The Blessing of Defeating Satan

Do you remember being in school facing tests regularly? How did you handle them? I had test anxiety and abysmal study skills. When I became a teacher, I was very sympathetic to students who had trouble studying or remembering material or had test anxiety. The youth in our Sunday school class often talk about the pressure to perform well on tests in high school. And the more a student’s worth is performance-based, the higher the anxiety to perform exceptionally well. However, students can accomplish good grades through good study habits without too much fear. Some new Christians are anxious about pleasing God because they feel tested and judged by Him—baggage from a former religion or ideas about the Lord. But God isn’t always testing us, and when he does, it’s our hearts that he tests since all we do comes from our hearts. Fortunately for us, God knows that we rely more on our conduct and accomplishments than our faith in him because of our sin nature—until we have matured. He also knows that Satan and the world strongly influence us, enticing us to depend upon our circumstances for our well-being. These distractions from true faith in Christ make us anxious and fearful. However, by studying God’s Word for preparation, we are conquerers for Christ. If there were no tests, trials, or temptations, we would have no victories in and for Christ. The Old Testament saints would have had no conquests. One particular Old Testament man in the Bible underwent an intense testing period. No one knows how long Job suffered under his testing, but it was probably a matter of months or years. The bottom line is that God singled out Job for Satan’s tests because of his faith. And Job worshiped and blessed God before the Lord restored his health and possessions and replaced his family. Will we also honor and praise God when we feel tested? How much more should we praise God, we who are blessed by our victories through Christ?

God Singled Out Job for His Witness

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.’…Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 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 1:8-10, 20-21) “In the wake of his loss, Job embodies both grief and trust in the Lord. In contrast to what Satan suggests will happen, Job cries out from a posture of grief and worship, ‘blessed be the name of the Lord.'” (1) (See Job 1:1-2:10.) “It is God, not Satan, who singles out Job for testing. Satan does not dispute Job’s integrity but argues that Job’s conduct is motivated by what he gets out of it rather than by a sincere attachment to the Lord. Satan also insinuates that the only way God can get people to worship Him is by bribing them with protection and prosperity.” (2) God never bribes anyone, being perfectly sovereign and righteous. He does not accept our worship of his provisions but tests our hearts for true faith in Christ as our spiritual provision. 

Job Proved His Blessedness

“We brought nothing of this world’s goods into the world, but have them from others; and it is certain we can carry nothing out, but must leave them to others. Job, under all his losses, is but reduced to his first state. He is but where he must have been at last, and is only unclothed, or unloaded rather, a little sooner than he expected…See how Job keeps his eye upon the First Cause…The Lord is righteous. All we have is from his gift…may the malice and power of Satan render the Savior more precious to our souls, who came to destroy the works of the devil; who, for our salvation, suffered from that enemy far more than Job suffered, or we can think.” (3) When God singled out Job for Satan’s tests, Job worshiped and blessed God. We are blessed by significant victories over sin through Christ and are also called to worship and praise God. If we depend only upon our wisdom or experience to overcome the devil, Satan will certainly use that against us. Only God’s holiness, his Spirit, indwelling us, is our blessed hope. “Satan does not deny any part of Job’s character, nor directly charge him with anyone sin; which shows what a holy man Job was, how exact in his life and conversation, that the devil could not allege any one thing against him; nor does he deny that he feared the Lord; nay, he owns it, only suggests there was a private reason for it…he insinuates that Job’s fear of God, and serving him…was not out of love to him, or with any regard to his will, or his honour and glory, but from selfish principles, with mercenary views, and for worldly ends and purposes: indeed…godliness has a great gain along with it, the Lord bestows everything, both in a temporal and spiritual way, on them that fear him; so that eventually, and in the issue, they are great gainers by it.” (4) May we be so holy and prepared for God’s tests!

Satan Took Everything From Job—or Did He? 

“Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 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 1:20-21) Here is some food for thought from the Reformation Study Bible, especially in light of the state of the financial markets reacting to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “Job utters a wisdom poem that portrays the discernment of quiet submission to the secret will of God. Everything belongs to the creator who gave it…The word ‘blessed’ is the same word used in verse 11 for ‘cursed.’ By employing it here, the author is emphasizing how Job, though grief-stricken, has frustrated Satan’s predictions in verse 11.” (5) Job “thought once he should have died in the midst of all his prosperity, and left a large substance to his children; but now all was taken away, and for the present had no hope or expectation of a restoration…[be men] cannot carry anything out of the world with them, either riches or honour, but must leave all behind them, (1 Timothy 6:7) which may serve to loosen the minds of men from worldly things, not to set their eyes and hearts upon them, nor to put their trust and confidence in them; and good men may part with them, especially at death with pleasure, since they will have no further use of them, and will have a better and a more enduring substance in their stead.” (6)

Satan’s Defeats Bless Christ.

“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; all outward enjoyments, all the good things of this world, are the Lord’s, and at his dispose; Job ascribes to God, not only the giving, but the taking away: he does not attribute his losses to second causes, to the Sabeans and Chaldeans, to the fire from heaven, and the wind from the desert, but to God, whose sovereign will and overruling hand were in all; these were but the instruments of Satan, and he had no power but what was given from God; and therefore to the counsel of his will, who suffered it…Job, instead of cursing God, blesses him, and proves the devil to be a liar, as he was from the beginning; and shows his superiority over him through the power of divine grace; this evil one could not touch him…and his designs defeated.” (7) Even more than Job, we are blessed by our victories over Satan’s schemes and the world’s temptations. If these did not exist, if God didn’t test us, we would not need such victories, and Christ’s witness would not grow the kingdom of God. Is God testing your faith in him as the financial markets wobble, the supply chain falters, and gas prices skyrocket? Or when people all around you are continually sharing their opinions about world events? There is a future time when all God’s children will live in a perfect world. Our blessings here depend on the immense contrast between God and everything and everyone opposed to him. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted.” (Psalms 89:14-16)

Related Scripture: Genesis 3:19; Numbers 12:7; Job 2:3; Psalms 3;3; 34:7; 49:17; 72:18; 90:3; Ecclesiastes 5:15, 19; 12:7; Romans 11:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Timothy 6:7; James 1:17; 1 Peter 5:6.

Notes

  1. “English Standard Version Study Bible Notes,” Job 1: 1:9–21, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  2. “The Reformation Study Bible,” Job 1, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
  3. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Job 1:20-22, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/job-1.html
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Job 1, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/job-1.html
  5. Reformation study Bible, Ibid.
  6. Gill, Ibid.
  7. Gill, Ibid.

March 17, 2022

The Blessing of Christ-like Meekness

Do you consider yourself a proactive person who knows how to strategize and get things done? Or are you more laid back, waiting for something to work out, doing what is necessary,  allowing God to work? In some cultures, proactivity is considered rude, while in others, it is required to accomplish anything. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the balance between waiting on God and stepping in. In developing countries, where the bureaucracies are young or unorganized, a person must be proactive to accomplish tasks such as finalizing a residency permit, getting a school registered or accredited, or a building approved during construction. In Africa, where I frequently had to plan for delays. If delays in government approvals hindered our work, I resorted to one particular strategy. I packed up my work, laptop, lunch, and water and set off for the government office. When I was received by a receptionist or administrator who assured me that the permit was in process, I informed them quietly, with a sincere smile, that I would wait in their office for as long as it took to receive the document I needed. Upon protest from them, I gently repeated my plan and took a seat, getting ready to do my work. The document was usually produced within an hour or two, with some embarrassment but smiles all around. There was no frustration or anger. It was only a matter of doing what was necessary in a culture where the loudest, most assertive person received the attention. Proactive Christians should look and behave differently, knowing that God has a plan and works on our behalf if we yield to him. For Christians, there is always a way to approach worldly challenges without being rough, mean, or oppressive. Jesus blesses and gives the world to those who quietly submit to God’s will. We can and should enjoy God’s blessings in this world through our Christ-like meekness.

Who Are the Meek?

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5). “I can read a corporate confession in church and it causes me no great problem; I can take it in stride. But let somebody else come up to me after church and call me a sinner, and I want to punch that person in the nose. I am not prepared to allow other people to think or speak of me what I have just acknowledged before God that I am. There is a basic hypocrisy here; there always is when meekness, the third quality Jesus emphasizes, is absent… ‘It is comparatively easy to be honest with ourselves before God and acknowledge ourselves to be sinners in his sight,’ says commentator Martyn Lloyd-Jones. ‘But,’ he continues, ‘how much more difficult it is to allow other people to say things like that about me?’ (LLoyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)…We shrink from the image of Jesus as meek and mild because it conjures up a picture of him as weak and effeminate, yet he described himself as ‘gentle,’ using the Greek adjective found in verse 5, and ‘humble in heart’ (Matthew 11:29). What sort of gentleness is this, on account of which those who have it are pronounced blessed?” (1) John Gill writes, “Blessed are the meek who are not easily provoked to anger; who patiently bear, and put up with injuries and affronts; carry themselves courteously, and affably to all; have the meanest thoughts of themselves, and the best of others; do not envy the gifts and graces of other men; are willing to be instructed and admonished, by the meanest of the saints; quietly submit to the will of God, in adverse dispensations of providence; and ascribe all they have, and are, to the grace of God.” (2)

The Meek are Blessed

“The meek are happy. The meek are those who quietly submit to God; who can bear insult; are silent, or return a soft answer; who, in their patience, keep possession of their own souls, when they can scarcely keep possession of anything else. These meek ones are happy, even in this world. Meekness promotes wealth, comfort, and safety.” (3) We are meek when we realize that we can proactively pray for nations in conflict, but God will be the one to deal with the political leaders. We are meek when we initiate or participate in service to those in need, but know that God has a plan for their lives as he does for ours—so we serve with respect, not superiority. We are meek when we confess to our friends that we don’t know what to say about their troubles, but we will be with them and help in whatever way they can suggest. “Here meekness is to be considered, not as a moral virtue, but as a Christian grace, a fruit of the Spirit of God…and which is of great advantage and use to them, in hearing and receiving the word; in giving an account of the reason of the hope that is in them…and in the whole of their lives and conversations; and serves greatly to recommend religion to others: such who are possessed of it, and exercise it, are well pleasing to God; when disconsolate, he comforts them; when hungry, he satisfies them; when they want direction, he gives it to them; when wronged, he will do them right; he gives them more grace here, and glory hereafter.” (4) Jesus blesses us when we quietly submit to his will; that is when we will enjoy God’s blessings through our humility.

The Meekness of Jesus

Meekness was one of Jesus’s most notable characteristics. The prophet Isaiah predicted his humility: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) Jesus proved his humility at his arrest and crucifixion. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). “It is common to long for retaliation in the face of unjust criticism or suffering, but Jesus behaved like the meek lamb of Isa. 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.” (5) 

The Meek Will Inherit the Earth

Jesus used Psalm 37:11 in his beatitude: “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” “The first eleven verses [of Psalm 37] are the most direct exposition we have of the third beatitude. They describe the quiet spirit of one who trusts in God and does not fret because of evil men.…We are to look ahead as well as looking up [but]…It is hard for most of us to take the long view, because we are consumed by the present. But we need to do it if we are to grow in grace and begin to understand something of what God is doing in this world. The world associates happiness with worldly possessions, and it believes that the way to gain them is through ability, strength, hard work, self-assurance, and at times, even through self-assertion and conquest…We seek [happiness] through homes and their contents, success and the praise of men for it, power and the stature it confers…Against all these outlooks on life and these ambitions Jesus teaches that meekness must be a characteristic of those who are to share his kingdom….meekness is a characteristic by which God promises to bring blessing in the lives of Christians and through them to others, and that it is not a natural characteristic in man but is the result of the supernatural working of God’s Spirit.” (6) God blesses and gives the world to those who quietly submit to his will. We enjoy his blessings in this world and the new earth through our Christ-like meekness. And when we need to act, the Lord will lead us to do so gently, with respect, grace, and humility. When my present apartment was under renovation for three times as long as the estimate, my neighbors were amazed that I was not frustrated. But the staff knew, from my private inquiries that I was following the work and not passive. Yet there was nothing anyone but God could do about the “supply  chain” delay for the carpeting. Are you waiting for something? How will you handle it? “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.'” (Isaiah 57:15)

Related Scripture: Numbers 12:3; Psalms 45:4; Isaiah 29:19; 32:17; 66:2; Luke 18:14; Romans 12:19; 2 Corinthians 10:1; James 3:13; James 1:21; 1 Peter 3:15; Galatians 5:22-23; 6:1; 1 Cor. 4:21; 2 Cor. 10:1; Col. 3:12 

Notes:

  1. John Stott, The Beatitudes: Developing Spiritual Character, Chapter 3, Learning Gentleness, John Stott Bible Studies, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Matthew 5:5, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-5.html
  3. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Matthew 5:5, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/matthew-5.html
  4. Gill, Ibid.
  5. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, (1 Peter 2:23), (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  6. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Baker Books, Psalm 37, Software version, 1998

March 10, 2022

God’s Blessed Rulership

I’m keeping up with the news on Russia’s war on Ukraine, and it dominates my thinking, as it probably does for most people in the world. We grieve for the innocents in Ukraine who have died or suffered because of Russia’s “invasion,” and the Russian soldiers who are also caught in the war. Most of us are angry that Russia has invaded the country, and frankly, all I can think of is President Putin’s demonstration of humankind’s sinful rebelliousness toward God. How does God views and deals with power-hungry, over-reaching worldly leaders? How does God deal with them? He laughs at the rulers and nations who mock him and try to assert their power while he blesses those who take refuge in him and his rulership (Psalm 2). Our faithful King has given us a Savior who will vindicate and rescue his people whom these temporary but hurtful bullies have oppressed. Submitting to God and trusting in Christ’s rulership blesses us with spiritual peace. “The divine government may be defined as that continued activity of God whereby He rules all things teleologically so as to secure the accomplishment of the divine purpose. It is the government of God as King of the universe. In the present day many regard the idea of God as King to be an antiquated Old Testament notion, and would substitute for it the New Testament idea of God as Father. The idea of divine sovereignty must make place for that of divine love. This is thought to be in harmony with the progressive idea of God in Scripture. But it is a mistake to think that divine revelation, as it raises to every higher levels, intends to wean us gradually from the idea of God as King, and to substitute for it the idea of God as Father. This is already contradicted by the prominence of the idea of the Kingdom of God in the teaching of Jesus…He is both King and Father, and is the source of all authority in heaven and on earth, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.” (1)

The Nations Rage

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2) As we observe the nations strategizing about responding to Russia’s warring, we can trust that God does not need to follow suit. Our God laughs at the rulers and governments who mock him and try to assert their power, blessing those who take refuge in him. “What is God’s reaction to the haughty words of pygmy human rulers? God does not tremble. He does not hide behind a vast celestial rampart, counting the enemy and calculating whether or not he has sufficient force to counter this new challenge to his kingdom. He does not even rise from where he is sitting. He simply ‘laughs’ at these great imbeciles. [Psalm 2] is the only place in the Bible where God is said to laugh, and it is not a pleasant laugh. It is a laugh of derision, as the next verb shows: ‘the Lord scoffs at them’ (v. 4). This is what human attempts to throw off the rule of the sovereign God deserve. It is understandable that sinners should want to reject God’s rule. That is what sin is: a repudiation of God’s rule in favor of one’s own will. But although it is understandable, the folly of this attempt surpasses belief. How can mere human beings expect to get rid of God?” (2) Of course we can’t. Believers know that submitting to God and trusting in his rulership will result in blessings of spiritual peace.

God’s Derision, Wrath, and Fury

Psalm 2 is packed with God’s anger toward sin: “the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury…You will break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Doesn’t this sound like the final judgment of unbelievers? (See Revelation 6:15-17.) “Some rulers think their hands are their own to do as they please. But they cannot command their hands because God rules their hands…If God did not maintain unity and harmony by guiding all things in their motions and directing all things to their ends, the world would soon fall into chaos…Apart from God’s governance…the whole earth would turn into a field of blood. If God did not guide and govern, the order of nature would give way to confusion and destruction. God governs the highest creatures, even monarchs and governors. Some rulers think their hearts are their own to will as they please. But they cannot command their hearts because God rules their hearts.” (3) “’The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will’ (Prov. 21:1). God turns the king’s heart whichever way He chooses, the way that most magnifies His glory. He is Lord of all mercy, for He establishes His kingdom upon rebels, of whom He first has to redeem and win, and renew a right spirit within them. He renews these rebels and makes them righteous and gives them the right spirit because He is the Lord of all mercy, and He is the Lord of all power, and He is the Lord of all deity. Only this kind of Lord can do this kind of thing. Nothing stands in His way of accomplishing His purposes.” (4)

The Lamb is on His Throne

Psalm 2 ends with this warning: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (v. 12). “After laughing at such foolishness, God speaks to rebuke and to terrify these rulers. He tells of the appointment of his Son to be King in Zion and foretells his triumph…It is a reminder that the only refuge from the wrath of God is God’s mercy unfolded at the cross of Jesus Christ.” (5) “Though he is a Lamb, he has wrath in him, and when the great day of his wrath comes in any form on earth, there is no standing before him; blessed [are] all they that put their trust in him; not in horses and chariots, in riches and honours, in their own wisdom, strength, and righteousness; but in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and who is truly and properly God…and happy are those who betake themselves to him as to their stronghold and place of defence; who look to him and believe in him for pardon, peace, righteousness, every supply of grace and eternal life; these are safe and secure in him, nor shall they want any good thing needful for them; and they have much peace, joy, and comfort here, and shall have more grace as they want it, and hereafter eternal glory and happiness.” (6)  God blesses those who take refuge in him while he laughs at the rulers and nations who mock him and try to assert their power. As we meditate on this truth, will we not pray that the rulers of this earth will also submit to Christ’s rulership? Blessings of spiritual peace always lead to the benefit of earthly peace because our Lamb is on his throne. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Related Scripture: Job 34:25-27; Psalms 29:10; 37:12-13; 46:6-7; 59:8; 84:12; 119:1-3; 146:5-9; Ezra 6:22; Jeremiah 17:7-8; Acts 4:27-28; Hebrews 12:28-29; 2 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 19:15.

Notes:

  1. Berkoff, L., “Systematic Theology,” p. 175, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993.
  2. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Psalm 2, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  3. Swinnock, George, “The Blessed and Boundless God,” p. 51, Reformation Heritage Books, 2014, Kindle Edition.
  4. Tozer, A.W., “And He Dwelt Among Us,” March 2, Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2009
  5. Boice, Ibid.
  6. The Reformation Study Bible, Psalm 2, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015. 
  7. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 2:12, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-2.html

March 4, 2022

Blessed Everywhere in Everything

Do you remember when you began to obey God’s will—no matter how tiring or demanding—and realized blessings you never expected? In 1997, I lived in a Maryland suburb, driving to work in Washington, DC or Northern Virginia. It typically took me between one and two hours each way in heavy beltway traffic. God had called me to this work through an unlikely series of events after I prayed and answered an employment ad in the newspaper (which, we’re told, hardly ever leads to a job). I was driving a stick shift in heavy traffic, and my left (clutch) foot often grew very tired. But knowing that it was God’s job for me, at least temporarily, motivated me to do whatever was required. I was also teaching a BSF* class, so I often drove to work listening to taped Bible commentary and drove home praising God for all the blessings I had received during the day training executives in software applications. I was “good tired” and didn’t even mind getting up at 4 am on Saturdays to lead the BSF leaders’ meeting before the Monday night lecture (directly after work). I was blessed in every aspect of my work and life by yielding entirely to God’s direction, leaning on Christ for strength to obey. It’s no wonder that this experience came to mind when I landed on our passage in Deuteronomy for this week’s devotion. God called Israel to be his holy nation, in obedience to him, blessed in every way. I pray that our obedience to God’s commands, which result in his blessings, will also increase our conformity to Christ and God’s resulting blessings.

Why Study Deuteronomy?

“Deuteronomy is the third most quoted OT book in NT—Jesus and his apostles knew the book and felt it was important. It is a spiritually valuable book that stimulates Christian thought and living. It is written so that we can understand Jesus as king, prophet, and high priest. Undergirding the stress on holiness and law-keeping is faith through grace. We can see profoundly our religion, to reinforce our commitment to be a people of faith, grace, and holiness, as we are called by Jesus. But how do we balance faith, grace, and holiness? We have trouble doing this. Biblical religion balances these, and we are never to neglect holiness.” (1) Moses writes, “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.” (Deuteronomy 28:1-6) God’s infinite, inexhaustible, faithful character is seen in the comprehensiveness of his blessings in every aspect of life. “[Chapter 28] is a very large exposition of two words, the blessing and the curse. They are real things and have real effects. The blessings are here put before the curses. God is slow to anger, but swift to show mercy.  It is his delight to bless…The blessing is promised, upon condition that they diligently hearken to the voice of God. Let them keep up religion, the form and power of it, in their families and nation, then the providence of God would prosper all their outward concerns.”(2) Blessed [shalt] thou [be] in the city…Not only in the city of Jerusalem, where the temple would be built…but in all other cities of the land; where they should dwell…and their cities should be walled and fenced, and be very populous…as well as prosper in all kinds of merchandise there, and blessed  in the field; in the country villages, and in all rural employments, in sowing and planting, in all kinds of husbandry, in the culture of the fields for corn, and of vineyards and olive yards; all should…bring forth fruit abundantly. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body…Their children, of which they should have many, and these live…and the fruit of thy ground, of their gardens, orchards, and fields; grass for the cattle…and the fruit of thy cattle…and the flocks of thy sheep; of their cows and oxen, and of their sheep and goats…Blessed [shall be] thy basket…any and every vessel in which they put their provisions for present use, and that that should never be empty of them, and that they should always have a sufficiency: and thy store…for future use, or in proper places for seed.” (3)  God called Israel to be his holy nation, in obedience to him, blessed in every way, even before they entered the land, by God’s presence with them. Then, in Canaan, God’s material blessings would prove his enduring covenantal love. The more they obeyed his commands, the more blessed Israel would be, both individually and nationally. Just so, our obedience to God’s commands results in blessings that will increase our conformity to Christ and strengthen our witness for him, blessing others.

The Heart of Deuteronomy’s Blessings

“The theology of Deuteronomy is focused on convincing Israel to trust and obey, and to conquer the land. The uniqueness and incomparability of God is clearly argued…Deuteronomy recognizes the need for God to act within the heart if Israel is to achieve faithful obedience to God’s covenant. The ideal life in the land is for each member of the people, and the body as a whole, to display fervent love to God as their proper response to God’s love for them; this is the means by which the rest of the world is to learn of the true God–the very reason for which Israel exists. Israel’s record of failure recounted in Deuteronomy exposes that need. Deuteronomy looks forward to the day when God will change Israel’s heart. This longing recurs in the OT. It is finally met through the work of Jesus’ death and the giving of his Spirit.” (4) “[But] many first-century Jews came to view material wealth as an inevitable sign of personal righteousness. Since wealth is God’s blessing upon holiness, these Jews reasoned, the rich have an inside track for entering the Lord’s kingdom and eternal life. Of course, such a view represents a selective reading of the Scriptures, for God’s Word also knows of wicked people who enjoy financial prosperity (Ps. 73:3). Be that as it may, the view that personal righteousness and wealth are inextricably linked was common in ancient Judaism…[However] after hearing Jesus declare that it is difficult for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:23–25), the disciples exclaimed, ‘Then who can be saved?’ (v. 26). Their thinking went something like this: If even the rich, who are supposed to have an advantage over others when it comes to redemption, cannot enter heaven without great difficulty, how then is it possible for everyone else to attain salvation? Jesus did not correct their assumption that riches were an inevitable mark of righteousness. In one sense, He did not have to, because the example of the rich young ruler and His own teaching on wealth already had refuted any view that wealth and salvation always go hand in hand. Instead, our Lord answered the disciples by pointing out that what is impossible for human effort is possible for God (v. 27). The disciples were right to conclude that it is impossible, humanly speaking, for anyone—rich or poor—to be saved. But the transformation of the human heart is possible for the Lord.” (5) Our obedience to God’s commands, by the blessing of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power, results in our conformity to Christ, which further blesses us.

Scripture’s Blessings Become Ours 

In Leviticus, God shares his heart with Israel in the context of his moral, civil, and ceremonial laws. “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt… And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.” (Leviticus 26:11-13) When Israel was in exile, living in foreign lands, God said, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) How do God’s blessings speak through your daily life, wherever you are, and in whatever you do? “The one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:25)

Related Scripture: Leviticus 26:3-6; Deuteronomy 7:12-15; 30:5-10; Psalm 144:12-15; Jeremiah 31:31–34; Ezekiel 36:24–28; 2 Corinthians 3:3; Hebrews 10:16; Revelation 21:7.

Notes:

*BSF—Bible Study Fellowship—has excellent, free Bible study classes for men, women, children, and youth all over the world. bsfinternational.org 

  1. Notes from: Godfrey, Robert, “Grace in the Law,” Lecture Series on Deuteronomy, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/foundations-grace-ot/grace-in-the-law 
  2. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Deuteronomy 28:1-14, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/deuteronomy-28.html
  3. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Deuteronomy 28:3-5, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/deuteronomy-28.html
  4. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Deuteronomy 28, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  5. Ligonier.com, “The Necessity of Divine Grace,” https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/necessity-divine-grace

February 24, 2022

The Blessings of Honest Work and Christian Family

What do you think of when you hear about a “community?” Do you immediately picture your gated neighborhood or the geographic area where you live? During my year in England, I learned that people in a community are more commonly those who have common interests, nationality, or socialize together—it implies more than just geography. For example, those who participate in their church’s ongoing ministry get to know each other and depend upon them. They see members as a community and even a family. But those who attend church worship on Sundays without becoming involved in church life won’t consider the congregation their families. It’s a blessing to have a family of faith and mutual concern. Many people in my two communities took an interest in my swollen, bruised face this week after my recent tumble onto the curb. I appreciate the families God has given me; mine are Christian communities. In Psalm 128, the psalmist writes that those who walk with God are blessed with honest work and good family relationships, as well as eternally, living as a family in peace together. Perhaps, through meditation on Psalm 128, we may develop a deeper appreciation of God’s blessing of honest work and Christian families, who bring us peace and further blessings. 

The Blessing of God’s Providence

“Ancient Israel was called to view secular life as sacred. Daily life was to be lived under the eye of God and each activity squared with the divine will…it was the Israelite’s prime duty to relate every human concern to Yahweh. The good things of life were traced back to His generous hand in praise…it proved a good working principle for life, and so it can be still…[Psalm 128] has much to teach the restless, individualistic modern westerner.” (1) “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!” (Psalm 128) “This psalm…shows that all things depend on the providence and goodness of God; and that all blessings, particularly children, are the gift of God.” (2) Children remind us of the future, giving us hope and sometimes a completely different, simplistic view of life here on earth. Young children, who focus on the moment, who are engaged productively and joyfully, bless us with their optimism and energetic curiosity. Our church family celebrates the birth of children because of this blessedness; our family rejoices together as we encourage their parents and them to walk with God in Christ. Being united in faith in Him, we strive to show our children God’s faithfulness in our lives. Psalm 128 says those who walk with God reverently will be blessed temporally and eternally as his family, living in peace together.  

The Blessing of Good Spiritual Work

“Blessed [is] everyone that fears the Lord, that walketh in his ways: which God has prescribed and directed his people to walk in, his ordinances and commands; which, to walk in, is both pleasant and profitable: it supposes life, requires strength and wisdom; and is expressive of progression, for continuance in them…a good man may have a comfortable enjoyment of the good of his labour; than which, as to temporal blessings, there is nothing better under the sun, Ecclesiastes 5:18; and, in a spiritual sense, good men labour in prayers at the throne of grace, there lifting up holy hands to God, wrestling with him for a blessing, which they enjoy; they labour in attendance on the word and ordinances, for the meat which endures to everlasting life; and they find the word and eat it, and Christ in it, whose flesh is meat indeed; and feed by faith on it, to the joy and comfort of their souls;…happy as to temporal things, and well as to spiritual ones: such having an apparent special interest in the love, grace, mercy, and delight of God; in his providence, protection, and care.” (3) How are you participating in gospel labor for your family, be it your biological family, extended family, or church family? As we work together we become more Christ-like, because of his grace and the Spirit’s empowerment. We bless each other through God’s provision of something good to do, rather than being and feeling like an outsider. May we grow to have a deeper appreciation of God’s blessing of work and Christian family, which produces further blessings. Last night, as I returned from walking GG (my dog), I came upon a friend and two couples whom I enjoy. Besides our friendly and personal conversation, including prayers for one, I had the opportunity to help assemble some programs for the Wednesday vesper service. I enjoyed helping my neighbor put together the programs and our dialog as we worked. I was blessed.

The Blessing of Family is For Everyone

I love my biological family members, but we are far from perfect. We have a heap of negative history in our past, affecting our relationships. And, my extended family members have no spiritual commonalities, so our life views are radically different. When I read what the psalmist writes, I could feel shortchanged. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 128:3-4) Tim Keller’s comments are helpful. “A loving spouse and growing children are a great blessing. But sin in the heart and evil in the world have disrupted the life of the human family. Many wish to have families who don’t and many who have families wish they had very different ones. There are also people who have suffered terrible abuse within their families. Jesus said that his family did not consist of his biological relatives: ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’ (Matthew 3:33-35) The church must not only support and repair families but also find a way to become the family of God, where everyone, married and single, childless or not, can flourish in love.” (4) 

Blessings From Zion

Psalm 128 ends with a benediction for Israel: “The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!” (vs. 5-6) The writer of the psalm has the temple in mind when He mentions Zion; God’s grace is the source of Israel’s blessedness: “the goodness of God in Jerusalem (another name for the church of God); the beauty of the Lord in his house and ordinances; his power and his glory in the sanctuary: or…the church of God in prosperous circumstances all his days; true religion flourish, the power of godliness in the professors of it; the word and ordinances blessed to the edification of saints, and many sinners converted and gathered in, [and] peace upon Israel: all kind of prosperity, temporal and spiritual; peace, and abundance of it; as will be in the latter day, in the spiritual reign of Christ.” (5) Those who walk with God reverently will be blessed temporally—with honest work and good family relationships—and eternally as his family, living in peace together. Work takes many forms. My neighbor’s husband moved to memory care, so now it’s her job to walk their older dog—that’s her “work.” She blesses my dog and me whenever we meet. This morning she told me that a gentleman who was petting her dog had tears in his eyes when he looked up at her and said, “I used to have one just like him and I miss him so much. Thank you.” We should grow a deep appreciation of God’s blessing of honest work, whatever it is, and for our Christian families, who bring us peace and further blessings. Being “like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.” (Psalms 52:8-9)

Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:6; 28:1-6; Job 42:16; Psalms 52:8; 112; 118:26; 127:3; 133:3; Isaiah 3:10; Matthew 5:2-14; Galatians 6:14-16; James 5:11; 1 Peter 3:14.

Notes:

  1. Zondervan Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce General Editor, Psalms 127-128, One-Volume Illustrated Digital Edition.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 128, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-128.html
  3. Gill, Ibid.
  4. Keller, Timothy with Kathy Keller, “The Songs of Jesus,” Psalm 128, Viking, New York, 2015.
  5. Gill, Ibid.

February 17, 2022

Count Your Blessings

Living in a retirement community, we frequently see neighbors with bruised heads and faces. So we pray for each other to be careful not to fall. Last Sunday evening, when walking my dog, I reached for a tissue while continuing to walk. I stumbled over something in the road and fell. It wasn’t a hard fall, but I hit my left eyebrow on the curb. The small scratch on my eyebrow gushed. My relatively new iPhone screen was cracked but it still worked to call our front desk staff for a ride back to my apartment. I am grateful for so many things: my phone working, our staffs’ care, having only a little scratch, the ER staff’s, and my friend’s help to get to the ER. She also kept my anxious dog with her and her dog (his best friend). I’m even thankful for ice to reduce the swelling. It’s been an excellent opportunity to give God the praise he deserves. As Christians, we are able to use minor and more significant trials to recognize God’s grace and witness for Him. Because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, we don’t grieve over our troubles but seek to see the hand of God and our blessedness, to walk with him, and witness for Christ. Jesus alone can give us his peace when our circumstances or worlds are shaken. God graciously gives his witness to the unbelieving world by his patience and satisfying people with food and (some) happiness.

Life Doesn’t Just “Happen.”

In Acts 13, we find Paul and Barnabas on the island of Cyprus witnessing. But they were forced to leave Antioch, so they went to Iconium to continue their ministry. In Iconium, many Jews and Greeks believed, but there was much opposition. “But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.” (Acts 14:4-7) Lystra was populated mainly by Gentiles and had no synagogue. After the healing of a lame man, the people started to worship Paul and Barnabas. But the Holy Spirit gave Paul knowledge of what was happening in the invisible, spiritual realm. They realized the gravity of the situation when the local priest began to offer a deific sacrifice to them. “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of [the sacrifice], they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.’” (Acts 14:13-17) “Since the Lystrans were polytheists, it was necessary to begin with the basic message that God is the Creator of all that exists…Paul tells these Gentiles who had no knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures that their regular harvests, the food they eat every day, and the gladness they experience in the ordinary activities of life are all a witness from God of his existence, wisdom, and goodness. They should not think that these things’ just happen’ or that they are the work of some local deities, for they are from the one true God ‘who made the heaven and the earth.’” (1) God has always been gracious and gives witness to the unbelieving world through his patience and by satisfying people with food and happiness. We, who are in Christ, walk in God’s ways, with his witness in us, utterly blessed in our hearts, to witness for Christ. Sometimes we begin with the blessing of God’s common grace.

God’s Blessed Common Grace For All People

“Scripture explicitly declares [God’s] divine government to be universal. It is really the execution of His eternal purpose, embracing all HIs works from the beginning, all that was or is or ever shall be. But while it is general, it also descends to particulars. The most significant things, that which is seemingly accidental, [and] the good deeds of men, as well as their evil deeds. To common grace men further owes all the natural blessings which he receives in the present life…[The] benevolent interest of God is revealed in His care for the creature’s welfare, and is suited to the nature and the circumstances of the creature. It naturally varies in degree according to the capacity of the objects to receive it. And while it is not restricted to believers, they only manifest a proper appreciation of its blessings, desire to use them in the service of their God, and thus enjoy them in a richer and fuller measure.” (2) Maybe one of God’s providential provisions for my witness was years teaching this hymn to children and teachers: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest, tossed; when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done…Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by…When you look at others with their lands and gold, think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; count your many blessings, money cannot buy, your reward in heaven, nor your home on high. So, amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all; count your many blessings, angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end. Count your blessings, name them one by one; count your blessings, see what God hath done.” (“Count Your Blessings,” Johnson Oatman, 1897) 

God’s Witness of Himself

“The apostle [in Acts 14], to engage us to worship God, sets before us his beneficence, that we may have good thoughts of him in every thing wherein we have to do with him—may love him and delight in him, as one that does good, does good to us, does good to all, in giving rain from heaven and fruitful seasons…It is he that fills our hearts with food and gladness…Even those nations that had lost the knowledge of him, and worshipped other gods, yet he filled their houses, filled their mouths, filled their bellies with good things. The Gentiles that lived without God in the world, yet lived upon God, which Christ urges as a reason why we should do good to those that hate us, Matthew 5:44; Matthew 5:45. Those heathen had their hearts filled with food; this was their felicity and satisfaction, they desired no more; but these things will not fill the soul, nor will those that know how to value their own souls be satisfied with them; but the apostles put themselves in as sharers in the divine beneficence.” (3) “Sublimity is not just for the ear, it is also for the eye…Even the pagan who rejects Christ can enjoy the sublimity of the poets and musicians and artists. But they can never worship God as He desires to be worshiped. The sublimity of a great painting can lift me only so far. God’s Word can lift me beyond that kind of sublimity into the very presence of God.” (4) I believe that I should and can use every query about my shiner to witness for God. Our theology should lead us to walk in God’s ways, with his witness in us, utterly blessed in our hearts, to witness for Christ. Shona Murray writes, “[Some] practical problems result from the failure to apply theology to our lives…Throughout medical school, I was constantly taught the theory of evolution. Not once, though, did I entertain it as a valid theory. Not once did I doubt that God had created the world. However, looking back, I can see that I did not fully apply that doctrine to my life. There was a block between what I believed in my head and what I did in some parts of my life.” (5) so let’s “Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.'” (Psalms 66:1-4)

Related Scripture: Job 38:28-29; Psalms 36:6; 104:21; 145:9, 15, 16; 146:5-7; Jeremiah 31:25; Matthew 6:26; Luke 6:35-36.

Notes:

  1. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Acts 13-14, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  2. Berkoff, L., Systematic Theology, p. 176, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993.
  3. Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Acts 14:18, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/acts-14.html
  4. Tozer, A. W., “My Daily Pursuit Devotions for Every Day,” Psalm 96:1-2, Feb. 5, Bethany House Publishers, 2013.
  5. Murray, Shona and David, ReFRESH, p. 38, Crossway, 2017.

February 10, 2022

Creation’s Passive Blessing

Are you a bird-watcher, a birder, or a twitcher? I’m getting an education in birding and learning that there are degrees of studying birds. Bird-watching is what I usually do, casual glancing at birds I hear or notice as I walk or drive. I have friends who are birders and go on walks with binoculars to see which birds are on their paths, taking special delight in particular birds’ coloring and sounds. I’m not sure I know any twitchers—those who go on trips looking for very selective, rare birds to add to their bird journals. If we enjoy birds at all, we take pleasure in their different sizes, colors, designs, and habits, with varied calls and sounds. In winter, we have some birds in Texas: pixabays, cardinals, robins, purple martins, and cedar waxwings (according to a website). Maybe now that I know about the first and last ones on the list, I’ll spot them more easily. When we raise our awareness by increasing our knowledge or understanding of a topic, we are more likely to notice its effects. We know that God created the natural world from Moses’s record in Genesis 1-2. We are stimulated to appreciate the natural world more to the extent that we know our Creator. Moses remarks on God’s goodness seven times in Genesis 1! “Not only is God altogether good, He is consistently good. God doesn’t know how to be anything but good. So closely linked is goodness to God that even pagan philosophers such as Plato equated ultimate goodness, the highest good, with God Himself. God’s goodness refers both to His character and His behavior. His actions proceed from and flow out of His being. He acts according to what He is.” (1) Every tree, flower, blade of grass, and weed is good and blessed because an infinitely good Creator made them. And it’s the same for every animal, bird, fish, mountain, lake, rock, and cloud. 

God Blessed Creation 

The Lord, who created all the creatures that live in the sea, on the land, and in the air, called them good. He blessed them and commanded them to fill the earth. “And God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.’ So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.” (Genesis 1:20-23) What I appreciate about birders is their delight in birds that don’t have any particular usefulness (besides supplying them with a hobby). Have you ever noticed how we appreciate some things only because they serve us? A sunny day after showers to cheer us up; flowers that make our homes look good; or animals that we feed on. But God blessed the animals before they had served any purpose for Adam and Eve. The existence of the birds and fish was a blessing in the mere fact of their existence. “In Genesis 1:22 God blesses the creatures of the sea and air telling them to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ He was acknowledging the unique role they are to play in his creation, and he gives them the ability and mandate to reproduce. Right before this verse he pronounced that these creatures he had just created were ‘good.’ These animals were not made to be capable of making moral choices, and they had just come into being. Their ‘goodness’ could not have been because of any thing they had done. They hadn’t done anything yet. In this case, as with the other pronouncements at each stage of creation, the ‘good’ means that they were exactly what the Creator intended them to be. He recognizes how the objects of his blessing fit into his plan.” (1) All natural creation is blessed because Yahweh blessed it. Do we respect, honor, and delight in the goodness of creation and realize how blessed it is because it is created by and blessed by God? Do you take time to think about the blessedness of the created world, and therefore God, who made and blessed it? A biblical Worldview sees God as the first cause, and leads to thanksgiving, worship, and prayer—through which we are more blessed.

God’s Creation is Still Good

“So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:21) “God’s moral pronouncement on what he has done. It appears in the repeated phrase, ‘and God saw that it was good.’ This pronouncement is not made because we can point to an object and say pragmatically, ‘That thing is useful to me and is therefore good to me.’ God’s pronouncement on the goodness of creation came even before we were made. The pronouncement is made because the object is good in itself. As Schaeffer says, this means that a tree is not good only because we can cut it down and make a house of it or because we can burn it in order to get heat. It is good because God made it and has pronounced it good. It is good because, like everything else in creation, it conforms to God’s nature…’Every step and every sphere of creation, and the whole thing put together—man himself and his total environment, the heavens and the earth—conforms to myself.’ It is not only in its pristine state, that is, before the fall of man, that the earth and its contents are pronounced good. The initial blessing of God recorded in Genesis 1 is repeated later even after the fall. For example, it is repeated in God’s covenant with the human race given at the time of Noah…God’s concern is expressed, not just for Noah and those of his family who were delivered with him, but for the birds and the cattle and even the earth itself. Similarly, in Romans 8 there is an expression of the value of creation in that God included it in his promise of that future deliverance for which it as well as the race of men and women wait: ‘The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (v. 21). The value of creation, declared good by God, brings us to a natural conclusion: If God finds the universe good in its parts and as a whole, then we must find it good also…we should be thankful for the world God has made and praise him for it…we should delight in creation. This is closely related to being thankful but is a step beyond it. It is a step that many Christians have never taken. Frequently Christians look on nature only as one of the classic proofs of God’s existence. But instead of this, the Christian should really enjoy what he sees. He should appreciate its beauty. He should exult in creation even more than the non-Christian, because in the Christian’s case there is a corresponding knowledge of the God who stands behind it.” (2)

Remembering the Lord of Creation For the New World

Since we know that God created the world by His Word out of nothing, we have confidence that he can recreate a perfect world that isn’t affected by the decay of sin (Hebrews 11:3; Revelation 21:1-4). Just as the Lord created all the creatures that live in the sea, on the land, and in the air, and called them good and blessed them, he will bring a better Eden, a more blessed one, that we will enjoy without hindrance. Respecting, honoring, and delighting in the goodness and blessedness of this creation will prepare us for our more blessed home. All this, though, is to motivate us to worship God, not nature. “There is a high enjoyment in the contemplation of the divine and the sublime. The concentration of the mind upon truth always brings a high sense of enjoyment…I enjoy getting out in nature and just having some quiet time. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when people confuse nature worship with true worship.” (3) Our natural world’s blessing can reduce our anxieties, help us see a bigger picture of God’s activity, and calm our spirits. Taking a walk or looking out the window to spot the birds who reflect God’s blessedness may be just what you need today. “I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26)

Related Scripture: Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25; 9:9–13; Psalm 104:25-30; 135:3; Isaiah 45:12; Jeremiah 10:12-13; Ezekiel 17:22-24; Romans 1:20; 8:18-23.

Notes:

  1. The Reformation Study Bible, “The Goodness of God,” p. 991, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015. 
  2. Burridge, Bob, “The Meaning of Blessedness,” 2015, Geneva Institute for Reformed Studies. http://genevaninstitute.org/articles/the-meaning-of-blessedness/
  3. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Genesis 1:1-25, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  4. Tozer, A. W., My Daily Pursuit Devotions for Every Day, Ps 119:38, Feb. 2, Bethany House Publishers, 2013.

February 3, 2022

Our Blessed Holy Spirit

Do you like waterfalls? I enjoy the sound and vision of water rushing over the top of a dam, whether it’s small, like one at our nearby river, or massive, like Niagara or Victoria Falls. A waterfall generates precisely the opposite feeling as water overflowing from a stopped-up sink or, worse, a toilet. But we can shut off the water in our houses, to stop the water from flowing. And waterfalls can dry up when there is no rain, or when the rain, is filling upstream lakes rather than the catchment area. It’s the same with wells, which fill up when water overflows into them from underground streams. But many wells eventually dry up, particularly shallow ones. The difference between waterfalls and wells is the quality of the water. We don’t care about the quality of the water falling over a ledge, only about its visual and audible beauty. Well water, however, is potable, even if it requires boiling. When Jesus was talking with the Samaritan woman at the well, he used the better well water as a bridge to his greater provision  and the blessing of trusting in him. (John 4:7-15) “The woman said to him, ‘Sir…Where do you get that living water?’…Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.'” (John 4:11, 13-15) Jesus offered her “living water,” which never dries up and blesses those who have it overflowing in them. 

Holy Spirit, Living Water

The living water of Jesus Christ is the blessed Holy Spirit who is given to us without limit when we are redeemed by his grace. “While we sometimes speak of grace as an inherent quality, it is in reality the active communication of divine blessings by the inworking of the Holy Spirit, out of the fulness of Him who is ‘full of grace and truth’…The word ‘grace’ is [sometimes] used to designate the favour of God as it is manifested in the application of the work of redemption by the Holy Spirit…It is not a mere passive quality, but also an active force, a power, something that labors. In this sense of the word it 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.” (1) We also learn about the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Old Testament. “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (Isaiah 58:11) In this context, “God reaffirms his readiness to bless his obedient people…The ruins of Jerusalem in the sixth century BC symbolized the deeper spiritual ruins of long-standing human failure.” (2) Our heavenly Father blesses us through his sovereign choosing of us to know Christ. Jesus blesses us through his atoning sacrifice and victory over death and sin through his resurrection. He continues to bless us by interceding for us, primarily through the work of the blessed Holy Spirit. We are ruins transformed into springs of waters that do not fail. The Holy Spirit graciously provides these rivers of living water from believers’ hearts. We are designed to enjoy and expect the Spirit’s provision of grace to overflow from us to others.

Blessed Omnipresent Spirit

After being redeemed, one of the first psalms I memorized is Psalms 139. There are times when I wish God’s gaze weren’t on me, and perhaps David felt the same way. But usually, the psalm offers us the comfort of knowing that God, being a Spirit, will be with us, wherever we are. “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalms 139:7-12) Have you any children who are afraid of darkness? What do they want more than anything when they become frightened? They want you—to know you are there with them to protect and reassure them, to feel your presence. You bless them with your love and concern. Just so, we are blessed by the Spirit’s presence with us when we regret our past failures, become anxious about present trials, or fear future challenges. Most significantly, we want the Spirit’s comfort when we face the deepest darkness of death one day. To know that he is not like the threatening ocean or devastating flood, but a beautiful river or waterfall blesses us with gospel peace. Knowing that the Holy Spirit provides rivers of living water from our hearts motivates us to enjoy his provision of grace to satisfy our longings. 

The Spirit’s Overflow From Us to Others

In John 7, at the conclusion of the Feast of Booths, “vessels full of water are carried to be poured out in the temple courts, commemorating God’s quenching Israel’s thirst in the wilderness with water from the rock (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:2-13).” (3) “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit…” (John 7:37-39) “It is not the fact that we will be satisfied that Christ mentions. It is rather that we will become the means by which others, in addition to ourselves, will be satisfied. This means that to be Christ-centered is not to be self-centered. It is to be others-centered. It is to be made a blessing…no vessel was ever overflowing until it had first been filled…To hear most Christians talk you would think that the sole purpose of Christ’s coming was to save them and to satisfy them…That kind of Christianity—when not balanced by the truth we are considering—produces a shallow, experience-centered, introverted, and eventually selfish approach to life and to those around us. The work of the Holy Spirit is to make you precisely as Christ was in this world. And that means getting outside yourself, getting interested in others, and becoming useful. What would happen if we were each—each one who knows Jesus as his Savior—to become such a blessing? Spurgeon spoke of it back in the nineteenth century, comparing it to the incoming tides on the Thames that lifted the great river barges. When the tide was out nothing could move those barges as they lay in the mud of the river’s bottom. A team of men could not move them. Machinery could never get them moved out to the sea. But then the tide would come, and soon they would be floating. When the tide returned, even a child could move them by his hand.” (4)

“The sanctifying and comforting influences of the Holy Spirit…flows plentifully and constantly as a river; strong as a stream to bear down the opposition of doubts and fears. There is a fullness in Christ, of grace for grace. The Spirit dwelling and working in believers, is as a fountain of living, running water, out of which plentiful streams flow, cooling and cleansing as water. (5) The Holy Spirit graciously provides rivers of living water from believers’s hearts, grace to overflow from us to others. Is the waterfall of God’s grace through the blessed Holy Spirit spilling onto others around you, a waterfall of eternal, pure, thirst-quenching love? The blessed Spirit shares his blessings with us to generously share with others. “Spirit of God, descend upon my heart; Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move. Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art, And make me love Thee as I ought to love.” (6).

Related Scripture: Psalms 104:30; Proverbs 4:23; Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Luke 1:35; John 4:24; 14:17, 15:26; 16:13-14; 26-27; Romans 8:11, 26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 2:17-18; Hebrews 2:4; 9:13-14; 2 Peter 1:21.

Notes:

  1. Berkoff, L., Systematic Theology, pp. 427-8, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993.
  2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Isaiah 58:10b-12, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  3. The Reformation Study Bible, John 7:37-38, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015. 
  4. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” John 7:37-39, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  5. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, John 7:37-39, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/john-7.html
  6. Croly, George, “Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart” (Hymn), 1854.

January 27, 2022

Christ, Our Blessed Hope

Do you think about the past as much now that we’re into 2022? Perhaps, like me, you’re thinking more about future plans for 2022. But isn’t it our past that influences our future desires, goals, and plans? ”A growing body of research suggests that [thinking about the future] can make our lives more meaningful. Humans aren’t alone in having some ability to consider the future, a process that scientists call ‘prospection.’ After all, your dog gets excited when they see you holding a leash because they anticipate a walk is imminent; your cat may show similar excitement at the sound of a can being opened…But prospection’s unique benefits to humans extend beyond that of other animals…We can make predictions about our own futures based on what we’ve learned about other people’s experiences and even from characters in books and movies…Studies suggest that prospecting about your future can enrich your life…How we think about the future doesn’t just influence our own lives. It can also influence how we treat other people; [when we make plans to help others, we will be more likely to carry them].” (1) While these kinds of psychological articles are helpful to an extent, they fall way short of the way God created our minds and psyches. When God created humans, it was in his image (Genesis 1:26-27). Thinking about an eternal life with God in perfection and glory can’t be compared to a dog’s excitement about a walk or our plans for a vacation, new home, new job, or retirement. Our human efforts to imagine the future are based on our earthly experiences. But God’s plan of glorification for believers is based on the omnipotent, supernatural, incomprehensible provision of Jesus’s return and a new earth and heaven. We know about this glorious future from God’s revelation of his redemptive plan in Scripture and Christ’s first incarnation. God gives us many good reasons to think about Christ’s past sacrificial atonement, which inspires us to live well now, knowing that the future will be even more blessed.

Christ, God’s Historic Incarnate Grace

“The human soul is the most like God of anything that has ever been created…If man were not made in the image of God, redemption would not be possible. Those who have tried to think of man as coming into this world without a Creator are, in fact, denying man’s redemption. Only what was created in the image of God can be restored by God. Part of my worship each day is to celebrate this marvelous truth. I am redeemed because I have been created in the image of God. Although sin has all but destroyed that image, God’s grace is greater than all of man’s sin put together.” (2) “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14) (3) In this passage, Paul describes Christ as the incarnate grace of God, our blessed hope, and our sanctification. My aim here is to encourage us to take hold of the blessedness of Jesus Christ. We will begin as Paul does here, looking back to Christ’s appearance as the “word [who] became flesh” (John 1:14). God’s grace appeared for salvation, redemption, and purification for a people of God’s possession (Titus 2:11, 14a). “The grace of God is the source of all spiritual blessings that are bestowed upon sinners…The grace of God is of the most tremendous practical significance for sinful men. It was by grace that the way of redemption went out into the world…[that] sinners receive the gift of God in Jesus Christ…they are justified…enriched with spiritual blessings, and finally inherit salvation.” (4)

Our Blessedness Now in Christ

“God’s love is ‘invincible’ because of Christ’s coming…In Ephesians 2, verse 6, Paul says that we are, right now, seated with Christ in heaven. That means that if you are in Christ, you are eternally invincible as he is…’Whatsoever Christ is freed from, I am freed from it. It can no more hurt me than it can hurt him now in heaven.'” (5) The effect of our faith is “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope,…purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:12, 13a, 14b) “These verses provide the theological basis for the practical instructions given in [Titus 2] vs. 2-10, showing that the saving grace of God and the redemptive suffering of Jesus Christ are directed toward the purpose of the godly living and good works of God’s redeemed people.” (6) We can and should embrace the blessedness of Jesus Christ for our sanctification, as the incarnate grace of God and our blessed hope for eternity. 

Christ, Our Blessed Hope for the Future

Paul reminds us of the best thing that will ever happen to us because of our “…blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (v. 13b) “Looking for that blessed hope…Christ, who is our hope, and Christ in us the hope of glory, who is blessed for evermore…to be looking for this, is to be desiring it with the heart and affections set upon it, longing to be in the enjoyment of it, and yet waiting patiently in the exercise of faith and hope…and there is good reason for a regenerate man so to look for it; since it is his Father’s gift of free grace, and is laid up for him…Christ will come in his own glory, in the glory of his deity, particularly his omniscience and omnipotence will be very conspicuous; and in his glory as Mediator, which will be beheld by all the saints; and in his glory as a Judge, invested with power and authority from his Father, which will be terrible to sinners; and in the glory of his human nature, with which it is now crowned; and in his Father’s glory, in the same he had with him before the world was, and which is the same with his…and as the Judge of the whole earth. Now this the Gospel directs, and instructs believers to look for, to love, to hasten to, most earnestly desire, and yet patiently wait for, most firmly believing that it will be.” (7) “From the doctrine of Christ’s second coming, we are exhorted to purity and godliness. This is the effect of real knowledge. True Christians look for new heavens and a new earth; freed from the vanity to which things present are subject, and the sin they are polluted with…He is faithful, who has promised.” (8)

Christ, Our Real Hope

“Biblical Hope is a firm conviction that the future promises of God will be fulfilled. Hope is not mere wish projection, but an assurance of what will come to pass. ‘We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain’ (Hebrews 6:19).” (9) “When we take the incomparable God as our God, we are incomparably blessed…This incomparable God is ours. We have a title to Him. This is the great privilege of heaven’s favorites…(Rev. 21:3) This God is our God forever and ever! Our immortal soul has an immortal God—an immortal good. We will be forever with this incomparable God. This comforts us in the midst of all the persecutions and afflictions that befall us in this world.” (10) Your dog or cat isn’t able to be so comforted, looking to you as a “god.” But we are full of faults and disappointments. Christ is our perfect, incarnate grace of God, our blessed hope, and sanctification. Won’t we take hold of the blessedness of Jesus Christ for our sanctification? “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

Related Scripture: Exodus 19:5-6; Psalms 67:1-2; Ezekiel 37:23-24; Ephesians 1:6-7; 2:7-9; 1 Timothy 2:4; 6:17; Titus 3:4-7; 2 Peter 3:11-13.

Notes:

  1. Allen, Summer, “How Thinking About the Future Makes Life More Meaningful,” 2019, Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_thinking_about_the_future_makes_life_more_meaningful
  2. Author’s note: “Salvation to all people” refers to all kinds, classes, races, and tribes of people. This is not a statement to support universal salvation, and is consistent with the rest of Scripture.
  3. Tozer, A. W., “My Daily Pursuit Devotions for Every Day,” January 19, Bethany House Publishers, 2013.
  4. Berkoff, L., Systematic Theology, p. 71, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993. 
  5. Ortlund, Dane, “Gentle and Lowly,” p. 178, Crossway, 2020.
  6. The Reformation Study Bible, Titus 2:11-14, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
  7. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Titus 2:13, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/titus-2.html
  8. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, 2 Peter 3:11-18,, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/2-peter-3.html
  9. Reformation Study Bible, “Hope” article, p. 2206, Ibid.
  10. 10. Swinnock, George, “The Blessed and Boundless God,” p. 103-4, Reformation Heritage Books,  2014, Kindle Edition.

January 20, 2022

Christ Our Blessed Savior

January 2022—are you doing things that no longer require doing and are possibly hindering your change for the better? I’m not just thinking about all the adjustments we’ve made for Covid, but the routines that have become automatic. The beginning of the year is an excellent time to consider why we do what we do when we do it. “Having a routine isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can help you stay organized, be productive, or even, according to some researchers, find meaning…However, not all routines are created equal, and failing to examine or alter our habits can have a limiting or deadening effect on our lives…Moving through a series of them can set us on autopilot throughout our day, which can lead us to lose touch with ourselves and our immediate experience—be it sensory or emotional. For example, scrolling through our phone on our morning train commute can seem pretty innocuous, but we may be missing out on sights, sounds, or even smells that would enliven us in some way, inspire a specific feeling, or spark our imagination. Similarly, the list of items we pressure ourselves to include in our evening routine may be taking up time we could use to connect with loved ones. Whatever our habit patterns may be, it’s worth considering the ways in which they may be cutting us off from a more vital way of engaging with the world [or with God]. A particular routine may make us feel more secure or unchallenged, muting some of our fears around uncertainty. However, it may also be closing us off to our sense of awe, curiosity, or excitement…There are tangible ways to strike a balance between making our daily life feel calm and stable and opening ourselves up to new and energizing experiences…We may explore what it would mean to break out of a fixed identity or a role we impose upon ourselves.” (1) The author of this article refers to routines in our functional roles as father, mother, wife, daughter, son, boss, student, business owner, or minister. But what about our roles as children of the living God—the son or daughter of Jesus Christ? Do our lives and routines reflect our blessedness in “Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever” (Romans 9:5)? 

Jesus is God

The apostle Paul opens his letter to the believers in Rome with a confession of Christ’s deity… “who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ…” (Romans 1:1-6) If we are going to ascribe God’s blessedness to Christ, we must first recognize that he is fully God. James Boice helps us understand why this is not more explicit in Scripture. “There is an obvious reticence among the New Testament writers to say starkly that ‘Jesus is God,’ and for good reason. Without explanation, a statement like this might be understood as teaching that God left heaven in order to come to earth in the person of the human Jesus, leaving heaven without his presence. Each of the New Testament writers knew that this is not an accurate picture. Each was aware of the doctrine of the Trinity, according to which God is described as being one God but existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since Jesus is the Son of God, it was customary for them to call him that, rather than simply ‘God,’ reserving the unembellished word God for God the Father. This is why Jesus is not often called God explicitly. Yet, although it is unusual to find Jesus called God for the reasons just given, it is not the case that he is never called God. We think of the Gospel of John, for instance. At the very beginning of that Gospel…’the Word’ is identified as Jesus…(1:1-2)…[and] in Thomas’s great confession, which is the Gospel’s spiritual climax. ‘Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”‘ (20:28).…Hebrews 1:8 calls Jesus ‘God’ by applying Psalm 45:6–7 to him: ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever’…[and] in Titus 2:13–14, where Paul writes, ‘We wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ’…Like many other commentators and Bible teachers, I find Romans 9:5 to be one of the most sublime testimonies to the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ in all the Bible.’” (2)

Christ is Blessed Forever

In Romans 9, Paul expresses his deep sorrow for his Jewish brothers and sisters who do not know Christ. After all, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever.” (9:4-5) Paul not only affirmed the blessed and eternal deity of Jesus Christ but lived as a man who was blessed forever by Jesus Christ’s divine saving grace, wishing that others would also be redeemed in Christ. John Piper was tremendously affected by Paul’s testimony in Romans 9:5. “I was on sabbatical from teaching at Bethel College. My one aim on this leave was to study Romans 9 and write a book on it that would settle, in my own mind, the meaning of these verses. After six years of teaching and finding many students in every class ready to discount my interpretation of this chapter for one reason or another, I decided I had to give eight months to it. The upshot of that sabbatical was the book, The Justification of God. I tried to answer every important exegetical objection to God’s absolute sovereignty in Romans 9. But the result of that sabbatical was utterly unexpected―at least by me…what I did not expect was that six months into this analysis of Romans 9 God himself would speak to me so powerfully that I resigned my job at Bethel and made myself available to the Minnesota Baptist Conference if there were a church who would have me as a pastor…As I studied Romans 9 day after day, I began to see a God so majestic and so free and so absolutely sovereign that my analysis merged into worship and the Lord said, in effect, ‘I will not simply be analyzed, I will be adored. I will not simply be pondered, I will be proclaimed. My sovereignty is not simply to be scrutinized, it is to be heralded…The God of Romans 9 has been the Rock-solid foundation of all I have said and all I have done in the last 22 years.” (3) We, like Paul and Piper, are to live as those who are are blessed forever by Jesus Christ’s divine saving grace.

The Blessedness of Christ is Ours

“That which establishes souls, is, the plain preaching of Jesus Christ. Our redemption and salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, are, without controversy, a great mystery of godliness…the gospel is revealed, not to be talked of and disputed about, but to be submitted to…all the glory that passes from fallen man to God, so as to be accepted of him, must go through the Lord Jesus, in whom alone our persons and doings are, or can be, pleasing to God…Remembering that we are called to the obedience of faith, and that every degree of wisdom is from the only wise God, we should, by word and deed, render glory to him through Jesus Christ; that so the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ may be with us for ever.” (4) Through humility and submission to Christ, we live as those who are blessed. Do we? Or are we moving through these first days of 2022 on autopilot? “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11)

Related Scripture: Psalm 102:27; Romans 1:24-25; 16:25-27; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 11:31; Colossians 1:16-19; 1 Timothy 6:15-16; Revelation 4:11; 5:12; 7:9-12.

Notes:

  1. Firestone, Lisa, “Why It’s Important to Break Routines, Psychology Today,” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201910/why-it-s-important-break-routines
  2. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Romans 9:5 , Baker Books, Software version, 1998. 
  3. Piper, John, “The Sermons of John Piper, The Absolute Sovereignty of God: What Is Romans Nine About?” Romans 9:1-5, 2002,  http://www.desiringgod.com 
  4. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Romans 16:25-27, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/romans-16.html

January 13, 2022