Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Great Demise Of The Monster Death

There is no event more solemn and weighty than a death. Yet it is a wonder that people regard death without much thought, even joking about it. Some people kill without much of a thought to what they are doing. Murder is just a statistic for some. But when you really know what comes after death, it becomes a very serious event.

  Death is not a native to this world. When Adam and Eve lived in Eden, there was no death. But after they sinned, death come into the world. People die because they are sinful. "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." Rom 5:12. Now in this sinful world, death has become normal. We can't imagine a world without dying. While it is normal, it is still a shadow that haunts the lives of every person, even when they make jokes about it. In Hebrew 2:15, it says that Jesus died to destroy death and Satan "and to deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery." People live all their lives in fear of death. Why? Well, God has put eternity in the hearts of all men. Eccles 3:11. That means that God has put into all people the sense that life doesn't end with death. We know that there is an afterlife. This is seen in all the different ideas of heaven or hell among all nations. Combine this with the God-given conscience which warns people that they are guilty, and you will understand why people are afraid of death. With death we seem to plunge into the unknown. Is there judgement to come for us?  We can try avoid death, but it will come to us. We can delay death but we can't escape it. It will hunt us down and we will all be caught in its net. But is there no hope? Is there real hope and not just fairy tales make up by people? In Isaiah 25:8, God gives us hope that death will die and with that all sorrow.

In the chapter that comes before Isaiah 25, we read of a worldwide judgement. There will come a day when God will pour out His wrath on a sin-defiled world. The earth will be almost emptied of people and shaken and broken. The evil spirits and unrepentant sinners will be cast into prison for a long time until judgement. The Lord will reign over all the world from Mount Zion. In chapter 25, Isaiah sings a song of praise on behalf of those who will be saved from that judgement. In verse 6 he describes the glorious feast that God will prepare for those whom He saved. Then we come to verses 7 and 8 which speak of the death of death. Consider verse 8, "He will swallow up death forever;" Death will one day disappear. How can this happen?

We learn the answer to this question in 1 Corinthians 15:4. Paul quotes this text in Isaiah there. "When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to the pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' 'O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor 15:54-57.  Jesus won the victory over death by his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection. He is the great Champion, the Conqueror. Not even death can stand before Him.  Now He can give eternal life to all those that come to Him for grace and mercy. Jesus died their death and has wiped away all their sins. Death has no power over them. The sting of death has been thrust onto Christ, so now for the redeemed, there is no sting in death.  For those who are forgiven, death is now a door into a new world of perfect joy. In the new heavens and the new earth, there will no more death at all. For after the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ upon this earth, all the dead will be judged. Along with the unredeemed, death and Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire; the second death. Rev 20:14-15 So the victory that was begun with the death and resurrection of Christ, will be completed.

With death, sin, evil and the devil will all be removed from earth and so there will no more tears. We cry at the death of those we love. We weep over our sins or over the sins of others. We may cry in our pain and trials. But here in this new world, there are none of the things that cause us to cry. The Lord will wipe away all our tears. He will as it were comfort us, like a father who holds his crying child and wipes away his tears with his hand and softly says  "All is well now. There is nothing to be afraid of." Likewise, " the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces," Isaiah 25:8. This expression is used of those believers who have suffered on earth but are now in heaven in Rev 7:17. It is also used of the new heavens and the new earth in Revelation 21:4. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

  If you won't repent of your sins and beg forgiveness of Jesus Christ, all you have to look forward to is a never ending horror of death and pain. But if you have been given salvation by the great mercies of Jesus Christ, you have an eternity of joy and peace with God. No more tears will fall from your face. And the only reason you will be there, is the infinite grace of God in Christ. There is absolutely no difference between you and those who will suffer in hell forever. We deserve to be in the lake of fire. It is only because of the electing love of God that we are not there. What grace and love is this! No words can express it. Such divine love is "so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all." (from Isaac Watts' song, "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross")

 "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23 


Sunday, June 12, 2016

No Shoes, No Clothes, No Idolatry?

In your time of need, where do you look for help first? When faced with difficulties or a need, who is the person you go to first? The truth is we often look to people or to ourselves first. We have idols that seem more able to save than the Lord God. But as we will see in this post idols will always disappoint us, but our God is an ever present help in trouble.

It would be helpful as you read this post that you turn in your Bible to Isaiah 20. It is short chapter, but it is very instructive. The previous chapter explained the fall of the Egyptians. Egypt was a super power in this area of the world at the time and Israel and Judah often looked to Egypt for help in their wars with Assyria and later Babylon. In 711 B.C. the Assyrians attacked the Philistine city of Ashdod and captured it. During this battle, the word of the Lord came to Isaiah and it was no ordinary word. Isaiah was told to take off his clothes and sandals, and walk around in this condition for three years. Being a prophet was not easy. Often the prophets were called to do strange things like this. See the strange actions of Ezekiel. The way of a Christian can be filled with tasks and situations that are hard and humiliating. Like our Lord, we may become an object of scorn. Yet God has a purpose in it all for us and for those watching us. We are theaters that display the glory of God in jars of clay. This was true for Isaiah.

Now it is likely that Isaiah was not completely naked as that would violate good morals. Also the word naked doesn't necessarily means completely without clothes. He may not have walked around in this state all the time, but at times through out the span of three years. Exposing any part of your skin was a great shame in that culture. Can you imagine what people would say? Most would laugh and call him crazy. Others though may have asked why he was dressed like this. Then Isaiah would have an opportunity to explain why God wanted him to walk around partially naked. This living sign was a way to get people's attention to the word of God.

God's message was that just as Isaiah was walking barefoot and naked, so the Egyptians and Cushites would walk barefoot and naked as prisoners of war, led into exile by the Assyrians. The great super power Egypt and her close relative Cush would soon be defeated and humiliated before the terrible Assyrians.

 Why act out this sign at this time when Ashdod fell? It seems, like Judah, Ashdod and the Philistines relied on Egypt for military assistance. but in Ashdod's greatest need, Egypt failed to deliver her. Not only was Egypt unable to help her allies, one day she would be crushed in defeat as well. The lesson for Judah is very simple. Don't trust in Egypt to save you from your enemies. She can't help you. Your greatest enemy and  your greatest savior is the Lord. If you return to Him in repentance and obedience, then He will look upon you in favor. Only He can deliver you from the raging nations around you. Put all your hope and trust in the eternal and almighty God. But if you don't you will face the wrath of God, who will make you naked captives to a merciless foe.

So what about us? Do we have idols like Judah? How often do we look to man for help instead of God? When faced with a problem, do we trust our own wisdom and skill to get us out of the trouble? Or do we first pray to our God for help and wisdom? Maybe you think the only way for your loneliness and dissatisfaction to disappear would be to find that perfect person to get married to. Or if only you had children, your life would be great. Do we rely primarily on people to get us out of various troubles, or is our first reaction prayer? Do we look to good politicians to save our country? We often first try to solve our problems and dissatisfaction on our own or though others, and when our idols fails, then we turn to God for help.  I encourage you to try apply this further to your life.

Idolatry is a serious sin against God. When we sin by trusting in others rather than God, we are showing that we don't believe God is able or willing to help us. Our idolatry is a insult to the Holy One. Would it not parents be grieved if their little children went to their little foolish friends for help instead of them?  Thankfully if we repent of our idolatry, there is grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horseman because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD!" 
Isaiah 31:1 


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Come to Me

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

- Matthew 11: 28-30

I’ve been feeling rather discouraged lately in my struggle against sin.
There are certain sins that are so deep rooted that it feels like they keep rearing their ugly head, no matter what my resolve is. No matter how hard I try, I see and feel these sins lurking in the depths of my heart. And, when they break through in my words and actions, my soul longs to tear them, roots and all out of my heart. But I cannot. No matter what I try to do, they stick.
It’s interesting when you first become a Christian, that it seems like so many sins just fall away. You look back and wonder, ‘where did that go? Why do I find no joy or satisfaction in doing the things I used to do?’ The joy that is felt when you see how God has changed your heart and changed the longings of your heart. You desire to please Him. You long to do His will. You want to know more about Him and who He is.
But that ‘high’ doesn’t seem to last. Often the sin of pride starts to show as you wonder why others aren’t growing or haven’t grown as you have. Then you see more sins that are much harder to fight than the more ‘outward’ sins of your actions. You start to see how wicked the heart really is. How it is just steeped in sin—rotten to the core.
This is where discouragement can settle in as it has with me. I see how wicked my heart is. I see my failings, and short comings, and then I try to fight it. On my own.  And, that is where the mistake is made. I cannot fight sin on my own. I cannot live a life that is good enough or that pleases God. Oh, I long to. I so desire to please Him and yet I know that even my best attempts are as filthy rags before Him, all my labor is in vain. And, in my looking at myself, and my rottenness, I forget to look at Christ. I forget to look to Him and His righteousness. The righteousness He has clothed me in. I forget to cling to Him—to take His yoke upon me. I forget to learn from Him. I forget to immerse myself in His Word, and to cast my prayers at His feet. This is when my soul is heavy laden—cumbered with a load of care.
May I continually cling to Him, to find my joy and salvation in Him alone.  Not in my own works, not in my feeble attempts, but in Him alone. May I find rest for my soul in Him for He is gentle and lowly in heart. 

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

-Joseph M. Scriven

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Bunyan's "Holy War"

We just finished listening to "The Holy War"  by John Bunyan. Since this book was a blessing to me, I want  to encourage you to read or listen to the entire book. This allegorical book was written in 1682. It is lesser known than Bunyan's more famous book, "Pilgrim's Progress." But "The Holy War" is just as rich in spiritual truth, if not more so. Both these books have more solid theology than 99% of the books in your local Christian bookstore. "The Holy War" teaches many great truths of scripture such as, the fall and corruption of man, the work of the law and the gospel, the use of the conscience, forgiveness and redemption, sanctification and glorification. This book is almost a treatise on sanctification for you will learn about the putting to death of sin, resisting temptation, and how to grow in holiness. Many more truths from the Bible are found in this book under the guise of this allegorical story, which can't all be related here.

A summary of the book is as follows: King Shaddai built a city called Mansoul in the country called Universe. All things are well and good until Diabolus shows up. By using deception, he convinces the town of Mansoul to let him in to the city so he can rule over them instead of Shaddai and his son Emmanuel. Diabolus corrupts the town of Mansoul in every possible way. When Shaddai hears of it, he sends some of his army to take the town back. While this attack does some good, the city is even more set on rebellion than before. So Emmanuel is sent with an army to take the town. This attack is successful. Diabolus is humiliated and banished from town. In a marvelous act of grace, Emmanuel pardons the town and begins to reign over them. But there is a problem, for among the natural inhabitants of Mansoul, there are Diabolonians. These are men inside Mansoul who are Diabolus' people seeking to bring Mansoul back under the bondage of Diabolus. All is well between Emmanuel and Mansoul until the people start to listen to the wicked ideas of some Diabolonians. Then Emmanuel leaves his Mansoul for a time. Diabolus hearing of Mansoul's low condition, raises an army to take back Mansoul. Poor Mansoul! She is attacked from without by Diabolus and from within by the Diabolonians. So the rest of the book records this great struggle; the ending of which I will not tell you as I hope you will find out by reading the book.

The Holy War is worth the effort to read. It is a little tedious at times and the language is old and archaic (I am an Old English Only when it comes to these books; no modern updates for me), but plod on. Digging for diamonds takes hard work, but it is worth the effort. Glorious truths are illustrated in new and fresh ways. There are countless illustrations that can be used to color your sermons, Bible lessons, and conversation. And if you ever hear me teach, you will understand all the references I make to "The Holy War" and "Pilgrim's Progress" and then I won't have to explain them. So take the time to read or listen (it is an audio book) to "The Holy War" and then read "Pilgrim's Progress" while you are on a roll.


In honor of this John Bunyan themed post, We are giving away a CD. It is called "Pilgrim's Praise" by Judy Rogers and Craig Pitman. It has a number of songs based on "Pilgrim's Progress." You can find out more about Judy Rogers at her website. If you want the CD, leave a comment below and we'll draw someone's name at random in a few days.