Our Words—Fruit for the Kingdom

Have you ever tried to stop using a particular word? When I was younger, I had the bad habit of using “mild” curse words, at least mild compared to those used today. It was tough to stop, with no other reason than I wanted to change. But I needed a deeper motivation which was not to offend and to be more professional. I replaced my bad words with “oh, pooh” and “darn.” Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Having been redeemed in Christ, the words that now come out of my mouth flow from a changed heart—transformed and gradually sanctified. Lately, God has been deepening my motivation, even more to speak for his glory and kingdom. Our conduct, choices, and decisions reflect the good God has put in us through Christ for the benefit of his family, our Christian brothers and sisters. This is especially true of our words, which should be for the benefit of others and not our own glory, promotion, or satisfaction. It’s counter-cultural, like other ways in which we live for Christ.

Speaking for the benefit of others rather than for myself is biblical. “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4) Even in prayer, as we meet with God, our words bless others through our union with him and our intercessions for them. So here is our passage today, focusing on the fruit of our mouths: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit…The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33, 35-37) Godly speech, which originates in our gospel treasure strengthens God’s family. Our words will mirror the gospel treasure in our hearts as we seek to bring out the treasure for others to enjoy. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:29-30)

When Christ transforms us, bringing us out of the darkness into his light, and the Holy Spirit makes us progressively better, so our fruit is improving. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (verse 33). When people plant trees today, they can “make” them good by the way they prepare, plant, and nurture them. Some will, because of sin, not be good, by no fault of God. Like trees, there resides in us the potential to be made good, but only by Christ’s interceding mercy. Like trees, we bear fruit depending on whether we are (spiritually) healthy or rotten. Have you ever opened a spoiled peace, apple, or watermelon? The outer peel may look good, but the flesh inside is brown and putrid—some may even be poisonous. And so it is with our words or our tone of voice when we are not reflecting the gospel good in us. “Even a liar’s speech expresses something true; it may not tell us the state of the world, but it tells us the state of his heart.” (1)

 

C. S. Lewis wrote a brilliant expose of Satan’s work, “The Screwtape Letters.” In the imaginary letters, Satan writes to his demon nephew, Wormwood, as an “affectionate uncle,” to disciple him in the devil’s craft. In one particular letter, he instructed Wormwood to use a man’s speech to hinder his relationship with God and his mother. “My dear Wormwood, I am very pleased by what you tell me about this man’s relations with his mother… In civilised life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things which would appear quite harmless on paper (the words are not offensive) but in such a voice, or at such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow in the face. To keep this game up you…must see to it that each of these two fools has a sort of double standard. Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother’s utterances with the fullest and most oversensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him. Hence from every quarrel they can both go away convinced, or very nearly convinced, that they are quite innocent. You know the kind of thing: ‘I simply ask her what time dinner will be and she flies into a temper.’ Once this habit is well established you have the delightful situation of a human saying things with the express purpose of offending and yet having a grievance when offence is taken.” (2) Convicting, is it not—a commentary on our society today, using words to drive home superiority and criticism of others?

Compare Lewis’s quote with this commentary by John Gill on Matthew 12:35. “A good man is a regenerated man, one that is renewed by the Spirit of God, a believer in Christ, a sincere lover of him, and one that follows him, wheresoever he goes, and who has the grace of God implanted in him: for “the good treasure the heart”…[and he] brings forth good things; tells his experience, speaks of what God has done for his soul; says many things to the glory of the grace of God; of the person, offices, blood, righteousness, and fulness of Christ; and of the operations and influences of the blessed Spirit; and which are pleasant, profitable, useful, and edifying to the saints.” (3) Rather than incite conflict and criticism, our good words build up our Christian family and those who will be drawn to join it. Our speech will reflect the gospel treasure in our hearts as we seek to bring out our wealth of grace for others to enjoy.

The selection, character, and tone of our words should prove that we have been justified. In Matthew 12, Jesus addressed his comments to the unbelieving Pharisees. However, in verse 36, he refers to the “people” whom God will judge. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37) But we should not think that anyone’s words will be the basis for their justification, their delivery out of condemnation. Instead, Jesus teaches that our words reflect the state of our justification, much as James teaches that we are “justified” (proved to be Christians) by our conduct. (4) In our progressive justification (sanctification), speech improves over time as we are conformed to the character of God. “Consider Peter, a disciple who must have been present with Jesus as he preached to the rulers of the Jews on this occasion…If ever a disciple was guilty of foolish, careless words, it was Peter…But what a change regeneration makes! And what a change in Peter after Christ’s resurrection and his gracious recommissioning to service….In that day Peter’s words were no longer careless, idiotic, or mistaken. Peter began to speak truthfully and with power, as the Holy Spirit spoke through him.” (5) Our pastors, theologians, teachers, family members, godly friends, and Scripture help us by modeling purified speech. “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:14-15) Over the last week, the Spirit reminded me of our pastor’s sermon on Acts 17, about speaking the gospel with love and respect when I was discussing other Scripture with my Christian family. (6) What a delight it is to know that God matures us through our regular participation and interactions in our local churches.

Will our words reflect the gospel treasure in our hearts as we seek to bring out our cache for others to enjoy? Do your speech and manner of speaking reflect the goodness Christ has worked in you, that the Spirit continues to work in you? Do you see progress in your use and choice of words? How about your tone and manner of speaking? Are you quick to react or do you take time to appreciate the full impact of what others are communicating? How often do you verbally share the gospel treasure in you? Does it come out in your emails, texts, tweets, or other posts? Will you pray about doing so respectfully and without attacking an unbeliever’s values or integrity? Do we give thanks to God, as he deserves, for our justification in Christ? Whenever I conduct a Bible study or meeting now, we begin with praises and thanksgiving; is there any better way to prepare for our time together? God deserves it and we need to get into the habit of delighting in words of praise together. Will you devote a regular time to commune with the Lord with words of praise, acknowledgement, and appreciation for what Christ and the Spirit have done in and for you? “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

(1) Budziszewsky, J., “What We Can’t Not Know,” Ignatius Publishers, First Edition, 2011.

(2) Lewis, C. S., “The Screwtape Letters,” pages 13-14, HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.

(3) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Matthew 12:35, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-12.html

(4) James does not contradict Paul on positional justification, meaning saved by faith alone through grace alone, not by our works. But James uses the term “justification” in a different way—Saved by grace alone, but not saved for grace alone. A couple of articles about this are found at:

https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/does-james-contradict-paul

https://www.ligonier.org/blog/faith-and-works/

(5) Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Matthew 12:28-38, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

(6) Taha, Allen, “Sharing is Caring,” https://www.csmedia1.com/trinityboerne.org/02-02-2020-website.pdf 

February 7, 2020

Bearing the Fruit of Repentance

Are you waiting for something? An event, a purchase, or the end of a trial? I am waiting for several things—a new recliner, my mums to come back to life, and a conference with a friend in mid-February. The passage for today has heightened my sense of anticipation. All of these things are outside of me—that is, I have no control over their dates. In the case of my mums, I don’t even know if they will ever blossom again, in spite of my feeding and watering them as I should. “And [Jesus] told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, “Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?” And he answered him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”‘” (Luke 13:6-9) God nurtures his redeemed people to produce fruit, especially the fruit of repentance. The Lord rejects the fruitless, those who refuse to repent of their sin and self-idolatry. But, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Today is a day of grace. Those of us who are Christians are to eagerly receive and employ God’s blessings to be more productive fruit-bearers today, as repentant sinners. “This parable in the first place refers to the nation and people of the Jews…Yet it is, without doubt, for awakening all that enjoy the means of grace, and the privileges of the visible church.” (1)

One of the dangers of a topical Bible study, sermon, or devotion is the tendency to make Scripture fit your topic. I wrestle with this every time I write because I want to be contextually accurate to our passages. It’s so common for us to manipulate Bible verses to meet our needs or philosophies because we are wired to self-interest in our sin nature. It would be much safer to move through a book exegetically, but even there we tend to insert our own meaning and perspective on the text. Why am I addressing this now? Well, I have listened to at least two sermons, five commentaries, and two devotions on the parable in Luke 13:6-9 to be sure that I have the right understanding of its meaning. The pictures that Jesus’s parables offer are unmatched in their vividness. But the meanings are sometimes obscure, and questionable when not provided by him. I recommend great caution with their interpretation and application only as is consistent with Scripture’s whole truth.

So is the parable about the barren fig tree in the garden about the ultimate, definite coming judgment, which will not be denied? Is it a warning against obduracy, like that of the Jews and all those who reject Christ? Does it teach that just because God hasn’t yet judged them they won’t be judged? Is Jesus turning the tables on those who judge others, reminding them that they too will be judged? Can we apply a meaning to believers who think they are saved, even if their lives don’t produce any visible sign of belonging to Jesus Christ? After my studies, I am going to risk saying that all of these may be valid ways to apply Christ’s parable. (But please write to me if I’m wrong!) I’ve even read about caring for fig trees. They don’t require much care to produce fruit, but will never do so in the first year. It will be two to three years before trees will produce seeds, then fruit, but can take up to six years. Feel free to google it. So it’s wait, wait, wait…ah, fruit. But in our parable, the vineyard owner was still waiting for his fruit after three years.

If our vineyard owner is our pastor or a mentor, imagine their disappointment if we aren’t producing fruit from all the time they’ve invested in us. Imagine God’s displeasure if we aren’t actively responding to the good news of the gospel that Christ has given us. Every source I have consulted has agreed that the figs God’s wants from us here are our repentant hearts. “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17) Redeemed Christians bear the fruit of repentance. ” Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?”(v. 7) In a sermon on the parable, Dr. R.C. Sproul teaches about the kind of repentance that is biblical. He says that attrition is repentance that is driven by the fear of punishment, like a child not wanting to be punished, but not sorry about committing the act. Contrition, on the other hand, is true repentance of a broken heart, sorrowing because we have offended God. There is a kind of theology that teaches that a Christian can be “carnal,” that is, having Christ as Savior but not as Lord, without bearing any fruit. But this is an impossibility since the Holy Spirit renews the whole person at the time of conversion. (2)

So Christians, if we think we have any reason to bear less of this fruit or repentant, or none at all, we do not. No matter how hard our lives may become, no matter how busy, full, or demanding, God expects and wants us to be confessors. And the more humble and mature we become, the more we realize the need to admit our sins and ask for his help to change. “Christ taught His disciples to pray daily for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 6:12), and the Bible saints are often pleading for pardon and obtaining it (Ps. 32:5; 51:1-4; 130:3, 4)…The believer who is really conscious of his sin feels within him an urge to confess it and to seek the comforting assurance of forgiveness. Moreover, such confession and prayer is not only a subjectively felt need, but also an objective necessity…The divine sentence of acquittal is brought home to the sinner and awakens the joyous consciousness of the forgiveness of sins and of favor with God. Now, this consciousness of pardon and of a renewed filial relationship is often disturbed and obscured by sin, and is again quickened and strengthened by confession and prayer, and by a renewed exercise of faith.” (3) Is life good? Are we blessed? Let’s ask ourselves, “…do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4) In the parable of the barren fig tree, the vinedresser kindly and patiently  gives the tree another full year to produce fruit. “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” (Luke 13:8-9) The gospel of Jesus Christ is offered to us with love, and God gives us the desire to respond in love. That is only the beginning of our sanctification. Repentance is one of the most potent graces operating in my life, to produce fruit that others may share. After studying this parable this week, my prayer has been for the Holy Spirit to help me repent because of God’s goodness through the gospel. Just because he hasn’t disciplined me lately doesn’t mean I have nothing to confess. “So great is the blindness of the sinner that he abuses to his own harm the things that have been given to him for his own benefit.” (4) May we receive and employ God’s graces to be more productive, repentant fruit-bearers today.

God has placed us in the body of Christ, and our local churches as fig trees were placed in fruit-fields for their best productivity. Are you worshipping regularly with your church family to grow in your fruit of repentance? Do you avoid thinking about the things you feel guilty about or run to God for the sweet gift of forgiveness? How much goodness will it take for Christ to convince you to engage in regular confession, for your intentional or unintentional sins? Are you willing to ask the Lord to reveal your heart, intellectual, attitudinal, or ethical sins? “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9) “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

(1) Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Luke 13:6-9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/luke-13.html

(2) Sproul, R.C., “The Parable of the Barren Fig,” https://www.ligonier.org/learn/sermons/parable-barren-fig/

(3) Berkoff, L., Systematic Theology, “Soteriology—Justification,” pages 514-5,” Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993

(4) Ligonier Devotions, “Presuming upon God’s Kindness,” Martin Luther on Romans 2:4, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/presuming-upon-gods-kindness/

January 31, 2020

Christian Hearts, Good Fruit

I’ve been trying to come up with a smart way to open this devotion, but I’m stuck on the word “bear.” It’s the keyword of our passage, in the verb form, meaning to “produce” or “yield” (fruit). We don’t use the word “bear,” and my mind keeps slipping to a new show on the Animal Planet TV channel called “Man versus Bear.” It’s a pretty silly show with a man or woman competing against a massive bear in different stunts. TV producers can come up with some pretty crazy ideas for new shows. The use of the word “bear” in Scripture implies that something inside us yields something that grows outside of us. A plant produces flowers or food, as inventors create new medical tools from their medical knowledge, and chefs make new recipes based on their experience and knowledge of food. Other than bearing children, we usually don’t even think of producing something on a daily basis. Yet we are created to do just that, and ideally to do so every day. But like a TV producer, inventor, or writer, the thought of delivering anything so frequently is intimidating. The good news is that, like a garden, God has planted the seeds in us and he has given us his Spirit to empower us to do so. If our hearts are transformed by Christ’s righteousness, we will produce good fruit. “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:43-45) It is my goal to stimulate our fruit-bearing because Christ has redeemed us for this purpose.

God’s creation illustrates the reality of a regenerated heart that produces fruit. Our passage from Luke 6 begins with a general statement (v. 43), followed by an illustration from nature (v. 44), and then the specific application of the principle for believers (v. 45). Jesus frequently taught about the two ways of humankind: regenerate or unregenerate. In Luke 6:46-49, following this passage, he compared disciples to those who built on him (the rock) and unbelievers to those who built their lives on the sand. In Matthew 25, our Savior described these as the sheep and the goats—the sheep going to eternal life and the goats to eternal damnation. (1) In Luke 6 he says, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit.” “This teaching can be taken in either of two ways. In one sense, observing good and bad fruit allows one to judge wisely in dealing with others (the context also of [a related passage in] Matt. 7:15–20). In another sense, it applies to the disciples themselves, for the fruit of a bad tree involves judging and condemning others while the fruit of a good tree involves forgiving and giving to others and loving one’s enemies.” (2) A redeemed heart in Christ yields good fruit, just like a healthy tree; an unredeemed heart is like the fig tree Jesus cursed because it hypocritically produced leaves but no fruit (Matthew 21:18-19). Another passage comes to mind, Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” But rather than fret, we are encouraged, since Christ has redeemed us, believers, making us good “trees.”

In nature, fruit is evidence of the tree’s species, with the natural consequence that bears fruit consistent with its kind. “For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.” (6:44) I have some mums in my garden that I planted in November. They were beautiful, with lush yellow, white, and red flowers. But after those blossoms died, I haven’t seen a single new one. If I do, I certainly don’t expect to get daisies, roses, or apples from them. How silly would that be? No one expects to get milk from a gas pump or laundry detergent from a movie beverage vending machine. (I’m being senseless to make a point.) We go through our days, expecting most people to be gracious, kind, other-centered, wise, and good. But why? Jesus clearly teaches that there are at least as many unregenerate, unfruitful people as there are believers. As Gill writes, “…and no more can an unregenerate man perform good works, or bring forth: fruits of righteousness acceptable unto God; for these require a knowledge of his will, obedience to it, a principle of grace, love to God, faith in Christ, and a view to the glory of God; all which are wanting in such a person.” (3) But since my goal is not to cast dispersions on others, let me suggest what is even more senseless: our justification for Christian unfruitfulness based on that of the general population. Gill also says, “…the grace of God revealed to good men, and wrought in them, teaches them to live soberly, righteously, and godly; a holy life is the fruit of grace, and an evidence of it.” (4) You and I aren’t thorn bushes; we are branches produced on the grapevine of Christ designed to bear sweet grapes for our lord.

Good spiritual fruit is the spiritual consequence and evidence of regenerated, abundant heart. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) As Martin Luther proclaimed, “Salvation is by faith alone, but not a faith that is alone.” The ESV Study Bible Notes observes that “The true nature of people’s hearts can often be seen when they speak off-the-cuff, without reflection.” (5) R.C. Sproul links the passage to Psalm 1, where the righteous man “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers,” after meditating on God’s law day and night (vs. 2-3). Studying to write my blog devotions is my most convicting study. Little do we know about the benefit of studying a verse or three over a week, or a biblical topic for a year, because we don’t usually do it. I highly recommend doing in-depth Scripture meditations and journaling about them. I think you will be surprised by their value. As Dr. Sproul comments, our hearts become storehouses of good words and conduct, like thesauruses, leading to fruit for Christ. As Jesus says in verse 45—this fruit comes from an abundance in our hearts. We won’t even know what is there until it comes out through our mouths and shows up in our choices.

Do you see yourself as a productive Christian, or do you doubt Christ’s victorious, resurrection power to produce good spiritual fruit? How might you struggle with either bearing or identifying your fruit reflect a less than an “abundant” heart for Christ? “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)

(1) This perspective on the passage is strongly influenced by R.C. Sproul’s sermon on Luke 6:43-46, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/sermons/good-bad-fruit/

(2) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Luke 6:44, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ephesians-6.html

(3) Gill, ibid.

(4) ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid.

(5) Sproul, ibid.

(6) Sproul, ibid.

 

January 24, 2020

Following the Spirit, Crucifying the Flesh

Do you have a dog or two at home? If so, walking your pooch in the beautiful weather is probably delightful but walking in bad weather isn’t much fun. I’ve been praying about getting a pooch next year, maybe an older, little one that doesn’t require too much of my time, since I’m the only one to care for it. But every cold or rainy day I am glad not to have one. Like other interests, pet ownership comes with benefits and responsibilities—unconditional love and fun vs. vet and food bills and exercising in all kinds of weather. I’m not yet convinced that the benefits are worth the costs for me. I will continue to put money and effort into my little patio garden to have flowers. I will keep exercising regularly for flexibility in my joints, but a dog…not so much yet. If I do decide to rescue a pooch, I know that my perspective and attitude will change, but there will still be some days when I will push myself to do what is necessary. When it comes to the work of Christian spiritual warfare, God gives us the desire to put in the effort, while he does most of the heavy lifting. When we are redeemed, our longings and aspirations are transformed to align with Christ’s purpose: to walk in the Spirit. But the battle of our new and old natures isn’t over until we finish our journey on earth. The fruit of the Holy Spirit will grow in us because God has determined that it will—we have his promise to stimulate our growth in sanctification. We participate in the process by recognizing and rejecting sinful desires when they pop up and yielding to the Holy Spirit. Believers are called to embrace the battle within, to fight sin for maturity and fruitful living.

Eventually, we will get to the nine fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Before we do, let’s consider Paul’s context: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:16-18, 24-26) We battle within ourselves to conquer our unholy desires to do what is right, for the sake of our Christian family (vs. 16-17). We do so because “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Galatians 5:14) “The context of Paul’s exposition is not about our isolated, personal growth, but on its impact on others and on our relationship with Jesus Christ. The gospel devours the very motivation you have for sin. It completely saps your very need and reason to live any way you want. Anyone who insists that the gospel encourages us to sin has simply not understood it yet, nor begun to feel its power…if you truly understand through the gospel who Jesus is and what He has done for you, then you will ask: How can I live for Him? And the answer will be—look at the will of God expressed in the law. The gospel frees us from the law, for the law. It does away with our old, selfishly motivated and unloving law-obedience. And it motivates us to obey the law out of love.” (1)

You may be the only one to walk a dog, or do any number of chores, but we have lots of help to grow into maturity for greater spiritual fruit: brothers and sisters in Christ, pastors, elders, theologians, counselors, and especially the Holy Spirit. “If the Christian life looks too hard, we must remember that we are not called to live it by ourselves. We must live it by the Spirit of God. The command of love is not a new legalistic burden laid on our back; it is what happens freely when we walk by the Spirit. We must learn to ‘walk by the Spirit.’…As Romans 8:7 says, ‘The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law.’ The basic mark of the flesh is that it is unsubmissive. It does not want to submit to God’s absolute authority or rely on God’s absolute mercy.[So] conflict in your soul is not all bad. Serenity in sin is death…So take heart if your soul feels like a battlefield at times. The sign of whether you are indwelt by the Spirit is not that you have no bad desires, but that you are at war with them!” (2) We are called to embrace the battle within to fight sin and encourage fruitful living.

Christ has given us the Spirit and crucified our unholy aspirations. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:18, 24) “As a person fastened to a cross may be alive, though he cannot act and move as before, being under restraints, so the old man, though crucified, and under the restraints of mighty grace, and cannot reign and govern as before, yet is alive, and acts, and operates, and oftentimes has great sway and influence; but whereas he is deprived of his reigning power, he is said to be crucified: and though this act is ascribed to them that are Christ’s, yet not as done by them in their own strength, who are not able to grapple with one corruption, but as under the influence of the grace of Christ, and through the power of his Spirit.” (3) Here is the good news of the gospel—sin no longer reigns over us, and the law can no longer oppress us, and we no longer want to rebel. Now we belong to Christ and as “belongers,” we delight in what delights him and desire what God desires. But this is not an unconscious, automatic work of God. We stimulate our spiritual fruit by actively rejecting sinful desires and yielding to the Holy Spirit, following his lead.

The Holy Spirit leads us to yield to God holy fruitfulness. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:25-26) The keyword of Galatians 5:16-25 is “Spirit” and the verbs in the passage reveal our relationship with him. We are to walk, gratify, keep from, want to do, are led, belong, keep in step, not becoming conceited, provoking, or envying. We are to “keep in step” with the Spirit to “keep from” the desires of the flesh. Instead of “gratifying” them, we “crucify” them. Gill writes that we are to be wary of “Provoking one another; not to good works, which would be right, but to anger and wrath, which is contrary to Christian charity, or true love…Envying one another; their gifts and abilities, natural and spiritual; their rank and station in the world, or in the church. These were sins the Galatians very probably were subject to; and where they prevail, there is confusion, and every evil work, and are therefore to be watched and guarded against.” (4)

“Believers are engaged in a conflict, in which they earnestly desire that grace may obtain full and speedy victory…The fruits of the Spirit plainly show, that such are led by the Spirit. By describing the works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit, we are told what to avoid and oppose, and what we are to cherish and cultivate; and this is the sincere care and endeavor of all real Christians.” (5) The question is, are we willing to engage in spiritual warfare internally to conquer our unholy desires? What personal ungodly aspirations did we crucify last year? Which ones do you want to vanquish now? Will you pray for the Spirit’s guidance, trusting God to be victorious in your battle for holy fruitfulness? Be encouraged.  “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.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

(1) Keller, Tim, Galatians For You, “Gospel Freedom”, (Galatians 5:14), The Good Book Company, United Kingdom, 2013.

(2) Piper, John, Desiring God Ministries, “Sermons,” http://www.desiringgod.com

(3) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Galatians 5:24, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/galatians-5.html

(4) Gill, Galatians 5:25, ibid.

(5) Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Galatians 5:25, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/galatians-5.html

January 17, 2020

The Fruit of Our Salvation

Cedar fever in here, at least in South Texas. It’s ironic that on these beautiful sunny winter days, when you want to be outside enjoying the weather, you may be afraid to aggravate your symptoms, which may already be intense. As a sufferer, it didn’t occur to me until today that I should change my clothing, take a shower, and wash my hair after being outside to get the pollen off. Sometimes the most logical, reasonable approach or viewpoint is the one we have the most difficulty grasping. I can see the tree pollen on my car, but because I can’t see it on my skin, hair, or clothing, I am oblivious to its existence. Many things of importance are invisible, only known by their effects on us or through us: love, integrity, intelligence, giftedness, and faith, to name a few. Being a Christian means that faith in our invisible God is more real to us than visible, earthly interests. In his teachings, Jesus instructs us to look at life differently, from the inside-out and upside-down. Applying Christ’s transformational perspective is especially challenging as fruit-bearers for God. Our Savior knew that we would need the analogy of a grapevine to understand that we produce godly fruit only by being connected to him, the vine. We need God, the master gardener, to  manage our sanctification, to increase our productivity for Christ, our root, and life-giver. Living life in Christ is a challenge even for the most mature fruit-bearers.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17) Spiritual fruit originates in our salvation. After his exhortation to the Romans, in Chapter 6 Paul makes it clear that we only produce sinful fruit in our natural state. “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” (Romans 6:20-21) Then he admits that he struggles with his own obedience, in spite of his deep knowledge of the fruitlessness of sin. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) So we’re clear, because the Bible is clear, that no good fruit comes from us naturally. And yet, we live our lives as if we can produce godly fruit either automatically or as a result of our natural skills and limited human wisdom. Perhaps with enough exercise, the right foods, the best smartphone, the latest management or entrepreneurial techniques, and designer clothing, I can be something. It’s all rubbish (Philippians 3:8). The only fruit from our natural life is sin and the shame that accompanies it. Only in Christ is our fruit bearing be pleasing to God.

I can’t remove cedar pollen from inside my body. But oh, how I wish I could turn my body inside out like a sweater and wash off the contaminants. I also wish I didn’t get cedar fever every January, but it seems inevitable, since that is when the pollen is released. We might wish we didn’t have to deal with the fruit of our sinfulness (or the lack of our spiritual fruitfulness), but it’s a real issue. So, we must consider how we view our fruit-bearing, which Christ has purposed for us. Jesus gives us this fruit as our possession the moment we come to faith in him. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Rom 6:22) What is this “fruit you get” when “you are set free?” John Gill writes, “…holiness is a fruit of freedom from the bondage of sin, and of serving God; holiness began in regeneration, calling, and conversion, is a fruit of the Spirit; a course of living righteously is a fruit of holiness, as a principle implanted; a gradual increase in holiness is carried on by the Spirit of God in a course of righteousness.” (1) D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, ‘You have already received ‘all things that pertain unto a life of godliness.’ You do not need another experience. You do not need some new gift. You have been given everything in Christ; you are ‘in him’ from the beginning of your Christian life…The command to yield the parts of our bodies as instruments of righteousness is based on something that has already happened to us. That is, something that has already happened, not something that may happen or will yet happen to us.” (2) Might we live differently if we were to see fruit-bearing as a promise rather than a command, as a blessing instead of a burden? “The New Testament approach to sanctification is therefore to get us to realize our position and act accordingly. The New Testament does not tell us to be what we will become. Rather, it tells us to be what we are.” (3)

Since spiritual fruit originates in our salvation, the fruit of our salvation is the fruit of our faith. We are called to believe, trust, and live as people who have this fruit. Paul’s grammar in Romans reminds us that this transaction of salvation is accomplished,  finished with Jesus on the cross, to be raised with him. “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:4) Now we are united with Christ. We were baptized into him, crucified with him, died with him, were buried with him, and raised with him (Romans 6:3-8).  “In effect, God says to us, ‘Because you believe in Christ, by the Holy Spirit I have joined you to Christ. When he died, you died. When he rose, you rose. He’s in heaven, so you’re in heaven. He’s holy, so you’re holy. Your position right now, objectively and factually, is as a holy, beloved child of God, dead to sin, alive to righteousness, and seated in my holy heaven—now live like it.’ That’s the way indicatives and imperatives work together in union with Christ. It’s also the long way of saying ‘be who you are.’” (4)

Christians, we are fruit-bearers; it’s who God designed us to be. Maybe the world distracts us from bearing more spiritual fruit with its fake, temporal food. Perhaps we are conditioned to think of ourselves more as consumers than providers or more as victims than as mercy-givers. I may not always know what interferes with my fruit-bearing, but I do know that I’m not living up to God’s full purpose for my life. Will you take the challenge with me this year to increase your fruit production by “being who you are” in Christ? “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-10)

(1) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Romans 6:22, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/romans-6.html

(2) Boice, James, Boice, “Expositional Commentary Series,” Romans 6:22, Baker Books, Software version, 1998. (Cited: D. M. Lloyd-Jones, “Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 6,” Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973)

(3) Boice, James, Ibid, Romans 6:22.

(4) DeYoung, Kevin, “The Hole in Our Holiness,” page 105, Crossway, 2012. 

January 10, 2020

 

Starting and Staying in Christ

How many times puns you heard about better vision in 2020? “Eye can’t wait to see them all.” “I can’t wait till New Year’s Day 2021, then I can say that hindsight really is 2020.” Haha. On a serious note, by God’s grace, we will see him and his truths more clearly, and others will see his fruit in us. I am devoting the year to a study of the Fruit of the Spirit based on Galatians 5:22-24: “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Perhaps you, like me, need to remember that Christ has already transformed our inner beings, desires, and characters to conform to his. We need gospel reminders to keep our true identity in Christ in mind as we navigate the year. So we’ll explore the power of the fruit growing in us, ripening to maturity for the strength and power we need to remain in Christ, to live for him and his kingdom—our mission on earth. Warning: gardening metaphors and parables will abound.

Before we delve into the particular fruit that the Spirit cultivates in us, let’s prepare the soil of our hearts and minds. No gardener worth her salt will plant seeds or shoots in unfriendly, hard ground. Nor will any fruit grow in us just because we decide it should. Israel tried and failed. “The Old Testament frequently uses the vineyard or vine as a symbol for Israel, God’s covenant people, especially in two’ vineyard songs’ in Isaiah (Isa. 5:1–7; 27:2–6)…Israel’s failure to produce fruit resulted in divine judgment…[But] the OT prophets envisioned a time when God’s people would ‘blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.’” (1) Then, in the New Testament Gospel of John, we find Jesus applying the image to himself. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:1-8) Now the body of believers has fulfilled the prophecy of God’s productive, living vineyard.

What does this mean for us Christians? For one thing, the blessings of our Christian faith result from a continuous life lived in Christ. Secondly, our faith in Jesus is strengthened by remaining in his love and power; he is our life-giver. Third, God maintains our spiritual health to be productive because we are consecrated to him. And finally, we encourage others by our kingdom living, by abiding in Christ. Jesus Christ is the true vine, just as he is the true bread (John 6:32), and the true tabernacle (Hebrews 8:2). Here are facts of our faith: Jesus is the true vine; God is the gardener who maintains the branches to bear more fruit. And we are good (clean) because God has elected us in Christ. Calvin writes: “Can anyone who is engrafted into Christ be without fruit? ‘And every branch that beareth, fruit he pruneth.’ By these words, he shows that believers need incessant culture that they may be prevented from degenerating; and that they produce nothing good, unless God continually apply his hand; for it will not be enough to have been once made partakers of adoption, if God do not continue the work of his grace in us…When he says that vines are pruned, that they may yield more abundant fruit, he shows what ought to be the progress of believers in the course of true religion.” (2)

The blessings of our Christian faith result from a continuous life lived in Christ. Abide is a keyword of John 15:1-8, but is not a word we use in everyday language. Abide means “…to remain, abide…in reference to place: to sojourn, tarry…not to depart…to continue to be present…to be held, kept, continually…to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure…of persons, to survive, live…to remain as one, not to become another or different…to wait for, await one…” (3) While most commentators consider “remain” to be the primary meaning of abide in our par passage, I think we might view our life in Christ as doing all of the above. Our faith in Jesus is strengthened by remaining in his love and power. He is our life-giver.

God stimulates our spiritual health to be productive after consecrating us. “There are two things that the Father is said to do in his care of the vine. First, he is said to ‘cut off’ every branch that does not bear fruit. The word ‘airo’ has four basic meanings…1. to lift up or pick up; 2. to lift up figuratively, as in lifting up one’s eyes or voice; 3. to lift up with the added thought of lifting up in order to carry away; and 4. to remove. In translating this word by the verb ‘cut off’ the majority of translators have obviously chosen the fourth of these meanings. But the verse makes better sense and the sequence of verbs is better if the first and primary meaning of the word is taken. In that case the sentence would read, ‘Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he lifts up,’ that is, to keep it from trailing on the ground…it is not at all strange to emphasize that the gardener first lifts the branches up so that they may be better exposed to the sun and so the fruit will develop properly…to translate the word ‘airo’ by ‘lifts up’ gives a proper sequence to the Father’s care of the vineyard, indicated by the verb that follows. Thus, he first of all lifts the vines up. Then he cuts off the unproductive elements, carefully cleansing the vine of insects, moss, or parasites that otherwise would hinder the growth of the plant.” (4) This is spiritual food for thought, is it not?

Finally, we encourage others by our kingdom living, by abiding in Christ. God has prepared our hearts, planted us in his vineyard and continually stimulates our growth. As our faith is strengthened it spills over into the lives of others, if we remain in Christ. “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:15) As we employ God’s grace in our lives, others will see its fruit and give thanks to God. As a matter of fact, we will bear “much fruit” (vs. 5, 8)!

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5) Boice writes, “The key sentence in…[vs. 4-5] can mean one of three things. It can be a simple declarative…a promise…Or it can be a command meaning, ‘Remain in me and, thus, see to it that I for my part also remain in you’…we have the following: great work to be done, the possibility of attempting to do it, but without Christ, and the inevitable failure that must result from such effort.” (5) We have a truth, a promise, and a command to bear fruit by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only his healthy branches can produce the sweet food of eternal life. Will we embrace God’s maintenance plan for our spiritual health to be productive? Will our kingdom living in 2020 encourage others in their kingdom living? “…whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:5-6)

  • (1) English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, John 15:1, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  • (2) Calvin, John, Calvin’s Commentary on John 15, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-15.html
  • (3) Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, John 15:1-5, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  • (4) Boice, ibid.
  • (5) ESV Study Bible Notes, ibid

 

January 3, 2020

Ending 2019 with Christ’s Shalom

How is your year ending? Do you review your 2019 events with a Christmas letter, or take stock of your spiritual progress? Do you have goals or prayers for 2020? Every December, between Christmas and New Year’s I, ask the Lord to give me Scripture to guide my sanctification for the new year, rather than “resolutions.” This year God has shown me the tremendous value of time spent with my brothers and sisters in Christ. However, I seemed to have jumped right into my prayer for next year, which is humbling, challenging, and somewhat embarrassing. It appears that I need to work on my problem with pride that is rooted in an old attachment to rebelliousness. Thank God for his help in exposing our sins and their roots. I was a rebel from the time I was young, rejecting not only my Jewish heritage, but my parent’s rules, societal restraints, and the expectations of most of my authorities and elders. By the time I was 17, I was a rebel hippie, self-righteous, and completely lost. My only offense for my confusion and insecurity was rebelliousness. I give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who works in me, through his redemption in Christ, to see myself his soldier instead of a rebel. I also thank him for revealing lingering threads of attraction for movie and TV characters, politicians, and musicians as lost as I was in those days—rebels to the core.. The world is full of rebelliousness, even Star War’s heroes are rebels—and they offer no peace whatsoever. No wonder the Lord led me to end the year with this passage from Isaiah: “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; your offspring would have been like the sand, and your descendants like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me.’” (Isaiah 48:17-19)

God, our holy Redeemer, calls us to pay attention to Him for true peace and security. The passage begins with an acknowledgment of the Lord’s character as the One who emancipates his people—Israel in the Old Covenant and believers in the New Covenant. Isaiah knows him as his Lord and master, as Israel’s rescuer, and Israel’s promised Messiah, the Holy One. “The preface to this message is both awful and encouraging: Thus saith Jehovah, the eternal God, thy Redeemer…[who] will be faithful to the engagement, for he is the Holy One, that cannot deceive, the Holy One of Israel, that will not deceive them. The same words that introduce the law, and give authority to that, introduce the promise, and give validity to that: ‘I am the Lord thy God, whom thou mayest depend upon as in relation to thee and in covenant with thee.” (1) “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:10-11) Movie and book heroes, philanthropists, scientists, and physicians cannot save us from our entrapment in rebellion and self-centeredness. Only God is omnipotent, steadfastly gracious and merciful, using his ordained providence for our good, and the One to liberate us from Satan’s grasp permanently. Whenever we put our trust in anything or anyone else, for our spiritual security, we are rebelling against Christ, our Redeemer. Perhaps our meditation on these words will help us to pay more attention to and apply the doctrines of Christ and the gospel for our peace. God calls us to listen carefully to him: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!”

Those who genuinely know and love Christ want to hear from him, to sense his presence and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. He calls believers to come near, just as he did Israel, through the prophet Isaiah’s ministry. “Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.’ And now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit.” (Isaiah 48:16) It sounds simple, since we know the way we should go is in Christ, our profit is from the doctrines and promises fulfilled in him. But the world offers many things that are unprofitable and tempting, not to mention the desires we all have that compete with our spiritual calling. The benefit we obtain in Christ is not only more reliable, but the means by which we will persevere in this life, through these obstacles. However, as we take stock at the end of the year, it may be helpful to hear God saying to us, in the past tense, “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!” How many have we ignored by the sin of omission? Or sidestepped when they seemed burdensome, made so by our legalism? I know I should help my neighbors, but I don’t like to cook or fix things. So what? Do something else, or just visit with them and get to know them; go out for coffee together. I know I should read the Bible more but my mornings are so hectic. So we find another time, make another time to set aside for contemplation, to withdraw from the world for our profit. John Gill reminds us that those “Whom God redeems, he teaches; he teaches to profit by affliction, and then makes them partakers of his holiness. Also, by his grace he leads them in the way of duty; and by his providence he leads in the way of deliverance.” (2) We squander the blessings of Christ’s atonement, through which “…the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14)

All of God’s instructions and commands have consequences. If Israel had not engaged in idol worship, but turned toward God, and submitted to his commands, they would not have been expelled from the Promised Land. “Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea…’” (Isaiah 48:18) The picture Isaiah paints is that of a sea of righteousness with a river flowing to it. “Large, abundant, numerous as the waves of the sea; which may regard acts of justice and righteousness, which are the support of a people and state, and blessings the fruit thereof; and which God of his goodness bestows on such a people, as all kind of prosperity, protection, safety, and continuance.” That is “what could have been,” for Israel and perhaps for us in 2019. (3) But the cost of neglecting and disobeying God’s commands was catastrophic for Israel. Maybe we need to look back and see if it valid for us this year because “Even if God’s prophecies of the future were difficult to believe, his practical commandments lay within range of human understanding.” (4)  Jesus Christ, our holy Redeemer, calls us to pay attention to him for our peace and security. He calls us to pay attention to and apply the biblical doctrines and gospel for our faith to enjoy the blessings of shalom.

Will you ask the Lord to strengthen your obedience and faithfulness in the new year? I happened upon an excellent tool to use, from Tim Challis’s twitter feed: “Ten Questions for a New Year,” by Don Whitney. (5) Maybe we should use these instead of worrying about New Year’s resolutions we probably won’t keep. How did God and Isaiah encourage Israel as he released them from their captivity? “Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it out to the end of the earth; say, ‘The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!’” (Isaiah 48:20) Let us leave 2019 and enter the New Year proclaiming the good news of our salvation, in whatever way we are able, as soldiers of Christ.

(1) Henry, Matthew, Complete Commentary on the Bible, Isaiah 48:17, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/isaiah-48.html

(2) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Isaiah 48:18, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah-48.html

(3) Gill, ibid.

(4) English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Isaiah 48:17-19, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.

(5) Whitney, Don, “Ten Questions for the New Year, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/ten-questions-for-a-new-year

 

December 27, 2019