And why it is so good that Jesus came to destroy his works (1 John 3.8)
(link to video)
I have been reading The Letters of John Newton and they have been a great blessing to me here in the midst of a season of trial. Aside from having some of the most amazing lettuce (hair) he had quite sharp aim with his words. This is a great reminder.
Lastly, afflictions are honorable, as they advance our conformity to Jesus our Lord, who was a man of sorrows for our sake.
Methinks, if we might go to heaven without suffering, we would be unwilling to desire it. Why should we ever wish to go by any other path to heaven—than that which Jesus has consecrated and endeared, by his own example?
Especially as his people’s sufferings are not penal—there is no wrath in them. The cup he puts in their hands is very different from that which he drank for their sakes, and is only medicinal to promote their chief good.
–John Newton, The Letters of John Newton, Letter entitled: The Benefits of Affliction
One of my first jobs was selling shoes. This was a good fit for me because I played a lot of basketball and bought a lot of sneakers. One of my early practices was evaluating people based upon their shoes. Some of this was a necessity as you would try to match them up with their current tastes and needs. However, the practice, which became a game, also became a habit. A habit that continues to this day.
I still find myself sizing up runners, ballers, hipsters, thugs, businessmen, etc by their kicks. I have to work to devalue my various subjective conclusions about people.
I am certainly not the only one who does this. Maybe it is not shoes, but people evaluate themselves and others based upon what they project. If you doubt me, just spend some time listening in on teen-agers’ unfiltered conversations. Watch their eye movements; they are always in assessment mode.
This habit shows itself in the ministry of the church. People see others who are gifted, blessed, or happy and they evaluate themselves based upon how they measure up to them. The individual or family becomes the standard, “If we look and act like them then we are in good shape.”
There is little difference here than with the young guy who finds his value in wearing a new pair of Jordans.
We we idolators if we are finding our worth in projecting the image of others or if we are finding condemnation in failing to project the image of others.
We were not created to live this low-budget movie of a life. We are supposed to project and enjoy the image of Christ. We are to see his love for his Father, the Law, others, his mercy-grace-equity-and holiness, and we are to smile and labor to earnestly project it.
Too often we are blind to this while seeing other images with 20-20 vision. This is deadly. If we make others’ image our standard then we will worship them until we will attain it and then worship ourselves when others do not attain it.
This chasing after phantoms does little to satisfy our longings for acceptance or redemption. We feel condemned because we cannot meet God’s standard, his image. And we feel hungry because the substitutes we employ cannot satisfy.
This is where the beauty of Christ comes to bear. He calls out to the hungry, hurting, unsatisfied souls to come to him for rest and the removal of guilt:
(Mat 11.28-30) Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
He comes to satisfy hungry people. He comes to make guilty people feel no shame. This he does by taking our guilt and filling our souls.
It is only Christ whom the hungry eyes of men may focus upon to find rest from the weary hike through this world. He is indeed a better Savior then I think him to be; and it is my hungry heart that reminds me of how I forget this.
The US House Ethics Committee voted 9-1 on Thursday to recommend censure for Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York, in response to multiple rules violations.
This is significant for a number of reasons.
HE IS ACCOUNTABILE
Mr. Rangel is a 20-term congressman from New York. He is 80 years old. He is one of the old dogs in the House. However, he has gotten himself into trouble and now is paying the public price.
A censure is more drastic and costly than regular adjudication for wrongdoing. If the House approves the Ethics Committee’s recommendation then Mr. Rangel will have to sit in the round and hear the charges read off by his peers. He will hear and bear the judgments.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Rom. 13.14)
By the grace of God Christians are born-again. Those who were formerly dead in transgressions and sins (Eph. 2.1) have been made alive. However, accompanying the believer in all of his pursuits is the reality of his flesh.
The flesh is the spiritual existence and embodiment of the sinful habits and desires of the unregenerate. This flesh remains draped over the believer like an old smelly jacket. Though we are clean positionally we are ever aware of its presence and stench. It is this flesh with which believers are to daily struggle as we are continually being changed into the image of our Savior, by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 6.19; 2 Cor. 7.1; Gal. 5.16-17).
I have put a face on my flesh. The face is doubtlessly far too tame; however it serves to remind me of its ugliness and deceit. The hideous and crafty character Gollum in The Lord of the Rings serves as my flesh’s poster child. Gollum’s incessant cry for nourishment and provision in his demonic brogue reminds me of the insatiability of my own flesh and my need to starve it.
It is an understatement to say that trials are hard. Whether we are talking about spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, or a combination of these, trials wear us down. They are hard.
We might be tempted to think, “Why me?” in a trial. But as Christians there is something hardwired into our understanding of sanctification that the “Why me?” might better be stated, “Why God?” In other words, the trials are not a surprise to God. He is soveriegn over every single detail of our lives. This does include trials.
But we may go even further. As Christians we understand that trials are brought to us by God’s sovereign hand to bring about sanctification. As James writes, “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1.4). However, in the midst of the sanctifying vice we should still further ask, “Why God?”
The current trial may be discipline. God could be bringing the circumstances to us in order to tighten our grip on him or he could be bringing it to loosen our grip on our treasures. In either case he is working in and through circumstances in our lives to make himself our chief treasure.
Consider the Psalmist in Psalm 39. This guy believed that what he was enduring was a result of divine discipline for sin.
When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath! (Ps. 39.11)
In other words, God sends the discipline and the circumstances act as a divinely dispatch moth to consume his treasure! This is good because in sin we are, like Achan, hiding treasures in our tent (Josh. 7.22). God intends to unfasten us from these fleeting treasures and to refasten us, wholly and completely upon himself.
This is why the Psalmist deals with himself and his sin. He is a good model for us:
7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. 8 Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
9 I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it. 10 Remove your stroke from me; I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
It is good then for us in the midst of a season of sanctifying affliction to ask, “Why God?” In this we acknowledge his sovereignty, goodness, and love. He is moving in your midst for his glory and your good (Heb. 12.7). The question is how. He may be bringing discipline or trial. But at any rate, he is bringing grace.
Therefore, watch for the divinely dispatched moths. God is graciously working to make him our true delight through our Lord Jesus Christ.
When you read through the letters of Peter in the New Testament it is easy to forget that he was on the inside. He wasn’t just one of Jesus disciples, he was the main guy. He was the leader of leaders. You see him getting all kinds of experiences that most of the other guys did not. For example, he walked on water (Matt. 14.28-31), saw a young girl raised from the dead (Mark 5.37-42), saw Jesus transfigured (Matt. 17.1-6), and was broke out of jail (Acts 12.6-7). Peter had some amazing experiences.
I find it fascinating that when Peter gets to writing letters to churches we don’t find him exegeting his exprience. In fact the only time he does refer to experiences is to show that it (the experience) shows and reminds him of the supremacy of the Word of God (2 Pet. 1.16-20).
Why doesn’t Peter just unload all the nuggets of his experience? Why doesn’t he just unpack these details frame by frame? Why doesn’t he tell us what he was thinking?
I think it is because Peter was not very impressed with himself. Instead he was impressed with Jesus.
All he does in his letters is bang the gospel gong over and over again. He does not want his readers to forget the truth and power of the gospel. He just keeps resetting and reloading the gospel. This is what he wants us to take home. In other words, Peter doesn’t name drop because he is all about the gospel-drop.
What a strange gust of wind Peter would be in pulpits and lives today. We are about our story. What is on your mind?…asks the social media sites. Tell us your story. Peter would decline. No doubt he would just use it as an opportunity to brag about Christ and the glorious inheritance purchased for sojourners like us.
I think we can be encouraged by Peter. This guy with experiences that we can only imagine was captivated by truth we can know. His satisfaction in and through Jesus is the key to quieting our restless souls.
If you want to engage in an interesting social experiment, the next time you go out to eat, look around. Watch the people that are eating. I have been captivated with what I’ve seen.
People hover over their plates or don’t put their burgers down. The only time they open their mouths is to put more food in it. It is amazing. I have watched married couples, dating couples, friends, and coworkers sit together and rarely say a word, just gorge their faces. And the eating is typically fast too.
You may be wondering if I’ve just parachuted in from another planet or something. The answer is no. However, I think the habits of others have just recently hit home for me. Literally.
Our dinner table is made up of seven people. The kids range in age from 15 months to 15 years. And recently I have seen an increase in the speed eating and a decrease in the conversation.
Why is this a Problem? First and foremost, this is a problem for me as a dad. As the leader of my home I want the table to be a strategic intersection of our lives. It is a safe place. It is a place to express ideas, concerns, observations, emotions, and stories. That is, it is place of intimacy. If we become so focused on stuffing ourselves rather than serving one another in conversation, then, I feel, we are losing something of our family dynamic.
Furthermore, as Christians we believe that God is the creator of all things, including food. As those who live under the gospel we are able to rightly enjoy the food that God has created (1 Tim. 4.4-5). We are see it, smell it, taste it, and enjoy it! Not only does the food fill our stomachs but it provokes our hearts toward thanksgiving. I am not convinced that we can truly ‘eat and drink’ to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10.31) without mental engagement, tasting the food, and slowing down.
This then is a problem because it sabotages two of my goals for meal time: intimacy in conversation and delight in God’s creation.
What is the Cause? I am the last person to play the psychology card. If you’ve read this blog for more than a week you’d know that. However, I do believe that our environment does rub off on us. We are Americans. And Americans tend to eat like I described above. I am captivated by it, but not surprised. What I am saying is that there is something of an unbelieving mindset that attends eating that I, as a Christian, do not like. There is something different. Can I say, “worldly”? There is a way that people eat that does not project their appreciation of what God has done in Christ through the gospel. And my beef is that it can sneak onto my dinner table.
What do you do about it?
I realize that many families do not even eat together. That would be the first step. And then here are some practical tips to help improve the time at the dinner table by establishing intimacy, service and thanksgiving.
As I mentioned above, we are a work in progress. I am trying to make things better as I continue to realize that their is work to do in order to get where I want to go. Feel free to leave a comment and provide further thoughts.
Much like actual warfare the battle of the Christian life often is weakened by unsuspected enemies. There are the sneaky traitors from within the camp and the powerful blows of the enemy’s surprise weapons that injure military forces. And in the Christian life we are mindful of heresies, doctrinal compromise, and Satan’s schemes. And aware we should be.
But at the same time there is the enemy of gospel amnesia that is extremely dangerous. I believe that when we forget the gospel (what Christ has really accomplished for sinners in history– 1 Cor. 15.3-5) then we have lost our minds. We are in trouble. Our actions are not ones motivated and calibrated by the gospel but rather moral (at best) attempts to leave peaceably or even worse, they are selfishly inspired attempts to gain fame.
MIX IN A LITTLE 1ST PERSON PLURAL
The commonly repeated but uncommonly performed antidote for this problem is the remind ourselves and one another of the truthfulness, power, and beauty of the gospel. We must preach the gospel to our forgetful hearts every single day. Without this, we are sitting ducks.
One way that we can subtly do this is to insert the oft-neglected ‘we’ into your encouraging, admonishing, prayerful words to one another. An example of this might be in a conversation with another believer where you are talking about the need to honor Christ with all of our lives. Well, instead of just saying ‘you’ we can mix in the ‘we’. After all, it is the ‘we’ that this applies to. Right?
If you have to confront sin or admonish unbiblical thinking it is a great opportunity to remember the gospel yourself. So in so doing speak to the brother/sister about the gospel. Talk of your own neediness for grace and how you treasure the sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness for you. In this conversation you are reminding yourself and others of the need for the gospel.
It can become second nature to point the finger at the politicians, the Hollywood stars, the thugs in your town, the ‘unbelievers’, etc… without ever including yourself as one who needs grace.
Sadly this often does not look a lot like being broken over sin but self-righteousness over folks who have broken your rules or trampled upon your moral code. When we see ourselves as all needful of the gospel of grace there is no room for us to stand on our perches to point out others shortcomings. Instead we are reminding ourselves and others of our mutual need for grace. We show our shortcomings in light of God’s standard to love and obey him perfectly. We then point happily to the only one who ever could or would do this (John 8.29).
Inserting the 1st person plural into our conversations and emails helps to combat our short-term memory issues with the gospel.
(note: there is definitely a place for the 2nd person, both singular and plural. However, my fear is that this is used almost exclusively and as a result some of us forget the gospel. this post is an attempt toward balance as an antidote.)
For centuries people have navigated their way across unfamiliar territory by utilizing the celesstial GPS in the night sky. The stars and their alignment remain as amazing as they are helpful.
One of the first things you learn when you are trying to discern the heavenly canopy is that Polaris is important to find. This is because Polaris, or the Pole Star, stands almost motionless over time. And further, all the stars in the North sky seem to rotate around it.
As star gazers would tell you, “Find Polaris, get your bearings, and go from there.”
The Christian life operates in like manner. The person and work of Jesus (gospel) is the fixed aim point by which we calibrate our understanding of reality. By understanding who Jesus is and what he has done we understanding the world was created by him and for him (Col. 1.16-17). We remember that he is the one who is accomplishing God’s eternal plan to unite everything in him (Eph. 1.10-12)…that is he is the King of everything! We learn also that all of Scripture points to, it testifies to him (Luke 24.27, 44-47). Christ is the great pole-star!
The danger for Christians is to find ourselves getting our spiritual alignment on ourselves, our circumstances, other people, etc. This is as foolish and untenable as trying to navigate a journey by calibrating yourself on the dot of Orion’s belt. Things move. They change. Christ is fixed. Christ gives meaning to everything.
Christ is the centerpiece of history, our lives, and eternity. He is to be the continual recalibration of our souls. As pilgrims toward another land we must find ourselves syncing up with the gospel. If we need a model we just need to think back to those unsophisticated, dependent pilgrims who walked across unknown lands as they were led by the stars above.
One of the basics of pastoral ministry is involvement with sin. Pastors are to have a disposition towards sin that reflects God’s view. We are to hate it. We are to want it removed from our people, congregations, and communities.
The Word of God is the choice weapon for this expungement. Pastors are to use the Bible for ‘teaching, reproof, correction, and training…” (2 Tim. 3.16). The Bible is to admonish and encourage. It is to cut and to heal. It is sting hearts and also make them sing. It is what we do. We purge sin and push towards Jesus.
BE ABLE TO TAKE A PUNCH
Now inevitably we will take some push back. This is because sin is powerful and people love their sin. This is why Mark Driscoll has said that “Pastors need to be able to take a punch.” If we are in the ministry and are faithfully dealing with sin then there will be push back. It is almost as full-proof as the law of gravity. Mark it down.
Therefore, there is no place in ministry for a pastor who has a hard day and then runs to the corner to suck his thumb and feel self-pity. The pastor needs to man up, take the punches, and keep moving. He cannot drop the Bible to examine his bruises. Not in the middle of a scrap; we have got to keep moving. The church, the sheep, and the Savior’s glory are too valuable. We have to be able to take a punch.
BE ABLE TO LAND A PUNCH
There is a second aspect to this, if I might push the boxing analogy. Pastors have got to be able to land a punch skillfully.
First, let me tell you what I don’t mean. Too many guys get emotional—whether angry, frustrated, or scared–and then come into a situation with their eyes closed and swinging like a paranoid boxer. All this guy does is encourage a haymaker. And odds are, he is not going to have the stamina or the skill to finish. Furthermore, he is not helping the other guy. In the pastoral setting he is teaching the guy to be impulsive, uncontrolled, and unloving.
Instead, I am advocating that the pastor be able to listen and understand. He must look for his spots and know the issues. What biblical truth needs to be applied? Where does it need to be applied? How is this guy stealing glory from Jesus? How does the gospel intersect with what is happening?
We have to pick our spots. And then skillfully get in there with some well conceived punches. In ministry this looks like gospel humility, personal care and love, submission to the King’s authority, and concern for the purity of the church.
Sin is that gruesome thing that angers God before it angers us. And we ourselves are not free from this plague. We are then to act as forgiven men who regard the King’s authority and power.
SUMMARY: Pastors have to be able to both take punches and land punches. Don’t start fights but be able to stand in there and finish them. Because, at the end of the day, this is ministry and it’s hard.
(disclaimer: I don’t literally punch people in our church nor am I advocating that pastors do that. Hopefully you can see the illustrative purpose here)
Here recently we have seen a good number of trials come our way. The Lord is good and he is using them for his purposes. I don’t always know why or how, but I know that he is faithful and good.
One specific area of this surprising blessing was an encounter with my 11 year old son, Luke. He had been quite sick and the morning after was just slumped in his chair. He said this to us, “Last night when I was really sick, I was just praying that I would not lose my faith in Christ.”
I cannot quantify the amount of heart work that did on me. But needless to say, I was richly blessed. God continues to surprise me with his kindness. He gives such grace while teaching lessons of dependence in Christ’s University.
Had not these various trials been looming large above us and doing their work among us then we would not have such a blessing of his work within us. So we continue to praise him and trust him as we learn together of his goodness, love, and mercy from his sovereignly ordained trials.
I think of the words of William Cowper’s hymn:
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fasts,
Unfolding ev’ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
Most of us enjoy a hot cup of coffee each morning. Some of us really enjoy the coffee and others are hopelessly enslaved to the jolt it provides. Wherever you find yourself coffee drinker, this post is for you. It’s for us.
Whether you eat or drink…
I wake up and start my french press. I boil the water, grind the beans, and wait anxiously for those 4 and a half minutes to pass until I can enjoy the near perfect morning cup.
As a Christian who is trying to do all things to the glory of God (1 Cor 10.31), even eating or drinking, this is an exercise in worship. I praise God for being the good creator who gives such gifts for us to enjoy. We see something of his creative kindness to us in making coffee beans. We also see that he knows our frames are weak.
Our Lives are vapors
But further, I find myself captivated by the steam. I am eagerly awaiting this cup. It is steaming hot. I add my cream and sugar and hold this hot drink in my hands. But I am captivated by the steam as it continues off my little caffeinated smokestack. I am reminded again of the Scripture:
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (Jam 4.14–NASB)
My life is a vapor. It is a blip on the screen. I am here for a little while and then I vanish away.
Surely the problems and hardships of the day ahead and the days behind are not interpreted in light of this. In my mind every day is like a thousand years; I am living forever. But this is simply not true. My life is a vapor and my coffee reminds me of what the Scriptures shout to me.
You should see here how my second observation (my life is a vapor) helps with my first (do all to the glory of God). In light of the fact that life is short I don’t have time to jack around being stupid, immature and selfish. Instead, I need to grow up, serve Jesus and have fun. I only have so many rocks to throw into the pond to make a splash for his kingdom, so it’s time to put the mirror of self-admiration down and get to chucking.
The gospel beckons me to hear the Scripture. God numbers my days so I should number my days. Because Christ lived and died for me I need (get) to, today, live for him.
So, don’t waste your coffee. Drink, worship, and live.
Thankfully we have brothers and sisters in Christ who are faithful to remind us of our responsibilities and privileges in Christ. This is often sweetly experienced when we encountered various trials in life. Our faithful kin in Christ remind us of that familiar passage in James 1:
(Jam 1.2) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds
The purpose, we are reminded as we keep reading, is to make us stronger and more like Jesus. This is good and right.
But I wonder if we would have to make such a jump to light speed in the joy department if we lived our lives with responsive happiness to the God of all grace? In other words, we wouldn’t have such a hard time enduring with joy if we were already existing in joy.
How different would we be if our daily practice is to wake up, remind ourselves of our sin, God’s grace in the giving of Jesus for us and our salvation, and his victorious resurrection?
“How marvelous it is that we do not hate sin more than we do! Sin is the cause of all the pain and disease in the world.
God did not create man to be an ailing and suffering creature. It was sin, and nothing but sin, which brought in all the ills that flesh is heir to. It was sin to which we owe every racking pain, and every loathsome infirmity, and every humbling weakness to which our poor bodies are liable.
Let us keep this ever in mind. Let us hate sin with a godly hatred.” –J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark, p. 99
As a pastor I long for the Bible to take a hold of people. But this is not simply a pastoral burden. All Christians love Christ, his word, and his glory. As a result, I am sure that a quote like the one included below kind of gets your heart beating and mind racing. There is great appeal here:
“Imagine if all Christians, as a part of their discipleship, were caught up in a web of regular Bible reading–not only digging into the word privately, but reading it with their children before bed, with their spouse over breakfast, with a non-Christian colleague at work once a week over lunch, with a new Christian for follow-up once a fortnight for mutual encouragement, with a mature Christian friend once a month for mutual encouragement.
It would be a chaotic web of personal relationships, prayer and Bible reading–more of a movement than a program–but at another level it would be profoundly simple and within reach of all.” –Marshall & Payne, The Trellis and The Vine, p. 57.
For many of us this starts in the home with Dads or Husbands leading like they ought to. Just take the Bible, open it up, and start reading. You don’t need 3 points, illustrations, or a conclusion. What we really need to do is just read and talk about what we read. You can do this tonight when you go home.
This can also happen in the sphere of Christian friendships. Just make it a priority. Same thing applies here within the workplace; you can make it a priority to talk with folks about the Scriptures.
Sidenote- These two posts might help with family devotions & workplace engagement:
There are few guys, alive or dead, who can get after me like Jonathan Edwards. The 18th Century Pastor is always throwing strikes when I am in the box. I love it.
Here is a quote that is resounding in my mind like a personal soundtrack. It is from his sermon entitled God Glorified in Man’s Dependence.
He gave him to dwell amongst us; he gave him to us incarnate, or in our nature; and in the like though sinless infirmities. He gave him to us in a low and afflicted state; and not only so, but as slain, that he might be a feast for our souls.
The greatness of the gift of Christ is seen in his value as the beloved Son of God. Then this valuable one is given to us. We who are rebels. And further, he bears our nature. He identifies with us and us with him. Consider the greatness of this gift.
But, it goes further, says Edwards. He was slain for us, so that he might be a feast for our souls. He was crucified that he might become the supreme delight of our very beings! His death is meant to unfasten our clinging claws from the driftwood and vapor of this world and instead fasten firm to his righteous garments. We cling to him with humble delight because he is infinitely valuable. He satisfies our weary longing. He is indeed a feast for our hungry souls! What grace! What a gift! What a Savior!
I came across this quote today and was greatly instructed. It has a great deal of personal application. I want to model Christian love (1 Cor. 13) and speak the truth in love (Eph. 4.15). However, I often find myself in the midst of doing something right to be doing something wrong. What I mean is, I start of with zeal, humility & love but then find myself firing shots from the gunpowder of zeal, pride & anger. I go from brother/instructor to foe/avenger. Augustine’s quote both pins this attitude down and provides detailed instruction. I greatly benefited from it and figured others would as well.
We should never undertake the task of chiding another’s sin unless, cross-examining our own conscience, we can assure ourselves before God, that we are acting from love. If reproaches or threats or injuries, voiced by the one you are calling to account have wounded your spirit, then, for that person to be healed by you, you must not speak til you are healed yourself, lest you act from worldly motives, to hurt and make your tongue a sinful weapon of evil, returning wrong for wrong, curse for curse. Whatever you speak out of a wounded spirit is the wrath of an avenger, not the love of an instructor….And if, as often happens, you begin some course of action from love, and are proceeding with it in love, but a different feeling insinuates itself because you are resisted, deflecting you from reproach of a man’s sin and making you attack the man itself–it were best, while watering the dust with you tears, to remember that we have no right to crow over another’s sin, since we sin in the very reproach of sin if anger at sin is better at making us siners than mercy is at making us kind. (Augustine, Commentary on Galatians —quoted by Jonathan Leeman in The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love), p. 87
We can all relate to being unjustly charged. We’ve had our opponents. We have been ridiculed. We can identify with the Psalmist in the 43rd Psalm. Evidently he is undergoing some scourging at the hands of evil and unjust people (Ps. 43.1). It has gotten to the point where he has even begun to feel like God also has turned on him (43.2). From varying experiences, we can all relate to this.
So what is the response?
Often times our default is to look inward. We look their either for strength or pity. In either case we are not helped.
What is the model response for believers?
In Psalm 43 we read that he finds himself petitioning for God to lavish him with grace. He asks for more of God to lead him to more of God. The result is his praise of God. This is very instructive.
(Psa 43.3-4) Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
Even though he is feeling pressed in he is calling out for divine aid to see more of God. This should be the default cry of our hearts, but especially in the midst of trials. When the soul is sad we need God to invade our lives with his soul-captivating grace.
Notice how in verse 4 he remarks that God is his exceeding joy?! This is the true delight and counselor to the believer; that we are brought to know, enjoy, and rest in God.
When he has this soul stirring grace he remembers the source of his joy, he rejoices in the God of his joy, he rebukes the selfishness of his soul, and he remembers his utter desperateness.
I love the way this song concludes:
(Psa 43.5) Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
He is now talking to himself. The wicked have their hearts talking to them (Ps. 36.1) but the believer has to speak truth to his heart (Ps. 15.2). Here we have the same thing. The sermon is confrontation, “why are you cast down”. It is exhortational, “Hope in God”. And it is doxological, “I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God”.
The downcast believer here shows us a good practice to adopt. He begins by talking to God and ends by talking to himself. This is very instructive for us.
There are many more notes of rejoicing in this Psalm, here are a few for the Christian:
I have heard quite a bit of chatter as of late about what the Christian response is to the new health care policy and the general direction of our country. There have been quite a few brush fires in various Christian circles calling for various forms of resistance. As a pastor this motivates me to think and write about these things. However, I don’t think I could be as clear and as brief as Dr Mohler was in his recent article.
Here is a sample of what he wrote in his article entitled, Render unto Caesar? On Paying Taxes After Obamacare
So, should Christians defy the government and refuse to pay taxes if some involvement in abortion is almost certain? The answer to that question reaches far beyond the issue of abortion — and far beyond the question of taxation. The answer to that question must be “no.”
The relationship of the Christian to the secular government is fraught with moral questions. Nevertheless, even though the New Testament does not offer a complete primer for Christian citizens on all matters of politics and policy, it does contain clear affirmations to which all faithful believers are obligated.
I commend the rest of the article to you, it can be accessed here.