Tags: 2 Corinthians 6, Ephesians 2, Jesus Christ, John 1, John 3, Luke 4, Romans 10, Romans 4, Romans 5, Romans 8, Titus 3
I. When you think of God’s holiness and your own sinfulness, do you ever wonder how God could love you?
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
It is simply in His marvelous nature to show forth His great love by His wonderful grace.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
I John 4:8
It is understandable that you might wonder HOW God could love you, but, if you have been born again into the family of God, justified through faith alone, and adopted as His Own child, then you ought never to question IF God loves you.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
II. When you understand that God’s holiness and justice require your absolute moral perfection and obedience, do you doubt that you have you worked hard enough to earn God’s approval, favor, or blessing?
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
You can stop asking that question. There is no doubt that you can never do enough good things to make God your debtor. HOWEVER:
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
You could never work your way to Heaven, but if you have trusted Christ unto salvation, then your disobedience, sin, and lack of good works have been washed away by the mercy of God in the blood of Jesus.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
III. Do you hope that one day God will forgive you, or decide to be kindly disposed toward you in spite of your rebellion and shame? Are you longing for a day when you will find yourself forgiven and accepted?
(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
II Corinthians 6:2
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
The sovereign Lord and Ruler of this universe, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the all-powerful, majestic and holy King above all kings, will answer your call this very moment.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
If you have repented and believed His Gospel, He loves you with an everlasting love, and nothing in this world or beyond will ever separate you from it.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Tags: 1 Peter 2, Bible catechism, children's catechism, crucifixion, Jesus Christ, John 19, John 3, the atonement, The Cross, wrath of God
Question 17: How did Jesus die?
Answer: He was crucified.
Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
Despite the horror, humiliation, and hurtfulness of death on a cross, there can be no denying that it was precisely the type of death ordained by God the Father to be experienced by God the Son. Why did He choose this type of death?
I do not know if we can answer that question with 100% certainty. Traditionally, I have heard it explained that this was the cruelest, most painful death possible, and that the physical suffering of Christ had to be immense beyond measure in order to pay the outrageous sin debt that was owed by His people. I do not want to minimize or denigrate the physical suffering of Christ on the Cross. There can be no doubt it was horrific. However, I have read of the deaths of many of the martyrs, and – physically speaking – there may be more torturous, drawn-out, and even intensely painful ways to die.
I think, first of all, as we explain the suffering of Christ to our children, we would do better to explain it in terms of the transaction of bearing the weight of sin and its guilt by the perfect sinless Savior, and experiencing the indescribable wrath of God poured out against sin. There is a sense in which this transaction took place in the eternal realm between God the Father and Christ the Son, and was a unique type of painfully propitiatory sacrifice which our finite brains can not come close to fathoming.
Second, I also think we need to teach our kids the significance of death by hanging on a tree-like Cross as a picture of the curse of sin being dealt with, and as a fulfillment of prophecy by which God made known the commingling of His forgiveness and His justice. The Cross of Christ had been illustrated in the Old Testament, and was now being orchestrated to prove God’s love and truth.
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
I Peter 2:24
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
Tags: Bible catechism, children's catechism, eternal life, Galatians 4, Jesus Christ, John 1, John 3, love of God, the Gospel
Question 14: What has God done for you so you can have eternal life?
Answer: He sent his Son.
God came into this world in the Person of His Son, Who became a man while remaining fully God. He started out His earthly life by being born of a virgin, and then growing into manhood, all the while living a perfectly righteous and holy life, never sinning.
Other verses to consider:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
Tags: 2 Peter 3, Bible catechism, God's love, Gospel, John 3, love of God, Romans 5, sin, sinners
Question 6: What is wrong with you?
Answer: I was born a sinner, and I have sinned against God.
Question 7: What is sin?
Answer: Sin is violating God’s law.
I John 3:4
Question 8: What is the punishment for sin?
Answer: The punishment for sin is death.
Question 9: Since you are a sinner, how does God feel about you?
Answer: Even though I am a sinner, God loves me.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
When you ask question nine to your child, what you are hoping for here is an amazement – almost an incredulity that God could love a wicked sinner like me. You want your child to think or ask, “How can He forgive me when He has promised to punish all who sin?” You know you’re on the right track if you are getting those kinds of questions.
Do not gloss over the wickedness of sin. HOWEVER, you must not gloss over the richness of God’s love, either. Dwell on it here.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
II Peter 3:9
Tags: 2 Peter 1, Acts 17, Bible study, hermeneutics, John 3, Psalm 119, Revelation 20, Romans 3, The Bible, Word of God
Previously I discussed some of the exciting things about reading the Bible. Be patient with the Bible. Some sections are like a torrid novel (there are even some scandalous passages!), but some parts are more like the terse outline in a study guide for a history exam. Other sections are beautiful poetry. Take some time to figure out what genre you are reading. The Bible has an unlimited depth. The more you learn, the more you will want to know. And the more you want to know, the more fascinated you will be. Here are some practical tips for getting more out of your Bible-reading:
1. Remember the truthfulness of it.
Thy word [is] true [from] the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments [endureth] for ever.
The Bible is unique in this respect. It is absolutely true in every circumstance and situation. It is the Word of God, and God cannot lie, and He cannot change. Therefore, His Word cannot be wrong, and it does not become outdated. Everything else you hear is susceptible to being (and often is) a lie. The Bible is the “verily verily” of God – the “true truth.” You can depend on it and rely on it, even when everything around you and “common sense” seems to indicate otherwise.
… yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.
2. Reacquaint yourself with God in it.
Some people only have a second-hand knowledge of God. You know Him through your parents. You know Him through sermons. Your main experience of Him is through praise and worship. It’s time you get to know Him better – in the Bible.
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
II Peter 1:3
We know that God is loving, just, merciful, gracious, wise, and powerful, because He tells us these things about Himself, and He has recorded Himself demonstrating these things in the Bible. Can you imagine your spouse, child, or favorite person in the world giving you a letter telling you their most important thoughts, and telling you what they are truly like, and you don’t bother to read it? God has demonstrated His love and His care for us in the highest way conceivable. How can we not want to find out as much as we can about Him?
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
3. Recognize yourself in it.
The seeker-sensitive cliche’ “it’s not about you” is true, in a sense. But in another sense, it is about you. The Bible is where we learn how we got here and what our reason for existing is. A good hermeneutic principle to follow is to picture yourself as the sinner in every Bible story you read.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:11-15 (emphasis added)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16 (emphasis added)
You are in the Bible in one of those two verses. If you are truly a Christian, then you are a “whosoever” in John 3:16. If you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, then you remain one of the “whosoevers” in Revelation 20:15, and I plead with you to ask the Lord to change your status today.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Corinthians 2, Acts 8, Colossians 3, Ephesians 5, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, John 3, John 6, John 7, Luke 11, Philippians 4, pneumatology, Romans 8
Have you ever attended a church service or a conference that turned out to be sort of a religious pep rally where the speaker did his best to get you all fired up to do something, but then stopped short of actually telling you how to do it? Last time I wrote about the importance of being “full” of the Holy Spirit. Now we will look at how to do that.
The first clue lies right there in the verse that commands us to do it:
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
How do you get drunk with wine? You drink it – lots of it!
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
I Corinthians 12:13
That Spirit referenced in I Corinthians 12:13 is the Holy Spirit, and you have access to Him if you are truly a Christian – just like every other Christian has access to Him. So how do you “drink of the Spirit?” You drink the Spirit by “minding the things of the Spirit.” In other words, since the Spirit is not really a liquid, and we are using a metaphor here, you have to set your mind and your affection on spiritual things. You have to focus on the things of God and get involved in doing them. If you wanted to drink a large amount of water you would go to where the water is. You would pick it up, and you would pour it down your throat.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
1. Initiate spiritual thoughts and actions.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Think about that with which God would want you to be involved.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Get full of the Holy Spirit by thinking about – and doing – the types of things the Holy Spirit loves to do: things that help others; things that build up others; things that edify; things that bring praise and glory to God; things that magnify Christ Jesus – which brings us to the second way to get full of the Holy Spirit.
2. Imitate the Lord Jesus.
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
If you came to Jesus, repenting of your sins, believing the truth about Him, and calling upon Him to save you from the wrath of God that you and I deserve, then you “drank” of His Spirit, and, after that, rivers of this “living water” exist in you and flow out of you. Therefore, you “drink the Spirit” by living, loving, and leading like Jesus. You need to live a pure and holy life, because that’s how Jesus lived. You need to love the people around you – and especially the people who seem unlovable – because that’s what Jesus did. You need to lead people into a right relationship with God, because that’s what Jesus did.
3. Indoctrinate yourself with Bible principles.
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
You need to read and study and meditate on the teachings of Jesus. You need to go to church and Sunday School and learn about, put into practice, and live out the teachings of Jesus. You need to be a student of the records of what He said during His time on earth in the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you are going to have to find out what the Bible teaches, both in the “red letter” words, and in the rest of the Bible, too, including the teachings of the Apostles.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
I Corinthians 2:12-13
If we will indoctrinate ourselves with the words of Jesus and with Apostolic teaching, we will be filled with the Holy Spirit.
4. Interact with the Holy Spirit Himself.
He is a person. He is not a source, a power, a mystical cloud, a thing, or an “it.” When you are dealing with a person, you must cultivate a real relationship.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
You can’t control the wind, but you can certainly interact with it. It is important – and perhaps this is the most important thing to know about how to be filled with the Holy Spirit – to pray for Him to fill you.
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit.
You have to want to be Spirit-filled for the right reasons. He can not be manipulated.
But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
“Simony” is the purchasing of church offices, but Simon’s real fault was in thinking he could manipulate and control the Holy Spirit for his own profit. He was covetous (“in the gall of bitterness”) and he was being used by Satan (“in the bond of iniquity”). The wrong way to ask God for the Holy Spirit is with an ulterior motive of manipulation. The right way is with a heart that seeks to please God. Remember, when you are filled with the Spirit, here is what you will find yourself doing: praising the Lord; thanking the Lord, serving others humbly because of God.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Tags: brazen serpent, John 3, Moses in the wilderness, Numbers 21, pride, rebellion, snakes, unbelief, wilderness wandering
Previously, we saw:
Now, we will see the Snake on a Pole.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
Notice first what God did not tell Moses. He didn’t tell Moses to get the people together and pass anti-snake legislation. He didn’t tell them to make an antidote or antivenin. He didn’t tell them to beat the rocks and the bushes and kill all the snakes. He didn’t tell them to start doing better, to start being more positive, to get happy, to change their attitude and everything would be alright. He didn’t tell them – and this is the best thing He didn’t tell them – He didn’t tell them that it’s too late, too bad, there’s no hope. No, He said make a brazen serpent – a serpent of brass or of bronze. Again, though, God did not then instruct Moses to go around and touch every person with it. Or to hide it in a box and tell the people to come pray to it. He told Moses to lift it up.
And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
The snake had to be lifted up – and the people had to look. The famous preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, related in his personal salvation testimony how powerful this truth was to him. Even a young child can look. But each snake-bitten Israelite in the wilderness had to look for himself or herself. Those who looked lived. Those who didn’t look died. Why would anyone not look?
The Snake on a Pole: Snakes Produce Parting
We might say the people were “parted” into those who looked and those who didn’t look. Some didn’t look because of rebellion: “I don’t have to do what you say.” Some didn’t look because of pride: “I’m not going to look foolish, staring at a snake on a pole.” Some didn’t look because of unbelief: “There’s no way it could be that simple – I’m strong – I can beat this poison on my own, and then I’ll be able to say that I deserved to live.”
It’s happening even now. There’s Jesus Christ – the Son of Man – the Son of God – God incarnate – God made flesh and blood – lifted up. You’re going to have to look with eyes of faith – we don’t have a brazen Savior mounted on a cross. The symbol of our faith is the Cross without Christ still on it – because His story didn’t end there. You’re going to have to admit that you need to look – and you’re going to have to actually look.
Why did God choose a serpent – an animal associated with sin – to also be a symbol for the Savior?
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.
II Corinthians 5:21
Jesus Christ was made sin on the Cross. Just as the snake on the pole produced parting, there will be a parting also produced by Christ on the Cross.
Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
People are going to say that they knew about the “snake on the pole.” They heard about it in church. They ate and drank and took communion, observing the Lord’s Supper. They saw many crosses.
But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
But Jesus will say that they knew “about” Him, but that they never “looked upon” Him – they never had faith that He could save them.
There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
There will be a parting. You can look away now, and be told to depart later. Or you can look to Jesus now, and live. Please don’t say, “I’m not in any kind of shape to come to Jesus … I don’t dress like a church person – I don’t talk like a church person – I don’t look like a Christian is supposed to look.” Christianity is not about what you look like. It’s about Whom you look to. God in His grace and mercy has allowed you to make it this far despite your sin and rebellion. Don’t walk away from His invitation and command with the poison still in your system. Look to Jesus today – look and live.
If you’ve already looked, what a world of good it will do you to look again. Look often – look every chance you get. There’s nothing more encouraging for Christian who’s on a long journey home than to look upon the One Who saved you at the start.
Tags: 1 John 5, altar calls, Great White Throne, Jesus Christ, John 3, Paul Washer, Revelation 20, salvation invitations, terminal illness
I once heard a preacher say to his congregation: “You are in the Bible.” This is a strange statement because the events that are recorded in the Bible, for the most part, took place thousands of years ago. What he meant was that you might very well be one of the ones standing in the crowd described in this passage of Scripture:
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Revelation 20:11-14 (emphasis added)
Obviously, if you are reading this, you are not yet among the “dead,” and I pray that you will never go to face God before His Great White Throne in judgment, but we must deal clearly and directly with that possibility.
You may have heard preachers say that you can find yourself in the Bible in another, less-frightening place. They will tell you that you can insert your own name in this well-known Bible verse:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that [insert your name here] should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The words that are supposed to be replaced by your name are “whosoever believeth in him,” referring to believing in Jesus Christ. If you will believe the truth about Jesus Christ and call upon Him to save you from the just punishment for your sins against God, then He will give you eternal life. If you will be the “whosoever” of John 3:16, you can avoid being the other kind of “whosoever:”
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Being unsure about any of this should bring you to a crisis. A crisis is a critical, crucial moment. It is when you come to a fork in the road of your life and you have to make a decision to go one way or the other. Going back is not an option and standing still is not an option.
Here’s an example: Pretend you are in the doctor’s office. You have been there many times before – for checkups and for minor treatments. Usually it is routine. Every once in a while you get some medicine, or at worst a mildly painful injection, but you always leave the doctor’s office with the hope that everything is okay – that you are going to get better. But this time it’s different. Instead of the doctor telling you it’ll be okay, he is very serious. His voice almost shakes and this scares you. He is telling you something you have never heard before and never expected to hear in a million years. He says you have a terrible disease – it is all over you – it has invaded your body and will eat you alive – and you will die. He goes on to explain some of the details about your condition. He has test results. He has x-rays, and they show that your body is black with this disease. He is trying to tell you there is a chance to survive – but only one chance. You must have surgery right now – right this minute – no thinking it over, no talking to your family and friends, no second opinion. Get to the emergency room right now and submit to being cut open – or die.
Now you see the meaning of a crisis: only two choices. No standing still, no waiting, no going back. Trust your life to a surgeon or die. Could you accept such a diagnosis? Or would you begin to hesitate? “I can’t be as sick as he says. I feel fine physically. I am strong. I am relatively young. Surgery is a major ordeal. It’s serious, my whole life will have to change. No more eating whatever I want, drinking whatever I want, no more staying out late doing whatever I want. I can’t just lie down on an operating table and trust a surgeon to cut me open. I like to be in control. I’ll control this with medicine. I’ll exercise, eat right, get more rest, change my lifestyle. I’ll do it in my own strength.”
When the doctor begins to plead with you and threaten you, you cup your hands over your ears, and you run out… thereby cutting yourself off from the only remedy.
Is this what goes through your mind when someone corners you with a Bible or tries to tell you that you are going to hell without Jesus? “This is too much to face. I can’t just trust God. Everyone will laugh at me. This is a big step. What if God really does give me a new heart and I don’t like to do the fun things of this world any more? What if I become God’s child and, like a good father, He begins correcting me when I sin? I like to sin – I don’t want God’s Spirit living inside me making me feel bad all the time. I can’t just stop doing the things I do for fun – the things I’m addicted to. Maybe I can cut back some. I’ll work on it myself. Maybe I can change the kind of person I am. I’ll go to church more often. I’ll even volunteer to do some work there. I’ll show God I’m not so bad.”
Please do not cover your eyes and cup your hands over your ears. Please do not run away. Sit still for a moment and stop thinking about what you’re going to do with the rest of your day. Put out of your mind the problems you will face at work tomorrow. Forget about what other people will think of you. This is about you and God. If you lie down and submit to Him, He is not like the earthly surgeon. Even if an earthly surgeon cures you it will only last for a little while. When God performs surgery, the surgery will be successful. The new heart that He will give you will be capable of loving and obeying God. You will care about eternal, important, valuable things – not the foolish everyday cares and concerns of this world. You can’t understand the joy of salvation until you experience it. Will you receive it today? Will you receive Him today?
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
I John 5:12
Tags: advice, cross-examination, giving advice, good advice, Jeremiah 17, John 3, Proverbs 4, Psalm 4, regeneration, the heart
Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.
Psalm 4:4-5 (emphasis added)
I’m not saying our hearts can be trusted to tell us what’s right – or even to lead us in the right direction. They surely can’t (Jeremiah 17:9). What I’m saying is: A person who is seeking advice must examine his or her own motives. When you lie in bed late at night, and it’s just you and your thoughts, do not leave God out of the conversation. But do not leave the deepest, most secret caverns of your heart out of it, either.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Don’t go easy on your own heart. Don’t question it lightly. Subject it to an intense, searching cross-examination:
–Heart, why are you not satisfied with what God has given us?
–Heart, why are you going in the same wrong direction over and over?
–Heart, who is really seated on your throne? Is it me or is it our Lord?
There is a heresy that says Christianity is “all about me.” That’s wrong. Christianity is about Christ and His Gospel. But there is also a heresy that says, “It’s not about me at all.” God so loved the world – people – that He gave His Son (John 3:16). He made your heart – and if you’ve been regenerated He made your new heart (Ezekiel 36:26; II Corinthians 5:17). He made it so that the issues of life flow out of it. Too many of us talk to God with the intellectual surface of our mind, and we too seldom really pour our heart out on the altar to be examined before God.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 13, cancer, cancer in marriage, Christian marriage, envy, envy in marriage, John 3, marriage, marriage counseling, Proverbs 14
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
I Corinthians 13:4 (emphasis added)
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
Husbands and wives are one flesh. The opposite of a sound heart is a divided heart. Can a one-flesh body thrive with a divided heart? No, the Bible says that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. We have a word for when something inside our body starts attacking the very body that gives it life: cancer. That’s what “rottenness of the bones” means. It is describing an eating-away from the inside.
This is how it works: First you think there is at least some basic minimum to which you are entitled. “I don’t ask for much, but…” Second, you see something that you don’t have that would fulfill that longing (covetousness). “All I’m asking for is…” Third, you see that your spouse does have the thing you long for or something that satisfies him or her in the way that you are not being satisfied (bitterness). “Well, I don’t see you having to put up with that…” Fourth, it occurs to you that if you don’t get to have it, he or she shouldn’t either (the wrong kind of jealousy). “Fine! If you’re going to be that way about it…” Fifth, out of spite, you don’t want your spouse to have it, or you want to have it for yourself instead (envy).
To further aggravate the situation, there are usually two sides to envy. You are not happy because you don’t have something, and you are resentful that your spouse does have it. Even if you are able to suppress the kinds of statements used for illustrative purposes in the paragraph above because you realize that these types of feelings are too ugly to express out loud, you can still succumb to love-negating envy. It’s just that you do it secretly. You rejoice when your spouse weeps. You weep when your spouse rejoices. When that happens you have lost your “soundness of heart.” You have “rottenness” eating away at “the bones” (the infrastructure) of your marriage.
Let’s see how the Bible says to handle this by looking at the example of John the Baptist:
After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
John recognized that envy is not only potentially disastrous to a relationship or a common cause, but it is an attack on the wisdom and the providence and the sovereignty of God.
Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.
Most married couples had a “best man” and a “maid or matron of honor” in their wedding. The attitude of these people is supposed to be happiness for the bride and bridegroom’s joy. How awful if your best man or maid of honor had been standing there at your wedding, secretly seething with anger and envy because you were getting to experience joy that they weren’t – or if you were marrying the person that they secretly wanted for themselves! In my marriage I don’t normally think of me decreasing and my wife increasing, but I should think of the Lord of my marriage increasing. In marriage we are supposed to actually want our spouse to have every good and perfect gift that God has for her or him. There’s no room for envy of each other. (Likewise, there’s no room for envy of what another couple has in their marriage.)
In the last lesson on marriage I asked, “Is there some quality or virtue about your spouse that you wished he or she did not possess?” With recognition of the destructiveness of envy in view, a better question now would be, “Is there some virtue or quality about your spouse that you are glad he or she has even though you don’t have it?