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“He that findeth his life shall lose it.” Matthew 10:30
What is all the world trying to do but “find” its life? Everywhere people are seeking a “meaning” in life, looking for such meaning in the dead and decaying world, trying to find pleasure, ways to make life easier, how to get more out of living. Religious quacks make fortunes by peddling scraps of Christian truth to those who want to add religion to their lives in order to make life more satisfying. The race is mad with this ambition, to make life in this world secure and satisfying, to make peace with the world, to make all men brothers and to find a cure-all that will lengthen the span of life.
Life as God designed it cannot be found in this world. Such life involves total sinlessness, an incorruptible body, the presence of the Father and the Son, and an environment that is absolutely pure. Few people seem to realize what a grievous sin it is for modern man to suggest that he is going to work at the job until he produces such a life. It is God who gives life, and Who will ultimately “create all things new” so that we may enjoy the life He desires us to have. No Christian is foolish enough to really think that he can find such a life in this world. They who do “find” the life they love obviously are satisfied with life quite different from the Creator’s purpose. If we desire life that falls short of God’s purpose, we forfeit the life He offers in eternity.
“He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it”. We lose our lives for Christ’s sake when we quit trying to satisfy ourselves by what this world offers. We lose our lives as far as this world is concerned when we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. We lose our lives when we become dependent upon God and His commandments instead of the current concepts of men, when we seek no glory from men but only to please the Lord, when we spurn the good life of the world for that which the world brands as foolish. He who finds what he wants in this life has his reward. The believer who loses his life for Christ’s sake, will find more than he ever dreamed of in eternity.
PRAYER: Loving Father, take my life for Your own use and glory. May I seek for nothing but that which makes my life more pleasing to You. Give me courage to trust my life altogether to Your care. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.
“And the manna ceased.” Joshua 5:12
The manna ceased after the Israelites crossed the Jordan river and entered the land of Canaan. But God’s provision did not cease. “Neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.” God continued to provide their needs. They no longer needed manna, because all the fruit of the land was theirs.
In the beginning of the church the apostles were supported with great signs, wonders and special gifts. Many are disturbed that these are not manifest in the church today. They feel that the Lord would continue to establish the church by the same miracles if we only had faith. But the church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone.” (Eph. 2:20). The foundation is established, once and for all. God does not need to continue giving the “manna” of miracles; there is no reason to lay more foundation. Having been built upon the foundation already provided, we now are to “grow into a holy temple in the Lord”. (Eph. 2:21). For this growth The Heavenly Father gives adequate provisions.
The ceasing of the manna was a great challenge to the faith of Israel. It was first poured out from heaven in reply to their murmuring. It was not given because of their faith but in spite of their disbelief. Now that it had ceased they were forced to find God’s provision in less dramatic ways. As G. H. Morrison has said, “It is not very hard for any man to feel that God is very near in the great hours. When there is nothing startling or arresting, what do you make of the providence of God?” Which is the greater faith, to believe God in the midst of signs, wonders, tongues of fire and miraculous voices, or to trust Him in the routine work of the day? The purpose of God is not accomplished by miracles which leave little room to doubt, but by the turning of our minds to Him in trust against all obstacles. There are occasions when God works the miracle in answer to prayer. But with or without the miracle, God provides our daily bread and gives us all that is needful for our growth in him. This is the wider reach of faith; not to look for manna, but to look for God to provide in His own wise way.
PRAYER: O Father, I thank You for this day and for its needs which You have supplied. Give me grace each day to grow in the likeness of Christ. I pray in His name. Amen.
“The world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14
As Christians we are not bound by the custom and fashion of the world. To understand this we must understand what happened at the time of Adam’s sin. Not only did man become subject to mortality, to return to the dust from whence he was taken, but the whole creation became subject to decay and deterioration. Animals which had been nourished on the vegetation of the earth became carnivorous, and began living off the flesh of other animals; the ground began to produce thorns, and man sought to hide from God because of his guilt and the change it had wrought in him. His sin increased until at the time of the flood the whole earth underwent a catastrophic change, along with the destruction of wicked men. It continues in the same direction from that day, so that in the end it will be destroyed by fire, “being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (II Peter 3:7). “The whole world lieth in the evil one” (I John 5:19). John writes that we should “love not the world” for “the world passeth away.” (I John 2:15,17). It is consigned to destruction at the day of judgment, for the wages of sin is death.
The crucifixion of Jesus was the just act of judgment, where Jesus took our place in death. Thus He “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world.” (Gal. 1:4). By receiving such deliverance through Christ we are not only delivered from death at judgment, but delivered from any obligation to conform to the world and its standards and demands. The world, as such, is doomed. It is a lost cause. It is crucified, potentially. In the end it will perish. Therefore the plans and purposes of the world are worthless to me. It is dead to me, and I am dead to it. It is no wonder that the world should look upon the believer as an alien, and in its death throes despise him for envy. We are citizens of another kingdom. Our actions are not guided by the spirit of a dying world, but by Christ Jesus Who will create a new one “wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
Here is the test in whether or not we truly believe in the reality of the new heavens and new earth, to be able to say, “the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
PRAYER: O God, and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, purge me of all sin left over from this world’s influence. Blot out any worldly ambition, that I might do the things pleasing in Your sight, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“I do always the things that are pleasing to Him.” John 8:29
In Peter’s sermon to Cornelius he speaks of Jesus as one “who went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38). Generally we think of the miracles of Jesus, the healing of the sick and raising of the dead, as a demonstration of His desire to alleviate suffering and do good for the benefit of man. Such good deeds form the basis for the socialist platform: We must make man’s physical welfare our primary aim. Of course, in order to do this, a great many people must be coerced into helping. Such coercing, even to the taking of their goods, is excused on the basis that the end — that of doing good for men — justifies the means.
But as it turned out, this was not the end toward which Jesus worked. His primary aim was to please the Father. When He healed the man born blind he said that the occasion was so that “the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (Jn. 9:3). He even allowed Lazarus to die, and brought him back to life “for the glory of God, that the son of God may be glorified thereby.” (John 11:4). Jesus did have compassion on the people and their death-ridden condition. Many of them were benefitted from His works. But such benefits were a by-product. Everything Jesus did was in response to the will of the Father, so that He might be pleasing to Him. We are not to consider Jesus to be exemplary because He performed deeds approved by men, but because of His approval before God. He Himself said, “My judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me.” (John 5:30). The statement was unacceptable to the Jews; they could not conceive of a person being approved by God when he stood alone, against the approved religious authorities. While disapproved by men, Jesus met God’s approval and was exalted to His right hand.
So we are to act to please God. Even our preaching, the means of heralding the good news of salvation, is done primarily because it pleases God. We rejoice when it results in salvation of men, but we rejoice in it anyway, for it meets with God’s good pleasure. (I Cor. 1:21). Our primary responsibility is to see that it pleases Him, whether or not it makes a hit with men. And so with all of life: “always the things that are pleasing to Him.”
PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for revealing Your will to men. Give me wisdom and courage to always choose Your will, and be pleasing to You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord . . . ” I Peter 3:15
Nothing is more essential to one’s life than his heart. But in this exhortation it means more than the vital organ of the flesh; it embraces our passions and our will. Christ is to be enthroned as Lord over our minds, our desires, our passions, our decisions and our actions. The apostle does not say to set aside a day, once a week, in which we will become religious, attend the church of our choice as the Saturday newspaper advises, and sanctify that day for Christ. Nor does he command that we sanctify a place to which we may retreat on occasions and pay our respects to God. Nor is he suggesting that we ask Jesus’ assistance in difficulties. What he demands is that our lives be under the total Lordship of Jesus. Such totality in religion is offensive to the modern world. Churchdom — I say not Christianity — has become so acoommodated to the world that the most insignificant idea of faith is labeled Christian. If one arises who is totally religious in the Christian sense; that is, if he truly sanctifies Christ as Lord in his heart, he is considered by all the world, religious as well as secular, a fanatic.
But what else is it to be a Christian but to sanctify your heart to Christ as Lord? He is Lord, you know. God has made Him both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:36). It is His creation. He is coming again to judge man upon just this basis: whether or not man has accepted His Lordship. (Luke 19:27). In the new earth where the saved shall dwell there will be absolutely nothing but His rule! Not a soul will exist there but that is totally submissive to Him, not one hour or one day a week, but continually, perpetually, eternally. Talk about being religious! Radical! It will be nothing but radical; for this is salvation, to be radically changed from the course of this world to complete obedience to the Lord.
So Jesus calls us now to recognize Him as Lord and put our lives under His rule: all our thoughts, our plans, our work, our play, our heart’s desires — all brought into harmony with the purpose of God. How vain for men to go their own way in opposition to God and then add a religious service to their activities and call it Christianity. God demands all or nothing. Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord!
PRAYER: Dear Father, forgive me for letting anything guide my life other than Jesus. Rule in my heart, that I might be transformed into Your own image, through Jesus my Lord. In His name, I pray. Amen.
“Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.” Acts 2:38
When the jailor at Philippi asked, “What must I do to be saved?” he was told to believe. Then after Peter had preached the gospel to him he was baptized, the same hour of the night. However, when Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost his hearers were already believers when they asked, “What shall we do?” So they were not told to believe, but to repent and be baptized. One step at a time. One must believe and repent, then comes baptism.
Baptism is meaningful only to the extent that it is connected with the death of Jesus and that His death is meaningful, for we “were baptized into His death”. (Rom. 6:3). Why is Christ dear to us? Because He took our guilt for sin and then bore the punishment — death — for us. He freed us from the ultimate punishment of death in the day of judgment. His death was a reality, at a point of time in history. So there is also a point of time at which we submit to the power of that death in faith and are “buried with Him through baptism into death”. (Rom. 6:4). One is not baptized to join the church, nor to follow Jesus’ example, nor for any one of a hundred reasons he might choose, but for one reason: that his sins might be remitted through the death of Jesus. Christ died for one thing: to bear our sins and save us from sin’s penalty. We who are baptized into his death do so for the purpose of receiving the benefit of that death. It is the long step of faith, to believe that an event of almost 2,000 years ago is activated, and the death He died becomes my death, so I might be free from the guilt and its penalty. Some would sneer at baptism and say that all one needs is the right disposition of heart. But would one say of Jesus that He need not have actually died, that all He needed was a certain disposition of heart? Jesus did not balk at death. Certainly it ill behooves a believer to balk at being baptized into that death. From it (baptism) we rise to walk in a new life, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him . . . for he that hath died is justified from sin.” (Rom. 6:6, 7).
PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for the penalty paid by the Lord Jesus Christ to account for all my sin. I gladly confess that He bore my sins, believing that He will confess that I am now His own. Help me to walk worthy of the new life, I pray in His name. Amen.
“we . . . are come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2
These were wise-men from the east who had seen His star and came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They were learned men who knew the prophecy concerning the Lord and understood the meaning of His mission to the world. This is seen in the gifts which they brought. Gold was the most valuable metal known and represented the richest gift, just as Jesus is the most valuable and richest gift God could make to man. The gold would be needed later in the flight to Egypt. Frankincense is a purifier, and represents purity. We generally associate babies with innocence and purity, but with Jesus there is special significance, for it was necessary that He remain pure and innocent all His life, in order to be a sinless man dying for man’s sins. Myrrh was a burial spice. Now who would ever take such a gift to a baby shower? But the wise-men recognized the true purpose of Jesus, that He was born into the world for the purpose of dying.
Thus they came to worship Him by recognizing His true position, His worth and His purpose. They were not worshipping a baby, nor an event. They didn’t travel all that way to worship a season nor an attitude nor an atmosphere that happened to prevail. Jesus said that true worship is in “spirit and in truth”. Those men knew the truth about Jesus, as seen in the gifts they brought. They worshipped Him as King, knowing that after His death He would be made Lord and King. Their worship was more than lip-service. It began in great faith, required a great effort of travel, much time, and resulted in great gifts.
This is true worship, to come to Jesus understanding the magnitude of His mission to the world, His death on the cross, and recognizing Him as our only Lord and King. Such worship is worth our time and our effort and the giving of our best. Let us never be so busy that we haven’t time to worship Him. Wise men now, as in times past, seek Him out, search the scriptures concerning Him, make whatever effort is necessary to worship Him as their Lord.
PRAYER: Father, give me grace to bring my whole life as a gift to Jesus my Lord. I pray in His dear name. Amen.
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” John 1:14
Christ did not enter the world as an angel or as a supernatural being, or as an extension of God’s spirit to play upon man’s being in some spiritual way. The Word became flesh. At a certain time and place Jesus came into our world as flesh and blood, and at another particular point in history He gave that flesh in death, to meet the penalty for sin. He said that He would give His flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:51). His mortal life, extending over only a few years, was a one-time event. It will never happen again. He now sends the Holy Spirit to dwell with His believers, but He Himself now dwells in Heaven. He came for a specific purpose, to give his flesh for the life of the world, and that accomplished He took His rightful place of authority at the Father’s right hand. He now has immortality. But at one time, He lived among men as another mortal, and died a mortal death for men. If we miss this fact, we have missed the whole thrust of the Gospel and the point of His coming. The idea often expressed that Jesus comes all the time, that He comes every year or that He is always coming, may be meant well, but it doesn’t help us to get at the heart of this great truth that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Let us not reduce the reality of this first advent of Christ to a mere mystery by suggesting that He continues to come to men through faith just as He once came to the people of Judea. It isn’t the same! Not at all. He now comes to us through the presence of His spirit, and only then if we believe that He once came in the flesh, as the one who took our sins in his body and gave that body as a sin-offering. “By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”. (Heb. 10:10). Let us beware of making Christ an abstraction. Life and death are very real, and so was the coming of Jesus. Can you celebrate the fact that He came and died for you?
PRAYER: Loving Father, thank You for sending Jesus to be my Saviour. Help me, in the midst of turbulence of the world, to hold fast to the simple truth of the gospel, to joyfully share it, and to be faithful to Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.
“Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
Even before His birth the shadow of the cross was already present. Two things stand out in the angel’s announcement to Joseph: the name “Jesus”, which means Saviour, and the word “sins”. Because the world has made an idolatrous worship of the Baby, the Christmas Tree and Santa Claus, the idea of sin is far removed from the festivities that surround Christ’s birthday. Many suggest that the meaning of Christmas is revealed in good-will tolerance of every thing and every body, as if a hearty “Ho-Ho” covers our transgressions and makes us right with God. But the reason for Christ’s coming was just the opposite, because God is not tolerant toward sin and sinful man, and the time came when He did something about it. The adoration of Jesus is to be as a Redeemer, the One Who came to pay the penalty for sin. As a Babe in the manger He was God in the flesh, but He had no power in saving us from the throes of sin and death until He Himself had tasted of death—and that was not as a child, but as the man, Christ Jesus, in the prime of life, willingly of His own accord committing Himself to the judgment of God in death. Perhaps most people like to keep the Christ in the crib, in order not to have to face the fact of sin which was the purpose of His coming. But this does not honor him. When we wish to honor great men, such as Milton or Luther, we do not adore them as babies or children, nor sing songs in praise of their childhood. Is it not strange that most of the world honors Jesus the greatest of men only as an infant?
These considerations make it proper for us to inquire: How can Christians represent Christ to others as a full-grown Saviour instead of as an infant? How can we show that He is really the Lord of our lives? How can we portray the true meaning of Jesus as opposed to the idolatrous portrayal presented by the secular world? Answers to these questions will be well worth our seeking as we celebrate the birth of our Lord.
PRAYER: O God, and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, receive my praise and thanksgiving for blotting out my sin on Calvary. Help me to steer men’s minds from the cradle to the cross, that we might all see Your holy purpose in giving Christ to the world. In the blessed name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
“Let us now go . . . and see this thing that is come to pass . . .” Luke 2:15
Not “let us now go, and see IF this thing is come to pass”! There was no if in the decision of the Shepherds. The Lord had spoken, and although there was no other corroborating evidence, no rumors from travelers from Bethlehem way, only the message of the angel, that word was enough. We take it for granted that the shepherds had no cause to doubt, that it would be the normal response to a message from heaven, to accept it, believe it and cooperate with it. Would we make the same response? Would we go “with haste” upon the angel’s word? The answer is all around us. For not one angel, not one messenger, but a number of angels, a dozen apostles and the Lord Himself have spoken to us through the Scriptures. It is made clear that this One born in Bethlehem is now both Christ and Lord, that He reigns in Heaven and on Earth and that He will return to call all men to an accounting. But what is the response? Some are saying, “Let us wait and see IF this thing will come to pass.” Others say, “I hope it may come to pass, but I’m not sure about it.” The world for the most part has given up the idea entirely, assuming that since it hasn’t happened just yet it isn’t going to happen ever. Even among us who believe it, who do not question it, with whom there is no “IF”, what do we do about it? “The shepherds said one to another let us go now . . .” “And they came with haste.” Here is the great need of the hour, as the darkness of sin and unbelief settles ever heavier upon the world, as Satan puts forth his last desperate effort to wrench the Kingdom from the true King, now more than ever we need to say one to another, “Let us worship the Lord. Let us go to Him in prayer. Let us go out to meet Him. Let us make known the things spoken about Him”. We need to talk about it and encourage each other in it. Then we need to get up some speed, to make haste, because the time is short. There’s no time to waste. Come, let us now go and be ready to meet Jesus, for it is coming to pass! There’s no “if” about it.
PRAYER: Father in Heaven, forgive me of doubts, and erase all questionings, that I may go forth unwaveringly to do Your will. Renew my energy and my zeal that I might make the most of every opportunity to honor the name of Jesus, in which I pray. Amen.
“For there is born to you . . . a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
Christmas supposedly commemorates the first advent of Christ. Socially and financially it involves more people than does any other occasion of the year, and for a few days we see and hear the name of Jesus everywhere. Then suddenly it is over. How is it that the name of Christ is so soon abandoned? Why is it that the Christmas celebration has no permanent effect upon the world? Is it not because the world misses the message of the angel that the One born is a Saviour, born to be Lord? The Christ of Christmas is thought of as a baby in a manger, a helpless infant in a crib. He is associated with singing cherubs, worshipping shepherds, dazzling wrapping paper, colorful ribbons, falling snow and anything else that might create a sentimental aura, the kind of atmosphere that might lull you to sleep with peaceful dreams. And this it does.
But the angel’s message shocked men awake! Jesus came to be Lord, and that means that we bow not before the cradle but before the throne! Men are not to face Him in a peaceful manger, but in a terrible judgment! His first coming was only the beginning. He arose from the grave and was crowned Lord in Heaven, with all authority in heaven and upon earth, to bring all men to His feet, either as obedient children, or defeated enemies. No wonder men prefer to confine Him to the manger, to forever keep Him in memory as the “babe” of Bethlehem. They do not know Him and do not want to know Him, because they are afraid to face Him. So Christmas has become a secular holiday with a religious nod to God. Every one sings a carol, sends a card, gives a gift and even goes to church, but fails to bow down to Jesus as Lord.
There will be another advent of Christ. Yes; He is coming back, not as an infant, but as Lord of Lords to judge those who would not have Him as Lord of their lives. Then the only ones who will celebrate are the ones who have received Him as saviour and Lord, who are prepared for the second coming. As you make preparations for Christmas festivities, are you making preparation for the Lord’s return? Would you celebrate if you knew He were coming today?
PRAYER: Loving Father, guard me from covetousness and idolatry, that Jesus may reign in my life, now and forever. Help me to be prepared at all times for His coming. I pray in His holy name. Amen.
“I bring you good tidings of great joy . . .” Luke 2:10
The joy that these shepherds found in the angel’s message might not even be recognized as joy according to the modern estimate of such. The so-called joy of Christmas as generally expressed in the world has to do with tinseled trees, jolly songs, fun parties of liquor, sex and shamelessness and a general “Ho Ho”, with an occasional reference to the Babe of Bethlehem thrown in for good measure. After all, the angels said something of joy, so you’re supposed to be happy. So make yourself happy! Ironically there is a greater amount of nervous tension, anxiety, and mental depression at this season of the year than at any other time. The effort to force and imitate joy only leaves one hollow and spent with a greater yearning for joy than ever. The joy is absent because men do not understand the glad tidings. This is the source of joy, the “glad tidings”, which is another way of saying the Gospel. That gospel centers in rescuing man from the grip of death in which all men are held as long as they remain in sin.
It is only as a man recognizes this fact and sees this sentence of death hanging over him like the sword of Damocles, that the message of Christ’s coming is “good tidings”. It is knowing this truth that strikes fear into one’s heart, a fear that can never be removed by the artificially contrived joy sought in the fun-centers of our society. The real joy comes when our sins are all laid on Jesus, when we repent and are baptized into Christ’s death, so that we may know that the death penalty is paid. The sword of Damocles falls, on Him, and no longer hangs over our heads. It is cause for rejoicing. It is victory, not only for us, but for the Father and the Son as well, for this was the purpose for which Jesus was born into the world. The only way to find joy is to find it in the good tidings of the gospel, and the way to share that joy at every season is to share these same tidings.
PRAYER: Father, help me to share this great joy with those who know it not. Give me courage and humility to speak often and everywhere about the gospel, that Jesus may be exalted. I pray in His name. Amen.
“Fear not.” Luke 2:10
Today men say, “Merry Christmas”. The angels said, “Fear not”. The words of the angel are irrelevant to the modern nomad. He has learned to tranquilize his fears. Socially he conforms to the world and is accepted. Financially he has cradle-to-grave security. Physically his confidence is in miracle-drugs, transplants and other wonders of medical science. Spiritually he is convinced that God is the father of all and that if there is a judgment or another life, all will be in the same boat. How can there be fear when good will is poured forth from every newspaper, TV set and from loudspeakers in every shopping center?
But the shepherds of Judaea felt differently. When they were confronted with God’s messenger they were “sore afraid”. This was not because they were greater sinners than other men. It was not superstition. They were not afraid for their jobs, nor their health. Their fear was the healthy-minded fear felt by men who are aware of the reality of God, to whom God is a living personality Who called man into being and to Whom man must give account! Was this judgment? Was this the day they would have to pay the penalty for sin? The shepherds were conscious of their own inadequacy, and hence the peril in which they stood as they faced God’s messenger. Against this background the words, “fear not”, came as a great relief, and they were soon “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen”. The great joy which they experienced was genuine because their fear of judgment was genuine. The birth of Jesus has meaning only to those who have a deep sense of need, who have a true fear of what the situation would be if there had never been a sinless Son of God to come into the world as a human being and die as one of us to pay our penalty of death. All fear is summed up in fear of that final and eternal stroke due the sinner. It is this stroke that fell on Jesus, and removed the fear that embraces all fears. Believe in Him, and fear not!
PRAYER: Loving Father, receive my praise and thanksgiving for Jesus, Who took my sins away in His death. Help me to put away all fear except the holy fear that draws me closer to You. I pray in Jesus’ blessed name. Amen.
“For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3
The only Scriptures the apostles had were what we call the Old Testament; hence, they were familiar with such prophecies as Isaiah 2:10: “Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, from before the terror of Jehovah, and from the glory of his majesty.” The rock of which Isaiah spoke is Christ, and the terror speaks of judgment in the day when Christ will come to judge the world and be glorified in the saints. Man will then see that he is but dust. All the mighty works of his hands, the great cities of glass and steel, the military complexes, the incomparable computers, the vast campuses in which he takes such pride as a token of his learning—all of it, along with the world of unbelievers, will be destroyed. The work of man will be swept aside as chaff, and the glory of Christ will shine brighter than the midday sun. Only those who “enter into the rock and hide . . . in the dust” shall be preserved from the terror. These are all who recognize that man is but dust, that his life is totally dependent upon God, that even the breath of his nostrils from one moment to the next is supplied by God, and that only God can save.
To be “hid with Christ in God” is to fulfill the command of the prophet Isaiah. It is to fall on our faces like Peter, who sensed his sin so sharply that he cried out, “depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” It was after he had been bowed down to the dust, repenting in bitter tears, that he was allowed to truly enter into the rock, and enjoy the peace of knowing that his life was hid with Christ. It is hard to imagine one as “hid” in Christ who is boasting of his worth and his accomplishments, who is advertising himself to all the world as some great personality, who is going to help save the world!
One who is crucified with Christ exalts Christ, not himself. He would hide himself in the dust rather than be marked for glory in the world. He depends upon the strength of the Rock, not wealth, skill, education, popularity with men, nor his “image” as we say today. From the dust he hopes Christ to raise him, and reward him in the day of His coming. In the meantime, his life is hid with Christ in God.
PRAYER: Father, cleanse me from all pride and self-glorying, and hide me in the Rock of salvation, for I am a sinner, and unworthy of eternal life. Keep me in Your grace until Jesus comes. I pray in His name. Amen.
“Mine eyes anticipated the night-watches, that I might meditate on thy word.” Psalm 119:148
A handbook, supposedly to advise the believer on how to grow in Christ, suggests that it is better to read only a very small portion of scripture each day, than to skip some days, then read a larger portion in concentrated study. This is like telling sweethearts that it is better for them to continue holding hands and exchanging glances of love each day than to take the marriage vows and consummate them in conjugal love. I doubt if this would be convincing. It is just the shallow reading of Bible verses that has made the country a nation of church members ignorant of the truth and purpose of God. Bible verses always mean what they say, but what they say is not easily apparent. To skim over them and accept a superficial meaning will result in a superficial understanding of God’s will. One needs to search the Scriptures, to shut out all else until nothing is seen but the light of the word. To do this takes time. The Psalmist anticipated the end of the day’s work, not so that he could be entertained in the world or indulge himself in sleep, but because it afforded him the chance to meditate on God’s word.
Christian, you may have the thrill of entering into God’s glorious confidence, but it cannot be until you are willing to pay the price of earnest and prolonged meditation on His truth. Casual readings and a few words of prayer hardly answer the need. To fill up on truth you must empty yourself of the rubbish of the world. Each of us considers himself to be “busy”, perhaps too busy to spend whole nights or even a whole hour meditating on God’s word. But think of the hours spent in idle pursuits or in watching television. Consider all the carefully laid plans to spend a day at this pleasure or that. There is a rich reward for you, if you will make plans and take the time to meditate on the word, the food God has given for our lives.
PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for the wonderful revelation stored in the Bible. Grant that I may open it with wisdom and be enriched with Your word. I ask this in the name of Jesus my Lord. Amen.
“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:11
Every person has a built-in longing, an intrinsic desire for something that he can never quite identify. Just when we reach a certain goal or acquire a certain object that we know is bound to give us pleasure, we find that underneath there is a new longing, or the old longing with a new twist to it. One desires to get out into the woods to smell the pines, but when he arrives, the first deep breath of pine-scented air sends a shiver down his spine, the stirring of great unfulfilled longing, of which that breath gives only a hint. No matter what we do that gives us great pleasure, there is no such thing as attaining total fulfillment, and the deeper the pleasure, the greater the longing when it is over.
In the search for fulfillment people try all sorts of things, often debasing themselves in sin for a moment’s pleasure. Many Christians are upset by the fact that their “longing” is not completely eliminated when they accept Christ. They are told that Jesus completely satisfies, and they interpret this to mean that once you are a Christian you will never have that nostalgic feeling that seems to say, “There is something more yet.” So they go searching for some special revelation or shop around from one church to another or become involved in numerous worthless pursuits, trying to put an end once and forever to the desire that is never quite satisfied.
But there is only one thing that can end our desire and that is to be restored to the perfect fellowship and perfect life for which God created us. The Psalmist has written, “I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness.” There is nothing in this present world that can fully satisfy the soul whose mind is fixed on God. The more we know of Him, the more we know of His purpose to give us immortality and put us in a new world where all is perfect beauty, and the more we think of seeing Him and living in His presence, the deeper the longing. It is natural for us to desire pleasure. But the true pleasure cannot be ours until we are truly with Him. At His “right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
PRAYER: Loving Father, thank You for your inexorable love that draws me ever closer to the eternal goal. Give me greater patience to labor faithfully in this vineyard, until Jesus comes. I pray in His name. Amen.
“For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you leaving you an example . . .” I Peter 2:21
Called to suffer! Again and again we ask, “Why did this have to happen?” Are we not called unto peace? (I Cor. 7:15) and to glory? (I Pet. 5:10). Then is not suffering a sign of our failure? Isn’t it evidence of a weak faith? No, not at all. It is just the faithful ones who are called to suffer the most. Job was a man “perfect” in God’s sight, yet it was just because of his perfect faith that he was put to the test. When Paul was chosen for apostleship, the Lord said “I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake”. (Acts 9:16). Paul wrote, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (II Tim. 3:12).
We are not called upon to understand suffering. Sometimes we may look back upon a certain painful experience and see what brought it about, and see the benefit we derived from it. Then we are glad to have passed through it, for otherwise we would never have gained that degree of faith or that quality of character it produced. But what if we see no benefit from the suffering? What if nothing is gained? Then the benefit is in the suffering itself, in that we are following Christ’s example, and taking our suffering patiently. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”. There is no cross borne without suffering. Even if we see no benefit, that is the benefit itself, that we are following Jesus, and what is more beneficial than that? But even that is lost if we must take the suffering to the psychologist and have it dissected and weighed and tested and analyzed to find out why, as if to say that we are going to eliminate the suffering by learning the why of it, and therefore turn the suffering to profit. I find no scripture that tells us to understand why suffering comes. It only commands us to take it patiently, to endure it, and follow Christ’s example. Be assured that it IS beneficial simply because God would not allow it otherwise. For hereunto were ye called!
PRAYER: Merciful Father, I give thanks for all that I have been allowed to suffer as Your child. I pray not for relief, but for strength and patience, that I may follow the example of Jesus, my Lord, in whose name I pray. Amen.
“Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: For Jehovah upholdeth him with his hand.” Psalm 37:24
There are those who turn their backs on the faith and give up the grace by which they could have been saved. (Heb. 10:28, 29). But I am convinced that the majority of those who seem to have fallen from grace were never members of Christ to begin with. They rather drifted into the church and drifted out again, more like observers than partakers. When one is committed to God; that is, when in the depths of his soul he has experienced conversion, the turning of his life to the Creator, then God Himself has a stake in that life, and He will not let it go easily. It is a gross error to think that one has “fallen from grace” because he has failed the Lord in some way. If one has sinned or if he has not perfectly obeyed every commandment, there is provision for him to confess his sin and be cleansed by the sacrifice of Christ. (I John 1:7-9). He may fall miserably; he may see himself as the chief of sinners; but “he shall not be utterly cast down: for Jehovah upholdeth him with his hand”.
Verse 23 clearly shows that the promise is for the true child of God. “A man’s goings are established of Jehovah: and he delighteth in his way.” The term for man is a special Hebrew term with reference only to believers. Even when we fall, we are still under the sovereign hand of God. He watches every step with infinite care and love. As long as we keep our faith intact, we are still in the Father’s hand. We are exhorted to “trust in Jehovah, and do good” (V.3) and to “commit thy way unto Jehovah” (V.5) and to “rest in Jehovah and wait patiently for Him”. (V. 7). Having done all this, we are sustained by the promise that we will not be utterly cast down, as the wicked are, for Jehovah upholds us with His hand.
Are you discouraged and cast down because you have failed the Lord? God is ready to lift you back up. “He rescueth them . . . because they have taken refuge in Him.” (V. 40). You still believe the gospel of Christ? You still have faith in the Saviour’s redeeming death? Then you have not “fallen away”, you have only “fallen down”. Exercise your faith. Take God’s hand and get back on your feet. He will uphold you.
PRAYER: O God, I thank You that in my sinful stumbling, You did not allow me to be utterly cast down! Continue to uphold me, and help me to walk in the way of righteousness. I pray in Jesus’ great name. Amen.
“Great peace have they that love thy law.” Psalm 119:165
We are quite familiar with expressions to the effect that we have blessings in loving God. In fact, it is considered natural that we should love God, for He is indeed lovely. But it is significant that in the Psalms that which is held in highest delight and worthy of the greatest love is the law. David could hardly contain himself for joy in thinking of it; his song’s are filled with admiration for it: “How love I thy law. It is my meditation all the day . . . How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalms 119:97, 103). Our relationship to God is dependent upon our knowledge of what He has revealed, and the revelation of His mind is found in the commandments that He has given. God’s law, therefore, is the projection of His perfect mind, and as we trust Him more and more we learn to love His commandments, and to flee to them for refuge and help. Jesus reminded us that we are to live by “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” David had learned to do this, and such a diet was sweeter than honey to his mouth.
A person may obey a law without loving it. He may do so to keep from paying the penalty for breaking it, or out of pride, or fear. He may refrain from some forbidden sin because of a law or commandment against it, and all the time love the sin and hate the commandment. He may attend worship, when he would much rather be somewhere else. In either case, whether it is refraining from sin which he loves, or performing an act which he hates, he may be obeying the law, but finding no peace in it. It can hardly be said that one has peace with God when his desires are denied by God’s law. Let him learn to love God’s law and he will experience great peace in keeping it. It is just this harmony between God’s purpose and ours that makes for peace, and such harmony is not attained by a mere keeping of God’s law, but by feeling about the law as God does. This is the true test of our love for Him, that we love the law, the revelation of His desire.
PRAYER: Father in Heaven, I know that Your commandments are perfect and pure. Help me to resist the doctrines of men and the spell of the world, that I might obey Your word. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“What shall I do than with Jesus which is called Christ?” Matthew 27:22
Pilate was like many officials in the country today. Instead of acting upon what he knew to be right—he affirmed that Jesus was an innocent man—he took a poll and acted in response to the mob. He asked, “What shall I do?” This was the right question, but it was asked of the wrong people. He should have turned it inward and asked it of himself, for in judgment he does not answer for what the unbelieving mob demanded, he only answers for himself. It is not what men think of Jesus, nor what they wish to do with Him that makes the difference in my life. It is what I do about Him.
Multitudes are making the same mistake Pilate made. They listen to the mob that is made up of apostate theologians, atheistic professors, unbelieving newspaper columnists, and take the pulse of the pleasure-mad populace, then decide whether to treat Jesus as a noble martyr or a kind of hero of the down-trodden. But the answer must rest with the individual as when Jesus said to Peter, “But whom say ye that I am?” You must give answer out of your own mind and heart, for you will be held responsible for your decision.
There is no neutrality with Christ. Pilate washed his hands to indicate that he was taking a neutral position; he would decide nothing. But nevertheless he was credited in the annals of history as the one under whom Jesus was crucified. Many go their care-free way today, deciding nothing. They steer clear of the church and any facing of the issue, as if this keeps their hands clean, as if it makes them neutral. But as they go their way and do as they please they are condemning Jesus by rejecting Him as the Lord. This is the issue. Either He is what He claimed to be, the Lord of all, or His claims are false and He is not Lord at all. You may admire Jesus and yet be His enemy. Pilate admired Him. He spoke the truth about Him. To a degree he believed Him. But he still would not commit himself to Him as the Lord. Either we obey Him or go our way, rejecting Him, obeying our own desires. “What shall I do with Jesus?” You must answer this yourself.
PRAYER: Loving Father, help me to commit myself fully to Jesus my Lord and the complete terms of discipleship. Grant that I may not vacillate, but always be found firmly on the side of Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.
“. . . he that judgeth me is the Lord.” I Corinthians 4:4
Paul said, “with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment.” He had not always felt this way. Before his conversion he was a proud Pharisee, zealous and blameless before his peers. But his envied position and prestige he readily gave up for Christ, counting them “but refuse”. He became a “spectacle unto the world” and was considered the “offscouring of all things” (I Cor. 4:9, 13). Like the other apostles, who “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name”, he was no longer guided by any worldly ambition to receive an exalted rank among men, for he was to be judged by the Lord.
How often we Christians stumble and fall because of our sensitivity to man’s judgment. In the secret of our own “prayer closet” we know the mind of Christ, but when once again we walk in the world we find it hard to suffer dishonor in the judgment of men; man’s judgment becomes a very big thing and we rationalize away the judgment of God. The world is full of men, as Paul writes, “whose glory is in their shame”. It is a wonder what the world would do for entertainment and conversation were it not for the things of shame which it talks about, jokes about and which makes up the bulk of its literature, plays, movies and television programs. Millions of people who do not participate in the shameful deeds “have pleasure in them that do them” through the entertainment media. Under these conditions, of what value man’s judgment concerning the Christian, whose sole ambition is to be like the sinless Saviour? It is folly for the Christian to allow his life to be guided by the judgment of such a world. It is worse: it is suicide. What is the dishonor among evil men compared to the wrath of God? And of what value such men’s praise compared to the glory which Christ will bring? O Reader, let us not play the game of “admiration”, either in or out of the church. “It is a very small thing” to be judged of man’s judgment. “He that judgeth . . . is the Lord.”
PRAYER: O Lord, thank You for the grace of salvation in which I may labor for the purpose of being pleasing in Your sight. Give me courage to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus, that He may judge me faithful. I pray in His name. Amen.
“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” I Samuel 30:6
Have you need of encouragement? Who has not faced times of personal sorrow, failure or deep distress when they sorely needed someone to encourage and strengthen them. How often have we gone into our private study longing for an encouraging word, which no one knew to give, or could give? David had returned from battle to find the city had been burned and his family taken captive. The people wept “until they had no more power to weep”, then they turned upon David, laid the blame upon him and spoke of stoning him. His sorrow was as great as any. His loss as great as any. But added to his distress was the animosity of the people whom he led. They comforted one another, but David had no one to give him encouragement. So he “encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
How can we encourage and strengthen ourselves? We may do it (1) by prayer. Jesus said that our father would hear us from the closet, in secret, and reward us openly. (2) By the scriptures. No one knows us better than that Book. Even the closest friend or relative cannot analyze our problem and apply the solution to our heart as God’s word. Every Christian should be so familiar with it that when he wants to encourage himself he knows just where to turn to read God’s message. (3) By the simple realization of the Lord God, and His purpose. We must remind ourselves that our affairs here in this world are the means of shaping us into His image. Even this—whatever the discouragement may be, it also leaves its mark. Like the sculptor’s chisel, it chips away at our pride and vanity. It is part of the refining process. (4) By trusting God. David inquired of God whether or not he should overtake the enemy. “And He answered him Pursue; for thou shalt surely overtake them, and shalt . . . recover all.” Has not God promised that we should pursue His will, and that finally we shall prevail? “In due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not.”
Do not flounder in the slough of despond for lack of encouragement. Jesus said, “Lo I am with you always”. Take the initiative, resting upon His promise, and encourage yourself.
PRAYER: Father, remove the doubts and fears that discourage me, and give me grace to go forward in Your strength. Help me to remember Your promises and to hold steadily to Your purpose. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Job 19:25
Job had suffered almost total loss—his goods, his family, and his health. Then in the midst of deep pain and affliction came three friends to accuse him of sin and pride, to heap greater shame and sorrow upon him. He said, “These ten times have you reproached me.” His kinsfolk deserted him and even his wife discouraged him. But in the midst of his desperation he stood upon the truth and justice of God. Even if he could not give answer that satisfied his three skeptical friends, he would hold to this truth: that his Redeemer lives! He went on to say “After my skin, even this body is destroyed, then without my flesh shall I see God; whom I, even I, shall see . . . mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.” Here was a man suffering from the physical infirmities of the flesh, not knowing but that his was a sickness unto death, having not one single soul in this world to give him a kind word or to sympathize with him. There is not the faintest ray of hope for him. Having walked perfectly before God he now suffers as the lowest criminal. “So,” he says, “let me die and be buried in a pauper’s grave; let the worms feed on my flesh; let me rot away; let this body be destroyed; yet it will be restored! From this body, with my very own eyes I will look upon my living Redeemer when He again stands on the earth! I shall see him myself, as Job, and not as a stranger.” Such was his confidence in his redeemer.
To believe in the Redeemer is not merely to believe that he lives. It is to believe that He lives to save, that He will return and that He will cause us to live even as He does. To believe is to be persuaded, to be assured, to know. Of what help is it when one is suffering for him to say, “I think perhaps Jesus lives.” Of what good is it to say to the weeping mourner, “I think there is a resurrection”. Better to say nothing at all than to suggest only a question, a doubt. God has not left us to guess, nor to speculate. “We know . . . that we shall be like Him” (I John 3:2). In all circumstances, at all times, against all foes, let us hold this faith and boldly confess it: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”
PRAYER: O God, I thank You that Jesus lives and will come again to give me an incorruptible body like His own. I know that He lives. Help me to deepen this faith and to share it, and to show it. I pray in His name. Amen.
“through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
Everywhere you turn today there is some one to tell you how to be rid of your burden. Every magazine you pick up has an article explaining that the well adjusted person need not suffer stress and strain. Go to church and the preacher is saying that a Christian must never wear a long face, and he’ll tell you a joke to prove it! But in spite of all this admonition and advice the Christian goes on from one crisis to the next, running into hard realities and getting hurt. “In every pew there is a broken heart”.
There is a way to avoid tribulation, or at least to avoid suffering as a Christian. Simply stop seeking the Kingdom first. Forget the idea of entering the kingdom, and take the easy way. Of course you who read these devotions reject this alternative. Your heart is set on the kingdom. Therefore, for you there is no escape. Everyone that enters the kingdom must do so through many tribulations. As you look around you may see others, apparently on the same way, with the same object, making the same profession of faith, but without suffering any tribulations. You may ask, “Why do I have all the problems when all I want to do is enter the kingdom?” That is exactly the reason for the tribulation: all you want to do is enter the kingdom! It is through tribulations that entrance is gained. If one enters not through tribulations he doesn’t enter. He is like the thief and the robber seeking to enter the sheepfold “some other way” than through Jesus. There is only one door and it lies in the midst of tribulation and suffering. He who would avoid tribulation would avoid the way to eternal life. But he who determines to enter the kingdom may find consolation in tribulation because of the very fact that it marks the way. It is the King's highway where Satan’s forces lie in ambush. They have mined it with obstacles. It is lined with snipers. That’s because it is the right way. Therefore rejoice in tribulation. It is the signpost and says: This way to the Kingdom. There are not a dozen ways, from which to make a choice. Only one.
PRAYER: Loving Father, lead me in the right way, and give me grace to go without complaining and stumbling at the difficulties. I pray in the name of Jesus my Lord, in whose steps I must try to walk. Amen.
“For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is head of the church.” Ephesians 5:23
When God was to give instructions concerning the flight of Jesus into Egypt, “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph.” God bypassed Mary, and spoke to the head of the family. After the event in which Jesus, at the age of 12, was found in the temple, it is said of Him, that He went home and was subject to His parents. Mary said to Him, “Thy father and I sought thee.” She put the father first. The exaltation of woman above man in affairs of the home is pagan and stems from ancient Babylon where the wife of Nimrod was worshipped.
The family of man is designed after God in all respects. As God, our Father, delegates authority to Jesus, the Son, so fathers may delegate authority to the wife for the rearing of the children. That is, while he is absent from home, earning the living, the wife is at home with parental authority, as God ordained it. So that when a father says to the child, “Mind your mother”, his command carries with it the authority of God.
Much of the social unrest, revolution, crime and deterioration
of society may be laid directly to the break-down of order in
the home. When discipline is left to the mother and the father
refuses to take his God-given place as the head of that home,
there is a break-down in the “chain of command” which reaches
to God. The command is “Fathers, provoke not your children
to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition
of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4). Children have a right to this
“nurture” from their fathers. When it is missing, because of a
man’s unwillingness to assume responsibility as head of the
family, children lack the sense of security and purpose which a
home is supposed to give. Fathers, it is your place to take the
helm. Wives and mothers, it is yours to grant to the husband
this place and be in subjection to him. When the right order
is followed, then it may be expected that the children will also
be obedient, honoring father and mother according to the commandment.
PRAYER: O God, help me to be obedient to this holy calling as a husband and
father. Discipline me, as a son, and help me to discipline my children that they may
love and honor You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
PRAYER: O God, help me to be obedient to this holy calling as a husband and father. Discipline me, as a son, and help me to discipline my children that they may love and honor You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.” Job 2:4
Note that these are the words of Satan, with reference to Job, and as always Satan lies. God proved Satan to be wrong, for he was allowed to afflict Job in every way and yet Job refused to give in to him or give up his faith. The cynic says, “Every man has his price”. The average observer judges others by himself. Since he has not the integrity or the character to be absolutely honest, he is sure that the other fellow is not quite as honest as he pretends. Since he has not faith, he is sure that the Christian has faith only up to a point, that when put to the acid test it will break down. Since in his heart he actually prefers sin to holiness, he is sure that all other men have their breaking point, that under certain conditions they, too, would give in to lust or to lying and cheating. Through these cynics Satan comes to test us, to convince us that we are no different, that deep in our hearts we also want to follow sin and Satan. It is a clever trick, and is highly successful.
But Job stood the test. Nothing could break him down. He would give up all, he would die, before he would renounce his faith and make a false confession just to escape his suffering and the ridicule of his three friends.
After Gene Tunney had won the world’s heavyweight boxing
championship a cigarette firm offered him a fortune to endorse
their product. But Tunney did not smoke and said that he would
not encourage smoking for all the money there is. When Colonel
Lindbergh returned from his historic Paris flight he received
fabulous offers for the use of his name, but he had given his
word that he would not sell his name for any project. The late
William B. Hearst offered him $500,000 to lend his name to a
story of his life. But Lindbergh refused to take it. Hearst
handed him the check, thinking the “Lone Eagle” would weaken.
But Lindbergh tore it up and threw it into the fireplace. Such
integrity may be rare these days, but it still exists. Many writers
and teachers speak for Satan in claiming that chastity, honesty,
and faith are not possible. It is only a ruse to trap you into
sin. You CAN be true. You CAN be faithful. Don’t listen to
the devil. Believe God, and trust Him. Give no place for
Satan to work his deceptive cynicism.
PRAYER: Father in Heaven, deliver me from Satan’s subtle deception. Give
me faith like that of Job that I might resist him, and be found faithful to You when
Jesus comes. In His name I pray. Amen.
PRAYER: Father in Heaven, deliver me from Satan’s subtle deception. Give me faith like that of Job that I might resist him, and be found faithful to You when Jesus comes. In His name I pray. Amen.
“For he will give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” Psalm 91:11
In a world where the voice of science is louder than the voice of God, most people have relegated the subject of angels to the fanciful realm of fairy-land. Children are taught to believe in Santa Claus but few parents follow the teaching of Jesus, who said that the child’s angel always beholds the face of the Father. History (as recorded in the Bible) gives many accounts of angels used as God’s messengers. But they also are appointed for the purpose of assistance and protection, “to keep thee in all thy ways.”
We may ask, “In all ways?” Certainly in all ways in which we are seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness. We could hardly expect God’s angels to assist us in following the devil’s course. When we turn our faces from God and set our feet on the path of sin, we also turn our backs upon the angel assigned to guide those feet. We have no right to tempt God by daring to tread where angels fear to go. “All thy ways” refers to the way of the pilgrim whose heart and mind are set upon the city of God.
In the ordinary, or what seems ordinary, events of life we are often amazed by the sudden turn of things. We say, “It’s a good thing that dog made me slow down; otherwise I would have been hit by that truck”. Things happen every day for which we can give no rational account. Usually they are chalked up to chance or to luck. Often when we look back to relate how close we came to some tragedy or how it came about that things worked out so well, we speculate as to what natural phenomena might have been the most significant factor. Very seldom does one even think of giving the credit to the simple fact of God’s protecting angel. Yet they are there all the time.
Such protection is promised under this condition: “Because he hath set his love upon me . . .” God’s angels are sent only for the accomplishing of God’s purpose. When we set our love upon Him, in harmony with His purpose, then we come under the care of His angels.
PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for the constant watch-care of heavenly angels. Help me not to be presumptuous and walk in my own way, but to keep my heart fixed upon the high calling of Christ the Lord, in whose name I pray. Amen.
“This do in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19
To remember, we first must know. It would be of no use to say to a man born blind, “Remember what I look like”. So Jesus says, “Remember”, after having taught the apostles the meaning of His death. The Passover feast which they had just eaten was a memorial feast to remind them of death in Egypt which was visited upon the firstborn of every Egyptian home. Where the blood of the lamb appeared on the doorpost, God “passed over” that home and spared the first-born. Now, fourteen hundred years later, the Lamb of God was to be slain to save men from death; the second and final death. A new memorial feast was established to keep us forever in remembrance of the fact that but for Christ’s death, we would be subject to death in the day of judgment.
We come to the table of the loaf and the cup, not to remember Jesus’ life, but remember His death. We come, not to commune with each other, but to commune with Him, because He died for us. We come, not to think of the sins of the world, but to think of our own sin and the fact that we are forgiven through the death of Jesus. We come, not to thank God for the communion, but to thank God for Jesus. We are not there to remember the Lord’s Supper, but to remember Him, and what He did for us. It is a tragic fact that the church has often been guilty of emphasizing the memorial itself rather than the death of Jesus which it memorializes. We hear men thanking God for the memorial, instead of thanking Him for the sin-offering of Jesus. To do so is like honoring the birthday cake and forgetting the one whose birthday it is. We do not gather around the table of the Lord to honor the table, but to remember that Jesus, in His humanity, as a flesh and blood man, took our place and felt the stroke of judgment for our sin and died our death. Let us keep the feast “for our passover has been sacrificed” (I Cor. 5:7). Keep it regularly and often. We cannot be reminded too often of the infinite cost of our redemption. Let us meet this Lord’s Day, to eat the Lord’s Supper, according to the Lord’s request: “This do in remembrance of me”.
PRAYER: Loving Father, I thank You for Jesus’ offering of His life on Calvary, in my stead, and for the remission of my sins. Help me to overcome sin and to live each day in fellowship with my Redeemer and Lord, in whose blessed name I pray. Amen.
“be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Ephesians 4:23
Renewal is a word very much in the religious news of the day. Usually it is used with reference to the new social attitude of the church. But Paul is talking about individual personal renewal, and he says that it takes place in the mind. The peace conferences and consultations among the religious hierarchy have little to do with the kind of renewal we each need. We get to thinking about our problems, our inadequacies, and failures, and soon we are in the doldrums. By keeping our mind on the things of the world that are wrong we can soon fall into a state of depression. Many people are discouraged and defeated because they keep their minds on the decaying and dying world. They become depressed to the point that life is absolute misery. Others keep their mind on worldly lusts, pleasure and sex. Even if they do not commit the overt act of sin, they live in a sinful state in their mind. So Paul writes that we are to be renewed.
Renewal takes place in the mind. It begins when we set our minds on God and read His word. It is by looking at and reading about the degenerate world that puts us in the state of depression, so it is in reading about the pure and holy things of God that renews us, and takes all the sordid mess out of our minds so we can think bright thoughts and get the mind back in order again. The Bible is like food. As we read it and fix its truths in our minds it brings about growth and change—renewal. Having fixed it in our minds we can go on to meditate upon it, and think about God and His great purpose. As we go about our work we can consider how things appear to God, and look upon circumstances from His point of view instead of from the worldly, skeptical viewpoint. Our minds are of the utmost importance. They control not only our actions but the way we feel. So God has given us His thoughts in the Scriptures, with which to fill our minds. Ask God to give you wisdom and then begin to fill your mind with that which He has revealed. Let God renew you in the spirit of your mind.
PRAYER: Father, I dedicate my thoughts to You, and pray in the name of Jesus that You will bring me into harmony with Your purpose. Help me to drive out all evil and doubtful thoughts, and to fill my mind with the glorious thoughts You have revealed. Amen.
“I am God . . . declaring the end from the beginning.” Isaiah 46:10
Scientists have recently built a vast complex of astronomical observatories on the Papago Indian Reservation in Arizona. It is used to study planets and stars, solar light and radio sources. Kitt Peak, upon which it rests, is regarded by the Papagos as the legendary home of their ancient gods. Knowing something of the work of the astronomers and astro-physicists, they call them “The men with the long eyes”.
We often wonder just what value we might derive from the knowledge of things in space. Apparently such knowledge is not helping men to avoid war and crime. It gives no one a sense of peace, doesn’t reduce the divorce rate, and hasn’t helped feed the starving millions of Asia. Even if the “men with the long eyes” make fabulous discoveries in outer space, it will not change the fact of our mortality and our nature. Nor is there any hint that such knowledge will ever make it possible for man to foretell the future. With all his technical know-how, he still does no better in predicting the weather than the Indians did.
But we do not need long electronic eyes to see into the future. God, Who created all things, including the planets and stars the scientists seek to discover, already knows what lies ahead. Step by step He has declared the great movements of history, including the last act of judgment and the end of the world. Whatever men may discover, it will not change the plan of God to “shake not the earth only, but also the heaven”.
And not only does He know the ultimate future with respect to things created, He even knows the future events of our lives. Were I to have such knowledge it might be frightening or dangerous. But this knowledge is not in the hands of sinful and fallible man. It is in the mind of God Whose judgments are righteous, Whose purpose is perfect and Who has demonstrated infinite love by the sacrifice of Christ. It is the source of constant comfort and daily satisfaction to know that God knows the next step I will take, and the next, and the next, on out to eternity. Do not worry about the future. Put your life in God’s hands, and He Who knows the end from the beginning will bring you to His eternal goal.
PRAYER: Father, forgive me for ever having had a moment’s doubt! Increase my faith for the sake of my testimony of the gospel, and guide me day by day, in the name of Jesus my Lord. Amen.
“For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life.” Matthew 7:14
John Bunyan spoke of the entry into the Christian life as the “wicket gate”. In Pilgrim’s Progress all Christian could see was “Yonder shining light.” “Do you see that?” asked Evangelist. “I think I do”, replied Christian. Then he was to head for the light. He needed no other guide to get him to the gate. However, once inside, he found himself in dire need of directions. It was a “straitened way”, a difficult path. There were obstacles to surmount, false paths, pitfalls, and many enticing side roads. The closer he came to the heavenly city the greater the difficulty of staying on the right path and resisting the subtle temptations to take other trails.
The wicket gate is not really hard to find. Anyone who can read can easily know what it is to repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for remission of sins. But after that has taken place we have a long road ahead. There are all manner of side roads to lure you from the holy life. There are great numbers of volunteer guides who will tempt you to shortcuts and easier paths. It requires constant vigilance and a progressive understanding of the guide book to resist such temptations and to stay on the straitened way. The farther we progress, the more we realize of the power and purity of our Redeemer, the more we consider coming at last into His presence—the more we realize our own unworthiness, and the more straitened the way. Hence the more we need to earnestly consider the guide-book, so we will not be misled on to another path that is plainer because it is more travelled.
Christian, if you have found yourself traveling an easy broad way in company with the world, it must not be the way of Christ, but the broad way that leads to destruction. Find your way back to the right path. Get back on the rough and rocky trail marked by the Master. It isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. Give up the illusions of grandeur and power, and like a sheep follows the shepherd, humbly follow Jesus to eternal life.
PRAYER: O Lord, help me to lay aside every hinderance and to be rid of every sin, that I might not lose sight of that strait way. Sharpen my understanding and strengthen my faith, in the name of my Saviour, Jesus. Amen.