Daily Archives: February 20, 2018

February 20 Pursuing Excellence

“… so that you may approve the things that are excellent” (Phil. 1:10).

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In a world of mediocrity and confusion, God calls you to excellence and discernment.

There’s the story of a pilot who came on the loudspeaker midflight and said, “I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is, we’ve lost all our instrumentation and don’t know where we are. The good news is, we have a strong tailwind and are making great time.” That’s an accurate picture of how many people live: they have no direction in life, but they’re getting there fast!

We as Christians are to be different because we have divine guidance and eternal goals. Our lives are to be marked by a confident trust in God and a pursuit of spiritual excellence.

“Excellent” in Philippians 1:10 speaks of things that are worthwhile and vital. “Approv[ing]” what is “excellent” refers to testing things as one would test a precious metal to determine its purity and value. It goes beyond knowing good from evil. It distinguishes between better and best. It involves thinking Biblically and focusing your time and energy on what really counts. It involves cultivating spiritual discipline and not being controlled by your emotions, whims, moods, or circumstances.

Many organizations and businesses have rightly adopted the motto “Commitment to Excellence” to convey their desire to provide the finest product or service possible. If secular-minded people strive for that level of achievement, how much more should Christians pursue excellence for the glory of God!

Look at your life. Is it filled with godly love, discernment, and the pursuit of excellence—or has worldly trivia crowded out those virtues?

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Read Isaiah 12:1–6 as a psalm of praise to the God of excellence. ✧ Ask God to give you a heart constantly set on pursuing excellence for His glory.

For Further Study: Daniel was a man who pursued excellence. Read Daniel 1:1–2:23. ✧ What was Daniel’s decision regarding the king’s food and wine, and how did he handle the situation? ✧ How did Daniel and his three friends compare in wisdom and understanding to the magicians and conjurers? ✧ What principles do you see in those two chapters that apply to your life?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 63). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Kathlee Lee Gifford Reveals the Moment She Accepted Jesus: ‘I Couldn’t Get Up Fast Enough’

TV host Kathie Lee Gifford recently revealed how she came to the Christian faith, sitting down for a fascinating interview with I Am Second during which she revealed her triumphs, struggles and advice for getting through life’s many challenges.

READ: Actress Candace Cameron Bure Responds to Critics Who Say ‘Prayer Isn’t Enough’ in the Wake of Tragedy

Gifford recalled how she went to see “The Restless Ones,” a 1965 movie that was produced by legendary evangelist Billy Graham. The film so moved the then-12 year old that she responded to an altar call at the end — and decided to accept Jesus.

“I couldn’t get up fast enough,” she said. “It was the greatest decision I ever made in my entire life.”

Gifford also discussed her journey into the entertainment realm as well as the ups and downs she has faced throughout her life and career. Speaking of the rejection that she saw in Hollywood — an integral part of the industry experience — she said that she would often laugh off critique.

“Spotlights are tough because some people die under them,” she said. “I came to life under them.”

From there, she dove into other issues she faced, including her late husband Frank Gifford’s affair. While she was devastated by it, she said that God healed their marriage and that she was grateful that her experience helped inspire other couples who faced similar challenges.

Gifford also recalled finding her husband deceased inside her home in 2015, explaining that, though she still misses him, she’s “grateful that Frank is exactly where he’s supposed to be.” Still, despite being grateful that he’s in heaven, the TV host admitted to struggling with loneliness.

“There are times when I am overwhelmed by loneliness,” she said, adding that she tries to focus on what she has rather than what has been lost. “I don’t want to live my life in hopelessness.”

Watch Gifford’s incredible I Am Second video below:

Source:

Hillsong’s Bobbie Houston Claims Apostolic Anointing For Husband, Brian

(Pulpit & Pen News) Bobbie Houston is the wife of Brian Houston, and calls herself the “co-senior pastor of Hillsong church.” Hillsong is the Australia-based global phenomenon that has been growing throughout the world through its Arian Snare pop-music, Word-Faith theology, and celebrity endorsements. With satellite churches in New York, Los Angeles, and the Americas, Hillsong is the point of the spear of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a charismatic movement that is seeking to unite the charismatic world – Protestant and Catholic – under its two main doctrinal distinctives, continuationism and the prosperity gospel. 

Along with the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Bethel Church in Redding California, and other charismatic mega-movements, Hillsong is helping to advance the Second and Third-Wave Pentecostal notion that God is bringing a “latter rain” (a perverted interpretation of Joel 2) movement upon the church that includes the divine implementation of new Apostles.

In no uncertain terms, this charismatic movement is claiming a return of the Apostolate, including Apostolic authority and new revelation.

Bobbie Houston is the latest to claim Apostolic anointing for her husband, Brian, a standard claim for NAR leaders. Houston claimed from her Twitter account…

When the Apostle Paul wrote his epistles, he repeatedly reinforced his Apostolic anointing in a similar fashion, so that the recipients of his letters might submit to them as authoritative, inscripturated Sacred Writ, writing in places like…

1 Corinthians 1:1, “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”

2 Corinthians 2:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth” 

Galatians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me, To the churches in Galatia”

Ephesians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus”

Colossians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to God’s holy people in Colossae”

1 Timothy 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith”

2 Timothy 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus”

In like manner, NAR leaders claim for themselves similar Apostolic credentials. Houston wrote in more detail on her Instagram account

In true Apostolic anointing … he delivered what I believe was the heart of God, and a crucial “milestone” message to the soul of our church. A milestone is a marker in the journey. It reminds us of where we have come from, and more imptly, where we are headed. Every person (around the world) who believes they are in the fabric of the heart and soul of our “Hillsong church family”, HAS to hear this message. As Revelation declares – “he who has ears, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches”

When Bobbie Houston cited Revelation 2:29, “he who has ears…” she is citing Jesus’ words to John the Revelator, as he was giving personally inscripturated letters to the churches of Asia Minor. One can only deduce that when applying the words to her husband, Brian, while claiming for him “true Apostolic anointing” that what he spoke was at least as authoritative as Holy Scripture.

Check out Berean Research’s White Paper on the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)

Republished with permission (Source)

Source: Hillsong’s Bobbie Houston Claims Apostolic Anointing For Husband, Brian

ABC flooded with 25,000 complaints after Joy Behar mocks Mike Pence’s Christianity

(The Washington Times) Joy Behar’s mocking of Christianity as a mental illness isn’t going away as an issue.

According to the Media Research Center watchdog group, more than 25,000 people had called ABC by early Monday morning to complain about a segment on “The View” in which the comedian specifically said Vice President Mike Pence suffers from the delusions of prayer.

“It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you… that’s called mental illness … hearing voices,” she said. View article →

Source: ABC flooded with 25,000 complaints after Joy Behar mocks Mike Pence’s Christianity

25,000 People Swamp ABC with Complaints After Joy Behar Bashes Christianity, Franklin Graham Weighs In

FEBRUARY 20 STRICTER DISCIPLINE FOR GOD’S WILLING CHILDREN

No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness….

HEBREWS 12:1 1

If God has singled you out to be a special object of His grace you may expect Him to honor you with stricter discipline and greater suffering than less favored ones are called upon to endure.

If God sets out to make you an unusual Christian He is not likely to be as gentle as He is usually pictured by the popular teachers. A sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude, unshapely marble to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful.

To do His supreme work of grace within you He will take from your heart everything you love most. Every thing you trust in will go from you. Piles of ashes will lie where your most precious treasures used to be.

Thus you will learn what faith is; you will find out the hard way, but the only way open to you, that true faith lies in the will, that the joy unspeakable of which the apostle speaks is not itself faith but a slow-ripening fruit of faith. You will learn, too, that present spiritual joys may come and go as they will without altering your spiritual status or in any way affecting your position as a true child of the heavenly Father.

Then you will also learn, probably to your astonishment, that it is possible to live in all good conscience before God and men and still feel nothing of the “peace and joy” you hear talked about so much by immature Christians![1]


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

February 20, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Nature of the Incarnation

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (1:14)

Verse 14 is the most concise biblical statement of the Incarnation, and therefore one of Scripture’s most significant verses. The four words with which it begins, the Word became flesh, express the reality that in the Incarnation God took on humanity; the infinite became finite; eternity entered time; the invisible became visible (cf. Col. 1:15); the Creator entered His creation. God revealed Himself to man in the creation (Rom. 1:18–21), the Old Testament Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20–21), and, supremely and most clearly, in Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1–2). The record of His life and work, and its application and significance for the past, present, and future, is in the New Testament.

As noted in the discussion of 1:1 in chapter 1 of this volume, the concept of the Word was one rich in meaning for both Greeks and Jews. John here clearly stated what he implied earlier in the prologue: Jesus Christ, God’s final Word to mankind (Heb. 1:1–2), became flesh.Sarx (flesh) does not have here the negative moral connotation that it sometimes carries (e.g., Rom. 8:3–9; 13:14; Gal. 5:13, 16–17, 19; Eph. 2:3), but refers to man’s physical being (cf. Matt. 16:17; Rom. 1:3; 1 Cor. 1:26; 2 Cor. 5:16; Gal. 1:16; Eph. 5:29; Phil. 1:22). That He actually became flesh affirms Jesus’ full humanity.

Ginomai (became) does not mean that Christ ceased being the eternal Word when He became a man. Though God is immutable, pure eternal “being” and not “becoming” as all His creatures are, in the Incarnation the unchangeable (Heb. 13:8) God did become fully man, yet remained fully God. He entered the realm of those who are time and space creatures and experienced life as it is for those He created. In the words of the fifth-century church father Cyril of Alexandria,

We do not … assert that there was any change in the nature of the Word when it became flesh, or that it was transformed into an entire man, consisting of soul and body; but we say that the Word, in a manner indescribable and inconceivable, united personally … to himself flesh animated with a reasonable soul, and thus became man and was called the Son of man.… The natures which were brought together to form a true unity were different; but out of both is one Christ and one Son. We do not mean that the difference of the natures is annihilated by reason of this union; but rather that the Deity and Manhood, by their inexpressible and inexplicable concurrence into unity, have produced for us the one Lord and Son Jesus Christ. (cited in Bettenson, Documents, 47)

No wonder Paul wrote of the Incarnation,

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:

He who was revealed in the flesh,

Was vindicated in the Spirit,

Seen by angels,

Proclaimed among the nations,

Believed on in the world,

Taken up in glory. (1 Tim. 3:16)

Charles Wesley also captured the wonder of the Incarnation in his majestic hymn “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,

Hail th’ incarnate Deity!

Pleased as man with men to dwell,

Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Some found the Incarnation so utterly beyond human reason to comprehend that they refused to accept it. The heretical group known as the Docetists (from dokeō; “to seem,” or “to appear”), accepting the dualism of matter and spirit so prevalent in Greek philosophy at that time, held that matter was evil, and spirit was good. Accordingly, they argued that Christ could not have had a material (and hence evil) body. They taught instead either that His body was a phantom, or an apparition, or that the divine Christ spirit descended upon the mere man Jesus at His baptism, then left Him before His crucifixion. Cerinthus, John’s opponent at Ephesus, was a Docetist. John strongly opposed Docetism, which undermines not only the incarnation of Christ, but also His resurrection and substitutionary atonement. As noted earlier in this chapter, in his first epistle he warned,

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. (1 John 4:1–3)

John was so horrified by Cerinthus’s heresy that, as the early church historian Eusebius records,

John the apostle once entered a bath to wash; but ascertaining Cerinthus was within, he leaped out of the place, and fled from the door, not enduring to enter under the same roof with him, and exhorted those with him to do the same, saying, “let us flee, lest the bath fall in, as long as Cerinthus, that enemy of the truth, is within.” (Ecclesiastical History, book III, chap. XXVIII)

The eternal Son not only became man; He also dwelt among men for thirty-three years. Dwelt translates a form of the verb skēnoō, which literally means “to live in a tent.” Jesus Christ’s humanity was not a mere appearance. He took on all the essential attributes of humanity and was “made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), “since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). As the writer of Hebrews goes on to explain, “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). And He pitched His tent among us.

In the Old Testament, God tented with Israel through His glorious presence in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–35) and later in the temple (1 Kings 8:10–11), and revealed Himself in some pre-incarnate appearances of Christ (e.g., Gen. 16:7–14; Ex. 3:2; Josh. 5:13–15; Judg. 2:1–4; 6:11–24; 13:3–23; Dan. 3:25; 10:5–6; Zech. 1:11–21). Throughout eternity, God will again tent with His redeemed and glorified people:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell [skēnoō] among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3–4; cf. 12:12; 13:6)

Though Jesus manifested God’s divine glory during His earthly life with a clarity never before seen, it was still veiled by His human flesh. Peter, James, and John saw a physical manifestation of Jesus’ heavenly glory at the transfiguration, when “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matt. 17:2; cf. 2 Peter 1:16–18). That was a preview of the unveiled glory to be seen at His return (Matt. 24:29–30; 25:31; Rev. 19:11–16) and the fullness of His heavenly glory as the only Light of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:23). But the disciples saw Jesus manifest God’s holy nature primarily by displaying divine attributes, such as truth, wisdom, love, grace, knowledge, power, and holiness.

Jesus manifested the same essential glory as the Father, because as God they possess the same nature (10:30). Despite the claims of false teachers through the centuries, monogenēs (only begotten) does not imply that Jesus was created by God and thus not eternal. The term does not refer to a person’s origin, but describes him as unique, the only one of his kind. Thus Isaac could properly be called Abraham’s monogenēs (Heb. 11:17) even though Abraham had other sons, because Isaac alone was the son of the covenant. Monogenēs distinguishes Christ as the unique Son of God from believers, who are God’s sons in a different sense (1 John 3:2). B. F. Westcott writes, “Christ is the One and only Son, the One to whom the title belongs in a sense completely unique and singular, as distinguished from that in which there are many children of God (vv. 12f.)” (The Gospel According to St. John [Reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978], 12). Jesus’ unique relationship to the Father is a major theme of John’s gospel (cf. 1:18; 3:35; 5:17–23, 26, 36–37; 6:27, 46, 57; 8:16, 18–19, 28, 38, 42, 54; 10:15, 17, 30, 36–38; 12:49–50; 14:6–13, 20–21, 23, 31; 15:9, 15, 23–24; 16:3, 15, 27–28, 32; 17:5, 21, 24–25; 20:21).

Jesus’ manifestation of the divine attributes revealed His essential glory as God’s Son, “for in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9). The two attributes most closely connected with salvation are grace and truth. Scripture teaches that salvation is wholly by believing God’s truth in the gospel, by which one receives His saving grace.

The Jerusalem Council declared, “But we believe that we [Jewish believers] are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they [Gentiles] also are” (Acts 15:11). Apollos “greatly helped those who had believed through grace” (Acts 18:27). Paul described the message he preached as “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). In Romans 3:24 he wrote that believers are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,” while in Ephesians 1:7 he added, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” Later in that same letter, Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). He reminded Timothy that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). That same “grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11), with the result that believers “being justified by His grace … would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7).

There is no salvation grace except to those who believe the truth of the gospel message. Paul reminded the Ephesians, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). In Colossians 1:5 he defined the gospel as the “word of truth” (cf. James 1:18). Paul expressed to the Thessalonians his thankfulness that “God ha[d] chosen [them] from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13). People are saved when they “come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4; cf. 2 Tim. 2:25). On the other hand, “those who perish” will do so “because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). Everyone will “be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:12).

Jesus Christ was the full expression of God’s grace. All the necessary truth to save is available in Him. He was the full expression of God’s truth, which was only partially revealed in the Old Testament (cf. Col. 2:16–17). What was foreshadowed through prophecy, types, and pictures became substance realized in the person of Christ (cf. Heb. 1:1–2). Therefore He could declare, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.… If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 14:6; 8:31–32).

A vague belief in God apart from the truth about Christ will not result in salvation. As Jesus Himself warned, “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Those who think they are worshiping God, but are ignorant of or reject the fullness of the New Testament teaching about Christ, are deceived, because “he who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23; cf. 15:23). In his first epistle John affirmed that “whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23; cf. 2 John 9). Those who reject God’s full revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ will be eternally lost.

Summarizing the magnificence of this verse, Gerald L. Borchert writes,

In analyzing this crucial verse of the Prologue it becomes quickly apparent that this verse is like a great jewel with many facets that spreads it rays of implication into the various dimensions of Christology—the theology of Christ. As a summary of this verse it may be said that the evangelist recognized and bore witness to the fact that the characteristics ascribed only to God by the Old Testament were present in the incarnate Logos, God’s unique messenger to the world, who not only epitomized in person the awesome sense of God’s presence in their midst as a pilgrim people but also evidenced those stabilizing divine qualities God’s people had experienced repeatedly. (John 1–11, The New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2002], 121–22. Italics in original.)[1]


God with Us

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

I wish it were possible to approach John 1:14 as though reading it for the first time. The verse contains something that was new and quite startling when it was first written, and yet for us who read it nearly two thousand years later it has become commonplace. We read: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This was the great sentence for which the Gospel of John was written. It tells us—inexplicable as it may be—that God became man. Nevertheless, because we have heard that verse from childhood, we read it and are often strangely unmoved.

The Church Fathers

Fortunately, we can capture a sense of the original, shattering newness of this sentence from the writings of the church fathers, particularly those who were converted to Christianity out of paganism. Augustine, who became the greatest theologian of the early church, was no mean scholar. He had drunk deeply at the spring of Platonic philosophy. He had spent years soaking up the religious and philosophical system of the Manichaeans. Yet, as he said later, although he had read all about the Word in non-Christian books—that the Word was God and had been active in the creation of the world—nevertheless, that the “Word became flesh” he had not read there.

Another church father, Junius the younger, has also written of his reaction to first reading these verses. “My father, who was frequently reading the New Testament, and had long observed with grief the progress I had made in infidelity, had put that book in my way in his library, in order to attract my attention, if it might please God to bless his design, though without giving me the least intimation of it. Here, therefore, I unwittingly opened the New Testament thus providentially laid before me. At the very first view, although I was deeply engaged in other thoughts, that grand chapter of the evangelist and apostle presented itself to me—‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.’ I read part of the chapter, and was so affected that I instantly became struck with the divinity of the argument, and the majesty and authority of the composition, as infinitely surpassing the highest flights of human eloquence. My body shuddered. My mind was in amazement, and I was so agitated the whole day that I scarcely knew who I was. Nor did the agitation cease, but continued till it was at last soothed by a humble faith in him who was made flesh and dwelt among us.”

This was the astounding new thing—that the Word of God could enter into our history as a man so that men could see him. In him men could behold God’s glory.

He Pitched His Tent

Actually, as John wrote this verse he was doubtlessly referring to the great days of Israel’s desert wanderings; and he was making the point that, although those days were great days for Israel, in our day something much better has happened. It involves all men. We know that John was making this contrast, because of an unusual word that occurs in the verse. In English it is the word “dwelling.” We have it in the phrase, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Literally, the phrase means “to dwell in a tent.” So we could also translate the verse: “The Word became flesh, and pitched his tent among us,” or “The Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us.” This last translation is particularly significant because the word refers beyond any question to the portable wilderness tabernacle or temple of the Hebrew nation. The tabernacle was the center of their worship and the most important single object in their camp.

In all, the tabernacle was about forty-five feet long and about fifteen feet wide; that is, it was three times as long as it was wide. And it was divided into two distinct parts, the inner section being in the form of a square fifteen feet by fifteen feet, and the outer section being twice as long as it was wide. It was made of boards covered with curtains. The inner chamber contained the ark of the covenant. The outer chamber contained the golden altar of incense, the table of shewbread, and the golden candlestick. This entire structure stood in a courtyard surrounded by curtains of pure linen rising to a height of over eight feet. The courtyard measured 175 feet long and about 87 feet wide. In the courtyard there was a great brazen altar for sacrifices and a laver for purifications.

Everything about the tabernacle—its dimensions, furnishings, colors, functions, and arrangement—was designed to communicate spiritual truth. Hence, many of its functions were previews of the functions Jesus Christ would fulfill when he eventually pitched his tent among us. We can list several of the more obvious parallels.

  1. The tabernacle was the center of Israel’s camp. We see this in the laws ordering the distribution of the various tribes in the Jewish encampment as recorded in the early chapters of the Book of Numbers. On the eastern side of the tabernacle were the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. These set out first when the nation began to break camp. On the south were Reuben, Simeon, and Gad. These marched second. After these tribes came the Levites, who surrounded the tabernacle in the encampment. Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin were on the west. Dan, Asher, and Naphtali always camped to the north. These came last when the people were on the move. We see this position of the tabernacle reinforced by the instructions given to the Levites for their place in the march; for we read in Numbers 2:17, “Then the Tent of Meeting and the camp of the Levites will set out in the middle of the camps. They will set out in the same order as they encamp, each in his own place under his standard.” This is highly significant in reference to Jesus Christ, for he is the center of the Christian encampment. He is our gathering place. This is why Jesus could say, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). He told his disciples: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20).
  2. The tabernacle was the place where the law of Moses was preserved. The first two tables of stone, which had been given to Moses by God, were broken (Exodus 32); but the second set was deposited in the ark of the covenant within the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle for safekeeping. This also speaks to us of Christ Jesus. Speaking of his perfect obedience to God and of his perfect keeping of the law, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “for I always do what pleases him” (John 8:29). In the same manner Psalm 40 is prophesying Christ’s perfect obedience when it reports him as saying, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8).
  3. The tabernacle was the dwelling place of God. This was no doubt largely symbolic during the Old Testament period, although it was symbolized in a very striking way. Within the Holy of Holies, between the wings of the cherubim that stretched out over the covering of the ark of the covenant, there was the shekinah glory that symbolized God’s presence. The shekinah was what we would call “light.” At times it was hidden by the cloud that spread out over the tabernacle. At other times it flashed out in judgment against some evil in the camp of Israel. The glory within the Holy of Holies symbolized the presence of God. Thus, John, who knew that God had been revealed in the flesh in Jesus, could write, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father.”
  4. Because the tabernacle was the place where God dwelt among his people, it was also the place of revelation. It was the place where God met with men and spoke to them. For this reason the tabernacle was also called “the tent of meeting,” a phrase that occurs scores of times in the Old Testament.

The second tabernacle, Jesus Christ, is the place where God meets with men today and speaks to them. If you have ever visited a mint, you know that the coins manufactured there are produced by large presses that stamp out a whole sheet of coins at one time. A sheet of silver or alloy is fed into the machine, there is a clump, and a shower of coins tumbles out into a basket. I am told that a skilled engraver can take a coin, examine it under a magnifying glass, and tell not only the actual die from which the coin came but even the condition of the die, which cannot be seen where it is within the press. It is on the basis of such an examination that the dies are replaced when they show signs of wear. In the same way, we cannot see God. The Bible reports God as saying to Moses: “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exod. 33:20). Yet God is revealed to us perfectly in Jesus, in whom we see the Father. The Bible tells us that, like the coin from the mint, he is the “exact representation” of God’s invisible person (Heb. 1:3).

  1. The tabernacle was also the place where sacrifices were made. In the outer court of the tabernacle, on the east side near the only opening into the courtyard, stood the brazen altar on which sacrifices burned continually. For anyone approaching the tabernacle from outside, this was the first of the furnishings of the tabernacle seen by him. This was significant, for it indicated that there is no approach to God except by means of the sacrifice. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness [of sin]” (Heb. 9:22; cf. Lev. 17:11). In the same way, today there is no approach to God except through faith in the sacrifice provided by Jesus Christ, who in the tabernacle of his flesh offered himself up on Calvary.

This is the answer to the supreme question of man in all ages of human history. It is far more important than any scientific question or political question. How can a sinful man, corrupt by nature, approach a holy God? We all need God, but how can we find him? How can we come close enough to him to understand him? How can we become acceptable before him? How can we know forgiveness for sin? How can we know God’s peace? How can we find fellowship with the One in whom we live and move and have our being? The answer is in the tabernacle and in the Christ whom the tabernacle prefigures. At the cross of Christ the perfect sacrifice is performed; Jesus dies in our place. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. On the basis of his sacrifice, we who were once children of wrath have now become God’s children and can approach God the Father.

  1. Finally, the tabernacle was the place where the people of Israel worshiped. We worship in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ today. The people of Israel brought their sacrifices to the tabernacle, gave their gifts there, and asked their questions. On occasion they were summoned to hear the voice of God. Their priests ministered in the temple enclosure. In the same way, we gather around the person of our Lord, who regulates our worship and receives our homage. It is through Jesus alone that we have access by one Spirit unto the Father (Eph. 2:18).

Thou art the Way: to thee alone

From sin and death we flee;

And he who would the Father seek

Must seek him, Lord, by thee.

Thou art the Truth: thy Word alone

True wisdom can impart;

Thou only canst inform the mind,

And purify the heart.

Thou art the Life; the rending tomb

Proclaims thy conquering arm,

And those who put their trust in thee

Nor death nor hell shall harm.

Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life:

Grant us that Way to know,

That Truth to keep, that Life to win,

Whose joys eternal flow.

Christ’s Glory Beheld

The final point of our study is that when Jesus Christ pitched his tent among us, he did so in order that men and women might see him and thus come to know God. John indicates this when he observes: “And we beheld his glory.”

This happened in a very literal way with the first disciples about whom John is certainly speaking in this verse, for they saw the glory of Jesus during the days of his flesh. We must not miss the point that John has constructed his account of the first momentous week in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ to emphasize this great truth. Beginning with the nineteenth verse of this chapter, John begins an account of the most important events of seven consecutive days, beginning with the day on which John the Baptist received the delegation of priests and Levites from Jerusalem and ending on the day in which Jesus changed the water into wine at Cana of Galilee in the presence of his disciples. Significantly enough, the story of the wedding (and therefore also the story of the events of this first week) ends with the statement: “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” (John 2:11). This was the reason for his coming. He came that men might see his glory and believe on him.

It is also true, however, that the experience of the early disciples is duplicated in all who believe in the Lord of glory today, for Paul writes of the experience of all Christians when he says that “we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Is that your experience? Have you beheld the glory of the eternal Son of God who tabernacled among us and who is revealed to us today by means of his Holy Spirit? If it is, then you are called upon to bear a witness to him, as John and the other disciples did. Can you testify to what he has done for you and in your life? I can testify to what Christ has done for me. I look at the second chapter of Ephesians and find myself placed among those who were “dead in …  transgressions and sins … gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts” but of whom it can now be said, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Eph. 6:1–6). He lifted my vision to see Christ, who is altogether lovely, and has drawn me toward himself with bonds of love, so that now I seek to serve him and exalt his name before men.

You say, “Is that something special?” Not at all. It is merely the experience of every true believer. To the giving of such a testimony each of us is called. What a vision! The glory of Jesus Christ! What a task! To make him known to a darkened and sinful world!


Grace and Truth

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Dr. Francis Schaeffer, founder of the L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland, tells a story about a prominent American government leader. He had been invited to address a group of student leaders in Washington and had chosen to speak on the theme of restoring values in our culture. When he had finished there was a moment of silence. Then one student arose—a man from Harvard University—and asked, “Sir, upon what base do you build your values?” It was a brilliant question but a tragic moment for the speaker, for he simply looked down and replied, “I do not know.” Here was a man who was calling upon the youth of America to return to a system of moral values, but he was offering them nothing to build upon. As Dr. Schaeffer remarks, he was a man trying to tell his hearers not to steal the company funds and run off to Morocco and yet giving no reason why they should not.

We miss the point of the illustration if we think that the experience of the speaker was unique. It is not unique at all. In fact, it is typical of millions of persons in our day who earnestly want to believe in a system of values and yet have no real basis for their beliefs. They are confused about life. They do not know what is right or wrong, true or false. They want to believe that there is a thing called truth. They want to believe that there is a God who is full of love and is gracious. They want to believe that life has meaning. But they have no valid basis for any of these beliefs. To these people the Bible speaks with special relevance when it says that there is a basis for the demands of ethics, belief in goodness, and truth.

What is the basis? This is the point of what is perhaps the most important theological statement in John’s Gospel, the statement contained in the verse that we have already been considering: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The verse states that Jesus Christ is the basis on which we can know that God is good and that the universe has meaning.

God’s Grace

The first thing that John says was revealed in Jesus Christ was grace, God’s grace. Because of this we know that God is gracious. What is grace? Grace is simply the unmerited favor of God toward humanity. The New Scofield Bible says, “Grace is the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man.” Dr. Harry A. Ironside wrote, “Grace is the very opposite of merit. … Grace is not only undeserved favor, but it is favor shown to the one who has deserved the very opposite.” The Bible expresses it when it says that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). In other words, God is gracious toward us, not on the basis of what we have done but solely because it is his nature to be gracious.

In one sense, of course, all men are recipients of God’s grace. That is what theologians have called “common grace.” When the human race sinned in Adam, the entire race came under judgment. The race deserved nothing. God did not owe it anything. If God had simply taken Adam and Eve in the moment they had sinned and cast them into the lake of fire, he would still have been just; and the angels could still have sung,

Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.

Revelation 4:8

Moreover, if God had allowed the race to increase to an extent similar to what it has increased to today, and then had brushed it aside into everlasting torment and judgment, God would have been just even then. This is a most important truth. God does not owe man anything. Consequently, all the blessings that people enjoy are the result of God’s grace.

Let me put this as clearly as I am able to before we move on. If you are not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are a recipient of God’s common grace whether you acknowledge it or not. If you enjoy good health, that is common grace. If you are not on the poverty rolls but instead enjoy the comfort of a home and plenty to eat, that is common grace. If you have a good job and are able to hold it down because of your natural abilities and hard work, that is common grace. The list could be endless. There is no person living who has not been the recipient of God’s common grace in some way. If you think that it is not of grace that you receive your blessings but that you deserve them, you are merely showing your ignorance of spiritual things.

Yet, if such grace is wonderful, the grace that is shown in Jesus Christ is even more wonderful. This is “saving grace,” for this is a grace that does not spare men merely for a certain limited time; it redeems them for time and eternity. It transforms them from what the Bible calls “children of wrath” into God’s sons.

A great example of such a transformation is John Newton. In his very early years Newton had been raised in a Christian home in England; but his parents died when he was only six years old and he was sent to live with an unbelieving relative. There Christianity was mocked, and he was abused. Finally, to escape these conditions, Newton ran away to sea, joining the British navy. He fell into gross sin; it gained a hold on him. He eventually deserted the navy and went to one of the worst areas of Africa. As he tells it, he went there for only one purpose and that was “to sin his fill.”

In Africa Newton fell in with a Portuguese slave trader. When the trader went away on slave-hunting expeditions, as he often did, the power in the compound passed to the slave trader’s African wife. She hated white men and took out her venom on Newton. He was cruelly abused, so much so that at times he was forced to eat his food off the dusty floor like a dog.

After a time Newton fled from the compound and made his way to the coast, where he signaled a slave ship. The captain of the ship was disappointed at first when he learned that Newton had no ivory to sell. But when he found that Newton could navigate a vessel, he made Newton a shipmate. Even then Newton got into trouble. One day he broke into the ship’s supply of rum and got so drunk that he fell overboard and would have drowned if an officer had not saved him by thrusting a harpoon into his thigh and hauling him back into the ship. The harpoon made such a wound that years later Newton could still put his hand into the fist-sized opening.

Near the end of one voyage, as they were nearing Scotland, the ship ran afoul of bad weather, was blown off course, and began to sink. Newton was sent down into the hold to work the pumps. He was terrified. He thought surely the ship would sink and he would drown. For days he worked the pumps, and as he pumped the water out of the hold he began to cry out to God. Bible verses about God’s love and the death of Christ that he had heard as a child and thought he had forgotten came to his memory, and as he remembered them he was miraculously transformed. He was born again. When the storm had passed and he was again in England, he went on to become a highly educated preacher and teacher of the Word of God in that country, even preaching before the queen. It was of this storm and this conversion that William Cowper, the poet, wrote:

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants his footsteps in the sea

And rides upon the storm.

Newton himself, who, through this experience, became in England a great proclaimer of God’s grace, declared:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

Newton was a great preacher of grace, and the fact is not at all surprising. For he had learned, as all Christians have learned, that God is exceedingly gracious. He had been assured of this as he had thought upon the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ through whom God’s grace is known.

Truth

The second aspect of God’s nature that John speaks of in this verse is truth. John tells us that this too is revealed in Jesus Christ. Truth is a great word in John’s writings. In all it occurs about twenty-four times. This is the first reference, and in almost every case (including this one) it is related to the character of God.

We find this in the rest of the Bible also. For instance, we read in Deuteronomy and Isaiah that God is truth (Deut. 32:4; Isa. 65:16). We read that God desires truth in our inward parts (Ps. 51:6). We are told that the Lord hates a lying tongue (Prov. 6:17). Jesus declared that he was himself the truth: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). He spoke of the Word of God as the truth (John 17:17). When we put all these statements together we find that God the Father is truth, that God the Son is truth, that God the Holy Spirit is truth, and that everything that takes its nature from God is also characterized by truth. In other words, truth is of the character of God. We who are Christians must, therefore, for that very reason, take our stand upon it.

We do not deal with the opinions of men when we deal with Christian doctrine. We deal with truth. Thus, a person’s eternal destiny depends upon his relationship to the eternal truth in Jesus Christ.

I have been impressed by the extent to which we have seen the opposite of this in our day. That is, we have entered a period of history in which truth is supposed to be relative and in which no system of ideas is recognized by the majority of all men to be binding. I am impressed too by the fact that all the great present-day apologists have seen this.

One man who has been pointing this out is Francis A. Schaeffer. He points out that people no longer believe in truth. They did believe in truth before the impact of the philosophy of Hegel. In that day, if one fact was true, the opposite of that fact was believed to be false. There was antithesis, and what was true or false then was believed to be true or false forever. After Hegel, the idea grew that reality was to be represented not by what is true as opposed to what is false but rather by what is true now or, worse yet, by what is true only for the individual. Under this system my truth is not necessarily your truth, and what is true for me now may not be true for me tomorrow.

“But what does that mean for our day?” you may ask. The answer is that we are dealing with truth, real truth, when we present the claims of Jesus Christ and of Christianity. What happens most often when you testify to the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ today? Isn’t it true that the most common reaction is simply: “Fine; that’s good for you. I’m glad it helps you, but, after all, what you say is only relatively true. If something else helps me, then that is perfectly valid also.” This is the view we need to fight against.

C.S. Lewis is another Christian apologist who saw the changing attitudes toward truth. Here is an example of his insight from the first of The Screwtape Letters, in which a senior devil named Screwtape gives some basic instruction to a junior tempter named Wormwood: “I note what you say about guiding your patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naive? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of Enemy’s clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily ‘true’ or ‘false,’ but as ‘academic’ or ‘practical,’ ‘outworn’ or ‘contemporary,’ ‘conventional’ or ‘ruthless.’ Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church.”

That is true. For today, even in the books of theology, we are presented with the idea that Christian doctrine is not so much true as it is helpful. And the conclusion is that you can take it or leave it, sift it or drop it, all according to its practical value to you personally. This is diabolical. It is not the philosophical basis of Christianity.

Instead, when you come to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, you come to a declaration that certain things are really true for all time, whatever they may mean to you personally. And furthermore, we are told that it is on the basis of such truth that you as an individual will be forced to give a reckoning.

You say, “But what are these truths?” Let me give you a summary. First, there is the truth about man. We have been hearing for generations that man is doing better and better, and that given time enough things will turn out all right and all his problems will be solved. How foolish! Given enough time things will turn out exactly as they have been turning out since the beginning of the world. The reason for this is that there is something wrong in the heart of man. The Bible calls it sin. It may also be called rebellion, selfishness, pride, or any number of similar words. It is the same principle. The truth about man is that man carries his greatest problem about within him.

People always want to blame someone else, even the devil. There is a wonderful story about a little girl called Mary Ann who one day got into a fight with her brother. The mother stopped the fighting by yanking Mary up sharply and sitting her down in a corner. She asked, “Mary Ann, why did you let the devil put it into your heart to pull your brother’s hair and kick his shins?” Mary Ann thought a minute and then said, “Well, maybe the devil did put it into my head to pull brother’s hair, but kicking his shins was my own idea.” That was tremendous theology, and it shows what is wrong with the world. It is not what the devil, the environment, or our history makes us do that makes the world such a bad place, but it is what we do. The truth about the problems of man is that man himself is the problem.

The second truth that we receive from Christianity is the truth about God. This is most necessary, for there are profound misconceptions about him. People think of God as removed, arbitrary, unconcerned, indulgent. But God declares that he is love and truth and justice and that he cares enough about men and women to die for them in order to bring them back to himself.

There is the truth about the atonement. People look to the death of Jesus and call it an example of a man who was deluded but who meant well. Others call it a tragedy. Some call it a demonstration of outstanding courage. That is not what the atonement means. It is true that there are aspects of Christ’s death that relate to us as a moving example. Peter writes to encourage those who were suffering from persecution in his day, saying, “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example” (1 Peter 2:21). But even as he says this he takes pains to point out the real meaning of the death of Christ by showing that it was essentially a death for others. “Christ suffered for you.” And he immediately adds, as if to give that meaning, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). That is the truth about the atonement. Christ died for us in order that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Do you believe these things? The truth about them did not come to the world through philosophy or through any other form of human speculation. Truth came into the world through Jesus Christ. It is recorded for men in the Bible. Your eternal destiny will depend upon the way you respond to it and upon whether or not you will commit yourself to Jesus Christ. Will you do it? To do it is to learn that God is indeed gracious and to uncover the only valid basis for truth and sound morality.[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (pp. 39–43). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 85–96). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

FEBRUARY 20 EVERY HINDRANCE REMOVED

Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1

There are many legal and governmental reasons why lost men and women should not go to heaven!

It should not be difficult for us to acknowledge that a holy and righteous God must run His universe according to holy laws—and we do not belong there because we have broken every one of those holy laws in some way!

Therefore, there must be an effective redemption, a justification of some kind if we are to have God and He is to have us!

Thank God, it has been done!

The New Testament language is as plain as can be—in Christ through His death and resurrection, every legal hindrance has been met and satisfied: taken away! There is nothing that can keep us from assurance except our own selves.

Let us quit trying to think our way in, to reason our way in. The only way to get in is to believe Him with our hearts forevermore!

Yes, Lord, thank You so much for providing an “effective redemption” so that we may have unbroken fellowship with You—both now and for all eternity. Praise Your holy and righteous name![1]


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

40 Days to the Cross: Week One – Tuesday

Confession: Psalm 25:6–10

Remember your compassion, O Yahweh,

and your acts of loyal love,

because they are from of old.

Do not remember

the sins of my youth or my transgressions.

According to your loyal love remember me if you will,

for the sake of your goodness, O Yahweh.

Good and right is Yahweh;

therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

He causes the humble to walk in justice,

and teaches the humble his way.

All the paths of Yahweh are loyal love and faithfulness

for those who keep his covenant and statutes.

Reading: Mark 9:33–41

And they came to Capernaum. And after he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent, because they had argued with one another on the way about who was greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he will be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a young child and had him stand among them. And taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of the young children such as these in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but the one who sent me.”

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone expelling demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not prevent him, because there is no one who does a miracle in my name and will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name because you are Christ’s, truly I say to you that he will never lose his reward.”

Reflection

What do we intend to do as a Church for Christ Jesus, “whom the king wishes to honor” (Esther 6:6)? Let me answer briefly.

Believe Him. Christ is always very pleased with His people’s faith. Beloved, confide in Him. Tell Him your troubles. Pour out your hearts before Him. Trust the merit of His blood, the power of His arm, the love of His heart. There is no box of precious ointment whose smell will more delight Him than your simple, unwavering faith.

He is a God of love: If you would give Him something choice, show Him your love. Let your heart go after Him, and with the arms of your love embrace Him.

—Charles H. Spurgeon

What Shall Be Done for Jesus?

Response

Jesus ushers in the kingdom of God. The ways of this kingdom often defy our ambitions and expectations. During this season of Lent, how are God’s ways overtaking your ways? Pray for the trust and love of a child. Pray that you would be a willing and humble disciple.[1]


[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

February 20 Hindrances to True Mourning: Presumption and Procrastination

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.—Matt. 5:4

We talked yesterday about two specific sins that hinder biblical mourning. Let’s consider two others today. The sin of presumption is actually a form of pride. Presumption is satisfied with cheap grace and expects God to forgive just a little bit because it sees so little to be forgiven. It leads us to think our sins are not really bad enough for us to confess them, repent of them, and forsake them. But Isaiah exhorts sinners as follows: “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). The kind of gospel (so popular today) that omits any need for repentance and mourning is a false, unscriptural gospel—or as Paul calls it, “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6).

Procrastination, as the term suggests, hinders true mourning simply by putting it off. We tend to think when things are better and the time is more convenient, we will ask God to cleanse and forgive our sins. But that is foolish and risky because “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). If we do not deal with sin sooner rather than later, we can’t be sure God’s comfort will ever come.

The best and surest way to eliminate hindrances to mourning is to look, through prayer and the Word, to the holiness of God and Christ’s great atoning sacrifice for sins.

ASK YOURSELF

Unlike some of our sins, these tend to be more subtle and soft-pedaled. But sins of all kinds are capable of blinding us to our utter dependence on God and His forgiveness. Ask Him to reveal to you any hidden sins, wanting to bring to the surface everything that dishonors Him.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 59). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

February 20 Types of Spiritual Fruit

Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work.

Colossians 1:10

What kind of fruit brings glory to God? Philippians 1:11 says, “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Righteousness, which is doing right, is the fruit God desires in our lives. When we do right, we glorify God; when we do wrong, we dishonor Him. Fruit is synonymous with righteousness.

There are two kinds of spiritual fruit: action fruit—which consists of giving, leading others to Christ, and expressing thanks to God—and attitude fruit. Galatians 5:22–23 describes attitude fruit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self–control.”

How do you get the right attitudes? Verse 25 says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” As you yield control of your life to the Holy Spirit, He will permeate your life and produce the proper fruit.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 63). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

February 20, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

1:16 and the stars. The immense universe that God created (see note on Isa. 40:25–26) is mentioned here only in a brief phrase, almost as if it were an afterthought. The focus of Genesis 1 is on the earth; the focus of the rest of the Bible is on man (male and female) as the pinnacle of God’s creation and the object of his great salvation.[1]


1:16 two great lights This refers to the sun and the moon, but the writer deliberately avoids the words “sun” (shemesh in Hebrew) and “moon” (yareach in Hebrew) that correspond to the names of West Semitic deities: Shamash and Yarik.[2]


1:16 two great lights. The sun and moon, principal deities in ancient Near Eastern pagan pantheons, are not even named, effectively demoting them and emphasizing that they serve mankind according to God’s design.

rule. The moving forms of the second triad of days seem to rule over the spheres that house and shelter them (1:3–31 note): the luminaries over the day and night (Ps. 136:7–9), the birds and fish over the sky and sea respectively, and the animals over the land and its vegetation with man over both.

the stars. Pagans often credited the stars (which were numbered among their gods) with controlling human destiny. Here they are mentioned almost in passing.[3]


1:16 As in vv. 14, 15, the term for lights can mean “luminaries.” The word can either designate the sun, which emits light, or the moon, which reflects light. He made the stars also: This is a remarkable statement. In the ancient Middle East, other religions worshiped, deified, and mystified the stars. Israel’s neighbors revered the stars and looked to them for guidance. In contrast, the biblical creation story gives the stars only the barest mention, as though the writer shrugged and said, “And, oh, yes. He also made the stars.” Such a statement showed great contempt for ancient Babylonian astrology (see Ps. 29; 93).[4]


1:15–18 two great lights … to separate the light from the darkness. It was God (not some other deity) who created the lights. Israel had originally come from Mesopotamia, where the celestial bodies were worshiped, and more recently from Egypt, where the sun was worshiped as a primary deity. God was revealing to them that the very stars, moons, and planets which Israel’s neighbors had worshiped were the products of His creation. Later, they became worshipers of the “host of heaven” (see note on 2Ki 17:16), which led to their being taken captive out of the Promised Land.[5]


1:14–19 / On the fourth day God brought into existence lights in the expanse of the sky, charging them with separating the day from the night and with marking seasons, days and years. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night (see Ps. 136:7–9; Jer. 31:35). God clearly defined the extent of the influence that these mighty heavenly bodies have on earthly life. One of their primary tasks is to announce the times, especially the times for holding the feasts that the law requires celebrating at “the appointed time” (e.g., Exod. 23:15; Lev. 23:4). These heavenly bodies were the main gods of various Semitic peoples, and so this description robs them of any divinity. For this reason the author used generic terms (“greater light,” “lesser light”) rather than names in describing their origin. God saw that these heavenly bodies were good.[6]


1:14–19. Day four included the sun to rule (govern, v. 16) the day and the moon and the stars to rule the night. Either these were created with apparent age, or they had been previously created and were then made visible on the earth on days one and two when God separated light from darkness and waters above from water below.

These heavenly bodies were to serve as signs for seasons and days and years (v. 14). These terms, as well as “day” and “night” in verse 5, are meaningless without the existence of the sun and the rotation of the planets.

In astrology unbelievers use stars and planets for guidance, but the Bible says they merely display the handiwork of God (Ps. 19:1). What folly to follow astrological charts of the Babylonians or worship the sun god in Egypt; rather, one should trust the One who made these objects in the heavens. However, many humans repeatedly reject the Creator to worship the Creation (Rom. 1:25).[7]


[1] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 50–51). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 1:16). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 8). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[4] The NKJV Study Bible. (2007). (Ge 1:16). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ge 1:15–18). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Hartley, J. E. (2012). Genesis. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (pp. 45–46). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[7] Ross, A. P. (1985). Genesis. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 29). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

FEBRUARY 20 INSTANT CHRISTIANITY

Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

—Philippians 3:16

It is hardly a matter of wonder that the country that gave the world instant tea and instant coffee should be the one to give it instant Christianity…. And it cannot be denied that it was American Fundamentalism that brought instant Christianity to the gospel churches….

Instant Christianity tends to make the faith act terminal and so smothers the desire for spiritual advance. It fails to understand the true nature of the Christian life, which is not static but dynamic and expanding. It overlooks the fact that a new Christian is a living organism as certainly as a new baby is, and must have nourishment and exercise to assure normal growth. It does not consider that the act of faith in Christ sets up a personal relationship between two intelligent moral beings, God and the reconciled man, and no single encounter between God and a creature made in His image could ever be sufficient to establish an intimate friendship between them….

Instant Christianity is twentieth-century orthodoxy. I wonder whether the man who wrote Philippians 3:7-16 would recognize it as the faith for which he finally died. I am afraid he would not. TIC023-025

Lord, keep me from falling into the patterns of instant Christianity. I want to participate in an ever-changing, ever-expanding relationship with You. Amen.[1]


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

February 20 The Measure of Grace

“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”

Romans 5:20

✧✧✧

God will lavish grace upon sinners who are truly repentant.

Did you ever sin so terribly that you felt, I really blew it this time. There’s no way God would want to forgive me now? It’s easy sometimes to let our past sins be a constant burden to us, even after we’ve confessed and repented. Paul has comfort for those who feel this way, and that comfort is founded on the power and measure of God’s grace to us.

Before his conversion, Paul (then known as Saul) persecuted the church mercilessly (see Acts 8:3 and 9:1–2). He was “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13; see also Gal. 1:13). If anyone could be beyond grace, it was Paul.

But God intervened and saved him (Acts 9:3–19). Why? “For this reason,” Paul says, “I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16). If God would forgive Paul, He will forgive anyone who will confess their sins and repent. If He would show abundant grace to a violent unbeliever, He will also shower grace upon His penitent children.

God is not stingy with grace. Paul celebrates God’s saving “grace, which He freely bestowed on us” (Eph 1:6), and “the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (vv. 7–8). Speaking of sustaining grace, Paul says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor. 9:8). Notice the words Paul uses: “all grace,” “abound,” “all sufficiency,” “everything,” “abundance,” “every good deed.” God’s grace is inexhaustible and is given so freely that words cannot express it fully.

Great sins require great grace, but God will give super–abundant grace to those who seek forgiveness, for “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). Don’t let your past sins weigh you down; learn to rest upon God’s super–abundant grace.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to teach you to understand His grace more fully and help you forget “what lies behind” (Phil. 3:13).

For Further Study: Read Romans 6. What is Paul’s argument here? ✧ How are we to live now that we have received God’s grace?[1]


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

February 19 Daily Help

AS a man does not make himself spiritually alive, so neither can he keep himself so. He can feed on spiritual food, and so preserve his spiritual strength; he can walk in the commandments of the Lord, and so enjoy rest and peace, but still the inner life is dependent upon the Spirit as much for its after existence as for its first begetting. No man himself, even when converted, hath any power, except as that power is daily, constantly, and perpetually infused into him by the Spirit.

The motive-power of action to a believing man lies hard by the realization that God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven his iniquities.[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 54). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

February 19, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

Remain

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. (20–21)

For those of us who are Christians to exercise discernment and protect ourselves from being led astray, we must remain on the path of sanctification. Doing so involves first building ourselves up on our most holy faith. We must become doctrinally strong if we would recognize error and effectively fight the battle for truth. The present, active participle translated building yourselves up has an imperatival sense—meaning it is not optional. Metaphorically, the idea of building up refers to personal edification and spiritual growth, and it implies the establishment of the firm foundation of sound doctrine. As in verse 3, the most holy faith is the objective body of biblical truth.

Practically speaking, edification centers on studying the Word of God and learning to apply it. In Acts 20:32 Paul tells the Ephesian elders, “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” All the ministries of the church should result in edification (Rom. 14:19; 1 Cor. 14:12, 26; Eph. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:11; cf. 1 Cor. 8:1). God gave the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers to proclaim His Word, which results in “the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11–12; cf. Col. 2:6–7). Peter wrote that believers should desire the Word for spiritual growth, just as babies desire milk for their physical nourishment (1 Peter 2:2). Along those same lines, the apostle John wrote that the spiritually strong believers, those capable of successfully waging effective warfare for the truth, are those in whom the Word of God abides (1 John 2:14).

A second essential element of sanctification involves praying in the Holy Spirit. That expression does not refer to speaking in tongues, but to praying for that which is consistent with the Spirit’s will—His desires, directives, and decrees. Although His will is revealed through the plain commands of Scripture (Deut. 17:19–20; Pss. 19:7, 11; 119:11, 105, 130; Prov. 6:23; Matt. 4:4; Luke 11:28; John 5:39; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; James 1:25), we as believers do not always know how to practically apply it to the various issues of life. Therefore the Holy Spirit intercedes for us before the Father with genuine sympathy and inexpressible fervor (Rom. 8:26–27). Of course, the Spirit’s will and the Father’s will—and even praying in Jesus’ name—are one and the same. When we pray in the Holy Spirit we submit ourselves to Him, rest on His wisdom, seek His will, and trust in His power (cf. John 14:14–17; 1 John 5:14–15).

As we who believe pursue sanctification, we must also keep ourselves in the love of God. This is a vitally important principle, and it means to remain in the sphere of God’s love, or the place of His blessing (Rom. 5:5; 8:39; 1 John 4:16). On a practical level, it means that we must stay obedient to God, since divine blessing is promised only within the sphere of obedience. As Jesus told the apostles:

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (John 15:9–11; cf. 1 John 2:5)

On the other hand, if we become disobedient, we move from a position of blessing to a position of chastisement (Heb. 12:3–11).

Finally, as we pursue sanctification, we Christians must be waiting anxiously for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. The verb translated waiting anxiously (prosdechomai) means “to wait for,” or “to welcome,” and connotes doing so with great expectancy. Thus we are to live with eternity in view as we eagerly anticipate the Lord’s return (1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2 Tim. 4:8; Titus 2:12–13; cf. 1 Peter 4:7; 2 Peter 3:11–13 and the commentary on these three verses in chapter 9 of this volume). On that great future day, all of us who have trusted in Him will experience Christ’s final mercy and enjoy the fullness of eternal life (cf. Rom. 2:7; 1 Tim. 6:12; 1 John 5:13) as we experience the resurrection and glorification of our bodies (John 5:24; 17:3; Rom. 5:17; 2 Tim. 1:10; 1 John 5:20; cf. Dan. 7:18).[1]


20–21 How is it that Jude’s burden is refracted pastorally? Four admonitions are linked together to underscore the believer’s responsibility: (1) building yourselves up in your most holy faith, (2) praying in the Holy Spirit, (3) keep yourselves in God’s love, and (4) anticipating the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Several features of this fourfold admonition—edifying, praying, remaining, and awaiting—strike the reader. One is the involvement of the Trinity. Each person of the Godhead is at work; the Spirit aids the prayer life, God the Father bestows love, and Christ the Lord dispenses mercy. Another notable feature is the recurrence in v. 21 of the catchword “keep” (tēreō, GK 5498). Of the four verbs in vv. 20–21, three are participial—“building,” “praying,” “awaiting”—and one is imperative—“keep.” The believers are to remain rooted in the love of God. While it is God who calls and initiates (v. 1) and in the end preserves (v. 24), the emphasis here is clearly on human responsibility. Obedience is the fundamental imperative.

Furthermore, the believer anticipates mercy to be revealed in Jesus Christ. Here again we encounter in Jude the link between eschatology and ethics. And it is by Jesus, through whom mercy was originally extended, that final judgment will be meted out. Jesus is no less than the sovereign Lord; mercy and judgment rest in his hand. In addition, the believer demonstrates the genuine presence of the Holy Spirit, in contrast to Jude’s opponents (v. 19), by cultivating a rich prayer life. Life in the Spirit is carried out not by inflated claims but by dependence on God and corresponding fruit.

The fourth admonition, listed first in most English translations, draws from a metaphor quite common in early Christian tradition (e.g., Mt 16:18; Ac 15:16; 1 Co 3:9–15; 2 Co 6:16; Gal 2:9; Eph 2:19–22; Col 2:7; 1 Pe 2:5; cf. 2 Pe 1:5): “building yourselves up in your most holy faith.” This foundation of faith, on which the Christian community is built, is “most holy.” The contrast between the faithful and the unfaithful, the holy and the defiled, is painted in the strongest terms. The saints have been morally transformed; this is the hallmark of the church in a pagan culture.

Reflections

Taken together, these four admonitions, far from advocating passivity, are meant to incite the Christian community as it deals with the cancer of apostasy. They represent tangible means of reaffirming the foundation of faith imparted to them at the outset of their spiritual pilgrimage. A fresh commitment to the spiritual “first things” will allow them to deal with those individuals who pose a threat to the life of the Christian community.[2]


21 / Jude exhorts his readers, Keep yourselves in God’s love. That love was responsible for their call to faith in the first place (v. 1). But believers have their part to play. They must continue to respond to God’s love (John 15:9–10; Rom. 8:35–39; 1 John 4:16) and thereby maintain and strengthen their relationship with him. The false teachers have demonstrated that it is all too possible to turn away from God’s love (Rev. 2:4) and as a consequence to cool in their love for others.

Persistence is called for in this matter, as in so many other aspects of the Christian life. The final outcome for believers is assured, and this certain hope is referred to by the words as you wait. Yet this expectant attitude toward the future must be balanced. “If too great attention is paid to the future hope, the Christian tends to become so other-worldly that he is not much use in this world. If, however, as is the greater danger today, the future element is soft-pedalled, Christianity becomes a mere religious adjunct to the social services” (Green, p. 185).

All God’s gifts to the believer are due to the divine mercy, a note struck in the opening prayer (v. 1). God has committed the final judgment to the Lord Jesus Christ (John 5:22), and it is he who will bring you to eternal life, for that life is his gift (John 17:2). It begins in this world, and will be known in all its fullness in the next.[3]


Contending for the faith: the Christian

Jude 20–21

When Jude began his letter, he said that although his original intention was to write a general letter about ‘the salvation we share’, he had narrowed down his concern to ‘urge you to contend for the faith’ (verse 3). By ‘salvation’ and ‘faith’ he meant the same Christian message, of course; but his different words and emphases show his apprehension over the disturbances that were occurring in the churches. ‘Salvation’ is the great future hope of Jesus’ return as Saviour, but that hope was being undermined by those who did not ‘share’ it with Jude or his faithful readers. Similarly, ‘the faith’ is the fixed Christian gospel, but it was being eroded by those who denied that it was given to the church ‘once for all’, and instead felt free to ‘change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality’ (verse 4).

When we are faced with similar pressures today to alter basic Christian doctrine or behaviour, how do we respond? Some are tempted to ignore them and hope they will wither away with time. They would argue that although the church has always been beset by false teachers, God has preserved true teaching, and so we should not be unduly alarmist. Instead, we should concentrate on affirming our fellowship. This is naïve in Jude’s eyes, for he says that these people are all too ready to meet in a hollow mockery of fellowship. In the long run, however, they are not loved back into the way of truth, but prove to be ‘blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm’ (verse 12). Evasion will not work.

Others suggest that we need the stress on experience, inner conviction and certainty, married to Jude’s passion for truth and structure. The difference, they say, is not between truth and heresy, but between personalities and values. But such a warm approach, which would be welcomed by the false teachers, effectively removes any authority from Jude’s writing and means that we stand over, not under, his authority.

Yet others find the mere presence of false teaching in a church so alarming that the only course of action is immediate evacuation into other, purer churches. That may solve the problem in the short term; but in this letter Jude is warning that a liberalizing danger will always threaten churches, and the pure church of one generation faces the very real danger of becoming the heretical church of the next. Evasion, even-handedness and evacuation are not answers to error.

That is a hard word for today, as our inter-church philosophy is very often the reverse of Jude’s insights. We may say that although we differ in precise points of theology, we aim to meet in unity around the Lord’s Supper. The World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order Paper on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry says: ‘The eucharist shows us that our behaviour is inconsistent in face of the reconciling presence of God in human history: we are placed under continual judgment by the persistence of unjust relationships of all kinds in our society, the manifold divisions on account of human pride, material interest and power politics and, above all, the obstinacy of unjustifiable confessional oppositions within the body of Christ.’ Jude would not deny that the Lord’s Supper is a powerful uniting symbol, for he calls it a ‘love feast’; but he would question the assumption that doctrinal differences are by definition unjustifiable, or that such differences must disappear before the more powerful symbol of the shared meal. Jude does not call us to unity at the price of doctrine. He does indeed call us to unity in ‘the salvation we share’, but also calls us to ‘contend for the faith’ (verse 3).

So far, Jude has explained only why we should ‘contend for the faith’, the reason being that it is under the attack we should expect. In this final section of six verses, he tells us how to contend, setting out the three steps which are necessary if we are to do so. First (verses 20–21), we must take care of ourselves, ensuring that we are correctly centred on God and his gospel. Secondly (verses 22–23), we have certain responsibilities to those who are falling foul of wrong teaching. Thirdly (verses 24–25), we must keep our eyes firmly fixed on the great future which God has promised us. Richard Bauckham properly says that these verses are ‘not an appendix to the letter but its climax’.

This chapter deals with the first of these aspects of contending for the faith. In a series of four pieces of pastoral wisdom which are designed to be an effective remedy against spiritual danger, Jude urges us to keep a watch on ourselves and on one another. They all involve activities for which we are responsible, but they also involve the active work of God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

  1. Build yourselves up in your most holy faith (20a)

The faith, as we have continually seen in Jude’s letter, is that body of doctrine which Christians have believed from the earliest days of the church. Of course, Christians have explored it and expressed it in different ways for different times, but from the outset there has always been a recognizable, defensible gospel. Paul wrote in what is probably the earliest New Testament letter: ‘If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!… I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.’ Because it is not a figment of our collective imaginations, but comes as a direct message from the throne of God himself, it is most holy and it has the power to make those who believe it into ‘saints’ (verse 3; literally ‘holy ones’). In the Old Testament, anything which belonged to the holy God was automatically holy, and the punishment for stealing it or maltreating it was the death penalty at God’s own hand. Jude has already shown what must happen to those who hijack the most holy faith that God has entrusted to us.

We are not to be so fearful of the awesomeness of this faith that we make the error of treating it like a fragile antique vase, which must be kept locked up and guarded for its own safety. When the Bible urges us to defend the gospel, it tells us to do so by teaching it fearlessly. We are to have a reverent but robust confidence in it and take practical steps to build ourselves up in it. Growing as Christians, and growing more closely together as Christians, are duties which New Testament writers frequently compare to the constant productive activity of a building site. Jude’s desire, then, would not be fulfilled by formulating a short doctrinal basis and then defending it against all comers. Such bases may be useful, but they can be no more than summaries of the wonderful comprehensiveness and interrelatedness of Scripture. Jude wants to see the whole of our lives—that is, our intellects, actions, consciences, motives and imaginations—brought increasingly into conformity to God’s Word. This is a life-long activity; he says literally that we are to ‘keep on building’. It is also a corporate activity; he instructs his readers to build yourselves up, a plural which indicates that we are involved not in a solo spiritual quest but in a common concern and love. The first sigh that a Christian is in danger of falling away is a tendency to be a loner, cut off from sources of encouragement and nurture. In a Christian leader, such isolation can mean a dangerous lack of accountability. If we have friends who are physically distant from other Christians, we should make the effort to ensure that they are still spiritually ‘plugged in’; and if we have friends who are failing to use the supports that God has provided in the church, we should gently try to win them back. Jude saw Christians drifting away from genuine fellowship into the arms of the heretics, and he wants to warn us that it is dangerous to be a solo Christian. A brick cannot be built into the building unless it is on the building site.

  1. Pray in the Holy Spirit (20b)

This is the second time Jude has mentioned the Holy Spirit. He has told us that the counterfeit Christian leaders ‘do not have the Spirit’ (verse 19), and now he tells the genuine Christians to pray in the Holy Spirit. Despite what the counterfeits were probably saying, there is no such person as a Christian who does not have the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit is God’s gift to the church at Pentecost and to each of us when we are converted. The false message had spread that there are lower-class Christians, who are saved but still lack the Spirit; and upper-class Christians who have a higher level of spiritual awareness. Jude has turned that argument on its head, for the people who teach that kind of doctrine actually demonstrate that they have not even been converted! Of course, the Bible teaches that we need to be filled with the Spirit, but that is a continual requirement for all Christians. It is not a rebuke to a sub-standard group.

Part of the Holy Spirit’s promised work is to make us aware of the gap between the way things should be and the way things are, as understood from the Bible. When we are aware of it on a personal level, we call that experience conviction of sin. When we are aware of it in another person, we may realize that he or she needs to understand a particular Christian truth in order to become a Christian or a better Christian, and we call that experience love. When we are aware of it in a church or an organization, it might take any one of a number of forms. We might want to take a range of actions, but our first and most constant response must be to pray for that gap to narrow, especially when the problem is prayerlessness. Calvin comments wisely: ‘Such is the coldness of our make-up that none can succeed in praying as he ought without the prompting of the Spirit of God.’

It is important to understand that Jude is not rebuking them for praying in a wrong, fleshly way and encouraging them to a higher mode of praying, as if there was a category of praying ‘out of’ the Spirit as well as in the … Spirit. J. D. G. Dunn is among those who have argued that case here. He sees that Jude is undermining a two-tier Christianity; Jude ‘castigates his opponents as “worldly-minded, lacking the Spirit” … clearly they have laid claim to be pneumatichoi [spiritual], denying the epithet to others. Jude will have none of this.’ But then Professor Dunn slips into the same two-tier error that he has just said Jude wants to deny. Jude’s ‘aim seems to be to achieve the same sort of charismatic balance that Paul strives for in 1 Cor. 14. A reference to charismatic prayer, including glossolalic prayer [prayer in tongues], may therefore be assumed.’ But to say that Jude is encouraging speaking in tongues here, and that it ‘may be assumed’, is to misread him wildly. There is no evidence of that issue being anywhere in Jude’s field of vision. Only if we come to this passage having already decided that pray in the Holy Spirit means using charismatic gifts will we reach that conclusion. But that is to import into the text a preferred meaning that it cannot be proved to carry. Jude just wants us to pray.

In the context of the issue which Jude says faces us, our prayer for ourselves and one another will be that we may not deviate from our faith and hope. For new Christians we shall pray that they will put down good and healthy roots; for our teachers and leaders, that they will not be led into error and so lead us into error; and for those who have fallen into error, that they may come back—or even be converted.

  1. Keep yourselves in God’s love (21a)

God’s basic attitude towards humankind is his love, by which Jude means the strong passion he has to save us from his rightful indignation at our disobedience. He has given us promises of salvation, and the correct response of his covenant people to his covenant love is to echo his love by our obedience. There are always two sides to this. On one side, as Paul found out, ‘Christ’s love compels us’15 as an inexorable force, and he prayed that the Ephesians might ‘grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ’. But on the other side, Jesus warned us to ‘remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.’17 Although God’s love towards us is fixed and promised in his covenant, then, it is possible for us to position ourselves outside it, and instead to face his anger.

Jude has written about both sides of God’s love. He opened his letter by telling us that we are ‘loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ’ (verse 1), and now as he closes he tells us to keep ourselves in God’s love. We know from his letter that the way we do this is by ensuring that we are constantly obeying God. If we want to know what happens to those who do not keep themselves in God’s love, we need look no further than the examples of the Israelites in the desert, the angels, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, Balaam and Korah. If we want to see the present counterparts of those people and places, we need only look at those who behave in the same way and share their mocking attitude to God’s law.

  1. Wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ (21b)

Christianity makes sense only if the promises God makes are kept. God gave the Old Testament believers wonderful promises about what he would do, and they responded to him by patiently and faithfully waiting. Micah saw that all around him the Israelites were deserting the covenant. ‘But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me.’ The New Testament opens with the hope being kept alive as Zechariah led the temple worshippers in prayer for the Messiah to come. And when the baby Jesus was brought to the temple for the first time, he was recognized by Simeon, who had been ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’, and by Anna, who ‘spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel’. Once Jesus had made it clear that he was going back to heaven and would return only later, it became the turn of his disciples to behave ‘like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him’.20Jude urges us to wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring us to eternal life. This indicates that only God’s final intervention in our world will ultimately prove that God’s Word is true, and that it is his great gift to those who believe it. We do of course enter into eternal life now as Christians, but what we experience in this life is largely dominated by a battle because we are still waiting for our new resurrection bodies. Paul wrote that ‘the whole creation has been groaning … right up to the present time’. Christians ‘groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’. Even the Holy Spirit himself ‘intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express’. It is important to realize how supremely right it is that creation, Christians and even God himself ‘groan’ in this way. God’s promises are still waiting for their final fulfilment, and Christians pin their destiny on the future rather than the present.

Jude’s prescription has involved the Christians with the living Trinity: they obediently keep themselves in God’s love, pray in the Holy Spirit and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a powerful and effective antidote to the poison of the people Jude opposes. For their part, they wilfully ‘change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality’ (verse 4); they cannot pray because they ‘do not have the Spirit’ (verse 19); and they rebelliously ‘deny Jesus Christ’ (verse 4). Jude’s opponents would not find themselves ‘groaning’ as they battle to be holy. Instead, they grumble (verse 16), complaining that God places such heavy demands on them. They long to produce selfish cries of delight as they ‘follow their own evil desires’ (verse 16). Will they have any hope of mercy on that day? Only if we take some action towards them, as Jude is about to tell us.[4]


20–21. Knowing the reality of false teachers, how do we safeguard ourselves against them? The niv seems to suggest three instructions, but the Greek gives us four participles: building, praying, keeping, and expecting. To arm ourselves against false teachers, we must (1) build yourselves up in your most holy faith, (2) pray in the Holy Spirit, (3) keep yourselves in God’s love, and (4) wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

To build oneself up in the most holy faith means to grow spiritually. Fundamental to such growth is to learn as much as possible of the truth of Scripture and to set one’s life to believe and obey it. The most holy faith is that which was once for all entrusted to the saints (v. 3). It embodied the teaching of Jesus and the apostles and is now recorded in the Scriptures. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). If we want to be trained in righteousness and equipped for every good work, we must make the Scriptures a central part of our lives.

Praying in the Holy Spirit is not necessarily a reference to speaking in tongues but may include this as one part of prayer (see John 4:23–24; Rom. 8:15–16; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 6:18). Rather, it refers to praying under the direction and influence of the Holy Spirit, trusting him to intercede for us with “groans that words cannot express” (Rom. 8:26). The how of praying may not be so much in focus here as the need for life in the Spirit which the false teachers did not have (v. 19). They did not have the Spirit because they did not pray for the Spirit and did not let the Spirit guide them in their prayers. Those who build themselves up in faith do so not by mystic journeys to the heavens or by self-glorying speech but by spending time with the Holy Spirit.

Keeping oneself in God’s love does not suggest that our salvation depends on our own effort, but rather that we live in faith and obedience to God. Repeatedly in his Gospel and in his first epistle, John reminds us that if we love God, we keep his commandments (John 15:10; 1 John 3:24). So keeping ourselves in God’s love must include keeping God’s commandments from the heart (Rom. 6:17). Keeping those commandments finds its ultimate expression in love of the brothers (1 John 3:14; cf. 1 Thess. 4:10; 1 Pet. 1:22; 3:8).

To wait for the mercy of our Lord … to bring eternal life probably refers primarily to the hope of Christ’s return. Jesus might come at any moment. Titus 2:13 captures the idea: the “blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Waiting in hope infuses all of life with expectancy and the desire to do all that Jesus expects of us so we will have no shame when he returns. This expectant waiting is a fourth means of building ourselves up.

Even if Jesus doesn’t come in our lifetime, when we die and go into the presence of the Lord, we will receive his mercy and eternal life. That promise should be enough to motivate us to resist false teachers and to obey Christ by building ourselves up through prayer, love, and hope.[5]


21. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

  • “Keep yourselves in God’s love.” Of the four Christian virtues enumerated in this passage, Jude introduces the third, namely, love. Amid the uncertainties, difficulties, and temptations that surround the believers, Jude admonishes them to keep themselves within the circle of God’s love and literally to stay in that sphere. Christians are recipients of this love when they strive to do God’s will by loving him with heart, soul, and mind and by loving their neighbor as themselves (see Matt. 22:37–39).

The phrase the love of God can mean either God’s love for man or man’s love for God. Even though the choice is difficult to make, the context seems to favor God’s love for man. As Jude states in the salutation in verse 1, the readers “are loved by God the Father” (also compare John 15:9–10; 1 John 2:5). God comes to man and surrounds him with divine love; in response man comes to God with human love.

  • “As you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the fourth Christian virtue Jude introduces: hope. Granted that the word itself is not in the text, we know that the context clearly expresses the idea. To hope and to wait eagerly are twin concepts to which the text, in effect, testifies. The text literally says: “As you are waiting with anticipation.” For instance, this expression also is used to describe our expectation of the resurrection (Acts 24:15), the prospect of eternal glory (Thus 2:13), and servants who await the return of their master (Luke 12:36).

A Christian waits with eager expectation for the day of judgment in which Christ’s mercy will acquit him. In other words, the text calls attention to the judgment day when all believers will experience “the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ,” but all the wicked will receive their just reward. Notice that Jude once again (see v. 17) refers to Jesus as “our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is, the believers who acknowledge him as their Lord and Savior know that he grants them eternal life.

  • “To bring you to eternal life.” In this last phrase Jude summarizes the work of the Trinity (God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Lord Jesus Christ) and the result of four Christian virtues (faith, prayer, love, and hope). Believers have everlasting fellowship with God when they experience the fullness of eternal life in his presence.[6]

21Then again believers are to keep themselves in the love of God. Here the love of God can be compared to the sunshine. The sun is always shining. But when something comes between us and the sun, we are no longer in the sunshine. That’s the way it is with the love of God. It is always beaming down upon us. But if sin comes between us and the Lord, then we are no longer enjoying His love in practice. We can keep ourselves in His love first of all by lives of holiness and godliness. And if sin should come between, then we should confess and forsake that sin immediately. The secret is to let nothing come between us and God.

Nothing between my soul and the Savior, Naught of this world’s delusive dream; Nothing preventing the least of His favor, Keep the way clear, let nothing between.

Charles A. Tindley

Finally, we should be eagerly looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. The mercy of our Lord here refers to His imminent return to take His people home to heaven. In days of darkness and apostasy, we are to keep the light of the blessed hope burning in our hearts. It will prove a comforting and purifying hope (1 Thess. 4:18; 1 Jn. 3:3).[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (pp. 200–201). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Charles, D. J. (2006). Jude. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 566). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Hillyer, N. (2011). 1 and 2 Peter, Jude (p. 264). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Lucas, R. C., & Green, C. (1995). The message of 2 Peter & Jude: the promise of His coming (pp. 218–224). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[5] Walls, D., & Anders, M. (1999). I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude (Vol. 11, pp. 266–267). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[6] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, p. 406). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[7] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2345). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

February 19: Ancient Words, Future Hope

Leviticus 4:1–6:30; John 7:14–44, Song of Solomon 5:13–16

Atonement is appealing because we all have relationships we wish we could reconcile. The 12-step program involves forgiving and forging renewed relationships when possible. But the story with God is different. There’s an acute awareness that we can’t fix things with our Creator; we need someone or something else to do it for us.

Jesus is described as the atonement, the sacrifice, and the perfect offering. But what do these terms actually mean? In Leviticus 5:14–6:30, we learn what it means for Jesus to be a guilt offering: He takes the guilt of the people, incurred through their sinful acts, and takes it upon Himself. He becomes the “ram without defect from the flock” (Lev 6:6).

Jesus takes the stage as the Suffering Servant in Isa 52:13–53:12, fulfilling the events it prophesies. Isaiah 53:10 reads, “If she places [the servant’s] life a guilt offering, he will see offspring, he will prolong days. And the will of Yahweh is in his hand, it will succeed” (my translation).

When He is arrested, Jesus understands that He is on His way to die at the hands of His own people (the “she” in Isaiah is “Jerusalem” or “Zion”). Matthew notes, “But all this has happened in order that the scriptures of the prophets would be fulfilled” (Matt 26:56). Jesus acknowledges it by saying, “the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners!” (Matt 26:45). This echoes Isaiah 53:3: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of suffering, and acquainted with sickness, and like one from whom others hide their faces, he was despised, and we did not hold him in high regard.”

Leviticus seems archaic until it is put into this perspective. The oddities of this ancient book give us a connection to Jesus. He is the fulfillment of all Israel hoped for. Isn’t this the same in our lives? At first it might seem like the events are somehow disconnected or distant from God and His works. But upon a second glance—in retrospect—we see they’re a foundation for hope.

In what areas of your life do you need to connect with God’s work? What does the interaction between ancient law, prophecy, and Jesus’ life teach you about God and His work in our lives?

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.