The Blessing of the Spirit’s Sanctification

Summertime generates dieting ads, body-building programs, and an intense focus on our physical bodies. Most of my friends have a love-hate relationship with their bodies, and, as you can see, I also view my body as something separate from the rest of me (or else I wouldn’t talk about having a relationship with it). “Body dissatisfaction and overvaluing body image in defining one’s self-worth are risk factors making some people more susceptible to developing an eating disorder than others. People experiencing body dissatisfaction can become fixated on trying to change their body shape, which can lead to unhealthy practices with food, exercise, or supplements. Over time, these practices do not achieve desired results and often create a trap leading to intense feelings of disappointment, shame, guilt and, ultimately, increase the risk of developing an eating disorder.” (1) I think we all agree that there are better ways to spend our summer than being obsessed with worrying about our bodies. Of course, we maintain them with good diets, exercise, medication, or surgery as needed. And here I am preaching to myself. Scripture declares, “The God of peace himself [will] sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) Spirit, soul, and body represent the entirety of human nature. It seems unlikely that this is a tripartite division of human nature into body, soul, and spirit, where ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’ would refer to different parts; more likely Paul is simply using several terms for emphasis.” (2) God made us in his image (Genesis 1:27), and he is one being, without any separation of “parts,” so we are each one being, created by the Lord to be more than a person—to be his holy temple. We are justified, washed, sanctified, joined to God, to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. But do we remember, rejoice, and renew our blessing of the indwelling Spirit’s power for our ongoing spiritual maturity?

God’s Temple

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?…God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God…he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him…Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:11, 17, 19-20) If you read the entire passage from 1 Corinthians 6, you will notice that the central idea here is to “not be dominated by anything” physical, especially food or sexuality (1 Cor. 6:12) Paul urges his readers to have a correct, biblical view of being “joined” to God, being “one spirit” with him. “The Greek word here for union means literally ‘glued,’ signifying the closest of ties, which results in complete union, or fusion…It brings into sharp contrast the Christian concept of holiness with that of pagan Corinth, where in the temple of Aphrodite prostitutes were priestesses.” (3) “Sanctification, says the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q.35), is ‘the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness’…In regeneration, God implants desires that were not there before: desire for God, for holiness, and for the hallowing and glorifying of God’s name in this world; desire to pray, worship, love, serve, honor, and please God; desire to show love and bring benefit to others. In sanctification, the Holy Spirit’ works in you to will and to act’ according to God’s purpose.” (4) What a blessing to see God’s glory now through the Spirit, and to be transformed continually rather than remain as we are.

From Glory to Glory

In 2 Corinthians 3:16 and 18, Paul writes, “When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” “When any person is converted to God, then the veil of ignorance is taken away. The condition of those who enjoy and believe the gospel is happy, for the heart is set at liberty to run the ways of God’s commandments. They have light, and with open face they behold the glory of the Lord. Christians should prize and improve these privileges. We should not rest contented without knowing the transforming power of the gospel, by the working of the Spirit, bringing us to seek to be like the temper and tendency of the glorious gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and into union with Him. We behold Christ, as in the glass of his word; and as the reflection from a mirror causes the face to shine, the faces of Christians shine also.” (5) “Now the efficient cause of all this, ‘is the Spirit of the Lord.’ It is he that takes off the veil from the heart, that we may, with open face unveiled, behold all this glory; it is he that regenerates, stamps the image of Christ, and conforms the soul to his likeness; it is he that gradually carries on the work of grace upon the soul, increases faith, enlarges the views of the glory of Christ, and the spiritual light, knowledge, and experience of the saints, and will perfect all that which concerns them; will quicken their mortal bodies, and make them like to Christ; and will for ever rest as a spirit of glory on them, both in soul and body.” (6) Having been set apart, washed, and sanctified, we are one with God, and our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who ensures our blessed, ongoing spiritual maturity.

Personal Deliverance and Victories Through the Spirit

The other morning while I was doing my stretches, I remembered two un-Christian comments I made to staff members at physical therapy several years ago. I could see the people, hear their instructions, and painfully recall precisely what I said. I know I asked God for forgiveness after the two incidents and also asked for theirs. But I guess my confession and repentance weren’t complete because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was grateful for holy conviction, so I confessed and repented sincerely of a cold, mean, selfish heart with people trying to help me. Then I thought about including this account here as an illustration for sanctification. But I forgot, until this morning, when I’m sure the Spirit moved me to share with you, having been blessed by his help. “Moral renovation, whereby we are increasingly changed from what we once were, flows from the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit…Regeneration is birth; sanctification is growth. Paul’s use of glory in 2 Corinthians 3:18 shows that for him sanctification of character is glorification begun. Then the physical transformation that gives us a body like Christ’s, one that will match our totally transformed character and be a perfect means of expressing it, will be glorification completed (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Cor. 15:49-53)…God’s method of sanctification is neither activism (self-reliant activity) nor apathy (God-reliant passivity), but God-dependent effort…To clarify the relationship between the law and sin, Paul analyzes in a personal and dramatic way the sense of impotence for complete law-keeping, and the enslavement to behavior one dislikes, that the Spirit-flesh tension produces (Rom. 7:14-25). This conflict and frustration will be with Christians as long as they are in the body. Yet by watching and praying against temptation, and cultivating opposite virtues, they may through the Spirit’s help “mortify” (i.e., drain the life out of, weaken as a means of killing) particular bad habits, and in that sense more and more die unto sin. They will experience many particular deliverances and victories in their unending battle with sin, while never being exposed to temptations that are impossible to resist.” (7) I am grateful for the irresistible, convicting work of the Holy Spirit, considering how much and frequently I am tempted to resist God’s commands. Perhaps you, like me, have moments when you are doubtful about being God’s temple where his Spirit wants to dwell and stay. Maybe you, like me, feel unworthy, unsuitable, and unqualified for his presence. My body is not pretty, not particularly healthy, and certainly not holy. But Christ is beautiful, worthy, suitable, and the only qualified Savior who gives us our Comforter. How can we deny Christ what he desires? Instead, let’s rejoice in the Spirit’s work and, as a result, give him influence and power to have the blessing of Christ-likeness. “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:14)

Related Scripture: Exodus 34:29-35; Ezekiel 39:29; Psalms 4:3; Acts 20:32; Romans 8:12-16; 15:15-16; Galatians 2:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 2:19-21; 1 Peter 1:1-2, 18-21.

Notes:

  1. https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/body-image/
  2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  3. Zondervan Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce General Editor, 1 Corinthians 6:12-13, One-Volume Illustrated Digital Edition.
  4. Packer, J. I., Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (pp. 169-170),  Tyndale House Publishers, Kindle Edition.
  5. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, 2 Corinthians 3:18, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhn/2-corinthians-3.html 
  6. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, 2 Corinthians 3:18, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-corinthians-3.html 
  7. Packer, J. I.. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (pp. 169-170). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

July 14, 2022

The Holy Spirit’s Blessing in Salvation

Did you celebrate Independence Day in the U.S.? When I was overseas, I was usually so busy that I hardly noticed the Fourth of July. But now that I’m on American turf, I see that the holiday seems to be everyone’s focus almost a week before the actual day. I enjoy hearing patriotic songs and reading posts celebrating the great liberties we have in the U.S. But that freedom is marred by sin and abuse, using independence to assert that my rights trump yours. Generally, many people think of liberty as personal freedom to succeed at any cost, make bad choices, criticize, and generally disregard the ordinary needs of others. It’s an excellent time to meditate on our liberty in Christ through the Holy Spirit’s application of his atonement, freeing us from enslavement to our flesh, Satan, and the world. I will be concentrating this month on the blessings we have through the work of the Holy Spirit. First, we will consider our salvation, and in the following weeks, sanctification, assurance (our hope and security in Christ), and finally, his calling and assistance for our service in the Lord. In a world of extremes— sports, opinions, media—we also tend to treat the Spirit of God with extreme over-emphasis or neglect. The Spirit is mentioned often in Scripture as the third person of the trinity—working together for God’s kingdom on earth and eternally. “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26) Jesus Christ liberates and gives sight to the blind, captive, oppressed, and poor through the Holy Spirit. Do we rejoice in our blessed, eternal liberty from captivity to sin as we do for our earthly independence from tyranny? 

Jesus Christ Anointed by the Holy Spirit

Jesus is united with the Spirit, just as he is with the Father. The three persons of the trinity always work as one essence, one will, and one truth. At no time are they independent of each other, except for the brief time of Christ’s crucifixion, when our sin separated him from the others. At the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus declared in the temple, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18-19) “The third person in the Trinity…was given to Christ as man, without measure, whereby he was qualified for his great work: he was upon him, and in him, the first moment of his conception, which was by his power; and he visibly descended on him at his baptism; and the phrase denotes the permanency and continuance of him with him…to preach the Gospel to the poor: in Isaiah it is, ‘to the meek ‘…such as are poor in spirit, and are sensible of their spiritual poverty…to these the Gospel, or glad tidings of the love, grace, and mercy of God in Christ, of peace, pardon, righteousness, life and salvation by Christ, were preached by him; and that in so clear a manner, and with such power and authority…to preach deliverance to the captives; who are captives to sin, Satan, and the law.” (1) “The work of Christ was not finished when He had merited salvation for His people and had obtained actual possession of the blessings of salvation. In the counsel of redemption He took it upon Himself to put all His people in possession of all these blessings, and He does this through the operation of the Holy Spirit, who takes all things out of Christ, and gives them to us.” (1) Have you thanked God lately for the work of the Spirit in your salvation? I enjoy asking new friends and fellow believers about their testimonies of redemption. Hearing their accounts reminds me of my own remarkable, unexpected salvation. “The Spirit of glory, the Holy Spirit, rests upon believers in an especially powerful way. Further, it is the same Spirit that rested on Jesus (Isa. 11:2; Matt. 3:16) who now rests upon the believer.” (2)

The Spirit Anoints Believers

“The word [grace] is something like a synonym for the Holy Spirit, so that there is little difference between ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ and ‘full of grace and power’ in Acts 6:5 and 8. The Holy Spirit is called ‘the Spirit of grace’ in Heb. 10:29…As the covenant in which God made provision for the salvation of sinners is called the covenant of grace, and as the Mediator of the covenant is said to have appeared ‘full of grace,’ so that we can receive out of His fulness ‘grace for grace,’ John 1:16,17, so the Holy Spirit is called ‘the Spirit of grace,’ since He takes the ‘grace of Christ’ and confers it on us.” (3) I have a friend who calls God’s blessings a “kiss on the cheek.” When I consider the work of the Spirit in rescuing me from my lost estate, it’s like a tender, loving kiss on my forehead. I was utterly lost and didn’t know it, like a person taking a new shortcut but going in the wrong direction and not realizing it. Some of us were raised in the church, with teaching about sin and the need for salvation. However, others had no idea that we were absorbed in our self-righteousness or cultural indoctrination. The Holy Spirit interrupted our lives to show us God, and we awakened us to our dead status. Even “good” people who love to help others and do what is right suddenly understand that all they have done is temporal and for their self-image when they are converted. “Good citizens” need Christ, like the prophet Isaiah needed him for the calling of God to speak to Israel. When God appeared to Isaiah, he said, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5) “He is made sensible of his lost and undone state…For mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts…and a lovely sight it is to see him by faith, in the glory and beauty of his person, and in the fulness of his grace; such a sight is spiritual, saving, assimilating, appropriating, very endearing, and very glorious and delightful: wherefore it may seem strange that a sight of Christ should fill the prophet with dread; one would think he should rather have said, happy man that I am, because I have seen this glorious Person, whom to see and know is life eternal; but the reason of it is, because in this view of Christ he saw the impurity of himself…just as in a sunbeam a man beholds those innumerable motes and atoms, which before were invisible to him. It was not because of his sight of Christ he reckoned himself undone; but because of the impurity of himself, and those among whom he dwelt, which he had a view of through his sight of Christ: his sight of Christ is given as a reason of his view of his impurity, and his impurity as the reason of his being undone in his apprehension of things. The prophet, in these his circumstances, represents a sensible sinner, under a sight and sense of his sinfulness and vileness.” (4) Like Isaiah, I was stunned by my sinfulness when Christ redeemed me. I spent my first year as a Christian confessing and weeping over my sin. And yet, what a blessing to have the light of God shine in my heart, exposing so many dark, dank, evil crevices where my sin dwelt undisturbed. I was cleansed. Jesus Christ relieves, liberates, and gives sight to the blind, captive, oppressed, and poor in Spirit through the Holy Spirit. He saves those who are lost and don’t know it. Without the Holy Spirit’s application of Christ’s atonement, you and I would still be lost. 

“The Spirit recreates the human heart, quickening it from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regenerate people are new creations. Where formerly they had no disposition, inclination, or desire for the things of God, now they are disposed and inclined toward God…Regeneration is not the result of faith. Rather regeneration precedes faith as the necessary condition for faith…We do not decide or choose to be regenerated. God chooses to regenerate us before we will ever choose to embrace Him. To be sure, after we have been regenerated by the sovereign grace of God [through the Holy Spirit], we do choose, act, cooperate, and believe in Christ.” (5) Have you celebrated the Spirit’s work for salvation lately? “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

Related Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-2; 42:1; Ezekiel 34:15-16; Matthew 3:11-16; 11:4-6; 18:12-14; John 3:34-36; Acts 26:15-18; 1 Corinthians 12: 13; Ephesians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5.

Notes:

  1. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Luke 4:18, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/luke-4.html
  2. Berkoff, L., Systematic Theology, p. 432,” Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993.
  3. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, 1 Peter 4:14, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008. 
  4. Berkhof, Ibid, p. 426-8.
  5. Gill, Ibid, Isaiah 6:4-5.
  6. The Reformation Study Bible, “Rebirth, p. 587” Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.

July 7, 2022

Blessed Fellowship in Christ

My friend, who is also a neighbor, gets busy, as I do, and we don’t meet as often as we would like. Our conversations aren’t remarkable and wouldn’t be particularly interesting to others. We recount what we’ve been up to since we last met or talked, or what’s on our calendars for the next few days. Aa we talk, we thank God for answered prayers and his help. We both place our Christian faith at the top of our priorities, spending time in God’s Word and serving our community. When we disagree about some way to approach someone or do something, it’s quickly put right by bringing in the gospel, and we’re on the same track. It’s not that way with everyone; sometimes, we can’t seem to overcome our differences of opinion or ways of viewing the world with others. When we have our Bible study discussions here, some of the participants grow very quiet with thoughtful expressions, letting me know that the biblical view being addressed is different or new for them. I’m always encouraged when someone lets me know they appreciate new teaching and are thinking about what we discussed. When God redeems us, the Holy Spirit works in us to transform our thinking. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18; also see Romans 12:1-2.) God’s people, transformed in Christ, have what the Bible calls “koinōnia,” fellowship that draws us closer to God and others into his kingdom. God called the early church to awesome koinōnia giving his people one generous heart and mind in the gospel, resulting in others coming into his kingdom. 

Christ’s First Church

In Acts, we read about the first church God planted in Jerusalem. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47) Having committed themselves to biblical instruction, every soul, all who believed, had all things in common, giving to all, having favor with all people—which was only possible through the Holy Spirit’s work. The result was the growth of the kingdom of God, more blessings for more people, and increased blessings for those already in the fellowship. “The greatness of the event raised them above the world, and the Holy Ghost filled them with such love, as made every one to be to another as to himself, and so made all things common, not by destroying property, but doing away selfishness, and causing charity.” (1) “Acts 2:42-47 describes the early church. It is presented as a model church, but this does not mean that it was perfect. A few chapters further on, we are going to find that it was far from perfect. It had hypocrites in it, as our churches also have. It had doctrinal errors. It certainly had sinful human beings of all types, as our churches do. Yet it was a model in many important respects, and it is as such that it is described in Acts 2…Not only did it devote itself to the apostles’ teaching, but the early church also devoted itself to fellowship at many levels. [John] Stott says that ‘the word “fellowship” was born on the Day of Pentecost.’ This is because Christian fellowship means ‘common participation in God,’ which is what had drawn the early Christians together.” (2) God called the early church to awesome koinōnia giving his people one generous heart in the gospel resulting in others coming into his kingdom. The early believers didn’t create this fellowship; God did. They didn’t work themselves into a blessed state of submission, humility, sacrifice, or devotion to Christ. The Holy Spirit did this work in and among them, and they were blessed. Do we trust God and yield to him for awesome koinōnia with our brothers and sisters in Christ so that others can have Christ’s salvation in his kingdom with us?

Christian Koinōnia 

“The apostle John wrote, ‘We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ’ (1 John 1:3)…The fellowship of the church was a common fellowship because of the great spiritual realities the believers shared in together. Fellowship with God and true fellowship with others go together…If you find yourself out of fellowship with God, you will begin to find yourself out of fellowship with other Christians…But if you come close to God, you will inevitably find yourself being drawn close to other Christians. And it works the other way, too. If you spend time with other Christians, if you share a great deal with them, that fellowship will help to draw you closer to the Father. When we talk about our participation in God, we are talking about a ‘sharing in.’ But this ‘sharing in’ also results in a ‘sharing out.’” (3) “The fellowship that the Bible describes in Acts is that of sharing a common life together. As Jerry Bridges notes in his book, True Community, ‘The first Christians of Acts 2 were not devoting themselves to social activities but to a relationship–a relationship that consisted of sharing together the very life of God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They understood that they had entered this relationship by faith in Jesus Christ, not by joining an organization. And they realized that their fellowship with God logically brought them into fellowship with one another. Through their union with Christ, they were formed into a spiritual organic community.’ Sharing a common life together is not about doing activities but about sharing life. Spiritual life. It is about working together to bring about God’s Kingdom purposes. It is about serving together, helping each other through trials, lifting each other up when we fall, praying for one another, urging one another on in the faith. And ultimately, it is reflecting Christ in our love for one another, imaging Him to the fallen world around us. It all starts with our own friendship with God—our own fellowship with God. We give and receive from Him. We give Him our burdens and He gives us His grace, rest, and strength. We receive from Him spiritual nourishment and then pour it out to other believers. They in turn also receive from God and pour it out into our lives. It is a constant flow, an unceasing giving and sharing of God’s love and grace with one another.” (4) As we follow the example of the early church, yielding to God’s calling for face-to-face, in-person koinōnia, we will be tremendously blessed. Others will notice and be drawn by God into Christ’s salvation, sharing the fellowship in his kingdom with us.  

“The word fellowship has been so watered down in contemporary speech that it conveys only a faint suggestion of what it meant in earlier times. When we speak of fellowship today, we generally mean no more than comradeship, the sharing of good times…When the Bible uses the word, it means being caught up into a communion created by God. [In Philippians 1:3-5]…Paul was so thankful in the case of the young church at Philippi. They may have had things in common. But Paul is not speaking of these. He is thankful for their share in the gospel of God. They had been taken up into a divine fellowship. They were united, not upon a social level, but by their commitment to the truths of the gospel.” (5) Paul experienced fellowship with the Philippian church, in-person and from a distance. He wrote to them, “It was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.” (Philippians 4:14-16) What blessings have you shared with your Christian family lately? “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Related Scripture: Psalms 55:14; 119:63; Luke 24:52-53; Acts 1:14; 4:32-33; 5:42; 13:12; 16:5; Romans 14:18; 2 Corinthians 8:9-15; Ephesians 4:3-6. 

Notes

  1. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Acts 2:42-47, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/acts-2.html
  2. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Acts 2:42-47, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  3. Boice, Ibid.
  4. Boice, Ibid.
  5. Fox, Christina, Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ helps Friendships to Flourish, Christian Focus Publications, 2017, Kindle Edition.
  6. Boice, Ibid, Philippians 1:3-5.

June 30, 2022

The Blessing of Christian Unity

What have you recently done that was “pleasant?” When were you with people who bless you with love and interest in you and your life? How do you define “pleasant?” Most dictionaries define it as something that gives a sense of enjoyment or happy satisfaction. But after my week of meditation on our passage, I propose that this definition falls far short of God’s. In Genesis 2:9, “The Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” God’s Word equates pleasant with “good” in God’s eyes, which is supremely excellent. The writer of Hebrews recognizes our tendency to define pleasant as the absence of pain: “…all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant…” (Hebrews 12:11) While that which is agreeable, lovely, or delightful certainly includes the absence of pain (at least for a short time), or a distraction from it, we are called to a much more excellent experience of God’s goodness. The people of God have access to the greatest blessings of Christ, especially when we are gathered together. On Sunday, our pastor asked us, “Do we long to come together as a local church body in the Spirit’s presence the way we long to see grandchildren or others? Did we miss being together during COVID, to the point of heartbreak?” He quoted C.S Lewis, who wrote, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (1) And yet, God pours out his tangible, good, pleasant blessings through believers’ unity when gathered together, as we will see in Psalm 133.

The Blessing of Christian Unity

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalms 133) In this song of assent to worship, David is aware that “God commands his blessing where peace is cultivated; by which is meant, that he testifies how much he is pleased with concord amongst men, by showering down blessing upon them. The same sentiment is expressed by Paul in other words (2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9), ‘Live in peace, and the God of peace shall be with you.’ (2) “Christ died to purify to himself a peculiar people. Unfeigned love of the brethren is the end of sanctification and evidence of it…according to his abundant mercy, by the resurrection of Christ…being children of the same Father, belonging to the same family and household, having the same spirit, and the same nature and disposition, and being members one of another, and heirs of the same grace and glory.” (3) When we think of God’s blessings, unity is probably not the first thing that comes to mind, probably because we are such independent creatures. But after we have had a shared experience with our Christian brothers and sisters, in worship, fellowship, Bible study, or other celebration, it might come to mind. If we would more frequently recognize God’s blessing of our unity in Christ, we would want more, more of God’s tangible, good, pleasant blessings as we spend time together. 

Unity’s Blessing is Like Dripping Oil

“It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!” (Ps. 133:2) “Unity is a gift from God. In verse 2 the threefold repetition ‘running down,’ ‘running down,’ and ‘down’—the Hebrew uses the same verb each time—emphasizes that the blessing of Aaron’s anointing was from above himself, that is, from God. The anointing of Aaron was a blessing from God for him, but he was the high priest, which meant that he in turn blessed others. The description of the oil running down from his beard ‘upon the collar of his robes’ also suggests the flow of the blessing. There is even the hint that, since the oil was ‘precious oil’—the best oil blended with myrrh, cinnamon, cane, and cassia (Exodus 30:22–24)—the anointing would have been wonderfully fragrant and would have filled the air wherever Aaron went…In the same way, a person who is at peace with himself or herself or a people who are united are a blessing wherever he, she, or they go. They tend to win people to their unity and spread it.” (4) Sometimes, we settle for much less than Christ’s blessings for his family. I have oil that I use to moisten and maintain my cuticles, that drips down all over my hands. But there is no comparison between this oil from a bottle, purchased and applied to myself, to the precious oil of God’s anointing. “[God’s blessing is] like the precious ointment upon the head…that ran down upon the beard, [even] Aaron’s beard…[like] the grace of the Spirit, the unction from the Holy One; which has been poured on Christ, the head of the church, without measure; and with which he has been anointed above his fellows; and from him it is communicated to all his members…particularly brotherly love is compared to this ointment; because of the preciousness of it, which is true of every grace; and because of the extensiveness of it, reaching to head and members, to Christ and all his saints, the meanest and lowest of them; and because of its fragrancy and sweet odour to all that are sensible of it; and because of its delightful, cheering, and refreshing nature; like ointment and perfume, it rejoices the heart.” (5) We are called, like David, to recognize God’s blessings and enjoy our good, sweet fellowship in Christ together. 

Unity’s Blessing is Like Refreshing Dew

“[Brothers dwelling in unity] is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” (Ps. 133:3) I have recently learned that Mt. Hermon, in Israel, is the only snow-capped mountain in that area. Mt. Zion is one hundred or more miles from Mt. Hermon. When the sun beats down on Mt. Hermon, the dew is sometimes carried to Jerusalem by a cold current of air sweeping down from the north over Hermon. The sweet, misty mountain air is refreshing, like the Spirit’s presence when we are together. “This comes from above, from the Father of lights; and, because of its gentle nature, this makes men pure, and peaceable, and gentle, and easy to be entreated; as the dew falls gently in a temperate and moderate air, not in stormy and blustering weather: and because of its cooling nature; it allays the heats and animosities in the minds of men; and because it makes the saints fruitful, and to grow and increase in good works…the promise of the covenant, the blessing of the Gospel; which is in the hands of Christ, and comes through him to all his people; (6) “Unity is a foretaste of heaven. The final verse of the psalm speaks of ‘life forevermore.’ Some things are good for us but not pleasant. Other things are pleasant but not good. But the unity we have as God’s people is both good and pleasant. It is even a bit of heaven now.” (7)

Do you know the hymn, “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds?” John Fawcett was orphaned at twelve. After being converted under the preaching of George Whitefield at sixteen, he became a preacher himself. He ministered at Carter’s Lane Church in London. His congregation was distraught at his farewell service and begged him to stay, and in 1987 he penned the hymn. “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above…We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear, and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear. When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.” Are we like Fawcett, filled with inward pain when we depart each other’s company, not just at funerals or quarantines, but whenever we have been blessed to share our mutual woes and bear our mutual burdens together? May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:5-7)

Related Scripture: Genesis 13:8; Leviticus 25:21;Deuteronomy 28:8-10; John 17:20-23; Acts 4:32-34; Romans 12:16-18; 1 Corinthians 16:13-14; 2 Corinthians 13:11-12; Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 2:1-2; 1 Peter 1:22-23; 2:16-17; 3:8; 4:8.

Notes:

  1. Pastor Bryant McGee, Blessed Unity, 6/19/22, with a quotation from C.S. Lewis, The  Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses. 
  2. Calvin, John, Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms, Psalm 133, P & R Publishing, 1999.
  3. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Psalm 133, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalm-133.html.
  4. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 133, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  5. Gill, Ibid.
  6. Gill, Ibid.
  7. Boice, Ibid

June 23, 2022

The Blessing of Shared Christian Joy

On Tuesday, our community celebrated Flag Day with local veterans. We marked our country’s founding and the flag’s ideals of a nation of “liberty and justice for all” by reciting the pledge. What have you observed with others lately? Have you been to a wedding, engagement party, bridal or baby shower, retirement, graduation, or team trophy party? I’m sure we mark some momentous things quietly, without much fanfare. But, it’s so much fun to celebrate a special event or a particular person with others. We have a heightened sense of community and unity of hearts when we get together. Celebrations also distract us from life’s difficulties, worries, and anxieties and relieve us from mundane weariness. According to LinkedIn, celebrating with others have five benefits: it relieves stress, shows appreciation, energizes us, creates valuable downtime, and acknowledges worthiness. This last item caught my attention. The website states: “In a world that can easily be seen as negative, acknowledging that something is important for you reflects a sense of worthiness to you.” (1) Of all the benefits of celebrating, this one seems obvious since the way we use our time is always an indication of what is valuable to us—even when it’s doing what is necessary to sustain life and take care of necessities. But going beyond life’s “necessary” things to celebrate, blesses us as we acknowledge something special together. Contrary to what we assume, we’re not restricted to celebrating periodically. Whenever possible, I begin my meetings and group Bible studies with shared praises and thanksgiving, celebrating God’s character and works. At other times, I try to open with a prayer that celebrates God. Christ’s family is to rejoice in God’s great salvation for us all. We celebrate our blessedness in God’s greatness when we worship, sing, pray, fellowship, and confess together.

Called to Celebrate Together

Many passages in the psalms call us to be joyful because of God’s blessings and salvation. I have extracted two verses in two different psalms today. “May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’…Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalms 70:4; 144:15b) Psalm 70 is a brief individual lament; it is David’s prayer for God to rescue him from his enemies. In Psalm 144, David praises God for his power and victory promised to Israel. Regarding Israel’s care from the Lord, he says, “Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!” (144:15a) “It is the will of God that he should be known in his gracious character, not only by one or two, but generally by all men. David, therefore, shows that he asks nothing for himself individually but what pertains to the whole Church. He prays that God would gladden the hearts of all the saints, or afford them all common cause of rejoicing.” (2) “It is good to be reminded that there are other righteous people, those who are trying to follow after God and do the right thing, just as we are. We often forget this. We struggle against our particular enemies, grow tired and discouraged, and find ourselves slumped under a juniper tree like Elijah, crying out, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too’ (1 Kings 19:10). When that happens we need to remind ourselves (or be reminded by God) that there are yet ‘seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him’ (1 Kings 19:18). It is important to remember that there are other people who are trying to do exactly what we are trying to do…[and] we should be able to praise God for whatever he chooses to do with us…It is a great thing when the people of God can say in any circumstance, ‘Let God be exalted!’ For he will be! It is fitting when we can acknowledge this and praise God openly.” (3)

Daily Celebration of Christ’s Salvation

I wonder how our Christian friends, co-workers, and family members might respond if we greeted them like this: “Isn’t God wonderful? Christ is interceding for us even as we speak!” Or, “What delights you about God today?” I confess that I often use my dog’s name to share my joy in the Lord. I named him GG (God’s Gift) intentionally because I wanted him to be a bridge to talk about the Lord as I move around in my community, at the vet’s, and in public places where I engage with others. It’s a bit easier to see why I named him this now that he’s glorifying God with his calm demeanor (vs. his former reactive, anxious behavior). But before, when he didn’t look like a gift, he reminded me and others that God’s blessings don’t always look like gifts to us. In Psalm 144, “David is extremely personal as he confesses who he had found God to be. He says my Rock, my loving God, my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, and my shield…The last lines [of the psalm] commend David’s God to the people. They say, in effect: Happy are those who can make the same confession I do, who can say as I have been doing, ‘My Lord and my God.’…the blessing is anchored in its only adequate source, God, which is why the psalm ends by saying that the greatest blessing of all is to have Jehovah as one’s God. How different this blessing is from the world’s way of thinking!…Having Jehovah as our God does not in itself immediately guarantee blessings, for we live in a fallen world. Even David did not experience uninterrupted blessings…But we are blessed by God all the same. Besides, to know God is the greatest of all blessings, and knowing and serving God is the best and surest path to every other blessing.” (4) As Christ’s family rejoices in his great salvation, we are to celebrate our blessedness together with joy. 

More Than Conquerers

Our pastor recently reminded us to thank God for Christ, our Savior, if we can’t think of any other reason to praise and thank God. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39) “If Christ has triumphed over our spiritual enemies, then we, through him, shall be more than conquerors. This may encourage all that seek God and love his salvation, to rejoice in him, and to praise him. No griefs nor poverty can render those miserable who fear the Lord. Their God, and all that he has or does, is the ground of their joy…The promises are sure, the moment of fulfillment hastens forward. He who once came in great humility, shall come again in glorious majesty.” (5) Celebrating Christ joyfully together blesses us all. “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust…You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” (Psalms 40:3-5)

Related Scripture: Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 33:29; 2 Samuel 7:23; Psalms 16:11; 33:12; 35:27; 40:16; 111:6-9 146:5; Proverbs 16:20; Isaiah 30:18; Jeremiah 17:7-8; 31:33; John 13:12-14; 1 John 4:11, 20-21.

Notes

  1. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-5-benefits-celebrating-something-keryn-rose
  2. Calvin, John, Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms, Psalms 70:4, P & R Publishing, 1999.
  3. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 70, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  4. Boice, Ibid, Psalm 144.
  5. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Psalm 40, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/psalms-40.html

June 16, 2022

The Blessing of Biblical Faith

Have you responded to an advertisement lately that promises something vague? You’ve had to open the envelope or email to learn more about the stated reward or discount. Many internet and email advertisers pursue us today with offers. But, we have to chase the ‘invitation” if we’re interested to learn the truth. Then, if you apply for a new credit card, expect to get other companies pursuing you for months. I’ve had many companies send me mail promising a $250 or $500 cash reward for opening an account with them. Curious, I open the envelope to see what I must do to earn it. I have to spend five or ten times that amount in a few months before getting the “reward.” I don’t know about you, but that’s not a reward in my eyes; it’s a bribe. If I had not read the literature carefully, I might not realize the condition for getting the funds and would have requested the card—in blind faith. Blind faith is a faith with no reason or faith despite evidence to the contrary. God’s Word never endorses faith without reason, evidence, or proof. The proof of Scripture is in the historical accuracy of its events, prayers, miracles, and teachings. Real people lived real lives and said things people memorized and recorded about the world, God, people, and creatures. “Biblical faith is not blind trust in the face of contrary evidence, not an unknowable’ leap in the dark;’ rather, biblical faith is a confident trust in the eternal God who is all-powerful, infinitely wise, eternally trustworthy–the God who has revealed himself in his word and in the person of Jesus Christ, whose promises have proven true from generation to generation, and who will ‘never leave nor forsake’ his own (John 13:5). Such faith in the unseen realities of God is emphasized throughout [Hebrews] chapter 11 and has provided confidence and assurance to all who receive Christ as their Lord and Savior.” (1) We sometimes confuse sight with the truth; but God is invisible but real or believable. When we have faith in our unseeable God, the object of our faith is Christ, who is alive, reliable, and the source of all spiritual blessings. Believers are spiritually blessed by Jesus Christ because we have real, biblical, saving faith. Let’s delight in the blessings of Christ and reject tendencies toward “blind faith.”

Thomas Believed When He Saw Jesus

After Jesus’s resurrection, Thomas seems to think that the disciples saw a ghost rather than Jesus’s real, glorified body. The following Sunday the disciples gathered before returning to Galilee. Jesus appeared in the locked room “and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” (John 20:26-29) “What does Jesus mean when he says, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed?’…I believe he is speaking, not of a subjective faith, but of a satisfied faith. He is speaking of faith that is satisfied with what God provides and is therefore not yearning for visions, miracles, esoteric experiences, or various forms of success as evidence of God’s favor. More than that, he is saying that a faith without these things is not inferior to but is actually superior to a faith based upon them. If you are a normal Christian, I am sure there have been times when you have been discouraged, perhaps overcome with doubt, and you have said, ‘Oh, if God would only reveal himself to me in some special way so that my sight, touch, or hearing could assist my faith.’ We remember that there were people in the Bible who had such evidence’…Why can’t we have something similar?’ we argue. ‘Surely we could believe much better and be far more effective in our Christian walk and witness if we did.’ But that is not true, even though we like to tell ourselves that it is. For one thing, we usually want such experiences for the wrong reason—vanity. We would have a far higher opinion of ourselves if we should be granted an experience which most do not have. For another thing, visions do not necessarily lead to greater faith…If you are looking for miracles (which God sometimes does provide, but seldom), you will gradually become insensitive to the thousands of normal evidences of God’s mercy which you receive constantly…the blessings of the gospel are for those who live by faith and not by sight, who live by their faith in the character and benevolence of God.” (2) We are spiritually blessed by Jesus Christ because he gives us this reliable biblical, saving faith. The more robust our belief, the more able we are to reject tendencies toward “blind faith.”

Blessed to Believe Him Without Seeing Him

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-7) “This is not a reference to believing the unbelievable but to living all of one’s life based on confident trust in God’s promises for the future, even when one cannot yet see the fullness of the coming glory.” (3) “The present state and situation of the saints, whilst in the body, is a state of pilgrimage, and so of absence from the Lord Christ, and from their Father’s house, serves to increase their confidence and assurance, that they shall not long continue so, but in a little time shall be at home, and forever with the Lord. For we walk by faith, and not by sight. Faith is a grace which answers many useful purposes; it is the eye of the soul, by which it looks to Christ for righteousness, peace, pardon, life, and salvation; the hand by which it receives him, and the foot by which it goes to him, and walks in him as it has received him; which denotes not a single act of faith, but a continued course of believing; and is expressive, not of a weak, but of a strong steady faith of glory and happiness, and of interest in it…Faith looks at, and has a glimpse of things not seen, which are eternal; but it is but seeing as through a glass darkly; it is not that full sight, face to face, which will be had hereafter, when faith is turned into vision..” (4)

Being Informed About God is a Blessing

“When Christians are not informed about the many reasons for God, their faith rests on an intellectually weak foundation. With a weak foundation, their spiritual home becomes unstable and is difficult to share with others. If spiritual leaders convince you that believing things without any reason to do so is virtuous, then you’ve opened yourself up to being misled by anything they tell you…I would challenge you to raise the bar of your engagement with Christians to the highest level you can take it. Maybe begin with Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis or The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel. If that’s weak sauce, go after Reasonable Faith, by William Lane Craig. Hungering for something bristling with the toughest arguments? Work your way through The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.” (5) “God blesses faith, and not the living out of some unusual experience…Suppose God’s blessing were linked to the unusual. In that case, either his blessing would be for a small and select company only, or else the things we consider unusual would have to become commonplace, in which case they would cease to have the character of ‘special evidences.’ They would be like those other countless evidences of God’s providence which we enjoy daily but do not regard so highly, simply because they are common. No, the blessings of God are for all; and they are based, not upon the unusual in Christian experience, but upon faith which by its very nature and definition is common to all who call upon the name of Christ as God and Savior. This is why the Gospel of John ends on this note. It ends here because John wants to encourage everyone to believe on Jesus and enjoy God’s blessings.” (6) And, I add, to reject the tendency we may have toward blind faith, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) The next time I read of some “reward” on the front of an envelope, I will think of our sure, true, reliable inheritance in Christ. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9) 

Related Scripture: 2 Chronicles 30:26-27; Luke 1:18-20; John 20:29; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 4:18-5:1; Ephesians 3:17-19; Hebrews 11:1.

Notes:

  1. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Hebrews 11:1, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  2. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, John 20:29, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  3. ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid, 2 Corinthians 5:6-7.
  4. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, 2 Corinthians 5:6-7, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-corinthians-5.html
  5. Weitnauer, Carson, The Problem of Blind Faith, February 2, 2013 by Carson Weitnauer, http://christianapologeticsalliance.com/2013/02/02/the-problem-of-blind-faith/.
  6. Boice, Ibid, John 20:29.

June 2, 2022

The Blessing of Contented Stewardship

Now that it’s summer everyone is asking, “Are you going to travel?” Maybe you’ve saved some money and vacation time and are looking forward to getting away. I’m perfectly content not to travel or take a vacation unless it gets too hot here in South Texas. Then I may load up the dog and hit the road. I never had a big travel bug, but maybe you do and delight in seeing new places or visiting old haunts, family, or friends. Perhaps you also, like me, find yourself learning more about your preferences and motivations through our meditations on the blessings of contentment. We have yet another avenue to “travel on this road”—our contentment as God’s stewards. Employers, management, and business owners expect their employees to earn the right to handle company finances, personnel, and projects. Nannies, chefs, contractors, and others have to earn their positions through their trustworthiness, reputations, skills, and responsible work ethics. However, God gives us stewardship, as his representatives, from the beginning. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'” (Genesis 1:28) Then, when we are reborn in Christ, we are given satisfaction from him rather than earning it. The more we learn about and apply biblical stewardship lessons, the more content we become. The more content we are, the more blessed we and others are by our stewardship. As we mature in our stewardship, we get to the point of equanimity with our circumstances and provisions—a real blessing in a turbulent world. I chose the word “equanimity” because it mirrors biblical contentment, to the extent that a worldly benefit can imitate what only God can give. The online dictionary defines equanimity as “a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind.” Our justified position with Christ and comfort from the Holy Spirit impact our whole persons—our minds, emotions, attitudes, hearts, motivations, and reactions—for what the world might call “psychological” equilibrium—an inferior but desirable condition related to contentment. We can achieve greater contentment by appreciating and enjoying the gift of blessed, satisfied stewardship from God.

God’s Wealthy Blessings

“The world, living for the present, will desire the newer, shinier, bigger, better, more convenient, faster, more enjoyable, more luxurious, and tastier. God offers His children the opportunity to step off the treadmill and rest in Him. ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (Rom 12:2). Contentment’s primary source is found in God’s perspective on wealth. Knowing what God prizes, as expressed in His word, is a tremendous encouragement to His children as they find themselves in the world, but not of the world. According to the Bible, a number of things are of greater value than gold, i.e., material riches. These treasures include: The souls of people (Matt. 16:26); righteousness (Prov. 16:8); wisdom and understanding (Prov. 16:16); a good name (Prov. 22:1); the law of the Lord (Ps. 19:9-10); integrity (Prov. 19:1); an excellent wife (Prov. 31:10); children (Ps. 127:3, 5); knowing Christ (Phil. 3:7-9); and knowing God (Jer. 9:23-24)…God sees material wealth as a means of advancing His purposes, and on many occasions a lack of material wealth may give rise to and even deepen the qualities that matter most. Some of God’s people may possess wealth, while others may not. In either case, a spirit of contentment delivers God’s people from a preoccupation with wealth.” (1) Not only does spiritual satisfaction rescue us from materialism and consumerism, but it alone is without trials or trouble. “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) Believers are stewards of God’s rich, spiritual blessings, which come without guilt, regrets, or grief. We are content when we appreciate and enjoy our blessed, equanimous stewardship through Christ. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1  Peter 4:10-11)

Content in All Circumstances

Agur prayed, “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:7-9) “Agur wisely prayed for a middle state, that he might be kept at a distance from temptations; he asked daily bread suited to his station, his family, and his real good. There is a remarkable similarity between this prayer and several clauses of the Lord’s prayer. If we are removed from vanity and lies; if we are interested in the pardoning love of Christ, and have him for our portion; if we walk with God, then we shall have all we can ask or think, as to spiritual things…we may be sure that our heavenly Father will supply all our need, and not suffer us to want anything good for us; and why should we wish for more?” (2) “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28) In Proverbs 30:7-9, “Agur deprecates both [wealth and poverty], as having their separate, peculiar, snares and temptations…[so he prays] feed me with food convenient for me; not merely what was agreeable to his palate, suitable to his constitution, and sufficient for nature; nor for him personally, but for his family also; and what was proper and suitable to the condition and circumstances in which he was, and to the rank and quality he held, whether in a more private or in a more public capacity…It seems to be the same which Job calls his ‘necessary food’, and Christ ‘our daily bread:’ it takes in both food and raiment, which having, men should be contented with… desirous he might not be exposed to temptations to evils which so affected the honour and glory of God.” (3)As we embrace God’s rich, spiritual blessings, we find that guilt, regrets, or grief that would otherwise ensnare us is lessened, and we are his blessed, contented stewards.

God’s Good Creation and Provisions

“All that God created is good. On the other hand, the things of this world do not satisfy our deepest longings. Human beings were created to be in a relationship with God. The human soul or spirit longs for this, even when the knowledge of God is suppressed (Rom. 1:21–23). But…the water of the salty sea cannot quench the thirsty man. So also, the material world that surrounds us cannot satisfy the soul’s longing for the ultimate and eternal. The human being, created in the image of God, thirsts for the transcendent…Jesus calls the thirsty to come to him and drink (John 7:37). The one who comes to him will not hunger, the one who believes in him will never thirst (John 6:35).” (4) As God spoke to Israel, he tells us: “The Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him…He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.'” (Isaiah 30:18-21) “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:35, 37) We conquer the world’s temptations through our blessed contentment from God.

Related Scripture: Genesis 24:34-36; 26:12-15; Deuteronomy 8:11-18; 32:1-39; Job 23:12; Psalm 24:1; Proverbs 10:4, 15; Hosea 2:8; Matthew 6:11; Galatians 6:6-10.

Notes:

  1. MacArthur, John. Think Biblically! (Trade Paper), p. 311, Crossway, Kindle Edition.
  2. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Proverbs 30:7-9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/proverbs-30.html
  3. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Proverbs 30: 30:7-9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-30.html
  4. Barcley, William, The Secret of Contentment, Pp. 162-3 , Kindle Edition, P & R Publishing, 2010.

May 26, 2022

The Blessing of Godly Discontentment

As I meditated on this devotion this morning, I felt content and confessed of not being discontented enough with this life.We can enjoy eating good food, watching and playing sporting events, enjoying our children and friends, playing with our dogs on a cool summer’s morning, births, weddings, and much more. I was happily walking my dog by the river when I learned that the husband of a very close friend of mine had died. On the way home from our walk, a driver had on his right turn signal, so I turned onto the road. But the driver didn’t turn and pulled up close behind me. However, then the driver had to quickly switch lanes, to avoid a left highway u-turn, with his right turn signal still blinking. I was then in the throws of discontentment with this world, human nature, and its corruption—with wars, illness, death, floods, droughts, famines, hurricanes—and all the rest, including my sinful inclinations. Because of our sin, we must learn when to be content and when to be discontent for the best life here in Christ. We know that all our earthly pleasures evaporate over time and that the delights of God are eternal. We know that our worldly pleasures and joys are nothing compared to the contentment we have in Christ. But, we have so much trouble living out our holy discontentment to find our true fulfillment in God’s presence, provisions, and promises.

The Vanity of This World

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon opens and closes with this statement: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8) “Literally the word [vanity] means ‘vapor’ and conjures up a picture of something fleeting, ephemeral, and elusive, with different nuances to be ascertained from each context. When applied to human undertakings or the pleasures and joys of earthly life, it indicates that ‘the present form of this world is passing away’ (1 Cor. 7:31); applied to the darker realities of living in a fallen world (e.g., death), it expresses frustration, anger, or sorrow; applied to the Preacher’s search for understanding of all things, it indicates something that remained incomprehensible or inscrutable to him.” (1) Even our human wisdom and intelligence are like vapor that diffuses into the air as human philosophies of life come and go. Every scientific advancement will be nothing but smoke when death arrives at the door. But the delights of God are eternal, found in saving faith in Jesus Christ. On the other side of Solomon’s lamentation is David’s proclamation: “They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” (Psalms 36:8) “They” refers to “the children of mankind [who] take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (v.7). “David does not use the word satisfaction, but this is what he means when he speaks of the righteous feasting on the ‘abundance’ of God’s house…These verses describe a present and continuous enjoyment of God’s bounties.” (2) Having a holy dissatisfaction with our earthly pleasures is entirely biblical, and helps us appreciate God’s spiritual feasts, and see his hand in our daily providences.

Learning Contentment Through Sanctification

Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians when he had been a Christian for many years. “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13). “It may be said of one who is contented in a Christian way that he is the most contented man in the world, and yet the most unsatisfied man in the world; these two together must needs be mysterious…A man who has learned the art of contentment is the most contented with any low condition that he has in the world, and yet he cannot be satisfied with the enjoyment of all the world…if God should give unto him Kingdoms and Empires, all the world to rule…he would not be satisfied with that…he has a heart quieted under God’s disposal, if he gives him but bread and water. Though he is contented with God in a little, yet those things that would content other men will not content him…When Luther was sent great gifts by Dukes and Princes, he refused them, and he says, ‘I did vehemently protest…’tis not that which will content me’…a gracious heart says, “Lord, do with me what you will for my passage through this world; I will be content with that, but I cannot be content with all the world for my portion.”’ A contented man, though he is most contented with the least things in the world, yet he is the most dissatisfied man that lives in the world.” (4)

Learning Contentment Through Biblical Math

“For a Christian to find true contentment, he must begin to see life and reality in a new way. Contentment is the result of some ‘new math’—adding and subtracting not according to the predominant worldly paradigm but according to biblical teaching…The world and the sinful heart say, ‘If you want true happiness, you need to add things and reduce burdens.’ [Or], sometimes the world says, ‘If you want to find happiness, you must subtract things and live more simply.’ But neither of these approaches is biblical. Scripture teaches a different formula…If we want to learn contentment, we must learn God’s new math…First, contentment comes by addition—namely, not getting rid of the burden of our situation but adding a new one. This seems like a strange proposition. Why would we want to add another burden to our current burden? In fact, our desire is typically to want to be rid of our burdens altogether…In particular, Christians should in a sense bear the burden of their sin. Our sin should grieve us. We should be overwhelmed by its horror and by the fact that every sin is an offense against a holy God…What is the most difficult situation that we face in our lives?…the most troublesome situation of life, according to Scripture, is to be in a state that is displeasing to God. What we should seek to avoid at all costs is not affliction or want. Rather, it is disobedience to God in willful sin. If this is true, then the burden of our sin puts all other burdens in proper perspective…To find contentment we must [also] subtract from desires so that our desires and our circumstances are even and equal. This is the reason that so many who have less than others are content in their circumstances. Having little does not itself produce contentment. Rather, they are content because God has fashioned their hearts to their circumstances.” (5)

Godly Discontent + Eternal Contentment = Transformation and True Communion

When we achieve a holy dissatisfaction with earthly pleasures, we are transformed to desire and rejoice in God’s eternal presence and delights. “The contented Christian is the most contented person in the world; yet he is also the most unsatisfied. He longs to know Christ, to have more intimate knowledge of him, to be conformed to his image, to share in his work. This side of glory, the Christian will never attain what he desires. He will always want more…When God comes and transforms the heart of a sinner, so that he can by faith know God, God gives to him a desire and a longing after himself. The things of this world do not satisfy him. The most glorious riches, the deepest relationships, and the most peaceful landscapes in the world pale in comparison to true communion with the living God. And this communion is what the Christian seeks. He pursues until his thirst is quenched.” (6) Living in a state of spiritual contentment means that when we engage with the world we will frequently be spiritually disappointed. If Jesus wept at Lazarus’s tomb, shouldn’t we also grieve? But God’s presence and promises lift our spirits. My phone conversation with my friend, about her husband’s soul’s peace in Christ encouraged us both. “Jesus was the most contented man who ever lived… We are to feed on the Lamb of God by faith. We are to feast on God as we seek his glory, primarily found in the revelation of himself in his Word. We are to taste and see that he is good as we worship and have fellowship with him.” (7). “Being rooted and grounded in love, may [you] have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Related Scripture: Psalm 16:11; 27:4; 42:1-2; Isaiah 25:6-9; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Philippians 4:8-9; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; Hebrews 13:5-6.

Notes:

1. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Ecclesiastes, Ecc. 1:2, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.

2. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 36:8, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

3. Barcley, William, The Secret of Contentment, page 68, Kindle Edition, P & R Publishing, 2010.

4. Burroughs, Jeremiah, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Kindle Version, 2010.

5. Barcley, The Secret of Contentment, pp. 97-104.

6. Ibid., p. 69

7. Ibid., pp. 165-167

May 19, 2022FUTURE Possible Outline

1. God’s Blessedness—Father, Son,

The Blessing of Christian Contentment (Part 1)

Have you been content lately? Or has your level of satisfaction decreased with the stock market or rising prices of just about everything? Most people, when asked, “How are you?” would probably not say, “I’m content.” We say, “Fine,” which is similar but nondescript and usually means that nothing terrible is happening now. Thesaurus.com lists these synonyms for contentment: complacency, fulfillment, gratification, pleasure, and serenity, among others. (1) As someone living off the interest on my financial investments (including the stock market), I am working on being serene specifically about my financial future and with armed conflicts and their impact on innocent victims. This is an excellent time to meditate on the content God gives us in Christ—the eternal, infinite, unwavering security and peace for our souls. In his book, “The Secret of Contentment,” William Barcley writes: “We should pursue contentment because it is the greatest form of riches. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:6 that ‘there is great gain in godliness with contentment.’ In this context, Paul is contrasting the pursuit of worldly riches with the pursuit of contentment. In particular, he focuses our attention on what is really important. In terms of life and death it does not matter how much we have. We brought nothing into the world; we will take nothing out of it (1 Tim. 6:7). Eternity is what matters. The key, then, is not the wealth of our outward state but of our inward state. [Jeremiah] Burroughs writes, ‘Contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of the Christian.'” (2) Job lost everything in life—his home, wealth, and family. “And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'” (Job 1:21) I wonder how many of us would be able to demonstrate such contentment in his circumstances, even with the help of the Holy Spirit. Scripture has much to say about the believer’s calling to be content, with examples in the Old and New Testaments. Over the following few devotions, we will explore some of those passages using two very helpful resources: William Barcley’s “The Secret of Contentment” and Jeremiah Burroughs’ “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.”* In this devotion, we will focus on the mystery of contentment and how it blesses us. The next one will explore how Christian contentment leads us to be discontented with the world and how that’s good. I pray that our studies will lead us to detach ourselves from agitation, worry, and misery we experience when we focus on our circumstances.

God’s Purpose and Mysterious Will

The primary passage for our study will focus on what we have in Christ, for God’s praise and glory, according to his purpose. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14) “A contented spirit demonstrates our submission to the sovereign control of God over our lives…A contented spirit accepts whatever God gives. It recognizes that God ordains all things and that he is sovereign over the events of our lives—whether in times of plenty and relative ease or in times of want and hardship.” (3) It’s easy to see this principle at work when we are afflicted with a disease or circumstance beyond our control. It’s equally important, though, when other conditions are at work or when our circumstances don’t change. I wonder why I am content not to travel these days but not always content to be at home. It doesn’t seem to make sense and is often a mystery to me. That is until I remember how I have continually sought God’s will. What should cause me to wonder is my contentment for adventure in my walk with the Lord through much time in Scripture instead of earthly satisfaction from travel. (If you knew me as a twenty-something, you would also be amazed.) In the Ephesians passage, Paul blesses God the Father, who blesses us with Christ’s spiritual, heavenly gospel—God’s revealed will for us. Let’s seek to praise and thank God as we enjoy all of Christ’s gospel blessings—once a mystery to us.

The Mystery of True Contentment

Ephesians 1, verses 3 and 9, reminds us of every blessing from God who makes his mysterious will known to us in the gospel. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…making known to us the mystery of his will.” “The Gospel, which is a mystery, a hidden mystery, the mystery of God and of Christ, and the mystery of the Gospel…the saints’ union and communion with him, the work of the Spirit of God upon the soul, the calling of the Gentiles, and the conversion of the Jews, the resurrection of the dead, and the change of living saints: and the Gospel is the mystery of the will of God; of his will in saving sinners by Christ…[It] is made known by the ministry of the word, and by the Spirit, as a spirit of wisdom and revelation…the discovery of which is, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself…God is the author and giver of all blessings…And the blessings [here] are spiritual, so-called to distinguish them from temporal blessings…all the blessings and sure mercies of the everlasting covenant; all things pertaining to life and godliness, such as justification, peace, pardon, adoption, sanctification, and eternal life: and with these the saints are blessed ‘in heavenly’ places…this phrase may denote the safety of them, being out of the reach of any enemy, sin, Satan, or the world.” (4)  Shall we not praise and thank God as we enjoy all of Christ’s blessings? Doesn’t it sometimes seem a mysterious miracle that we have this contentment at all?

The Mystery and Blessing of Your Gospel

“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith.” (Romans 16:25-26) “When Paul says ‘my gospel’ he does not mean that the gospel is his as opposed to being ours or someone else’s. The gospel is for anyone who will have it. What ‘my gospel’ actually means is ‘the true gospel,’ as the context makes clear. This true gospel is Paul’s only in the sense that he has appropriated it personally by a faith that involved committing his life to Jesus Christ, and in the sense that he was teaching it. ‘My gospel!’ It would be good if the gospel was possessed by each of us in exactly the same way and as intensely.” (5) “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-12)

Related Scripture: Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 4:1; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Ephesians 2:4-7, 16; 3:10-11, 20-21; 5:32; Colossians 1:26-27; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Jude 24-25.

Notes:

  • Barcley, William, “The Secret of Contentment,” Kindle Edition, P & R Publishing, 2010  Burroughs, Jeremiah, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,” Kindle Version, 2010.
  1. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/contentment
  2. Barcley, Ibid, page 40.
  3. Barcley, Ibid, page 46.
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Ephesians 1:3, 9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ephesians-1.html
  5. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Romans 16:25-27, Baker Books, Software version, 1998. 

May 12, 2022

The Blessing of Good Days

In January, I asked, will 2022 be a good year for you? We usually compare our good days to our bad days to decide. But that’s not how God works or sees us. He wants us to have good days with him, blessed days. So, now I’m asking, what is your definition of a good day? Is it the lack of interruptions or disruptions? Maybe no worries or anxieties, having your family close by, time with friends, or success at work? The other day our Retirement staff hired a coffee truck for us to have free drinks. I planned to leave my apartment briefly, take GG, go to the truck, and return to continue my Bible studies. But we had to wait. I spent about thirty minutes visiting with my neighbors, who were also enjoying GG. I don’t often see some neighbors, the morning people, except very early if we meet, walking outside. The coffee was delicious. It seems like every day lately, the Lord’s been tweaking my plans. I am beginning to look forward to what he might have in store for me, rather than fear “interruptions.” After seventeen devotions, I am beginning to understand more about what it means to live the good life of being blessed. Every morning I need to spend time in God’s Word to adjust my thinking about life. I don’t study only to prepare; I meditate and investigate to be transformed from the person I am when I wake up in a fallen world—tempted to complain about waiting in line for a delicious coffee. So last week, when the HVAC unit for my apartment burned out, I used the opportunity to help GG learn to be calm around visitors to our apartment. Our maintenance staff provided a portable air conditioner. Then on “coffee truck day,” they came back to repair the HVAC and take care of another item needing fixing—one that needed hours of attention in the apartment. Instead of seeing it all as an inconvenience, I was thankful—the night before, I prayed for both things to be fixed. I’m blessed not only by these provisions. The biggest blessing is knowing that the Lord is in charge of my life and has good plans for me. When my little plans have been diverted, the Lord has shown me how blessed I am. Hopefully, these lessons will impact my future days when life doesn’t seem so good. When we’re walking with the Lord, trying our best to be obedient, and yield to his will, he blesses us with peace, thankfulness, and goodness. And, because we are eternally blessed in Christ, we will strive to bless others, turn away from evil, do good, seek peace and pray.

A Different Kind of “Good” Life

“If we live by God’s standards, we will never quite fit into any human culture. This was true in the empire, where the Christians’ allegiance to Jesus as Lord and refusal to worship the [Roman] emperor could be taken as a sign of dissent. Today, there is always a moral cause, often involving sexual ethics, in which evangelical Christians take the minority view. To the secularist, the Christian position might sound judgmental, intolerant, or bigoted, so we court disfavor…1 Peter 3:8-13 states the norm. A good life allows peace. Whatever we may say about life in an alien culture, under hostile authorities, the greater part of the Christian life concerns the character and disciplines that shape daily actions and our universal responsibilities. So Peter describes the virtues that bless everyone: harmony, sympathy, love, compassion, and humility.” (1) Daniel Doriani is commenting on this passage: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.'” (1 Peter 3:9-12) “What Peter calls ‘good days’ is roughly what we call happiness. Social scientists have studied happiness for years and have reached consistent conclusions. The poor are generally less happy, but once someone escapes poverty, his or her wealth, career success, and individual liberty add little to happiness. Arduous and constructive challenges are important, but ‘the daily activities most associated with happiness are all social’ things such as a strong marriage and time spent with friends.” (2) Most of us will agree that our best “good” days include conversations with those closest to us— who enjoy speaking about God’s goodness, praying together, giving and seeking guidance and encouragement, and celebrating milestones in our lives. If our days don’t include these, perhaps it’s time to initiate them. The more time we spend discerning God’s blessings, the easier it will be to fulfill our calling to bless those who are evil, do good, seek peace, and pray. 

An Invitation to Spiritual Foodies: Taste God

Peter quotes Psalm 34:11-15 in his admonition to the Christians in the diaspora. “Taste and see that the Lord is good. David calls upon men to stir up their senses, and to bring a palate endued with some capacity of tasting, that God’s goodness may become known to them. His meaning, therefore, is that there is nothing on the part of God to prevent the godly, to whom he particularly speaks in this place, from arriving at the knowledge of his goodness by actual experience…God never disappoints the expectations of those who seek his favor. Our own unbelief is the only impediment which prevents him from satisfying us largely and bountifully with abundance of all good things…David exhorts them to reflect upon the providence of God, and to rest assured that they are safe under his wings.” (3) “Every man desires life, even a natural life; it is more desirable than all things in it; especially a healthful life, without which the blessings and mercies of life cannot be comfortably enjoyed; and still more a life of prosperity; life, with an affluence of good things, and even a long one: though it may be rather that a spiritual life is here meant, and a comfortable one; a life free from the remorses of a guilty conscience, from the fear of hell, damnation, and wrath; from the bondage of the law, and the dread of death; a life of faith on Christ, and communion with him; and a life of sobriety, righteousness, and holiness; and perhaps it may be best of all to understand it of eternal life…[and] that he may see good; there is good to be seen and enjoyed in this life, which if the saints did not believe they should see and enjoy, they would often faint; and this good lies in the participation of the blessings of grace, and in fellowship with Father, Son, and Spirit: but the great and lasting good to be seen and enjoyed is in the world to come, when God shall be all in all, be seen as he is, and the saints shall inherit all things.” (4) 

The Good We Do Extends God’s Blessings

“David is saying that the fear of the Lord is doing right, that is, that it involves obedience [to his Word]. Moreover, since the fear of the Lord is the enjoyment of the Lord, the way to enjoy the Lord, to ‘taste and see that [he] is good,’ is to obey him. One commentator explains this by saying, ‘The good you enjoy goes hand in hand with the good you do. It is an emphasis which answers the suspicion (first aroused in Eden) that outside the will of God, rather than within it, lies enrichment.'” (5) As we meditate on God’s blessings, we begin to pray for Russia’s leaders, drug lords, political opponents, false teachers, abortionists, and proponents of “do what you feel like doing,” to name a few of our “enemies.”  “It is common to long for retaliation in the face of unjust criticism or suffering, but Jesus behaved like the meek lamb of Isaiah 53:7. He could do so because he continued entrusting both himself and those who mistreated him entirely to God, knowing that God is just and will make all things right in the end. Likewise believers, knowing that God judges justly, are able to forgive others and to entrust all judgment and vengeance to God. Every wrong deed in the universe will be either covered by the blood of Christ or repaid justly by God at the final judgment.” (6) Because we are blessed in Christ, we will strive to bless others, turn away from evil, do good, seek peace and pray. “Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.” (Psalms 5:11-12)

Related Scripture: Job 36:7; Proverbs 8:13; Isaiah 53:7-9; Matthew 5:44-45; Luke 6:27-31; Romans 12:14, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 4:12-13; Hebrews 12:3-4.

Notes:

  1. Doriani, Daniel M., “1 Peter—Reformed Expository Commentary,” 1 Peter, p. 125, P & R Publishing, 2014.
  2. Doriani, Ibid, pp. 131-132.
  3. Calvin, John, “Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms,” Psalm 34, P & R Publishing, 1999.
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 34:11-15, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-34.html
  5. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Psalm 34, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  6. “English Standard Version Study Bible Notes,” 1 Peter 2:23, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.

May 5, 2022