It is a miracle of God's grace that any man would rejoice in coming to the place where the glorious gospel of Christ alone is proclaimed. It takes a heart made anew (by the Holy Ghost) to have a longing to continually meet with others who also find their spiritual need met in the preaching of a message that does nothing but honor the will, work, and accomplishment of the God of all peace. This gladness toward worship not only honors the God we love and serve, but it also encourages those that meet together in that worship. David said, "I was glad when THEY said unto me, let US go into the house of the LORD." There is no better fellowship found than that fellowship based on meeting together in the hearing of the Word of God. With the beginning of this new year, let all His people be reminded of the grand privilege that has been bestowed upon all that He has everlastingly loved ... the privilege to be glad to go into the house of the LORD.
THE TRAVAIL OF HIS SOUL
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:11
I cannot enter into the depth of the indescribable anguish of the soul of Christ at Calvary, but, I do know that here Holy justice and love met, and in that meeting, perfect satisfaction was accomplished. Here, the quilt of all those for whom Christ came, was paid in full. Here, the undiluted wrath of God fell on Him who would not suffer that wrath to fall on His sheep. Here, a glimpse of the hidden secrets of God Almighty is revealed for "He saw the travail of His soul and was satisfied." Satisfied, for the Father viewed the fruit of that travail -- the honor of His Son, and the securing of His Son's bride.
HOLY AND REVEREND
The name and character of God Almighty is worthy of awe. It should not be spoken of in a light or airy way, but should be trembled at. The unregenerate mind thinks that any mention of the Holy One of heaven (no matter how dishonoring) is somehow giving homage to the august God of all eternity. The splattering of the name, which is above every name, on bumper stickers, tee shirts, and baseball caps might appear to be "witnessing" to some, but to those that truly revere the holy name of Christ Jesus the Lord, this is nothing short of taking that holy name in vain. Let Him be spoken of in a way that is consistent with the report that has been given from above ..."This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased ... hear ye Him"
THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
A wife has the privilege of knowing the mind of her husband. Many things that he would keep secret to others, he reveals unto his wife. The secrets of the Lord are with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant. (Psalm 24:1-4) Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the heart of men to conceive, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:9-10)
THE LOVE OF GOD'S LAW
The law of God reveals the character of His glorious person. I do understand how man by nature would view that law as rigid, coarse, and unmerciful, but that law is not so. The law of God is good, because He is good. The law chides us for our disobedience, but it is because we are wrong. A child of God loves that law because he now sees that law as holy and he longs to be holy in Christ. The law of God is wisdom revealed and the believer studies to be wise in his Substitute. The law of God is perfect and we must be perfect to be accepted before that law. This perfection is made to be so in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has been made to be sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Now the child of God sees the law to be his friend, and he loves that law.
PURIFIED BEFORE THE LAW
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. 1 John 3:3
Only by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is any sinner ever purified before the law of God. There is nothing (naturally speaking) within any man that merits this justified standing of absolute holiness. If a man could actually purify himself before God (by his own effort), that would be salvation by that man's own work and accomplishment. He then would have somewhat to glory in and the blood of Christ would be of none effect. John speaks though of a man purifying himself even as he (Christ) is pure. This purification is not that purification before God, but the purification of an honorable conversation (walk) before men. New life in Christ manifests itself as a yearning after serving the Lord that paid my debt. Where one once found it easy to continue in open rebellion, dishonesty, and revelings, now there is constraint (imparted by the Holy Ghost) to follow after the holiness of God. Though I will admit that in this life, no man will ever be free from the presence of sin, there is a longing to cast off that which is disobedient to Him, and to purify oneself before those with whom I must deal daily.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:14
There is much within the scriptures that the carnal eye sees. It sees that man has a nature that needs some form of change. It sees something of the debt of sin, and knows that some type of satisfaction must be rendered toward God for that debt. It knows that man has a wandering spirit and feels that rededication is often needed.
One thing though the carnal eye can never see -- the glory of God. Man in his fallen state cannot behold the glory of God in any thing, and especially in salvation. To behold, by faith, God's glory in His sovereign election of sinners, His sovereign decree in predestinating those elect unto that salvation, and His omnipotent calling of those elect unto Himself is foreign to the unregenerate heart. It takes a new heart, a new mind, a new man to behold and believe the report, given from above, concerning the glory of God in Christ's suffering. It is the glory of God that the Eternal Son took upon himself in the form of sinful flesh, and as such lived a life in perfect obedience to the law that man had broken. It is His glory as the Divine Substitute for all that the Father has given Him to redeem. All that the Father has everlastingly loved, He purposed to save, and He has made Christ to be their sin bearer. The Father has made Christ to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21).
Many today behold some "truths" about Him, and to a certain extent most of these truths are so, but to behold Him Who is The Truth, is to behold His glory, and this beholding of His glory is only seen through eyes made to see from above.
1 John 4:10
Man by nature is void of love that is from above. He may love (with a lustful craving) those things that are fleeting and perishing and are of this world, but to love those things that are Godly, he cannot. Man only has the ability to love a god of his own creation.
True love is scripturally declared to be thus: "not that we loved God, but that He loved us". God's redeemed sheep definitely love Him, but the essence of love is not beheld whenever one of God's children love Him. God Almighty is deserving of the love of men. He is holy, just, and good. When any man (by a new and regenerate heart) loves the Mighty God, that man benefits, but God doesn't. Nothing is added to His majesty whenever His people love Him. The sheep benefit in peace, joy, and comfort, but what can be added to the Mighty God? The glorious evidence of love is this: "that He loved us". Although we are undeserving, wretched, and vile, "He loved us". While we (elect) were rebels in opposition to Him, "He loved us". Even after He has regenerated His people by His Holy Spirit, and those regenerates often stray, "He loved us". Men may speak of love, but God has spoken, and His word shall stand: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us."
ARE YOU GROWING?
I'm amazed at the number of times I'm asked the question, "Is your church
growing"? Of course, I understand what is meant by that question. Someone
is wanting to know how many are we running now in attendance, how many baptisms
did we have last year, and how many professions of faith were made. The natural
mind equates success with numbers, buildings, percentages and spread sheets.
There is really nothing else that the carnal heart can measure growth by.
We are concerned with growth, but not as the world considers growth. The bride of Christ longs to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever . (2 Peter 3:18) The bride, as newborn babes, desires the sincere milk of the word, that she may grow thereby. (1 Peter 2:2) The new heart desires to have men hear the truth concerning the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. We invite those that have crossed our path to come and hear the good news of hope and redemption found only in the finished work and shed blood of the Lord Jesus, but we rest in the truth that the Lord adds to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:47)
Today many Americans are celebrating what we all call independence, or freedom. Most folks would probably say that they are free, as far as freedom in this country is concerned, but I dare say that these same people have little or no idea that they by nature are actually in bondage. They are a slave to sin. They are conceived in it, they came forth speaking it, and if they are not delivered from it by the power of God Almighty, they will eventually die eternally in it. Sin is the greatest bondage, for it is the destroyer of a man's soul.
Christ came into this world to deliver a people that had been given to Him from the foundation of the world. These people were His sheep, and they must be set free -- free from condemnation of sin, the power of sin, and eventually the presence of sin. The central object in the Divine incarnation was setting His people free. Christ accomplished this freedom by taking the sin of His people, and dying under the punishment of His Father's wrath. He eternally freed His people by not only being their sin bearer, but also by imputing to them His own righteousness that would clothe them in His perfection. All that the Father gave to Christ shall be made free, and if He has made them free, they are free indeed.
NOT THY HOLY SPIRIT FROM ME
The true believer is assured of his salvation. He has been taught, by the Spirit of God, to rest in a hope that is incorruptible and undefiled (1 Peter 1:23). Though convinced by the Word of God Himself that he shall never finally fall, a redeemed sinner feels the aching loneliness created by disobedience toward the God of his peace. David's cry, for God to not take His Spirit from him, was not one born out of fear of the complete and final removal of God's Spirit, but was a plea for the Lord's comforts, counsels, quickenings, and awareness to remain with him. To not perceive the presence of Him, who is altogether my comfort, is to grope as a blind man in search of something solid to rest his hand upon. When a sinner realizes something of the grossness of his old nature, he also beholds something of the glory of God's holy nature. This blessed view of Him (created only by the Spirit of God) produces (by that same Spirit) a burning desire for His comforting presence to remain with the recipient of His grace.. Anxiety that comes from my tendency toward constant wanderings is only expelled by His word of promise to never leave nor forsake me. Hold fast to His word. No heart, where the grace of God's incorruptible seed has been deposited, shall ever perish.
A man that God has called to preach the unsearchable riches of His grace (the gospel), is not ashamed of that message. Herein is the righteousness of God revealed. The gospel preacher is not humiliated, embarrassed, or reluctant because grace has taught him that that message is the power of God unto salvation. This glorious gospel is God's unconditional promise of salvation to an elect people based totally on the merit of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is through this gospel that every attribute of a Holy God is honored. The gospel bears witness to His sovereignty, immutability, faithfulness, grace, mercy, wrath and love. The gospel removes the cloak of self-righteousness and exposes all of man's puny efforts to justify himself before the law. Men are lost and unless they bow to the righteousness of God that is revealed in the gospel, they shall surely perish. A Holy and Just God is going to call out His sheep through this message, and only this message ... I'm not ashamed of it.
The Gospel is the heavenly message concerning salvation sent by God Almighty to a fallen people of God's electing grace. This gospel declares life to be only in God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no place found within the Gospel of free grace for the addition of man's best effort or his fickle will. The gospel is concerning only the Lord Jesus Christ: His entrance into this world as the Messiah, His obedience to the law, His work of substitution on the cross, and His work of mediation at the right hand of the Father -- all for a people that had been given Him from all eternity. The Father has reported, in this gospel, His purpose to choose, call regenerate, sanctify, and finally glorify a people all according to His own will. This message did not find its roots within the pit of man's depraved mind. This message is called the "everlasting gospel," and therefore must have found its root within Him Who is eternal. While the world scoffs at this message by not believing this gospel, He, who cannot lie, has reported that His sheep are called out of darkness into glorious light by (and only by) this glorious gospel.
IS YOUR SALVATION BORN OUT OF FEAR?
There is a sense in which an unbeliever can have a intellectual respect for Christ, a bent toward morality, a type of sorrow for sin, and a head knowledge of the truth that true believers love. Fear is the driving force that motivates the unregenerate man ...fear of discovery before men and fear of punishment by God. Though outwardly the unregenerate might appear to walk in a way pleasing before God, there is no heart for obedience toward the Almighty. That which is absent in the old man is a heart and mind that loves Christ and the Father that He reveals. Where the Holy Ghost has revealed Christ to a sinner, there you will find a heart that is no longer fearful of man's discovery of his hypocrisy, and God's eternal punishment, but a heart that hates what it sees within (the old nature) and loves to behold the glory of Christ who has finished the work of redemption for him at Calvary.
The Lord Jesus Christ told Nicodemus, "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Just as Nicodemus, men are today completely ignorant as to the meaning of the Lord's statement. So many have been told that all they have to do to be born again is to give their heart to Jesus. They are to recite a sinner's prayer (that will be quoted for them) repent of their sins, and follow the Lord in baptism. This A-B-C, 1-2-3 philosophy has done nothing but give millions a false hope of security. Salvation is not a sinner giving the Lord anything. It is not a rebel deciding to accept an offer from the Lord of glory. Salvation is a work of the eternal God wrought within those that He has eternally loved. This salvation is by Sovereign grace only and involves no work on man's part at all. Salvation is the imparting of a new nature within those that the Father chose and the Son died for. This new nature is from above. It is a nature that loves Him who is altogether good, holy, and just. There is no reformed old heart here that has decided to straighten up and fly right ...there is a brand new man created in Christ Jesus. This new heart is altogether foreign to the old man and therefore this sinner is said to be "born again".
WHO DRAWS THE SINNER TO CHRIST?
Often believers are accused of being insensitive when it comes to the salvation of those who have no obvious interest in the Gospel. These saints are made to appear as if they have no heart for anyone else coming and hearing the truth which alone God the Spirit shall use in the conversion of any sinner. They are accused of trying to exclude many from having an opportunity to be saved because they hold to and love the blessed doctrine of election. Nothing is farther from the truth. The fact of the matter is, only the believer truly exhibits a vital concern or interest in the salvation of the lost. While mainstream religion is constantly trying merely to get more people involved in useless activities and is concerned more with numbers and the budget, the saints of God know all too well the fruitlessness of all such foolishness. For the one made sensitive to God's means of salvation (the hearing of the Gospel), there is a hearty longing and desire for men to come, sit, and hear the blessed word. They know that if God is going to save anyone, He will do it through the only means by which the Son is honored. The world falsely accuses the believer of being apathetic while in truth, every believer longs for that for which Christ came into this world ...to save sinners.
GRATITUDE FOR SALVATION
The realization that God's electing grace is directed toward undeserving sinners puts the recipient of that grace in the dust before the Sovereign God Who is altogether worthy of honor, glory, and praise. While the unregenerate heart hates (and I do mean hates) this glorious doctrine, the new heart melts with gratitude toward Him Who chose a people unto salvation from the foundation of the world. The fact that God Almighty would cause one such as myself to be spiritually arrested by the omnipotent Holy Spirit and irresistibly drawn to Himself by an everlasting love is both hard to comprehend and greatly prized. While the world frolics with the soul-damning belief that the individual has last word in salvation (their free will being the deciding vote), the blood-purchased saint cries ever more to hear once again the glorious message of free and Sovereign grace.
GROW IN GRACE
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)
It is not the grace of God that grows, but the believer IN THE GRACE OF GOD that is to grow. This growth is a sign of life, for that which does not grow is dead. For sure, it is by grace that we grow in grace. A tree grows downward establishing its root system in the foundation of the earth. This grounding provides stability for the branches that must sustain the elements. Just as a tree must grow downward as well as upward, the believer grows downward in adversity, realizing more of his own depravity, helplessness, and utter need of the arm of God's power, and thus upwardly he grows, beholding the grace of God that is always sufficient. While the world promises wealth, health, and happiness, may the people of God's choosing find their growth in His grace and in the knowledge of Him to be all their need.