Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bits & Pieces: Biblical Saints called Redeemed

"And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ," (I Peter 1:17--19).

* The word translated 'redeemed' comes from a Greek term, meaning 'to pay a ransom.' At immeasurable cost to the Redeemer, we have been bought back from the marketplace of sin. And the price paid for the ransom of our souls was the precious, perfect blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

* One of the many Scriptural motivations for holy living is the high price our Savior paid for our redemption. The shedding of the sinless blood of the Son of God to redeem us from Satan's domain should cause us to live in reverent fear before God.
Oh, that we would live like the redeemed!

* Peter's appeal for holy living centers on the priceless value of the Lord Jesus' blood in redeeming the elect. When we ponder deeply the high cost of our salvation, we long to live in reverent fear before the sinless Savior. May we never take lightly what was purchased at so great a sacrifice.

Bits & Pieces: Biblical Saints called Light

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven," (Matthew 5:14--16).

* In John 8:12, the Lord Jesus stated that He is the Light of the world. As disciples who have the light of His life within us, we too are to penetrate our darkened world. And our witness to His light within us must continually point the praise to God.

* By calling His disciples 'light', the Lord Jesus emphasized the penetrating work believers are to have in society. By its very nature, light illuminates. And, as the light of the world, we are to glorify our Father by radiating the Lord Jesus' life.

* The main message of warning in these verses involves hiding the light of Jesus' life from a sin-darkened society. Our Lord knew the tendency of Christians to be intimidated and silent concerning His life within them. Our lives are to radiate before a watching world, matched by an eagerness to verbalize our faith.

Bits & Pieces: Biblical Saints called Heirs

"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him," (Romans 8:16, 17).

* It is part of the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives to not only confirm that we are in God's family by the new birth, but that we are heirs, as well. We are recipients of all spiritual blessings now, and, in the future we will share with the Lord Jesus in all the riches of God's kingdom. And, although suffering is part and parcel of such inheritance, to be glorified with Jesus is worth it all.

Bits & Pieces: Biblical Saints called Children of God

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that, when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is," (I John 3:1,2).

* In these beautiful verses, John comforts, consoles, and encourages our hearts. It is very comforting to contemplate the Father's love in calling us His children. When the world opposes us, there is consolation in the reminder that it opposed our Savior far more vehemently. And we are encouraged in knowing that He will return to take us home.

* The beloved apostle bids us understand and appreciate three great truths: (1.) As born-again ones, we have an eternal relationship with God as our Father; (2.) Opposition by the world should be expected, since we are identified with One they hated (and still hate) so violently; and (3.) There will come a time when, as children of God, we will see and know our Savior perfectly.

* The apostle John emphasizes the privilege, the price, and the promise of our salvation. Our privilege is to be called children of God. The price to pay is opposition from a world system ignorant of our Lord. And the promise is His imminent and certain return, when we will see Him as He is!

Bits & Pieces: Biblical Saints called A People for God's Own Possession

"But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now YOU ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY," (I Peter 2:9, 10).

* Did you realize that everyone is possessed? People are either controlled by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life, or they have been bought with a price, the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and are His possession. Each and every one who has been saved from hell is possessed by God. And we decide daily the degree to which we experience the joy of His ownership.

* What a comfort and a conviction to be called a people for God's own possession! Comforting to rest assured that we can never be lost from His love, never be forsaken during fearful trials. Convicting is the responsibility to walk in a manner worthy of the holy God who owns us.

* One of the most natural responses we make when shown great kindness is to tell someone about it. And the more possessed we are by God's Spirit, the greater our desire and determination to speak of His goodness.
For, our relationship to Jesus is personal, but not private.
When we say nothing for Christ, such silence is sin.

Bits & Pieces: Biblical Saints called Beloved Children

"Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma," (Ephesians 5:1,2).

* It is the general nature of a child to imitate the actions and attitudes of his parents. As children beloved by the Father, we are to imitate His giving nature by a life-style of love. We could have no more perfect a model of sacrificial love than the Lord Jesus.

* The two basic commands Paul gives in these verses are (a) to imitate God, and (b) to walk in love. In a child-like copying of God's giving nature, His beloved children are also to be other-oriented. Our Model is the One who sacrificed Himself as our substitute.

* Beneath the surface simplicity of Paul's commands to imitate God and walk in love are depths of application that challenge for a lifetime. To genuinely demonstrate the love shown to us as beloved children calls for a life-style of sacrifice.
Ponder what such love cost the Lord Jesus...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bits & Pieces: Biblical Saints called A Chosen Race

"But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR GOD'S OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light," (I Peter 2:9).

* In contrast to those who are disobedient to the Word, and are destined for hell, Peter asserts that we who are the church are a chosen people. For His own good pleasure, and completely to the praise of His glorious grace, God chose certain ones before the foundation of the world to be His body, the church. In response to such unmerited and undeserved favor, we are to proclaim His excellencies.

* In his desire for his readers to live lives of holiness, Peter contrasts the destinies of the lost and the saved. As a chosen people, from all eternity the church was elected by God for salvation in Jesus Christ, while the rest were passed by. In response to God's unconditional grace in election, we are to declare His sovereign goodness and proclaim His gracious nature.

* In stark contrast to those who are destined for hell, Peter states that the church has been chosen for salvation. Before the foundation of the world, God unconditionally elected a multitude of individuals no man can number, for whom the Lord Jesus would lay down His life, atoning for their sin. In the light of such grace, how eagerly we ought to proclaim the excellencies of our sovereign Lord!

Bits & Pieces: Biblical Saints called Brothers

"And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers," (Matthew 23:6--8).

* By the Lord Jesus' day, the Pharisees had considerable authority, power, and preferential treatment. In contrast to their titles of superiority, the Lord Jesus said that His disciples are brothers. Question: are we as brothers and sisters in the Lord treating each other accordingly?

* The Pharisees' feelings of spiritual superiority came through in the preferential treatment they expected, including ostentatious titles. The Lord Jesus, however, instructs His disciples to humbly recognize one another as brother and sister. And such designations should not only emphasize our equality, but also the kind of love we are to demonstrate.

* By calling His disciples 'brothers,' the Lord Jesus pointed to at least two implications: (a) no Christian is inherently superior to any other believer; and (b) as equally-loved members of God's family, our commitment to one another should reflect such love.

Bits & Pieces: Biblical Saints called Beloved Brethren

"...but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord," (I Corinthians 15:57, 58).

* In these closing verses of his extensive teaching on resurrection, Paul expresses a tender word of encouragement to the Corinthian Christians. 'Beloved brethren' was a term those believers needed to hear, endearing them to Paul as a fellow-struggler, as well as teacher. It should strengthen our resolve to stand firm, also, knowing that we are brethren beloved of the Lord.

* On the basis of the Lord Jesus' victory over the grave, Paul exhorted the Corinthian Christians to persevere in the work of the Lord. He addressed them endearingly, as beloved brethren, appealing as a fellow disciple as much as an apostle. What an encouragement to our own hearts, to realize that we, too, are brethren beloved of the Lord.

* Paul closes the resurrection chapter on a note of triumph and entreaty. In the light of Jesus' victory over death, Paul lovingly exhorts them, and us, to persevere. If we really comprehended how truly beloved we are in the Lord, what a difference it would make!

Bits & Pieces: Biblical Saints called Believers

"And at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico. But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number," (Acts 5:12--14).

* With the divine discipline of Ananias and Sapphira, public perspective on the costliness of Christianity changed. Belief in the Savior was taken much more seriously, and those who were believers were viewed with awe. Oh, that believers' convictions and life-styles today were such that the unbelieving world would be awed by our God!

* Following the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, the contrast between believers and unbelievers was sharpened. There was a greater sense of putting one's life on the line in being identified as a believer in Jesus Christ. In the light of biblical prophecy, believers today also need to settle the issue of identification with our Lord and Savior.

* After the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, people took Christianity more seriously. There was a heightened awareness of what it could cost to believe in the Lord Jesus for salvation. The unflinching convictions of those early Christians, as well as their personal holiness, impressed and attracted a watching world. Is it so with us?

Bits & Pieces: The Church As the Church

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions," (Colossians 1:24).

* By comparing this verse with other passages, such as Romans 3 and Hebrews 10, we know that Paul is not saying that Christ's death was insufficient. Rather, the union of the church with Christ is such that Paul's suffering could be considered Christ's afflictions. Since the church is Christ's body, He is affected when it is affected.

* The language Paul uses here indicates that he does not mean Christ's death was somehow insufficient. No, it's simply that the identification of the Lord Jesus with His church is such that, when Paul suffered the Lord Jesus ached.
To the degree that we suffer for Christ's sake is the extent to which He is also affected.

* Oh, how great is the identification of the Lord Jesus with His body, the church. When we suffer for His sake, He is affected, as well. Paul's sufferings for the Colossian Christians' sakes, even as our sufferings in Jesus' name, serve as extensions of our Savior's afflictions.

Bits & Pieces: The Church and Marriage

"Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also love the church and gave Himself up for her," (Ephesians 5:22--25).

* Amid instructions related to authority and submission within the marriage relationship, Paul speaks of the body of Christ as the church. He makes two points: (1) as 'called-out' ones, we are to be subject to Christ; and (2) sacrificial love in marriage should stem from recognizing Jesus' sacrifice of Himself for us.

* In these familiar verses, Paul compares the relationship of Christ to the church with that of husband and wife, specificially in the areas of authority and submission. As people who have been called out from among the world to be representatives of the Savior, we are to be subject to Christ, both individually and corporately. And, when we truly submit to His sovereign lordship, our marriages will be transformed.

* Paul is teaching that Christian marriage should reflect the relationship of Christ and His church. As He sacrificed for us, so husbands should sacrifice for their wives. And wives, portraying the posture of the church, are to submit to their husbands, in the Lord.

Bits & Pieces: The Church As a Spiritual House

"And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ," (I Peter 2:4,5).

* Peter speaks of the church as a spiritual house, established on the living Cornerstone of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus' desire is that we be built up through continual coming to Him, resulting in holiness and maturity.
Question: are you consistently coming to the Lord in the intimate communion of prayer?

* As a spiritual house, the Cornerstone of the church is the Lord Jesus Christ. Through daily coming to Him in prayer, we are built up in holiness and spiritual maturity. Oh, that our lives would overflow with spiritual sacrifices pleasing to our Master.

* In this unique reference to the Lord Jesus as a Living Stone, Peter likens us as the church to a spiritual house, constructed of living stones. We are built up by continually coming to our Cornerstone through prayer. The Lord's desire, then, is that we mature in holiness, firmly founded on Himself. And, oh! what pleasure that gives Him!

Bits & Pieces: The Church As Pillar & Support

"I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth," (I Timothy 3:14, 15).

* Paul's continuous concern was that believers both understand and practice sound doctrine. Unlike many today who minimize the need for a proper doctrinal foundation, Paul stressed doctrinal correctness constantly. For, only when we pay the price of disciplined study in the Word do we walk worthy of the name 'pillar and support of the truth.'

* As we've seen in previous passages, Paul is fond of likening the church to a building. Here, he extends the metaphor to declare that we are the prime structure of the truth in society. This is in perfect keeping with the fact that our Foundation, Jesus Christ, is the Truth personified.

* Within the picture of 'pillar and support' are the concepts of bulwark and solid grounding. As representatives of the One who is Truth, we need to be steadfast in boldly declaring the undiluted Word of God. And the price we pay for knowing why we believe what we believe is diligent study of the Scriptures.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bits & Pieces: The Church : Household of the Faith

"And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith," (Galatians 6:9, 10).

* In terming the church 'the household of the faith', Paul touches on two important points: (a) the church is to be a family, and (b) we are to have a common commitment to the Lord Jesus as the only means of salvation. We are to unapologetically love one another as members of the same family, all the while declaring Jesus to be the only Hope of Heaven.

* Paul understood better than most the very real danger of growing tired and disheartened in doing good. Still, he promises, God is faithful to reward consistency and perseverance. Too, amid our concern for all men without discrimination, we must not fail to be especially sensitive to those in the household of the faith.

* Sensitivity is written all over these verses--- the consistent awareness of the needs around us, with the willingness to meet them. And, at times, we can get so caught up in relating to those outside the household that we lose our sensitivity to those within the faith. Is there someone in the household of the faith who needs your loving encouragement today?

Bits and Pieces: The Church As the House of God

"Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our body washed with pure water," (Hebrews 10:19--22).

* It is in the context of the Lord Jesus' role as our great high Priest that the writer to the Hebrews refers to the church as the house of God. Individually, and corporately, we have instant and intimate access to God because of Jesus' shed blood and intercessory ministry. The question comes: are we faithfully drawing near in full assurance of faith, or are we inconsistent in prayer?

* What an amazing work the Lord Jesus is performing on our behalf! As our High Priest He has given us instant access to God's presence, purchased by His sinless blood's atoning. Are we as the house of God gaining and maintaining clarity of conscience and sincerity of faith?

* By His sacrifical death in the shedding of His sinless blood, the Lord Jesus did for us what we could never have done for ourselves--- gain access to holy God. But now, as the house of God, we have a great High Priest, through Whom we may draw near to God with great boldness.
The only thing that hinders such communion is sin.

Bits and Pieces: The Church As the Dwelling of God

" whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit," (Ephesians 2:22).

* Paul presents one of the key differences in the ministry of the Holy Spirit since the day of Pentecost. Before that pivotal point in time, the Holy Spirit would come upon people to take up temporary residence. In this age, He permanently indwells the Christian, thus making him a dwelling of God.

* One of the more amazing truths of Scripture is presented here--- that at the time of salvation, God the Holy Spirit makes the believer's body His dwelling place. And what's more, His presence is promised to be permanent.

* At the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit began His ministry of permanently indwelling believers. As the dwelling of God, the church incarnates the life of Christ on the earth. Oh, that we would live in such a way that is worthy of the God whose dwelling we are.

Bits and Pieces: The Church As God's Building

"As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude," (Colossians 2:6,7).

* According to Paul's metaphor in I Corinthians 3, we as the church are God's building, founded on the Lord Jesus as the Cornerstone. Here, Paul urges us to be built up, firmly established in faith, overflowing with continual gratitude. And, the superstructure of our works reveals the depth of commitment we have to our Foundation.

* In I Corinthians 3:9, Paul likens us as the church to a building built by God. Now, here in Colossians Paul instructs us to construct a superstructure of steadfastness, faith, and gratitude. The question arises: does your life-style as the building of God reflect your Architect and Cornerstone--- the Lord Jesus Christ?

* Having taught the Corinthian Christians that the church is the building of God, Paul now exhorts the Colossian believers to be built up in Christ. With the Lord Jesus as our Cornerstone, we are to develop the superstructure of constancy in faith, obedience, and gratitude.

Bits and Pieces: The Church As God's Field

"What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, God was causing the growth. For we are God's fellow-workers; you are God's field, God's building," (I Corinthians 3:5,6,9).

* Rather than objects for worship or partisan allegiance, Paul saw himself, Apollos, and the other leaders as fellow-workers in the field known as the church. As God's field, our hearts are the cultivated soil which is designed to bear spiritual fruit. Only as we keep clean, continually uprooting the weeds of sin, will the Lord bear His fruit through us.

* Far from being the causes of division in the Corinthian fellowship, Paul, Apollos, and the others wanted to see spiritual unity and growth in God's field. Trouble is, the soil of believers' hearts is infested with sin and self. We would do well to obey Hosea 10:12-- 'SOW WITH A VIEW TO RIGHTEOUSNESS,

* Paul refers to us as God's field. Just as physical soil is only as fruitful as it is receptive to the seed planted, so the soil of our lives is only as fruitful as our hearts are receptive to the Word. How we need to continually ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any fallow ground in our lives which needs His breaking work.

Bits and Pieces: The Church As the People of God

"But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR GOD'S OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are the PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY," (I Peter 2:9, 10).

* Peter's purpose in his descriptions of the church are to promote holy behavior. As the people of God, who have received such amazing mercy, our response should be to proclaim God's excellencies. Yet, our verbal witness is heard only as our life-style is consistently godly.

* In stark contrast to the disobedience of unbelievers, Peter declares that the people of God must walk in the holiness which befits our calling. By reflecting on the judgment we so richly deserved as unbelievers, we will live holy lives of gratitude for His mercy.

* These two verses paint the beautiful picture of who we are in Christ, and the holiness which should characterize our lives. As the people of God, we must not only proclaim our Savior's excellencies, but also earn the right for such witness by holy living. And our motive for such a life-style is to be gratitude for such marvelous mercy that we've been shown.

Bits and Pieces: The Church As Mystery II

"Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the Word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory," (Colossians 1:25--27).

* The divinely-ordained ministry Paul fulfilled was in preaching the mystery of Christ. The church was hidden from the Old Testament prophets, but was revealed at Pentecost, and through Paul's ministry. The Lord Jesus taking residence through the Person of the blessed Holy Spirit in both believing Jews and Gentiles is, indeed, a tribute to God's amazing wisdom.

* As the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul revealed an amazing truth--- a mystery--- that Christ's body, the church, (consisting of all the elect, past, present, and future), would be composed of both redeemed Jews and Gentiles. Such an entity was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets. That Christ would be in us who believe, both Jew and Gentile, is surely the hope of glory!

Bits and Pieces: The Church As Mystery

"To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places," (Ephesians 3:8-- 10).

* In these verses, Paul explains why grace was given him to preach to not only the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. By bringing together into one body, the church, (both Jews and Gentiles), God's wisdom would be made manifest. Angelic beings in the heavenly realms would praise the wonderful wisdom of God in revealing this mystery.

* The church, Paul teaches, is a mystery-- something hidden in God for ages, now revealed by divine decree. The inclusion of both believing Jews & Gentiles into one body known as the church, was unknown in the Old Testament. And it was given to Paul to reveal the eternal purpose of God for the mystery we know as the church.

Bits and Pieces: The Church As Bride

"And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, 'Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.' And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints," (Revelation 19:6--8).

* In this fourth, and final 'hallelujah' of the chapter, John hears a multitude of people rejoicing in anticipation of Jesus' second coming. The multitude announces the marriage supper of the Lamb (the Lord Jesus) and His Bride (the church). The clothing of the bride consists of righteous deeds, accomplished by the grace of the Savior.

* In this prophetic passage, John hears a vast multitude voicing praise for the return and reign of the Lamb. As His bride, the church will be adorned with righteous deeds, accomplished by His grace. If you are His, praise the Lord Jesus for purchasing you with His sinless blood, that you might be clean before Him.

* In anticipation of the return and rule of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus, a great mass of people praise the Father. Great joy is expressed over the marriage supper of the Lamb and His bride. And, in a beautiful picture of grace resulting in works, the bride will be clothed cleanly in righteous deeds.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bits and Pieces: Hope

"Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, Out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man, For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth. By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother's womb; My praise is continually of You," (Psalm 71:4--6).

* In this prayer of an old man for deliverance, we find the elderly psalmist giving grateful testimony to the Lord's faithfulness. From the days of his youth, he had made the Lord God his confident hope, and had never been disappointed. And such is the testimony of every older believer who has genuinely made the Lord his only hope.

* In this psalm of confident trust and thankful testimony, the writer reflects on the trustworthy Source of his hope. What a picture of hope that does not disappoint! Oh, that our lives in later years may radiate the same message of unflagging hope in the Lord Jesus Christ!

Bits and Pieces: Hope

"Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the Word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory," (Colossians 1:25--27).

* In his distinctive role as the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul's commission was to fully carry out the preaching of the Word of God-- particularly the truth concerning the church. The fact that regenerated Gentiles and Jews would both comprise the body of Christ had not been revealed in the Old Testament. And to each and every believer, God wills to make known the Lord Jesus Christ as his or her hope of glory.

* Two important qualities made the church a mystery -- as a spiritual organism comprised of both believing Jews and Gentiles, it was unknown to the Old Testament writers. And secondly, the permanence of Christ's presence in our lives had not been known in the Old Testament.
The irrevocable resident Holy Spirit confirms our future glorification with the Lord Jesus.

Bits and Pieces: Hope

"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, if He should appear, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And every one who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure," (I John 3:2,3).

* Throughout Scripture the appearing of the Lord Jesus is connected with watchfulness, preparedness, and personal purity on the part of His disciples. Our Savior's imminent return should motivate us to holy conduct and godliness. For when our hope is really fixed on the pure and spotless Lamb of God, our life-styles will reflect readiness for His return.

* When considering the imminent return of the Lord Jesus, too often we are so consumed with its prophetic significance, we forget the moral implications. His soon-coming should spur us to pure and godly life-styles. Even more than an event, our hope is placed on a Person --- the pure and spotless Lamb of God.

* The apostle John puts the point of his pen on an oft-neglected aspect of the Lord's return--- how it should affect our personal purity. In our concern for chronology and prophetic correctness, we can miss the moral implications of His appearing. If our hope is genuinely placed on the spotless Son of God, then our lives ought to reflect eternal priorities of holiness and godliness.

Bits and Pieces: Hope

"Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness; To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us, According as we have hoped in You," (Psalm 33:18--22).

* The psalmist speaks of two promises on God's part for His chosen ones, and three responses from those who hope in Him. For those upon whom He has set His heart, the Lord God has promised not only His undivided attention, but also His preserving deliverance.
His people's three-fold response is to wait for Him, to rejoice in Him, and to trust in His holy name.

* In this beautiful psalm of praise to God as Preserver, the psalmist focuses on two facets of God's provision, and three appropriate responses from His people. The Lord has committed Himself to His hopeful ones by promising: a) undistracted devotion, and b) faithful preservation.
The three ways our hope is then expressed are: waiting, rejoicing, and trusting.

Bits and Pieces: Hope

"Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God," (Romans 5:1,2).

* Of the multitude of results that were accomplished by Christ on the cross in behalf of His church, Paul here highlights two: we have peace with God, and our introduction to God's grace.
Whereas when we were lost we were enemies of God, and lived our lives on the basis of works, when He saved us we experienced His acceptance and unmerited favor. And our justification serves as a springboard for the certain hope that we will one day be with our Savior forever.

* In these two verses, Paul speaks of our past standing, which serves as the source of our present rejoicing and future hope. At the moment of salvation, we experienced the peace of God, and reconciliation with God. We were also introduced to the principle of grace as a present lifestyle. And finally, we rejoice in the certainty of someday seeing our Savior in all His glory.

Bits and Pieces: Hope

"Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence," (Psalm 42:5).

* Someone has well said that one of the most important conversations we can have is with ourselves. In the midst of troubling circumstances, the psalmist here exhorts himself to hope in God. He also encourages himself to remember that such times will eventually pass.
We, too, are helped when we rehearse the truth.

* Discouraged from without and within by trials and difficulties, the psalmist nonetheless refuses to succumb to bitterness or self-pity. Instead, he preaches a self-sermon of exhortation and encouragement. By rehearsing the truth of God's never-failing presence, he builds himself up in hope.

Bits and Pieces: Hope

"For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day," (II Timothy 1:12).

* Here in the last of the letters we have from the pen of the apostle Paul, he affirms the certainty of his hope in the faithfulness of His Savior. For, the hope of the Christian faith is in a Person, not in an organization, denomination, or set of beliefs. Only as our hope is fixed completely on the Lord Jesus Christ is our faith eternally secure.

* These words, written only weeks before his death, express beautifully the bold hope Paul had in the trustworthiness of the Lord Jesus. He was not the least bit ashamed of the suffering he had endured, because he knew intimately the One who died in his behalf. His was a confident hope to the end.

Bits and Pieces: Hope

"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord," (I Thessalonians 4:16,17).

* This return of the Lord Jesus Christ for His own is called 'the blessed hope' in Titus 2:13, and is to serve as a great comfort when we are separated from a believer by death. Therefore, we need not grieve as the hopeless non-Christian, since we will see loved ones again who died in the Lord. What a marvelous certainty is this hope --- that, as surely as the Lord Jesus came the first time, so He will come again!

* In describing this the next great event in history, the apostle Paul's desire was to convey comfort to grieving family and relatives of deceased believers. In stark contrast to the hopeless unsaved person, the mourning of the Christian should be interwoven with the hope of the Lord's imminent return.
And even more exciting than being reunited with saved loved ones, we will see our blessed Savior in all His glory!

Bits and Pieces: Hope

"Be strong, and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord," (Psalm 31:24).

* Like faith, hope is only as valid as the trustworthiness of the object in which it is placed. However sincere one's hope may be, if it is not set upon a solid object, it is doomed to disappointment. Consequently, we who hope in the absolutely trustworthy Lord of the universe, should gain great strength and courage for the facing of each day's challenges.

* So much of our weakness and fear, our anemic hope, stems from a small vision of who God is. How much greater would be our strength, courage and hope should we have an accurate awareness of His amazing might. Those who know God the best have great courage, strength, and an unshakable hope.

* In the way the world uses the term, there is very little assurance or conviction attached to the word "hope." Scripturally, though, because true hope is placed in the never-failing, never-changing eternal Lord, the term has about it a rock-solid trustworthiness.
We can enjoy a deep-seated confidence because our hope is in Him who is all in all.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bits and Pieces: Hope

"For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope," (Romans 15:4).

* In this important verse Paul makes a significant connection between the Scriptures and our Christian hope. Both Old and New Testaments are the prime objective tools the Holy Spirit uses to produce endurance and encouragement in our lives. The more consistently our hearts and attitudes are soaked in the Bible, the more certain and steadfast is our walk of hope.

* What a premium Paul places on the Scriptures in this verse! Our hope becomes more and more certain and stable as we are instructed from both Old and New Testaments. Learning from selfless saints of time past, we are motivated to endure in the present, looking with confidence to the future.

* How needed are perseverance and encouragement in believers' lives today! And Paul states that the Scriptures are the prime source for our instruction, leading to a settled hope. The more quality, consistent time we spend in the Word, the greater our steadfastness in the face of adversities, and confident courage to face the future.

Bits and Pieces: Love

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another," (John 13:34, 35).

* Similar to previous passages considered, the pivotal point here is found in the little phrase, 'even as.' We stand instantly convicted of failure when we focus on the command that, as Jesus loves us, so we are to love one another. Yet, when that actually happens, an otherwise cynical world recognizes that we are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

* There are few more basic and yet challenging verses in all of Scripture than these. For, to love one another is one thing, but to be as sacrificially committed to each other as the Lord Jesus is to us (!).... that's a goal to challenge even the most committed of Christians. Yet, that is exactly what it will take for a cynical and skeptical world to recognize our Lord's love.

Bits and Pieces: Love

"He who has My commandments, and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him," (John 14:21).

* In the process of preparing His disciples for His imminent departure, the Lord Jesus outlines the means by which He would manifest Himself to His own. If we are to experience a spiritual revealing of the Savior through His Word and love, we must take His commandments to heart, and obey them. He reveals more of who He is only to the one who pays the price of loving obedience.

* It is the deepest desire of every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ to know Him and His love more fully. The condition for such disclosure is taking His commandments to heart in faithful obedience. Urged on by His love within us, and for us, we are to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness.

Bits and Pieces: Love

"We love, because He first loved us," (I John 4:19).

* In only seven words the apostle John gives the proper emphasis on the source of our love. Every bit of the Savior's love that we experience or exhibit is a result of God's sovereign initiative from all eternity. Had He not chosen us, we would not have chosen Him.

* In many evangelical circles today emphasis is laid almost exclusively on man's decision for God. By contrast, the apostle John reminds us that our loving the Lord is a reality only because His electing love was sovereignly set upon us from all eternity. Had He not set His heart upon some to be saved, we would not have ever set our hearts upon Him (Romans 3:10--12)!

* When did the Lord first love the elect? Before the foundation of the world! John here takes us back to eternity past, when God marked out His own for salvation, sovereignly setting His heart of unconditional love upon them. Consequently, in the hearts of those whom He redeems there should be no thought of deserving credit or congratulations for welcoming and manifesting His love. His is the complete glory and credit!

Bits and Pieces: Love

"And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked," (I John 2:3--6).

* Indications of genuine conversion, in contrast to only verbal declaration, are interwoven throughout John's writings. He affirms again and again that a prime characteristic of the genuinely regenerated person is obedient love. The one who claims a conversion, with no changed life of love, is deceived and a deceiver. All the more reason for us who are saved to live God's love transparently.

* With all the varieties of counterfeit Christianity in our world today, the book of I John is extremely relevant. He insists that obedience and love are two key indicators of genuine regeneration. Mere verbal declaration of salvation, with no subsequent changed life, should not be believed. To be perfected in love, our walk will match our talk.

Bits and Pieces: Love

"Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love," (I Corinthians 16:13,14).

* In these short commands, the apostle Paul points up the balance that should typify our lives in Christ. With particular application to men, we are to demonstrate qualities of strength & boldness in spiritual leadership, all the while characterized by sacrificial love. We are to exhibit the strength of steel covered by the velvet of love.

* Particularly for men, the first of these two verses comes more easily, while the second serves as a constant challenge. The God-given instinct to provide for and protect one's family lends itself well to maintaining spiritual vigilance. Yet, great grace is constantly required for the self-sacrificing love here commanded.

Bits and Pieces: Love

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," (Romans 8:38, 39).

* These verses represent one of the greatest truths in all of the New Testament!--- that we as Christians are secure in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Earthly relationships may fail, circumstances may seem overwhelming, and we may feel like we've been abandoned by the Savior--- but Paul would remind us of this unchangeable truth: we can never be separated from the Lord Jesus' love.

* The more adverse our circumstances, the more comforting are these words of assurance. Paul exhorts the persecuted Roman believers from his own experience--- nothing mortal or immortal, in time or eternity, can sever the love relationship God has established with us through salvation in His Son.
No matter how forlorn or forsaken we may feel, the unchangeable truth is that we are eternally secure in God's love.

Bits and Pieces: Love

" that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God, " (Ephesians 3:17--19).

* Paul prays four things for the Ephesian believers in these verses: (1) for their Christ-centered faith; (2) for their stability in love; (3) for their appreciation of the enormity of Christ's love; (4) that they be filled up to all the fullness of God! How like the author of the love chapter to place such a premium in prayer upon love.
What a challenge to the way we pray for others!

* As evidenced in the enormity of these requests by Paul for the Ephesian believers, the more intimately one knows the Lord Jesus, the greater the vision of his praying. And central to Paul's desire for them was a foundation, growth, and maturity in the Savior's love. Oh, that the Holy Spirit would grant us such love-centered vision in our praying for others.

Bits and Pieces: Love

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet that we shall be. We know that, if He should appear, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is," (I John 3:1,2).

* The apostle John touches on three needed truths in this passage: (a) the Father loves us, (b) the world doesn't know us, and (c) the Lord Jesus is coming for us. We are to reflect on the eternal identity given us by the Father--- children of God. We are to recognize that the world system which knew not the Lord Jesus won't understand us either. And, we are to rejoice in the return of our Redeemer, anticipating our transfiguration into His glorified likeness.

* In these verses, John outlines three key relationships in the believer's experience in a sequence of past, present, and future. He bids us ponder with praise the limitless love of the Father in adopting us into His family. We are then warned that the world's present hostility is the logical outcome of following the Savior. And finally, John points us to our future transformation when Jesus appears--- what a glorifying proof of His love!

Bits and Pieces: Love

"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love," (John 15:9,10).

* What depth of truth is represented in the little phrase, 'just as.' Who can fathom the love the Lord Jesus has for us as believers, when it is exactly the same love that the Father has for Him? And how are we to abide in this love? By obedience to our Lord's commands--- our goal being the same obedience the Lord Jesus gave to His Father's commands.

* Such profound principles portrayed in such simple relationships! We as believers are actually loved by the Lord Jesus in the exact same way He is loved by the Father! And to abide in this love, we are to obey our Lord's commands even as He obeyed His Father's commands. Oh, the deepening of our commitment these verses require!

Bits and Pieces: Love

"We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren," (I John 4:16).

* Written to encourage believers in the assurance of salvation, the book of I John is replete with the phrase, 'we know.' The focus here is on God's love for us, the very essence of His nature, which promotes confidence of our conversion. As we accept His love, and abide in the security of His acceptance, we are then free to love others.

* However paradoxical it may seem, it is not humility for us to refuse to accept and rejoice in God's love. Indeed, our legitimate self-esteem is best developed when based on our acceptance in the Beloved. Regardless of how unworthy we may feel, we are to claim and count on our Lord's promised love.

* One of Satan's favorite tools for producing guilt and discouragement in the believer's life is questioning our Lord's love and acceptance. He has even persuaded some that genuine humility requires refusal to rejoice in our Lord's love. No, that's not humility. That's unbelief. Instead, we are to abide, rejoice, and glory in the unconditional love of our sovereign Savior!

Bits and Pieces: Instruction

"These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you," (John 14:25, 26).

* From the day of Pentecost down to the present, these promises by the Lord Jesus have been fulfilled. Two, among many, of the ministries that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in our lives, as believers, are those of teaching and reminding. He not only brings the truth of Scripture home to our hearts, but He also brings our wandering thoughts back to the Lord Jesus.

* In His compassionate wisdom, the Lord Jesus assures His saddened disciples that the soon-coming Holy Spirit would meet two of their greatest needs: instruction and remembrance. The Lord knew only too well their ignorance and forgetfulness. Isn't it good to realize that He knows ours, too?

Bits and Pieces: Instruction

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law," (Deuteronomy 29:29).

* In the midst of solemn warnings to the nation Israel, Moses includes needed teaching concerning concealment, revelation, and obedience. It is not for us to question what God has sovereignly chosen not to reveal, but to study diligently the revelation He has disclosed through the Scripture. We are not responsible for what He has not revealed, so the question is: are we continuing to hear, read, study, memorize & meditate on what He has revealed?

* Moses makes it clear in this verse that, when it comes to eternal truths, unless the Lord discloses them, no one can know them. How grateful we should be, that He has inspired and preserved sixty-six books of divine revelation for our instruction and wisdom. And may our aim in study of His Word always be specific obedience to His truth.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bits and Pieces: Instruction

"But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways," (James 1:5--8).

* The persecuted believers to whom James wrote needed God's perspective in the facing of their trials. He instructs them to continually go to the Source of wisdom, the Lord God Himself, when encountering testing. And we can most certainly expect His instruction when our motives are pure and we have a single-minded desire for His glory.

* When we, like the believers to whom James wrote, face various trials and difficulties, we need God's perspective on the situation. James assures us that the Lord will reveal His wisdom as we approach Him in faith and whole-hearted devotion. His instruction is reserved for those who are genuinely teachable.

* We need the ability to view life from God's vantage point at all times, but we especially need such wisdom when experiencing the stress of trials. Such encouragement James gives, urging us to approach our gracious Lord for His inerrant instruction.
Oh that we would have a single-minded determination to faith Him amid our difficulties!

Bits and Pieces: Instruction

"but just as it is written, 'THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND WHICH HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.' For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God," (I Corinthians 2:9,10,12).

* Even though there is much instruction we can gain through observation and reasoning, when it comes to the nature of God and His purposes, we are dependent upon revelation. The Lord reveals His thoughts and plans for His children through His Spirit's use of the Word, and prayer. And there are no substitutes nor shortcuts for knowing His heart--- it is only through disciplined study and communion with Him in private.

* The spirit of this world moves in the realm of speculation as to what God is like, while the Spirit of God in the life of the Christian moves in the realm of revelation -- revealing who God is. We who have the mind of Christ are to continually depend on the Spirit of Christ for His revealing all that is ours in Christ. Such dependence is manifested in disciplined study of the Scripture, and practice of the Lord's presence.

Bits and Pieces: Instruction

"For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him," (Ephesians 1:15--17).

* In this pastoral prayer, the apostle Paul intercedes for the Ephesian believers, asking the Lord to give them a greater knowledge of Himself. The instruction we need the most is not knowledge about the Lord, but knowledge of Him. May our heart's cry each and every day be for a greater understanding of who He is.

* As he so often did, the apostle Paul goes to the heart of the matter in this prayer for the believers in Ephesus. He prays that they may be filled with the wisdom and knowledge of God. How needed it is, that we match our knowledge about our Lord with knowledge of Him.

* Even though the apostle Paul knew a great deal about the Lord, it is evident from this prayer that he valued knowledge of the Lord far more. Questions: do we have our priorities straight, as did Paul? Which do we value more, learning truths about Him, or learning Him who is Truth?

Bits and Pieces: Instruction

"I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you, " (John 16:12--15).

* In the final hours of His earthly life, the Lord Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit for a three-fold purpose in the lives of the apostles--- (a.) guidance into all truth, (b.) disclosing of future events, and (c.) glorification of the Lord Jesus. Although prophecy of Scripture ended with the closing of the canon, the guiding and glorifying ministry of the Holy Spirit continue. Thank the Lord for sending His blessed Holy Spirit!

* Knowing that He was but a matter of hours from the cross, the Lord Jesus sought to prepare the hearts of His men for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Within the inscrutable Trinity, the Spirit's ministry today includes guidance, comfort, and glorification of the Lord Jesus.

Bits and Pieces: Instruction

"The Jews therefore were marveling, saying, 'How has this man become learned, having never been educated?' Jesus therefore answered them, and said, 'My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself," (John 7:15--17).

* The source of the Lord Jesus' wisdom was a mystery to the tradition-blinded religious leaders of His day. There were totally closed to the Savior's requirement for knowing the Source of His wise teaching: being willing to do His will. They would not know unless willing to do. Neither will we.

* The perplexity displayed by the religious leaders reflected their refusal to acknowledge the Lord Jesus' deity. Discounting His divine sonship, they were doomed to darkness in relation to His teaching. For, His condition for knowing His will is the willingness to do it.
Submission precedes instruction.

* When a person is regenerated by the Holy Spirit, there comes the desire to please his Savior in every way possible. Learning His will becomes a life-long goal. How we need to practice the paradox taught by the Lord Jesus --- willingness to obey precedes knowing His will.

Bits and Pieces: Instruction

"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ," (II Corinthians 4:3--6).

* The apostle Paul here pictures the immeasurable difference between the pagan's awareness of the true gospel, and the Christian's knowledge of the truth. The lost person's understanding is blocked by the god of this age, while the Christian has the light of God within to illumine the truth. If you have been born again, praise and thank the Lord for the grace He granted in opening your eyes to see your need of Jesus.

* In graphic fashion Paul details the night-and-day difference between the lost person's and the saved person's understanding. The pagan is incapable of God's instruction, because his mind is blinded.
We who have been saved, however, have the Holy Spirit's light within us, illuminating the Lord's truth.

Bits and Pieces: Instruction

"Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose," (Psalm 25:12).

* To fear the LORD is to reverence Him, keenly aware of His holy presence at all times. Implied in such an attitude is the continual desire to obey His every prompting. To such a sensitive heart as this, the LORD will unfailingly communicate His counsel.

* It is not everyone who is privy to the counsel of the most high God. Still, though no one deserves such privilege, He has chosen to reveal His heart to His children. To the one who reverences His Name, who seeks His face, who yearns to obey, to this one He has promised instruction and guidance.

* Though many voices offer counsel relating to daily decisions, and particularly major ones, the believer's prime Source for guidance is the Lord, through prayer and His Word. And, as we reverence Him through daily sensitivity to His Spirit, He has promised instruction and guidance. Oh, that our every choice would be made in the fear of the LORD!

Bits and Pieces: Instruction

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you," (Psalm 32:8,9).

* The Lord God's promise of instruction and teaching are based on the condition of teachability. If we maintain a stubborn spirit of refusal to heed His counsel, it will not come to us. Our Lord's instruction is available, and His teaching ever-present --- our part is to stay sensitive.

* These verses counter any thoughts we may have that the Lord is reluctant to reveal His will. Yet, our pride and stubbornness often get in the way of understanding His desire. How very much we need an attitude of teachability in order to hear His voice.

* Our Lord has committed Himself to instruct and teach us by His blessed Holy Spirit. Yet, the condition for His promised revelation is receptivity. The question then comes: Are we teachable?

Bits and Pieces: Strength

"But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to You; For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness, "(Psalm 59:16,17).

* David's continual cause for consolation was the strength and protection the Lord God exhibited for him. As he meditated on the Lord's faithful provision, songs of praise would fill his heart. Here is a key to our own joy--- gratefully pondering our Savior's past faithfulness.

* As a military king, much of David's life was rife with hatred by enemies, danger, and insecurity. Amid such trials he found great comfort in contemplating God's character--- particularly His lovingkindness and strength.
These days, we need the inner serenity God provides through prayer and praise more than ever.

Bits and Pieces: Strength

"To You, O LORD, I call; My rock, do not be deaf to me, For if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit. Blessed be the LORD, Because He has heard the voice of my supplication. The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him, " (Psalm 28:1, 6, 7).

* The more intensely-felt the prayer burden, the greater the need to know that God hears and cares. David feels it keenly here, and when we, like him, trust the LORD as our strength and shield, we are helped. Thank the LORD for His wise answers to your praying--- and for His strength to persevere.

* In his weakness and vulnerability, David cried out to the LORD for rescue from his enemies. As his strength and shield, the LORD responded in power, preserving the man after His own heart. Should we expect the same demonstration of His strength for us? (I John 5:14, 15)

* David's confident trust in the strong protection of the LORD was justified time and again throughout his life. And his response to the LORD's faithfulness was thankful song, and joyful declaration.
Is there a song of praise in your heart, and a good word about the LORD on your lips?

Bits and Pieces: Strength

"Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth, Sing praises to the Lord, To Him who rides upon the highest heavens, which are from ancient times; Behold, He speaks forth with His voice, a mighty voice. Ascribe strength to God; His majesty is over Israel And His strength is in the skies. O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!" (Psalm 68:32---35).

* Through the songs of praise, through sensing His power in creation, and a myriad of other ways, the psalmist bids us ascribe strength to our God. For, when we truly worship Him in His sovereign strength, we are strengthened. When we ponder His power, our faith is empowered. We so need to meditate long and often on the awesome God who gives strength and power to His people.

* One of the most powerful incentives for praise to the Lord for His strength is His direct intervention on our behalf. The writer of this psalm knew from personal experience that the God of Israel can overcome even a Goliath. Is there a Goliath you are facing?
Think back to times when God unmistakably showed Himself strong on your behalf--- the praise Him for His present strength.

* Why was King David's pen ever and always filled to overflowing with praise? Why does adoration drip from every line? It is because of his vision of God. From his earliest confrontations with lion and bear, his concept of God's greatness and strength was immense.
The principle? How you see Him is how you'll serve Him.

Bits and Pieces: Strength

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man," (Ephesians 3:14---16).

* Having established the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul knew of those believers' need to be strengthened. The power the Holy Spirit exercises is essential if our inner man is to be nourished. And only as our inner man is strengthened do we grow in spiritual maturity.

* In very pastoral tones Paul prays for the powerful strengthening work of the Holy Spirit to be accomplished in the Ephesians' lives. We, too, must walk in the empowering Holy Spirit if our inner man is to be strengthened. And just think--- our source of strength is the riches of His glory!

Bits and Pieces: Strength

"But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before but lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me," (Philippians 4:10---13).

* What an added dimension these words take on when we realize that Paul wrote them from prison! Through years of finding the Savior faithful, Paul could rejoice in Him, be content with His provision, and assert that God's strength enabled him to accomplish everything God gave him to do.
Oh, that we, too, would learn such dependence and contentment in our strong Savior!

* Contrary to what one would normally expect in a letter written from a prison cell, Paul's letter to the Philippians is filled with rejoicing, contentment, and confidence in the Savior's provision.
What an indictment is his attitude on all our complaining amid much comfort and ease! And even when the Lord does allow times of trial and testing, in His strength we can still accomplish His will.

* These verses are remarkable for what is absent from them--- although written from prison, there is no anger, no bitterness, nor self-pity whatsoever. Rather, through the Lord's strengthening, Paul speaks of rejoicing, being content, and divine enablement.
May the Lord Jesus be our strength to respond to adverse circumstances with the same Christ-like attitude as Paul.

Bits and Pieces: Strength

"Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong, " (II Corinthians 12:8---10).

* Since life in our fallen world inevitably brings times of hardship and difficulty, our challenge as believers is to respond in a manner pleasing to our Lord.
In his affliction mentioned here, Paul came to understand the principle of God's strength being best evidenced through our weakness. For, God doesn't want to show us strong on His behalf; He would show Himself strong on our behalf.

* Someone has said that our weaknesses can become the source of our greatest testimony to God's sufficiency. Paul's thorn in the flesh served as a basis for his declaration that God's strength is best seen against the backdrop of our weaknesses. Are we willing to be weak, to humbly submit to the Lord's dealings in order to manifest His power?

* Through a word of personal testimony, Paul teaches an important principle of paradox--- when we are weak, we are actually in a position of strength. For, when we come to an end of ourselves, the Lord shows Himself strong on our behalf. As long as we walk in prideful self-sufficiency, His Holy Spirit is quenched and grieved.

Bits and Pieces: Strength

"But transgressors will be altogether destroyed; The posterity of the wicked will be cut off. But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, Because they take refuge in Him, " (Psalm 37:38--40).

* Throughout this psalm of contrasts, David affirms the security of those who trust in the Lord, and the insecurity of the wicked. Although the prosperous and seemingly-successful pagan may appear invincible, his end will come surely. In contrast, the one whose salvation is from the LORD is promised strength, help, & deliverance.

* Interwoven throughout this psalm is the theme of evil men prospering materially, while righteous folk seem forsaken. The psalmist says, "Don't be deceived. The pagan's prosperity cannot purchase peace or inner security. The one who finds continual refuge and strength in the LORD is the one who actually prospers."

* Seeing ungodly men enjoy material prosperity and seeming ease can produce envy in the poor believer's heart. So, in these verses, as throughout the psalm, King David highlights the actual insecurity of the wicked, and the security of the saved.
For, when we seek refuge in the LORD, He provides what the world cannot buy---- protection, deliverance, and strength in time of trouble.

Bits and Pieces: Strength

" 'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' 'For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you, ' " (Isaiah 41:10,13).

* In tones very similar to the encouragement He gave Joshua upon entering the promised land, the LORD here assures Israel of His presence, power, and help. Like Israel and Joshua, we too feel outnumbered and overwhelmed at times. Yet, His Holy Spirit within us promises sustained strength regardless of opposition.

* The LORD God speaks here to two (2) ongoing temptations (both in Israel's relationship to the nations around her, and to our interaction with the world and its system): fear and idolatry. Israel was not to be intimidated, nor was she to look to any of their idols for "help."
How needed a word is this for us as believers--- may the Lord strengthen our resolve to neither fear our world, nor be too fond of it, either.

Bits and Pieces: Strength

"God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear..." (Psalm 46:1,2a).

* Although the world seeks security and power from all the counterfeit sources Satan can concoct, the believer is to find his refuge and strength in the Lord. The psalmist proclaims that the Lord is abundantly available for help, and especially in our times of trouble. Consequently, His presence and strength should relieve our fear, freeing us to live confidently, in Him.

* Even though the world looks for security and strength in all the wrong places, we who know the Lord are to find our refuge in Him. By the indwelling ministry of the blessed Holy Spirit, we find our Lord ever available in our times of trouble. Hence, our lives should not be characterized by fear, for He who has promised is faithful.

* How easily fear can dominate our days when we fail to make the Lord our refuge and strength. We become consumed with our circumstances, and forget to depend on the One who can alter them. Only as we learn to lean completely on our sovereign Savior and His strength do we enjoy His peace.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bits & Pieces: Promised Security

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary," (Isaiah 40:28---31).

* In this beautiful passage, Isaiah affirms God's infinite strength, His giving this strength to those who need it, and the condition for this promised power: waiting. That the LORD has all power, we readily agree; that He strengthens us in our weakness, we gratefully acknowledge; our problem comes at the point of patience. He gives His strength to the one who seeks His timing, as well as His direction.

* Isaiah points up 3 truths in this passage--- (a) God has limitless power and wisdom; (b) He gives this strength to those who have need; and (c) His promised power is conditioned upon waiting for Him. We demonstrate the reality of our trust in Him when we willingly wait for as long as He sees fit to make us wait.

* Such a paradox is this! Rather than depleting our strength, with energy ebbing away to collapse, waiting on the LORD actually produces new strength. As we focus our full attention on the LORD, He replenishes our spiritual vitality, according to our capacity.

Bits & Pieces: Promised Security

"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word," (II Thessalonians 2:16,17).

* As Paul seeks God's comfort and strength for the Thessalonian believers, he cites three (3) ways in which the Lord has committed Himself to His chosen children: (1) He has loved us, unconditionally, from all eternity; (2) He has given us eternal comfort--- the on-going, inner security of His acceptance; and (3) He has given us good hope by grace, the Holy Spirit-produced certainty of salvation.

* In this brief benediction, Paul desires God's comfort and strength for the Thessalonians' daily living. He reminds them of three areas in which God has provided assurance of their security: (a) God has expressed His love for His own through sanctification by the Holy Spirit; (b) precious and magnificent promises in God's Word related to their eternal election from the beginning unto salvation; and (c) His grace has given good hope, the certainty of seeing Him face to face.

Bits & Pieces: Promised Security

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time," (I Peter 1:3--5).

* In this doxology of praise to God, Peter touches on at least three (3) important truths: (a) our salvation is a result of God's sovereign grace and power; (b) this eternal inheritance of salvation is reserved in heaven, supremely secure; and (c) not only is our inheritance guarded, but we, too, are protected from within, our glorification made certain.

* The more intense the trouble, the more perplexing the pain, the more precious become the basic truths of our faith. The readers of this letter were experiencing appalling persecution, so Peter reminds them of their most fundamental confidence--- they had been born again. The security of our salvation stands us in good stead when everything else crumbles and falls apart.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bits & Pieces: Promised Security

"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus," (Philippians 1:6).

* The apostle Paul here expresses his joyful confidence in the sovereign certainty of God's sanctifying work in the lives of the Philippian believers. In Paul's mind there isn't the remotest possibility of the Lord ceasing His holy work in the genuine Christian's walk. We may experience obvious blessing, the discomfort of discipline, or even strong silence ---- but He will perfect His sanctifying work!

* As prone as we are to start a project and fail to follow it through, Satan can put the thought in our hearts that God, too, might quit His salvation project in our lives. Yet Paul knows better, and rejoices in the confident assurance that what the Lord begins He will bring to completion. Our part is to rest in His provision and cooperate completely with His Spirit.

Bits & Pieces: Promised Security

"Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you," (II Peter 1:10,11).

* The Holy Spirit makes it clear through the apostle Peter that God wants His children to be certain about their salvation. 'Calling' refers to God's effective application of salvation, while 'choosing' is His work of sovereignly selecting some sinners to be saved, while passing by all the rest.
An ever-maturing growth and development in godliness demonstrate that a believer is one of God's chosen.

* The apostle Peter speaks of two important evidences for the Christian that he will reach his eternal home. The first is an experiential finality, where we can make certain God's election by an inner witness of the Holy Spirit, and a godly lifestyle. The second is an eternal evidence, promised by God at the time of our death.

Bits & Pieces: Promised Security

"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen," (Jude 24, 25).

* In the final two verses of his book, Jude concludes with a jubilant benediction, giving God great praise for keeping us and eventually glorifying us. He bids us rejoice in the truth that the only One who can keep us saved is the One who saved us. And when we stand before Him in blameless glorification, every bit of the credit and glory will be rightly His.

* At the conclusion of his letter, Jude breaks forth into a glorious doxology, praising God for His power in keeping us, and His perfection in glorifying us. We are to rejoice in our present security, and exult in anticipating our glorification when we'll see our Savior. Then, we too, will break forth in the undiluted praise our Lord so richly deserves.

* In the light of God's grace and love, Jude bursts forth in adoration and praise, glorifying the Lord. Two aspects of God's power and provision form the basis for his doxology: (a) He keeps us, and (b) He will glorify us in heaven. In our salvation now He provides security, and at death He promises blameless perfection.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bits & Pieces: Promised Security

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, " (Romans 8:38,39).

* When attacked and persecuted by a hostile world, as were the Roman Christians, the believer can feel abandoned by his Lord. The apostle Paul counters such fear of separation by listing every conceivable force which can come against us, and exposing its defeat. In Christ Jesus our Lord, the unconditional, victorious love of God overwhelmingly conquers our insecurities, as we take God at His Word.

* Few feelings are more common to mankind than that of fear. And for the Christian, the worst fear is that of being separated from his Savior. Paul paints the impossibility of such a separation in the sharpest colors possible, leaving us no doubts that we are secure in the supreme love of the Lord Jesus.

* Although the fellowship a Christian enjoys with his Lord may be broken by sin, the relationship of being a child of the King can never be severed. For, when the Lord Jesus saves a person, there is an eternal relationship established which no force or enemy can destroy.
Our response to such terrific truth should be a life of holiness, gratefully obedient to the One who keeps us in His unconditional love.

Bits & Pieces: Promised Security

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand," (John 10:27--29).

* For the Christian, described here as a sheep, the Lord Jesus promises both eternal life and confident security. Because He has given us eternal life, we have confidence in the face of physical death, knowing we will live forever, spiritually. And because we are clasped in the all-powerful hands of both Father and Son, we can never be snatched from our loving Lord's protection.

* Few passages in all of Scripture portray as clearly and assuringly the security of the Christian as this one. We who are His can never be lost, because He has given us eternal life, and because both Father and Son hold us securely. How should we respond to such truth? Praise! Thanksliving! Worship!

* What great comfort and confidence in His care our Lord must want us to have, in declaring these assuring truths of Christian security. The one who has genuinely been born again can never be eternally lost, can never spiritually perish, can never be snatched from the sovereign Lord's possession. Such a source of rejoicing these verses should be, as we meditate on our amazing Savior's provision!