For the Year
It is gloriously honoring to the Triune God for His people to be sanctified (set apart unto holiness) through the truth concerning Christ (Who is truth Himself John 14:6). The Father, Who sanctified a people in eternal election (Jude 1), the Son, Who sanctified the elect with His own blood (Hebrews 13:12), and the Spirit Who sanctifies the redeemed through obedience of the truth, has wrought a work of sanctification that is final and forever secure by the power of God. There is however a sanctification (a progressive growth in grace) which is only accomplished by and through the word of truth. The truth concerning God's salvation for His people through the substitutionary death of Christ is the only message blessed by the Spirit for their eternal good. Those who are made to hear with an ear of faith are being brought to a resignation of their own depraved will to bow to the will of One Who sanctified Himself as a Mediator between God and Men, the man Christ Jesus.
DWELLING IN UNITY
Brethren dwelling in unity with brethren is a good and pleasant thing. Believers ought to behold and consider the marvel of that oneness. The goodness of that binding finds its source in God Almighty Who is good. How pleasant to a renewed mind when observing the grace of God that has granted a peace and a unity to a body of redeemed sinners. Praise is to be given to the Father Who chose a people to dwell in unity, the Son Who bought those elect and unified them in His blood, and the Spirit Who quickened unto Spiritual life and grants by faith a desire to dwell in that unity. There is much that is good for God's people that may seem to not be pleasant for the moment, (Psalm 119:70; Heb. 12:11) but to gaze upon such and be pleasant is a work alone of God's grace.
IT IS FINISHED
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:30)
The fullness of Christ's statement, "It is finished" will never be realized by mere creatures this side of heaven. Only eternity will reveal all the accomplishments of God's Lamb. A believer may well admit that he knows in part, and perceives in part, but (by God's grace) the redeemed sinner knows something of that finished work. He knows that:
Finished is the obedience to God's Law, for Christ has obeyed it in thought, word, and deed.
Finished is the justification of all Christ came to save, for this perfect obedience is imputed to their account.
Finished is the debt owed to God's justice for all His elect chosen unto salvation, for their guilt was imputed to Christ at Calvary.
Finished is God's wrath toward us who believe, for that wrath was consumed by Christ our substitute.
"It is finished" Whatever was demanded for God's people was finished by the perfection of Christ, the Lord of Glory.
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. (Acts 26:28)
"Almost persuaded" what a pitifully revealing thought. Man, who by nature resides in a dungheap of rebellion, foolishly contemplates that he has almost decided to grasp hold of life. For a man to think that he has almost been persuaded to be a Christian exposes the blindness of an unregenerate heart. A Christian's eyes have been opened by faith to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. A Christian, as a new creation, has been turned by the power of God from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Christians have received forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified (made holy) by faith (Acts 26:18).
Almost persuaded? No! No one has ever been almost converted. Man is totally saved by grace through faith or he is altogether lost in rebellion and sin.
THE PURPOSE OF MAN
The whole purpose of man and his existence is the glory of God. A sinner, who dies in rebellion against God Almighty's Law, will be found guilty to the glory and honor of God's Justice. A sinner, on the other hand, redeemed from the power of sin, pardoned through Christ's blood, and justified by Christ's imputed righteousness, will be declared blameless to the glory of God's grace.
"BE YE THEREFORE FOLLOWERS OF GOD, AS DEAR CHILDREN"
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. (Eph. 5:1-2)
How blessed is the assembly of believers that yearns to follow after God Almighty. Imparted faith, which gives sight to formerly spiritually blind eyes, causes God's dear children to view Him with just such a longing desire, that manifests itself as a manner of living that finds its life source only in the love of God and following Him. The old man by nature walks according to the course of this evil world. That course seeks only to justify itself with false hope through self-righteousness and empty works. The new man, on the other hand, sees Christ (the Worthy Lamb) as the justifier of sinners and satisfier of Holy Law. He sees by faith through scripture revealed, that His sacrifice was for the glory and love of God in saving his people. As Christ's sweet-smelling sacrifice has been imputed to the charge of all God's elect, there is a longing to walk in that love " see then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise" (Eph. 5:15).
GOD'S MANNER OF SALVATION
When considering Almighty God's salvation, one can with assurance rest in the fact that He never changes (Mal. 3:6). Men of carnal reasoning may think spiritual life to be obtained by different means, but holy Scripture declares this thinking to be false (Eph. 2:8). The depth of blessed salvation shall never in this life be known, but there are three truths concerning this great salvation that are always certain:
In this day of false contemporary worship, God has a people. The people of God's choosing (unto salvation) are going to be called unto Himself by the same message He has used to call every child of promise from the beginning of mankind the Gospel of Christ.
SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John 5:39)
The Scriptures are the final witness concerning the deity of Christ. Above the written word there is no appeal, no higher authority, no further revelation. With the revealed knowledge that Christ Himself is set forth in the Scriptures, let us with diligence search Him out, as a hunter tracks out the signs and evidences of his desired prize. Search the scriptures prayerfully for they are they which testify of Him!
WORKING THE WORKS OF GOD
There is a sense in which skills, techniques or abilities can be taught. Natural application of systematic logic reasons that if enough information is set forth, understanding will result and abilities will freely spring forth from the heart. This thinking, though logical to the fickle human mind, does not apply when dealing with the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14). In truth, faithful ministers expound precept upon precept, line upon line (Isa. 28:10) and set forth the glory of God's grace always in the light of Christ and Him crucified. There is no other message blessed by the Holy Ghost to the saving of a sinner's soul or the motivation of that person's service. Attempting to drive the sheep by laws, rules and regulations will do nothing but bring up the natural spirit of rebellion. The blessed message of Christ, the Substitute of sinners and the only mediator and hope of God's people, melts the stony heart of rebellion when it comes in power by the Holy Ghost. Let the message be Christ only and God's sheep will come, longing to follow Him.
The natural mind assumes that every professor of religion is a true believer. While men may exercise amiable traits that lend themselves to kindness, sincerity, honesty, and spirituality, there is one mark that is indisputable love for the brethren.
Men may love others for various reasons, but it takes a new heart to love another believer simply because of the other believer's love for Christ. Every false religious reason for loving another will perish in time because its source stems totally out of a carnal heart. Sinners redeemed by the blood of Christ and regenerated by God's Spirit see (though through a glass darkly) something of the mercy of God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet men boast of their great love for others and give reasons that draw praise only to themselves By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
IN ALL THINGS GIVE THANKS
A believer has everything to be thankful for. Almighty God has everlastingly loved him. The Father has chosen him unto salvation. The Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed him form the penalty of sin by being his substituted before Holy Law. The Holy Ghost has made him spiritually alive by grace through faith and even now that believer stand uncondemned before eternal justice. An unbeliever, though lost in trespasses and sins and teetering on the brink of holy judgment, should have this one thing for which to be thankful he is not in hell right now. "To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation" (Heb. 3:15).
Men have always tried to earn peace. Pagan belief was that the gods must be appeased before peace and prosperity would again reign in the land. If human or animal sacrifice had to be made, this was but a small price to pay for the desired calm. Someone was offended and someone had done the offending - it was that simple. Men, who had done the offending, must do something to satisfy the offended one (at least until the next time he is offended, and then start over again).
The glorious Gospel of Christ declares there to be a satisfaction and reconciliation which has truly established forever a peace between God Almighty (the offended One) and those He has forever loved (the offending ones). Because sinful man cannot provide a satisfactory appeasement (that is, in perfectly keeping God's Law, the expression of His character), he is under the condemnation of holy justice. God Eternal set forth the Lord Jesus Christ (God in human flesh) to be the propitiation (the satisfaction, the mercy seat) for those He purposed in eternity to justly redeem. The guilt of God's elect people was divinely charged to Christ and with that guilt He died in their place. Christ's perfect righteousness has been imputed to all believers and there is now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus.
The offended One provided Himself a sacrifice to satisfy His own demand for justice. "Oh to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be."
THE LAW OF FAITH
If men could be justified by perfectly keeping God's Law, they would have something about which to boast. The Scripture clearly sets forth though that by the deeds of the Law shall no man be justified. Does this mean that believers are then without law? Is there a mentality within a true believer that says, "I shall sin lawlessly that grace may abound?" Absolutely not!
Believers are not lawless. Faith, a working grace given by God's Spirit, shall be imparted to every child of promise. True faith reacts with a longing desire to serve the Lord and Master. This faith is a law written on our hearts by God's grace. It is not a grievous thing to be borne, but is a law of love which finds its power of motivation in the Holy Ghost. Of Him, for Him, and by Him . . . there is a law for every believer a law of faith (without which no man shall please God).
CHRIST, THE CITY OF REFUGE
There were cities of refuge strategically placed on each side of the Jordan River whereby a manslayer might find haven until his case could be heard. A man finding himself to be guilty of the death of another (ignorantly or accidentally) had one hope of survival he must get to the city of refuge.
The highway which led to each city had to be prepared by the priest to assure unobstructed passage. Hills were to be made low, valleys were to be exalted, crooked ways made straight and rough places made plain to remove all hindrances of travel. At all crossroads a sign had to be posted pointing toward the city of refuge.
Men by nature are guilty before God by birth (in Adam) and practice. The realization of that guilt (by the Holy Spirit) sets that man fleeing toward Christ (the City of Refuge). God-called preachers must proclaim the unobstructed way (Christ) toward the city of refuge Himself. Hills of pride, valleys of despair, and crossroads of ignorance are made plain only one way the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. Guilty sinners must see that banner that cries Refuge, Refuge, this way to the City of Refuge.
YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH SHALL ME YOU FREE
A believer knows one truth that gives him great comfort and freedom that truth is Christ (John 14:6). Everything, when compared to Him, is obscure and false. Men may vainly proclaim great "truths," but when these truths are viewed in the perfect light of the person of Christ, they are shown to be mere lies!
Do we want to pay heed to the fabricated truths of man wherein no spiritual security can be found? I think not, for the believer has been delivered from making lies his refuge and is free from the bondage of sin, and the wages of sin manifested in the judgment of God. Blessed is the one who has been made by God's Spirit to see, hear, and taste the truth. That one has been set free.
1 Samuel 17
The account of David and Goliath has been a favorite children's Bible story. Here a young man in the face of danger, armed with only a sling and five smooth stones, defeats a monument of resistance. I am sure that the story's practical application has been taught in many a sincere Bible class. But, we must reveal the Gospel truths behind the story for it to be profitable to the sinner. David, a picture of Christ, defeated Goliath, a picture of my sinful nature and its opposition to God Almighty. We see David as a picture of Christ because:
In all scripture, Christ is revealed (John 5:39) to the glory of God the Father, Son, and Spirit and for the good of all His elect.
THE OBITUARY OF A BELIEVER
And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. (Gen. 5:5)
As I read an obituary column, I never cease to be amazed at how quickly the life of a man is summed up. What seems should take volumes to recap (that is, a man's life) is simply reduced to three words - "and he died." Rich and poor, young and old are all brought to the same certain end. There is an appointment for every man - "once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27).
The carnal man scrambles to attain in this life (spiritually and physically) what seems will sustain him now and forever. He believes that his own free will has written an obituary of peace before God and that his own arm of power has secured for himself a place in glory.
A believer, on the other hand, knows that in the Day of the Lord any peace, any hope, any joy is going to be summed up in one eternal fact. That fact singularly reveals God to be well pleased with Christ and those found in him. This obituary will forever ring in eternity to the praise of the glory of His grace "He died for me."
Love . . . love for Christ, His honor, His person, His glory, and love for his people (for His sake) is the test of a man's every action. There are many truths being set forth in churches today which give good advice, but if true love (imparted by the Spirit of God) is not the motivation of the speaker's heart, then the words are nothing but tinkling cymbals and sounding brass. God's sheep cannot be driven by harshness and insensitivity, but with a heart made willing they gladly hear even a loving rebuke.
GOING TO CHURCH
One hardly has to look long before finding a place where a group of people consistently meets as they say, "in the name of God." With all the different doctrines being set forth, how does one know where the truth (Christ Himself) is really being set forth? It has been rightly said that but for God's grace one will not know and the vast majority of sincere churchgoers will eventually find themselves under the judgment and wrath of God.
There are three basic truths that will be set forth in that place where the person of Christ is present:
There are many places where folks meet every week in the name of religion, but every once in a while a place is found where God Himself has raised up a pastor and a flock after His own heart. Of all the themes being set forth in most churches, no theme shall every bring honor, glory, and praise to Christ the Lord except the message of the Gospel. Men are ruined by the fall, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and regenerated by His Holy Spirit.
ALL MY NEED
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19
Men by nature possess endless desires. Our desire for emotional stimulation causes us to lust with our eyes, our flesh, and for the pride of life. However, though men have many desires, their needs can only be met in Christ, for without Christ:
Our wants by nature are carnal and selfish, but our needs are spiritually supplied only by God. He alone removes a heart of stone (Ezek. 36:26) and imparts a heart of flesh (a new nature). By His grace, we are kept from that which we carnally want (to flee from God) and given that which we need - Christ!
LOST ON THE WAY TO THE CITY
The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city. (Eccl. 10:15)
Men today boast of great accomplishments for the kingdom of God. Church leaders announce with great pride the number of recent baptisms, "rededications" and the size of the church budget. Lacking the Spirit of God in their hearts, they travel a wide road, "working" and "suffering" many things for what they mistakenly suppose will expand or strengthen the kingdom of Christ; however, they are following a blind path to the Kingdom.
The problem is that there is no knowledge about how to get to the City (Christ - the City of Refuge). The road to the City is the Spirit-blessed message of Christ, the Hope of glory. A pastor taught by the Holy Ghost knows that message to be the power of God unto salvation. He knows that if the sheep of Christ are going to be found, they will be found through the proclamation of Christ Who is The Way or The Road to the City. Blessed is the pastor (and all believers) who has been shown the way to the City.
PLUCKED OUT AS A FIREBRAND
I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. (Amos 4:11-12)
There is nothing more bent on final destruction than a man with an unregenerate, unbelieving heart. Almighty God in His sovereign mercy could pluck a child of promise as a firebrand out of the burning while He destroys another hell-bound sinner, and that plucked firebrand will, of his own accord, never see God's mercy or return to Him. The only returning by a sinner to Almighty God is by the power of God's Spirit blessing the message of Christ, the Hope of Glory. A man must be made ready to meet God in mercy. He must have a substitute to bear his guilt and a fit righteousness. The Law must be obeyed and justice must be satisfied. All this is fulfilled in Christ.
ARE YOU SUFFERING?
There is a promise from God's word that all believers will be tried in the furnace of adversity (2 Tim. 3:12). This trial is always for the good of God's saints and is an evidence of their sonship (Heb. 12:8). To see the good in these afflictions is a work of God's grace and with that good toward Christ's sheep in this life is revealed the glory of God in His blessed Son (2 Cor. 4:17).
THE GOOD FIGHT
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. (2 Tim. 4:7)
To speak of fighting as being "good" seems at first to be a contradiction of terms. Fighting is often associated with grief, hurt, and misery. Considering the pitiful state of man by birth, any battle against sin and our spiritual bondage is good. It is good because:
To be made a soldier in the good fight is by God's grace alone, so by his strength fight the good fight of faith!
SONG OF SONGS
Song of Solomon 1:1
Christ is the totality of all that is good, lovely, and right. Concerning his goodness, there is no boundary. He is the Good Shepherd, the Good Master, and the Good Word of God. Concerning his loveliness, He is the Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star. In all that is right, He is the Holy of Holies -- the Lord of Righteousness.
As all glory is due him, let all praise magnify his name. He is the Song of Songs. As the heart of man is revealed by his mouth (Matt. 12:34), let the Object of God's people (in their adoration) be always Him. In him are the perfect lyrics (He is the Word of God). He is the melody of a renewed mind (Eph. 5:19). He is the anthem of praise of all the heavenly host and all earthly creation (Isa. 44:23). How blessed are His people, those made willing to see Him as the Song of Songs.