Thursday, 20 July 2017

Together in Christ

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
This is a wonderful promise. Whether believers come together in church or a home Bible study or even just two together (like husband and wife) to fellowship around the name of the Lord Jesus, He is there also!
The Scriptures often speak of our togetherness with Him and therefore with one another. When we followed Him in baptism, we were “planted together in the likeness of his death” (Romans 6:5). Similarly, when He rose from the dead, God “hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6). One day, we are told, “if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:17).
In our Christian walk right now, we are being “fitly framed together” as a “holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21-22). We ought, therefore, to be “knit together in love” (Colossians 2:2), “perfectly joined together in the same mind” (1 Corinthians 1:10), and “striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
Then one day, when Christ returns and the dead in Christ are raised, “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
So, when we are together with Him through the indwelling Spirit of Christ, whether in a congregation of thousands or just together with one or two Christian companions, we rejoice in His presence, for He is our mighty Creator, our loving Savior, our caring Comforter, our unerring Guide, and our soon-coming King. 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Word Made Flesh

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
This is the definitive verse on the divine incarnation, when “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19), and the wealth of truth implied therein is beyond human comprehension. We can never understand how the infinite God could become finite man, but where the intellect fails, faith prevails.
It was the Word who “was God” and by whom “all things were made” (John 1:1, 3), yet He made His own human body, in the womb of Mary, and therein “dwelt among us” for 33 years. The Greek word here for “dwelt” is unusual, literally meaning “tabernacled.”
How could this be? “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16). This is, indeed, a great mystery, “but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). God made a body for Adam; surely He could also make a perfect body in which He Himself could “tabernacle.” He was made “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3) and “was in all points tempted [i.e., tested] like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Since “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13), and since the Word, who was God, was merely tabernacling in the likeness of sinful flesh, this testing was to demonstrate to man (not to Himself) that He was without sin and therefore able to save sinners. Therefore, John could testify, “We beheld his glory!”
Jesus Christ is, indeed, true man—in fact, He is man as God intended man to be. Yet, neither in the womb of Mary, nor on the cross, did He ever cease to be God

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

No Other Name

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
There are many famous names in the history of religious thought—names such as Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, Joseph Smith, among a host of others. Each has a multitude of followers who pay homage to his name.
But there is only one name that saves eternally, the Lord Jesus Christ. The words of our text were spoken by the apostle Peter. In his epistle, John also stresses this fact: “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12). The apostle Paul wrote that all those “that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
This exclusivity necessarily results from the fact that there is only one God and Creator of all men, and that all men have rebelled against Him. God Himself has become Redeemer and Savior, dying for the sin of the world and rising again. There can, therefore, be no other Savior than God Himself.
The Lord Jesus repeatedly stressed this truth. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).
It is urgent, therefore, that anyone desiring forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation come to God through Jesus Christ. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). 

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Lord Our Maker

“O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.” (Psalm 95:6)
In the first chapter of Genesis we are told that God was to “make man in our image,” and also that He “created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:26-27). Similarly, on the seventh day God “rested from all his work which God created and made” (Genesis 2:3).
God is, therefore, both Creator and Maker of all things, including the image of God in man. These two terms are not synonymous, though they sometimes seem to be used interchangeably. “Creation” is calling into existence entities that previously had no existence. No one except God is ever the subject of the verb “create.” The work of making, on the other hand, is that of organizing created entities into complex systems.
It is interesting that God is called “Creator” five times in the Bible, whereas He is called “Maker” 16 times. God created His image in men and women, but He also made them in that image. That is, He called into existence the spiritual component of man’s nature, not shared in any degree by the animals. He also organized the basic material elements into complex human bodies, the most highly organized systems in the universe, and these were made in that image that God Himself would one day assume when He became an incarnate human being. In this way, He is both Creator and Maker of His image in each person.
That image has been marred because of sin, but through the work of Christ we have been “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:10), and our bodies will “be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). Created and newly created, made and remade, let us humbly kneel before the Lord, our Maker and Creator. 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Open Doors

“Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” (Colossians 4:3-4)
This was Paul’s prayer request of the Colossian Christians, that God would open the door for His testimony. Paul had written earlier about “when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 2:12). The purpose of an open door is thus to preach the gospel of Christ and to speak the mystery of Christ.
Furthermore, these passages indicate that such doors are opened by the Lord, not by human devices. In fact, Christ Himself is “he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” (Revelation 3:7). Doors of testimony are opened by the Lord in answer to prayer, but He also specifies three criteria for keeping the door opened. “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8).
These conditions mean, literally, having little strength of one’s own and thus depending only on God, jealously guarding the integrity of God’s Word, and upholding the name of Christ as Creator, Savior, and coming King.
Even when the door is kept open by God, there is no assurance of ease in entering it. Paul wrote that “a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9). This is the reason prayer is needed, relying on God, not man!
The Lord is also seeking an open door into churches that think they “have need of nothing. . . . Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him” (Revelation 3:17,20). 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Guarding the Word

“Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.” (Psalm 119:2)
In the remarkable 119th psalm, there are 176 verses (the longest chapter in the Bible) and 176 references to the written Word of God. Eight different Hebrew words are used for the Scriptures, respectively translated (in the King James Version) “law,” “testimonies,” “precepts,” “statutes,” “commandments,” “judgments,” and two words translated “word” or “words.” Furthermore, this psalm contains 28 admonitions to “keep” the Word, and these are applied to each of the above eight aspects of the Scriptures. The first is in our text, where we are exhorted to keep His testimonies. Note the others also in the following examples.
“Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently” (v. 4); “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” (v. 5); “Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word” (Hebrew dabar, v. 17).
“Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law” (v. 34); “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments” (v. 60); “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments” (v. 106); “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word” (Hebrew imrah, v. 67).
This means much more than simply obeying His commands, though this is certainly included. Both words translated “keep” or “kept” in the 28 admonitions noted above basically mean “guard” or “preserve,” as in Psalm 41:2, where both words are used: “The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive.”
In these verses and many others throughout the Bible, therefore, we are commanded not merely to obey and proclaim God’s Word, but also to guard, preserve, and defend it against all its many enemies. 

Friday, 14 July 2017

Lukewarm Laodicea

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; . . . I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16)
The Lord Jesus used intense language to rebuke this church, the last of the seven He had John write to in the book of Revelation. Laodicea was dangerously near the brink of being disavowed by He who is the Head of the church.
Such churches believe they “have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17). Worldly wealth, extensive property, and popular recognition blinded these members and their leaders to their true spiritual condition. They failed to understand that, from the Lord’s perspective, they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
The cause of this terrible spiritual destitution is being spiritually tepid. It’s like expecting a glass of cold water or a cup of hot tea but finding everything at room temperature. This church “tasted” just like the world around them. They were neither godly nor in rebellion—just “nice people” who blended in well with the community. Their spiritual reputation did not smell either like life or death (2 Corinthians 2:16).
Despite the Lord’s distaste for such a condition, He loved and counseled them to “buy” from Him the gold of the Kingdom’s true wealth, righteous clothing that would cover their shameful exposure of worldly behavior, and to anoint their spiritual eyes so that they could see eternal values rather than temporal things.
As the Lord graciously closed His letter, He “stands at the door” of the church, waiting for anyone to open and let Him in (Revelation 3:20). Tepid spirituality keeps the Lord outside. What a shame that such could ever be said about any church.