Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Luke 4:16--30

"And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, 'THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE DOWNTRODDEN, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.' And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, 'Is this not Joseph's son?' And He said to them, 'No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your home town as well.' And He said, 'Truly I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.' And all in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way."

As the young Rabbi stood to read from the Tanakh that day in the packed synagogue, word had already spread like wildfire, relating the healings and other signs He had performed in the surrounding towns. Even before He came through the gates, He had known what the reception would be (and the reasons why...): He had not attended the usual school(s) for rabbis...consequently, the Sadduccees and Pharisees among the people would not accept His teaching as authoritative; in a society that venerated age, He was but 30, and, for some that would be a stumblingblock; for others, the fact that they knew his family, were familiar with His upbringing, and had seen no miracles in Nazareth such as the ones they were hearing about being performed in Capernaum and elsewhere, caused them to doubt His messianic claims. Yet, underlying it all that day, He knew His Father's will to be done, even down to the exact portion of Scripture He should read. No more, no less.
Why were all eyes riveted upon Him? Why did He sit? For one thing, the passage pointedly predicts the ministry of the Messiah...and for another thing, being seated was the posture of authority for a teacher.
Thus, the astonishment became shock, then gradually anger at the nerve of such an upstart rogue of a Rabbi, who would dare declare that the passage had been fulfilled in their hearing (!)

Yet His audacity was not done. Not enough that He claims to be the Anointed One... now He cites an episode in the experience of each of Israel's most revered prophets, Elijah and Elisha, to demonstrate God's sovereignty, in general, and how He expressed it toward Gentiles, in particular.
Their response of rage is revealing: the world hates the truth that God is sovereign, for it is a humbling acknowledgement that pride refuses. Pride, too, was at the core of their hatred of the Gentiles...and the thought that God could possibly open the way of salvation to any other than the Jews was simply beyond them.
As they rushed upon the Lord Jesus, it was miraculous that He simply walked away from the precipice of the cliff, through the incensed mob, and on His way. Displayed in the power of the Spirit, His sovereignty was clearly demonstrated, and the crowd dispersed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Gospel Message

I came across an intriguing emphasis in the following simple statement of the Gospel message by John Samson, that seemed worth pondering... "The message of the Gospel is this: All who place their trust in Christ as Savior and Lord are therefore saved by God, from God, for God."

At the outset he wisely acknowledges that the Good News of salvation involves faith in Jesus as Lord as well as Savior. The Master said, "You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am." (John 13:13) With the authority of lordship He declared, "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" (John 10:27, 28). Only God can give eternal life. Only as sovereign Lord could Jesus do so.
As Jonah 2:9 says, "Salvation is from the LORD." In eternity past, the LORD God the Father set His heart upon a multitude no man can number, from every tribe and nation, according to His good pleasure, for whom His Son would lay down His life as an atonement. It is these whom the Lord Jesus terms His sheep in the John 10 passage previously quoted. In verse 30 of that passage, the Lord Jesus stated, "I and the Father are one." Although some have tried to use it as a text for disproving the doctrine of the Trinity, that simply won't do. Rather, the Lord Jesus is emphasizing the united purpose and action between Himself and His Father in protecting and preserving the "sheep." All for whom the Lord Jesus died will be saved in the end. It is a certainty, for it was divinely-ordained from all eternity, divinely accomplished on the cross and by the resurrection, and divinely applied individually by the blessed Holy Spirit in His sovereign timing. Thus, every believer's salvation is initiated by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and applied by the Spirit.

    Notice, too, that the one who is saved through trust in the Lord Jesus Christ is not only saved by God, but from God. The popular assumption of the world, encouraged by the "God- loves-you-and-has-a-wonderful-plan-for-your-life" teaching, is that God accepts and loves everyone on the planet equally, regardless.  It plays well with the presumption that humanity is basically good (even if flawed) and deserving of heaven...and God is love, after all.  

Trouble is, "There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, Together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one." (Romans 3:10--12)  The Bible plainly teaches that it is a terrible thing to experience the wrath of the living God... for, "those who do not know God and...who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus...will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (II Thessalonians 1:8,9).  Their final destination is described in Revelation 20:14,15  "Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone's name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."  There, the weeping, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth never cease, nor do the thirsting, the regrets, the remorse, and the tormented memories, forever and ever.  Thus, regardless of public opinion, political correctness, or wishful thinking, life is short, hell is real, and eternity is forever.

Finally, the Gospel message speaks of the salvation in the Lord Jesus being for God.  Here, as in so many other ways, the plan of man's redemption is far-too-often presented as a sales pitch..."here's what's in it for YOU!!"  Promises of peace, prosperity, pie-in-the-sky-bye-n'-bye, overshadow the Lord Jesus' call to discipleship-for-life, self-denial, and cross-bearing (Luke 9:23).  Some protest: "Oh, but that kind of thing is for later...get 'em saved first...then share the "deeper" stuff like lordship truth."  Yet, observe the Master in His calling of men to Himself, and there is continual presenting His lordship in no uncertain terms.  

So, too, should our sharing of His Gospel message be unashamedly centered upon His sovereign Lordship, as well as saving grace, so that God may be glorified as He alone is worthy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do." (John 17:4)

As it is that the Lord Jesus never wasted a thing, whether time, words, energy, or movement, there is a precision in the atonement as well. It was the magnum opus, the great work, which the Father had given Him to do... coming to this sin-cursed earth to reveal the only living and true God (v.3), and die in the place of those whom the Father had given Him (vss. 2, 9) in eternity past.  This two-pronged purpose was why He came, why He preached, why He taught, why He performed His attesting signs, and why He submitted to the terrible tortures of crucifixion.  And His agony was, of course, much more than physical. What He suffered spiritually, as the God-Man, was an exact equivalent of what His people would have suffered in an eternity in hell.

How can we possibly begin to thank You, blessed Savior, beloved Lord, for Your willingness to leave the triune bliss of heaven and come to walk among sinful humanity...?  We cannot fathom such perfect submission, such humble obedience, that You would lay down Your sinless life for the likes of us... actually becoming sin Who had never known the slightest hint of sin... all done that we might become the righteousness of God in You.  
Take such thoughts, blessed Holy Spirit, and use them to deepen our love for the Master, that we would walk in a manner worthy of His calling.  We, too, at the end, want to be able to say, "I accomplished the work You gave me to do."  In the Lord Jesus' Name, Amen.
"Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing." Psalm 37:7a, 8b

Thank You for this reminder, Father... in the urgency of decisions, and the impatience of my flesh, fretting sets in and peace vanishes. Worse, Your blessed Spirit is grieved and quenched...grieved that I aquiesced to the enemy, and quenched that I said "no" to Your Spirit... resulting in loss of fellowship, and a defiled conscience.

Teach me afresh that fretting is sin, that worry slanders Your promises, and staring at circumstances invites a spirit of fear. Rivet my gaze again upon the One Who is the Author and Finisher of my faith, determined to trust and rest in His sufficiency. Through the use of Your Truth to my wearied spirit, may I feed on Your faithfulness, encouraged to faith You for the future.
Thank You for Isaiah 41:10 " '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.' "
Thank You, gracious Father, for Your precious and magnificent promises, through and by which Your Spirit does His work of restoration.
In the Lord Jesus' name,

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

II Timothy 3:12 I Peter 4:12,13 John 15:19

"And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation."

"If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you."

There is something shocking about being hated without cause. To be disdained for doing something worthy of such a response, that's one thing... but to be dispised only for being who you are.... that's hard to take.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I John 2:17a

"The world is passing away, and also its lusts;"

Despite all its posturing and protests, all its attempts to mask the effects of decay and demise, there is little use in denying that the world system is, indeed, passing away. The entire medical field, as well as health and cosmetic industries, subsist on the ongoing efforts of aging people to delay the onset of death for as long as humanly possible.
This is understandable for those for whom this world is all there is... whose lives are bound up in this world system and its priorities (lusts).
But how saddened must be the heart of the Father when He sees His own children live only for this world and its values. Hear His poignant appeal: "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live,"
(Isaiah 55:2,3a).
A key means to keeping this world and its lusts in perspective is to continually listen to our Lord. The more mindful we are to His revealed will through His Word, to the inner promptings of His Holy Spirit, and with sensitivity to circumstances as He uses them, the clearer we will see His movement through our days. Sensing His activity boosts our confidence in His promises, increases our appetite for His Word, and transforms prayer into vital two-way conversations.

"Father, You know how we grow far too comfortable here, lapsing into becoming friends with the world system. Remind us again that this is not our home... that we are only passing through... that we are aliens and strangers on this sin-cursed earth, bound for that place the Lord Jesus has gone ahead to prepare for us..
Sensitize our hearing, Father, and deepen our desire to obey You when Your Spirit speaks. Stiffen our resolve to listen, that we may live. Forgive our selective hearing. Stretch our willingness to act upon that which You quietly, insistently require in prayer. Grant discernment to see where sin has taken root and unbelief is the fruit. Deal with it as You see fit, Father.
In the Lord Jesus' Name, Amen."