Daniel’s Terrifying Vision of a ManDaniel 10:1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.
2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. 3 I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) 5 I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. 7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. 8 So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. 9 Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.
10 And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”
15 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. 16 And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. 17 How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”
18 Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. 19 And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.
The Kings of the South and the NorthDaniel 11:1 “And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.
2 “And now I will show you the truth. Behold, three more kings shall arise in Persia, and a fourth shall be far richer than all of them. And when he has become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece. 3 Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and do as he wills. 4 And as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the authority with which he ruled, for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these.
5 “Then the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes shall be stronger than he and shall rule, and his authority shall be a great authority. 6 After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement. But she shall not retain the strength of her arm, and he and his arm shall not endure, but she shall be given up, and her attendants, he who fathered her, and he who supported her in those times. 7 “And from a branch from her roots one shall arise in his place. He shall come against the army and enter the fortress of the king of the north, and he shall deal with them and shall prevail. 8 He shall also carry off to Egypt their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold, and for some years he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north. 9 Then the latter shall come into the realm of the king of the south but shall return to his own land.
10 “His sons shall wage war and assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall keep coming and overflow and pass through, and again shall carry the war as far as his fortress. 11 Then the king of the south, moved with rage, shall come out and fight against the king of the north. And he shall raise a great multitude, but it shall be given into his hand. 12 And when the multitude is taken away, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail. 13 For the king of the north shall again raise a multitude, greater than the first. And after some years he shall come on with a great army and abundant supplies.
14 “In those times many shall rise against the king of the south, and the violent among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they shall fail. 15 Then the king of the north shall come and throw up siegeworks and take a well-fortified city. And the forces of the south shall not stand, or even his best troops, for there shall be no strength to stand. 16 But he who comes against him shall do as he wills, and none shall stand before him. And he shall stand in the glorious land, with destruction in his hand. 17 He shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and he shall bring terms of an agreement and perform them. He shall give him the daughter of women to destroy the kingdom, but it shall not stand or be to his advantage. 18 Afterward he shall turn his face to the coastlands and shall capture many of them, but a commander shall put an end to his insolence. Indeed, he shall turn his insolence back upon him. 19 Then he shall turn his face back toward the fortresses of his own land, but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found.
20 “Then shall arise in his place one who shall send an exactor of tribute for the glory of the kingdom. But within a few days he shall be broken, neither in anger nor in battle. 21 In his place shall arise a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given. He shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. 22 Armies shall be utterly swept away before him and broken, even the prince of the covenant. 23 And from the time that an alliance is made with him he shall act deceitfully, and he shall become strong with a small people. 24 Without warning he shall come into the richest parts of the province, and he shall do what neither his fathers nor his fathers’ fathers have done, scattering among them plunder, spoil, and goods. He shall devise plans against strongholds, but only for a time. 25 And he shall stir up his power and his heart against the king of the south with a great army. And the king of the south shall wage war with an exceedingly great and mighty army, but he shall not stand, for plots shall be devised against him. 26 Even those who eat his food shall break him. His army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain. 27 And as for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail, for the end is yet to be at the time appointed. 28 And he shall return to his land with great wealth, but his heart shall be set against the holy covenant. And he shall work his will and return to his own land.
29 “At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south, but it shall not be this time as it was before. 30 For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and shall turn back and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and pay attention to those who forsake the holy covenant. 31 Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. 32 He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. 33 And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. 34 When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, 35 and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.
36 “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. 37 He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. 38 He shall honor the god of fortresses instead of these. A god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price.
40 “At the time of the end, the king of the south shall attack him, but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. And he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through. 41 He shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites. 42 He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the precious things of Egypt, and the Libyans and the Cushites shall follow in his train. 44 But news from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to destroy and devote many to destruction. 45 And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him.
The Time of the EndDaniel 12:1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and behold, two others stood, one on this bank of the stream and one on that bank of the stream. 6 And someone said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” 7 And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished. 8 I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” 9 He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. 11 And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days. 13 But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”
What I'm Reading
Commentaries as a Ministry
By Douglas Moo 6/01/2013
I love writing commentaries. I feel as if it is what God made me to do. I have written around twelve of them, ranging from thirty-page overviews to one-thousand-page detailed expositions. I just finished one and will start another in a year or so. I am incredibly thankful that I can spend so much of my time doing what I love.
As much as I like writing commentaries, however, I could hardly justify the work I put into them on that basis alone. I write them because I am convinced that, as flawed as they are, they help God’s people understand God’s Word and teach and preach it faithfully. The Christian faith, while centered on the Living Word, Jesus Christ, is defined by the written Word, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. God addresses His people through these writings. When we read or hear Scripture, we read or hear God speaking to us. His words, however, come to us in the form of human words. Scripture is the product of what theologians call “concurrence”: God and human beings together producing the words of life. Good commentaries help people grapple with God’s Word as this fully divine yet fully human product.
On the one hand, therefore, commentaries illuminate the human element of Scripture. The authors of our biblical books wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. We are very blessed to live in an age, and to speak a language that has many good and varied translations. But no translation is able to communicate the full meaning of the original. Translators have a limited number of words that they can use to bring over into English the meaning of the original text. But where translators have to choose a single word or phrase to convey a particular word, a commentator can spend a paragraph or even more explaining the word.
Scripture was also written by people immersed in their own cultures — whether the second-millennium BC ancient Near East of Moses or the first-century Greco-Roman world of the Apostle Paul. Good commentators are familiar with those cultures and can illuminate for readers how the words of Scripture might have been “heard” in those contexts. For instance, commentators might explain that terms such as “good news” and “Savior” were used in Paul’s day by Roman emperors, who claimed their policies were “good news” because they brought peace and security, “saving” people from the depredations of bandits and the aggression of other nations. First-century Christians would have “heard” Paul’s claim that Jesus alone brings true “good news” and is the “Savior” of the world as a challenge to the emperors’ claims.
Good commentaries, however, are not satisfied with explanations of the human dimension of Scripture. To be sure, many scholarly commentaries, some of them written by people who do fully appreciate the divine element of Scripture, can be gold mines of useful information. Ultimately, however, a commentary that fails fully to engage both the divine and the human side of Scripture cannot do justice to Scripture—simply because it is, indeed, a divine-human product. The best commentaries, therefore, move from explanation of the linguistic and historical dimensions of the text to engagement with its theological message. We must understand the ancient context in which the Bible was written to appreciate fully its meaning. But we also have to hear the Bible as a Word from God addressed to His people today. Good commentators, therefore, not only explain the ancient situation of the text but the meaning of the text today. To do this well, the commentator must especially be keen to set any particular text in the context of all of Scripture. We call the Scriptures “the Bible” (singular) because the church sees these sixty-six books as ultimately a single book with God as its author. Commentaries usually explain how a particular verse or paragraph fits within the message of the Bible as a whole.
If the ministry of commentaries is important for the church, how can we best utilize this resource? A quick Google search on “commentaries on John” turns up a bewilderingly long list. Which commentaries should we use? First, use more than one. The very best commentator who has ever written made all kinds of mistakes. Comparing commentaries reveals these errors. Second, use commentaries from different times and cultures. John Chrysostom in the ancient church and John Calvin at the time of the Reformation still have a lot to teach us. And we are blessed to live in a time when more and more commentaries are being written by scholars from different parts of the world. Reading commentaries distant from us in time or culture can help reveal our own biases. Third, read commentaries from different theological traditions. We may not agree with everything such commentators say, but they help us think better about the text and why we believe what we do about it. Finally, use different levels of commentaries. Commentaries vary from massive scholarly tomes that require a lot of dedication to plow through to brief, often superficial reflections on the text. Our tendency is to be content to read the easy ones. But it is good to challenge ourselves sometimes with more detailed commentaries. It pays rich dividends in getting us to think more deeply about Scripture.
The Basis of a Christian Marriage
By R.C. Sproul 6/01/2013
Some years ago, I attended an interesting wedding. I was especially struck by the creativity of the ceremony. The bride and the groom had brainstormed with the pastor in order to insert new and exciting elements into the service, and I enjoyed those elements. However, in the middle of the ceremony, they included portions of the traditional, classic wedding ceremony. When I began to hear the words from the traditional ceremony, my attention perked up and I was moved. I remember thinking, “There is no way to improve on this because the words are so beautiful and meaningful.” A great deal of thought and care had been put into those old, familiar words.
Today, of course, many young people not only are saying no to the traditional wedding ceremony, they are rejecting the concept of marriage itself. More and more young people are coming from broken homes, and as a result, they have a fear and suspicion about the value of marriage. So we see couples living together rather than marrying for fear that the cost of that commitment may be too much. They fear it may make them too vulnerable. This means that one of the most stable and, as we once thought, permanent traditions of our culture is being challenged.
One of the things I like most about the traditional wedding ceremony is that it includes an explanation as to why there is such a thing as marriage. We are told in that ceremony that marriage is ordained and instituted by God — that is to say, marriage did not just spring up arbitrarily out of social conventions or human taboos. Marriage was not invented by men but by God.
We see this in the earliest chapters of the Old Testament, where we find the creation account. We find that God creates in stages, beginning with the light (Gen. 1:3) and capping the process with the creation of man (v. 27). At every stage, He utters a benediction, a “good word.” God repeatedly looks at what He has made and says, “That’s good” (vv. 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).
But then God notices something that provokes not a benediction but what we call a malediction, that is, a “bad word.” What was this thing that God saw in His creation that He judged to be “not good”? We find it in Genesis 2:18, where God declares, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” That prompts Him to create Eve and bring her to Adam. God instituted marriage, and He did it, in the first instance, as an answer to human loneliness. For this reason, God inspired Moses to write, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24).
But while I like and appreciate the words of the traditional wedding ceremony, I believe the form of the ceremony is even more important. This is because the traditional ceremony involves the making of a covenant. The whole idea of covenant is deeply rooted in biblical Christianity. The Bible teaches that our very redemption is based on a covenant. Much could be said here about the character of the biblical covenants, but one vital facet is that none of them is a private matter. Every covenant is undertaken in the presence of witnesses. This is why we invite guests to our weddings. It is so they will witness our vows — and hold us accountable to keep them. It is one thing for a man to whisper expressions of love to a woman when no one will hear, but it is quite another thing for him to stand up in a church, in front of parents, friends, ecclesiastical or civil authorities, and God Himself, and there make promises to love and cherish her. Wedding vows are sacred promises made in the presence of witnesses who will remember them.
I believe marriage is the most precious of all human institutions. It’s also the most dangerous. Into our marriages we pour our greatest and deepest expectations. We put our emotions on the line. There we can achieve the greatest happiness, but we also can experience the greatest disappointment, the most frustration, and the most pain. With that much at stake, we need something more solemn than a casual promise.
Even with formal wedding ceremonies, even with the involvement of authority structures, roughly fifty percent of marriages fail. Sadly, among the men and women who stay together as husband and wife, many would not marry the same spouse again, but they stay together for various reasons. Something has been lost regarding the sacred and holy character of the marriage covenant. In order to strengthen the institution of marriage, we might want to consider strengthening the wedding ceremony, with a clear, biblical reminder that marriage is instituted by God and forged in His sight.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Good Life
By Trip Lee 6/01/2013
I am a lover of hip hop. I fell in love with the music form when I was 10, and I’ve never been the same since. As a child and a teenager, when I wasn’t in class or asleep, I was listening to my favorite rappers. I hung on their every word, and they had a lot to say. Most rappers don’t intend to be teachers, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t learning. I listened closely to their ideas about the good life — and I liked what I heard.
With albums in my CD player such as Get Rich or Die Trying, are you surprised my idea of the good life was having a wallet so stuffed it wouldn’t even close? It wasn’t all about money, though. I can’t forget the lessons I learned about status (chase it), women (chase them), and happiness (chase it by chasing the first two).
Don’t get me wrong, though. Hip hop music was not the problem; sinful lies were. The rest of the culture told me those exact same lies in a more subtle fashion. And my self-centered, glory-hungry heart ate them up. All of us live by faith, and sadly, I believed the lies of the enemy over the truth of God. But when I was still a teenager I met Jesus, and what I heard from Him challenged every idea I had about the good life.
I remember being puzzled by something I read in Philippians for the first time. Paul spoke about death in a peculiar way. At the time, I’d heard many quotes about death. I’d heard it said that death is certain, and even that death should be accepted, but the Apostle Paul took it a step further. He said, “to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
Death is when your brain, your heart, and your lungs stop doing their job. Death means you’re separated from family and that your life work is over. Unlike our other trials, death is, for the deceased, literally “the end of the world” — the end of this one anyway. So how could death possibly be gain? It just didn’t fit with my old views of the good life.
In order for us to understand what Paul meant by these four words, to die is gain, we have to understand the four that came right before them. In Philippians 1, Paul explains why he seems to be okay with either staying alive or dying at the hands of his persecutors. He writes in verse 21, “to live is Christ”. With those words, the apostle told me what life is really all about — Jesus. How could my self-centered, status-obsessed world view survive next to that truth?
To live is not wealth. To live is not worldly success. To live is not sex. To live is not family. To live is Christ. We were created by Jesus and for Jesus, the merciful Savior who stood in our place and offers us new life. Jesus is our mediator before the Father, the motivation for all our decisions, and the driving force behind our every move. It’s all about Jesus. There is no good life apart from Jesus, because without Jesus life has no meaning.
This is why Paul could say, “to die is gain.” Whether he died or lived, Jesus would be honored. Life meant he got to serve Jesus and death meant he would get to be with Jesus — and there’s nowhere he would have rather been (v. 23). We can learn from Paul here. The truth is, it’s better to be dirt poor in the presence of Jesus than to be filthy rich in the presence of men.
Even though Paul was imprisoned and suffering when he wrote this, he was living an abundant life. He was living a satisfying life. He was living the good life. After reading those words as a teenager, I could no longer see the good life as just living it up. I began to see the good life as a life renewed by Jesus, driven by Jesus, and lived to the glory of Jesus.
There are many differences between the picture of the good life I learned from Paul and the picture I learned from the culture. But one of the biggest differences is how we get there. The world sells us a “good life” we have to earn. Yet this life remains out of reach even for some of those who work the hardest to achieve it. The biblical picture of “the good life” is different. It’s a free gift that’s available to all who believe. In John 11:25, Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” That is good news.
As long as I believed the lies the culture told me, I wasn’t living the good life. But when I began to live by faith in the good God, my good life began. The man who lives for himself gains nothing lasting in this life, and he will only experience devastating loss in the next. But the man who lives for Christ gets a taste of the good life now, and his death only brings him what he desires most.
The Gospel in a Hostile Culture
By Dave Furman 7/01/2013
“I intentionally don’t preach difficult truths or repeat the hard things Jesus said.” This is a despondent and prevalent attitude among preachers who minister to cultures that are openly hostile to the gospel. Such preaching is less than faithful to God’s Word, corresponding in ministry results that tend to be indiscernibly Christian. The desire to not offend hearers in a hostile culture is misdirected toward God’s inspired word and His glorious gospel.
As a pastor who ministers in a hostile culture, I am convinced that preaching must boldly proclaim the one-and-only gospel and theologically rich doctrine.
PREACH THE ONE-AND-ONLY GOSPEL
As His ambassadors, God forbid that we would presume authority to change His message. Ambassadors of Christ share the unadulterated gospel and take pains to accurately communicate the good news. We confidently preach “the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:2-4).
When ministering in a hostile context, it is tempting to hold back parts of God’s gospel that we feel are difficult for people to believe. Perhaps in attempts to be sensitive to our hearers and their culture, we may distort or adjust the gospel and unwittingly deceive people. However, holding back truth or being vague regarding what God has made clear is not being sensitive — it is arrogant and unloving. Even under threat of suffering and death, we preach Christ crucified, for the Lamb of God is worthy to receive the reward of His suffering (Rev. 5:12). God has ordained the message that lost people need to hear, and people in a culture that is hostile to the gospel are no exception. The gospel is God’s power for salvation (Rom. 1:16); we must preach this gospel in its entirety and with skillful clarity. Our confidence in preaching the gospel of God is God Himself.
We want people to hear the one-and- only gospel of God concerning His Son, resulting in repentance and faith. There is not a better gospel that we can preach. In a culture that is hostile to the gospel, why would we want to proclaim news that has no power unto salvation?
PREACH THEOLOGICALLY RICH DOCTRINE
There is a growing trend in world missions that says church planters must restrict their preaching to the “lowest common denominator” in theology. This idea stems from a desire to minimize division among the body of Christ, and to reduce the likelihood of preaching controversial doctrine. Such preachers and church planters avoid expositing passages that teach joy satisfying, worship-fueling truths like election, total depravity, substitutionary atonement, the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, and the confidence we have in Christ’s bodily return to judge the living and the dead. In so doing, as a pastor resists feeding his flock with this rich doctrine, the gospel is assumed and ultimately lost.
We must preach theologically rich doctrine, allowing the meaning of the text to be the meaning of our sermons. The cultural context we minister in must not shape the doctrine we preach; rather, our doctrine must inform and shape the culture. Expositional preaching that makes the point of the passage the point of the sermon serves the church best. It lets the Bible, not the preacher, drive the agenda for the church. Even in the most hostile cultures, we want to be sure to preach through the different genres of Scripture, demonstrating that God’s authority over their lives comes from God’s Word, and not the teacher of God’s Word. Expositional preaching allows people to hear the whole counsel of God, and it is an avenue for teaching them to study the Bible for themselves.
The morning I introduced a new sermon series on 1 Peter, I was approached by a group of newcomers who were ecstatic over the truths in 1 Peter 1:1–2. They told me, “We were jumping up and down in our seats, Pastor. That God would elect undeserving sinners for salvation in His Son — this is very good news!” These people experienced firsthand how theologically rich doctrine is food for their souls and fuel for worship.
Shaving off the edges of the brilliant diamonds of God’s truths regarding Himself, His Son, and His plan to save hopelessly lost sinners does not make a more brilliant and beautiful jewel. The glorious summits of God’s holiness are flattened into a wide plain of nebulous spiritual notions that are no longer recognizable as distinctly Christian truths, and they lack the power to rescue souls from hell. When we preach theologically rich doctrine in the power of the Holy Spirit, we guard the gospel and God receives all the glory for saving sinners.
Preachers who minister in a culture that is hostile to the gospel must take pains to proclaim the gospel of God concerning His Son as we teach the whole counsel of Scripture. We do so with boldness, clarity, and joy, for there is no other message that contains God’s power unto salvation.
Rest and the Gospel
By Chan Kilgore 7/01/2013
John Calvin is often quoted as saying, “From birth, our hearts are idol factories.” We hit this planet in pursuit of the created, searching for what can be found only in the Creator. When I ask people how they are doing, they often reply, “busy.” We define ourselves by what we do rather than by what Christ has done. The result is that we are weary and restless. We need more than just a day off. I find myself coming back from a week’s vacation needing a vacation from my vacation. A day (or week) off is not enough to give my soul the deep rest it longs for. Jesus gives us this invitation in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I find within my soul that I am weary and heavy laden by the endless pursuit of idols. Every idol promises you life — to its fullest — but in the end causes you to sacrifice everything in pursuit of it. The cost is often seen in everyday weariness. What we really need to do is rest in the Savior who has sacrificed everything for us up front and can give us life and life to its fullest every day, as well as for eternity.
The gospel gives us that rest. The pursuit of idols is a relentless and endless pursuit of acceptance whereas the gospel gives us a position of acceptance in Christ Jesus. We already have in Christ Jesus all the acceptance, security, and hope that every idol promises, but can never deliver. The gospel frees us to work from a position of acceptance versus in pursuit of acceptance. The first leads to rest, the latter to restlessness.
We can live our lives in one of three ways:
1. REACTIONARY—passively dominated by urgencies and pushy people. Your life is dominated by the tyranny of the urgent. This results in a life that is a frazzled mess: disorganized, without a sense of priorities, full of half-finished tasks, tardiness, and a frantic lifestyle. This is a life in which our compulsions cause us to exceed our calling.
2. CONFORMITY—succumbing to the fear of man and just being and doing what everyone else wants, which is not necessarily following God’s will for you and your family. This results in a boring life where everyone but God is pleased, and the person who is easily pushed around keeps busy and seemingly productive, but not passionate or free.
3. GOSPEL IDENTITY—when we live our lives from the position of acceptance instead of the pursuit of acceptance, we allow the King of the universe to be Lord of our calendars. We live in response to who Christ is and what He accomplished for us on the cross. We allow the Lord of the Sabbath to set our schedules, not the tyranny of the urgent. This gospel truth empowers us to say no to our compulsions and say yes to Christ. This gospel truth frees us to love people more deeply because we don’t need them for our own acceptance. It frees us to love people when they are least capable of loving us and when they need our love the most. The gospel frees us to live our lives out in a radically different way.
One of the great myths we all fight is that if we take frequent time off, we will be less productive. The opposite could not be more true. We all have limited physical, emotional and spiritual capacities. On a scale of one to ten, we are most productive when we are operating from the overflow of our emotional barrel rather than from the bottom of the barrel. We are most productive between a seven and ten, and least productive between one and five. Typically, we let ourselves drain out to a two or three (or worse) and then take a day off or a vacation. The problem is that typically a day or even a week off can renew you only about two or three points. So, if you wait to rest at a one or two, a day off gets you up to only a three or four. You are still operating at your lowest productivity and creativity levels. The key is to rest at a five so that you can recover and operate at a seven, eight, or higher. Resting in your gospel identity will empower you to establish Sabbath rhythms in your life that prevent you from draining out below a five. The result is that you will operate most often at your highest levels of productivity and have the ability to love others out of the abundance of the heart.
The best way to gauge whether you are working from a position of rest is to ask, “What is my relational capacity?” Am I often frustrated, impatient, anxious or angry? If so, you are operating below a five. When I am working from a position of rest, I find myself filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When I am working in pursuit of acceptance, I find just the opposite takes place in my soul. The gospel reminds us that Jesus is enough, more than enough, so rest.
Sticks and Stones
By Scott Sauls 7/01/2013
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Really? Let’s not kid ourselves. Words are potent. Words start with God, who spoke galaxies into being. “God said … and there was” (Gen. 1:3). God’s words have impact (Isa. 55:11); are living, active, and sharp (Heb. 4:12); illuminate dark places (Ps. 119:105); nourish souls (Matt. 4:4); and defeat death (Luke 11:43). The words of the gospel are “the power of God.”
To a lesser but significant degree, our words have power also. Our words transfer ideas. They can heal. And they can “hurt me.” I will never forget Mariah Carey saying in an interview that for her, one criticism will instantly overrule a thousand praises. There is something to this.
Words can wound and steal life. Gossip and slander bring a cheap thrill to some, while exploiting and objectifying others (the similarities to pornography are striking). False testimony uses words to misrepresent, caricature, or malign the reputation of fellow humans, usually for selfish gain. Words of condemnation, accusation, and cutting sarcasm create pain as they shame, belittle, and discourage. Coarse joking uses humor to draw attention to oneself, while sending rotten fruit into the atmosphere.
There are also “healing words” (Prov 12:18). Words of praise have healing power. Communities and families thrive when members notice the best in each other and verbalize it. Mutual celebration is a hallmark of life together as Spirit-filled daughters and sons. Words of encouragement will “put courage into” those who are weak, afraid, and torn down. A timely rebuke protects a friend from self-destructive patterns. A gentle word turns away wrath (Prov. 15:1) and halts the cycle of evil. Grace-filled words engage skeptical minds and doubting hearts (1 Peter 3:15–16).
The question remains, how are toxic words transformed into healing words? Scripture tells us how. It begins by identifying the source of our words: “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Our words are healed as we replace what fills our hearts.
Why do we gossip, slander, condemn, accuse, slash with sarcasm, joke crudely, boast, and lie? Every toxic word traces to some sort of pseudo-savior—something that the heart is clinging to more tightly than Jesus. The comedian Tom Arnold once admitted that he uses humor so people will like him. “It’s the reason behind almost everything I do,” he said. For some, human approval is the preferred narcotic. For others like Rachel, it was having children: “Give me children or I’ll die” (Gen 30:1). For the Pharisee, it was the feeling of superiority: “Thank you, my God, that I’m not like other men” (Luke 18:9–14). The options are endless. Our words echo the beat of our hearts.
Words are transformed through what Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” For our words to become life-giving, and for toxic words to fade from our vocabularies, this new affection must be Jesus. Hearts taken by the beauty of Jesus will yield beautiful words.
What makes Jesus beautiful? He only spoke beautiful words — never careless, unkind, hateful, or untruthful words. Even His sharp, strong words were beautiful, always perfectly suited for the occasion. But there’s more. Jesus also is the Beautiful Word Incarnate, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-14). His perfect words flowed naturally from His perfect life, which secured the benediction or “good word” of His Father: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” This same benediction has since been transferred to and secured for us who believe. At our best and at our worst, by grace and through faith, we are clothed, with Jesus’ righteousness, credited with His beauty and goodness.
Since our daughters’ births, at bedtime I have regularly pronounced a benediction over them: “God made you beautiful and special, and he loves you so much. So does your Daddy. Don’t ever forget that.” My hope is that these last words of today will register as the first words of tomorrow. They crave a paternal blessing that overrules the negative verdicts that the outside world, as well as their own hearts, so easily pronounce against them. Words of life welcome them back to their true identity as daughters, precious and beloved—an identity that’s fixed when they’re at their best and when they’re at their worst.
The Father’s benediction is ours. Through Christ and because of Christ, we are pronounced as His beloved. We can enjoy deep rest because the last word of Jesus’ life — “It is finished” — is the first word for ours. With us He is well pleased. Nothing can change this.
There’s one more thing. For us to gain the Father’s benediction, Jesus had to lose it. At His baptism, Jesus received the “good word” from on high. On the cross, He heard no word from the Father. Just shaming, condemning, deafening silence. The silence did not break Jesus’ bones like sticks and stones, but it broke every other part of Him. This was for our healing. Heaven’s cold silence toward Jesus secured the Father’s “good word” toward us, once and for all. If that doesn’t melt our hearts and transform our words, what will?
The Preacher’s Character
By Rick Gamble 7/01/2013
The Apostle Paul demonstrated how we can love God and others in our speech. He used words that could sting and rebuke as well as heal and comfort. His ministry was one of words—speaking God’s very own Word. His companion Luke painted a moving portrait that connected the importance of a minister’s words with his ministry and gives great insight on the preacher’s character.
Paul had ministered the word successfully in Ephesus and called for the finest fruit of that work, the elder preachers, to come and hear his final advice (Acts 20:17–38). Paul gave an account of his work in Ephesus from the first day of his significant three year ministry there. From Paul’s standpoint, his ministry was dangerous (with plots), intense (with tears), and exhausting (night and day). His manner of conduct was to serve with all humility (v. 19); he coveted no one’s silver or gold (v. 33); and he worked hard to provide for himself (v. 34).
This text was not autobiography but was written about Paul from Luke’s perspective and guided by the Holy Spirit. Thus, we have one great minster’s commentary on another. Luke’s message was that Paul’s manner of life was important to the overall context of his ministry.
In Acts 20:20–25, Paul’s preaching included five parts: four regarding content and one regarding application. First, he preached that which was profitable; second, repentance toward God combined with faith in Christ; third, God’s grace; fourth was the “kingdom”; and, finally he admonished with tears (vv. 20–21, 24–25, 31), all of which was summarized in Paul’s powerful statement (v. 27): “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole counsel of God.”
Luke employed the phrase “whole counsel” to denote the divine decree concerning redemption, (see Luke 7:30). In Acts 2:23, he connected the word to Jesus, who was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” Acts 4:28 tells us that Jesus was attacked to fulfill “whatever your hand and your purpose determined before to be done.”
There was continuity between Luke’s understanding of the whole counsel of God and Paul’s teaching. Ephesians 1:9–11 is a good synopsis of Paul’s thoughts on the content of the whole counsel, one that is particularly helpful for our purposes because he was addressing the Ephesian church in his letter.
God made known the mystery of His will, which was set forth in Christ. It was a plan to unite all things in Christ. The counsel of God’s will speaks of redemption in Christ and the unity that the church shares in Christ. It presents the eschatological accomplishment, in the fullness of time, in Christ. These are theologically comprehensive terms that describe the whole work of Christ, our redemption as both accomplished in Him and applied by His Spirit.
At Ephesians 1:11, Paul presents the eschatological (final or ultimate) direction of God’s plan. The list of benefits, including redemption, are part of the new economy that is being realized in Christ. When combined with what Paul said in Acts, the meaning concerns the preaching of God’s comprehensive eschatological fulfillment of all of His saving promises, focused in Christ. Stated more strongly, the “whole counsel of God” is the proclamation of the kingdom of God with the covenant as the kingdom’s administrative structure. The whole counsel of God consists in Christ as the fulfillment of the kingdom through God’s covenants.
Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians and Luke’s presentation of Paul’s words to the elders included a call to faith that is incomprehensible if torn from the context of the risen Christ’s mediatorial kingship—His lordship over the whole of life.
Now we can connect the content of Paul’s presentation with the lifestyle or context that went with it. Paul’s life was consumed with teaching, testifying, preaching, and shepherding—all wrapped up in tears—both his own and of those who loved him so much. The true context or lifestyle of the well trained preacher is well summarized in Acts 20:19 as “serving the Lord with all humility, with tears and with trials.”
This text admonishes preachers and theologians to deep personal piety. There is an undoubted connection between the person (in this case Paul) who has a message, and the message itself (the whole counsel of God). To paraphrase Paul’s teaching, the whole counsel of God must be proclaimed by men who are clothed in humility, bathed in tears, and who have endured through difficult trials. Paul did not separate the wonderful content of the gospel from the context of presentation. Theology and preaching are done in humility, which Paul defines in Colossians 3:12: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” Paul admonishes humility in Ephesians 4:2: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” In Philippians 2:3, he commands, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” He turns us to Christ, who: “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v. 8).
Paul was a living memorial of the truth that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart. This is the model to which all preachers must aspire.
The Judgment of Charity
By R.C. Sproul 7/01/2013
Every time I read the Gospels, I am struck by how Jesus seems to have found Himself in the middle of controversy wherever He went. I am also struck by how Jesus handled each controversy differently. He did not follow the example of Leo “The Lip” DeRosier, the former manager of the New York Giants and treat every person He encountered in the same manner. Although He expected everyone to play by the same rules, He shepherded people according to their specific needs.
The Old Testament depicts the Good Shepherd as One who carries both a staff and a rod, for His responsibility is both to guide His sheep and to protect them from ravenous wolves (Ps. 23:4). In the Gospels, we see Jesus exercise His protective rod most often against the scribes and Pharisees. When Jesus dealt with these men, He asked no quarter and gave none. When He pronounced the judgment of God on them publicly, He used the oracle of woe that was used by the Old Testament prophets: “Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte [convert], and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matt. 23:15).
Jesus dealt with many of the religious leaders of His day so forcefully because of their hard-hearted hypocrisy. Other people who were cognizant of their sin and ashamed of it — these He addressed with love and encouragement. Consider the woman at the well (John 4). Jesus sat and talked with a Samaritan woman, which was unheard of for a Jewish rabbi in those days because of common biases against women and Samaritans. He patiently drew a confession of sin out of her and revealed His Messianic office to her. Jesus treated her as a bruised reed and smoldering wick, tenderly confronting but not crushing her (Matt. 12:15–21).
Among many other things, I think Christ’s example teaches us how we are to deal with those with whom we disagree. Sometimes we must be forceful and sometimes we must be gentle—forceful with the wolves and gentle with Jesus’ lambs.
There are disagreements we have with our brothers, but also disagreements we have with those who claim to be our brothers but who may, in fact, be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Such wolves always represent a clear danger to the safety, health, and well-being of Christ’s sheep. No quarter can be given to wolves, but we are called to exercise gentleness toward those whose disagreements with us do not touch the heart of Christian orthodoxy.
To know the difference between when to be gentle and when to be forceful is one of the most difficult matters for mature Christians to discern. I don’t have a formula that is easily applied, but I do know that we are always called to deal with the disputes and disagreements we have on the basis of charity, that is, love.
ISBN-13: 978-1470086350 by Jonathan Edwards is the deepest exposition of 1 Corinthians 13 that I know of. I’ve read it at least half-a-dozen times, probably more. In this work, Edwards writes:
A truly humble man, is inflexible in nothing but in the cause of his Lord and master, which is the cause of truth and virtue. In this he is inflexible because God and conscience require it; but in things of lesser moment, and which do not involve his principles as a follower of Christ, and in things that only concern his own private interests, he is apt to yield to others.
The humility of which Edwards is speaking here is a humility that must be brought to every disagreement that erupts among believers. It is a humility that brings to the fore what in church history many have called the judgment of charity. The judgment of charity works something like this: When we disagree with one another, I believe that we are called as Christians to assume the motives of the person with whom we disagree are pure motives. This is the approach we are to have with those with whom we have an honest difference in biblical interpretation but who love the Bible and aren’t trying to change what it teaches. Such people are unwilling to compromise the essential truths of the Christian faith.
Now, the judgment of charity assumes in a Christian dispute that the brother or sister with whom we are disagreeing is disagreeing honestly and with personal integrity. Here I think of my friend John MacArthur. If I disagree about something with John—I don’t care what it is—and we go to the mat and talk about it, John will change his position—no matter the cost— if I can persuade him that the Bible teaches my view and not his. That’s because what he wants more than anything else is to be faithful to the Word of God.
That’s what I mean by the judgment of charity. We don’t impugn people’s motives and don’t assume the worst of them when we disagree with them. We make a distinction between best-case and worst-case analysis. The problem we all have as sinners on this side of glory is that we tend to reserve best-case analysis to our own motives and give worst-case analysis to our brother’s and sister’s motives. That’s just the opposite of the spirit we’re called to have in terms of biblical humility.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 104O LORD My God, You Are Very Great
10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills;
11 they give drink to every beast of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
15 and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man’s heart.
16 The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has her home in the fir trees.
18 The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.
Alone with My Thoughts
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 7/01/2013
It is, of course, a sound and biblical truth that what comes out of our mouths reveals what is in our hearts. And, in turn, it is true that what is in our hearts is desperate wickedness. To be sure we are regenerate, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but the old man is still kicking and screaming. Because of the deceit that remains in our hearts, however, we are wont to miss what actually comes out of our mouths. We end up thinking our hearts are rather sunny places because we find rather sunny things coming out of our mouths, at least when people are listening.
I know this because I have just lived this. Over the course of the past few days, I have found myself logging some long hours and long miles on this nation’s interstate system. That’s not all that unusual. With a family as large as mine, road trips come along for the ride.
What has been unusual is that I have been driving alone. I’ve been alone in the car on some rather crowded highways. That, sadly, doesn’t mean I have been driving in silence. If my windows could talk, well, parental guidance is suggested.
When we assess our hearts via assessing our minds, I suspect we tend to pick those memories which are the safest, the tamest recordings we can remember. We think that how we spoke to that sweet old woman at the library with the big cross around her neck reflects what is actually in our hearts. In truth, it may be what we say when no one is listening that reveals us most fully.
This is because of common grace. It, along with the spread of the gospel in Western culture, has created notions of manners, chivalry, and discretion. We understand that some things are just not said in polite company. Or at least most of us do.
There are both psychological and physical ailments that can restrain whatever mechanisms we have that restrain our speech. Some folks are missing that filter that greases social discourse. They are the ones who are quick to point out that you’ve put on some weight. Children, in turn, can be slow to develop these nuances. They aren’t afraid to ask why two of my sons have skin that is so much darker than my own.
Most of us also are missing the nuances when we are engaged in internal conversation, when we are just talking to ourselves. We think it is safe to be honest in the quiet of our own minds. There we admit our dislike of this neighbor, and perhaps even our attraction to that neighbor. There we confess to our own assurance that we are quite gifted with this skill, that we are the ones deserving of this honor or that. We seem to think that these things can’t hurt us as long as we don’t speak them, as long as we keep them inside.
Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. What comes out of our hearts reveals what we are. What goes into our hearts, that creates what we are. Our internal dialogue is not meaningless background noise. It becomes instead the soundtrack of our lives.
We are blessed to live in an age and a culture which has easy access to the Word of God. And we are cursed to live in an age and culture which has easy access to the Word of God. Our fathers had to internalize the Word of God. They sang the Psalms so they would learn them. They learned them so they could sing them, even if it was only in the quiet of their own minds. We, on the other hand, are more apt to have the wisdom of last night’s big winner on American Idol reverberating in our minds. We have Bibles in every room in our homes and apps on our smart phones, but we don’t hide it in our hearts.
When I was driving down the highway yelling and sputtering, I did so reflecting the wisdom of the world. What I was saying was: “I am important. I have important things to do. I have to hurry. You all are failing to understand how to treat me properly.” What I should have been thinking was more like this: “If the Lord wills, I will get there on time.”
The song I should have had playing in my mind was “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” What I should have been rejoicing over is the glorious gospel truth that when I am stuck in traffic, I am already where I need to be, that no matter how many more miles I have to drive, the kingdom I am called to pursue first is already with me.
What I and we all need to remember is that whether we are alone in the car or alone with our thoughts, there is no thought in the woods that no one hears. The Word Himself hears every word, and every word of ours that is not an Amen to every word of His will burn up as wood, hay, and stubble. What I should have thought about in that traffic was not a resigned but a joyful reminder: “Where else can I go Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life.”
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Remember to forget
(Sept 18) Bob Gass
‘If you have anything against anyone, forgive him.’
(Mt 11:25) 25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; ESV
No matter how much two people love each other, conflicts are sure to arise that call for extending grace and showing forgiveness. Do you know that couples who are happy and stay married have the same number of disagreements and conflicts as couples who are unhappy and get divorced? Statistically, that is true! It’s not the absence of conflict that preserves marriage, but the ability to manage conflict when it happens. So how do you ‘manage’ conflict? By practising the kind of self-control that keeps conflicts from mushrooming into hurtful and divisive stand-offs. It also means knowing what to do with hurt feelings like anger, disappointment, and dashed expectations. In other words, it means knowing how to forgive it and forget it. But emotional hurt and tension are almost impossible to forget; the harder we try, the more we remember. So, what’s the answer? Remember to forget! Try to act like God, who chooses not to hold against us what He knows about us. He says in His Word: ‘I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins’ (Isaiah 43:25 NKJV). That means if you are holding something against your spouse, there’s only one solution: forgive it and forget it. You may never forget how you’ve been hurt, but you can choose to forgive it and move on. No, it’s not easy, but you can do it. How? By remembering the things, known or unknown to others, that God has forgiven you for and extending that same grace to your spouse.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
A member of the Continental Congress, he not only led military expeditions during the Revolutionary War, but paid for them out of his own pocket. He built ships with which to raid the British, signed the Constitution, and was the first President pro tem of the Senate. His name was John Langdon, and he died this day, September 18, 1819. As Governor of New Hampshire, John Langdon proclaimed: “It… becomes our… Duty, not only to acknowledge, in general with the rest of Mankind, our dependence on the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, but as a People peculiarly favoured, to testify our Gratitude to the Author of all our Mercies.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
For light I go directly to the Source of light,
not to any of the reflections.
--- Peace Pilgrim Quote
All that I have seen
teaches me to trust God
for all I have not seen.
--- Author Unknown
Some people talk about finding God –
as if He could get lost.
--- Author Unknown
I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other and that the taller we grew in Christian character, the more easily we should reach them. I find now that God's gifts are on shelves one beneath the other and that is not a question of growing taller, but of stooping lower and that we have to go down, always down to get His best ones.
--- F.B. Meyer
Love is a commitment that will be tested in the most vulnerable areas of spirituality, a commitment that will force you to make some very difficult choices. It is a commitment that demands that you deal with your lust, your greed, your pride, your power, your desire to control, your temper, your patience, and every area of temptation that the Bible clearly talks about. It demands the quality of commitment that Jesus demonstrates in His relationship to us.
-- Ravi Zacharias
I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah: Moving from Romance to Lasting Love
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
Containing The Interval Of Near Six Months. From The Coming Of Titus To Besiege Jerusalem, To The Great Extremity To Which The Jews Were Reduced.
Concerning The Seditions At Jerusalem And What Terrible Miseries Afflicted The City By Their Means.
1. When therefore Titus had marched over that desert which lies between Egypt and Syria, in the manner forementioned, he came to Cesarea, having resolved to set his forces in order at that place, before he began the war. Nay, indeed, while he was assisting his father at Alexandria, in settling that government which had been newly conferred upon them by God, it so happened that the sedition at Jerusalem was revived, and parted into three factions, and that one faction fought against the other; which partition in such evil cases may be said to be a good thing, and the effect of Divine justice. Now as to the attack the zealots made upon the people, and which I esteem the beginning of the city's destruction, it hath been already explained after an accurate manner; as also whence it arose, and to how great a mischief it was increased. But for the present sedition, one should not mistake if he called it a sedition begotten by another sedition, and to be like a wild beast grown mad, which, for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh.
2. For Eleazar, the son of Simon, who made the first separation of the zealots from the people, and made them retire into the temple, appeared very angry at John's insolent attempts, which he made everyday upon the people; for this man never left off murdering; but the truth was, that he could not bear to submit to a tyrant who set up after him. So he being desirous of gaining the entire power and dominion to himself, revolted from John, and took to his assistance Judas the son of Chelcias, and Simon the son of Ezron, who were among the men of greatest power. There was also with him Hezekiah, the son of Chobar, a person of eminence. Each of these were followed by a great many of the zealots; these seized upon the inner court of the temple 1 and laid their arms upon the holy gates, and over the holy fronts of that court. And because they had plenty of provisions, they were of good courage, for there was a great abundance of what was consecrated to sacred uses, and they scrupled not the making use of them; yet were they afraid, on account of their small number; and when they had laid up their arms there, they did not stir from the place they were in. Now as to John, what advantage he had above Eleazar in the multitude of his followers, the like disadvantage he had in the situation he was in, since he had his enemies over his head; and as he could not make any assault upon them without some terror, so was his anger too great to let them be at rest; nay, although he suffered more mischief from Eleazar and his party than he could inflict upon them, yet would he not leave off assaulting them, insomuch that there were continual sallies made one against another, as well as darts thrown at one another, and the temple was defiled every where with murders.
3. But now the tyrant Simon, the son of Gioras, whom the people had invited in, out of the hopes they had of his assistance in the great distresses they were in, having in his power the upper city, and a great part of the lower, did now make more vehement assaults upon John and his party, because they were fought against from above also; yet was he beneath their situation when he attacked them, as they were beneath the attacks of the others above them. Whereby it came to pass that John did both receive and inflict great damage, and that easily, as he was fought against on both sides; and the same advantage that Eleazar and his party had over him, since he was beneath them, the same advantage had he, by his higher situation, over Simon. On which account he easily repelled the attacks that were made from beneath, by the weapons thrown from their hands only; but was obliged to repel those that threw their darts from the temple above him, by his engines of war; for he had such engines as threw darts, and javelins, and stones, and that in no small number, by which he did not only defend himself from such as fought against him, but slew moreover many of the priests, as they were about their sacred ministrations. For notwithstanding these men were mad with all sorts of impiety, yet did they still admit those that desired to offer their sacrifices, although they took care to search the people of their own country beforehand, and both suspected and watched them; while they were not so much afraid of strangers, who, although they had gotten leave of them, how cruel soever they were, to come into that court, were yet often destroyed by this sedition; for those darts that were thrown by the engines came with that force, that they went over all the buildings, and reached as far as the altar, and the temple itself, and fell upon the priests, and those 2 that were about the sacred offices; insomuch that many persons who came thither with great zeal from the ends of the earth, to offer sacrifices at this celebrated place, which was esteemed holy by all mankind, fell down before their own sacrifices themselves, and sprinkled that altar which was venerable among all men, both Greeks and Barbarians, with their own blood; till the dead bodies of strangers were mingled together with those of their own country, and those of profane persons with those of the priests, and the blood of all sorts of dead carcasses stood in lakes in the holy courts themselves. And now, "O most wretched city, what misery so great as this didst thou suffer from the Romans, when they came to purify thee from thy intestine hatred! 'For thou couldst be no longer a place fit for God, nor couldst thou long continue in being, after thou hadst been a sepulcher for the bodies of thy own people, and hadst made the holy house itself a burying-place in this civil war of thine. Yet mayst thou again grow better, if perchance thou wilt hereafter appease the anger of that God who is the author of thy destruction." But I must restrain myself from these passions by the rules of history, since this is not a proper time for domestical lamentations, but for historical narrations; I therefore return to the operations that follow in this sedition.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
by D.H. Stern
is a word appropriately spoken.
12 Like a gold earring, like a fine gold necklace
is a wise reprover to a receptive ear.
13 Like the coldness of snow in the heat of the harvest
is a faithful messenger to the one who sends him;
he refreshes his master’s spirit.
14 Like clouds and wind that bring no rain
is he who boasts of gifts he never gives.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
His temptation and ours
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. --- Hebrews 4:15.
Until we are born again, the only kind of temptation we understand is that mentioned by St. James—“Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” But by regeneration we are lifted into another realm where there are other temptations to face, viz., the kind of temptations Our Lord faced. The temptations of Jesus do not appeal to us, they have no home at all in our human nature. Our Lord’s temptations and ours move in different spheres until we are born again and become His brethren. The temptations of Jesus are not those of a man, but the temptations of God as Man. By regeneration the Son of God is formed in us, and in our physical life He has the same setting that He had on earth. Satan does not tempt us to do wrong things; he tempts us in order to make us lose what God has put into us by regeneration, viz., the possibility of being of value to God. He does not come on the line of tempting us to sin, but on the line of shifting the point of view, and only the Spirit of God can detect this as a temptation of the devil.
Temptation means the test by an alien power of the possessions held by a personality. This makes the temptation of Our Lord explainable. After Jesus in His baptism had accepted the vocation of bearing away the sin of the world, He was immediately put by God’s Spirit into the testing machine of the devil; but He did not tire. He went through the temptation “without sin,” and retained the possessions of His personality intact.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Take heart, Prytherch.
Over you the planets stand,
And have see more ills than yours.
This canker was in the bone
Before man bent to his image
In the pool's glass. Violence has been
And will be again. Between better
And worse is no bad place
For a labourer, whose lot is to seem
Stationary in traffic so fast.
Turn aside, I said; do not turn back.
There is no forward and no back
In the fields, only the year's two
Solstices, and patience between.
The servant of a king is a king: Stick to the captain and they will bow down to you.
BIBLE TEXT / Deuteronomy 1:6–7 / The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying: You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Start out and make your way to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, the hill country, the Shephelah, the Negeb, the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and the Lebanon, as far as the Great River, the river Euphrates.
MIDRASH TEXT / Sifrei Devarim 6 / As far as the Great River, the river Euphrates. This teaches that its might and power are opposite the land of Israel. A popular proverb says, “The servant of a king is a king: Stick to the captain, and they [the people] will bow down to you.”
Another interpretation: It [the river Euphrates] spreads out so there is no need to dig [channels] with a spade.
Another interpretation: The river Euphrates—it grows and increases until it is crossed in boats.
All the rivers say to the Euphrates, “Why don’t you make your voice heard like our voice, which travels so far?” It [the Euphrates] said to them, “My deeds testify about me. A person sows seeds near me—they come up in three days. He plants a shoot near me—it comes up in thirty days. Thus Scripture praises me ‘as far as the Great River, the river Euphrates,’ teaching that it grows and increases until it is crossed in boats.”
In the beginning of the Book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites are commanded to travel into the land that has been their destination since the Exodus from Egypt. The areas of the land of Israel are mentioned, including its northeastern border, the Euphrates River. This may seem strange to the contemporary reader; the Euphrates runs through what is modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, more than two hundred miles from Israel. But indeed, in the Torah the Euphrates was seen as the natural boundary of an ideal land of Israel.
In the Book of Genesis, when the four rivers of the Garden of Eden are mentioned, the Euphrates is cited last (Genesis 2:14). Many commentators (including Rashi, on Talmud Shevuot 47b) understood this to mean that the Euphrates was the smallest of the rivers. It seems to be a contradiction: How could the smallest river be referred to as the Great River? The explanation is that it is great not so much because of its length, width, or depth, but because it runs parallel to the land of Israel: its might and power are opposite the land of Israel. Thus, the Euphrates is—in the words of the proverb—the “servant” to the king, the land of Israel. By being associated with the great one, it too is considered great. Hence, “The servant of a king is a king.”
Another interpretation: The Midrash continues by delving into the meaning of the name Euphrates (פְּרָת/perat in Hebrew). Two explanations are offered that see a link to the Hebrew root פ־ר־ה/p-r-h, “to be fruitful” or “to grow.” The first: It [the river Euphrates] spreads out so there is no need to dig [channels] with a spade. The Euphrates is a great river that branches out and is thus utilized for irrigation, making the land fruitful. The second: The river Euphrates—it grows and increases until it is crossed in boats.
All the rivers say to the Euphrates.… The Rabbis imagine that the other rivers ask the Euphrates: “If you are such a great river, why do we not hear the roar of your mighty waters?” The answer is a lesson in humility: “My deeds testify about me. I don’t need to shout or brag about my greatness; my deeds testify to how incredibly fertile I make the lands through which I run.”
For the transgression of my people he was stricken.
--- Isaiah 53:8.
Those who meditate aright on the suffering of Christ become terror stricken in heart, and their consciences at once sink in despair. ( The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther Based on the Kaiser Chronological: Edition, With References to the Erlangen and Walch Editions, Vol. 11 (Classic Reprint) ) This terror should spring forth so that you see the severe wrath and the unchangeable earnestness of God in regard to sin and sinners, in that he was unwilling that his only and dearly loved Son should set sinners free unless he paid the costly ransom for them—an earnestness so inexpressible and unbearable that a person so immeasurably great goes to meet and suffers and dies for it. If you reflect on it deeply, that God’s Son, the eternal wisdom of the Father, himself suffers, you will indeed be terror stricken, and the more you reflect the deeper will be the impression.
You meditate on the suffering of Christ aright if you deeply believe and never doubt the least that you are the one who thus martyred Christ. For your sins most surely did it. Thus Saint Peter struck and terrified the Jews as with a thunderbolt in Acts 2:36–37, when he spoke to them all in common: “Jesus, whom you crucified,” so that three thousand were terror stricken the same day and tremblingly cried to the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Therefore, when you view the nails piercing through his hands, firmly believe it is your work. Do you see his crown of thorns? Believe the thorns are your wicked thoughts and your other sins.
Now see where one thorn pierces Christ, there more than a thousand thorns should pierce you, yes, eternally should they thus and even more painfully pierce you. Where one nail is driven through his hands and feet, you should eternally suffer such and even more painful nails—as will be also visited on those who let Christ’s sufferings be lost and fruitless as far as they are concerned. For this earnest mirror, Christ, will neither lie nor mock; whatever he says must be fully realized.
Saint Bernard was so terror stricken by Christ’s sufferings that he said, “I imagined I was secure and I knew nothing of the eternal judgment passed on me in heaven, until I saw that the eternal Son of God took mercy on me, stepped forward and offered himself on my behalf in the same judgment. Ah, it does not become me still to play and remain secure when such earnestness is behind those sufferings.”
--- Martin Luther
Jerry McAuley September 18
McAuley Water Street Mission was named for Jerry McAuley, born in Ireland in 1839. His father, a counterfeiter, fled home to escape the law, and Jerry never knew him. His mother evidently languished in prison, and the boy was raised by his grandmother. When she couldn’t control him, he was sent to New York where he lived under the docks, drinking, fighting, and stealing from boats. In 1857 he was caught and sent to Sing Sing.
Sing Sing inmates were forced to live in unbroken silence in cell blocks five tiers high. Each cell was a little coffin—three feet wide, six feet high, seven feet long. It was wet in the summer; icy in winter; always grim. There was no plumbing, just buckets. Cells, never disinfected, filled with vermin, lice, and fleas. Infractions were punished by flogging, the “iron collar,” or the “shower bath” in which prisoners were repeatedly drowned and revived.
One Sunday McAuley was herded into the chapel. He was moody and miserable until he glanced on the platform and recognized a well-known prizefighter, Orville Gardner. The boxer told of finding Jesus, and McAuley listened attentively. He soon began reading the Bible, page after page, day after day. He read it through twice; then in great agony he fell to his knees—but jumped up immediately in embarrassment. He did this several times. Finally one night, resolving to kneel until he found forgiveness, he prayed and prayed. All at once it seemed something supernatural was in my room. I was afraid to open my eyes; the tears rolled off my face in great drops, and these words came to me, “My son, thy sins, which are many, are forgiven.”
He was released in 1864, having been incarcerated seven of his 26 years. He devoted himself to rescuing other incorrigibles. Twenty years later on September 18, 1884, the huge Broadway Tabernacle was packed for his funeral, with multitudes flooding surrounding streets. His Water Street Mission, a pioneer among America’s rescue missions, has been a haven of hope for over one hundred years.
“I tell you that all her sins are forgiven, and that is why she has shown great love. But anyone who has been forgiven for only a little will show only a little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” --- Luke 7:47,48.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 18
"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." --- Galatians 5:25.
The two most important things in our holy religion are the life of faith and the walk of faith. He who shall rightly understand these is not far from being a master in experimental theology, for they are vital points to a Christian. You will never find true faith unattended by true godliness; on the other hand, you will never discover a truly holy life which has not for its root a living faith upon the righteousness of Christ. Woe unto those who seek after the one without the other! There are some who cultivate faith and forget holiness; these may be very high in orthodoxy, but they shall be very deep in condemnation, for they hold the truth in unrighteousness; and there are others who have strained after holiness of life, but have denied the faith, like the Pharisees of old, of whom the Master said, they were “whitewashed sepulchres.” We must have faith, for this is the foundation; we must have holiness of life, for this is the superstructure. Of what service is the mere foundation of a building to a man in the day of tempest? Can he hide himself therein? He wants a house to cover him, as well as a foundation for that house. Even so we need the superstructure of spiritual life if we would have comfort in the day of doubt. But seek not a holy life without faith, for that would be to erect a house which can afford no permanent shelter, because it has no foundation on a rock. Let faith and life be put together, and, like the two abutments of an arch, they will make our piety enduring. Like light and heat streaming from the same sun, they are alike full of blessing. Like the two pillars of the temple, they are for glory and for beauty. They are two streams from the fountain of grace; two lamps lit with holy fire; two olive trees watered by heavenly care. O Lord, give us this day life within, and it will reveal itself without to thy glory.
Evening - September 18
“And they follow me.” --- John 10:27.
We should follow our Lord as unhesitatingly as sheep follow their shepherd, for he has a right to lead us wherever he pleases. We are not our own, we are bought with a price—let us recognize the rights of the redeeming blood. The soldier follows his captain, the servant obeys his master, much more must we follow our Redeemer, to whom we are a purchased possession. We are not true to our profession of being Christians, if we question the bidding of our Leader and Commander. Submission is our duty, cavilling is our folly. Often might our Lord say to us as to Peter, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.” Wherever Jesus may lead us, he goes before us. If we know not where we go, we know with whom we go. With such a companion, who will dread the perils of the road? The journey may be long, but his everlasting arms will carry us to the end. The presence of Jesus is the assurance of eternal salvation, because he lives, we shall live also. We should follow Christ in simplicity and faith, because the paths in which he leads us all end in glory and immortality. It is true they may not be smooth paths—they may be covered with sharp flinty trials, but they lead to the “city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant.” Let us put full trust in our Leader, since we know that, come prosperity or adversity, sickness or health, popularity or contempt, his purpose shall be worked out, and that purpose shall be pure, unmingled good to every heir of mercy. We shall find it sweet to go up the bleak side of the hill with Christ; and when rain and snow blow into our faces, his dear love will make us far more blest than those who sit at home and warm their hands at the world’s fire. To the top of Amana, to the dens of lions, or to the hills of leopards, we will follow our Beloved. Precious Jesus, draw us, and we will run after thee.
NEAR TO THE HEART OF GOD
Words and Music by Cleland B. McAfee, 1866–1944
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy. (Psalm 94:19)
O Thou who dry’st the mourner’s tears!
How dark this world would be,
If, when deceived and wounded here,
we could not fly to Thee.
--- Thomas Moore
Life is often filled with unexpected problems or crises. Unrest and despair will darken the way of even the strongest saint. Yet the Christian—because of the refuge he has in God—should strive to maintain composure and stability in spite of stress and difficulties. We cannot escape the pressures and dark shadows in our lives; but they can be faced with a spiritual strength that our Lord provides. As we are held securely “near to the heart of God,” we find the rest, the comfort, the joy and peace that only Jesus our Redeemer can give. Because of this, we can live every day with an inner calm and courage.
This is the message that Cleland McAfee expressed in this consoling hymn at a time when his own life was filled with sadness. While he was serving as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Dr. McAfee was stunned to hear the shocking news that his two beloved nieces had just died from diphtheria. Turning to God and the Scriptures, McAfee soon felt the lines and the tune of this hymn flow from his grieving heart. On the day of the double funeral he stood outside the quarantined home of his brother Howard singing these words as he choked back the tears. The following Sunday the hymn was repeated by the choir of McAfee’s church. It soon became widely known and has since ministered comfort and spiritual healing to many of God’s people in times of need.
There is a place of quiet rest,
near to the heart of God,
a place where sin cannot molest,
near to the heart of God.
There is a place of comfort sweet,
near to the heart of God,
a place where we our Savior meet,
near to the heart of God.
There is a place of full release,
near to the heart of God,
a place where all is joy and peace,
near to the heart of God.
Chorus: O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
sent from the heart of God,
hold us who wait before Thee
near to the heart of God.
For Today: Psalm 34:18; 73:28; Ecclesiastes 5:1; Matthew 11:28–30; Hebrews 4:16
Determine to live courageously regardless of what may come your way—but always with a sensitive awareness of God’s nearness. Use this musical prayer to help ---
DISCOURSE VI - ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD
Doctrine. God is unchangeable in his essence, nature, and perfections. Immutability and eternity are linked together; and, indeed, true eternity is true immutability; whence eternity is defined the possession of an immutable life. Yet immutability differs from eternity in our conception; immutability respects the essence or existence of a thing; eternity respects the duration of a being in that state, or rather, immutability is the state itself; eternity is the measure of that state. A thing is said to be changed, when it is otherwise now in regard of nature, state, will, or any quality than it was before; when either something is added to it, or taken from it; when it either loses or acquires. But now it is the essential property of God, not to have any accession to, or diminution of, his essence or attributes, but to remain entirely the same. He wants nothing; he loses nothing; but doth uniformly exist by himself, without any new nature, new thoughts, new will, new purpose, or new place. This unchangeableness of God was anciently represented by the figure of a cube, a piece of metal or wood framed four-square, when every side is exactly of the same equality; cast it which way you will, it will always be in the same posture, because it is equal to itself in all its dimensions. He was therefore said to be the centre of all things, and other things the circumference; the centre is never moved, while the circumference is; it remains immovable in the midst of the circle; “There is no variableness nor shadow of turning with him” (James 1:17). The moon hath her spots, so hath the sun; there is a mixture of light and darkness; it hath its changes; sometimes it is in the increase, sometimes in the wane; it is always either gaining or losing, and by the turnings and motions, either of the heavenly bodies or of the earth, it is in its eclipse, by the interposition of the earth between that and the sun. The sun also hath its diurnal and annual motion; it riseth and sets, and puts on a different face; it doth not always shine with the noon-day light; it is sometimes veiled with clouds and vapors; it is always going from one tropic to another, whereby it makes various shadows on the earth, and produceth the various seasons of the year; it is not always in our hemisphere, nor doth it always shine with an equal force and brightness in it. Such shadows and variations have no place in the eternal Father of Lights; he hath not the least spot or diminution of brightness; nothing can cloud him or eclipse him. For the better understanding this perfection of God, I shall premise three things.
1. The immutability of God is a perfection. Immutability considered in itself, without relation to other things, is not a perfection. It is the greatest misery and imperfection of the evil angels, that they are immutable in malice against God; but as God is infinite in essence, infinitely good, wise, holy; so it is a perfection necessary to his nature, that he should be immutably all this, all excellency, goodness, wisdom, immutably all that he is; without this he would be an imperfect Being. Are not the angels in heaven, who are confirmed in a holy and happy state, more perfect than when they were in a possibility of committing evil and becoming miserable? Are not the saints in heaven, whose wills by grace do unalterably cleave to God and goodness, more perfect than if they were as Adam in Paradise, capable of losing their felicity, as well as preserving it? We count a rock, in regard of its stability, more excellent than the dust of the ground, or a feather that is tossed about with every wind; is it not also the perfection of the body to have a constant tenor of health, and the glory of a man not to warp aside from what is just and right, by the persuasions of any temptations?
2. Immutability is a glory belonging to all the attributes of God. It is not a single perfection of the Divine nature, nor is it limited to particular objects thus and thus disposed. Mercy and justice have their distinct objects and distinct acts; mercy is conversant about a penitent, justice conversant about an obstinate sinner. In our notion and conception of the Divine perfections, his perfections are different: the wisdom of God is not his power, nor his power his holiness, but immutability is the centre wherein they all unite. There is not one perfection but may be said to be and truly is, immutable; none of them will appear so glorious without this beam, this sun of immutability, which renders them highly excellent without the least shadow of imperfection. How cloudy would his blessedness be if it were changeable! How dim his wisdom, if it might be obscured! How feeble his power, if it were capable to be sickly and languish! How would mercy lose much of its lustre, if it could change into wrath; and justice much of its dread, if it could be turned into mercy, while the object of justice remains unfit for mercy, and one that hath need of mercy continues only fit for the Divine fury! But unchangeableness is a thread that runs through the whole web; it is the enamel of all the rest; none of them without it could look with a triumphant aspect. His power is unchangeable: “In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength” (Isa. 26:4). His mercy and his holiness endure forever: he never could, nor ever can, look upon iniquity (Hab. 1:13).
He is a rock in the righteousness of his ways, the truth of his word, the holiness of his proceedings, and the rectitude of his nature. All are expressed Deut 32:4): “He is a rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity; just and right is he.” All that we consider in God is unchangeable; for his essence and his properties are the same, and, therefore, what is necessarily belonging to the essence of God, belongs also to every perfection of the nature of God; none of them can receive any addition or diminution. From the unchangeableness of his nature, the apostle (James 1:17) infers the uncbangeableness of his holiness, and himself (in Mal. 3:6) the unchangeableness of his counsel.
3. Unchangeableness doth necessarily pertain to the nature of God. It is of the same necessity with the rectitude of his nature; he can no more be changeable in his essence than he can be unrighteous in his actions. God is a necessary Being; he is necessarily what he is, and, therefore, is unchangeably what he is. Mutability belongs to contingency. If any perfection of his nature could be separated from him, he would cease to be God. What did not possess the whole nature of God, could not have the essence of God; it is reciprocated with the nature of God. Whatsoever is immutable by nature is God; whatsoever is God is immutable by nature. Some creatures are immutable by his grace and power. God is holy, happy, wise, good, by his essence; angels and men are made holy, wise, happy, strong, and good, by qualities and graces. The holiness, happiness, and wisdom of saints and angels, as they had a beginning, so they are capable of increase and diminution, and of an end also; for their standing is not from themselves, or from the nature of created strength, holiness, or wisdom, which in themselves are apt to fail, and finally to decay; but from the stability and confirmation they have by the gift and grace of God. The heaven and earth shall be changed; and after that renewal and reparation they shall not be changed. Our bodies after the resurrection shall not be changed, but forever be “made conformable to the glorious body of Christ” (Phil. 3:21); but this is by the powerful grace of God: so that, indeed, those things may be said afterwards rather to be unchanged than unchangeable, because they are not so by nature, but by sovereign dispensation. As creatures have not necessary beings, so they have not necessary immutability. Necessity of being, and, therefore, immutability of being, belongs by nature only to God; otherwise, if there were any change in God, he would be sometimes what he was not, and would cease to be what he was, which is against the nature, and, indeed, against the natural notion of a Deity. Let us see then,
I. In what regards God is immutable. II. Prove that God is immutable. III. That this is proper to God, and incommunicable to any creature. IV. Some propositions to clear the unchangeableness of God from anything that seems contrary to it. V. The use. I. In what respects God is unchangeable.
1. God is unchangeable in his essence. He is unalterably fixed in his being, so that not a particle of it can be lost from it, not a mite added to it. If a man continue in being as long as Methuselah, nine hundred and sixty-nine years; yet there is not a day, nay, an hour, wherein there is not some alteration in his substance. Though no substantial part is wanting, yet there is an addition to him by his food, a diminution of something by his labor; he is always making some acquisition, or suffering some loss: but in God there can be no alteration, by the accession of anything to make his substance greater or better, or by diminution to make it less or worse. He who hath not being from another, cannot but be always what he is: God is the first Being, an independent Being; he was not produced of himself, or of any other, but by nature always hath been, and, therefore, cannot by himself, or by any other, be changed from what he is in his own nature. That which is not may as well assume to itself a being, as he who hath and is all being, have the least change from what he is. Again, because he is a Spirit, he is not subject to those mutations which are found in corporeal and bodily natures; because he is an absolutely simple Spirit, not having the least particle of composition; he is not capable of those changes which may be in created spirits.
(1.) If his essence were mutable, God would not truly be; it could not be truly said by himself, “I Am that I Am” (Exod. 3:14), if he were such a thing or Being at this time, and a different Being at another time. Whatsoever is changed properly is not, because it doth not remain to be what it was; that which is changed was something, is something, and will be something. A being remains to that thing which is changed; yet though it may be said such a thing is, yet it may be also said such a thing is not, because it is not what it was in its first being; it is not now what it was, it is now what it was not; it is another thing than it was, it was another thing than it is; it will be another thing than what it is or was. It is, indeed, a being, but a different being from what it was before. But if God were changed, it could not be said of him that he is, but it might also be said of him that he is not; or if he were changeable, or could be changed, it might be said of him he is, but he will not be what he is; or he may not be what he is, but there will be or may be some difference in his being, and so God would not be “I Am that I Am;” for though he would not cease utterly to be, yet he would cease to be what he was before.
(2.) Again: if his essence were mutable, he could not be perfectly blessed, and fully rejoice in himself.
If he changed for the better, he could not have an infinite pleasure in what he was before the change, because he was not infinitely blessed; and the pleasure of that state could not be of a higher kind than the state itself, or, at least, the apprehension of a happiness in it. If he changed for the worse, he could not have a pleasure in it after the change; for according to the diminution of his state would be the decrease of his pleasure. His pleasure could not be infinite before the change, if he changed for the better; it could not be infinite after the change, if he changed for the worse. If he changed for the better, he would not have had an infinite goodness of being before; and not having an infinite goodness of being, he would have a finite goodness of being; for there is no medium between finite and infinite. Then, though the change were for the better, yet, being finite before, something would be still wanting to make him infinitely blessed; because being finite, he could not change to that which is infinite; for finite and infinite are extremes so distant, that they can never pass into one another; that is, that that which is finite should become infinite, or that which is infinite should become finite; so that supposing him mutable, his essence in no state of change could furnish him with an infinite peace and blessedness.
(3.) Again: if God’s essence be changed, he either increaseth or diminisheth. Whatsoever is changed, doth either gain by receiving something larger and greater than it had in itself before, or gains nothing by being changed. If the former, then it receives more than itself, more than it had in itself before. The Divine nature cannot be increased; for whatsoever receives anything than what it had in itself before, must necessarily receive it from another, because nothing can give to itself that which it hath not. But God cannot receive from another what he hath not already, because whatsoever other things possess is derived from him, and, therefore, contained in him, as the fountain contains the virtue in itself which it conveys to the streams; so that God cannot gain anything. If a thing that is changed gain nothing by that change, it loseth something of what it had before in itself; and this loss must be by itself or some other. God cannot receive any loss from anything in himself; he cannot will his own diminution, that is repugnant to every nature. He may as well will his own destruction as his own decrease: every decrease is a partial destruction. But it is impossible for God to die any kind of death, to have any resemblance of death, for he is immortal, and “only hath immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16), therefore impossible to be diminished in any particle of his essence; nor can he be diminished by anything in his own nature, because his infinite simplicity admits of nothing distinct from himself, or contrary to himself. All decreases come from something contrary to the nature of that thing which doth decrease. Whatsoever is made less than itself, was not truly unum, one and simple, because that which divides itself in separation was not the same in conjunction. Nor can he be diminished by any other without himself; because nothing is superior to God, nothing stronger than God which can oppress him. But whatsoever is changed is weaker than that which changeth it, and sinks under a power it cannot successfully resist; weakness belongs not to the Deity. Nor, lastly, can God change from a state wherein he is, to another state equal to the former, as men in some cases may do; for in passing from one state to another equal to it, something must be parted with which he had before, that some other thing may accrue to him as a recompense for that loss, to make him equal to what he was. This recompense then he had not before, though he had something equal to it. And in this case it could not be said by God “I Am that I Am,” but I am equal to what I was; for in this case there would be a diminution and increase which, as was showed, cannot be in God.
(4.) Again: God is of himself, from no other. Natures, which are made by God, may increase, because they began to be; they may decrease, because they were made of nothing, and so tend to nothing; the condition of their original leads them to defect, and the power of their Creator brings them to increase. But God hath no original; he hath no defect, because he was not made of nothing he hath no increase, because he had no beginning. He was before all things, and, therefore, depends upon no other thing which, by its own change, can bring any change upon him. That which is from itself cannot be changed, because it hath nothing before it, nothing more excellent than itself; but that which is from another as its first cause and chief good, may be changed by that which was its efficient cause and last end.
2. God is immutable in regard of knowledge. God hath known from all eternity all that which he can know, so that nothing is hid from him. He knows not at present any more than he hath known from eternity: and that which he knows now he always knows “All things are open and naked before him” (Heb. 4:13). A man is said to be changed in regard of knowledge, when he knows that now which he did not know before, or knows that to be false now which he thought true before, or has something for the object of his understanding now, which he had not before: But,
(1.) This would be repugnant to the wisdom and omniscience which belongs to the notions of a Deity. That cannot be God that is not infinitely wise; that cannot be infinitely wise that is either ignorant of, or mistaken in, his apprehension of any one thing. If God be changed in knowledge, it must be for want of wisdom; all change of this nature in creatures implies this defect preceding or accompanying it. Such a thought of God would have been unworthy of him that is “only wise,” that hath no mate for wisdom (1 Tim. 1:17); none wise beside himself. If he knew that thing this day which he knew not before, he would not be an “only wise” Being; for a being that did know everything at once might be conceived, and so a wiser being be apprehended by the mind of man. If God understood a thing at one time which he did not at another, he would be changed from ignorance to knowledge; as if he could not do that this day which he could do to-morrow, he would be changed from impotence to power. He could not be always omniscient, because there might be yet something still to come which he yet knows not, though he may know all things that are past. What way soever you suppose a change, you must suppose a present or a past ignorance; if he be changed in his knowledge for the perfection of his understanding, he was ignorant before; if his understanding be impaired by the change, he is ignorant after it.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Sect. CLXVI. — BUT I will produce an example that may go to confirm this faith, and to console that “evil eye” which suspects God of injustice. — Behold! God so governs this corporal world in external things, that, according to human reason and judgment, you must be compelled to say, either that there is no God, or that God is unjust: as a certain one saith, ‘I am often tempted to think there is no God.’ For see the great prosperity of the wicked, and on the contrary the great adversity of the good; according to the testimony of the Proverbs, and of experience the parent of all proverbs. The more abandoned men are, the more successful! “The tabernacles of robbers (saith Job) prosper.” And Psalm lxxiii., complains, that the sinners of the world abound in riches. Is it not, I pray you, in the judgment of all, most unjust, that the evil should be prosperous, and the good afflicted? Yet so it is in the events of the world. And here it is, that the most exalted minds have so fallen, as to deny that there is any God at all; and to fable, that fortune disposes of all things at random: such were Epicurus and Pliny. And Aristotle, in order that he might make his ‘First-cause Being’ free from every kind of misery, is of opinion, that he thinks of nothing whatever but himself; because he considers, that it must be most irksome to him, to see so many evils and so many injuries.
But the Prophets themselves, who believed there is a God, were tempted still more concerning the injustice of God, as Jeremiah, Job, David, Asaph, and others. And what do you suppose Demosthenes and Cicero thought, who, after they had done all they could, received no other reward than a miserable death? And yet all this, which is so very much like injustice in God, when set forth in those arguments which no reason or light of nature can resist, is most easily cleared up by the light of the Gospel, and the knowledge of grace: by which, we are taught, that the wicked flourish in their bodies, but lose their souls! And the whole of this insolvable question is solved in one word — There is a life after this life: in which will be punished and repaid, every thing that is not punished and repaid here: for this life is nothing more than an entrance on, and a beginning of, the life which is to come!
If then even the light of the Gospel, which stands in the word and in the faith only, is able to effect so much as with ease to do away with, and settle, this question which has been agitated through so many ages and never solved; how do you suppose matters will appear, when the light of the word and of faith shall cease, and the essential Truth itself shall be revealed in the Divine Majesty? Do you not suppose that the light of glory will then most easily solve that question, which is now insolvable by the light of the word and of grace, even as the light of grace now easily solves that question, which is insolvable by the light of nature?
Let us therefore hold in consideration the three lights — the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory; which is the common, and a very good distinction. By the light of nature, it is insolvable how it can be just, that the good man should be afflicted and the wicked should prosper: but this is solved by the light of grace. By the light of grace it is insolvable, how God can damn him, who, by his own powers, can do nothing but sin and become guilty. Both the light of nature and the light of grace here say, that the fault is not in the miserable man, but in the unjust God: nor can they judge otherwise of that God, who crowns the wicked man freely without any merit, and yet crowns not, but damns another, who is perhaps less, or at least not more wicked. But the light of glory speaks otherwise. — That will shew, that God, to whom alone belongeth the judgment of incomprehensible righteousness, is of righteousness most perfect and most manifest; in order that we may, in the meantime, believe it, being admonished and confirmed by that example of the light of grace, which solves that, which is as great a miracle to the light of nature!
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Synopsis | In our continued study through Daniel, we learn Daniel prays a prayer and as a result, gets to experience a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.
s1-351 | 06-03-2007
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | Chapter 11 chronicles 150 years of warfare between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids. Join us as we learn a detailed prophecy of future events revealed to Daniel.
m1-362 | 06-06-2007
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | An angel reveals to Daniel a prophecy of a coming world leader known as the Antichrist. Study with us the characteristics of the Antichrist according to the Word.
Antochrist | Daniel 11:36-45
s1-352 | 06-10-2007
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | As we continue our study in this final chapter of Daniel, we study life, death and resurrection. How is the book of Daniel concluded and what can we learn about the end times?
m1-363 | 06-13-2007
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | As we embark upon a brand new year it’s easy to become discouraged already about everything that is going on in the world today. However, as we study how Daniel dealt with troubled times in Daniel 9 we learn how we should approach the new year.
Prophecy Update 2016 | Daniel 9
g-261 | 01-01-2017
Only audio available | click here
Daniel 10 - 12
Strengthened In The Struggle
11-20-1988 / s410 | Jon Courson
11-30-1988 / w444 | Jon Courson
Sharing And Shining
11-27-1988 / s411 | Jon Courson
12-07-1988 / w445 | Jon Courson
Daniel 10 - 12
Pastor Chuck Smith
Daniel’s message to the church today
John LennoxJohn Lennox
Power and Truth
Daniel 6-12John Lennox
Seven Days That Divide the World
John LennoxJohn Lennox
A Cause Worth Living For
Joni Eareckson Tada |
Dallas Theological Seminary
A Song of My Father
Ronald B. Allen |
Dallas Theological Seminary
Copyright 2018. Company Inc. All Rights Reserved.