We Are Not The Same!
“…through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…” Gal 1:1
Despite the voice of the critics, Christianity is not like all the other religions of the past or present. Christianity is gloriously unique. So unique that when honestly considered, one must recognize Divine revelation and activity rather than human imagination and creativity.
Unlike any other religion Christianity proclaims the glory of the Trinity. We worship one God in three Persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We confess faith in God the Father, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Spirit of truth. We do not believe in three gods. We do not believe in one God who sometimes acts as father and sometimes as son and sometimes as spirit. No, we believe that the Father, Son, and Spirit have been, are, and forever will be One glorious Triunity! Mysterious and marvellous, unique but not unreasonable. Exactly what we might expect of the Divine!
And, unlike any other religion we boast in a once crucified, now risen Lord. We proclaim the gospel of Jesus’ vicarious death and burial and his victorious resurrection. Our Savior is the living Lord. No other religion dares to boast of the resurrection of its leader or founder. It would be foolish, for the proof of deception would be in the grave. But not the case with Christianity! The tomb is empty and Jesus is alive! His ways are still seen and His Word is still heard through the Church.
So, unlike any other religion Christianity is the only hope for sinful humanity. Only Christianity offers the believing sinner true wisdom for this life and certain hope for the next. Because He lives so do and will we! So let us bow in humility, believe in sincerity, worship His majesty, and live for His glory!
Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing / Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King! / The hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find, / None other is so loving, so good and kind. / He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!–Alfred Ackley
Prayer (A Little Reminder)
“And it was told David, ‘Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.’ And David said, ‘O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.’ While David was coming to the summit…behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him…” 2 Samuel 15:31-32
This was a tragic day in the life of King David. His own son Absalom was committing betrayal and treason by attempting to take over the throne from his father. King David and company were forced out of Jerusalem, put on the run, and covered in shame.
When the King hears of his own counsellor Ahithophel being among the conspirators, he is moved to prayer. Let’s note a few things from David and his prayer.
1. Ready–David was ready to pray. If we know anything about David it is that he was a man after God’s own heart. He was a man who lived in communion with God. Prayer was a way of life for him. So, when confronted by desperate and urgent need, he was ready to pray. It was second nature to him.
2. Short and to the point–In English, David’s prayer is only 10 words long! God does not require long prayers for them to be legitimate prayers. He doesn’t command a certain form (i.e., an introduction, body, and conclusion) or formula (“use these words”) for our prayers to reach His ears. Remember what Jesus taught the disciples regarding prayer? “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matt 6:7,8) King David’s prayer was brief and to the point.
3. Earnest–Though short it was not without sincerity and faith. David prayed what he meant, and believed God for what he prayed.
4. Answered–“While David was coming to the summit…behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him…” As the story progresses, we discover that Hushai is God’s answer to David’s prayer. As one commentator said, “No sooner does David pray that Ahithophel’s counsel be confounded than he is presented, in the person of Hushai, with the means of accomplishing his objective.” Though there were still to be long days and dark nights, God’s kind and quick response would be enough to give hope and confidence.
Much more could be said, but maybe the Lord will be pleased to use this little reminder to keep us confidently seeking Him in all things.
The God of Comfort
“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus…” 2 Cor 7:6
Notice with me first that God’s people can and do become downcast. The Apostle Paul is the author of this verse, and here we find him speaking of being in need of comfort. Paul was a Spirit-filled man who was being mightily used of God, yet he knew what it was to be downcast and discouraged. The Psalmist also knew this discouragement of soul, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps. 42:5) Believers great and small know this downcastness of the soul.
Secondly, notice the great compassion and condescension of God in the words,“God, who comforts the downcast.” Kings, people in power, and individuals of influence don’t ordinarily like to be bothered and disturbed by those who are downcast. They don’t want the negativity or unhappiness to upset their “happy” world. But this is not true of our glorious God! “He is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Ps 34:18) He comforts the downcast.
Lastly, we notice that often times God comforts his downcast people through the presence and encouragement of our fellow brothers and sisters. “But God…comforted us by the coming of Titus.” Titus was God’s instrument of comfort to the Apostle. We are reminded once again that we need one another, and that God uses us as answers to prayer in the care and comfort of those in need.
If you are cast down today, hope in God. He sees and hears and knows and“comforts the downcast.” Notice the blessing of God to you through others.
And, let us be ready, by our presence and encouragement, to be God’s instrument of comfort to brothers and sisters in need.
Sunday we began a brief study in the book of Psalms. So, this morning in view of preparing, I read a sermon by Pastor Mark Dever entitled, “The Message of Psalms: Wisdom For Spiritual People.” I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to pass a little of it on to you.
In the sermon Dever seeks to show that the Psalms give us a full-orbed picture of what true, biblical spirituality is. In doing so, he presents 7 characteristics from the Psalms of biblical spirituality. I will simply present those characteristics along with a Psalm reference and a quote for each one:
#1: Praise-Giving–(Ps 145)–“Fundamental to any biblical spirituality is a real joy in God and in who he has revealed himself to be. Biblical spirituality is never centered on people… Rather, biblical spirituality is always focused on God… It’s enraptured with God… and rejoices in him.”
#2: Honesty–(Ps 10)–“Sometimes we think it is more spiritual not to feel pain, and if we do, not to acknowledge it…But according to the Psalms, the truly spiritual person knows suffering, difficulties, distress,… A truly spiritual person… knows the real anguish of crying out to [God].”
#3: Remembering–(Ps 136)–“If we want to follow the model of spirituality given to us in the Psalms, we… need to be a people of memory. God’s promises will bring us hope of future goodness, especially when watered by the memories of past goodnesses.”
#4: Morality–(Ps 1)–“Right belief or words without right behavior has a simple name in the Bible: hypocrisy. Anyone who presents himself as a spiritual or good person and yet lives contrary to God’s revealed Word is deluded and deluding… Christian lives are different.”
#5: Changing–(Ps 32)–“Wrongdoing alienates us from God and from others. When we become aware of our wrong, we need to observe the psalmist’s practice of changing…we need to repent…A Christian faith that does not bring change is a false faith, even if it is surrounded by much emotion.”
#6: Trusting–(Ps 62)–“The psalmist calls us to release everything else in which we might place our trust and to trust in God alone. Nothing else will hold us!…At the end of the day, living the Christian life requires us to deeply and profoundly give up on ourselves and trust God and his Word. We cannot do it any other way. The truly spiritual life is marked by relying on one greater than ourselves.”
#7: Thanksgiving–(Ps 100)–“When we read these Psalms, we should be challenged by how quickly God hears us, and by how quickly we forget.” “Let’s agree that we cannot out-give God! Let’s even agree that we are not able to thank him for every individual gift that he gives us. But can we a least thank him more than we do, both as individuals and as a church?”
So, are we spiritual people? Do our lives reflect these characteristics? Let us fix our eyes on Jesus in whose light and from whose life we see the perfect portrait of a truly spiritual person.
May God grant us grace to experience and live out true spirituality.
(Quotes came from “The Message Of The Old Testament” by Mark Dever and published by Crossway, 2006)
Ezekiel and Jesus
If I were a betting man (which I’m not), I would bet not too many of us would list Ezekiel in the top 5 of our favorite Bible books. Its length and strangeness may even have kept many of us from reading it all the way through. But, as it is the Word of God, there is wealth to be mined from it. Especially, when we recall Luke 24:27, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Ezekiel, then, is a book about the Lord Jesus.
As I read the first six chapters, what stood out to me was that through Ezekiel himself, we can see glimpses of Jesus.
In chapter 3, Ezekiel is told to take the scroll (God’s Word) and to eat it. He was to “feed [his] belly with the scroll…and fill [his] stomach with it.” The strength of his prophetic mission would come from the ingestion of the very words of God. Jesus overcame the devil’s temptation because He knew that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4). Jesus, the Prophet of God, lived and ministered in the power of the Word of God. We can say more: Jesus actually was the very Word of God! That is His identity not merely His calling. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:1, 14). Jesus was the Word of God enfleshed; the living, breathing, speaking, touching, walking, loving Word! In the Biblical narrative, Ezekiel points us forward to the Word Prophet.
Ezekiel was not only called to proclaim the Word of God, but he also was called to dramatize and symbolize it. Through these divinely inspired (and sometimes odd) dramas, the prophet, to some degree, identified with and experienced the sorry state of the rebellious people. As one commentator put it, “he suffered in his body the consequences of representing God before the nation and of representing the nation under God’s judgement.” Ezekiel’s identification with the people was only partial, and it wasn’t salvific. But it did serve to prepare for the Prophet whose identification with His people would be total and saving.
At birth, through life, and in death, Jesus fully identified with and represented His people in order to redeem them. The Scriptures say, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…” (Gal 3:13); “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21); “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree….by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Pet 2:24); and, “When Christ came into the world, he said….’Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'” (Heb 10:5,7). Breathtakingly, the incarnate Word willingly submitted himself to the inscripturated Word and thereby achieved salvation for all and any who repent of their sins and trust wholly in Him.
May God give us eyes to see the beauties of Jesus in all the Scriptures.
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.