Past Articles by Pastor Cunningham
Exodus 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
As Moses, standing in the cleft of the Rock, viewed from there all of the goodness of God, so we in Christ Jesus, the Rock of Ages, see the same. The Rock is Christ and the Goodness of God seen is Christ. It is only as we are in Him that we are able to see Him and possess all spiritual blessings in Him. Moses asks to see God's glory and what He was shown is also what we are shown. 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. Heb 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
God's goodness is not, as is often mistaken, His benevolence toward man. It is His essential character as manifested in the Person of Christ. His sovereign prerogative to have mercy on whom He will, in Christ, and no one else, is not contrary to His goodness, but rather is integral to it. If He shows me mercy and saves me, He is good to do so. If He leaves me alone and damns me, He is good to do so.
In the face of the sovereign Saviour of sinners, we see what Moses so longed after and no doubt was blessed to get a glimpse of by God's gracious condescension. May this verse of scripture be a commentary on all of our worship services. May God by His condescending grace cause all of His goodness to pass before us as Christ is preached and lifted up in our midst. May His preacher proclaim the Name (character, attributes) of the Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit, and may God show grace and mercy to sinners as He is pleased to do so.
Mt. 13: 45,46 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
The motto of many today is "try Jesus" as though the Lord of glory can be offered on the basis of a no obligation demonstration of some kind. The Pearl of Great Price cannot be obtained in such a way, nor would such an offer interest a true "merchant man seeking goodly pearls." He would say, "I don't want to try the Pearl, I must own It at all cost."
One of the many evidences of fleshly religion such as is so predominant in the 90's is an absence of genuine commitment to Christ. People will readily accept Him as their personal Saviour without bowing to Him as Lord and pledging absolute allegiance to Him as their Sovereign King. He, of course, will say to such in that day, "Depart from Me ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you!" Being religious is perfectly consistent with human nature, but selling out to Christ and resting all hope for time and eternity upon His Person and bloody work cannot be performed nor imitated by the natural man. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:44
I wonder if many realize what is involved (If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Mt. 16:24) and how incapable we are we are of doing so (With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. Mt. 19:26). The text does not imply that sinners have anything whereby to obtain the Pearl. It simply illustrates what a necessity He is and how eager and insatiable is the desire of the awakened sinner who realizes His worth.
Thank God for irresistible grace which came where I was, having purposed to have me at infinite cost so that I might come to Him with purpose to have Him at all cost.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
This verse is one of the best known in the Bible, but I know very few people who believe it! Of course, God's people believe this, but most people seem to have the insane idea that there is some kind of power struggle between God and Satan. Religion's sentimental idea of God will not allow them to accept the truth that everything that takes place, even sin and evil, is under God's direct control.
This error, just as all other, is in direct defiance of the plain teaching of scripture. The Word reveals a God who allows men and devils to do certain evil deeds, which they willingly and inevitably do without His restraining them, in order to serve His eternal purpose. All evil acts that do not serve God's design are restrained and prevented by Him.
There is no evil, however desperately wicked, that we will not do unless God's restraining grace over rules our depraved will. Because of this truth, our evil deeds, when deliberately allowed by God, are as certain as those decrees of God that He positively executes. God is not surprised, His purposes are never thwarted or altered in the slightest by anything any of His creatures do. On the contrary, all of our deeds are part of His eternal purpose, and are under His absolute control. This does not at all imply that God participates in the guilt of our deeds. The deeds are ours and we willingly do them. God only allows them because they promote His glory and the eternal good of His people.
The alternative god, the one who is believed by the masses, either is unable to prevent evil or allows it without any reason other than to avoid infringing upon man's almighty free will. If he cannot prevent evil, then he has no eternal immutable purpose at all, but merely reacts to the deeds of his creatures. If he allows evil for the sake of our free will, then we have a god who would certainly be pleased if we would do right, but in order to protect our "freedom" must allow us to bring eternal punishment upon ourselves! I'm thankful that we have and worship no such god as this, but the true Sovereign of Whom it is written, For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Romans 11:36
When Satan entered into Judas Iscariot and his wicked plot was formed and carried out, God's eternal glory and the good of His elect were being served. Christ's enemies were acting according to their wicked natures and intended the ultimate evil. God was directing every thought and every step in this crime by His infinite wisdom and grace!
There's only one thing to do about a God such as this. Worship Him! He directs even the evil spirits to do His almighty bidding (Judges 9:23, 1 Sam 16:14, 1 Kings 22:20-23). We can say to all of our enemies on this earth who hate and harm us, "As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good (Genesis 50:20)."
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Romans 11:33
Acts 4:14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.
Because there was an indisputable witness to the truth of Peter's words, they could not be intelligently denied. The miracles such as the healing of this lame man, were performed to confirm the Gospel and lend authority to the preaching of it, exactly as was accomplished here, because God's written Word was not complete.
We have greater witness than this, who preach the Gospel today. Now that God's Word is complete, it accomplishes the same purpose more effectively than any miracle ever did.
Any fool can gainsay anything, no matter how plain or obvious. Someone might have said that this man wasn't the same one who was lame, but only resembled him. Another might insist that his healing was some sort of magic trick. These detractions would be absurd, for this man was well known and his condition well acquainted with. Many speak against the plain Word of God with equal absurdity. God says, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," and some say things like, "that doesn't mean that." The scriptures speak of an effectual redemption (Heb 9:12, Matt 1:21) and some nonetheless speak of Christ having died for those who are in hell. Even so, because we have the witness of God's Word, if we speak plainly according to it, what we say cannot be intelligently disputed.
The Gospel is clearly and plainly set forth in God's complete Word, and its essential truths are undeniable. People may reject what we preach and they may despise the One we preach, but they cannot with any credibility refute what we say, because we have an indisputable witness.
Judges 2:10 … and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
What a grim state of affairs it is when God must declare concerning an entire generation that they know not His Person nor His work. Surely my generation is such a one. I do not say this lightly, but with a heavy heart. I am amazed and appalled at the utter ignorance of anything spiritual that I witness daily though I know but for God's grace I would be steeped in this terrible darkness. How can things be otherwise when the word of God by which God reveals Himself and His substitutionary work in the Person the Lord Jesus Christ is no more than a keepsake or a good luck charm.
Surely the prophecy of Amos has come to pass: Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. Amos 8:11,12
The Apostle Peter called his entire generation "untoward" - (warped, crooked and perverse). His message to them must be ours today. He preached to them the great gospel of "that same Jesus" (Acts 2:36) whom his listeners had crucified, whom God the Father had made "both Lord and Christ." He commanded them to "repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (vs. 38) and he concluded with this exhortation: "save yourselves from this untoward generation."
May God enable us to speak of this same salvation in this same crucified Redeemer to "another generation."
Mark 11:30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.
In this passage, the chief priests, scribes and elders have confronted the Lord Jesus and asked Him by what authority He did what He did. This is a direct challenge, in effect saying that they were the religious authorities and having not themselves endorsed His actions, He had no business doing anything in God's name. His response to them is instructive.
The true sinner who sees himself as he is before God has nothing to say for himself. We can only reply as Job did, "Behold, I am vile." When you and I stand before the Father and He demands an answer from us, our only hope is that the Lord Jesus Himself will answer for us.
Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
I recently heard this text dealt with in a manner which focused on how wearisome it is when we do good and it is unappreciated by others. The listeners were assured that God appreciated them even if ungrateful sinners did not and that herein was there encouragement to continue on in their goodness. I remember thinking that the Pharisee in Luke 18:11 would no doubt have expounded this similarly.
Surely the Publican would have been wearied more by the fact that all in his life that might be considered "well doing," was nonetheless wretched and full of his sin. Sinner, do you ever grow weary of the fact that after all your effort and toil, all your striving to know and love God more, all your diligence in the means that God has given, you must look back at it all and mourn over it as you would over a still born child? It can be said of everything, "if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it." Ex. 20:25
There is this grief that we bear knowing that even if we could do all that is commanded of us, we would have to say, "we are unprofitable servants." Luke 17:10 Our Lord is worthy of so much more than we are, have and can do, that we must continually repent of our best, acknowledging that we are, in our best state, altogether vanity. Psalm 39:5
There is, however, true encouragement in our text. We know that in the end we shall reap, by God's grace. We shall not reap the putrid harvest that our own works would produce, nor the destruction due to such abomination. We shall reap the glorious bounty wrought by our righteous Representative, the Lord Jesus Christ and the exceeding great reward merited thereby.
Christ Himself is both our Deserving and our Reward and we are unspeakably satisfied with and in Him. Let this thought strengthen our hands and lighten our steps.
Rev. 4:2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in Heaven, and One sat on the throne.
John's observation upon viewing the revelation of the sovereign Christ is our own discovery as we read and, by revealing grace, understand God's word. We witness God's rich and beautiful providence in the life of Joseph and how He directs all things for good in the most unexpected ways, and we declare, "Behold, a throne."
We see God's fearsome anger and the outpouring of His wrath upon sinners. We stand in awe as all of God's enemies are devoured by the consuming fire, in but a moment, and we can only conclude, "Behold, a throne."
We are taken up with the abounding grace of Christ, as with a touch or a word, He causes all disease and fear to vanish. We see the very winds and waves obey Him, death itself is made a humble servant. Devils come and go at His pleasure, all creatures, elements and contingencies hang upon His will, and we bow and cry, "Behold, a throne is set in Heaven, and One sits on the throne."
This is my hope. There is One Who has authority and power to save even one in such dire need as I. I have hated and assaulted the Holy God Who created me, and He is obligated to consign me to hell. Nevertheless, by virtue of the sacrifice and imputed righteousness of the blessed Son of God, the verdict comes down at His sovereign pleasure, "Thy sins be forgiven thee." With a word the guilty and condemned is set utterly free. Only He Who sits upon the throne could speak real pardon to such as I.
This is my comfort. I know that what Christ has wrought and grace has bestowed, shall forever stand, because it is done by the One on the throne Who opens and no man can shut. There is neither man nor devil who can harm one of His "little ones" as long as there is a throne in heaven and One sitting upon it.
This is my message. Sinner, behold, a throne. The One Who sits upon it is the Lamb, Who has washed guilty sinners in His own blood and Who alone is worthy. Come and bow, and find that He is gracious.
Micah 7:3 That they may do evil with both hands earnestly. . .
How this describes our condition before we met the Master, or rather He met us! Out of the heart are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23) and how our terrible deeds showed forth the awful blackness of our depraved hearts. Not only were both hands employed, but this was done earnestly and with horrible success.
How this truth magnifies the free, electing grace of our great God. If it is possible for one man to be more sinful than another, then surely His choice of you and I reveals that He sought out the worst of the worst upon which to bestow His free favor. Rom. 7:24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
When our Savior came where we were, we were up to our elbows in the vile pursuit of that which is utter abomination to Him. His blood was on our hands just as surely as if we had driven the nails personally and with those bloodstained hands we were busy about that which caused His shameful death – our sin. Yet, He came in mercy, grace and love and washed us clean with the very blood that we were guilty of. Thank God, He shined His light upon us and caused us to see our wretchedness and cry as Job, "Behold, I am vile!" Job 40:4
Now by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, "we walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Rom. 8:1 He hath declared and sees to it that, "sin shall not have dominion over you (us)." Rom. 6:14 We do struggle daily with this flesh and sin is certainly mixed with all that we do, yet where once we drank "iniquity like water" Job 15:16, we now eat His flesh and drink His precious blood. Almighty grace indeed that changed us from the double handed, sin zealous worms we were to being "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Rom. 3:24
Oh, if only we were as energetic in His righteous cause as we once were in our own hellish interests. Lord, give us grace that we might be about your business with both hands earnestly.
Mark 4:38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
What a question for the Lord Jesus! He had left glory's throne to dwell on this sin-infested earth for their sakes. The condescension of the Saviour to even be on this little ship with these sad, foolish mortals is staggering! They had not chosen Him, but He had chosen them to be His honored and choice disciples. He was, even then, working out a perfect righteousness whereby they might stand faultless before the holy presence of God. He would soon submit willingly to the hands of wicked men who would shed His precious blood, laying down His priceless life to pay for all of their sin, and they yet question His concern for them. Far beyond regarding their temporal welfare in this earthly storm, He had eternally secured their immortal souls by the sacrifice of Himself and yet they ask, "Carest thou not?"
Before we judge them too harshly, let us consider the beam in our own eye. Is not this text a mirror in which we see our own guilty faces reflected? How long has it been since, in the face of some trial, you and I have, if not in words, yet by our actions and attitude asked the Saviour this shameful question?
Believer, does it seem at times as though the waves are sure to sink you? Does all hope of weathering the storm seem lost? Is the Saviour on board with you? Do you wonder if He cares? Oh, behold how He cared! The thought of you perishing was so unbearable to Him that He gave Himself "that whosoever believeth should not perish but have everlasting life." No storm that this world can brew will be able to shake us if we simply trust the Master. "Casting all your care upon Him for He careth for you." 1 Peter 5:7
Galatians 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
To this generation a curse is a fictitious evil spell of some kind which was fabricated by Hollywood for the purpose of creating a dramatic plot. We think of gypsy curses, voodoo curses or the mummy’s curse. In order to understand the reality of the curse of God, as it is found in scripture, we must see it as it is set in opposition to the blessing (Deuteronomy 28). This being the case, much light is shed upon what it is to be under the curse of God, if we see what it is to be an object of the blessing of God.
How revealing, for example, if the opposite of the benediction found in Numbers chapter 6 is considered. Numbers 6: 24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. The curse would be something like this: "The Lord curse thee and forsake thee. The Lord turn His back upon thee and punish thee. The Lord withdraw all favor from thee and leave thee in thy grief and misery."
Apply this to our holy Lord Jesus, our blessed Substitute and we get some idea of the meaning of our text in Galatians 3. If he that is forgiven much, loveth much, then surely you and I must weep and embrace with deep devotion, this One Who has become our curse. If God had cursed and forsaken us, we must have acknowledged that He not only had the right to do so, but was obligated to do so. Nevertheless, God embraced and delighted in us. Our Lord deserved the highest favor and honor of the Father and yet He cursed and forsook Him. This is salvation.
The result of God’s blessing is that all things work together for our good and end in our eternal bliss and delight. To be under God’s curse means that though a man be rich, well respected and the recipient of all that this world considers good, it shall all work together for evil and culminate in his eternal damnation. Are you under God’s curse, or do you rest in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Curse?
Ephesians 2:3 . . . and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Are you a believer? Are you what is called a saved person; a child of God? If so, how did that come about? Why did God save you? If your answer is "because I believed in Jesus," then you are over-qualified to be a candidate for the mercy of God and are therefore deceived and lost. God saves sinners who are "even as others" and if you have distinguished yourself from "others" by some kind of faith that you produced, you have disqualified yourself from receiving the unmerited, free, sovereign, distinguishing grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our text and its context clearly shows that when God, Who is rich in mercy, displayed and dispensed that mercy upon men, that He did so when they were just like everybody else. If God saved me because I believed in Jesus and did not save "others" because they did not believe in Jesus, then the scriptures are meaningless and there is no such thing as pure grace.
What does it mean to be even as others? Read Ephesians 2. It means to be "dead in trespasses and sins," in the "lusts of our flesh," and to be "by nature the children of wrath." You may say, "well I was a sinner and God saved me by grace, but I ‘improved’ upon that grace whereas others did not." Then you are not "even as others" and God has surely passed you by and shall until you become so.
This was the Pharisee’s problem. Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. Real sinners such as the publican referred to here, make no such claim, but only cry out for mercy! If we have any objection to the title "even as others" it is only that surely there is no one quite as wretched as ourselves.
What is your definition of grace? God saved me out of a world full of drowning worms just like me. If that’s not grace, then I don’t know what grace is.
Galatians 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
It is the tragic and inevitable nature of men to gravitate to one extreme or the other, especially in spiritual matters. We feel we are justified in laying hold of one truth and acting according to it while ignoring, neglecting and violating another scriptural truth. No truth is understood correctly, however, if it excludes any other truth. All truth has its source in the Lord Jesus Christ Who is Himself Truth and His Person; His Spirit cannot be received in part.
The doctrine of "faith without the deeds of the law" as described so clearly in Romans chapter 3 has, by many who wrest the scriptures, been set against the faith of which James speaks which "without works is dead." This is not only perceived as a contradiction, but is lived out as one by those who prefer one truth to the exclusion of another.
Some, who major upon the works of men in obedience to God’s law, compromise the sovereign grace of God which alone is the cause of salvation. Others, insisting upon salvation by pure grace, see no need to do anything at all. By doing nothing, they are in effect sinning "that grace may abound (Romans 6:1)." Both of these extremes reveal an ignorance of true faith.
Our text contains such a beautiful balance of truth! When faith and works are understood properly they are seen to be in perfect harmony. Paul in Romans 3 is dealing with the CAUSE of salvation and in doing so utterly condemns the idea of any works having a part therein. Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight. James, on the other hand, is dealing with the EFFECT of salvation and in doing so he is adamant that the kind of faith which saves, also produces a love for and obedience to the law of God. James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. I must not include works in the cause of my salvation lest I fall from the very grace of God (Galatians 5:4). I must not exclude works from the effect of my salvation or I have not understood the kind of faith which God gives His children. My children have a desire to please me, however, their obedience to me is not the cause of their relationship to me, it is the effect.
How we ought to rejoice in a faith which is given to us by God in pure grace and which produces in us, by the Spirit of Christ, "much fruit (John 15:8)." May God give us all in abundance this "faith which worketh."
Jeremiah 5:22 Fear ye not me? saith the LORD: will ye not tremble at my presence?
If I had to choose a single statement that best describes my generation it would be that one found in Romans 3:18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Every man truly seems to be doing that which is right in his own eyes without the slightest regard for God’s word or judgement. All men seem to be as Nabal in I Samuel 25:36, laughing, drinking and partying on their way to hell as the wrath of their Maker hangs over their head by a spider’s web. Children are allowed to grow up in their unchecked rebellion without even being taught natural respect for their mom and dad, much less for God Almighty.
Today’s so-called preachers are no help, but are rather the main problem. JEHOVAH is revealed in the scriptures to be One to be feared. "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him" Ps. 89:7. Honestly now, who would fear the god who is described in the sentimental sermonettes of free-will religion? He is presented as one to feel sorry for rather than respect; an old grandfather wishing the best for all his little people while unable to do anything for them or to them.
God asks this question of proud, foolish man who curses God with the very breath He gave him. It is asked as a warning. You’d better think twice about your flippant, gum-popping attitude toward your Creator. He is not amused by your rebellion; He will wipe you out for your arrogant disregard for His holy law. Will you tread His only Son’s precious blood under your filthy feet and despise His mercy? Your punishment will be horrible, eternal and richly deserved.
What grace to have a God-given fear toward Him Who sitteth upon the throne. Like John on Patmos we fall on our faces before Him as dead. Only then will He say to us as He did there, "Fear not." What men need is a revelation of Him.
Shall not his excellency make you afraid? Job 13:11
Job 10:19 . . . I should have been carried from the womb to the grave.
Job, in his miserable condition on the ash heap, wishes that his trip from the womb to the grave had been an immediate one. Whatever the time in between, this is a journey we all make. Physically speaking, we all come from the same place and we all go, sooner or later, to the same place. How vividly Job’s words paint this stark truth.
Some years ago, when my father was dying, Jack and I sat in the hallway at the hospital just a few steps from where my father was lying unconscious. As we talked, a door opened nearby and we heard babies crying. I turned to look, and I remember thinking it odd that Maternity and Intensive Care would be on the same floor. I turned the other direction to look toward where dad’s room was, and Jack and I looked at each other. We were both thinking the same thing. This short hallway represented this fleeting thing that men call life. At one end life is beginning with tears and just a brief walk away, at the other end, life’s final breaths are counted down.
For a man who lives a relatively long life this space between the womb and the grave is full of many events, but how much of real importance actually takes place? We learn to crawl, then walk; we lose our teeth and then grow new ones. We skin our knees and cry. We go to school. We get in trouble. We fall in love. We get a job. We get another job. We get married. We have children. Our hearts break. We cry. We laugh. We lose our hairs and don’t grow any new ones. We get another job. We retire. We hurt. Our hearts break again. We cry again. We die. What is all this for, and what mark does it all make on eternity?
Ah, here is the meaning of it all. Somewhere between all the trivial events and passions of this drama, we are visited by our Maker. Gal. 1:15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me . . . Then all the laughing, crying and loving has a reason and becomes beautiful. Our sin and guilt are replaced by His righteousness and joy by the redeeming power of His blood atonement! With the weight of our debt removed, even the hurting and heart-breaking we see to be for our good. What a wonderful thing life is when it is lived by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).
Otherwise, without this gracious visit from the God of all grace, this experience called life is really just prolonged death. It is nothing but a fruitless journey from the womb to the grave, and then the judgement! I want to be where He will meet with me.
Man, by nature loves himself and really only himself. All other things that he "loves" such as family, friends and possessions he only loves for what they add to himself. He may claim to love God but what he loves is his concept of God, for the same reason that he loves everything else, namely that he sees God to be someone Who exists to benefit himself. This condition never changes; the flesh always loves only itself. John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Love is the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of the flesh. Love is as much the gift of God as faith. When a man is born from above, he gains the capacity to love spiritually.
A believer is indwelled by the Spirit and possesses the nature that loves God and seeks God’s glory. This new nature will not allow him to love certain things inordinately or other things altogether pettily. This is part of the miracle that is the new creation in Christ. 2Cor 5:17 He truly loves God with his heart of hearts and all other "loves" are never the same.
With regard to the natural realm, since the new nature seeks God’s glory, we no longer love only that which exalts the flesh. We have an eye always to that which honors Him, even in temporal things and matters. Thus our tastes in music, entertainment, companions and pursuits all are dramatically affected.
Being both flesh and spirit, we are never satisfied with our love, nor do we make a boast of it as those who give testimonies like, "I just want to say I love the Lord tonight . . ." or sing songs that emphasize our love over His. His love is the cause of my love and it is His for me, not mine for Him that must be made much of. There is a real sense in which I am ashamed of my love for Him, since it is so weak and cold compared to what He is worthy of. Yet, I do love Him. He is so altogether lovely that anyone who does not love Him ought to go to hell. 1 Cor 16:22 Whatever true love we do possess, feel and express, we are careful as Paul was to acknowledge that it is yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. Gal 2:20
Lord teach and enable us to love like you do, freely and fully. Forgive our continued attachment to vanity. May our hearts cry now and ever be, Yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend. Song 5:16
There is a gladness of heart that the believer possesses that this world knows nothing of. Natural man delights in his sinful pleasures, but it is a misspent and transient enjoyment that comes and goes with those insubstantial things that inspire it. The believer’s joy is based on something more considerable. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3: 17, 18
When Job lost everything he yet blessed the name of the Lord because the object of his love was God Himself, not what God had given him. It was only when he feared that the Lord had turned His back that horror and despair shed their ominous shadow into his soul. This is not natural to man, but is the fruit, the gift of the Spirit as are faith and love.
We do not walk around with our head in the clouds of utopian bliss spouting benignities and feigning a sort of immunity to real sorrows and griefs, as some unconvincingly do. We do however always have real and enduring cause for rejoicing in Him by Whom we are so monumentally blessed. Our joy is irrepressible because the object of our delight is infinitely and invariably delightful.
When I discover that God did not in fact elect sinners based upon His own free sovereign love and according to the good pleasure of His will, but observed and chose those who qualified for His grace, then my joy will be shattered. When I find that Christ’s atonement was after all only a potential one and that my salvation indeed is "up to me," then my joy shall flee away as the morning mist. If I ever have reason to suspect that the Son of God is no longer on the throne directing all things for my good and unceasingly interceding for this sinner, then my joy shall utterly fail – but not until then.
The will of the Father is peace, having purposed and ordained that we should be reconciled unto Himself and the way in which it would be accomplished. The work of the Son is peace, having wrought it by the blood of His cross. The fruit of the Spirit, bearing witness of the Father’s will, the Son’s work and our interest, by faith, in these and having quickened us and indwelt us, is peace.
Though by nature I am like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. (Isaiah 57:20), by His grace and working I am His little lamb, eating the tender grass and drinking the still waters of His precious Person and work.
I have peace in my conscience, though my sin is ever before me, knowing that all my guilt and its penalty have been borne by my blessed Substitute.
I have peace in my mind, though the weight of the world bear upon it, for all my "demons" have been cast out and all storms of doubt and fear calmed by the Master, Who careth for me.
I have peace in my heart, being fully satisfied and delighted with Him Who is satisfied and delighted with me, having washed me from my sin in His own blood and clothed me with that robe of purest white.
I shall depart this life in peace having seen the One Simeon saw (Luke 2:29, 30), the Salvation of God. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
Not only is everything that Christ ever did the performance of our very righteousness, but He is, in what is recorded, our perfect example to follow in every respect of every matter. As with everything else, Christ epitomizes longsuffering, but how can it be seen? It is so often in what is not done that it is marvelously displayed.
When His disciples showed their ignorance, He did not shame them, but taught them patiently the same truths with accommodating language as children. When they doubted and insulted Him in their fear, He did not rail upon them, but showing how foolish their question was He removed the source of their trouble and comforted them. Even when they forsook and abandoned Him He did not disown them, but though scattered, He ever considered them His sheep. Though we are daily guilty of all, He never forsakes us, but visits us unceasingly with His peace and love.
Think of His longsuffering toward you before you knew Him. With every breath and deed you did despite to the One in Whose hand your soul is. Your hatred and spite for Him was evidenced in your very countenance. You scoffed at His claims upon you and counted His precious blood unworthy of your consideration yet He did not, would not let you go. A thousand fell at thy side and ten thousand at thy right hand, but no harm could come nigh thee until His mercy did so. He not only refrained from destroying you as you so richly deserved, but lived, suffered and died for you having loved you from the foundation of the world.
We have countless opportunities to display this grace and so seldom do. How impetuous and quick to condemn we are by nature. With regard to our hope and encouragement it is never good to look to self, since a look there will utterly remove both. We look to self and it is good to never forget for this reason. We cannot see ourselves aright and so easily fail to suffer long with others. Certainly we cannot get a sight of His longsuffering toward us in our wretchedness and withhold the same from any sinner, of whom we are chief.
The Apostle Paul, as a believer, said I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing. Rom. 7:18 There could be no plainer statement regarding our ability (or lack thereof) to do good. If there is no goodness in us, then certainly no good can be performed by us. The Apostle James said, But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? James 2:20 These two paradoxical truths are needlessly confusing to some and have direct bearing upon our text.
What exactly is this goodness that the Spirit produces and how is it manifest? Let’s be clear about this. Is there ever a single act that I perform as a child of God that is in the absolute sense, good? That is, utterly pure in motive and intent and perfectly performed with all due earnestness and fervor and that could in and of itself be considered acceptable to God? ABSOLUTELY NOT! This being the case, as is clear from scripture and any honest account of our own experience, then what is this goodness? The nature of the Spirit in us is perfectly good, but in what sense is the fruit good if nothing is unaffected by my evil nature?
James’s discourse regarding works, which is often used contrarily, provides the key to the question. Works are never mentioned but as manifestations of faith. If faith without works is dead, then what are works without faith? A "good" work is a work of faith. Heb. 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him. It is by grace through faith that the merits of Christ are imputed to us, and in this same way our works are made acceptable through the imputation of His goodness. Christ is my Righteousness in every possible sense!
Faith is the God-given grace by which we lay hold of Christ’s Person and work and by which we do everything "good" that we ever do. The faith to lay hold of Christ and to do "works of faith" is the gift of God, wrought in us by the Spirit of God, thus, the fruit of the Spirit is goodness.
Like all things good and right, faith is not a product of man’s evil nature, but of the blessed Spirit of God. Faith is wrought in the elect by the working of His mighty power. This is a vital issue to the truth of the Gospel. There have only ever been two religions in this world and these can be distinguished by two words, grace and works. All of the immense volumes of argument both written and verbal regarding the ancient contention between Sovereign Grace and Free Will can be summed up in this one question: Where does faith come from?
If faith is a product of man’s nature and can be exercised at his discretion, then salvation is of the free will of man. If faith is God’s gift given freely at His discretion to those whom He has chosen in eternal discriminating love, then salvation must be attributed to the sovereign grace of God. What sayeth the scriptures?
Any honest reader/hearer of truth must conclude himself to be an immeasurable debtor to that grace whereby we are made partakers of that gift whereby we lay hold of God’s unspeakable gift, the Lord Jesus Christ.