The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Proverbs 9:10)
When we think about sanctification and our struggle with sin in the Christian life, often our greatest dilemma is not so much that we lack faith or self-control or self-discipline, but that we lack fear. It may seem odd to say that, but fear is truly what most Christians do not have, or at least do not have an adequate amount of. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” When we think about our lives and the struggle that we face in life, when we think about our churches and how we can improve them, minister to the saints more effectively or reach the lost with the gospel, in essence what we are looking for is wisdom and insight. How do I fix my marriage? How do I help my children? How should we do worship? What kind of music should we sing in church? Yet, the key to wisdom and insight, according to the Proverbs, is “the fear of the LORD.” But this is precisely what many Christians lack--fear. Very few Christians truly fear God. This is evident from the number of Christians who munch on donuts and drink coffee during the worship service. While we say we attend church to worship the King of kings, we worship and approach God more like the Burger King we might hire for a kid’s birthday party, rather than the king of the universe. The Burger King would expect us to eat and drink while he entertains us, but we would never think to eat and drink and dress causally while meeting with the king of a nation within his throne room. We speak to people and treat people in ways we know are displeasing to God. We fail to share the gospel with people when we know we should. We fail to serve others and put the needs of others before our own, all because we do not truly fear God. We know we are going to heaven so long as we have faith in Christ and believe he died for us, and for many Christians that is all that really matters. Our behavior may be displeasing to God in many ways but so long as we are still going to heaven, then displeasing God does not really matter all that much to us. We don’t fear God.
You thought that I was one like yourself. (Psalm 50:21)
One of the greatest problems we are having within society, and even within the church, is that there is this greater and greater tendency to create God in our image. This is because if God is like us, if he is just one of us, then we don’t have to listen to him. We don’t have to respect him, and we certainly don’t have to fear him. It reminds me of that 1995 song “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus. Tryin' to make his way home?” Unfortunately, this is how many think of God, that he is just like one of us. Therefore, God does not really care about how we live or what we do or how we treat each other. If it seems right and it feels right, then it must be right, and God must be OK with it. But it is to this kind of thinking that God speaks to humanity in Psalm 50, “For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. If you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you keep company with adulterers. You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son. These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself” (vv.17-21). And therein is the grave mistake that so many make both inside and outside the church, we think that God is “one like yourself.” This attitude is reflected in the way we behave, in the way we treat others, and in way we do worship. We are fond of all things casual and relaxed. And since God is just like one of us, then he must like our worship to be casual and relaxed. Surely, God likes what we like because he is just like one of us. Or is he?
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
When I was in seminary, my professor for biblical counseling was fond of reminding us that if you cannot follow your own biblical counsel, then you have no business giving someone else biblical counsel. In other words, if your marriage is a mess, you have no business trying to help someone else with their marriage. If your kids are a mess, you have no business trying to help someone else with their kids. It’s all about walking the walk and not just talking the talk. This is biblical advice and a biblical principle we see David articulating in Psalm 51. There David is confessing and repenting of his sins and prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (vv.10-12). But then notice what he says next, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” David says that once God has created within him a clean heart and renewed his spirit and restored to him the joy of his salvation, then he will teach transgressors God’s ways. He understands he is no position to teach others about God when his own life is a mess. Thus, he confesses and repents of his sin and prays for God to restore him, so that he can teach others about God. David’s prayer is one we should all be praying.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (1 Tim. 2:12)
Within the church there is this trend that continues to get worse every year. This is the idea that women can be pastors within the church or, minimally, they are biblically permitted to be Sunday school teachers or Bible study leaders for co-ed groups. However, the Bible is quite clear in places like 1 Timothy 2:12 where God says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” To be clear, this text is not saying that women are not permitted to teach science or math or literature to men. The book of 1 Timothy is written by Paul to Timothy giving him instructions on how to organize and govern the church. Thus, the context is within church ministry and life. However, some argue that so long as a woman is not teaching men the Bible while at the same time holding an authoritative office or position, then she is biblically permitted to teach men the Bible. But notice the text does not say, “I do not permit a woman to teach AND to exercise authority over a man.” It says, “I do not permit a woman to teach OR to exercise authority over a man.” It’s either/or, not both/and. But why is that? Is it because men are smarter or more capable than women? Not so. Notice the Bible gives two reasons for this in the next two verses, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Thus, the reasons given are that Adam was formed first, in the position of leadership with Eve being formed for Adam, to be his helpmate. And secondly, Eve was deceived first, not Adam. Thus, that women are not permitted by scripture to teach the Bible to men has nothing to do with intelligence or ability, but has to do with order of creation and culpability. Women are just as intelligent, just as capable, and just as valuable to God as men are.
For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. (Heb. 5:1)
When we go though difficult times in life or when we blow it and make mistakes, it is nice to have a friend come along side us to comfort and encourage us. However, it’s one thing to have a friend there beside us to sympathize with us and encourage us, it’s quite another to have a friend there beside us who will not only sympathize with us and encourage us, but has also walked in our shoes, who knows what we are going through because they have been there themselves. This was the role of priests in the Old Testament (OT). We are told in Hebrews 5:1-2 that “every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” OT priests were appointed to “act on behalf of men in relation to God” and to “deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” In other words, the priest was to go before God on behalf of the people and plead on their behalf for God to be merciful. And he was good at doing this because he was a man himself and knew just how hard it was to live in a fallen world. But then we are told in v.5, “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’” Christ was appointed by God to be our priest and to stand in the gap between God and men and continuously go before the throne of God the Father and plead for us and intercede for us saying, ‘Be merciful and compassionate. I know how powerful temptation is and how difficult it is to live in a fallen world. Besides that, I paid for their sins.’ For believers, Christ is our high priest “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God.” What a comforting truth.
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:68-69)
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is from John chapter 6 where we find Jesus teaching some really difficult things. But we have to set the scene in order to really appreciate the impact of Jesus’ words. At the beginning of the chapter we are told that Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish to be able to feed a crowd of over five-thousand men, women, and children. The next morning, when the people wake up, they realize Jesus has gone to the other side of the Sea of Galilee and so they all climb into boats and follow Jesus to the other side. When they arrive, Jesus tells them plainly that they are not seeking him because they believe he is the Messiah, “but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (v.26). Nevertheless, Jesus has a captive audience and so he intends to use this opportunity to teach them about himself and his purpose. Thus, he says to them that he is the true bread that has come down from heaven and that anyone who eats this bread will live forever. But as if that were not confusing enough, he then goes on to say, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." This really began to upset the Jews who exclaimed, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus continues: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” Jesus continues with this line of teaching until we eventually read in v.66, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’” In an instant, Jesus goes from having a following of five-thousand to standing there with just the twelve disciples. What we learn from this scene, in the words of theologian Michael Horton, is that “it is far better to have twelve disciples than to have five-thousand consumers.”
Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. (Heb. 3:6)
What is the church? Where does it exist? Is the church a building? Does the church exist inside of believers? Does it exist inside of every believer? These are important questions to ask because these days, and because of the Covid pandemic, the whole idea of church has become muddied and very confusing to many people. Though the ban on gatherings has been lifted in many states, many Christians continue to “do church” at home and watch the church service online. The argument goes that church is wherever we worship God and “where two or more are gathered”, there Jesus is in our midst (Matt 18:20). First, while we can worship God anywhere, anywhere we worship God is not church. Second, while all believers compromise the Church of God, not every believer is the Church in and of himself. Thirdly, Jesus makes his statement in Mathew 18:20 within the context of church discipline, not corporate worship. Rather, the author of Hebrews tells us that “Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (3:5-6). Christ is faithful over God’s house and “we are that house.” Notice he does not say ‘each believer is the house of God’, but that “we [collectively, corporately, the gathered saints] are his house.” The very word “church” implies the gathering together of all of God’s people in a single location for worship. The word church comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is a compound word comprised of ek = out or outside + kaleo = to call. Hence, ekklesia literally means ‘those who are called out or outside,' those who gather outside of their homes. Those who are called out from their homes to gather. The invisible Church is comprised of all believers around the world and throughout the ages. However, the visible church is comprised of local believers gathering together in one location for corporate worship.
But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matt. 5:32)
In recent years, the institution of marriage has come under greater attack both from outside and from within the church. For example, a false view of divorce that is gaining popularity within evangelicalism is that divorce is permissible on the grounds of physical, mental or emotional abuse or neglect. In other words, if a woman constantly berates her husband, cuts him down, constantly tells him how fat and worthless and lazy he is, after enduring this emotionally abusive treatment for an extensive period of time, he would have grounds to divorce his wife. The argument that this constitutes grounds for divorce goes like this: Jesus permitted divorce on the grounds of adultery (Matt 5:32; 19:9). However, adultery at its core is not just about sex. It’s about a deep-rooted selfishness. It’s about deception. It’s about breaking trust. It’s about engaging in behavior that is mentally, emotionally, and psychologically harmful to your spouse. Adultery breaks the marital covenant of trust and does harm to the spouse, and the Bible says that is grounds to legally end the marriage. Thus, there are other behaviors, other than sexual intercourse, that also break the marriage covenant and harm a spouse that constitute grounds for divorce.
While on the surface this all sounds like it makes sense, it is illogical and unbiblical because it is an argument of equivocation. An argument of equivocation occurs when the definition of an important word is changed in the middle of an argument. In this case, adultery is equal to breaking trust, selfishness, deception, and emotional/mental abuse. However, while breaking trust, selfishness, deception, and emotional/mental abuse all result from adultery, adultery is not breaking trust, selfishness, deception, and emotional/mental abuse. In other words, lying to your spouse is not act of adultery. Saying something incredibly damaging to your spouse is not an act of adultery. The word Jesus uses for “sexual immorality” is the Greek word porneia which means ‘physical sexual contact with another person.’ Thus, Jesus literally says, “Everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of [physical sexual contact with another person], makes her commit adultery.” Physical, mental or emotional abuse or neglect are not grounds for divorce.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1)
It is interesting that as we read Psalm 42, it is obvious that writer is going through some difficult situations. He makes statements like, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’ (v.3); “My soul is cast down within me” (v.6); and “I say to God, my rock: ‘Why have you forgotten me?’” (v.9). So what is the writer’s response to adversity? “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (vv.1-2). The psalmist longs to see God, to be with God, to be done with this crummy world and enter into the glorious presence of the living God. The psalmist does not fear death, he welcomes it, even looks forward to it. This is not to say that believers should go through life wanting to die and constantly entertaining thoughts of suicide. The true believer understands that this life is a blessing and all that God gives us in this life and in this world are the blessings of God and are to be appreciated and enjoyed. The believer understands we have been placed here with a purpose—to know God and enjoy him forever—and we have been placed here to do a job, to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. But the believer also knows that this life and this world is not worth clinging to. That no matter how good this life may be, the next life will be infinitely better. When this life ends and we enter into the glorious and unmitigated presence of Christ and find ourselves worshipping before his throne, we will experience more joy and peace and happiness than we ever thought possible and we will not miss any part of this world and this life and we certainly will not desire to return to this world even one bit. For believers, the best is yet to come.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
It’s unfortunate that so often those who hold to and ascribe to the prosperity gospel use passages like Psalm 37:4 to teach that if you are faithful to God, he will give you whatever you want, whatever you ask for. “Delight yourself in the LORD,” place your faith in him, believe in Jesus, and then ask him for a Rolls Royce or mansion to live in or a private jet, and he will give it to you. But is that what Psalm 37:4 is teaching? What did David mean by this? First, here is what I don’t think he means. David does not mean that if a person has faith in God, he can simply name it and claim it, and get whatever his heart desires. There are just too many examples in the Bible of godly people not getting what they ask for from God. Jesus did not have the cup of God's wrath taken from him (Matt 26:39). Paul was not able to have the thorn in his flesh removed even though he pleaded with God three times to do so (2 Cor 12:7). Instead, David’s point is that if we delight ourselves in God, if we delight ourselves in the things of God, in knowing God, in serving God, in worshipping God, and in striving to be like Christ, then God will give us the desires of our heart. This is because when our heart’s greatest desire is to please God, to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, then God will not only place godly desires within us, but will grant us those desires as well. But when we delight ourselves in the things of this world, God will not give us the desires of our heart. As James puts it, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (4:3). If your heart’s desire is to please God, he will give you the desires of your heart.
The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off. (Ps. 37:21-22)
One of the marks of conversion is generosity. We see this in the early church in Acts 4:32ff. where we are told that no one kept anything for themselves, but all had everything in common. They all shared with one another all their possessions. This happens among believers for two reasons. First, the Holy Spirit creates within believes a desire to carry out the second great commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. This, of course, is the result of the indwelling presence of the Holy Sprit as love is the first fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). But there is a second reason generosity is and should be a defining characteristic of believers. That is, not only do we realize that everything we have comes from God, but we also realize that someday all that God has will belong to us. Psalm 37:21 says, “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.” Why is the righteous generous? "For those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land,…” (v.22). Mature believers know and understand that when we give away our money, our resources, and our time, there is more where that came from. We know this and think this way because we understand that some day we will inherit the entire earth. Someday all that we see and enjoy around us will be ours for all eternity. Thus, when it comes to the giving of our finances or possessions or abilities and talents, it has been rightly said that God blesses us so that we might be a blessing to others. God blesses his people not so that we can hoard what God gives us, but so we might use it for his glory.
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:17)
Throughout Church history there have been those who question the full humanity of Christ (Docetism), believing that if Jesus was fully God, then he could not have been fully human. The argument goes that Jesus was human merely on the outside but fully God on the inside. In other words, Jesus was God wrapped in a human body. However, the author of Hebrews makes clear that not only is this view of Christ's humanity false, but that it was necessary for Jesus to be fully human--inside and out. In v.14 he states, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Since Jesus came to save sinner who are flesh and blood, he himself also had to be flesh and blood. And since came to redeem the “offspring of Abraham…he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Jesus had to made like humans "in every respect," physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. This is because since it was a human who brought sin into the world and rebelled against God, then it had to be a human who would offer himself up for the sins of humanity. It was not a bull or a goat who rebelled against God. It was a human; thus, a human--someone who was fully human--had to undo what man had ruined.
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6)
When we talk about how salvation works and how it is that God brings sinners into a saving relationship with himself, one of the most insightful passages in scripture is 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” So first, we are told that in our unbelieving state, we are completely blind to the image and glory of Christ. The question then is how is it that we somehow come to not only see Christ but to want to know Christ, to follow him and worship him? Scripture continues, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Paul references the creation narrative back in Genesis 1 where God simply speaks light into existence and then says in similar fashion, at the right moment in history, God spoke to our dead and darkened hearts and said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. Suddenly, we saw and understood the gospel of Christ and desired to worship him. This is what makes God’s grace sovereign and so amazing! Today let us praise and worship God for all he has done for us.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
God is to be praised and worshipped not for what he has done and the way he blesses us and enriches our lives, but simply for who he is--God. Even if God does nothing good for us, even if our lives are racked with pain and suffering and misery, God is still to be worshipped and praised. Job understood this well when he said, after all his property had been destroyed and his children had all been tragically killed, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed [praised] be the name of the LORD" (1:21). Why does Job respond this way? How is this possible? Though the psalms had not yet been written at the time of Job’s life, he instinctively understood what the psalmist put into words in Psalm 33:6-9, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” All the earth should fear God and all the inhabitants of the world should stand in awe of him simply because he spoke into existence all there is by the power of his word. God simply willed the universe into being. God is to be worshipped and praised and obeyed because he is God…and we are not.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:13-14)
When does life begin? It’s the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg? When does a clump of cells inside the uterus become a living human being? When does an embryo or a fetus become a “person”? Some say when the fetus can survive outside the womb on his own. Others say when the fetus develops self-awareness. Still others will say when it looks like a person. By these standards, however, there are many mentally and physically disabled individuals who would not be considered “persons” nor “human.” However, the psalmist says to God, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (139:13-16). Every embryonic baby, no matter how tiny, is the work of God’s hands, the labor of God knitting together every individual so that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And if there is any doubt about when God thinks an embryo becomes a person made in his image, we need look no further than Genesis 9:6, Exodus 20:13, and 21:22-25. In Genesis 9:6 God commands capital punishment for murder. In Exodus 20:13, the sixth commandment forbids murder. And in Exodus 21:22-25 God commands that if a man strikes a pregnant woman so that she miscarries, that man is to be put to death for murder. In the mind of God, human life begins at conception. But why talk about such a sensitive topic in a Daily Thoughts post? To remind you that life beings at conception, that all human life is valuable to God, and that you were fearfully and wonderfully made. God carefully knit you together in your mother’s womb and, from the moment of conception, you had and have infinite value in the eyes of God. He knows your name.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1)
It is interesting that as we read Psalm 42, it is obvious that that writer is going through some difficult situations. He makes statements like, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’ (v.3); “My soul is cast down within me” (v.6); and “I say to God, my rock: ‘Why have you forgotten me?’” (v.9). So what is the writer’s response to adversity? “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (vv.1-2). The psalmist longs to see God, to be with God, to be done with this crummy world and enter into the glorious presence of the living God. The psalmist does not fear death, he welcomes it, even looks forward to it. This is not to say that believers should go through life wanting to die and constantly entertaining thoughts of suicide. The true believer understands that this is life is a blessing and all that God gives us in this life and in this world are the blessings of God and are to be appreciated and enjoyed. The believer understands we have been placed here with a purpose—to know God and enjoy him forever—and we have been placed here to do a job, to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. But the believer also knows that this life and this world is not worth clinging to. That no matter how good this life may be, the next life will be infinitely better. When this life ends and we enter into the glorious and unmitigated presence of Christ and find ourselves worshipping before his throne, we will experience more joy and peace and happiness than we ever though possible and we will not miss any part of this world and this life and we certainly will not desire to return to this world even one bit. For believers, the best is yet to come.
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; (Heb. 10:5)
None of the sacrifices offered throughout the Old Testament could ever take away sins. They were never designed to take away sins. The author of Hebrews makes that clear when he writes just a few verses later “every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (v.11). All the sacrifices in the Old Testament were designed to remind the people of their sinfulness and to point them toward their need for a genuine savior, someone who could truly deliver them from the bondage of sin, Satan, and death. Thus, we are told in Hebrews 10:5 that when Christ came into the world, he said to God the Father, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me.” Christ took on human flesh. He took on a human body and came to earth and did for us what no animal could ever do and what no mere human could ever do. He lived the perfect life of obedience to the Law of God, which God’s justice demands, so that those who place faith in Christ would be credited with his righteousness. And then he died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of those who place faith in Christ. Thus, salvation is simply a matter of trusting and believing in all that Christ has done for us. Christ gets all the glory for our salvation. We get none.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (Psalm 32:1)
Guilt can have paralyzing effects when we know we’ve done wrong and our conscience is burdened. And one of the greatest and most devastating mistakes we can make is to try and suppress our conscience and bury our guilt. We try and shake it off or explain it away. Often saying things to ourselves like, ‘Maybe I was mean to that person and should not have said the things I said, but they deserved it. They had it coming’ or ‘I should not be looking at this internet pornography but if my wife gave me more attention, I would not be forced into this’ or ‘yes, I should not have committed that sin but no one is perfect; we all sin; it’s not a big deal.’ Over time, as we continue to not deal honestly with our sin, not own up to it, acknowledge it and confess it, it will begin to eat away at our soul. Unconfessed sin is like a beautiful delicious red apple that has a worm inside and is being eaten away and rotting from the inside out. It is not noticeable to the outside world or even to yourself until it is too late. For this reason David writes, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Ps. 32:1-4). When David kept silent regarding his sin, his “bones wasted away.” His strength was dried up. He groaned inwardly all day long. So what does he do about it? “I acknowledged my sin to you [O Lord], and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (v.5). This is why David begins this psalm by saying, “Blessed [happy] is the one whose transgression is forgiven.” If you want happiness in life, start by owning up to your sins, every one of them, and then confessing them each to God.
He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. (Matthew 28:6)
If you attended Passion Week services or have been following Passion Week celebrations online or otherwise, then this past week has been a mix of emotions of joy and sorrow. Sorrow as we reflected upon the difficult week our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ suffered through and experienced during his last days on earth. Maundy-Thursday, the night on which Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, but also the night on which he prayed in great anguish in the garden of Gethsemane, sweating great drops of blood, knowing what await him, knowing that in a few short hours he would experience one of the most cruel and tormenting means of death ever devised my man. Then on Good Friday, along with the rest of Christendom, we reflected on the day in which Christ suffered and died. In hindsight, we recognize that the cross of Christ was a glorious event, but at the time it would have been a heart-wrenching, tear-jerking, confusing event for his disciples. To watch the person they loved so dearly, the person who had brought them so much hope and joy and peace, die on a cross would have been very difficult and confusing. But today we celebrate the fact that his death was not the end of the story. Rather, it was the beginning of the end for death, sin, and Satan. This was the day, two-thousand years ago, in which “death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:54-55). On this day Christ conquered the grave for all those for whom he died, for all those who place faith in him alone for their salvation. Today is a day of celebration and praise for all Christ has done for his people! He has risen indeed!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)
Living in a fallen world can be incredibly difficult. Life does not always go the way we want or would hope. We lose loved ones to death far too soon. Couples struggle with infertility. Babies are miscarried. Single adults struggle with loneliness. We are diagnosed with terminal diseases. We suffer debilitating injuries. We experience financial ruin. We are betrayed by our spouse, abused by those we trusted, abandoned by those we depended on. In a world like this, how do we avoid spiraling into a deep dark place? In Isaiah 43:1 God says, “Fear not, for [here is the reason we should not fear] I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” For those who have placed faith in Christ, we belong to God. God is on our side. Therefore, He goes on to say, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” If God was willing to send his son into the world to die on the cross for those who place faith in Christ, to redeem us to himself, then surely he will not abandon us. But notice that God does not say he will direct us around the deep waters or around the raging rivers or around the fire, but rather “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” God will never abandon us nor forsake us. Though often the things we go through may not make sense to us, they make sense to God and he is there guiding, leading, caring, and comforting. Why? Then he adds, “For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (v.3). Because God is our God and our Savior, we can trust him. We can depend on him. We can lean on him.
And it was the third hour when they crucified him. (Mark 15:25)
Today Christians around the world celebrate Good Friday. This is the day on which Jesus of Nazareth was crucified on a Roman cross two-thousand years ago. But why call it Good Friday? Jesus was completely innocent not only of the crimes he was accused of, but of any crime or any sin. Jesus was without sin. Thus, if this is the day on which the greatest miscarriage of justice was ever carried out, the greatest evil was ever committed, then why call it good? Because it was good for sinners. The Bible tells us we are all sinful, that we have all transgressed the Laws of God (Rom 3:23). As a result, we all deserve to perish eternally. We all deserve death, eternal death in hell because “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). No one forces us to sin. We all choose to sin and rebel against God. If God were to send every person who has ever lived straight to hell for all eternity, he would be completely just in doing so because that is what we all deserve. Yet for some amazing reason we are told that “God showed his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:). Though we are all sinners, though we live our lives in open rebellion against God, he still loved us, and he demonstrated his love for humanity by sending his perfect son into the world to die for sinners--to die on our behalf. If the “wages of sin is death” and Christ had no sin, then why did he die? “He died for us.” He died on our behalf. He absorbed the wrath of God that should have come upon us. He died in our place as our substitute, as a substation for those who place faith in Christ and believe he died on the cross to pay for their sins. The scriptures tell us that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Rom. 10:9-10). Thus, Good Friday is about remembering that from the greatest act of evil ever committed came the greatest good ever offered to humanity.
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." (Lk. 22:19-20)
Today is Maundy-Thursday. But what does that mean anyway? For years as a young believer I would think to myself, ‘What a strange phrase—Monday-Thursday.’ ‘Huh? Monday through Thursday? Is that what they mean by Monday-Thursday?’ Maundy is a word derived from the Latin meaning ‘mandate.’ Thus, Maundy-Thursday is the day in which Christians celebrate the day on which Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper. In some churches it is also the day on which Christ commanded the disciples to wash each other’s feet. Thus, in some churches they practice foot washing as part of the Maundy-Thursday observance. However, regardless of your tradition, all recognize it as the day on which Christ and his disciples celebrated the Passover meal on the night before his crucifixion. What an interesting and somber night that must have been. With the sound of bleating lambs in the background, with the image of lambs being slaughtered at the temple, and with a tone of sorrow in his voice, Jesus says to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk. 22:15). Jesus, the Lamb of God, is preparing to become the one true sacrificial lamb for the sins of his people. Then he takes a piece of unleavened bread and holds it up and says, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” He then holds up a cup of wine and says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Jesus was communicating to them that just as there was a covenant established with Israel in the wilderness after God delivered them out of bondage via the blood of a lamb, so also Jesus was about to establish a new covenant with God’s people who would be truly delivered from the bondage of sin, Satan, and death via the blood of the Lamb. Maundy-Thursday is the day on which we remember that sacrifice and the new covenant community established through Christ.
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