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June 21, 2013

He That Is Spiritual

"But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man." (1 Corinthians 2:15)

The word rendered "spiritual" is the Greek word pneumatikos, from which theologians have coined the term "pneumatology," the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Thus a "spiritual" person is one who is not only born again spiritually through faith in Christ and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, but also tries diligently to follow the leading of the indwelling Spirit and to understand and obey the precepts of the Bible inspired by Him.

A spiritual person will have "the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16), able to judge all things by spiritual standards and biblical revelation. He or she will "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," knowing that "to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:4, 6). As such, spiritual believers prayerfully make decisions seeking God's will, they are "led by the Spirit of God" (Romans 8:14). And since they "walk in the Spirit," they "shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).

They will often and repeatedly be "filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) for Christian service. Furthermore, they will manifest "the fruit of the Spirit" in their lives and personalities—that is, "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22-23).

Yet while "he that is spiritual" is thereby able to discern and evaluate all things by such divine standards, he will find himself often misunderstood by unsaved relatives and acquaintances, for "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: . . . because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Nevertheless, "he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (Galatians 6:8). HMM

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June 22, 2013

In a Moment

"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

This is one of the greatest promises in the Bible, assuring us that "we" (i.e., all believers, whether dead or living when Christ returns) shall suddenly be changed, with our dead or dying bodies instantly transformed into incorruptible, immortal bodies, which can never die again.

This great change, when it finally occurs, will take place "in a moment." The Greek here is en atomo, "in an atom of time." This word, implying the smallest entity conceivable by the Greeks, is used only this one time in the New Testament. It is further described by "the twinkling of an eye," where "twinkling" is the Greek rhipe, also used only this once. Evidently there is nothing else in this present world comparable in rapidity to this miraculous change which will be called forth when "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God" (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

The great shout (probably uttered by Christ Himself as at the tomb of Lazarus) will instantly create new bodies for both dead and living believers. "The dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Our new bodies will be like Christ's resurrection body. He "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Philippians 3:21).

Christ is able thus to create new bodies for us in a moment, just as when He created all things in the beginning: "He spake, and it was done" (Psalm 33:9). HMM

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June 23, 2013

The Meaning of "Day"

"And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day." (Genesis 1:5)

Many people today, professing to believe the Bible, have compromised with the evolutionary philosophy which dominates our society by accepting its framework of geological ages. This system interprets the rocks and fossils in terms of a supposed 4.6 billion-year history of the earth and life culminating in the evolution of early humans perhaps a million years ago. In order to justify this compromise, they usually say that the "days" of creation really correspond to the geological ages, arguing that the Hebrew word for "day" (yom) does not have to mean a literal solar day.

Oh, yes, it does—at least in Genesis chapter one! God, knowing that the pagan philosophers of antiquity would soon try to distort His record of creation into long ages of pantheistic evolution (as in the Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, and other such ancient cosmogonies), was careful to define His terms! "God called the light Day," and that was the first day with its evening and morning. All subsequent days have followed the same pattern—a period of darkness (night), then a period of light (day).

One may quibble about the exact length of the day if he insists (e.g., equatorial days versus polar days), but there is no way this definition can accommodate a geological age. This is the very first reference to "day" (or yom) in the Bible, and this is given as an actual statement of the meaning of the word.

This ought to settle the question for anyone who really believes the Bible. One may decide to believe the evolutionary geologists if he wishes, instead of God, but he should at least let God speak for Himself. God says the days of creation were literal days, not ages. "In six days the LORD made heaven and earth" (Exodus 31:17). HMM

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June 24, 2013

Prepared Hearts

"For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." (Ezra 7:10)

It does not come naturally into our hearts to seek, obey, and then teach others the words of God as found in the Scriptures. Therefore, like Ezra, we must prepare our hearts.

The Hebrew word for "prepare" means to "stand erect," and thus takes special effort. One's natural "heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9), not at all inclined to "stand up" for the Word of God.

But Ezra did, even in the court of a pagan king and in the midst of the enemies of God's people in a far country, and even among the backslidden people of his own nation. He prepared his heart, fixing it in firm faith on the laws and promises of God. And because he did, he could testify: "I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me" (Ezra 7:28).

On the other hand we read, for example, of King Rehoboam whose rebellion and sin led to the dividing of Israel into two kingdoms and eventually into the captivity. These judgments came because, unlike Ezra, Rehoboam "did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD" (2 Chronicles 12:14).

Thus, our hearts need to be prepared to seek God and His Word, but how do we get them prepared? First, we must come to Him in true humility. "LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear" (Psalm 10:17).

God is then the One who actually prepares our hearts! "The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD" (Proverbs 16:1). We can only prepare our hearts to seek and serve God if we humbly call on Him to do the preparing. HMM

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June 25, 2013

Young Men

"I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one." (1 John 2:14)

There are two commendations about the "young men" (typically applied to those under 40) that John notes. They are "strong" (vigorous, healthy, both physically and mentally) and the word of God "abides" (remains, endures) in them. These are those who have come through their believing childhood, no doubt guided and counseled by the "fathers" in their lives, who are now active in the "good fight of faith" (1 Timothy 6:12).

Like Abraham, they are "strong in faith" (Romans 4:20), not staggering under the burden of unbelief. Like the leaders in the church at Rome, they are willing to "bear the infirmities of the weak" (Romans 15:1) and to be alert, standing "fast in the faith" (1 Corinthians 16:13). Even though they would have faced opposition from among professing Christians, they were "strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1).

These are the ones who refused to handle the "word of God deceitfully" (2 Corinthians 4:2), but gladly received it as "it is in truth, the word of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:13). They know that "the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword" (Hebrews 4:12), and have taken time to store the Word in their heart (Psalm 119:11). These "young men" know that if God's "words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7).

Those attributes make possible the result: "Ye have overcome the wicked one." Safe in the secure saving faith of God, guided by the great truths of the Word of God, these young men have not been "overcome of evil" but have "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). HMM III

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June 26, 2013

Made in Christ

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Many men would boast of being "self-made" men, but no Christian can do this. Everything we are that is truly worthy and eternal was made in us by God through Jesus Christ. Our text is clear on this. We have been made righteous in Christ, but this was only because God made Him to be sin for us.

When He made us righteous in Christ, He also "made us accepted in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). Furthermore, we were "made nigh by the blood of Christ" (2:13). The contexts of these passages make it abundantly clear that our being made righteous, accepted in Christ, and nigh to God, is all of grace; we did nothing to merit such privileges.

This is not all. At the same moment, He also has "made us meet |'fit'| to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12). That we in our poverty should be made joint-heirs with Christ once again is only by His unmerited grace. "Being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7).

In promise now and in full reality later, He has "made us kings and priests unto God and his Father" (Revelation 1:6). Positionally, we even share His throne, for He "hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6).

Without Him we are nothing; but in Him we have all things. He is "made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). Truly, in salvation as well as in creation, "it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves" (Psalm 100:3). HMM

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June 27, 2013

Thou Shalt Not

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." (Exodus 20:4)

Many secularists criticize Christianity as being a religion of negativism filled with prohibitions. In response, Christians often try to blunt this criticism by stressing Christian love and freedom from the law.

The fact is, however, that the New Testament also contains many prohibitions, including a restatement of all those in God's laws as expressed in the Ten Commandments. The first of these in our text prohibits idolatry. Six others also begin with "thou shalt not." "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain"; "Thou shalt not kill"; "Thou shalt not commit adultery"; "Thou shalt not steal"; "Thou shalt not bear false witness"; "Thou shalt not covet" (Exodus 20:7, 13-17).

It is inappropriate for any Christian to ignore these commandments. Godly behavior is more important now than ever before. Not only are these prohibitions all repeated in the New Testament, but there are numerous other "shalt nots" as well, all directed to Christians saved by grace, apart from the works of the law.

For example: "Be not drunk with wine" (Ephesians 5:18); "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26); "Mind not high things . . . Be not wise in your own conceits" (Romans 12:16); "avenge not yourselves" (Romans 12:19); and many, many others.

There are numerous positive aspects to the Christian life, of course, but there are also things a Christian should not do. We do not work for our salvation, but we must work out our salvation, putting off the works of the flesh and putting on the works of a regenerate life. HMM

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June 28, 2013

To the Fourth Generation

"Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." (Deuteronomy 5:9)

This seemingly unwarranted penalty imposed on the innocent grandchildren of the idolater cannot possibly negate the later promise of God through the prophet Ezekiel: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezekiel 18:20).

And certainly it cannot obviate the clear promise of Christ Himself in the last chapter of the Bible: "Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17). Anyone who desires to do so may accept the Lord's gracious offer of salvation, regardless of the possible wickedness or anti-Christian religion of any of his ancestors.

At the same time, a man should realize that his decision to follow a false religion and then bring up his children in that false religion will almost certainly affect his grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well. Many of the latter will actually be children while their great-grandfather is still alive. It is a simple fact that most children (though not all) will continue in their parents' "religion." They can, if they wish, choose to leave their parents' religion and become Christians, but most will not.

What a great responsibility, therefore, each father has! He should quickly accept Christ (whose credentials as our Creator and Redeemer are impeccable!) as his Savior and Lord, and then diligently train his own children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). HMM

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June 29, 2013

If I Perish

"Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)

This is the courageous testimony of Queen Esther as she prepared to risk her own life in order to save the lives of her people. It was a capital crime for anyone to intrude into the king's throne room unbidden, but she was willing to do so in order to do the will of God, knowing that "we ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

In the same spirit, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to enter the fiery furnace rather than to worship the humanistic gods of Babylon, testifying to Nebuchadnezzar that "our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king. . . . that we will not serve thy gods" (Daniel 3:17-18).

God did deliver Esther and the three Jewish youths, but there have been many through the ages who have died for their faith rather than deny their faith. All the apostles (save John) died as martyrs, for example, and so have countless others throughout the centuries. "They loved not their lives unto the death" (Revelation 12:11), if it meant denying their Savior.

Believers in many nations are suffering such persecutions even today, and the time is coming when the last great God-rejecting king of the earth (called the "beast" in Scripture) will "cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed" (Revelation 13:15). If a similar choice should ever confront us, may God give us the grace to say with Paul that "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death" (Philippians 1:20), and with Esther: "If I perish, I perish." HMM

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June 30, 2013

Working Out Our Salvation

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12)

We are not told here to work for our salvation, but to work it out—that is, to demonstrate its reality in our daily lives. Our salvation must be received entirely by grace through faith, not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9), or else it is not true salvation. Works can no more keep our salvation than they can earn it for us in the first place. It is not faith plus works, but grace through faith.

Nevertheless, a Christian believer, if his salvation has been real, can testify that "I will show thee my faith by my works" (James 2:18). Good works—consisting of a righteous and gracious lifestyle, considerate of others and obedient to Christ's commands—are the visible evidences of salvation. We have been "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

The context of our text, in fact, assures us, on the basis of Christ's sacrificial death, glorious resurrection, and exaltation (Philippians 2:8-11) that "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (v. 13). God is thereby enabling us to "work out" our salvation in visible practice, through the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.

Thus, it is beautifully appropriate that the life of a genuinely born-again Christian, possessing true salvation, should be "blameless and harmless, the sons of God, . . . as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life . . ." (vv. 15-16). We do need to "examine |ourselves|, whether |we| be in the faith" (2 Corinthians 13:5), and we are admonished that "we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments" (1 John 2:3). HMM

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July 1, 2013

Things of the World

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." (1 John 2:15)

We must be wary of the world's "things," because we are "in the world," not "of the world" (John 17:11-16). The command in our text is that we are not to love the world or its things, not that we should remain blissfully ignorant of them. We are to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16).

There are big things of the world like nations and kingdoms (Matthew 4:8; Luke 12:30), as well as cares and riches (Mark 4:19), that can sap our focus and drain our loyalties. And there are "rudiments" and "elements" (Colossians 2:20; Galatians 4:3) that can twist our thinking and "spoil" us (Colossians 2:8).

We are warned that friendship with the worldly lifestyle and that which espouses the "things" of the world makes us an "enemy of God" (James 4:4). That is because such people embrace the "spirit of the world" and not "the spirit which is of God" (1 Corinthians 2:12). Those people speak about the things of the world, and the world listens to them (1 John 4:5).

God's people may be "base" and "weak"—even "foolish" in the eyes of the world (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). Since the great Creator God has chosen us out of the world (John 15:19), it should not surprise us that the world "hates" those who belong to the Lord Jesus (John 17:14). Hence, the ungodly passions that drive the ungodly behavior of the world, "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2:16).

Those passions and the people who embrace them will "pass away." But "he that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (1 John 2:17). HMM III

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July 2, 2013

The Moments of God

"For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer." (Isaiah 54:7-8)

This gracious promise to Israel gives a beautiful insight into both God's character and the relation of time to eternity. God can be a God of wrath, for He must punish unforsaken sin in His people, but He is much more the God of mercy. His prolonged judgment on His chosen people of Israel is only "for a small moment" compared to His "everlasting kindness" toward redeemed Israel in the ages to come.

This theme occurs a number of times in Scripture. "For his anger endureth but a moment," said David, "in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5). To the people faithful to God during a time of judgment against their nation or against the world, God says: "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers . . . hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast" (Isaiah 26:20).

Thus, a time of testing or judgment may extend over many days, or years, or even centuries, but this is only a moment in relation to the endless ages of blessing yet to come.

As applied to Christians, this concept is stated explicitly in the only occurrence of the Greek parakutika ("moment") in the New Testament. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. . . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD" (Isaiah 65:17, 25). May God give us eyes of faith to see these "moments" of God in their eternal setting. HMM

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July 3, 2013

Look Back

"Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged." (Isaiah 51:1)

While it is not good to dwell too much on the past—whether in pride of past accomplishments or despondency over past failures or grieving over past losses—it is well never to forget what God has done for us. In this passage, Israel is reminded of Abraham and Sarah, who had been lifted out of the pit of paganism and cut out of the rock of idolatry, and whom God had greatly blessed.

David, looking back, had written that God "brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay" (Psalm 40:2). Paul looked back and said: "In time past . . . beyond measure I persecuted the church of God. . . . But when it pleased God, who . . . called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me . . . they glorified God in me" (Galatians 1:13, 15-16, 24).

Whatever our own background may be—bigoted skeptics, or flagrant sinners, or self-righteous hypocrites—God has indeed, if we are now saved by His grace, lifted us out of a pit and set us on a solid rock. We were "strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). But God "hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Colossians 1:13).

"Such were some of you," wrote Paul of such gross sins as fornication, idolatry, homosexuality, adultery, and thievery, as well as covetousness and drunkenness. "But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 6:11). An occasional look back will help us to remember more often to look up in humble thankfulness for the grace of God. HMM

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July 4, 2013

True Freedom

"As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God." (1 Peter 2:16)

We who live in what the song writer called the "sweet land of liberty" have a great responsibility to preserve that freedom which our forefathers obtained for us at great cost over two centuries ago. At the same time, we must not turn liberty into license. It would surely hurt those brave and godly men if they could see how we now use "freedom of choice" to justify murdering multitudes of innocent children before they are born, and how we use "freedom of speech" to warrant fouling the eyes and ears of our children with widespread pornography and to promote all kinds of immoral behavior in our society in general. No nation can remain free very long after such practices become widely accepted by its citizens. We need to pray for revival!

The same warning applies to the abuse of our spiritual freedom in Christ. As the apostle Paul said and repeated: "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient" (1 Corinthians 6:12; also 1 Corinthians 10:23, where he added that "all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not").

As Peter says in our text, even though we are "free" and have real "liberty," we are nevertheless "servants of God," where the Greek word doulos actually connotes "bond servants," or even "slaves." Our liberty in Christ is not freedom to sin whenever we so choose, but rather freedom from our former bondage to sin. "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (Romans 6:18).

Although our nation is rapidly becoming anti-Christian in belief and practice, we Christians can still best serve our nation and our Savior by practicing and proclaiming Christ's wonderful saving gospel of free salvation from sin and regeneration unto righteousness. HMM

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July 5, 2013

The Stars Forever

"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3)

The setting of this beautiful verse is after the resurrection of the saved to everlasting life, and the unsaved to eternal shame (v. 2). Its glorious promise to those who are "wise" and who "turn many to righteousness" through Jesus Christ is that of "shining" forever like the stars.

Evolutionary astronomers believe that stars evolve through a long cycle of stellar life and death, but this idea contradicts God's revelation that He has created this physical universe to last forever. Speaking of these stellar heavens, the majestic 148th Psalm, centered on God's creation, says that God "hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass" (Psalm 148:6).

It is true that, because of sin, "the whole creation groaneth . . . until now" (Romans 8:22), and the heavens "shall wax old as doth a garment; . . . and they shall be changed" (Hebrews 1:11- 12). In fact, the earth and its atmospheric heaven (not the sidereal heaven) one day will "pass away" (Matthew 24:35), and then will be transformed by God into "new heavens and a new earth" (2 Peter 3:13) which will never pass away.

But the infinite cosmos of space and time, created in the beginning by God, was created to last forever, and God cannot fail in His purposes. "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him" (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

The stars are innumerable, each one unique, each one with a divine purpose, and they will shine forever. We can never reach them in this life, but in our glorified bodies, we shall have endless time to explore the infinite heavens. HMM

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July 6, 2013

The "Light" Equation

"God is light." (1 John 1:5)

The biblical text is rich with metaphors and similes, one of which often appears in John's writings. God is said to be "light"—the most constant, clearly observable, and all-pervasive experience in our universe.

God's life is the light of men (John 1:4).

God's light is not conquered by darkness (John 1:5).

God's light attracts men who love truth (John 3:21).

Jesus is the "light of the world" (John 8:12).

John's emphasis in his epistle is focused on the application of the "light" in our lives. Since God is light (our text; see also 1 Timothy 6:16), we can never be a participant in the life of God apart from the light of God (1 John 1:6). If we claim fellowship with God, we must "walk in the light, as he is in the light" (1 John 1:7). Since God is the "true light" (1 John 2:8), we are not part of His family if we despise those He loves (1 John 2:9).

It is equally obvious that since God is holy (Psalm 99:9) and righteous (Daniel 9:14), the light that we are to "shine" (Matthew 5:16) must be a "radiant" righteousness that is visible to all who come in contact with us (Proverbs 4:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:5).

Our breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14) should "blind" the ungodly with the brilliance of our lifestyle of holiness—so much so that even if we are spoken against by those who hate God, they will be forced to glorify God ("adorn with luster") because of our good works (1 Peter 2:12).

Because the God of our salvation is "the light of the world" (John 9:5) and we have been made "the children of light" (Ephesians 5:8), "ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). HMM III

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July 7, 2013

Eternal Life

". . .that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." (1 John 5:13)

Although this powerful, five-chapter letter from the apostle John is full of vital insights into the Christian life, it is written to "little children" (1 John 5:21) so that they might "know" the majesty and wonder of eternal life.

John begins his epistle with a reminder that he "knew" this Jesus from whom the promise of eternal life came (1 John 1:1-3). John was an eyewitness to Christ's resurrection (John 20), which is the most powerful proof of the claims and promises of the Lord (Acts 17:31).

Much of that which is applied in John's epistle is based on the precise teachings of the Lord Jesus Himself, heard by John and recorded in John's gospel under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (John 20:31).

Those who believe will "not perish" (John 3:15-16).

The "water" of Christ springs up to "everlasting life" (John 4:14).

Whoever has everlasting life "is passed" from death to life (John 5:24).

Those who come to Christ will "never hunger" (John 6:35).

No one is able to "pluck" the believer out of the Father's hand (John 10:28-30).

"Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:26).

Based on the Word of God, John gives us several experiential tests by which we can know that we "live":

We love and keep His commandments (1 John 2:3).

We know and love the truth (1 John 2:20).

We love the brethren (1 John 3:14).

We have God's Holy Spirit (1 John 4:13). HMM III

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July 8, 2013

Savor of Life or Death

"For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

It is remarkable how the very same testimony can have such dramatically opposite effects on its recipients. A lecture on the scientific evidences of creation, for example, or on the inspiration of the Bible will be received with great joy and understanding by some, provoke furious hostility in some, and generate utter indifference in others. This seems to be true of any message—written, or verbal, or simply demonstrated in behavior—which has any kind of biblically spiritual dimension to it. It is like the pillar of cloud in the wilderness, which "came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night" (Exodus 14:20). A Christian testimony draws and wins the one, repels and condemns the other. Some there are who "loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:17).

Thus the wonderful message of the gospel yields two diametrically opposite results. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). Christ came to bring both unity and division. "Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious. . . . Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient. . . . a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word" (1 Peter 2:6-8).

But the wonderful thing is this: Whether a true testimony generates life or condemns to death, it is still "unto God a sweet savor of Christ." HMM

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July 9, 2013

Dividing Light from Darkness

"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness." (Genesis 1:3-4)

Initially, the created cosmos was in darkness—a darkness which God Himself had to create ("I form the light, and create darkness"—Isaiah 45:7). But then the dark cosmos was energized by the Spirit's moving, and God's light appeared. The darkness was not dispelled, however, but only divided from the light, and the day/night sequence began, which has continued ever since.

This sequence of events in the physical creation is a beautiful type of the spiritual creation, "a new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Each individual is born in spiritual darkness, but "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). We are now "partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light," because He "hath delivered us from the power of darkness" (Colossians 1:12-13).

However, the light in the primeval darkness resulted only in a division of night and day. The night still comes, but God has promised that, in the coming Holy City, "there shall be no night there" (Revelation 22:5).

Just so, even though we have been given a new nature of light, the old nature of darkness is still striving within, and we have to be exhorted: "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). Nevertheless, "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18). When we reach that city of everlasting light, all spiritual darkness will vanish as well, for "there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth" (Revelation 21:27), and we shall be like Christ. HMM

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July 10, 2013

Catastrophe or Cataclysm

"|God| spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly." (2 Peter 2:5-6)

These two verses speak graphically of two different kinds of terrible physical convulsions, both of which were divine judgments. The volcanic upheaval that sent fire from heaven pouring over the wicked cities of the plains was called an "overthrow" (Greek katastrophe, from which, obviously, we get our English word "catastrophe"). Great upheavals such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and hurricanes are rightly called catastrophes.

But such events are only local or regional in extent and occur relatively often. There was one event, however, which was unique in all history. When God brought the "flood" upon the ungodly antediluvian world, the word used to describe it was the Greek kataklusmos, and this word is never applied in Scripture to any event except the terrible Genesis Flood, when "the world that then was, being overflowed |Greek katakluzo| with water, perished" (2 Peter 3:6). From these Greek words we derive the English word "cataclysm."

There was never any flood like this flood! It covered all the world's mountains, and everything on the land died, leaving great fossil deposits and great beds of lithified sediments all over the world.

There has been only one worldwide cataclysm in the past, but another is coming—global fire instead of global water. Jesus said, "For as in the days that were before the flood |i.e., kataklusmos| they . . . knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matthew 24:38-39). HMM

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July 11, 2013

Saints and Sinners

"Then Job answered the LORD, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth." (Job 40:3-4)

It is remarkable how the saintliest of men often confess to being the worst of sinners. The patriarch Job was said by God Himself to be "a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil" (Job 1:8). Yet when Job saw God, he could only say, "Behold, I am vile."

And consider Abraham, who is called "the father of all them that believe" (Romans 4:11). When he presumed to talk to God, however, Abraham said that he was "but dust and ashes" (Genesis 18:27).

David, "the sweet psalmist of Israel" (2 Samuel 23:1), and "a man after |God's| own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14), said: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5). Isaiah, the greatest of the prophets, testified when he came into God's presence: "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5).

The angel recognized Daniel the prophet as "a man greatly beloved" by God (Daniel 10:11). Yet when Daniel saw God, he fell on his face and said: "My comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength" (Daniel 10:8).

In the New Testament, the apostle Peter said: "I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8), and Paul called himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). God dwells "in the light which no man can approach unto" (1 Timothy 6:16).

The closer one comes to the Lord, the more clearly one sees his own sinfulness and the more wonderful becomes God's amazing grace. No one who is satisfied with his or her own state of holiness has yet come to know the Lord in His state of holiness! None dare face the Lord except by His grace through the mediator Jesus Christ. HMM

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July 12, 2013

Resisting the Devil

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." (1 Peter 5:8-9)

The devil is far more powerful and intelligent (as well as subtle and seductive in his malignant purposes) than any combination of human enemies we could ever face, and we would be utterly unable to defeat him with our own human resources. Yet God's Word makes it plain that we are neither to yield to him nor flee from him. Instead, the admonition is: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).

But how can we resist such a mighty foe? As in our text, we must constantly maintain sobriety and vigilance against his enticements, and be careful to remain "steadfast in the faith." Otherwise, the pseudo-intellectualism and social peer pressure to which we are subjected daily could quickly persuade us to compromise the faith, or even to depart from the faith.

We are commanded not to yield and not to compromise. Instead we must "put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." We have "the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the |wicked one|," and also "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:11, 16-17).

This mighty sword with which we can make Satan flee from us is literally "the saying of God"—that is, an appropriate individual word from the complete Word of God. This was the instrument with which the Lord Jesus Himself resisted the devil, parrying each temptation with an incisive thrust of Scripture. The result then—as it will be now with us also—was that the devil "departed from him for a season" (Luke 4:13). HMM

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July 13, 2013

He Became Poor

"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)

The doctrine of Christ's kenosis, or self-emptying, is one of the most amazing of all biblical truths. The extent to which He who was not only "in the form of God" but also "equal with God" condescended to "make himself of no reputation" (the translation of kenoo in Philippians 2:6-7), is utterly beyond human comprehension.

He who once sat on the throne of the universe came to Earth "lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12). Throughout His public ministry, He had "not where to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20). Because He had no money to pay the tax, He had to catch a fish with the necessary coin in its mouth (Matthew 17:27). In His agony at Gethsemane, none of His friends would pray with Him, and when He was arrested they all "forsook him and fled" (Matthew 26:40, 56). No one defended Him at His trial.

On the cross, the soldiers stripped away His only personal possessions—the clothes on His back—and then "parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take" (Mark 15:24). When He died, His body had to be buried in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:59-60). No home, no money, no possessions, no defenders, not even a tomb of His own in which to lie.

But He had a cross on which to die, and because He was obedient to the death of the cross, "God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:9). Through His poverty we become rich, through His homelessness we have a mansion in heaven, and through His terrible death on Calvary we have everlasting life. Yes, we do know the grace of Christ! HMM

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July 14, 2013

Son of Man

"And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle." (Revelation 14:14)

This is the last of some 87 New Testament references (84 in the four gospels, one in Acts, none in the epistles, two in Revelation) to Christ as the Son of man. Here we see the Son of man coming on a white cloud from heaven (just as He had ascended into heaven after His resurrection) as the conquering King of all the earth.

What a contrast is this to the first New Testament reference to the Son of man. "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20). From humility and poverty on Earth to power and riches in heaven, and for all eternity—this was His journey when Christ left His heavenly glory to join the human family.

In between the poverty and the power lay the whole human experience, for He "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Finally, as Son of man He must die for man's sin, for "the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again" (Luke 24:7). Even in heaven He is still the Son of man, for Stephen saw Him thus: "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56).

There is, indeed, a great man in the glory! Christ called Himself "the Son of man" much more often than "the Son of God," though He will eternally be both, the God/man. He delights to identify with those whom He has redeemed, for He "is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Hebrews 2:11). "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" asked Jesus. Then we say, with Peter, "Thou art . . . the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:13, 16). HMM

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July 15, 2013

No Darkness at All

". . .in him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)

Some have suggested that the gospel message is the most important truth in the Bible—and, perhaps, from a temporal human standpoint it may well be. However, there is another more frequent message throughout all of Scripture here summarized by John: "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5).

In the Bible, God's "light" is clearly focused on intellectual and moral holiness. That unique holy nature both drives and limits the revelation of Himself to His creation.

In the intellectual sense, God is the source of all truth (Psalm 119:130; Psalm 36:9). The holiness of God requires truth and because of His holiness, God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Whenever God reveals anything, He must reveal the truth about Himself and His nature.

The opposite of truth, even though it may contain some truth, is the active agent that opposes God's truth as it is revealed to His creation.

Lies (darkness) oppose the revelation of that truth:

In the created "things" (universe)

In the written Word (Scripture)

In the "new" creation (salvation)

The incarnate Creator God must reveal truth and cannot "be" untruth. When God speaks, He must speak truth. When God acts, He must "do" truth. God's holiness demands that the creation not "distort" anything about God—or about the creation itself.

God could not create a lie—He could not make anything that would inexorably lead us to a wrong conclusion. God could not create processes that would counter His own nature—or that would lead us to conclude something untrue about Him. HMM III

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