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“abide in him, that if he shall be manifested, we may have boldness . . .” I John 2:28
There’s a popular song that says of God, “He’ll always say, I forgive”. The song is the product of a false idea abroad, that God is easily satisfied, easy to bring to terms, and that He is more of a buddy than a Creator to whom we must account. The apostle John was writing to people who had a better understanding of God, who remembered that Mount Sinai was fenced in to keep people from dying because of touching it. The pagan world could not think of a god as they thought of their rulers, capricious, cruel and unapproachable. Tennyson described the picture in “The Lotus Eaters.”
The reason the pagans have such a concept of God is that they know by their own consciences that they are sinners, and deserve punishment for sins. While God is anything but capricious and cruel, and takes no pleasure in punishing sinners, still the ancient concept of God is more accurate than the modern sophisticated one, which simply ignores sin and has no fear of God at all. Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” God is approachable, but only through Jesus. He is a consuming fire, and a terror to evil-doers. When the day comes for men to meet Him in judgment, scripture describes it as one of terror for all unbelievers, who will do their best to escape facing Him. So the words here in I John are words of great comfort and peace. If we abide in Him, there is no reason for terror and shame in that day. All sin is removed by Christ’s death; the justice of God is met in Him; so when we come face to face with our Creator, we may have boldness. We can trust God! “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins”. We should know exactly where we stand with Him “and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” The sinner has every reason to fear God and be ashamed. The Christian has every reason to have boldness and confidence that he is ready to meet Him, in Christ.
PRAYER: Loving Father, help me to abide in Jesus, never doubting, never fearing, always confident in the cleansing power of His blood. Give me boldness now, before men, and in that day when I see Your face. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“. . . the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29
To see the Lamb of God and His purpose in regard to one’s self, we must first see sin, sin in the singular. But we consider sin in the plural. We have broken up sin into sins, so that we may speak of them separately—as several, and thus diminish the weight of the total. We classify them: some as big and gruesome; some small and harmless, even calling certain ones our “pet” sins. So far have we fallen from the God-ward view of things. We see sins as comparative and relative so that it is a simple matter to excuse the lighter ones by virtue of condemning the heavier. We think of sins in regard to their effect on others instead of their effect on ourselves: thus we teach that one should hold his tongue for the sake of not hurting another’s feelings rather than for the sake of not sinning against God. Such is our cleverness, that we see ourselves not as sinners but as good people with a few faults.
But take away the sins—plural, and you still have the one thing remaining—sin. The covetous man may never steal and may never have any great wealth, but remain covetous just the same. Adam is said to have committed sin, that of eating forbidden fruit, and men assume that he only committed one of any number of possible sins. But Adam’s sin defies category. What he did was commit sin, not a sin, by willing to will that which was in opposition to God. He defied God! That’s what all sin is. Even the smallest lie is still a lie and defies the order of creation—“in the image of God”, for “it is impossible for God to lie”. So the most common practice, that of telling a “little white lie” is revealed as sin against God, against the whole nature of God and man.
Christ died not just for some sins, nor for all sins, but for sin, the whole nature and fruit of it. So He takes away sin, not just the overt expression of it, but the root of it, the sum total of it, so that we may appear sinless before God. Can we do any less than to offer our lives in living sacrifice to Him Who takes away our sin?
PRAYER: Father, all blessed and glorious, thank you for Jesus who took my sin away by His death. Give me grace to be totally surrendered to Your will and service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory . . .” Philippians 3:21
Humiliation and glory! Humiliated by mortality, as Adam and Eve, shamefully gazing upon themselves, now dying creatures, hastily trying to cover up the fact and hide it from God. Since that day we spend a large portion of our time in the perpetual effort to clothe ourselves, and decorate our humiliated bodies. But even So, the humiliation shows through. One cannot hide the aging, the wrinkling, the loss of vitality and the running down of the machine. Paul says, concerning the body at death, that it is sown in dishonor. But he hastily adds that it is raised in glory!
And what glory! It is no less than the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ: “conformed to the body of His glory.” Impossible, you say? Then listen further: “that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself.” He is able to subject all things, even bodies, unto himself. When He came into the world he took on Himself flesh and blood, and born into the world as a man, he died a man’s death. His own humiliation was plain to all, especially as He hung upon the cross in the agony of death. But when He arose and ascended to Heaven the humiliated body had become the immortal body, and when He comes again the glory of His immortality will fairly dazzle the eyes and thrill the hearts of every believer. What He offers and what He promises is that we, too, shall share the same kind of glory. Our bodies which now require constant care and covering to hide the nakedness and humiliation of mortality shall be made glorious like His. He doesn’t say that they will be decorated with some fantastic and glorious fabric, but that they will be glorious in themselves! Why then should we pamper the flesh and go seeking all the goodies of this world which are to perish? To do so is to lose sight of that glory which awaits us! It would be a poor bargain indeed to purchase satisfaction for this humiliated dying body at the price of an eternal and glorified one.
PRAYER: Wondrous Father, cleanse me and purify me with this holy and eternal purpose, that I might be like Christ. Keep me in remembrance of the glory that awaits, and help me to stand firm in the faith; through Jesus I pray. Amen.
“and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it.” Revelation 2:17
What could be more destructive to the purpose of God than for man to lose his identity as a person, as an individual? Jesus said of Himself as the Good Shepherd, “he calleth his own sheep by name.” Even now, in our imperfect mortal state, there is a certain way in which each person views himself as particularly known and uniquely helped by the Creator. We speak of Jesus as “our” Lord, but in another sense He is especially “My” Lord, for I am convinced that He knows me in a way that is not possible for any other person to know me, and this fact means that I in turn know Him as no other knows Him. This is only a glimpse of the ultimate condition of our relationship with God, symbolized by the stone with the secret name, a secret known only to the Lord and the individual. It is against this treasure, this priceless possession of one’s own individuality, that the forces of Satan are marshaled today. The youth are herded into institutions and known only by a number. Every possible precaution is taken to keep them from developing individualistic qualities; they are regimented, processed by computer, and pressed by fashion, public sentiment and government regulation, into the mold of society. Unless one puts up a stiff struggle, he will eventually lose the power to think and act as an individual, thus losing his power to respond personally and consciously to the will of the Father. The hue and cry for equality and security is a call to deny one’s God-given and unique individuality, and become a mindless slave of Satan. God has given you a distinct mind and will of your own, and someday He desires to give you that name, known only to you and to Him, a possession that for eternity will be solely yours. You are known already by the Lord as that specific and particular individual whom He loves, to whom He assigns a certain guardian angel, and for whom He has a unique reward! Therefore, His word, His commands, His example are for you. Especially for you.
PRAYER: Loving Father, help me to see not my neighbor’s faults, but mine, and help me to apply your word to my own life, that I might receive Your approval. I ask this in the name of Jesus Who died for me. Amen.
“For we know in part . . .” I Corinthians 13:9
But at least we do know certain things which God has revealed. Just because we do not understand the ultimate of God’s work to the detailing of each activity in eternity does not mean that we are to debunk the revealed facts which we do have. Concerning the great hope of immortality the sophisticated scholars delight in pointing out that we cannot at the present time imagine life on a new earth under timeless conditions—no day and night, all eternal! Indeed, there are glories awaiting of which we have only a faint hint. But there are certain facts we do know: that there is to be a resurrection of the body, for Jesus is the demonstration of resurrection and immortality for all saints; that there is to be “a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” and we are to look for it and expect to dwell in it. Just this much is quite a bit to know, and certainly a great deal more than is known by the pagan world. While God has not given us all the light in which He lives, He has given us some light, and it would be the height of folly for us to refuse to walk in this light simply because we don’t have it all! The responsibility is not to tell the world about the vast amount of darkness which we cannot penetrate—yet, but our duty is to tell that which we know about the hope He reveals. In a popular book a well known evangelist states that “the specific nature of eternity . . . is largely speculation,” so he ignores the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of a resurrection of the saints and our glorification. No wonder the mention of Christianity has no appeal; instead of sharing with the world the light Christ reveals, too many have been presenting the message as so many dark shadows and unfathomed depths. Everyone knows what it is to be alive. And everyone knows that when you are dead, you are not alive. So the apostles went out to publish the fact that if a man was in Christ when he died, he could live again, forever! They didn’t preach what they didn’t know; they preached the part they DID know. We know in part. Hold on to that part; rejoice in it; tell it to everyone you know. It will surprise you what a great part it is!
PRAYER: Father in Heaven, thank you for your marvelous light of hope, through Christ the Lord. Remove the darkness from me, that I may be a light-bearer. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Then they that feared Jehovah spake one with another . . .” Malachi 3:16
The prophet Malachi sums up the state of the people: they no longer honored God and injustice ruled the land. They had broken the law and corrupted the covenant. “From the days of your fathers ye have turned aside from mine ordinances, and have not kept them.” They had so twisted God’s truth as to say that, “Everyone that doeth evil is good in the sight of Jehovah and he delighteth in them.” So now it was time for judgment. In many ways our own nation is mirrored in Malachi. No longer do our courts uphold justice, and prominent leaders advocate immorality as a means of expressing love in the name of God. As in the days of Malachi the people have “wearied” with attendance at the House of the Lord, and no longer see any need to worship at His altar and bring the tithe. Instead they relinquish their individual responsibility and let the government take control of benevolence through forced taxation. And many are now predicting the judgment and downfall of a great nation that has allowed sin, lawlessness and corruption to replace the grace, truth and justice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But there were then, even as there are now, a great number who still “feared Jehovah.” while they had to suffer the general fate of the nation as a whole, they never identified themselves with the masses and undoubtedly God cared for them in the distress and calamity that visited the nation. They resorted to one another and to God. “They . . . spake one with another.” In the press of the world which tries to squeeze us into its godless social norm, there is an important and highly beneficial activity for each Christian: to speak with another one, to talk to him about the eternal purpose of God, to encourage him, to say, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” There is plenty being said every day in the press and in the government-controlled school system to make the Christian feel discouraged. What we need is the word of faith from the lips of another believer. Try this day to speak with another about the riches of Christ.
PRAYER: Father, give me the words to speak faith and hope to each believer, and to honor the name of Jesus, in whom I pray. Amen.
“. . . and ye know . . . that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which Jehovah your God spake concerning you, all are come to pass . . . not one thing hath failed.” Joshua 23:14
Joshua and the Israelites faced an inhuman task. They were to conquer a foe that was far superior in weaponry and numbers. The battlefield was altogether in the enemy’s terrain and they had virtually no equipment and training. Their only support was the simple promise of God. How could they be sure that God would actually go before them and use His power against the Canaanites? Just this: His promise had never failed. Warfare was a new experience to them but the work of God was not. They went forth to conquer solely on the basis that He was known to keep His word.
Similarly we (Israelites by faith) are told to overcome the world. The battle is fought in terrain that is held by Satan—“the whole world lieth in the evil one”—and is best known by the foes. We are outnumbered by terrific odds, and the world forces are dazzling in their power: the great institutions of higher education, the news media and the great financial empires. Against these odds Jesus calls us to go and make disciples, casting down strongholds, overcoming the evils of the world and bringing every thought into the captivity to the obedience of Christ. As God supported the army of Joshua, Jesus promises, “Lo, I am with you.” He gives us no visible powers, no material wealth, and no lever of social and political prestige. But we have the record, from the miracles in Galilee, the mighty resurrection, the deliverance of the apostles from the hands of the Jews, the sustaining of the Christians under centuries of persecution, right on until the last time that He answered your prayer—and the fact that He is with you just now! His promise has never failed! Then do not doubt Him now. He IS with you, and will bring you to the goal of immortality in the new creation!
PRAYER: Father, accept my praise and thanksgiving for the mighty power and faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Make me bold and faithful to trust in Your word, and sustain me in this warfare. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
“. . . that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead.” II Corinthians 1:9
Everything that medicine could do had been done for the patient. Finally his wife was told, “There’s nothing we can do now but trust in God.” How often such trust is left as a last resort. There is a reason, and it is because such genuine trust requires genuine courage. It is a common mistake, no doubt inspired by the devil, for one to think that he is being brave to trust in himself. If he stands behind a gun or a locked door he feels courageously brave, and secure. If a man has political pull, social prestige and great financial resources, he proudly “stands on his own” and calls that courage. But what of the person who has none of these, who has no physical strength, no gun, no wealth and no influence whatever with City Hall? He has no one to lean on, no visible armament, no weapon nor power. So he trusts in the Lord. He stands against the enemy, un-retreating and unflinching, and undisturbed. Then we say he is doing so as a last resort, that he trusts God because there’s nowhere else to turn, as if he would trust in his own resources if he had any. You see, we do everything possible to avoid the actual humility of trusting in the Lord Jesus, and in Him alone. This is what takes real courage—raw courage—courage that we seldom see and might not recognize: to trust in the power of another, to humbly trust Jesus. So Solomon expressed it very well when he wrote, “Trust in Jehovah with all thy heart, and lean not upon thine own understanding.” We like to think that we can figure out a way, and when that way appears, fortified with all the powers which are recognized by the world, we throw all this up as a barricade for our security. But this is no less than idolatry, to trust in that which is the product of our own hands. To trust God is to depend upon His power, His salvation through Jesus, and His protection—not upon money, nor physical force nor social influence. Christian courage is to trust not in ourselves, but in the Lord and Saviour, Christ Jesus.
PRAYER: Loving Father, I have no strength but Yours. Help me to stand by faith and to be faithful until death, or until Jesus comes. In His name I pray. Amen.
“If God is for us . . .” Romans 8:31
“He that spared not his own Son . . .” Romans 8:32
Paul argues that if God is for us, it matters not who is against us, for God is bound to be the Victor. But, before we begin to bask in the luxury of this security he immediately reminds us of the fact that God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all. Now, was God also for His Son? Is this the treatment one can expect from God when He is “for us”? If so, do we want God for us? When he is for us, He is in control, and like Jesus, we must be willing to say, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” If we are going to let Him be the One to exercise authority in bringing us to the eternal goal, then He must have authority in all things. He says, “Let me run things. I’m all for you; just turn your life over to me.” And we say, “Yes, Lord, You run my life-—all except . . .” But He isn’t Lord when we make exceptions. This is the difference between genuine faith and fair-weather faith. It is easy enough to trust God when He leads in the way we already want to go, when His commandments coincide with our desires. Then we say God is for us, Hurrah! But when He leads to Gethsemane and the cross, what then? This is the message of Paul in saying that God is for us, for he goes on to name tribulation, anguish, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword—yes, even death—and insists that even in all of this God is still for us. In fact it is just because He is for us that He allows such things to happen to us, that we might be “more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Conquests are not made in the luxury of quiet comfort and security. It is when we obey the hard commandments, run the risk of ridicule and even persecution and expose ourselves to the danger of anguish and tribulation that we become conquerors. When we do, nothing can separate us “from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Is He your Lord? Are you subject to Him in all things? Make no exceptions in yielding to Him, and He will make none in leading you to victory.
PRAYER: Father in Heaven, may there be nothing in my life that is withheld from Your wise control, that Jesus may be Lord indeed. In His name I pray. Amen.
“. . . to sum up all things in Christ. . .” Ephesians 1:10
The multiplicity of problems of the world present man with a staggering load of questions. If he sets out to find all the answers by solving the individual problems he only creates more questions. As C. S. Lewis has suggested, in mathematics we can never get the right answer to the problem until we have properly arranged and totaled the intermediate steps. For example, we have to set down the figures in a column and add them up to get a sum. But in Christianity the reverse is true: we never get the intermediate steps until first we have found the sum, then the other problems reveal themselves in proper solution. “In the beginning God created . . .” We know that He set out to have man in His own image, to have a race of eternal beings, to live in an eternal universe in His own presence and fellowship. But what we see today is a world ruined by sin and fallen far from the original pattern and purpose. If we knew no more than this the problems of life would constitute a hopeless puzzle. But we have Christ! In Him we have the total sum of all things. In Him we see God, what He is like and how He deals with men. In Christ we see the perfect man, what a man is supposed to be, how he is supposed to act and what kind of obedience he gives the Father. Also in Christ we see the sum total of sin, for He took our sin upon Himself, and paid the supreme penalty for sin, in His death. If you want to know what the final end of sinners will be, consider the death of Jesus! Then in Christ is summed up the glory of the saints. Having no sin of His own, Jesus arose from the grave, even as all saints will arise, and was exalted, glorified and given immortality forever. Now we see what it is all about, because we not only have the problem, we can look in the back of the book and see the answer! Everything in life should eventually add up to this sum, and anything which doesn’t fit into this solution simply doesn’t fit. God offers only one answer, only one sum: Christ. Are you adding things up to the right sum?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to fit my own life into the ultimate sum, into the pattern given by Jesus, into Your eternal will. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
“If any man would come after me, let him . . . take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
No sooner does Christ relieve us of our burden than He turns around and says to take up an even greater one! The burden of sin which we bear until we come to Christ is something we bear involuntarily. It is a nasty load and carries with it the terrible penalty of death. With great joy we lay it down, or rather we thrust it upon the shoulders of Christ, who bears the sin and the penalty to the ultimate end in His own death on the cross. But then He says, “Take up your cross and follow me!” Now the burden is two-fold. Not only is it a great responsibility, but we must take this burden upon ourselves of our own free will. We must add to the burden itself the terrible weight of decision, the decision to bear it, and this done repeatedly, day after day, for it is a daily decision, a daily chore. It is not like a heartbeat, that just comes automatically because one has been born. It involves new problems, each requiring us to search ourselves, and make judgments. At every turn there are escape routes, open doors placed by Satan, enticing us to dump the whole burden, to get out, and to go an easier way. But there is always the cross; the commandments of Christ, the denial of self, the confessing of His name before men, the risk of ridicule and all the whole business of following Christ.
It is no wonder, then, that millions would “come after” Him, would claim His promises and wear His name, but never actually follow Him bearing a cross! They choose to lay their burden on Jesus, but do not choose to take up His. Hence, He said, “he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me.” That sounds fair to me. If Jesus bears my sins to the judgment of death, so that I may be forever free from sin and forever alive in eternity, the least I can do is take up the cross—my own commitment and responsibility as His disciple—and bear it day by day, voluntary and uncomplaining, as Jesus did.
PRAYER: O God, give me grace to daily follow Christ. Forgive me for ever having complained or balked at the load which I am privileged to carry as His disciple, and give me strength to carry my burden. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
“That they may be one, even as we are one . . .” John 17:22
Is there a cure for loneliness? It is one of the most tragic conditions of our age, afflicting young and old alike. In the midst of the crushing throng, it suddenly attacks, rushing in on a person in a sickly flood of pain, awakening him to the fact that in spite of the multitude, he is alone; others pursuing their own thoughts and own desires. Like David, he inwardly cries, “No man careth for my soul.” People join clubs and go to social gatherings to escape loneliness, but the saddest of sights is to see them at the gay event, more lonely than ever, bravely pretending not to be. There is something about loneliness that makes one feel shut in, cramped up and helpless. Even when he travels about and busies himself with many things, he still is lonely.
This should serve as a clue to the cure; that it lies not in diversity and the pursuit of things and people. The cure begins when first we turn our own selves open-heartedly to the Creator, and pursue His purpose. When we consider Jesus, we may think of him at first as a lonely man. But when we hear Him speak, immediately we know that here is One Who was never alone, but whose life was in such unity with God that He could never think of anything as being done “alone” (except, of course his dying on the cross, and that was quite another matter). There is only one true purpose in life that can possibly be fulfilled, and that is the one in the mind of the Father. To enter into that stream of life is to flow in perfect harmony with God, and also with all others who enter into it. All that flows outside the banks of that stream is bound to end up in waste places, isolated and hopeless. The cure for loneliness, therefore, is singleness of purpose—the purpose of God, to be one with Him, always seeking His will, with the mind set on the eternal goal for which we are created. Of course it means one is vulnerable. He must open up and level with God! Withhold nothing; no secrets; no selfish pride; and no pouting! Open all the way around in total oneness, like Jesus did. It is devastating!—no privacy! Therefore, no loneliness! Then we are open to God, to all He has, and to all who are his.
PRAYER: Father, thank You for receiving me, a sinner. Help me to show others the way from loneliness to the way of life through Jesus. In His blessed name I pray, Amen.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall exalt you.” James 4:10
It is natural to desire exaltation. In the beginning man was exalted above all other creatures and given dominion over the earth. His mastery was such as to be the source of great joy; a perfect environment, under his control, a perfect “self”, a body that knew not the meaning of deterioration and death, and the personal face-to-face fellowship with God Himself. While fallen from this high estate through sin, it remains intrinsic to our nature to reach for a restoration, and exaltation back to the sphere from whence we have fallen. But it is not possible to be exalted in the condition of sin nor in the mortal state to which sin has thrust us. In the beginning God exalted man in the manner He intended and for His own purpose: that man be perfect in God’s image. As sinless, and as the creature reflecting God’s glorious person, man was exalted by this very fact—that he was godly! But after his sin—after man rejected God’s image and set about to make himself after his own knowledge of good and evil—God thrust him forth from the garden, from His personal fellowship and from the tree of life, “lest he eat and live forever.” A man exalted after some other image; exalted by himself, as if his own self-made image were anything to compare with the image of God!—this God will not have. Therefore, in the sight of God man is seen as humble, as fallen, sinful and unfit for God’s presence. If this is the way God sees man, then this is the way man is. What He requires is that we see ourselves in the same light, for it is the only true light—that we are humble creatures without any hope in ourselves. But it is the express purpose of God to make man in His image, to ultimately exalt man to the position he originally intended, that man might be holy, without blemish, immortal, with glorious bodies, living in a creation of unimaginable splendor. This He will do in His own time. Thus it is our place, as we live in this mortal and humble state, to simply be humble, and let God exalt us according to His own purpose and in His own time. God knows what we are, and what we are to be. When we see what we are and recognize our sin in the sight of God, it is humility.
PRAYER: Loving Father, help me to know myself and to see my sin, that I may be cleansed by the death of Jesus, who died in my place. In His name I pray, Amen.
“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8
The great forces of the world are moved by words. Take the greatest army, the thousands of men, the massive tanks and mobile artillery, the devastating forces of rockets and bombs, and it is all moved by the word of a man. We marvel at the great power that is thrown into operation by the flick of a switch, the great tools of industry that are push-button controlled. With a word from some man in charge, they all cease and by a word they are all started up again. Through the press, television and radio, the populace of a nation may be guided by words with the power to influence men and nations, to control them, creating or wrecking morals, blessing or corrupting, and often bringing destruction upon millions.
But all of this power, controlled by the word of man, is nothing when compared to the word of God. By His word have the worlds been formed and all things are upheld “by the word of His power.” For sheer physical power nothing can be held in the same category with the word of God. Consider then the power of His word with regard to men’s minds. Jesus came into the world on the heels of John the Baptist, the voice in the wilderness crying forth the word of God and preparing the way. It was the words of Jesus that penetrated the hearts of His hearers who admitted “never man so spake.” It was His words that stirred up His enemies and revealed in them their true attitude toward God. To them Jesus said, “Ye seek to kill me because my word hath not free course in you.”
But to everyone He says, “He that heareth my word and believeth Him that sent me, hath eternal life.” Vast powers threaten the Christian faith and stand as a barrier to godly living, but none of these forces compares with the word of God which upholds the believer. Do you know His word? What He commands? Are you standing upon His word? Then there is no reason to fear nor doubt. “The word of our God shall stand forever.”
PRAYER: Father in heaven, give me understanding of Your word and help me to stand firmly upon it. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
“Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for . . . instruction which is in righteousness . . .” II Timothy 3:16
The Greek word translated “instruction” means to correct by chastening, as when one corrects a child by spanking. Here we are told that the scripture is profitable for just this kind of instruction. Probably this is one reason the scriptures so often go unheeded, because to apply their teaching means self-correction. We read the commandment and find that it is contrary to our usual course; it cuts across the pattern of our lives and forces us to make adjustments that are difficult to make. To apply the commandments is at first like punishing ourselves. We find it easier to go on in the same way, and easier still if we do not even read the commandments. But one doesn’t learn that way. It is only by hard lessons that one develops in any field and the field of righteousness is no different. The concert pianist attained perfection by doing scales. It would have been easier and more pleasant for the moment had he been content to play tunes and improvise. But he learned to do the hard pieces by the hard lessons, until finally they became easy. Of course he had to follow the scales precisely as they were written.
The scriptures give some difficult instructions—difficult, of course, only if we do them. Ordinarily we read them and think that by some strange form of osmosis righteousness will be developed, whether we heed the instructions or not. The minute we actually start doing—the minute we start walking that second mile, humbling ourselves, actually seeking first the Kingdom—then the instruction begins. It is amazing how multitudes can forever read the instructions on obeying the gospel, or relationships in the home, on being absolutely honest, about treasure in heaven rather than on earth, about separation from the things of Satan and his world and never even consider taking them seriously, as if they were really to be done. The reason is that this requires discipline, chastening of one’s self. They are hard lessons, but they are no lessons at all unless we do them no matter how hard the correction is to make. We profit from the instructions only as we follow them.
PRAYER: O God, and Father of Jesus who died to redeem me from sin, strengthen me to apply the scriptures to myself, that I may be an obedient servant. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“Perfect love casteth out fear.” I John 4:18
I know that the Bible teaches us to fear God and keep His commandments. Peter writes: “pass the time of your sojourning in fear,” but the context plainly shows that this is not a fear of punishment. Therefore, the scripture does not contradict itself. There is a slavish fear of wrath, generated by the guilty conscience, a spirit of fear which permeates the soul of the person who does not love God. Since he does not love God, he is unrepentant, and therefore fears the punishment that he knows is his just due in Judgment. His fear drives him farther and farther from God, and while he fears Him, he hates Him, because of the justice which he knows God must execute. We might say that he fears God because he hates Him, hates justice, and hates the fact that ultimately he must come under judgment. “Fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is not made perfect in love.”
However, when we know God’s purpose as revealed in His word, and when we cooperate fully with that purpose in wholehearted love, we have no fear of judgment. One who loves God eagerly and humbly accepts the justice of God through Jesus Christ, who has already suffered the judgment for his sin. Therefore he has boldness, and, in fact, a certain anticipation and longing for the coming of Christ because he expects Him to “fashion anew this body of our humiliation.” One who is seeking God’s will is glad to have his whole life exposed to God, while the one who hates God and his justice is ever afraid of being found out. The Christian trusts God’s love and seeks to be as close to Him as possible, while the fearful, expecting His wrath, flee from Him, or at least try to. A Christian fears only that he will offend God, that he will fail to please Him, but at the same time loves Him, and knows that his earnest love is known to God. It is not his perfect performance that dispels fear, but his perfect love, the fact that he loves God and therefore loves everything God has demanded. If one really loves in this way, God knows it, and there is nothing to fear.
PRAYER: O God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, cast out all fear from my heart, and give me a bold faith, that I may manifest this love to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“If ye ask anything in my name, that will I do.” John 14:14
There are those who say they simply cannot pray. It is believable. Prayer is asking and in order to ask one must confess that there is something that he needs which he cannot provide by himself, something that he lacks in spite of all his power of will and self-determination. A small child has no difficulty in asking his father for all manner of things; he doesn’t hesitate nor feel any embarrassment over asking for things large and small. But there comes a time when he begins to feel independent; he wants to assert himself and feel quite as adequate as his father, and when he needs something that the father must provide he approaches him with reluctance, standing on this foot and that, and with the greatest of effort finally blurts out his need, trying to act as though he really were not asking after all. So Jesus said that we must be as little children; that is, come to the father readily admitting that we look to Him to provide for us, that we are inadequate, that we earnestly and humbly need His help. What it takes is humility. The Pharisee in the temple could not ask anything of God because of his pride. All he could do was thank God for the fact that he needed nothing. “Look how good I am! I fast and give tithes. I’m just thankful that I’m not like other men, even this publican.” Jesus said that his prayer availed him nothing. But did he expect it to? He didn’t ask for anything. He didn’t even ask God to help him in his goodness. He was good all on his own hook. Nor did he thank God for making him such a perfect soul. Jesus said that He “prayed thus with himself.” He addressed God, but had his mind on the publican—was comparing himself with other men and not with God. No wonder men cannot pray, when they see only the needs of others and not their own spiritual poverty. Praying is asking, and not in one’s own cherished name, but in the name that is above every name, and upon Whom our salvation depends.
PRAYER: Father, thank You for such mercy and grace that gives me access to Your presence through Jesus, the Lord. I ask that You cleanse me from sin, and give me Your strength, in the name of Jesus, for without You I am nothing. Amen.
“Everyone that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 18:14
These words come upon the heels of the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee exalted himself, reminding God and himself—for he “prayed thus with himself"—of what a great and good person he was, while the publican simply prayed, “God, be thou merciful to me a sinner.” Then Jesus drove home the lesson, “I say unto you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other, for everyone that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” A man doesn’t humble himself by standing before the congregation and praying, “We come humbly before thee. . . .” It is not humility to say “I am humble.” The humility is seen in two things in the publican’s prayer. First, that he truly addressed God. To pray, one must be conscious of God being the listener, and of God being the One who is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Even if one pray a public prayer, it must be solely addressed to God, and not designed for appealing to the congregation. Jesus said that we are to go “in the closet, and having shut the door. . . .” My prayer is to my God! I stand before Him in total dependence upon him, and before Him I stand a sinner! No wonder it is hard to find time for prayer. We think of a thousand other things to do, rather than bringing ourselves up personally and humbly before the penetrating eyes of the Creator, Who looks not upon the outward appearance but upon the heart. Also, the publican asked God for mercy. It is nothing to hear men admit that they are not perfect. “Oh, I know I’m not perfect, but . . .” and then they list all the great things that make up for imperfections. This is not humility, but more self-exaltation. But to say, “Have mercy because I am a sinner!” Because I AM like other men, in that I have sinned! This is the need, and it is this need that is filled by Jesus and His atonement on the cross. Hence, it is exaltation to be forgiven and to be granted eternal life. What could be greater than this?
PRAYER: Loving Father, continue Your mercy to me, a sinner. Help me to see my sins and give me strength to overcome them, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
“By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed . . .” Hebrews 11:8
When considering the great exploits of the Heroes of faith, such as Abraham, the mind somehow slips involuntarily into a different gear, and these men of the past assume supernatural qualities. We take for granted that they should have done great things and had great faith for, after all, they are the heroes of the story! It is like the hero of a Victorian novel: what else should a hero do but prevail and be a hero? From this point on it is easy to excuse ourselves. We are not heroes; therefore, a like faith can not be expected of ordinary people in this day and time. See how easily we arrange our own minds for the sake of remaining unmoved by the commands of God!
But the fact that we are removed from Abraham in time does not remove us one step further from God. For Abraham, Abraham as a hero did not exist. He was simply a man who obeyed God. He was no superman with a special built-in faith. He had passions and weaknesses. He consented to the foolish suggestion of his wife in regard to her handmaid. He selfishly risked the life of his wife to save his own skin on two occasions. But he stands out in all of history as the man of faith and is called the father of the faithful because when God spoke, Abraham believed Him and acted upon His commandment. He obeyed! Even when the commandment was the most extreme: that he should slay his son. The commandment not only contradicted his God-given instincts, but opposed the very promise that this son should be a father himself. No one, save the Lord Jesus, ever received such a commandment. Yet he obeyed. No, Abraham does not stand out from among men because of any special privilege or power given him that we do not have, but because he was a man that believed God and simply obeyed Him. Could there be any lesson more simple than this? We who worship the same God have the same privilege and duty to believe and obey. Insert your own name in the blank: “By faith, ―――, when he was called, obeyed.”
PRAYER: Loving Father, forgive me my excuses and disobedience to Your call. Open my ears of understanding to hear and give me determination of will to obey Your commands, in the name of Jesus, Who was obedient in dying for me. Amen.
“Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life . . .” Matthew 6:24, 25
The force of the Lord’s statement is realized only by taking these two verses together. Being free from anxiety rests squarely upon the foundation of serving God as opposed to mammon. Generally the world seeks to serve both; that is, a person believes in God and professes to be a Christian but at the same time is greatly concerned how he serves materialism. I have never heard anyone claim that mammon was his God, that he has chosen mammon over God and will serve mammon. But it is the general trend to add a bit of mammon service to the regular duties in serving God, like a person who has a full 40-hour job, but takes on a “moonlight” job just for a little extra money to make ends meet. So they labor under a delusion, that they are serving God and that the mammon is only an “added” bit of activity that doesn’t interfere. You can’t say their total concern is eating, drinking and accumulating things, but then neither can you say that they are totally concerned with doing the will of God. Their purpose is mixed, and as long as it is it is neither to go fully in one direction or the other. As soon as they begin the God-ward direction, they begin worrying about material things and the world’s riches which they are pulling away from. When they start in the mammon direction, they are stricken by conscience and cannot fully enjoy what the world offers. Hence the anxiety. We see this all around: church members filled with anxiety and concern over the things of mammon. Jesus flatly stated that you cannot serve both God and mammon. But when you make the decision—and the text assumes that all have the sense to choose God—then there is no reason for anxiety at all. God will see that we have sufficient for life and to serve Him; this is all that is required. With much or little we can progress in His direction, along the path He marks, to bring us to faith and obedience and finally to Himself in the new creation He will create for the purpose. Have you chosen God? Then stop worrying!
PRAYER: Father, forgive me for every wasted minute of anxiety. Increase my faith and lead me in the way You have designed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“. . . and that ye be filled unto all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19
On the face of it, the idea is absurd that we should be able to contain the fulness of God. So immediately we assume that the apostle Paul does not mean what he says, that it is only “a manner of speaking”, that maybe we can have a little bit of God, and very little at that, but certainly not the fulness! Hence we read the scripture then go on our way unfilled and unconcerned, much as a pauper might look out the window of a bus and see for a moment a fine house, a mansion, but not even entertain the thought that he would ever have one like it. What is this but to take the word of God lightly, even ignore it? The apostle of God writes in all seriousness, and says that he prays that “ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.” He means it.
In creating man in His own image, God gave man the capacity for Godly attributes. Now, obviously, when a man is born he has practically none of these attributes. Neither does he have them at age 12, or 21, no, not even at age 90. In what sense then is he ever to be filled with God’s fulness? It is just this, that a man receives God Himself as the central motivating force of his life. From then on he operates with God at the helm. This doesn’t mean that in men’s eyes he performs perfectly, nor even in his own eyes. But it does mean that our wills are turned to God. Not inward to self, nor outward to be influenced by the world, but upward to God. It is not just some thoughts of God, nor a few virtues and scruples that fill us, but it is the will of God. Fulness doesn’t mean a string of good deeds, but concentration upon being in the image of God, and constantly moving toward that ultimate goal. Such a soul does not attain the perfect image until Christ comes, but at every turn in this life he is open to God’s leading and at His disposal. He is in us, and we in Him. Hence, we receive all that God has to give to the fulness of our capacity. Turn your will to God; He will do the filling.
PRAYER: Father, fill me with Your own Spirit, with Your will and Your likeness, through the grace of Jesus. Amen.
“For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.” II Corinthians 4:17
In former days, say two or three hundred years ago, when faith in God’s promises were a matter of course, men held the hope of eternal life as the constant incentive for the present one. In our own day of so-called enlightenment this ultimate hope is lost from view and we are told that God wants to remove all difficulties and all afflictions so that we can enjoy our glory right here and now. For some reason it is considered a sacrilege to endure affliction here for the sake of glory there. But isn’t this being done, on a more condensed scale, even by the ones who disparage it? For example, the average college graduate is past twenty-one when finally he emerges from school. So for nearly one-third of his life he is preparing for the other two-thirds. We can condense the illustration even further, where a man may endure 8 to 12 hours of unpleasant labor for the sake of a paycheck with which he can provide some necessities and pleasures for what is left of the 24 hours in a day.
So Paul reminds us that our affliction is for the moment. It cannot compare with the eternal. If a man will spend 20 years preparing for only 40 years of service and questionable satisfaction, it shouldn’t be thought absurd that one should spend 70 years preparing for an eternity of assured joy. Moreover, this affliction, however intense it may be, is actually light by comparison to the eternal glory which is called a “weight.” At the moment we cannot feel the glory, only the affliction. But wait! The affliction is in itself now “working for us more and more exceedingly . . .”, so that it is a herald of the glory. A student may hate the labor of doing assignments, but the grueling homework is working for him a day of reward. We all, saints and sinners, have afflictions but the difference is that for the saint these are worthwhile because of the eternal weight of glory.
PRAYER: Father, I thank You for every affliction and difficulty that works toward Your purpose for me. May Your will be done, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven . . . I have given you authority . . . over all the power of the enemy.” Luke 10:18, 19
It is true that Satan goes about like a roaring lion seeking victims to devour, and there is no scarcity of people willing to be his victims. It is true because man defaulted before God. He was put on earth to subdue it and have dominion over it, but in all his kingly activity he was to remain subject to God. However, man decided to go God one better, and not only have dominion over the earth but even usurp the throne of God and make his own rules, “to know good and evil” which means that Adam and Eve desired to make their own laws and thus create a new world order. By rejecting the divine order and submitting to Satan, man surrendered the whole earth to that monster, and henceforth he is called prince of the world. Scripture says that “the whole world lieth in the evil one.”
Even so it is still possible for man to be subject to God and to have dominion under the Lord Jesus. Satan has power only over those who bow down to him. He goes about roaring like a lion and people submit to him not only out of fear but out of the sheer desire for sin. On the other hand, Jesus is hardly heard from at all because He is heard through His word, the Bible, and not many bother to read it. The result is that we hear much of the devil’s roar and seldom hear very much from the Lord. Nevertheless, the Lord remains the stronger of the two and for all Satan’s roaring he is operating only by the Lord’s permission. He has no power whatever over those who deliberately submit to the Lord’s command. We are completely restored to God’s fellowship and dominion. Satan’s power is broken. His roar is empty where Christ is concerned and all who are in Christ are removed from that world system which lies in Satan’s power.
PRAYER: Father in Heaven, I thank You for the victory over sin and Satan, through Jesus Who paid my own penalty for sin. Give me grace to be faithful, and to walk humbly in Your fellowship. Amen.
“Who is on the Lord's side? Let him come unto me.” Exodus 32:26
The occasion was one of great tension in the nation of Israel. A great number had slipped into idolatry and were participating in a filthy orgy of lawlessness and sin, as men always do when they worship the creature rather than the Creator. So God called for a stand and the sons of Levi stepped forward. Then Moses said, “Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.” It is difficult to imagine the slaughter, and usually our sympathies run to the ones slain, which amounted to about 3,000 that day. But God had made it infinitely clear to Israel that sex worship was absolutely intolerable. Even without His laws from Mt. Sinai, men know by instinct and reason that unnatural relations is a crime and that God alone is to be worshipped as Creator and God. As hard as this execution was upon the guilty ones, think what a terrible command it was for the innocent to have to obey. They were to deliberately and willfully take the sword and spill the blood of their neighbors, even of their own families. Not only were they involved in the business of upholding the law, they were ordered to execute the just punishment.
Moses, of course, is a type of Christ, and his call is Christ’s call: “Who is on the Lord’s side: Let him come unto me.” It is a call to take an active stand with Christ in respect to a sinful world, condemned to the final death in the lake of fire. The wages of sin is death! Every person, whether he be brother, companion or neighbor, who fails to repent and obey the gospel will ultimately be slain at judgment. Christ does not call us to take the sword to spill blood, but he calls each Christian to brandish the Sword of the Spirit, the truth concerning judgment and mercy, and use it quite as deliberately and methodically as did the sons of Levi. It requires courage and determination to take the sword—any sword. But this, too, is part of our role as the heirs of the Kingdom. Are you willing to take the Sword of the Word and brandish it for the name of Jesus?
PRAYER: Father, give me the boldness and courage to uphold Your justice and order, and to witness to Your truth everywhere. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:14
The reason sin no longer has dominion is not because we have a law against sin but because we are under grace. Man was never created to be under the dominion of sin and every time we suggest that any sin has power over us it is a confession that we are refusing to be what God intended us to be. Grace is given that we might receive forgiveness of sin through Jesus. He took the curse for all the law-breaking and paid the penalty for all sin on the cross, for the wages of sin is death. Having received such grace we now have the right to serve God, to present ourselves to Him as servants of righteousness, to do His will, and thus walk in His fellowship. When temptation to sin arises, it is strictly our decision as to whether or not we will surrender to it. Sin shall not have dominion! It isn’t the sin that decides; it isn’t the temptation that decides; it isn’t sin that has power to determine. We are under grace, and it is entirely according to our own wills whether to sin or not to sin. When, for example, I am tempted by something desirable, I can covet or lust and allow sin to enter, or I can drive out the sinful thoughts by deliberately desiring the will of God. But in either case, dominion is mine, and if I sin, I have no one to blame but myself, and I can only pray for mercy. I cannot blame sin, or like Adam blame the one who tempted me. Under God’s grace I am free; free to NOT sin.
Do you excuse yourself for sins and evil habits, and yet trust in God’s grace? If you trust in His grace, then sin has no dominion over you. You have the power to control it, to predominate over it. Many times we live under the burden of some dominating sinful habit, as if it actually had the power to push us around and make our decisions. But it has no such power. As the elect of God, the heirs of glorious immortality, we live by grace, and sin’s power is broken. Let us then exercise the dominion God has given and not let sin have its way.
PRAYER: Father, help me to use the powers You have given, that I might resist sin and drive it away. I surrender my life to You, and pray that You will lead me in Your own righteous way, through Jesus my Lord. Amen.
“Walk before me and be thou perfect . . .” Genesis 17:1
“But nobody can be perfect,” we hear. However there was no argument from Abraham. He understood what God meant by perfection. He didn’t take an indulgent, do-the-best-you-can attitude then proceed to excuse himself from the demands of God. New Testament writers have given us to understand that perfection is expected of every Christian. Paul claimed that his preaching was supposed to present “every man perfect in Christ Jesus,” and his writing abounds with references to the perfection expected from believers. Examples of men who walked “perfect” before God are such as Abraham, Job and David. We know that they did not perform perfectly; they made mistakes: they sinned! Then what is perfection? It is to believe God and commit one’s life totally to Him. It is to believe God perfectly; that is, believe Him in spite of all else, against all circumstances. It is not a system of living, adhering to a form. As Christine Benagh writes in her book on Job, “The fundamental operation of perfection is concentrated looking at God. Its characteristic attitude is adoration, attentive, expectant and pure. The perfect soul moves to its appointed end not by any accumulation of deeds but by placing itself utterly, willingly at His disposal, gradually filling upon all that it can hold of His essence.” God has not given us all the same capacity nor the same ability, in spite of the mush that is regularly distributed about “equality”. Considering the fact that God has never, to our knowledge, created any two things exactly alike, it is very doubtful that He intends to have a race of men who are all alike! Perfection, in this sense, is absurd. But what God does want, and He makes this crystal clear, is a man who refuses to listen to anyone but God, who wants God’s will totally, all the time and under every circumstance. “Walk before me,” God says. Men would never agree on whether or not you acted perfectly in this situation and that one, but God knows whether you walk before Him, trusting and willing that He should have His way.
PRAYER: Father, may I not be distracted by the opinions and esteem of men, but help me to keep my eyes fixed upon You, that I may be found pleasing in Your sight when Jesus comes. In His name, I pray. Amen.
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage!” Joshua 1:9
God has commanded. He has made the way straight and narrow and commanded that we walk in it. One hears the sermon and says, “But this command is too much for me.”—like those to whom Jesus preached who then said “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” The argument sounds logical: what God commands is too hard to do; nobody is perfect; we are not strong and therefore cannot obey the command.
But this is to miss the entire weight of the command. Joshua stood at the borders of the hostile, ungodly, fierce and formidable land of the Canaanites. The river Jordan at flood-stage was impassable. The first city that guarded the land was Jericho, strong-walled and heavily fortified. Before the armies of Canaan the Israelites looked like grasshoppers. It would take superhuman strength and courage for them to go up against such odds. So to Joshua the impossible command was given: “Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan . . .” And it is just this command—the fact that God commands—that is to give Joshua and his host the strength and good courage to obey. It is because God commands that we are assured the outcome, that we can obey, that the doing of the work is possible. Who has given us commandment? “Have not I commanded?” asks the Lord. Would God command the impossible? If He commands will He not also make the obedience possible? Indeed. “I have commanded-—therefore be strong and of good courage.” So Joshua went over the Jordan and conquered the land. Remember Who gives the commandments. It is not the preacher nor the church. If the commands seem so great as to be inhuman, it is because they are. Men may command that which is foolish, silly and downright stupid. Satan issues his commands: “Bow down and worship me . . .” and these appear easy but in the end are the ways of death. But when God commands, it is not only right, but the only way that is right; the only way that leads to life and victory. When God commands, be strong and of good courage!
PRAYER: Loving Father, I know that Your commands are perfect, and that I have broken them. By your grace through Jesus, help me to be obedient and strong to do Your will. Amen.
“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away: blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
These are the words of Job, a man whom God claimed to be “perfect and upright.” Yet in one day he suffered the loss of his sons, his house and all his possessions. As soon as he heard the news he “arose and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,” and uttered the above words. Everything comes from God, Job affirms, and God has a perfect right to take everything away. Therefore, when calamity struck, with such suffering as we never see again except in Christ, Job’s first act is to worship God. Not for a moment did he blame fate, nor luck, nor his enemies. He absolutely refused to accept the suggestion of his ill-advised friends, that there was something unjust in God dealing with him in this way. Job knew his own heart, and having perfect faith in God, he immediately looked to God, and took for granted that God had a hand in the events of his life. Of course, we know that Job was right, for the opening verses of the book reveal that God had consented to Satan a test case of Job. But Job had not read these verses. He was looking to God in pure faith.
It is clear that Job considered the worst of his troubles as coming from God, but just the same, he would worship God and bless his name. “He doeth the thing that is appointed for me, and when I have been tried, I shall come forth as gold.” This is faith. It is to believe that you are in God’s hand; the very hairs of your head are numbered! There is no event, no matter how bleak, but that the Sovereign Creator is still holding the upper hand, that “He doeth the thing that is appointed” for His children, and in the final outcome, we shall come forth as gold. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
PRAYER: Dear God, purge me from all doubt, that in everything I may see your hand, for I know that You are the Lord of all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“While promising them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption.” II Peter 2:19
It is amazing how the term “liberty” continues to deceive people today, much as it did in the days of Paul. The nation is filled with revolutionaries, who go about waving banners and slogans and breaking laws in the name of freedom and liberty. They are reminiscent of the secret brotherhoods who spawned the horrible French revolution in 1791. They went about destroying law and order under the motto of “Equality, Justice, Liberty.” Of course they corrupted France and became slaves of corruption.
There is no such thing as total liberty. Everything is created with certain functions and within certain boundaries. The eagle has freedom—only in the air. The fish has freedom—only in the water. My own liberty is circumscribed by physical, mental, geographical and civil limitations. The first three are obvious, and the last one simply means that there are civil laws that prohibit me from certain acts, like driving 100 miles an hour or parking in a no parking zone. But there is another law which is moral, and it is chiefly against this that the nation rages today. They think that God’s laws cramp one’s liberty, so they go forth to destroy the commandments, the Bible, and the common laws of decency; in brief, the moral law set forth by God. They are promising to liberate people from all restrictions, so they can do anything they please. But the apostle says that this results not in liberty, but enslavement to corruption. The reason for this is because God created man with a certain purpose in mind, and everything that conflicts with that purpose not only does not give more liberty, it causes the creature to malfunction, to be less than he was, and to run into obstacles set up by God which man cannot ever remove. Only as man goes in the direction of God’s image is the road clear. As soon as he begins to smash out of this path and head some other way, he is in trouble. True liberty is in keeping God’s law. It is the truth and the following of it that makes us free.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, guide me into the way of truth, and keep my feet on the path that leads unto you, in the name of Jesus, my Lord. Amen.
“. . . self control: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:23
“I just couldn’t help it.” It is a familiar expression one hears after someone has lost his temper and has lashed out with his fist or with his tongue, creating a great fire of wrath, bitterness, jealousy and perhaps hate. Against all of this there is a law. But against self-control there is none. When you say “I couldn’t help it,” you are suggesting that somewhere there is a law that you had to follow—call it instinct or nature or whatever you will—that there is some law against practicing self-control, and you just “can’t help” breaking the rules of God. But it is just the other way around. It is by not controlling self that one breaks God’s laws. The origin of all law is God, and James plainly declares that God tempts no one. If a man lusts, it is because the lust is conceived within the man. God gives only good things and has only good laws; that is, He gives none which hinders our “walk by the spirit,” and self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit.
Contrary to popular thinking, freedom is not obtained by letting oneself go. This is precisely the thing that causes us to run up against barriers which God has set and to suffer the penalties for breaking His laws. Freedom is obtained by self-control which is available to each of us, and when we practice it we do not violate His law nor suffer its penalties. Therefore, it is the way to complete freedom. You can control yourself. In fact, you are the only one who can do so, and this is exactly what God leads you to do through His spirit, if you are willing to follow Him. He does not force you; such would not be self-control. But neither is there anything to keep you from forcing yourself! You can help it. You are the only one, by God’s help, who can!
PRAYER: Father, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. Give me grace to exercise self-control, that I may follow in my Lord’s steps, in whose name I pray. Amen.
“O Jehovah, correct me, but in measure; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.” Jeremiah 10:24
This prayer of Jeremiah was uttered at a time when God’s anger was boiling over the idolatry of Israel and Judah. Everywhere the prophet saw wickedness, from the priests and king to the lowliest laborer, and such flaunting of God’s law was bound to bring punishment and destruction to the nation. Jeremiah considered the impending invasion of the Babylonians and knew that it would be the end of his nation, his people. Yet, he knew too, that such cruel judgment was deserved. His prayer is not only for himself, but for the whole nation, it is for God to make the correction, but not in anger; that is, not in the wrath of the final and eternal judgment, for that would bring him to “nothing.”
We need correction, not only nationally, but individually. In fact it is only as individuals are corrected that a nation is set aright. Such correction may often be severe, but we know that when God chastens it is because He loves us, and the severity is just enough to bring about the proper correction. Moreover, the correction is never in anger. It is not punishment for our sins, for the punishment for sin is death, and Jesus has taken this punishment in His own death upon the cross. When we are baptized into the death of Christ, the penalty is erased, for “he that hath died is justified from sin” and “there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”
It is then that the corrective process begins, and it proceeds just about as rapidly as we are willing to be corrected. The trouble is that we often resent and resist the correction. “Why do I have all the bad luck?” we say. When correction is repelled it has an adverse effect, driving one farther from the goal. So we are told, “despise not the chastening of Jehovah; neither be weary of his reproof.” (Proverbs 3:11). Jeremiah goes even farther, and asks for it. “Correct me,” he pleads. Can you pray such a prayer? Is your heart so set on the purpose of God, to be like HIM, that you beg for His correction?
PRAYER: Loving Father, like clay to the potter, I want to be made fit for Your use. Correct me in Your mercy, and give me grace to be what You would have me to be, for I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.