Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Praising the Wrath of God

We sing of God's love and grace. Songs are written about His mercy. People praise His holiness. But how often have you praised God for His wrath against sin? As I worked through Isaiah in my morning devotions, I came across these verses:
 "Look Yahweh comes from far away, His anger burning and heavy with smoke. His lips are full of fury, and His tongue is like a consuming fire. His breath is like an overflowing torrent that rises to the neck. He comes to sift the nations in a sieve of destruction and to put a bridle on the jaws of the peoples to lead them astray." 
Isaiah 30:27-28 
( I am quoting from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, which I just received as a gift.)  

 Isaiah uses some very vivid language here to describe the wrath of God against Assyria. But this wrath of God is toward all who are sinners as well. Maybe that is why we don't praise God for His wrath or talk about it much. I have yet to see Psalm 5:5 on a frame in someone house. "The boastful cannot stand in your presence; you hate all evildoers." Psalm 7:11 has yet to be written on a Christian greeting card. "God is a righteous judge and a God who shows wrath every day." Now this is understandable, but still we need to think more of the wrath of God. For if we praise God for His holiness then we should praise him for His wrath. His wrath is only an expression of His holiness. His black wrath against sin brings out the glorious light of the good news in Jesus Christ.

Last week I was listening to the radio where it was reported that a violent and perverse man was allowed to go free even through he was likely to commit the same offence. On this radio program, people called in to express their outrage and frustration at this injustice. No one called to defend the criminal. If anyone did, I am sure there would be much anger directed to them. It is right and noble to  be angry at this crime and the injustice. If sinful unsaved people are rightly allowed to be angry over injustice, then why not God? I think this anger over injustice in people is a small reflection of the anger of God over sin. Every sin is an infinite act of injustice. Every sin is a horrible outrageous act against a good God. If God was not angered by sin, He would not be holy or good. We should be thankful that God is angry at sin and will punish it. Praise the Lord for His wrath on sinners.

 The problem for us, Christians, is that we are still sinners living in a sinful world. For us to praise the wrath of God against sin, would mean we need to praise God for His wrath toward our sin. We kind of like our sin and our commitment to holiness is not so firm. We get used to sin. We have very dim perceptions of the holiness of God. Thus we have a hard time seeing how black and evil sin is. We are so accustomed to sin that we trivialize it. We are slow to put to death our sin. So we have a hard time with the infinite wrath of God against sin. But it is good for us to understand and praise the wrath of God. For it will help keep us from a low view of sin. It will help us to desire to be rid of sin. How could I sin, when that sin makes an infinitely holy God angry? Thus we need to spend more time in God's word to teach us who this holy God is.

Here is another motivation to forsake our sins. Jesus Christ suffered the infinite wrath of God that we deserved so that we could be forgiven and counted as righteous. If God the Father unleashed His wrath on His beloved Son to redeem poor unworthy sinners who will never fully understand the depths of this sacrifice, shouldn't those sinners hate those sins that still cling to them? For us to hold on to sin is as gross as someone who keeps a rotten corpse in the house. Or it is as unthinkable as keeping the bloodied knife that killed your friend in a display case. If we love Jesus, we will hate sin and remove it from our lives. 
      What love the Savior has for such poor sinners that He would drink the full cup of the wrath of God on their behalf! 


Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Zombie Redemption

There he was locked in a cage that was in the corner of  the foulest room that I had ever seen. He sat in his cage glaring at me through the bars. "Stay back" said a voice behind me. I looked around to see a short, fat man with an evil grin. "The creature will bite if you get too close." I felt a cold shudder travel down my body as I seemed to be in the presence of very wicked creatures in a dark room. "What is that creature in the cage?" I asked the man beside me. "Oh he is a sort of zombie. He is dead and alive at the same time. But I would say he is more dead than alive."
  "How did he come like that?"
 "Ah he was warned of the consequences, but alas, stupid fool, he chose to disobey and then this happened. He turned into a zombie. Now I own him."
His laughter echoed through out the room as he said this. I looked again at the creature in the cage and saw in a glimmer of light the rotten features of his deformed face. So I turned away and asked the man, " What do you do with him?"
"Oh, I enjoy torturing him. Then at times I let him out to terrorize the people in the town. You wouldn't believe the crimes that this thing does.  Of course no one can do anything to overpower it. While he commits outrageous acts, I watch and take delight in his evil."
" Is it possible for him to be released from his cage? Could anything be done to relieve this creature from his misery"
"No, well, yes, but it is almost impossible. The creature has a long lists of crimes which must be punished by the judge of the land. If those crimes were paid for by someone who would suffer cruel torment in this creature's place, then he could go free. But who would want to rescue such a creature. And what would you do with him after he is released? He is too vicious to be kept out of his cage."

I saw then that there was no hope for this foul creature. Why would anyone want to pay such a high price to save a half dead creature that chose to put himself in this place to begin with? There is nothing that is good to be found in the disposition of this zombie. So I turned to leave this dreadful place, when a man stepped into the room. He walked past me to the torturer and showed him a piece of paper. As the torturer read it his mouth fell open and the color drained from his face. All the man said was, "It is paid in full." Then he walked to the cage and looked at the creature with the kindest and most compassionate expression. Then he went to the door of the cage and opened it. He took hold of the creature's arm and dragged him out since it did not want to go out to this man. But when the creature was out, a most incredible transformation occurred. The creature was changed. He looked more like the man and less like a zombie, although he didn't shed all of his deformed features. The man looked into his eyes and said "Follow me" and so the new creature did with joy.

In the book 'The Doctrines of Grace' by James Boice and Philip Ryken, there is this paragraph. "John Gerstner, who was a professor at Pittsburgh theological Seminary, compared Paul's description of our sinful state to what horror stories call a zombie. A zombie is a person who has died but who is still up on his feet walking around. it is a gruesome concept, which is why it appears in horror stories. but it gets worse. This upright, walking human corpse is putrefying. It is rotting away, which is probably the most disgusting thing most people can imagine. But this is a fair description of what Paul is saying about human nature in its lost condition. Apart from Jesus Christ, these sinning corpses are "the living dead".
The verse they are referring to is Ephesians 2:1-2 says, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world."

 The world loves zombies. But the real zombies are the members of Adam's race. We are alive to sin but dead in it. We are spiritually dead, but alive to committing all manner of sin. We are hideous creatures before a Holy God. His wrath is against us. There is no reason that anyone would want to save us, especially considering the great cost it would be to redeem us. Yet the love and compassion of God is great and so He came to redeem ugly sinners by dying on the cross to pay for our sins. Our story can't fully illustrate this love of God to unworthy and vile sinners, but I hope it helped you to understand better the love of God in Christ. To God alone be the glory.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Henry Martyn: Bible Translator and Missionary

Some years ago I heard a sermon in which there was an illustration from the life of Henry Martyn. I had never heard of Henry Martyn and was naturally curious to know more about this man. So I bought two books about Henry Martyn to learn what I could of this missionary. A few days ago I finished reading one of those books again. The book is called "For the Love of India" and it is written by Jim Cromarty. I think it would be a blessing and an encouragement for every Christian to know something of the life of this godly man. So this post about his life will hopefully whet your appetite to learn more.

    Henry Martyn was born on February 18, 1781 in the town of Truro, which is located in southern England. His father was converted during the revivals that came through the preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield, which changed much of  England. His family was somewhat well to do, so that Henry was able to go to university. Henry was not an athletic boy, in fact he was often sick. But his mind was keen and brilliant. He was skilled in math and language. This produced a great pride in his heart so that all he wanted to do was to make a name for himself. But the Lord began to work on his heart through the death of his father, the counsel and prayers of friends, and the preaching of Rev. Charles Simeon, an evangelical minister. When he was about nineteen, he experienced the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Henry Martyn was a new man in Christ. He had formerly wanted to study law, but now he desired to be ordained as a minister in the church of England so he could go to India as a missionary. In order to prepare himself he became a curate or assistant to Rev. Charles Simeon, so that he might gain experience in preaching and pastoral ministry. At this time he applied to become a chaplain to the East India Company which controlled most of India. Through some influential friends he was able to get a position. On August 10, 1805, Henry Martyn left for India.

     All missions work requires sacrifice and it was no different in Henry's case. He could have had a comfortable job teaching at university or pastoring some important church, but his heart was set on the lost people in the Far East. He also left behind a girl he loved. This girl whose name was Lydia considered Henry a friend, but did not share the same love as he had for her. Yet Henry thought when he left that when he arrived in India, she would join him and become his wife. In fact he did propose to her a few times, but she never said yes. They did continue to write letters till the end of his life.

 Henry Martyn was a Calvinist in a church that often had nominal attendees and clergy who only wanted to hear moralistic sermons. This difference was a source of much hostility from others in the church of England. While his theology was good, his preaching was not as good. He was an intelligent man, but his sermons were often too difficult for others to understand. He did work hard on improving both his delivery and his manner of preaching. Both his theology and his preaching style caused him much trouble, especially on his voyage to India. He was responsible for the spiritual health of the people aboard the ship. But through out this long voyage, he was met with indifference, contempt, and scorn from those on board. Yet in spite of this, he continue to warn, reprove, and teach those on board. Almost 10 month later with a number of stops, he arrived in India. William Carey was in India at this time as well and Henry spent some time with him and his friends. Soon Henry received his first post. He was to be a chaplain to some 400 British troops at Dinapore. While he did his duties to care for the spiritual welfare of these soldiers, he was also translating the Bible and other religious literature into Hindustani and starting a school for the local Indian people. While most Europeans disliked the Indians and cared little for them, Henry worked among them, teaching them to read and preaching the gospel to them. Like his time on the ship, Henry was disliked by the soldiers he worked among for his gospel preaching and tough stance on sin. He often was a lonely man, with few other Christians to fellowship with. Later on however while he was stationed in Cawnpore, there were a handful of Christians soldiers who spent time with him in worship and fellowship.

Translation work was the main focus of Henry. He loved languages and grammar like some people love their favorite sport's team. His great skill in translating produced  very clear and accurate translations. After learning the languages of the area, he set out to produce a Bible in the language of the people of India. Five years after he came to India,with the help of a few others, he had produced the New Testament, Genesis, and 'The Book of Common Prayer' in Hindustani. He also started to translate the New Testament into Arabic and Persian, since those two languages were spoken in that area. But Henry's health was not very good. His labors, the heat, and his weak body made him a sickly man. In 1810, he decided to go back to England for a rest and hopefully to marry Lydia. On his way home, he planned to travel through Persia and Arabia so that he could learn the languages better and thus produce more accurate translations of the Arabic and Persian New Testaments. He stayed in the city of Shiraz for about a year where he completed the translation of the Persian New Testament along with the Psalms. During his stay in Shiraz, Henry often debated with the Muslims. He wrote tracts explaining the errors of Islam and the truth of the gospel. As you might expect, he endured mush hostility here among the Muslims as he had before among the British.

Henry Martyn pushed himself in spite of his sickness to finish his translation work and to preach the gospel. Sometimes he made foolish decisions which harmed his health, like traveling in the hottest time of year. While at times his health improved, his condition grew worse and worse. On his long journey home to England, he traveled though extreme heat with dangers on every side. Accommodations were regularly poor. These conditions are bad for a healthy man, but for a sick man like Henry, they are fatal. On October 16 1812 in Tokat, Henry Martyn died at the age of 31.

Henry Martyn had a passion to see sinners worshiping the Lord Jesus. He never saw anyone converted through his preaching or teaching. But who knows how many were blessed through his translations? Henry kept a journal of his daily activities and his spiritual progress. This journal and the biographies that were written by his friends have been a blessing to many Christians as well. Many can thank the Lord God for the gifts He gave to Henry. He was a man who lived close to his Savior. His godliness was evident to all and left a great impression on them. He lived and breathed the gospel in all areas of his life. His love for his Redeemer compelled him to sacrifice much to bring the good news to a people living in darkness.

"We bear the torch that flaming
fell from the hands of those
who gave their lives proclaiming 
that Jesus died and rose
Our is the same commission
the same glad message ours
fired by the same ambition
to Thee we yield our power."

From the song 'Facing a Task Unfinished'
By Frank Houghton and Keith and Kristyn Getty


Saturday, July 2, 2016

David's Mighty Men

My children love the Asterix and Obelix books. The Gauls have a magic potion which gives them superhuman strength. This enables them to hold off the Roman legions and live in freedom. No matter the size or power of a Roman army, the Gauls can defeat them. One Gaul filled with magic potion can hold off thousands of soldiers. Well, I came across a portion of scripture that seems to come out of the Asterix books. And no, it was not Samson, although, he may be the best example of a man with superhuman strength.

If you would go to the second book of Samuel and the 23rd chapter starting at the 8th verse. There you will read an almost incredible record of some amazing warriors. There is a man who kills 800 men with a spear in one battle. Eleazer was another mighty warrior who stood fast against the Philistine army. He held them off, even as his hand grew weary and clung to his sword. Shammah did much the same feat at another battle. One of David's great warriors, Abishai, killed 300 men in a battle with a spear. Or consider that doer of great deeds, Benaiah. He killed two giant men of Moab as well as killing a lion in a pit on a snowy day. He also killed a great Egyptian by taking his spear and killing him with it. Lastly, three of David's mighty men broke through enemy lines into a Philistine held city to get David a cup of water, and then returned back to David's camp. Reading these military exploits is impressive, even hard to believe. But the question is what does God want us to learn from these heroes of David? Is this recorded to show us how great David and his army was or as an entertaining story? Or is there more?

 While these examples of courage are hard to believe, they shouldn't be. For God promised that Israel would do these kinds of feats of war if they were obedient to Him. One of the blessings that Israel would enjoy if she kept the Mosaic covenant was the defeat of her enemies. Leviticus 26:7-8 says, "You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword." God did not just promise victory for obedience, but a supernatural and overwhelming victory since Israel would be able to defeat her foes with only a handful of men. We see this promise kept when Jonathan and his armor bearer attack and defeat a Philistine garrison through their trust in the Lord. 1 Samuel 14. So this list of military exploits by David's men should not surprise us since David and his soldiers are walking in obedience.

It is also important to note that in two of the examples it is stated that the Lord provided the victory. See verse 10 and 12. These men were skilled in war, but their skill and victories came from God. Through His people, God was showing His power in these victories over His enemies. So this story is not so much about David's mighty men as is it about the God of David's mighty men's. He worked powerfully to protect Israel. He was showing His love and kindness to Israel by enabling these warriors to win incredible victories over her enemies. So we learn from this narrative about the loving and powerful God we serve. But there is more for us to learn.

 We too can do great deeds for God's kingdom and honor. Consider the saints who have gone before us. Martin Luther stood up for the gospel and defied the powerful Roman Catholic church and her allies. By his courage and zeal, the Lord brought about the Reformation. George Whitefield and John Wesley preached the gospel to thousands, in spite of great hostilities. God used these men and others to transform Great Britain and America in the Great Awakening. Adoniram Judson left America as one of its first missionaries to go to the land of Burma. There he lost two wives, a number of his children, almost died in prison and suffered bouts of depression. But he translated the Bible into Burmese and the first church in Burma was started. The list could go on. Some of the great deeds of God's people may not seem so glorious as these, but truthfully they are deeds no one could accomplish but by the power of God. How about those who subdue their sin, like some great addiction such as porn or drugs. What about the pastor who continues to preach faithfully even though the harvest is small and he is relatively unknown. Or the mother who trains her children in the wisdom of the Lord and prays constantly for them. There are many examples we could give.

The Christian life of putting to death sin, living holy lives, and walking faithfully with the Lord is impossible for anyone to do. But with the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit, we can be super conquerors. We can do great deeds, but only through the Almighty. We are weak, but He is strong. Our troubles are powerful but God is even greater. This then is the great secret to living out the Christian life with all of its mountains and valleys. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9.