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Days of Praise


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May 27, 2013

Christian Freedom

"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13)

Liberty has always been a cherished concept to Americans, ever since the patriotic call of Patrick Henry for liberty or death. It was also a burning issue with the Jews at the time of Christ, chafing under Roman rule as they were. Many early Christians were actually slaves or even in prison for their faith. All those in bondage have longed to be free, and wars and revolutions have been fought to gain their freedoms.

But the worst bondage of all is slavery to sin. No army can free a man from sin, and if he dies in sin, he will continue in bondage forever. Among the last words of the Bible are these: "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still" (Revelation 22:11).

It is only Christ who can set a sinner free. Christ died for our sins, and through faith in Him we receive full pardon and liberty. "Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. . . . Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (Romans 6:6-7, 18).

There is no greater or truer freedom than freedom in Christ. "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). Because of Christ, the very creation itself, now groaning and travailing in pain under the curse of sin, one day soon "shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:21).

In Christ we now have freedom to live unto righteousness. "Being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life" (Romans 6:22). HMM

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May 28, 2013

At God's Good Pleasure

"But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased." (Psalm 115:3)

We often raise questions about God's actions, but He is never obligated to explain to us His reasons. It is enough to know that it pleased Him, for whatever He does is right by definition.

For example, if someone asks why God created the universe, we must answer simply that it was for His "pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4:11). "Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places" (Psalm 135:6). He does not have to give account to us, for we also were created at His pleasure.

And why did He allow His Son to suffer and die on the cross? Although "he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him" and to "make his soul an offering for sin," knowing that eventually "the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand" (Isaiah 53:9-10).

We may never be able to understand why God has done this, especially for sinners such as us, but we don't have to understand. "It pleased God . . . to save them that believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21), not them that understand.

We can be sure that God does have perfect reasons for everything He does, and perhaps we shall understand it all in eternity. In the meantime, we are simply (with Paul) to be thankful that "it pleased God, who . . . called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me" (Galatians 1:15-16). He has, in some way beyond comprehension, "predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will" (Ephesians 1:5), and that is enough to know for now. HMM

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May 29, 2013

The Faithful Saying

"It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself." (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

This saying may have been a song or other memory device that Paul recommended as a summary of doctrine. It expresses important elements of saving faith. First, Christ's vicarious death gives us eternal life in Him. We "who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1) have been created "in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24) and have "passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).

Second, standing with Christ in this life attests to our reigning with Him in the next. The "persecutions and tribulations that |we| endure" are a "manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that |we| may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which |we| also suffer" (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5).

Also, denying Christ in this life will insure that He will deny us for eternity. "Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:33). "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels" (Revelation 3:5).

Finally, even our unbelief will not affect Christ's faithfulness. "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen" (2 Corinthians 1:20). "Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever" (Psalm 119:160). "For I am the LORD, I change not" (Malachi 3:6).

May this faithful saying be your foundation in faith. It is a guide to salvation and an anchor for eternity. HMM III

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May 30, 2013

That I May Know Him

"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." (Philippians 3:10)

Paul deeply desired to know Christ in an intimate fashion--to experience an even deeper relationship. In our text, he lists three things which will also be known if we know Christ.

The power of His resurrection: The victory of Christ over sin and death exhibited His great power. Paul not only longed for an ultimate resurrected body, "if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (v. 11), but he longed for the power over sin as well "to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).

The fellowship of His sufferings: Paul's desire to know Christ was so great he was willing, if need be, to suffer as He suffered. And, indeed, Paul did suffer in many ways (as seen in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 and elsewhere). "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). "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:17).

Being made conformable to His death: Paul was willing to die as Christ died and soon did die a martyr's death, beheaded in a Roman prison. But that is not in view here. Rather, he wanted to be like Christ in His death, gaining complete victory over all sin. "For he that is dead is freed from sin" (Romans 6:7).

To know Christ in this way, to be conformed to Him as Paul desired, primarily demands developing the servant's heart and selfless humility that took Christ to the cross (Philippians 2:5-8) to make it possible for us to know Him. JDM

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May 31, 2013

All in All

"Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." (Deuteronomy 32:3-4)

It is a thrilling exercise to note all the holy and gracious attributes attached to the name of God by the writers of Holy Scripture. In our text, for example, taken from the song of Moses, God is called a "God of truth." According to the prophet Isaiah, the Lord is a "God of judgment" (Isaiah 30:18).

David called God both the "God of my righteousness" and "the God of salvation" (Psalms 4:1; 68:20).

In the New Testament, Stephen called Him "the God of glory" (Acts 7:2). Paul called Him both "the God of hope" and "the God of patience and consolation" (Romans 15:5, 13) when he wrote to the persecuted believers in the great capital of the Roman Empire.

To the carnal Christians in Corinth, He was called "the God of all comfort" and "the God of love and peace" (2 Corinthians 1:3; 13:11), and to the suffering believers in Philippi, Paul identified Him as "the God of peace" (Philippians 4:9).

The apostle Peter called Him "the God of all grace" (1 Peter 5:10), and the writer of Hebrews recognized Him as both "God the judge of all" and "the God of peace" (Hebrews 12:23; 13:20).

Our God is, indeed, the God who is all in all to His people. He is the God of truth and righteousness, of peace and love, of patience and comfort, of hope and grace, glory, and salvation. "Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints" (Revelation 15:3). Is He, above all, "Lord of all" in us who know Him? HMM

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June 1, 2013

How Populations Grow

"And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them." (Exodus 1:7)

Populations can grow very rapidly. For example, one can calculate that the seventy who came into Egypt with Jacob (Genesis 46:27) could easily have multiplied to over five million in just ten generations, assuming only that the average family had six children who lived and reproduced, and that only two generations were living contemporaneously at any one time. This was less than half the number in Jacob's immediate family. The actual count of the grown Israelite men (not including the tribe of Levi) who left Egypt with Moses was "six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty" (Numbers 1:46). The total population was probably between two and three million at the time.

This illustrates how rapidly populations can grow when conditions are favorable. In fact, if a simple geometric growth rate is assumed (which was the assumption made by Charles Darwin in relation to his imagined "struggle for existence" in nature), it would only take about 1,100 years—assuming 35 years per generation—to develop a world population of six billion people. Immediately after the Flood, with only eight people and the whole world before them, with long lifespans still prevailing, and with every incentive to have large families, the population surely would have grown explosively. Yet the average annual growth rate since the Flood need only have been one-fourth the present growth rate to produce the world's present population in the 4,000 years (minimum) since that time.

All of which indicates that the evolutionary scenario, which assumes that human populations have been on the earth for about a million years, is absurd. The whole universe could not hold all the people! HMM

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June 2, 2013

The Unequal Yoke

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14)

This is one of the definitive statements in Scripture on the doctrine of Christian separation. Not only should believers refrain from practicing evil teaching and error, they should not join in any formal association with those who do such things, nor should they enter into a binding relationship of any kind with non-Christians.

There may be a question regarding the full scope of this prohibition, though it probably would not apply to civic clubs, professional societies, and other groups with no religious connotations. The context of this verse implies an association of Christians with pagan idolaters, compromising God's Word with the immoral pantheism of the Greek religions.

The "unequal yoke" seems, therefore, to be one involving an actual "fellowship" and "communion" in some kind of religious or quasi-spiritual union with unbelievers, and this is forbidden, for how "can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3). In the modern scene, ancient Greek pantheism has now become one form or another of evolutionary humanism. Thus the prohibition would at least apply to membership in secret lodges or fraternities with a pseudo-religious structure and purpose, as well as membership in liberal churches or cults in the so-called "New Age" orbit. It clearly must also include marriage or partnership or other formal unions with individuals who, as unbelievers in Christ, are either knowingly or unknowingly affected by such pagan beliefs or practices. Instead of such an unequal yoke, we should be joined only to Christ and His followers, "For," said He, "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30). HMM

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June 3, 2013

God Knows What We Don't Know

"I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me." (Psalm 119:75)

One of the most perplexing aspects of the Christian life is trying to understand God's purpose when defeat or affliction comes into our lives, thereby hindering or even halting our ministry and testimony for Him. Many have been the servants of God who were sincerely working for Christ, seeking to obey His will and His Word as best they understood them, but then suddenly were laid aside by sickness, or had their ministries stopped by the enemies of God (sometimes even by fellow Christians), or for some other reason, and could not discern why God allowed it.

What then? When affliction comes, we must simply trust God, knowing that whatever He does is right and that our affliction is invested with His faithfulness. He is our Creator and, through Christ, has also become our heavenly Father: "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?" (Hebrews 12:9). He knows what we don't know, therefore we can "know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

This verse (Romans 8:28) is one of the most familiar and most wonderful promises in the Bible, but it is one of the most difficult to believe in time of affliction or loss. Nevertheless, it is God's promise, and "all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us" (2 Corinthians 1:20).

God knows the end from the beginning, and in that wonderful day when Christ returns, "then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Until then, we must simply trust Him. HMM

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June 4, 2013

Thine, O Lord

"Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all." (1 Chronicles 29:11)

This is one of the great doxologies of Scripture, originally a part of King David's prayer at the time of Solomon's coronation as his successor. Although David and Solomon were the greatest kings of Israel, and two of the greatest kings in the world of their age, David rightly acknowledged that the Lord Himself was the true King, not only of Israel, but of all heaven and Earth. He is head, the supreme ruler, over all.

This is the first occurrence in Scripture of the great testimony of worship: "Thine is the kingdom." In the modern world, however, there are relatively few who acknowledge Him as King of creation. Except for a small minority, most people believe that the universe has evolved and man is king.

But David's prayer will be echoed again in the great prayer of the cherubim: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4:11). Then, soon afterward, "the four and twenty elders" utter their prayer: "We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty . . . because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned" (Revelation 11:16-17).

Someday, every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. "Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion. . . . Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. . . . Blessed are all they that put their trust in him" (Psalm 2:6, 10, 12). In that day, "there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him" (Revelation 22:3). HMM

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June 5, 2013

Fellowship with the Father

". . .and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3)

One marvelous reason for which God has adopted us (Ephesians 1:5), indeed part of the very "calling" to become God's children, is to fellowship (1 Corinthians 1:9) with the great God of creation!

Jesus prayed (John 17) that we, His chosen disciples, might have the same kind of relationship with the Heavenly Father that Jesus Himself had throughout eternity. Our minds may not totally grasp that wonder down here—except as we try to understand something of the key of walking "in the light" (1 John 1:7).

The nature of light in our universe gives us clues:

Light is unchangeable; one cannot make light dark.

Light exposes everything (reveals and brings clarity).

Light is the sustainer of all life as we know it.

The nature of darkness is also very instructive:

Darkness is driven away by the smallest spark.

Darkness covers everything (hides and obscures).

Darkness will kill all life as we know it.

"The path of the just is as the shining light. . . . The way of the wicked is as darkness" (Proverbs 4:18-19). The promise of fellowship with God is that He "will lead them in paths that they have not known" and that He "will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight" (Isaiah 42:16).

Therefore, "let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Since we were "sometimes darkness" (Ephesians 5:8) but have been delivered from "the power of darkness" (Colossians 1:13), we should no longer "fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Ephesians 5:11). HMM III

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June 6, 2013

The Presence of the Lord

"And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden." (Genesis 3:8)

The presence of the Lord can be either a cause of fear or a source of blessing. Adam and Eve were greatly afraid of His presence because of their sin, and their son Cain "went out from the presence of the LORD" (Genesis 4:16) because of his sin. Yet it will also be to many a time of great joy. "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?" (1 Thessalonians 2:19).

The difference, of course, is the presence or absence of unforgiven sin in the presence of the Lord. Most of the sixteen occurrences of the phrase stress the judgmental aspect. Those who reject Christ's offer of forgiveness through repentance and faith in His death for our sins will eventually be banned forever from His presence, like Cain. "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: |They| shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

But for those who have repented of their sins and trusted in Christ for salvation, the prospect of the coming and personal presence of the Lord Jesus is one of joyful anticipation, for "in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11).

When He comes again, we shall be presented "faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24) and shall thenceforth "ever be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17). HMM

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June 7, 2013

It Is Enough

"And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die." (Genesis 45:28)

When someone exclaims, "It is enough," either a requirement has been satisfied, or a need has been fulfilled, or a limit has been reached. This phrase occurs seven times in the Old Testament (two different Hebrew words) and three times in the New (each a different Greek word).

In its first occurrence (in our text), Jacob is overcome with thankful emotion at the news that his beloved son, long given up for dead, is still alive. For a very different reason, Pharaoh later cried: "Entreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail" (Exodus 9:28).

"It is enough: stay now thine hand" (2 Samuel 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:15). This command of God to the death angel stopped the destruction of Israel following David's sin of numbering his people. Later, when Elijah thought he could bear no more, "he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough" (1 Kings 19:4).

On the other hand, "there are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough" (Proverbs 30:15-16).

In the New Testament, Jesus said: "It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord" (Matthew 10:25). As the time of His arrest was drawing near, He told His disciples: "It is enough, the hour is come" (Mark 14:41). When they produced two swords, "he said unto them, It is enough" (Luke 22:38).

There obviously are many types of circumstances which can lead one to cry: "Enough!" But "in the ages to come," there will never be an end to "the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:7). We can never get enough of God! HMM

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June 8, 2013

The Truth in Us

"For the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever." (2 John 2)

The word "truth" occurs more in the gospel of John than in any other book of the New Testament, and it occurs in the first epistle of John more than in any other book except John's gospel. Then, it occurs more in John's two one-chapter epistles (2 and 3 John) than in any other New Testament book save John and 1 John. Surely one of the great themes in John's writings is truth!

God is, indeed, the God of truth, and His written Word is "the scripture of truth" (Daniel 10:21). "For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth" (Psalm 33:4). The Lord Jesus Christ is, in fact, the very incarnation of truth. "I am the way, the truth, and the life," He asserted (John 14:6).

Surely truth dwells forever in Christ, for He is Himself the Creator and is thereby the very definition of truth. But how can it be that truth dwells in us and shall be with us forever? This is certainly not the case with the natural man.

It can only be by the Holy Spirit, of course, and this is what Christ—who is the truth—has promised. "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:16-17).

That being so, with the Holy Spirit of truth indwelling us forever, our words, and deeds, and our very lives should be characterized by truth and complete consistency. "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor" (Ephesians 4:25). "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth" (1 John 1:6). HMM

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June 9, 2013

Confession

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

The Bible book in which this glorious promise is given was written entirely to the saint of God, not to the unbelieving sinner.

Confession is what saints do when they sin.

Repentance is what sinners do before they become saints.

Confession is agreement (identity) with the sin against God.

Repentance is reversal (changed mind) to trust (from me to God).

Psalm 51 is a classic prayer of confession. King David poured out his heart of sorrow for the terrible affair with Bathsheba and yearned for God to "wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (v. 2). David acknowledged that "against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight" (v. 4). He confessed his sin, and asked God, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation" (v. 12).

Three of the gospels record the declaration of Jesus that "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mark 2:17). Repentance is not an apology for specific sins, it is a heart-mind-soul turning from self-righteous sufficiency to God's holiness. It is the lost that repent, not the saved: "Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance" (Luke 15:7).

One day, however, "every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:11). Far better to repent in sorrow today than confess in terror at the Judgment. HMM III

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June 10, 2013

The Lamb's Book of Life

"And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." (Revelation 21:27)

God does keep books! In fact, when David was pondering the time between his own conception and birth, he said "in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance |that is, as my days continued| were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them" (Psalm 139:16). It seems that God has a book for each person who is conceived, and that all these together constitute the Book of Life, one great volume containing the names and deeds of every one who was ever given biological life by his Maker.

But many, during the course of their lives, will reject (or simply ignore) God's provision that would also give them eternal life. As David prayed in another psalm: "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous" (Psalm 69:28). Note also Revelation 3:5 and 22:19. And that will be a fearful thing, for "whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).

Those whose names will not be blotted out of the book, of course, are those who have been redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19). Not one person deserves to be retained in God's book, for all have sinned, but they have "beheld," with eyes of thankful faith, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), and have therefore been redeemed by the Lamb.

Finally, only these will still have their names written on the rolls of the heavenly city. God's Book of Life will have become "the Lamb's Book of Life" on which are written forever the names of all those redeemed by His blood. HMM

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June 11, 2013

Ye Which Are Spiritual

"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." (Galatians 6:1)

According to the New Testament, there are two broad categories of Christian believers, carnal and spiritual—that is, those whose actions and decisions are mainly governed by the "flesh" and those who normally are governed by the leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul noted this fact when he wrote to the bickering Christians in the church at Corinth. "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:1).

Even though true believers can behave carnally, the fact that they are "babes in Christ" confirms that they are "in Christ." They just need to grow up, as it were, into spiritual maturity through partaking of both the milk and the meat of the Scriptures. Note 1 Peter 2:2 ("desire the sincere milk of the word") and Hebrews 5:14 ("strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age") for the God-given principle of Christian growth.

But our text also has a warning for spiritual Christians! When confronted with the fact of a "fault" (that is, literally, a willful sin) in the life of a Christian brother, we must remember that our own spirituality does not guarantee that we ourselves are immune from sin. We must be careful to help rather than to condemn such a weak brother because we still can "also be tempted," even though we usually try diligently to obey God's Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

It is vital, the apostle reminds us, that "ye which are spiritual" maintain a true "spirit of meekness" in our interactions with fellow believers, as well as with the unsaved. HMM

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June 12, 2013

Yet Not I

"But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Corinthians 15:10)

The apostle Paul was, by any measure, one of the most dedicated and fruitful Christians who ever lived. If any man had a right to be proud of his writings, or his works, or his life in general, it was Paul. No doubt he, like others, had to wrestle with the sin of pride, reminding himself again and again that all he had done he owed simply to the grace and guidance and provision of God.

He could well have boasted, as noted in our text, that he had labored more abundantly than any of the other apostles, but then he brought himself up short with the remonstrance: "Yet not I!" All of his work and success therein he owed completely to the grace of God.

This phrase occurs just two other times. The first is when Paul is giving out his advice and wisdom concerning that most basic of all human institutions, marriage. "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband" (1 Corinthians 7:10). As wise (and even divinely inspired) as his words may have been, he must remind his readers that, after all, this was Christ's command, not his!

The last occurrence is in Paul's great testimony concerning his new and changed life in Christ. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20). The transformed, holy, powerful life he was living was not his own accomplishment, but due solely to the indwelling Christ. And surely, if Paul must so remind himself and his listeners, then we should never boast of our own life or works or words. Not I, but Christ—that is to be our testimony! HMM

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June 13, 2013

Love, Faith, Joy

"Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Peter had seen the Lord, but he was writing to those who hadn't, including us. Like them, we can have a personal relationship with the Lord, even though we haven't physically seen Him. "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29). Also like them, we can have terrible trials (1 Peter 1:7). Their responses to Christ while in the midst of trials, as given in our text, are likewise appropriate for us.

They loved Him: Love many times makes a trial bearable. "We love him, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Romans 8:35). He loves us too much to abandon us, and we love Him in return.

They believed: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth |or believes| in thee" (Isaiah 26:3). "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters" (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Our faith is well founded.

They rejoiced: "But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:13). The proper response to trials brings inexpressible joy. The end of such faith as explained in our text is the complete and ultimate salvation of our souls, with many victories of faith along the way. JDM

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June 14, 2013

The Opened Prison

"The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." (Isaiah 61:1)

The Lord Jesus appropriated this beautiful verse of the prophet Isaiah to Himself, preaching from it one day in the Nazareth synagogue and proclaiming: "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:21). Note that He came to preach the gospel to the meek, not the arrogant, and to bind up the brokenhearted, not the hardhearted.

He also came to set the captives free. This was not, however, to deliver the Jews from Roman bondage as many had hoped, but a far greater deliverance. In the Hebrew, the phrase "opening of the prison" is only one word (a doubled word), and it occurs only this one time in the Old Testament. When Christ quoted it in the synagogue, He actually expanded and interpreted it as follows: ". . . recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke 4:18).

The "prison" which Christ came to open is evidently a spiritual prison, a binding of the soul, a blinding of the mind. "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36)—free from the bondage of sin, translated, "out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

There was also another prison, a very real prison, deep in the heart of the earth to which He came. While His body slept in the tomb, His spirit descended into Hades where the spirits of all who had died in faith were awaiting Him, and "when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and . . . ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things" (Ephesians 4:8, 10). HMM

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June 15, 2013

Asking in Jesus' Name

"And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14:13)

In the gospel of John there are at least six promises that, if we pray in Jesus' name, God in Christ will answer our prayer. The first is in our text, which promises that God the Father may be glorified in God the Son. Note also the equivalent promises in John 14:14; 15:16; 16:23-24, 26.

Such promises seem almost too comprehensive and unconditional to be understood literally. The key, however, is the significance of the phrase "in my name." This obviously means more than simply beginning or ending our prayer with this or some similar phrase.

In the first place, we must recognize that it is only through Jesus Christ our mediator that we dare enter the presence of the omnipotent God at all. "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6), He said. That being true, it also implies that our prayer must be in agreement with what Christ Himself would pray. No Christian should ask for something he knows to be against God's will. "If we ask any thing according to his will . . . we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1 John 5:14-15).

When we come to the Father in Christ's name, we are in a very real sense representing Him. Therefore, we must come with clean hands and motives worthy of the One in whose name we profess to come. Unconfessed, unrepented sin would surely misrepresent Him, and we could hardly speak in His name in such a case. Finally, acknowledging His power and promise, we must come believing, not doubting His Word, if we come in His name.

Then, not only is the Father glorified, as says our text, but we shall rejoice. "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. . . . ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23-24). HMM

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June 16, 2013

Honoring Our Fathers

"Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee." (Exodus 20:12)

This familiar command was the fifth in God's list of Ten Commandments, the law of God, and it has never been abrogated. It was quoted by Christ as His own command, when He said: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. . . . Honour thy father and thy mother" (Matthew 19:17, 19). The apostle Paul also cited it as of special significance: "Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise" (Ephesians 6:2).

This all indicates that God considers the honoring of parents by their children to be of great significance. Since the father has been charged with the primary spiritual responsibility for his family, it is of supreme importance that fathers lead their children properly and the children follow that lead with all due respect and diligence. God blessed Abraham as "the father of us all" (Romans 4:16) because He could say concerning Abraham: "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment" (Genesis 18:19).

It is not easy being such a father, but it is vital if our children are to come also to honor their heavenly Father. "For what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? . . . Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?" (Hebrews 12:7, 9).

"And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). If we fathers diligently follow God's Word in leading our children, then they will honor their fathers, not only while they are children, but all their lives. HMM

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June 17, 2013

The Proof of Obedience

"And hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." (1 John 2:3)

Jesus once said, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Poignant question. A familiar complaint of those who despise Christian teaching is that "Christians" don't act like Christians! It is a sad commentary on the condition of the Lord's family when the ungodly are more aware of the expected behavior of God's people than the Christians are.

Of course, the issue is not unique to the New Testament times. Israel's historical saga is replete with seasons of rebellion and repentance—so much so that the psalmist prayed:

That the generation to come. . . .might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God. (Psalm 78:6-8)

The emphasis by John in his first epistle, however, is not on the reasons for willful disobedience, but on the results of willing obedience.

Walking in the "light" ensures fellowship (1 John 1:7).

Constant and willing obedience produces an effective prayer life (1 John 3:22).

A lifestyle of obedience brings an awareness of the Holy Spirit's indwelling (1 John 3:24).

Loving God produces obedience, which in turn brings joy in that obedience (1 John 5:3).

Our deeds show whom we serve (1 John 3:7). Our righteous deeds prove whom we serve (Matthew 7:16-20). HMM III

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June 18, 2013

Coming Like the Flood

"So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him." (Isaiah 59:19)

The great enemy of our souls "the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Yet he can also be "transformed into an angel of light," and so can "his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). He and his ministers are perhaps most dangerous when most deceptive, quoting Scripture and spiritual sentiments in a superficial show of piety, yet distorting the "Scriptures, unto their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16), and we must use the sword of the Spirit against them.

Then there are those times when, angered that their deceptions (sometimes even their own self-deceptions) are not persuading the true people of God to compromise their stand for God's truth and His great salvation, they resort to great pressure and overt opposition—even persecution—seeking to silence their testimony. The enemy comes in like a great flood, and the waves seem about to engulf us, and we cry with the psalmist: "If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us: Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul" (Psalm 124:2-4).

But God is on our side, as long as we are on His side and hold fast to His clearly revealed Word. Before the demonic flood can overwhelm us, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up His standard (or, more literally, "put him to flight"), and God will prevail once again, for "the foundation of God standeth sure" (2 Timothy 2:19), and "greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). HMM

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June 19, 2013

What to Put On

"And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:49)

People give much attention to what material clothes they should put on, but the New Testament tells us what spiritual clothes to put on. First, we are to be "endued with" power from on high. This Greek word (enduo) is normally rendered "put on." That is, we are to put on power, and this is imparted only by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), according to Christ's departing promise.

"Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. . . . put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof" (Romans 13:12, 14). "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).

Along with this, we are to "put off concerning the former conversation the old man," and then to "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:22, 24). Then we must "put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11).

These items of spiritual clothing—the power of the Holy Spirit, the light of God's presence, the new man in Christ, the resurrection life of the indwelling Christ, His imputed righteousness and holiness and all our spiritual armor—provide the foundation clothing for beautiful spiritual jewels and accessories. "Ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: . . . Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; . . . And above all these things put on charity |love|" (Colossians 3:9-10, 12, 14). HMM

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June 20, 2013

Things We Ought to Do

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Matthew 23:23)

This sharp rebuke by Jesus to the legalists of His day should also be taken seriously by us today. Although we are saved by grace alone, there are many things we ought to do, not as a matter of credit toward salvation, but as gratitude for our salvation. Surely judgment, mercy, and faithfulness are high on such a list.

Other "oughts" of the born-again Christian life would include the following incomplete listing:

Prayer: "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1).

Obedience to God as Priority: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

Working and Sharing: "So labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

Gracious in Speech: "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Colossians 4:6).

Walking with God: "As ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more" (1 Thessalonians 4:1).

Heeding God's Word: "We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" (Hebrews 2:1).

Sanctified Behavior: "What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness" (2 Peter 3:11).HMM

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