Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The New Creation

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Galatians 6:15)
In the original Greek text of the New Testament, the word translated “creature” is the same as “creation,” so Paul, in our text, is stressing the vital importance of being a “new creation” in Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is nothing less than the mighty Creator of heaven and Earth (Colossians 1:16), and the very same creative power which called the universe into existence must be exerted on each lost sinner to create in him a new nature, capable of having the eternal fellowship with God for which man and woman were created in the beginning.
This new creation is not only for the purpose of saving their souls, but also for transforming their lives. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Although good works can never bring salvation, salvation must inevitably bring good works, for we are thereby “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Paul exhorts us to continually “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
Adam and Eve were originally created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27), but that image has been grievously damaged by unbelief and overt sin. Although still resident in man—in fact, distinguishing him from the animals—this divine image must be renewed through saving faith in our Creator/Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Scripture reminds all true believers that they “have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:9-10).

Monday, 26 September 2016

The Glory of the Lord

“And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:10-11)
This remarkable glory cloud filling Solomon’s Temple at its dedication had also been present when the tabernacle in the wilderness was dedicated. At that time, Moses recorded how “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, . . . and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” Furthermore, this “cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:34-35,38). There could be no doubt as to His presence.
It is well known that this cloud of divine glory was called the Shekinah. Although this actual word never occurs in the Bible itself, it is closely related to the Hebrew words for “dwell” (shakan) and “tabernacle” (mishkan).
The significant truth here, of course, is not the name, but the fact. The glory cloud was removed when Israel became apostate. “And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city” (Ezekiel 11:23).
When God returned to Earth in the person of His Son, “the Word was made flesh, and [tabernacled] among us.” Then, once again, those who had eyes to see “beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). By His Spirit, He now even lives in the human bodies of those who receive Him, and “Christ in you” becomes our own “hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Then, as we live in His Word, “we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

My Lord and My God

“And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
Thomas has been called “doubting Thomas” because of his initial reluctance to believe in the Lord’s resurrection, but neither the Lord nor the other disciples ever viewed him in such a light. His later ministry, as the first missionary/martyr to India, speaks clearly of his great faith.
It is only in John’s gospel that we have any specific insight into Thomas’ character. When the other disciples sought to dissuade Jesus from returning to Jerusalem, it was Thomas who urged, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). Thomas understood the dangers awaiting them, but was ready to go wherever Jesus desired him to go. In the upper room when Jesus spoke of going away, Thomas, still willing to go with Him anywhere, was the only one to ask, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Then, just a few hours later, the Lord had been crucified, and soon “the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19) as they hid themselves in the upper room.
But Thomas was not hiding! The Scriptures do not say where he was when Jesus appeared in their midst, but he was not hiding there like the others. He may well have been out working or witnessing, doing whatever he could to follow the Lord, but he (like the others) had failed to understand Jesus’ promise that He would rise again.
When the other disciples reported that they had seen the resurrected Lord, Thomas, realizing the tremendous significance of such a miracle if it were true, insisted he must see the proof firsthand. Then, when he saw the Lord, he showed a higher comprehension of what had taken place than any of the others, as he whispered in awe: “My Lord, and my God!” 

Saturday, 24 September 2016

For Thy Name's Sake

“For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3)
In this psalm of misery and mercy, we see David’s testimony. “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness” (Psalm 31:1). His faith was strong, but afflictions and opposition were on all sides. He appeals to God for relief (Psalm 31:2) and is confident of the reply, and that that reply will reflect God’s omnipotence and grace. His total trust was in this benevolent God. “Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth” (v. 5), which, of course, was quoted by Christ at the moment of His death on the cross (Luke 23:46).
But note David’s grounds for appeal to God for action: “For thy name’s sake,” as recorded in our text. David’s heartfelt desire here is more than merely relief from his persecution, as desperate as was that need, but for the glory of God and the honor of His name.
God’s name and reputation are at stake when His children are being persecuted. Indeed, the national leaders of Israel had frequently prayed for God to act on the same grounds (for example, see Exodus 32:12). Even in the New Testament we are encouraged to pray in that name: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).
Even though we are always warranted in using this plea in our praying, we must do so in recognition of and submission to the fact that there are limitations. God will never contradict His nature or His Word, and in His sovereignty He knows better solutions to each problem than we can ask for. His greater plans must always take precedence. But when these prerequisites are recognized and accepted, the prayer in His name and for His glory is the one which prevails. 

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Meaning of Man

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
This question has been posed as a rhetorical question by many generations of skeptics, especially in our present generation when the tremendous size of the universe is often used to argue that God, if He exists, could not possibly be interested in such a small speck of dust as our own planet.
But, essentially, the same argument was used against Job by one of his three “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2) over 3,500 years ago. “How then can man be justified with God? . . . that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?” (Job 25:4,6).This dismal type of reasoning, however, is utterly fallacious. Significance is not a function of size, but of purposeful complexity, and the human brain is surely the most complex physical system in the entire universe, as acknowledged even by such an eminent atheistic scientist as Isaac Asimov. Rather than being insignificant nonentities, men and women have been created in the very image of God and are the objects of His redeeming love.
The most wonderful measure of man’s importance is the fact that God, Himself, became a man! “Christ Jesus . . . being in the form of God, . . . took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7) to be able to take our death penalty upon Himself. Furthermore, God’s love for man is measured not only by His substitutionary death for our sins, but also by His eternal creative purpose for us. He has redeemed us so that “in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7)

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Purified Seven Times

“The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Psalm 12:6-7)
The preservation of the divinely given words of Scripture is incomparably superior to that of all other ancient writings. God has not allowed any of His words to “pass away,” for Jesus said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). They are, in fact, “for ever . . . settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89).
Although the original “autographs” of Moses, Paul, and the other human writers have long vanished (perhaps they have even been translated to heaven with the Ark of the Covenant—note Revelation 11:19), God saw to it that dedicated Hebrew scribes and Christian scholars meticulously copied the writings through the centuries so that we still have God’s Word to guide us today. Although there are variant readings in different manuscripts, the original words are there somewhere. Very few real questions remain about any of these, so we have the original Greek and Hebrew words to a high degree of accuracy.
The fires of anti-Christian persecution, caviling humanistic philosophies, literary criticism, scientific skepticism, pagan pantheism, cultic distortions, and apathetic indifference have sought to destroy God’s Word, but all have failed. It is the bestseller of all time, translated into more languages than any other writings.
No matter what forces are directed against it, it always emerges brighter and surer than ever! Even this present generation will fail in all modern attempts to defeat the Holy Scriptures, for God will “preserve them from this generation for ever.”

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

But God

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
God makes all the difference! There was a time when the whole world was in bondage to sin and death. But God!
But . . . God sent forth his Son . . . To redeem them that were under the law.” Because He did, “the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). But there was a problem, for every man was still a lost sinner, deserving to die under the righteous, well-deserved wrath of a Holy God. But God!
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He died for us, suffering in our place, because He loved us. The issue is not yet settled, however, for how could a dead redeemer complete the work He was sent to do? But God!
But God raised him from the dead” (Acts 13:30). The price for sin was for ever settled, so that God, in full righteousness and in mighty power, could raise His beloved Son, alive forevermore. Yes, but we ourselves are still sinful—still dying. Our very nature keeps us in bondage to sin, even though the price for our deliverance has been fully paid. But God!
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. . . . For by grace are ye saved through faith; . . . it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:4-5,8). We cannot fully understand. But God does not require us to understand—only to believe, and receive.