Daily Archives: February 27, 2017

How the Entitlement Mentality Crept into Our Churches

In 1974 Burger King made a bold move to take market share from McDonald’s. At the time, McDonald’s made burgers en masse. If you wanted a special order, you had to wait interminably while it was cooked separately.

I remember. I’m a ketchup-only kind of guy.

So Burger King announced that each order would be cooked at the time of the order the way the customer wanted. Their new slogan was “Have It Your Way.” Burger King, at least at the time, understood the consumer entitlement mentality.

So what does this story have to do with our churches?

It provides a brief historical backdrop of the mentality that has crept into our churches, where many of our members think church is a place where I can always “have it my way.” For now, let me share some key reasons many of our congregations have become more like country clubs than churches, a place where some members demand their way instead of serving and self-sacrificing.

  1. Failure to state clearly the expectations of church membership on the front end. A membership class, or some similar entry point into churches, should not only give information about the church, it should provide expectations about membership. Membership without expectations becomes membership with entitlements.
  2. Failure to make certain as possible that members are Christians. Sadly, we church leaders often neglect to discuss the spiritual conditions of prospective members. Are they truly followers of Christ? As a result, many of our churches have unregenerate members.
  3. Seeking numerical growth at all costs. We certainly should be Great Commission churches. We certainly should be inviting people and sharing the gospel. But if our end goal is numbers, we will make compromising statements to bring people into our churches. We should seek to grow our churches out of obedience to God, not to create our own kingdoms.
  4. Failure to remind the congregation regularly what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. All of us church members have the potential to lapse into self-serving, entitlement members. We all need to be reminded that church membership is not about perks and privileges, but serving and sacrifice. I have been encouraged to see many churches have annual renewal and commitment services.
  5. Allowing the most entitled members into positions of key leadership in the church. One of the more common manifestations of an entitled church member is a person who seeks to gain power and leadership positions in a church so he or she can control and get his or her own way. We yield to them too often because they might be big givers or because we don’t have the fortitude to resist their bullying behavior.
  6. Failure to deal with difficult issues. Church leaders too often are conflict avoiders. And while we shouldn’t pick a fight over every issue of minutia, neither should we allow a pervasive culture of entitlement, bullying, and manipulation to grow unabated. A problem not handled now is a larger problem later.

The biblical mandate for local congregations is counter-cultural. In many passages of the New Testament, such as 1 Corinthians 12, we are clearly taught that members are to be sacrificial, giving, and serving.

Such a mentality goes counter to the culture in which the church ministers.

Church is not about having it our way.

It’s about bringing glory to God by having it His way.

Visit Website

The Unchanging Gospel

1 Corinthians 15:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:1-4

Code: B170227

John MacArthur

[Note from the Editor: This week’s blog posts are adapted from John MacArthur’s newest book The Gospel According to Paul, and also correlate with our current radio series. Click here to learn more about the book, or here to listen to the radio broadcast.]

There is only one gospel. That theme reverberates throughout the writings of the apostle Paul—literature that makes up almost half of the entire New Testament. While he emphasizes different aspects of the gospel in various passages [The Gospel According to Paul examines several other prominent passages: Romans 3:9–26, 2 Corinthians 5:18–21, Ephesians 2:1–10, Titus 2:11–14], they are all consistent and work together for a full-orbed understanding of the doctrine of salvation.

Consistency and Integrity

Anyone who suggests that Paul introduced an altered or embellished version of the apostolic message would have to contradict every point Paul ever made about the singularity of the true gospel. Although he expounded the gospel far more thoroughly and painstakingly than any other New Testament writer, nothing Paul ever preached or wrote was in any way a departure from what Christ or His apostles had been teaching from the start. Paul’s gospel was exactly the same message Christ proclaimed and commissioned the twelve to take into all the world. There is only one gospel, and it is the same for Jews and Gentiles alike.

It was the false teachers, not Paul, who claimed that God had appointed them to polish or rewrite the gospel. Paul flatly repudiated the notion that the message Christ sent His disciples to preach was subject to revision (2 Corinthians 11).

Paul made it clear that the surest way to twist Scripture to one’s own destruction is by altering the gospel—or even by passively tolerating those who preach a modified gospel. He strictly cautioned readers to beware “if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted” (2 Corinthians 11:4). He said alternative gospels are rooted in the same brand of deception the serpent used to deceive Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3).

And while the one, true gospel is inexhaustible in its breadth and depth, it is at the same time clear enough to be expressed in simple terms through historical events and theological principles.

Core Elements

For anyone familiar with Paul’s writings, one of the first texts that will come to mind as a succinct summary of the gospel is 1 Corinthians 15:1–5. Paul himself identifies this passage as a digest of essential gospel truths.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared.

Verse 3 would be better translated, “I conveyed to you the principal matters.” That’s the true sense of what he is telling them. What Paul clearly has in mind here are the elements of gospel truth that come first in order of importance. He goes on to give an abbreviated outline of historical facts in chronological order. He names four events that constitute the key climactic events of the whole gospel narrative: the crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and subsequent appearances of the risen Christ.

This is significant for several reasons. First, it is a reminder that the gospel is grounded in actual history. The Christian faith is not a theory or a speculation. It is not mystical, as if based on someone’s dream or imagination. It is not an abstract philosophy or an idealistic worldview. Much less is it merely a list of sterile doctrines that have been relegated to a formal statement of faith. The gospel of Jesus Christ is divinely revealed truth established in the meticulous historical fulfillment of several Old Testament prophecies, documented by mountains of irrefutable evidence, confirmed by a series of public events that no mere mortal could possibly have engineered, and corroborated by an abundance of eyewitness testimony.

On the other hand, by listing facts of history as matters of primary importance, Paul is by no means dismissing or even minimizing the doctrinal content of the gospel message. Nor is he suggesting that the Christian faith rests on bare historical facts and eyewitness testimony alone. Twice in this short passage Paul reminds us that these events happened “according to the Scriptures.” That, of course, is the true ground and foundation of saving faith. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). It’s not “faith” merely to believe that these events occurred. True saving faith will also embrace the biblical meaning of sin, atonement, divine grace, and other elements of gospel truth—the doctrines that explain why the historical facts are so significant.

Indeed, loaded into the simple statement “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” is everything Scripture teaches about the penalty of sin, the principle of substitutionary atonement, and the sinless perfection that qualified Christ to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In other words, what Paul says here in very few words has significant ramifications for hamartiology (the doctrine of sin), soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), and Christology (the doctrines of the person and work of Christ). So his short list of historical facts in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 is laden with far-reaching doctrinal implications.

The Problem in Corinth

Context is crucial. Paul wrote this chapter to deal with a doctrinal error, not as a dispute about the facts of history. The Corinthians already believed in Christ’s death and resurrection. What they questioned was the future bodily resurrection of believers who die. So Paul was writing to defend that point of doctrine. He does so by outlining the gospel message with a list of historical events that no one in the Corinthian assembly of believers ever would have questioned. “So we preach and so you believed,” he says in 1 Corinthians 15:11 (emphasis added).

His review of commonly believed gospel facts in verses 1–5 was therefore merely a prelude to the central point of the chapter. Paul states his main point plainly in verses 16–17: “If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” Conversely, if Christ was raised from the dead, then there’s no reason to be skeptical about the future bodily resurrection of the saints. “If Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12). The whole of chapter 15 is an exposition of that simple argument.

Four Historic Events

What concerns us here, however, is the brief gospel outline Paul gives in verses 3–5. He cites four events from history to construct a firm skeletal framework for the weighty doctrinal substance and spiritual significance of the gospel message. By naming these four historical facts rather than stressing the doctrine, Paul is not suggesting that the gospel’s doctrinal content is irrelevant or inconsequential. Paul would never indulge in that kind of reductionism. (The whole book of Galatians proves how strongly he believed in doctrinal soundness, especially in the matter of gospel preaching.) Here he is merely summarizing and outlining—not truncating—the message. By repeatedly using the phrase “according to the Scriptures,” he makes it clear that a right understanding of and true belief in these four events necessarily entails a proper view of the gospel’s doctrinal implications.

Furthermore, none of this would have been new to the Corinthians. Paul founded that church and pastored it for more than eighteen months before his ministry took him elsewhere (Acts 18:11,18). The Corinthians had received sufficient teaching from Paul so they already knew quite well the crucial doctrinal implications of the statement “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” That, of course, is the first point of the outline Paul constructs.

In the days ahead we’ll examine four events that frame the pivotal doctrine of Christ’s atonement, and how all the other core gospel elements flow out it.

 

(Adapted from The Gospel According to Paul.)

Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170227
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/connect/copyright).

Practical magic’s resurgence

The End Time

The NY Times published an article titled The modern charm of practical magic. I found it interesting for many different reasons. I was not saved by grace of the Lord Jesus until I was 42 years old. I spent all of my adulthood prior to the salvation moment, searching for the magic key to the magic in life, the unexplainable, explained. I dabbled in lots of different kinds of magic. Ouija boards, Kirlian aura photography, dreamcatchers, sage burning, Reiki, astral projection, summoning spirits & spirit guides, clairvoyance…

We all want to know what’s on the other side. We do enjoy peeking behind the veil, knowing the unknowable. Because, the unsaved person knows there is a higher power. (Romans 1:19-20). They just deny Who it is. ‘Oh it can’t be God. It must be runes…solstice…labyrinths…”

The NYT article says that they notice more than ever, people seeking answers through magic,

View original post 403 more words

God’s Sovereignty, Our Suffering (Bridges)

The Reformed Reader

Is God Really in Control?: Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal Tragedy This is one of the better books I’ve read on suffering and the sovereignty of God: Is God Really in Control by Jerry Bridges.  This book is outstanding because it is very biblical, pastoral, and practical.  You won’t find a detailed philosophical discussion of theodicy in these pages, but you will find hope, comfort, and encouragement in the sovereignty of God’s love in Christ.  As always, Bridges writes in a straightforward manner that most Christians can understand.  You can give this book to a 60-year-old Christian going through a trial or a newly married husband and wife grieving over a miscarriage.  This is truly a book for the church.

Here are a couple of highlights from the book:

“In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith, not of sense.  …We must shape our vision of God by the Bible, not…

View original post 232 more words

Why I Don’t See ‘Christian’ Movies

Pulpit & Pen has a piece by Matt Sherro that tackles what Hollywood would like us to believe are Christian films. Sherro lists just a few of the heresies taught in so-called Christian movies and books:

“Yea, hath God said…” It’s the oldest trick in the book; bring just enough of the truth to someone to obscure the lie and it is, itself, the reason “Christian movies” are so successful. permit me to digress for a moment.

I was recently having a conversation with a friend, whom we will call Eric in order to protect his privacy, and during that conversation, Eric asked if it was true that, as a rule, I will never go to see a “Christian movie” and I answered in the affirmative. The last allegedly Christian movie that I went to see in a theater was The Passion of the Christ and I probably should have saved my money but that is a different story for a different day. I want to take a few moments to explain why I do not go to see these allegedly Christian movies and why I actively discourage others from doing so as well.

View article →

Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

Bible study author, speaker and blogger Michelle Lesley challenges those who claim they’re followers of Jesus Christ to read and study the book He inspired, the inerrant Word of God.  Knowing who God is and His ways prevents believers from getting pulled into a web of deception by the sort of teachers Jesus referred to as “ravenous wolves.” Most of us have played Monopoly so we’re familiar with how the game is played as well as the rules of the game.  Well, Michelle uses that board game to illustrate her point, and we think you’ll agree that she does it brilliantly!

So – with this in mind, listen as Michelle Lesley offers some basic training principles that will help Christians grow in their faith. She writes:

The Bible. Scripture. The Good Book. It used to be so blatantly self-evident that God’s written Word was the foundation and standard for the Christian faith that it was assumed. A given. You learned, “I stand alone on the word of God- the B-I-B-L-E,” when you were three or four years old, you believed it, and you moved on.

But take a look at the Westernized version of Christianity these days. The fruit of abandoning the authority of Scripture is chilling. From the demonic tremoring and barking antics of New Apostolic Reformation “churches” to the rebellion of female “pastors” to the “gay Christian” movement to “Christian” abortion doctors, it’s clear that an astounding number of self-professed Christians and churches don’t submit to Scripture’s mandates for their beliefs and practices.

View article →

Revolutionary Sexuality

Revolutionary sexuality: Where are we?

It is surely beyond all dispute that we live in an age of revolution. This revolutionary upheaval is revealed most dramatically in the area of human sexuality. On all sides in our culture we are witness to the separating of what God has joined and a joining of what he has separated (Mark 10:9). Thus in the first instance we have no-fault divorce, the celebration of sex outside of marriage and abortion as contraception – with not even a pretended desire for holding together, in a moral union, love, sex and child-rearing in the permanent bond of the creational family. In the latter case, we have the promotion and celebration of homosexuality and even the denial of real, normative distinctions between male and female.

This ‘gender mainstreaming’ regards male and female sex as ‘fictive’ and seeks to reinvent humanity in terms of a gender-blending abstraction. The demagogues of revolution go about this subversion of creational norms in the name of liberation and empowerment, but as G. K. Chesterton warned, end up destroying what they claim to set free:

You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature. You may, if you like, free a tiger from his bars; but do not free him from his stripes. Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump: you may be freeing him from being a camel. Do not go about as a demagogue, encouraging triangles to break out of the prison of their three sides. If a triangle breaks out of its three sides, its life comes to a lamentable end.[1]

The speed with which the demagogues armed with their pagan ideologies have captured our culture, liberating man of his mannishness, is staggering; and it can only be accounted for by the fact that Western society has been rendered morally weak and impotent by its sexual guilt – our resistance to subversion broken down by the sexualisation and pornification of most cultural life. Consequently, speaking of Christian sexual ethics today is not for the faint of heart. To point out the tragic and ruinous dismantling of creational norms in our society is to place yourself at risk of ostracism and exclusion – even among professing Christians.

The contemporary revolution is openly directed against God, and indeed creation itself,which is sustained and upheld by the Word of God. Scripture republishes and explicates that creation Word and is therefore vehemently opposed by the artisans of the new sexual order.

Architects of Revolution: How did we get here?

The rallying cry of Voltaire during the French Revolution was ‘crush the infamy’ – by which he meant the Christian church and the moral order it stood for. The sexual revolutionaries of the twentieth century find the root of their revolutionary spirit in the self-creating illusions of Marxism, with its visceral hatred of both God and the family. As Marx keenly observed, “The secret to the Holy Family is the earthly family. To make the former disappear, the latter must be destroyed, in theory and in practice.”[2]

The past hundred years or so have given us the interrelated evolutionary, existential, technological, revolutionary, Freudian, behaviourist and gender-fluid views of the human person. As Gordon Spykman has pointed out, “The contemporary quests for self-identity degenerate into the many faces of modern man’s self-deception. He re-creates himself into the likeness of his own multi-masked image.”[3] Or in the words of Scripture, those who make idols become like them (Ps. 115:8). The cultural implications of this truth are all around us.

As a result of the many decades of theoretical, social and political assault on Christian sexual ethics, the norms which are part of any society’s operating system are being radically altered. This is doubly troubling for Christians because as this alteration occurs, new social and legal penalties are introduced to protect the new norms – for every society protects sexual norms with penalties. As Gabriele Kuby has explained:

Every culture penalizes violation of its sexual standards. While people previously thought it a feature of primitive societies to have taboos that were enforced by everything from social ostracism to the death penalty, today we are finding that new taboos apply. They gain their validity through social exclusion and gradual criminalization, specifically in the domain that all cultures protect with strict standards – the domain of sexuality. A reversal has taken place. Today the dissolution of moral standards is being enforced and opposition is being punished with exclusion and legal sanctions.[4]

This helps account for recent developments like Canada’s Bill C-16, which having passed a second successful reading in Parliament, and if passed at the Senate, will amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to add gender identity and gender expression to the growing list of prohibited grounds of ‘discrimination’ which already includes ‘sexual orientation.’ According to the government, open criticism or rejection of these expressions and behaviours could be deemed to encourage hatred and may lead to up to two years in prison.[5] This chilling consequence helps to silence all opposition to the revolution’s new sexual orthodoxy.

The catalogue of intellectual leaders for the sexual revolution who have brought us to this cultural moment include formative thinkers like Wilhelm Reich, who combined Marxism with Freudian psychoanalysis, and shaped the thinking of such ‘Frankfurt School’ luminaries as Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, whose influential writings helped produce the student revolution of the 1960s. Their message was essentially to free one’s self from oppressive Christian sexual morality by living out any and all libidinous urges, thereby creating a social paradise free from all ‘domination.’[6]

Seeking liberation from the feelings of guilt and shame that come with sexual immorality, emotionally disturbed and promiscuous men like Freud, and the occultist Carl Jung, provided pseudo-scientific justification for sexual libertinism from the depth dimension of human psychology, whilst the pornographer, paedophile and masochist, Alfred Kinsey, provided bogus research with falsified statistics in order to promote every sexual perversion and the sexualisation of children.[7]

It is worth observing that it is not only men who have sought to undermine and overturn the traditional family structure. The early feminist Simone de Beauvoir championed a radical feminism that rejected all sexual restraint, marriage, motherhood and family. For her the fetus was a parasite and she even set up an abortion centre in her Paris salon whilst it was still illegal.[8] Accordingly, she asserted that heterosexual marriage of men and women and the nuclear family, along with the church that sponsors this arrangement, must be destroyed.

Then with the lesbian radical feminist, Judith Butler, came ‘gender mainstreaming.’ Over against God, Butler claims the authority to change the very fabric of human sexual identity through political and legal measures. This new gender ideology grips our culture today like a vice – even though most people have never even heard the term. This construct means that out go male and female, father and mother, husband and wife, as the two sexes in normative marital relationship. For Butler, these norms are artificial constructs supposedly arising from the ‘incest taboo’ which must be broken.[9]

As the two creational sexes exit the scene, in comes the term ‘gender’ to replace them. According to Butler, sex is an ideal construct. Sexual identities are constructed simply by language. So politically, changing the use of language is central to transforming the gender order of society. This re-ordering of reality is again done in the name of liberation for all, because for the radical feminist, creational Christian norms are all about oppression: “Within the present family structure, individuals learn to accept sexist oppression as natural and are primed to support other forms of oppression including heterosexist domination.”[10]

Essentially Butler and her numerous disciples claim that there are no such realities as ‘men and women’ because the idea of biological sex is a fantasy. Gender is not related to biological sex, but is free-flowing and fluid – there is no such thing as normative sexual identity. Rather your identity is centred in your ‘orientation,’ which is said to be mutable and freely chosen, regardless of whether you are a man or woman. Today’s vocal advocates of the LGBTQ cause are the devotees (conscious or not) of her philosophy. They choose the word ‘queer’ rather than the word ‘homosexuality’ now (which points to its opposite) for anything that is not the God-ordained norm of heterosexual marriage. Scriptural sexual morality and family, with its binary norm, is for Butler and her followers the ‘dictatorship of nature’ (that is, creation) which must be rebelled against and destroyed.[11]

Religious Roots of Revolution

This radical identity crisis afflicting our culture reflects the religious crisis of our time. We must be critically aware that lying behind all these ideas are intuitively-held religious presuppositions, very ancient in origin, which are now being dressed in a new pseudo-scientific garb and applied socially in the most radical way. In contrast to Scripture, ancient Greek mythology set male gods like Ouranos and Zeus against female goddesses like fertility Gaia and Olympian Hera. This suggested a struggle basic to sexual relations that is foreign to the Bible.

Philosophically, the influential school of Plato taught a unisex or androgynous perspective because the “soul substance” in philosophical thought was sexless.[12] This is a religious denial of the binary; of the reality of twoness; of distinction; of the ‘male and female’ that God made from the ‘beginning of creation’ (Matt. 19:4).

The positing of original sexless origins and the primitive androgynous emergence of humankind, as well as a denial of the even more fundamental creator-creature distinction itself, is basic to pagan, humanistic thought. As Peter Jones warns, “once the male-female distinction falls, other creational categories also become irrelevant.”[13] If you can destroy the creational norm of marriage and family then you are destroying the image of the eternal holy family, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and this, it seems, lies at the root of today’s idolatrous war on creation.

 


[1] Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908; reprint, New York: John Lane Company, 1921), 86.

[2] Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels, Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1976), vol. 3, 6.

[3] Gordon J. Spykman, Reformational Theology: A New Paradigm for Doing Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 215-216.

[4] Gabriele Kuby, The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the name of Freedom, trans. James Patrick Kirchner (Ohio: LifeSite, 2015), 10.

[5] See “Bill C-16,” Parliament of Canada, last modified May 17 2016, http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=8280564, accessed Feb 2 2017: “The enactment also amends the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression and to clearly set out that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence.”

[6] See, particularly, Wilhelm Reich, The Sexual Revolution, trans. Peter Nevill (London: Vision Press, 1952). The title in Reich’s original German is Die Sexualität im Kulturkampf: zur sozialistischen Umstrukturierung des Menschen, which translates to “sexuality in the culture war: for the socialist restructuring of humans;” Herbert Marcuse: Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966).

[7] Kuby, The Global Sexual Revolution, 31 ff.

[8] Marie Rennard, “The Unfinished Business of Simone de Beauvoir,” Swans Commentary,last modified February 11 2008, http://www.swans.com/library/art14/marier15.html.

[9] See Judith Butler, Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity, (London: Routledge, 1990).

[10] Bell Hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (Boston: South End Press, 1984), 38.

[11] See Butler, Gender Trouble.

[12] See Calvin Seerveld, Cultural Problems in Western Society (Iowa: Dordt College Press, 2014), 106-107.

[13] Peter Jones, The God of Sex: How Spirituality Defines your Sexuality (Colorado: Cook Communications, 2006), 73.

Rev. Dr. Joseph Boot (M.A., Ph.D.) is a cultural theologian, leading Christian apologist, founding pastor of Westminster Chapel in Toronto and founder of the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity (EICC). This is article is used with permission.

The post Revolutionary Sexuality appeared first on TruthXchange.

February 27, 2017: Verse of the day

img_1205

The message of God to Isaiah in vv. 9–10 is strongly predestinarian. How appropriate, therefore, that the verse preceding them should place such emphasis on the prophet’s responsibility! He is not coerced into service; rather, his will makes its ready response as a grateful reaction to God’s forgiving grace. No doubt Isaiah’s readiness was itself the product of divine grace, but this is not where the stress falls here. Instead, we see him faced with the challenge to personal commitment.

The plural “us” is often linked theologically with v. 3 (see comment) and interpreted in terms of the Trinity. It is an unusual phenomenon, found elsewhere in the OT only in Genesis (Ge 1:26; 11:7; cf. also Isa 41:21–23). Many modern scholars, taking it to be a plural of consultation, see it both here and in Genesis as implying a council of heavenly beings. There are, of course, many biblical passages that picture God as surrounded by the heavenly hosts. In a context that speaks both of waters and mountains (and so of nature) and of nations (and so, by implication, also of history), however, the Lord refutes the notion that he consulted others in his work of creation (40:13–14). If Isaiah 6 and 40 have the same author (see Introduction, pp. 438–48), it seems most unlikely that consultation with a heavenly council is in view here. Moreover in Daniel, what a pagan king may have attributed to “the decree of the watchers” (Da 4:17, KJV) Daniel called “the decree of the Most High” (Da 4:24).

It is true that 1 Kings 22:19–23 pictures God as consulting with heavenly beings, but it is doubtful whether we should interpret literally a highly dramatic vision with details probably chosen to give vividness to a solemn message. GKC (par. 124g, n.2) takes “us” as a plural of self-deliberation. Motyer (1993, in loc.) points out that “the New Testament relates these verses to both the Lord Jesus (Jn. 12:24) and the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25), thus finding here what will yet accommodate the full revelation of the Holy Trinity.”

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

6:8 Us. This plural pronoun does not prove the doctrine of the Trinity, but does strongly imply it (see Ge 1:26). Here am I. Send me! This response evidenced the humble readiness of complete trust. Though profoundly aware of his sin, he was available.

MacArthur Study Bible

6:8 Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? See 1 Kings 22:19–20; Jer. 23:18, 22. Here am I! Send me. Isaiah’s experience of grace has dealt with his problem, confessed in Isa. 6:5. “Us” is like “us” in Gen. 1:26 (“let us make man”): God could be addressing himself (in a way compatible with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity), or he could be addressing his heavenly court (less likely, since only God is doing the sending here). See notes on Gen. 1:26; 1:27.

ESV Study Bible

6:8 who will go for us? The biblical descriptions of God’s heavenly deliberations often include a plural address. The plural can be understood most simply as God addressing the divine beings present in His throne room, and asking them a rhetorical question—knowing Isaiah will respond. A mark of a true prophet was that he had stood in the divine council and received his mission directly from God. See Gen 1:26 and note; Jer 23:18; 1 Kgs 22:19–23.

Faithlife Study Bible

6:8 who will go for us. The Lord invited Isaiah to listen in on the sessions of the royal, heavenly court. From this moment on Isaiah is a servant of God’s court and proclaims God’s message to kings and people alike (cf. 1 Kin. 22:19, 20; Jer. 23:18, 22).

Reformation Study Bible

February 27, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

February 27

Applying the Principles

Grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.

Ephesians 4:15

 

Spiritual growth is simply a matter of applying scriptural principles, but there are many who believe only spiritual giants experience a great increase in faith.

I have read about mystics who knelt and prayed for eight to ten hours, wearing holes in the wood floors. I have read about Robert Murray McCheyne, who would soil the pages of his Bible and the wood of his pulpit with great floods of tears. And I have read Power Through Prayer by E. M. Bounds, who spent countless hours in prayer. As I learned about these people, all I could think of was that I could never reach that level. But God uses each of us in different ways.

Spiritual growth is not some mystical achievement for a select few on a higher spiritual plane. Rather, it is simply a matter of glorifying God by confessing sin, trusting Him, bearing fruit, praising Him, obeying and proclaiming His Word, praying, and leading others to Christ. Those are the qualities every Christian needs in order to mature. When you focus on them, the Spirit of God will change you into the image of Christ, from one level of glory to the next.[1]


February 27 God’s Glory

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”

Psalm 19:1

✧✧✧

God’s glory is the radiance of all He is.

In Isaiah’s vision of Heaven, angels called out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isa. 6:3). What exactly is the glory of God? It encompasses all that He is, the radiance of His attri butes and divine nature.

Moses said to God, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” (Ex. 33:18), and the Lord answered, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (v. 19). Moses was not allowed to see God’s face, which is the essence of His being: “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (v.20). But Moses was allowed to see God’s back, which represents the afterglow of His glory.

Perhaps God’s afterglow is like the radiance of the sun. We only see the light that comes off the sun. If we got too close to it, we would be consumed. If the sun is so brilliant, what must God be like? His glory seen in creation is only a dim reflection of His character.

God displayed His glory many times in Scripture. He represented Himself as a great white cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night as He led Israel through the wilderness (Ex. 13:21). After the Tabernacle was built, “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34). Years later, He filled the temple in a similar way (1 Kings 8:10–11). This manifestation of God’s glory served as the focal point of worship for Israel.

God takes His glory very seriously. He said, “I will not give My glory to another” (Isa. 42:8). We must not steal God’s glory by becoming proud and taking credit for the good things He has done. Instead of taking God’s glory, say with David, “I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Thy name forever” (Ps. 86:12).

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for His glory and majesty.

For Further Study: Read Daniel 4, the story of a powerful man who did not give God the glory. What characterized Nebuchadnezzar in verses 30 and 37?[2]


FEBRUARY 27

THE COMMON MAN AND THE COMMON GOD

I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness.

—Psalm 145:5-6

We also seem to have gotten away from the concept of majesty altogether. This is the age of the common man and along with the common man has come the common god….

The modern Christian has lost a sense of worship along with the concept of majesty, and of course, reverence as well. He has lost his ability to withdraw inwardly and commune in the secret place with God in the shrine of his own hidden spirit. It is this that makes Christianity, and we have all but lost it. Added numbers, yes, but lost fear. Multiplied schools, yes, but lost awareness of the invisible. Tons of literature being poured out, of course, but no consciousness of the divine Presence. Better communication, certainly, but nothing to communicate. Evangelistic organizations, yes, but the concept of majesty and worship and reverence has almost left us. AOG180-181

Oh, God, restore to Your Church a sense of majesty, worship and reverence that sends us to our secret closets in awe. Amen. [3]

February 27

Spiritual Hunger’s Second Object—Sanctification

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.—Matt. 5:6

For the Christian, the object of hungering and thirsting is growth in sanctification, which is a crucial mark of the genuine believer. No one who follows Christ attains complete sanctification until heaven, and to claim otherwise would be the height of presumption. Thus saints in this life always need to strive for more holiness, which will be seen in their lives through obedience to the Word. Paul prayed that the Philippian believers might “abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that [they] may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:9–10).

The Greek grammar Matthew used in quoting Jesus indicates that righteousness is the unqualified and unlimited object of “hunger and thirst.” Our Lord is describing people who earnestly desire all the righteousness there is (cf. Matt. 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15–16).

In the original text the definite article appears before “righteousness,” which means that Jesus is not speaking of just any general righteousness, but the righteousness—the true one that comes from God. In fact, it is the Father’s very own righteousness that the Son also possesses.

Because we as believers cannot possibly have our longing for godliness satisfied during our earthly lives, we must continually hunger and thirst until the glorious day when we receive the complete clothing of Jesus Christ’s righteousness.

ASK YOURSELF
Not on Sunday morning but on Tuesday afternoon, on Thursday morning, on Friday night in front of the television—are you hungering for “all the righteousness there is”? Does the call of Christ’s holiness register at off times of day?[4]

FEBRUARY 27

THE END OF THE AGE

All these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be?

2 Peter 3:11

 

Everywhere around us we are experiencing a great new wave of humanity’s interest in spiritism and devil worship. I must take this as one of the signs that God’s age of grace and mercy is approaching the end point. It tells us that the time may be near when God proclaims: “I have seen enough of mankind’s sin and rebellion. It is time for the trumpets of judgment to sound!”

If we are willing to add the appeals from the book of Revelation to the weight of the other Scriptures, we discover God saying to us that the earth on which we live is not self-explanatory and certainly not self-sufficient.

Although the earth on which we spin is largely populated by a rebel race, it had a divine origin. Now God is about to enforce His claim upon it and judge those who are usurpers. He is saying that there is another and better world, another kingdom, that is always keeping an eye on the world we inhabit!

 

Lord, help me to be sensitive to the spiritual realm that coexists with the physical world. Thank You that You are still on the throne of this universe and that You are the One who holds all things together.[5]


February 27 Attaining Spiritual Stability

“… strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience” (Col. 1:11).

✧✧✧

God always empowers you to do what He commands you to do.

An alarming number of Christians seem to lack spiritual stability. Many are “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). Others lack moral purity. Many are driven by their emotions rather than sound thinking. Increasingly, therapists and psychologists are replacing pastors and Biblical teachers as the heroes of the faith. While we still proclaim a sovereign, all-powerful God, our conduct often belies our creed.

Despite our inconsistencies, the power for spiritual stability is ours in Christ as we allow the knowledge of His will to control our lives. Paul describes the working of that power in Colossians 1:11. There the Greek words translated “strengthened” and “power” speak of inherent power that gives one the ability to do something.

The phrase “according to” indicates that the power for spiritual stability is proportional to God’s abundant supply—and that supply is inexhaustible! The literal Greek says you are being “empowered with all power according to the might of His glory.” That thought is akin to Philippians 2:12–13, where Paul says that the power for working out your salvation comes from God, “who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

In Colossians 1:11 the result of God’s enabling is “the attaining of all steadfastness and patience.” “Steadfastness” speaks of endurance regarding people; “patience” speaks of endurance regarding things or circumstances. When you are steadfast and patient, you are spiritually stable. Your responses are Biblical, thoughtful, and calculated—not worldly, emotional, or uncontrolled. You bear up under trials because you understand God’s purposes and trust His promises.

Paul said, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10). That is possible when you trust God and rely on the infinite power that is yours in Christ.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Perhaps you know someone who is struggling with spiritual instability. Pray for him or her, and ask God to use you as a source of encouragement.

For Further Study: Psalm 18 is a psalm of victory that David wrote after God delivered him from Saul. Read it, then answer these questions: ✧ What characteristics of God did David mention? ✧ How might those characteristics apply to situations you are facing?[6]


FEBRUARY 27

TEST YOUR CONDUCT: WHAT ARE YOUR MOTIVES?

But ye denied the Holy One…And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead;…

ACTS 3:14, 15

The test by which all conduct must finally be judged is motive.

As water cannot rise higher than its source, so the moral quality in an act can never be higher than the motive that inspires it. For this reason, no act that arises from an evil motive can be good, even though some good may appear to come out of it.

Every deed done out of anger or spite, for instance, will be found at last to have been done for the enemy and against the Kingdom of God!

In this matter of motive, as in so many other things, the Pharisees afford us clear examples.

They remain the world’s most dismal religious failures, not because of doctrinal error nor because they were careless or lukewarm, nor because they were outwardly persons of dissolute life.

Their whole trouble lay in the quality of their religious motives. They prayed, but they prayed to be heard of men. They gave generously to the service of the temple, but they sometimes did it to escape their duty toward their parents, and this was an evil. They judged sin and stood against it when found in others, but this they did from self-righteousness and hardness of heart. That this is not a small matter may be gathered from the fact that those orthodox and proper religionists went on in their blindness until at last they crucified the Lord of glory with no inkling of the gravity of their crime![7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 70). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 66). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[5] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 70). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[7] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.