I enjoy a good run or being able to exercise with my wife, and I love that God has wonderfully made us body-soul beings. We are material and immaterial. We walk, work, see, touch, go, taste because of the physicality with which we were created. And, we think, dream, discern, judge, choose, want, love, delight, hate, bond, etc. because God has given us souls or what the Bible so often calls the “heart.”
Though there is a marvelous and mysterious interconnectedness of body and soul, the Bible, without discounting or denying the body, places the emphasis and priority on the soul. That’s why Jesus said that we “must be born again,” (Jn 3:3, 7) and why Paul wrote, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16). We need this reminder of emphasis and priority because we live in a culture that worships the body. People all around us are driven by image, shape, health, and nutrition not so much as good stewards, but because of restless hearts and guilty consciences.
We need to hear the wisdom of Proverbs, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Pv 14:30). My paraphrase of this verse is, “A whole and contented heart is beneficial to the whole person, but a restless, unsatisfied heart will inevitably destroy the body.” Exercise and physical health is good, but it cannot give life to the soul. Only, the grace of God can heal our inner self (Eph 2:1-5). Like Augustine learned, our hearts can only find rest in God. For, only the blood of Jesus can cleanse our consciences (Heb 9:14), and only the Holy Spirit can make our hearts new and continue to make them new (Titus 3:5).
So, go ahead and enjoy being a good steward of your God-given physicality, but never forget that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8). May we not forget the priority of the soul.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
I am a pastor that is blessed with a patient and understanding congregation. This last Sunday I put that patience to the test by attempting to preach on Psalm 119! Thankfully they passed the test, but I failed! With great kindness and patience they sat through about 50 minutes of teaching that contained 4 main points and 35 sub-points! Yes, you saw that right: 35 sub-points. (I told you they were patient and understanding!)
As you may imagine, I rushed way too fast on the last point with its 7 sub-points. So, (at a friend’s recommendation) I am going to use this post to attempt to clean up my mess and present (much more slowly) the last main heading of Sunday’s sermon: “Oh, How I Love Your Law!” (Psalm 119)
To guide our study of Psalm 119, I offered 4 questions to be considered: 1. What is God’s Word? (a definition); 2. What is God’s Word like? (a description); 3. What is God’s Word for?; and 4. What should be our response to God’s Word? (application). It is this fourth question that I want us to (re)consider.
According to Psalm 119, what should be our response to God’s Word?
“Am I called?” For some this is a haunting question. For others it may not even be on the radar (until now). I would like to offer a short and simple answer (for anyone who may be wondering now that you are reading this post): YES! Yes, you are called!
If you are an unbeliever living in sin and rebellion against God, you are called--you are called by God through the good news of the sin-atoning death and life-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ to repent of your sins (Act 17:30). If you are burdened and worn out by your sin, guilt, and loneliness, you are called by the Son of God, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
If you are a believer you have been and are called by God:
“He who calls you is faithful”--1Thess 5:24
Jonah: Salvation Belongs to the Lord!
Think with me of the beloved account of Jonah and the great fish. Most of us are familiar with how the Lord called this Hebrew prophet to take God’s merciful message of judgment to Nineveh. Jonah, not liking the new job assignment, opted to run from the Lord by boarding a ship headed the other direction.
Now, one of the main truths that the book of Jonah emphasizes is the sovereignty of God. God is always in control; He always gets His way. Jonah would learn to offer an “AMEN” to Job’s statement, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). So, when Jonah ran God responded by sending a “great wind” and a “mighty tempest upon the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up” (Jonah 1:4). The sailors, fearing for their lives, threw off the cargo and cried out to their gods. Finally, out of desperation, they cast lots to see who was to blame for this deadly storm. The lot fell on Jonah.
Jonah proceeded to inform them of his rebellion and that they must throw him overboard if their lives were to be spared and the storm calmed. Sometimes, at this point in the narrative, we fail to realize the gravity of the situation. To be thrown overboard in such a violent sea meant death not salvation. But, the sovereign God had another plan: “And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)
What was to be certain death became God’s surprising salvation. Surely, Jonah didn’t expect a big fish to swallow him, and surely, inside the fish his immediate response was not to sing out “Amazing Grace!” No, this was a surprising salvation. This rebellious prophet (like the rest of us) had to learn that “salvation belongs to the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9)
When we consider the gospel of the Lord Jesus, once again we see that our God works a surprising salvation for His people. Many in Jesus’ day did not see clearly that he was the Savior. Some said, “Isn’t that the carpenter’s son?” And others remarked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Not many believed that this Jesus, born to Mary and Joseph, was the promised Savior. In fact, Isaiah said of Jesus, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him...a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Is. 53:2-3). A good person? Yes. A great teacher? Certainly. A miracle worker? Indeed! But the divine Savior?....
The Person of salvation was a surprise, and the way of salvation was a surprise. The disciples manifest this by their confusion and grief when Jesus died. He had repeatedly told them that he must give his life as a ransom. He had told them that he would be lifted up (death by crucifixion) and that three days later he would rise again. But, they just did not get it. Only after Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, did they begin to see that Jesus’ death was God’s salvation for everyone who trusts in him. It was and is such a surprising salvation! Yet, it was God’s plan and purpose from eternity past (1 Pet 1:20). Surely, we marvel and humbly declare with Jonah, “Salvation belongs to the Lord!”
It’s that time of year again. You know, the time when we try to assess our lives by reflecting on the past and looking toward the future. The New Year serves as a good opportunity for us to be thankful and thoughtful; expressing gratitude for God’s good care of us and humbly charting a course for the future.
With an eye to a “fresh” year, some of us will be setting some new goals which can certainly be a good thing. But, (maybe because I’m 40 now) I would like to offer an old word for a new year. To a world that values change, updates, and the next big thing, this word may be a little off-putting, but for the follower of Jesus, it is not only desirable, but essential. The word I’m thinking of is: faithful. Whatever else God may call us to in this new year, He is unquestionably calling us to greater faithfulness.
In Proverbs 28:20 Solomon wrote, “A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.” The way of wisdom and the path of abundant blessing is faithfulness.
By showing us a contrast between a faithful man and someone who eagerly desires to be rich, Solomon reminds us of something Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, namely, that one cannot serve both God and money (Matt 6:24). Faithfulness will always be challenged by the empty promises of false idols. Whatever those idols may be (money, sex, power, success, acceptance, etc.) they never deliver on their promises and actually lead to God’s judgement.
The 17th century pastor, Charles Bridges, commenting on Prov. 28:20 wrote, “The faithful man...has only one principle--’unto the Lord’; under his eye; in his presence; ‘to his glory.’...He would rather be poor by Providence, than rich by sin. This is the man of faithfulness.” And according to the Bible, this is the blessed man. Whether the world has eyes to see it or not, the faithful man is blessed of God.
Whatever goals we may set for the new year, let’s prayerfully and joyfully seek to be faithful. Faithful sons and daughters of the faithful God; faithful followers of the faithful Christ. Faithful in our homes; faithful to our church; faithful in our callings; faithful to the Word of God and prayer.
Faithful--an old word for a new year.
“So then, brothers, stand firm...the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”---2 Thessalonians 2:15(a) and 3:3
A quick glance at a Christian resource catalog or web-site will show that we certainly do not lack for Bibles! They come in all types of versions, colors, formats, and study helps. And we should be grateful for many of these. But the question remains, “Do I regularly read my Bible or do I take this tremendous blessing from God for granted?”
Recently, I read a very stirring description of God’s Word from the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck that reminds us of the blessing of the Bible. I would like to share it with you for your encouragement:
“Scripture….is not a book of times long past, which only links us with persons and events of the past. Holy Scripture is not an arid story or ancient chronicle but the ever-living, eternally youthful Word, which God, now and always, issues to his people. It is the eternally ongoing speech of God to us. It does not just serve to give us historical information;….whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope [Rom. 15:4]. Scripture was written by the Holy Spirit that it might serve him in guiding the church, in the perfecting of the saints, in the building up of the body of Christ. In it God daily comes to his people. In it he speaks to his people, not from afar but from nearby. In it he reveals himself, from day to day, to believers in the fullness of his truth and grace. Through it he works his miracles of compassion and faithfulness. Scripture is the ongoing rapport between heaven and earth, between Christ and his church, between God and his children. It does not just tie us to the past; it binds us to the living Lord in the heavens. It is the living voice of God, the letter of the omnipotent God to his creature. God once created the world by the word, and by that word he also upholds it [Heb. 1:2,3]; but he also re-creates it by the word and prepares it to be his dwelling. Divine inspiration, accordingly, is a permanent attribute of Holy Scripture. It was not only ‘God-breathed’ at the time it was written; it is ‘God-breathing.'” (H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. John Bolt and trans. John Vriend, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), I, 384-5)
God’s Word is ever-relevant, ever-fresh, ever-living, ever-true. It is an invaluable gift from God to us His people. The Bible is a blessing, so take it up and read!
“I am the LORD your God…Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it…Oh, that my people would listen to me” — Psalm 81:10, 13
To help us consider Christ, I thought I would share a quote from Calvin. I came across this quote while reading Sinclair Ferguson’s new book, The Whole Christ. (Ferguson has translated these words of Calvin from Book 2, chapter 16, section 19 of the Institutes, 1559 Latin edition.)
“When we see salvation whole—its every single part is found in Christ, we must beware lest we derive the smallest drop from somewhere else. If we seek salvation, the very name of Jesus teaches us that he possesses it. If other Spirit-given gifts are sought—in his anointing they are found; strength—in his reign; and purity—in his conception; tenderness—expressed in his nativity, in which he was made like us in all respects, that he might feel our pain: Redemption when we seek it, is in his passion found; acquittal—in his condemnation lies; and freedom from the curse—in his cross is known. If satisfaction for our sins we seek—we’ll find it in his sacrifice. There’s cleansing in his blood. And if it’s reconciliation that we need, for it he entered Hades; if mortification of our flesh—then in his tomb it’s laid. And newness of our life—his resurrection brings and immortality as well come also with that gift. And if we long to find that heaven’s kingdom’s our inheritance, His entry there secures it now with our protection, safety too, and blessings that abound—all flowing from his kingly reign. The sum of all for those who seek such treasure-trove of blessings, these blessings of all kinds, is this: from nowhere else than him can they be drawn; For they are ours in Christ alone.”
Look to Christ! Look to Christ alone and live!
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him….” Hebrews 12:2, 3(a)
“….be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” — 2 Tim 2:1
Paul knew that Timothy was going to have to endure suffering for Christ, spend his energies preaching, pastoring, and training, and all the while, flee worldly temptations and fleshly desires as he pursues and exemplifies “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (2 Tim 1:6-14, 2:3; 4:5; 1 Tim 4:11-16; 2 Tim 2:2, 4:1-2; 1 Tim 4:12, 5:11) How in the world could Timothy possibly survive much less succeed?: “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
This was good news for Timothy and it is good news for us as we too are called to endure hardship, fulfill our vocations, and live holy lives. We can’t and don’t have to do it in our own strength, but in the strength that comes “by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” The verb that Paul uses for “be strengthened” is in the imperative (command) and is in the present tense (on going action) and passive voice (happens to you) (Gordon Fee). In other words, Timothy is to be obedient by continually allowing God to strengthen him in the grace that is in Jesus. It is God’s to strengthen; it is Timothy’s to submit. It is God’s to empower; it is Timothy’s to yield. It is God’s to equip; it is Timothy’s to obey.
By constantly submitting, yielding, and obeying Timothy would experience the strengthening of God through the grace that is in Jesus. What is this grace of Jesus that brings the power of God to our lives for suffering, service, and sanctification? Well, for Paul, it is not some abstract notion but is something experienced and enjoyed because of the person and work of the Lord Jesus.
In 2 Corinthians 8:9 Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might beome rich.” God strengthens us as we believe and savor such glorious grace! Jesus, the eternal Son of God and high King of Heaven, took our poverty so that we could receive His riches. By his obedience even unto a cross-death, Jesus took our sin, guilt, shame, and punishment that we might receive his righteousness, joy, acceptance, and life. He was stripped that we may be clothed. He was accussed that we may be exonerated. He was condemned that we may be accepted. He was cast out that we may be brought in. He died that we may live. This gospel is surely strength for the soul for it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).
In Christ we have received grace upon grace. In Him we live in a whole new realm and sphere of grace that gives us standing before our God. “Through [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings….because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:2-5). In Ephesians 2 Paul says that believers have been “seated…with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” In Christ we have an unshakebale standing before God and a seat in the heavenly places that nobody else can fill or remove!
God has revealed these things to us that we may know and keep knowing, believe and keep believing, and consider and keep considering them to be true of us as believers in Jesus. And, as we do (which is obedience to 2 Tim 2:1), God will strengthen us by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25
What a joy-inducing, hope-infusing, freedom-bringing verse this is for those who “draw near to God through [Jesus].” There are at least 3 soul-enriching truths here for the believer’s comfort, confidence, and continuation in Christ.
First, we are comforted in that salvation does not rest in our hands. Our salvation is not up to our abilities and power. The inspired text says, “he is able to save.” Our salvation rests in the sovereign Savior. The word of the gospel is not, “Do this and live,” but “Come to me.” He is able to save. We are weak. We are fickle. We are sinners. We would give out, grow weary, change our minds, lose our loyalty, and surrender to the flesh, except for this glorious truth: He is able to save!
Second, we can deal with our remaining sins, even frustratingly stubborn and besetting sins, with confident hope because “he is able to save to the uttermost.” The Lord Jesus saves completely. His work of salvation is a thoroughgoing and complete work of salvation. He won’t leave anything undone. To be sure, it is a progressive work of sanctification that will be brought “to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6), but it is also a present work that confidently leads us to share in our Lord’s victory over sin. There is no stain so dark that the blood of Jesus can’t cleanse it away. There is no habit so strong that the immeasurably great power of the resurrected Christ can’t overcome it. He is able to save to the uttermost!
Third, no matter how discouraging, dark, or desperate our present conditions are (whether due to sin or suffering, temptation or trial) we will continue in Christ “since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Before Peter denied Jesus, Jesus told him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus knew that Peter would fall hard, so he interceded for Peter that he would be able to get back up and keep on going. Peter’s faith did not fail because Jesus had prayed for him. Jesus, our great High Priest, is praying for us, too. He “always lives to make intercession.” As true believers we will fall, even fall hard, but we will get back up and continue on in Christ for he is praying for us.
Beloved, fix your gaze not on yourself, your sin, or your circumstances but on your Christ–crucified, risen, and interceding. He is able!
The love of Christ is the love of omnipotence.
The love of Christ for his own had the power to hold back the angelic hosts from rescuing their King. “Then Jesus said to [Peter], ‘Put your sword back into its place….Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?'” (Matt 26:52-53). The angels stood ready for rescue as they watched in wonder the Lord of Glory being delivered over to sinful men. The love of Christ held up under the burden of sin’s guilt as he bore the sins of his people. As our representative, sin’s crushing weight cast down our Lord to the ground squeezing out sweat as drops of blood as he prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…” But love held up! For, we hear the end of the prayer, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 24:39). And, on the cross we see Christ’s love was held out to undeserving sinners. Of his executioners and mockers Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34), and to the dying, believing thief beside him he promised, “Truly….today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43).
The love of Christ–strong enough to hold back 12 legions of angels; strong enough to hold up under sin’s crushing weight; and strong enough to hold out salvation to undeserving sinners who will look away from themselves and their sin and look only to the Savior.
Be encouraged believer, for it is the strong love of Christ that has laid hold of our lives and will carry us all the way home.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:37-39
“…that you….may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ….” Eph 3:17-19
I hope you can take a moment to consider the immeasurable, multi-dimensional love of Christ for his people; how long and high and deep and wide is his great love!
Long–How long is the love of Christ? Eternally long! It stretches back to eternity past when in the marvelous mystery of God’s counsel, the Son willingly agreed to come into history as the God-Man and lay down his life as an atoning sacrifice for sin. It stretches forward to eternity future, so that the life he won and gives to his own is “eternal” life. Those who believe in his name will not perish (Jn 3:16); though they die, yet they will live (Jn 11:25). It is inextinguishable life for it’s essence is in knowing the eternal Triune God (Jn 17:3).
High–How high is the love of Christ? So high that in the words of the hymn writer, “it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!” Christ’s love for the individual and for his Church takes us all the way into glory. It lifts us all the way to the Father. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18a)
Deep–How deep is the love of Christ? So deep that he descended from heaven to dwell on earth. He descended to become what he was not (man) without ceasing to be what he eternally is (God). He descended from the heights of glory to live in the depths of humility.
How deep is the love of Christ? So deep that it plunged him into the unfathomable depths of hell, for on the cross Jesus experienced the darkness of sin’s curse and the forsakenness of Divine wrath as the willing, sin-bearing substitute for his people. He poured out his soul unto death (Is 53:12) and descended into the grave in order to save and reconcile his enemies. What amazing, unsearchable love is this!
Wide–How wide is the love of Christ? Well, so wide that it stretches north and south, east and west to whosever will repent and believe on the Lord Jesus alone. The sweep of the love of Christ takes in every class and ethnicity of humanity; male and female, young and old, rich and poor, healthy and sick, beautiful and ugly, athletic and clumsy, etc. In Christ “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11). So that, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21).
Do you know this love which passes knowledge? Has your heart been invaded by this immeasurable, multi-dimensional love of Christ? If not, please trust him and turn to him even now. And Child of God, Jesus wants us to know his great love; to savor it. He wants our hearts and minds marinating in it. He has even given us his Spirit so that we can have “strength to comprehend” it. So, dive into the wonders of his love. How long! How high! How deep! How wide! is the love of Christ.
“The LORD, the LORD, a God… gracious….” — Exodus 34:6
What a faith-creating, love-begetting, pride-slaying, soul-singing truth: Our God is a God of grace! Peter declares that He is “the God of all grace” (1 Pt 5:10). Being gracious is part of who God is. Giving grace does not go against His Person, rather, He delights to show grace. According to Paul, God is a lavish grace Giver (Eph 1:7(b)-8(a)).
I hope you can take a few moments to rejoice in these biblical truths of the God of grace:
He is the God of common grace–Jesus said, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45). God greets His friends and His enemies with the same morning light! He feeds both friend and foe!
He is the God of sacrificial grace–“For you know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9)
He is the God of saving grace–“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8,9)
He is the God of sufficient grace–“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:8). “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me… when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)
He is the God of sanctifying grace–“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)
He is the God of super-abounding grace–“…but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20).
He is the God of sustaining grace–“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)
The God who saves us by grace through the super-abounding gracious sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is the God who sufficiently graces us to daily battle sin, work for Him, endure through trial, and persevere to the end. Brother and sister, the God of all grace is enough!
God of grace, amazing wonder, so immeasurable and free; Oh, the miracle of mercy, Jesus reaches down to me. God of grace, I stand in wonder, as my God restores my soul. His own blood has paid my ransom, awesome cost to make me whole.
God of grace, who loved and knew me long before the world began, sent my Savior down from Heaven, perfect God and perfect man. God of grace, I trust in Jesus; I’m accepted as His own. Ev’ry day His grace sustains me, as I lean on Him alone.
God of grace, I stand astounded, cleansed, forgiven and secure; All my fears are now confounded, and my hope is ever sure. God of grace, now crowned in glory, where one day I’ll see Your face; And forever I’ll adore You in Your everlasting grace. — Keith Getty & Jonathan Rea
“Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” Ps 119:36
The psalmist knows the dangers within his own heart. He knows that if his eyes aren’t fixed on his God, then he will drift toward selfish gain. And, he knows that for his eyes to be fixed on God, he must look to the Word of God, for it contains the “testimonies” of God. In other words, “selfish gain” (or self-interest and self-advance) is always a threat to the priority of the Word in our pursuit of God.
With that in mind, let’s consider 3 ways that we remove the priority of the Word for self advance.
1. We outright reject it. Maybe we don’t like something it reveals about God. Maybe, we feel uncomfortable with what it says about us. Or, maybe, we just feel that the Bible is a little behind the times and overbearing. Whatever the case may be, our self feels threatened, so we opt to simply reject God’s Word. We choose “selfish gain” over “his testimonies.”
2. We neglect it. Our hearts may be so overrun with “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things” (Mk 4:19) that we no longer have time, energy, or interest for the testimonies of God. We no longer see the need for it; we are too busy advancing our selves, so we neglect the Bible to the detriment of our souls.
3. We use it. Sadly, not only are we capable of using people, but we can even use the Bible out of a motivation for selfish gain. Pastors and preachers must especially be on guard against this temptation. Peter exhorted the elders to shepherd the flock “not for shameful gain.” Paul was aware of “peddlers of God’s word” (2 Cor 2:17) and that “some preach Christ from envy and rivalry” (Phil. 1:15). But preachers aren’t the only ones who can use the Bible for self-interest. All of us need to guard against a mere utilitarian approach to the Bible that sees God’s word as a stepping stone to a better………(you fill in the blank). Selfish gain stands behind this approach to God’s testimonies.
The Psalmist knew the dangers of selfish gain, so he prayed that God would incline his heart to the testimonies of the Lord. He desired to know his God and in that knowledge to walk in His ways and before His face.
What about you and your Bible? Are you guilty of rejecting it, neglecting it, or using it for the advance of your self? If so, repent and look again to the Lord Jesus who perfectly understood, kept, and fulfilled the Word of God not for self advance but for the salvation of selfish sinners. In His name we can find forgiveness and pray with the psalmist, “Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain.”
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses…” Eph. 1:7
“What can wash away my sin? Nothing. What can make me whole again? Nothing. For my pardon, this I see: Nothing. For my cleansing, this my plea: Nothing. Nothing can for sin atone, nothing. Naught of good that I have done, nothing. This is all my hope and peace, nothing. This is all my righteousness, nothing.”
Have you seen the hopelesness of your guilt? Have you been made to feel the despair of helplessness that your sin has wrought? Do you realize that there is nothing you can do, nothing you can offer, nothing you can change, nothing you can feel, nothing you can suffer that will remove the imbedded stain of sin and its corruption from your soul and from before your God? If not, then beg God to make you see, for only when we are brought to the end of ourselves, then, will we be able to see the hope-filled, life-giving, heart-transforming answer.
“What can wash away my sin? Nothing, but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing, but the blood of Jesus. For my pardon, this I see, Nothing, but the blood of Jesus; For my cleansing, this my plea, Nothing, but the blood of Jesus. Nothing can for sin atone, Nothing, but the blood of Jesus; Naught of good that I have done, Nothing, but the blood of Jesus. This is all my hope and peace, Nothing, but the blood of Jesus; This is all my righteousness, Nothing, but the blood of Jesus.” (Words taken from Robert Lowry’s hymn, “Nothing but the Blood”; bold-type mine)
The answer to our sinful condition and guilt lies completely outside of us. The forgiveness and cleansing we need, the hope and peace we desire, and the sufficient plea and righteousness we must have are found only in Christ. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” The answer has been given; the work has been done; the fountain of cleansing has been opened; and peace with God has been established by nothing, but the blood of Jesus.
Dear unbeliever, won’t you look away from yourself and look only to Christ crucified and risen? Fellow believer, what more do we need for our standing in grace and peace with God? What other provisions do we need than all that has been given to us because of the blood of Jesus (i.e. Eph. 1:1-14)? Nothing.
“Oh! precious is the flow that makes me white as snow; No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” (Lowry)
A.W. Pink, an influential writer and Bible teacher of the 20th century, once said, “We have two eyes and two ears but only one tongue as if to show we should see and hear twice as much as we say!”
As challenging as his words may be, they do serve as a needed reminder of the biblical warnings regarding the use of our tongues. Here are just 8 verses for our consideration:
“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” Ps 34:13
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Prov. 10:19
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Prov. 12:18
“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Prov. 13:3
“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.” Prov. 20:19
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt 12:36-37
“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” Eph 5:4
“…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” James 1:19
When we consider these Scriptures we cry out, “Who among us has not fallen prey to the sins of the tongue?” Certainly, we recognize the truth of James 3:2 that it would take a perfect man to not stumble in the use of the tongue! Thankfully, the perfect Man has come, and He has fulfilled all righteousness even regarding the tongue. The Servant of the Lord prophesied through the mouth of Isaiah, “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward” (Is. 50:4,5). The Lord Jesus faithfully heard and spoke the word of His Father and endured life unto death with a sinless tongue. Through his blood our sins of speech can be forgiven, by his life-giving tongue our weary souls may be sustained, and through his presence by the indwelling Spirit we too may learn to have a well-taught tongue.
“O be careful little tongue what you say!”
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Ps 20:14
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.