Tag Archives: church

Alistair Begg – A Mournful List of Honors

 

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? Psalm 4:2

An instructive writer has made a mournful list of the honors that the blinded people of Israel awarded to their long-expected King.

1. They gave Him a procession of honor, in which Roman legionaries, Jewish priests, and men and women took part, He Himself bearing His cross. This is the triumph that the world awards to Him who comes to overthrow man’s greatest enemy. Derisive shouts are His only acclamations, and cruel taunts His only songs of praise.

2. They presented Him with the wine of honor. Instead of a golden cup of generous wine, they offered Him the criminal’s anesthetic potion, which He refused in order that he might, in all its unmitigated horror, taste death; and afterwards when He cried, “I thirst,” they gave Him vinegar mixed with gall, thrust to His mouth upon a sponge. What wretched, detestable inhospitality to the King’s Son.

3. He was provided with a guard of honor, who showed their esteem of Him by gambling over His clothes, which they had seized as their treasure. The bodyguard of Jesus was a quaternion of brutal gamblers.

4. A throne of honor was found for Him upon the bloody tree. The cross was, in fact, the full expression of the world’s feeling toward Him. “There,” they seemed to say, “you Son of God, this is the manner in which God Himself should be treated, could we reach Him.”

5. The title of honor was nominally “King of the Jews,” but this was distinctly repudiated. They really called Him “King of thieves” by preferring Barabbas and by placing Jesus in the place of highest shame between two thieves. In this way His glory was turned into shame by the sons of men, but it shall nevertheless still gladden the eyes of saints and angels, world without end.

The tomb of Jesus – C.H. Spurgeon

 

“Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Matthew 28:6

Suggested Further Reading: John 20:1-10

Come, Christian, for angels are the porters to unbar the door; come, for a cherub is thy messenger to usher thee into the death-place of death himself. Nay, start not from the entrance; let not the darkness frighten thee; the vault is not damp with the vapours of death, nor does the air contain anything of contagion. Come, for it is a pure and healthy place. Fear not to enter that tomb. I will admit that catacombs are not the places where we, who are full of joy, would love to go. There is something gloomy and offensive about a vault. There are noxious smells of corruption; often pestilence is born where a dead body has lain; but fear it not, Christian, for Christ was not left in hell,in hades,neither did his body see corruption. Come, there is no foul smell, but rather a perfume. Step in here, and, if thou didst ever breathe the gales of Ceylon, or winds from the groves of Arabia, thou shalt find them far excelled by that sweet holy fragrance left by the blessed body of Jesus, that alabaster vase which once held divinity, and was rendered sweet and precious thereby. Think not thou shalt find anything obnoxious to thy senses. Corruption Jesus never saw; no worms ever devoured his flesh; no rottenness ever entered into his bones; he saw no corruption. Three days he slumbered, but not long enough to putrify; he soon arose, perfect as when he entered, uninjured as when his limbs were composed for their slumber. Come then, Christian, summon up thy thoughts, gather all thy powers; here is a sweet invitation, let me press it again. Let me lead thee by the hand of meditation, my brother; let me take thee by the arm, and let me again say to thee, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”

For meditation: “Come, see …. Go …and tell.” (Matthew 28:6,7).

Sermon no. 18

7 April (Preached 8 April 1855—Easter)

John MacArthur – Maintaining Spiritual Sensitivity

 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

Satan desires to desensitize Christians to the heinousness of sin. He wants you to stop mourning over sin and start enjoying it. Impossible? Many who once thought so have fallen prey to its power. It usually doesn’t happen all at once. In fact, the process can be slow and subtle– almost imperceptible. But the results are always tragic.

How can you remain alert to the dangers of sin and protect yourself from compromise? First, be aware of your sin. David said, “My sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). Peter said to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). Paul called himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Those men shared a common awareness of their own sinfulness and it drove them to God for forgiveness and cleansing.

Second, remember the significance of the cross. If you allow a pattern of sin to develop in your life, you’ve forgotten the enormous price Christ paid to free you from its bondage.

Third, realize the effect sin has on others. The psalmist said, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Thy law” (Ps. 119:136). Jesus mourned over Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37). Your heart should ache for those enslaved to sin.

Finally, eliminate anything that hinders your sensitivity to sin, such as deliberately sinning, rejecting God’s forgiveness, being proud, presuming on God’s grace, or taking sin lightly. Such things will quickly dull your spiritual senses and give Satan the opportunity to lead you into greater sin.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God that He brings comfort and happiness to those who mourn over their sin.

Ask Him to guard your heart from anything that will diminish your sensitivity to the awfulness of sin.

For Further Study:

Read 1 Samuel 15.

What was Saul’s sin?

Did he mourn over his sin? Explain.

 

Joyce Meyer – Imperfect, but Perfectly Loved

 

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! —1 John 4:18

We cannot love ourselves unless we realize how much God loves us, and if we don’t love ourselves, we cannot love other people. We cannot maintain good, healthy relationships without this foundation of love in our lives.

By the time I met the man I have been married to since 1967, I was desperate for love but did not know how to receive it, even when it was available. My husband, Dave, really did love me, but I found myself constantly deflecting his love due to the way I felt about myself down deep inside. As I entered into a serious and committed relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, I began to learn about God’s love. But it took a long time to fully accept it. When you feel unlovable, it is hard to get it through your head and down into your heart that God loves you perfectly—even though you are not perfect and never will be as long as you are on the earth.

There is only one thing you can do with a free gift: receive it and be grateful. I urge you to take a step of faith right now and say out loud, “God loves me unconditionally, and I receive His love!” You may have to say it a hundred times a day, like I did for months, before it finally sinks in, but when it does it will be the happiest day of your life. To know that you are loved by someone you can trust is the best and most comforting feeling in the world. God will not only love you that way, but He will also provide other people who will truly love you. When He does provide, be sure to remain thankful for those people. Having people who genuinely love you is one of the most precious gifts in the world.

Trust in Him: You won’t be able to receive God’s love until you trust Him. Take a step of faith right now and say out loud, “God loves me unconditionally, and I receive His love!” Say it as many times as you need to until you believe it.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – One More Reason to Praise

 

“His presence within us is God’s guarantee that He really will give us all that He promised; and the Spirit’s seal upon us means that God has already purchased us and that He guarantees to bring us to Himself. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God” (Ephesians 1:14).

To me, this wonderful verse means that, as children of God, we have the ability to obey God’s laws if we are filled continually with the Holy Spirit and refuse to obey the old evil nature within us.

In order to live the supernatural life which is available to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we must know our rights as children of God. We need to know our spiritual heritage. We must know how to draw upon the inexhaustible, supernatural resources of God’s love, power, forgiveness and abundant grace.

The first step is to learn everything we can about God. We also need to know about the nature of man and why he behaves as he does. The best way to learn who God is, who man is and about our rights as children of God is to spend much time – even at the sacrifice of other needs and demands on our schedules – in reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on the Word of God, and in prayer and witnessing.

Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, “For His Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts, and tells us that we really are God’s children. And since we are His children, we will share His treasures – for all God gives to His Son Jesus is now ours too. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering” (Romans 8:16,17).

Bible Reading: Ephesians1:15-23

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I will acknowledge God’s presence, believe His promises and surrender to His special will for me, and thus will I praise Him throughout the day.

Presidential Prayer Team G.C. – Spring to Life

 

Any day now, gardeners everywhere will develop a fever – spring fever, that is. It’s that special time when gardening gloves whisper your name and the grass winks as you walk by. Many have an overwhelming desire to dig, plant, water, and nurture what lies dormant and grey into thriving life, beauty and aroma.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3

In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is likened to a divine gardener. At times, the seeds of faith may be lying quietly in your heart enduring the winter of a seemingly insurmountable disappointment or challenge. Yet when you respond to the voice encouraging you to pray, read Scripture or worship in song, you suddenly sense resurrection and find the hope of new life in your heart.

That same Spirit is moving across America today…seeking people of faith who are willing to let the divine gardener cultivate the soil of their devotion. Will you faithfully plant the seeds of hope for the next generation of citizens? The prayers you offer for them today will be the blessings they see tomorrow. Intercede, too, for the nation’s leaders – that they would experience a revived desire to know God and the life He brings.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 92:8-15

Charles Stanley – Expressions of God’s Goodness

 

Psalm 103

We often think of God’s goodness in terms of our tangible blessings and upbeat events. While these surely are expressions of divine goodness, we should not interpret God’s love only by how He demonstrates it in positive circumstances. We often experience His goodness best in our darkest hours—in those situations, He shows Himself to be good in deeper ways, as He alone can (2 Cor. 12:9).

One way the Lord expresses goodness is through His mercy—the tender-hearted compassion He has for us. In the Bible, mercy is usually mentioned in the context of God’s concern for people who are needy or suffering. We constantly see Jesus filled with compassion and ministering because of this mercy (Mark 1:41). He healed many people who cried out to Him for mercy because they recognized their neediness (Matt. 9:27-29).

Remember, it wasn’t the self-righteous Pharisee who was blessed, but the sinful tax collector who realized that he didn’t deserve God’s favor and begged for mercy (Luke 18:9-14). In response to our distress, God offers comfort, not because we’ve earned it, but because He is good. Also keep in mind that through Jesus’ worthiness and sacrifice, all who trust Him as Savior have great worth in God’s eyes(2 Cor. 5:21).

Another expression of our heavenly Father’s goodness is grace. A just God cannot overlook sin, yet because of His infinite goodness and love, He chose to pay our penalty for us. We have access to God’s grace only through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. Every day, we should remind ourselves of the Father’s extraordinary goodness to us and thank Him for it.

Our Daily Bread — Unseen Danger

 

James 1:13-25

Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. —James 1:14

When I was a young child, our family escaped near tragedy. Most of the main appliances in the house, as well as the furnace, were fueled by natural gas, but a small leak in one of the gas lines put our lives at risk. As the gas poured into our little house, our family was overcome by the lethal fumes and we lost consciousness. Had we not been discovered by a neighbor who happened to stop by for a visit, we all could have been killed by this dangerous, unseen enemy.

As followers of Christ, we can also find ourselves surrounded by unseen dangers. The toxic realities of temptation and the weaknesses of our own human frailty can endanger our lives and relationships. Unlike the natural gas in my childhood home, however, these unseen dangers do not come from outside of us—they reside within us. James wrote, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14).

Our natural tendency to sin, compounded by blind spots that prevent us from seeing our own weaknesses, can lead to toxic choices that ruin us. It is only by submitting to God as He shows us our hearts in His Word (vv.23-25) that we can live a life that pleases the Master. —Bill Crowder

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;

Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move;

Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,

And make me love Thee as I ought to love. —Croly

The unseen Spirit of God is the greatest protection against sin’s unseen dangers.

Alistair Begg – Outside the Camp

 

Therefore let us go to him outside the camp. Hebrews 13:13

Jesus, bearing His cross, went to suffer outside the gate. The Christian’s reason for leaving the camp of the world’s sin and religion is not because he loves to be isolated, but because Jesus did so; and the disciple must follow his Master. Christ was “not of the world.” His life and His testimony were a constant protest against conformity with the world. Although He displayed overflowing affection for men, He was still separate from sinners.

In the same way Christ’s people must “go to him.” They must take their position “outside the camp,” as witness-bearers for the truth. They must be prepared to walk the straight and narrow path. They must have bold, unflinching, lion-like hearts, loving Christ first, and His truth next, and Christ and His truth more than all the world. Jesus desires His people to “go…outside the camp” for their own sanctification.

You cannot grow in grace to any high degree while you are conformed to the world. The life of separation may be a path of sorrow, but it is the highway of safety; and though the separated life may be painful and make every day a battle, yet it is a happy life after all. No joy can excel that of the soldier of Christ: Jesus reveals Himself so graciously and gives such sweet refreshment that the warrior feels more calm and peace in his daily strife than others in their hours of rest.

The highway of holiness is the highway of communion. It is in this way we shall hope to win the crown if we are enabled by divine grace faithfully to follow Christ “outside the camp.” The crown of glory will follow the cross of separation. A moment’s shame will be well rewarded by eternal honor; a little while of witness-bearing will seem nothing when we are forever with the Lord.

 

John MacArthur – Mourning over Your Sin

 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

Human sorrow is mourning over some tragic or disappointing turn of events. At such times believers are assured of God’s sustaining and comforting grace (2 Cor. 1:3-4). But when Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4), He was referring to godly sorrow, which is mourning over your sin.

“Mourn” in Matthew 5:4 translates the strongest Greek word used in the New Testament to express grief. It is often used of the passionate lament expressed over the loss of a loved one (e.g., Mark 16:10). David was expressing that kind of sorrow over his sin when he wrote, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4). His grief and despair made him physically ill.

At that point David wasn’t a happy person, but the blessing godly sorrow brings isn’t found in the sorrow itself, but in God’s response to it. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “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. . . . 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” (2 Cor. 7:9-10, emphasis added). Godly sorrow is the path to repentance and forgiveness.

After David confessed his sin he proclaimed with great joy, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (vv. 1-2). When you understand that your sins are forgiven, you are a happy person!

How do you deal with your sins? Do you deny and try to hide them, or do you mourn over them and confess them (cf. Prov. 28:13)?

Suggestions for Prayer:

If you have allowed some sin to rob you of your happiness, don’t let it continue a moment longer. Like David, confess your sin and know the joy of forgiveness.

For Further Study:

Read Luke 15:11-24. How did the prodigal son deal with his sin?

Joyce Meyer – he Power of the Blood

 

The blood shall be for a token or sign to you upon [the doorposts of] the houses where you are, [that] when I see the blood, I will pass over you… —Exodus 12:13

The miraculous events of the first Passover illustrate the power of the blood. It is an amazing foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus which gives us life. In this story, an angel of death was going to pass through the land of Egypt to kill the firstborn sons in every household. But God instructed His people to apply the blood of lambs to the doorposts of their homes so the angel of death would see it and pass over their houses or families.

Today, Jesus is our Passover Lamb. He shed His blood to set us free from the curse of sin and death. I do not think we fully avail ourselves of all the benefits of the blood of Jesus, as we should. I believe that we need to be diligent to apply the blood over our lives by faith and seal the doors of our lives through which Satan can gain access to us.

The Israelites had to go to a lot of trouble to get the blood on their doorposts. They had to kill the lambs, skin them, remove the blood and put it into containers; they had to get some hyssop (a brush-like plant), dip it in the blood and put the blood on their doorposts. That could not have been a neat, clean endeavor! But they did it, and they did it by faith because God told them to. The Israelites had to apply the blood of the lamb physically, but we can do it by faith. Jesus is the Lamb of God, and, as believers, we can apply the power of His shed blood to our lives by simply believing in it.

Love God Today: “Thank You, Jesus, for being my Passover lamb.”

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Reap What You Sow

 

“Don’t be misled; remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows!” (Galatians 6:7).

Steve had just been introduced to this great and exciting law of sowing and reaping. “Is it really true,” he asked, “that I will always reap what I sow – and more than I sow – good or bad?”

I was able to assure him, from the authority of Scripture, from experience of 36 years of walking with Christ and by observing closely the lives of many thousands of Christians with whom I have counseled and worked, that the law of sowing and reaping is just as true and inviolate as the law of gravity.

If you want to judge a man, an American humorist once said, you should not look at him in the face but get behind him and see what he is looking at, what he is sowing.

For example, is he looking at God with reverence – or with no deference at all? Does he really believe God means what He says?

A student once asked, “If I give my life to Christ, do I become a puppet?”

The answer is a resounding no! We never become puppets. We have the right of choice; we are free moral agents. God’s Word assures us that He guides and encourages us, but we must act as a result of our own self-will. God does not force us to make decisions.

The more we understand the love, the wisdom, the sovereignty, the grace and power of God, the more we will want to trust Him with every detail of our lives. The secret of the supernatural life is to keep Christ on the throne of our lives and delight ourselves in Him as Lord.

We fail in the Christian life when we, as a deliberate act of our will, choose to disobey the leading of the Holy Spirit.

It is a tragedy of the human will that we often think we have a better way than God has for living the Christian life. But do not deceive yourself or allow Satan to mislead you: God’s way is best!

Bible Reading: Galatians 6:6-10

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I will seek to sow seeds of love and kindness and faith knowing that as a result I will reap God’s best for my life.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – Bountiful Harvest

 

In 2012, the United States experienced its worst drought in 25 years. The lack of snowfall did more than disappoint schoolchildren; it discouraged farmers as well. The shortage of melted water into the soil had a catastrophic effect on crops. Without life-giving water, many crops failed to produce, therefore driving up the cost of food for consumers.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season. Psalm 1:3

Water is essential for producing a harvest. The Bible tells you, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord…he is like a tree planted by water…and is not anxious in the year of drought.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8) The author of today’s verse understood this concept. Those who drink the “living water” offered from the Lord never fail to bear fruit in season.

While America may be experiencing a spiritual drought, there is water to be found. When you trust in God, you plant yourself by a stream of vibrant water and will produce wonderful things in your life. Through prayer, ask God to help you stay rooted in Him. Then pray for the president and vice president to be grounded in Christ, and intercede for America to have a bountiful harvest as they and other leaders trust in God.

Recommended Reading: Jeremiah 17:5-10

Greg Laurie – Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

 

If I decided how my day were to go, I would never write in “crisis.” I would never write, “Get sick” here or “Have my tire go flat” there, or “Have this unexpected disaster take place.” I would just write in all the good stuff. I would plan for everything to go my way. There would be no traffic on the freeways. It would always be green lights and blue skies.

But guess what? We’re not in charge of our lives. God is.

I love what the prophet once admitted to the Lord: “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23, NKJV).

The fact is, God will allow so-called “bad things” to happen to us in the course of our days. But as time goes by, you will find that the significant things you learn in life didn’t really come from the good times and the mountaintop experiences. They came from those times of crisis in which you were more dependent on God. Many of the most difficult days will, in retrospect, turn out to be unbelievably valuable, because it is through those so-called “bad times” that you will learn some of life’s most important lessons.

The things we experience are not random events that float in and out of our lives. Rather, they are specific events that have been chosen by God and are timely and purposeful. This means the good things as well as the bad things. It means the wonderful, happy times of life as well as the dark, difficult days.

When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you come under His protective care. God is fully aware of everything that happens to you, and thankfully He is never asleep on the job. He pays careful attention to the smallest details of your life and is in complete in control of all circumstances that surround you. He knows what’s happening in your life right now—knows it better than you do. And His presence and provision will be all you need to make it through.

Charles Stanley – Trusting God in All Situations

 

Romans 8:28-29

Psalm 34:7 promises that every believer is encircled with God’s presence. We are also assured that even the hardest parts of life will be woven into His plan and nothing can touch us without His permission. That’s good news.

The idea that God is present in everything often brings up a lot of questions in the Christian’s mind. For example:

• Does the Lord cause people to sin? God never initiates sin, nor does He lure us to transgress. His purposes are to rescue us from sin’s power (Col. 1:13) and transform us into Jesus’ likeness (Rom. 8:29).

• How can the Lord use our sin for good? Through the times we fail, He will reveal to us our true nature—that is, our weaknesses, faults, and pride. His Spirit will convict us of wrongdoing and lead us to true repentance (John 16:8). Furthermore, He will teach us the consequences of disobedience and the wonders of His forgiving nature.

• Is God present in the lives of those who are not in His family? The Lord is involved with unbelievers, but in a different way: He continually extends His love in order to convict them of sin and their need for a Savior. However, He does not ignore their rebellion (Rom. 1:18; 2:2).

Now consider the life of Jesus Christ. Though our Savior was without sin, He suffered in many ways during His earthly life because of others’ spiritual rebellion, ignorance, and failures. But notice how the heavenly Father used His Son’s suffering for our good and His glory.

The Holy Spirit is willing to teach us more about this important topic. So request His guidance. Whenever you open the Bible, come with an open mind, and be ready to align your thinking with God’s truth.

Our Daily Bread — No Fine Print

 

Deuteronomy 30:11-20

For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. —Deuteronomy 30:11

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Missy Sullivan noted that many user agreements, warranties, and disclaimers that come with products are nearly unreadable. Intentionally set in very small type, they actually discourage people from understanding them. Because of this, many people don’t read all the terms of contracts before signing them. A university professor of graphic communication pointed to a 32-page user agreement that came with his new smartphone, and said of the company, “They don’t want you to read it.”

In contrast, the Lord is always seeking to communicate with His people in clear and compelling ways, with no attempt to confuse or deceive. When Moses spoke to the Israelites just before they entered the Promised Land, he said, “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. . . . I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deut. 30:11,19).

The Lord wants us to understand His plan and purpose clearly, so that we may love, obey, and cling to Him—for He is our “life and the length of [our] days” (v.20). That’s plain to see. —David McCasland

Father, we want to learn and experience more of who

You are in our relationship with You. Teach us so that

we will grow in our understanding of You and

Your plan for our lives.

There is no fine print in God’s communication with us.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Beautiful Foolishness

 

“I don’t believe in God,” begins Julian Barnes in his book Nothing to Be Frightened Of, “but I miss him.” Though he admits he never had any faith to lose (a “happy atheist” as an Oxford student, Barnes now considers himself an agnostic), he still finds himself dreading the gradual ebbing of Christianity. He misses the sense of purpose that the Christian narrative affords, the sense of wonder and belief that haunts Christian art and architecture. “I miss the God that inspired Italian painting and French stained glass, German music and English chapter houses, and those tumbledown heaps of stone on Celtic headlands which were once symbolic beacons in the darkness and the storm.” Such are the thoughts that surface as Barnes attempts to confront his fears of death and dying in this memoir. He believes Christianity to be a foolish lie, but insists, “[I]t was a beautiful lie.”(1)

There is certainly room for beauty in the description the apostle Paul gave of the gospel. Like Julian, Paul saw its foolishness clearly as well: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). He also noted the weakness inherent in the Christian proclamation. At the heart of the Christian religion is one who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness, and being found in human form” (Philippians 2:7). On this much Paul and Julian agree: however beautiful, foolishness and weakness imbibe the Christian story.

But unlike Julian, Paul saw the foolishness of the gospel as a reason not to disbelieve, but to believe. “For God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). It is indeed difficult to explain why at the heart of the Christian narrative there is a child, why God would answer the dark silence of 400 years with the cry of a displaced and homeless infant, why God would take on the weakness of humanity in an attempt to reach humanity with power, dying as the Messiah. Most of us would know better than to create, or to perpetuate, a story so foolish. However beautiful, the story of Christ is difficult to explain; that is, unless it was not crafted with human wisdom at all.

The story of a Savior coming as an infant in Bethlehem is indeed astonishing, as astonishing an idea as the resurrection. That God chose to come into the world with flesh, flesh that would suffer, is strange and paradoxical, beautiful and foolish. Perhaps it is also wise beyond our comprehension. “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Though the word incarn is now used infrequently, it was once used medically, describing the flesh that grows over a wound. Applied to healing, the word refers to the recovery of wounded flesh due to the presence of new flesh.(2) The Incarnation, the astonishing event at the center of Christianity, the story that has inspired music, architecture, and hope, is God’s way of doing exactly that: Christ comes in flesh to cover our mortal wound. God comes near in body and in weakness to bring healing to weak and wounded bodies. Indeed, God’s own body is mortally wounded only to rise again in flesh and blood. This may seem a foolish mission, but to the blind who receive their sight, the lame who now walk, the diseased who are cleansed, the deaf who hear, the dead who are raised, and the poor who have good news brought to them, it is the most beautiful foolishness ever known.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1)  Julian Barnes, Nothing to Be Frightened Of (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008).

(2)  Encyclopaedia Perthensis; Or Universal Dictionary of the Arts, Sciences, Literature (Edinburgh: John Brown, 1816), 53.

Alistair Begg – Your Cross

 

Laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. Luke 23:26

We see in Simon’s carrying the cross a picture of the work of the church throughout all generations; she is the cross-bearer after Jesus. Notice, Christian, that Jesus does not suffer so as to prevent your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ exempts you from sin, but not from sorrow. Remember that, and expect to suffer. But let us comfort ourselves with this thought, that in our case, as in Simon’s, it is not our cross but Christ’s cross thatwe carry. When you are persecuted for your piety, when your faith is the occasion of cruel jokes, then remember it is not your cross, it is Christ’s cross; and what a privilege it is to carry the cross of our Lord Jesus!

You carry the cross after Him. You have blessed company; your path is marked with the footprints of your Lord. The mark of His blood-red shoulder is upon that heavy burden. It is His cross, and He goes before you as a shepherd goes before his sheep. Take up your cross daily, and follow Him.

Do not forget, also, that you bear this cross in partnership. It is the opinion of some that Simon only carried one end of the cross, and not the whole of it. That is very possible. Christ may have carried the heavier part, against the transverse beam, and Simon may have borne the lighter end. Certainly that is the case with you; you only carry the light end of the cross Christ bore the heavier end.

And remember, though Simon had to bear the cross for only a short while, it gave him lasting honor. Even so, the cross we carry is only for a little while at most, and then we shall receive the crown, the glory. Surely we should love the cross and, instead of shrinking from it, count it very dear, for it works out for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

 

Charles Spurgeon – Justification by grace

 

“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:24

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 10:11-18

God demanded of Christ the payment for the sins of all his people; Christ stood forward, and to the utmost farthing paid whate’er his people owed. The sacrifice of Calvary was not a part payment; it was not a partial exoneration, it was a complete and perfect payment, and it obtained a complete and perfect remission of all the debts of all believers that have lived, do live, or shall live, to the very end of time. On that day when Christ hung on the cross, he did not leave a single farthing for us to pay as a satisfaction to God. The whole of the demands of the law were paid down there and then by Jehovah Jesus, the great high priest of all his people. And blessed be his name, he paid it all at once too. So priceless was the ransom, so princely and generous was the price demanded for our souls, one might have thought it would have been marvellous if Christ had paid it by instalments; some of it now, and some of it then. Kings’ ransoms have sometimes been paid part at once, and part in dues afterwards, to run through years. But not so our Saviour: once for all he gave himself a sacrifice; at once he counted down the price, and said, “It is finished,” leaving nothing for him to do, nor for us to accomplish. He did not drivel out a part-payment, and then declare that he would come again to die, or that he would again suffer, or that he would again obey; but down upon the nail, to the utmost farthing, the ransom of all people was paid, and a full receipt given to them, and Christ nailed that receipt to his cross.

For meditation: Those who attempt to complete or repeat a finished piece of work insult its maker and render it useless to themselves (Galatians 5:2).

Sermon no. 126

5 April (1857)

John MacArthur – Dealing with Sorrow

 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”(Matt. 5:4).

Most people in our society have an amusement-park mentality. They spend much of their time and money on entertainment, wanting to enjoy life and avoid problems whenever possible. To them, Matthew 5:4 is a paradox. How can someone who mourns be happy? The answer lies in the difference between godly sorrow and human sorrow. Godly sorrow is sorrow over sin; human sorrow is sorrow over some tragic or disappointing turn of events (2 Cor. 7:8-11).

In Matthew 5:4 Jesus is referring to godly sorrow, which is our topic for tomorrow. But we all face human sorrow, so I want to discuss it briefly today.

Human sorrow is a natural emotion. Our Lord Himself was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Many things can cause it: we might mourn out of love, disappointment, loneliness, or physical illness. There is nothing wrong with that kind of mourning. It is a God- given relief valve for the pain and sorrow in this fallen world, and promotes the healing process.

Scripture gives many examples of human sorrow. Abraham wept when his wife, Sarah, died (Gen. 23:2). Through tears Jeremiah preached God’s message of judgment (Jer. 9:1). Paul expressed his concern for the church with his tears (Acts 20:31). Those are natural, healthy expressions of human sorrow.

However, sorrow can also be caused by evil desires or a lack of trust in God. King Ahab mourned to the point of sulking and not eating when he couldn’t have another man’s property (1 Kings 21:4). Some Christians mourn excessively when they lose a loved one. Forsaking the comfort of the Spirit, they focus only on their own grief. Extreme or prolonged manifestations of sorrow are sinful and must be confessed rather than comforted.

God is gracious to His children amid times of human sorrow. Ultimately He will do away with mourning and pain forever (Rev. 21:4). Rejoice in that promise and be comforted by His wonderful grace!

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for the ministry of the Spirit, who is the great Comforter or Helper (John 14:16-17). When sorrow occurs, lean on the Spirit, feed your soul on God’s Word, and commune with Him in prayer.

For Further Study:

Read Psalm 55. How did David express his desire to escape his difficult situation? What was his final resolve?