The Goodness of God

Wednesday, August 9, 2017, 5:13 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 27 (Select vv. NASB).

My Salvation (vv. 1-3)

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

We are all born into this world with sin natures. We all fall short of attaining God’s divine approval, by human effort. So, God the Father sent his Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ (God the Son) into the world to die on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us on that cross so that we might become the righteousness of God (1 Co. 5:21). So, when he died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him. But, when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death, on our behalf. He died that we might die with him to sin. And, he lives that we might live with him to his righteousness. Jesus Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Tit. 2:14; & 1 Pet. 2:24).

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, thus, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24). The old has gone. The new has come. This is what it means to be “born again” of the Spirit of God. Our lives are changed, transformed of God’s Spirit away from living to sin and self and to living to Christ and his righteousness. Now we no longer walk (conduct our lives) according to our sinful flesh, but we now walk (in lifestyle) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God, not necessarily in sinless perfection (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but in a consistent and persistent walk of faith, daily, by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25).

When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are given the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. The Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell within us, and he lives within us to empower, strengthen, guide, teach, counsel, convict, rebuke and encourage us in our walks of faith with our Lord Jesus. Through our times of fellowship with our Lord each day in his Word, listening to him speak his truths to our hearts, and through prayer, talking with him and listening to him, we grow in our faith and knowledge of our Lord, and we are strengthened in our faith, and mature in our spiritual walks. We learn to know his sovereignty over our lives, and that we never have any reason to fear the enemy of our souls (Satan) or any of his servants and messengers, for our God and Lord will give us all we need to remain faithful to him.

He Will Not Leave (vv. 7-10)

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the Lord will take me up.

Coming to faith in Jesus Christ does not mean we won’t face difficulties in this life, or that we won’t know trouble, hardships, pain, suffering or heartaches. In fact, Jesus said that if we follow him, we will suffer like he suffered, and we will be treated like he was treated. But then he, although he was perfect, learned obedience through the things that he suffered. And, we, as well, learn obedience, including patience, perseverance, love, faithfulness, trust, and humility, etc. through our sufferings and hardships.

Our Lord will never abandon or forsake us, though. He will remain faithful even if we are faithless. He will always be there to comfort, encourage, give hope and healing, and to counsel us in the way that we should go. He will give us everything we need to live godly and holy lives for him in this present world and to not give way to fear. We just need to keep seeking his face and his counsel, and we must trust him with our lives, and rely upon his strength and power, and then rest in him, and believe that he will work out all things for good for those who love him, who obey him, and who have been called according to his purpose (Ro. 8:28).

Teach Me Your Way (vv. 11-14)

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a level path
Because of my foes.
Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have despaired unless
I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

The goal of our salvation is not merely that we should escape hell (eternal damnation) and have the hope of heaven when we leave this earth. God’s grace to us is also not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, instructs (commands) us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts), and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we lie and we do not live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:5-9). And, if we continue to make sin our practice, we don’t have the hope of eternal life with God (See: Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25).

The goal of our salvation is that we forsake our sinful lifestyles, and that we walk righteously before God to please him in all that we do, and think, and are, and say. Jesus becomes our husband, and we, as his church, become his bride. So, we forsake our former “lovers,” and we commit ourselves to him to faithfulness, obedience, and to making him our only Lord and Master. We do this because we love him, and because we are now in relationship with him, and our desire is now for him. So, we want him to teach us his ways, because we want to walk in them, and no longer live to please our sinful flesh. This is not to say we will never sin again, but that our desire should now be for him, to walk in his ways, and that we will now walk (in lifestyle) according to his Spirit, and no longer according to our flesh.

When we make that decision to follow our Lord in obedience, though, we will face opposition from our enemy and from his followers (his servants and messengers), and from those whom he has deceived with his many lies. And, there will be those who will bear false witness against us, who will slander us, and because they hate us and our testimonies for Jesus Christ, and our relationship with our Lord. They are those who are still bound in their sins or are those whom the enemy is deceiving that they can still be addicted to sin and that God’s grace covers it all. And, so they will find the true gospel and its messengers an offense to the lifestyles they choose.

Yet, we are not to fear them or their slanderous tongues, or their mistreatment of our bodies, for our Lord is completely sovereign over all that he has made, and he will see us through it all to victory. He will carry us through it all, and he will give us everything we need to endure and to come out shining like gold. And, one day we will get to be with our Lord forever, and all sorrow, pain and crying will cease. Amen! So, we just need to wait on our Lord, believe what he says, trust in his promises, take courage, keep on loving others, and keep on loving and serving our Lord with our lives.

My Jesus, I Love Thee
William R. Featherstone / Adoniram J. Gordon

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
For thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight;
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

A Steadfast Heart

Saturday, June 24, 2017, 9:33 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Hear my Voice.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 57 (Select vv. NIV).

I Take Refuge (v. 1)

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the disaster has passed.

Everyone has troubles, from time to time. Even those who seem to have everything going well for them have difficulties, at least occasionally. We have good days and bad days physically or emotionally. Tragedy strikes. People die. Children get sick. People lose jobs. A husband or a wife is unfaithful to his or her spouse. Someone gets injured on the job or in a car wreck. Vacations get cancelled. Someone gets robbed. A house catches fire and is totally destroyed. People are homeless. Christians are persecuted and killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. They may also be betrayed by family members or close friends who reject and abandon them, etc.

So, what do we do when these types of things happen in our lives? We should call on God, and we should take refuge in him, but not just in the bad times, but at all times. He should be our sanctuary, our shelter at all times, but especially when things go awry, which they will. And, we should rest in him, and trust him to work all things out for the good of those who love him, and who have been called according to his purposes. As well, we should pray for godly wisdom to know how best to handle and to respond to our difficult circumstances or relationships. And, we should allow his peace to permeate our minds and hearts so that we don’t get fearful or stressed out by what we are going through.

Sharp Tongues (v. 4)

I am in the midst of lions;
I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

Not one of us has much control at all over what other people think about us, do to us, or say about us. Jesus said that, as his followers, we would be treated as he was treated, and hated like he was hated. We may be gossiped about, backbitten (have mean or spiteful things said about us behind our backs), betrayed, sold out, abandoned, falsely accused, slandered, verbally attacked, and called all kinds of names, etc. We may be called bigoted, hateful, intolerant, and/or a religious extremist, too, because we follow Jesus Christ with our lives, and we hold fast to the teachings of Christ and those of his NT apostles. There will also be people who are jealous of us or who despise us and what we stand for, and whose goal it is to destroy us in any way possible. And, getting bitten by sharp teeth hurts!

I Will Sing (vv. 7-11)

My heart, O God, is steadfast,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

So, what do we do when these things happen to us? We are to remain steadfast in heart and mind via submission to God’s Holy Spirit and via resting in the Lord. And, we are to sing praises to God. When all we want to do is cry, we should sing through our tears. And, lift up our souls to God, and trust him for his healing mercies. There is much healing that takes place in our hearts and minds when we rest in Jesus, and when we sing praises to God despite how we feel, i.e. despite the pain we have suffered from being backbitten, hated and abandoned.

We must remind ourselves, too, that God is absolutely sovereign over all that he has made. There is not anything that can touch us but what God allows it, and he allows it for a purpose. Sometimes we need to be disciplined, corrected, rebuked or chastised because we have not been listening to our Lord, and we have chosen to go our own way. Other times, we need divine discipline to strengthen us and mature us in our walks of faith, to prune us and to purify us, and to teach us not to rely on ourselves, but on God. Trials and tribulations are for our good, that we may share in God’s holiness, and that we may bear the fruit of his righteousness.

Satan’s goal is to get us down, to get us discouraged, to get us to give up, to be afraid, and to retreat. We must not give in to him for a moment! He wants us to doubt God, to blame God, and to not rest in the Lord and in his strength. So, we must put on our spiritual armor with which to fight off his evil attacks against us. Instead of worrying, we should praise the Lord for all his goodness to us. And, we should proclaim his excellencies far and wide. We must tell of his love, grace and mercy to us, but also of his justice and righteousness. And, we must proclaim his faithfulness to his people. He will not leave nor will he abandon us. He will be with us always, even to the end of time and beyond that into eternity. We can count on all his promises, his faithfulness, his goodness, and his love forever and always. Amen!

Hear my Voice / An Original Work / July 9, 2012

Based off Psalm 27

The Lord is my great salvation.
He’s the stronghold of my life.
When my enemies attack me,
My heart will not fear at all.
Though a war break out against me,
Confident in Christ I’ll be.
Of the Lord, I ask that I may
Live with Him eternally.

Hear my voice, Lord, when I call you.
Merciful to me You’ll be.
Though my relatives forsake me,
My Lord God will receive me.
Teach me Your way, O my Jesus.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
I will sacrifice to my Lord.
I will sing with joyfulness.

I am confident that I will
See the goodness of the Lord.
All the richness of His blessings,
My Lord has for me in store.
He asks me to be of courage;
To be strong and to take heart,
Patiently as I wait for Him,
And from Him to ne’er depart.

False Witnesses

Tuesday, May 30, 2017, 6:03 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Draw Me Close.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 27 (Select vv. ESV).

The Lord Is (vv. 1-3)

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

Who are our enemies? If we are followers of Jesus Christ, crucified with him in death to sin, and risen with him to newness of life, our enemies are Satan and his many hordes. Satan has followers, too, and they do his bidding in coming against Jesus Christ, his Word, his gospel, and his servants. And, many of them have infiltrated the church, too. They are the wolves in sheep’s clothing, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ, and as servants of righteousness, but truly they are among us to steal, to kill and to destroy. So, they might be pastors, teachers, elders, other professors of Christ, politicians, parents, children, neighbors, and/or website monitors.

They are there to spy on our freedom in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves again to depravity. So, they dilute the gospel message of salvation to appeal to human flesh and to appease the world. They preach (teach, share) feel-good messages which tickle itching ears, which say what people want to hear, not what they NEED to hear, for the truth offends. Many of them are part of the New World Order and are working together to bring the people of the world into unity with them in thought, word and deed. Their goal is to get us to forsake all which divides us as the people of the world, and to get us to compromise our faith and convictions in order to unite as ONE voice, ONE heart and ONE mind, across the globe, with this one world religion.

On a global political (or religious) level, they utilize the media to spread their lies and deceptions in order to deceive and to convince naïve minds. Because so many people regularly watch TV, and especially believe what they see on TV news (or on the internet), they are able to deceive people by the thousands or by the millions, or even greater. TV, especially, can be very hypnotic, and thus is one of Satan’s avenues for tricking people into accepting lies as truth, and truth as lies. So, we need to be very discerning. As followers of Jesus, we need to be wise, and not so trusting of humans, but we should take everything to the Lord in prayer, because not everything that appears to be real is real. So many things can be faked now days.

Basically, these enemies are out to destroy us either through trickery, deception, manipulation, setting traps for us to fall into, or via outright persecution, abuse, false accusations, imprisonment or through death. Their goal is to stop the spreading of the gospel as was taught by Jesus and by his NT apostles. If they can’t stop us one way, they will try another until something works, or until they kill us.

Yet, we have no reason to fear any of them, because we know that our Lord is completely sovereign (in control) over all he has made, and over every power known to man. They may try to take advantage of us, but we don’t let them, and, instead, we turn to our Lord for help, for counsel, for wisdom and for discernment to know truth from error, and to know how to respond to the enemy’s attempts to take us down. We must rely on the Lord for our strength, and, if need be, we must stand alone against the mass of voices which may try to convince us to retreat. We have to stand on truth even if all forsake us and betray us, for the Lord is our light and salvation, not man.

Seek His Face (vv. 7-10)

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.

When our enemies come against us, which they will, instead of responding with our flesh, we need to seek God’s face. We need to cry out to God in our suffering, trusting him to give us all we need to endure and to keep pressing on. Yet, there will be times when we may not get an immediate reply to our cries for help, and we may even feel as though God is absent from us, but those are lies of the enemy to try to make us afraid. We must know that our God will never abandon us. He will never leave us or forsake us, so we should not fear those times when it feels like he is not near us, but we must persevere in what we know, and keep seeking his face. Then, we must trust him, rest in him, believe him, hold on to HIM, and not give up. Although others will forsake us and betray us, our Lord will take us under his wings.

A Level Path (vv. 11-14)

Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

So, how to respond to the enemy’s attacks against us? Instead of being afraid, we turn to the Lord, and we ask him to teach us his ways and to lead us on a level path. A level path is upright, honest, pure, and unadulterated by the world. Instead of yielding to these voices, which try to talk us into compromising our faith, we set our faces like flint, and we determine to keep on walking in the Spirit in following our Lord in his service, despite all opposition waged against us. We cannot let false accusations, tricks, traps or persecutions break us, but instead we must commit our lives to our Lord, pray to him for help, and trust him to work in and through our lives.

And, we must continue to hold on to the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus, keeping our eyes focused on Jesus and on the goal that is set before us, which is to live holy lives, pleasing to God, and which is to be the Lord’s servants and witnesses in ministering his grace and his love to all people. And, when things get tough, which they will, we must wait for God to move on our behalf, be strong in the Lord, take courage, and wait on the Lord.

Draw Me Close To You / Donnie McClurkin

Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again…

You’re all I want
You’re all I’ve ever needed…
Help me know You are near

The Great Motivator

Sunday, April 23, 2017, 8:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Lifted Our Burdens.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 8:1-13 (NIV).

Saul Approved (v. 1a)

And Saul approved of their killing him.

When Stephen was persecuted, and then killed for his faith in Jesus Christ, Saul (later called Paul) was standing there giving approval to his death. Yet, Saul was a Pharisee, a leader in the temple, and a follower of God, or at least he thought he was following God, and that what he was doing was right. Yet, he was deceived until Jesus opened his blinded eyes and turned him from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that he might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (Act. 26:16-18).

Satan is deceiving many minds of people today, too, and convincing them that evil is good and that good is evil. He is convincing them that Jesus Christ died merely to take away their punishment for sin and to give them the hope of heaven when they die, but that nothing at all is required of them – no death to sin, no repentance, no obedience to Christ and to his Word, and no submission to Christ as Lord (owner-master) of our lives. He is convincing them that once we are saved that God doesn’t even see our present sins anymore, but that all he even sees is Christ’s righteousness. Truly, if we have trusted in Jesus Christ with God-given faith, Christ’s righteousness has been credited to our accounts, but if God no longer sees us sinning, then he is not all seeing and all knowing, and that makes liars out of the NT apostles who repeatedly remind the believers to stop sinning against Jesus and to obey their Lord who saved them from bondage to sin.

Satan is also deceiving many minds of people by convincing them that if anyone is teaching repentance (turning from sin to God), obedience to Christ, death to sin and living to righteousness, as required for our eternal security, then they are liars and deceivers because, according to them, we are teaching works-based salvation. Yet, if this is what we are teaching, then we are teaching what Jesus taught and what his NT apostles taught, so did they teach works-based salvation? No! They didn’t. So, then, neither are we. We are teaching the truth of the gospel, and Satan doesn’t like it, and so he is accusing us in order to discredit us and the full gospel message (the whole counsel of God) so that he may lead people to believe that they can remain in slavery to sin, and still have their hope of heaven. But, that is wrong.
[See: Lu. 9:23-25; Jn. 6:35-66; Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; 2 Co. 5:15, 21; Eph. 4:17-24; Gal. 2:20; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24-25; & 1 Jn. 1:5-9.]

Great Persecution (vv. 1b-3)

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

This is happening today, and at the hands of many who call themselves Christians or ministers of the gospel or leaders within the church. Men who are clever enchanters have convinced many of these church leaders that certain individuals with “strong convictions” are to be discarded while they are to encourage the world to participate with them in their gatherings. They have been convinced, of men, that they are to dilute the gospel message of salvation and to ignore the bulk of teaching in the New Testament concerning our eternal life with God and what constitutes the kind of faith which saves us, and to, instead, use only a few select scriptures which say what they want to believe, because they take them out of context.

So, if anyone does teach what Jesus and what his NT apostles taught regarding our salvation, sin, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, they are being targeted for expulsion, church discipline, rebuke, censure, rejection and persecution in many “Christian” circles, including within many of today’s institutional churches, which are following the gospel according to men. And, in countries outside the USA, many are even being put in prison, tortured or are being put to death for their testimonies for Jesus Christ and for his gospel, and because they stand on the word of truth and do not compromise with the world. And, this is coming to America, too, because God’s word teaches us that this is what we can expect if we are following our Lord.

The Word Preached (vv. 4-8)

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.

Persecution, though, is not to be thought of as a bad thing, for it often produces revival in the church and many people coming to Christ. As well, when people are persecuted for their faith they tend to get more serious about God and about getting the gospel of Jesus Christ out to a world dying in their sins. Pain is a great motivator, in other words. Without divine discipline we may have the tendency to become complacent and lazy about our spiritual walks, or to get distracted by the things of this world so that we don’t follow our Lord in obedience nor take his word seriously and to heart.

Changed Lives (vv. 9-13)

Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

Because the church was persecuted, too, the people were scattered, and what that meant was the gospel spread even further, so that more people heard the message of salvation from sin and trusted in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives.

I believe one of the reasons the vast majority of Christians in America are not busy sharing Christ with people is because we have too much comfort here. Many American Christians are far too easily distracted by the offerings of this world, too, and will spend hours upon hours per day entertaining themselves while they spend minimal time in the Word and in prayer, if at all. Too many are worshipers of TV and the internet, too, and allow them to be their gods instead of God. They give much more time and attention to their smart phones and to their electronic devices than they do to hearing God’s voice speaking to their hearts and then obeying what he shows them.

So, some Christian persecution in America would be a good thing, because it would mean that people will have to come out of their comfort zones and they will have to make a choice as to whom they will serve – the flesh and the devil or God and his Spirit. There will be no more room for middle ground or for riding the fence. Either they will have to commit their lives to Jesus Christ and to following him in obedience and in surrender to his will, or they will reject and deny Jesus as their Lord, and thus take the mark of the beast on their lives. But, when this happens, I believe we will see in the world, and in America, Christians being revived, the gospel being preached far and wide, and many people coming to faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord (owner-master), and as their Savior.

He Lifted Our Burdens / An Original Work / February 15, 2014

Based off Isaiah 9:2-7

People walk in darkness.
They abide in their sin.
It has power o’er them.
True belief escapes them.

Jesus Christ came to save them.
He gave His life up for them;
Crucified; died for our sin,
So we might be forgiven,
And have life up in heaven.

Many come to know Him.
God’s love now o’erflows them.
They rejoice in vict’ry.
Their sin is but hist’ry.

We were once bound in slav’ry.
Jesus lifted our burdens;
Set us now free from Satan,
So we now walk in freedom.
Sin has no more dominion.

Praise be to our Savior!
He showed us His favor.
He took all our burdens;
Cast them all upon Him.

He is our mediator;
The Light which shines in darkness.
Counselor in our troubles;
He gives peace now in our hearts;
Joy which is everlasting.

Despised and Rejected

Friday, March 31, 2017, 2:53 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 53 (ESV).

A Man of Sorrows (vv. 1-3)

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
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.

A lot of people today picture Jesus as someone everybody loved, so if we are like Jesus, people should love us, too. They focus on the fact that he healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, comforted the sorrowful, fed the hungry, and encouraged the timid. Yet, they often neglect to mention that he confronted people with their sins, and that he warned of divine judgment, and of sins’ consequences. He called, too, for repentance, obedience, self-denial and death to sin, as well as he promised hope and healing for the penitent. So, if we are like Jesus, shouldn’t we be doing these things, too? Yet, if we are, we, as well, will be despised and rejected of men. And, people will hide their faces from us, too, and will have nothing to do with us.

Our Griefs and Sorrows (vv. 4-6)

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

When we are born into this world, we are born with sin natures, in the image (likeness) of Adam, separate from God, and without hope (Ro. 5:12-19; 1 Co. 15:21-22, 42-49). Because of our sin, we cannot attain, by human effort, God’s divine approval. We will always come up short (Ro. 3:23). So, God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ (God, the Son) to the earth to take on human form, to suffer as we suffer, and to be tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He sent him, too, to die on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). When Jesus died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him. When the Father resurrected him from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, Satan, hell and death, on our behalf.

Jesus’ purpose in dying on a cross for our sins was that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who walk (in lifestyle) no longer according to the flesh, but according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God. When we put our trust in Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord (owner-master) of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 8:1-14; 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).

Both in his life and in his death Jesus bore our griefs and our sorrows. Because he took on human flesh, he experienced what we experience, so he is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses. He had to do this in order that he might become “a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17; 4:15). So, when we go through difficult times on this earth, and when we are hated and rejected of humans, and when we experience much sorrow and pain, we have a Lord who has been through that, so he feels what we feel. Not only does he feel our pain, but he is also our comforter, our strength and our healer. He will give us all we need to endure and to remain faithful to him.

Oppressed and Afflicted (vv. 7-9)

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Now, Jesus was not always silent in the face of much opposition. Even at his arrest and trial he was not completely silent. He was still bold in some of the things which he said (See: Jn. 18:1-19:11). Yet, in some instances he was silent, and he did not say anything (See: Matt. 26:63; 27:12-14). He certainly had the wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep silent, and we would all do well to learn from him such wisdom and discernment.

Yet, I take his silence to mean much more than merely lack of words or refusal to speak, but rather as an attitude of submission to the Father, and to the cross, and to the task which was before him, which was to die for our sins. He did not resist this, or fight against it, although, in the flesh, he definitely struggled with it (See: Matt. 26:36-46).

And, we should respond in like manner when we are also mistreated, judged unfairly, and falsely accused. It is ok to cry out to God in our pain, and even to pray for deliverance. It is ok to hurt. And, there are times when it is appropriate to defend ourselves against what is false and what is abusive, i.e. to speak the truth in love. Yet, daily we must surrender ourselves to the cross of Christ, and be willing to suffer injustice, if need be, for the sake of Christ and for his gospel message, and for the salvation of human lives.

Numbered with Transgressors (vv. 10-12)

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Is it God’s will that we should suffer? Sometimes, yes, but he also gives relief from suffering. Is it even God’s will that we should be persecuted, hated and rejected because of our faith, and because of our testimonies for Jesus Christ and for this gospel? Yes! [See: Ro. 5:3-5; Phil. 3:7-11; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:12-17; Jas. 1:2-4; Matt. 5:10-12; 2 Co. 1:3-11; Heb. 12:3-12.]

Just as Jesus had to go through all of that suffering, pain and anguish, so that you and I could be delivered out of slavery to sin, and so we could be given new lives in Christ Jesus, to be lived to his righteousness, we, as well, must go through difficult times. Sometimes it is for our own purification, maturity, and humility, that we might learn patience and perseverance, and to teach us to rely on God, and not on ourselves. Other times, or even at the same time, it is for the benefit of others that we must suffer, because then God is able to mold us into the people he wants us to be, to be used of him as his servants and witnesses in taking the love of Christ and the truth of his gospel to those to whom he would have us minister his love and his grace.

One of the most difficult of sufferings we will be called upon to bear is to be falsely accused of things we did not do, and to be considered as evil when we have done nothing to wrong anyone. Imagine, then, a holy God being treated as though he is a common criminal when he was sinless, instead. We are not sinless, although our sins are forgiven, if we have trusted in Jesus to be our Savior and Lord. Yet, part of persecution is to be falsely accused, and to have people think evil of us when we are not guilty of evil acts against others. So, we should not be too quick to judge others on the testimony of someone other than the person himself (or herself), because many people’s reputations are ruined by the gossip of hateful and spiteful people.

Yet, if in our suffering, it produces a harvest of righteousness both in our own lives and in the lives of others, we are blessed. Jesus had to die, but his death resulted in our salvation from sin. Sometimes we will be called upon to suffer injustice for the sake of Christ and his gospel, yet it may well produce not only holiness in our own lives, but also in the lives of others, so that is a good thing. If, through our suffering, we are able to impart to others the love, grace, mercy, kindness, righteousness and justice of our God, and others are then able to turn their hearts to the Lord, to follow him in his ways, is it not worth it to suffer for righteousness’ sake? I think it is.

Near the Cross / Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane

Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Sorrowful unto Repentance

Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 12:33 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Very Best Friend.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 7:2-13a (NASB).

Make Room for Us (vv. 2-4)

Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one. I do not speak to condemn you, for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together. Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.

When we serve God as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we share with others the truths of God’s Word, there will always be people who will not like us, and who will slander us and gossip about us, and even turn away from us, because they don’t like something we said, hopefully only for the reason that we told them the truth, and they didn’t want to hear it.

“Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16).

The sad reality of it all, though, is that those who reject the gospel message, and who slander its messengers, are not confined to just those outside the church, but they are often, more than not, those who claim to know Jesus as Lord of their lives, and who are active within the gatherings of the church, some of whom are even the church’s leaders. More and more – as so much of the church today has embraced the world and its philosophies, values, and morals – many of those who profess Christ have now developed a low tolerance for the truth, and would prefer, rather, to gather around them those who would preach feel-good messages to tickle their itching ears.

I Don’t Regret It (vv. 5-9)

For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more. For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.

When we speak the truth of God’s words to people, even if we do so with great gentleness, and sensitivity, yet in the power of the Spirit of God, there will always be those who will hate us, reject us, falsely accuse us, persecute us and say all manner of evil against us. And, if we are loving and caring people at all, this will hurt us, especially if those who turn against us were once our close friends and companions. Thus, it can be very lonely, at times, sharing with people what most of them do not want to hear. Yet, that is what Jesus did, which is why they killed him. Still, our Lord will never leave us or forsake us, and he will give us all we need to keep on sharing the truth. He will encourage our hearts, and he will fill us with his peace.

So many times, if you are one who speaks the truth in love, in the power and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, you will be accused of being hateful, bigoted, a divider of people, a disunifier, legalistic, and mean. People will even think you get enjoyment out of hurting others or that you are callous and that you don’t care how others react to your words. There are people like this, I know, so partly this is understandable that people may react this way. Yet, if we truly love God and others, and thus we speak only what God leads us to speak, and for the ultimate benefit of those who would listen, our purpose in speaking the truth in love is not to harm others, but to help them to victory in Christ over sin, which has gotten a hold on their lives once more, or to free them from believing and/or practicing what is false.

So, it isn’t that we are insensitive, or that we are callous and we don’t care about what we say or how that may impact others, but it is that we love so deeply that we are willing to have others think and speak evil against us in order to see people repent of their sins and turn (or return) to genuine faith in Jesus Christ and to walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh.

Godly Sorrow (vv. 10-13a)

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. For this reason we have been comforted.

Not all sorrow over sin leads to genuine repentance, though. Confession of sin is not the same as repentance. A person can confess with great sorrow of heart his or her sins, and even with tears, and yet never change, because there has not been a change of heart. They just felt badly that they sinned, or that they got caught, but not badly enough to turn away from it and to follow Jesus in obedience, instead. So, that is considered worldly sorrow, and it leads to death (in our sins and bound for eternity in hell).

On the other hand, godly sorrow leads to genuine repentance, i.e. to a change of heart and mind about sin that results in a change of behavior, and this leads to salvation and eternal life with God. True repentance involves turning away from sin and turning to God to follow him in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives. And, it reveals itself to be genuine by the actions that follow the confession of sin, i.e. we are to produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt. 3:8). What this means is that, as we walk in the Spirit, and no longer according to the flesh, we will be putting to death, by the Spirit, the misdeeds of our sinful flesh (See: Ro. 8:1-14). Daily we will die to sin and self and follow Jesus in obedience (Lu. 9:23-25), not in sinless perfection, but in consistency, persistence and in lifestyle.

So, for those of us who regularly share the gospel of salvation and the truths of God’s Word with others, for their benefit, and for their deliverance, and for their spiritual growth and maturity in Christ, we find great joy and comfort when we learn that those to whom we speak (or write) are being benefited, in that the Word of Truth and the Holy Spirit’s power is producing change in their hearts and lives. And, in that we rejoice!

And, yet, even if we do not gain such knowledge in this life, and even if we must suffer false accusations, hostility, rejection, persecution, and the like, because we share the truth of the Word of God so that others will be saved, or so that they will walk in victory over sin, we will continue, because we know that we are obeying our Lord, and because we love God and we love people, and we want to see them come to Christ and to walk in his holiness.

Thus, we will find our comfort in the Lord in knowing that his Word will not return void, but will accomplish his purposes for which it is sent. And, we will find in him all we need in the way of friendship, companionship, love and fellowship, and we will trust him to provide for us all that we need, and all that he has for us to keep on being his servants and witnesses in spreading the gospel of our salvation so that many will be saved and will walk with Him.

My Very Best Friend
Ron Hamilton – Patch the Pirate

Jesus is closer than a brother.
Every moment he is near.
I know he never will forsake me.
He has conquered all my fear.
Jesus is closer than a brother.
On his love I can depend.
King of kings, Lord of lords,
Conquering Son, oh, all of these,
He’s my very best friend.