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January 12, 2013

Things We Know

"And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." (1 Peter 5:4)

In these days of relativism, situational ethics, and changing mores, it does a Christian good to note the many things in Scripture we can know, things we can count on, things that do not change. Following is a sampling of such truths, with little comment, intended to encourage the reader to extend the list, perhaps as an ongoing project.

We can know that Christ is God: "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30).

We can know that we are saved: "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life" (John 6:47).

We can know we are His dear children: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God" (1 John 3:2).

We can know His protection: "And they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (John 10:28).

We can know He answers prayer: "If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" (John 14:14).

We can know He will help us through temptation: "In that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).

We can know how we should act: "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done" (John 13:15).

We can know He desires us to speak on His behalf: "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15).

We can know that He will come again: "I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3).

We can know of our eternal rewards, as in today's verse: "An inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:4). JDM

January 13, 2013

If So Be

"If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." (1 Peter 2:3)

The little phrase "if so be" (Greek ei per) is used four times in the New Testament, each time setting forth a vital spiritual result established on the basis of a vital spiritual premise. The premise in today's verse is that a new Christian has truly experienced the saving grace of Christ. The result will be that these "newborn babes" will truly "desire the sincere milk of the word" (1 Peter 2:2). The "word" (Greek logikos) is always both pure and reasonable.

Then, "ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you" (Romans 8:9). When a person truly receives Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells his body, and the result is that he will henceforth live in the guidance of the Spirit instead of the flesh.

But this life in the Spirit will necessarily entail suffering for the sake of Christ, and this is the premise that assures our future inheritance and glorification. The indwelling Spirit bears witness that we are "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:17).

Finally, our future resurrection is assured by the certainty of the bodily resurrection of Christ. "We have testified of God," Paul says, "that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not" (1 Corinthians 15:15). Christ's resurrection is proved as well as any historical fact has ever been proved, so the dead surely rise also.

These "if-so-be's" of Scripture, although seemingly expressed in the form of conditions, actually speak great assurances. The true Christian life is one of thirst for the logical words of God, guidance by the indwelling Spirit of God, certainty of future resurrection, and anticipation of a glorious inheritance in Christ. HMM

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phkrause

March 13, 2013

The One Real God

"For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens." (Psalm 96:5)

As the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians, "though there be |many| that are called gods, . . . to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him" (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).

Every person has his own "god"; even atheists order their lives by some principle of their own choosing which thus becomes in effect their "god"! There are multitudes of others who follow various other gods. For example, the Hindus have almost innumerable gods. Muslims, on the other hand, strongly argue for just one god, whom they call Allah, but it was not Allah who "made the heavens." The truth revealed in the Bible is that it was God's "dear Son" by whom "were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth" (Colossians 1:13, 16). Allah denies that he even has a Son, and he calls those who believe otherwise (meaning Christians) infidels. The Koran is alleged to consist of the verbally inspired words of Allah, but it (and therefore, Allah) also denies the Trinity, as well as the death and resurrection of Christ, and so also denies that the Son of God provides salvation for all who believe on Him. That is more than enough to prove that Allah is not the God of the Bible.

In our text above, the word "idols" simply means "vanities." It is all "in vain" to put one's faith for eternity in a false god. The Lord Jesus alone, having created all things and paid the awful price to redeem all things, alone can truly provide eternal salvation. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). He Himself verified that "I am the way, . . . no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). HMM

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January 14, 2013

Heavenly Calling

"As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly." (1 Corinthians 15:48)

In a wonderful sense, Christians are just passing through this world on their way to the permanent home awaiting them in heaven. "For our conversation |or 'our citizenship'| is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). Christ has prepared a "place" for us there (John 14:2), and it is there that we have "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:4).

In view of such a glorious future, we ought to live not as those who are "earthy" but, as our verse says, as "they also that are heavenly." We have, indeed, been made "partakers of the heavenly calling," and so should always, in all we do, "consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus" (Hebrews 3:1), for He represents us even now in the heavenly places. He has gone "into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24), and we have, in effect, already been made to "sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6).

We may not appear to be very heavenly now, in these poor bodies made of earth's dust, but "as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Corinthians 15:49). As Paul vividly expresses it, the Lord Jesus Christ "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Philippians 3:21). "The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Christians, indeed, constitute a heavenly people with a heavenly calling, even while still on earth. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). HMM

January 15, 2013

What Jesus Said about Hell

"And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." (Matthew 5:29)

People do not like to think about hell--especially those who are headed there! But that doesn't mean it isn't real.

We need to know that the Lord Jesus Himself often warned about the reality of hell. Today's verse is in His Sermon on the Mount, a message often quoted because of its wonderful promises. Hell is also mentioned in the same sermon in Matthew 5:22 and 5:30. Jesus also stressed in that sermon that "broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat" (Matthew 7:13). He later warned that we should "fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).

The religious leaders of the day were not exempt. To them, speaking of their religious hypocrisy, He said, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33).

Hell is also a place of fire or possibly of some fearful environment that could only be described adequately under the metaphor of fire. "Depart from me," He will say to the lost souls at His coming judgment, "into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). Hell is called a "lake of fire" by Christ in John's vision of Him on His great white throne, where He will have to say, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, . . . and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).

Hell will indeed be very real--eternally real! Since Christ is both our Creator and our Savior, who died for our sins and defeated death by His resurrection, it is foolish for anyone to reject His revelation about hell. HMM

January 16, 2013

The Honest Use of Scripture

"Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye." (Mark 7:13)

Jesus uttered these sharp words of rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees, who had encumbered the plain teachings of Scripture with numerous "interpretations" which enabled them to ignore whatever teachings they found inconvenient. The Lord Jesus Himself always took the Scriptures literally and as of divine authority, and so should we.

Furthermore, He taught that every word was true and authoritative: "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18). He also said that "the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).

Skeptics may pose certain difficulties in the Bible, evolutionists may ridicule its account of creation, and sinners in general may try to wriggle away from its moral constraints, but the Scripture cannot be broken! Jesus said, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). He Himself is the living Word of God, and we dare not tamper with the written Word inspired by the Holy Spirit. Christ, of course, could and did in some cases extend and apply the Old Testament Scriptures, because He Himself was their Author, but He never questioned their factuality or literal accuracy, and neither should we.

Nevertheless, many modern "Christian" intellectuals and cultists are following in the example of the Pharisees, rather than that of Christ, "wresting" the Scriptures for their gain but "unto their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16). God has spoken plainly in His Word. It is our responsibility to believe and do what He says. HMM

January 17, 2013

The Mighty Hand of God

"That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever." (Joshua 4:24)

The testimony of Joshua to the children of Israel as they entered the promised land reminded them of the tremendous strength in the mighty hand of God whom they were to fear and trust forever. This is only one of about 20 references in the Scriptures to God's mighty hand. Moses had often recalled how "the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 7:8).

The first reference to God's mighty hand is in Jacob's dying prophecy concerning Joseph. "His bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob" (Genesis 49:24).

Like those of Joseph, our hands also can be strong when they are placed in the mighty hands of God. Some may note that this is only a figure of speech, for God is Spirit and has no physical hands. Yes, but "he that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?" (Psalm 94:9). God indeed is God of the mighty hand!

The final reference to God's mighty hand and the only specific reference in the New Testament is in the apostle Peter's exhortation to humility. "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" (1 Peter 5:5-6). Our human might is only a vapor, but "in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength" (Isaiah 26:4).

Jesus said concerning His followers, "They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (John 10:28). HMM

January 18, 2013

Teaching Stones

"Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it." (Habakkuk 2:19)

How foolish are those who worship idols--objects of wood and stone with no life in them, not even when they are adorned in silver and gold. Can inanimate objects come to life and even become teachers? A child knows better.

But not college professors! All over the land, these proud purveyors of "science falsely so called" are indoctrinating young minds with the absurd belief that inorganic substances can somehow first become simple living substances and then eventually organize themselves all the way up to being people. They would not, of course, suggest that sticks and stones could suddenly become human (neither did the ancient idolaters, for that matter). They just believe that time--lots of it--can magically develop people out of much simpler substances than even these ancient philosophers ever imagined. "In the beginning, hydrogen" is their arrogant notion.

But God will not be mocked in this way forever. Life can only come from life--ultimately from the living God! The wooden idol of the pagan is every bit as scientific as the evolutionary models of the modern intellectual; neither one can create life. "Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: . . . They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them" (Psalm 115:4-5, 8).

Only God can create life, and He can even cause stones to teach. "Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: . . . Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?" (Job 12:8-9). HMM

January 19, 2013

Walk by Faith

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Although today's verse appears in parentheses in the King James Bible, it is a most important concept in Scripture and is the summary of an extensive passage which precedes it. Beginning with 2 Corinthians 4:8, Paul continually contrasts the seen and the unseen, finishing up with the admonition to "walk by faith."

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (vv. 8-9). Though we have trials on the outside, through faith we have inward triumph.

"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus . . . that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" (vv. 10-11). Even though "death worketh in us," that same persecution results in "life in you" (v. 12). Through faith we know "that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus" (v. 14).

"Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (vv. 16-17).

"If our earthly house [i.e., body] of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (5:1), "that mortality might be swallowed up of life" (v. 4). The death and decay of this life will ultimately be eradicated. We know this to be fact, for He "hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit" (v. 5) as a guarantee of our resurrection, if indeed we have been born again by faith, the same faith by which we walk.

"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18). JDM

January 20, 2013

Let Them Alone

"Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone." (Hosea 4:17)

The Lord is long-suffering, and those who speak in His name should be also. There do come times, however, when further witness becomes useless or even harmful, or when continued interaction merely invites contamination with ungodliness. In such cases we must simply leave such people alone, following them with prayer and trusting God alone to deal with them.

Such was the ten-tribe nation of Israel, led by the tribe of Ephraim, just before God sent them into Assyrian captivity. God, through the prophet Hosea, told Judah henceforth to let them alone--they were hopelessly given over to pagan evolutionist idolatry. The words "joined to" in today’s verse mean, literally, "under the spell of."

The Lord Jesus used similarly harsh language in reference to the hypocritical Pharisees of His own day: "Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matthew 15:14).

There are other similar warnings. Of those who come, "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof," Paul says, "from such turn away" (2 Timothy 3:5). He has also warned us to "shun profane and vain babblings |that is, the empty philosophizing of those who reject God|: for they will increase unto more ungodliness" (2 Timothy 2:16). "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Ephesians 5:11).

Most, if not all, such warnings seem in context to apply especially to people who once knew and understood the truth, perhaps even professing to accept it for a time, and then knowingly rejected it. When such men oppose our testimony, God says to let them alone; He can deal with them better than we. HMM

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March 14, 2013

Made In Christ

"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:30)

The Greek word ginomai, translated "is made" in this verse, is most fascinating. It is rendered many different ways --"become," etc., as well as "be made." Most often it is simply translated "be." It basically means "begin to be," or "be caused to be." It is even applied to the work of Christ in calling the universe into being. "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3). "Things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" (Hebrews 11:3).

It is frequently used also to denote the marvelous work of Christ in and on the believing Christian. As our text says, He becomes wisdom to us who lack wisdom; He is made our righteousness, although we were sinners; we who are unholy receive our sanctification in Him; and when we were lost, He became our redemption. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become |same word, ginomai| the sons of God" (John 1:12). All that Christ is, we are made through His great sacrifice for us.

Note some of the other things we are made in Christ, by His grace. We are "made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13). We are "made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7). "We are made partakers of Christ" and also "made partakers of the Holy Ghost" (Hebrews 3:14; 6:4).

In fact, when we receive Christ, old things pass away and "all things are become |same word| new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). These wonderful attributes are given to us and appropriated right now by faith and will be accomplished in full perfection when Christ returns and "we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). HMM

March 15, 2013

Living Waters

"A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon." (Song of Solomon 4:15)

There are eight verses in the Bible with the phrase "living water": four in the Old Testament, four in the New. All beautifully describe a spiritual truth under the figure of a flowing stream of refreshing water.

The first of these (in our text above) is a portion of the description of the lovely character of a bride as seen by her coming bridegroom, almost certainly symbolic of the Lord and His people. But then, through the prophet, God laments that "my people . . . have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13). "They have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah 17:13). One day they shall return, however, and Zechariah prophesies that "living waters shall go out from Jerusalem. . . . And the Lord shall be king over all the earth" (Zechariah 14:8-9).

In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus appropriated this metaphor to Himself as He spoke to a woman of Samaria: "If thou knewest the gift of God . . . he would have given thee living water" (John 4:10; see also v. 11). "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). Later in Jerusalem He cried out to all, saying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said |referring, no doubt, to the above Old Testament passages|, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38). Then, in the last book of the Bible is found a special promise for those who die for the Lord's sake. "|He| shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes" (Revelation 7:17). HMM

March 16, 2013

The Winds of the World

"The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits." (Ecclesiastes 1:6)

This is one of the Bible's many scientific insights, written long before such a process was discovered in the modern science of meteorology. The basic circulation of the atmosphere (which generates the winds of the world) is "toward the south" near the ground, which then "turneth about unto the north" aloft. The heated air near the equator expands and rises, then flows north to replace the colder, heavier air which has descended to the ground in the polar regions.

This simple north-south-north cycle is complicated, however, by the earth's rotation. Further complexities are introduced by the different topographical features of the surface (oceans, mountains, etc.), but the end result is a general circulation of the whole atmosphere, which "whirleth about continually, and . . . returneth again according to his circuits."

None of this was understood at all until very modern times, but this ancient verse in Ecclesiastes corresponds beautifully to modern science. In fact, it was not even known until recent times that air had weight, but the patriarch Job had noted about 4,000 years ago that "He . . . seeth under the whole heaven; To make the weight for the winds" (Job 28:24-25), and this fact is essential to the atmospheric circulation.

This is only one of many scientific principles implied in the Bible ages before men discovered them in their scientific research. In contrast, there are no demonstrable scientific errors in the Bible. This is not really surprising, for the same God who wrote the Word made the world! In Jesus Christ "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3). HMM

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March 17, 2013

The Quick and the Dead

"And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead." (Acts 10:42)

This is the climax of the first Christian sermon to the Gentiles delivered by Peter in the house of the Roman centurion, Cornelius. Peter emphasized the truth that Jesus was not just the promised Messiah of Israel, but that "he is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36), and that it is He alone who will judge the "quick and dead."

This striking phrase occurs only three times in the Bible, each time denoting that Christ is Judge of all men. Paul wrote to Timothy as follows: "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word" (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Peter wrote concerning the gross Gentile sins from which his readers had been delivered: "|They| shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead" (1 Peter 4:5).

The term "quick" is the same as "living." When Christ returns, "the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and then all believers, including those still alive in the flesh at His coming, "must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:10). This will be the judgment of the "quick." All the saved are alive in Christ at "the resurrection of life."

But He must also judge the dead--that is, those who are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1) at "the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:29), "For the Father . . . hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John 5:22). "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God . . . and they were judged every man according to their works. . . . This is the second death" (Revelation 20:12-14). HMM

March 18, 2013

Behold the Lamb

"And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!" (John 1:36)

As he spoke to two of his followers, John the Baptist was, in effect, telling them that they should henceforth leave him to follow Jesus. "And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus" (John 1:37). On the previous day, when John had first seen Jesus coming, he had said, apparently to all his disciples, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

This is the first use of the word "lamb" in the New Testament, and it is significant that it refers here to the Lord Jesus as the one great sacrifice for our sins. He is called "the Lamb" 30 more times in the New Testament, the final time no longer viewing Him on the altar but on His eternal throne (Revelation 22:3). Yet, even on His throne as our King, He is still the Lamb, and we can never ever forget that He once died for us that we might live with Him.

Long before this, Isaac once asked his father, "Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham answered, "God will provide himself a lamb" (Genesis 22:7-8). God did just that 2000 years later, when Christ, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8), "came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15).

Then when God was ready to set His people free in ancient Egypt, He told them to place the shed blood of a spotless lamb on the doorpost of each home and said, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" (Exodus 12:13). In fulfillment of all these ancient sacrifices and types, the once-for-all Lamb of God came, and "Christ our passover is sacrificed [even] for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Now, like John's disciples, it surely compels us, in the very depths of our souls, to "behold the Lamb of God" and follow Him. HMM

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March 18, 2013

Behold the Lamb

"And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!" (John 1:36)

As he spoke to two of his followers, John the Baptist was, in effect, telling them that they should henceforth leave him to follow Jesus. "And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus" (John 1:37). On the previous day, when John had first seen Jesus coming, he had said, apparently to all his disciples, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

This is the first use of the word "lamb" in the New Testament, and it is significant that it refers here to the Lord Jesus as the one great sacrifice for our sins. He is called "the Lamb" 30 more times in the New Testament, the final time no longer viewing Him on the altar but on His eternal throne (Revelation 22:3). Yet, even on His throne as our King, He is still the Lamb, and we can never ever forget that He once died for us that we might live with Him.

Long before this, Isaac once asked his father, "Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham answered, "God will provide himself a lamb" (Genesis 22:7-8). God did just that 2000 years later, when Christ, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8), "came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15).

Then when God was ready to set His people free in ancient Egypt, He told them to place the shed blood of a spotless lamb on the doorpost of each home and said, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" (Exodus 12:13). In fulfillment of all these ancient sacrifices and types, the once-for-all Lamb of God came, and "Christ our passover is sacrificed [even] for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Now, like John's disciples, it surely compels us, in the very depths of our souls, to "behold the Lamb of God" and follow Him. HMM

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March 19, 2013

Divine Power--Divine Nature

"According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Certain passages of Scripture simply take one's breath away. Our text for today is just such a passage. To those He has called, God has promised "all things that pertain unto life and godliness." He has provided all that we need to live godly and productive lives. It is "his divine power" (emphatic in the Greek text), imparted to us in the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which makes this possible.

In order to properly utilize our resources, we must continue to grow in "the |full| knowledge of him." Only then can we attain any measure of His "glory and virtue." He has empowered us to reflect His glorious character and virtuous acts as we know who He is and what He has done. In so doing, we are "partakers of the divine nature" (also emphatic in the Greek).

Initially, of course, at the point of salvation we are given the Holy Spirit, always present in the life of a believer. As we increase in the knowledge of Him and yield to the work of the Spirit, our nature is ever more conformed to the divine nature of Jesus Christ.

This appropriation of divine power to sample the divine nature comes to us through "exceeding great and precious promises" bestowed by His glory and virtue. Since God has promised, these promises are sure, and through them we have "escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." JDM

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March 20, 2013

The Obedience of Christ

"I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30)

Christ is our great example in all things--even in that of obedience to the Father and His will. As the perfect Son, He obeyed His Father in all things. "I do nothing of myself," He said, "but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him" (John 8:28-29).

There are three specific references in the epistles to the obedience of Christ. One of the most profound passages in the Bible is Hebrews 5:8: "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered." How could the omniscient Son of God have to learn anything? There are some things that cannot be learned in books but only by experience, and obedience in hard circumstances is surely one of these. Jesus learned obedience by actual experience.

Christ obeyed His Father even after praying that the bitter cup might be taken away. "Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8).

Had He been disobedient, as was Adam, we could never have known salvation. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (Romans 5:19). Jesus was, indeed, always perfectly obedient to His Father's word, "leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps"(1 Peter 2:21).

As our text emphasizes, His obedience consisted simply of seeking and following the will of His Father in all things. "Not my will, but thine" (Luke 22:42). HMM

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March 21, 2013

The Obedience of Christ

"I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30)

Christ is our great example in all things—even in that of obedience to the Father and His will. As the perfect Son, He obeyed His Father in all things. "I do nothing of myself," He said, "but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him" (John 8:28-29).

There are three specific references in the epistles to the obedience of Christ. One of the most profound passages in the Bible is Hebrews 5:8: "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered." How could the omniscient Son of God have to learn anything? There are some things that cannot be learned in books but only by experience, and obedience in hard circumstances is surely one of these. Jesus learned obedience by actual experience.

Christ obeyed His Father even after praying that the bitter cup might be taken away. "Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8).

Had He been disobedient, as was Adam, we could never have known salvation. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (Romans 5:19). Jesus was, indeed, always perfectly obedient to His Father's word, "leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps"(1 Peter 2:21).

As our text emphasizes, His obedience consisted simply of seeking and following the will of His Father in all things. "Not my will, but thine" (Luke 22:42). HMM

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March 22, 2013

Power, Love, and a Sound Mind

"For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)

This little verse is full of information. In the previous verse, Paul insisted that Timothy "stir up" the gift that he had received and use it as it was intended because God did not give us a "spirit of fear."

The Greek word deilia, translated as "fear," stresses timidity or cowardice as opposed to terror. God's gift does not function well if we are too timid to use it. His gift has power, love, and a "sound mind."

The gift is not power. God's gift (whatever it may be) comes with dunamis--the innate ability to carry out the gift. All the Twice-Born are given "the power that worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:20). Whatever the Holy Spirit has gifted us with upon our entrance into His kingdom (1 Corinthians 12:11), He has also given the necessary power to implement and use that gift.

Your gift also comes with love. Again, "love" is not the gift but part of the character of our Lord Jesus and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Were it not for the reflection in us of the unilateral and sacrificial love of our Redeemer, these supernatural gifts could be misused, distorted, and abused for personal glory. Diotrephes misused his gift, failing to use the spirit of love (3 John 1:9).

Sophronismos is the unique Greek word used to describe the spirit of a "sound mind" that is given to us with our gift. It's a combination of the Greek verbs translated as "to save" and "to control." Its basic meaning would be "safe control" or "wholesome control"--perhaps even "control that saves."

With our spiritual gifts comes the perfect combination of abilities that empower the gift, the love that keeps the gifts focused on others, and the "safety controls" that keep it from doing damage unwittingly. HMM III

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March 23, 2013

He Is the Owner

"Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. But if a man be just . . . he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 18:4-5, 9)

What an awesome statement! The eternal Creator of all mankind asserting His ownership over each man's soul to do with it what He deems proper.

What is the worth of one eternal soul created in the image of God? The Creator is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills. Indeed, the earth and all the galaxies are His, but there is something about a soul that is of far greater worth. A soul can choose, can worship its Maker, and can reflect the very nature of God. Nothing else in all creation has these powers. Yet He owns all souls. He has an unquestionable right to them, and they will never be taken away, for He has created them. Furthermore, their numbers are growing, for He has given His subjects the command and power to reproduce. At each conception He supplies a newly created, eternal soul. Truly, His wealth is great!

How should we respond to His ownership? By obedience! By choosing to act according to His will as revealed in reason, our conscience, and above all, in His written Word, we ascribe to Him the glory due Him. We must jealously guard our affections, reserving the adulation which He deserves for Him alone. We must lovingly care for His creation, including the many fellow souls whom He brings across our paths.

Above all, we must avail ourselves of His gracious provision of mercy and forgiveness through the redemptive work of His Son, Jesus Christ. At that point, He performs another creative act, for "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature |or creation|: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). JDM

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March 24, 2013

Magnified Mercy

"Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die." (Genesis 19:19)

This rather presumptuous plea of Lot to the angels who had spared his life when they called down fire from heaven to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah is noteworthy because it contains the first reference in the Bible to the mercy of God. Lot was a believer and a righteous man, but carnal in attitude and greedy in motivation. Yet God not only showed grace in His dealings with Lot, but even magnified mercy!

As appropriate for the principle of first mention in Scripture, this first reference to "mercy" lays the foundation for the dominant theme of the doctrine of mercy throughout Scripture. The key is that God’s mercy can only be described properly in superlatives, and this fact is noted repeatedly throughout Scripture.

"The mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him," said David (Psalm 103:17). "For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him" (Psalm 103:11). His mercy, therefore, is both eternal and infinite. Nothing could ever be more "magnified" than this!

No wonder, therefore, that Paul says He is "rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us" (Ephesians 2:4), and Peter tells us that "his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope" (1 Peter 1:3).

It is only "according to his mercy he saved us" (Titus 3:5), surely "not |because of any| works of righteousness which we have done." Therefore, with David, we can say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever" (Psalm 23:6). HMM

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March 25, 2013

An Eternal Holy Calling

"Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (2 Timothy 1:9)

There appears to be an apparent conflict between God's salvation, which was determined "before the world began," and our present need to persuade men to believe the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:11). Jesus urged whoever was burdened to "come unto me" (Matthew 11:28), while insisting He had chosen His disciples rather than the other way around (John 15:16). Scripture often expresses this paradox.

Ephesians 2:8-9 states that our salvation is "not of works" but comes to us by the grace of God through faith--and even that faith is God's gift. Few would argue that salvation is some sort of cooperative work between God and man, since there is no question that our salvation is not due to our efforts. Many passages verify that teaching.

Today's text insists that our salvation was "according to his own purpose and grace." Our salvation must meet the requirements set by God's standards. Just what does that demand?

God must be holy and just while justifying the ungodly (Romans 3:36). His holiness cannot be compromised. Thus the incarnate and sinless Redeemer had to be sacrificed in order to reconcile sinful man with a holy God (2 Corinthians 5:21 and Revelation 13:8). Then the absolute sequence of redemption through grace had to be determined for those "who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28 and 1 Peter 1:2).

The result of the sacrifice and the sequence had to be fixed so that the redeemed would be "conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29). Praise God for His "unspeakable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15). HMM III

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March 26, 2013

The Teacher and His Words

"For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." (Matthew 12:37)

In many churches teachers are in short supply. Evidently many who have the Spirit-given gift of teaching are not using it as they should. On the other hand, a Christian must never assume the role of teacher without clear leading from above. As the teacher of the early Jerusalem church wrote, "My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation" (James 3:1). Christ taught in our text that by our words we shall be judged and either justified or condemned. Since for "every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36), how much more so will the words of a teacher be scrutinized, especially a teacher of the Word of God.

Another reason one should be slow to don the cloak of a teacher is that even a teacher finds it hard to live up to his own teachings. "For in many things we offend all |better, 'we all stumble'|. If any man |stumble| not in word, the same is a perfect man" (James 3:2). Speaking of the Jewish teachers, Jesus instructed His listeners to do what their teachers said, not what they did (Matthew 23:3), and then He condemned hypocritical teachers with seven stinging "woes" (vv. 13-33).

The proper use of the teaching gift perhaps yields greater honor than most but also greater condemnation if error or hurt creeps in. The church does need all the gifts and should not neglect any genuinely Spirit-given gifts of its members.

Nevertheless, one might contemplate the aggressive, anti-creationist stance taken by many professors at evangelical churches, colleges, and seminaries today, teaching theistic evolution, the day-age theory, framework hypothesis, etc., and wonder if Christ's reference to the "millstone" around the neck might apply (Luke 17:2). JDM

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March 27, 2013

I Come Quickly

"He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:20)

This is the next-to-the-last verse in the Bible, and it contains the last promise in the Bible. The final promise of the Lord is that He would come back to earth again "quickly," but it has been almost 2,000 years since He made the promise, and He hasn't come yet. Evidently, the word "quickly." as He used it, did not mean "immediately."

As a matter-of-fact, this promise appears no less than six times here in Revelation (Revelation 2:5, 16; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20). The first three are in Christ's messages to the churches at Ephesus, Pergamos, and Philadelphia, respectively. The last three are in His final message to all churches (Revelation 22:16).

The Lord Jesus has not forgotten His promise for "all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us" (2 Corinthians 1:20). Furthermore, many spiritual believers in every previous generation have been looking for His coming "quickly," as He promised, yet they all have died before its fulfillment.

It seems evident that "quickly" must be understood in the sense of "suddenly." It may well be "in such an hour as ye think not" (Matthew 24:44), and it will occur "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 15:52), when it happens. It does seem that all the signs of the nearness of His sudden coming are being fulfilled today, except perhaps one. "And the gospel must first be published among all nations" (Mark 13:10), "for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14).

Even this is now being done, it seems. In any case, it is vitally important that we "abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we . . . not be ashamed before him at his coming" (1 John 2:28). "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" HMM

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March 28, 2013

Born Again by the Word of God

"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." (1 Peter 1:23)

Our rebirth into the family of God is quite unlike our natural birth. All human birth and, indeed, due to the universal curse placed on all creation (Romans 8:20-22) at the time of Adam's rebellion (Genesis 3), all plant (1 Peter 1:24) and animal reproduction as well, is "of corruptible seed," withering and dying.

Our spirits, however, if we have availed ourselves of God's free offer of eternal life through the death of His dear Son, have been reborn of "incorruptible" seed, not subject to decay or death. The agent which brought about this transformation is the incorruptible "word of the Lord |which| endureth for ever" (v. 25).

This "word" is modified by two descriptors, both of which are emphatic in the Greek. First, it liveth; i.e., it actually possesses life. His sacrificial death yields our eternal life. Note the precious truth: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Secondly, the Word of God "abideth" (same word as "endureth" in verse 25) forever. There are two emphases here: One is on the quality of the Word; i.e., it will never change or lose its relevance. The other is on the self-perpetuating nature of the Word. It so consists of life that it is able to give life.

"This is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:25), by which we are born again to incorruptibility and immortality. "That by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:4). JDM

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March 29, 2013

Once for All

"For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." (Romans 6:10)

The Greek word ephapax translated "once" in this verse, actually means "once for all." Christ did not have to die again and again, a new death for every sinner. He died unto sin once for all, His death being sufficient to take away "the sin of the |whole| world" (John 1:29).

The word ephapax occurs only five times in the Bible. Our text is the first, confirming that His once-for-all death for sin was sufficient forever; He now lives wholly "unto God." The second confirms the reality of this permanent resurrection. In Jewish law, a factual claim was considered confirmed by the principle that "in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established" (Matthew 18:16). Paul recalls that the resurrected Christ "was seen of above five hundred brethren at once" (1 Corinthians 15:6). Two or three would have sufficed, but He had five hundred witnesses. These saw Him alive once for all, and their lives were forever changed.

The other three references are in Hebrews: "|He| needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once |that is, 'once for all'|, when he offered up himself." "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once |'once for all'| into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10).

Once for all He died for sin, then with His own shed blood, He entered into the presence of the Father, sanctified us forever, and was raised from the dead by impeccable testimony, once for all. HMM

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March 30, 2013

The Blessed Man

"And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." (Psalm 1:3)

The first psalm constitutes a contrast between the godly individual who delights in God's law and the ungodly person who is destined for destruction. "Blessed" literally means "happy," and the habits of such a happy one are described as not only avoiding the thought patterns and lifestyle of the ungodly (v. 1), but also delighting in and obeying the Word of God (v. 2). Our text describes four results of being blessed or happy in the biblical sense.

First, "he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water," with the implication being to dwell in a secure, bountiful state. The verb "plant" actually means "transplanted," now firmly rooted and provided for, no longer vulnerable, tentative, and undernourished.

Second, he "bringeth forth his fruit in his season." One does not so nourish a tree without any purpose. Here, following the analogy, the godly individual, nourished and protected by his Maker, can likewise expect to accomplish a purpose--in this case to bear spiritual, eternal fruit.

Third, "his leaf also shall not wither." Eternal life is the present possession of all who have been "transplanted" by the Lord. Such a one can expect to faithfully bring forth precious fruit in each season of his life.

Fourth, "whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Success in each endeavor undertaken by one whose delight is the Lord can be expected, such success defined by that which brings spiritual maturity, and eternal fruit, and prosperity, as He defines prosperity.

"For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish" (v. 6). JDM

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April 1, 2013

The Christian's Lifestyle: Our Calling

"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called." (Ephesians 4:1)

As Christians, we are called "out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9). Our calling is identified as "the heavenly calling" (Hebrews 3:1), and high, in the sense of majestic (Philippians 3:14), and we are told that the called (Romans 1:6) are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). But we also are told to "give diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10). There is much in Scripture about our calling, and although the calling is God's work and prerogative, we are expected to add to (our) faith "virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity" (2 Peter 1:5-7).

We are "called to be saints" (Romans 1:7). That is, the purpose for which we have been called or invited by God to become one of His chosen, is to be holy! Everything in our lifestyle should center around the fact that "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Ephesians 2:10).

Other aspects of our calling are the results of that holy character, which should be the ever-controlling dominant factor in our lives.

The specifically cited traits in this context are attitudes of lowliness (see Philippians 2:1-3) and meekness (see Colossians 3:12-17), all the while "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit" (Ephesians 4:3). A summary of this calling is found in Paul's closing comment to the Corinthian church: "Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you" (2 Corinthians 13:11).

HMM III

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April 2, 2013

Breath and Spirit

"Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein." (Isaiah 42:5)

God the LORD (Elohim Jehovah) is here identified as the Creator and organizer of all the universe, the heavens, and the earth, and all things therein. In context, He is also identifying Himself as the One sending forth "my servant" to be given as "a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles" (Isaiah 42:1, 6), the coming Messiah of Israel.

He who does all these things also gives every person born both breath and spirit. The "breath" (Hebrew neshumah) is that "breath of life" which God breathed into Adam's nostrils when He created him at the beginning. Even those who do not believe in God must depend on Him for their very breath, since "he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things." Therefore, He is "not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:25, 27-28).

He also gives each person a spirit (Hebrew ruach), a word used first of all in reference to the "Spirit of God" (Genesis 1:2). It is this attribute in particular that constitutes the created "image of God" in man (Genesis 1:27). The higher land animals all possess "the breath of life," along with man (Genesis 7:22), but only men and women are created in the image of God, each with an eternal spirit.

Man's breath and spirit are closely related, and sometimes the words are used almost interchangeably. When the breath departs from a person's body at death, the spirit also departs with it, but the latter "shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The breath also will be activated again on the coming resurrection day. HMM

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April 3, 2013

The Mind of Christ

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5)

Although salvation is free, it is not cheap, since it required the Creator Himself to become man and submit to an agonizing death on the cross. This was the mind of Christ!

And, by the same token, although our salvation is not conditioned on any meritorious acts of our own, the standard by which we must measure our lives is nothing less than the perfect life of Jesus Christ. In the first place, our words and deeds are to be compared to His: "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1 Peter 2:21). Our standard of holiness is to be His life of holiness. "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation |meaning ‘behavior'|" (1 Peter 1:15).

If we truly follow His steps, they may well lead to suffering and persecution, but "he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (1 John 2:6), and this involves a willingness to be "crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20). The Christian life is preeminently to be characterized by unselfish love, but again the standard of that love is nothing less than the love of Christ Himself. "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another" (John 13:34).

To love as He loved; to walk where He walked; to be holy as He is holy; to follow His example in word and deed--all this requires that we think as He thought, that the very attitude of our soul be like His. In position, we do "have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16), but in practice, we still come far short. May God help us to cast down "imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God," and bring "into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). HMM

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April 4, 2013

Life and Immortality

"But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (2 Timothy 1:10)

Most of us have read or heard the passage in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 that directly challenges death and hell with the fact of the resurrected Christ and the promise of our own resurrection when He returns. There is no "sting" left in death and there is no law that overrides our salvation because our Lord Jesus has gained the victory.

Long ago, the great man Job faced his detractors with the confidence that "in my flesh shall I see God" (Job 19:26). The prophet Hosea, in the middle of difficult life demands and during a time of awful apostasy, heard the Lord promise those who were faithful, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction" (Hosea 13:14).

The good news of the implementation of God's eternal plan brought "life and immortality to light." All during the millennia of the Old Testament, fulfillment of God's actions were hinted at, through the sacrifices of the altar, and promised oftentimes in the utterances of the prophets. But when the Messiah became incarnate, "we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father" (John 1:14).

The apostle John, whose gospel and letters consummate in the great Revelation disclosure, could say, "The life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us" (1 John 1:2). He who is life (John 11:25) promised, "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). HMM III

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April 5, 2013

God's Perfect Way

"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him." (2 Samuel 22:31)

This is the 30th verse (out of 50) in David's great "song of deliverance," evidently considered by God to be of sufficient importance to have it included twice (2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18) in His written word. Its testimony is greatly needed.

One of the most common excuses given by men for rejecting the God of the Bible is their opinion that His ways are unfair. Even Christians are prone to complain at the way God deals with them. But the fact that we may not understand God's ways hardly gives us the right to pass judgment on them. He often reminds us in His word that His way is perfect and His word has been tried and proved, again and again. "For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth" (Psalm 33:4). "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul" (Psalm 19:7).

We need to settle it in our hearts that, whether we understand them or not, God's ways are always perfect. What He does is right, and whatever He says must be true by definition. His ways are always in the context of eternity, but we leap to judgment in terms of present inconvenience.

His perfect way is seen most fully in Christ, and His truth is heard most clearly in Christ, for "I am the way," He said, and I am "the truth" (John 14:6). Yet Christ's way was through the cross, and His truth was opposed by the father of lies (John 8:44). God's way for us may also lead us into suffering and great opposition, but His way is always perfect, and His word is tried and true. If we trust Him through it all, He will be our buckler as He was for David. "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him" (Proverbs 30:5). HMM

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April 6, 2013

Our Refuge

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." (Psalm 46:1-2)

"The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble" (Psalm 9:9). What a comfort it is, in these days of turmoil and opposition, to know that our Lord is "a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat" (Isaiah 25:4).

Our refuge is strong and secure. The psalmist testifies: "I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust" (Psalm 91:2). Then God answers: "Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee" (Psalm 91:9-10 and see also vv. 10-13).

Not only does our refuge provide us safety and protection, but no other refuge will do. After identifying our refuge by the words, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste |or be 'alarmed'|" (Isaiah 28:16), God warns that those who refuse His true refuge will receive instead His "judgment," for He "shall sweep away the refuge of lies" (Isaiah 28:17).

The apostle Peter, fresh from his personal encounters with his risen Lord, confronted the Jewish leaders with their serious error of rejection. "This is the stone which was set at nought of you" (Acts 4:11). In his charge, however, he included the precious truth: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (v. 12). Our refuge, our sure foundation, is none other than our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we have "fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Hebrews 6:18). JDM

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