Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Victory over death and slavery

Bible Readings

  • Luke 24:1-2
  • Acts 13:26-39
  • Numbers 33:3-4

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,

It is not uncommon for us, when we hear that someone died, to ask, “How old was he/she?” The younger a child was when it died evokes in us unspeakable emotions.  If the person was very old, there is some contentment. We sometimes value life measured against the time spent on earth.  We often value a short life as a life wasted.  This is because we are born within the limits of time and space. 

The celebrations of Atonement Weekend (or Easter) has a pattern:  we adhere to the calendar of Jewish times.  We commemorate the crucifixion of Christ on the first Friday after the first full moon following the autumn equinox. This was the day on which the lambs were slaughtered when God, at midnight, passed through Egypt and struck all households with the death of the firstborn.  The next day was a new beginning for God’s people in Egypt, a day they had to celebrate annually.

On our calendar, today is the third day since Christ’s crucifixion.  On the third day, He rose again—it was on the first day of the week, another seven-day cycle indication of time.  In a special sense, every first day of the week to the Christian Church is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection.  

Resurrection morning

Early that morning, now more than 2000 years ago, followers of Christ went to his grave to care for the body of their dear friend.  In ancient times, people believed that one’s spirit would linger in your body for three days after you died; the fourth day heralded the fact that the body now has become a corpse, beyond any possibility of restoration.  Maybe they had in mind to d something before the fourth day.

The women arrived at the place where they had buried Jesus, but He was not there!  It grieved them beyond measure.  They found a messenger of God who announced:

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: (Luke 24:5–6, NIV)

He had not been stolen; He had not disappeared; it is no disaster, it all happened according to his word.  He rose from the dead by the power of the Father who called him to life!  Peter, on Pentecost Day, declared, 

God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts 2:24, NIV)

The Lamb that was slain is the Lamb upon the throne!  He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.  He holds the keys of death and hell.  He was dead, but He is alive!  So, we can sing with full voice and conviction:  Christ is risen today!  I serve the risen Saviour.  Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.”

According to God’s plan of redemption 

The victory of Christ over death was not unplanned unscheduled or without divine purpose.  That first day of the week was no accident or a fluke of time.  Christ’s resurrection was a fulfilment of a long list of promises of God to the very people who in rebellion snubbed his gracious care and providence by rejecting his ownership over them, falling in sin and with them, dragging all of creation into misery.   

Already in Paradise, straight after Adam and Eve’s rebellion, God made this promise:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, NIV)

Out of the bondage of service to idols, God called Abraham and gave him this promise:

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1–3, NIV)

Although Abraham did not see this promise go into fulfilment in his time, he believed this promise of God:

“Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. (Genesis 15:13–14, NIV)

Our reading from Numbers 33 takes us to the fulfilment of that promise.  But first this promise of God: 

“I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. (Exodus 11:1, NIV)

There was another addition to this promise: 

 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbours for articles of silver and gold. (The Lord made the Egyptians favourably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.) (Exodus 11:2–3, NIV)

Then midnight came, and God struck Egypt; then, when the sun rose the next morning, everything had changed.  It was a new beginning for the people of God.  They had a brand-new future. Their enemy was now powerless.

Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” (Exodus 12:31–33, NIV)

Let’s go to the verse in Numbers 33:3

The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods. (Numbers 33:3–4, NIV)

Rameses was the city to showcase the defiant and majestical powers of the Pharaoh.  But now, Egypt was in tatters.  The once might dynasty did have a successor on the throne.  There were dead bodies everywhere.  The people wailed for their loved ones; they mourned the loss of their animals.  That day, more than ever, people were gathered around open graves in anguish and sorrow.  There never had been anything like it. From what was left, they showered the Israelites with gold and silver, just to see them go.

The pharaoh had reigned over peoples in the northern parts of Africa, all along the Mediterranean coast, the peoples who inhabited the Promised Land, and countries including parts of the modern-day Syria, Iran and Iraq. Egypt was a mighty empire—but when God dealt with them, they were in mourning, shaken, and on their knees, struck with sorrow. The officials were divided against their king, and the kingdom was on shaky ground.  The pharaoh had enough.  “Leave and go!”  And as an afterthought, “Bless me also.”  Did he mean he was powerless against the God of Israel?  I think so.

But God fulfilled the promises for his people. They marched out triumphantly.  The Hebrew word has something of walking with your arms raised up in the air. Inevitably there were shouts of joy and jubilance.  

Redemption in Christ a reality

Let’s now jump into the New Testament with Paul preaching the Good News of Christ to the people in Antioch.  From Acts 13:17 the apostle picks it up in Egypt and makes this statement:   “He drove them out of that country with mighty powers.” He proceeds along the line of God’s promise from Abraham to David and says:  

Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus, as he promised. (Acts 13:23, ESV)

But one would think that the Jews would have picked up the theme of the prophets about God saving grace to his people in the face opposition.  But they did not!  What did they do?  Verse 27:

The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognise Jesus, yet in condemning Him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. (Acts 13:27, NIV)

He preaches on:  

When they had carried out all that was written about Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead, (Acts 13:29–30, NIV)

What is his summary about Christ?  

“We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “ ‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’ (Acts 13:32–33, NIV)

What is the sum of it all?  Listen:  

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38–39, NIV)

What happened to the people in the time of Moses?  They were set free!  They walked out of Egypt as people with a new start.  The yoke of slavery was removed.  They threw their arms in the air and with shouts of joy they left victoriously.  Who gave them freedom?  God!  What happened to their oppressors?  They were defeated, broken, on their knees.

What is the inheritance of those who believe in Jesus Christ?  The head of the serpent is crushed.  Listen to Hebrew 2:14:  

Since the children have flesh and blood, He [Christ] too shared in their humanity so that by his death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— (Hebrews 2:14, NIV)

Those who believe in Christ are forgiven, they are set free, they are justified.  Why?  The enemy is destroyed! Satan is defeated.  In his letter to the Colossians, Paul puts it this way: 

Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He [Christ] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:15, NIV)

 Paul writes to Timothy stressing the grace of God in our redemption:  

… it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.  (2 Timothy 1:10–11, NIV)

Therefore we, with arms in the air, in a jubilant song of victory, march with the Israelites out of Egypt singing, 

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54–57, NIV)

Satan’s hold on God’s children is broken because from their Saviour they received the perfect righteousness which satisfies the Father.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.    

A warning following the Good News

After Paul connected the dots from the Old Testament through to the New to arrive at the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, he ends with this warning:  

Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: (Acts 13:40, NIV)

Even then people heard the Good News, but they rejected it.  There is, therefore, the possibility that even some who have listened to the Good News that Christ is victorious over death, granting freedom from sin by exchanging his righteousness for our sin to reconcile us with his Father, that some might still walk away with unbelieving hearts.  May it not happen to you, my dear friend.  

This message of freedom from wrath and sin is for you.  Listen, repent, and follow Christ.

May God give you the grace and faith to do so.  

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 21 April 2019

 

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Undivided loyalty to Christ, the King (1)

Scripture Readings

  • Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 17-22
  • Revelation 13:1-10

Introduction

Dear friends in the Lord,

They tell of the event when an umpire made a questionable judgment during a footy match. It sent the crowd into an uproar. The line judge was asked for his opinion.  Then just for a brief moment, there was total silence.  In that little window of quietness someone yelled out, “He wants to know how the rules work because he doesn’t know it himself!” 

Can you imagine the confusion on any sports field between the players if there were no rules!  More than that, can you picture the situation on the stands if there were no rules!  We have vivid pictures in our minds of soccer fans being stampeded and even killed in support rage.

God and his law

We don’t read the Ten Commandments every Sunday as we did this morning, be we surely should pay more attention to it.  In God’s Kingdom, there is just no room for people to follow their own minds and make their own laws.  We heard in the children’s address about the need to walk by the Law and to think according to the law.  

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4–5, ESV)

Because God is the one and only God, there is only one law to live by. “For the Lord, your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:24, ESV)  He poured out his love on his people, holding back nothing to save them.  

…it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments… (Deuteronomy 7:8–9, ESV)

Moses repeatedly called the people to obey God with an undivided heart.  He used the phrase “Hear now…” in 4:1, 6:4, and 9:1, and in between he repeats phrases like “remember” and “keep”.

The book of Deuteronomy is a section of sermons of Moses which he preached to the people after their forty years of wanderings through the wilderness, but before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land.  He reflects on lessons of the past and prepares them to occupy their God-given inheritance.  

He stressed the importance of undivided loyalty to God by observing his laws.  One major point of his sermons was his warning not to mix with the heathens and so become like them.  

It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— (Deuteronomy 6:13–14, ESV)

The gift of an inheritance 

You know how one can read the same pages of Scripture for years and still miss things.  In my study last week my mind caught specific threads running through the Scriptures, but previously I just couldn’t make the connections.  To be honest, it is not so obvious, and one needs to cross-referenced through the pages to get it.

In Deuteronomy 7:22, Moses says:  

The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. (Deuteronomy 7:22, ESV)

Just a few verses further he mentions the silver and gold of the idols and calls them “a testable thing”.

On the surface, the “wild beasts” and the “detestable thing” may just mean what it actually says, but John in Revelation draws from these pictures of the Old Testament.  He leans very heavily on the visions of the “wild beasts” in Daniel who also makes mention of the “detestable thing” of which we read about in Revelation 13.  One commentator thinks that the “wild beasts” can indeed serve as a figure of the demonic which perverts the divine image of man into something sub-human.  

John, as one of the apostles of Christ, wrote the Apocalypse to prepare Christians for an era of unprecedented persecution.  Christ sends his church into the world to spread the good news about his victory over sin and death, and he also prepared them for the abuse they would face. The apostle John received the word of the Apocalypse from Christ Himself (Revelation 1:10), all the while being persecuted himself (Revelation 1:9), to encourage the Christians during the persecution, but also the warn them to serve the Lord with undivided loyalty.   

John uses known elements of the Old Testament in his book.  To all seven of the congregations he wrote to he uses the phrase very similar to the one Moses used to warn the people against the mixing of pure obedience to the Lord.  Moses repeated “Hear Israel”, and John uses “he who has an ear, let him hear” to the six churches in Asia Minor.  He also uses the phrase “he who overcomes” repeatedly, meaning “he who resists” the evil and not give in.  When it comes to Chapter 13 as we read it this morning, he repeats “he who has an ear” in verse 9.  In verse 18 he uses a phrase which connects back to both hearing and overcoming:  This calls for wisdom and insight.

A fierce battle

The connection between Moses in Deuteronomy is more than just accidental.  Moses prepared God’s people to cross the Jordan with the Word of God in their hands and minds, facing fierce resistance in a land filled with idols, false gods, and demons —  wild beasts”.  For them to overcome and settle the land as God promised they had to serve God with undivided loyalty; compromise with any god other than their Covenant God would lead to disaster.  

When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it but will be utterly destroyed. (Deuteronomy 4:25–26, ESV)

But they had God’s promise of his absolute love and compassion, his unfailing love to go ahead of them, to destroy the wild beasts before them, and live with them.  Their inheritance was free, a gift of grace, they just needed to take hold of it by faith and obedience to their God.  

…you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt…You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. (Deuteronomy 7:21, ESV)

The same applies to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We will receive a Promised Land one day, but in the meantime, we need to “occupy” the mission field of the world with undivided loyalty to Christ and his Word.  From this Word we shall not take away anything, to it we cannot add; we need to pay absolute obedience to it — it is the only warranty for success.  We are engaged in a fierce battle with the “wild beasts” — not only symbols of resistance but the real deal:  the devil!

I apologise for not really getting into chapter 13 of Revelation today as announced.  But know this: the church of Christ is the target of Satan who seeks to destroy her.  We know that he employs all he can, both political structures and false prophets to try to seduce God’s people away from the truth by all possible means.

Satan hates Christ and his church

Let’s just get the framework which Chapter 12 gives us.  It tells the story of God’s people of the Old Testament from whom the Messiah would be born.  The picture is of a pregnant woman, about to give birth.  But as she was about to give birth an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns appeared.  It was a mighty beast who had much power.  The dragon (verse 9 identifies him as the ancient serpent, the devil, Satan who leads the whole world astray) wanted to kill the child, Jesus Christ, as soon as he was born.  We learn for this scene that the actual war was aimed at Christ, who brought salvation and had authority over him.   

However, as soon as the child was born, he was taken into a place of safety under the guard of God, and Satan was hurled down.  Satan has no authority against the blood of Christ, and Christians loved Him more than their lives.  This is undivided loyalty.  

But Satan is more than ever determined to undermine the work of Christ.  He is filled with fury because he knows his time is short. He knows he has no authority over Christ and focusses his destruction on the church.  What he just cannot understand is that God’s people, those whose names are written in the Book of Life (13:8) live under the protection of Christ.  What he is aware of, is that not everyone in the church is indeed a faithful follower of Christ.  Satan is enraged and makes war against the offspring of the woman, which is the church, those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus (12:17).

Conclusion

My friend, do you get the picture?  If you belong to Christ, if your name is written in the Book of Life, if you are under that protection of the blood of Christ, you are the target of Satan who will try whatever he can, he will employ all the forces he can to drag you away.

Therefore the warning of the Word of God:  serve Christ with undivided loyalty, have his Word in your heart, in your mind, let it reign your thoughts and your decisions.  The battle is fierce and if you don’t stand firm, you will not endure.  But don’t be afraid.  Your Saviour gave you this command:  

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV)

Lord-willing, next week we will concentrate on the beast out of the sea, and then, the beast out of the earth.

Amen. 

J.C. Ryle: Holiness

Total depravity

The blind man can see no difference between a masterpiece of Titian or Raphael, and the Queen’s Head on a village signboard. The deaf man cannot distinguish between a penny whistle and a cathedral organ.

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First published in 1877, reprinted in 2001 by Charles Nolan Publishers 

The very animals whose smell is most offensive to us have no idea that they are offensive, and are not offensive to one another.

And man, fallen man, I believe, can have no just idea what a vile thing sin is in the sight of that God whose handiwork is absolutely perfect—perfect whether we look through telescope or microscope—perfect in the formation of a mighty planet like Jupiter, with his satellites, keeping time to a second as he rolls round the sun—perfect in the formation of the smallest insect that crawls over a foot of ground.

No proof of the fulness of sin, after all, is so overwhelming and unanswerable as the cross and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole doctrine of His substitution and atonement. Terribly black must that guilt be for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be which made Jesus groan and sweat drops of blood in agony at Gethsemane, and cry at Golgotha, ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’

Awful and tremendous as the right view of sin undoubtedly is, no one need faint and despair if he will take a right view of Jesus Christ at the same time.



The need for Christ to save

A little child is easily quieted and amused with gaudy toys, and dolls, and rattles, so long as it is not hungry; but once let it feel the cravings of nature within, and we know that nothing will satisfy it but food. Just so it is with man in the matter of his soul.

Once let him see his sin, and he must see his Saviour. He feels stricken with a deadly disease, and nothing will satisfy him but the great Physician. He hungers and thirsts, and he must have nothing less than the bread of life.



Sanctification

He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonouring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Saviour. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness,” but their “sanctification.” (1Corinthians 1:30.)

The nature of sanctification

  • Sanctification is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian.—“He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 15:5.)
  • Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He that is born again and made a new creature, receives a new nature and a new principle, and always lives a new life.
  • Sanctification is the only certain evidence of that indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is essential to salvation. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” (Romans 8:9.) The Spirit never lies dormant and idle within the soul: He always makes His presence known by the fruit He causes to be borne in heart, character, and life.
  • Sanctification is the only sure mark of God’s election.  It is expressly written that they are “elect through sanctification – chosen unto salvation through sanctification – predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son – and chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that they should be holy.” – Hence, when St. Paul saw the working “faith” and labouring “love” and patient “hope” of the Thessalonian believers, he says, “I know your election of God.” (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3-4.)
  • Sanctification is a thing that will always be seen.  Whether he sees it himself or not, others will always see in him a tone, and taste, and character, and habit of life unlike that of other men. The very idea of a man being “sanctified,” while no holiness can be seen in his life, is flat nonsense and a misuse of words.
  • Sanctification is a thing for which every believer is responsible.  A man who professes to be a true Christian, while he sits still, content with a very low degree of sanctification (if indeed he has any at all), and coolly tells you he “can do nothing,” is a very pitiable sight, and a very ignorant man.
  • Sanctification implies growth.  If there is any point on which God’s holiest saints agree it is this: that they see more, and know more, and feel more, and do more, and repent more, and believe more, as they get on in spiritual life, and in proportion to the closeness of their walk with God.
  • Sanctification depends greatly on a diligent use of Scriptural means. I should as soon expect a farmer to prosper in business who contented himself with sowing his fields and never looking at them till harvest, as expect a believer to attain much holiness who was not diligent about his Bible- reading, his prayers, and the use of his Sundays. Our God is a God who works by means, and He will never bless the soul of that man who pretends to be so high and spiritual that he can get on without them.
  • Sanctification does not prevent a man having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict.  A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within.
  • Sanctification cannot justify a man, and yet it pleases God.  The holiest actions of the holiest saint that ever lived are all more or less full of defects and imperfections. They are either wrong in their motive or defective in their performance, and in themselves are nothing better than “splendid sins,” deserving God’s wrath and condemnation. To suppose that such actions can stand the severity of God’s judgment, atone for sin, and merit heaven, is simply absurd.
  • Sanctification will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the great day of judgment.  He who supposes works are of no importance, because they cannot justify us, is a very ignorant Christian. Unless he opens his eyes, he will find to his cost that if he comes to the bar of God without some evidence of grace, he had better never have been born.
  • Sanctification is absolutely necessary in order to train and prepare us for heaven.

Visible marks of sanctification

  • True sanctification then does not consist in talk about religion.  We must be sanctified, not only “in word and in tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18.)
  • True sanctification does not consist in temporary religious feelings. Let us urge on every one who exhibits new interest in religion to be content with nothing short of the deep, solid, sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost. No state of soul is more dangerous than to imagine we are born again and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, because we have picked up a few religious feelings.
  • True sanctification does not consist in outward formalism and external devoutness. In many cases this external religiousness is made a substitute for inward holiness.
  • Sanctification does not consist in retirement from our place in life, and the renunciation of our social duties. Christ would have His people show that His grace is not a mere hothouse plant, which can only thrive under shelter, but a strong, hardy thing which can flourish in every relation of life. It is doing our duty in that state to which God has called us – like salt in the midst of corruption, and light in the midst of darkness – which is a primary element in sanctification. “I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15.)
  • Sanctification does not consist in the occasional performance of right actions. It is the habitual working of a new heavenly principle within, which runs through all a man’s daily conduct, both in great things and in small.
  • Genuine sanctification will show itself in habitual respect to God’s law, and habitual effort to live in obedience to it as the rule of life. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that a Christian has nothing to do with the law and the Ten Commandments, because he cannot be justified by keeping them.
  • Genuine sanctification will show itself in an habitual endeavour to do Christ’s will, and to live by His practical commands.  “You are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14.)
  • Genuine sanctification will show itself in an habitual desire to live up to the standard which St. Paul sets before the Churches in his writings. That standard is to be found in the closing chapters of nearly all his Epistles.
  • A sanctified man will try to do good in the world, and to lessen the sorrow and increase the happiness of all around him.
  • Genuine sanctification, in the last place, will show itself in habitual attention to the passive graces of Christianity. Long-suffering, gentleness, and meekness, are unquestionably passive graces. (Galatians 5:22, 23.)

The distinction between sanctification and justification 

There are points in which they agree and points in which they differ. Let us try to find out what they are.

In what are justification and sanctification alike?

  • Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.
  • Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people. Christ is the fountain of life, from which pardon and holiness both flow. The root of each is Christ.
  • Both are to be found in the same persons. Those who are justified are always sanctified, and those who are sanctified are always justified. God has joined them together, and they cannot be put asunder.
  • Both begin at the same time. The moment a person begins to be a justified person, he also begins to be a sanctified person.
  • Both are alike necessary to salvation. No one ever reached heaven without a renewed heart as well as forgiveness, without the Spirit’s grace as well as the blood of Christ, without a meetness for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.

In what do justification and sanctification differ?

  • Justification is the counting a man to be righteous because of Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous.
  • The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification, although imparted and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit involves us as we grow in obedience and trust.
  • In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful. In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour.
  • Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.
  • Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.
  • Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God’s sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.
  • Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.
  • Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.

A few observations

  • If unsanctified souls can be saved and go to heaven, the Bible is not true. Yet the Bible is true and cannot lie! What must the end be!
  • What are our tastes, and choices, and likings, and inclinations? This is the great testing question. It matters little what we wish, and what we hope, and what we desire to be before we die. Where are we now? What are we doing? Are we sanctified or not?
  • The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ. We must first live and then work.
  • If we would grow in holiness and become more sanctified, we must continually go on as we began, and be ever making fresh applications to Christ.
  • Our absolute perfection is yet to come, and the expectation of it is one reason why we should long for heaven.
  • Let us never be ashamed of making much of sanctification, and contending for a high standard of holiness.


 Holiness

What sort of persons are those whom God calls holy?

  • Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment – hating what He hates – loving what He loves – and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.
  • A holy man will endeavour to shun every known sin, and to keep every known commandment.
  • A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith in Him, and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labour to have the mind that was in Him, and to be “conformed to His image.” (Rom. 8:29.)  Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6, NIV)
  • A holy man will follow after meekness, longsuffering, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, government of his tongue.
  • A holy man will follow after temperance and self-denial. (Luke 21:34, 1Corinthians 9:27)
  • A holy man will follow after charity and brotherly kindness. He will endeavour to observe the golden rule of doing as he would have men do to him, and speaking as he would have men speak to him. (Romans 13:8)
  • A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others. He will strive to be useful in his day and generation, and to lessen the spiritual wants and misery around him, as far as he can (Acts 9:36)
  • A holy man will follow after purity of heart. He will dread all filthiness and uncleanness of spirit, and seek to avoid all things that might draw him into it.
  • A holy man will follow after the fear of God.
  • A holy man will follow after humility. He will desire, in lowliness of mind, to esteem all others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3)
  • A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life. He will try, not merely to fill his place as well as others who take no thought for their souls, but even better, because he has higher motives, and more help than they.  (Colossians 3:23)
  • A holy man will follow after spiritual mindedness. He will endeavour to set his affections entirely on things above, and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand. He will not neglect the business of the life that now is; but the first place in his mind and thoughts will be given to the life to come.

Sanctification is always a progressive work. It has a beginning.  Sanctification in the very best is an imperfect work.  The gold will never be without some dross – the light will never shine without some clouds, until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem.

True holiness is a great reality. It is something in a man that can be seen, and known, and marked, and felt by all around him. It is light: if it exists, it will show itself. It is salt: if it exists, its savour will be perceived. It is a precious ointment: if it exists, its presence cannot be hid.

Why practical holiness is so important

Can holiness put away sin – cover iniquities – make satisfaction for transgressions – pay our debt to God? No!  The white robe which Jesus offers, and faith puts on, must be our only righteousness – the name of Christ our only confidence – the Lamb’s book of life our only title to heaven.  With all our holiness we are no better than sinners.

  • We must be holy, because the voice of God in Scripture plainly commands it. The Lord Jesus says to His people, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 20; also:  Matthew 5:48, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 1 Peter  1:15-16)
  • We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world. Paul writes:  “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:15; also: Ephesians 5:25-26, Titus 2:14).  Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more – He breaks its power.
  • We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. If we would die the death of the righteous, let us not rest in slothful desires only; let us seek to live His life.
  • We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity (John 14:15, 21, 23: 15:14).  Surely that man must be in an unhealthy state of soul who can think of all that Jesus suffered, and yet cling to those sins for which that suffering was undergone.
  • We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we are true children of God. “Say not,” says Gurnall, “that thou hast royal blood in thy veins, and art born of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by daring to be holy.”
  • We must be holy, because this is the most likely way to do good to others. We cannot live to ourselves only in this world. Our lives will always be doing either good or harm to those who see them.  You may talk to persons about the doctrines of the Gospels, and few will listen, and still fewer understand. But your life is an argument that none can escape.
  • We must be holy, because our present comfort depends much upon it.  It is vain for anyone to suppose that he will have a lively sense of his justification, or an assurance of his calling, so long as he neglects good works, or does not strive to live a holy life. “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. (1 John 2:3, NIV).  “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence (1 John 3:18–19, NIV).  When the disciples forsook the Lord and fled, they escaped danger, but they were miserable and sad. When, shortly after, they confessed Him boldly before men, they were cast into prison and beaten; but we are told, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41, NIV)
  • We must be holy, because without holiness on earth we shall never be prepared to enjoy heaven. Heaven is a holy place. The Lord of heaven is a holy Being. How shall we ever be at home and happy in heaven, if we die unholy? Death works no change. The grave makes no alteration. Each will rise again with the same character in which he breathed his last. Where will our place be if we are strangers to holiness now? To reach the holiday of glory, we must pass through the training school of grace.

Application

  • Are you holy?  Not all “Christians” are.
  • Are you holy, or are you not?  Don’t look at others; it’s a personal question.
  • Are you yourself holy this very day, or are you not?  The great question is not what you think, and what you feel, but what you do.  “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14, NIV)   Surely it is a text that ought to make us consider our ways, and search our hearts. Surely it should raise within us solemn thoughts, and send us to prayer.
  • Impossible?  It can be done. With Christ on your side nothing is impossible.
  • Be unlike other people?  Christ’s true servants always were unlike the world around them – a separate nation, a peculiar people.
  • Only a few be saved?  “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14, NIV)We must not merely have a Christian name, and Christian knowledge, we must have a Christian character also. We must be saints on earth, if ever we mean to be saints in heaven.

I fear it is sometimes forgotten that God has married together justification and sanctification. They are distinct and different things, beyond question, but one is never found without the other. All justified people are sanctified, and all sanctified are justified. What God has joined together let no man dare to put asunder. Boast not of Christ’s work for you, unless you can show us the Spirit’s work in you.

Advice to all who desire to be holy

  • You must begin with Christ.  He is the root and beginning of all holiness, and the way to be holy is to come to Him by faith and be joined to Him.  “Wisdom without Christ is damning folly – righteousness without Christ is guilt and condemnation – sanctification without Christ is filth and sin – redemption without Christ is bondage and slavery.” (Traill)
  • Wait for nothing. Wait for nobody. Linger not. Think not to make yourself ready. Go and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn

Nothing in my hand I bring, 
Simply to Thy cross I cling;  
Naked, flee to Thee for dress;  
Helpless, look to Thee for grace. 

  • Holiness comes not of blood – parents cannot give it to their children: nor yet of the will of the flesh – man cannot produce it in himself: nor yet of the will of man – ministers cannot give it you by baptism. Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him, It is the fruit of being a living branch of the True Vine
  • Abide in Christ.  “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4–5, NIV)   He is the Physician to whom you must daily go, if you would keep well. He is the Manna which you must daily eat, and the Rock of which you must daily drink. His arm is the arm on which you must daily lean, as you come up out of the wilderness of this world. You must not only be rooted, you must also be built up in Him.


 The fight

There is a warfare which concerns every Christian man and woman born into the world. The warfare is the spiritual warfare. It is the fight which everyone who would be saved must fight about his soul. It has consequences which are awful, tremendous, and most peculiar.

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12, NIV)

  • True Christianity is a fight.  The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security.
  • Christians do not fight with other Christians.  The fight is not perpetual controversy. The cause of sin is never so much helped as when Christians waste their strength in quarrelling with one another, and spend their time in petty squabbles.
  • The fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are his never-dying foes. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. With a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, he must either “fight” or be lost.
  • He must fight the flesh. That heart will never be free from imperfection in this world, and it is a miserable delusion to expect it. The Lord Jesus bids us “watch and pray.”  There is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer.

No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:27, NIV)

  • The Christian must fight the world.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NIV)

  • The Christian must fight the devil.  Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always “going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour.” An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out all our ways. A “murderer and a liar” from the beginning, he labours night and day to cast us down to hell. (1Peter 5:8; John 8:44)

Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11–12, NIV)

  • Where there is grace there will be conflict. The believer is a soldier. There is no holiness without a warfare. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight.
  • It is a fight of absolute necessity. In this war we can’t remain neutral and sit still.  To be at peace with the world, the flesh and the devil, is to be at enmity with God, and in the broad way that leads to destruction. We have no choice or option. We must either fight or be lost.
  • It is a fight of universal necessity.  All have by nature a heart full of pride, unbelief, sloth, worldliness, and sin. All are living in a world beset with snares, traps, and pitfalls for the soul. All have near them a busy, restless, malicious devil.
  • It’s a fight of perpetual necessity.   “Even on the brink of Jordan,” said a dying saint, “I find Satan nibbling at my heels.” We must fight till we die.  The worst chains are those which are neither felt nor seen by the prisoner.
  • The child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two we have one. HE MAY BE KNOWN BY HIS INWARD WARFARE, AS WELL AS BY HIS INWARD PEACE.

True Christianity is a fight by faith

  • The truth of God’s written Word is the primary foundation of the Christian soldier’s character. No one ever fights earnestly against the world, the flesh and the devil, unless he has engraved on his heart certain great principles which he believes.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

  • Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’s person, work, and office, is the life, heart, and mainspring of the Christian soldier’s character.
  • Habitual lively faith in Christ’s presence and readiness to help is the secret of the Christian soldier fighting successfully.  Nothing enables him to bear the fatigue of watching, struggling, and wrestling against sin, like the indwelling confidence that Christ is on his side and success is sure. The whole power of imperial Rome, the mistress of the world, proved unable to stamp out the religion which began with a few fishermen and publicans in Palestine! And then let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the Church’s strength. They won their victory by faith.

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12, NIV)

  • If Christians do nothing , it is because they do not believe. Faith is the first step toward heaven.

True Christianity is a good fight

  • Civil war, even justified war, is an immense and incalculable ethical evil which leaves behind it destruction: it stems from sin.
  • The Christian’s fight is good because fought under the best of generals. The Captain of our salvation never fails to lead His soldiers to victory. He never makes any useless movements, never errs in judgment, never commits any mistake.
  • The Christian’s fight is good, because fought with the best of helps. Chosen by God the Father, washed in the blood of the Son, renewed by the Spirit, he does not go a warfare at his own charges, and is never alone. Weak as he seems in himself, like a worm, he is strong in the Lord to do great exploits. Surely this is good!
  • The Christian fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of promises. To every believer belong exceeding great and precious promises, because they are made by One who cannot lie, and has power as well as will to keep His word.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39, NIV)

  • The Christian’s fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of issues and results. No soldiers of Christ are ever lost, missing, or left dead on the battlefield. No mourning will ever need to be put on, and no tears to be shed for either private or officer in the army of Christ. The muster roll, when the last evening comes, will be found precisely the same that it was in the morning.
 “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” (John 18:9, NIV)
  • The Christian’s fight is good, because it does good to the soul of him that fights it.  It promotes humility and charity, it lessens selfishness and worldliness, it induces men to set their affections on things above. Philip Henry, in his last days he said to his family, “I take you all to record that a life spent in the service of Christ is the happiest life that a man can spend upon earth.” Surely this is good!
  • The Christian’s fight is a good fight, because it does good to the world.  Go where you please, you will find that the presence of a few true Christians is a blessing. Surely this is good!
  • The Christian’s fight is good, because it ends in a glorious reward for all who fight it.  The bravest generals and soldiers must go down one day before the King of Terrors. Better, far better, is the position of him who fights under Christ’s banner against sin, the world, and the devil. He may get little praise of man while he lives, and go down to the grave with little honour; but he shall have that which is far better, because far more enduring.

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:4, NIV)

We see only part of it as yet. We see the struggle, but not the end; we see the campaign, but not the reward; we see the cross, but not the crown. We see a few humble, broken-spirited, penitent, praying people, enduring hardships and despised by the world; but we see not the hand of God over them, the face of God smiling on them, the kingdom of glory prepared for them. These things are yet to be revealed. Let us not judge by appearances. There are more good things about the Christian warfare than we see.

Application

  • It may be you are struggling hard for the rewards of this world. Perhaps you are straining every nerve to obtain money, or place, or power, or pleasure. If that be your case, take care. Your sowing will lead to a crop of bitter disappointment. Come out from the ways of a thoughtless, unreasoning world. Take up the cross, and become a good soldier of Christ.  None who repent and believe are too bad to be enrolled in the ranks of Christ’s army. All who come to Him by faith are admitted, clothed, armed, trained, and finally led on to complete victory.  No doubt you will often meet with trouble, fatigue, and hard fighting, before your warfare is accomplished. But let none of these things move you. Greater is He that is for you than all they that be against you. Everlasting liberty or everlasting captivity are the alternatives before you. Choose liberty, and fight to the last.
  • It may be you know something of the Christian warfare, and are a tried and proved soldier already.  Let us remember that if we would fight successfully we must put on the whole armour of God, and never lay it aside till we die.

“In heaven we shall appear, not in armour, but in robes of glory. But here our arms are to be worn night and day. We must walk, work, sleep in them, or else we are not true soldiers of Christ.” (Gurnall’s Christian Armour.)

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. (2 Timothy 2:4, NIV)

  • Let us remember that the eye of our loving Saviour is upon us, morning, noon, and night. He will never suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, for He suffered Himself being tempted. He knows what battles and conflicts are, for He Himself was assaulted by the Prince of this world.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15, NIV)

  • Let us remember that thousands of soldiers before us have fought the same battle that we are fighting, and come off more than conquerors through Him that loved them. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb; and so also may we.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:12, NIV)

  • Christ’s arm is quite as strong as ever, and Christ’s heart is just as loving as ever. He that saved men and women before us is one who never changes.

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25, NIV)

  • Let us remember that the time is short.  A few more struggles and conflicts, and then we shall bid an eternal good-bye to warfare, and to sin, to sorrow, and to death. Then let us fight on to the last, and never surrender.

Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (Revelation 21:7, NIV)



The Cost

The cost ought of being a true Christian needs to be counted;  it is folly to shut our eyes to the fact that His way is narrow, and the cross comes before the crown.

Always keep in mind:  it costs nothing less than the blood of the Son of God to provide an atonement, and to redeem man from hell. The price paid for our redemption was nothing less than the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary.  But this not the point of discussion at the moment.  We are discussing what a man must be ready to give up if he wants to be a follower of Christ.

What it costs to be a true Christian

  •  It entails self-denial and self-sacrifice, otherwise we must alter the description of the way of life of saving Christianity is and write, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to heaven!”  Conversion is not putting a man in an arm-chair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory.
  • It will cost self-righteousness.  Be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace, and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another.  Give up all trust in own morality, respectability, praying, Bible-reading, church-going, and sacrament-receiving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ.  It might be harder to deny proud self than sinful self.
  • It will cost a man his sins.  He must set his face against it, quarrel with it, break off from it, fight with it, crucify it, and labour to keep it under, whatever the world around him may say or think. He must do this honestly and fairly. There must be no separate truce with any special sin which he loves. He must count all sins as his deadly enemies, and hate every false way. Whether little or great, whether open or secret, all his sins must be thoroughly renounced.

    Our sins are often as dear to us as our children: we love them, hug them, cleave to them, and delight in them. To part with them is as hard as cutting off a right hand, or plucking out a right eye. But it must be done.

But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. (Ezekiel 18:27–28, NIV)

  • It will cost a man his love of ease.  He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible-reading, and his use of Sundays, with all their means of grace.
  • It will cost a man the favour of the world.  He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn.

    When a limb is mortified, a man will submit to any severe operation, and even to amputation, to save life. Surely a Christian should be willing to give up anything which stands between him and heaven.

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:20-21,24, NIV)

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12, NIV)

Why  is “counting the cost” of such great importance to man’s soul

  • There are Christians who are not “rooted and ground” in their faith.  It remains shallow, based on superficial experience, emotions, sentiment, or a vague desire to do like others around them.  There is no solid work of grace in their hearts.  This is the opposite of what Paul prays for:

I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, (Ephesians 3:16–18, NIV)

Myriads of the children of Israel perished miserably in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan. They left Egypt full of zeal and fervour, as if nothing could stop them. But when they found dangers and difficulties in the way, their courage soon cooled down. And so, when enemies, privations, hunger, and thirst began to try them, they murmured against Moses and God, and would fain have gone back to Egypt. In a word, they had “not counted the cost,” and so lost everything, and died in their sins.

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. (Matthew 13:20–21, NIV)

  • Revival meetings (when it is Biblically unsound)
    • Some people who came to Christ during rival meetings base their Christian live (only) on an extravagant and disproportionate magnifying three things:  instantaneous conversion, the invitation of unconverted sinners to come to Christ, and the possession of inward joy and peace as a test of conversion.
    • The duty of coming to Christ at once, “just as we are,” should be pressed on all hearers. It is the very corner-stone of Gospel preaching. But surely men ought to be told to repent as well as to believe. They should be told why they are to come to Christ, and what they are to come for, and whence their need arises.
    • The nearness of peace and comfort in Christ should be proclaimed to men. But surely they should be taught that the possession of strong inward joys and high frames of mind is not essential to justification, and that there may be true faith and true peace without such very triumphant feelings. Joy alone is no certain evidence of grace.
    • Not all true converts are converted instantaneously, like Saul and the Philippian jailor.
    • Sinners are not sufficiently instructed about the holiness of God’s law, the depth of their sinfulness, and the real guilt of sin. To be incessantly telling a sinner to “come to Christ” is of little use, unless you tell him why he needs to come, and show him fully his sins.
    • Faith is not properly explained. In some cases people are taught that mere feeling is faith. In others they are taught that if they believe that Christ died for sinners they have faith! At this rate the very devils are believers!
    • The possession of inward joy and assurance is made essential to believing. To insist on all believers at once “rejoicing,” as soon as they believe, is most unsafe. Some will believe who cannot at once rejoice.
    • Last, but not least, the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, and the absolute necessity of preventing grace, are far too much overlooked. Many talk as if conversions could be manufactured at man’s pleasure.
    • Many humble -minded Christians are totally discouraged and daunted. They fancy they have no grace because they cannot reach up to the high frames and feelings which are pressed on their attention
  • Revival meetings (meeting the test of the Scriptures):
    • Let “all the counsel of God be taught” in Scriptural proportion; and let not two or three precious doctrines of the Gospel be allowed to overshadow all other truths.
    • Let repentance be taught fully as well as faith, and not thrust completely into the background. Our Lord Jesus Christ and St. Paul always taught both.
    • Let the variety of the Holy Spirit’s works be honestly stated and admitted; and while instantaneous conversion is pressed on men, let it not be taught as a necessity.
    • Let those who profess to have found immediate sensible peace be plainly warned to try themselves well, and to remember that feeling is not faith. Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. (John 8:31, NIV)
    • Let the great duty of “counting the cost” be constantly urged on all who are disposed to make a religious profession, and let them be honestly and fairly told that there is warfare as well as peace, a cross as well as a crown, in Christ’s service.
  • Conviction is not conversion, that feeling is not faith, that sentiment is not grace, that all blossoms do not come to fruit.
  • Do not speak only of the uniform, the pay, and the glory; speak also of the enemies, the battle, the armour, the watching, the marching, and the drill.

 Counting the cost rightly

  • Compare the profit and the loss.  You may possibly lose something in this world, but you will gain the salvation of your immortal soul.

Then He called the crowd to Him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save itWhat good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:34-36, NIV)

  • Compare the praise and the blame.  Your blame will come from the lips of a few erring, blind, fallible men and women. Your praise will come from the King of kings and Judge of all the earth. It is only those whom He blesses who are really blessed.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12, NIV)

  • Compare the friends and the enemies.  On the one side of you is the enmity of the devil and the wicked. On the other, you have the favour and friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:4–5, NIV)

  •  Compare the life that now is and the life to come.  The  present time is not a time of ease. It is a time of watching and praying, fighting and struggling, believing and working. But it is only for a few years. The future is the season of rest and refreshing. Sin shall be cast out. Satan shall be bound. And, best of all, it shall be a rest for ever.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18, NIV)

Compare the pleasures of sin and the happiness of God’s service.  The pleasures that the worldly man gets by his ways are hollow, unreal, and unsatisfying. The happiness that Christ gives to His people is something solid, lasting, and substantial. It is not dependent on health or circumstances. It never leaves a man, even in death. It ends in a crown of glory that does not fade away.

the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. (Job 20:5, NIV)

an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4–5, NIV)

  • Compare the trouble that true Christianity entails, and the troubles that are in store for the wicked beyond the grave.  A single day in hell will be worse than a whole life spent in carrying the cross.

 … remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. (Luke 16:25, NIV)

  • Compare the number of those who turn from sin and the world and serve Christ, and the number of those who forsake Christ and return to the world.
    • Noah, by faith, counted the cost and held the world’s opinion very cheap
    • Moses, by faith,  counted the cost and forsook the pleasures of the Pharaoh’s palace
    • Paul, by faith, brought upon himself the hatred of men in exchange of following Jesus Christ
  • The same faith must be our helper when we sit down to count the cost of being a true Christian.
  • We need to keep in mind:
    • does our faith cost us anything at present?  If it costs us nothing,  it will not support is in the day of affliction, nor cheer us in the hour of death
    • what it cost to provide a salvation for your soul. Think how the Son of God left heaven and became Man, suffered on the cross, and lay in the grave, to pay your debt to God, and work out for you a complete redemption.
    • persevere and press on; the presence and company of Christ will make amends for all we suffer here below.


Growth

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18, NIV)

There is such a thing as growth in grace

What is not meant by “growth”
  • A Christian can ever be more justified, more pardoned, more forgiven, more at peace with God, than he is the first moment that he believes.
  • The justification of a believer is a finished, perfect, and complete work; and that the weakest saint, though he may not know and feel it, is as completely justified as the strongest.
  • Our election, calling, and standing in Christ admit of no degrees, increase, or diminution.
What is meant by “growth”
  • An increase in the degree, size, strength, vigour, and power of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer’s heart.
  • His sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness more marked.
  • He experiences more of the power of godliness in his own heart. He manifests more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith, and from grace to grace.
  • This is what is stated in the Bible:
…you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more (1 Thessalonians 4:10, NIV)

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, (1 Peter 2:2, NIV)

  • The graces which the Christian received when he was justified in Christ are the same in principle, but they have grown and bear fruit

True grace is progressive, of a spreading, growing nature. It is with grace as it is with light: first, there is the day-break; then it shines brighter to the full noon-day. The saints are not only compared to stars for their light, but to trees for their growth, (Isaiah 61:3; Hosea 14:5.) A good Christian is not like Hezekiah’s sun that went backwards, nor Joshua’s sun that stood still, but is always advancing in holiness, and increasing with the increase of God.– Thomas Watson, Minister of St. Stephen’s Walbrook, 1660. (Body of Divinity.)

  • Growth in grace is the best evidence of spiritual health and prosperity
  • Growth in grace is one way to be happy in our faith
  • Growth is one secret of usefulness to others. Our influence on others for good depends greatly on what they see in us.
  • Growth in grace pleases God

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16, NIV)

  • Growth in grace is not only a thing possible, but a thing for which believers are accountable.

Christian, as ever you would stir up others to exalt the God of grace, look to the exercise and improvement of your own graces. When poor servants live in a family, and see the faith, and love, and wisdom, and patience, and humility of a master, shining like the stars in heaven, it draws forth their hearts to bless the Lord that ever they came into such a family. – When men’s graces shine as Moses’ face did, when their life, as one speaketh of Joseph’s life, is a very heaven, sparkling with virtues as so many bright stars, how much others are stirred up to glorify God, and cry, ‘These are Christians indeed! these are an honour to their God, a crown to their Christ, and a credit to their Gospel! Oh, if they were all such, we would be Christians too!” – T. Brooks, 1661. (Unsearchable Riches.)

There are marks by which growth in grace may be known

  • Increased humility.  The nearer he draws to God, and the more he sees of God’s holiness and perfection, the more thoroughly is he sensible of his own countless imperfections.  The riper he is for glory, the more, like the ripe corn, he hangs down his head. The brighter and clearer is his light, the more he sees of the shortcomings and infirmities of his own heart.
  • Increased faith and love towards our Lord Jesus Christ.  Growing in grace makes the Christian  sees a thousand things in Christ of which at first he never dreamed. His love and power – His heart and His intentions – His offices as Substitute, Intercessor, Priest, Advocate, Physician, Shepherd, and Friend, unfold themselves to a growing soul in an unspeakable manner.
  • Increased holiness of life and conversation.  The Christian is not content with old attainments and former grace. He forgets the things that are behind and reaches forth unto those things which are before, making “Higher!” “Upward!” “Forward!” “Onward!” his continual motto.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13, NIV)

  • Increased spirituality of taste and mind.  The ways, and fashions, and amusements, and recreations of the world have a continually decreasing place in his heart. He does not condemn them as down right sinful, nor say that those who have anything to do with them are going to hell. He only feels that they have a constantly diminishing hold on his own affections, and gradually seem smaller and more trifling in his eyes.
  • Increase of charity (love towards others).  His love will show itself actively in a growing disposition to do kindnesses, to take trouble for others, to be good-natured to everybody, to be generous, sympathising, thoughtful, tender-hearted, and considerate.
  • Increased zeal and diligence in trying to do good to souls. The man who is really growing will take greater interest in the salvation of sinners every year.  One of the surest marks of spiritual decline is a decreased interest about the souls of others and the growth of Christ’s kingdom.

The means that must be used by those who desire to grow in grace

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17, NIV)

  • Cast away for ever the vain thought that if a believer does not grow in grace it is not his fault.
  • The use of private means of grace. By these I understand such means as a man must use by himself alone, and no one can use for him:  private prayer, private reading of the Scriptures, and private meditation and self-examination.  Wrong here, a man is wrong all the way through!
  • The use of public means of grace:  regular Sunday worship, the uniting with God’s people in common prayer and praise, the preaching of the Word, and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  It is a sign of bad health when a person loses enjoyment for his food; and it is a sign of spiritual decline when we lose our appetite for means of grace.
  • Watchfulness over our conduct in the little matters of everyday life.  When a tree begins to decay at root or heart, the bad result is first seen at the extreme end of the little branches.  We must aim to have a Christianity which, like the sap of a tree, runs through every twig and leaf of our character, and sanctifies all.
  • Caution about the company we keep and the friendships we form.  Disease is infectious, but health is not.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NIV)

  • Regular and habitual communion with the Lord Jesus.  It is possible to have “union” with Christ, and yet to have little if any “communion” with Him.  The names and offices of Christ, as laid down in Scripture, appear to me to show unmistakably that this “communion” between the saint and his Saviour is not a mere fancy, but a real true thing. Between the “Bridegroom” and his bride – between the “Head” and His members – between the “Physician” and His patients – between the “Advocate” and His clients – between the “Shepherd” and His sheep – between the “Master” and His scholars – there is evidently implied a habit of familiar intercourse, of daily application for things needed, of daily pouring out and unburdening our hearts and minds.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

Application 

  • Do you know anything whets0ever about growth in grace?  Awake before it be too late; awake, and arise from the dead, and live to God.
  • Have you made little or no progress since you were first converted?  Does it seem that you have “become complacent?”  (Zephaniah 1:12.) Are you going on from year to year content with old grace, old experience, old knowledge, old faith, old measure of attainment, old religious expressions, old set phrases?  You are living far below your privileges and responsibilities?  Resolve this very day that you will find out the reason of your standstill condition. Probe with a faithful and firm hand every corner of your soul.
  • You might be really growing in grace, but no even know it.  We can never have too much humility, too much faith in Christ, too much holiness, too much spirituality of mind, too much charity, too much zeal in doing good to others. Then let us be continually forgetting the things behind, and reaching forth unto the things before. The best of Christians in these matters is infinitely below the perfect pattern of his Lord. Whatever the world may please to say, we may be sure there is no danger of any of us becoming “too good.”  At our very best we are far worse than we ought to be. There will always be room for improvement in us. We shall be debtors to Christ’s mercy and grace to the very last.  Let us not be surprised if we have to go through much trial and affliction in this world.  Sickness, and losses, and crosses, and anxieties, and disappointments seem absolutely needful to keep us humble, watchful, and spiritual-minded. They are as needful as the pruning knife to the vine, and the refiner’s furnace to the gold.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11, NIV)



Assurance

I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6–8, NIV)

We see the Apostle Paul looking three ways – downward, backward, forward.

  • Downward to the grave:
    • I am like an animal brought to the place of sacrifice, and bound with cords to the very horns of the altar. The drink-offering, which generally accompanies the oblation, is already being poured out. The last ceremonies have been gone through. Every preparation has been made. It only remains to receive the death-blow, and then all is over.
    • The time of my departure is at hand – I am like a ship about to unmoor and put to sea. All on board is ready. I only wait to have the moorings cast off that fasten me to the shore, and I shall then set sail, and begin my voyage.He stands upon the brink, and says “I see it all, and am not afraid.”
  • Backward:
    • I have fought a good fight.” – There he speaks as a soldier. I have fought that good fight with the world, the flesh, and the devil, from which so many shrink and draw back.
    • I have finished my course.” – There he speaks as one who has run for a prize. I have not turned aside because of difficulties, nor been discouraged by the length of the way. I am at last in sight of the goal.
    • I have kept the faith.” – There he speaks as a steward. I have held fast that glorious Gospel which was committed to my trust. I have not mingled it with man’s traditions, nor spoiled its simplicity by adding my own inventions, nor allowed others to adulterate it without withstanding them to the face.
    • “As a soldier, a runner, a steward, he seems to say, “I am not ashamed.
  • Forward:
    • Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing
    • He speaks without hesitation
    • His crown is a sure thing
    • He speaks as if he saw it all with his own eyes

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realised. (Hebrews 6:11, NIV)

An assured hope is a true and Scriptural thing

  • It is a positive gift of the Holy Ghost, bestowed without reference to men’s bodily frames or constitutions, and a gift which every believer in Christ ought to aim at and seek after.
  • The Church of Rome (wrongly) denounces assurance in the most unmeasured terms.
  • There are also some true believers who (wrongly) reject assurance, or shrink from it as a doctrine fraught with danger. They consider it borders on presumption.

True assurance is built upon a Scripture basis: presumption hath no Scripture to show for its warrant; it is like a will without seal and witnesses, which is null and void in law. Presumption wants both the witness of the Word and the seal of the Spirit. Assurance always keeps the heart in a lowly posture; but presumption is bred of pride. Feathers fly up, but gold descends; he who hath this golden assurance, his heart descends in humility.” – (Watson’s Body of Divinity, 1650)

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; (Job 19:25–26, NIV)

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3, NIV)

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. (Isaiah 32:17, NIV)

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. (1 John 3:14, NIV)

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12, NIV)

To be assured of our salvation is no arrogant stoutness; it is our faith. It is no pride; it is devotion. It is no presumption; it is God’s promise.” (Augustine)

  • It cannot be wrong to feel confidently in a matter where God speaks unconditionally – to believe decidedly when God promises decidedly – to have a sure persuasion of pardon and peace when we rest on the word and oath of Him that never changes.
  • A Christian believes the Lord Jesus means what He says, and takes Him at his Word.  Assurance after all is no more than a full-grown faith.

If the ground of our assurance rested in and on ourselves, it might justly be called presumption; but the Lord and the power of His might being grounded thereof, they either know not what is the might of His power, or else too lightly esteem it, who account assured confidence thereon presumption.” – Gouge’s Whole Armour of God.

Never did a believer in Jesus Christ die or drown in his voyage to heaven. They will all be found safe and sound with the Lamb on Mount Zion. Christ loseth none of them; yea, nothing of them. (John vi. 39.) Not a bone of a believer is to be seen in the field of battle. They are all more than conquerors through Him that loved them.” (Romans 8:37. 37.) – Robert Traill.

A believer may never arrive at this assured hope, which Paul expresses, and yet be saved

  • To believe and have a glimmering hope of acceptance is one thing; to have joy and peace in our believing, and abound in hope, is quite another. All God’s children have faith; not all have assurance.
  • A man must feel his sins and lost estate – must come to Jesus for pardon and salvation – must rest his hope on Him, and on Him alone.

As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:11, NIV)

  • It seems a Christian may be troubled with fear upon fear, and doubt upon doubt. He may have many an inward question, and many an anxiety – many a struggle, and many a misgiving – clouds and darkness – storm and tempest to the very end. He reaches his desired haven weather-beaten and tempest-tossed, scarcely realising his own safety, till he opens his eyes in glory.
  • Faith is the root, and assurance is the flower. Doubtless you can never have the flower without the root; but it is no less certain you may have the root and not the flower.  Faith is Peter’s drowning cry, as he began to sink: “Lord save, me!” (Matthew 14:30.) Assurance is that same Peter declaring before the Council in after times, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.” (Acts 4:11)
  • Faith is the anxious, trembling voice, “Lord, I believe: help Thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24.) Assurance is the confident challenge, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemns?”                                                                                                                       (Romans 8:33-34.)
  • He that has faith does well. They are safe. They are washed. They are justified. They are beyond the power of hell. Satan, with all his malice, shall never pluck them out of Christ’s hand. But he that has assurance does far better – sees more, feels more, knows more, enjoys more.

All saints shall enjoy heaven when they leave this earth; some saints enjoy heaven while they are here on earth” (Joseph Caryl, 1653)

Why an assured hope is exceedingly to be desired

  • Assurance is to be desired because of the present comfort and peace it affords.
    • Assurance goes far to set a child of God free from this painful kind of bondage.
    • Assurance makes him patient in tribulation, calm under bereavements, unmoved in sorrow, not afraid of evil tidings, in every condition content, for it gives him a fixedness of heart. It sweetens his bitter cups; it lessens the burden of his crosses; it smooths the rough places over which he travels; it lightens the valley of the shadow of death.
    •  General “hopes” and “trusts” are all very well to live upon while the sun shines and the body is strong; but when we come to die, we shall want to be able to say, “I know” and “I feel” The river of death is a cold stream, and we have to cross it alone. No earthly friend can help us. The last enemy, the king of terrors, is a strong foe. When our souls are departing, there is no cordial like the strong wine of assurance.

It was a saying of Bishop Latimer to Ridley, ‘When I live in a settled and steadfast assurance about the state of my soul, methinks than I am as bold as a lion. I can laugh at all trouble: no affliction daunts me. But when I am eclipsed in my comforts, I am of so fearful a spirit that I could run into a very mouse-hole.’” (Quoted by Christopher Love, 1653)

  • Assurance tends to make a Christian an active working Christian.
    • None, generally speaking, do so much for Christ on earth as those who enjoy the fullest confidence of a free entrance into heaven, and trust not in their own works, but in the finished work of Christ.
    • He looks at the everlasting covenant sealed with blood, at the finished work, and never-broken word of his Lord and Saviour, and therefore counts his salvation a settled thing.

Assurance would make us active and lively in God’s service: it would excite prayer, quicken obedience. Faith would make us walk, but assurance would make us run – we should think we could never do enough for God. Assurance would be as wings to the bird, as weights to the clock, to set all the wheels of obedience a-running.” – Thomas Watson.



Moses: an example  

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:23–26, NIV)

What Moses gave up and refused 

Moses gave up three things for the sake of his soul

He refused rank and greatness

If he had been content with the position in which he found himself at the Egyptian court, he might easily have been among the first (if not the very first) in all the land of Egypt. To be somebody, to be looked up to, to raise themselves in the scale of society, to get a handle to their names – these are the very things for which many sacrifice time, and thought, and health, and life itself. But Moses would not have them as a gift. He turned his back upon them. He refused them. He gave them up!

He refused pleasure

Egypt was a land of artists, a residence of learned men, a resort of everyone who had skill, or science of any description.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15–17, NIV)

Pleasure is the shadow which all alike are hunting – high and low, rich and poor, old and young, one with another – each, perhaps, pretending to despise his neighbour for seeking it – each in his own way seeking it for himself – each secretly wondering that he does not find it – each firmly persuaded that somewhere or other it is to be found. This was the cup that Moses had before his lips.

He refused riches

To possess money seems to hide defects – to cover over faults – to clothe a man with virtues. People can get over much, if you are rich! But here is a man who might have been rich, and would not. He would not have Egyptian treasures. He turned his back upon them. He refused them. He gave them up!

Moses did these things 

  • deliberately – He was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22).  He knew what he was refusing
  • because he was obliged; his decision was not based in any dire earthly necessity which cause him to disregard the things of this world

What Moses chose

He chose three things for the sake of his soul

  • He chose suffering and affliction:  He openly took part with the children of Israel. They were an enslaved and persecuted people – an object of distrust, suspicion, and hatred; and anyone who befriended them was sure to taste something of the bitter cup they were daily drinking. If ever man seemed to be choosing pain, trials, poverty, want, distress, anxiety, perhaps even death, with his eyes open, Moses was that man. Moses saw the cup of suffering that was before him if he left Pharaoh’s court, and he chose it, preferred it, and took it up.
  • Moses chose the company of a despised people:  He left the society of the great and wise, among whom he had been brought up, and joined himself to the Children of Israel. He who had lived from infancy in the midst of rank, and riches, and luxury, came down from his high estate, and cast in his lot with poor men – slaves, serfs, helots, pariahs, bondservants, oppressed, destitute, afflicted, tormented – labourers in the brick-kiln. Here is a man who does far more. He not merely feels for despised Israel, but actually goes down to them, adds himself to their society, and lives with them altogether. He became one with them – their fellow, their companion in tribulation, their ally, their associate, and their friend.
  • Moses chose reproach and scorn:  There are few things more powerful than ridicule and scorn. It can do far more than open enmity and persecution. Many a man who would march up to a cannon’s mouth, or lead a forlorn hope, or storm a breach, has found it impossible to face the mockery of a few companions, and has flinched from the path of duty to avoid it. To be laughed at! To be made a joke of! To be jested and sneered at! To be reckoned weak and silly! To be thought a fool! – There is nothing grand in all this, and many, alas, cannot make up their minds to undergo it!

Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. (Acts 7:22, NIV)

He chose to go after these things, they did not come upon him unawares

Moses was moved by  a principle:  he was faith-driven  

He did so because he believed. God set before the eyes of his mind His own will and purpose. God revealed to him that a Saviour was to be born of the stock of Israel, that mighty promises were bound up in these children of Abraham, and yet to be fulfilled, that the time for fulfilling a portion of these promises was at hand; and Moses put credit in this, and believed. God had spoken to him, and he had faith in God’s word.

  • He believed God’s promises
  • He believed that with God nothing was impossible
  • He believed God was all-wise
  • He believed God was merciful.  Faith told Moses that God was love, and would not give His people one drop of bitterness beyond what was absolutely needed.
  • Faith was like a telescope to Moses
  • Faith was an interpreter to Moses.  It made him pick out a comfortable meaning in the dark commands of God’s handwriting, while ignorant sense could see nothing in it but mystery and foolishness.
  • Faith made Moses look forward to heaven
  • Faith made him understand the consequences of sin and it pleasures
  • Faith made him understand the rewards for obedience to God
  • Faith made Moses understand that affliction and suffering were not evils, but the school of God for training in godliness
  • Faith connected him with the people of God
  • Faith made Moses look forward to Christ who would be greater than him
  • Faith made him understand that all the kings and kingdoms of this world will fall, but the kingdom of God will remain forever

The name of Pharaoh’s daughter has perished, or at any rate is extremely doubtful; the city where Pharaoh reigned is not known; the treasures in Egypt are gone. But the name of Moses is known wherever the Bible is read, and is still a standing witness:

Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord. (Proverbs 16:20, NIV)

Application

You must choose God before the world 
  • There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and is worth nothing. You cannot be a friend of Christ and a friend of the world at the same time. You must come out from the children of this world, and be separate; you must put up with much ridicule, trouble, and opposition, or you will be lost for ever. There can be no saving faith without sacrifices and self-denial.
  • Is there any cross in your Christianity? Are there any sharp corners in your religion, anything that ever jars and comes in collision with the earthly-mindedness around you? or is all smooth and rounded-off, and comfortably fitted into custom and fashion?

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow Me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25–27, NIV)

Nothing will ever enable you to choose God before the world, except faith.
  • There must be a real heartfelt belief that God’s promises are sure and to be depended on; a real belief that what God says in the Bible is all true, and that every doctrine contrary to this is false, whatever anyone may say.
  • You must learn to believe promises better than possessions; things unseen better than things seen; things in heaven out of sight better than things on earth before your eyes; the praise of the invisible God better than the praise of visible man.
  • There must be a real abiding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The life that you live in the flesh you must live by faith of the Son of God. There must be a settled habit of continually leaning on Jesus, looking unto Jesus, drawing out of Jesus, and using Him as the manna of your soul. You must strive to be able to say:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21, NIV)

The true reason why so many are worldly and ungodly is because they have no faith.
  • They do not put implicit confidence in the words that God has written and spoken, and so do not act upon them. They do not thoroughly believe hell,and so do not flee from it -nor heaven,and so do not seek it-nor the guilt of sin,and so do not turn from it – nor the holiness of God, and so do not fear Him – nor their need of Christ, and so do not trust in Him, nor love Him.
  • There are many who Sunday after Sunday repeat the Creed, and yet will live all the week as if Christ had never died, and as if there were no judgment, and no resurrection of the dead, and no life everlasting at all; their lives show plainly they know not anything as they ought to know; and the saddest part of their state is that they think they do!
  • A faith that does not influence a man’s practice is not worthy of the name. There are only two classes in the Church of Christ – those who believe and those who do not. The true Christian believes, and therefore lives as he does..
The true secret of doing great things for God is to have great faith. 
  • In walking with God, a man will go just as far as he believes, and no further. His life will always be proportioned to his faith. His peace, his patience, his courage, his seal, his works – all will be according to his faith.
    • What is prayer, but faith speaking to God?
    • What is Christian diligence, but faith at work?
    • What is Christian boldness, but faith honestly doing its duty?
    • What is holiness, but faith visible and faith incarnate?
  • Faith is the root of a real Christian’s character. Let your root be right, and your fruit will soon abound. Your spiritual prosperity will always be according to your faith. He that believes shall not only be saved, but shall never thirst – shall overcome – shall be established – shall walk firmly on the waters of this world – and shall do great works.


Lot: A Beacon – He lingered

And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. (Genesis 19:16, NKJV)

What Lot was himself

Lot was a true believer – a converted person – a real child of God – a justified soul – a righteous man

… He rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)… (2 Peter 2:7–8, ESV)

  • He was wounded, grieved, pained, and hurt at the sight of sin.
  • He did not at length become cool and lukewarm about sin, as many do. Many a man is shocked and startled at the first sight of wickedness, and yet becomes at last so accustomed to see it, that he views it with comparative unconcern.
  • Was Lot perfect?  No!  Was he saved? Yes!  We do not despise gold because it is mixed with much dross. We must not undervalue grace because it is accompanied by much corruption.

What do we learn from Lot’s behaviour?

  • Lot lingered.
  • Lot knew the fearful judgment coming down on all within its walls. The angels had said plainly, “The Lord has sent us to destroy it.” (Genesis 19:13.) And yet he lingered.
  • Lot believed there was danger – for he went to his sons-in-law, and warned them to flee. (Genesis 19:14) And yet, he lingered.
  • Lot saw the angels of God standing by, waiting for him and his family to flee Sodom (Genesis 19:15).  Yet, he lingered.
  • There are many real children of God who appear to know far more than they live up to, and see far more than they practise, and yet continue in this state for many years. Wonderful that they go as far as they do, and yet go no further! They acknowledge the Head, even Christ, and love the truth. They like sound preaching, and assent to every article of Gospel doctrine, when they hear it. But still there is an indescribable something which is not satisfactory about them. They are constantly doing things which disappoint the expectations of their ministers, and of more advanced Christian friends. Marvellous that they should think as they do, and yet stand still!
  • They hate the devil; but they often appear to tempt him to come to them. They know the time is short; but they live as if it were long. They know they have a battle to fight; yet a man might think they were at peace. They know they have a race to run; yet they often look like people sitting still. They know the Judge is at the door, and there is wrath to come; and yet they appear half asleep. They linger! 
  • These are they who get the notion into their minds that it is impossible for all believers to be so very holy and very spiritual! They allow that eminent holiness is a beautiful thing. They like to read about it in books, and even to see it occasionally in others. But they do not think that all are meant to aim at so high a standard.
  • They would fain please everybody, and suit everybody, and be agreeable to everybody. But they forget they ought first to be sure that they please God.
  • These are they who dread sacrifices, and shrink from self-denial. They never appear able to apply our Lord’s command, to “take up the cross,” and “cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye.” (Matthew 5:29-30)
  • They spend their lives in trying to make the gate more wide, and the cross more light. But they never succeed.
  • These are they who are always trying to keep in with the world. They are ingenious in discovering reasons for not separating decidedly, and in framing plausible excuses for attending questionable amusements, and keeping up questionable friendships. These are they who cannot find it in their hearts to quarrel with their besetting sin, whether it be sloth, indolence, ill-temper, pride, selfishness, impatience, or what it may. They allow it to remain a tolerably quiet and undisturbed tenant of their hearts. All is summed up in these words:  “They lingered!

The reasons that may account for Lot’s lingering

  • He made a wrong choice in early life:  He chose by sight, and not by faith. He asked no counsel of God, to preserve him from mistakes. He looked to the things of time, and not of eternity.
  • Lot mixed with sinners when there was no occasion for his doing so:  Make a wrong choice in life – an unscriptural choice – and settle yourself down unnecessarily in the midst of worldly people, and I know no surer way to damage your own spirituality, and to go backward about your eternal concerns.
  • Beware of Lot’s choice! If you would not settle down into a dry, dull, sleepy, lazy, barren, heavy, carnal, stupid, torpid state of soul, beware of Lot’s choice!
  • Remember this in choosing a calling, a place, or profession in life. It is not enough that the salary is high – the wages good – the work light – the advantages numerous – the prospects of getting on most favourable. It will profit you nothing to fill your purse, if you bring leanness and poverty on your soul. Think of your soul!
  • Remember this in choosing a husband or wife, if you are unmarried.
  • Grace is a tender plant. Unless you cherish it and nurse it well, it will soon become sickly in this evil world. It may droop, though it cannot die. The brightest gold will soon become dim when exposed to a damp atmosphere. The hottest iron will soon become cold. It requires pains and toil to bring it to a red heat: it requires nothing but letting alone, or a little cold water to become black and hard.
  • Lingering:
    • there will come a cancer on your spiritual life, and eat out its vitality without your knowing it
    • there will come a slow consumption on your spiritual strength, and waste it away insensibly
    • at length you will wake up to find your hands hardly able to do the Lord’s work, and your feet hardly able to carry you along the Lord’s way, and your faith no bigger than a grain of mustard seed;
    • and this, perhaps, at some turning point in your life, at a time when the enemy is coming in like a flood, and your need is the sorest.

What kind of fruit Lot’s lingering spirit bore at last

  • Keep in mind:  eminent holiness and eminent usefulness are most closely connected
    • Lot did no good among the inhabitants of Sodom:  He appears to have had no weight or influence with the people who lived around him. He possessed none of that respect and reverence which even the men of the world will frequently concede to a bright servant of God.  His life carried no weight; his words were not listened to; his religion drew none to follow him.
    • Lot helped none of his family, relatives or connections towards heaven:  there was not one among them all that feared God.   Lingering parents seldom have godly children. The eye of the child drinks in far more than the ear. A child will always observe what you do much more than what you say.

So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. (Genesis 19:14, ESV)

Lot left no evidences behind him when he died:  The Scripture appears to draw a veil around him on purpose. There is a painful silence about his latter end. He seems to go out like an expiring lamp, and to leave an ill-savour behind him.  Lingering Christians have little peace, and reach heaven, to be sure; but they reach it in poor plight, weary and footsore, in weakness and tears, in darkness and storm. They are saved, but “saved so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15.)

Application

To walk closely with God –

  • to be really spiritually-minded
  • to behave like strangers and pilgrims
  • to be distinct from the world in employment of time, in conversation, in amusements, in dress
  • to bear a faithful witness for Christ in all places
  • to leave a savour of our Master in every society
  • to be prayerful, humble, unselfish, good-tempered, quiet, easily pleased, charitable, patient, meek
  • to be jealously afraid of all manner of sin, and tremblingly alive to our danger from the world

these are still rare things! They are not common among those who are called true Christians, and, worst of all, the absence of them is not felt and bewailed as it should be.

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:10, ESV)

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25, NIV)

  • Would you be found ready for Christ at His second appearing – your loins girded – your lamp burning – yourself bold, and prepared to meet Him? Then do not linger!
  • Would you be useful to the world in your day and generation? – Would you draw men from sin to Christ, adorn your doctrine, and make your Master’s cause beautiful and attractive in their eyes? Then do not linger!
  • Would you help your children and relatives towards heaven, and make them say, “We will go with you”? – and not make them infidels and despisers of all religion? Then do not linger! 
  • If you are a lingerer, you must go to Christ at once and be cured. You must turn again to Christ and be healed. The way to do a thing is to do it. Do this at once!

Earnestly believe that He will yet revive His work within you! Only return from lingering, and confess your folly, and come – come at once to Christ.

Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’ ” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:13, NIV)

“Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” “Yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God. (Jeremiah 3:22, NIV)



Towards the cross

Eye for eye – God’s demand for justice

 

Scripture Readings

  • 2Corinthians 5:11-6:2
  • Deuteronomy 19:15-21

Introduction

Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy 19:21, NIV)

It took me many years to work out what “brotherly love” meant.  Our household, like many others I suppose, represented your typical family where brothers got stuck into one another – and it did not always portray love between brothers.  Later in life I worked it out that sin was part of our daily life – but we still loved one another.  And it is almost if I can still hear Mom’s rebuke, that was when things got a bit hot, “Do not repay evil with evil!

Even a word from the Bible sometimes did not help when you knew that you had a case against your brother.  You just felt you wanted justice.

Then one day I read this passage in the Bible: “eye for and eye, hand for hand, foot for foot.”  I had my verse.  I had grounds for retaliation and revenge!

But is this the meaning of the verse?

In preparation for this sermon I read quite a few commentaries.  When it comes to this particular verse some of them just skip it.  There was one who argued that this verse, and the other places in the Bible where it is mentioned, is the most embarrassing in the Bible and should be removed, or not referred to at all.

I beg to differ.  It is my clear conviction that this verse underlies the reason for the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Whilst reading this verse in Exodus 21:23-24, I wrote a comment:

This principle, I believe, lies behind the cross of Christ. He bore the punishment of God on all harm and injustice in his Person to satisfy the righteousness of God. 

Justice, not retaliation

Study the paragraph of Deuteronomy, and you will know that the setting is that of disputes in a court of law.  There is no hint of personal retaliation or vindictiveness.

I am the Lord your God

Above and over all the regulations and case laws that Moses gave to the people of the Lord, stood the Ten Commandments.  The top line reads, “I am the Lord your God.” No less than 76 times do we read this in the first five books of the Bible.  God has a claim on his people, and his people were different, living under a different law, and were saved from slavery to be the possession of the Lord, their God.

When it comes to the second table it speaks about the love for the neighbour: God’s people was driven by the first table, which is the love for God and God’s love for them.  All relationships between the people of God stood under the overarching principle of love.  One would honour your father and mother because God loves them, gave them to you, they love Him and you love Him.  One would not murder another person, because God loves him, he loves God and you love him.  The same applies to adultery, stealing, and lying in court:  God loves me, I love Him; He loves my neighbour and I should love my neighbour.

Sin distorts justice

So when we go back to Deuteronomy 19 these principles are assumed – but sinful nature gets in the way:  people do lie, justice is perverted and retaliation becomes a reality.  They needed priests, judges, a thorough investigation and a verdict.

Sin makes life difficult.  We hate, lie, steal, and covet.  We know the law, and yet we trespass; we need a judge, we need a verdict, we need justice,we need punishment.  We need and eye for an eye – not driven by retaliation or vindication, but because we need justice.

In the presence of the Lord

Ever wondered where the custom to take an oath and be sworn in as witness in a court of Law comes from?  Where does “So help me God” come from?

“our law (like that of most civilized nations) requires a witness to believe, not only that there is a God and a future state of rewards and punishments, but also that, by taking the oath, he imprecates upon himself, if his evidence is false” (Simon Greenleaf)

Witnesses, even in the day of Moses, had to understand that truth is universal, because God is omnipresent.  That’s why the witnesses of Deuteronomy stood “in the presence of the Lord.”  The priests and judges also sat in the presence of the Lord and had to measure out justice as God determined: they could only take the side of truth, not of the circumstance or the person.

Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy 19:21, NIV)

To stem the possibility of retaliation, and only seek justice, any person who felt that he was dealt with unjustly, could approach the judges and priests.  Then, even the quality and quantity of the witnesses were tested:  two or three who were there when the alleged injustice took place;  their statements had to be tested as the truth.  And if it is proved that the witness is corrupt, what he wanted to be done to the person charged, would be done to him.

Punishment fits the Crime

Until very recently this was a principle accepted by the courts.  Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot and life for life.  Justice demands that the penalty for a crime should not inflict harsher punishment than the crime called for.  We know of no case in the Scripture where this law demanded an actual eye, foot, or teeth, but the compensation sought by a person for injustice against him could be measured out only in as far as he received injustice.

Justice good for the people of God

“You must purge the evil from among you.  The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid. and never again will such an evil thing be done among you.” (Deuteronomy 19:20)

Much can be said about punishment dished out be courts in our days, but fact is many law-breakers do not fear the law, and citizens in general have not much respect for the law, purely because the penalty does not fit the crime.  It is wrong to try to get rid of a cat by putting it in a rubbish bin, but if you did and you get caught it, your punishment could be harsher that someone who raped and elderly person, or even killed a partner.  We do not even mention injustices which might be legal, but still horribly wrong:  think of abortions!

God instituted the law of eye for eye, foot for foot, tooth for tooth and life for life to be an example of justice; it was meant to be a deterrent.  It was not “correctional” as we have it these days; it was exemplary punishment.

God’s righteousness demands justice

Whoever thought this verse in the Bible is an embarrassment, or thought it gives every individual to exercise personal retaliation, has it wrong.  The only principle laid down here is that of justice.  Fact is, God’s righteousness demands justice.  This principle helps us to understand the cross and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

God’s righteousness and the cross

We are all sinners

The Bible is clear about our position before God:  “we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Listen to Isaiah 59:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched. Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands. Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace. So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. (Isaiah 59:2–10, NIV)

All the sins mentioned here goes back to the Law of God, and as such, to the paragraph in Deuteronomy:  hands are stained with blood (guilty!); false lips (guilty!); no justice (guilty!); utter lies (guilty!); evil deeds (guilty!); violence (guilty!); evil schemes (guilty!).  The result?  Justice is far from us.  We are like dead!

This is the picture Paul paints in his letter to the Ephesians:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1–3, NIV)

God cannot turn a blind eye on sin

There is a principle in the Bible which may crush every sinner if it is not read in the full context of the cross of Christ.  It reads:

‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” (Numbers 14:18–19, NIV)

God is merciful and abounding in love and forgiving sin, yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.  It seems contradictory:  He forgives in love, but does not leave the guilty unpunished!

This is true of the Bible message from the beginning to end.  Anyone who wanted to approach the Lord on his own terms would be crushed.  Yes, God is merciful and forgiving, but He demanded that a sacrifice be brought:  the blood of lambs and bulls satisfied God’s judgment on sin in the Old Testament; without that there was no forgiveness.

God does not turn a blind eye to sin

Point is, God does not turn a blind eye to sin.  Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life.  We demand justice, but we need justice.  How can we demand justice if we are born in sin, and utterly corrupted by sin?  How can we ask for forgiveness if we are unforgiving?  Can God just say, “I forgive you”, without penalty on sin?  Would He still be holy if He did so?  Would He still be righteous if He let the unrighteousness off the hook without repentance and punishment?  Such a God I don’t want to worship.

Eye for eye, life for life

God solved our problem, not because we deserved it, and not because He just forgives or overlooks sin.  He solved our problem by being just.  He punished in righteousness, not compromising his holiness.  He gave his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord to be our mediator.

When Jesus walked this earth He constantly referred to the fact that He would be handed over in the hands of sinners.  When He was brought before them, all rules of justice went out the window:  no proper witnesses, no truth in the allegations; lies conjured up by people off the street; an illegal court meeting in the middle of the night; bribes paid to witnesses.  They let robbers free to have Him crucified.  They had Him flogged even though they found no reason to do so. Even those who followed Him, lied about Him (Peter) and others deserted Him (the disciples).

When they nailed Him to the cross, He prayed to the Father that He would forgive them.  Then, He faced the righteousness of the Father:  justice called for eye for eye, tooth for tooth and life for life.  He cried out, “Why have Thou forsaken Me?

Paul understood the cross and the Saviour and writes:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18, 21) NIV)

In Christ the righteousness of God is met:  He paid for our big sins, the small ones and every one in between – eye for eye.  We might think it is not a big sin, but all our sins are an offence to the holiness of God and demands his righteous justice.  When Christ died in our place, the punishment fitted the crime, though He did not deserve it;  if He did not do it, we needed to do it – and the consequence would have been disastrous, because we are God’s enemies.

Conclusion

My dear friend in the Lord, Christ’s death on the cross is your vindication;  those who do not trust in Him for forgiveness will find the justice of God’s righteousness calling for retaliation: eye for eye, life for life.

Make sure that your life is save in Christ who took God’s judgement and became your righteousness.  When He returns He will vindicated those who suffered under unbelieving and oppressing regimes; and his enemy will be punished.  All because of justice.  Eye for eye, and life for life.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 13 April 2014

 

Living by faith (9)

Run the race with endurance

Scripture Readings

  • 2 Chronicles 20:1-12
  • Hebrews 12:1-12

Introduction

Dear friend in the Lord,

The Bible teaches us about the reality of the demon possession. I believe it is a state of the soul which we will see increasing as our society become less Christian and more anti-Christian.  Demon possessed people are tormented by satan in different forms: it can be illnesses, hallucinations, personality disorders, psychological pathology, and all sorts of dreadful things.  When such a person hears the irresistible call of the Gospel and find new life and victory in Jesus Christ, it becomes a truly life-changing event.  Evil in his life is defeated by Christ, Jesus sets him free and on his face appears a smile instead of the grimace of unspeakable torture.

For such a person life becomes a song in comparison with his old life.

On the other hand, for the person who has had some church background, or for the one who does not always think about religion, life is fairly simple – on the surface, any case.  He is not concerned about the purpose of life, and although he might hear the voice of the Lord through the witness of Christians, hell doesn’t worry him and heaven is the proverbial pie in the sky when you die.  Such a man does not get the devil’s interference in his life either – at least on the surface.  Satan is happy with him being in fools paradise.  Because he does not believe in hell, the devil does not exist and whatever sin his commits, it does not bother him – at least on the surface. We know there will be a day that all of us will appear at the judgement throne of Christ.  It will be too late then too start being concerned about these things.

Having said all these things about non-believers, in a sense something of what is true about the non-believing atheist, can be true of some Christians:  they might have come to Christ some time ago, but there is no joy-generating peace in their hearts.  They are neutral, or as the Bible puts it, they are not warm, neither cold.  They might have chosen to be Christian because it promised to be easier, at least on the surface.  Such people do not experience much opposition from the devil either, because their inactive and unproductive Christian life is no threat to his business. It reminds us of the words of Our Lord: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

A huge crowd followed Jesus after He multiplied the bread and fed five thousand at one go.  Jesus then said:

Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” (John 6:26, NIV)

When later they heard that Jesus is the Son of Man, demanding from them that they believe in Him as the One whom the Father sent, they turned from Him and went home.  Some of them might even have been there when they shouted, “Crucify Him!” Jesus then looked at his disciples and asked:

You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. (John 6:67, NIV)

Because they were enabled by God to know right from wrong, Peter, on behalf of the rest said:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68–69, NIV)

When Jesus healed the demon-possessed man in the region of the Gerasenes, he pleaded with Jesus to henceforth walk with Jesus, but our Lord said:

Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19, NIV)

This that man did, and I am sure he faced much opposition.  Remember, they begged Jesus to leave their area.

This man understood that he a race to run.

We have a race to complete

When we come to Jesus and follow Him as disciples, life indeed changes.  We are set free as we understand that Jesus Christ took our punishment on Him and came out the other end victorious over death, hell, sin and satan.

We are then not placed on the pavilion to watch the race in front of us; no, we  only have our seats booked in the pavilion when we die in the Lord, the race completed.  As saved sinners we become runners.  With single-minded, committed runners in this race with Christ, the devil is most unhappy.  Life becomes a bit risky as be actively became participants in the battle against evil on our way to heaven.

Like the demon-possessed of Mark 5, we turn around in our tracks, do what Jesus commands us to do and face a hostile world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I know of so many Christians who attended church for all their life without being aware of a race or a battle to be won.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:25, NIV)

Therefore he says:

I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. (1 Corinthians 9:26, NIV)

He uses other metaphors to describe the same thing.  First, that of a soldier:

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. (2 Timothy 2:3–4, NIV)

Then that of an athlete:

Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. (2 Timothy 2:5, NIV)

Then an example we should know well:

The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. (2 Timothy 2:6, NIV)

The point with the last is the farmer that does not work for the joy of the moment, but for the joy of the harvest.  Be tween planting and harvesting there is no rest; and sure enough, there is a lot of hard work, lots of worry, and much more at stake – but the joy of the harvest outweighs it all.

My dear brother and sister, why do we follow Christ?  What made us decided to become one of Him?  Are we aware of our serious calling to complete the race?  Are we fit for the race?  Do we even exercise for to be on the track?

I received email from a friend this week.  He writes:

There is a severe crisis in our churches. Most of our people are ignorant of history, and have a very superficial grasp of Scripture. As a result, many professing Christians are compromising, cowardly and ineffective. Our churches are filled with weak, worldly, lukewarm and inactive members. The salt has lost its flavour, and all too often the light is being hid under a bushel.

May I encourage you with the words of the old song:

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!

We have encouragement to complete the race

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1, NIV)

We sometimes see on TV how the athletes start clapping to see the crowd following them in rhythmic clap as they prepare for their high jump or pole vault.  There on the pavilion sit those who love them, who have seen them develop from a struggling athlete to a champion.  Parents might be sitting there, but most of all, the trainer is there too.  He was most probably an athlete himself and therefore he knows the obstacles very well.  To get his encouragement means the world. When there is not immediate success, his ongoing encouragement and coaching might just lead to the gold medal one day.

Do we still know the excitement and fear of a bouncing heart as we run the race of a Christian, maybe telling others about Christ?  Listen, in the crowd on the pavilion sits Noah who to deal with godless people too.  He preached righteousness to those who were exceedingly sinful.  Take heart, he ran the race and completed, so can you.

Jesus said:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26, NIV)

Is there perhaps something that you find so difficult to lay down at the feet of Jesus that you can’t complete the race.  Just for one moment, look up into the pavilion and search for Abraham:  he left his country, his people, and his father’s household and went where the Lord showed him the way.  And when God demanded of him his only son, the one he loved, the one God promised would be his heir, he took the baton and an the race – and he completed it.  So can you.

Jesus said:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? (Luke 14:28, NIV)

Are you afraid that you might not be able to pay the cost of discipleship.  Are you afraid that you might not succeed?  Look up in the crowd and look for Moses.  Of him the Bible says:

He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:25–26, NIV)

He ran the race and he completed. Take courage from him. Follow and trust the Lord like he did.  He did it by living by faith.  So can you.

Have you prayed so many times that you would receive proof of your faith, that it is indeed worth the while to keep on going on, and yet there is not much to show.  You feel alone and discouraged.  Look into that crowd and search for Joseph.  Remember how he encouraged his own people to not give up, even though they had to wait about 400 years?  Remember he only had a box of dead bones to show for what he really believed in, and yet he said:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20, NIV)

He understood to fix his eyes upon Jesus and wait for a faith that is sure of what he hoped for, certain although he did not see.  Take courage from Joseph; he ran the race and completed it – so can you.

Do you feel that you are closed in by the enemy, especially now that you have become a disciple of Jesus Christ: your friends don’t like you anymore, your family and relatives think you have lost it, and on top of it, the devil is not happy with the way you live: he is all over the place with temptations, discouragements, lies, accusing you of all sorts of things, trying to get you to give up.  Listen, do you hear the voice of Moses in the crowd:

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13–14, NIV)

We need to be fit to run the race

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1, NIV)

Jesus said:

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62, NIV)

Paul says:

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:26–27, NIV)

It is not only sin that can hinder to run with perseverance. Surely, sin makes us limp, exhausts us, destroys valuable energy and it eats into our time we should dedicate to the service of the Lord – yes it makes us “offer parts of ourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness”  (Romans 6:13, NIV), therefore Paul exhorts:

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (Romans 6:12, NIV)

These things, the author of Hebrews 12 says, entangles us and hinders us to run the race with perseverance.

Remember the Pilgrims Progress?  How many obstacles did he have on his way, and how many did he see fallen by the wayside because they gave in to sin?  But there were also those who listened to well-sounded advice, not sinful by definition, but good enough to entangle.  There are things we can get involved in that might not be outright sin, but it surely drains our energy and makes us pant for oxygen.  We sometimes suffer severe cramps in our spiritual muscles because of a wrong diet and the lack of exercise:  in many cases there things are not defined by what we do wrong like sin, but rather by what we neglect to do:  In my young days playing rugby, how many times did I have to sit and rest because of this dreadful stitch in my side, hardly able to breath, precisely because I did not have the stamina to breath when I needed it most.  O, we need to be discerning in what we allow in our lives which keep us from being spiritually fit for the race.

Regular study of the Word, regular private prayer, prayer with our family, prayer with our church family make us fit.  Add to that regular worship and fellowship with other believers, and regular spiritual exercise of witnessing for the Lord Jesus Christ.  Throw into the mix regular service to others in our community, and financial contribution to the work of God.

We have Someone who have already run, who promises victory

… fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, NIV)

The language of this verse has the race in mind.  At the starting line we hear our hearts pumping like mad; we look at the other athletes, but we look to the one next to us:  He is Jesus – He is the beginning, or the author or the pioneer.  He is with us at the starting line.  He says victory belongs to Him.

We look up and see the lanes getting narrow towards the tape at the winning post.  There, at the winning line, we see the face of Him we already know.  It is the face of Christ, waiting for us to finish the race – He is already there, in his hand He holds the winning cup and the gold medal.  It belongs to Him but He wants to share it with us.

The clap of the pistol gets us going and all along, with hearts beating madly, lungs scrambling for oxygen, and muscles burning with determination we look to our side and find Christ running with us, cheering us on, pointing us to the winning post and the crown.  I look ahead down the lane and find Him with the prize in his hand, my name engraved on the cup that belongs to Him.  And I think: He’s been here, He endured, and He won.  It gives me new strength, and I once again get going, my eyes fixed on the end of the race.  If I give up, I’m out.  It is only when I get there and finish the race that I will get the prize.

Conclusion

We are in a race.  We need to complete it with perseverance.  On the pavilion we have all those who completed the race, and beside us we have Him who takes our hands and makes us share in his victory.

Jehoshaphat, as we read this morning, together with the people found themselves in the midst of a battle.  The king went on his knees before God and prayed:

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (2Chronicles 20:12)

The answer came from the Lord:

“This is what the Lord says to you: Do not be afraid or discouraged becasue of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2Chronicles 20:15)

Do you just want to go and sit and watch the race?  Not possible, you have to finish the race first.  Just don’t give up!

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 18 November 2012

 

Living by faith (6)

Faith lives under the protection of the Blood of the Lamb

Scripture Readings:

  • Exodus 12:1-13
  • Hebrews 11:23-28

Hymns/songs

  • We come together
  • Amazing Love
  • Before the Throne of God above
  • There is a hope

Introduction

My dear brother and sister,

The Word of God spoke to us the last five Sundays about faith.  The Bible provides its own definition of faith:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1, NIV)

The Bible further states:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

What follows, as we have looked at it, are the accounts of different people who believed that God exists, they had confidence in what they hoped for and assurance about the things they did not see.  But their names are not listed in the Bible in the same way as the names of church members appear in the rolls of a congregation.

There are times when we find it important for our names to appear on the congregational roll.  When there is a crisis of some sort we can easily remind others that our name is written in the rolls; or when we need our children baptised; or when we need to bury a loved on. It is almost a sort of a right to service we have.  It is indeed not wrong to expect of the church to which one belongs to look after it members.

The problem might be that my name on the roll is just that:  a name on a roll; it says nothing about what I believed and how I put what I believed in into practice.

On a funeral for such a member, a Dutch minister pointed to the casket in front of the pulpit and said, “This corpse was a member of this church for the last 43 years.”  He got the message across.

What the Bible recorded about Noah, Abraham, Sarah Joseph and Moses was more than the fact that they confessed to believe.  What is recorded is how what they believed made them act in certain ways.  Never is Biblical faith a state of mind only; surely, this is where it all starts; Biblical faith is faith in action.  That is what James is saying:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22–25, NIV)

Noah, after hearing about the pending destruction, preached the righteousness of God, but he also took God on his word and built an ark big enough for the animals God wanted in there – even when he was miles away from the closest ocean.

Abraham, after experiencing the saving grace of God, packed his bags and took his wife and left for the Promised Land.  At first he received nothing, but he believed the promise.  He was there where God wanted him to be, following the command of the Lord.

Joseph encouraged his compatriots by focussing on the sure promises of God, and because of that he demanded that he would not be buried in Egypt, but in the Promised Land.

The parents of Moses believed in the promise of God, they did not fear the Pharaoh and acted upon it:  they kept Moses against the decree of the King.

Moses, believed God and did not fear the King.  He spurned the pleasures of the place and sided with his people in the disgrace they experienced.

So, when we say we believe, when we have our names recorded somewhere on some roll, what impact does it have on our deeds?  It certainly should mean that we believed God and that we took Him for real on his promises.  If there would be another column next to our names in the rolls with a heading “What he/she did” what would be written against your name?  Faith lives in deeds.

Moses, the faithful intercessor

Moses stood between the people of God and the oppressor Pharaoh as a shadow of the our Lord Jesus Christ who interceded and is still interceding for us.

Nine times did he proclaim the judgement of God upon Egypt for its refusal to let the people go and worship their God.  Without fail God did as He promised:  the water of the Nile turned into blood.  The Bible says, “Blood was everywhere in Egypt.” (Exodus 7:21) Then there were frogs everywhere, followed by gnats like dust clouds in immensity. Even the magicians saw it as the finger of God (Exodus 8:19). The gnats were followed by flies, which only pestered the Egyptians and not the Jewish homes (Exodus 8:22).  The Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened as he refused to let the people go.

Next, a plague struck the animals of the Egyptians, but not those of God’s people (Exodus 9:6).  This was followed by plague on both man and animal, followed by destructive hail.  Some officials of Pharaoh feared the Word of the Lord and found shelter for their salves and animals (9:21), but where the Israelites lived, nothing happened. What was left after the hail was then taken away by the locusts.  Pharaoh was willing to let some of the Israelites go, but Moses, in the Name of God, stood uncompromised:  all, or no one at all.  God is to be feared more that the Pharaoh.  Then darkness fell, so thick to you feel it, for three days.  The king was willing to let the people go, but not their livestock.  No, they belong to God too; they are for his worship (10:26).

Pharaoh sent Moses away with these words:

Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.” (Exodus 10:28, NIV)

Moses never appeared again, but God was in control, and God’s punishment on the hard heart of the Pharaoh was not the death of his faithful servant Moses; He would kill every firstborn of every Egyptian and their animals.  Death would enter the palace too. Before he left the throne hall of the Pharaoh Moses, by faith in the Living God, pronounced this:

Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. (Exodus 11:5–7, NIV)

Moses proclaims destruction

Moses, by then, was highly regarded by the king’s officials and must have feared those words coming from his mouth.

Something remarkable is going to happen: where the other plagues did not effect the Israelites to make a distinction between them and the Egyptians “so that you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (11:7), God’s people now had to show that they believed God.  They had to show that they want to live under the protection of God.  They had to follow the instructions of God to the letter, or the angel of death would not pass over their house.

By now everyone knew that God would do as He said He would.  The first nine plagues happened as God announced without fail.  Why would the tenth not happen?

There might have been some who could have argued that although God indeed did as He said He would, there was nothing specific in the preparation for the Israelites to escape the plagues; God automatically excluded them.  He is clearly on their side and would not harm them.  They believed Him, but why now kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood on the doorpost?  For goodness sake, we are the covenant people of the Lord of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who promised to rescue us even 430 years ago; that’s what He promised, that’s what He is going to do.  We will be free, the Egyptians will suffer.  They deserve it!  We deserve salvation after all theses years of suffering.  God will not let anyone of us die.  I am a Jew, I have a right.

Which reminds us of the parable of the great banquet.  People were gathered in from the allies and the lane ways.  They were crippled, sick, blind and generally the outcast of society.  Entrance was free.  What a joy!  What a privilege!  Just walk in and sit down – that’s the deal.  Almost too good to be true.  One fellow walked in and sat down and probably could not believe his eyes:  all the food and beautifully prepared tables.  For once in his life he would be treated like royalty.  Then he saw the master of the banquet walking up to him.  He’s going to have a word with me!  How special.  “How did you get in here without the right dress which my servants hand out at the door?”  But … “Throw him out, he does not meet my standards!”  One only enters by the rules set by the master.  So it was with the Israelites in Egypt:  the gift of salvation is free, but no one could bypass the conditions set by God. It is only by the blood of the Lamb!

Many church people might argue the same:  they attend church on Sunday, they were baptised, they took Communion on a regular basis, they were in Sunday School and Youth Group, and now they support the work of the church financially – or at least their parents did all these things. She’ll be apples, Mate!

Moses proclaims grace

Yet, God commanded Moses to instruct the Israelites to be very specific in their preparation so that the tenth plague would not strike them too.

No exact time

First, be sure destruction will come.  “About midnight” – no specific minute, but the warning is there, it will surely happen before the sun rise. We do not know the specific hour of God visitation and therefore we need to be ready every moment!

God, the Avenger

Second, God is at work:  “I will go throughout Egypt.”  God did it then, and when the final trumpet is sounded at the return of our Lord, be sure that it will not be anyone else bur our Lord we will face that minute.  Listen:

He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:13–16, ESV)

Every household

Third, every household had to prepare by taking a lamb without blemish.  Although they were born along the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and now receive grace far above the Egyptians who could not prepare a lamb to keep the angel of death away from their homes, they had to do as God commanded.  No bread with yeast in it should be found in their houses – it was a sign of corruption; they should eat the meat of the lamb as a feast of delivery from bondage, but with it they should have bitter herbs to remind them of their slavery.  Some of the blood they had to spread on the doorpost of their home.

The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:13, ESV)

You call yourself an Israelite, well show it!  Display the sign of the blood of the lamb to ward off the wrath of God.  And God will be merciful.  Without the blood of the lamb, death will come to your home.

You call yourself a Christian? You will have to demonstrate it in what you do.  You have to put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, to escape death.  Without the blood of the Lamb, death will come to your home on the day of his visitation.

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12, ESV)

Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10, ESV)

It is only when one is dressed in the white linen of the Lamb, washed in his blood, your name written in his Book, that we are safe.

Remain under protection

Fourth, stay in your house until the danger is over (Exodus 12:22).  To venture out of your house is to expose yourself.  Only when you stay where there is blood to be seen on the doorpost, will you be saved.  There was the danger of having blood on your door, but being found where there is no blood, is to be with those who oppose God.

This command has implications for us Christians too: remain under the protection of the blood of Christ all the time, in everything we do. There is no such a thing as a Sunday Christian who acts differently on other days of the week as if Christ and his salvation does not have a claim on our everyday life.  “Remain in Me as I remain in You. Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15).  Don’t be a hypocrite, beautiful on the outside but full of dead men’s bones inside.  Love not this world.  James writes:

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4, ESV)

Why does he call them adulterous?  Because they are not faithful to God only.  Stay in your house!  Wonder outside and the destroyer will hit.  You need to shelter under the blood of the Lamb – all the time!

It must have been a dreadful night in Egypt:

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. (Exodus 12:29–30, ESV)

For those who do not find shelter in the blood of the Lamb there will be another dreadful day:

I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. (Revelation 6:12–14, ESV)

And then the biggest prayer meeting of all time:

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:15–17, ESV)

Conclusion

Of Moses the writer of the Hebrews says:

By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. (Hebrews 11:28, ESV)

We say we believe.  What does the column in the roll say about how we acted because of our faith?  Maybe this: he/she believed in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God and found shelter against the angel of death.  He/she did not really die, but exchanged the earthly clothes for the white clothes of the Lamb; he/she is now dining at the wedding feast of the Lamb.  He/she are now with  Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph and Moses in the presence of God.  They too, looked forward to their eternal home where Jesus Christ is the Head.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 21 October 2012

Living by faith (5)

Unshakeable faith expresses itself in the fear and serving of God only

Scripture readings:

  • Exodus 2:1-12
  • Hebrews 11:23-28

Hymns/Songs:

  • “Consider Christ
  • “The power of the cross
  • “May the mind of Christ my Saviour”
  • “Standing on the promises of Christ my King”

Introduction

My dear brother and sister,

Christians live in the world as people with no fixed address.  Our home is in heaven.  Paul writes to the Colossians:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1, NIV)

John writes:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. (1 John 2:15, NIV)

Jesus prayed for his church and said:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17:15–16, NIV)

Paul writes to the Romans:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2, NIV)

In this world we are sojourners, or foreigners.  Our deeds, our minds and our actions are not, or should not, be shaped by the thoughts of this world.  Christians are God’s people and therefore their minds are shaped by the Word of God once they are reborn by the Spirit of God.  What we say, how we say it, and how it influence the way we display our new nature in the world are dictated by God, our Father.  The world should not be allowed to have any input in the way we live.  This is the challenge of the church.

Daniel and his friends knew this very well: they did not bow to the image of the king.  Joseph knew it very well and did not yield to the temptations of the wife of Potiphar. The martyrs over the centuries knew this very well: they did not compromise their faith when the world around them demand it of them – they rather chose the option of losing their lives than gaining the world.

Allow me just one example of Scottish martyrs who refused to live other than the way the Master demanded.  His name was Robert Garnock.  At the age of seventeen he came to the Lord and received salvation.  Two years later, May 1679, he was apprehended and put in jail, waiting two years without trail.  When he was eventually put to trail he was asked to renounce his allegiance to the Scottish Protestant Refomation.  He didn’t, and when he was brought to the scaffold where his head would be cut off, he spoke to his prosecutors,

O sirs! His cross has been all paved over with love to me all along, and it is sweeter now than ever.  O, will you be persuaded to fall in love with the cross of royal Jesus?  Will you be entreated to come and taste of his love?  O, sweet lot this day for me to go to the gallows for Christ and his cause.  I think the thoughts of this do delight my heart  and soul, and make me fall out in wondering!

The parents of Moses, as well as Moses himself, knew very well to fear God above all.

Parents who feared God more than the king

Jacob and his son arrived in Egypt as a group of seventy souls.  Insignificant in the eyes of the Egyptians, and they lived in Goshen, more or less out of the way of the everyday life.
Joseph and all his brothers and all of that generation died. But the bible tells us:

…but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them. (Exodus 1:7, NIV)

They became a national security risk for the Pharaoh who feared that they might ally with other nations and war against Egypt.  So they were put in slavery and hard labour.  Furthermore, the Pharaoh issued a decree:

When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” (Exodus 1:16, NIV)

The midwives however feared God more than the king and did not do as the he decreed. Then the king issued the next decree:

“Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” (Exodus 1:22, NIV)

Newborn Jewish boys were fair game.

But think about the parents:  what agony if a boy was born to a family!  The question is: does the boy belong to the king or to God?  Should Amram and Jochebed, who both were from the line of the Levites, be obedient to the king or to the Lord.

Their choice is recorded in the Bible, “they were not afraid of the Kings edict.”

They lived by faith in the living God.  Their house was a godly house where God was honoured and worshipped daily.  Aaron was their eldest son, followed by Miriam, a girl. Both these children would have received a solid example in loving and trusting the Lord; they both played a major part in the further history of Israel. So, when their parents decided to protect their little brother, Moses, from the Egyptians not to be killed, but instead trusted God for his protection, it must have left a lasting impression on their minds. Their parents’ act of hiding Moses in the reeds of the Nile was an act of defiance to the Pharaoh, but an act of obedience to God.  They feared God, rather than the king.  Why? Acts 7:20 in the ESV is a better translation than the NIV, and tells us how the parents saw their child:

At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, (Acts 7:20, ESV)

Every child should be seen from God’s perspective, as a gift from Him.  Therefore, even in our time, or maybe even more so, governments of our day has no right on our children.  It has become custom for governments to lay down certain rules for the upbringing our children, when, how and if they should be disciplined, when their education should commence, and even what they should eat. It is a known fact that public education is now a world-wide tool for social engineering.

Governments and their agencies are not always family-friendly; they might seem to excel in caring for the individual, but family units are not high up on their agenda.  Governments assume certain rights over children and in some cases expect the parents to just do as told.  Certain programs at public schools are openly hostile towards traditional family units and values, while certain services provided to young people may actually help children to divorce from their parents!  So-called hate speech against gay and lesbian people now applies in public schools and no child has the right to even think that this type of behaviour is against the Word of God.  Teachers who live in unmarried relationships, or even in same-sex relationships, are protected by the state against any form of discrimination, and there is even pressure on Christian schools to not discriminate against gays and lesbians as teachers.

So-called sex education in public schools protect students from the input of parents when it comes to the choice of sexual orientation, contraceptives and even abortion.

We must ask ourselves, where do we obey God rather than the State.

It was a high price to pay for Amram and Jochebed, but they trusted God and did not fear the king.  But their family life, and the values they instilled in their children paid off.

It is remarkable to see the young sister, Miriam, come up with a plan to see her little brother live under their own roof for a while longer. He lived with his family for some years, at least until he was weaned – probably at the age of three, or even four.  In these years he was there when his parents talked about God, prayed regularly, and even maybe yearned for the day God would make his promise come true to send his people back to their promised land.

Moses – regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ

It must have been a very sad day for Jochebed and Amram when Moses was taken to the palace to become the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter.  The Bible says he became her son.

Yes, he was a prince, receiving the best of education, living according to their customs and traditions, eating the best food, being dressed in Egyptian clothes, and even speak the language of the oppressor.

How many nights would his parents pray to God that He would protect their son!  And how many days did the evil one think he had Moses in his clutches.  Just think, the blood-son of Levites, now in the palace of the oppressor.

But God was faithful.  He had his hand on Moses even before he was born.  He held him in his grip and never could the Pharaoh and his house make Moses one of them.  God had a plan to prepare Moses to be the one who would lead his people to the Promised Land.  He was fluent in the Egyptian language; he knew the Pharaoh and the palace family; he knew the customs; he had an excellent education.  He got it all from the enemy.  In some way he was the trojan horse in the palace of the Pharaoh, but they did not know it.

The faith of Moses made him to reject the idea that he was a son of the Pharaoh’s daughter.  Deep down he knew who he was and what God he worshipped.  The Pharaoh was not his god, nor Ra, the sun god.  His God was the living God, who created the Nile and the whole universe, who used kings like the Pharaoh for his purpose and then dispose them when it pleased Him.

It was by faith that Moses chose to mistreated along with the people of God “rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.”  Then this verse in the Scriptures:

He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. (Hebrews 11:26, ESV)

What gain is it to win the world and lose your soul?  Paul says:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7–11, ESV)

It was with an eye of bright faith that Moses could see into the future glory of Christ and his Kingdom. And compared to what he knew then by faith, the palace of the Pharaoh was nothing.  The luxury of passing, earthly royalty is nothing compared to the home of the Master to which He will come to take us when He returns.

O, that we will have such a faith!  That nothing in this world will ever be more important for us, or higher in value than the kingdom of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Moses saw his reward in the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of the Pharaoh.  We who believe, have a reward waiting for us.  Listen to what Peter says about our reward:

… an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:4–7, NIV)

The Psalmist shouts it out:

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25–26, NIV)

When Moses had to flee from the Pharaoh he did so not fearing the king’s anger.  Yes, he did make it very clear who’s side he was on.  He killed an Egyptian who mistreated his own people. I don’t know that Moses was right in doing so, but he surely stuck his colours to the mast. And he could expect the retribution of the Pharaoh.  Remember he was supposed to be killed at birth; now that he turned against Egypt he could expect the full fury of the king.  But he didn’t.  By faith he left Egypt.  God looked after him from day one, why would God not do it now?

The Bible says he saw Him who was invisible. The invisible God who protected him from his earliest days now, by faith, became reality.  And there in Median at the burning bush, the Invisible would talk to him and call him to go back and face the Pharaoh.  His main objection in going back to Egypt was not necessarily facing the Pharaoh, but his own people – his concern was that they would not believe him.

Christ and Egypt

Many, many years after Moses there was another murderer-king who decreed that all boys be murdered – this time it happened in the Promised Land.  Herod, then in the grip of the Devil, hoped to have the Messiah, who was born in Bethlehem – the promised King – killed.

Well, history, like in Egypt under the Pharaoh, did not belong to any king or person.  It is God’s domain.  Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt and escaped the murderous Herod. In God’s timing Jesus and his parents went back to the Promised Land.  He mission was to seek and save the lost, and so He lived with sinners, tax-collectors, lepers, prostitutes and all other who realised they needed salvation.  Of Him Isaiah said:

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:1–3, NIV)

He chose to be disgraced, He chose to side with the lost to free them of sin and bring them to the Father.

… rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, (Philippians 2:7–9, NIV)

Conclusion

Of Him, Moses was a forerunner.  In Him Moses had his hope.  For Him Moses chose to be disgraced.

His own people rejected Him and ultimately they nailed Him to a cross.  But they could’t really get rid of Him, because He was the author of life.  He rose again and is victorious over death, hell and Satan.  He is coming again, and then He will take those who now live by faith in Him to their eternal Promised Land.

Are you living by faith? Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 14 October

It’s not a game, its the Church of Christ

(Sermon preached by Rev Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 10th June 2012)

Bible readings:

  • Exodus 35:30 – 36:7
  • Ephesians 4:1-16

Songs:

  • “Praise Him, praise Him”
  • “Majesty”
  • “Lord speak to me”
  • “We heard a joyful sound”
  • “May God’s blessing”

Introduction

My dear friends in Jesus Christ, our Lord,

I remember my mother’s lounge room. There was nothing fancy in it, but apart from the normal things you would expect in the room, there was a showcase in the corner.  It had glass doors that Mom kept locked.  The shelves were something like mirrors, which made the ornaments in the showcase look like there were lots of things store in this show case. There were a few silver cups, some brassware, and also some cups and saucers Mom only used when we had important visitors.

Having a showcase like Mom’s was not always a good thing.  Every so often the brass and the silver ornaments had to be polished.  Mom’s urge to have them polished usually happened on a Saturday – that’s when all of us were free from school.  I remember the soft cloths, the brass and silver polish, the peculiar smell of the chemicals, and of course, the black stains on my hands.  After careful cleaning, these ornaments would go back to the showcase, but only after Mom had cleaned the mirrors and glass doors with a solution of vinegar and some sort of detergent.

I sometimes think that some Christians see the church as God’s showcase:  He would save sinners from their sin, wash them in the blood of his Son, and then put them in his showcase as ornaments of his grace. He would then keep them out of harm’s way and show then off when the devil seems to have some sort of claim on them.  In essence, saved Christians are seen as God’s trophies, safely locked away, with only the very rare occasion, like maybe a Communion Service, they are taken off the shelves for a polish and a spit – once again to go back as ornaments to just look good on the shelve.

I attended a conference one day, and the speaker used a different picture to describe some churches: the ministers are the ecclesiastical babysitters and the members like infants, who need the attention of the babysitter-ministers to stop the discontent with some of the members by plugging the dummies back.

In essence then in a church like this, only a few do the work, while others never grow to maturity in Christ.  Of the service of the body as a whole, hardly anything happens.  Such a church is usually inward-looking, only satisfying their own needs, doing things they have always done, and do not move out of the comfort zone of tradition.

Is this what God wants from his Church?  It dare to say in big fat letters, “NO!”

The people of the Lord display his glory – Old Testament

Let’s get the picture of how things were done in the Old Testament, just after God rescued the people from slavery.  We turn to Exodus 24.  God summoned Moses up the mountain, and there in a cloud which looked a “consuming fire”, God met with Moses to reveal to him how He wanted to be worshiped.

In the finest of details God gave Moses the dimensions, material and plans of the ark, the tabernacle, the table, the lamp stand, the altar, the courtyard, the priestly garments, the high priestly breastplate and ephod, and other items.  The Lord commanded Moses, “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” (Exodus 25:9)

If I were Moses, I would probably somewhere in this meeting with God have felt troubled in my heart, because quite frankly, one man just could not do all these things.  It called for skilled people who would know how to work with gold and silver and bronze and wood; people who would know how to make the material for the priest’s wardrobe, and the curtains for the tabernacle.  One person couldn’t do it.  Not even a few people could do it.  And God knew it full well – it was not his plan for only a few, He wanted all of his people involved.

We read an amazing verse in the Bible, almost as if the Lord would read Moses’ mind:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you:” (Exodus 31:1–6, NIV)

When Moses then, after coming down from the mountain and the presence of the Lord, met the people, this is precisely what he told them as we read it in Exodus 35:30ff.  He also revealed to them this in verse 34:

“And He has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.” (Exodus 35:34, NIV)

Something wonderful is happening here: not only were these people able to make things, there were able to teach others to make things.  They were able to pass on their skill. In other words, it was not God’s plan to use these men only, but under their leadership others would be taught to become involved in the whole building of the tabernacle of the Lord.  In a sense then, God’s people as a whole were involved in his worship.

We see how it happened:

  1. There was Moses who received from God the plans of the tabernacle and all its furnishings.
  2. With him were Joshua his aide, Aaron, his two sons, Nadab and Abide, and the seventy elders who were waiting for Moses to return from the presence of the Lord on the mountain.
  3. What Moses received he instructed the elders and priest about, but he also passed it on to Bezalel and Oholiab.  Upon these men rested, as we see, the Holy Spirit – they were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, because what they had to do, was according to God’s instruction and needed to be precise. They in turn then taught others their skill and the work started.  Was everyone skilled in the same manner?  No, but everyone was involved.  Listen,

“They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.” Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more.” (Exodus 36:3–6, NIV)

So, where did the people get these offerings of gold and silver from?  They got it from God, who never demands anything which He does not supply in the first instance.  The Bible says:

“The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.” (Exodus 12:35–36, NIV)

So, when God wants his church to worship Him, He reveals to them how it’s done through the leaders He has gifted with his Holy Spirit; he provides for them the means to do as He commands, and He involves all his people in the building and the maintenance of his work.

A type of what was fulfilled in Christ

In the Old Testament, everything in the worship was like a type or shadow of what would happen in the fulness of time when God would give them the Messiah.

In a sense the work of the Old Testament Church was nationally restricted to the nation of Israel, but with the arrival of the Messiah everything would change.

  • The temple, the tabernacle, the altar, and all the other furnishings would become obsolete.
  • The office of Priest became obsolete in the Person of Christ.
  • Further, the outpouring of the Holy Spirt then restricted to only a few people at appointed times for specific tasks, would become a general anointing for all the people.
  • Further, the boundaries around Israel would be removed, with the nations of the world now to be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The shadow was removed and the light shined.  The prophecies were fulfilled, and everything was made new in Christ.  Every member of the church of Christ is now prophet, priest and kings in the office of believer.

The people of the Lord display his glory – New Testament

The principles are the same.  Let’s look at it.  We turn to what we read in Ephesians 4.

One major theme, in fact the main theme of chapter 4, is written to point to the fact that the church of Christ should operate as one unit.  Paul writes:

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:3–6, NIV)

Verse 13 once again touches the matter of unity, and verse 16 refers to the church as one body.

But Paul immediately points out, that although we are one body, we are members with each a different gift “as Christ apportioned it”, he says in verse 7.  In other words, he says, you’ve got a job in the body of Christ, and all do not have the same function.  You are not an ornament in the God’s showcase.  In fact, He does not have a showcase.  You are a living member in the living body of Christ.  Others need you to function well, and you need others to function.

If it was said that one does not need to have your name on the books of the church to be saved, let it then be said that everyone needs to function in harmony with the rest of the body to function well.  Arms cannot function on their own, so can yes or feet not do their own thing and expect to remain alive.  If you are on the fringe, be sure you are going to die a spiritual death – in the end you might need to be amputated.
Like in the Old Testament God does not demand before He enables and provides.  This is why Paul says that Christ apportioned.  He took the whole world as his store room to provide his church with the means to do his work.

Christ is the one then who appoints, or give gifts to his church.  What are they?  First like in the Old Testament, He provides leaders.  A list is given: apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers.  We don’t exactly know how all these offices functioned in the time of Paul, but one thing stands out: God provides leaders.  He calls them and enables them.

But they are not like the players on the footy field.  They are not the members of the team playing the game under the minister who acts as some referee, while the pavilions are packed with spectators cheering them on, while they themselves are unfit, and sometimes do not even know the rules of the game, but somehow still enjoy the game.  The church is not a footy match where only a few leave the field with bruises and sore joints.  There is no pavilion, and there is no spectator, and there is no member who only pays club money and never attends to action.

Listen, Christ gives these leaders for a reason.  What is it?  Listen,

“… to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12–13, NIV)

We are all in the army of Christ, we are all soldiers, we fight together on the Lord’s side and together we face the enemy.  And under our Commander in Chief we share in the victory.

See, the problem with the church is struggling is the problem of spiritual immaturity. It has at least two devastating consequences: fist, because we are under-equipped, we cause the body to limp.  There are parts of the body missing or underdeveloped.  The body does not function at full strength.  It is like a car on one or more flat tyre, missing a few spark plugs, with the headlights out and no fluid in the brake lines.  It is outright dangerous and inefficient.

This leads then to the second consequence: we take any untrained mechanic or salesman that comes along to tell us how to fix it.  We fall for every new form of teaching.  We are unable to defend the truths of the Scripture, because we are ecclesiastical infants. We expect about all from the few leaders,and because they are sometimes so exhausted they can’t do more to that just plug the dummy back to avoid trouble.  If not, we go our own way, gather our own teachers and so have new churches spring up all over the place – and the unity of the church is shattered, and we almost become useless.

Conclusion

The problem can only be solved if we understand the Scriptures well:

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:15–16, NIV)

We have to once again see ourselves as part of the whole, and if we don’t function as a whole, we cannot be effective.  We need to grow up.  We need to become spiritually mature.  It was Christ’s plan to grow his church through the teaching of the Word by giving the church leaders to train every member up to do works of service.

We need to support one another just as every ligament in our bodies hold the body together.  We need to always look and have our eyes fixed on Jesus, our Head.  He died for us; He forgave us our sins; He made us righteous; He justified us; He sanctifies us; He gave us his Spirit – not to sit idle in a show case or only to become enthusiastic spectators on the pavilions of the footy matches, but to be on the field, trained and fit for the game.

Only, and the average church member does not want to hear this: it is not a game, it is a battlefield.  There is an enemy to conquer.  One might lose one’s life in the process.  Apart from the tender love of Christ holding us safe, there is nothing tender about the Christian walk:  it’s a brutal war.  Are you ready?

May God help us.

(An audio recording of this sermon can be heard at http://sermon.net/wwpc)