The Sweetness of Election

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“Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” || Jer. 15.16

It may be offensive to our humanistic sensibilities that we only delight in God because of His grace, but it is a theme which runs thickly through the Scriptures. The child of God, humbled and made happy through the Gospel, knows something of this reality.

The prophet Jeremiah found the words of God, or rather, they “were found,” implying that he didn’t find them of his own accord. God’s words became to him “a joy and the delight” of his heart. The underlying reason for this is conveyed in the final portion of the verse before us.

“…for I am called by Your name, O LORD, God of hosts.”

The LORD had chosen him, called him by name, and this was seen to be the wellspring of his newfound delight in the Word of God.

This should be a profound mystery and a balm for our souls. “In love He predestined to adopt us as sons…” That is how Paul puts it. (Eph. 1)

This startling and astonishing truth establishes our hearts amid all the uncertainties of life and gives us assurance amid all the contrary voices of this crooked age. As George Herbert says, it makes us the “trees whom shaking fastens more.”

Bask in this truth, child of God. Let its rays warm your soul. Let its balm mend your injured soul and tend to your bruised conscience. Let it humble your resistant soul. Let it quiet your anxieties. Let it still your fidgeting. Let it wash away the dross of the fall. Pray for “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” along these lines, that you may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” This truth will enable you to be “strengthened with His might” in your inner-man.

As surely as He loved you from eternity-past, He loves you now, and He will love you for all eternity, “world without end.”

“…having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” || John 13.1

“I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that great Biblical doctrine.”

Gleanings from Psalm 19.7-14

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I would like to reflect upon Psalm 19.7-14 in this paper. There is much to glean from it for our nourishment in the faith.

“The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul…”

In v. 7 we see that the “law of the Lord is perfect.” This is a theme often neglected by Christians. On the one hand, Paul the apostle noted that “Christ is the end (aim) of the Law.” He is the point of the Law, the very fulfillment of the Law. But this does not mean that the Law is a deplorable thing as it is often assumed.

Paul also declared the Law to be “spiritual,” and elsewhere, “holy, just and good.” Though Romans and Hebrews reveal the limitation of the Law to justify us, thus declaring the necessity of the Gospel, they do not demean the Law of God. In this Psalm we see that God’s Law is perfect, and as it issues from God Himself, it revives the soul who is humbled before Him.

“…the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple…”

When we prayerfully contemplate and receive the testimony of the Lord about Himself we find ourselves upon the surest footing. What He says of Himself is immutable, glorious, unbending. Though He often surprises and brings us to awe, it is never because He changes. His testimony is sure, quite unlike ours. Though we consider ourselves wise, we are fickle and changeable creatures. His sure testimony dismantles our purported wisdom and brings us to the “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ,” the One who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” There is deep-seated rest in being made simple before the immutable God.

“…the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart…” 

The “precepts” or “decrees” of the Lord are right, and this is of great comfort to the one who trusts Him. There is no “shifting shadow” in Him; no dubious claims, no suspicious motives. He is perfectly accurate and perfectly just in all His statements and requirements. The Psalmist says that this truth “rejoices the heart.” The servant of the Lord, whose hope and trust are in God, will be brimming with happiness over the fact that God has given him boundaries and promises regarding the life of discipleship. Lawlessness and relativity breed chaos and unrest. The just and true “precepts of the Lord” bring happiness to the heart, and this is a very precious thing “to those who are being saved.”

“…the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes…”

That which God commands is pure, and brings holy enlightenment to the eyes of Israel’s singer. The “Enlightenment” of the 18th century did little more than expand the horizons of how human depravity grapples for the vanity of self-expression. It dressed up fallen wisdom with frills for philosophical pageantry and the perpetual parade of human narcissism.

The “enlightenment” of Psalm 19, or Ephesians 1 as another example, is a holy enlightenment: One which reveals the character of God and the commandments/ways of God. It opens blinded eyes and frees us to behold and treasure Him. All of His commands are in the spirit of John 11, when Jesus commanded Lazarus to come forth from the tomb. By His command we emerge from the tomb of unclean thoughts and vain presumptions, and into the purity and sweetness of seeing and hearing the God of our salvation.

“…the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever…”

The fear of the Lord, which is “the beginning of wisdom,” is both “clean” and eternal, according to the Psalmist. This should be encouraging to our weary souls, which are fraught with the subtle drone of a thousand worldly fears. To fear Him is to be cleansed from all other fears, and that precious fear endures forever. It will always be present and increasing in the hearts of the Redeemed.

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds ye so much dread; Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on thy head.” -Cowper

To fear God is to be freed from all other fears, extricated from their stranglehold, purified from the effects of the world, the flesh and the devil. How clean is the fear of God! It is our portion through the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, “accomplished and applied” to us on the basis of faith. Therefore, as it is summed up in in the infinite God, it endures “forever.” Let us see to it that we fear Him.

“…the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.”

The Lord has rules, and He is no legalist. We must consider a few things about this.

1. The rules are the Lord’s rules. They are not the rules of kings. They are not the rules of popes or potentates. They are not the rules created by men for government or religion. He is the eternal God, and He has rules.
2. His rules are true. They are not flimsy. They are not optional. They are not relative to time, culture, and opinion. They are true. They do not change color or shape, for their foundation is God Himself. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne,” and true rules issue from that holy place, yielding rewards and consequences for the obedient and the rebellious.
3. His rules are “righteous altogether.” They are not merely accurate and immutable, though they are certainly characterized in those ways— they are righteous. We have lost the savor of the Biblical word “righteous,” and we need to recover it. It is “more to be desired” than “much fine gold,” for only righteousness can put the universe right again.

God’s rules are righteous, for they issue from His righteous Being. This is why they are more desirable than find gold and sweeter than the “drippings of the honeycomb.” They come from God— the King of all kings and the desire of the nations.

There are two more reasons given to explain the preciousness of God’s rules.

1. “By them your servant is warned.”
2. “In keeping them there is great reward.”

The Psalmist cherished the warnings of God, which communicated God’s mind to him and instilled in him the fear of the Lord and a hatred for sin and error. And he clung with hope to the promise of God, that “great reward” would be given to the one who keeps and obeys the “rules of the Lord.” Do we share with the Psalmist this kind of relishing in the rules of God in both Testaments, those rules which are applicable to all men?

We suffer from the twofold problem of living in an “anti-rules” society as “anti-rules” men. The problem is both in our hearts and in our surrounding societies. But the Psalmist had learned to delight in the King of the ages and in His rules. They protected him from deception and gave him certitude and hope in the reward which is to come. A true disciple will find himself increasingly agreeing with the Psalmist along these lines. Are you?

“Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.”

The Psalmist acknowledges that we cannot discern our errors on the basis of our own assessment. We need God’s Word. We need His Spirit. We need the community of faith around us. And we need His cleansing mercies to declare us innocent even from “hidden faults.” We need Him to keep us back from “presumptuous sins” and to break their “dominion over” our lives. So he prays for this, and we should too, on every stretch of our pilgrimage in the faith.

In God’s answer to the prayer of the Psalmist comes the assurance of forgiveness and belonging in His house. If God will help us discern our errors; if God in Gospel-mercy will declare us innocent even from hidden faults; if God will preserve us and keep us from presumptuous sins which would otherwise master us, “then” we would be “blameless and innocent of great transgression.” This demands our submission and obedience, but we cannot do this by our own discipline or wisdom. We need Him to expose us, to justify us, to keep us, and to complete the work in us. In short, we need Him. Therefore, we must pray as the Psalmist prayed.

This is a glorious Old Testament Gospel-prayer, one which speaks to our justification, our sanctification, and our glorification. The Ancient of Days has given His ultimate and final answer in His Son. We must behold Him to be changed, and we can be assured that “all who call on the Name of the Lord will be saved” to the uttermost.

 

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

In 2 Cor. 5.9 Paul stated, “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” As a man in Christ he voices the same desire as the Psalmist does in our final verse. The Psalmist longed for his words and the very deepest thoughts and intents of his heart to be “acceptable” or “pleasing” to God. In calling the Lord his “rock” he acknowledges that he has no other source or foundation than God Himself. He cannot please God without God. In calling him his “redeemer” he relishes in the promise of God’s faithfulness to save us from all that displeases Him.

So we come full circle. The Laws of God, the precepts of God, the rules of God are perfect and sweet. The one who looks unto Christ and finds Him to be the rock and the redeemer may be found blameless before Him, wrenched loose from the powers of self-deception and worldly chaos— his cup running over with everlasting happiness in Him.

This is the portion of the redeemed, “and it is marvelous in our eyes.”

The Only Foundation of True Ministry

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The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. || Luke 10.17-20

In this remarkable passage we have one of the most Gospel-centric statements in the whole of the Gospels. It speaks to the bedrock issue of our identity in the Atonement. It behooves us to pay it mind, and to think about its implications in our day-to-day lives, and in the ministry to which we give ourselves.

The Lord of the harvest had sent out 72 of His disciples at the beginning of the chapter. He articulated the greatness of the need in Gospel missions, the ripeness of the harvest fields, and He bemoaned the fewness of the laborers, leaving us with the charge to pray for the raising up and sending forth of workers. Then He sent these disciples to proclaim the Gospel and to drive out demons in the towns to which they would go.

The 72 “returned with joy,” declaring that demons were subdued and driven out in the Name of Jesus. There was legitimate joy in their hearts, the joy of being vessels in the carrying out of the works of God’s Kingdom. Yet, the Lord of the harvest gives them a startling response, one which ought to be central to our consciousness as those laboring in Gospel mission, but one which, like these 72, is often lacking in the consciousness of who we are as His servants.

According to Jesus, they were not to rejoice mainly in the works that were wrought through them, but rather to rejoice in the glory of their adoption as sons— as those whose names had been written by God in heaven.

Robert Stein, in his commentary on Luke, speaks to the meaning of the Lord’s exhortation:

This picks up the “joy” of Luke 10:17 and points out that their true joy should arise not from missionary accomplishments but from their eternal salvation.
….

That your names are written in heaven. This metaphor for eternal salvation is found in the OT, the intertestamental literature, and the NT. “Are written” is a divine passive meaning God has written your names in heaven.

[Stein, R. H. (1992). Luke (Vol. 24, p. 310). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.]

I want to say that it is indeed “upon this rock” that the Lord means to “build His church,” and only upon this rock-solid foundation will the “gates of Hades” be incapable of “prevailing” against Her.

It should be obvious to the child of God that this present world system, with all its sinful allurements, should no longer be accepted as part of our identity. We are to “reckon” ourselves “dead to sin, and alive in Christ,” and no clearly-thinking Christian would claim that a life given over to sin befits the life of discipleship. We will be battling our own sin until the Day of the Lord comes, but we are battling it because it doesn’t define us any longer. We are disciples, learning to crucify the world in our hearts, and to walk in the way of the Master. This should be clear to us.

Less clear, often, is the fact that we ought to be battling against our tendency to interweave the good things (even things so good as driving out demons in Jesus’ Name, or being engaged in various forms of ministry) with our identity at the root-level. Bearing fruit in ministry is a great cause for rejoicing, but if it is the primary ground of rejoicing, something has been twisted in our understanding of the faith.

Jesus said not to give primacy to the works that are being wrought through us, but rather to rejoice at the deepest level in eternal salvation; that is to say, that we have become sons and daughters of God through the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Here is a simple way to think about it, one which is so simple that I’ve taught it to my children.

Our identity in the Gospel has vertical and horizontal implications.

Vertically, as we look unto Christ, our root-identity has become that of “sons” and “daughters” of God. Horizontally, our root-identity has become that of “brothers” and “sisters” in the family that we’ve been adopted into.

The Scriptures are so thickly threaded with this truth that I haven’t the time to recite all the verses that speak to us along these lines.

Suffice it to say, whatever I may be engaged in with regard to ministry, even God-given ministries that are biblical and line up with my own unique giftings, they will all become distortions if I am not living as a son in the vertical sense, and as a brother in the horizontal sense.

This puts the Gospel-premium on my relationship to the Father through Christ, and my relationship to the church through Christ.

Therefore, the evidence of my failure to “rejoice” that my name is “written in heaven” will show itself by prayerlessness, neglect of Bible-reading, a disregard for the many commands of Scripture pertaining to life and godliness, and the neglect of healthy relationship within a local Church. I cannot be truly rejoicing in the Gospel if these things are neglected, for they are evidence of the fact that I am no longer seeing myself as a son who walks circumspectly before the Father, and a brother who walks closely with the family of God. Without this reality, there is no stamp of God’s blessing upon my ministry, as a missionary, a pastor, a theologian, or any other role.

I cease to see God as my Source through the Gospel when I neglect communion with Him, and fellowship with His people. I begin to see my “calling” as a preacher, a writer, a church-planter, a worship-leader, a missionary, ministry director, or whatever it may be, as being superior to my grace-given calling as a son before God, and a brother to the saints.

Being a Gospel-grounded son infuses me with the grace of Christ, and being a brother in the context of the life of church keeps me footed on the self-same foundation, and guards me from deception. Yes, even from deceptive ways of doing all sorts of ministry.

Variegated kinds of destructive things have occurred in the name of ministry where these foundations are lacking. That’s because the Lord of the harvest never called his people to do things in the “name of ministry,” but rather in the “Name of Christ,” on the foundational truth that our names have been written in Heaven on the basis of the Atonement. Moral collapses, doctrinal deviations, and misrepresentations of church and mission have issued from the want of this reality.

We are simply not living as disciples of Jesus when our ministries take the preeminent place in our souls.

When there is a fracture in the vertical life-line of sonship, we can literally do nothing aright, for “apart from Me you can do nothing.”

When there is a fracture in the horizontal life-line of brotherhood, even the noblest of ministries become a distortion, for the Lord means to “build” His “church”, not merely to perform a litany of detached and multi-faceted works, however much we might seek to establish them in His Name. Nothing can be established in the Name of the Head in the neglect of His Body. Perhaps the most deceptive form of this neglect of the church is when we bear every kind of ecclesiological language (the priesthood of all believers, biblical eldership, Gospel-centric fellowship), but lack the corresponding reality which belongs to those precious truths. We may, even as the Pharisees of old, have an intensive focus on the truths of Scripture, while being devoid of the grace and life from which those truths ought to find their issuance. We may honor the Head with our lips while our hearts are far from Him, and this is something which we need to be on most diligent guard against.

The Head cannot be detached from the Body. If our works are not building His church, neither are they truly exalting the Head. If we are not experiencing life as members in His Body, neither are we experiencing life as it issues from the Head. When the vertical and horizontal fruits of our belonging to Christ are lacking or being circumvented, we are swimming in sub-apostolic  waters, and sharks abound therein.

So what can be said of your works, saints? Are you rejoicing that demons are subject to you; that your sermon was hailed as great; that the missions work is expanding and doing much good; that your writings are being heralded as ground-breaking; that your theology is ship-shape and confirmed as orthodox by men you esteem; the list goes on. Many of these things, if not all, could either be an expression of God truly bearing fruit in your life, or an expression of that you have become one who is operating in deception.

The question is, are you vitally related to God through your adoption as a son, and are you vitally related to the local church for the ongoing growth of a true rejoicing in the eternal salvation that has come to you in Christ?

Are you living, thinking, praying and laboring as a purchased son? Do the Christians around you truly know you as a brother— in accountability, vulnerability, and godly responsibility in their midst? Or are you more known by your particular gifting or position in the world or in ministry? If the latter, you are standing upon a faulty foundation, however fruitful your ministry may appear to be, with all of its calculated external characteristics. A ministry of that kind may be alive by way of reputation, but God will only reward finally what has been wrought by His Spirit and carried out in accordance with His Word. Jesus would have none of this for the 72, and He will have none of it for us. His love for us is too great and too true to permit it.

No wonder that the most fruitful of apostles in Church history “determined to know nothing among” the saints “except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” He wanted their identity to be founded upon and issuing from the only faithful and immutable foundation. He was eager to preach the Gospel to the sinners and saints, for only in the Atonement can the saints receive and enjoy the familial identity of sons and daughters before God, and brothers and sisters in His family.

Look at your life and ministry in light of the exhortation that Jesus gave the 72. Find and tear out the threads of inferior rejoicing that you’ve permitted to define your identity and drive your decisions and ambitions. Let the cross of Christ bring you to the place Paul boasted in, that cross “by which the world has been crucified to me, and I have been crucified to the world.”

Your joy will be fuller and fuller as you grow in an identity of sonship, and share intimately as brothers and sisters in the grace and truth of the Gospel with “the church, which is His Body.” On this foundation He means to build His church in the nations, and by His zeal He will accomplish this. May we be found in the company of souls who know the preciousness of this truth, carrying out His work upon the only true foundation of life and ministry.

But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. || John 1.12-13

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Let love of the brethren continue. || Heb. 13.1

__________________________

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All people are like grass,

and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;

the grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you. || 1 Pet. 1.17-25

His Appearance “For Us”

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“Just as the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love.” -Jn. 15.9

Some years ago, I was in the home of a beloved servant of God by the name of Art Katz. We were discussing the need for a recovery of the kind of preaching that would not merely inform the people of God, but lift them into a greater inner-awareness of His majesty. He made a comment that struck my heart, and I am feeling it’s reverberations especially today. This is what he said:

The Church is suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority, and they need to be built up in the reality of His love. We need to come into the realization that we’ve been “accepted in the Beloved.”

So many believers are “suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority,” and the opportunities for insecurity, self-consciousness, and anxiety are around every corner, particularly in a Western culture that is so status-driven. The powers of darkness have always worked overtime to keep the saints from a sustained and abiding experience of love of God. They have worked thousands of years at mastering the art of destroying the lives of men, and nowhere have they been more successful than in their schemes to bind men in strife after worldly acceptance, while robbing them of the awareness of God’s desire to secure them in His love.

Billboards and magazines pin women into the corner of striving for external beauty; commercials and other media venues trap men in the pursuit after bigger trucks and better homes. The options are voluminous for all types of searching after acceptance from others. Even- or maybe especially- in the religious world, many are jockeying for positions in ministry that would feed their ‘spiritual’ egos, and so many leaders are eaten up by a desire for numerical growth in their congregations and the popularity of their ministries.

Individual strife for a spiritual reputation is also common in the Body, with jealousy and envy dominating those who are wanting to establish a “form of godliness” without the reality of His power and love. We are comparing ourselves to others, living in an earthbound manner, and our vision of Jesus Christ is suffering as a result of it. We want approval from men, and it is that corrupt desire that robs us from experiencing the heavenly approval that the Father longs to express in His own “kind intention.”

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (Jn. 5.44)

Across the board, we humans are being consumed by a sense of inferiority to someone or something, and it all stems back to the fact that we have not adequately received and abided in the love of God Himself.

Can we fathom that He does not regret having brought us into the Kingdom? That we are not a part of some “inferior” segment of the Body of Christ? That we have nothing to prove to Him, nothing to perform in the aim of earning His love, and that He is kind and compassionate toward us not because of our spiritual performance, but because that is who He is?

We need to commit the rest of our days to pursuing a greater understanding and awareness of His love toward us. He has declared that He loves us “just as” the Father loves Him. Hear Him, dear saint! His affections are no less profound toward you than they were toward Moses, Paul, Brainerd, Whitefield, or any other great soul. Oh, that we would be awakened to the reality of His constant and unfading love, and that it would be more for us than a theological category. Our Gospel inheritance is an abiding awareness of the glory and love God Himself.

The more I study the New Testament and live the Christian life, the more convinced I am that our fundamental difficulty, our fundamental lack, is the lack of seeing the love of God. It is not so much our knowledge that is defective but our vision of the love of God. Thus our greatest object and endeavor should be to know Him better, and thus we will love Him more truly.

-D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The pursuit after acceptance from men is a deathly roller-coaster ride, and it will not end until you learn to still your heart before the Lord, and receive the love of God Himself. Jesus Christ has already declared that He loves you just as the Father has loved Him, but your reception of that love is not automatic. You must push your way past the multitudinous voices that press for your attention, “be still and know” that a much profounder love is being poured out from heaven. All other voices lead to the fading glory of self, but the voice of the Lord is “above the waters,” and it leads to His eternal glory, which is “life forevermore.”

If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me….then I know nothing of Calvary love. -Amy Carmichael

Dear believer, you need not be jerked and pulled by the opinions, compliments, and criticisms of men. You need not be plagued with a sense of inferiority and a burning desire to be accepted by others. The undying and unwavering love of God Himself is available to you, for the cross of Jesus Christ has torn the veil of separation on your behalf. Turn from sin and strife for acceptance, and let your heart be stilled in the place of prayer. There you will hear His voice, receive from the well of His love, and your joy will be made full. From that holy place, He will give you grace to live amongst men with a whole new consciousness, abiding in the love of God Himself, “accepted in the Beloved One.”

The Sense of Inferiority vs. Abiding in the Love of God

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“Just as the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love.” -Jn. 15.9

Some years ago, I was in the home of a beloved servant of God by the name of Art Katz. We were discussing the need for a recovery of the kind of preaching that would not merely inform the people of God, but lift them into a greater inner-awareness of His majesty. He made a comment that struck my heart, and I am feeling it’s reverberations especially today. This is what he said:

The Church is suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority, and they need to be built up in the reality of His love. We need to come into the realization that we’ve been “accepted in the Beloved.”

So many believers are “suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority,” and the opportunities for insecurity, self-consciousness, and anxiety are around every corner, particularly in a Western culture that is so status-driven. The powers of darkness have always worked overtime to keep the saints from a sustained and abiding experience of love of God. They have worked thousands of years at mastering the art of destroying the lives of men, and nowhere have they been more successful than in their schemes to bind men in strife after worldly acceptance, while robbing them of the awareness of God’s desire to secure them in His love.

Billboards and magazines pin women into the corner of striving for external beauty; commercials and other media venues trap men in the pursuit after bigger trucks and better homes. The options are voluminous for all types of searching after acceptance from others. Even- or maybe especially- in the religious world, many are jockeying for positions in ministry that would feed their ‘spiritual’ egos, and so many leaders are eaten up by a desire for numerical growth in their congregations and the popularity of their ministries.

Individual strife for a spiritual reputation is also common in the Body, with jealousy and envy dominating those who are wanting to establish a “form of godliness” without the reality of His power and love. We are comparing ourselves to others, living in an earthbound manner, and our vision of Jesus Christ is suffering as a result of it. We want approval from men, and it is that corrupt desire that robs us from experiencing the heavenly approval that the Father longs to express in His own “kind intention.”

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (Jn. 5.44)

Across the board, we humans are being consumed by a sense of inferiority to someone or something, and it all stems back to the fact that we have not adequately received and abided in the love of God Himself.

Can we fathom that He does not regret having brought us into the Kingdom? That we are not a part of some “inferior” segment of the Body of Christ? That we have nothing to prove to Him, nothing to perform in the aim of earning His love, and that He is kind and compassionate toward us not because of our spiritual performance, but because that is who He is?

We need to commit the rest of our days to pursuing a greater understanding and awareness of His love toward us. He has declared that He loves us “just as” the Father loves Him. Hear Him, dear saint! His affections are no less profound toward you than they were toward Moses, Paul, Brainerd, Whitefield, or any other great soul. Oh, that we would be awakened to the reality of His constant and unfading love, and that it would be more for us than a theological category. Our Gospel inheritance is an abiding awareness of the glory and love God Himself.

The more I study the New Testament and live the Christian life, the more convinced I am that our fundamental difficulty, our fundamental lack, is the lack of seeing the love of God. It is not so much our knowledge that is defective but our vision of the love of God. Thus our greatest object and endeavor should be to know Him better, and thus we will love Him more truly.

-D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The pursuit after acceptance from men is a deathly roller-coaster ride, and it will not end until you learn to still your heart before the Lord, and receive the love of God Himself. Jesus Christ has already declared that He loves you just as the Father has loved Him, but your reception of that love is not automatic. You must push your way past the multitudinous voices that press for your attention, “be still and know” that a much profounder love is being poured out from heaven. All other voices lead to the fading glory of self, but the voice of the Lord is “above the waters,” and it leads to His eternal glory, which is “life forevermore.”

If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me….then I know nothing of Calvary love. -Amy Carmichael

Dear believer, you need not be jerked and pulled by the opinions, compliments, and criticisms of men. You need not be plagued with a sense of inferiority and a burning desire to be accepted by others. The undying and unwavering love of God Himself is available to you, for the cross of Jesus Christ has torn the veil of separation on your behalf. Turn from sin and strife for acceptance, and let your heart be stilled in the place of prayer. There you will hear His voice, receive from the well of His love, and your joy will be made full. From that holy place, He will give you grace to live amongst men with a whole new consciousness, abiding in the love of God Himself, “accepted in the Beloved One.”

The Gospel Judges Our Secrets

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“…. according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” -Rom. 2.16b

Is it remarkable to us that Paul conveys the reality of God’s judgment as a crucial component of his “gospel”? Do we see it as “good news” that “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus”?

Paul is addressing the issues of Law and conscience in Romans 2, and he swings his subject back around to the inward reality, as apostles always do. He declares that even if all seems to be intact externally with the saint, the real issue of judgment has to do with “the secrets of men,” for the Lord is ever and always concerned with reality, and not with the mere appearance of things.

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. -Jn. 7.24

Have I been refined a thousand times over in the inner-man, or have I upheld an image of spirituality in public that conflicts with the secret thoughts and motives of my heart? Have I been willing for the work of the cross in my soul, or have I sought to circumvent the word of truth, and clung to a foundation-less reputation that has been applauded by men, but will be found wanting on the day when “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus”?

If there is duplicity and hypocrisy in my life, if I am still laboring for approval from men, if I am gripped inwardly with greed, pride, lust, envy and fear, the apostle has a word for me, and it is part and parcel with his Gospel. A Day of judgment is coming, when the light of God’s countenance will shine so penetratingly upon my life that every despicable thought, motive, and deed will be exposed. If I have held forth an impressive religious image before men, but have harbored ungodly “secrets” until that Day, they will be revealed in shocking transparency and with exacting clarity.

We may squirm to hear such a thing, but it is Paul’s Gospel. If we have an inadequate consciousness of the Day of judgment, we have not been apprehended by the Gospel of Paul. The gospel of some other man or angel has intruded, and we have been hooked into a lie.

The fact of this coming Day of exposure is Gospel (good news), for we are hearing it now, before that Day dawns. We have the privilege- painful as it may be- of bringing our duplicity and mixtures to Him today, while it is yet day. We have opportunity to repent and believe the Gospel afresh, and when at once we are sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb, everything is made new. When He purges our secret lives, which have harbored all kinds of dark ambitions and shameful musings, and makes us carriers of His own thoughts and desires, only glory remains. We have the remarkable privilege of moving away from a life of bondage and into the joy of becoming stewards of heavenly mysteries.

That is why there is no condemnation for those who are in the Man, Christ Jesus. He cleanses, refines, and heals us from all the corruption and disease that our souls have carried, and graftsus into His own purpose and way. It is no wonder that the Day of judgment was for Paul a necessary element of the Gospel. That Day will once and for all expose and destroy the sins of the world and the hypocrisies of men, and the mysteries of God will become the Government of the entire cosmos. Why should the Church live in hypocrisy and hidden sin when the Gospel has come to deliver us from darkness, both now and in the age to come?

Are you living a double-life, dear saint? Have you some underlying bitterness, anger, lust, rage, or fear still dominating your thoughts? In Light of the Day to come, allow the Father to bring judgment against your duplicity today, and when He burns out your soul-illnesses and makes you true, the exposure of your “secrets” will be Gospel to you, indeed. You will walk in the liberty of the Gospel, which is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him. -Ps. 25.14

The Gospel is not an alterable message that can be shifted and redefined by men in their particular customs, preferences, and societies. The Gospel of Paul, which is the Gospel of God, raises a question mark against all that man has been, all that man is, and all that man ever will be within himself. It calls to task the kings of the earth, all who boast against God, and even all those who purport to be spiritual. Only His very mercy can cleanse, only His truth is true, and only His Light illumines our souls to the degree that our secrets are judged, and that judgment is itself a mercy. The Gospel judges not only our external acts of sin, but the secrets of our hearts, and it is a great mercy that He is touching our secret lives now, instead of being exposed when it is too late.

Oh, how jealous He is for His glory, and how jealous He is over our lives. The jealousy of the Lamb is the expression of His great love, in that He will not let us go until we have come into an unhindered union with God Himself.

The Realization of His Kind Intention

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“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” -Eph. 1.5-6

Self-consciousness, paranoia and fear have no abiding authority in the life of a believer. Once we have come to realize that in the Gospel, the “kind intention” of God Himself has been disclosed to the world, we begin to see that His transcendent mercy is vast enough to swallow up every worldly disposition that we have harbored. The Spirit of God intentionally pursues and diminishes every disposition that has kept us from a true knowledge of His nature.

The powers of darkness relish in spreading the disease of self-consciousness in the Church, particularly because it binds men in pride, intimidation and a fear of others. It takes the very love of God being “shed abroad in our hearts” for that power to be broken, for whether we are shy individuals or social butterflies, if we have not been established in the inmost parts by the “kind intention” of God, we will invariably be impaired by self-consciousness in one way or another.

The revelation of His “kind intention” in the Gospel- namely, that God Himself has predestined us for communion with Him- makes us to realize that if we have been born from above, we have access to a mode of being that marks our consciousness with that glorious Pauline phrase: “…. accepted in the Beloved….”

This is not a syrupy, lightweight subject. This is not merely the message for those saints who are smiling all the time, or who seem to have all of their personality traits in tact. This realization is the power of God’s own Personality, pressing into our frame, and driving out every earthbound, would-be wisdom.

The redemption that has come to us through the cross of Jesus Christ is a total deliverance from the spirit of the world. Where once we knew bitterness, we now know a holy love; where once we knew paranoia, we now know Godly confidence; where once we knew the fear of man, we now know the presence of God; where once we knew timidity, we now know a heavenly boldness; where once we knew falsity and performance, we now know trueness; where once we were self-absorbed and arrogant, we now know humility and value; where once we knew anxiety and nervousness, we now know the priestly quietness of acceptance before God. He has not only made us new creations externally, but opened up access to the formation of Himself in all our ways of thinking and living.

“And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” -Eph. 1.22-23

When we surrender our self-reliance to the fire of God, He torches that which was binding and unheavenly, and deposits in its place an inward awareness of His “kind intention” toward us. Dear saint, you’ve been accepted by the King of creation, and “all things” are in subjection to Him. Do not be bound by self-consciousness, fear, or the desire to please men. Glorify the Lamb of God, for His shed blood has torn the veil of separation on your behalf!

He Is Not Ashamed to Call You Brethren

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“For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren…” -Heb. 2.11

We who have been born from above must luxuriate long in this reality: That Christ is “not ashamed” to call us His “brethren.”

Self-consciousness and a sense of entitlement come with the Adamic territory. We are quite naturally given to what one of my mentors used to call “navel-gazing,” or to put it otherwise, making ourselves the center of all things. We feel it to be quite an innocent and even necessary thing to “take care of number one”, especially when we have yet to encounter the revelation of our depravity, the crisis of the Cross, and the holiness and power of the Atoning work of Jesus Christ.

The “Accuser of the Brethren” Contrasted With the One Who is Unashamed of the Brethren

The Gospel devastates my humanistic naivete and reveals that my heart is itself a “factory of idols” (Calvin). God’s own righteousness and mercy come cascading upon me, and I find myself moved to repentance, believing upon the Son, quickened to newness of life. In Paul’s apostolic vernacular, I become a “new creation.”

Yet and still, there lingers in my mind and heart the propensities that belong to creatures of the fall. If I am not making it my aim to “abide” in the Lord, I will lapse into a train of thought that is unbecoming of one who has been “seated with Christ in heavenly places.”

We need to recognize the need for “renewing” our minds, not merely in a Church service, but in the moment-by-moment matters of life, otherwise our own perceptions will fasten themselves to the “accuser of the brethren,” and our consciousness of the Atonement will be diminished. A casual profession of faith will not free us from the foray of distorted, unheavenly thoughts. It requires a wrestling against demonic pressure; a grappling against all of our carnal perceptions.

We need to pierce through the veil of the world in every context of life, and to look upon the crucified and exalted One. The one who refuses to “contend for the faith,” and who treats the Gospel as a religious preference or a superfluous detail of life, will never learn to live above the accusation of the enemy. It requires an earnestness and a faith that is every bit God-given, but not bestowed upon those who are “complacent in Zion,” unwilling to engage in holy conflict.

We need to be cognizant of the fact that the “accuser of the brethren” has not yet been cast down, and that the “principalities and powers of the air” are still in places of heavenly influence, ever seeking to blur and distort our vision of “Christ, and Him crucified.” If they can coax us into self-absorption, a sense of entitlement, or any posture of heart that issues from “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” they will have triumphed. There is indeed an “accuser of the brethren,” and we need to be able to say with Paul that we are “not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Cor. 2.11)

The Cross of Jesus Christ, which is the flashpoint of God’s self-disclosure in history, is the cure-all for every Adamic ill. Not only does it break “the power of cancelled sin” and “set the prisoner free,” as glorious as that is, but it brings us into vital communion with the One Whom Jesus called the “righteous Father.” This communion has its foundation in the fact that on the basis of the Atonement, “He is not ashamed to call” “those who are sanctified” “His brethren.” Hear Adolph Saphir on this:

As the Lord Jesus Christ Himself says, ‘Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to me;’ and as in the epistles of John, we are taught that we are of God, and the seed of God abideth in us. What a wonderful brotherhood is this, rooted in the mysterious election of eternal love! Christ, the only begotten of the Father, and we who by nature are children of wrath and disobedience, are eternally and indissolubly united with Him. Therefore He is not ashamed to call us brethren. As it is said also in the 22nd Psalm, in which the sufferings of Jesus upon the cross and His exaltation are described: ‘I will declare Thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto Thee.’ Notice how literally that was fulfilled; for it was immediately after His resurrection, and in reference to this Psalm, that Jesus said, ‘Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.’ The risen Saviour, as the first-born among many brethren, hastens to declare the name Father unto His disciples, and to assure them, that He who sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are both of one.

…Is not His atonement upon Golgotha most glorious in the sight of God? It is Jesus Who is our representative and spokesman.

(Adolph Saphir, The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Exposition, Vol. 1, pp. 146-7; Chicago, IL, 1902)

Oh, dear saint, is “not His atonement upon Golgotha most glorious in the sight of God?” “Where are your accusers?” What is your petty self-assessment? Are you buckling under the weight of another man’s opinion (or your own heady self-evaluations), as if they coincide with the “testimony of Jesus”? If you are in Christ; if you are walking “in the light”; if you would “rather endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,” you have been set apart unto Him, and He is not shamefaced with regard to His identification with you.

End now the suffocating cycle of seeking a name among men. End now the comparing of your own life with others. End now the envy and all other inward contentions. Be done with the “sin which so easily entangles” your heart. Lift your soul heavenward, and behold Him! “Bask in His beams,” as McCheyne once charged his people. Consider! The Lord of Glory Himself is not ashamed to call you His brother. Oh, dear saint, let not this truth elude your heart. He calls you His own, and He is enough.

Gospel-Grounded Encouragement in the Church

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“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up….” || 1 Thess. 5.9-11

There is a remarkable “Therefore” in this text. It communicates to us the truth that all true fellowship within the context of the Church must be grounded upon “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” that is, it must be based upon Gospel faith and hope. There is no other foundation for church or ministry, and in truth, one which seeks to build on any other foundation will be building in vain. However much he might be able to accomplish noble things of one kind or another, he will not be building the church nor carrying out the Great Commission. Let us look into this.

That “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us” is the great hallmark of the Church’s foundation. This is the Gospel, that we who were “dead” in sin have been justified by the Atoning work of the Mediator, through His death, burial, and resurrection. The wrath which is already upon the world, the wrath which is coming, that wrath which we ourselves deserved— it has all been lifted from us, and placed upon the shoulders of the Lamb of God, “who loved us.”

Therefore, our justification, sanctification, and glorification have been purchased by Him, for the glory of the Father and the good of those whom He has chosen. This establishes the promised reality, that we have been destined in Christ to “obtain salvation.” This is the glorious word of the Gospel. In Christ we have been saved from the wrath to come, saved from the stranglehold of Satan, saved from our iniquity and the deadness it constitutes. In Christ also we are being saved from ourselves and from the affects of the Fall, as He does the good work of conforming us to the image of His Son. And one day, we shall be saved utterly from the very presence of sin, from the Adamic residue which remains in us so long as we abide in these perishing tents of flesh.

Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another…”

We are “members” of that justified, yet being sanctified, and yet to be glorified family. See one another in that way, the apostle would say, and encourage one another because of it.

The capstone to the Gospel promise is that “whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him.” That is to say, whether we are alive in this age, “absent from the Body” and “present with the Lord,” or enjoying the fulfillment of the promise in new bodies at the end of the age, we now “live with Him” because of the fact that He has not destined us for wrath, but rather for salvation.

The goal of justification is not merely that we should be clean in His sight, and have the God-established right to stand before Him in His Son, though that alone is glorious beyond description and compare. The goal is that we “might live with Him,” which is to say, that we might “know Him in the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings,” and one day, “look full in His wonderful face” with “everlasting joy upon our heads.”

Put another way, the goal in Christ of our not being “destined for wrath” is that we would become the servants, friends, and children of God. We may live with the One who is faithful and true. We may have real knowledge of Him, real communion with Him, and real life with Him, from the moment of our new birth, all the way into eternity future. This is an ineffably wonderful truth, and it ought to change the way that we see and treat one another.

Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…”

In light of this Gospel and all of its glorious implications, upon the one true foundation of Jesus Himself, the apostle charges us to engage in a vital kind of life together, by which we are literally and existentially to be encouraged and built up in Him. It is no mere hobby, no conveniently compartmentalized religion. It is a reality to be experienced and enjoyed increasingly, “all the more as we see the Day approaching.”

This means that the saints in our local assembly cannot grow up into Christ without us, and we cannot grow up into Christ without them. We need the life, wisdom, accountability, encouragement, and familial consistency which can only be provided in the life of the local church, when all the parts supply what they ought to supply.

Think not that you are dispensable- that the Church doesn’t need you. Think not that other saints are dispensable- that you don’t need them. Rather, “encourage one another and build one another up…” 

Simply put, our faith must be encouraged and built up by the saints with whom we’re in fellowship, and their faith must be encouraged and built up by us. Is your life resting firmly upon the one foundation of the Gospel? If so, how are you being encouraged along by your brothers and sisters? And to what degree are you encouraging and building them up yourself? This is at the heart of what it means to be the “church, which is His Body.”

Think upon these things, and pray for the grace and wisdom to obey the Scriptures by responding accordingly. This may require a fresh return to the ancient foundation of the faith, and it is likely to restructure your schedule, your priorities, and your affections. And it will be worth it in every regard.

“A tree which stands by itself, is most exposed and liable to the strongest blasts.” || George Whitefield

On the other hand:

Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. || Matthew 7.24-25

Kept By God Through Fire & Water

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Bless our God, O peoples;
    let the sound of His praise be heard,
W
ho has kept our soul among the living
    and has not let our feet slip.
 For You, O God, have tested us;
    You have tried us as silver is tried.
 You brought us into the net;
    you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
You let men ride over our heads;
    we went through fire and through water;
yet You have brought us out to a place of abundance. || Psalm 66.8-12

The Psalmist calls the people of Israel to bless the LORD and give voice to His praises in this remarkable portion of Scripture. The people of God are enjoined here to remember His faithfulness, and at the root of their praise is a sweet surrender to His keeping and sanctifying power. They are to bless Him for His faithfulness in preserving them, and for His Covenantal commitment to make them holy.

The God of Israel had “kept” their “soul among the living” and had “not let” their “feet slip.” He had been revealed as the Covenant-keeping-God, by Whose protecting and preserving hand they had been loosed from Egyptian incarceration and bondage. There is an intimate acknowledgement here of His presence in their deliverance.

Every drop of water which moved to part the Sea; every step that each Israelite took upon the dry-bed; every heart-beat and breath along the way; every passing of man, woman, and child from the land of bondage to the Land of promise—- every portion came from the hand of the One Who had kept their souls in His own “kind intention.” Few things speak so clearly and tenderly of this truth like the Lord’s description of Himself as the “Shepherd of Israel.” 

His keeping power is a precious reality, one which ought to evoke the highest praises from His people, for like the nation Israel, we are powerless to save ourselves, and powerless to finish our course without Him.

Along with the excellencies of God’s keeping and delivering power, the Psalmist calls attention not only to Israel’s deliverance, but to the purpose of their entire pilgrimage, that they [and we] might bless Him rightly.

It wasn’t only their preservation and deliverance from Egypt which was effected by God, but their testing and crushing as well. This is an oft-neglected truth among present day believers.

“For You, O God, have tested us; You have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; You laid a crushing burden on our backs; You let men ride over our heads…”

This is the theology of sanctification, perceived by the Psalmist in the history of Israel, and it ought to land upon the Church with a most powerful conviction and hope.

There is no being brought into the “joy of our Master,” no arrival at the “place of abundance,” without passing through the trial, the “crushing burden,” the sifting of Divinely orchestrated testing. This comes to us not by the hand of an aloof Dictator, but by the hand of an infinitely wise and trustworthy Father who “disciplines the ones He loves.”

It was not merely the Egyptians who tested and crushed the people of God. They were merely instruments in the hand of the Potter. It was “You,” God Himself, Who was the Author of their “testing” and “trial”, for “You laid a crushing burden on our backs.”

Have we made peace with the revelation of God as the One who chastens, breaks, and refines His people? Have we a humanistic residue in the soul, a “not Your will but mine be done” disposition; one which is willing to bless God for provisions and deliverances, but not for His dealings with us in sanctification?

The God of “steadfast love” laid the “crushing burden” upon Israel, and He likewise lays it upon us. It is not a burden meant to crush His children, but rather a burden meant to crush that which remains in our hearts of a “boasting in the flesh”; that which blurs and impedes our view of Him. It is the fire of testing, which is predestined by the Lord to bring us forth as silver.

One day that crushing will find its consummation in the people of Israel, in the glorious Day of their promised redemption. Our experience in the faith will bear the same kind of character. The dealings of God with Israel are a statement and prototype of His dealings with the children of God in this age, and it is crucial that we should see this.

One of the ways by which He keeps us is by testing us, trying us in the fires of real life, and He means in this to crush every idea and impulse which rises up in our hearts “against the knowledge of God.” He will bring us into the net of trial on many occasions throughout our sojourn— He will lay crushing burdens on our backs, and even permit men to “ride over our heads,” that we might be “tried as silver” and “brought to a place of abundance” in Him.

Do not be quick too attribute every hardship and difficulty to the enemy. There are times- perhaps daily, even hourly- when Satan is tempting and accusing, and we need simply to “resist” him that he might “flee.” This we should do, not giving any “foothold” to his lies.

But do not be mistaken, testings and trials are also determined by God for our own sanctification- that we should be holy as He is holy. There are crises which the enemy means for evil and men mean for harm, but which God means for our good. This is a clear thread of truth which runs through the whole of the Biblical testimony. It was true for Israel, and it is true for us also.

God means to “shake everything that can be shaken” in us, that “only His unshakable Kingdom may remain.” There are bewilderments, disillusionments, disappointments, tragedies, collapsed ministries, inexplicable seasons of pressing and breaking which come from the hand of the Father, and these give evidence not to His having forsaken us, but rather to His unswerving commitment to our conformity into the image of His Son. He is committed to our joy.

He will bring us “into the net” of situations in which we find ourselves entangled beyond human explanation, pressed to cry out to Him for wisdom and grace. He will lay “crushing burdens on our backs,” things too difficult for us to resolve on the basis of our own strength, that we might seek the “better way” of His love, that we might lay down our lives and surrender again and again to His perfect will.

He will even “let men ride over our heads”; that is to say, to wrong us, offend us, speak ill of us, betray us, and misunderstand us, for His aim is the establishment our “everlasting joy,” and this can only be known to us when we “cease striving,” “lean not on our own understanding,” and “look unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.” 

This sifting is one of the means by which God keeps “our soul among the living,” and the child of God, when he or she is seeing rightly, will welcome this blessed cross. By it, “the world is crucified” to us, and we are “crucified to the world.” By this crushing of our own self-sufficiency and pride, this ongoing mortification of our Adamic propensities, we are brought “through fire and through water” to the “place of abundance”— that place in which the “likeness of Christ” is being formed in us, and He has become our chief desire and treasure.

This must become a conviction for us, and there is hope and meaning to be found here that addresses the deepest questions, uncertainties, and pains which otherwise blanket the history of men with chaos and purposelessness.

Trials are full of meaning for the children of God. They are not to be denied or circumvented, but to be discerned with the help of the Holy Spirit and embraced as one of the means by which the Kingdom of God comes and the will of God is done in the earth— indeed, in our very hearts.

“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2.10)

May it never be. Seeing Him as He is, bowing low before Him, learning to trust Him amidst the “all things” which “work together” for our “good”, blessing Him and letting the “sound of His praise be heard”, even in the trial— Herein is the wisdom which belongs to the sons and daughters of God Almighty.

The Church which knows its God in this way will be fitted to proclaim His worth to a world that is languishing in the prison of sin, dampened, darkened and isolated from the free and clear “place of abundance,” incapable of reversing and enjoying the One who is “full of grace and truth.”

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. || Acts 16.25-26

To know His keeping power, to know His siftings, and to bless Him in the midst of them is to “be” His Church— that witness-People through whom His “manifold wisdom” is “put on display.” This is at the heart of the apostolic faith. It is the ballast in the vessel of our so great Great Commission.

We would be wise to reflect upon these things, and to learn the art of “Blessing our God” in light of them. He is the one who tests and tries us. He is the One who keeps us. He is the One Who brings us to the place of “life more abundantly.” This is to be our experience in Jesus Christ, and by it He becomes our portion. There is no sweeter treasure, no greater reward than Him.

‘Tis my happiness below
Not to live without the cross,
But the Saviour’s power to know,
Sanctifying every loss;
Trials must and will befall;
But with humble faith to see
Love inscribed upon them all,
This is happiness to me.

God in Israel sows the seeds
Of affliction, pain, and toil;
These spring up and choke the weeds
Which would else o’erspread the soil:
Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to His feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there.

Did I meet no trials here,
No chastisement by the way,
Might I not with reason fear
I should prove a castaway?
Bastards may escape the rod,
Sunk in earthly vain delight;
But the true-born child of God
Must not — would not, if he might.

-William Cowper, “Welcome Cross”, 1855

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. || 1 Pet. 4.12-14