinking and feeling and responding intrude that do not fit with what I want to be. I’d like to wipe them all out and start again, with a sense of freshness and restoration. I’d like to make a new beginning.
I suspect that the desire for a fresh start is something each of us experiences. Too often little failures, or large ones, are the source of such a sense of need.
Somehow we feel that if we had really committed ourselves to God that last time, we’d not need a fresh start now. Our lives would be consistent experiences of victory; steady journeys upward. It’s painful to discover that even after sincere dedication we can fall. Somehow our hearts tend to drift, until we’re jolted into awareness that we need yet another new beginning.
It was a jolt for men like Ezra and Nehemiah to discover that Israel too needed fresh beginnings. The people of God had returned to the Promised Land with great expectations; they enthusiastically journeyed hundreds of miles to rebuild the temple … and stopped with bare foundations. Stirred up by Haggai and Zechariah, they made a fresh beginning and completed the temple, to be ready for the Messiah. But the years passed. The Messiah did not come. And the old patterns of life, the old materialism, the old values, crept in.
There was no excuse.
It was wrong.
But it did happen to them—just as it happens to you and me. When a people or an individual does drift from God, it’s time for recommitment. Time for the fresh start that God is always willing to give us when we return to Him.
Bible Teacher's Commentary (Home Bible Study Library)
Those who do not know the Lord also long for a fresh start, a new beginning, a 'do-over.'
We are but a few days from January first. People are making lists of what they want to do and what they'd like not to do in the coming New Year. Who do you know who is the person they want to be, know they should be? The truth is none of us are who we'd like to be, but lists and determined grit cannot change who we are inside.
Envy, strife, greed are harbingers of eventual pain, sorrow and sadness. Unkind words and actions have a habit of knocking on our door and waking us from our self-righteous slumber. Try as we might we cannot will ourselves to change until we move the spotlight off us to someone else. Love works where work fails.
This section expands the vision of the judgment of the seventh cup, briefly described in 16:17–21. It is important to observe that it does not describe what takes place after that judgment, for in it the end comes (16:17). Rather, the passage tells how ‘Babylon’ is made to drain the cup appointed for her (16:19).
The imagery in ch. 17 fluctuates in a complicated fashion. In ch. 12 the dragon with seven heads and ten horns is said to represent the devil (v 9), and in ch. 13 he is an incarnation of the spirit of evil, the antichrist. In ch. 17 the beast supports a woman, seated on it; she is declared to be the city of antichrist (18), and the beast is clearly the empire that maintains her. This use of the symbolism is comprehensible, for in the Akkadian form of the battle of the monster of the sea and the gods of heaven the monster is feminine. The woman and the beast are alternative ways of representing a single power of evil. But further, in v 11 the beast is a king, in whom the nature of the empire is embodied. This accords with the frequent manner of identifying kings and their kingdoms in apocalyptic writings (see especially Daniel 2:38–44; 7:2–8, 15–26). The portrayal of the woman who represents the city of the Antichrist in this chapter is contrasted in extremist fashion with the description of the woman who represents the city of God in chs. 19 and 21–22. For example, the former is described as THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES (5); the latter as the pure ‘bride’, ‘the wife of the Lamb’ (19:7; 21:9). Babylon is drunk with the blood of the saints and by her wine brings death to the world (6; 19:2); the bride offers water of life to the world (22:17) and witnesses to the redemption of the eternal kingdom of God (21:6–22:5). Babylon ends in eternal destruction (19:3); the bride-city is the heart of the new creation (21:1–5). Revelation is well characterized as ‘The tale of two cities’!
Carson, D. A., New Bible Commentary. 21st. Century Edition. (Re 17:1–19:10).
the great prostitute
1–2 The angel’s words to John could form a fitting title to the whole of 17:1–19:10: The punishment (or ‘judgment’) of the great prostitute. The city of Tyre was called a harlot by Isaiah (Is. 23:15–17), and so was Jerusalem (Is. 1:21; Je. 3) and Nineveh (Na. 3:4–5). The latter part of v 2 alludes to Jeremiah’s address to Babylon, ‘You who live by many waters and are rich in treasures’ (Je. 51:13). The River Euphrates flowed through the city, which also had many canals, and maintained an irrigation system that brought wealth. From v 9 it is clear that the city of Rome is in mind—it has become the new ‘Babylon’, repressing the people of God and corrupting the whole earth. 3 In v 1 the ‘prostitute’ sits on many waters, but here she is seated on a beast in a desert; the contrary imagery is explained by the association of the desert with demonic beings
(cf. Lk. 11:24). The beast is scarlet, sharing the likeness of the dragon, i.e. the devil (12:3). It was covered with blasphemous names, referring primarily to the claims of the Roman emperors to divinity. 4 The luxury and moral filth of the city are here vividly set forth, again with the aid of Jeremiah’s characterization of Babylon (Je. 51:7). 5 The statement of the name on the prostitute’s forehead alludes to the custom of Roman harlots having their names written on the headband which Roman women used to wear. The prefix mystery signifies that the name is symbolic (cf. 11:8). The title characterizes the tyrant city as of the same nature as that against which the prophets of old vehemently protested. 6 The woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, especially through the inexpressibly cruel persecution of Nero, but also in anticipation of the war of the antichrist against the church.
Carson, D. A., New Bible Commentary. 21st. Century Edition. (Re 17:1–19:10).
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 28
“The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God." Galatians 2:20.
When the Lord in mercy passed by and saw us in our blood, he first of all said, “Live”; and this he did first, because life is one of the absolutely essential things in spiritual matters, and until it be bestowed we are incapable of partaking in the things of the kingdom. Now the life which grace confers upon the saints at the moment of their quickening is none other than the life of Christ, which, like the sap from the stem, runs into us, the branches, and establishes a living connection between our souls and Jesus. Faith is the grace which perceives this union, having proceeded from it as its firstfruit. It is the neck which joins the body of the Church to its all-glorious Head.
“Oh Faith! thou bond of union with the Lord,
Is not this office thine? and thy fit name,
In the economy of Gospel types,
And symbols apposite—the Church’s neck;
Identifying her in will and work
With him ascended?”
Faith lays hold upon the Lord Jesus with a firm and determined grasp. She knows his excellence and worth, and no temptation can induce her to repose her trust elsewhere; and Christ Jesus is so delighted with this heavenly grace, that he never ceases to strengthen and sustain her by the loving embrace and all-sufficient support of his eternal arms. Here, then, is established a living, sensible, and delightful union which casts forth streams of love, confidence, sympathy, complacency, and joy, whereof both the bride and bridegroom love to drink. When the soul can evidently perceive this oneness between itself and Christ, the pulse may be felt as beating for both, and the one blood as flowing through the veins of each. Then is the heart as near heaven as it can be on earth, and is prepared for the enjoyment of the most sublime and spiritual kind of fellowship.
Evening - December 28
“I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword.” --- Matthew 10:34.
The Christian will be sure to make enemies. It will be one of his objects to make none; but if to do the right, and to believe the true, should cause him to lose every earthly friend, he will count it but a small loss, since his great Friend in heaven will be yet more friendly, and reveal himself to him more graciously than ever. O ye who have taken up his cross, know ye not what your Master said? “I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother; and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Christ is the great Peacemaker; but before peace, he brings war. Where the light cometh, the darkness must retire. Where truth is, the lie must flee; or, if it abideth, there must be a stern conflict, for the truth cannot and will not lower its standard, and the lie must be trodden under foot. If you follow Christ, you shall have all the dogs of the world yelping at your heels. If you would live so as to stand the test of the last tribunal, depend upon it the world will not speak well of you. He who has the friendship of the world is an enemy to God; but if you are true and faithful to the Most High, men will resent your unflinching fidelity, since it is a testimony against their iniquities. Fearless of all consequences, you must do the right. You will need the courage of a lion unhesitatingly to pursue a course which shall turn your best friend into your fiercest foe; but for the love of Jesus you must thus be courageous. For the truth’s sake to hazard reputation and affection, is such a deed that to do it constantly you will need a degree of moral principle which only the Spirit of God can work in you; yet turn not your back like a coward, but play the man. Follow right manfully in your Master’s steps, for he has traversed this rough way before you. Better a brief warfare and eternal rest, than false peace and everlasting torment.
Morning and Evening
H. L. Turner, 19th century
I will come again, and receive you unto Myself. (John 14:3 KJV)
The promise of Christ’s return has been a source of much comfort to God’s people through the centuries. However, it has also caused disagreement and even some divisions within the church. Not all Bible students and groups of Christians are agreed on the outline of future events. Even a casual acquaintance with the study of eschatology (the doctrine of the last things) will soon introduce such conflicting terms and interpretations as postmillennialism, amillennialism, premillennialism, posttribulation, midtribulation, and pretribulation.
Each of these positions has the support of excellent biblical scholarship and many sincere Christian followers. It is easy for believers to get confused with the many aspects of Christ’s return.
Although Christians may disagree on some of the specifics related to future prophecy, most will agree on these basics: Christ will return personally—Acts 1:11; His return will be visible—Revelation 1:7; He will come in power and glory—Mark 13:26; and His coming will consummate His salvation and judgment—John 5:21–29; Hebrews 9:27, 28. The anticipation of Christ’s coming places a responsibility upon believers both individually and corporately even now: To live lives of purity (1 John 3:3) and to be involved in getting the Gospel to every nation before His return (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10).
“Christ Returneth” first appeared in Ira D. Sankey’s Gospel Hymns, No. 3 in 1878. It has since been widely used to impress and challenge God’s people with the truth of the imminent return of their Lord.
It may be at morn, when the day is awaking, when sunlight thru darkness and shadow is breaking, that Jesus will come in the fullness of glory to receive from the world His own.
It may be at mid-day; it may be at twilight; it may be, perchance, that the blackness of midnight will burst into light in the blaze of His glory, when Jesus receives His own.
O joy! O delight should we go without dying, no sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying, caught up thru the clouds with our Lord into glory, when Jesus receives His own.
Chorus: O Lord Jesus, how long, how long ere we shout the glad song—Christ returneth! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen, Hallelujah! Amen.
For Today: Matthew 24:30, 31; 25:13; Mark 13:32–37; 14:62; Luke 12:35–40; 1 Thessalonians 2:19
Live in the simple enjoyment that Christ will fulfill His promise—He will return—perhaps even this day. Sing this musical prayer ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
(1.) Consider the greatness of the provocations. No light matter, but actions of a great defiance: what is the practical language of most in the world, but that of Pharoah? “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?” How many questions his being, and more his authority? What blasphemies of him, what reproaches of his Majesty! Men “drinking up iniquity like water,” and with a haste and ardency “rushing into sin, as the horse into the battle.” What is there in the reasonable creature, that hath the quickest capacity, and the deepest obligation to serve him, but opposition and enmity, a slight of him in everything, yea, the services most seriously performed, unsuited to the royalty and purity of so great a Being? such provocations as dare him to his face, that are a burden to so righteous a Judge, and so great a lover of the authority and majesty of his laws; that were there but a spark of anger in him, it is a wonder it doth not show itself. When he is invaded in all his attributes, it is astonishing that this single one of patience and meekness should withstand the assault of all the rest of his perfections; his being, which is attacked by sin, speaks for vengeance; his justice cannot be imagined to stand silent without charging the sinner. His holiness cannot but encourage his justice to urge its pleas, and be an advocate for it. His omniscience proves the truth of all the charge, and his abused mercy hath little encouragement to make opposition to the indictment; nothing but patience stands in the gap to keep off the arrest of judgment from the sinner.
(2.) His patience is manifest, if you consider the multitudes of these provocations. Every man hath sin enough in a day to make him stand amazed at Divine patience, and to call it, as well as the apostle did, “all long-suffering” (1 Tim. 1:16). How few duties of a perfectly right stamp are performed! What unworthy considerations mix themselves, like dross, with our purest and sincerest gold! How more numerous are the respects of the worshippers of him to themselves, than unto him! How many services are paid him, not out of love to him, but because he should do us no hurt, and some service; when we do not so much design to please him, as to please ourselves by expectations of a reward from him! What master would endure a servant that endeavored to please him, only because he should not kill him! Is that former charge of God upon the old world yet out of date, “That the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of man was only evil, and that continually?” (Gen. 6:5.) Was not the new world as chargeable with it as the old? Certainly it was (Gen. 8:21); and is of as much force this very minute as it was then. How many are the sins against knowledge, as well as those of ignorance; presumptuous sins, as well as those of infirmity! How numerous those of omission and commission! It is above the reach of any man’s understanding to conceive all the blasphemies, oaths, thefts, adulteries, murders, oppressions, contempt of religion, the open idolatries of Turks and heathens, the more spiritual and refined idolatries of others. Add to those, the ingratitude of those that profess his name, their pride, earthliness, carelessness, sluggishness to Divine duties, and in every one of those a multitude of provocations; the whole man being engaged in every sin, the understanding contriving it, the will embracing it, the affections complying with it, and all the members of the body instruments in the acting the unrighteousness of it; every one of these faculties bestowed upon men by him, are armed against him in every act: and in every employment of them there is a distinct provocation, though centred in one sinful end and object. What are the offences all the men of the world receive from their fellow-creatures, to the injuries God receives from men, but as a small dust of earth to the whole mass of earth and heaven too? What multitudes of sins is one profane wretch guilty of in the space of twenty, forty, fifty years? Who can compute the vast number of his transgressions, from the first use of reason to the time of the separation of his soul from his body, from his entrance into the world to his exit? What are those, to those of a whole village of the like inhabitants? What are those, to those of a great city? Who can number up all the foul-mouthed oaths, the beastly excess, the goatish uncleanness, committed in the space of a day, year, twenty years in this city, much less in the whole nation, least of all, in the whole world? Were it no more than the common idolatry of former ages, when the whole world turned their backs upon their Creator, and passed him by to sue to a creature, a stock or stone, or a degraded spirit? How provoking would it be to a prince to see a whole city under his dominion deny him a respect, and pay it to his scullion, or the common executioner he employs! Add to this the unjust invasion of kings, the oppressions exercised upon men, all the private and public sins that have been in the world ever since it began. The Gentiles were described by the apostle (Rom. 1:29–31), in a black character, “They were haters of God;” yet how did the “riches of his patience” preserve multitudes of such disingenuous persons, and how “many millions of such haters of him” breathe every day in his air, and are maintained by his bounty, have their tables spread, and their cups filled to the brim, and that, too, in the midst of reiterated belchings of their enmity against him? All are under sufficient provocations of him to the highest indignation. The presiding angels over nations could not forbear, in love and honor to their governor, to arm themselves to the destruction of their several charges, if Divine patience did not set them a pattern, and their obedience incline them to expect his orders, before they act what their zeal would prompt them to. The devils would be glad of a commission to destroy the world, but that his patience puts a stop to their fury, as well as his own justice.
(3.) Consider the longtime of this patience. He spread out his hands “all the day” to a rebellious world (Isa. 65:2). All men’s day, all God’s day, which is a “thousand years,” he hath borne with the gross of mankind, with all the nations of the world in a long succession of ages, for five thousand years and upwards already, and will bear with them till the time comes for the world’s dissolution. He hath suffered the monstrous acts of men, and endured the contradictions of a sinful world against himself, from the first sin of Adam, to the last committed this minute. The line of his patience hath run along with the duration of the world to this day; and there is not any one of Adam’s posterity but hath been expensive to him, and partaken of the riches of it.
(4.) All these he bears when he hath a sense of them. He sees every day the roll and catalogue of sin increasing; he hath a distinct view of every one, from the sin of Adam to the last filled up in his omniscience; and yet gives no order for the arrest of the world. He knows men fitted for destruction; all the instants he exerciseth long-suffering towards them, which makes the apostle call it not simply long-suffering, without the addition of πολλῆ, “much long-suffering” (Rom. 9:23). There is not a grain in the whole mass of sin, that he hath not a distinct knowledge of, and of the quality of it. He perfectly understands the greatness of his own majesty that is vilified, and the nature of the offence that doth disparage him. He is solicited by his justice, directed by his omniscience, and armed with judgments to vindicate himself, but his arm is restrained by patience. To conclude: no indignity is hid from him, no iniquity is beloved by him; the hatred of their sinfulness is infinite, and the knowledge of the malice is exact. The subsisting of the world under such weighty provocations, so numerous, so long time, and with his full sense of every one of them, is an evidence of such a “forbearance and long-suffering,” that the addition of riches which the apostle puts to it (Rom. 2:4), labors with an insufficiency clearly to display it.
III. Why God doth exercise so much patience.
1. To show himself appeasable. God did not declare by his patience to former ages, or any age, that he was appeased with them, or that they were in his favor; but that he was appeasable, that he was not an implacable enemy, but that they might find him favorable to them, if they did seek after him. The continuance of the world by patience, and the bestowing many mercies by goodness, were not a natural revelation of the manner how he would be appeased: that was made known only by the prophets, and after the coming of Christ by the apostles; and had indeed been intelligible in some sort to the whole world, had there been a faithfulness in Adam’s posterity, to transmit the tradition of the first promise to succeeding generations. Had not the knowledge of that died by their carelessness and neglect, it had been easy to tell the reason of God’s patience to be in order to the exhibition of the “Seed of the woman to bruise the serpent’s head.” They could not but naturally know themselves sinners, and worthy of death; they might, by easy reflections upon themselves, collect that they were not in that comely and harmonious posture now, as they were when God first wrought them with his own finger, and placed them as his lieutenants in the world; they knew they did grievously offend him; this they were taught by the sprinklings of his judgments among them sometimes. And since he did not utterly root up mankind, his sparing patience was a prologue of some further favors, or pardoning grace to be displayed to the world by some methods of God yet unknown to them. Though the earth was something impaired by the curse after the fall, yet the main pillars of it stood; the state of the natural motions of the creature was not changed; the heavens remained in the same posture wherein they were created; the sun, and moon, and other heavenly bodies, continued their usefulness and refreshing influences to man.
The heavens did still “declare the glory of God, day unto day” did “utter speech; their line is gone throughout all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1–4): which declared God to be willing to do good to his creatures, and were as so many legible letters or rudiments, whereby they might read his patience, and that a further design of favor to the world lay hid in that patience. Paul applies this to the preaching of the gospel (Rom. 10:18): “Have they not heard the word of God? yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world.” Redeeming grace could not be spelled out by them in a clear notion, but yet they did declare that which is the foundation of gospel mercy. Were not God patient, there were no room for a gospel mercy, so that the heavens declare the gospel, not formally, but fundamentally, in declaring the long-suffering of God, without which no gospel had been framed, or could have been expected. They could not but read in those things favorable inclinations towards them: and though they could not be ignorant that they deserved a mark of justice, yet seeing themselves supported by God, and beholding the regular motions of the heavens from day to day, and the revolutions of the seasons of the year, the natural conclusions they might draw from thence was, that God was placable; since he behaved himself more as a tender friend, that had no mind to be at war with them, than an enraged enemy. The good things which he gave them, and the patience whereby he spared them, were no arguments of an implacable disposition; and, therefore, of a disposition willing to be appeased. This is clearly the design of the apostle’s arguing with the Lystrians, when they would have offered sacrifices to Paul (Acts 14:17). When God “suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, he did not leave himself without witness, giving rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons.” What were those witnesses of? not only of the being of a God, by their readiness to sacrifice to those that were not gods, only supposed to be so in their false imaginations; but witnesses to the tenderness of God, that he had no mind to be severe with his creatures, but would allure them by ways of goodness. Had not God’s patience tended to this end, to bring the world under another dispensation, the apostle’s arguing from it had not been suitable to his design, which seems to be a hindering the sacrifices they intended for them, and a drawing them to embrace the gospel, and therefore preparing the way to it, by speaking of the patience and goodness of God to them, as an unquestionable testimony of the reconcilableness of good to them, by some sacrifice which was represented under the common notion of sacrifices. These things were not witnesses of Christ, or syllables whereby they could spell out the redeeming person; but witnesses that God was placable in his own nature. When man abused those noble faculties God had given him, and diverted them from the use and service God intended them for, God might have stripped man of them the first time that he misemployed them; and it would have seemed most agreeable to his wisdom and justice, not to suffer himself to be abused, and the world to go contrary to its natural end. But since he did not level the world with its first nothing, but healed the world so favorably, it was evident that his patience pointed the world to a further design of mercy and goodness in him. To imagine that God had no other design in his long-suffering but that of vengeance, had been a notion unsuitable to the goodness and wisdom of God. He would never have pretended himself to be a friend, if he had harbored nothing but enmity in his heart against them. It had been far from his goodness to give them a cause to suspect such a design in him, as his patience certainly did, had he not intended it. Had he preserved men only for punishment, it is more like he would have treated men as princes do those they reserve for the axe or halter, give them only things necessary to uphold their lives till the day of execution, and not have bestowed upon them so many good things to make their lives delightful to them, nor have furnished them with so many excellent means to please their senses, and recreate their minds; it had been a mocking of them to treat them at that rate, if nothing but punishment had been intended towards them. If the end of it, to lead men to repentance, were easily intelligible by them, as the apostle intimates (Rom. 2:4) — which is to be linked with the former chapter, a discourse of the Gentiles: “Not knowing,” saith he, “that the riches of his forbearance and goodness leads thee to repentance”—it also gives them some ground to hope for pardon. For what other argument can more induce to repentance than an expectation of mercy upon a relenting, and acknowledging the crime? Without a design of pardoning grace, his patience would have been in a great measure exercised in vain: for by mere patience God is not reconciled to a sinner, no more than a prince to a rebel, by bearing with him. Nor can a sinner conclude himself in the favor of God, no more than a rebel can conclude himself in the favor of his prince; only, this he may conclude, that there is some hopes he may have the grant of a pardon, since he hath time to sue it out. And so much did the patience of God naturally signify that he was of a reconcilable temper, and was willing men should sue out their pardon upon repentance; otherwise, he might have magnified his justice, and condemned men by the law of works.
(2.) He therefore exercised so much patience to wait for men’s repentance. All the notices and warnings that God gives men, of either public or personal calamities, is a continual invitation to repentance. This was the common interpretation the heathens made of extraordinary presages and prodigies, which showed as well the delays as the approaches of judgments. What other notion but this, that those warnings of judgments witness a slowness to anger, and a willingness to turn his arrows another way, should move them to multiply sacrifices, go weeping to their temples, sound out prayers to their gods, and show all those other testimonies of a repentance which their blind understandings hit upon? If a prince should sometimes in a light and gentle manner punish a criminal, and then relax it, and show him much kindness, and afterwards inflict upon him another kind of punishment as light as the former, and less than was due to his crime, what could the malefactor suspect by such a way of proceeding, but that the prince, by those gently-repeated chastisements, had a mind to move him to a regret for his crime? And what other thoughts could men naturally have of God’s conduct, that he should warn them of great judgments, send light afflictions, which are testimonies rather of a patience than of a severe wrath, but that it was intended to move them to a relenting, and a breaking off their sins by working righteousness? Though Divine patience does not, in the event, induce men to repentance, yet the natural tendency of such a treatment is to mollify men’s hearts, to overcome their obstinacy; and no man hath any reason to judge otherwise of such a proceeding. The “long-suffering of God is salvation,” saith Peter (2 Pet. 3:16), i. e. hath a tendency to salvation, in its being a solicitation of men to the means of it; for the apostle cites Paul for the confirmation of it,—“Even as our beloved brother, Paul, hath written unto you,” which must refer to Rom. 2:4: “it leads to repentance,”, it conducts, which is more than barely to invite; it doth, as it were, take us by the hand, and point us to the way wherein we should go; and for this end it was exercised, not only towards the Jews, but towards the Gentiles, not only towards those that are within the pale of the church, and under the dews of the gospel, but to those that are in darkness, and in the shadow of death; for this discourse of the apostle was but an inference from what he had treated of in the first chapter concerning the idolatry and ingratitude of the Gentiles; since the Gentiles were to be punished for the abuse of it as well as the Jews, as he intimates, ver. 9. It is plain that his patience, which is exercised towards the idolatrous Gentiles, was to allure them to repentance as well as others; and it was a sufficient motive in itself to persuade them to a change of their vile and gross acts, to such as were morally good: and there was enough in God’s dealing with them, and in that light they had to engage them to a better course than what they usually walked in; and though men do abuse God’s long-suffering, to encourage their impenitence, and persisting in their crimes, yet that they cannot reasonably imagine that to be the end of God is evident; their own gripes of conscience would acquaint them that it is otherwise. They know that conscience is a principle that God hath given them, as well as understanding, and will, and other faculties; that God doth not approve of that which the voice of their own consciences, and of the consciences of all men under natural light, are utterly against: and if there were really, in this forbearance of God, an approbation of men’s crimes, conscience could not, frequently and universally in all men, check them for them. What authority could conscience have to do it? But this it doth in all men: as the apostle (Rom. 1:22), “They know the judgment of God, that those that do such things,” which he had mentioned before, “are worthy of death.” In this thing the consciences of all men cannot err: they could not, therefore, conclude from hence God’s approbation of their iniquities, but his desire that their hearts should be touched with a repentance for them. The “sin of Ephraim is hid” (Hos. 13:12, 13); i. e. God doth not presently take notice of it, to order punishment; he lays it in a secret place from the eye of his justice, that Ephraim might not be his unwise son, and “stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children;” i.e. that he should speedily reclaim himself, and not continue in the way of destruction. God hath no need to abuse any; he doth not lie to the sons of men; if he would have men perish, he could easily destroy them, and have done it long ago: he did not leave the woman Jezebel in being, nor lengthened out her time, but as a space to repent (Rev. 2:21), that she might reflect upon her ways, and devote herself seriously to his service, and her own happiness. His patience stands between the offending creature and eternal misery a long time, that men might not foolishly throw away their souls, and be damned for their impenitency; by this he shows himself ready to receive men to mercy upon their return. To what purpose doth he invite men to repentance, if he intended to deceive them, and damn them after they repent?
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