2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 800 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Conformed to the Image of God’s Son.

TextOne of the greatest promises that we find in the Word of God is that believers will be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son. To the human mind such a thing is incomprehensible, we cannot even begin to understand what this means to the believer. The words “conformed to the image” mean both an inward and an outward likeness.

  1. “Conformed” means the very same form or likeness as Christ. Within our nature—our being, our person—we shall be made just like Christ. As He is perfect and eternal—without disease and pain, sin and death—so we shall be perfected just like Him. We shall be transformed into His very likeness.
  2. “Image” means a derived or a given likeness. The image of Christ is not something which believers merit or for which they work; it is not an image that comes from their own nature or character. No man can earn or produce the perfection and eternal life possessed by Christ. The image of Christ, His perfection and life, is a gift of God.

To be conformed to the image of God’s Son means…

  • to become a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

When a person believes in Jesus Christ, God sends His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to indwell the heart of the believer. God places within the heart of the believer His own divine nature and makes him a new creature and a new man. The believer is actually born again spiritually. He actually partakes of the divine nature of God through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.

And note what happens: the believer escapes the corruption that is in the world. He lives eternally, for the divine nature of God can never die. When it is time for the believer to depart this life, quicker than the blink of an eye, his spirit is transferred into heaven, into the very presence of God Himself. Why? Because of the divine presence of God: the believer is a new creature, a new man, a person in whom the very Spirit of God Himself dwells; and the Spirit of God cannot die.

  • to be adopted as a son of God (Ephes. 1:5).

How unbelievable—what a glorious privilege to be adopted as a child of God! And note:

⇒ It was predestinated, that is, foreordained.

⇒ It was the pleasure of God to adopt us—the good pleasure of His will. And it was His purpose to adopt us, and His purpose and His pleasure and His will were all good.

This is most striking when we consider how sinful and depraved we are and how much we have cursed, rebelled, and rejected God. The fact that God wills and finds pleasure in adopting us and that He counts it as good is too much to believe. Yet, it is exactly what He says.

  • to be holy and without blame before Him (Ephes. 1:4; Ephes. 4:24).

God has chosen us to be holy and blameless. This is a wonderful verse. Just imagine! God determined before the world was ever created that He would have a people…

  • who would be “in Him,” that is, in His Son, Jesus Christ.
  • who would be “holy and without blame.”
  • who would live “before Him in love”—forever and ever.

This means a most wonderful thing; God wants us to be with Him. God does not want us separated from Him, gripped by sin and shame, sorrow and pain, death and hell. God wants us to live forever and ever with Him. In fact, note that God has determined that some will live with Him and Christ. He has “chosen us”—chosen believers—to live with Him. No amount of rebellion and rejection, cursing and denial of Him will stop His purpose and plan. God will have a people who will live with Him, and He will continue to choose us until He has the number He has purposed.

  • to bear the image of the heavenly: which is an incorruptible, immortal body (1 Cor. 15:49-54).

Men pattern their lives either after Adam or Christ, either after the world of after heaven. They who live for the earth and its worldliness are those who are living only after the first Adam; therefore, the only body they will have will be a body of death; that is, a body that will be separated from God.

However, the persons who pattern their lives after the heavenly Christ, will be given a body just like the body of Christ, a perfect heavenly body. All persons who turn from the image of the earthly to the heavenly (Christ) will bear the image of the heavenly.

  • to have one’s body fashioned (conformed) just like His glorious body (Phil. 3:21).

The believer’s life is to focus upon the glorious body he is to receive when Christ returns.

  1. Right now the believer’s body is vile, that is, lowly and humiliating. The human body is so lowly and humiliating…
  • because it has its origin out of the earth: it is nothing more than earthly chemicals or human flesh.
  • because it is subject to sin and selfishness, evil and destruction.
  • because it is so weak: it becomes sick and diseased, injured and maimed, aged and deteriorated.
  • because it is corruptible and dying, aging and mortal, offering no hope of ever lasting beyond a few short years—no hope whatsoever.
  1. However, note the wonderful declaration: The Lord Jesus Christ shall change the believer’s body and fashion or make it just like His glorious body. The word “fashion” points out a most wonderful thing. The word means the permanent, constant, and unchangeable being of a person. Our bodies shall be fashioned just like the glorious body of Christ. Imagine! To have a body that is permanent, constant, and unchanging. The believer will receive a spiritual body.
  • to be changed (transformed) into the same image of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).

In beholding Christ, believers are transformed into His image. The phrase “we all” means believers, those who have turned to Christ…

  • who have had the veil removed from their face.
  • who stand face to face with the glory of the Lord.

When a believer receives Jesus Christ as his Saviour, he is given the privilege to stand face to face with Christ. This simply means that he is given the privilege to know and understand Christ. Note several points.

  1. The phrase “open face” means that the believer is given the privilege of standing face to face with Christ, the privilege of knowing Christ personally and learning all about Him. There is no veil over the face or eyes of the believer, nothing to keep him from knowing the Lord.
  2. The object of the believer is to behold the glory of the Lord. This means to behold the Godhead and deity of the Lord, the splendour, brilliance, and excellence of His person and Being. Jesus Christ is the Son of God who became Man. His “glory” refers to the glorious fact that He as the Son of God did become Man. When a person grasps this fact, he understands the “glory of the Lord,” the incomprehensible fact that the Lord paid the supreme and ultimate price, the unbelievable price, for the salvation of man.
  3. The believer, however, never grasps the full glory of the Lord. No man, who is only finite and flesh, could ever understand the Lord, who is infinite Spirit. The believer only sees and understands the glory of the Lord as in a glass or a mirror. That is, he only sees a reflection of the Lord, not the full image. Presently, the believer is able to see the Lord only through the Word and the Holy Spirit; in the future, he shall stand face to face with the Lord throughout all eternity. Then he will know the Lord even as the Lord now knows him.
  4. The believer is changed or transformed into the image of Christ from glory to glory. This probably means two things.

⇒ When the believer beholds (grasps, understands, studies, lays hold of) the glory of the Lord, the same glory is created in him.

⇒ When the believer beholds the glory of the Lord, the believer progresses and grows from one stage of glory to a higher stage.

  • to be recreated just like Him (1 John 3:2-3).

There is the great hope and mystery of God’s love, the eternal transformation that believers shall undergo. Note the great declaration: “Beloved, now are we the sons [children] of God.” It is not that we shall be God’s children; we are already God’s children. If we have trusted and given our lives to Jesus Christ, we are now the children of God. Now note the declaration again: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” We know what we are now, but “it does not yet appear what we shall be…when he [Christ] shall appear.” The contrast is emphatic: we know what we are now, the children of God, but we do not know what we shall be like when Christ returns.

Note the words: “When he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” God is light; therefore, when we first see God face to face, His light will be transmitted to us and we shall become light even as He is light.

The believer is to be made just like Christ, conformed to His very image. This means that believers shall be like Christ in person and in character. Believers shall possess a perfect body and being. This is a precious thought. It is more than just a general idea that believers are to be like Christ. It is a definite idea—the idea that what Christ is, believers shall be. The whole precious idea is that Jesus Christ took the believer and purified and exalted him; therefore, the believer is to partake of the purity and holiness of Christ.

Meditate on God’s Word continuously.

The New Testament teaches that the Bible is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians. 6:17) …… It is a weapon that we are to wield against the enemy.

Jesus modelled this when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew. 4:1-11) …… When Satan enticed Him, Jesus spoke the Scripture aloud in response …… Eventually, God’s powerful Word wore down the enemy and he left the Saviour alone.

Our battles as Christian believers are spiritual battles …… We fight against Satan and his demonic forces (Ephesians. 6:12); therefore, we must wage war against them with spiritual, not physical, weapons.

Our weapons are the Word of God and prayer …… To speak God’s Word is to release it and empower it, to unleash its conquering power against the enemy …… By speaking God’s Word, we swing the sword of the Spirit against our deadly, destructive foe.

As we focus our thoughts on the Bible, we learn more about God and His ways …… We learn that God’s holy commands flow from His loving heart and that they protect and guide us throughout life.

Through obeying God, we learn to appreciate His commands because God showers His favour and blessings upon us …… We become the blessed person of Psalm 1.

  1. The result (v. 3).

The blessed man (or woman) is compared to a tree, but not just any tree …… He is not like a wild seedling that randomly sprouts in an inconvenient place.

He is like a tree intentionally planted in a carefully chosen spot: …… by the river where it will receive plenty of water for its growth …… where it will have every advantage to become fruitful.

  • God is presented throughout the Bible as a husbandman or gardener …… His relationship with Israel is portrayed as that of an owner and dresser of a vineyard (Isaiah. 5).

He is seen diligently cultivating His choice vine, the Hebrew nation …… Those reached by the Saviour are called “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord” (Isaiah. 61:3) …… Jesus also described the Father as the vinedresser and believers as branches of Christ, who is the True Vine.

  • The Father’s work in pruning and cultivating fruit is again emphasized …… A believer is also portrayed as a field that is sown and watered, a field in which God produces an increase (1 Corinthians. 3:7-9).

Planted also indicates that the blessed individual is firmly fixed …… Like a deeply-rooted tree, the righteous are secure when the winds and storms of life rage against them.

The strong root system also delivers fresh water from the river, which produces abundant fruit …… The tree flourishes …… Its leaves do not wilt and fall off …… Its foliage is rich, thick, and lush.

  • As ones who are blessed, our lives are flourishing and fruitful …… Like a well-watered tree, we produce spiritual fruit when we delight and meditate in God’s Word.
  • The blessed man is prosperous in all that he does …… Prosperity may include earthly possessions, but God’s richest blessings have nothing to do with material blessings.

Scripture speaks of a more valuable prosperity, the prosperity of the soul …… True prosperity in our lives is producing the fruit of God’s Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience …… Bearing the fruit of God’s Spirit is the result of loving God’s Word and obeying it.

Also note this: water in the Scripture is a symbol of the Holy Spirit …… It is the Spirit who produces fruit in our lives …… Water is also a symbol of the Word, specifically of the washing and cleansing effect of Scripture.

Sin can quickly make us unfruitful in the service of the Lord …… Living in obedience to God’s Word protects our fruit from becoming contaminated, diseased, and destroyed by sin.

We must constantly evaluate how much time we spend in God’s Word, especially in comparison to the amount of time we spend on other interests.

Our spiritual growth depends on our attention to God’s Word …… as Christians we need to pay attention to the words of the Apostle Peter who wrote:

“As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter. 2:2).

The Church must Mark Divisive People, Romans 16:17-20

Divisiveness and evil are always a threat to the local church. The reason can be simply stated: people have problems, even believers. The fact that we live in a corrupt and depraved world means that people become disgruntled, disappointed, unhappy, selfish, sinful, and in some cases evil. Even the strongest believers become contaminated with corruption by having to live in the very air of a sinful world. It is because of this that Paul warns the church and its believers: mark divisive people, for they are a constant threat to the church.

Note: this warning abruptly cuts into Paul’s greeting to the Roman church. Paul is greeting various believers in the church whom he has met on his travels throughout the world. All of a sudden, he interrupts his greeting and issues a severe warning. The abrupt interruption is not an afterthought; it is the final exhortation needed by a strong church—an exhortation against an event that is bound to happen: the seeping in of divisive people.

The most effective way for Satan to get a foothold into a strong church is to quietly and insidiously move a divisive person into some teaching or leadership position where he can influence immature believers. Paul knew this, so he left the warning until the end of his letter. It is a warning that must be heeded by a strong church if it is to keep its witness for the Lord.

There are three reasons why a divisive person must be marked and avoided.

  1. A divisive person causes division and lays stumbling blocks in the way of growth. Note exactly what is said: a divisive person acts “contrary to the doctrine which [believers] have learned.” He causes “divisions and offenses.”
  2. A divisive person does not serve Christ, but his own desires. Scripture clearly says that divisive persons do not serve Christ. They call themselves Christians, but their Lord is not Christ. They are not committed to His honour and glory and mission, but to themselves—to getting and doing what they want. The divisive person is still given over to the things of this carnal, sensual, and secular world.
  3. A divisive person uses talk and flattering words to deceive. He uses smooth, persuasive, and plausible words to lead people to take sides with him. He talks and acts godly, and he shows interest and concern for those whom he wants to convince. But note what Scripture says: the motive of the divisive person is to deceive.

The result of his divisiveness is tragic: he deceives the simple, that is, the unsuspecting, the innocent, the immature, the carnal, the new-born believers.

A strong church, such as the church in Roman was in Paul’s day, must constantly be marking and focusing upon what is good and untainted with evil. If a strong church fails to know and do good, it will be penetrated by evil (divisiveness) and it will become a weak church. Therefore, a strong church must always, with the utmost diligence, be looking for what is good and untainted with evil.

The point is this: a strong church must not only avoid evil (Romans 16:17); it must not allow evil to penetrate its fellowship. It must not allow a divisive person to stir up the “simple” (unsuspecting and innocent) believers of the church. A church must be wise: it must mark and focus upon what is good and untainted with evil. It must be wise enough to spot evil and to stop its penetration into the fellowship.

Note another fact: God is going to bruise Satan under the believers’ feet. It is the feet of the believers that God uses to bruise Satan. When genuine believers of a strong church do what God says, then God will act to deliver His people from evil and divisiveness.

The Duty of Pastor’s

Several years ago I John Owenhad a conversation with an acquaintance who attended a church not far from where I lived, the conversation was based on the fact that their church had just issued a call to their pastorate which had been accepted by the man concerned. The church concerned was active in evangelism within their area, especially with regard to door to door evangelism. As the conversation continued I was particularly taken aback by one comment the person made concerning the new pastor, I remember it well and it has stuck with me until this day, “now we have a new pastor, we can take a rest and let him do the work”.

What a total lack of understanding and ignorance as to the role of the pastor within the church, but sadly this fellowship is not alone with regard to the duty of the pastor’s role within the church. I feel that it should be incumbent on all churches who are seeking The Lord’s will with regard to the calling of a pastor to read and study the comments the comments of the Puritan John Owen concerning this very matter, he stated:

“The first and principal duty of a pastor is to feed the flock by diligent preaching of the word. It is a promise relating to the new testament, that God would give unto his church “pastors according to his own heart, which should feed them with knowledge and understanding” (Jer. 3:15). This is by teaching or preaching the word, and no otherwise. This feeding is of the essence of the office of a pastor, as unto the exercise of it; so that he who doth not, or can not, or will not feed the flock is no pastor, whatever outward call or work he may have in the church. The care of preaching the gospel was committed to Peter, and in him unto all true pastors of the church, under the name of “feeding” (John 21:15-17). According to the example of the apostles, they are to free themselves from all encumbrances, that they may give themselves wholly unto the word and prayer (Acts 6:1-4). Their work is “to labour in the word and doctrine (I Tim. 5:17); and thereby to “feed the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made them overseers” (Acts 20:28): and it is that which is everywhere given them in charge.

This work and duty, therefore, as was said, is essential unto the office of a pastor. A man is a pastor unto them whom he feeds by pastoral teaching, and to no more; and he that doth not so feed is no pastor. Nor is it required only that he preach now and then at his leisure, but that he lay aside all other employments, though lawful, all other duties in the church, as unto such a constant attendance on them as would divert him from this work, that he give himself unto it—that he be in these things labouring to the utmost of his ability. Without this no man will be able to give a comfortable account of the pastoral office at the last day.

It is incumbent on [pastors] to preserve the truth or doctrine of the gospel received and professed in the church, and to defend it against all opposition. This is one principal end of the ministry, one principal means of the preservation of the faith once delivered unto the saints. This is committed in an especial manner unto the pastors of the churches, as the apostle frequently and emphatically repeats the charge of it unto Timothy, and in him unto all to whom the dispensation of the word is committed (I Tim. 1:3-4, 4:6-7, 16, 6:20; II Tim. 1:14, 2:25, 3:14-17). The same he giveth in charge unto the elders of the church of Ephesus (Acts 20:28-31). What he says of himself that the “glorious gospel of the blessed God was committed unto his trust” (I Tim. 1:11) is true of all pastors of churches, according to their measure and call; and they should all aim at the account which he gives of his ministry herein: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7). The church is the “pillar and ground of the truth;” and it is so principally in its ministry. And the sinful neglect of this duty is that which was the cause of most of the pernicious heresies and errors that have infested and ruined the church. Those whose duty it was to preserve the doctrine of the gospel entire in the public profession of it have, many of them, “spoken perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Bishops, presbyters, public teachers, have been the ringleaders in heresies. Wherefore this duty, especially at this time, when the fundamental truths of the gospel are on all sides impugned, from all sorts of adversaries, is in an especial manner to be attended unto.

Sundry things are required hereunto; as—(1) A clear, sound, comprehensive knowledge of the entire doctrine of the gospel, attained by all means useful and commonly prescribed unto that end, especially by diligent study of the Scripture, with fervent prayer for illumination and understanding. Men cannot preserve that for others which they are ignorant of themselves. Truth may be lost by weakness as well as by wickedness. And the defect herein, in many, is deplorable. (2) Love of the truth which they have so learned and comprehended. Unless we look on truth as a pearl, as that which is valued at any rate, bought with any price, as that which is better than all the world, we shall not endeavour its preservation with that diligence which is required. Some are ready to part with truth at an easy rate, or to grow indifferent about it; whereof we have multitudes of examples in the days wherein we live. It were easy to give instances of sundry important evangelical truths, which our forefathers in the faith contended for with all earnestness, and were ready to seal with their blood, which are now utterly disregarded and opposed, by some who pretend to succeed them in their profession. If ministers have not a sense of that power of truth in their own souls, and a taste of its goodness, the discharge of this duty is not to be expected from them. (3) A conscientious care and fear of giving countenance or encouragement unto novel opinions, especially such as oppose any truth of whose power and efficacy experience hath been had among them that believe. Vain curiosity, boldness in conjectures, and readiness to vent their own conceits have caused no small trouble and damage unto the church. (4) Learning and ability of mind to discern and disprove the oppositions of the adversaries of the truth, and thereby to stop their mouths and convince gainsayers. (5) The solid confirmation of the most important truths of the gospel, and whereinto all others are resolved, in their teaching and ministry. Men may and do ofttimes prejudice, yea, betray the truth, by the weakness of their pleas for it. (6) A diligent watch over their own flocks against the craft of seducers from without, or the springing up of any hitter root of error among themselves. (7) A concurrent assistance with the elders and messengers of other churches with whom they are in communion, in the declaration of the faith which they all profess …

It is evident what learning, labour, study, pains, ability, and exercise of the rational faculties, are ordinarily required unto the right discharge of these duties; and where men may he useful to the church in other things, but are defective in these, it becomes them to walk and act both circumspectly and humbly, frequently desiring and adhering unto the advices of them whom God hath intrusted with more talents and greater abilities.

(John Owen, Works, vol. 16, pp. 74-75, 81-83).

We live in an age when there is increasing apostasy and declension within the church, it is my view that this is mainly due to a lack of disciplined biblical teaching within the church, especially from the pulpit. Too much worldliness has crept into the church, there is far too much emphasis placed on gimmickry and church growth programmes and the role of the pastor is fast descending into that of a COE controlling the daily running of an ecclesiastical organisation.

Agapē – The Believer’s Love

The kind of love which the believer is to have for all people is agapē love, the gAgape Lovereat love of God Himself. The meaning of agapē love is more clearly seen by contrasting it with the various kinds of love. There are essentially four kinds of love. Whereas the English language has only one word for love to describe all the affectionate experiences of men, the Greek language had a different word to describe each kind of love or affectionate experience.

  1. There is passionate love or eros love. This is the physical love between sexes; the patriotic love of a person for his nation; the ambition of a person for power, wealth, or fame. Briefly stated, eros love is the base love of a man that arises from his own inner passion. Sometimes eros love is focused upon good and other times it is focused upon bad. It should be noted that eros love is never used in the New Testament.
  2. There is affectionate love or storge love. This is the kind of love that exists between parent and child and between loyal citizens and a trustworthy ruler. Storge love is also not used in the New Testament.
  3. There is an endearing love or phileo love. Phileo love is the love of a husband and wife for each other, of a brother for a brother, of a friend for the dearest of friends. It is the love that cherishes, that holds someone or something ever so dear to one’s heart.
  4. There is selfless and sacrificial love or agapē love. Agapē love is the love of the mind, of the reason, of the will. It is the love that goes so far…
  • That it loves a person even if he does not deserve to be loved.
  • That it actually loves the person who is utterly unworthy of being loved.

Note four significant points about agapē love.

  1. Selfless or agapē love is the love of God, the very love possessed by God Himself. It is the love demonstrated in the cross of Christ.
  • It is the love of God for the ungodly.
  • It is the love of God for unworthy sinners.
  • It is the love of God for undeserving enemies.
  1. Selfless or agapē love is a gift of God. It can be experienced only if a person knows God personally—only if a person has received the love of God into his heart and life. Agapē love has to be shed abroad (poured out, flooded, spread about) by the Spirit of God within the heart of a person.
  2. Selfless or agapē love is the greatest thing in all of life according to the Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. Selfless or agapē love is the greatest possession and gift in human life according to the Scripture (1 Cor. 13:1-13).

True love (agapē love)—does not originate in the nature of man, but in the nature of God. God is love; love is the basic trait of His nature. The very existence of man is due to the fact that God is love, not to the fact that God believed or held hope for man. Therefore love, which is the basic trait of God’s nature, is far superior to faith and hope.

As believers in the Lord we have a responsibility to display agapé love in all our dealings with our fellowmen, agapé love is part of the image of Christ that each believer should seek to show more fully as each day passes.

 

William Gadsby – Pastor, Preacher and Hymnwriter.

Gadsby's HymnsWilliam Gadsby (1773–1844) was an English Baptist pastor. In addition to pastoring, Gadsby planted churches, and was an early leader of the Strict and Particular Baptist movement in England. Although he was not formally educated, Gadsby was regarded by his contemporaries as an excellent preacher and pastor who championed the cause of social justice and opposed the established Elizabethan Church.

He was born into poverty and only briefly attended Nuneaton church school, starting work as a ribbon weaver at age 13. By age 17 he had forgotten how to read. His conversion to Christianity was also at this age, he stated: “But when the Lord was graciously pleased to quicken my soul, being then just 17 years of age, and showed me something of what sin really was, I really feared it then, and a turn in my mind took place of a very different kind… I was then solemnly and blessedly led to believe in God’s free mercy and pardon.”

In addition to his excellent preaching and pastoring ability, William Gadsby was also a prolific writer of hymns, one that has stood the test of time is “Immortal honours rest on Jesus’ head” Gadsby’s own hymnbook, which is still used in some churches today, can be downloaded from the internet in PDF formate.

Immortal honours rest on Jesus’ head;
My God, my portion, and my living bread;
In Him I live, upon Him cast my care;
He saves from death, destruction, and despair.

He is my refuge in each deep distress;
The Lord my strength and glorious righteousness;
Through floods and flames He leads me safely on,
And daily makes His sovereign goodness known.

My every need He richly will supply;
Nor will His mercy ever let me die;
In Him there dwells a treasure all divine,
And matchless grace has made that treasure mine.

O that my soul could love and praise Him more,
His beauties trace, His majesty adore;
Live near His heart, upon His bosom lean;
Obey His voice, and all His will esteem.

Willam Gadsby (1)

The Sacrifice of Atonement

Sacrifice of Atonement “And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him”. (Leviticus 1:4)

The word Atonement means to wipe clean; to pay a ransom; to cover. Atonement means to reconcile by wiping clean, paying a ransom and covering the differences (sins) that lienate and separate a person from God, arousing His justice. The atonement propitiates or satisfies God’s wrath; it appeases, placates, cancels, annuls God’s anger against sin. Atonement means to ransom or deliver by the means of a substitute. The substitute takes the place of the sinner and bears the punishment due the sinner. Through the atonement, a person is set free from sin and its punishment. A person is ransomed from sin and the punishment of death, ransomed to live eternally with God. In one very simple statement, the atonement means reconciliation: the atonement reconciles a person to God and makes a person acceptable to God.

Two important facts need to be noted about the great subject of atonement.

1.  The atonement secured by animals was only a type, only a symbol and picture of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Jesus Christ died as the perfect sacrifice to ransom us from sin, death, and hell (separation from God). This fact must always be remembered: justice demands that a person pay for the crime he has committed. A person cannot get off in court just by apologizing and saying “I’ll try my best not to do it again.” This is not enough, not in a true court of justice. This is especially true when dealing with God. God’s justice demands that a person pay for breaking the law of God. But note: God is perfect; therefore, His justice demands that a perfect payment be made for man’s disobedience or crime against God. But in this fact there is a major problem, for no person is perfect. Consequently, no person can make the perfect payment to satisfy God’s justice. What then can man do? This is where Jesus Christ enters the picture. Jesus Christ—His death upon the cross—is the perfect payment, the perfect atonement, that satisfies God’s justice. He offered Himself up as the perfect sacrifice for our crimes or sins against God. He and He alone is the true atoning sacrifice, the true Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

2.  The atoning (reconciling) death of Jesus Christ was made once-for-all; therefore, His sacrifice is the only sufficient sacrifice ever made. The Burnt Offering finds its fulfillment in the death of Jesus Christ. His death makes animal sacrifice obsolete. We no longer have a need to offer Burnt Offerings for the atonement of our sins. We are reconciled to God by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. His sacrifice was the perfect ransom demanded by God for the cursing of His name, for the rejection and hostility of our behavior toward Him. Jesus Christ bore the judgment of God’s anger and wrath against sins. This He did to atone for our sins so that we might become reconciled and acceptable to Him. As stated, because of Jesus Christ, we no longer have to offer Burnt Offerings to become acceptable to God. We are acceptable when we approach God through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His sacrifice that atones for our sins, that reconciles us to God—His sacrifice that makes us acceptable to God once-for-all.

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree

Barren Fig TreeScripture Reading: Luke 13:6 – 9

Introduction
The great prophet Isaiah told the people of Israel a parable about a vineyard (Isaiah. 5:1 – 7). The owner of the vineyard did everything he could to make the vineyard productive. He built a fence around it to protect it from marauding enemies. He removed the stones from the soil so that they could not interfere with the growth of the vines, and he planted only the finest vines. He built a tower in the midst of the vineyard and also constructed a wine press. He had every right to expect an abundance of delicious grapes, but instead the vineyard produced grapes that were bitter and repulsive.

In Isaiah’s parable Israel is the vineyard. Instead of producing a harvest for the glory of God, the people had drifted into spiritual degeneracy and moral bankruptcy. Because of Israel’s refusal to bring forth fruit, God spoke through Isaiah concerning the removal of the hedge that protected them. He an-nounced that he would command the clouds to rain no more upon it (Isaiah. 5:5). This sentence was pronounced because, instead of justice, the people had produced oppression, and instead of righteous-ness, they lived crooked, selfish, sinful lives.

In the parable of the barren fig tree, Jesus spoke a similar message to the Israel of his day. He spoke of the owner of a vineyard who had for three years sought fruit on a certain fig tree during harvesttime only to find it barren. He decided that the fig tree should be destroyed because it was nonproductive. He asked the man who was in charge of caring for the vineyard a question that has an application for us today. After issuing an order to cut the tree down, he asked, “why cumbereth it the ground” (Luke 13:7). The vinedresser still had hopes for figs and suggested that it be given one more year of opportunity in which to be productive.

This parable has both a national and a personal application. Through this parable Jesus was saying that the nation of Israel had one more opportunity to bear fruit for the glory of God.

I. This parable speaks of God’s absolute ownership.

A. Individuals forget that only God is absolute owner. The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. He placed humans on the earth to subdue and develop it, but he did not give the earth to them. The world still belongs to God. The psalmist said, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1).
B. Governments and economic systems forget or ignore that God is owner. In the world of today, two economic systems are contending for supremacy. The capitalistic system emphasizes that the in-dividual has a right to own, utilize, and control property. In the socialistic economic system, individual property rights are denied and ownership is vested in the state. Both of these systems are in error, for neither the individual nor the state has the right of sole ownership: ownership belongs to God.

II. This parable speaks of God’s right to expect fruit.

A. After the fig tree had been planted a sufficient length of time to bear fruit, the owner came expecting to find fruit in three successive years only to be disappointed repeatedly. Not only was he dis-appointed, but he decided that the tree had no right to continue to survive if it was going to be nonproductive.
B. God has a right to expect fruit from his vineyard. He is the vine and his disciples are the branches. “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Our heavenly Father is glorified as we bring forth much fruit (v. 8). “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (v. 16).

III. This parable speaks of the patience of God.

A. In three different years, he came to the vineyard expecting fruit from the fig tree before deciding to have it cut down.
B. Because of the intercession of the vinedresser, the owner consented to give the fig tree one more year of opportunity.
C. Jesus was saying that God is patient both with the nation and with the individual, and that he would give them another chance.

IV. This parable speaks of the firmness of God.

A. He who bears no fruit is a parasite. God is patient, but there is a limit to that patience. The fig tree was given another chance.
B. The owner of the vineyard said, “Cut it down.” God’s judgments are rooted in righteousness.

Conclusion
The unsaved about us are a total loss to God. They bear no fruit to his glory. They are in peril of ex-periencing his judgment. Because the mercy of God is still available to them and because of our concern for them, we should seek to guide them by God’s word in order that the Holy Spirit may draw them to experience the joy of bearing fruit.

Overcoming Paralyzing Fear and Trouble, Psalm 27

Peace and saftyOf all the oppressive emotions we experience as humans, fear is usually one of the most powerful. Fear is an enemy that rises up against us throughout our lives. When we are small children, it attacks our immature minds about silly things like monsters in the closet or under the bed, impossible catastrophes, and vivid images from dreams or movies. Although these things are nothing more than imaginations, they are very real to young children. As we mature, so do our fears. Made-up monsters are replaced by horrors that actually exist in our sin-cursed world. While fear is something we definitely feel, we must realize that it is more than an emotion: it is a spiritual enemy. Scripture informs us that the spirit of fear does not come from God (2 Timothy 1:7).

David encountered the spirit of fear, leading him to pen Psalm 27. We do not know what provoked his terror, but he indicated that it was a time when enemies sought to destroy him (v. 6), family forsook him (v. 10), and his foes were spreading cruel lies about him (v. 12). David was a man of war, and this psalm could apply to many occasions in his life.

1. Profess your faith in the Lord.

David did not begin this psalm by stating his fears but by declaring his faith. In so doing, he identified the only solution to the problem of fear: trusting the Lord. In the same personal way that David referred to the Lord as his shepherd (Psalm. 23:1), he now testifies that God was his light, salvation, and strength. Because of his personal relationship with the Lord, he would not be afraid of anyone or anything.

a) He is your light (v. 1).

David’s first declaration about God takes on special significance if the setting for this psalm was his encounter with Ishbibenob, the gigantic Philistine (2 Samuel. 21:16). After Abishai helped David slay this monster, David’s faithful men counselled him to lay down his sword because he was “the light of Israel” (2 Samuel. 21:17). In response, David announced that he was brightened by a greater light: the Lord Himself. Whatever light he was to God’s chosen nation was merely the reflection of the light of the Lord in his life.

Throughout Scripture, God is called the light of our lives. In what ways is this true?

⇒God is the source of our lives. Scripture sometimes describes our lives as lamps or candles, especially in the poetic books (Job—Song of Solomon). The Lord supplies the light that causes us to burn or live; He gives us life.

⇒God lights our path: as we travel through life God guides us by His presence and His Word.

⇒God shines into the darkness of our souls (minds) and enlightens us to see His truth.

⇒God brightens our lives, giving us a spirit of gladness and a reason to rejoice.

⇒God is the source of every good thing in our lives.

b) He is your salvation (deliverer) (v. 1).

Salvation means deliverance, liberty, or rescue. In this psalm, David was referring to being delivered from his enemies. The Lord had made a covenant with David; therefore, he was unafraid. He knew that the Lord would be faithful to His covenant. The Lord would save David from his enemies because of His promise and His purpose.

c) He is your strength (protector) (v. 1).

When David declared that the Lord was the strength of his life, he was not saying that God was his source of might or vitality. Strength refers to a place of shelter, safety, and protection. It can be translated as fortress, stronghold, or refuge. David was convinced that God would protect him from his enemies. As long as he trusted in the Lord, he was safe within the impenetrable walls of God’s mighty care.

d) He is your confidence (vv. 2-3).

The Lord’s protection in the past inspired David to be fearless in his present trouble (v. 2). Some newer Bible versions interpret this verse in the future tense, but the past tense (as in the KJV) is accurate. God had given David victory over foes that were larger and more powerful than he. The length of David’s list of conquests depends on exactly when in his life this psalm was penned. If he wrote it early in life, when Saul was pursuing him, he had already slain a lion, a bear, and the giant Goliath. These had desired to literally eat or devour his flesh (1 Samuel. 17:34-37, 44).

David believed that the Lord who had strengthened him in the past against such formidable enemies as these would now deliver him from any host or army that might attack him (v. 3). He had always fought in the power of God, not in his own strength. The God who gave him power over the lion, the bear, and Goliath was mightier than any army that dared to war against him. Armed with confidence in the Lord, David could fearlessly face any foe.

Observation: Notice the order in this psalm: David professed his faith before he prayed about his fear. Why is this important? By encouraging himself through the Lord’s power and faithfulness, David was able to pray in faith rather than in doubt. When he asked for God’s help, he was certain that God would hear and answer him (vv. 7-13). This is how the Lord commands us to pray. In fact, when we pray with wavering faith, we cannot expect answers to our prayers (James. 1:6-7). It is the prayer of faith that is effective (James. 5:15-16).

2. (27:4-13) Seek the Lord and pray.

After encouraging himself with the truth of God’s power and faithfulness, David sought the Lord and asked for His help. Notice again the order of this psalm. Before petitioning the Lord to come to his aid, David revealed the highest priority in his life: to dwell in God’s presence daily.

a) This one thing above all else: God’s presence (vv. 4-6).

David was very clear about what mattered most to him: above all else, he desired the Lord’s presence in his life. At that time in Israel’s history, God’s house was the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle. This was where His actual presence  was manifested and where David longed to be (v. 4a). Just like the priests, who alone were permitted to enter into the sanctuary, David wanted to live in uninterrupted enjoyment of the Lord’s presence throughout life.

David yearned to live in God’s presence in order to behold or gaze upon the beauty of the Lord (v. 4b). What is the beauty of the Lord? Scripture reveals that God’s beauty is in His holiness (1 Chronicles. 16:29; 2 Chronicles. 20:21; Psalm. 96:9). Every object in the tabernacle testified to the Lord‘s holiness. This is true worship: to bask in the presence of God, adoring His perfect holiness.

Additionally, David wanted to live in the Lord’s presence to enquire or seek Him (v. 4c). The Hebrew word used here literally means to plow into. David passionately desired to observe the Lord in His dwelling place, to meditate upon Him, to investigate Him. Simply put, David’s foremost priority was to know God. This is the desire of the true worshipper: not to receive something from God but to know God.

David recognized a vital fact: by living in God’s presence, he would receive God’s protection (v. 5). Many people turn to God only in times of trouble, but not David. He was not one to seek the Lord only when he needed something from Him. He understood that his relationship with God was the most important thing he could pursue. If he lived in the pavilion or dwelling of the Lord, he would be safely sheltered when trouble struck. The secret of his tabernacle (literally, secret spot or place) was the Holy of Holies, where the mercy seat was located—the actual place where God met with His people. By living in God’s presence, David would be set upon a high rock—a place that could not be penetrated, that sat high above his enemies’ reach (Psalm. 18:2; 31:2-3).

In addition to the protection of God’s presence, David would also experience the power of God on his behalf. God would fight for him, granting him victory and exalting him over his enemies (v. 6). When the battle was over, David vowed to joyfully offer sacrifices of thanksgiving to the Lord. Filled with faith in God’s deliverance, he looked forward to triumphantly singing God’s praises in His sanctuary.

b) Beg God to be merciful and to answer your prayer (vv. 7-9).

Seemingly, in an instant, David’s demeanour changed from confidence to concern. The fear that can so suddenly seize us reared its menacing head in David’s spirit. Perhaps he could hear the thundering of his enemies’ horses in the distance, or perhaps they came into view. Shaken by the ever-approaching battle, David called on the Lord (v. 7). Notice that he prayed aloud, not silently in his spirit. He asked God to have mercy on him—to stoop to help him in his time of desperate need. With little time to spare, he urgently prayed that God would answer him, that He would give His full, immediate attention and grant His help.

David reminded God that he often sought His face. He was not a person who prayed only in times of trouble, who sought only His helping hand but not His face (v. 8). Many people pray only when they desperately need something from God. David’s voice was a familiar one to God: he regularly prayed and sought God’s countenance. David prayed because he desired face-to-face fellowship with the Lord. He loved to be in the Lord’s presence; therefore he obeyed God’s command to seek Him (Deuteronomy. 4:29; Psalm. 24:6).

Now, in his hour of fear and trouble, David desperately needed to know that God was there. Gripped by fear, he pleaded with God to reveal Himself (v. 9). In Scripture, when God’s face is turned toward us, it is a symbol of His favour and blessing. When He hides His face from us, it means that we are out of fellowship with Him and have forfeited His protection (Deuteronomy. 31:17-18; Isaiah. 59:2; Micah. 3:4). David sought assurance that God was not angry with him because of some sin in his life. Never had he fought in his own strength but only with the help of the Lord. His only hope of salvation (deliverance from his enemies) was God (Elohim), the mighty, powerful one. He was David’s helper; He was David’s Saviour.

c) Acknowledge God’s faithfulness: He will never forsake you (even if parents do) (v. 10).

In his hour of fear, David once again spoke in faith, declaring God’s faithfulness. He encouraged himself in the Lord by remembering God’s promise to be always with us (Deuteronomy. 20:1; Joshua. 1:9). David used the most extreme example to convey the unfailing presence of God in his life: his parents loved him dearly, and, like most parents, they would likely have given their lives for their son. But even if they should abandon him, the Lord would gather him to Himself and take care of him.

d) Ask God for guidance (v. 11).

With his enemies waiting to destroy him, David sought direction from the Lord. He humbly asked God to teach or point out the way he should go. Although death at the hands of his enemies seemed inescapable, David was convinced that God would make a way—a path or road—through his crisis. He unwaveringly asserted that God would remove every obstacle that stood between him and safety. This is what he meant when he referred to a plain or straight path. He called out for God to reveal the clear way to him and to lead him along it.

e) Ask God for victory over your enemies (v. 12).

David refused to accept the possibility that God would allow him to be destroyed by his foes. Their will was not God’s will. God had revealed His plan for David’s life, and David boldly cried out to the Lord to stop his foes from preventing God’s purpose from coming to pass. They were false witnesses, men who had slandered David for the purpose of turning others against him. Because of his integrity and righteous walk, they found it necessary to create lies about David in order to justify their cruel or violent intentions toward him.

f) Express confidence in the Lord: That you will experience the goodness of God throughout life (v. 13).

Even as David’s bloodthirsty enemies drew closer, he declared his unwavering faith in the Lord. Notice that I had fainted is in italics, meaning that it is not in the original text but was added by the translators to clarify the verse. David’s confidence in God sustained him against the fear of his rapidly-approaching enemies. He was able to stand against the army that sought his life because the Lord was present with him.

The land of the living is used in the Old Testament in contrast to sheol (hell), the realm of the dead. David was sure of surviving this attack because of God’s promises to him. The Lord had made a covenant with him, and David believed that God was true to His word. When David referred to the Lord’s goodness, he was not speaking of God’s benevolence or kindness toward him. Rather, he was pointing to God’s attribute of goodness, a facet of His holy character. God is good as opposed to evil: He cannot lie; He cannot fail to keep His covenant. God’s faithfulness to His holy character was David’s sustaining assurance of deliverance from his enemies.

3. (27:14) Wait patiently for the Lord to meet your needs: Be strong and courageous while waiting.

David concludes this encouraging psalm with a word of advice: wait on the Lord. To wait on the Lord certainly involves patience; that is, enduring until God chooses to act on our behalf, according to His perfect timing. But it also includes expectation: fully anticipating God to do everything that He has promised. This is also what the word hope usually means in the Bible. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament describes it beautifully and clearly:

Waiting with steadfast endurance is a great expression of faith. It means enduring patiently in confident hope that God will decisively act for the salvation of his people (Genesis 49:18). Waiting involves the very essence of a person’s being, his soul. Those who wait in true faith are renewed in strength so that they can continue to serve the Lord while looking for his saving work (Isaiah 40:31). There will come a time when all that God has promised will be realized and fulfilled (Isaiah 49:23; Psalm 37:9). In the meantime the believer survives by means of his integrity and uprightness as he trusts in God’s grace and power (Psalm 25:21). His faith is strengthened through his testing’s, and his character is further developed (Psalm 27:14).

This expectation has the power to overcome fear in our lives, strengthening us in troubling times. We can face every foe—be it a wicked person or a frightening circumstance—with courageous hearts when we believe that God will faithfully do all that He has promised.

Conclusion: God can be trusted. We are His dear children, sons and daughters, for whom He paid the supreme price, the life of His own Son, Jesus Christ. We should be especially encouraged when we remember that nothing is more powerful than the love of God, who gave His Son for us.

We must also remember that God acts according to His schedule, not ours. He is never late; rather, He is always on time to accomplish His perfect purpose. Sometimes He allows us to suffer trouble and trials, as He did when Lazarus was sick. Jesus delayed visiting the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, because He had a greater purpose than healing Lazarus (John. 11). God has a purpose for everything that happens in our lives, so we must be patient until God’s perfect work through our trials is completed (James. 1:2-4). The waiting is the difficult part, but it is in God’s waiting room that He does so much important work in our lives.

In the meantime, we need not be afraid of anything that invades our lives. We can be strong rather than weak, courageous rather than fearful, and encouraged rather than discouraged when trouble comes. God is with us and for us, and He will deliver us when His purpose has been fulfilled. Until He does, we can endure with strength, courage, and hope.