Tag Archives: theology

Image and Incarnation – Ravi Zacharias

 

Malcolm Muggeridge is remembered as one of the most notable figures of the twentieth century. The wit and style of the self-dubbed “fatally fluent” journalist made him as endearing as he was controversial. His presence was a decipherable entity in print, over the radio, and on television. With over fifty years in the public eye, Muggeridge knew well the effect of publicity on the human ego. In the words of one biographer, Muggeridge was troubled by “the strange metamorphosis that turns an individual into an image.”(1) He once confessed, “There is something very terrible in becoming an image… You see yourself on a screen, walking, talking, moving about, posturing, and it is not you.  Or is it you, and the you looking at you, someone else? […] Once, sleeping before a television screen, I woke up to find myself on it. The experience was quite terrifying—like some awful nightmare to which only someone like Edgar Allan Poe or Dostoevsky could do justice.”(2)

In our media-saturated, celebrity-producing culture, the warning may well be appropriate. Though I do not think it is only the televised that find themselves in danger of becoming an image.

Of course, some of the images we may have of ourselves obviously come with the territories. New parents learn to see themselves as parents; a journalist sees herself as a journalist. Muggeridge was speaking of images beyond this—namely, a journalist who starts to see herself as an icon, the father who starts to see himself as an image of success or humility, or the woman who sees herself as the image grief or helpfulness. This is perhaps where many of us can relate.

God once asked the prophet Habakkuk, “Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.”(3) The most dangerous thing about becoming an image is that we start to believe that we created that image: I am the maker of my success in this company. I am the one who has molded myself to be this flourishing employee, parent, or Christian. But such images only teach lies. Interestingly, God spoke these words to the prophet after Habakkuk had uttered a complaint, questioning the image and identity of God: “O Lord, are you not from everlasting? … Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”(4) God replied by asking Habakkuk to look again at the images he had fashioned and the Image before him.

For the images we create, even our images of God, must be crushed by the creative God who moves and speaks, the one who spoke creation itself into existence. We are not the images we think we are.

But we are being made into the image of one who is. Thankfully, though sometimes painfully, God is continually at work shattering the images we fashion of ourselves and of God. The Incarnation is the greatest example. This is not the Messiah those who were waiting for him expected. It’s not the Messiah we would expect either. This is not at all what we imagined he would ask of us. Yet this man who wept at the grave of Lazarus and sweat in blood at Gethsemane stands and asks us to consider it. Coming as an infant, Jesus brings us more of what it means to be human than we are yet able to emulate. Coming as God, he silences our questions of who God is—with a face, a hand, a Cross. We can no more mold ourselves into lasting icons than we can mold a lump of clay into a god that speaks. But we can be molded into the image of the God who lives, when shaped at the hands of the God who sent him.

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

(1) Gregory Wolfe, Malcolm Muggeridge: A Biography (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), xi.

(2) Ibid., xi.

(3) Habakkuk 2:18.

(4) Habakkuk 1:12-14.

The Sacrifice and Exaltation of Christ – John MacArthur

 

“When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

The Bible makes it perfectly clear that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Jesus Christ went to the cross, died the death we deserved, and consequently freed us from the penalty of sin by our faith in Him.

The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that Christ “does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Heb. 7:27). In the Old Testament, the priests had to make continual sacrifices, but Jesus made only one. And not only was He the priest, but also the sacrifice! He made a tremendously potent sacrifice, for He forever purged our sins–something the Old Testament sacrifices could never do.

When His sacrifice was complete, “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3, emphasis added). That is significant because the Old Testament priests never sat down–there were no seats in the sanctuary because they offered sacrifices day in and day out. But Jesus offered one sacrifice, finished it, and then went to the Father and sat down. What the Old Testament sacrifices couldn’t accomplish Christ’s did for all time.

As a result, God exalted Him to His right hand, the seat of honor and rule and rest. But perhaps most important, it is the place where Christ intercedes to the Father on our behalf (Rom 8:34).

Don’t ever forget what Jesus accomplished for us–and what He still does for us: “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank Jesus for His sacrifice on your behalf. Also thank Him for the salvation He has given you and the access you now have to God.

For Further Study:  Read Hebrews 9:1–10:18 to gain a deeper understanding of Christ’s ultimate fulfillment of the Old Testament priestly system. In what specific ways did He fulfill it?

Why Did Jesus Come? – Greg Laurie

 

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.—John 10:10

This has been a busy time of year for almost everyone. For us as Christians, it’s been a joyful celebration of the birth of Jesus. We marvel at the fact that God humbled Himself and was born in a cave. But why did He come?

First, Jesus Christ came to proclaim good news to the spiritually hurting, to preach the good news to us.

He came to heal the broken-hearted. Medical science has found ways to reduce and even remove pain. But there is no cure for a broken heart.

Jesus came to set people free who are bound by sin. Jesus came to open our spiritual eyes to our spiritual need.

He came to lift up those who are crushed by life. He came to give us abundant life. Jesus came to lift us from the physical realm of the senses to the spiritual realm to show us that there is more to life.

He came to give His life for us. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He came to die. Jesus Christ came to this earth to seek and save those of us who are lost, just as a shepherd seeks a lost sheep.

So in all of this hustle and bustle, wrapping paper, mistletoe, and brightly colored lights, let’s get down to the bottom line. Christmas is about God sending His Son to die on a cross. He was born to die, to give us abundant life, to give us a life that is worth living.

Principles for Effective Prayer – Charles Stanley

 

Each of us has prayed about situations and for other people without seeing results. When that happens, it’s easy to become discouraged. Rather than give up, we should review our lives to see if we need to alter something.

1. Our prayers must flow from a heart that is in step with God. If we want our prayers to be effective, we must be open to His Spirit and be compassionate, forgiving, and sincere as we intercede. Therefore, pray that you will have His love and compassion for others and that you will forgive fully—just as He has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32).

2. Our prayers are a link between our needs and God’s inexhaustible resources. Ask the Lord to reveal your or your loved one’s true needs and His power to meet those needs so that you can intercede in faith.

3. Identify with the need of the other person. To be truly compassionate in our supplication, we must see others through Jesus’ eyes. When we realize that people are truly hurting on the inside, our mercy for them is released, and we can intercede for them with greater zeal, understanding, and emotion.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “Therefore will the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you.” / Isaiah

30:18

God often delays in answering prayer. We have several instances of this in

sacred Scripture. Jacob did not get the blessing from the angel until near the

dawn of day–he had to wrestle all night for it. The poor woman of

Syrophoenicia was answered not a word for a long while. Paul besought the Lord

thrice that “the thorn in the flesh” might be taken from him, and he received

no assurance that it should be taken away, but instead thereof a promise that

God’s grace should be sufficient for him. If thou hast been knocking at the

gate of mercy, and hast received no answer, shall I tell thee why the mighty

Maker hath not opened the door and let thee in? Our Father has reasons

peculiar to himself for thus keeping us waiting. Sometimes it is to show his

power and his sovereignty, that men may know that Jehovah has a right to give

or to withhold. More frequently the delay is for our profit. Thou art perhaps

kept waiting in order that thy desires may be more fervent. God knows that

delay will quicken and increase desire, and that if he keeps thee waiting thou

wilt see thy necessity more clearly, and wilt seek more earnestly; and that

thou wilt prize the mercy all the more for its long tarrying. There may also

be something wrong in thee which has need to be removed, before the joy of the

Lord is given. Perhaps thy views of the Gospel plan are confused, or thou

mayest be placing some little reliance on thyself, instead of trusting simply

and entirely to the Lord Jesus. Or, God makes thee tarry awhile that he may

the more fully display the riches of his grace to thee at last. Thy prayers

are all filed in heaven, and if not immediately answered they are certainly

not forgotten, but in a little while shall be fulfilled to thy delight and

satisfaction. Let not despair make thee silent, but continue instant in

earnest supplication.

 

Evening  “My people shall dwell in quiet resting places.” / Isaiah 32:18

Peace and rest belong not to the unregenerate, they are the peculiar

possession of the Lord’s people, and of them only. The God of Peace gives

perfect peace to those whose hearts are stayed upon him. When man was

unfallen, his God gave him the flowery bowers of Eden as his quiet resting

places; alas! how soon sin blighted the fair abode of innocence. In the day of

universal wrath when the flood swept away a guilty race, the chosen family

were quietly secured in the resting-place of the ark, which floated them from

the old condemned world into the new earth of the rainbow and the covenant,

herein typifying Jesus, the ark of our salvation. Israel rested safely beneath

the blood-besprinkled habitations of Egypt when the destroying angel smote the

first-born; and in the wilderness the shadow of the pillar of cloud, and the

flowing rock, gave the weary pilgrims sweet repose. At this hour we rest in

the promises of our faithful God, knowing that his words are full of truth and

power; we rest in the doctrines of his word, which are consolation itself; we

rest in the covenant of his grace, which is a haven of delight. More highly

favoured are we than David in Adullam, or Jonah beneath his gourd, for none

can invade or destroy our shelter. The person of Jesus is the quiet

resting-place of his people, and when we draw near to him in the breaking of

the bread, in the hearing of the word, the searching of the Scriptures,

prayer, or praise, we find any form of approach to him to be the return of

peace to our spirits.

“I hear the words of love, I gaze upon the blood,

I see the mighty sacrifice, and I have peace with God.

‘Tis everlasting peace, sure as Jehovah’s name,

‘Tis stable as his steadfast throne, for evermore the same:

The clouds may go and come, and storms may sweep my sky,

This blood-sealed friendship changes not, the cross is ever nigh.”

The Sustaining Power ofChrist – John MacArthur

 

“[Christ] upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3).

We base our entire lives on the constancy of physical laws. When something like an earthquake disrupts the normal condition or operation of things even a little, the consequences are often disastrous. Can you imagine what would happen if Jesus Christ relinquished His sustaining power over the laws of the universe for it is He in whom “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17)? We would go out of existence, our atoms scattering throughout the galaxy.

If He suspended the laws of gravity only for a brief moment, we would lose all points of reference. If any of the physical laws varied slightly, we could not exist. Our food could turn to poison; we ourselves could drift out into space or get flooded by the ocean tides. Countless other horrible things could happen.

But the universe remains in balance because Jesus Christ sustains and monitors all its movements and interworkings. He is the principle of cohesion. He is not the deist’s “watchmaker” creator, who made the world, set it in motion, and has not bothered with it since. The reason the universe is a cosmos instead of chaos–an ordered and reliable system instead of an erratic and unpredictable muddle–is the upholding power of Jesus Christ.

The entire universe hangs on the arm of Jesus. His unsearchable wisdom and boundless power are manifested in governing the universe. And He upholds it all by the word of His power. The key to the Genesis creation is in two words: “God said.” God spoke and it happened.

When I contemplate Christ’s power to uphold the universe, I’m drawn to the wonderful promise of Philippians 1:6: “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” When Christ begins a work in your heart, He doesn’t end there. He continually sustains it until the day He will take you into God’s very presence. A life, just as a universe, that is not sustained by Christ is chaos.

Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God to remind you of Christ’s sustaining power when you endure your next trial.

For Further Study:  Read Job 38-39 for a greater appreciation of what Christ does to uphold the universe.

Who Is This Jesus? – Charles Stanley

 

Matthew 16:13-16

Throughout history, no one has made a greater impact on this world than Jesus Christ, yet many people simply do not understand who He is. Some believe that His life began in a manger in the ancient town of Bethlehem, but in reality, He existed long before that (Micah 5:2). As a member of the Trinity, Jesus is the eternal Son of God, which means He has no beginning or end (John 1:1). His birth in Bethlehem was merely His physical entrance into the world that He created.

Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, who came to earth to carry out the mission given to Him by His Father. At one point, He asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). This is the question each of us must answer. There is no middle ground when it comes to deciding who Jesus is, because He claimed that He was the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Either He is the Son of God, or He’s a fraud.

In Matthew 16:16, when Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus told Him that the Father had revealed this truth to him (v. 17). We, too, need the Lord’s help to comprehend who Jesus is. The best way to understand Him is to examine His birth, life, and ministry as recorded in the Scriptures.

Simply learning to know what the Bible says about Jesus is not enough. Once you’ve heard who He is and what He came to do, you must respond. What will you do with Jesus? To hear the truth and reject it is spiritual suicide, but those who believe and accept Christ receive eternal life.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning   “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments;

and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.” / Revelation 3:4

We may understand this to refer to justification. “They shall walk in white;”

that is, they shall enjoy a constant sense of their own justification by

faith; they shall understand that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to

them, that they have all been washed and made whiter than the newly-fallen

snow.

Again, it refers to joy and gladness: for white robes were holiday dresses

among the Jews. They who have not defiled their garments shall have their

faces always bright; they shall understand what Solomon meant when he said “Go

thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart. Let

thy garments be always white, for God hath accepted thy works.” He who is

accepted of God shall wear white garments of joy and gladness, while he walks

in sweet communion with the Lord Jesus. Whence so many doubts, so much misery,

and mourning? It is because so many believers defile their garments with sin

and error, and hence they lose the joy of their salvation, and the comfortable

fellowship of the Lord Jesus, they do not here below walk in white.

The promise also refers to walking in white before the throne of God. Those

who have not defiled their garments here shall most certainly walk in white up

yonder, where the white-robed hosts sing perpetual hallelujahs to the Most

High. They shall possess joys inconceivable, happiness beyond a dream, bliss

which imagination knoweth not, blessedness which even the stretch of desire

hath not reached. The “undefiled in the way” shall have all this–not of

merit, nor of works, but of grace. They shall walk with Christ in white, for

he has made them “worthy.” In his sweet company they shall drink of the living

fountains of waters.

 

Evening   “Thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor.” / Psalm 68:10

All God’s gifts are prepared gifts laid up in store for wants foreseen. He

anticipates our needs; and out of the fulness which he has treasured up in

Christ Jesus, he provides of his goodness for the poor. You may trust him for

all the necessities that can occur, for he has infallibly foreknown every one

of them. He can say of us in all conditions, “I knew that thou wouldst be this

and that.” A man goes a journey across the desert, and when he has made a

day’s advance, and pitched his tent, he discovers that he wants many comforts

and necessaries which he has not brought in his baggage. “Ah!” says he, “I did

not foresee this: if I had this journey to go again, I should bring these

things with me, so necessary to my comfort.” But God has marked with prescient

eye all the requirements of his poor wandering children, and when those needs

occur, supplies are ready. It is goodness which he has prepared for the poor

in heart, goodness and goodness only. “My grace is sufficient for thee.” “As

thy days, so shall thy strength be.”

Reader, is your heart heavy this evening? God knew it would be; the comfort

which your heart wants is treasured in the sweet assurance of the text. You

are poor and needy, but he has thought upon you, and has the exact blessing

which you require in store for you. Plead the promise, believe it and obtain

its fulfilment. Do you feel that you never were so consciously vile as you are

now? Behold, the crimson fountain is open still, with all its former efficacy,

to wash your sin away. Never shall you come into such a position that Christ

cannot aid you. No pinch shall ever arrive in your spiritual affairs in which

Jesus Christ shall not be equal to the emergency, for your history has all

been foreknown and provided for in Jesus.

It’s All About Him – Greg Laurie

 

A little girl noticed that her mom was getting really stressed out around Christmas. Everything was bothering her mom, and she was very irritable.

Evening came and the mom bathed the little girl, got her ready for bed, put her under the covers, and had her say her prayers. She would usually pray the Lord’s Prayer, but on this particular evening, she amended it a little bit.

Her petition went something like this, “Father, forgive us our Christmases, as we forgive those who Christmas against us.”

That is what happens when we lose focus of the real meaning of Christmas, isn’t it? We get so caught up in the busyness of the season that sometimes we forget the wonder of it all: that deity took on humanity, that God became a man.

Scripture sums it up well in 2 Corinthians 8:9, which says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (NKJV). Jesus literally went from the throne of heaven to a simple little cave or stable.

Can you imagine what must have gone through Mary’s mind that day when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and told her she would be the mother of the Messiah? Her head must have been swimming. “What about Joseph? What are people going to say?”

But God had it all put together, because the time was just right in every way.

There was one small detail: the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, as Scripture prophesied (see Micah 5:2). But Mary and her husband-to-be Joseph lived in Nazareth. So the Lord touched a little man who was big in his own mind.

His name was Caesar, and at this particular time in history, he was the most powerful man on Earth. One day, Caesar gave a decree that all of the world should be taxed.

In reality, he was nothing more than a pawn in the hand of God. The Lord needed Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, so He moved events.

Mary and Joseph made the difficult journey to Bethlehem, which was especially perilous for a woman who was as far along in her pregnancy as Mary was. But they did make it, and there, the miraculous birth of Christ took place, just as Scripture said it would.

This little baby grew up quickly, and although we would love to know more about his boyhood, the Bible offers only a few details.

But we do read of one day in the synagogue in Nazareth when, as the custom was, the time had come for Jesus to read. He walked to the front of the synagogue, opened up the scroll, and began to read from Isaiah: ” ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord’ ” (Luke 4:18-19 NLT).

When He had finished, He sat down and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (verse 21). He had declared himself the Messiah. His public ministry had begun.

This One who was sent from God was always in perfect sync with the Father. While He spoke with the learned spiritual leaders, He always had time for the outcasts of society—people like the woman at the well and the tax collector, Zacchaeus. People like you. People like me.

His ministry on Earth was only a few years, and then He was crucified. You can be sure that as He hung there on the cross, where all of the sin of humanity was placed upon Him, that this was God’s most painful moment.

But then it was finished. He rose again from the dead, and after a time, ascended back into heaven, promising to come back to this earth. And we eagerly await that day.

This Jesus who was born in a manger, who walked this earth, who was crucified, and who rose again, is not some mere historical figure, although He was that. He is alive, and He is still in the business of changing lives.

That is the reason He came: to put us in touch with God, to forgive us of all of our sins, and to give our lives purpose and meaning.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “Base things of the world hath God chosen.” / 1 Corinthians 1:28

Walk the streets by moonlight, if you dare, and you will see sinners then.

Watch when the night is dark, and the wind is howling, and the picklock is

grating in the door, and you will see sinners then. Go to yon jail, and walk

through the wards, and mark the men with heavy over-hanging brows, men whom

you would not like to meet at night, and there are sinners there. Go to the

Reformatories, and note those who have betrayed a rampant juvenile depravity,

and you will see sinners there. Go across the seas to the place where a man

will gnaw a bone upon which is reeking human flesh, and there is a sinner

there. Go where you will, you need not ransack earth to find sinners, for they

are common enough; you may find them in every lane and street of every city,

and town, and village, and hamlet. It is for such that Jesus died. If you will

select me the grossest specimen of humanity, if he be but born of woman, I

will have hope of him yet, because Jesus Christ is come to seek and to save

sinners. Electing love has selected some of the worst to be made the best.

Pebbles of the brook grace turns into jewels for the crown-royal. Worthless

dross he transforms into pure gold. Redeeming love has set apart many of the

worst of mankind to be the reward of the Saviour’s passion. Effectual grace

calls forth many of the vilest of the vile to sit at the table of mercy, and

therefore let none despair.

Reader, by that love looking out of Jesus’ tearful eyes, by that love

streaming from those bleeding wounds, by that faithful love, that strong love,

that pure, disinterested, and abiding love; by the heart and by the bowels of

the Saviour’s compassion, we conjure you turn not away as though it were

nothing to you; but believe on him and you shall be saved. Trust your soul

with him and he will bring you to his Father’s right hand in glory

everlasting.

 

Evening  “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” / 1

Corinthians 9:22

Paul’s great object was not merely to instruct and to improve, but to save.

Anything short of this would have disappointed him; he would have men renewed

in heart, forgiven, sanctified, in fact, saved. Have our Christian labours

been aimed at anything below this great point? Then let us amend our ways, for

of what avail will it be at the last great day to have taught and moralized

men if they appear before God unsaved? Blood-red will our skirts be if through

life we have sought inferior objects, and forgotten that men needed to be

saved. Paul knew the ruin of man’s natural state, and did not try to educate

him, but to save him; he saw men sinking to hell, and did not talk of refining

them, but of saving from the wrath to come. To compass their salvation, he

gave himself up with untiring zeal to telling abroad the gospel, to warning

and beseeching men to be reconciled to God. His prayers were importunate and

his labours incessant. To save souls was his consuming passion, his ambition,

his calling. He became a servant to all men, toiling for his race, feeling a

woe within him if he preached not the gospel. He laid aside his preferences to

prevent prejudice; he submitted his will in things indifferent, and if men

would but receive the gospel, he raised no questions about forms or

ceremonies: the gospel was the one all-important business with him. If he

might save some he would be content. This was the crown for which he strove,

the sole and sufficient reward of all his labours and self-denials. Dear

reader, have you and I lived to win souls at this noble rate? Are we possessed

with the same all-absorbing desire? If not, why not? Jesus died for sinners,

cannot we live for them? Where is our tenderness? Where our love to Christ, if

we seek not his honour in the salvation of men? O that the Lord would saturate

us through and through with an undying zeal for the souls of men.

The Creator of the World – John MacArthur

 

“In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son . . . through whom also He made the world” (Heb. 1:2).

John 1:3 testifies, “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” Jesus has the ability to create something out of nothing (cf. Rom. 4:17), and that sets Him apart from mere creatures. Only God can create like that; we can’t. If you could create, you’d live in a different house, drive a different car, and probably have a different job–if you had any job at all. You could just sit in your backyard and make money. Fortunately, God didn’t give depraved men and women the right to be creators.

The ability to create ex nihilo belongs to God alone and the fact that Jesus creates like that indicates He is God and establishes His absolute superiority over everything. He created everything material and spiritual. Though man has stained His work with sin, Christ originally made it good, and the very creation itself longs to be restored to what it was in the beginning (Rom. 8:22).

The common Greek word for “world” is kosmos, but that’s not the one used in Hebrews 1:2. The word here is aionas, which does not refer to the material world but to “the ages,” as it is often translated. Jesus Christ is responsible for creating not only the physical earth, but also time, space, energy, and matter. The writer of Hebrews does not restrict Christ’s creation to this earth; he shows us that Christ is the Creator of the entire universe and of existence itself. And He made it all without effort.

What about you? If you don’t recognize God as the Creator, you’ll have difficulty explaining how this universe came into being. Where did it all come from? Who conceived it? Who made it? It cannot be an accident. Someone made it, and the Bible tells us who He is: Jesus Christ.

Suggestion for Prayer:  Praise God for the wonder of His creation, which we can so easily take for granted.

For Further Study:  Read Colossians 1:16-23 to discover the relationship between the creation and your salvation.

Let’s Worship – Greg Laurie

 

“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people.”  — Luke 1:68

Immanuel: God is with us—God came to us. What a staggering thought. It is really the essence of the Christian faith and the Christian life. All other religious ideologies essentially tell you that you must do something: Do this, and you will find inner peace. . . . Do this, and you will reach nirvana. . . . Do this, and maybe you will make it to heaven. But Christianity says it is done—done for you at the Cross, paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Being a Christian is not merely following a creed; it is having Christ himself live in you and through you, giving you the strength to be the man or woman He has called you to be. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) and “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

The message of Christmas is God with us. That is important to know, especially during those times when we are going through great difficulty. The psalmist said, “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:9–10). It is great to know that God is with you wherever you go.

The Bible never teaches that we will have problem-free lives as followers of Christ. But the Bible does teach that we never will be alone. And because of that, we don’t have to be afraid. As Ray Stedman said, “The chief mark of the Christian ought to be the absence of fear and the presence of joy.”

That is the message that this sin-sick world needs to hear: Immanuel—God is with us

A Good Story? – Ravi Zacharias

 

In publishing his godless Bible for those with no faith, A. C. Grayling may have expected a mixed reception. The ‘religious Bible’ (as he calls the Christian original) often sparks controversy, so one might have assumed that his would prompt a powerful reaction.(1)

But although there have been eyebrows raised, support given, and criticism leveled, I can’t help feeling that there is something a little flat about it all. Perhaps it is because we are in the midst of celebrating the 400-year anniversary of the King James translation of the Bible with its majestic impact on the English language, that one struggles to muster any strong reaction to this book. One of the repeated observations made about Grayling’s moral guide for atheists is that it just doesn’t seem to be as good or interesting as the original.

Jeannette Winterson, author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, had this to say:

I do not believe in a sky god but the religious impulse in us is more than primitive superstition. We are meaning-seeking creatures and materialism plus good works and good behaviour does not seem to be enough to provide meaning. We shall have to go on asking questions but I would rather that philosophers like Grayling asked them without the formula of answers. As for the Bible, it remains a remarkable book and I am going to go on reading it.

Perhaps it has something to do with what seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding on Grayling’s part: the Bible is not merely a book containing moral guidance, as he seems to think it is. While Christians would say that it does contain the moral law of God and shows us how to live our lives, the actual text of the Bible is much more besides.

It is the history of a people and a grand narrative of redemption for all people. At its heart, it is the story of a relationship, and not a collection of platitudes. As the New Testament opens with God coming in human form, we encounter Jesus walking the earth, not simply to restate a moral code, but to offer us peace with God through himself. It’s about a personal God to encounter, not a set of propositions to understand or laws to follow. This is drama with a capital D.

The Bible also contains narrative history, at its most fascinating with well-preserved accounts recording personal perspectives on historical events. Whether it be a prophet like Jeremiah, writing in the 7th century BC, or the gospel writer Mark in the 1st century AD, this is compelling writing whatever our religious convictions. Who could not notice the honesty and detail of Mark’s turn of phrase when he recounts that “Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion, the disciples woke him and said to him ‘Teacher don’t you care if we drown?’” (Mark 4:38). As history alone the Bible is compelling.

In as much as Grayling’s ‘Good Book’ cobbles together some of the finest moral teaching from our history, it will surely be useful to some. But from an atheist perspective is this really a legitimate task? Without God what is morality other than personal perspective or social contract? Do we need Grayling’s personal perspective any more than our own? And is he really in a position to tell us what a socially agreed set of morals should be? Great atheists of the past, like Bertrand Russell, rejected religious moral values arguing against overarching morality—do they really want Grayling to reconstruct one? “I don’t think there is a line in the whole thing that hasn’t been modified or touched by me,” he says. While his own confidence in his wisdom is clearly abundant, will others feel the same way? Readers might also note that from the 21st century, his is the only voice to make the cut and be included in the work.

In calling his worthy tome The Good Book, Grayling, perhaps unwittingly, references the story about a rich young ruler found in the Gospel of Mark. The man approaches Jesus and addresses him as “Good teacher.” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” Jesus preempts centuries of philosophical debate about the nature of morality and locates goodness as an absolute in the being of God. We are challenged to question: “Without God, what is goodness?” As the debate over his book continues it will be intriguing to find out how Grayling knows his godless Bible to be a benchmark of “goodness.”

In the meantime, no doubt the Bible will continue to top best-seller lists, and engage audiences spanning all ages, backgrounds, and cultures. I for one will keep reading it.

Amy Orr-Ewing is UK director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Oxford, England.

(1) Originally printed in Pulse Magazine, Issue 8, Summer 2011, 10-11.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” / 1 Corinthians

15:48

The head and members are of one nature, and not like that monstrous image

which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream. The head was of fine gold, but the

belly and thighs were of brass, the legs of iron, and the feet, part of iron

and part of clay. Christ’s mystical body is no absurd combination of

opposites; the members were mortal, and therefore Jesus died; the glorified

head is immortal, and therefore the body is immortal too, for thus the record

stands, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” As is our loving Head, such is

the body, and every member in particular. A chosen Head and chosen members; an

accepted Head, and accepted members; a living Head, and living members. If the

head be pure gold, all the parts of the body are of pure gold also. Thus is

there a double union of nature as a basis for the closest communion. Pause

here, devout reader, and see if thou canst without ecstatic amazement,

contemplate the infinite condescension of the Son of God in thus exalting thy

wretchedness into blessed union with his glory. Thou art so mean that in

remembrance of thy mortality, thou mayest say to corruption, “Thou art my

father,” and to the worm, “Thou art my sister”; and yet in Christ thou art so

honoured that thou canst say to the Almighty, “Abba, Father,” and to the

Incarnate God, “Thou art my brother and my husband.” Surely if relationships

to ancient and noble families make men think highly of themselves, we have

whereof to glory over the heads of them all. Let the poorest and most despised

believer lay hold upon this privilege; let not a senseless indolence make him

negligent to trace his pedigree, and let him suffer no foolish attachment to

present vanities to occupy his thoughts to the exclusion of this glorious,

this heavenly honour of union with Christ.

 

Evening   “Girt about the paps with a golden girdle.” / Revelation 1:13

“One like unto the Son of Man” appeared to John in Patmos, and the beloved

disciple marked that he wore a girdle of gold. A girdle, for Jesus never was

ungirt while upon earth, but stood always ready for service, and now before

the eternal throne he stays not His holy ministry, but as a priest is girt

about with “the curious girdle of the ephod.” Well it is for us that he has

not ceased to fulfil his offices of love for us, since this is one of our

choicest safeguards that he ever liveth to make intercession for us. Jesus is

never an idler; his garments are never loose as though his offices were ended;

he diligently carries on the cause of his people. A golden girdle, to manifest

the superiority of his service, the royalty of his person, the dignity of his

state, the glory of his reward. No longer does he cry out of the dust, but he

pleads with authority, a King as well as a Priest. Safe enough is our cause in

the hands of our enthroned Melchizedek.

Our Lord presents all his people with an example. We must never unbind our

girdles. This is not the time for lying down at ease, it is the season of

service and warfare. We need to bind the girdle of truth more and more tightly

around our loins. It is a golden girdle, and so will be our richest ornament,

and we greatly need it, for a heart that is not well braced up with the truth

as it is in Jesus, and with the fidelity which is wrought of the Spirit, will

be easily entangled with the things of this life, and tripped up by the snares

of temptation. It is in vain that we possess the Scriptures unless we bind

them around us like a girdle, surrounding our entire nature, keeping each part

of our character in order, and giving compactness to our whole man. If in

heaven Jesus unbinds not the girdle, much less may we upon earth. Stand,

therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.

The Heir of All Things – John MacArthur

 

“In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2).

When Christ first came to earth He became poor for our sakes, that we, through His poverty, might be made rich (2 Cor. 8:9). He had nothing for Himself–He had “nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). Even His clothes were taken from Him when He died, and He was buried in a tomb that belonged to someone else.

It is beyond our understanding to imagine that the Galilean carpenter who was crucified like a common criminal, naked and bleeding on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem, is the King of kings and Lord of lords. But He is!

As the Son of God, Jesus is the heir of all that God possesses. The apostle Paul explains that all things not only were created by Christ but also for Him (Col. 1:16). Everything that exists will find its true meaning only when it comes under the final control of Christ.

The psalms predicted that Christ would one day be the heir to all that God possesses. The Father, speaking to the Son, says, “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession'” (Ps. 2:8). God also declared, “I also shall make Him My first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27; cf. Col. 1:15). “First-born” refers to legal rights–especially those of inheritance and authority.

When Christ comes to earth again, He will completely and eternally inherit all things (Rev. 11:15). And because we have trusted in Him, we are to be “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17). When we enter into His eternal kingdom, we will jointly possess all that He possesses. We will not be joint Christs or joint Lords, but will be joint heirs. His marvelous inheritance will be ours as well.

Suggestions for Prayer:    Thank God for making you a joint heir with Christ. Thank your Lord for allowing that to happen through His death on the cross.

 

For Further Study:   Read Revelation 5:1-14 and 11:15-18, noting how the inhabitants of heaven respond to Christ

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning “Ask, and it shall be given you.” / Matthew 7:7

We know of a place in England still existing, where a dole of bread is served

to every passerby who chooses to ask for it. Whoever the traveller may be, he

has but to knock at the door of St. Cross Hospital, and there is the dole of

bread for him. Jesus Christ so loveth sinners that he has built a St. Cross

Hospital, so that whenever a sinner is hungry, he has but to knock and have

his wants supplied. Nay, he has done better; he has attached to this Hospital

of the Cross a bath; and whenever a soul is black and filthy, it has but to go

there and be washed. The fountain is always full, always efficacious. No

sinner ever went into it and found that it could not wash away his stains.

Sins which were scarlet and crimson have all disappeared, and the sinner has

been whiter than snow. As if this were not enough, there is attached to this

Hospital of the Cross a wardrobe, and a sinner making application simply as a

sinner, may be clothed from head to foot; and if he wishes to be a soldier, he

may not merely have a garment for ordinary wear, but armour which shall cover

him from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. If he asks for a

sword, he shall have that given to him, and a shield too. Nothing that is good

for him shall be denied him. He shall have spending-money so long as he lives,

and he shall have an eternal heritage of glorious treasure when he enters into

the joy of his Lord.

If all these things are to be had by merely knocking at mercy’s door, O my

soul, knock hard this morning, and ask large things of thy generous Lord.

Leave not the throne of grace till all thy wants have been spread before the

Lord, and until by faith thou hast a comfortable prospect that they shall be

all supplied. No bashfulness need retard when Jesus invites. No unbelief

should hinder when Jesus promises. No cold-heartedness should restrain when

such blessings are to be obtained.

 

Evening “And the Lord shewed me four carpenters.” / Zechariah 1:20

In the vision described in this chapter, the prophet saw four terrible horns.

They were pushing this way and that way, dashing down the strongest and the

mightiest; and the prophet asked, “What are these?” The answer was, “These are

the horns which have scattered Israel.” He saw before him a representation of

those powers which had oppressed the church of God. There were four horns; for

the church is attacked from all quarters. Well might the prophet have felt

dismayed; but on a sudden there appeared before him four carpenters. He asked,

“What shall these do?” These are the men whom God hath found to break those

horns in pieces. God will always find men for his work, and he will find them

at the right time. The prophet did not see the carpenters first, when there

was nothing to do, but first the “horns,” and then the “carpenters.” Moreover,

the Lord finds enough men. He did not find three carpenters, but four; there

were four horns, and there must be four workmen. God finds the right men; not

four men with pens to write; not four architects to draw plans; but four

carpenters to do rough work. Rest assured, you who tremble for the ark of God,

that when the “horns” grow troublesome, the “carpenters” will be found. You

need not fret concerning the weakness of the church of God at any moment;

there may be growing up in obscurity the valiant reformer who will shake the

nations: Chrysostoms may come forth from our Ragged Schools, and Augustines

from the thickest darkness of London’s poverty. The Lord knows where to find

his servants. He hath in ambush a multitude of mighty men, and at his word

they shall start up to the battle; “for the battle is the Lord’s,” and he

shall get to himself the victory. Let us abide faithful to Christ, and he, in

the right time, will raise up for us a defence, whether it be in the day of

our personal need, or in the season of peril to his Church.

God’s Final Revelation – John MacArthur

 

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).

A Samaritan woman declared, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us” (John 4:25). The expectation of that day, even among the Samaritans, was that Messiah would unfold the full and final revelation of God. The Holy Spirit, through the writer of Hebrews, affirms that to be true: “God . . . in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).

The Old Testament had given divine revelation in bits and pieces. Every piece was true, yet incomplete. But When Jesus came, the whole picture became clear, and though rejected by His own people, He was, in fact, the fulfillment of the messianic hope they had cherished for so many centuries.

The Old Testament age of promise ended when Jesus arrived. He is God’s final word: “As many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:20).

God fully expressed Himself in His Son. That’s why John said, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:14, 18). Paul added that in Christ “all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).

The practical implications of that truth are staggering. Since Christ is the fullness of divine revelation, you need nothing more. In Him you have been made complete (Col. 2:10), and have been granted everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). His Word is sufficient, needing no additions or amendments.

Suggestion for Prayer: Ask God to teach you how to rely more fully on your resources in Christ.

For Further Study:  Read John 1:1-18 as a reminder of the fullness of God’s revelation in His Son.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

CharlesSpurgeon

Morning  “I have much people in this city.” / Acts 18:10

This should be a great encouragement to try to do good, since God has among

the vilest of the vile, the most reprobate, the most debauched and drunken, an

elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so

because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and

they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs. They are as

much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are

Christ’s property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of the ale-house, and

haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them he will have them. God

is not unfaithful to forget the price which his Son has paid. He will not

suffer his substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of

thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must

be; and this is our comfort when we go forth to them with the quickening Word

of God.

Nay, more, these ungodly ones are prayed for by Christ before the throne.

“Neither pray I for these alone,” saith the great Intercessor, “but for them

also which shall believe on me through their word.” Poor, ignorant souls, they

know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their

names are on his breastplate, and ere long they must bow their stubborn knee,

breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace. “The time of figs

is not yet.” The predestinated moment has not struck; but, when it comes, they

shall obey, for God will have his own; they must, for the Spirit is not to be

withstood when he cometh forth with fulness of power–they must become the

willing servants of the living God. “My people shall be willing in the day of

my power.” “He shall justify many.” “He shall see of the travail of his soul.”

“I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil

with the strong.”

 

Evening  “Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit,

the redemption of our body.” / Romans 8:23

This groaning is universal among the saints: to a greater or less extent we

all feel it. It is not the groan of murmuring or complaint: it is rather the

note of desire than of distress. Having received an earnest, we desire the

whole of our portion; we are sighing that our entire manhood, in its trinity

of spirit, soul, and body, may be set free from the last vestige of the fall;

we long to put off corruption, weakness, and dishonour, and to wrap ourselves

in incorruption, in immortality, in glory, in the spiritual body which the

Lord Jesus will bestow upon his people. We long for the manifestation of our

adoption as the children of God. “We groan,” but it is “within ourselves.” It

is not the hypocrite’s groan, by which he would make men believe that he is a

saint because he is wretched. Our sighs are sacred things, too hallowed for us

to tell abroad. We keep our longings to our Lord alone. Then the apostle says

we are “waiting,” by which we learn that we are not to be petulant, like Jonah

or Elijah, when they said, “Let me die”; nor are we to whimper and sigh for

the end of life because we are tired of work, nor wish to escape from our

present sufferings till the will of the Lord is done. We are to groan for

glorification, but we are to wait patiently for it, knowing that what the Lord

appoints is best. Waiting implies being ready. We are to stand at the door

expecting the Beloved to open it and take us away to himself. This “groaning”

is a test. You may judge of a man by what he groans after. Some men groan

after wealth–they worship Mammon; some groan continually under the troubles

of life–they are merely impatient; but the man who sighs after God, who is

uneasy till he is made like Christ, that is the blessed man. May God help us

to groan for the coming of the Lord, and the resurrection which he will bring

to us.

Progressive Revelation – John MacArthur

John MacArthur

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).

When Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets [the Old Testament]; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17), He was affirming that Scripture progressed from promise to fulfillment, from partial to complete. We call that progressive revelation.

For example, the Old Testament anticipated Christ’s coming; the New Testament records His coming. The Old Testament writers didn’t understand everything they wrote because it didn’t always apply to their day. That’s why Peter said, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

Progressive revelation doesn’t at all imply that the Old Testament is inaccurate. The distinction isn’t in the rightness or wrongness of the revelation, but in its completeness. Just as a child progresses from letters to words to sentences, so God’s revelation progressed from types, ceremonies, and prophecies to final completion in Jesus Christ and the New Testament.

Thought incomplete by New Testament standards, the Old Testament is nonetheless fully inspired by God. That’s affirmed often in the New Testament. Peter tells us that no human writer of the Old Testament wrote of his own will, but only as he was directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). Paul added that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, [and] for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added).

The Old Testament isn’t all of God’s truth, but all of it is true. And as you progress from the Old to the New, you see God’s character and redemptive plan unfolding in greater detail.

Suggestion for Prayer: Praise God for the fullness of revelation you enjoy in Scripture.

For Further Study:  Memorize 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Unashamed to Share the Gospel – Charles Stanley

Charles Stanley

2 Timothy 1:6-12

The apostle Paul understood the awesome responsibility of being entrusted with the gospel. Since he considered this calling a stewardship for which he would one day give an account to the Lord, he was willing to suffer for Christ’s sake in order to complete the task. As believers, we have this same obligation to share the gospel with whomever God places in our lives. However, we must ask ourselves if we have a similar level of commitment.

Paul felt compelled to tell people about Christ. In fact, he said, “Woe is me if I do not” (1 Cor. 9:16). No matter how anyone treated him, he wasn’t ashamed of the message of Christ. The prophet Jeremiah had a similar experience (Jer. 20:7-9). Even though he became a laughingstock and was persecuted for delivering the Lord’s message of coming judgment, he discovered that not speaking created a worse feeling inside—like fire in his bones (v. 9).

We may not want to warn people about God’s judgment for fear of driving them away from Him. But in reality, the lost are already far from the Lord and need to hear about His offer of forgiveness. Paul was willing to die to get the message out, yet too often we’re not even willing to face a little discomfort in order to share our faith.

We are surrounded by people who are desperately hungry for something, and they don’t even know what. Yet we have the answer to their need—and the responsibility to share it. Never be ashamed of the best news ever offered to mankind. It can change someone’s eternal destiny.