Category Archives: James Montgomery Boice

January 13 Wednesday: Grace to the Chief of Sinners | Think And Act Biblically by Dr. James Boice

Theme: Knowing Christ Alone

In this week’s lessons, we look at how Paul viewed himself apart from Christ, and the great change that took place because of God’s mercy.

Scripture: 1 Timothy 1:12-20

But then we come to Philippians 3:7, which shows us the great change that took place in Paul’s life. Before, as a legalistic Pharisee, he looked at all his supposed advantages—all those things that contributed to his working so hard to stamp out the church’s teaching about Jesus—and he concluded that they were a loss to him spiritually instead of a profit as he previously believed. Once he encountered the Lord Jesus Christ on his way to Damascus and was converted, Paul came to understand his real condition before the holy God. Looking at his own understanding of what righteousness was, he came to see it as filthy rags because it kept him from Christ and led him to persecute the very thing that God was doing in this world.

I think what Paul is doing in this passage in Philippians is using a metaphor from banking or accounting. In talking about gain and loss, it’s as if he were looking at his life as if it were a balance sheet. One could imagine a big line down the middle, with a column of assets on one side and one of liabilities on the other. One would get to heaven by getting more in the column of assets than you had in the column of liabilities. Or you could think of it in terms of a scale. After putting all the good works on one side and bad deeds on the other, which side would be heavier?

Paul listed all those items he thought were assets, but when he finally saw Christ as he really is, Paul realized that they were actually liabilities. Paul was trusting in all these things to please God instead of trusting in Christ. Figuratively speaking, what Paul then did was to take all these things he used to think were assets, and move them into the column of liabilities. Finally, he put into the assets column Jesus Christ alone.

That’s what salvation is. Nobody has ever been saved in any other way. We sing it in one of our hymns:

Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling;

naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace;

foul, I to the Fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.

If you can sing this hymn in faith, understanding it and affirming what it says, and living out its truths, then you have done what Paul has done. God will indeed hide, cleanse and clothe all those who come to him, utterly dependent on his mercy and grace. This is why Paul doesn’t minimize doctrine. It is in these truths that we have found newness of life. We go from being enemies of God who work against his cause, and become those who are willing to suffer for his sake in order to live for him and communicate that same gospel to other perishing men and women.

Let me point out something else too. Paul came to that understanding of what he was in himself, apart from the grace of God, and what he had become in Jesus Christ. He did not go on from that point to become more and more self-righteous. As he entered into this process of growing in the Christian life, he progressed in an understanding of God and his nature, as well as of himself and his sin. He recognized himself not to be increasingly righteous, but increasingly sinful.

Study Questions:

  1. What did Paul come to conclude about his religious position and practice apart from Christ? Why?
  2. What does it mean to come to God with empty hands? Why do we have an inherent problem with coming to God in this way?

Prayer: Do you struggle in any way with pride in your Christian life? Ask the Lord to humble you and see yourself as you really are.

For Further Study: Download and listen for free to Philip Ryken’s message, “The Friend of Sinners.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

Source: Wednesday: Grace to the Chief of Sinners | Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (thinkandactbiblically.org)

July 2 Monday: All Good Gifts from Our Good God

By James Boice on Jul 02, 2018 12:00 am

Psalm 65 is an extraordinary, exquisite poem about nature. But it is also predominantly about the God of nature, who is gracious to man, powerful in his acts and the source of all nature’s bounty—which is what we would expect of a song written by David, the great poet of Israel.

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June 29 Friday: Sudden Destruction for the Wicked

By James Boice on Jun 29, 2018 12:00 am

For five verses the wicked have been hatching their nefarious plots against King David. They have done it secretly, cunningly and with mutual bucking one another up and with encouragement. They have reached the point of congratulating themselves on their efforts, saying, “We have devised a perfect plan” and “Who will see us?” But suddenly, just when they think they have succeeded brilliantly, God, who has been watching it all from heaven, launches his bolt against them and quickly brings them down. Indeed, they have been in his sights all along, and it does not require a quiver full of arrows to destroy them. One arrow does the job.

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June 28 Thursday: Sudden Destruction for the Wicked

By James Boice on Jun 28, 2018 12:00 am

Yesterday we were talking about two of the five different things that psalm 64 verses 2 through 6 examine. Today we’ll continue with the remaining three. Remember that we are called upon to fight the Lord’s battles with the Lord’s weapons, not the weapons of the world. The world’s weapons are money, power, influence. Our weapons are the Word of God and prayer. It is said of the warfare of the saints against Satan in Revelation, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Rev. 12:11).

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June 27 Wednesday: Sudden Destruction for the Wicked

By James Boice on Jun 27, 2018 12:00 am

As noted in the introduction, this psalm spends most of its time on the wicked who are attacking David, rather than on God. The result is that we are provided with a helpful study of this particular kind of evil. Looking carefully at verses 2-6, we find them analyzing: 1) the nature of this evil; 2) the weapons of these evil people; 3) their methods; 4) their plans; and 5) their fierce but complacent pride. We’ll look at the first two of these today and the last three tomorrow.

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June 26 Tuesday: Sudden Destruction for the Wicked

By James Boice on Jun 26, 2018 12:00 am

The psalm begins by David asking God to hear his complaint. In our ears the word “complaint” has a negative sound, because we associate it with complaining and we don’t like people who complain. But that is not the sense in which complaint occurs here. Here the word refers to a formal allegation, in this case against the wicked by one who is being unjustly treated by them.

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June 25 Monday: Sudden Destruction for the Wicked

By James Boice on Jun 25, 2018 12:00 am

It is not very often that David finishes a psalm without mentioning his enemies. There are exceptions, of course, but not many, and sometimes the references occur in the least expected places. Psalm 23 pictures God as David’s loving and wise shepherd. But do you remember verse 5? Verse 5 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” The fact that David mentions his enemies so often gives some idea of how many enemies he had and what his life as the king of Israel was like.

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June 21 Friday: A Love Better Than Life

By James Boice on Jun 22, 2018 12:00 am

The last three verses of the psalm look to the future and express David’s confidence that in time his enemies will be destroyed, the mouths of those who have slandered him will be silenced, and he will again be openly praising God with others who also love and seek him.

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June 20 Wednesday: A Love Better Than Life

By James Boice on Jun 20, 2018 12:00 am

About a thousand years after these words were written, David’s greater descendant Jesus Christ said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). David did not know these specific words, of course. But he did know the reality of them since he elaborates this idea in the next section (vv. 2-8).

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June 19 Tuesday: A Love Better Than Life

By James Boice on Jun 19, 2018 12:00 am

There are various ways of outlining the eleven verses of this psalm. They can be found in the various commentaries. The New International Version is probably right on track, however, when it sets verse 1 off as a stanza to itself. This is because the verse expresses the longing of David’s soul for God and because the next section (vv. 2-8) describes how that longing has been answered in the past and is being honored in the present.

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June 18 Monday: A Love Better Than Life

By James Boice on Jun 18, 2018 12:00 am

There are three types of people in any Christian gathering. There are those who are followers of Jesus Christ in name only, which means that they are Christians in name only. They seem to be following after God and Christ and say they are, but theirs is a false following, like that of the five foolish virgins who did not truly know the Lord and were rejected by him. The second class are those who are following Jesus but are following “at a distance,” like Peter at the time of Jesus’ arrest. The third type are those who, as Murdoch Campbell suggests, “in storm and sunshine, cleave to him and enjoy daily communion with him.”1 These people want God, and they want him intensely, because they know that he and he alone will satisfy the deep longing of their souls. David was a person who desired God above everything else, and Psalm 63 is a classic expression of his longing.

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June 15 Friday: Rest in God Alone

By James Boice on Jun 15, 2018 12:00 am

The last two verses of Psalm 62 are intended as a summary of what David has been learning, but they also go a step beyond it, as biblical statements often do. Bible truths are seldom mere repetitions or summaries. In this case, David says that he has learned two lessons: namely, that God is strong and that God is loving.

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June 14 Thursday: Rest in God Alone

By James Boice on Jun 14, 2018 12:00 am

If we are to divide the psalm into three stanzas, marked by the selahs at the end of verses 4 and 8, then the last stanza (vv. 9-12) echoes the first in that each is about both God and man. The first is about God and David’s enemies, in that order. The third is about mankind in general and God. So the matter is the same but the order is reversed.

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June 13 Wednesday: Rest in God Alone

By James Boice on Jun 13, 2018 12:00 am

David knew that he was fixed on the rock, and that he would never be shaken. Yes, but still he had to keep trusting, and he knew how variable and weak the faith of a man in God can be. This is what we find emphasized in the second of the psalm’s stanzas. David had trusted God. But now he also: 1) encourages himself to continue to trust God (vv. 5-7), and 2) urges the people to trust God too (v. 8).

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June 12 Tuesday: Rest in God Alone

By James Boice on Jun 12, 2018 12:00 am

The first stanza (vv. 1-4) introduces us to the three interacting agents in the psalm: God, the psalmist and the psalmist’s enemies. His enemies are trying to throw him down, as I indicated, but David is trusting God who is his “rock,” his “salvation” and his “fortress” (v. 2). The critical point is that David is trusting in God only or in God alone.

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June 11 Monday: Rest in God Alone

By James Boice on Jun 11, 2018 12:00 am

Do you ever feel like an endangered species? If we are to believe what we read in the papers, there are a lot of endangered species these days, and there are many powerful organizations that have been brought into existence to try to save them. There are endangered whales, endangered seals, endangered plants and animals, even the endangered snail darter that held up a major hydroelectric project in the south for many years. When we are discouraged, depressed or threatened we sometimes feel that we too are one of these endangered species and that we are soon going to be destroyed, wiped out or forgotten.

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June 8 Friday: The Rock That Is Higher Than I

By James Boice on Jun 08, 2018 12:00 am

As we look back over Psalm 61 we are reminded that David began it feeling that he was at “the ends of the earth,” that is, far from God. But as he thought about God and prayed to him he drew closer to God and grew in confidence until he ends actually expecting to be established in Jerusalem, his capital, for many days and many generations. That is something to praise God for. And that, quite naturally, is how the psalm ends: “Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day.”

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June 7 Thursday: The Rock That Is Higher Than I

By James Boice on Jun 07, 2018 12:00 am

In verses 6 and 7 the psalmist apparently ceases to pray for himself and prays instead that God will “increase the days of the king’s life, his years for many generations,” that he will be “enthroned in God’s presence forever” and that God will appoint his “love and faithfulness to protect him.” At first glance, it seems that another hand has added these words, perhaps at a later date, and that is the way many commentators have understood them. Yet it can also be argued that David is writing about himself as king, merely switching to the third from the first person for stylistic effect. The last verse seems to imply this since it returns to the first person, promising that the speaker will praise God if the earlier petition is answered. David could do that if God prolonged his reign for generations.

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June 6 Wednesday: The Rock That Is Higher Than I

By James Boice on Jun 06, 2018 12:00 am

What I want us to notice about Psalm 61 today is that its second stanza adds to the image of God as David’s rock by four metaphors that elaborate what God is to his trusting people. God is so great that any number of images might be provided at this point. What is significant about these four images is that they are arranged to become increasingly warm and intimate.

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