Past Articles by Pastor Cunningham
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Here are those dreaded words which invoke the hatred and evasion of men: "BEFORE ORDAINED." They are not here used, however, in connection with God’s election of His people to eternal life. They are used to show that God has appointed from before the foundation of the world, that His people would obey Him and do His will. Not only, according to the text, will they do His will once or occasionally, but it shall be their continual manner of life to do so!
One of the most grievous errors and accusations aimed at those who believe in God’s eternal predestination is this: If all events, and especially the salvation of some, is unalterably fixed in the decree of God before it ever happens, then it does not matter what men do or do not do in time, since they can have no effect upon this purpose of God. The blessed scriptures deal death to this kind of reasoning.
It is absurd to set in opposition the eternal election of God and the obedience of faith and service of His people, when both are decreed by God from the beginning. If God has decreed that a certain man shall saved eternally from the just punishment against his sin by the blood of Christ, then He has also decreed that the same man shall hear God’s word, believe it, repent of his sin, and serve God for the rest of his life. The faith which God gives may sometimes, by our own neglect, grow weak so that God must ask of us, "How is it that ye have no faith," but we shall continue in it since God has ordained that we shall. That life service also may be neglected at times and may take various forms, but it is as certain as the salvation of which it is a result.
How could this truth encourage any one to neglect their godly duties and languish in fatalistic idleness? Does it bother you that God’s immutable and glorious purposes are being accomplished by what you do each day? Would you rather that the results of your efforts be left to blind chance and serve no good or certain end?
A mother hears of the bombing of a certain location where her son is stationed. She eagerly awaits news concerning her precious boy, and prays all night that the merciful God has spared his dear life. She knows that if he has been killed, it has already happened! Does this cause her to say, "What use is my prayer, since the result is already certain?" No, such a vain thought never enters her mind as she pours out her heart to the God in Whose hand her son is. Should we pray any less for our lost loved ones, in light of God’s eternal, electing grace?
Oh, God, may it be, in Thy soveriegn purpose and matchless grace, that my little children’s names are written in Thy great book and may I do all in my God-given power toward that happy end!
Genesis 3:1 . . . Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
The latest blasphemy of choice among religious circles is to craft some snappy quip and then sign God’s name to it. Some examples I’ve seen are: "Hey, that love your neighbor thing, I meant that! --God" and "Don’t make me come down there. --God"
I cannot imagine a more complete, wholesale way to join league with Satan himself in dishonoring the majestic and holy God, than this practice of putting words into His mouth. Surely God must look upon this with a kindling of great wrath and this kind of blatant disregard for what is sacred must go a long way toward filling up that cup; the filling of which will mark the unleashing of His righteous vengeance upon this earth.
What God has said is so precious and so glorious that we should receive every syllable of it with great reverence and thanksgiving. He has spoken unto us by His blessed Son (Heb 1:2) and hath spoken hope and grace to sinners in His Son and by His righteousness and precious shed blood. It is by the hearing of this blessed Word that God has chosen to save sinners. (Rom 10:17) How could God’s enemies better oppose their Maker than by diluting and making light of this great treasure. Why would anyone, but God’s enemies, deem it necessary to add to or pervert the perfect and marvelous Word of God?
The idea that this is somehow done under the guise of humor in no way elevates it, but rather aggravates it. Surely there are enough subjects for humor in the world without attempting to make God’s Word one of them. I advise us all to read and hear what God actually has said and perhaps He will reveal Himself as He is, such an One Whose Person and Word, for His glory’ sake and for the sake of our own souls and that of all lost sinners, should not be trifled with. "I will worship toward Thy holy temple, and praise Thy name for Thy lovingkindness and for Thy truth: for Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy name." Psalm 138:2
1 Corinthians. 11:24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
The Lord Jesus Christ is sitting around with His beloved disciples in a quiet place. He picks up a large piece of bread and with His own hands He bends it until it begins to break apart. Then He begins to hand it to them all instructing them to take it and eat it. As they begin to eat, He compares the bread to His own body which is also broken and given to them. He tells them to do this again often and that when they do, to remember Him and that by doing this they will "shew" His death until He returns. This is mysterious and solemn to them, for He is their Master and their Friend, everything to them.
Now, having God’s complete word and record of the events following this scene, it is no less solemn and mysterious to His people. Not so much what He meant by this, but the fact that He would do this "for you (me)." When I think of Him breaking this bread with His own hands and giving it to me, saying "for you", my heart breaks and mends at the same time.
The fact that "He brake it" is especially blessed. John 10:17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
The only thing more amazing and wonderful than this is that He did it "for you." His body is broken and His blood shed as a substitutionary sacrifice for my sins and yours. 2 Cor. 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
I need no other argument, I need no other plea,
What a privilege to know and remember Him. As we raise the bread and the cup to these sinful lips this morning, remember that "He brake it" and that He did so "for you."
Luke 22:40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
Of the countless things for which I have cause to be continually ashamed, this text touches upon perhaps the most insidious. There is nothing about which I know less than prayer, yet I find no comfortable excuse in this for not doing so often and earnestly. Nothing could be more inexcusable than neglecting this unspeakable privilege or more revealing of our wicked nature. Our pride is revealed by our neglect of prayer. We say in effect that we don’t need God’s favour, protection or grace when we do not continually ask for them. As Christ points out in this verse, we are susceptible to every evil and utterly dependent upon Him. We are foolish enough to think ourselves self-sufficient in spite of the constant evidences of our neediness. Our lack of faith is revealed by our neglect of prayer. If we truly believed that our Father loves us and is willing and ready to meet our every need abundantly, we would never cease to call upon Him. We ourselves are anxious to bestow favour upon our own children, yet we have not because we ask not. I submit that it is because we do not half believe what God has promised us. Our ingratitude is revealed by our neglect of prayer. We take our place every day among the nine lepers whose ingratitude our Lord reveals in Luke 17: 12 – 19. He incessantly blesses and heals us of our many ailments, and how rarely we return to give thanks. He Who gave Himself for us and washed from our sins in His own blood is worthy of our continual, heartfelt devotion and gratitude. Let’s render these freely and lovingly as He teaches us to pray.
Matthew 14:23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
While enjoying a rare time of complete solitude, it occurred to me how valuable such time is and how unwise it is that we spend so little of it. We might think it a terrible waste of time for the Lord to be totally separated from all company. Surely His every waking moment would be better spent in teaching or healing and surely if any man could ever live without time to Himself it would be our Lord. We find, however, that it was His custom to often be apart from all activity and distraction in quiet communion.
Perhaps we consider our time wasted if we are not engaged in some activity which promotes our gain or entertainment. We live life in the fast lane; after all it’s the nineties. We don’t have time to think. There is too much to do and if not, there’s always something on TV.
We make thousands of decisions every day and sadly most of them are made without any thought. It is impossible to give due consideration to anything without this precious alone time. Peter committed a grave error of which he considered himself incapable, and it was not until he thought thereon that he saw his deeds in their true perspective and wept (Mark 14:72). King David said, I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies (Ps 119:59). How often would our feet be turned otherwise than they are if we took time alone for prayerful thought such as this.
Our Lord was not reclusive and neither are His people. He went about everywhere doing good (Mt. 4:23) and tirelessly conducted His Father’s business saying, I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. John 9:4 We also have business to attend to, but how we ought to prize, as He did, the opportunity to worship and do as it was said of these, Then came the disciples to Jesus apart (Mt 17:19). We delight to worship Him publicly, yet even that time would be better spent were we to more often do so privately. It was when Jacob was left alone (Gen. 32:24) that he met the Son of God and was never the same again.
We hear of the precious Lord Jesus Christ, Who shed His priceless blood to wash us from our sins, yet how often do we quietly meditate upon His Person and grace without distraction or interruption and sweetly commune with Him? Surely He is worthy of our alone time and we are our own enemy if we neglect what would enrich all of our other hours.
Psalm 4:1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.
The Lord God is not ignorant of anything that takes place in His universe. If David, or anyone else for that matter, speaks in prayer, or cursing or in any other way, He is not only aware of the act, but also the motive behind it. He hears not only the language of the lips, but that of the heart. Perhaps we are praying, "Lord, forgive me for this sin," while we harbor in our heart every intention of committing it again. He knows this.
Why, then, if God hears and knows everything, do we find David so often pleading in this way? There is a sense in which God does turn a deaf ear to many who presume to speak to His majesty! Ps. 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. In the book of Jeremiah we read concerning a people, that the Lord not only would not hear their prayer, but if anyone should pray for them, He would not hear them either (7:16, 11:14)!
What a sobering realization! Surely we are no less sinful than these people whom God would not hear. God certainly has no obligation to acknowledge the likes of us. I wonder how different our prayers would be if we were aware of this as we approach His high throne. I know that if He ever does hear the utterance of these wretched lips and heart, it is for the sake of His beloved Son, Whose blood has availed for my sin and Who stands in interceding love on my behalf before the Father’s face. It is, as David knew, the God of my Righteousness, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall hear me.
If He hear me not, if the King will not give me audience, then though I have the sympathy and good wishes of the world, I shall be without hope or help. Yet, if only He shall hear me, the ill will of all people shall find me rejoicing and refreshed. As David acknowledges in the latter phrase of our verse, for God to turn His ear toward us, is an act of pure and sovereign mercy.
With David, I cry for this mercy knowing that all favor, goodness, truth and blessing hang upon whether or not God will . . .
Acts 2:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth . . .
After answering the mocking accusation which the hearers levelled at the Apostles, Peter’s very first words confirm what Christ had prophesied in John 16:14 regarding the Holy Spirit. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. We are told in verse 4 that Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost, and here we have the sure evidence of it, He began to speak of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter’s message deals with the hearers’ dreadful sin in crucifying the Lord of glory, Christ’s bloody death and His exaltation and sovereignty. This is always the message, when the Holy Spirit is speaking through His servants.
As was always the case when Christ walked this earth, men have dwelt upon the miracle here (the gift of tongues), and missed the One Whom the miracle was performed in order to exalt. God here violates the very nature of things so that the Gospel may be heard, and rather than hear the message, men focus upon the miracle, which was only performed for the sake of the message.
When Christ alone is preached, there will always be division. Some will complain that Christ is overemphasized and the Spirit and His gifts are neglected. This is an utter impossibility for two reasons.
1. Christ can never be overemphasized. He is the pre-eminent One Whom God hath exalted over all things. In the economy of God’s grace to sinners, we all must do business with the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father has no business with you apart from the Son, but to condemn and consign you to everlasting torment. If you are none of Christ’s the Spirit has no business with you at all.
2. The Holy Spirit’s gifts are given for the very purpose of exalting Christ, and no other. The gift of tongues here is given for the preaching of Christ to be understood and confirmed. The filling of the Spirit, was so Christ would be preached with power. The only way to honour the Holy Spirit is to acknowledge, obey and imitate the Spirit’s work, which is to exalt and glorify Christ Jesus, the sinners’ Substitute.
2 Corinthians 5:8 "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
The Greek word for "present" in our text literally means "to be at home." There is something in our nature that ties us body and soul to a place called home. The very word conjures up thoughts and feelings of comfort, security and love. A person who is homeless must be the most miserable of all creatures.
In religion, men speak of their "home" in heaven, and they get all misty eyed as they contemplate some austere mansion nestled luxuriously on some golden street. The true child of God has much higher standards. The home for which we long is no place, but a glorious Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, I say we long for Him, yet there is a very real and wonderful sense in which we dwell already in Him today and enjoy all the blessings of Home. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. John 6:56
Home is a place of great comfort. Being at "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5: 1) we find our Savior's arms a place-of quiet, sweet repose.
Home is a place of security. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of MY life; of whom shall I be afraid? P salms 27:1
Home is a place of love... and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
When we say that we long for home, we are not interested in golden streets or gates of pearl, but our sights are set on Him who is Himself as the song says:
O God our help in ages past,
Thank God for Him who had not where to lay His head so that I might lay mine forever on His precious breast.
1 Chronicles 21:23 And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give thee the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all.
There is nothing in this world quite so repulsive as the common practice of religious thieves who entertain, bribe and threaten poor sinners, for their own monetary gain. This is robbery at the very apex of its baseness. A burglar who would steal what you have worked hard to provide, for no other reason than to be in greater luxury himself, is certainly and rightfully despised, but his crime is far less. He who steals in the name of God, not only diminishes the sinners estate, but his eternal soul as well in depriving him of and perverting the gospel of God’s grace in Christ.
Anywhere that this begging and bribery are in practice, you can count on one thing – God’s grace is absent. You don’t have to coerce God’s people to give to the cause of Him Who gave Himself for them. Whether it is time, labor, skill, 10 cents or $10,00.00, it is the gift of God’s grace in the sinner that they are willing givers of themselves and their goods to His church. Nothing is mine – I give it all. Acts 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
This doesn’t mean that we all put our rent money in the offering plate and then trust God to take care of our creditors, it means that whatever is needed, it is given. All that we have is already God’s, bestowed at His gracious discretion and provision, what would we withhold from Him? Nor do we embellish the church buildings with gold and rubies, while the people suffer need. How absurd! God’s church is His people! We certainly do not neglect the meeting place God has given, but those who have worshipped in caves have not worshipped any less than we.
God needs nothing, but He is worthy of all. It is His gracious way to use what He has given us, causing us to willingly give it back for His glory and the good of His sheep. This is a privilege and a blessing. It is not to our praise that we give it all, we are all selfish thieves by nature, but it shows His worthiness and His grace in us. Everything that we spend, our time and effort as well as our funds, we do so in the wisest way we know, to the glory of God and the good of His own. Because of and by His grace – I give it all.
John 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
Among the glorious things that Christ prays for in His great High Priestly Prayer, there are two things for which He specifically prays not. Let’s consider this one for a moment. Why would Christ pray that His people remain in this world of sin and misery, since all that He does is for our good?
Salvation is a not a one time event, but a process that God initiates, perpetuates and culminates. A vital part of that process is what you and I are in right now. We are not of this world, but we are nonetheless in it, and it is by God’s careful design and purpose that we are.
One reason is found in Philippians 1:23-26 where Paul acknowledges that although to be with Christ would be preferable to him, God has done that which is more needful to other believers by leaving him on this earth. God uses His people to bless His people with instruction, edification, comfort, encouragement and joy. I could name many whom He has used in this way for me. This is a beautiful evidence of His love for us in Christ and ultimately of course redounds to His own glory.
Only in this world of woe could we be partakers of that hallowed association known as "the fellowship of His sufferings." Phil 3:10 I cannot pretend to know much about this, but only acknowledge with awe what a great privilege it is to suffer as Moses and the Apostles did, the reproach of Christ, and to consider this great riches. Heb 11:26 Our Lord has pronounced us blessed to be hated and reproached for His sake (Luke 6:22) and this is a blessedness we could only enjoy on this earth.
Finally, we are wretched sinners, saved by God’s grace and left to live with an evil nature in a world where that nature has a forum in which to express itself and cause us grief. We are at the same time children of God with the divine nature and light to see the very glory of God in the face of Christ and the true, repulsiveness of that sin and what it cost Him to put away. Who, like us, can praise that God of grace throughout all eternity? O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom 7:24, 25
Hosea 14:4 I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely . . .
I rejoice that God’s love for me is not conditioned upon any fitness or desirability in myself. His love is sovereign, eternal, unchangeable, unmerited and unconditional. My perseverence and assurance does not depend upon my worthiness or service to Him, but upon God’s constant sustaining love and power. We rest each and every day in the same pure grace by which He called us into His family. I do not love my son because he is good looking, or even because he obeys me, but because he is my son; I love him and I do all within my power to make him attractive and see that he obeys me.
Those who believe that a sinner can be an object of God’s affection and yet fall away from the fellowship and favor of God, are strangers to this kind of love. If I were an absolute wretch in God’s sight when He saved me (and no doubt I was), then what could I ever do to cause Him to leave me? Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. If God loved me, saved me and put me in His Son when I was a God-hating rebel, will He ever cease to love me now that I am in His Son?
God knew before He saved me that I wasn’t worth having. I was ungrateful, hateful, unfaithful, selfish, proud and foolish when He chose me. Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Why then would my sinfulness today cause Him to cast me off? God knew that I would sin as His child, and though He may certainly chastise me for it, if He did not intend to bear with me and forgive me in the Lord Jesus Christ, He would not have chosen me to begin with.
Does the freeness of this love encourage you to sin? If it does, then you are certainly not an object of it! My children do not obey me only because I spank them. Punishment without love would only cause further rebellion. Though I might force them to conform outwardly to my wishes, they would curse me in their hearts. Nor do God’s children obey Him only because the aw requires it. We are motivated by His almighty love to adore, serve and worship Him.
Spurgeon said, "The believer, like a man on shipboard, may fall again and again on the deck, but he will never fall overboard." God will not allow it! I can’t explain to you why God ever did love this worm, but I know that because He does, He must have me with Him forever (John 17:23,24).
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10
John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
Hear the voice of the Master express His heart’s desire and watch as the entire universe aligns itself for the accomplishment of it. Let all creatures of the dust who speak and dream of the imagined power and freedom of our pathetic wills awake and fall forever silent at the sound of the only free and almighty will being expressed in this holy prayer. All creatures, creations, contingencies and circumstances are subservient to his desire, and what is that desire? He says, I will . . . and the inhabitants of all worlds hang upon the words that will follow. What momentous eventuality will He call into existence that shall serve His good pleasure?
What is this that He by Whom and for Whom all things are created and Who is before all things and by Whom all things consist (Col 1: 16, 17) has desired and given Himself in order to affect? Is it possible that the thing that delights Him would involve me in any way? His petition goes forth and all my sorrows melt away because I know that the Father heareth Him always (John 11:42). I know that, unspeakable as this thought is, that it must come to pass because of Who it is that speaks it, and I think that I never will be able to take it in.
He has looked upon this little worm in a remote corner of His world with affection. He has forgiven all my hatred and acts of defiance and shed His blood to obtain my redemption. He has determined that He shall not spend eternity without me, but would take me to His precious side to forever behold His glory. He has not only desired it but has accomplished all things in order to bring it to pass. Let my mind refuse to let a fretful thought enter and my tongue go dumb rather than utter another complaint. Whatever else takes place I shall be with Him forever. This is His sovereign will and by His grace, I wholeheartedly await the fulfillment of it.
Psalm 28:1 Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.
As the Psalmist observes there is but one thing that causes me to differ from them that go down into the pit. In other words I am like them, but I do not go down into the pit, as they do, because the Lord has spoken to me. Knowing this, I cry unto Him, O Lord my Rock, be not silent unto me.
The supplicant does not take for granted that the Lord will speak to him, knowing that He is not only silent to millions, but is rightfully so and has no obligation to speak to any sinner. We all would take our proper place in the pit, but the Lord speaks to some and says, LIVE!
Not only is this the only difference, but only this can effect the desired difference. No matter what I do, think, believe, say or desire, unless the Lord speaks to me, the pit is my inevitable home.
Notice the word become. Not only has God preserved me from the pit by speaking to me in grace, but He must continue to do so. I am not like them now, and I know why, and though I know He that hath begun the good work will perform it, it is yet good to acknowledge that if He ever left me in silence I would yet become like them.
God speaks to us by the Gospel of His dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The message of the blood of Christ speaks pardon to the sinful soul, life to the dead, forgiveness to the guilty, liberty to the captive. Only this will do. If the Lord be silent, all other voices are vain. Those who teach for doctrine the commandments of men and appeal to my flesh, exhorting me to "do this and live," only mock my soul on its pit-ward journey. Lord, speak to me of the Lamb bearing my sin and of His righteousness imputed to me, and please never cease to do so.
Mark 10:16 And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them.
The thought of the King of kings taking these little children into His mighty arms is a particularly precious one to me. I know that many religious people are overly sentimental and emotional and I don’t want to be, but I fear that, knowing something of the great doctrines of Christ and His marvelous attributes as God, I often forget His tender humanity. This sovereign Ruler is such an One that would stoop down and embrace a wretched, depraved little boy or girl to His blessed breast.
May I, as these parents in our text, bring my children to Him "that He should touch them" (vs. 13). May I also, as a little child, continually take refuge in this of all places most delightful.
What a place of safety! What earthly fortress of iron and stone could I prefer to the bosom of Him who created this universe and everything and everyone in it? What army of enemies can touch one hair of my head while I’m held by Him who has them all numbered?
What a place of comfort! May I learn to truly and fully rest here. I read of the aged Apostle John "leaning on Jesus’ bosom" (Jn. 13:23) and I know that there is room there for me. He Whose arms enclose me has done all for me which the Father requires of me, so I can cease from my vain labors and rest.
What a place of peace! I have peace with God and the peace of God while I’m held by Him Who has made it so by the blood of His cross.
Oh, to lie forever here; doubt and care and self resign,
Mark 5:15 And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
It is no small thing among the manifold mercies of God, that when He comes in gracious salvation, He restores to the sinner his right mind. This is true in a physical as well as a spiritual sense.
A man who has been regenerated by the power of the gracious God, is blessed by God with common sense. God’s people are enabled by Him to make sound judgements and set wise priorities in their day to day life. The everyday affairs of business and family can only be conducted rightly when done so with regard to eternity and God. This cannot be apart from the shining of God’s face upon us. We are naturally without sound reason and would inevitably suffer the consequences of it unless God had intervened and given wisdom. When any man, even those who are not believers, makes a wise decision in any matter, it is attributable to God’s common grace. I believe that His sheep are particularly blessed with good sense, even in relatively unimportant matters.
Spiritually speaking, of course, all men are, by nature, insane madmen; unable and unwilling to hear, much less submit to the wisdom of God. Ever since Adam sinned in the garden and tried to hide from God behind a bush, men have manifested their lunacy with regard to God’s Person, word, will and way.
Without his right mind, a man will make a statue of a woman or a cross and bow down to it in idolatrous rebellion to God’s revealed will. He might even form a religious trinket in the image of a sinful creature, name it after a saint and wear it around his neck for good luck.
Having seen men who give visible evidence of having "lost their mind", I cannot think of a condition more heartbreakingly sad. How it ought to grieve us when we see evidence of this condition in matters of eternal consequence.
May we never take this gift for granted and desire to be useful in seeing others
Sitting – resting in Christ’s finished work and blood atonement.
Clothed – In the righteous robe of Christ’s spotless perfection.
And in their right mind.
2 Chronicles 14:11 And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude.
God in many ways has been pleased to act without the use of means. The world and all of us are made and sustained directly by Him (Colossians 1:17). Often He has deliberately overruled natural means and made them ineffectual to accomplish what they seem otherwise to be more than adequate for. The hungry lions should have been quite sufficient for the dispatching of God’s servant Daniel and the fiery furnace to bring a horrible end to his friends. When God is pleased He renders ordinary means utterly useless and vain. Psalm 33:16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. He does all this to show that He is independent and that all are dependent upon Him and beholden to seek unto and glorify Him and that when He does use means, it is not of necessity.
In many glorious ways, God has been pleased to employ means. Through the womb of an ordinary woman He brought His Son into this world. It pleased Him by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (1 Cor 1:21). When He instructs in the use of means that He will use, these are not to be neglected. To do so is to fly in the face of His plainly revealed will. Yet, when employing the means, we are ever aware that they, without God’s blessing and power, are in and of themselves useless. As Asa, we go, but only in His name, by His power and with His blessing. We are "them that have no power." John 15:5 . . .without me ye can do nothing.
I have heard it said, "Work as though all depended upon you and pray as though all depended upon God." I prefer to work and pray as though all depended upon God, since it most certainly does. If I work as though all depends upon me, I will despair of ever doing anything. How do you prophesy to dead, dry bones as though all depended upon you? Ez 37:3 How do I teach my children the gospel as though all depended upon me? No, I must say with Asa, help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and do what I know to do, not only having said we rest on thee, but actually doing so.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him . . .
When religious people make some kind of decision and claim to have "gotten" saved, they realize that there is supposed to be a change in behavior associated with that claim. They burn their secular books, quit smoking, resist the temptation to go to the movies and force themselves to attend church regularly, at least for a while.
Their very salvation is based upon their doing something (decision, exercising their faith, coming to the front) and so they feel the need to look saved by doing (or not doing) things. Eventually, after hearing "once saved, always saved" enough, they gradually begin to justify taking up all their original habits again. After all, you don’t have to go to church to worship God and the Bible doesn’t say anything about going to the movies or smoking. Besides, I made that all-important decision and salvation is a once for all experience. How do I know all this? Because I’m describing myself before I met the Master.
What is missing in all this? Everything is missing! Christ is missing, the true change of heart that is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Religion is man-centered from start to finish. Before and after salvation, it is what I do that determines my standing before God according to this fleshly gospel. Man’s sinful heart has always devised many vices with which to satisfy his lustful flesh, but the gospel is not about abstaining from these or doing good things to outweigh these bad ones.
The gospel is concerning Christ, Who He is and what He did on behalf of sinners. Salvation comes when a sinner, by God-given faith, hears of Christ and lays claim to His righteousness and sin offering, by the grace of God. This same faith is that with which we daily walk before God. This faith always looks to and depends upon Christ and His merits.
Everything that I do today is as unacceptable to God as it was before I ever met Christ. What makes me and my deeds acceptable to God is that same God-given faith in Christ by which His acceptableness is, was and shall be imputed to me. Without this, my (so called) best deeds – church attendance, abstinence from vices, prayers, etcetera are sinful and worthy of condemnation.
Are you trying to do the impossible? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and lay claim to His Person and work as your only hope of pleasing God. God is well-pleased with Him and all sinners in Him.
Job 33:3 My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly.
Elihu promises Job that what he says will be from an honest, sincere heart, that it will consist of truth which he is certain of and that he shall speak in the plainest possible words. Blessed are the people whom God places under such a spokesman, who will herald the gospel, by the grace of God, in this way.
I. God’s preachers are honest and sincere in their presentation of God’s Word. 2 Co 4:2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.. 1Cor. 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I know that all the sincerity in the world will not save a sinner. It takes the latter part of the above quote, "the demonstration of the Spirit and power" to do that, but if the preacher knows of the truth and withholds it because it is not popular or for any other reason, he is dishonest and insincere, God will not send His Spirit and there is no power of God unto salvation.
It is not that the matter depends upon the preacher; it is simply a matter of who God uses to deliver His gospel. If God intends to save someone, He will send a faithful preacher; He will bring that sinner to hear him and by these means, He shall save His elect! I hear it said of those who from the pulpit deny the truth of God’s sovereignty in salvation and Christ’s effectual atonement, "Well, he doesn’t preach what you do, but he’s so sincere." I don’t believe that for a minute.
Can you imagine someone presuming to be a spokesman for God and not reading the Bible? If he’s read the Bible then he’s seen the plain truth of man’s utter ruin, God’s electing grace, the sufficient sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, the effectual grace of God in calling sinners to Himself and the eternal security of those sinners whom God saves. Having at least seen the presence of these things in God’s Word, if he is sincere, as some say, he will either shut up until he knows something about these things or he will proclaim them with all of his heart seeing that God would have this glorious truth to be known. Most "preachers" in our day are quite aware of these truths and deliberately withhold them because they are not what "their people" want to hear. In other words they are dishonest and insincere. How costly and how hellish to be so in that which is so vital and sacred! Thank God for those few and faithful who, by the grace, direction and power of God, have "kept back nothing that is profitable (Acts 20:20)." God’s preachers claim no superiority nor boast in any flesh, especially their own, but they do have a superior message. In fact, there is no other message (gospel), and they faithfully, honestly and sincerely proclaim it by and for the grace of God.
II.God’s preachers speak only knowledge. Opinions and theories are for scientists and philosophers. The testimony of the gospel preacher is, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen (John 3:11). No man really knows very much and certainly, If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. 1 Cor. 8:2 However, when God appoints a preacher, He bestows upon him those graces which qualify him for the task. The knowledge of the gospel, needless to say, is the most important of these qualifications. This is not a gift to be taken lightly. The vast majority, in fact, almost all men in this world who presume to be preachers of God’s gospel, don’t know the gospel, and naturally do not preach the gospel, revealing that God never appointed them. Jer. 29:31 Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie. The knowledge of God is the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Cor. 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. There is nothing else worth knowing, but Him. 1 Cor. 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
This knowledge is the gift of God. Prov. 2:6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He dispenses His knowledge to and through His preachers and He must receive all the glory. 2 Cor. 2:14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
III. The message of God’s preachers is clear. It is not a shallow message; it is as deep as the wisdom of God Himself and as vast as His mighty love. The simple gospel that men speak of is a watered down farce. When Paul speaks of the simplicity which is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3), the word means singleness or exclusiveness. God’s men speak nothing more, nothing less and nothing else but Christ and Him clearly. 2 Cor. 3:12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech.
The message that is widely preached today is cloudy and confusing. When I hear of God loving everybody and yet sending men to hell who don’t "accept Jesus" I’m puzzled by such contradiction. When I hear that Christ shed His precious blood in order to save every man who ever lived, knowing that some of those for whom He died were already in hell when that blood was shed, it is as clear as mud to me.
Give me the clear and glorious truth of the almighty, sovereign Christ Who successfully accomplished the redemption of His people. Sit me down in front of a man who will by God’s grace and power say, My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly. I will listen to him and count myself greatly blessed to be allowed to do so.
1 John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
Is it that the love itself is bestowed (given), or does this mean that all the benefits we receive as a result of this love are themselves considered love. Both, of course, are true. The love of God Himself in Christ, and the capacity to love, which we possess, are both the free and sovereign gift of the great Giver of all good and perfect gifts. Also, is not love somewhat defined by what favors it bestows?
This is a love not caused nor attracted, in any way, by its object and a capacity to love, which is totally foreign to the nature of those who possess it. The love of Christ for His people is absolutely free. It is free in its selflessness – at ultimate cost, He yet loved. It is free in its boundlessness – there is no line we can cross which would forfeit His love. It is free in its graciousness – He loves the chiefest of sinners, even me!
My love for Him is also His gift. Among the cold and black thorns which thrive in my heart, this sweet red rose appears – "Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee . . ." John 21:16 It did not grow naturally from the swamp of my selfishness, but good ground was given and it was planted there and nourished with the blood of the Son of God. Any love which boasts of itself is not His gift. If I love Christ, it is as much cause for humble praise and rejoicing as His love for me.
What love is this that bestows no gift? Can it truly be called love which allows its object to suffer without mercy and without end? God’s love is no such thing! His love is bestowed and it hath bestowed! I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. Isaiah 63:7 Eternal life, redemption, true peace, real love, joy, His precious Word, righteousness, wisdom . . . time and energy would fail, but most of all, His own self, for it is in Him that all these other things are contained. Where God’s favor is, His favors are.
Psalm 103:2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
Amos 4:12 Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.
Well, by the time you read this, we will know if the end of the world has come, or not. If it did, then this will perhaps be just another piece of ash floating through space along with the other bits of the earth we used to live on. If the world has not ended yet, then as you read this, consider how foolish it is to think that because it did not at midnight on Friday night, that it won’t before you finish this article.
The world did end for many Friday night, who undoubtedly died in hospitals, nursing homes, or perhaps more unexpectedly, on freeways or in easy chairs. More will die tonight and what difference will it really make to them that the earth is still intact?
I cannot begin to imagine what it will be like to meet my Maker, the God of this universe. Even if I had some idea, I would surely search our language in vain for means whereby to express it. Let me rather emphasize what I do, by God’s revelation and grace, know with certainty. I do not want to meet God, outside of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and neither do you!
I’m glad that we, as believers, are able to represent God as the Psalmist did. Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. May we never, however, misrepresent where (in Whom) and how that mercy is found.
Outside of the Lord Jesus Christ, God is a merciless avenger of His offended law. Outside of the Lord Jesus Christ, you and I are guilty, defenseless offenders against our God. Without elaboration, even this is a gross understatement. We are murderers of God; the blood of His Son is on our hands. We are thieves in the ultimate sense, having robbed God of His very glory and honor. God is neither dead, nor diminished in His glory, but we are no less guilty for it. I could go on, but let the Word stand witness of our wretched case. You and I must flee to Christ and that urgently! Whether or not this world still stands, I cannot live a moment outside of Him, much less die. In Him, under His precious redeeming blood, let come what may, we shall be safe and gloriously blessed.
Safe, though the worlds may crumble. Safe, though the stars grow dim.