|THE WAR WITHIN||
|"BE NOT OVERCOME OF EVIL ..."||
|A WORD ABOUT LABORING||
|A PLUCKED BRAND||
1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
|THE BELIEVER'S ATTITUDE||
1 Corinthians 6:20
|COMING TO CHRIST||
|THE MESSAGE OF OLD|
Within every believer
a spiritual war rages constantly. It is a war of wills. This contest begins
at the moment of conversion. Lines are drawn and two forces face each other
intending to destroy the other. Every believer has two wills -- one toward sin
and the other toward absolute holiness.
The apostle Paul reveals through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not." He is saying that he might will to be perfect, but his flesh is powerless to perform it. A believer has the intention (with his new heart) of being honorable, faithful, and true before God in all his ways, but has no ability to accomplish that will. The old man is born with a nature of sin and this sin abides as a state of mind, which manifests itself in not only outward, but inward acts. We might have some control over those outward manifestations of rebellion, but over the inward rebellion we have no control.
This inability to master this rebellion against God gives sin it's power. Man by nature is unable to resist his hatred and rebellion against the Lord God of heaven. Paul, on the other hand, sees a law that has but one intent - to serve the law of God (vs. 25). This longing to obey, to serve, to honor, and love God is "through Jesus Christ our Lord." It is by His great blessing of deliverance that believers delight in the law of God. By His perfect obedience to the law of God and His substitutionary death at Calvary, Christ destroyed the power of sin that so easily controlled His people. Since Calvary, the regenerated saint assents to the law as good, and truly delights in it. There is a striving toward being conformed to it. Although the sin is still present, there is no delight in that sin. There is a cheerful recognition of an obligation to love God with all the heart. There is no continual thought of rebellion against the Holy One of heaven with the excuse, "Well, I'm only a sinner, and therefore can sin without remorse."
There is a great war that rages within God's people. One camp is governed by sin, and the other by God's holiness, grace, and mercy. The redeemed child of God is so aware of this battle, that on one hand he admits, "O wretched man that I am," and on the other, he rejoices in the fact that he is, in Christ Jesus, under no condemnation. God's elect know that there is the continual presence of sin that raises its ugly head in continual resentment toward God's holiness, but in the same moment there is the presence of a will that has but one desire, and that is to be found in Christ. David wrote of this thirsting after God in Psalm 42:1 when he said, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God."
Every person within the body of Christ has been given instruction as to the Lord's will for them. In Acts 1:8, our Lord told His disciples, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me...". We are to be carrying and confessing the greatness of our blessed Lord to those with whom our paths have crossed. The saints of God are not concerned with a gospel of entertainment or the reformation proclaimed by the world, but with the setting forth of the glorious Gospel of free grace. May the Holy Ghost bare upon us all the weight of our Savior's word and the responsibility that we have as a church body to preach the Gospel with simplicity and consistency.
"BE NOT OVERCOME OF EVIL ..."
Often we find ourselves in the midst of troubles and trials. At work, school, or even within the confines of our place of worship, it appears that confrontations surface for no apparent reason. The presence of sin and the frailty of our nature entices us to lash out and retaliate at those who seem to be so insensitive to us. We are tempted to disbelieve God's good providence in our case and to believe ourselves the object of unfair treatment. When these times come, and they shall, let us remember that "the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord" (Psalm 37:23). The trial of our faith is certain, for the God of all creation has decreed it. True faith is revealed in the face of adversity. Believers know these difficulties are sent to show God's faithfulness to His people. Let us be mindful of the wiles of the devil who tempts us to question God's goodness toward His people. Let us especially thankful to our Lord for giving us grace to recall that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28) and to "be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom. 12:21)
WORD ABOUT LABORING
Oh that men would labor after those things that are everlasting as they do after those things that are temporal. Contemporary religion finds its focus on that which endures but for a season. Men and women are promised health, happiness, and wealth but are never truly told the need of their eternal soul. While those that sit under a false gospel are directed to those things that shall surely perish, the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith are neglected. "Labor for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life". Obviously we do not believe and we do not admonish men to work for their salvation because in our text, the Lord said, "which the Son of man shall give you" (Eph. 2:8), (salvation is by grace) , but we do press upon men to not be halfhearted with this issue of their eternal soul. We insist that man is totally depraved, and is dead in trespasses and sin. In his natural state (as he is born in Adam) man is without spiritual ability to seek, come, believe or trust in the Lord Jesus because of sin. We proclaim this because man is revealed to be so by the scriptures. (Isa. 1:6). A man though that chooses not to come to Christ does so because he doesn't want too come. Consider Matthew 23:37 where our Lord revealed man's natural unwillingness to come to Him. Hear the scriptures (you that think that you have no responsibility to obey) that commands all men every where to repent (Acts 17:30) Oh may we never neglect our responsibility to come by faith to Christ. We must also admonish others to believe the Gospel, to command them to come to the Lord for mercy, and to absolutely look away from any work of self righteousness that they think will merit a right standing before God Almighty. We do but repeat the words of our Lord "labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him hath God the Father sealed.
The nature of the carnal mind, especially when it comes to preaching, is to desire something new every day. There must be something unique to tickle the fancy, to amaze the intellect, or to dazzle the emotion. When a sinner (by the hearing of the gospel) is effectually called out of his spiritual darkness and by faith beholds the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, that sinner is satisfied to hear only the glorious sound of the gospel proclaimed. He doesn't tire of God's honor being set forth in the redemption of His elect. That God has chosen to show mercy to an undeserving miserable wretch is a message that that man thankfully considers worthy to be repeated again and again. The unregenerate shall seek after those things that are passing away, but the believer will echo the words of Paul the apostle, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements, and His ways past finding out! (Rom. 11:23)
It is the object, pleasure,
and mission of Satan, the accuser of the brethren, to watch for, mark out, and
report every hint of inconsistency among the saints. When he perceives a work
of sovereign grace, when he sees a knee bent in reverence toward God, a tear
fall because of a broken and contrite spirit, or a head bowed in confession
because of rebellion against God, it is there that he immediately directs his
evil attention. The delight of Satan is to glean every bit of knowledge possible
in order to plan the attempted downfall of God's own. Not only does the enemy
of God's people accuse them before God as being nothing more than common criminals,
but he also sees to it that these elect are bombarded with endless temptations
in his effort to stir up the sin that resides in their flesh. That great liar
unceasingly reminds the chosen of God of their waywardness. If that be not enough,
he then plagues their mind with groundless doubts as to their sincerity toward
the God they love. O how hopeless would be the beloved saint's warring and striving
against one of such skill if they were to be left alone to fight their own battle
against such a foe, that is, without One to be their willing and able Advocate.
How could they stand alone in their frailty against the wiles of the Devil --
left to stand in their own blood, and without the imputed righteousness of the
The elect are not left in this pit of hopelessness. In the midst of such warfare the saints are reminded by God's Spirit, "Is this not a brand plucked out of the fire?" (Zech. 3:2) Truly, the elect were in times past unprofitable, unfruitful, and their conversation was in the lusts of their flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind and were by nature the children of wrath even as others (Eph. 2:3). They were, as all men are, deserving of eternal separation from God. Have these not though, in spite of their sin, been chosen by the Father unto salvation, redeemed by the Son at Calvary, and gloriously called out by the Holy Spirit to be marvelously, powerfully, and justly delivered from the brink of destruction and hell? Has God not revealed in the Gospel of free grace His mercy to pluck off of the road of sure destruction (because He had found a Ransom) some that were like a branch cut off because of sin? Have these objects of His mercy not been found in the eternal love, will, and purpose of God Almighty's council to be preserved in Christ Jesus the Lord? By Christ's obedience to the law and the shedding of His precious blood on the tree in their stead, are these not accepted in the Beloved? Are these not the spiritual Mephibosheths (1 Sam. 20:14-17) that, because of the fall in Adam, now have no ability to walk in their own strength, but must be fetched out of the wilderness of despair and brought to sit at the table of the King and eat his Bread (Christ) only because of a covenant?
But one would ask, how is it that I may know that I have a part in this marvelous work of grace and might be found to be one of these brands plucked out of despair? My answer would be, do you by Divine revelation see yourself to be clothed in nothing but the filthy rags of self-righteousness because of sin? Do you behold Christ by faith to be your need, hope of redemption, and salvation? Does the thought of standing before the indescribably Holy God without a fit Substitute and Mediator (Christ Jesus alone) make Him to be the One your soul loves, desires, and must have? Does the glorious honor of God Almighty in the salvation of His people, because He has chosen to show mercy to some, strike a note of praise within your being? Is Christ precious to you in all His offices as God's Prophet, Priest, and King? Does the setting forth of Christ in the preaching of the glorious gospel set your heart aflame with love toward Him as He alone is revealed within the scriptures? Though there be a knowledge that (in your flesh) there dwells no good thing, is there a striving against because of a new law of love and life toward Christ in your mind all that is dishonoring, disrespectful, and disobedient to the God of Heaven? Have you cast yourself upon God's mercy and deliverance from His wrath for Christ's sake? If these things are found in you, rejoice for these marks are evidences of those plucked, as brands, out of the fire.
"We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father" (1 Thess. 1:2-3)
Believers are bound
to give thanks to God for the miracle of His marvelous grace to the objects
of His affection. What does a man have to glory in that has any eternal significance
except Christ and God's mercy to him for Christ's sake? Any good work (grace)
that is beheld in a believer must never be attributed to that man, but must
be attributed to God, for only He is good.
Does a man have faith?
-- then that faith is a working faith! It is that grace by which a man believes
God, that grace by which a man trusts God, and that grace without which no man
can please God?
Does a man truly love with a Godly love?-- then that love is a labor of love! Love labors with great hardships, strives with great difficulties and bears under multiple afflictions. This it does by being kept by the power of God. This labor of love is for the sake of Christ, the honor of God's name, and the good of the brethren by praying for them and with them.
Does a man have a hope? -- then that hope is a patient hope in Christ Jesus. There is a confident expectation of eternal life that endures in His shed blood and in His imputed righteousness -- and all this being in the sight of God and our Father. He is not deceived as men often are. Men look on the outside, but God sees the heart. Be encouraged saint of God, "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phillipians 1:6)
Stop for just a moment believers and contemplate the wonder of God's grace to you. God Almighty has reconciled you to Himself by Jesus Christ. There has been a change from enmity and alienation to friendship and fellowship. Because of sin, you were strangers and enemies in our minds toward God "yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven " (Col 1:21-23). By divine imputation, Christ, who knew no sin personally was made sin for us (chargeable and answerable for the sins of His elect) and we, who have no fit righteousness of our own, are made the righteousness of God in Him.
THE BELIEVER'S ATTITUDE
A believer in Christ is one that has been redeemed by the precious blood of God's Lamb. He is God's by sovereign right. "Ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:20). "Be not conformed to this world" -- that is, to the opinions and attitudes of the unregenerate who thinks only of himself (instead of God's glory) and this temporal state. The attitude of this world justifies rebellion against God. The Lord Jesus in John 17:15 prayed to the Father for His elect sheep saying, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil". But, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" which is an attitude of the heart (like the attitude of not being "conformed to this world" and the "glorifying of God in your body and in your spirit") accomplished only by the regenerating power of God Almighty. Understand this ...it is not within the power of any frail man to accomplish this attitude by his own flesh and ability. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of HIS good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13) God's enlightened people behold by faith something of the marvelous grace that has been shown them. These people hate (because of a new heart--- being born again) the very presence of sin, and certainty do not strive after or pursue it.
COMING TO CHRIST
Coming to Christ is
the spiritual response (by faith) of the effectual lift-giving work of the Holy
Ghost wrought in the objects of God's mercy. It is the continual coming to the
revealed Savior for there is eternal life in no other (John
14:6). But, "no man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent
me draw him' (powerfully and effectually) (John
6:44) This passage clearly shows that coming to Christ requires more than
man by nature possesses --- the ability or will to come to Christ. Coming to
Christ requires a new heart, a new will, or, in other words, new life.
What then is it to come
to Christ? Coming to Christ is the casting, by faith; of one's soul for mercy
upon Him who is the Savior of all made to see themselves as sinners before a
holy and just God. This coming is not merely an outward act of man's natural
ability whereby he "steps out" and comes to the front of a church
and shakes a preacher's hand. It is a coming of the heart to Christ as Lord.
Coming to Christ is the answer of a heart made sensitive, by the sovereign and
gracious power of God Almighty, to it's need of His obedience and righteousness
before God. Those that come to Christ have been made to behold Him (with the
eye of true faith) as able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by
In coming, one denies
his former confidence of false merit before God's law by his own wicked, self-righteous
and self-exalting work. To come to Christ is to trust (for pardon by His blood)
Him who is the Surety for an everlastingly loved people.
Coming to Christ is to lay hold of Him by faith for eternal life. In coming, I believe His shed blood at Calvary (with my sin charged to Him) to be my atonement before God for sin. In coming, one has been made to see his own burden of guilt as a sinner and his need of Christ's imputed righteousness to be his only justification before God.
THE MESSAGE OF OLD
Many religious organizations proudly advertise their services as "contemporary". Their true message is, "we deal with topics that are relevant for today's world." These religious organizations unashamedly proclaim, "Tell us what you want, and that's what you'll get. We will meet your needs". This tactic is nothing more than an attempt to be all things to all men in order that the masses might be drawn in. These congregations major on issues that are actually nothing more than current events. They sing songs that are designed to glorify the flesh with words that exalt man. Preaching the Gospel has been replaced with "share time" to fill the need for so-called "spiritual growth." After all the necessary programs have been strategically laid out to meet the criteria of their supposed spiritual needs, these organizations then provide every sort of entertainment and bodily exercise humanly possible. With million dollar budgets, these religious "works-shops" do whatever is necessary to meet the bottom line. That Christ's honor and truth are being disregarded; that men's souls are being merchandised means nothing to them! Obviously, men have been left to their own fleshly desires and the blindness of their unregenerate heart.
In the church of the Lord Jesus, oh how different is the case. The issue is not some current event. The believer must hear the truth of Him who changes not. He is not satisfied unless he hears the message of the sovereign, ruling, reigning God who has everlastingly loved a particular people in Christ. The saint of God thrives on the message, the "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" exalting their heavenly Father, the very God who has chosen a people in Christ "before the foundation of the world," that they should be holy and without blame before Him in love. The believer subsists on the declaration of the beloved Son who, as the Surety of the sheep, has lived in righteousness before God's law on behalf of all that the Father has given Him. Herald again the glorious message, which is without controversy -- the message of God, manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. The regenerate sinner needs to be told again and again how Christ put away his guilt by divinely being made to be sin for him. To the one who has been made to know something of his true need, the message of how the Lord Jesus Christ died under the wrath and judgment of God's holy law for His sheep, that they might be made the righteousness of God in Him, never grows old. Rehearse again in the saint's ears these eternal truths, truths that when received are rejoiced in as if they had never been heard before. Justification by Christ's imputed righteousness, propitiation by His blood, and freedom from condemnation for those blessed ones found in Christ, that is the message that changes not, the message that is the life-sustenance of the renewed man.
Realizing that this earthly life is but a vapor, a believer is aware that he has much for which he should be thankful. He has been made to see (by faith) and know (somewhat by experience) some things that are vital. Seeing something of that which the scripture reveals concerning his depravity and inability to do anything good and acceptable before God for reconciliation, he knows something of his helplessness. Seeing something of God's holy law and its demand for obedience and righteousness, he knows something of his own disobedience and his utter lack of righteousness. Seeing that same law's demand for justice (if obedience be not found), he knows something of God's justice. And seeing that only those who endure in faith to the end shall be saved, he knows something of his own unfaithfulness. Knowing these things, the believer realizes something of that for which he is truly thankful. He is thankful that God has chosen him in Christ before the foundation of the world that he should be holy and without blame before Him in love. He is truly thankful that God has not dealt with him after his sins, nor rewarded him according to his iniquities, but has dealt with him in another, Christ Jesus, his great and glorious Surety. That believer will say with a confidently thankful heart, "Christ who was made to be sin for me (by divine imputation of my sin to Him) that I might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (by divine imputation of His righteousness to me) "is my only hope." A believer will be the first to admit that he is not thankful as he should be, but still, how thankful he is. He is thankful now (and surely shall be in the day of his physical parting from this world) that God did not leave him to his own sinful self, but justly dealt with him in Christ, his Representative for obedience before the law and his Substitute for the putting away of his sin at Calvary.