Nothing is impossible for God (Jeremiah 32:17, 27)

We are frail. This reality becomes increasingly obvious with increasing years. We are frail and we are vulnerable, and we live in a broken world that is hostile to frailty and vulnerability.

And this feeling of weakness is intentional. Man is designed by his Creator to feel his vulnerability and his insignificance in the immensity of the universe and in the complexity of his world. There are so many ways that we can feel overwhelmed by life, that it must be given to us by design. There are a variety of threats that can plague us at any moment, unexpectedly breaking into our lives and shattering our former serenity. There can be threats to our most important relationships, threats to our livelihood, threats to our health, threats to our sense of security, threats to our need for meaning and significance. Any one of these threats can produce a situation where escape seems impossible and where there is no path forward that will not be tragic or disastrous. What are we to do in these circumstances? Is there an answer and a place to turn, or is surrendering to our vulnerability simply a consequence of being human? After all, who can do the impossible?

It is in these situations that the believer, the one who calls upon the name of the Lord, can turn to his God and cry out to Him. For what we need is a God who can do the impossible, who can come to us in our frailty and our vulnerability and rescue us. We need a Savior who is mighty to save, not only from sin, but also from the threats of this world. We need a God who has publicly declared His willingness and His ability to help those who cry out to Him. And in the Lord, we have such a God. Consider these passages of Scripture:

‘Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You’ (Jeremiah 32:17).

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).

But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3).

“With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew19:26).

“Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son” (Genesis 18:14).

The Lord has repeatedly and conclusively declared His power and His ability to do whatever He pleases, and He has also declared that it pleases Him to do good to His children. The Lord Jesus teaches that, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?” (Matthew 7:11).

The Lord is certainly able to do the impossible and our faith tells us that He is willing to help us with our impossible situation.

“And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth. For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:21-22)

Whatever you are facing now that seems humanly impossible is not impossible for God. Cry out to Him and have faith that His power demonstrated in the creation of the world and in raising Christ from the dead will also avail for you.

SDG rmb 1/7/2022 #481

A God who acts on behalf of those who wait (Isaiah 64:4)

INTRODUCTION: This is part of a series of articles intended to offer encouragement for the follower of Jesus as they persevere through 2022 and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). This post focuses on a verse from Isaiah.

For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear,
Nor has the eye seen a God besides You,
Who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him. – Isaiah 64:4

In the prophecy of Isaiah are contained some of the most astonishing words in the entirety of Scripture. Isaiah paints powerful pictures of the glory of the LORD and of His awesome might. He is God, and there is no other! He will not give His glory to another. He holds the oceans in the palm of His hand. And the LORD is the sovereign ruler of the universe, calling all the stars by name. Yet this One who is the Most High is also a Savior and a Redeemer. He is the One who will send His Servant who will be born of a virgin and will be pierced through for our transgressions. The LORD’s Servant will justify the many because He will bear their iniquities. Thus, the LORD will wrap His people in a robe of righteousness. The LORD is the Creator God, the Most High, the Holy One of Israel, and yet Isaiah tells us that this Most High God has compassion on His people. When He saw that there was no one to intercede, His own arm brought salvation to Him. He is the One who speaks in righteousness, mighty to save. This is the awesome God that Isaiah’s prophecy reveals. He is a God like no other, the Creator of the universe and yet the Redeemer for all those who turn from transgression in Jacob.

Before we read Isaiah 64:4, then, it is good to understand who the LORD is who makes this astonishing statement through the prophet. Now consider the verse.

“From days of old.” The beauty and power of Isaiah’s prose is breathtaking. This phrase could have simply been rendered, “never.” The phrase means, “From the beginning of time until now, and even till eternity future.” When Micah is speaking of the Messiah, of His birthplace (Bethlehem) and of His origin, the prophet says, “His goings forth are from long ago, from days of eternity” (Micah 5:2). This is the same force as “from days of old.” We will settle on “from eternity past.”

They have not heard.” Who is the “they”? “They” means anyone who has ever heard anything with their ear and anyone who has ever seen anything with their eye. “They” includes every human being who has ever lived. No one in the human race has ever heard or seen a God besides YHWH (the LORD) who acts the way He does. The LORD is utterly unique, more majestic and powerful and holy than can be imagined with the human mind. He has no rivals, He has no equals, He alone is God.

But the most startling part of this verse is yet to come. No ear has ever heard, and no eye has ever seen a God besides the LORD “who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him.” The LORD, the sovereign ruler of all the universe, the One who threw the stars into place and the One who created all that we see “will act on behalf of the one who waits for Him.” How can this be? Through the prophet, the LORD declares that He is available to act on behalf of anyone who will wait for Him. David “waited patiently for the LORD,” and the LORD inclined to his cry. Again, in another place David tells us that we are to “wait for the LORD, be strong and let your heart take courage, yes, wait for the LORD.” The LORD is the One true and living God who will act on behalf of anyone who will cry out to Him and wait for Him to answer. There are no other conditions placed on this offer. The LORD has authorized His prophet to announce this astonishing offer for anyone with faith to accept it. Look to the LORD and cry out to Him, and then wait expectantly for His answer. He has committed to act on behalf of anyone who will wait for Him. We have a God who will move heaven and earth on our behalf if we will simply cry out to Him and wait for Him in faith.

SDG                 rmb                 1/5/2022                     #480

Some more thoughts for beginning a new year

Since it is only the fourth day of the new year, I decided it was not too late to offer one more idea that can hopefully help you persevere in your journey with the Lord in 2022.

INTRODUCTION: As I have said before, I anticipate that the future is going to be increasingly difficult for followers of Jesus. Paul told Timothy, “But realize this, that in the last days, difficult times will come” (2 Tim. 3:1). Judging by the signs we see in our world, there is reason to believe that our days are those days. So, I think 2022 will be more challenging than 2021 and that things in 2022 will continue to deteriorate. And while we, as followers of Christ, may be emotionally affected by the decline of our world and may be saddened by personal losses, we will not fear, for God is for us. Fear is to be foreign to us. In light of this, I propose two plans.

THE BASIC PLAN

The basic plan is a sort of meeting minimum requirements plan. The objective of this plan is very simple. The plan involves constructing a biblical defense against anxiety and fear such that we obey the repeated command in the Bible, “Do not fear.” As background, as you read through the Bible, you will discover that, for the one who knows the LORD, there is never an excuse for fear. In the midst of the bleakest and most desperate of circumstances, the believer is expected to trust the Lord and to fear not. And so we, as those who follow Jesus, are to imitate their examples. So, in 2022, since it seems likely to me that our circumstances will become more threatening and more frightening, make it a priority to develop your Basic Plan for eliminating fear and replacing it with trust. A good place to begin is Psalm 46:1-3. Then go on to Isaiah 43:1-5 or so. But there are many other places. One clue is to look for every occurrence in your Bible of “Fear not,” or something like it. In virtually every such occurrence, there will be a reason given for why the person should not fear. Make a list of those reasons and record those verses and create your Basic Plan. Remember, the Basic Plan is to get us to the place where we will not fear.

THE PREMIUM PLAN

Then there is what I call the Premium Plan. This is the plan for the one who is living in fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) and is trusting fully in the Lord. This is the believer who has decided to persevere in 2022, because they have resolved to live with conscious joy and hope, regardless of the visible circumstances.

These trust the Lord at all times, regardless of all else. The Lord is trustworthy and has proven Himself faithful in the Bible and in each believer’s life. So, the one with the Premium Plan trusts the Lord always and in every instance.

The disciple who will live with joy in 2022 focuses their mind on the goodness and strength of the Lord, not on the world’s noise. There always have been and always will be noises from the world sent out to cause us to fear and intended to distract us from devotion to the Lord, but the one whose eyes are fixed on Jesus will run with perseverance the race set before him (Hebrews 12:1-2) and the one who has the Lord for his light and salvation will not fear (Psalm 27:1).

The one who will persevere in the 2022 Premium Plan will meditate on all the Lord has done for him. The more often we meditate on the Lord, the deeper we go in appreciating all that the Lord has done for us in Christ. Twice in Ephesians Paul prays that the disciples in Ephesus would grasp the amazing riches of their salvation in Christ (Ephesians 1:17-20; 3:17-19). In the same way we, as we meditate on all the Lord has done in salvation, will walk in perseverance in 2022.

Not only should we comprehend all that the Lord has done for us in Christ and in His salvation, but we should spend time praising the Lord for those things. It is fitting to give praise to the Lord for all He has done. Praising the Lord is part of the Premium Plan.

Finally, the Premium Plan includes heavy doses of thanksgiving leading to a settled contentment. The more we consider the goodness of the Lord, the more reasons we have to give Him thanks. And the more we genuinely thank the Lord, the more content we are with our circumstances, no matter what they are. The way to reach contentment is not to improve your circumstances, but it is to lower your contentment threshold by being more thankful.

Hopefully, these suggestions will help you live a “premium” 2022, no matter what the Lord chooses to bring into your life.

SDG                 rmb                 1/4/2022                     #479

“They will come to Me” – (John 6:37 – Part 4)

INTRODUCTION: This is the last post in this series studying John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly teaches in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our third study in this series, we considered the phrase in the verse, “will come to Me” and sought to answer the question, “What does it mean for the sinner to ‘come to Jesus’?”  (See post #469 on 12/11/2021.) This article gives a clear explanation of what it means to come to Jesus in repentance and in faith.

In this fourth and final article from John 6:37, we will be discovering what Jesus promises to the one who comes to Him in repentance and faith. Our Lord says, “The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” What does this mean? What is Jesus’ purpose in this teaching?

THE BELIEVER IS NOT CAST OUT

There are many ways that we can understand this expression.

The reason Jesus said this was to give confidence to the person who has believed in Him. Jesus’ purpose was to let the one who trusts in Him for salvation know that the believer is held securely by the Savior. That is, the believer is saved forever. There is no possibility that the one who has trusted in Jesus will ever be lost again. Eternally secure.

We already know that the one who comes to Jesus for salvation has passed from death to life (John 5:24). That is a one-way ticket. There is no return flight. The death of Jesus has been applied to the believing sinner’s sin and believer’s sin is atoned for. All the sins of the believer are covered by the blood of the Lamb and are therefore forever separated from the believer as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

By faith in Jesus, the sinner is born again (or born from above). The twice born can never suffer the condemnation and punishment of the once born. The one who has believed in Jesus has been “delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of Jesus Christ, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). Again, this is a one-way trip. There is no path back into the darkness for the true believer.

There is therefore now no condemnation for the one who has trusted in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Not now, not ever.

So, Jesus is here proclaiming that the one who has trusted in Him as Lord and Savior is certainly bound for heaven and will be there eternally. That is the entire purpose of Jesus’ statement. Therefore, believe in Jesus.

SDG                 rmb                 12/20/2021                 #472

Genesis 22 – Part 1 – Foreshadowing the cross

INTRODUCTION: In many ways, Genesis 22 is the culmination of the Bible’s story of Abraham, for in this chapter we see the foreshadowing of the cross of Jesus, we again encounter the angel of the LORD, and we see the supreme demonstration of Abraham’s faith as he takes his son, his only son, whom he loves, Isaac, to the land of Moriah to sacrifice him there (22:2). This series of articles will cover these different elements of Genesis 22.

The first article will focus on the way the circumstances and details of this narrative in Genesis 22 paints for us a clear foreshadow of the cross of Jesus Christ.

FORESHADOW (TYPE) OF CHRIST (GENESIS 22:1-10)

No word or detail of the inspired text of the Bible is random. The Bible is God’s word to His people, and God has chosen each word precisely for its intended purpose. As we read the Bible, then, we are alert for details that God has placed in the text to communicate His message to us. It is not surprising, then, that a first reading of Genesis 22:1-10 reveals that this father and son event points toward another Father and Son event out in the future. The details of this passage foreshadow Jesus’ crucifixion.

GENESIS 22:2

Examining the passage, then, we first observe that God tells Abraham to “take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as an offering on one of the mountains” (22:2).

Abraham the father was to take his only son. This son was the answer to all his waiting and all his hope. This was his ONLY son. There would not be another. All God’s promises to Abraham rested on this son, his only son. This only son, Isaac, was the son whom Abraham loved. This detail is not given for information, but for emphasis. Can you feel the agony of this assignment? Imagine the father’s pain in taking his beloved only son to Moriah and offering him there as an offering. Notice, also, the place of the offering. Moriah was the place where, a thousand years later, Solomon would build his temple, there to offer sacrifices. So, Moriah was associated with sacrifice and burnt offering. But another thousand years after Solomon, Moriah was also the place outside of Jerusalem where the Romans would crucify criminals. And Abraham was to take his beloved only son to Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice.

These details are given to us here in Genesis 22:2 so that, when we see the events of Jesus’ journey to the cross, we can see that these events were pictured for us in this narrative so many years before. For we know that Jesus was the Father’s only begotten Son. There will never be another. He is the only Son of the Father. Jesus is the Beloved Son. Jesus said, “For the Father loves the Son” (John 5:20). And in the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus was praying to the Father and said, “You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). So, what we see in Jesus’ crucifixion is the Father giving His beloved only begotten Son as a sacrifice on the hill of Moriah.

GENESIS 22:3

The detail to be noticed in this verse is the wood. Abraham “split the wood for the burnt offering.” The wood was necessary for the burnt offering. The sacrifice was not possible without the wood. For our Lord Jesus, His sacrifice was also not possible without the wood of the cross, So, both for Isaac and for Jesus, the wood is essential to the sacrifice.

GENESIS 22:4

Another detail is inserted here in the inspired Scripture – “On the third day.” It is not important that Abraham and Isaac traveled three days to get to Moriah, but that fact is mentioned to draw attention to the immense importance of this passage. To make the passage stand out, Moses mentions the third day. This time period of three days occurs many times in Scripture, and is associated with significant events, so its occurrence here is another part of this narrative that would cause the reader to pause and take notice.

GENESIS 22:5

Abraham announces to his young men, “I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” At no point does Abraham suggest that he is not going to sacrifice his beloved only son Isaac, so this statement to his young men should be interpreted as meaning that Abraham believed that his son would be given back to him by resurrection (Hebrews 11:17-19).

But now consider that, as outrageous as Abraham’s belief was, Jesus Christ publicly made statements that foretold His own resurrection after His sacrifice. In fact, Jesus declared that He must be killed to accomplish His mission, and He would certainly be raised up on the third day. Again, we see the details of Abraham and Isaac’s experience clearly contained in the events of the cross.

GENESIS 22:6-8

The plot thickens as the father and the son draw near to the place of sacrifice. The details in Genesis 22:6 are so carefully chosen. “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son.” The wood of the sacrifice is laid on the son. No doubt, the wood was heavy, and its splinters rubbed into the son’s shoulders, but he carried the wood without complaint. The wood was his to carry, so he carried it willingly. Abraham took the fire and the knife, the instruments of sacrifice, and readied himself for the awful task. The father would sacrifice his beloved only son. “So the two of them walked on together.” The son trusts the father and the father loves the son, so the son does not run away, and the father does not disobey. The father and the son walked on together. Ever since Isaac could walk, father and son have walked together. Now they walk together to the place of sacrifice.

The poignancy of the scene increases still more in Genesis 22:7, as Isaac speaks to Abraham his father. “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Isaac is old enough to know the elements for an offering. There must be a sacrifice, but where is the lamb?

Abraham speaks words of immense faith, or at least of great hope. Abraham knows that Isaac, the son of promise, is to be the sacrifice, but the father tells the son, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (22:8). The father cannot bear to tell the son that the son whom he loves is to be the sacrifice. Isaac accepts the vague answer, and then “the two of them walked on together.” Trust. Love. Father and son going up the hill together to the place of sacrifice. Will God provide the lamb for the sacrifice? Where is the lamb?

Once again, the details so carefully woven into the narrative of Abraham and Isaac clearly give us a foretaste of the events of the cross. The Father figuratively lays the rough wood of the cross on the shoulders of His Son, where the splinters will enter His shoulders and back. Jesus the Son must bear this load alone, the heavy wood of the cross, but more, the terrible weight of the wrath of God. He will groan but not complain, for this is the work, His terrible work. Although the Father is with the Son as He climbs the hill, the Father cannot be seen by the eye of sinful man. Father and Son go on together to the place of sacrifice. The words of Isaac spoken so long ago still hang in the air over Moriah – “Father, where is the lamb?”

GENESIS 22:9-10

Having arrived at the place of sacrifice, the father “built the altar and arranged the wood and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood” (22:9). Abraham is old and frail, and Isaac is young and full of the strength of early manhood. It is certain, therefore, that the father could not possibly force the son onto the altar, but the son yields in submission and obedience to the father’s will. The child of promise is now on the altar as Abraham raises the knife to slay his son.

Abraham and Isaac on Moriah give us a biblical “type.” That is, this father and son foreshadow for us the much more significant event of the cross of Christ. In the real event, the ultimate event, God the Father has appointed the crucifixion of God the Son. The Son yields in complete submission to the will of the Father (“not My will, but Thy will be done”) and allows Himself to be scourged and crowned with thorns and led up Moriah’s hill, the hill we know as Calvary. Here is the Lamb of God, the Lamb that Abraham said God Himself would provide. Jesus the Lamb is laid on the wood of the cross and then is lifted up so that He can be despised and forsaken of men. Isaac, the son of promise, is allowed to go free and to live while a ram is sacrificed in his place, but Jesus as the Lamb of God is the substitute. He is the sacrifice found in the thicket (Genesis 22:13) that is sacrificed in the place of the repentant, believing sinner, so that the sinner covered by His blood can be forgiven and go free. God the Father forsakes God the Son (unfathomable mystery!) so that the Son can bear the wrath of the Father’s judgment in the place of His people.

In the next post, we will take a close look at the angel of the LORD who appears in Genesis 22:11 and try to understand who he is. It should be a fascinating study.

SDG                 rmb                 12/15/2021                 #470

“They will come to Me” – (John 6:37 – Part 3)

INTRODUCTION: This is part of a series of blog posts studying John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly teaches in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our second study in this series, we considered the next phrase in the verse, “will come to Me.” (See post #468 on 12/10/2021.) In that post, we focused on answering the question, “Who will come to Jesus?” This led to a detailed study of the nature of the elect and election, and how this displays God’s sovereignty in salvation.

But now, in this post we seek to answer the extremely important question, “What does it mean for the sinner to ‘come to Jesus’?” Since it is only those who “come to the Son” who are saved from eternal condemnation, we should strive to know what “will come to Me” means.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ‘COME TO JESUS’?

The expression “come to Me” appears twice in this verse. Jesus says they “will come to Me” and He says, “the one who comes to Me.” To “come to Jesus” is one the most important themes of the entire Bible. Jesus Christ, God the Son, was sent from heaven to earth on a rescue mission, “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10) as He “gave His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The only way that anyone receives salvation is by coming to Jesus. The Bible teaches that God has divinely chosen those people whom He will bring to salvation, but this doctrine of God’s election is given to us so that we may know the power of God’s sovereignty in salvation, not so that we may be confused about how to be saved.

Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” For the human sinner, the most important part of Jesus’ statement is, “will come to Me.” If you want to be saved, there is something that you need to do. If you want to be saved, you must actively come to Jesus.

“What does it mean to ‘come to Jesus’?” First, you must believe in Jesus. In John 1:12 says that to those who believed in Jesus’ name become children of God. In John 20:31, the Bible says that those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have eternal life in His name. This believing can be understood as an unshakeable trust in Jesus, that He is who He said He was and that He is my Savior and my Lord.

Second, this inward faith and trust in Jesus manifests itself in an outward profession. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Faith in Jesus cannot remain an inner, silent thing, but must be expressed outwardly in a verbal profession. When you come to Jesus, others should know that Jesus has become your Lord and Savior.

Also, to come to Jesus means to repent of your sin and to begin to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). John the Baptist cried out, “Bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). At Pentecost, the people asked, “What are we to do (to be saved)?” Peter replied, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). The Philippian jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).

Finally, to come to Jesus, the Son of God, means obeying Him. In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” If you have come to saving faith in Jesus, you will have a desire to obey His commands and to walk in holiness and righteousness. You will forsake the wicked ways of your past. Paul says that, if you have come to Jesus, “you laid aside the old self with its evil practices” (Colossians 3:9). Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23).

As we conclude this post, we should notice two things. First, all those who come to Jesus will be saved. This should be an encouragement to anyone who desires to be saved from the coming judgment. But second, only those who come to Jesus will be saved. This should instill a sense of urgency. Those who were thinking about coming to Jesus but never did, and those who never expressly rejected Jesus, but who also never came to Him in repentance and faith alike will perish forever. All second chances are forever blown away at the final heartbeat. At that moment, eternity opens wide, and the lake of fire receives another unrepentant sinner. I urge you to come to Jesus.

In our next post in this series, we will examine the truth that the one who comes to Jesus He will certainly not cast out.

SDG                 rmb                 12/11/2021                 #469

“They will come to Me” – (John 6:37 – Part 2)

INTRODUCTION: This is part of a series of blog posts studying John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly teaches in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our first study in this series, we examined the phrase, “All that the Father gives Me.” (See post #465 on 12/6/2021.) It was discovered that all the souls given by God the Father to God the Son was established and fixed “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) when the Father chose the elect for salvation. These people have been given as a gift by the Father to the Son to worship the Son forever in heaven (see Revelation 7:9-12). These truths mean that the phrase, “All that the Father gives Me,” could be expressed as “All the elect.”

In this part of our series, we will consider the next phrase, “will come to Me.” We will break this study into two parts: first, the implications of “All that the Father gives Me” with respect to who will come to Jesus for salvation, and second, what it means for any sinner to “come to Jesus” for salvation.

WHO WILL COME TO JESUS?

Now that we have begun to dig deeper into this verse, we need to identify who will, and who will not, come to Jesus for salvation. If we simply read the verse as it appears, the answer appears obvious. Who will come to the Son for salvation? All that the Father has given the Son will come to the Son for salvation. To simplify this answer, we can make the substitution we mentioned above. Thus, “All the elect will come to the Son for salvation.”

Let’s talk about this a little. Here Jesus is making a statement of divine decree. That is, God has decreed that all those He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) will certainly come to Christ for salvation during the course of their natural lifetimes. (The corollary to this decree is that only those the Father chose in Christ before the foundation of the world will come to Christ.)

So far, so good. But is there any way to know who is elect and who is not? Because if only the elect will come to Christ for salvation, I want to know who those people are. More specifically, I want to know that I am one of the elect. So, is there any way to know who is elect and who is not?

WHO IS ELECT?

The answer is, “Yes. We can know who is elect.” The way that we discover who is elect is by observing who comes to Christ for salvation. To give a personal example, I know that I am one of the elect. I know that because about thirty years ago I came to Christ for salvation. I placed my faith in Jesus, I repented of my sins, I was baptized upon profession of my faith, and my life was radically changed, and I have continued to follow Jesus in the fellowship of His church to this day. My coming to Christ revealed my election by God before the foundation of the world. So, the way we know the elect; the way we know those the Father has given to the Son, is by noticing those who come to faith in Christ.

Okay. So, are we saying that only those who have come to Christ are the elect? Not exactly. You see, we have said that all those given by God the Father to God the Son (the elect) will certainly come to Christ for salvation during the course of their natural lifetimes. As we think about this, though, it becomes obvious that some people may be of the elect, but they have not yet come to Christ for salvation. If they are elect, then they will certainly come to Christ before they die, but they have not come to Christ yet. The fact is that it is impossible to know those who are elect unless and until they come to Jesus for salvation. This, by the way, is the reason that we continue to pray for and to evangelize all people until they come to Christ or die, because we do not know who, among the unsaved living, is elect and who is not.

WHO IS NOT ELECT?

But sadly, there is a way to know who is not elect. Every person who dies outside of Christ, that is, who never comes to the Jesus the Son for salvation during their natural lifetime has revealed that they were not of the elect. They were not given by the Father to the Son. Because they died outside of Christ, they perished. Every person who does not come to the Son for salvation will be judged on the last day and will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “COME TO JESUS”?

This leads to an extremely important question. If only those who “come to Jesus” are saved from the lake of fire, then the critical question is, “What does it mean for the sinner to ‘come to Jesus’?” I am glad that you asked. That will be the subject of the next post on John 6:37.

SDG                 rmb                 12/10/2021                 #468

The angel of the LORD went out (Isaiah 37:36)

INTRODUCTION: This post is about a pompous Assyrian king who blasphemes and reproaches the LORD, and who then encounters the angel of the LORD. Those who blaspheme and reproach the LORD will, sooner or later, have to deal with the angel of the LORD.

In Isaiah 36-37, we find Isaiah’s account of the failed Assyrian invasion of Judah by Sennacherib, the Assyrian king. Or rather, “the great king,” as he calls himself. (This incident is recorded three times in the Old Testament: here in Isaiah, and also in the two history books of 2 Kings 18-19 and in 2 Chronicles 32.) The biblical narrative has a stunning conclusion as what seemed to be certain victory is switched into a crushing defeat.

When Sennacherib king of Assyria sends his spokesman, Rabshakeh, to meet King Hezekiah’s officials, the Assyrians are overflowing with confidence and contempt. Their army has rolled down from Nineveh in conquest and has reached as far as Jerusalem with little resistance. Kingdoms with their pagan gods have fallen like dominoes, and Sennacherib sees no reason Judah and Jerusalem will be any different. Yes, it is true that the Assyrians have heard of the God of Israel, the LORD, but the king of Assyria views YHWH as no different than the gods of wood and stone. Why would anyone have confidence or put their trust in a God you cannot see? And so, Sennacherib sends Rabshakeh to terrify Judah and to blaspheme the LORD and to urge Hezekiah to surrender. Clearly, Sennacherib is the great king.

THE TAUNTS AND THE BLASPHEMIES

As Rabshakeh meets Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah by the upper pool (Isaiah 36:2), his intimidation guns are blazing. The Assyrian spokesman is skilled at taunt and blasphemy.

“What is this confidence?” (36:4). You are outnumbered and you will be overwhelmed. Face it, you are doomed. You have no reason for any confidence.

“On whom do you rely?” (36:5). Look around you. There is no one who can rescue you from the great king of Assyria. Do not rely on your army or on the cleverness of your king. And surely you are not relying on the LORD to protect you!

“We trust in the LORD our God” (36:7). You have got to be kidding! Where do you see the LORD? And besides, the LORD is the one who told us to come up against Judah in the first place, and now you are trusting Him to protect you from the great king? No way!

“Do not let Hezekiah deceive you” (36:14). He thinks that his God is going to help you, but he is dreaming, and he is trying to deceive you. You don’t have a chance.

“Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD” (36:15). You would be foolish to trust in the LORD. If you let Hezekiah trick you and deceive you, the great king of Assyria will come into Jerusalem and kill you. The LORD is not to be trusted.

“Beware that Hezekiah does not mislead you saying, ‘The LORD will deliver us (36:18).’” None of the other gods have been able to deliver their people, so why would you think that YHWH will help you. The LORD is just like the other gods. He is powerless and useless, but Sennacherib is the great king. Give up, for the LORD cannot help you.

Rabshakeh has already crossed the line and his doom is already sealed. Certainly, the LORD has heard enough from this blasphemer about his pipsqueak king, But Rabshakeh has more reproach and contempt to pour out.

“Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria (37:10).’ Did the gods of those (pagan) nations deliver them?” (37:12). Now not only is Rabshakeh saying that the LORD cannot defend Jerusalem against the king of Assyria, but he is also accusing the LORD of deceiving His people. He blasphemes God by accusing the God who cannot lie of deception. Rabshakeh declares trust in the LORD to be foolish and compares the LORD to the powerless pagan gods of the nations.

Up to this point, the LORD has been patient and has allowed the Assyrians to rant and to blaspheme against Him, but when Hezekiah prays to the LORD and asks Him to “deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, LORD, are God” (37:20), the LORD moves in power to destroy the upstart king.

“For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake” (Isaiah 37:35).

THE ANGEL OF THE LORD WENT OUT

The LORD will not long tolerate blasphemies against His name or open contempt from evil people. He will bring a just recompense and He will bring it swiftly. Sennacherib’s arrogant blasphemy against the LORD has sealed his destiny. Like the proud questioning of Pharaoh before him (Exodus 5:2) and like the blasphemous rants of the beast at the end of the age (Daniel 7:8, 11, 25; 11:36; Revelation 13:5, 6), so Sennacherib has reproached and blasphemed the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 37:23). Therefore, as the LORD destroyed Pharaoh for his arrogance, and as He will destroy the beast for his blasphemies (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:20), so the LORD recompenses Sennacherib for his arrogance and his raging against the LORD (Isaiah 37:28-29).

“Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out” (2 Kings 19:35). We have met the angel of the LORD before in the Old Testament. He spoke to Hagar and to Abraham. He met Joshua as he was preparing to conquer Jericho. He spoke to Gideon and to Manoah. He fed Elijah when the prophet was discouraged. And now, “the angel of the LORD went out.” He is the mysterious figure who seems to be God, although He also appears to be somehow separate from God. He speaks as the LORD, with all the authority of the LORD, yet He somehow is not the LORD. And here we see “that the angel of the LORD went out.” With all the authority and power of the LORD, He rises up to take vengeance (Psalm 94:1-2) on the Assyrians. It is one against the entire Assyrian army, and the Assyrians are vastly outmatched. The angel of the LORD brings divine judgment on Sennacherib for his arrogance and his blasphemies against the living God. “The angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians” (Isaiah 37:36). With his armies decimated and himself humiliated, Sennacherib returns to Nineveh where he is killed by his own sons in a pagan temple. So much for the great king of Assyria.

CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

In our walk through this world, the believer can feel attacked by the world and overwhelmed by the perceived forces arrayed against us. There are times when, like Hezekiah, the voices of evil people and the whispers of doubts in our head can threaten to undo us, and our faith can waver. In those times, remember God’s power. Remember that you are the Lord’s delight and that He has promised to be your shield and defender. Remember that He is with you like a dread champion (Jeremiah 20:11). Remember that, like Hezekiah, you can call upon the Lord, and He will hear you. Remember that “He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). We are given this story to remind us that the LORD, He is God (1 Kings 18:39), and He is always with us. When the Rabshakehs in your life begin to taunt and blaspheme the living God, turn to the LORD and cry out to Him.

SDG                 rmb                 12/9/2021                   #467

James 5:16 (“Confess your sins”) and biblical accountability

Within the current world of evangelicalism, it is not uncommon for pastors and churches to talk about the idea of “accountability.” Probably the foundational biblical text used to justify “biblical accountability” is the well-known verse from the book of James:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. – James 5:16

In this post I want to explore James 5:16a, the bolded part of the verse above, and the related subject of biblical accountability, to develop a “theology of accountability” so that we can be faithful to the commission that the Lord Jesus gave His church in Matthew 28:19-20, to make disciples.

How can accountability help us make mature disciples?

Before we begin digging into the meaning of James 5:16a, however, we need to understand the correct context for this accountability, and we need to define what we mean by “biblical accountability.” My hunch is that, if you asked ten Christians what they mean by “accountability,” you would get nine or ten different answers. So, we will start with context and definition.

THE CONTEXT FOR ACCOUNTABILITY

First, the appropriate context for biblical accountability is a Discipleship Relationship. “What is that?” you ask. When I use the term, “Discipleship Relationship,” I mean a relationship between a Discipler (more mature believer) and a disciple (less mature believer) that has been established by mutual consent for a period of time which is primarily intended to produce spiritual growth in the disciple. In this arrangement, the Discipleship Relationship is the vehicle that is being used to further growth toward Christlikeness.

DEFINITION OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Next, we need to define what we mean by the word “Accountability.” As we are using the word, “Accountability” refers to a tool used in the context of a Discipleship Relationship whose main purpose is to help the disciple (less mature believer) see victory over a besetting sin. That is, one of the areas of spiritual growth in Discipleship is the area of victory over persistent or besetting sins. In this area of Discipleship, Accountability can be an effective tool for putting persistent sin to death (Colossians 3:5).

ACCOUNTABILITY AND JAMES 5:16

It is in the practice of Accountability that we will consider James 5:16. In this verse, James gives us specific actions to take and then gives us an implied promise of healing if we do.

James instructs us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed. Here are two actions followed by a promise. One person confesses their sin to another person, expecting that, once the other person knows of the sin the first person has just confessed, the other person will immediately respond with prayer to the Lord for victory over the sin that has now been brought out into the light. James finishes this sentence with a promise, “that you may be healed.” Within a Discipleship Relationship, then, the disciple confesses a besetting sin to the trusted Discipler, bringing it out into the light. The disciple’s confession of sin elicits spontaneous prayer from the Discipler for the disciple and indicates that the Discipler has now joined the disciple in the fight against the disciple’s sin. There are now two warriors in the battle. Now both disciple and Discipler are firing the weapons of The Word and prayer at the hated sin. The confession of one warrior recruits a fresh soldier into the fray. And the promise is that the sin must yield. There is a promise that the sin confessed and assaulted with the weapons of spiritual warfare will be put to death. There will be victory.

So, we confess our sins to one another for three basic reasons:

  1. The confession brings the sin into the light as the disciple acknowledges the sinfulness of this sin and identifies this particular sin as the target of their mutual spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 10:3-6).
  2. The effect of this confession is to multiply the assault against this enemy of our holiness by recruiting a new soldier and thus increasing the artillery against the sin.
  3. Allows more people to rejoice together when we see the Lord giving the victory. Thus, the Lord receives more glory (2 Cor. 1:11). (Listen carefully!)

ACCOUNTABILITY AND CONFESSION IN ACTION

What we see, then, is that the machinery of Accountability is triggered by a confession of sin within the context of a Discipleship Relationship. That confession moves the sin out of the darkness and into the light and into the line of fire of spiritual artillery from both Discipler and disciple. The spiritual weaponry of the sword of the Spirit (the Bible/the Word), of prayer, of repentance and of mutual encouragement are poured out on the detested sin until it is vanquished.

SDG                 rmb                 11/17/2021                 #456

Beware of men, but do not fear them (Matthew 10:16-39)

Is it possible for a person to be on their guard against a very real threat without fearing that threat? In Matthew 10:17, Jesus tells His disciples to “beware of men” because they will hate you and will seek to kill you. But then later in the chapter, He says three times for His disciples not to fear (10:26, 28, 31). Isn’t this a contradiction? How can you beware of a person without also fearing that person?

In Matthew 10, Jesus is speaking as King to all His armies of all the ages and telling them about the battle conditions that His disciples will face. What is striking about the passage from 10:16-39 is the number and the constancy of the threats facing Christ’s would-be disciples. Before our Lord even begins recruiting, He clearly tells of the high cost of being one of His followers, and of how you will be hated by all because of His name (10:22), yet Jesus does not appear to mention a single offsetting benefit. This is a most unconventional means of collecting an army of followers!

In this study, we will look at Jesus’ charge to His troops in 10:16, and at the commands He issues to “beware of men” (10:17), but not to fear men (10:26, 28, 31). Our purpose is to understand these instructions from Jesus, and then see how they apply to us in our lives.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16

First, then, we want to study Jesus’ charge to us as His soldiers. In Matthew 10:16, our Lord deploys His troops. “Behold, I send you out.” As disciples of Jesus, we need to be aware that we have been called into His army to be sent out. Sent out to do what? To be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). To be His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). To be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). So, we see that the King has sent us out.

Second, we are sheep in the midst of wolves. There can hardly be a greater mismatch. Sheep are utterly defenseless, and wolves are notoriously deadly. In Romans 8:36, Paul says, “We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” The disciple needs to understand that his is a dangerous calling of total commitment. To follow Jesus is to be a sheep among wolves. We are the hated and the hunted.

Therefore, since we are sent out as sheep among wolves, we must be shrewd (wise) as serpents and innocent as doves. Knowing that he has been sent out by his King into a dangerous combat, the disciple must be very wise. What you lack in ferocity and power you must make up for with shrewdness, with canniness. With wisdom we elude the enemy while loudly proclaiming Jesus.

APPLICATION: Although our “battle conditions” here in America still seem fairly benign, we must remember that we are called to be wise as serpents. We are still sheep in the midst of wolves and must advance the Kingdom and proclaim the gospel with shrewdness and cunning. We operate as innocent as doves as we scheme for the gospel. We use ingenuity and craft to “stay under the radar” while advancing the gospel deeper into enemy territory.

“But beware of men.” – Matthew 10:17

BEWARE OF MEN

Notice what Jesus does not say. He does not say that His disciples are to be frightened of men and, therefore, to run away from men. He does not say that His disciples are to avoid conflict by avoiding confrontation and proclamation. He simply tells them that they should “beware of men.” This is a tactical command from the King to His soldiers. When you go out under the banner of Jesus, realize you will be hated (John 15:18ff). Therefore, as a practical consideration, you need to be wary of those who hate you and seek your destruction. We are sheep among wolves, so we remain physically vulnerable to death. Jesus commands us to beware of men because He knows that, on our gospel mission, men will try to kill us (Psalm 37:32).

So, do not be naïve! “He who is not with you is against you” (Matthew 12:30). Do not trust those who speak peace with their mouths while they plot to kill you. “There are many who fight proudly against me” (Psalm 56:2). As Jesus’ soldiers, we have a boldness and a zeal for the work of the Kingdom that is tempered by a holy wisdom. We are to beware with boldness.

THEREFORE, DO NOT FEAR MEN

26 Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known.” – Matthew 10:26

28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

– Matthew 10:28

31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:31

Now the King gives His soldiers the supreme command: “Do not fear men.” Three times in this brief section, the Lord tells us not to fear. As a tactical consideration, it is wise to beware of men, but our wariness of men must never cross over into fear of men. The only one who is worthy of our fear is the Lord Himself (Matthew 10:28). Negatively, the Lord is the One who can throw soul and body into hell (10:28), so He should be feared, but positively, the Lord is the One who has bought us at the price of His own Son on the cross. Therefore, we serve Him and worship Him in reverential fear because we have experienced His power. If we fear the Lord, we need to fear nothing else (see Luke 12:4-5). Again, only the Lord is worthy of our fear.

In Old Testament and New, the Lord displays His power and His faithfulness so that His people will trust Him and love Him with a reverential fear.

In Psalm 56:4, the psalmist asks, “What can mere man do to me?”

In Psalm 27:1, “the LORD is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear?”

In Isaiah 43:1, the LORD says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” If we are redeemed by the LORD, what is there to fear?

In Psalm 103:11, the psalmist declares, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is the LORD’s lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.”

In Romans 8:31, Paul testifies, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

1 John 4:18 proclaims, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

To fear man when the Lord has called us to salvation and has promised He will never leave us or forsake us is to call the Lord’s power into question. Therefore, the professing Christian must be very aware of where he places his fear. The author of Hebrews writes,

“But my righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him” But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. – Hebrews 10:38-39

The main teaching of Matthew 10, then, is that we are to faithfully proclaim the gospel with wisdom and with fearlessness. Wisdom, because we are vulnerable sheep in the midst of ravenous wolves, but fearlessness, because no threat of man can take away our eternal reward.

APPLICATION: One of the goals of our sanctification and our discipleship is to arrive at that state of mind, that settledness of soul, where we are so convinced of the truths of God’s Word and of the power of our God that no threat of man would cause us to tremble. For the disciple of Jesus, we aim for ability to say, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), without hesitation and with full conviction. We long for that place where our grip on the Resurrection is so tight that it is as if we were already glorified (Romans 8:30). We overcome fear by the power of the gospel.

Here are ways that I strive to reach that place of fearlessness:

  • Meditate on and study the Resurrection passages in the Bible until you are convinced that you personally will rise with the saints on the Last Day. The certainty of the Resurrection will drive away fear of death.
  • Spend time deeply considering the power of God as displayed in creation and as demonstrated in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. From the earliest chapters of Genesis, God makes promises, and then He keeps those promises. This requires ultimate sovereignty over all the affairs of His universe. And God has made promises to His people which He will certainly keep. Meditate on these truths until you fully believe the unlimited power of the living God. When you grasp God’s power and believe that He loves you as His child, the fear of man and the fear of death and the fear of the future will lose their hold on you.

SDG                 rmb                  10/7/2021                   #439