Monday, August 31, 2009

A New Covenant Built Upon the Old - Hebrews 8

"Behold, days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah;...
After those days, says the LORD;
I will put My laws into their minds,
and I will write them upon their hearts.
And I will be their God,
and they shall be my people."
(vs 8 and 10)

The whole Bible is a historically redemptive outworking of the covenant of grace. The sovereign and holy Creator of the the universe has mercifully condescended to save sinners from the just penalty of their sins. He has done that by covenant. He has made an oath and sworn by Himself, that He will be a God unto those who will rest upon His work and word to redeem them.

We first saw the promise of this covenant mercy in Genesis 3:15. Immediately after the fall, God comes to an undone Adam and Eve and pursues them in their sin in order to save them from their sin. They have broken the covenant of works. They have eaten of the forbidden fruit and they are in the biggest mess possible. They are without hope if left to themselves.

God deals with their sin. Most certainly things have changed for Adam and Eve. They will die. They will labor in tiresome ways. They will hurt. They will know sorrow. Yet, they will find hope in the promise of God's redemptive mercy. Satan seeks to steal, kill, and destroy them. He has stolen much from them due to their own rebellion but He is a defeated enemy. To the crafty serpent God declares: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall crush you on the head and you shall bruise Him on the heel." (Gen 3:15).

Here is the first proclamation of the gospel. God will send Christ, the seed of the woman (note a prophecy of the incarnation and virgin birth) to crush the head of mankind's great enemy. "No sooner was the wound given than the remedy was provided and revealed." (Matthew Henry).

Throughout the pages of the Old Testament we continually learn a little bit more about this covenant of grace. In Noah we see of our need to flee into Christ the ark. In Abraham we learn that we are justified by faith and not by works and we see the sign of the covenant instituted and given to believers and their household. In Moses we see learn of the righteous requirements of the Law of God and that points us to the One pefect keeper of the Law of God and we are given the second sacrament, the sacrament of communion as it is portrayed in the Passover. In Moses we see Christ as both our Prophet and our Priest. In David we see Him as our King. On and on it goes. God throughout His word has made promises to believers, their children and their whole household.

So now we come to this "new covenant." Yet even in it the language is the same as the old. He will still be their God and they will still be His people. The new part is the fulfilling of the gospel. In Christ all of the old types have been accomplished. The shadows are now light. The veil is now torn. The promise is now reality. The covenant is new and improved for Christ has come and done. When He cried "it is finished" it truly was!

In the Old Covenant God wrote His law TO them now He writes it IN them. Truly this is a better place to be. Yet, it is relationally the same place. "I will be their God and they shall be My people." Here is the old promise still in effect.

"God promises to take them into a near and very honorable relation to Himself. He will be to them a God. Nothing more can be said in a thousand volumes than is compreheneded in these few words, "I will be their God and they shall be My people."

Christ has accomplished much for us. Under the Old Covenant they looked forward to what the Messiah would accomplish and they lived by faith in what was to come. Now we look back to what He has done. We are most assuredly a priviliged people to live on this side of the cross. We have the whole counsel of God before us and the freedom and ability to read it whenever we want.

Is He your God and are you His people? If not, flee to Christ, the promised Lamb who was slain on Calvary's cross to save sinners.

In covenant with Christ,

Sunday, August 30, 2009

High Priest Forever - Hebrews 7

"Hence, also, He is able to save forever
those who draw near to God through Him,
since He always lives to make intercession for them.
For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest,
holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners
and exalted above the heavens;
who does not need daily, like those high priests,
to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins,
and then for the sins of the people,
because this He did once for all
when He offered up Himself.
For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak,
but the word of the oath, which came after the Law,
appoints a Son, made perfect forever."
(vs 25-28)

The picture of Christ as the great high Priest continues. In Hebrews 7 we are shown further exactly why He is so much more excellent a Priest.

Christ is an eternal high priest. He is able to save us "forever." Mr. Henry writes: "There can be no vacancy in this priesthood, no hour nor moment in which the people are without a priest to negotiate their spiritual concerns in heaven." There is never a time when Christ is not on call. His eternality, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, and immutability are a great comfort to us, His people.

Christ is a perfect high priest. He is "holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens." He is a high priest who will never blow it and He is a high priest who's sacrifice is sufficient in and of itself. Due to the perfect nature of His atoning work it is a one and done deal. Because of His sinless perfection "this He did once for all when he offered Himself."

Quoting Henry again: "Our case as sinners needed a high priest to make satisfaction and intercession for us. No priest could be suitable or sufficient for our reconciliation to God but One who was perfectly righteous. The Lord Jesus Christ was exactly such a high priest as we needed for He has a personal holiness. He is absolutely perfect. He is holy. No sin dwells in Him, though it does in the best of Christians. He is innocent and never did the least wrong to God or man. He is undefiled. Though He took upon Him the guilt of our sins, yet He never involved Himself in the fact and fault of them. He is separate from sinners, though He took a true human nature, yet the miraculous way in which it was conceived set Him upon a separate footing from the rest of mankind."

Christ's Priestly role was entirely for God's glory and for the good of God's people. He had no need to offer anything up for Himself yet in marvelous mercy offered all that He had for us. Friends, this is our Great High Priest and He is our High Priest forever. Are we eternally grateful?

Atoned for by His work,

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Peril, Promise, and a Preserving Priest - Hebrews 6

"And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence
so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end,
that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those
who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
For when God made the promise to Abraham,
since He could swear by no one greater,
He swore by Himself, saying,
'I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply you.'
And thus, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.
For men swear by one greater than themselves,
and with them an oath given as confirmation
is an end of every dispute.
In the same way God, desiring even more to show to
the heirs of promise the unchangeableness of His purpose,
interposed with an oath,
in order that by two unchangeable things,
in which it is impossible for God to lie,
we may have strong encouragement,
we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul,
a hope both sure and steadfast,
and one which enters within the veil,
where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us,
having become a priest forever according
to the order of Melchizedek."

Hebrews 6 is a mouthful. It's a mouthful that is often twisted, abused and misused to falsely teach that true Christians can lose their salvation, when in reality it is a chapter that points to the unchanging anchor of the soul that is found in Christ.

True, the first part of the chapter begins with the perils of falling away. However, it is interesting to me to note the language that is used to describe these folks who have fallen away. Verses 1-8 refer to them as those who have only known "the elementary teaching about Christ" not as those that are mature at all. They are said to have been "enlightened" but not referred to as those that have been effectually called. They are described as those who have "tasted" of the heavenly gift and of the good word and power of God but not as those who have truly partaken, injested, and eaten of it.

As is always the case, the harder passages of the Bible must be interpreted based on the clearer and easier to understand passages of the Bible. Thus, I fall to Philippians 1:6 - "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began the good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." And to 1 John 2:19 - "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us."

These folks aren't salvation losing reprobates - they are covenant breaking hypocrites. They have been a part of the church. They have had the sign of the covenant placed upon them, played around with the teachings of the redeemed, tasted of the good things and then spewed them out rather than drinking them in. The writer of the Hebrews warns them of the covenant curses that will surely follow them if they stubbornly turn from covenant blessings and put Christ to "open shame". He says that they will "yield thorns and thistles," that they are "worthless and close to being cursed," and that they will "end up being burned." The covenant comes with blessings for obedience and with curses for disobedience. Hear and heed the warning hypocritical members of the visible church.

However, the apostle doesn't leave us in peril. He points us to promise. He is "convinced of better things concerning you and things that accompany salvation." He reminds us that God is not unjust. Our God knows our hearts and sees our labors of love for His namesake.

That said, the heart of this passage is about our diligence in obtaining assurance of the hope of our salvation. This is not a passage about fearing that we might lose our salvation. It is a passage about knowing that we have it!!

"And we desire that each of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (vs 11-12)

Assurance is attainable in this life but it is only attainable with diligent pursuit. We must, by grace, be serious about realizing this hope. We must not be sluggish in our religious duties. The earnest pursuit of the means of grace are crucial. So the question must be asked: are we diligently pursuing those things that will enable us to realize the full assurance of hope?
Are we "continually devoting ourselves to the apostle's teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer?" (Acts 2:42). Are corporate worship, family worship, and private worship a devotion of yours? Are you under the sound of the Word of God regularly? Are you fellowshipping with other believers that they might encourage and exhort you in your walk? Do you take seriously your partaking of the Lord's Supper -examining yourself before the meal and using it as a tangible way to take hold of Christ? Do you pray? Do you really pray - wet or dry prayers? If we are not, by grace - hear me - by grace, dilligently pursuing these things then we are among the sluggish and we may find ourselves among the un-assurred. (Note that I didn't say among the un-saved but among those who struggle throughout this life with uncertainty as to their spiritual condition.)

Lest we find ourselves undone by our inability to accomplish so great a task. Our kind apostolic friend points us to the help and hope of reaching such a lofty goal. The assistance we need is found in the un-changing, un-lying character of God and in the mediatorial work of Christ our Great Hight Priest!

God desires for the heirs of the promise to know that they are heirs of the promise! His promise is founded in the unchanging nature of His eternal counsel and in the absolute certainty of His word. God does not change. God does not lie. Therefore, we should be encouraged if we are fleeing to Him for refuge and through Him laying hold of the hope He has set before us.

"In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of his purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us." (vs 17-18)
Notice that regarding this "diligent seeking of full assurance" we are told that we "may have strong encouragement" if we are fleeiong to Him for refuge. Matthew Henry points out that "God is concerned for the encouragement of believers. The encouragements of God are strong enough to support His people under their strongest trials. The comforts of this world are too weak, but the consolations of the Lord are neither few nor small."

Beloved, seek better things than the peril of being a covenant breaker. Be desirous and diligent to make your calling and election sure that you may "realize the full assurance of hope until the end." Be strongly encouraged as you pursue that goal through the power and mercies of the immutable and honest God.

"This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters withint the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." (vs 19-20).

"We are in this world as a ship at sea, in danger of being cast away. Heaven is the harbor to which we sail. We have need of an anchor to keep us sure and steady. Gospel hope is our anchor and it is certain and steadfast. It is sure in its own nature. It is not a flattering hope made out of a spider's web, but is a true work of God. It is steadfast as to its object; it is an anchor that has taken good hold. It does not seek to fasten in the sands, but in the veil, and fixes there upon Christ. He is the anchor hold of the believers hope!"

Oh dear friends, we need not live in peril if we are building our lives upon the promise of Christ our great preserving Priest. Take strong encouragement as you flee to Him alone as the anchor of your souls.

Encouraged and anchored,

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wet Prayers - Hebrews 5

"In the days of His flesh,
He offered up both prayers and supplications
with loud crying and tears
to the One able to save Him from dath,
and He was heard because of His piety."
(vs 7)

So, this verse nailed me this morning. I've read it each year for 15 years but today it got me!

Here we have a picture of the incarnate Christ praying. Most likely it is a portrayal of His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Luke tells us of that night:

"And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw,
and He knelt down and began to pray, saying,
'Father, if Thou art willing,
remove this cup from Me;
yet not My will, but Thine be done.'
Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him,
strengthening Him.
And being in agony he was praying very fervently;
and His sweat became like drops of blood,
falling down upon the ground."
(Luke 22:41-44)

Christ prayed. Christ prayed fervently. Christ "offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death."

Those thoughts make me ask do I pray? Do we pray? Do we pray fervently? Do we offer up prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save us from death?

What do our prayers look like? Honestly, mine don't look very much like Christ's prayers - not at all! I am convicted this morning that Christ offered up "wet prayers" and that mine are far too often incredibly dry.

Going to pray,

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Holding Fast Our Confession / Drawing Near with Confidence - Hebrews 4 part 3

"Since then we have a great high priest
who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus the Son of God,
let us hold fast our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but One who has been tempted in all things,
as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore draw near with confidence
to the throne of grace,
that we may receive mercy
and may find grace to help
in our time of need."
(Hebrews 4:14-16)

"Since then...let us...." This section of Hebrews begins with, not an "if/then" but a "since/let's." The cliff note version of these three verses is: since then Christ as our priest has paid the penalty, washed us by His blood, and ever lives to intercede for us at the right hand of God the Father in heaven, let us never deny Him nor be ashamed of Him and let us be serious about fleeing boldly to Him in the midst of our great need for mercy, grace, and help!

The Lord Jesus is not simply a priest, nor only a high priest. No, He is a GREAT high priest! He has done His duty, and - as we will see in Hebrews 5, 7 and 9 - He has done His duty with perfection, with full satisfaction, and with eternal success!! [See 5:7, 5:9-10, 7:17, 7:21-28, 9:11-14]

Truly, Christ is the great high priest "in His ONCE offering up of Himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us" (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 25). Christ faithfully executed His priestly office while on earth through His perfect life and sacrificial death. He lives eternally to continue that role now that He has "passed through the heavens." He now lives to intercede for us and to stand at the right hand of God the Father as our Advocate. Wow!

So, "How should we demean ourselves toward Him? Let us hold fast our profession of faith in Him. Let us never deny Him and never be ashamed of Him before men. Christians must not only set out well, but they must hold out." (Matthew Henry). The good news is that even our "holding out" is in His great high priestly hands! (Ph 1:6)

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession." Beloved, He Has paid the price for our sins with His own blood. He Himself has become the surety. He has done it - it is finished! Since then, let us hold fast our confession!!

And how do we go about holding fast? Even that is in and through the priestly work of the Lord Jesus on our behalf. Verse 15 beings with "for." We hold fast our confession "FOR we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."

Our blessed Jesus knows our frame. He knows we are but dust. He knows we are sinners in need of much mercy - that's why He came as our priest. He came to do for us that which we could not do for ourselves. He sympathizes with our weaknesses and not only does He "feel" for us and pat us on the back in the midst of our miserable state, He has actually done something about our miserable state that we might not remain there! Now that's a friend!! Now that's a Great High Priest! Now that's Jesus!

Matthew Henry writes: "Christ is a gracious high priest, merciful, compassionate, sympathizing with His people. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, not only that he might be able to satisfy for us, but to sympathize with us."

Christ was tempted in every way - just as we are. The great and grand difference? He was tempted and never sinned. We have a great priest, a gracious priest, and a sinless priest. It is due to the power, mercy, and perfection of this priest that we are able to come boldly to the throne of grace when we need help.

"Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need." The "therefore" is there for us to look back to what has been declared about our high priest. Because He is great He is able to supply us with real and lasting answers in our time of need. Because He is merciful He is willing to both listen and lend aid. Because He is sinless His propitiatory act on our behalf was sufficient. O Christian, do you recognize the glory of your Great High Priest? Here we have the ticket of entry to the throne of grace held forth - Christ our Priest. Here we have the duty we are to be about at the throne of grace - seeking mercy, grace and help in our time of need.

I turn again to Mr. Henry, his words are a great encouragement.

"God might have set up a tribunal of strict justice, but He has chosen to set up a throne of grace. there grace reigns, and acts with sovereign freedom, power, and bounty. It is our duty to be often found before the throne of grace. It is good for us to be there. Our business at the throne of grace should be that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Mercy and grace are things we want, mercy to pardon all our sins and grace to purify our souls. In all our approaches to this throne of grace for mercy, we should come with a humble freedom and boldness; we should ask in faith, nothing doubting. We are indeed to come with reverence and godly fear; not as if we were dragged before the tribunal of justice, but kindly invited to the mercy-seat, where grace reigns, and loves to exert and exalt itself towards us. The office of Christ, as being our high priest, and such a great high priest, should be the ground of our confidence in all our approaches to the throne of grace."

Are you needy this day? Come boldly. Draw near with confidence. Flee to Christ, the great high priest, and find grace and help in your time of need!

Holding fast my confession, drawing near with confidence,

Monday, August 24, 2009

Open and Laid Bare - Hebrews 4 part 2

"And there is no creature hidden from His sight,
but all things are open and laid bare
to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."
(vs 13)

My 4 year old daughter often sings a song recorded by my friend, Judy Rogers. "I'm hiding from Mommy and no one can see. I'm hiding and know one will know. But I just remembered that God's watching me. He knows everything that I do. I cannot see God, but He always sees me. Nothing can be hid from God."

There is much truth packed in those simple lyrics. God is omniscient. Judy's song reminds us of that as does Hebrews 4:13.

This verse falls on the heels of the admonitions to "fear" lest we fall short of eternal rest, to not "harden our hearts" if we hear His voice, and to "be diligent" lest we fall into disobedience. We are then reminded of the sword/scalpel that God has given us in His Word (vs 12). It is that precious and powerful Word of God that teaches us to rightly fear, melts our hard hearts and teaches us what obedience looks like and how we are to accomplish it.

Suddenly, lest we push those admonitions aside thinking "Yeah, whatever. What I'm into is no big deal. I have nothing to fear it's just one LITTLE sin," we find ourselves in a head on collision with omniscience. "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." BOOM!

Friends, we may hide from mommy but we can NEVER hide from our heavenly Daddy! Never! ALL things are open and laid bare. "If I say, 'Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me will be night,' even the darkness is not dark to Thee, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to Thee." (Ps 139:11-12).

Henry says: "None of the creatures can be concealed from Christ; and there are none of the motions and workings of our heads and hearts but what are open and manifest to Him. This omniscience of Christ should engage us to persevere in faith and obedience."

God knows EVERYTHING about you. He knew every thought you'd think, word you'd say, and action you'd accomplish even before the foundation of the earth. All of it was laid open and bare before Him. The amazing thing to me is that - even though He knew the wickedness of my heart, mind and actions - in spite of my sin He reached out to me with the love of Christ! AMAZING! It is beyond comprehension. He loved me - dark, dirty, and defiled as He clearly knew that I was (and left to myself, still am)!

Beloved, everything is open and laid bare before Him. He knows all of your dirty laundry - in greater detail than even you know it. His eyes are upon you - always - at all times - in all things. The final half of verse 13 tells us that this omniscient God is the God "with whom we have to do." In this life we may deceive ourselves into thinking that no one knows, no one sees, and no one will ever call us to account but there is One who knows, sees, and will judge. The important question is, when we stand before Him "with whom we have to do" will He judge us based on our deeds or on Christ's? Ultimately that is the question that will determine whether His omniscience is our comfort or our dread.

Thankful to be clothed in Christ,

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Need Rest? Grab Your Sword! - Hebrews 4

"For the word of God is living and active
and sharper than any two edged sword,
and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit,
of both joints and marrow,
and able to judge the thoughts and intentions
of the heart."
(vs 12)

Here is one of your classic "stick it on a t-shirt, bumper sticker, wall placque, or Bible book bag" verses. You'll see it, hear it, and perhaps even say it often. This is not an unfamiliar passage of Scripture. It's a notable quotable.

One thing I've come to realize is that familiar passages of Scripture can become over-familiar and that the context and telos of the words then becomes unfamiliar.

Hebrews 4 begins with the admonition for us to "fear lest, while a promise remains of entering rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it" (vs 1). The writer goes on to inform his audience that they are among those who have heard the preached word. Yet, among them are those who have not profitted from it because their hearing was not joined with believing. His point: everybody seems to want to enter into "rest" but true rest is for those who hear and believe and obey, not just for those who are present and pretending to listen yet continue on in their hard heartedness! (OK, that was a mouthful!)

Hear some selections of the apostle's words from chapter 4:

"For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, 'As I swore in My wrath they shall not enter My rest'.... Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God..... Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience."

The "let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest..." falls immediately before our famous verse. We have an admonition and a warning. "Therefore"- in light of the fact that there are those who have not entered rest because of their unbelief - "be diligent to enter that rest." Bottom line: hard work in spiritual things is the road to true rest. While we are here we are to be working. Working at loving God more - with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. Laboring to know Him more. Striving to serve Him more. Not that we might "earn" rest but that we might "enter" rest. The best rest I've ever had has come after a hard day of diligent work. In the same way, "now is our working time and those who will not work will not enter into rest."

All of that leads us up to these well known words.:

"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

The field of the Word of God is the greatest place we can farm if we want to be prepared for true and lasting rest. The Word of God is our help in finding rest.

Mr. Henry writes: "It is quick; it is very lively and active, in seizing the conscience of the sinner, in cutting him to the heart, and in comforting him and binding up the wounds of the soul.

"It is powerful. It convinces powerfully, converts powerfully, and comforts powerfully. It is powerful to batter down Satan's kingdom, and to set up the kingdom of Christ upon the ruins thereof.

"It is sharper than any two-edge sword. It will enter where no other sword can, and make a more critical dissection: it pierces to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, the soul and its habitual prevailing temper; it makes a soul that has been a long time of a proud spirit to be humble, of a perverse sprit to be meek and obedient.

"This sword divides between the joints and the marrow. This sword can make men willing to undergo the sharpest operation for the mortifying of sin.

"It is a discerner of the heart. The word will turn the inside of a sinner out, and let him see all that is in his heart."

Are you longing for true rest? Then "let us fear" lest we fall short of it. "Let us maintain a holy and religious fear lest we should fall short. Presumption is the high road to ruin." In righteous fear let us be diligent to enter into real rest by walking in the way of the Word not in the way of the world. Let that living, active, sharp, piercing sword of the Spirit do the work in you that is necessary in order for you to find rest for your weary soul.

Diligently pursuing Christ through His word,

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Peril of Unbelief - Hebrews 3 part 2

"Take care, brethren,
lest there should be in any one of you
an evil, unbelieving heart,
in falling away from the living God.
But, encourage one another day after day,
as long as it is still called "Today,"
let any one of you be hardened
by the deceitfulness of sin."
(vs 12-13)

If the Word of God tells us to "take care," we'd be wise to listen. Here is a warning to be on our guard, to watch out, to keep our eyes open and be on the alert. "Take care, brethren, lest...."

There are many enemies that seek to destroy us. Our "adversary the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Pe 5:8). Our fellow man at times seeks to persecute and undo us. Even our own hearts are prone to drag us away to destruction. Be on guard and take care for there are enemies without and within!

"Take care, brethren, lest there be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God." There are those that have "tasted" of the good things of God who turn away from them. Notice that I say those who have tasted rather than those who have truly injested. I do believe that the Word of God is clear that those who are truly saved are eternally saved. The elect of God are secure! "He who began the good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Ph 1:6). 1 John reminds us that "they went out from us, because they were not really of us."

Unbelief is a dangerous thing. An unbelieving heart is here called an "evil heart." It is called such because "unbelief is at the bottom of all our sinful departures from God. If once we allow ourselves to distrust Him we may soon desert Him" (Matthew Henry). Recognizing that, and recognizing that we are all, at times, given over to an unbelieving heart we should be quite concerned to pray with the demoniac's father "I do believe; help my unbelief."

Most assuredly we need to pray for God to increase our faith. We must "watch and pray that we may not enter into temptation." However, our duty doesn't end there. It really hit me this morning that this is another of those "put off/put on" passages. The "put off" is unbelief and the "put on" is to "encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'today,' lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." The remedy for unbelief is encouragement! We are to "exhort one another daily." Beloved, we need one another - particularly when doubts are creeping in. We must take care lest there should be in anyone of us an evil, unbelieving heart and we should take care enough to get in one another's business "day after day" and be an encourager. Are you that kind of friend to those who are doubting?

On a final note, verse 13 ends with these words: "lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Sin is deceitful!!

"It appears fair, but is filthy. It appears pleasant, but is pernicious. It promises much, but performs nothing. One sin allowed prepares for another. Every act of sin confirms the habit. Sinning against conscience is the way to sear the conscience and therefore, it should be the great concern of every one of us to exhort himself and others to beware of sin." (Matthew Henry)
Here is the reason that outside encouragement is so crucial in this area. Sin is deceitful! Our hearts are deceitful (Jer 17:3) and we can so easily fool ourselves. That is why we need to encourage one another day after day as long as it is still called today, lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. If you are my friend, I need you to love me enough to get in my face both as an encourager and as an exhorter. On the flip side, I need to love you enough to do the same. Beloved, we need one another are we there for one another? Together, as the body of Christ, let us unite and take care.

Striving to do so,


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Consider Jesus - Hebrews 3

"Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling,
consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession."
(vs 1)

I don't know about you, but I tend to think alot - too much at times! My thoughts flow in fast and furious ways and within the course of a minute they cover more things than my mouth could ever hope to express. I'm a thinker and sometimes it gets me in trouble.

This morning I am convicted that the place where and the thing upon which my thoughts need to camp out the most is on Christ. "Consider Jesus!" He should be very much in our thoughts. Honestly, He should be always in our thoughts. Recognizing that we are living because of Him and are to be living for Him, should not we be thinking of Him in everything we do?

Matthew Henry says: "We have need to stir up one another to think more of Christ than we do. The best of His people think too seldom and too slightly of Him." Sad but true!

The writer of Hebrews is about the business of stirring us up to consider Christ! We saw it in chapter 2 when we were told that "we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." We will be told elsewhere in this wonderful book to "take care," to "encourage one another," to "draw near with confidence to the throne of grace," to "stimulate one another to love and good deeds," and "to hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering." We need to be about the business of considering Christ and we need to be about the business of encouraging one another to do so.

In considering Jesus, the author of this epistle points out two truths about Him. First, He is the Apostle of our confession. He is our Great High Prophet. It is Christ who is the Logos, the living Word. It is Christ who "is the great revealer of the faith which we possess and hold dear." In considering Jesus, pause to consider that even your ability to do so is a gift from Him!

Second, He is the High Priest of our confession. It is Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away our sins. It is upon His "satisfaction and intercession" that we "depend upon for pardon of sin." Consider your great Priest who offered Himself in your place as "a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God" and who is "making continual intercession for us." (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 25)

The Lord Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith. It is He who began the good work in us. It is He who accomplished the good work in us. It is He who will bring the good work to it's climactic eternal destination. "Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession."


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Partaking of Humanity and Delivering from Death - Hebrews 2 part 2

"Since then the children share in flesh and blood,
He Himself also partook of the same,
that through death He might render powerless
him who had the power of death, that is, the devil;
and might deliver those who through fear of death
were subject to slavery all their lives."
(vs 14-15)

Hebrews 1 declares to us that Christ is divine. He is God. He is the exact representation of God's nature. He upholds all things by His power. The Father says of the Son "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever."

Hebrews 2 declares to us that Christ is also man. He partook of flesh and blood. Christ was the God/man - 100% God and 100% man. The fancy theological term is the hypostatic union.

The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it like this: "The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man's nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseperably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man."

There was a time in my early days as a Christian when I simply took that as fact. It was good information to have if I found myself in the midst of a Bible/theological trivia game. "Hypostatic union" is a rather impressive phrase!

Yet the two natures of Christ are much more than trivia. They are the heart and soul of our salvation. It is who the Lord Jesus HAD to be if He was to save us. The hypostatic union is at the heart of our redemption.

We are sinners by nature and the just wages of that sinful nature is death (Rom 3:23, 6:23). Having fallen in Adam we are covered and condemned with the guilt and pollution of sin. In him as our federal head, we are born dying and apart from some miraculous intervention we will be always dying but never fully dead throughout eternity.

Enter Christ - the God/man. Enter the one and only hope for sinners. "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive." Only a perfect, blemishless, sinless sacrifice could pay the price our sins deserve. Yet no man could ever live such a life. Hence the necessity of Christ being God, the Holy God - that He could actively obey in our place. The sacrifice must die to pay the wages that our sins have earned. God is eternal - He cannot die. Hence the necessity of Christ being man - that He could passively die in our place.

Hebrews says that the atoning work of this hypostatically united Christ did 'render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives."

The divine Christ, in taking on flesh and blood, accomplished the purpose for which He was sent. "Satan draws men into sin that he might draw them into death"(Henry). Christ has rendered him powerless and He has delivered those who trust in Him from the slavish fear of death.

Are you scared of dying? Are you still in bondage to that slavish fear? If so, are you trusting in and meditating on the finished work of Christ. Through His mediatorial sacrifice and His victorious resurrection "death is now not only a conquered enemy but a reconciled friend." (Matthew Henry)

Is death a friend or a foe to you? Your answer may tell everything about your condition. "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil 1:21).

Living for Christ and longing for the gain that will one day be mine,

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Leaky Vessels Drifting Away - Hebrews 2

"For this reason we must pay much closer attention
to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable,
and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense,
how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?"
(vs 1-3)

Recently, I've found myself in a bit of a predicament and with a bit of a problem. The weight of affliction has caused me to have a few "holes" punched in and about me. I've shared with my husband and with a good friend that I've felt a bit like a colander or a leaky pot recently. What I receive from the Word - both read and preached seems to slip away far too quickly. God has been pleased to speak directly to my circumstances in providentially profound ways through His Word over the past few months. I'm a cracked pot (some of you already knew that) and don't always hold living water very well .

In reading these three verses I was reminded that I need to "pay much closer attention to what [I] have heard, lest [I] drift away from it." God has been pleased to show me in the past few months just how incredibly weak I am left to myself. He has revealed to me that I am still most assuredly "prone to wander" apart from the steadfast and certain preserving grace of His hand. I am not an anchored vessel in and of myself (nor are you). Christ alone is the anchor that will keep us afloat to the end.

That said, Matthew Henry spanked me this morning - hard! Thankfully, he spanked me and then he bound up the wounds he'd inflicted by pointing me to Christ my Savior. It was particularly astounding that this old Puritan used the phrase "leaky vessels" in his commentary. Wow! The God of omniscient wisdom knew that Lori would find herself as a leaky vessel in 2009 and was pleased to have my long dead and departed friend, Matthew Henry, pen that very phrase in the early 1700's - knowing that I'd run across it on the very day I needed it. Folks - our God knows, sees and cares. Pay attention to what you've heard from His word, lest you drift away from it.

Henry writes: "It is the great concern of everyone under the gospel to give the most earnest heed to all gospel discoveries and directions. We must embrace them in our hearts and affections, retain them in our memories, and finally regulate our words and actions according to them.

"He adds strong motives to enforce the exhortations. First, from the great loss we shall sustain if we do not take this earnest heed to the things which we have heard: we shall let them slip. Our minds and memories are like a leaky vessel, they do not without much care retain what is poured into them. Those meet with an inconceivable loss who let gospel truths slip out of their minds. All is lost, if the gospel be lost. If we do not well attend, we shall not long retain the word of God; inattentive hearers will soon be forgetful hearers.

"Secondly, another argument is taken from the dreadful punishment we shall incur if we do not do this duty. This law, spoken by angels, is unalterable and steadfast. It is like the promise, "yea and amen," it is truth and faithfulness, and it will abide and have its force whether men obey it or not, for every transgression and disobedience will receive a just recompence of reward. If men trifle with the Law of God, the Law will not trifle with them. Punishments are as just, and as much due to sin as rewards are to obedience.

"This salvation, is a great salvation. So great that none can fully express, no, nor yet conceive, how great it is. It shows how we may be saved from so great a sin and so great misery, and be restored to so great holiness and so great happiness.

"Sinning against the gospel is described as a neglect of this great salvation. It is a contempt put upon the saving grace of God in Christ, making light of it, not caring for it. Let us all take heed that we be not found among those wicked wretched sinners who neglect the grace of the gospel.

"The misery of those sinners is described as unavoidable. "How shall we escape?" The despoilers of this salvation are condemned already, under arrest and in the hands of justice already. There is no escaping out of this condemned state, but by accepting the great salvation offered in the gospel. As for those who neglect it, the wrath of God is upon them, and it abides upon them. There is no door of mercy left open for them, there will be no more sacrifice for sin."

As the prophet of old has said: "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts."

Personally, I am trusting the Potter to patch the holes in this leaky vessel and make me to retain that which He has granted that I might be firmly anchored in all the storms of life. The gospel is great - the Word is glorious - may we be attentive, holding hearers.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Got Enemies? - Hebrews 1 part 3

“But to which of the angels has He ever said,
‘Sit at My right hand,
until I make Thine enemies
a footstool for Thy feet?”
(vs 13)

I don't know about you, but I have had my share of enemies in this life - plenty of 'em. People (peers and even my parents) have stabbed me in the back - some repeatedly, all painfully. In my 40 years of life, I have been deeply wounded, hurt, scarred, stepped on and stomped on - at times by those who should have been my greatest allies. It can be easy to develop a victim mentality and to cry out "woe is me." It can be easy to do - yet not helpful to do - nor even necessary to do. Christ turns victims into victors - "But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer, through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:37)

Hebrews 1:13 speaks of One who had enemies and it really grabbed me this morning. "But to which of the angels has He ever said, 'Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet?"

In this passage, the Father is speaking of the Son and what jumped out to me is that Christ had enemies. I know, that 's not earthshattering, breaking news. Truthfully I suppose it is somewhat of a "duh" statement. "He was crucified, Lori - of course He had enemies!!" However, that fact really settled in with me this morning. It has made me pause to ponder: If Christ had enemies, should we be shocked that we do?

Hear the question again - If Christ had enemies,should we be shocked that we do?!

Matthew Henry writes: "Christ never did anything to make men His enemies, He has done a great deal to make them all His friends - and yet still He has enemies." To that I add simply - Selah!

Christ, the sinless Savior of the world, had and still has enemies. We should not be surprised that we share in these sufferings with Him.

I am reminded that persecution is a promise for the godly: "and indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim 3:12).

I am also reminded that, in God's economy, He is able to bring blessing from it: "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Mat 5:10-12).

The persecution of Christ, while the most vile and heinous act that has ever occurred in the history of the world, brought about the greatest blessing that the world has or will ever know - the salvation of sinners!

Had His enemies never falsely accused Him, wrongly convicted Him, and visciously nailed Him to the cross we would all still be dead and damned in our sins. Christ took upon Himself persecution that He did not deserve - He took what we deserve and gave us what we could NEVER merit! Jesus had enemies and you and I were numbered among them: "For...while we were enemies, we were recociled to God through the death of His Son." - Romans 5:10

The Lord Jesus Christ had enemies, He still has enemies - but the day is coming when He will make them a footstool for His feet. In the meantime - mercy, grace, and a treaty of peace are still universally extended to all who will desert the enemy camp and flee to the Kingdom of Christ. What a gracious God to so willingly extend an olive branch to those whom He has the power and right to crush with just a word. Do you realize how amazing the gracious offer of the gospel is?

Christ's conquering moment will come, and at a time when we least expect it. Which side are you bowing the knee to? Which army has your allegiance? Are you an enemy or a friend of Christ the King? It is a crucial question.

In closing, if you are enlisted in the cause of Christ and are facing your own enemy barragement this day, remember that your Captain is sovereign! He works all things according to the counsel of His will - even enemy bombardment!
Knowing that He is in control, know also that He has a blessed purpose in your trial - He truly does!! Just as His own persecution brought about God's glory and our own eternal good - so can yours! I leave you with some words from 1st Peter regarding our attitude and behavior as we face the foe and seek to dispel the fiery darts that they so often hurl in our direction.

"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ....

...don't return evil for evil, or insult for insult, but give a blessing instead....

...For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously....

...Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exaltation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right....

...Cast all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you....

...And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."

Thankful for the treaty of peace - praying for His and for my enemies,

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mutable and Immutable - Hebrews 1 part 2

"Thou, LORD, in the beginning didst
lay the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the works of Thy hands;
they will perish, but Thou remainest;
and they will become old as a garment,
and as a mantle Thou wilt roll them up;
as a garment they will also be changed,
but Thou art the same,
and Thy years will not come to and end."
(vs 11-12)

Looking at life from our horizontal perspective, change seems to be the one constant. Hours turn to days, days to weeks, weeks to months, months to years, years to decades. The new born becomes the toddler, becomes the teen, becomes the young adult, becomes the middle-aged adult, becomes the senior citizen, becomes ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Things are always changing in this ever changing world. "Things change" - God does not!

"Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; there is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not' as Thou hast been Thou
forever wilt me." - Thomas O. Chisolm, 1923

Things change - days that start out good sometimes turn out bad. Smiles turn to sorrows. Triumphs to tragedies. Again, things change GOD does not! There is great comfort in that fact, for we have an EVER PRESENT help in ALL of our troubles. Because of that "we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea." (Ps 46).

The immutable God is with us and always will be. His existence will not change - He will not grow old and die. His character will not change - He won't suddenly cease being kind and merciful and suddenly become evil and cruel. His ways will not change - He will keep His promises to His children. His unchanging nature is a grand comfort!

There are three facts that I'd like to highlight from these verses - three realities that have served as a catalyst to encourage my soul this morning. Then I shall rely on Matthew Henry's comments which time them together.

1) Christ is the Creator of all that is. "Thou, LORD, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands."

2) Created things are mutable. "They will perish...and they all will become old as a garment, and as a mantle Thou wilt roll them up; as a garment they will also be changed."

3) Christ is immutable. "...but Thou remainest... but Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end."

"This world is mutable, all created nature is so; this world has passed through many changes, and shall pass through many, many more. Not only men and beasts and trees grow old, but this world itself grows old, and is hastening to its dissolution. It changes like a garment and has lost much of its beauty and strength. It bears the symptoms of a dying world. But then its dissolution will not be utter destruction, but its change.

"Christ will fold up this world as a garment not to be abused any longer. Sin has made a great change in the world for the worse, and Christ will make a great change in it for the better. Christ is the same in Himself, and the same to his people in all the changes of time. Christ is immutable and imortal, His years shall not fail. Christ lives to take care of us while we live, and of ours when we are gone."

The unchanging Christ lives, rules, reigns. He, the immutable one makes our mutability a marvelous thing - for He makes old things new. He brings beauty from the ashes, dancing from the mourning, life from death!

As the changes of this day unfold - are you building on the shifting sands of uncertainty or on the immutable Rock of Ages? He has created the world in which we live and this day in which we walk. All are the work of His hands. They will perish, but He will remain. Lean upon the everlasting arms and rest on the firm foundation.

In His glorious grace,

Saturday, August 15, 2009

First Words on THE Final Word - Hebrews 1

"GOD, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets
in many portions and in many ways,
in these last days has spoken to us in His Son,
whom He appointed heir of all things,
through whom also he made the world.
And He is the radiance of His glory
and the exact representation of His nature,
and upholds all things by the word of His power.
When He had made purification of sins,
He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high...."
(vs 1-3)

After finishing a very full study of Isaiah I asked my wise huband where he thought I should camp out next. Without a hesitation he said "Hebrews." His reason was that it is so Christocentric - so full of Jesus. So here I am and clearly, here HE is and oh! is He not glorious?!

Right off the bat we see, from the words of the apostle, that Christ is the fullness of revelation. He is the apex of the Word and of creation. He is the center of redemptive history and honestly all of history - hence BC/AD - the birth of Christ split time in two!

He is the living Word become the final word. Christ is "the most excellent Messenger that was ever sent into the world." (Matthew Henry) We would do well to listen to Him! Who else's voice need we to hear now that He has spoken? "In these last days He has spoken to us in His Son."

Several truths about Christ are revealed in the opening words of this grand epistle.

1) He is "heir of all things." "Whom He appointed heir of all things."

It's all about Christ. Everything revolves around Him. He is the heir of everything. Is your life humbly submitted to Him? He owns it whether you want Him to or not. Is it not much better and much wiser to be a bond-servant of the mercies of Christ than a rightful recipient of the justice of Christ? He will inherit you either way - either as an object of mercy or as an object of wrath. May we flee to the Heir of all things knowing that in so doing we shall receive an inheritance from Him that is "imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." (1 Pe 1:4)

2) The world was made through Him. "Through whom also He made the world."

Colossians points us to this same truth: "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created by Him and for Him." (Col 1:16)

Christ is the author of the original creation and He is the author of the new creation - that which is wrought to us through saving faith. (If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation.) How much do we owe to the great 2nd person of the Trinity?!! This side of heaven we cannot even begin to comprehend and on the other side we will sing of it in amazement for all eternity! May we cast ourselves upon Him who made us that His omnipotent hand might take care of us!

3)He is God! "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature."

Here is a beautiful passage on the deity of Christ. He is no mere reflection of God but the EXACT representation of God's nature. "Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh. The person of the Son is the true image and character of the Father. In beholding the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ, we behold the power, wisdom, and goodness of God the Father. This is the glory of the person of Christ; the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him." (Matthew Henry). Christ is Emmanuel - God with us. What comfort to know that my Savior is my God!

4) He is the Sovereign Sustainer of the universe. He "upholds all things by the word of His power."

The same Christ who spoke all that is into being -simply by the power of His word- sustains all that is simply by the word of His power. I quickly run out of steam trying to hold my little 3 bedroom corner of the world together in my own strength. Yet Christ reigns over ALL the universe and every detail of it with just a word - and He never grows weary! What a powerful, almighty, magnificent God He is! May we find our strength in Him for it is made perfect in our weakness!

5) He is the perfect Priest of His people. "When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."

Jesus Christ who is God incarnate, the heir of all things, the creator and sustainer of all, this most excellent and most glorious One is not only great but gracious. He who made life physical grants to us life spiritual through His own blood.

Matthew Henry writes: "From the glory of the person of Christ He proceeds to mention the glory of the grace of Christ. The sufferings of Christ had this great honor in them, to be a full satisfaction for the sins of His people. By Himself He purged away our sins. He has made atonement for sin. Himself, the glory of His person and nature, gave to His suffering such merit as was a sufficient reparation of honor to God, who has suffered injury and affront by the sins of men."

As Hebrews begins we are immediately pointed to the great and glorious final Word - Jesus Christ, the exact representation of God. He is the giver of life, the sustainer of life, the granter of eternal life. He has paid the price, in full, for the sins of His people and because "it is finished" He has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Do you know this all great and glorious Christ? If not, how I hope and pray that you will pause to examine the book of Hebrews, this wonderfully Christocentric book, and that He will leap out from its pages in all of His splendor and majesty and aprehend your heart.

Thankful for the Son,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Final Words/ Eternal Consequences - Isaiah 66 part 3

"For I know their works and their thoughts,
the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues.
And they shall come and see My glory.
And I will set a sign among them
and will send survivors from them to the nations....
For just as the new heavens and the new earth
which I make will endure before Me
so your offspring and your name will endure....
All mankind will come to bow down before Me...
Then they shall go forth and look on the corpses
of the men who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm shall not die,
and their fire shall not be quenched,
and they shall be an abhorence to all mankind."
(vs 18-24 selected)

Here are the final words of Isaiah's prophecy. Nothing earth shattering. Nothing newly profound. Simply a clear, final declaration of that which he has faithfully preached over and over and over. The righteous shall prosper. The wicked shall perish. There are blessings for those who repent and flee to Christ. There are curses for the hard-hearted rebels who scoff at His great mercy. Several final things jump out at me.

1) "For I know their works and their thoughts, the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory." God knows which of the two we are - righteous or wicked. He knows our works and our thoughts. Nothing can be hidden from Him. We won't pull the wool over His eyes. He will gather us all to His judgment seat and either Christ will be our advocate or our prosecutor. Which role will Christ assume on my/your behalf?

2) "And I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations." There is a redeemed remnant among these people. There are those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life and it is these who have been set apart as survivors of the fall's curse. Is the sign of survivor written on the doorpost of our lives?

3) "For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me, so your offspring will endure." The everlasting covenant continues. God has given promises to the children of His people. Are we being faithful with the responsibilities that accompany the promise?

4) "All mankind will come to bow down before Me." No created being shall escape the worship of God. Either we will bow the knee now with thankful hearts or we will bow the knee then undone hearts! Which will it be?

5) "Then they shall go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched; and they shall be an abhorence to all mankind." Just as their are gracious blessings given to the repentant so their are just curses given to the unrepentant. The wages of sin is death - and it is an eternal death. The wicked shall be always dying but never dead. Let that sink in. That is what you and I deserve because of our sin and yet through Christ, God has provided a way of escape. Where will I spend eternity? Where will you spend eternity?

God speaks of the eternal nature of hell in this passage. I have crossed paths with many in recent years who hold to a theory of anihilation where hell is concerned. Many simply can't fathom that God would allow anyone to suffer forever. They don't like to think of a God like that. Oh friends, we must think of a God like that for that is what He says about Himself. God is Holy, Holy, Holy. He is the Righteous Judge. Sin is serious - there is nothing trite about it and the fact that God speaks of its consequences as being an undying worm and an unquenchable fire simply illustrates the issue.

Several years ago, I ran across a striking word picture of the eternal nature of hell. It comes from Thomas Watson's great work "A Body of Divinity." He writes:

"The pleasures of sin are but for a seaon, but the torments of the wicked are for ever. Sinners have a short feast, but a long reckoning. ...The worm, the fire, the prison, are all eternal. "The smoke of their torment ascendeth for ever and ever" (Rev 14:11). Eternity is a sea without bottom and banks. After millions of years, there is not one minute in eternity wasted; and the damned must be ever burning, but never consuming, always dying, but never dead. "They shall seek death, but shall not find it" (Rev 9:6). The fire of hell is such, as multitudes of tears will not quench it, length of time will not finish it; the vial of God's wrath will be always dropping upon a sinner. As long as God is eternal, he lives to be avenged upon the wicked.

"Oh eternity! eternity! who can fathom it? Mariners have their plummets to measure the depths of the sea; but what line or plummet shall we use to fathom the depth of eternity? The breath of the Lord kindles the infernal lake (Is 30:33), and where shall we have engines or buckets to quench that fire?

"Oh eternity! If all the body of the earth and sea were turned to sand, and all the air up to the starry heaven were nothing but sand, and a little bird should come every thosand years, and fetch away in her bill but the tenth part of a grain of all that heap of sand, what numberless years would be spent before that vast heap of sand would be fetched away!

"Yet, if at the end of all that time, the sinner might come out of hell, there would be some hope; but that word 'ever' breaks the heart. The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever. What a terror is this to the wicked, enough to put them into a cold sweat, to think, as long as God is eternal, He lives for ever to be avenged upon them!"

Not the cheeriest of notes to end Isaiah on but this is the tone which God has been pleased to close this Romans of the Old Testament with. Isaiah has been full of Christ, full of hope, full of hard truth. It ends with a portrait of the antithesis between the righteous and the wicked and the wages that each will eternally bear. Beloved, flee to Christ the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 that you might mercifully drink of the eternal water of life rather than justly groan from the unquenchable fire of eternal death. He has made a way for sinners. Come to Jesus.

In His glorious grace,

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Peace Like a River - Isaiah 66 part 2

"For thus says the LORD,
'Behold, I extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream.
(vs 12)

As a child I remember singing "I've got peace like a river, I've got peace like a river, I've got peace like a river in my soul." Isaiah 66 is the biblical text for the lyric of this old tune.

In this place we have the source of peace proclaimed - God's gracious gift and promise. Peace is a fruit of His Spirit (Gal 6) and comes from being united through faith and repentance with Christ, the Prince of Peace. True and lasting peace is found nowhere else.

Biblical peace is not necessarily the cessation of all conflicts without (that won't truly happen until heaven) it is not even necessarily the cessation of war within our hearts (we battle sin, self, and Satan). But it is a removal of the enmity that matters the most - our enmity with God - and due to that there is provided for us, through the mediatorial work of Christ, an inward frame that can withstand the most torrential storm surge. Peace!

I love Matthew Henry's words on this verse:

"God will extend peace to her like a river that runs in a constant stream. The gospel brings with it, wherever it is received in its power, such peace as this, which shall go on like a river, supplying souls with all good and making them fruitful, as a river does the lands it passes through."
This past school year my son, Joshua, and I spent a good bit of time studying about Mesopotamia - the land between the rivers. That section of the Middle East is known as the fertile crescent because of the wonderful quality of soil and land that is found between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.

God makes a fertile crescent of peace in the lives of His elect. Do you have peace? Do you need peace? Flee to the river's source and drink fully of His abundant and merciful supply. "I've got peace like a river" - in Christ.

On the river,


Monday, August 10, 2009

Humble, Contrite, and Trembling at the Word - Isaiah 66

"Thus says the LORD,
'Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
For My hand made all these things,
thus all these things came into being.'
declares the LORD.
'But to this one I will look,
to him who is humble and contrite of spirit,
and who trembles at My word."
(vs 1-2)

This last chapter of Isaiah begins with a great picture of the grandeur of God. Heaven is His throne. Earth is His footstool. How could we ever create a place to hold the Creator, Sustainer, and Filler of all?

His hands have made all things and through Him everything came into being. He is the first cause of all and His providence rules even over the second causes. He is the High King, the Great Potentate, the Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omnisicient LORD of Lords.

If anyone has cause for pride, it is God. Yet, He is not a haughty God but a God full of compassion and lovingkindness. Indeed His mercies never cease but are new every morning. He has loved us so much that He has humbled Himself to become one of us and to take our place at the cross of justice that it might become the cross of grace!

God who made all, God who rules all, God who owns all and who deserves absolute and complete allegiance is not a cruel dictator but a loving Father to His adopted children. He will look to him who is humble and contrite of spirit. And He will turn to him who trembles at His word.

As I meditate on verse two I am forced to confess that I am not humble and contrite enough nor do I tremble before this Living Word as I ought. I remain much in need of the grace and mercy of the Gracious and Merciful God and ask Him simply to break me of my pride and to make me a proper trembler.

Praying to fear Him as I should,

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Arms Stretched Out - Isaiah 65

"I permitted Myself to be sought
by those who did not ask for Me;
I permitted Myself to be found
by those who did not seek Me.
I said, 'Here am I, hear am I,'
To a nation which did not call on My name.
I have spread out My hands all day long
to a rebellious people,
who walks in the way which is not good,
following their own thoughts,
a people who continually provoke Me
to My face."
(vs 1-3)

1 John tells us that we love, because He first loved us. Isaiah 65 tells us the same thing. Everything we have from Him started with Him.

Look at the language of this text. He permitted Himself to be sought by those who did not ask for Him. He permitted Himself to be found by those who did not seek Him. I am reminded of Romans 3 - "There is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks for God."

The old hymn rings true that says: "I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew he moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me; it was not I that found, O Savior true; no, I was found of Thee." Josiah Conder echos the same thoughts in his hymn:

"'Tis not that I did choose Thee, for, Lord, that could not be; this heart would still refuse Thee, hadst Thou not chosen me. Thou from the sin that stained me hast cleansed and set me free; of old Thou hast ordained me, that I should live to Thee.

'Twas sovereign mercy called me and taught my op'ning mind; the world had else enthralled me, to heav'nly glories blind. My heart owns none before Thee,for Thy rich grace I thirst; this knowing, if I love Thee, Thou must have loved me first."

Let that thought sink in. God permitted Himself to be sought and found by those who did NOT ask for Him and by those who did NOT seek Him. Mercy is marvelous. Sovereign mercy is more than marvelous - it is beyond the ability to express! We have been "courted by divine grace. God Himself, by His prophets, by His Son, by His apostles, by His Spirit, stretched forth his hands to [us]. He spread them out as one reasoning and expostulating with [us]." (Matthew Henry)

Sovereign, pursuing, omnipotent grace. Can we even begin to take it in?!?!

Isaiah continues: I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way that is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face."

Oh, God is not like us. In our rebellion He is the prodigal's father. In our provocation He is providentially pursuing. Don't harden your hearts beloved! See in these verses the glory of the gospel. "For while we were still helpless at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.... But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.... while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son." (Romans 5)

Do you not see the compassion of the cross in this passage from Isaiah. "I have spread out my hands all day long to a rebellious people." God HAS spread out His hands all day long to a rebellious people. Is that not exactly what Christ did for us on Calvary - spread out His hands all day long to a rebellious people?! His hands were streched out and nailed to Calvary's cross for you and for me! He stretched out His hands to receive you, rebellious one. Flee to Him in faith and repentance. Take hold of that which Christ Jesus has taken hold of for you. Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Arouse Yourself to Take Hold of Him - Isaiah 64 part 2

"And there is no one who calls on Thy name,
who arouses himself to take hold of Thee;
for Thou hast hidden Thy face from us,
and hast delivered us into the power of our iniquities."
(vs 7)

I have to say that Isaiah 64:7 has hit me hard. It struck me right between the eyes. Rung my bell. Clocked me good! There are times when we are just stubborn people. Let me rephrase that - there are times when I am just a stubborn person! Why is it that in the middle of affliction we often run from the very thing that will offer us the greatest help - the only help? God has taught me much in the past few months and I am immeasurably grateful!

At times God hides the light of His face from us. At times God APPEARS to be sleeping much like Christ was in the Matthew 8:24. In that passage Matthew writes:

And when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm in the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves; but He Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, 'Save us, lord; we are perishing!" And He said to them, 'Why are you timid, you men of little faith?' Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and it became perfectly calm.

Christ leads His disciples into a boat, knowing that the boat will lead them into a storm. He's omniscient - He is fully aware of everything that is about to transpire. Knowing that the storm is coming and knowing that the disciples will be scared out of their wits, Jesus goes to sleep. He didn't have to go to sleep - He's God. He didn't need a power nap or a super snooze. No, what He needed was to be asleep in the storm in order for His disciples to cry out to Him, to seek His face in their distress, to see their need of Him and acknowledge it. At times God appears to be asleep that we might be serious and tenacious about prayer.

I mention Matthew 8 for a reason. Here in Isaiah 64 the people's iniquity is causing them to wither like a leaf and they are being carried away by the wind- and this is no gentle breeze kind of wind but a great turbulent hurricane full throttle absolute gale full whammy storm wind - we're talking category 5! And what do they do? Rather, what do they NOT do? The don't pray. They don't call on His name. They don't seek His face. They do nothing to take hold of the only anchor that can steady them and keep them truly afloat. Oh, how we need to arouse ourselves to take hold of Him. Watch and pray lest you fall into temptation. Wrestle like Jacob at Peniel. Take hold of Him, in prayer, until He gives you His promised blessing.

Listen to Mr. Henry on this verse: "There was none that sought for grace to reform them or mercy to relieve them. None stirred themselves up to take hold of God. To pray is to take hold of God. It is by faith to take hold of the promises God has made of His goodwill to us. Prayer is to take hold of Him as He that wrestles takes hold of him he wrestles with.

"When we take hold of God it is as the boatman, with his hook, takes hold of the shore. He pulls as though he would bring the shore to him, but really it is to pull himself to the shore. So we pray, not to bring God to us, but ourselves to Him. Those that would take hold of God in prayer must stir up themselves to do it. All that is in us must be employed in the duty, our thoughts fixed and our affections flaming."

Does God's face seem hidden? Does your leaf seem to be withering? Are the winds of the storm beating ferociously upon your boat? Then arouse yourself and take hold of Him. And when even that seems impossible, then beg Him to arouse you and strengthen you to walk in the steps of prayer even if you must walk against the hurricane. His grace is sufficient, cry out for it and don't let go!

Walking, praying, and thankful for a break in the storm

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Filthy Rags - Isaiah 64

"For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
and all of us wither like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away."
(vs 6)

Well, if ever you thought you were good enough to earn something from God then look at verse 6 and think again. "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment."

Beloved, no matter how good you think you are, no matter how much you think you deserve hear the words of your Maker - your BEST deeds are like a filthy, soiled, refuse soaked rag. We have nothing to offer Him but our sin.

In question 91, the Heidelberg Catechism asks "what are good works?" The answer it gives is threefold. Good works are only those that "proceed from a true faith (Rom 14:23), are performed according to the law of God (Rom 7:7), and to His glory (1 Co 10:31), and not such as are founded on our imaginations, or the institutions of men."

Take a look at those words again. Look at the marks that biblically define a deed as good: performed from true faith, performed according to the law of God, and performed for His glory. Even if we happened to get the first two right, how rarely do we truly do things for His glory - really, honestly, and fully for His glory. Yes, indeed even our BEST deeds are like filthy garments.

Friends, we desperately need the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. It is ONLY in and through Him that anything good dwells in us and flows from us. What garments are you walking in this day? Your filthy rags or the righteous robes of the Lord Jesus Christ?

In His glorious grace,

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Make Mention -Isaiah 63

"I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD,
the praises of the LORD,
according to all that the LORD has granted us,
and the great goodness toward the house of Israel,
which He has granted them according to His compassion,
and according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.
For He said, 'Surely, they are My people,
sons who will not deal falsely.'
So He became their Savior.
In all their affliction He was afflicted,
and the angel of His presence saved them;
In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them;
and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old."

In our distresses it is a good thing to "make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD." It's amazing how easily I can remember the hard and annoying rocks of my life and how difficult it seems to be to hold onto the wonderful stones of remembrance that God has faithfully laid. Ed Hartman, in his book "Homeward Bound," says that we tend to write the trials and afflictions and difficulties in stone while writing the blessings and mercies and lovingkindnesses of God in the dust. Recently I've had cause to stop and realize how necessary the Ebenezer's are and how desperately I need to set my gaze upon them - in stone!

Chapter 63 begins with the prophetic warning of God's vengeance that will be unleashed on the nations. It speaks of Christ coming in His holy zeal and justly dealing with the sins of man. That ought to make us all quake in our boots, for we are all guilty. Yet for those who are fleeing to Christ as the sure source of refuge there is therefore now no condemnation. Therefore, if we are in Christ and we find ourselves fearful then it would do us a world of good to stop and remember who He is and what He has done on our behalf.

Isaiah is going to dwell on God's lovingkindness and not only one lovingkindness but lovingkindnesses - plural. God's goodness to us is plenteous and abundant. The streams of this river are full and ever flowing. Pause to drink of this fount and let it move you to praise the Lord. He is good to His people, even in the difficult things of this life.

Notice that we are not only to dwell on His lovingkindnesses but we are to make mention of them. We need to talk about them. We need to talk about Him. We don't dwell nor speak nearly enough of our God to ourselves or to others. Christian, in your discouragements pause and determine to make mention of His lovingkindnesses to you. Count ALOUD "all that the LORD has granted us."

Take your eyes off the trials of the moment and gaze at what He has granted you according to His compassion. He gives good things, He accomplishes good things, He works all things together for good because He is good. His compassionate character is the source of His compassionate gifts. They are "according to His mercies and not our merits." (Henry). Therefore may the mention made of His lovingkindnesses drive us to worship the author of lovingkindnesses.

The greatest of His lovingkindnesses is that He became our Savior. This holy and compassionate God's lovingkindesses are so great that He gave Himself as the propitiation of our sins. He stood in our place. He bore our griefs and sorrows. Here Isaiah says "In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in his mercy He redeemed them."

Not only did He redeem His people but he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Christ doesn't simply pull us out of the pit and give us a spit shine and send us on our merry way. No, when Christ saves His people He lifts them up and carries them forever - all the way into eternity. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What lovingkindnesses! Christian - go forth and make mention of this good news this day and every day!

Man of sorrows! what a name
for the Son of God, who came
ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned He stood,
sealed my pardon with His blood:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Guilty, vile, and helpless, we;
spotless Lamb of God was He;
full atonement! Can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Lifted up was He to die,
"It is finished!" was His cry;
now in heav'n exalted high:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
When He comes, our glorious King,
all His ransomed home to bring,
then anew this song we'll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Phillip Bliss, 1875