Daily Archives: December 24, 2017

December 24 The Restriction of Man’s Destiny

“But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him” (Heb. 2:8).

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God’s original destiny for man was restricted by man’s sin.

God gave man dominion over all the earth, and the earth supplied his every need. All he had to do was accept and enjoy the earth as provided for him. But Adam sinned, and Satan usurped the crown. A new chain of command was born; the earth now rules man.

To know how true that is, all you need to do is look at the amount of effort expended on restoring the ecological balance of the earth. Environmentalism is a popular watchword of our day. Yet with all our modern technology, we are still unable to gain control over the earth.

Look what happened once Adam sinned. No longer could man easily harvest what the earth provided; now he had to toil by the sweat of his brow (Gen. 3:18). Women would experience pain in childbirth (3:16). Murder soon followed in Adam’s family. God had to destroy virtually all mankind in the Flood because they had become so debauched.

Much of the animal kingdom now lives in fear of man and cannot be tamed. Where once the earth produced good things naturally and abundantly, now it produces thorns, weeds, and other harmful things. Extremes of heat and cold, poisonous plants and reptiles, earthquakes, typhoons, floods, hurricanes, and disease were all products of the Fall. Man was no longer a king but a slave—a dying creature fighting a losing battle with a dying earth.

Amazingly, the earth is aware of its condition: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it” (Rom. 8:20). Now it eagerly awaits the day when the sons of God—believers—will be manifest in the Kingdom, for then it will be liberated from the bondage of corruption (vv. 19, 21–22).

There is coming a day, in the wonderful plan of God, when man will receive once again the dominion that he lost. May our Lord hasten its coming!

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God that He will one day redeem the earth from its subjection to the curse.

For Further Study: Read Isaiah 60:21, 65:25, 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21:27. What will characterize the new earth?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 371). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

DECEMBER 24 A BLESSED FACT: GOD HAS NEVER BEEN SILENT

God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things….

HEBREWS 1:1, 2

I think it may be accepted as axiomatic that God is constantly trying to speak to man. He desires to communicate Himself, to impart holy ideas to those of His creatures capable of receiving them. The Second Person of the Godhead is called the Word of God, that is, the mind of God in expression.

Are you aware that many Christians appear to believe that God spoke the Holy Scriptures into being and then lapsed into silence, a silence that will not be broken until God calls all men before Him into judgment? If that is true, we have the Bible as a deposit of embalmed truth which scribe and theologian must decipher as they can.

This view is extremely injurious to the Christian’s soul, for it holds that God is no longer speaking, and thus we are shut up to our intellects for the understanding and apprehension of truth. According to this notion the human mind becomes the final arbiter of truth as well as the organ for its reception into the soul. Now, the blessed fact is that God is not silent and has never been silent, but is speaking in His universe. The written Word is effective because, and only because, the Living Word is speaking in Heaven and the Living Voice is sounding in the earth! “And the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:6, 7).[1]


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

December 24, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Resurrection of Christ

And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. For David says of Him, “I was always beholding the Lord in my presence; for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will abide in hope; because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.” Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. (2:24–32)

As already noted, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was not only the central theme of apostolic preaching but also is without question the climax of redemptive history. It proves beyond doubt the deity of Jesus Christ and establishes His messianic credentials. It is also the guarantee of our own resurrection (John 14:19; Rom. 6:4–5; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:16–23). The resurrection is the crowning proof that God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 4:25). Without it, His death becomes the heroic death of a noble martyr, the pathetic death of a madman, or the execution of a fraud.

The greatest proof that Jesus is the Messiah, then, is not His teaching, His miracles, or even His death. It is His resurrection. That becomes the main theme of Peter’s sermon. After spending one verse each on Christ’s life and death, he spends nine verses on His resurrection.

Verses 23 and 24 form one connected thought. Israel rejected and crucified her Messiah, but God raised Him up again. Peter forcefully drives home the point that they were guilty of opposing God—despite their boasts to the contrary (Rom. 2:17–20). That tactic was frequently employed in Acts (cf. 3:14–15; 10:39–40; 13:27–30).

By raising Jesus, God put an end to the agony of death for Him. Agony translates ōdinas, which literally means “birth pangs.” Like the pain of a woman in labor, the pain of death for Jesus was temporary and resulted in something glorious—the resurrection.

God delivered Jesus from death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. Death was powerless to hold Him for several reasons. First, death could not hold Him because of divine power. Jesus was “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), who died “that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Second, death could not hold Him because of divine promise. John 2:18–22 records the following dialogue:

The Jews therefore answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, seeing that You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews therefore said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken.

“Thus it is written,” our Lord told the disciples, “that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:46). Finally, death could not hold Him because of divine purpose. God has designed that His people be with Him for all eternity. In order to do that, they need to go through death and out the other side. Jesus had to go first to make the way (cf. 1 Cor. 15:16–26). Because He lives, His people will live forever (John 14:19).

To further confirm that the resurrection was God’s plan for the Messiah, Peter quotes a prophetic passage from Psalm 16:8–11. Although written by David, the passage is prophetically Messiah speaking in the first person (cf. Ps. 22). It describes Messiah’s confident trust in God as He looked to the cross. His declaration I was always beholding the Lord in my presence is the key to that trust. Jesus kept His focus on God no matter what trials came His way. He knew that because God was at His right hand, He would not be shaken. The right hand symbolizes protection. In a wedding ceremony, the bridegroom stands to the right of the bride. In the ancient world, a bodyguard stood on the right side of the one he was protecting. In that position he could cover him with his shield and still have his right arm free to fight.

Because of His confidence in God’s protection, Messiah could say my heart was glad and my tongue exulted. Even the prospect of the cross could not dampen Christ’s joy. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “Jesus … for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). Moreover, another reason for Messiah’s joy was His confidence that His flesh also would abide in hope. Flesh here refers to the physical body. Kataskēnoō (abide) literally means “to pitch a tent.” It expresses Messiah’s certainty that He could commit His body to the grave with the confident hope that it would be raised to life again.

The next statement from Psalm 16 gives the reason for Messiah’s confidence: because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades. Hades is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament term “Sheol.” Although it can refer specifically to hell (Matt. 11:23), Peter uses it here in its more general sense of the abode of the dead. The phrase expresses Christ’s confidence that He would not remain a captive in the realm of death. Nor would God allow His Holy One (a messianic title; cf. Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; John 6:69) to undergo decay. During its three days in the tomb, our Lord’s body experienced no corruption. The significance of this verse will be seen shortly.

Peter’s quote of verse 11 of Psalm 16 has puzzled some commentators, since it doesn’t appear to advance his argument. The phrase the ways of life (The Hebrew text of Psalm 16:11 uses the singular “path of life”), however, can be interpreted as a reference to the resurrection. It would thus have the sense of “the path to resurrection life.” The context strongly implies such an interpretation. As a result of the resurrection, Messiah would be full of gladness as He experienced God’s presence.

Peter now comes to the crux of his argument. Addressing them once again as brethren, he confidently reminds them that the patriarch David both died and was buried. In fact, his tomb provided visible evidence that he had not fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 16. David spoke as a prophet, however, not of himself. He knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne. That promise is recorded in 2 Samuel 7:11–16:

The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.

David, then, looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, who, in contrast to David, was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.

Peter’s argument from Psalm 16 can be summarized as follows: The psalm speaks of a resurrection. Since David, however, was not resurrected, it cannot speak of him. Thus, David speaks in the psalm of the Messiah. Hence, Messiah will rise from the dead. Peter now delivers his powerful conclusion: This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. The argument is conclusive: Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.[1]


24 The resurrection of Jesus is attributed directly to God, apart from any action of men or even Jesus himself, just as elsewhere in the NT it is so attributed in quotations from early Christian hymns and catechisms (e.g., 1 Co 15:4; Php 2:9). The imagery is of “death pangs” (ōdinas tou thanatou; NIV, “the agony of death”; GK 6047, 2505) and their awful clutches (cf. 2 Sa 22:6; Pss 18:4–6; 116:3), from which God set Jesus free “because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”[2]


2:24 / Thus was Jesus treated by men, but God raised him from the dead (see note on 4:10). The antithesis is stated with dramatic force (cf. 3:15; 4:10; 10:39). The resurrection, no less than his death, was God’s plan for Jesus, for the Scripture had foretold it. It was impossible, therefore, for death to keep its hold on him. What was foretold must be fulfilled. So God freed him from the agony of death, the resurrection being likened here to a birth out of death—a remarkable metaphor, if indeed that is what Peter meant. The phrase “pains of death” is found in lxx Psalms 17:5 (18:5) and 114:3 (116:3), but it is possible that the Greek version has misread the Hebrew and that, instead of “pains,” we should have “bonds.” The unvocalized Hebrew could be read either way, though in Psalm 18:5 the parallelism clearly favors “bonds,” with death and the grave personified as hunters lying in wait for their prey with nets and nooses. Similarly here, the reference to Jesus being “set free” and to death not being able to keep its hold on him, seem to settle the matter in favor of “bonds.” It is tempting, then, to accept C. C. Torrey’s suggestion that Luke (or an earlier translator) had before him an Aramaic source containing Peter’s speech and that, influenced by his knowledge of lxx Psalm 17:5, he translated as “pains” what had been intended as “bonds” (pp. 28f.).[3]


His resurrection (2:24–32)

It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him (24; Peter sees this moral impossibility without explaining it). So although men had killed him, God raised him from the dead, and thereby freed him from the agony of death. ‘Agony’ means literally ‘birth pains’, so that his resurrection is pictured as a regeneration, a new birth out of death into life.

Peter next confirms the truth of Jesus’ resurrection by appealing to Psalm 16:8–11 in which, he claims, it was foretold. David cannot have been referring to himself, when he wrote that God would not abandon him to the grave or let his Holy One see decay (27), because David had died and was buried, and his tomb was still in Jerusalem (29). Instead, being a prophet and remembering God’s promise to place a distinguished descendant on his throne, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ (30–31). Peter’s use of Scripture probably sounds strange to us, but we need to bear three points in mind. First, all Scripture bears witness to Christ, especially to his death, resurrection and world-wide mission. That is its character and purpose. Jesus himself said so both before and after his resurrection. In consequence, secondly, not least because of Jesus’ post-resurrection teaching, his disciples came naturally to see Old Testament references to God’s anointed or king, to David and his royal seed, as finding their fulfilment in Jesus.46 This is what Dom Jacques Dupont has called ‘the radically christological character of early Christian exegesis’. And, thirdly, once this foundation is granted, a Christian use of the Old Testament like Peter’s of Psalm 16 is ‘scrupulously logical and internally coherent’.

Having quoted these verses of Psalm 16 and applied them to the resurrection of Jesus, Peter adds: God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact (32). Thus the spoken testimony of the apostles and the written prediction of the prophets converged. Or, as we would say, the Old and New Testament Scriptures coincided in their witness to the resurrection of Christ.[4]


2:24–28. Peter’s sermon progresses well; in typical New Testament form, he comes right to the point: resurrection. Verses 25–35 in this chapter contain four evidences of the resurrection: David’s tomb, the witnesses, that very Day of Pentecost, and the ascension witnessed by the eleven disciples. God may have handed Jesus over for crucifixion, but he also raised him from the dead. As strange as it might seem to the human mind, Messiah’s death was God’s will.

Thus Peter turns to Psalm 16:8–11. Surely readers of the Old Testament up to this point had applied Psalm 16 only to David. Peter, speaking through the Holy Spirit, now certified it as a messianic prophecy. He did not use the psalm to prove the resurrection, but to affirm the messiahship of Jesus. Peter didn’t bother to prove the resurrection at all—he just proclaimed it. God raised Jesus to experience joy in your presence.[5]


24. “God raised him up, having freed him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for him to be kept in its power.”

Peter states the fact of Christ’s resurrection. Positively he notes that God raised Jesus from the dead. He asserts the apostolic doctrine of the resurrection, a recurring theme in Acts. God worked out his plan in predetermined stages: first the death of Christ and afterward his resurrection.

God raised Jesus by “having freed him from the agony of death.” The literal reading of the text for “agony” is “birth pains.” But what is the meaning of freeing Jesus from the birth pains of death? Some interpreters have suggested that Peter, speaking Aramaic, used another word for birth pains, namely, cords. They argue that the psalmists speak of “the cords of death” (Pss. 18:4; 116:3; and see 2 Sam. 22:6). We are unable to determine what word Peter used in Aramaic. The Greek, however, has the expression birth pains, which also occurs in Jesus’ discourse on the end of the age (Matt. 24:8; Mark 13:8). This expression is a figure of speech which should not be pressed (compare the phrase the gates of hell in Matt. 16:18). God set Jesus free from the agony that accompanies death.

Peter gives the reason for Jesus’ deliverance from the agony of death: “because it was impossible for him to be kept in its power.” God pronounced the curse of death upon the human race when Adam fell into sin (Gen. 3:17–18; see also Gen. 2:17). But the sinless Jesus, who took upon himself the sin of the world (John 1:29), removed the sting of death (1 Cor. 15:55–56) when he died on the cross. Therefore, death no longer had any power over him.

Death cannot keep his prey—

Jesus, my Saviour.

—Robert Lowry[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (Vol. 1, pp. 64–67). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Longenecker, R. N. (2007). Acts. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 745). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Williams, D. J. (2011). Acts (p. 51). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Stott, J. R. W. (1994). The message of Acts: the Spirit, the church & the world (pp. 75–77). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[5] Gangel, K. O. (1998). Acts (Vol. 5, p. 29). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[6] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 17, p. 94). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

DECEMBER 24 JOY AND WONDER

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.

Luke 2:10

It is tragic that men and women everywhere are losing the sense of wonder, confessing now only one interest in life—and that is utility! Even Christmas Day has been degraded.

We ignore the beautiful and the majestic, asking only, “How can I use it? How much profit will it bring?”

The believing children of God once upon a time saw God in everything. They were enraptured with everything before them. There was no common hill—they were all the hills of God! There was no common cloud—they were the chariots of God! They saw God in everything. In our day we never look up in happy surprise!

But let me tell you that it has been a never-failing delight throughout my years to watch little children on Christmas morning. The gifts may be humble, but the child’s burst of spontaneous delight and wonder is genuine and rewarding. That incredulous look on the child’s face—everything is full of wonder and beauty!

Sad, indeed, for adults to lose the wonder in worship—for worship is wonder and wonder is worship!

Lord, the announcement of “good tidings of great joy” is every bit as important today as it was 2,000 years ago—for we are still a fallen race, and the Babe in the manger is still the Savior of the world. Praise God![1]


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

Christmas Full of Grace and Truth: Big Theological Issues Show Up in New Report (Albert Mohler Blog)

Major media across the country have given a great deal of attention to a recent research report that comes from the Pew Research Center. The headline from the Pew website is this,

“Americans Say Religious Aspects of Christmas Are Declining in Public Life: Shrinking majority believe biblical account of birth of Jesus depicts actual events.”

Well, let’s just look at that for a moment. Those two separate parts of the headline really aren’t speaking to the same reality at all. Which is the bigger story? Well, the New York Times declares what it sees as important when it ran an article by Liam Stack with the headline, “Most Decline to Choose Sides in ‘War on Christmas.’”

Stack reported, “Combatants in the annual ‘War on Christmas’ have some new data to chew on, thanks to a survey released this week by the Pew Research Center. While many doubt that Christmas is embattled, as some conservative pundits contend.” He concluded: “The new study does suggest American attitudes are changing.”

Both sides in our cultural conflict have made too much at times and at other times too little of the war on Christmas. There really has been a secularist attempt to try to sideline, redefine, and marginalize Christmas. But there’ve also been some amongst conservative Christians who’ve tried to make too much of the war on Christmas, replacing matters of mere etiquette for what should be a serious discussion of theology. As The New York Times sees the news, the big story from this report from Pew has to do with the fact that there is a decline in social conflict over Christmas — or at least how most Americans seem to perceive such a “war,” but it also tells us that a fewer number of Americans are actually celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday. Now that sounds like a more interesting part of the report, and indeed it is. It tells us that over the course of the last several years Americans have decreasingly defined Christmas in terms of their own personal and family celebrations as a religious event, and that may be one reason why those on the secular side believe there’s less reason for a controversy over Christmas. If Christmas is secularized, secular people are certainly less threatened or offended by it.

To be sure, there are still arguments over whether or not nativity scenes should be allowed on public property, and there are at least some skirmishes over the kinds of holiday greetings that may be used by clerks in stores or even by corporations and advertising. But the bigger story here, from a Christian perspective, is certainly what was in the subhead of the headline from the Pew Research Center.  It was this: “Shrinking majority believe biblical account of birth of Jesus depicts actual events.”

In the words of the Pew report,

“Among the topics probed by the new survey, one of the most striking changes in recent years involves the share of Americans who say they believe the birth of Jesus occurred as depicted in the Bible. Today, 66 percent say they believe Jesus was born to a virgin, down from 73 percent in 2014. Likewise, 68 percent of U.S. adults now say they believe that the wise men were guided by a star and brought gifts for baby Jesus, down from 75 percent. And, there are similar declines in the shares of Americans who believe that Jesus’ birth was heralded by an angel of the Lord and that Jesus was laid in a manger as an infant.”

The final statistic,

“Overall, 57 percent of Americans now believe in all four of these elements of the Christmas story, down from 65 percent in 2014.”

Interestingly, from several decades ago I remember what would be called a parlor game at Christmas parties, prominent among evangelical Christians, in which there were a series of true or false questions about the Christmas story. What was often revealed in the game is that many Christians knew things that simply aren’t in the Bible and didn’t know truths that are. For example, the Bible doesn’t tell us how many of the magi (the wise men) came from the east to find Jesus, but the New Testament certainly tells us that they did. Biblical Christians will certainly be interested in this report, and in that number that was given that 57 percent of Americans now believe in all four of the elements of the Christmas story that were asked about the research. By the way all four of them clearly revealed in Scripture, let me just remind you, (1.) that Jesus was born of a virgin; (2.) that the angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds; (3.) that the wise men, or the Magi, brought Jesus gifts; and (4.) that Jesus, once born, was laid in a manger. Now as any Christian would understand, those are four very familiar truth claims in terms of the Christmas story.

A further look at the data from Pew means that this study is actually even more interesting. For example, the slippage when it comes to decreasing belief in the historicity or the facticity of these events from the life of Jesus revealed in Scripture, is found primarily in just one religious cohort. Who would that be? Well to no surprise, mainline liberal Protestants.

How does that line up? Well in 2014, 83 percent of those identified as mainline liberal Protestants said that they believed in at least all four of those crucial aspects of the birth of Christ, but in 2017, remember that just three years, only 71 percent. That’s a fall off of 12 percent in just three years in terms of the number of mainline Protestant saying that they believed in the truthfulness of all four of those aspects of the birth of Jesus revealed in the Gospels. Among evangelical Protestants, the figure in 2014 was 96, and 2017 95; that’s a 1 percent shift that isn’t statistically important, but what is important is that 12 percent loss amongst mainline liberal Protestants. But there’s also another divide revealed in this story, and it turns out that it is a partisan divide. Pew asked respondents to the survey if they identified as Republican or Democrat, huge change there. In 2017, 81 percent of Republicans said they affirmed all four of those truth claims concerning the birth of Christ but only 58 percent of Democrats said the same; that’s a huge difference between 81 percent and 58 percent. But from a Christian perspective, given our concerns about Christmas and our responsibility to tell the Christmas story right, what does this survey tell us? Well it tells us that a significant number of Americans, including some who clearly identify as Christians, don’t have an adequate belief in and confidence in some of the most basic truths and facts about the birth of Christ. Now, why would that be the case? Well, in this case it’s probably not excusable by ignorance. If you’re talking about other biblical truths it just might be that there are some Christians who have never adequately understood them, but when it comes to these core truth claims it’s hard to make that argument. The Christmas story is told over and over and over again, so this represents an explicit denial of very clear biblical truths. Here, Christians have to remember that the Christian faith stands or falls on space and time in history. The claim, very clearly presented in Scripture, that the events that are recorded there and revealed concerning Jesus, not only his birth but the entirety of all the truth claims made about Christ in the New Testament and furthermore the entirety of all the truth claims made in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, all of these are essential to the Christian faith, and when it comes to the facts concerning the birth of Christ not one of them is expendable, every one of them is essential.

Writing back in the year 1930, the great Protestant theologian J. Gresham Machen reminded us that even then there were those who were arguing that you could believe in Jesus without the facts concerning his birth and his life. Machen argued in his great book, The Virgin Birth of Christ, that there were those who claim to be Christians and yet argue that the historical truths concerning the birth of Christ are expendable. One can gain inspiration from the moral example of Jesus and claim to be Christian, they argue, while jettisoning the biblical truths concerning the birth of Christ. Machen responded by saying that whatever the religion left after such denials may be, it isn’t Christianity. Whatever it is, it doesn’t save sinners from their sin. So make what you will of that partisan divide, the most important revelation in this story is a theological divide, and that theological divide is mislabeled by Pew. We can understand why Pew would use the language they use, but if you’re talking about people who deny the basic truths concerning Jesus, you’re not talking about people who are rightly described as Christians. Theologically, whatever they are, they are adherents of a different religion.

But as Christians celebrate Christmas, and as we watch others doing the same, we must remind ourselves that we are only saved because the Word indeed became flesh and dwelt among us, and  because we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And if Jesus was not born of a virgin, then his birth has to be explained in some other way, and whatever way that is, it’s going to be in direct contradiction to the Scripture. Christians celebrate the glory of Christmas because we understand the glory of Christ. If you deny anything revealed of Christ in the New Testament, you are robbing him of his glory, and you are creating a new religion that will eventually preach a different gospel.

So, celebrate a Christian Christmas, filled with the glory–and the truth–of the incarnation. Merry Christmas.

___________________
This is an edited transcript from the Friday, December 15, 2017 edition of The Briefing.

The post Christmas Full of Grace and Truth: Big Theological Issues Show Up in New Report appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.

Advent Week 4: How to talk about peace at Christmas (Video)

Christmas can be one of the busiest times of the year.

But we often don’t think about how Mary herself felt, during that first Christmas when she was giving birth and had nowhere to go.

Rather than worry and stress about things large or small, do as Mary did, and look to God for peace within.

Week 4: PEACE

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV)


Please feel free to click the video image above, or go to this link to play this week’s video as we end our yearly advent journey and seek our own peace.

The Shepherds’ Gospel

Michelle Lesley

Originally published December 22, 2015

Shepherds' Gospel

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into…

View original post 848 more words

December 24 God’s Kingdom Is the Source of True Joy

… and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.—Matt. 13:44b

Every man or woman desires basic joy in his or her life—a desire that all others directly or indirectly serve. We like to eat because tasty food brings joy and usually a feeling of good health to our bodies. We enjoy money because of the prospect of good and necessary things it can buy. Many of us also seek prestige, power, knowledge, and other advantages for the supposed joy they will bring.

But all such joys are fleeting and disappointing. The only genuine and lasting joy is that found in the kingdom of God, because God Himself created mankind and wants to provide them with complete satisfaction. After Christ exhorted the apostles to abide in Him and let His words abide in them, to verify their discipleship by bearing much fruit, and to obey His commandments and thus abide in His love (John 15:1–10), the Lord told them, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (v. 11; cf. 16:24; 1 John 1:4).

The apostle Paul tells us that “the kingdom of God is … peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Then he prays for the Romans, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (15:13). Authentic joy comes only when we find and accept Jesus Christ and His kingdom by faith in Him.

ASK YOURSELF

Have you noticed that the feeling you sense after watching a sporting event, attending a movie, coming home with a major purchase—or even enjoying Christmas—is never quite as robust as the anticipation was? How is it different from the experience of engaging in Christian worship and service?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 367). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

December 24 Christ’s Perfect Timing

When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son.

Galatians 4:4

The first Christmas was perfectly timed. Galatians 4:4–5 says, “When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law.” What was “the fullness of the time”? God’s sovereign timing. He ordered world events so everything was ready for Christ’s coming and the subsequent outreach of the apostles.

Looking back at the early church, we are amazed at how quickly the gospel spread in less than a century. The sovereign hand of God is clearly evident. Christ’s advent could not have been timed more propitiously.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 385). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

December 24, 2017: Morning Verse Of The Day

17:7 I will establish My covenant. This relationship was set up at God’s initiative and also designated as an “everlasting covenant” (v. 7), thus applying to Abraham’s posterity with equal force and bringing forth the declaration “I will be their God” (v. 8). This pledge became the dictum of the covenant relationship between Yahweh, i.e., Jehovah, and Israel.[1]


17:7 for an everlasting covenant. The covenant will be ongoing in nature, extending from one generation to the next.[2]


17:7 your offspring after you The descendants of Abraham are commanded to keep the covenant, which is explained in the next verse as the rite of circumcision. The covenant and its sign (and so, the observance of the rite) was to be everlasting (Gen 17:13).

an everlasting covenant The phrase appears three times in this passage (vv. 7, 13, 19). See note on 9:16.[3]


17:7 your offspring. The descendants of Abraham through the child of promise, Isaac (Rom. 4:19; 9:6–9). Gentile believers participate in this covenant promise through spiritual incorporation into Israel (Eph. 2:11–13; 1 Pet. 2:10 note) by union with Christ, the great offspring of Abraham (Gal. 3:16, 26–29).

everlasting. The unilateral and gracious nature of God’s covenant with Abraham is underscored by its eternal character (v. 2 note). God’s covenant endures forever because He does not change and Jesus Christ fulfills every condition (2 Cor. 1:20; Eph. 2:12, 13).

to be God to you. Although there is a legal dimension to the covenant (v. 2 note), God’s covenant relationship with His people is first and foremost one of divine-human communion and fellowship (Ex. 6:7; Deut. 29:13). God graciously dwells with His people, and they gratefully respond in faith, love, and obedience.[4]


17:7 The Abrahamic covenant (12:1–3) is the foundation upon which all later divine covenants with God’s people are based. Everlasting means the covenant would last through all time. to be God to you: With these remarkable words, God pledged His ongoing relationship with the people of Abraham (2 Sam. 7:14; Is. 52:11; Ezek. 37:26, 27; 2 Cor. 6:14–7:1). This was later celebrated in the creed of Israel, the great Shema (Deut. 6:4; Ps. 100:3). Descendants is from the Hebrew word for seed; it may mean an individual person as well as a people (3:15; 15:3, 5, 13, 18).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ge 17:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 80). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 17:7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (pp. 36–37). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 34). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

DECEMBER 24 BECOMING WHAT WE LOVE

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

—1 John 2:15

We are all in process of becoming. We have already moved from what we were to what we are, and we are now moving toward what we shall be….

Not only are we all in the process of becoming, we are becoming what we love. We are to a large degree the sum of our loves and we will of moral necessity grow into the image of what we love most; for love is among other things a creative affinity; it changes and molds and shapes and transforms. It is without doubt the most powerful agent affecting human nature next to the direct action of the Holy Spirit of God within the soul.

What we love is therefore not a small matter to be lightly shrugged off; rather it is of present, critical and everlasting importance. It is prophetic of our future. It tells us what we shall be, and so predicts accurately our eternal destiny….

This furnishes in part (but only in part) a rational explanation for the first and greatest commandment: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37).

To become like God is and must be the supreme goal of all moral creatures. This is the reason for their creation, the end apart from which no excuse can be found for their existence. GTM195-197

Lord, wean me from unworthy loves, and give me a pure, full love for You, that I might become like You. Amen.[1]


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

December 24 A Call to Worship

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Philippians 2:10–11

✧✧✧

All rational beings will acknowledge Christ as Lord.

Philippians 2:10–11 affirms that the whole intelligent universe is called to worship Christ. They are specified as those “in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth” (v. 10). “Those who are in heaven” consist of two groups: God’s holy angels and the spirits of the redeemed believers (who await the resurrection of their bodies). Those who are in Heaven already acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. Throughout their time in Heaven they’ve been worshiping the Lord of glory.

Those … on earth” (v. 10) also consist of two groups: the obedient and the disobedient. The obedient refers to us. By God’s grace, we have submitted to Christ as Lord and Savior (cf. Rom. 10:9). The disobedient will also bow before Jesus Christ—by compulsion (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7–9). When Jesus returns to subdue the earth, He will remove the wicked from the earth, cast them into Hell, and establish His kingdom.

Under the earth” (Phil. 2:10) refers to Hell, the place of eternal punishment, which is occupied by all the damned—both demons and unsaved people. They will also acknowledge the lordship of Christ—not by enjoying His reign, but by bearing the unending expression of His wrath.

Jesus Christ is Lord of the universe. Therefore, “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (v. 11). To confess means “to acknowledge,” “affirm,” or “agree.” By “every tongue” Paul didn’t mean every physical tongue in every mouth but every language. Another way to express the idea is to say that all rational beings will acknowledge His lordship.

History is moving toward the day when Jesus will be acknowledged by all as the supreme ruler of the universe. He already sits in that seat of power but has not yet brought the universe fully under His authority. We live in days of grace, during which He brings men and women to acknowledge Him as Lord willingly rather than by force. Rejoice that He still provides that opportunity.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Pray for lost relatives and friends to submit to Christ willingly.

For Further Study: In Psalm 2:12, what warning does the Lord give?[1]


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

December 23 Daily Help

THE distinguishing mark of a Christian is his confidence in the love of Christ, and the yielding of his affections to Christ in return. First, faith sets her seal upon the man by enabling the soul to say with the apostle, “Christ loved me and gave himself for me.” Then love gives the countersign, and stamps upon the heart gratitude and love to Jesus in return. “We love him because he first loved us.” In those grand old ages, which are the heroic period of the Christian religion, this double mark was clearly to be seen in all believers in Jesus; they were men who knew the love of Christ, and rested upon it as a man leaneth upon a staff whose trustiness he has tried.[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 361). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

December 23, 2017: Evening Verse Of The Day

Faith

Come to Me, (11:28a)

Just as man’s part in salvation is to come humbly, it is also to come in faith. Although finite minds cannot fully comprehend the truth, divine grace and human faith are inseparable in salvation. God sovereignly provides salvation, which includes the fact that man must give himself to the Lord Jesus Christ in commitment before it becomes effective. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me,” and then immediately added, “and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

Salvation is not through a creed, a church, a ritual, a pastor, a priest, or any other such human means-but through Jesus Christ, who said, Come to Me. To come is to believe to the point of submitting to His lordship. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus declared; “he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Comes and believes are parallel just as are hunger and thirst. Coming to Christ is believing in Him, which results in no longer hungering and thirsting. Other biblical synonyms for believing in Christ include confessing Him, receiving Him, eating and drinking Him, and hearing Him.

Peter declared, “Of Him [Jesus Christ] all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43). And the Lord Himself said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14–16).

Repentance and Rest

all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (11:28:b)

All who are indicates a condition that already exists. Those whom Jesus invites to Himself are those who already are weary and heavy-laden. Although this aspect of Jesus’ invitation is mentioned after faith (“Come to Me”), chronologically it precedes faith, referring to the repentance that drives the humble, seeking person to Christ for salvation.

Kopiaō (to grow weary, or “to labor”) carries the idea of working to the point of utter exhaustion. John uses the term to describe Jesus’ fatigue when He and the disciples reached Sychar after a long, hot journey from Jerusalem (John 4:6).

Weary translates a present active participle and refers figuratively to arduous toil in seeking to please God and know the way of salvation. Jesus calls to Himself everyone who is exhausted from trying to find and please God in his own resources. Jesus invites the person who is wearied from his vain search for truth through human wisdom, who is exhausted from trying to earn salvation, and who has despaired of achieving God’s standard of righteousness by his own efforts.

Heavy-laden translates a perfect passive participle, indicating that at some time in the past a great load was dumped on the wearied person. Whereas weary refers to the internal exhaustion caused by seeking divine truth through human wisdom, heavy-laden suggests the external burdens caused by the futile efforts of works righteousness.

In Jesus’ day, the rabbinical teachings had become so massive, demanding, and all-encompassing that they prescribed standards and formulas for virtually every human activity. It was all but impossible even to learn all the traditions, and was completely impossible to keep them all. Jesus spoke of the heavy loads of religious tradition that the scribes and Pharisees laid on the people’s shoulders (Matt. 23:4); and at the Jerusalem Council, Peter noted that the Judaizers were trying to saddle Christianity with the same man-made “yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10).

Although the term itself is not used in the text, Jesus gives a call to repent, to turn away from the self-centered and works-centered life and come to Him. The person who is weary and heavy-laden despairs of his own ability to please God. He comes to the end of his own resources and turns to Christ. Desperation is a part of true salvation, because a person does not come to Christ as long as he has confidence in himself. To repent is to make a 180-degree turn from the burden of the old life to the restfulness of the new.

Repentance was the theme of John the Baptist’s preaching (Matt. 3:2) and the starting point of the preaching of Jesus (4:17), Peter (Acts 2:38; 3:19; cf. 5:31), and Paul (17:30; 20:21; cf. 2 Tim. 2:25). The person who humbly receives God’s revelation of Himself and His way of salvation, who turns from the unbearable burden of his sin and self-effort, and who comes to Christ empty-handed is the only person God will save.

Anapauō (to give … rest) means to refresh or revive, as from labor or a long journey. Jesus promises spiritual rest to everyone who comes to Him in repentance and humble faith.

God’s rest is a common Old Testament theme. The Lord warned Israel, “Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness; when your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work. … Therefore I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest” (Ps. 95:7–9, 11). After quoting that passage, the writer of Hebrews warns those who make a pretense of faith in Christ but have not really trusted Him: “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in failing away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12). To intellectually acknowledge Christ’s deity and lordship is a dangerous thing if it does not lead to true faith, because it gives a person the false confidence of belonging to Christ.

In the time of the early church many Jews were attracted to the gospel and outwardly identified themselves with the church. But for tear of being unsynagogued, ostracized from the worship and ceremonies of Judaism, some of them diet not truly receive Christ as saving Lord. They went part way to Him but stopped before full commitment. “As a result” of such superficial allegiance, John says, “many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66). Consequently they would not enter God’s rest, that is, His salvation, because they still possessed “an evil, unbelieving heart” (Heb. 3:11–12).

Just as those Israelites who rebelled against Moses in the wilderness were denied entrance into the Promised Land because of unbelief, so those who refuse to fully trust in Christ are denied entrance into God’s kingdom rest of salvation for the same reason (v. 19). “Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, ‘As I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest’ ” (4:1–3).

The dictionary gives several definitions of rest that remarkably parallel the spiritual rest God offers those who trust in His Son. First, the dictionary describes rest as cessation from action, motion, labor, or exertion. In a similar way, to enter God’s rest is to cease from all efforts at self-help in trying to earn salvation. Second, rest is described as freedom from that which wearies or disturbs. Again we see the spiritual parallel of God’s giving His children freedom from the cares and burdens that rob them of peace and joy.

Third, the dictionary defines rest as something that is fixed and settled. Similarly, to be in God’s rest is to have the wonderful assurance that our eternal destiny is secure in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. It is to be freed from the uncertainties of running from philosophy to philosophy, from religion to religion, from guru to guru, hoping somehow and somewhere to discover truth, peace, happiness, and eternal life.

Fourth, rest is defined as being confident and trustful. When we enter God’s rest we are given the assurance that “He who began a good work in [us] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Finally, the dictionary describes rest as leaning, reposing, or depending on. As children of God, we can depend with utter certainty that our heavenly Father will “supply all [our] needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).[1]


28 The “me” is grammatically unemphatic but in the wake of v. 27 extremely important. Jesus invites the “weary” (the participle suggests those who have become weary through heavy struggling or toil) and the “burdened” (the passive side of weariness, overloaded like beasts of burden) to come to him; and he (not the Father) will give them rest. There is an echo of Jeremiah 31:25, where Yahweh refreshes his people through the new covenant.

While there is no need to restrict the “burdens,” it is impossible not to be reminded of the “heavy loads” the Pharisees put on men’s shoulders (23:4; cf. 12:1–14; see M. Maher, “ ‘Take my yoke upon you’ [Matt. xi.29],” NTS 22 [1976]: 97–103). The “rest” (cf. use of cognate term in Heb 3–4) is eschatological (cf. Rev 6:11; 14:13) but also a present reality.[2]


11:28 Come. To come means to believe (Acts 16:31); to receive (John 1:12); to eat (John 6:35); to drink (John 7:37); to look (Isa. 45:22); to confess (1 Jn. 4:2); to hear (John 5:24, 25); to enter a door (John 10:9); to open a door (Rev. 3:20); to touch the hem of His garment (Matt. 9:20, 21); and to accept the gift of eternal life through Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23).

to Me. The object of faith is not a church, a creed, or a clergyman, but the living Christ. Salvation is in a Person. Those who have Jesus are as saved as God can make them.

all you who labor and are heavy laden. In order to truly come to Jesus, a person must admit that he is burdened with the weight of sin. Only those who acknowledge they are lost can be saved. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is preceded by repentance toward God.

and I will give you rest. Notice that rest here is a gift; it is unearned and unmerited. This is the rest of salvation that comes from realizing that Christ finished the work of redemption on Calvary’s cross. It is the rest of conscience that follows the realization that the penalty of one’s sins has been paid once for all and that God will not demand payment twice.[3]


11:28Come to me is an invitation to trust Jesus personally, not merely to believe historical facts about him. All who labor and are heavy laden refers in the immediate context to those oppressed by the burden of religious legalism imposed on people by the scribes and Pharisees. But the wider application is that Jesus provides “rest for your souls” (v. 29)—that is, eternal rest for all who seek forgiveness of their sins and freedom from the crushing legalistic burden and guilt of trying to earn salvation by good works.[4]


11:28 Come to Me. Jesus has the authority to invite people to Himself. He does not extend His invitation to the strong but to the weary and burdened. Jesus uses the language of the wisdom tradition, calling the burdened to Himself as the incarnate wisdom of God (v. 19 note).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (p. 275). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 321–322). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1246). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1843). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1379). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

Faith

Come to Me, (11:28a)

Just as man’s part in salvation is to come humbly, it is also to come in faith. Although finite minds cannot fully comprehend the truth, divine grace and human faith are inseparable in salvation. God sovereignly provides salvation, which includes the fact that man must give himself to the Lord Jesus Christ in commitment before it becomes effective. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me,” and then immediately added, “and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

Salvation is not through a creed, a church, a ritual, a pastor, a priest, or any other such human means-but through Jesus Christ, who said, Come to Me. To come is to believe to the point of submitting to His lordship. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus declared; “he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Comes and believes are parallel just as are hunger and thirst. Coming to Christ is believing in Him, which results in no longer hungering and thirsting. Other biblical synonyms for believing in Christ include confessing Him, receiving Him, eating and drinking Him, and hearing Him.

Peter declared, “Of Him [Jesus Christ] all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43). And the Lord Himself said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14–16).

Repentance and Rest

all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (11:28:b)

All who are indicates a condition that already exists. Those whom Jesus invites to Himself are those who already are weary and heavy-laden. Although this aspect of Jesus’ invitation is mentioned after faith (“Come to Me”), chronologically it precedes faith, referring to the repentance that drives the humble, seeking person to Christ for salvation.

Kopiaō (to grow weary, or “to labor”) carries the idea of working to the point of utter exhaustion. John uses the term to describe Jesus’ fatigue when He and the disciples reached Sychar after a long, hot journey from Jerusalem (John 4:6).

Weary translates a present active participle and refers figuratively to arduous toil in seeking to please God and know the way of salvation. Jesus calls to Himself everyone who is exhausted from trying to find and please God in his own resources. Jesus invites the person who is wearied from his vain search for truth through human wisdom, who is exhausted from trying to earn salvation, and who has despaired of achieving God’s standard of righteousness by his own efforts.

Heavy-laden translates a perfect passive participle, indicating that at some time in the past a great load was dumped on the wearied person. Whereas weary refers to the internal exhaustion caused by seeking divine truth through human wisdom, heavy-laden suggests the external burdens caused by the futile efforts of works righteousness.

In Jesus’ day, the rabbinical teachings had become so massive, demanding, and all-encompassing that they prescribed standards and formulas for virtually every human activity. It was all but impossible even to learn all the traditions, and was completely impossible to keep them all. Jesus spoke of the heavy loads of religious tradition that the scribes and Pharisees laid on the people’s shoulders (Matt. 23:4); and at the Jerusalem Council, Peter noted that the Judaizers were trying to saddle Christianity with the same man-made “yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10).

Although the term itself is not used in the text, Jesus gives a call to repent, to turn away from the self-centered and works-centered life and come to Him. The person who is weary and heavy-laden despairs of his own ability to please God. He comes to the end of his own resources and turns to Christ. Desperation is a part of true salvation, because a person does not come to Christ as long as he has confidence in himself. To repent is to make a 180-degree turn from the burden of the old life to the restfulness of the new.

Repentance was the theme of John the Baptist’s preaching (Matt. 3:2) and the starting point of the preaching of Jesus (4:17), Peter (Acts 2:38; 3:19; cf. 5:31), and Paul (17:30; 20:21; cf. 2 Tim. 2:25). The person who humbly receives God’s revelation of Himself and His way of salvation, who turns from the unbearable burden of his sin and self-effort, and who comes to Christ empty-handed is the only person God will save.

Anapauō (to give … rest) means to refresh or revive, as from labor or a long journey. Jesus promises spiritual rest to everyone who comes to Him in repentance and humble faith.

God’s rest is a common Old Testament theme. The Lord warned Israel, “Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness; when your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work. … Therefore I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest” (Ps. 95:7–9, 11). After quoting that passage, the writer of Hebrews warns those who make a pretense of faith in Christ but have not really trusted Him: “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in failing away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12). To intellectually acknowledge Christ’s deity and lordship is a dangerous thing if it does not lead to true faith, because it gives a person the false confidence of belonging to Christ.

In the time of the early church many Jews were attracted to the gospel and outwardly identified themselves with the church. But for tear of being unsynagogued, ostracized from the worship and ceremonies of Judaism, some of them diet not truly receive Christ as saving Lord. They went part way to Him but stopped before full commitment. “As a result” of such superficial allegiance, John says, “many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66). Consequently they would not enter God’s rest, that is, His salvation, because they still possessed “an evil, unbelieving heart” (Heb. 3:11–12).

Just as those Israelites who rebelled against Moses in the wilderness were denied entrance into the Promised Land because of unbelief, so those who refuse to fully trust in Christ are denied entrance into God’s kingdom rest of salvation for the same reason (v. 19). “Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, ‘As I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest’ ” (4:1–3).

The dictionary gives several definitions of rest that remarkably parallel the spiritual rest God offers those who trust in His Son. First, the dictionary describes rest as cessation from action, motion, labor, or exertion. In a similar way, to enter God’s rest is to cease from all efforts at self-help in trying to earn salvation. Second, rest is described as freedom from that which wearies or disturbs. Again we see the spiritual parallel of God’s giving His children freedom from the cares and burdens that rob them of peace and joy.

Third, the dictionary defines rest as something that is fixed and settled. Similarly, to be in God’s rest is to have the wonderful assurance that our eternal destiny is secure in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. It is to be freed from the uncertainties of running from philosophy to philosophy, from religion to religion, from guru to guru, hoping somehow and somewhere to discover truth, peace, happiness, and eternal life.

Fourth, rest is defined as being confident and trustful. When we enter God’s rest we are given the assurance that “He who began a good work in [us] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Finally, the dictionary describes rest as leaning, reposing, or depending on. As children of God, we can depend with utter certainty that our heavenly Father will “supply all [our] needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).[1]


28 The “me” is grammatically unemphatic but in the wake of v. 27 extremely important. Jesus invites the “weary” (the participle suggests those who have become weary through heavy struggling or toil) and the “burdened” (the passive side of weariness, overloaded like beasts of burden) to come to him; and he (not the Father) will give them rest. There is an echo of Jeremiah 31:25, where Yahweh refreshes his people through the new covenant.

While there is no need to restrict the “burdens,” it is impossible not to be reminded of the “heavy loads” the Pharisees put on men’s shoulders (23:4; cf. 12:1–14; see M. Maher, “ ‘Take my yoke upon you’ [Matt. xi.29],” NTS 22 [1976]: 97–103). The “rest” (cf. use of cognate term in Heb 3–4) is eschatological (cf. Rev 6:11; 14:13) but also a present reality.[2]


11:28 Come. To come means to believe (Acts 16:31); to receive (John 1:12); to eat (John 6:35); to drink (John 7:37); to look (Isa. 45:22); to confess (1 Jn. 4:2); to hear (John 5:24, 25); to enter a door (John 10:9); to open a door (Rev. 3:20); to touch the hem of His garment (Matt. 9:20, 21); and to accept the gift of eternal life through Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23).

to Me. The object of faith is not a church, a creed, or a clergyman, but the living Christ. Salvation is in a Person. Those who have Jesus are as saved as God can make them.

all you who labor and are heavy laden. In order to truly come to Jesus, a person must admit that he is burdened with the weight of sin. Only those who acknowledge they are lost can be saved. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is preceded by repentance toward God.

and I will give you rest. Notice that rest here is a gift; it is unearned and unmerited. This is the rest of salvation that comes from realizing that Christ finished the work of redemption on Calvary’s cross. It is the rest of conscience that follows the realization that the penalty of one’s sins has been paid once for all and that God will not demand payment twice.[3]


11:28Come to me is an invitation to trust Jesus personally, not merely to believe historical facts about him. All who labor and are heavy laden refers in the immediate context to those oppressed by the burden of religious legalism imposed on people by the scribes and Pharisees. But the wider application is that Jesus provides “rest for your souls” (v. 29)—that is, eternal rest for all who seek forgiveness of their sins and freedom from the crushing legalistic burden and guilt of trying to earn salvation by good works.[4]


11:28 Come to Me. Jesus has the authority to invite people to Himself. He does not extend His invitation to the strong but to the weary and burdened. Jesus uses the language of the wisdom tradition, calling the burdened to Himself as the incarnate wisdom of God (v. 19 note).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (p. 275). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 321–322). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1246). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1843). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1379). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

December 23: The Rise to Power

Jeremiah 44:1–46:28; Romans 11:1–10; Proverbs 25:1–28

If you’re driven, you’ve probably worked very hard to get to where you are. Being driven is a good thing, but being driven at a cost to others or by elevating yourself by your own accord is detrimental. Proverbs 25 offers this warning from the perspective of King Solomon: “Do not promote yourself before the king, and in the place of the great ones do not stand. For it is better that he say to you, ‘Ascend here,’ than he humble you before a noble” (Prov 25:6–7).

People tend to get nasty when power or money is involved. It’s uncomfortable to wait for that promotion, but God asks us to remain patient. At the end of the day, attaining leadership because you’re worthy is a much greater honor than obtaining it because you were louder than someone else or placed yourself in front of them. We should always take initiative and strive to succeed, but we need to remember that it’s not our place to decide our fates. We must place that in God’s hands, and we must wait to be asked to take the reins rather than snatch them ourselves.

Many people would put themselves before others when given the opportunity; they would promote themselves at the cost of someone else. As Christians, we have to ward off such temptations. We must maintain our integrity. Proverbs speaks about this as well: “What your eyes have seen [in a king’s court], do not hastily bring out to court, for what will you do at its end, when your neighbor puts you to shame? Argue your argument with your neighbor himself, the secret of another do not disclose, lest he who hears shame you and your ill repute will not end” (Prov 25:8–10).

Abuse of power is one of the most common leadership problems. People seeking and obtaining power when they’re not ready can be equally disastrous. As we seek to advance ourselves, we must be cautious with how we earn power—and with how we handle power when we’ve earned it.

What “power” situations are you currently handling well? What must change in your current “power” struggles?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.