THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE – What does 2016 hold for each of us beloved? Our Father knows (best). We do not. G Campbell Morgan wisely said therefore “Let the year be given to God in its every moment! The year is made up of minutes: let these be watched as having been dedicated to God! It is in the sanctification of the small that hallowing of the large is secure.”
“Time that is past we can never recall.
Of time to come, we are not sure at all.
Only the present is now in our power,
Therefore, redeem and improve every hour.” -Anonymous
Time is a strange commodity — we cannot save it, retrieve it, relive it, stretch it, borrow it, loan it, stop it or store it , but can only use it or lose it. We can’t call “time out” in the game of life and there are no “instant replays” as in the game of football. Job in the midst of the trial of his life was very sensitive to the brevity of life declaring “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle…my life is but breath… my days are swifter than a runner. They flee away. They slip by like reed boats, like an eagle that swoops on its prey. Man, who is born of woman, is of few days, and full of trouble. Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He flees like a shadow and does not remain.” (Job 7:6-7, 9:25-26, 14:1-2) A poet phrased it well — “When as a child I laughed and wept, time crept. When as a youth I dreamed and talked, time walked. When I became a full grown man, time ran. When older still I daily grew, time flew. Soon I shall find in traveling on, time gone.” And so while we cannot control the length of our days, yet by God’s grace we can control their depth, for we know that our Redeemer lives (Job 19:25) and that He is on our side (Ps 124:1-2–note, cf Ro 8:31-32–note).
Our vigor is fleeting, our best years are brief,
Our youth passes quickly—time’s ever a thief;
But hope yet becomes us—death’s sting holds no power;
We have a Redeemer—an unfailing Tower. —Gustafson
James wrote you “do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:15) When the great artist Raphael died at the early age of 37, friends and relatives carried his marvelous but unfinished painting The Transfiguration in the funeral procession. His family felt that because of the limited time he was allotted to use his creative genius, the painting was an appropriate symbol of his unfulfilled earthly aspirations. That half-completed picture has another meaning–a message that should impress itself on all of us: Life is fleeting and death may come unexpectedly. We should treasure each hour as a gift of great value and use it to the best advantage. And so we do well to pray the prayer of Moses the man of God “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born, or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.…. Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years. Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away….SO TEACH US to number our DAYS, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” (Ps 90:1-2, 10, 12–note) The root meaning of the verb translated “NUMBER” is “to weigh” or “to measure.” We are to place each DAY in the divine balance so that it tips the scales in such a way that will bring glory to God and blessing to the lives of others. Remember that there is no time after time, but there is an eternity. Indeed, time is but the fringe of eternity!
Reflect for a moment what time of day it would be today if Moses’ normal life span of “70 years” were were squeezed into a single 24-hour day. For example, if you are 59, the time is approximately 8:30pm. For me as I approach my 70th birthday, it would be near midnight! In fact, this Christmas I considered asking my children for a watch called the “Tikker” which not only tells time but calculates your estimated life span, and displays a running countdown of your remaining time! It is advertised as the watch “that counts down your life, just so you can make every second count!” That’s not a bad tagline Biblically speaking! So the question is…
How much time? We are never sure,
But at least we have today
To seek to do the Master’s will,
In all we do and say. —Fitzhugh
David a man after God’s own heart echoed a prayer similar to Moses — “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my DAYS are numbered–how fleeting my life is.” (Ps 39:4NLT) Did you notice that the prayers of both men specify “DAYS” not years? Most men number their life in years, but wise men number their lives in DAYS. David goes on to write “BEHOLD, Thou hast made my DAYS as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Thy sight. Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah…. And now Lord what do I wait for? My hope is in You” (Ps 39:5,7–note) For what are you waiting? And how can you be sure that what you’re waiting for is going to come to pass? In light of the brevity of life, David’s HOPE was in Jehovah. Biblical hope is not “hope so,” but “hope sure,” a mindset that gives us an absolute assurance that God will do good to us in the future. The “Tikker” is ticking. Today is the DAY for us to seek God’s presence and power to enable us to be the people He wants us to be. And finding HOPE in our eternal God gives meaning for our daily lives however long or short. As Spurgeon explains “a handbreadth is one of the shortest natural measures, being the breadth of four fingers; such is the brevity of life, by divine appointment; God hath made it so, fixing the period in wisdom. David’s “BEHOLD” calls us to attention. To some the thoughts of life’s hastiness will bring the most acute pain, but to others the most solemn earnestness. How well should those live who are to live so little! Is my earthly pilgrimage so brief? Then let me watch every step of it, that in the little time there may be much of grace.” Selah – Pause and reflect on these things remembering that it is not HOW LONG you live that counts, but HOW WELL you live. Don’t spend time. Invest it! Don’t spend it on futility. Invest it in eternity! “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Eccl 9:10).
One life for Christ is all I have,
One life for Him so dear;
One life for doing all I can
With every passing year. —Brandt
Moses and David were both seeking God’s wisdom to live in the eternal now, to live in light of eternity, knowing that TODAY is the only DAY of which one can be certain. We need to give God our days, confident that He will take care of our tomorrows. “Yesterday is but a cancelled check. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is all of the cash that you have. Spend it wisely.” Indeed, we are stewards of every God-given DAY. DAYS wasted can never be recovered. No man ever possessed the same moment twice! One DAY we will all give an account for the opportunities God gave us each day of our life (2Cor 5:10–note). We have all been allotted the same amount of time each day. May God grant that we learn to view every minute as precious, seeking to use it for His glory, for as the poet put it “I have only just a minute – only 60 seconds in it./ Forced upon me – can’t refuse it/ But it’s up to me just how I use it; I must suffer if I lose it./ Give account if I abuse it./ Just a tiny little minute – but eternity is in it.” Amen
SO THE QUESTION IS “AM I REDEEMING THE TIME OF MY LIFE?” To help answer that question ask yourself what do you really value most in life? Undoubtedly God, Jesus, family, etc are at the top of your list. But did you remember to include “TIME?” Ephesians 5:15-16–note has been called the Bible’s key to TIME MANAGEMENT. In these passages Paul commands all believers “Therefore (because we have been awakened from spiritual stupor and spiritual death and have the light of Christ – Eph 5:14–note) BE CAREFUL(a command to continually take heed, be alert, be vigilant, to discern with Spirit enabled vision) how you walk, not as unwise men (foolishly), but as wise, MAKING THE MOST OF (REDEEMING) THE OPPORTUNITY (Kairos) because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:16) Notice that the evil of our day should motivate us to redeem the time each day. C H Spurgeon paraphrases Eph 5:16–note–“See then that ye walk circumspectly (being careful to consider all circumstances and all possible consequences), not carelessly, not thinking that it is of no importance how you live; but looking all round you, “walk circumspectly,” watching lest even in seeking one good thing you spoil another.” In other words, if we walk wisely, we will be careful not to let the good steal God’s best! Charles Hummel, author of “Tyranny of the Urgent,” wrote that our “greatest danger is letting the urgent (secular, temporal) things crowd out the important (divine, eternal things).” Our problem is that too often we live by life’s demands, instead of by God’s priorities. Remember that life is too short for us to do everything we want to do, but it is long enough for us to do everything God wants us to do.
Paul gives a parallel command in Colossians to “Conduct (command to make this your habitual practice enabled by the Spirit) yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, MAKING THE MOST OF (same verb as Eph 5:16) the OPPORTUNITY (KAIROS). Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.” (Col 4:5-6–note) The verb MAKING THE MOST OF (REDEEMING) (Eph 5:16, Col 4:5) literally means to “buy out of the market place” as would a wise merchant diligently seeking the best bargains, taking care not to miss the fleeting “opportunities!” MAKING THE MOST OF is in the present tense which calls for us to make redemption of time our daily practice, buying up the strategic opportunities which God providentially places in our path. If we are walking wisely (Eph 5:15–note), filled with (continually controlled and enabled by) God’s Spirit (Eph 5:18–note), we will be spiritually alert to divine OPPORTUNITIES and will begin to view people and circumstances not simply as encounters (or irritations) but as opportunities (and “invitations”) to impact eternity, as we learn to “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2Cor 4:18–note).
Think of redeeming the time this way – If each day someone gave you $1440 (the number of minutes in a day) and said spend it or lose it, most of us would be quite motivated to wisely spend every dollar! A survey asked “What do you have to live for?” to which 94% answered they were just enduring today and living for tomorrow. That is living unwisely (Eph 5:15–note). Too many people miss TODAY because they are worrying about TOMORROW (cf Jesus’ words in Mt 6:34–note). Adrian Rogers said “We face the future out of breath, because we have been fighting tomorrow’s battles today!” Instead of killing time, redeem it. Instead of counting the days, make your days count. “ETERNITY will be appreciated only in the measure that we have rightly handled TIME!” Spurgeon said “‘NOW’ should be the watchword of the wise.” LATER may be too late! Right NOW counts for eternity. To make our life count for eternity, we must be wise in how we spend our time today. What will your eternal harvest be? A popular slogan says, “Life Is Short—Party Hard.” But God, Who gives us eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, reminds us that “Life Is Short—Live It Well!” It’s not how long you live that counts, but how well you live, for a life lived for God will count for eternity. To make the most of our earthly existence, we must lose ourselves in the will of God, living “the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” (1Pe 4:2–note).
I do not ask for honor, fame
While life’s short race I run,
But for a will to do Thy will
And then Thy glad “Well done.” —Meadows
In Ephesians 5:16 the word TIME is the Greek word KAIROS which can also be translated as OPPORTUNITY (as in Col 4:5) or SEASON (Ps 1:3 in the Lxx). In ancient Greece “Kairos” was a mythological character who had a forelock by which you could seize him when you met him, but who was bald in the back, so once he had sped past (his statute had wings on his feet), he could not be seized again. And so kairos refers to a fixed and definite period of time during which something can be accomplished that cannot be accomplished after the time has passed. The idea of kairos is not “clock time” (Gk – chronos) but what one writer refers to as “kingdom opportunities.” The time/opportunity for bringing forth fruit is the spring SEASON in which the tree bears fruit (Ps 1:3). Once the season has passed, there is no fruit. And so in a spiritual sense kairos is the time which God allots to each believer to bring forth “spiritual fruit.” Therefore it behooves us, enabled by the Spirit, to “Seize the Day” (Carpe diem) because Tempus fugit (Time flies)! Kill time and you murder opportunity. History records that when Hannibal could have taken Rome he did not, and when he later sought to he could not. As Horace Mann put it “Lost yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.” Kairos represents the best time to do something, the moment when circumstances are most suitable. Kairos can be a moment or a season, but always refers to specific times in which opportunity is “ripe”, so that when the time passes, so does the opportunity.
Our English word OPPORTUNITY is derived from the Latin “ob portu.” In ancient times before modern harbors, ships had to wait for the timing of the tide before they could make it safely to port. Thus “OB PORTU,” described the ship waiting “FOR PORT,” ready to seize the crucial moment when it could ride the tide into safe harbor. The captain knew that if he missed the passing tide, the ship would have to wait for another tide to come in. God gives each of us many “ob portu’s”, but we must be spiritually wise and Spirit filled in order to see and seize them. As Charles Swindoll said “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities (ob portu’s) brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” Shakespeare’s famous line from Julius Caesar conveys the same thought: “There is a tide in the affairs of men (an “ob portu”), Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries.” Napoleon said, “There is in the midst of every great battle a ten to fifteen minute period that is the crucial point (kairos). Take that period and you win the battle; lose it and you will be defeated.” In short, KAIROS conveys the sense of an “opportune time,” a “window of opportunity”. “Opportunity is the flower of time which blooms for a moment and is gone for ever.” (G Barlow) John Broadus said “Opportunity is like a fleet horse that pauses for a moment at one’s side. If you fail to mount him in that moment, you can hear the clatter of his hoofs down the corridors of time. That opportunity is gone forever.” Jonathan Edwards America’s greatest theologian understood Paul’s charge to REDEEM THE TIME and as a young man wrote “Resolved: Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can. Resolved: to live with all my might while I do live.”
A farmer’s clock ran amuck one morning and struck seventeen. The man of the house jumped up and ran all over the place, saying, “Get up, it’s later than it ever has been before!” It is later than it ever has been by God’s eternal timepiece. It is later than you think! Today you are as young as you will ever be. Don’t vacillate! Don’t hesitate! Don’t procrastinate! Time is loaned to us and, as good stewards of Christ, enabled by His Spirit we must use it wisely. Let us each redeem the golden moments of opportunity while we still can! “Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow.” (Ps 144:4) As Spurgeon (who went home at age 59) said “A short life should be wisely spent. We have not enough time at our disposal to justify us in misspending a single quarter of an hour!” Spurgeon in fact reduced our lives to four words “Sown, groan, blown, gone!” As Larry Moyer said “Decide now what you want written on your tombstone, then live your life backward from there.” Stated another way, instead of counting your days, make your days count! Ask yourself what would you change if this day were your last? In fact, we should live every day as if it might be our last, for one of these days we will be right!
Now is the only time we own
To do His precious will,
Do not wait until tomorrow;
For the clock may then be still.
John Piper reiterates that the “OPPORTUNITY will never come again. The days are evil; opposition is great; be wise as serpents (Mt 10:16). Understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph 5:17-note)…These words ring with a sense of urgency. They are like the words of a platoon leader addressing his unit just before they enter combat. The air is tense and your heart is beating fast and, even if you love battle, your hands are sweaty. “Watch your step; be smart; don’t miss your opportunity; keep yourself lean for the battle!”…In other words, the Christian life is a vigilant life, defensively guarding itself from the subtleties of the evil days and offensively redeeming the time to strike for love and righteousness again and again. We are a vigilant people at war with unbelief and evil. O to be a faithful steward of the breath God has given me…Surely God means for our minutes on earth to count for something significant. Paul said, “In the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain” (Php 2:16–note). In the same way, I have good hope from the Lord that my “labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1Cor 15:58–note). And I commend this promise to you. No minute need be lived in vain. Eternity will render it significant if lived in faith for the glory of God. In the end we rest in this: “My times are in Your hand” (Psalm 31:15–note).
Adoniram Judson a famous missionary to Burma wrote that “A life once spent is irrevocable. It will remain to be contemplated throughout eternity. The same may be said of each DAY. When it is once past, it is gone forever. All the marks which we put upon it, it will exhibit forever. Each DAY will not only be a witness of our conduct, but will affect our everlasting destiny. How shall we then wish to see each day marked with usefulness! It is too late to mend the days that are past. The future is in our power. Let us, then, each morning, (enabled by God’s Spirit) resolve to send the DAY into eternity in such a garb as we shall wish it to wear forever. And at night let us reflect that one more DAY is irrevocably gone, indelibly (forever) marked.” Eternity will reveal whether we have made the right use of time for what we weave in time we will wear in eternity. David Brainerd whose candle burned so brightly that God brought him home at the relatively young age of 29 wrote in his diary “Oh, how precious is time; and how guilty it makes me feel when I think I have trifled away and misemployed it or neglected to fill up each part of it with duty to the utmost of my ability and capacity. Oh, that I might not loiter on my heavenly journey!” It’s too late to redeem the time that is past, but not the time that is passing! Clocks don’t move backwards! So don’t replay those old tapes of failures of unfaithfulness. The hands of the time of your life that count are the ones moving “clockwise!” So enabled by God’s Spirit and His Word, make every second count for eternity!
Time that is past you can never recall,
Of time to come, you are not sure at all;
Only the present is now in your power,
Therefore, redeem and improve every hour.—Unknown
Adrian Rogers offers some practical thoughts on redeeming the time: (1) Learn to live in the eternal now. Today is the only day you have. Redeem the time. (2) Stop saying, “If I had time.” You do have time. (3) Stop worrying about tomorrow, and stop waiting for tomorrow. Give God today, and He will take care of tomorrow. (4) Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today. Cut yourself loose from the past. Bury your failure in the grave of God’s forgetfulness (read Micah 7:18-19, Isaiah 43:25, 44:22), and let Him give you a brand new day. (5) If you have not accepted Christ, now is the time “for He says, “At the acceptable time (kairos = the opportune time!) I listened to you and on the day of salvation I helped you”; behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME (kairos),” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION” (2Cor 6:2)
Let us pray like the old Puritans in Valley of Vision — “Turn my heart from vanity, from dissatisfactions, from uncertainties of the present state, to an eternal interest in Christ. Let me remember that life is short and unforeseen, and is only an opportunity for usefulness; GIVE ME A HOLY AVARICE TO REDEEM THE TIME, to awake at every call to charity (love) and piety (godliness), so that I may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, instruct the ignorant, reclaim the vicious, forgive the offender, diffuse the Gospel, show neighborly love to all. Let me live a life of self-distrust, dependence on Thyself (Thy Spirit), mortification, crucifixion, prayer.” Amen
Dear reader, may God by His Spirit cause each of us to so order our steps that when that great day comes we might hear those glorious words “Well done, good and faithful servant, you were faithful in a few things, I will put your in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your Master.” (Mt 25:21) “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” (Ps 90:12–note)
The famous missionary C T Studd penned these words…
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice,
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave.
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes and fears,
Each with its days I must fulfill,
Living for self or in His will.
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Now take a moment, as you ponder the moments of your life which remain and the poignant words of Robin Mark’s song…
When It’s All Been Said and Done
There is just one thing that matters.
Did I do my best to live for Truth?
Did I live my life for You?
When It’s All Been Said and Done
All my treasures will mean nothing.
Only what I’ve done for love’s reward,
Will stand the test of time.
IMMANUEL, EMMANUEL (GOD WITH US): We can condense all the truth of Christmas into three words “God With Us,” not just as a baby in a manger, but as Immanuel, the omnipotent Creator of heaven and earth!Immanuel is a transliteration of the original Hebrew word derived from Immanu (with us) and El (God), while Emmanuel is a transliteration of the Greek “Emmanouel.” Whether spelled with an I or an E “every name of Christ is like a honeycomb dripping with honey, and luscious are the drops that distill from it.” (CHS) Indeed, Jesus’ Name IMMANUEL emphasizes His nearness, for His birth brought the infinite, holy God within reach of finite, sinful man. God came to live WITH US us so we could live WITH HIM! The Son of GOD became the Son of MAN that He might change the sons of MEN into sons of GOD (1Jn 3:1), who can forever “draw near with confidence (boldness) to the Throne of grace” through Immanuel (Heb 4:16). God grant us grace to come aside from our frantic pace and meditate on the great Name Immanuel, the mystery of godliness “revealed in the flesh.” (1Ti 3:16). “O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His Name (Immanuel) together.” (Ps 34:3) “Blessed be His glorious NAME (Immanuel) forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen.” (Ps 72:19)
Immanuel! God with us in His meekness;
Immanuel! God with us in His might,
To bind our wounds, to gift with strength our weakness,
To bring us, redeemed, to the home of light – Morgan
Matthew Henry wrote that “By the light of nature we see God as a God above us (Ps 19:1-2); by the light of the Law we see Him as a God against us (Col 2:14); but by the light of the Gospel we see Him as IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US.” He was God FOR us before He became God WITH us, and it was because He was FOR us that He became God WITH us. And so C H Spurgeon rightly says IMMANUEL “is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky.” “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased as Man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.” (John Wesley) Let us praise the One Who is both transcendent and yet approachable, God Most High and yet God Most Close, God With Us, Immanuel!
IMMANUEL WAS FORETOLD – The Name “Immanuel” occurs only three times in the Bible, but the truth of “GOD WITH US” permeates the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. We first see Immanuel as God with Adam, the “LORD God walking in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day” (Ge 3:8), Creator communing with creature, until that awful day when “sin entered into the world and death (symbolic of separation entered) through sin” (Ro 5:12). Thereafter God’s interactions with man were generally MORE REMOTE (the Lord descended upon a mountain that could not even be touched! Ex 19:18, Heb 12:18-19), LESS PERSONAL (pillar of cloud by day and fire by night Ex 13:21-22) and LESS ACCESSIBLE (Only the high priest could enter the Holy of holies once per year – Lev 16:31-34). And yet because of His abounding lovingkindnesses (Ps 103:8), God “set eternity in our heart” (Eccl 3:11), giving every person a deep yearning to intimately know Him, for “that which is known about God is evident within us.” (Ro 1:19) But it is not enough to know that God is “up there” or “out there” somewhere. We want to know that God has come down to where we are, that He knows where we live, that He knows our name, that He cares about us, that He has “walked this lonesome valley” we walk. We want to know that we are not alone in the universe. Even wise Solomon asked “will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth?” (2Chr 6:18) In His great grace and mercy, God answered through the prophet Isaiah who foretold that “the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him IMMANUEL” (Isaiah 7:14). And so our hearts sing “O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear.”
IMMANUEL WAS FULFILLED – The young boy looked into the sky and asked his mother, “Is God up there?” When she assured him that He was, he replied, “Wouldn’t it be nice if He would put His head out and let us see Him?” What the boy didn’t understand was that God has let us see Him—in Immanuel. We don’t have to guess what God is like. Nor do we have to wonder if He’s alive. Matthew described His miraculous birth writing “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold (pay attention!), the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His Name IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” (Mt 1:22-23) Not God without us! Not God against us! But God with us! While Emmanuel in Isaiah 7:14 was a sign of God’s deliverance of Israel from temporal trouble, the Name Immanuel in Mt 1:23 is a sign of God’s deliverance of sinners from eternal trouble! The Father sent Messiah to earth as a Man and the eternal “Word became flesh” (Jn 1:1, 14). In Immanuel, the Infinite became Finite, the Divine became Human, while remaining fully God and fully Man, veiling His Majesty (2Pe 1:16) in Meekness (Mt 11:29). The King of glory became the servant of men (Php 2:7-8, Mk 10:45). “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2Cor 9:15)! Little wonder that as John Wesley lay dying in 1791, he roused himself, opened his eyes, and exclaimed “The best of all is, GOD IS WITH US!” Then he closed his eyes and fell asleep in Jesus, His Immanuel! Indeed, as Spurgeon affirmed, Jesus Christ is “IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor.” “There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel’s veins, And sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains, Lose all their guilty stains.” (William Cowper)
The Gospel of Matthew opens with “Behold!…IMMANUEL…GOD WITH US” (Mt 1:23) and closes with the assuring words “Behold! I AM WITH YOU always!” (Mt 28:20) Immanuel is with us through His indwelling Spirit (Ro 8:9), in His Word and by His providential care. GOD WITH US allowed Jesus to be crucified as the God-Man, so that He could be GOD IN US, the hope of glory (Col 1:27). And if He is GOD IN US, then He is also GOD FOR US for a Paul says “If GOD IS FOR US, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Ro 8:31-32) “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased as Man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel. Hark! The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’” (Charles Wesley)
IMMANUEL WILL ENDURE – From Genesis to Revelation, from “the garden of Eden” (Ge 2:15) to “the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7), God is IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US. John testifies to the surpassing richness of the future grace to be revealed to us (Eph 2:7, 1Pe 1:13) writing “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is WITH MEN, and He shall dwell WITH THEM, and they shall be His people, and GOD HIMSELF SHALL BE WITH THEM.” (Rev 21:3) Jesus descended to be GOD WITH US so that as a Man He might be “pierced through FOR” US (“for our transgressions”). (Isa 53:5) After His resurrection Immanuel’s wounds remained visible to His disciples on Earth (Jn 20:20, 27) and will remain visible to His bondservants in Heaven. Standing in heaven, John writes “I saw between the throne a Lamb standing, as if slain (~His scars!)” (Rev 5:6) As one has said, “the only man-made thing in heaven will be the scars of the Savior.” “The first Heaven and the first earth” will pass away (Rev 21:1), but the Lamb’s scars will endure eternally, marks that will forever testify of His unfailing covenant love. As Spurgeon says “Wonderfully true is this fact: when you and I come to the closing scene of life we will find that Immanuel, “GOD WITH US” has been there. He felt the pangs and throes of death. We will be raised in His likeness, and the first sight our opening eyes will see is the incarnate Lamb of God, GOD WITH US. We will see Him as Man and as God, and throughout all eternity He will maintain the most intimate relationship with us. As long as ages roll, He will be “GOD WITH US.” Both His human and divine life will last forever, and so too will our life.” He came in time as Immanuel on earth that He might be in eternity our Immanuel in heaven, God with us, we with Him, bound fast by the unbreakable union of the everlasting, new covenant in His blood, forever sealed by the marks on His glorified body! Hallelujah! Let us gratefully exalt “All hail to Thee, IMMANUEL, we cast our crowns before Thee; Let every heart obey Thy will, and every voice adore Thee. In praise to Thee, our Savior King, the vibrant chords of Heaven ring, And echo back the mighty strain: All hail! All hail! All hail IMMANUEL!” (D R Van Sickle)
IMMANUEL APPLIED: In our daily experience, when trials unexpectedly assault us, do we run to the Strong Tower of Jesus’ Name IMMANUEL that we might be safe (literally “lifted up” above the fray)? (Pr 18:10, Ps 91:14) I fear many of us (myself included) are too often like the children of Israel who showed their lack of faith asking “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Ex 17:7) We need to take up the shield of faith (Eph 6:16) and remind ourselves that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb 13:8) and that He has promised “I will absolutely never, not ever, leave you, no, never, not ever forsake you.” (Heb 13:5 five negatives in Greek!) Indeed, what we need even more than deliverance from trouble is the firm confidence that Jesus is our IMMANUEL in the midst of our trouble. The secret of peace is not a plan or program but a Person, IMMANUEL, God with us (cp Ps 20:7). David testifies “those who know (intimately, by experience) Thy Name (IMMANUEL) will put their trust in Thee.” (Ps 9:10) Knowing and trusting in His Name IMMANUEL is God’s antidote for fear. When Israel feared the giants in the land God had promised them, Moses reminded them “the LORD is WITH US. Do not FEAR!” (Nu 14:9) When “giants” arise, danger threatens or calamity strikes, we can be assured of Immanuel’s personal presence and power to comfort and calm our storm tossed souls with His encouraging words “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (Jn 14:27) In our “valley times,” we do well to remind ourselves of David’s affirmation that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I FEAR no evil, FOR (David explains why he has no fear) YOU ARE WITH ME (Immanuel), Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps 23:4) In Isaiah God tenderly exhorts us “Do not fear, for I AM WITH YOU. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isa 41:10, cf Dt 20:1, Isa 43:5). Enabled by the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7), let us put our faith in His Name IMMANUEL and put our fears to rest! And when fear knocks at our door, may God grant us the grace to send faith to open it! “Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings.” (C. Wesley)
IMMANUEL SUMMARIZED: Spurgeon declares “If GOD be WITH US, we are in ennobling company, even though we are poor and despised. If GOD be WITH US, we have all-sufficient strength (2Cor 12:9), for nothing can be too difficult for the Lord (Ge 18:14). If GOD be WITH US, we are always safe, for none can harm those who walk under His shadow (Ps 57:1). Oh, what a joy we have here! Not only is GOD WITH US, but He will be with us— with us as individuals, with us as families, with us as churches. Is not the very Name of Jesus, IMMANUEL—GOD WITH US? Is not this the best of all, that GOD IS WITH US? Let us be bravely diligent and joyously hopeful. Our cause must prosper, the truth must win, for GOD is WITH THOSE who are WITH HIM!”
PRAYER: Consider praying Spurgeon’s prayer “Blessed IMMANUEL, we gladly obey You! In You our darkness ends and from the shadow of death we rise to the Light of life. It is salvation to be obedient to You (Jn 3:36). It is the end of gloom to the one that was in anguish to bow himself before You. May God the Holy Spirit take of the things of Christ and show them unto us, and then we shall all cry— “Go worship at Immanuel’s feet! See in His face what wonders meet! Earth is too narrow to express; His worth, His grace, His righteousness.” to which we add “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Amen
Play Michael Card’s song…
DELIGHT YOURSELF IN THE LORD: The Double Cure For Our Fretting and Fulfilling Our Desires – In Psalm 37 David is old (Ps 37:25) and thus speaks wise words of an a man after God’s own heart who has spent much of his life dwelling in the presence of Jehovah. And so first let us observe that David uses the verb FRET 3 times in the first 8 verses (Ps 37:1,7-8), interweaving it with God’s antidotes for fretting. In fact he exhorts us to do several things to counter fretting (Ps 37:2 understand evildoers final fate, Ps 37:3 Trust in the Lord, Ps 37:3 Do good, Ps 37:3 Cultivate faithfulness, Ps 37:5 Commit your way to the Lord, Ps 37:5Trust Him, Ps 37:7 Rest in the Lord, Ps 37:7 Wait patiently for Him) but one activity that is unique is the command (not a suggestion) to “DELIGHT YOURSELF IN THE LORD.” Notice that the verb fret has an interesting derivation from an Old English word (fretan) meaning to devour, which gives us a vivid picture of fretting, which is allowing something to “eat away” or “gnaw away” thus producing an envious, agitated, vexed or worried mind. Unfortunately fretting comes far too naturally to our fallen flesh, the old adversary, that Adamic nature still resident in our mortal body (Ro 7:18–note, Gal 5:17–note). And so in Ps 37:4 David gives us God’s antidote, charging us to change our focus from fretting on evil doers to delighting in our good God, writing “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Unfortunately my flesh too often “inverts” the order of the passage and focuses on my reward (the fulfilling of my desires) rather than the fulfilling of my responsibility (delight). David’s order however clearly shows us that precepts come before promises, responsibility before rewards and delight before desires. So I need to take an honest inventory – “Am I truly delighting in the Lord?” To answer that question let us meditate on what it means to DELIGHT. And let us pray like the godly Puritan Richard Baxter “May the living God, Who is the portion and rest of His saints, make these our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly that loving Him, and DELIGHTING in Him, may be the work of our lives.” Amen
In Psalm 37:4 the Hebrew verb for DELIGHT (anag) is a command which charges us to find our enjoyment in Jehovah. Another Hebrew word for delight (chephets) means to bend toward or incline toward, a very fitting description of what our attitude should be toward our Almighty God! A NT parallel of Ps 37:4 is Php 4:4–notewhich is also a command to continually “Rejoice in the Lord.” If we attempt to DELIGHT in God out of a sense of duty, it will not be a delight but a drudgery! But God never gives a commandment without also providing the enablement. So how do we arouse a desire to delight and rejoice in the Lord? Simply put, we can’t but God can! Paul commands us to work out our salvation (e.g., to DELIGHT), explaining that this is possible because “God is working (Gk = energeo ~ continually energizing) in us, giving us the DESIRE and the POWER to do what pleases Him.” (Phil 2:12-13NLT–note) Note that we are both responsible and dependent! And so we work out what God’s Spirit works in! We daily make the choice to renounce reliance on self efforts to muster up the affection to delight out of a sense of duty, and instead rely on the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ alone can stir in our hearts this DESIRE and give us the supernatural power to DELIGHT in Jehovah. As A W Tozer said “We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit (and) when the Holy Spirit shows us God as He is we admire Him to the point of wonder and DELIGHT.” James Smith explains that “Sin has taken our attention off of God – and fixed it upon ourselves, or the things around us. Grace calls our attention off of everything else – to fix it upon God. It directs us to DELIGHT in the Lord.” Puritan Stephen Charnock adds that “This DELIGHT (in Ps 37:4) springs from the Spirit of God. Not a spark of fire on your own hearth is able to kindle this spiritual DELIGHT; it is the Holy Spirit Who breathes such a heavenly heat into our affections. The Spirit is the fire that kindles the soul, the spring that moves the watch, the wind that drives the ship. Just as prayer is the work of the Spirit in the heart, so DELIGHT in prayer owes itself to the same Author.” As an unknown Puritan prayed “When I think upon and converse with Thee, ten thousand DELIGHTFUL thoughts spring up, ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed, ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart, crowding into every moment of happiness.” (Valley of Vision)
May God’s Spirit stir our hearts to delight in the LORD as we pray David’s words asking that we might “feast on the abundance of Your house and…drink from the river of Your DELIGHTS.” (Ps 36:8, Jn 4:14, 7:38-39–note) “Dear fountain of DELIGHT unknown!/No longer sink below the brim/But overflow, and pour me down/A living and life-giving stream!” Amen (William Cowper)
What does delighting in the Lord look like practically? If we delight in a person, we desire to be in their presence and to hear their voice. Indeed, we should seek to be like the blessed man whose “DELIGHT is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Ps 1:2–note) And like the psalmist who “opened wide his mouth and panted, because he longed for God’s precepts.” (Ps 119:131, 40) We need to daily chose to “delight in His commandments, which we love.” (Ps 119:47) We should be like a young couple who is so in love that their greatest desire is to be in each other’s company prompting them to rearrange all their priorities! Why? Not because that was their duty but because it was their greatest desire and delight! This begs the question “Do I DELIGHT in God’s Word like this? Do I set aside time to commune with Him in His Word because I DELIGHT in hearing to His voice? Has my quiet time become “too quiet,” because I have begun to see it more as a duty than a DELIGHT?”
May God’s Spirit revive our hearts according to His Word (Ps 119:25) that we might be like Jeremiah who said “Thy words were found and I ate them, and Thy words became for me a joy and the DELIGHT of my heart.” (Jer 15:16–note) If we truly DELIGHT in Jehovah, we desire not only to spend time with Him, listening to His voice in His Word, but also longing to speak with Him. We need to imitate godly Nehemiah who prayed “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who DELIGHT to fear (reverence) Your Name.” (Neh 1:11) And may our heart be like “Mary, who was listening (cpPs 81:10b) to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet” and not like “Martha (who) was distracted…worried (fretting) and bothered about so many things.” Indeed, may we delight in Jesus’ words that “There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10:38-42) Remember, beloved, that our Lord desires our delight before our duty, our presence before our presents! Father grant that by Your Spirit we like the saints of old might discover that the one thing that is important in time and eternity is to sit lost in DELIGHT at our Savior’s feet communing with Him through His Word and prayer. Amen
To DELIGHT in the Lord is to desire to be near Him, to be like the OT saints who cried “My soul longs for Thee, as a parched land. Selah.” (Ps 143:6) “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I DESIRE nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps 73:25-26) When we DELIGHT in the Lord we come to understand more fully that “the nearness of God is our good,” (Ps 73:28) and that “a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Ps 84:10) And as we learn to delight in Jehovah, we will desire even more to daily be in His presence, for “In His presence (literally before His face) is fulness of joy. In His right hand there are pleasures forevermore. (Ps 16:11) So let us each morning enabled by His Spirit choose to DELIGHT in Jehovah and beseech Him to “hide us in the secret place of His presence.” (Ps 31:20) “Let us come before His presence (face) with thanksgiving. Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Ps 95:2), confident that He will make us “glad with the joy of His presence.” (Ps 21:6) Indeed, as the writer of Hebrews encourages, “Let us therefore draw near with confidence (boldness) to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need (which is ALL the time!)” (Heb 4:16–note) “O God of my delight, Thy throne of grace is the pleasure ground of my soul.” (Valley of Vision)
WILL GOD GIVE ME ALL MY DESIRES? – Some suggest that Ps 37:4 is a promise that we will receive whatever we desire. And most of us have fallen into the trap wondering “Lord, why don’t You give me what I desire since it is not a bad thing?” When we are frustrated by a promise it may be because we are not interpreting the promise correctly! When we examine the context, we observe that Psalm 37 tells us not to fret or be envious of the wicked and not focus on what they have or what they seem to be getting away with. Instead we are to focus on Jehovah, the great I Am Who promises to “supply all our needs (not our wants) according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” (Php 4:19–note) And when we compare a parallel passage like 1Jn 5:14–note, we see that we need to ask for desires that are “according to His will” not our will. (see also qualification of abiding in His Word – Jn 15:7) As Spurgeon says those “who delight in God desire or ask nothing but what will please God.” In other words as we practice the presence of God, daily delighting in Him, in His Word, in prayerful communion with Him, gradually His Spirit transforms our heart so that our desires become His desires and it is those desires He will grant. Indeed, our desires will be His desires when our heart sings “Take my will, and make it Thine. It shall no be no longer mine. Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store. Take myself and I will be, ever only, all for Thee, ever only all for Thee.” (Frances Havergal) If God has our hearts, He can trust us with His blessings. So let us DELIGHT in God and He will become our greatest DESIRE! And if all we desire is God, God will give us all we desire…Christ Jesus Himself, “in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col 2:3–note) The path to true fulfillment in this short life does not lie in preoccupation with self but in selfless preoccupation with Jesus, our all in all (Heb 12:2–note, Col 3:11–note). Beloved, true contentment becomes our experiential reality when God’s will is more important than our wants and when we come to realize that Jesus is everything we need for time and eternity!
While it is amazing grace that saved sinners can DELIGHT in the Lord, it is even more amazing that He takes DELIGHT in us! Like a diamond miner who picks up a rough, dull stone and rejoices with delight, God delights over unlovely people. He knows what precious gems, through His Spirit’s shaping and polishing, sanctified sinners will become in Christ, yea, even becoming His own treasured possession (Dt 26:18, Titus 2:14–note)! And so the prophet exults that “The LORD your God is in your midst. He is a warrior Who can deliver. He TAKES GREAT DELIGHT in you. He renews you by His love. He shouts for joy over you.” (Zephaniah 3:17NET)
May our prayer daily be like the words of the devout Puritans in the Valley of Vision – “If Thou seest in me any wrong thing encouraged, any evil desire cherished, any DELIGHT that is not Thy DELIGHT, any habit that grieves Thee, any nest of sin in my heart, then grant me the kiss of Thy forgiveness, and teach my feet to walk the way of Thy commandments. Produce in me self-despair that will make Jesus precious to me, DELIGHTFUL in all His offices, pleasurable in all His ways, and may I love His commands (delight yourself) as well as His promises (desire fulfilled). Give me the saving lamp of Thy Spirit that I may see Thee, the God of my salvation, the DELIGHT of my soul, rejoicing over me in love (Zeph 3:17–note).” Amen
Take my life and let it be,
Consecrated Lord to Thee.
Take my moments and my days
And let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my will, and make it Thine.
It shall no be no longer mine.
Take my heart heart, it is Thy own.
It shall be Thy royal throne.
What do you do when you don’t desire to delight in God? Clearly this is an important question so I would strongly encourage you to watch the 6 part series by Dr John Piper on what do I do…”When I Don’t Desire God” –
GOD’S POIEMA: Beloved, if you are IN CHRIST by grace through faith (Eph 2:8,9), do you know what God says about you in Ephesians 2:10? You are God’s “WORKMANSHIP, created IN CHRIST JESUS for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The Greek word for “WORKMANSHIP” is POIEMA which gives us our English words POEM and POETRY. Poiema means “something made” and in context is something made by God Himself. As a new creation skillfully and artfully created IN CHRIST JESUS (2 Cor 5:17), have you ever thought of your new (supernatural) life as a work of “divine poetry?” Beloved, as believers “each of our lives is the papyrus on which the Master is producing a work of art that will fill the everlasting ages with His praise.” (S Gordon) You are God’s masterpiece. You are His poem. You are His work of art. When we look at ourselves this way, we begin to understand our incredible value in Christ. Indeed, as C S Lewis said “We are a divine work of art.” “If Rembrandt’s artistic masterpieces have great, undisputed value, would not God’s one-of-a-kind human masterpieces convey even greater value?” (D Robertson)
Timothy Keller asks “Do you know what it means that you are God’s workmanship? What is art? Art is beautiful, art is valuable, and art is an expression of the inner being of the maker, of the artist. Imagine what that means. You’re beautiful, you’re valuable, and you’re an expression of the very inner being of the Artist, the divine Artist, God Himself. You see, when Jesus gave Himself on the Cross, He didn’t say, “I’m going to die just so you know I love you.” He said, “I’m going to die, I’m going to bleed, for your splendor. I’m going to re-create you into something beautiful. I will turn you into something splendid, magnificent. I’m the Artist; you’re the art. I’m the Painter; you’re the canvas. I’m the Sculptor; you’re the marble. You don’t look like much there in the quarry, but I can see. Oh, I can see!” Jesus is an Artist!” And you beloved are His crowning achievement, His masterpiece!
The idea of poiema is that our new life in Christ is like a poem which expresses “form and pattern along with beauty. Like the underside of grandmother’s cross-stitch, the everyday of our lives may look to be knotted and hopelessly tangled. But when we turn the fabric over, we see design and beauty that was there all along but that we never foresaw.” (Gage) Perhaps you don’t feel much like a work of divine poetry, but regardless of how you feel, the truth about you as God’s workmanship, is that you are His “MASTERPIECE” (NLT), His “HANDIWORK” (NAB), His “WORK OF ART” (NJB), in fact, a work of art that is one of a kind! You are “custom designed”, “tailor-made,” by the Master’s hand. “Each of our lives is the canvas on which the Master is producing a work of art that will fill the everlasting ages with His praise.” (John Phillips)
J C Philpot – Consider what is here declared of those who are saved by grace through faith—that they are God’s “workmanship”—the fruit and product of His creative hand. All, then, that we are and all that we have that is spiritual, and as such acceptable to God, we owe to the special operation of His power. There is not a thought of our heart, word of our lips, or work of our hands, which is truly holy and heavenly, simple and sincere, glorifying to God or profitable to man, of which He is not by His Spirit and grace the divine and immediate Author!
C H Spurgeon says it this way – “You have seen a painter with his palette on his finger and he has ugly little daubs of paint on the palette. What can he do with those spots? Go in and see the picture. What splendid painting! In an even wiser way does Jesus act toward us. He takes us, poor smudges of paint, and He makes the blessed pictures of His grace out of us. It is neither the brush nor the paint He uses, but it is the skill of His own hand which does it all.” (Praise the Lord!)
Indeed, the redeemed should sing out like David “I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well.” (Ps 139:14)
As Spurgeon says “If we are marvelously wrought upon even before we are born, what shall we say of the Lord’s dealings with us after we quit His secret workshop, and He directs our pathway through the pilgrimage of life? What shall we not say of that new birth which is even more mysterious than the first, and exhibits even more the love and wisdom of the Lord.”
O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art!
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
The only other NT use of the Greek word poiema is in Romans 1:20-note where Paul writes “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through WHAT HAS BEEN MADE (All one Greek Word – POIEMA) so that they are without excuse.”
As creationist Henry Morris says “God has written two poetic masterpieces, as it were, one in the physical creation, one in the lives of men and women redeemed and saved by His grace (Eph 2:8). Both give eloquent testimony to the eternal power and Godhead of the Creator-Redeemer.” Two great “divine poems” – the created world and re-created, redeemed men and women in that world. Even as the “heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Ps 19:1-note), we too as God’s MASTER CREATIONS should never be ashamed to let others see His WORKMANSHIP in us by our Spirit enabled obedience to Jesus’ command to “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they see your GOOD WORKS, and glorify (give a proper opinion of) your Father Who is in heaven.” (Mt 5:16-note) As new creatures in Christ, we need to remember that we were created for God’s glory, and created for good deeds, because it is by our good deeds that our Father gets all the glory (cf Ps 115:1-note). Indeed, the chief end of each of our lives is “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism) In summary, Eph 2:8-10 teaches that we are saved not BY good works but FOR good (supernatural) works and in the mystery of His amazing grace He even rewards us for those Spirit enabled works (cf 2Cor 5:10-note, Rev 22:12-note)!
Dr W H Houghton, pastored the Calvary Baptist Church in NYC and later served as president of Moody Bible Institute. When Dr. Houghton became pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle in Atlanta, a man in that city hired a private detective to follow Dr. Houghton and report on his conduct. After a few weeks, the detective was able to report to the man that Dr. Houghton’s life matched his preaching. As a result of Houghton’s faithful life as God’s “POIEMA“, that man became a Christian.
In Ps 143:5 David prays “I remember the days of old. I meditate on all Your doings. I muse (meditate) on the WORK (LXX = POIEMA) of Your hands.” Have you meditated on the truth that now IN CHRIST, you are “the WORK (poiema) of” His hands? It is good to meditate on what God has made and rest in the confidence that “He Who began a good work in you will complete it in the day of Christ Jesus.” (Php 1:6-note).
Regarding the works we as God’s workmanship are to work out, E W Moore writes that “The works are ready, waiting for us, all we have to do is to be willing to be led into them. How many disappointments we should have been spared in life if we had always acted on this conviction. God knows what we are fitted for far better than we know ourselves. He who made us knows whereof we are made. He won’t put “square pegs into round holes. If we would be useful in Christ’s service our wisdom is “to have no plan except to enter into His plan for us and imitate Paul who said “Lord, what do you want me to do? (to which Jesus replied) “Arise and go to Damascus and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.” (Acts 9:6NKJV, Acts 22:10) Lowell adds that “No man is born into the world whose work is not born with him; there is always work, and tools to work withal, for those who will.”
Great Master, teach us with Your skillful hand;
Let not the music that is in us die!
Great Sculptor, hew and polish us; nor let
Hidden and lost, Your form within us lie!
ILLUSTRATION – Kent Hughes – “In Christ we are of untold worth. This great truth may be hard to actually take hold of as we exist in frail human bodies carried along in the rush of modern-day busyness. Some of us have had things happen which make us doubt our worth. But we are His “workmanship” — His work of art. Moreover, we are in process (Phil 1:6). Michelangelo was once asked what he was doing as he chipped away at a shapeless rock. He replied, “I’m liberating an angel from this stone.” That’s what God is doing with us. We are in the hands of the Great Maker, the ultimate Sculptor Who created the universe out of nothing, and He has never yet thrown away a rock on which He has begun a masterwork. His tools are Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, His Word, and the preaching of the Word.” And often God’s Spirit uses difficult circumstances or difficult people to sculpt our character into His “masterpieces” conformed to the image of His Son (Ro 8:29).“In Christ” we are of untold worth. This great truth may be hard to actually take hold of as we exist in frail human bodies carried along in the rush of modern-day busyness. Some of us have had things happen which make us doubt our worth. But we are his “workmanship” — his work of art. Moreover, we are in process.
Joni Eareckson Tada who became quadriplegic after a tragic accident, describes herself as God’s “poiema” in her book A Place of Healing writing “(God) has a plan and purpose for my time on earth. He is the Master Artist or Sculptor, and He is the One Who chooses the tools He will use to perfect His workmanship. What of suffering, then? What of illness? What of disability? Am I to tell Him which tools He can use and which tools He can’t use in the lifelong task of perfecting me and molding me into the beautiful image of Jesus? Do I really know better than Him, so that I can state without equivocation that it’s always His will to heal me of every physical affliction? If I am His poem, do I have the right to say, “No, Lord. You need to trim line number two and brighten up lines three and five. They’re just a little bit dark.” Do I, the poem, the thing being written, know more than the poet?”
THE CRAFTSMAN’S TOUCH – Dennis Fisher writes “I recently saw a documentary about the making of a Steinway piano. It traced the meticulous care that goes into crafting this fine instrument. From the cutting of trees until the piano appears on a showroom floor, it goes through countless delicate adjustments by skilled craftsmen. When the year-long process is complete, accomplished musicians play the piano and often comment on how the same rich sounds could never be produced by a computerized assembly line. The secret to the final product is the craftsman’s touch. When the tabernacle was built, we see that God also valued the craftsman’s touch. He chose the craftsman Bezalel and said of him: “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood” (Ex. 31:3-5). Today God’s Spirit dwells in the hearts of believers (who are His temple – 1Cor 6:19). Yet the call to craftsmanship has not ended. Now each individual believer is God’s “workmanship” (Ephesians 2:10-note). The Master Craftsman is the Holy Spirit, who chips away at flaws in our character to make each of us like Jesus (Ro 8:28, 29). And as we yield to His workmanship, we will find that the secret to the final product is the Craftsman’s touch.” (The Craftsman’s Touch – Our Daily Bread)
The Spirit is the Craftsman
Who makes us like the Son;
He’ll mold and shape our being
Until His work is done. —Sper
The Father gave us the Spirit
to make us like His Son
Jon Courson reminds us that “God is saying, ‘You are My poetry. You’re special to Me. I’m not giving up on you.’ He is making you something not only useful but beautiful, something that is poetic.” Indeed, every believer is God’s poem in a world of prose, God’s beauty in a world of gloom, God’s fine art in a world of moral degradation. And God’s most marvelous creation is making spiritually dead men alive in Christ! Created in God’s image (Ge 2:7), yet born in sin, we are redeemed and re-created in the image of His Son. Dear saint, don’t ever forget that you are the subject of Christ the Creator’s (Jn 1:3) two creations, and as the result of His second creation, you are His ultimate workmanship, His most lyrical poem, His crowning achievement, His greatest masterpiece and you will be “on display” to show the universe the full extent of His creative genius throughout eternity! Hallelujah!
Life is a song we must sing with our days
A poem with meaning more than words can say
A painting with colors no rainbow can tell
A lyric that rhymes either heaven or hell!
We are living letters that doubt desecrates
We’re the notes of the song of the chorus of faith
God shapes every second of our little lives
And minds every minute as the universe waits by
The pain and the longing
The joy and the moments of light
Are the rhythm and rhyme
The free verse of the poem of life
So look in the mirror and pray for the grace
To tear off the mask, see the art of your face
Open your ear lids to hear the sweet song
Of each moment that passes and pray to prolong
Your time in the ball of the dance of your days
Your canvas of colors of moments ablaze
With all that is holy
With the joy and the strife
With the rhythm and rhyme of the poem of your life
With the rhythm and rhyme of the poem of your life
GIVE THANKS – IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS FOR THIS IS GOD’S WILL FOR YOU IN CHRIST JESUS – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
IN EVERYTHING – The Greek word for “everything” is “pas” which means no exceptions. There is a silver lining to every cloud. God is with us whatever befalls us (Heb 13:5). It is God’s will that we find joy in prayer in Christ Jesus in every condition of life.
As Ruth Bell Graham well said “We can’t always give thanks FOR everything, but we can always give thanks IN everything.”
Job is a prime OT illustration of the supernatural response of thanksgiving even in the face of overwhelming troubles (If you are experiencing trials and afflictions [and most of us are!] read Job 1:13-20). IN the midst of his manifold afflictions, Job declared, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) And in the end he was able to say “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees Thee… And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning,” (Job 42:5, 12) “Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” (James 5:11)
Gratitude is always a God-honoring attitude.
For all the heartaches and the tears,
For gloomy days and fruitless years
I do give thanks, for now I know
These were the things that helped me grow!
Ephesians 5:20 says “ALWAYS (at all times) giving thanks for ALL THINGS in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” How is this possible? Certainly this is not our NATURAL inclination! But it is possible by God’s SUPERNATURAL provision. In other words, what is IM-possible, is HIM-possible! Paul had just commanded us to continually “BE FILLED with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18). What “fills you” will “control you” and in Ephesians 5:20 the Spirit enables us to accomplish supernaturally what we cannot accomplish naturally.
As John Piper asks “How can we not be thankful when we owe everything to God?”
Indeed, he who thanks God for His mercies shall never want a mercy for which to thank, for “Every stream should lead us to the fountain.” (M. Henry)
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
— J Oatman
Ray Pritchard writes that “The foundation of gratitude is the expectation of nothing. If one expects nothing then anything is bonus. If one expects more than he receives, then he is disappoint. We are so prone to complain because roses have thorns than to give thanks because thorns have roses! “In everything give thanks.” How do we do this in a practical sense? First, thank Him for your blessings. Second, thank Him for how He has helped you in your trials. Third, thank Him for His presence every day. Fourth, thank Him for His promises for the future. As a Christian, our whole life is to be one great, “Thank you, Lord.” This is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus.”
We should be ready to give the Lord thanks
For blessing as well as for test;
Hearts that are thankful is all that He asks;
Let’s trust Him to give what is best.
If you pause to THINK, you’ll have cause to THANK, because God’s GIVING deserves our THANKSGIVING.
Paul exhorts us “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, GIVING THANKS (present tense = continually, as our habitual practice) through Him (Christ Jesus) to God the Father.” (Col 3:17) How is it possible to live a life of continual thanksgiving? As Jerry Bridges says we must “first renounce all confidence in our own power and then rely entirely on the power of the Holy Spirit. We must be ENABLED, not merely HELPED. What’s the difference? The word HELP implies we have some ability but not enough; we need someone else to supplement our partially adequate ability. By contrast, ENABLEMENT implies that we have no ability whatsoever. We’re entirely powerless. We can do nothing (cp Jn 15:5). But when by faith we renounce self-sufficiency and embrace reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, we receive divine empowerment, enablement, and strength for personal transformation and ministry.” In short, the Holy Spirit enables us to continually manifest an attitude of gratitude.
Andrew Murray – A joyful, thankful life is what God has destined for us, is what He will work in us. What He desires, that He certainly does in those who do not withstand Him, but receive and suffer His will to work in them.
Notice that in 1Thes 5:16 (Rejoice always) and 1Thes 5:18 we see joy and giving thanks which Paul also associates in Colossians 1:11-12 in the phrase “Joyously giving thanks to the Father.” Paul’s juxtaposition of thanksgiving (eucharisteo) and joy (chara) is not surprising for both words are related to the the same Greek root (charis) which is our word “grace.” Indeed grace is the foundation for saints enabled by the Spirit to “joyously give thanks” when the circumstances are not very joy filled! And remember the lost world is watching. Will I respond naturally or supernaturally. The former draws attention to me, but the latter brings glory to the Father (Mt 5:16)! The secret of abounding joy is a Spirit wrought, grace based gratitude attitude. Remember, when you can’t change the wind, allow the Spirit to enable you to adjust your sails!
Thanksgiving is the vibration of the soul’s heart-strings under the soft touch of God’s benevolence.
F F Bruce – Ingratitude is one of the features of pagan depravity in Ro 1:21 (For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or GIVE THANKS; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.); the children of God are expected (and enabled by the Spirit) to “abound in thanksgiving” (Col 2:7; Col 3:15, 17, 4:2; Eph 5:4,20)
J. C. Ryle – Thankfulness is a flower which will never bloom well excepting upon a root of deep humility.
Warren Wiersbe – An attitude of gratitude is a wonderful weapon against unbelief, disobedience, a hard heart, and a bitter spirit. Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, let’s be thankful for what we do have, because God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him… We can’t control the circumstances of life, but we can control how we respond to them. That’s what faith is all about, daring to believe that God is working everything for our good even when we don’t feel like it or see it happening. “In everything give thanks” isn’t always easy to obey, but obeying this command is the best antidote against a bitter and critical spirit. The Scottish preacher George H. Morrison said, “Nine-tenths of our unhappiness is selfishness, and is an insult cast in the face of God.”
D Edmond Hiebert – When we realize that God works all things out for good to those who love Him and are yielded to His will (Ro 8:28, Ge 50:20), thanksgiving under all circumstances becomes a glorious possibility “He who can say `AMEN‘ to the will of God in his heart will be able to say ‘HALLELUJAH‘ also.”‘
Consider what the Lord has done
For you and those you love;
Then give Him thanks with hearts of praise
For blessings from above.
We don’t need more to be thankful for,
we need to be more thankful.
God grant us the Spirit wrought grace to emulate Matthew Henry’s high standard , writing in his diary on the day he was mugged “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.” Beloved, one of the greatest marks of spiritual maturity is the ability to give thanks when it is difficult!
G. K. Chesterton was once asked what was the greatest lesson he had ever learned to which he replied “The greatest lesson I have learned is to take things with GRATITUDE and not take them for GRANTED.” Chesterton added that “You say grace before meals. All right! But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, walking, playing, and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” Thanksgiving as a lifestyle is faith in action.
Thanksgiving to God comes (super) naturally when we count our blessings. We be would much less apt to protest the command to give thanks in EVERYTHING if it were our habit to give thanks in ANYTHING. Empowered by the Spirit, we need to focus on our “haves,” not our “have-nots.” As the psalmist says “Bless (praise) the LORD, O my soul, and FORGET NONE of His benefits; ” (Psalm 103:2). Indeed, praise to God comes naturally when we count our blessings.
M B Babcock encourages us “Be on the lookout for mercies. The more we look for them, the more of them we will see. Blessings brighten when we count them. Out of the determination of the heart, the eyes see. If you want to be gloomy, there’s gloom enough to keep you glum; if you want to be happy, there’s gleam enough to keep you glad. Better to lose count while naming your blessings than to lose your blessings by counting your troubles.”
David Cooper writes that “Thanksgiving delivers us from a victim mentality and gives us a victor’s mentality. I once read that nothing can help the person with the wrong mental attitude, and nothing can stop a person with the right mental attitude. And the right mental attitude to overcome our obstacles and win our battles is thanksgiving.”
Missionary Benjamin Weir was held hostage in Lebanon and imprisoned under miserable conditions for 16 months. In his first interview after his release, he was asked how he spent his time and how he dealt with boredom and despair. His answer stunned the reporters. He simply said, “Counting my blessings.” “Blessings?” they responded. “Yes,” he explained. “Some days I got to take a shower. Sometimes there were some vegetables in my food. And I could always be thankful for the love of my family.”
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
ILLUSTRATION – Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. A ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, when a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan. Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process and his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.
ILLUSTRATION – As Pastor H A Ironside was about to begin his meal in a restaurant, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited in to sit and as was his custom, he bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, “Do you have a headache?” Ironside replied, “No, I don’t.” The other man asked, “Well, is there something wrong with your food?” Ironside replied, “No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat.” The man said, “Oh, you’re one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don’t have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!” Ironside said, “Yes, you’re just like my dog. That’s what he does too!”
ILLUSTRATION – A woman had a parrot who always complained about everything. It was Thanksgiving Eve, and she was preparing the Thanksgiving meal. The parrot complained about everything as she worked. Finally, she had heard enough. She took him out of his cage and opened the refrigerator to put him in to punish him, “You’ll stay in the refrigerator until you cool off and get control on your tongue,” she said as she put him and closed the door. The parrot was stunned. Shivering, he caught a glimpse of the Thanksgiving turkey, skinned, legs pointing upward from the pan. The parrot said to the turkey, “Good heavens, man! What did you say?”
“In Everything Give Thanks!”
Mid sunshine, cloud or stormy days,
When hope abounds or care dismays,
When trials press and toils increase
Let not thy faith in God decrease—
‘In every thing give thanks.’
“All things we know shall work for good,
Nor would we change them if we could;
‘Tis well if only He command;
His promises will ever stand—
‘In every thing give thanks.’
“He satisfies the longing heart,
He thwarts the tempter’s cruel dart,
With goodness fills the hungry soul,
And helps us sing when billows roll.
‘In every thing give thanks.'”
As David a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22) said “I will GIVE THANKS to the LORD according to His righteousness, And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High… I will GIVE THANKS to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Thy wonders… Therefore I will GIVE THANKS to Thee among the nations, O LORD, And I will sing praises to Thy name… The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall THANK Him… Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones, And GIVE THANKS to His holy name… I will GIVE THANKS to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Thy name forever… With my mouth I will GIVE THANKS abundantly to the LORD; And in the midst of many I will praise Him… I will GIVE THANKS to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well.” (Ps 7:17, 9:1. 18:49, 28:7, 30:4, 86:12, 109:30, 139:14)
Father grant by Your Spirit through Christ Jesus that we might be enabled to be “imitators of those (like David who continually gave thanks to You and) who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Heb 6:12) Amen
O GLORIOUS DAY – One in thirty New Testament passages refer either directly or indirectly to the Second Coming of “the King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev 19:11-16–note) Twenty-three of the twenty-seven NT books mention that He is coming again. Finally, for every biblical reference to Jesus’ First Coming there are eight that point to His return! Clearly Jesus’ Second Coming is a truth which the Spirit desires for Christ’s Bride to frequently ponder so that we might be daily “looking (with a sense of longing and eager expectancy) for the BLESSED HOPE and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (Titus 2:13-note) In a word, the Spirit knows that what we are LOOKING FOR will (or should) determine what (better WHO) we are LIVING FOR! Using a great song by Casting Crowns as the background, below are a “chain” of Scriptures that describe THAT DAY….that GREAT and GLORIOUS DAY! Take a few moments today to prayerfully ponder these passages that describe THAT DAY “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,” (2Th 1:7), that GLORIOUS DAY when “the Son of Man will appear in the sky…coming on the clouds of the sky with power and GREAT GLORY.” (Mt 24:30–note) Remember…IT COULD BE TODAY! Maranatha (Our Lord, Come!). Or as Jesus says in the Book of the Revelation (in the very last words of Scripture) “Yes, I am coming quickly.” (To which we cry) “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” (Revelation 22:20-21–note) Christ’s imminent return should prompt “expectant obedience!” Are you living in light of our Lord’s imminent return?
“One DAY He’s coming. O GLORIOUS DAY!” (Casting Crowns) – ‘The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and GLORIOUS DAY of the Lord shall come, for you yourselves know full well that THE DAY of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which DAY your Lord is coming. THAT DAY will come on you suddenly, for just as the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in HIS DAY. And we know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. Therefore, since the night is almost gone, and THE DAY is at hand, let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will confirm us to the end, blameless in THE DAY. Indeed, we know Whom we have believed and are convinced that He is able to guard what we have entrusted to Him until THAT DAY, and to keep us sealed for THE DAY of redemption, for He who began a good work in us will perfect it until THE DAY of Christ Jesus.
Be glad in THAT DAY, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. In the future there is laid up for us the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to us on THAT DAY and not only to us, but also to all who have loved His appearing in the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on THAT DAY, and to be marveled at among all who have believed. Therefore be encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see THE DAY drawing near and pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until THE DAY of Christ, when THE DAY dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. To Him be the glory, both now and to THE DAY of eternity. Amen. (Acts 2:20, 1Th 5:2, Mt 24:42, Lk 21:34, Lk 17:24, 1Jn 3:2, Ro 13:12, 1Cor 1:7-8, 2Ti 1:12, Eph 4:30, Phil 1:6,Lk 6:23, 2Ti 4:8, 2Th 1:9-10, 1 Jn 3:2, Heb 10:25, Phil 1:9-10, 2Pe 1:19, 2Pe 3:18)
Play O GLORIOUS DAY by Casting Crowns
One day the trumpet will sound for His coming
One day the skies with His glories will shine
Wonderful day, my Beloved One, bringing
My Savior, Jesus, is mine
Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day
Oh, glorious day
Oh, glorious day
AMAZING GRACE – Vance Havner once gave the following acronym for GRACE…
G stands for Gift, the principle of GRACE. (Eph 2:8-9–note)
R [stands] for Redemption, the purpose of GRACE. (Eph 1:7–note)
A [stands] for Access, the privilege of GRACE. (Ro 5:1-2–note)
C [stands] for Character, the product of GRACE. (2Cor 5:17–note)
E [stands] for Eternal Life, the prospect of GRACE. (Titus 3:7–note )
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of GRACE and truth….For of His fullness we have all received, and GRACE upon GRACE. For the Law was given through Moses; GRACE and truth were realized through Jesus Christ….For you know the GRACE of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. (John 1:1, 14, 16, 17–note, 2Cor 8:9)
Almighty God, Your GRACE impart,
Fix deep conviction on each heart;
Nor let us waste on trifling things
The life that Your salvation brings. Amen
Jude Commentaries – Click for literally 100’s of resources – commentaries, etc
Jude’s Purpose: Expose the false teachers who had crept into the fellowship unnoticed and encourage the saints to stand firm in the faith and rescue the perishing.
Key Words: Lord (Jude 1:4, 5, 9, Jude 1:14, Jude 1:17, Jude 1:21, Jude 1:25), Faith (Jude 1:3, Jude 1:20) Keep/Kept (Jude 1:1, 6, 21, 24), Ungodly (Jude 1:4, 15, 18), Beloved (Jude 1:1, 3, 17, 20), Judgment(Jude 1:6, 9, 15), Remember (Jude 1:17), Angel/Archangel (Jude 1:6, 8, 9), Holy Spirit(Jude 1:19, 20). See discussion of key words, a vital component of inductive Bible study.
The following outline is adapted from J Sidlow Baxter’s Outline entitled “Contend for the Faith”
WHY CONTEND EARNESTLY – APOSTATE TEACHERS (Jude 1:3-16).
HOW TO CONTEND EARNESTLY – OUR RESOURCES (Jude 1:17-23).
In all contending for the faith we must “keep ourselves in the love of God,” the counterpart of which is that the love of God must be in us. We must love, even while we contend against the errors of apostatisers (Contend without being contentious!). We must love their souls even while we oppose their words and deplore their ways. Sometimes it is delicately difficult to keep these separate, but the love of Christ in our hearts (cf Ro 5:5,) will put wisdom on our lips….There are some who “contend” against us. Endless counter-contention with them is useless. But there are others who need “snatching out of the fire”; they have been deceived, and in one sense or another, i.e. by bewilderment, remorse, doubt or danger, are in the fire. And there an still others on whom we are to “have mercy with fear,” i.e. being cautious lest in seeking to bring them back we should defile our own garments. (J Sidlow Baxter)
Jude is the only NT book devoted exclusively to confronting “apostasy,” meaning defection from the true, biblical faith. Jude does not quote the OT directly, but there are at least 9 obvious allusions to it. Contextually, this “epistolary sermon” could be called “The Acts of the Apostates.” – John MacArthur
Application: Fight for the truth! Stand up against error! The book of Jude is the very definition of punchy and pithy proclamations—with its short commands and statements popping off the page like machine-gun fire. But in our day and age, punchy has become rude or unacceptable. In many circles the forcefulness of Jude will not be tolerated, the crowds preferring a softer and gentler side of the Christian faith. But Jude reminds us that there is a time and a place for the aggressive protection of the truth from those who would seek to tear it down. How can you participate in defending the truth from error? – C R Swindoll
A SERMON ON Jude 1:22-23
Let’s review the context of Jude 1:22-23 by looking at who wrote the letter. In Jude 1:1–note we see that Jude is the author and is a brother of James. What is not mentioned is that he is a brother of Jesus, in fact a brother who John 7:5 says was not “believing in” Jesus, but now he is – Let’s make this practical. Let me ask you….Is there a relative you think is too far gone for Jesus to save? Let me encourage you – Keep on living the Gospel before them and don’t stop praying for them – as Paul Harvey used to say on the radio “You have not yet seen the end of the story!” If I was Jesus’ half-brother I would have let everyone know and yet Jude calls himself a slave or a bondservant, in Greek a doulos, which pictures a man whose will is absolutely “swallowed up” in the will of His Master. Jude’s life was not his own but belonged to Jesus (cf 1Cor 6:19-20–note, Titus 2:14–note, 1Pe 2:9–note). Is that truly the desire of my heart – to live out His good and acceptable and perfect will (Ro 12:2–note) for my life? Do my daily choices demonstrate I am wholly sold out to Jesus? Can I refer to myself as a bond-servant of Jesus?
Let’s go on the recipients — To whom is Jude writing this short letter? “the CALLED,BELOVED by God the Father, KEPT for Jesus Christ” When was the last time you really stopped to meditate on the truth that the God of the Universe really loves you with a love that is unconditional, infinite, perfect, everlasting? He calls you His “beloved”! This is a great truth upon which we should frequently meditate, especially when we don’t feel beloved (Action Point – Memorize and Meditate on 1Jn 3:1–note). Remember our feelings can be (and usually are) deceiving, but God’s Word is truth and the truth about every genuine believer is that no matter how you “feel,” you are still a “CBK” – one who is called, beloved, kept! Forever!
Why is Jude writing? He is very clear on this – Jude wants the saints to “earnestly contend(even to the point of exerting agonizing effort) for the faith (sound doctrine, the Gospel, cf. Gal 1:23; 1Ti 4:1) which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Now Jude explains why they are to earnestly contend) For certain persons have crept in unnoticed (they’ve “slithered” in by a side door, so it’s an “inside job” [cf “savage wolves will come in among you” = Acts 20:29-30–note] – they come into the body and pretend to be part of the body), those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons whoturn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, JesusChrist.” So they propagate false doctrine, specifically a doctrine that teaches they have a license to sin because they are covered by grace. Go ahead and sin because grace has paid the bill!
Last week we looked at Jude 1:20–note and Jude 1:21–note. And what did we learn? Remember that Jude’s main objective is for the saints to earnestly contend for the faith and so he gave them 4 items on his spiritual checklist to enable them to faithfully contend without being contentious. Actually he gave them FIVE –
Number 1 – What does Jude charge the believers to do in Jude 1:17? Let’s read it – “But you, beloved, ought to REMEMBER (command conveying a sense of urgency. Do this effectively!) the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What’s the key word? REMEMBER! Don’t forget what the apostles spoke! And what is the application for us today? Don’t forget about what the apostle’s wrote in the New Testament. So the first way to EARNESTLY CONTEND for the faith is to know what the NT says about THE FAITH. Even better, Memorize the Word so that you will be enabled by the Spirit to Meditate on the Word. Hebrews 5:14 (note) says that “SOLID FOOD is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” So as we take in the SOLID FOOD of the NT, and REMEMBER it, our “spiritual antennae” (so to speak) will be on high alert for someone sneaking into the body and teaching ERROR instead of TRUTH.
Number 2 – Build yourselves up with the Word – Peter says we are to be like newborn babes LONGING FOR the PURE milk of the Word that by it we might GROW in respect to SALVATION. (1Peter 2:2–note) Do you understand what Peter just said? Simply put — NO intake of the Word, NO spiritual growth. PERIOD! Without answering let me ask you and remember you are under grace not law – How much time this last week did you spend in the Word of God, the PURE WORD, not devotionals, not books about spiritual topics but the LIVING AND ACTIVE WORD? Don’t be deceived or detoured – you will not build yourself up if you are not in the Word on a regular basis.
Number 3 (Number 1 – REMEMBER the NT, number 2 – EAT the word each day and number 3) PRAY in the Holy Spirit. If you are filled with His Word you are more likely to be filled with His Spirit (See discussion) and to pray His word which is praying in His will (cf 1Jn 5:14-15–note). Have you ever been impressed to pray for someone in the middle of the day, even someone you had not thought about in a long time? I think that is being sensitive to the Spirit initiating prayer and that is one example (but not the only way) of praying in the Holy Spirit. (cf Eph 6:18–note, Ro 8:26-27–note)
Number 4 – Keep yourself in the love of God – In a word – Obey the Word you used to build yourself up. Don’t be a HEARER of the word and not a DOER because you are only fooling yourself (cf James 1:22–note). It’s like the old saying “In one ear and out the other!” OBEDIENCE is the key to BLESSING – Jesus said His desire for us is that we might have life and have it ABUNDANTLY (Jn 10:10b). Let me ask you – Are you experiencing abundant life? Are you keeping yourself in the love of God? Keeping yourself in God’s love is a key to abundant life. Jesus said if you really love Me you will obey my commandments without hesitation (delayed obedience is disobedience beloved) and that will lead to ABUNDANT LIFE (Jn 14:15). Let LOVE not LEGALISM motivate your OBEDIENCE, remembering that the Gospel teaches that you are under grace not law!
Number 5 – Keep watching the Eastern horizon for the imminent return of our Bridegroom to sweep us away with Him forever (cf 1Thes 4:17–note, cf Second Coming). Repeatedly (five times – Rev 2:16–note, Rev 3:11–note, Rev 22:7, 12, 20–note) in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation, Jesus said “I am coming quickly.” Beloved, He could come while I am speaking. There is a great word used only once in the NT – it is MARANATHA which means “Come Lord” or “Come now”. Do you have a “Maranatha Mindset?” – Let me ask you – What changes in your lifestyle – in what you watch, in what you surf on the web, in what you spend money on, in how in much time I devote to a hobby, etc, etc – what difference in those activities would it make if you begin today to live (enabled by the Holy Spirit) with a Maranatha Mindset, a “COME NOW LORD” mindset? Remember what (WHO) you are looking for WILL (should) radically impact WHAT (Who) you are living for – for self or for Savior, for time or for eternity! The choice is yours. Only one life, Twill soon be past, Only what’s done, For (in) Christ will last!
SO LET’S REVIEW OUR REVIEW…
Jude says to that in order for us to earnestly contend for the Gospel we are to
REMEMBER the WORD,
READ the WORD,
PRAY the WORD,
OBEY the WORD and
KEEP WATCHING for the LIVING WORD!
Let’s read Jude 1:22-23 in the ESV = And have mercy on those who doubt. Save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
Without going into any detail, these two verses are fraught with technical difficulties and some translations suggest Jude is describing 2 groups but the ESV (NAS, NIV, RSV, etc) describes 3 groups – doubters, those in danger of fire and those with stained garments. Are they believers? We cannot be dogmatic and even the experts don’t agree. We will address each group and how we as believers are to respond to each group.
Let’s look at the first group — Who are those wavering or having doubts and what are they doubting? I think that in this passage they are believers who have listened to those who have crept in and promoted a false teaching that GRACE gives us a LICENSE to SIN. They are wavering between the sound doctrine of the apostles and the false doctrine of those who have crept in. They have been taught it’s okay to sin because we are under grace, so we don’t worry about our sin. But if one begins to sin without reservation, what happens to their heart? They begin to doubt their salvation. They begin to doubt if they are truly the called, the beloved and the kept! So this group are likely doubting sound doctrine, including the doctrine of eternal security.
And so Jude issues a command (present imperative), not a suggestion, that we are to “Have mercy” — we are to continually be ready to show mercy. Like a pharmacy dispenses medications to make our body healthy, we are to be “God’s pharmacists” so to speak continually dispensing mercy to help restore their souls to spiritual health. And how often do we need to do this? Habitually, daily, as our lifestyle, an attitude and action we can only do as we are filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit. Let’s all be honest – If someone comes to us week after week, continually expressing doubts over what they believe, our fleshly reaction is tell them – “Get over it – Just get in the Word and grow up!” But when we are filled with the Spirit, He empowers us to dispense God-like compassion whenever the need arises. We are God’s vessels of honor (2Ti 2:21–note), God’s instruments, God’s ambassadors (2Cor 5:20–note) of the soul saving and soul restoring Gospel and like God are not to condemn, criticize or judge them for their wavering faith but are to give them what they need. Remembering this simple definition of mercy – It is not giving them what they DESERVE but what they NEED! So these doubters need our help, our reassurance, our reminder that they are “the called, beloved by God the Father, kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:1) We need to emphasize that the Father loves them and the Son keeps them and guards them with His watchful eye. As the words of the Civilla Martin’s great old hymn say “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” That’s giving them Spirit enabled mercy! That genre of kind words and actions is what will attract their wavering hearts back to the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, to the sound doctrine that revives their faith.
Now let’s look at the SECOND GROUP – Jude writes “Save others by snatching them out of the fire.” SAVE means to rescue someone from danger or peril. While some interpret these as believers, their potential fate of fire would strongly suggest they are those in the church who are not genuine believers and are being lurked from the truth of the Gospel by this surreptitious false teachers. What is the danger described in this passage? Clearly the danger is FIRE so the question is to what does FIRE refer? Are there any clues in Jude’s letter. There is a clue in Jude 1:7–note where Jude compares the fate of the false teachers who are mixing grace with a license to sin with the fate of sinners in Sodom and Gomorrah, and what is that fate? It is that they will undergo “the punishment of eternal fire,” which is clearly a reference to hell. As an aside many speak of hell as a place of eternal torment and it is, but the most tragic description is Paul’s statement in 2Thessalonians 1:8 where those destined for this FIRE “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power.” This tragic truth should break all of our hearts for those who are in danger of the FIRE. Our attitude should be like the great American evangelist Dwight L Moody of whom it is written “Mr. Moody never preached about hell without tears.” Brethren, now that’s SPIRIT EMPOWERED COMPASSION like Jesus Who lamented over Jerusalem (Mt 23:37-39). This same Spirit enabled heart attitude is what should motivate us to speak the Gospel, the power of God for salvation (Ro 1:16–note), to those in danger of eternal separation from the glory of God! In Psalm 3:8 David reminds us that “salvation belongs to the LORD”. So clearly saving souls is God’s business and yet He has graciously given every believer the incredible privilege of being His instrument through which the message of salvation can be sounded forth. In 2Corinthians 5:18 (note) Paul writes that “God Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ…gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” So beloved you are in the ministry whether you know it or not! And you didn’t even have to attend seminary! Paul went on to add in 2Cor 5:20 that “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” The Lord Jesus Christ assigned that same mission to every believer when He commanded us to “Go therefore and make disciples (command – “Just Do It!”) of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). Brothers and sisters, there is therefore no higher calling, no greater privilege, no more urgent task than the ministry of reconciliation God has entrusted to us. By the power of the Holy Spirit may God enable us all to obey Jude’s command to “SAVE others by snatching them out of the fire.” But let’s be honest – How many of us regularly share the Gospel with those in danger of eternal separation from the glory of God? And why not? What holds us back? I think for most of us it is the fear of rejection or of being labeled a “Bible thumper” or a “Jesus freak.” So how can we be a church that without hesitation or reservation obeys Jude’s command to “SAVE OTHERS” by speaking the Gospel? Let me suggest that we imitate Paul’s example – as great an evangelist as he was in Ephesians we see him make an interesting prayer request of the church at Ephesus. Listen to what Paul asks in Ephesians 6:19-20–note – “Pray for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth BOLDLY to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may DECLARE IT BOLDLY, as I ought to speak.” What word do you see repeated? Let’s read it again – did you hear it this time? BOLDLY is repeated twice. Paul of all people is asking for HOLY BOLDNESS to speak the Gospel! Can I suggest that this is a prayer we could begin to pray for each other? Would God answer this prayer? (cf 1Jn 5:14-15–note) I think He would and I think we might begin to have some testimonies of how God’s Spirit gave us courage to speak the Gospel in situations we would never have done before in our own power, fearfulness and timidity. God grant Your Church everywhere to be a Spirit filled church with Spirit empowered believers who are filled with holy boldness and courage to tell others about Jesus that we might see Him rescue the perishing. And all God’s church said “Amen!”
Fanny Crosby the great blind hymn writer put Jude’s “GREAT COMMISSION” in these words (words which by the way literally resulted in several conversions by just listening to the hymn) –
“ RESCUE THE PERISHING, care for the dying,
SNATCH THEM IN PITY FROM SIN AND THE GRAVE;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the Mighty to save.”
Or as Jude says snatching (verb depicts a sudden, forceful snatching) them out of the fire. Listen to the third verse
“Down in the human heart, crushed by the Tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.”
Did you hear the phrase “TOUCHED BY A LOVING HEART, WAKENED BY KINDNESS”? That’s the MERCY that Jude is calling us to live out before those that are perishing. Speaking kind words, not harsh, condemning words will open the door for the Gospel. So let us pray for boldness. Let us pray that we will be merciful or mercy filled. Let us boldly speak the Good News of Jesus to rescue the perishing, snatching them from eternal separation from God.
Now let’s briefly look at the third group. Jude like a commanding officer issues another command “to others SHOW MERCY (make it your practice to show mercy) with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” We know what it means to show mercybut what does it mean to show mercy WITH FEAR? Some interpret WITH FEAR as showing mercy with an attitude of a reverential fear of the Lord. That could be, but the other interpretation is equally valid and that is to dispense mercy mixed with caution lest we become spiritually contaminated by their polluting sins. And so one writer refers to this as the “Dangerous” group. The New Living Translation paraphrases it “Show mercy to still others, but DO SO WITH GREAT CAUTION, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” An old adage sums up the attitude we should have toward these individuals – love the sinner but hate their sin! We don’t know exactly what sin or sins of their fallen flesh nature they were committing, but we know that it requires great caution on our part in interacting with them. Think of an individual who is drowning. What is the one warning you often hear? Be careful when you try to rescue them so that they don’t end up drowning you because they are in such a frenzied state of panic. And so one writer says “There is danger to the sinner; but there is also danger to the rescuer. He who would cure an infectious disease runs the risk of infection.” In fact recall, the recent West African Ebola Outbreak in which several health care workers in seeking to SHOW MERCY, contracted the highly contagious virus and died!
WHAT’S THE MESSAGE FOR US TODAY? Before we were saved Isaiah 64:6 says “all our righteous deeds were like filthy rags,” but once we were saved by grace thru faith in the Gospel, Isaiah 61:10 says God clothed us “with garments of salvation”. It is this latter garment that, through presentation of the Gospel, we offer in love and mercy to those in filthy, polluted spiritual garments. However we must we both WISE and WARY, lest we begin to TOLERATE their sin, then TOY with it, and ultimately are TRAPPED by it ourselves. Here is the take home message – Yes, empowered by the Spirit, we must continually show MERCY to these individuals, but must never forget that compromise with their polluted lifestyle will very possible cause our spiritual downfall!
LET’S END WITH AN ILLUSTRATION OF RESCUING THE PERISHING — This illustration from a real life story helps grasp to whom and how we are to show mercy – Jim Cymbala well known pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle Church, an inner city church in NYC, tells the following story in his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire – “Jesus didn’t just speak the healing word to lepers from a distance of thirty yards. He touched them (Mt 8:2-3). I shall never forget Easter Sunday 1992—the day that Roberta Langella gave her dramatic testimony….A homeless man was standing in the back of the church, listening intently. At the end of the evening meeting I sat down on the edge of the platform, exhausted, as others continued to pray with those who had responded to Christ. The organist was playing quietly. I wanted to relax. I was just starting to unwind when I looked up to see this man, with shabby clothing and matted hair, standing in the center aisle about four rows back and waiting for permission to approach me. I nodded and gave him a weak little wave of my hand. Look at how this Easter Sunday is going to end, I thought to myself. He’s going to hit me up for money. That happens often in this church. I’m so tired. . . .When he came close, I saw that his two front teeth were missing. But more striking was his odor—the mixture of alcohol, sweat, urine, and garbage took my breath away. I have been around many street people, but this was the strongest stench I have ever encountered. I instinctively had to turn my head sideways to inhale, then look back in his direction while breathing out. I asked his name. “David,” he said softly. “How long have you been homeless, David?” “Six years.” “Where did you sleep last night?” “In an abandoned truck.” I had heard enough and wanted to get this over quickly. I reached for the money clip in my back pocket. At that moment David put his finger in front of my face and said, “No, you don’t understand—I don’t want your money. I’m going to die out there. I want the Jesus that red-haired girl talked about.” I hesitated, then closed my eyes. God, forgive me, I begged. I felt soiled and cheap. Me, a minister of the Gospel … I had wanted simply to get rid of him, when he was crying out for the help of Christ I had just preached about. I swallowed hard as God’s love flooded my soul (Ed: The filling of the Spirit returned to Pastor Cymbala the moment he confessed his sin of indifference to this man’s true need! And the same dynamic can happen in our life beloved. Confess and repent. Do it quickly. Don’t continue to grieve or quench the Spirit!). David sensed the change in me (Ed: Spirit controlled!). He moved toward me and fell on my chest, burying his grimy head against my white shirt and tie. Holding him close, I talked to him about Jesus’ love. These weren’t just words; I felt them. I felt love for this pitiful young man. And that smell….I don’t know how to explain it. It had almost made me sick, but now it became the most beautiful fragrance to me. I reveled in what had been repulsive just a’ moment ago. The Lord seemed to say to me in that instant, Jim, if you and your wife have any value to me, if you have any purpose in my work—it has to do with this odor This is the smell of the world I died for. David surrendered to the Christ he heard about that night. We got him into a hospital detoxification unit for a week. We got his teeth fixed. He joined the Prayer Band right away. He spent the next Thanksgiving Day in our home. We invited him back for Christmas as well. I will never forget his present to me. Inside a little box was one handkerchief. It was all he could afford. Today David heads up the maintenance department at the church, overseeing ten other employees. He is now married and a father. God is opening more and more doors for him to go out and give his testimony. When he speaks, his words have a weight and an impact that many ordained ministers would covet. As Christians reach out to touch everyone, including the unlovely who are now everywhere in our society, God touches them, too—and revolutionizes their lives.”
There used to be a telephone commercial that said “Reach out and touch someone” (referring to the touch tone phone). In the spiritual world, Jude is calling for the church to contend earnestly for the faith by first fortifying your faith and then by practicing your faith by reaching out and touching those who others might deem untouchable. God grant that His church in America is energized by His Spirit to be such a church for sake of the Name above all names, Christ Jesus. Amen.
Other illustrations related to RESCUING THE PERISHING.
Vance Havner once said “When people do not mean business with Christ in their hearts they will not do business for Christ with their hands. There is no place in Scripture for the type of church member who sings, “O How I Love Jesus,” but feeds no sheep; who sings, “Rescue the Perishing,” but does no rescue work himself.” In his book Consider Jesus Havner adds “We shrink from personally touching the world’s need, we abhor the ceremonial defilement of going down into the mire and muck of the world ourselves. It is one thing to sing, “Rescue the perishing.” It is another thing to rescue some of them, snatching them from the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
ILLUSTRATION – Dwight L. Moody once saw a man freezing to death on the street in Chicago. Moody could not just talk this man into warmth. He pounded him with his fist and got him really angry. The man began to pound back and then got up and ran after Moody. That got his blood circulating and saved his life. Our loud and outspoken witnessing may make people angry, but at least it may awaken them from their spiritual stupor. Who needs your boldness, your compassion today?
ILLUSTRATION – Those we save, says Jude, are as if snatched from the fire. They must be treated as we would treat a hamburger patty that falls into the hot coals. We must reach in quickly to prevent its further contamination, but we must also guard against personal injury.
ILLUSTRATION – Evangelism is like strong horseradish: people praise it with tears in their eyes. There are other word associations we could make with the concept of evangelism. For some people, evangelism is an evangelical mugging mission, where we go into a phone booth, come out with a big red S on our chests and charge out into a neighborhood, seldom our own, to win it for Christ. For others, it’s some kind of evangelical ambush where we lure the honest, unsuspecting victim to some type of an event, lock the doors, and sing twenty-two verses of “Just as I Am.” Some people think of evangelism as a bombing mission where, from protective cloud cover at 30,000 feet, we fill backyards with gospel bombs. For others, evangelism is herding fish into the stained glass aquarium where the big fisherman throws the lure from the pulpit. —Joseph Aldrich
ILLUSTRATION – When my wife and I went to Dallas Seminary, we decided we wouldn’t live in the “cemetery” housing. Instead, we lived in the high-class, red-light district. If you want to get an introduction to life itself, that’s the place to be. We made a commitment to take one non-Christian person, couple or individual, out to dinner once a week. Did we ever get a liberal education. But what fun; we had people coming to know the Lord right and left in that place, because we simply loved them. We opened our home to them. —Joseph Aldrich
ILLUSTRATION – Arithmetic from Hell – A kind of arithmetic has been spawned in the counting rooms of hell. This kind of arithmetic is always interested in reaching the masses but somehow never gets down to a man or a woman. This kind of arithmetic always talks about winning the world for God but doesn’t think much about winning a neighborhood for God. That arithmetic makes it valiant to cross oceans and never really crosses streets. – Haddon Robinson
ILLUSTRATION OF THE RESCUE TUBE – Have you ever noticed that when the life guards at the pool are seated on the guard tower, they will have in their lap (if they are following regulations) a 3-4 foot firm rubber structure known as a “rescue tube.” What’s the function? To rescue a drowning victim. One way to do so is to hold the rescue tube out to the distressed swimmer (assuming they are close enough to the edge of the pool), instructing them to grab the rescue tube and slowly pulling the victim to safety.
ILLUSTRATION – John Wesley was a young child when there was a consuming fire that struck the parsonage where his entire family lived. John called for help from the second floor. After heroic efforts, John was rescued and from that point on considered himself “a brand plucked from the burning” (Zech. 3:2). This event gave him a sense of God’s providence in his life and produced a deep passion and sense of purpose. His personal deliverance from the flames led to a passion for others and their salvation.
TRAGIC STORY OF DAWSON TROTMAN FOUNDER OF THE NAVIGATORS – On the afternoon of June 18, 1956, ten people who were attending a Christian conference in upstate New York were speeding in a power boat across Schroon Lake. Suddenly a wave struck the boat, hurtling two of its occupants into the water. The man held the young girl’s head above the water while the boat circled back to them. Just as she was lifted to safety,her rescuer sank beneath the waters and disappeared from sight. The man who thus died saving the life of a girl whose name he did not know was Dawson E. Trotman, founder and director of The Navigators, designer of the counseling and follow-up program used by Evangelist Billy Graham. In his thirty years of service for Christ he had been used to bring back into focus for the Christian world some foundational New Testament truths, the influence of which had only begun to be felt during his own lifetime. His close personal friend and co-laborer Billy Graham said, “I think Dawson Trotman touched more lives than any man I have ever known. We today are only representatives of thousands of many races and languages and cultures that have been touched by this great man. .. There could not have been a more dramatic and characteristic way to die. He who spent all of his life in bringing salvation and upbuilding to others…spending his last moments in saving the life of one who could not swim.” (The Pathfinder: A Condensed Life Story of Dawson E. Trotman by Lorne C. Sanny)
Here is another version of the tragic drowning of Dawson Trotman entitled ALWAYS HOLDING SOMEONE UP – The July 2, 1956 issue of the Time Magazine in its opening paragraph of the article entitled “Religion: The Navigator” was as follows – “Dawson Trotman clambered back into a motorboat one day last week after two hours of waterskiing on Schroon Lake, N.Y. He was dog-tired, but before he settled down he asked one of the two girls in the boat, Allene Beck, if she could swim; when she shook her head, he traded places with her so she would be in a safer spot. Minutes later the speeding boat bounced on a wave, and both of them, the 50-year-old man and the girl, shot into the water. He swam to her and held her head above water until the boat could circle back and she was hauled aboard. But as hands reached down to seize Trotman’s hand, he sank out of sight.” Dawson Trotman died by drowning, as he saved the life of another in the throes of death. The caption under his picture in the article appropriately summed up his life as it read “Always Holding Someone Up.” The article also aptly concluded with “He lived to save others” and “His death was just the way he would have planned it.” (Always Holding Someone Up)
ILLUSTRATION – A man in Sussex, England, gives this testimony:“I believe I can attribute my conversion, through the grace of God, to one verse of that precious hymn, ‘Rescue the perishing.’ I was far away from my Saviour, and living without a hope in Jesus. I was very fond of singing hymns, and one day I came across this beautiful piece, and when I had sung the words, ‘Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, Chords that were broken will vibrate once more,’ I fell upon my knees and gave my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. From that hour I have followed him who, through this verse, touched my heart and made it vibrate with his praises ever since.”
ILLUSTRATION – Here is an example of demonstration of compassion to the perishing from Fanny Crosby’s autobiography, in the chapter entitled “Work Among Missions” (shelters in cities where the destitute would accumulate) – “One evening there was a man in the seat in front of me, and from his singing I judged that he was under conviction (Ed Comment: Remember that Fanny was blind and so clearly had a keen sense of hearing to be able to detect a man’s “heart conviction” just by his singing! Lord, give us all sensitive ears like Fanny! Amen). Something within prompted me to ask him (Ed Comment: Surely this was the Spirit of Jesus within her, another voice to which she clearly had developed exquisite sensitivity! God help us all to have such sensitivity to Your still small voice. Amen) if he would remain and hear the sermon, and he finally consented to do so. Just before the close of the address I whispered, “When the invitation is given, will you go to the altar?” For a moment he hesitated, and then asked, “Will you go with me?” I did go to the altar with him and had the pleasure of seeing him a saved man. I could give more than one instance where men have been reclaimed, after a long struggle and many attempts at reformation, because someone spoke a kind word to them even at what appeared to be the last moment. I have also know many others who turned away from a meeting simply because the cheering word had not been spoken, nor the helping hand extended. Never to chide the erring has always been my policy, for I firmly believe that harsh words only serve to harden hearts that might otherwise be softened into repentance. (see her verses below — and notice she does not say not to reprove, but to take care how we reprove! Interesting!) ” (Fanny J Crosby: An Autobiography)
Speak not harshly when reproving
Those from duty’s path who stray;
if you would reclaim the erring,
Kindness must each action sway.
Speak not harshly to the wayward;
Win their confidence, their love,
They will feel how pure the motive
That has led them to reprove.
JOB’S SECRET IN THE STORM – We have all “heard of the “endurance of Job” (James 5:11) in the face of unspeakable adversity and personal loss (Job 1:1-2:13). As Oswald Chambers said “We must get hold of those great souls, the men who have been hard hit — hit and have gone to the basis of things and whose experiences have been preserved for us by God, that we may know where we stand.”
So how did Job survive such incredible afflictions? We get a clue from Job 23, where this suffering saint declares “Behold, I go forward but God is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him. When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him. He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.” (Job 23:8-9) BUT despite not BEHOLDING God, we see Job still BELIEVING God, confidently declaring “But He KNOWS the way I take. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10–note)
But how did Job KNOW that God KNEW? He did not have the Bible on computer, a Gideon New Testament or as far as we know any written record of God’s Words! Job explains the source of his ability to walk by faith and not by sight (2Cor 5:7–note), declaring “I have not departed from the command of His lips (obedience to God’s Word). I have treasured (as men do with what they most love and value = same word tsapan in Ps 119:11 “I have treasured Thy Word”) the words of His mouth more than my necessary food (Job “internalized” God’s Word). (Job 23:12–note) In a word, Job memorized and obeyed God’s Word, which fortified and sustained him through his incredibly difficult trials. In Job’s example of faithful, patient, suffering (James 5:10, Heb 6:12–note), he gives us a tried and true “template” for surviving the trials and tests of life — The Word of God HELD (and obeyed) in our heart, will HOLD us firm in faith when the winds of adversity blow! Spurgeon affirms “There is the picture which Job has sketched. Hang it up on the wall of your memory, and God help you to paint after this old master, whose skill is unrivaled.”
Beloved, are you treasuring the Word of God in your heart that you might not sin against Him (Ps 119:9,11–note)? Are you fighting the good fight of faith (and the temptations of the devil) even as did our Perfect Example, our beloved Lord Jesus, choosing daily to live not just by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4)? Are you fighting off dark thoughts of despondency as did God’s choice prophet Jeremiah (Jer 1:5), who declared “Thy Words were found and I ate them (cf memorized them) and they became for me the joy and the delight of my life.” (Jeremiah 15:16)?
The transformation and renewing of our minds (2Cor 3:18–note, Ro 12:2–note, Eph 4:23–note) and our growth in godliness (2Pe 1:5-8–note) is dependent on our feeding upon the living Word, the Bread of Life, the Word of Truth, which alone provides sustenance for our soul. God’s Word (from His very ”lips”) must become our greatest treasure even (especially) in dark days of suffering. Even better, we need to hide the Word of Life (Phil 2:16–note) in our hearts before the dark days come, so that we might run and hide in that Word when the days do come. “Every (no exceptions) Word of God is tested. He (via His Spirit) is a Shield to all who take refuge (and trust) in Him (via His Word).” (Proverbs 30:5–note)
Remember that like Job and Jesus and Jeremiah, the first requirement for keeping God’s Word in our hearts even as we would a precious treasure is to recognize that it is a TREASURE. A beautiful and touching story is told of a young French girl who had been born blind. After she learned to read by touch, a friend gave her a Braille copy of Mark’s gospel. She read it so much that her fingers became calloused and insensitive. In an effort to regain her feeling, she cut the skin from the ends of her fingers. Tragically, however, her calluses were replaced by permanent and even more insensitive scars. She sobbingly gave the book a goodbye kiss, saying, “FAREWELL, FAREWELL, SWEET WORD OF MY HEAVENLY FATHER.” In doing so, she discovered that her lips were even more sensitive than her fingers had been, and she spent the rest of her life reading her great treasure with her lips.
Father, as we go through the storms of life, shield us with your Word and by Your Spirit give us the desire and power to have an insatiable appetite to eat and obey the pure milk of Your Word in the Name of the living Word of God. Amen (Phil 2:12–note, Phil 2:13–note, 1Pe 2:2–note, Rev 19:13–note).
When the storms of life come, may God’s Spirit enable us to remember His Word and empower us to sing…
I WILL PRAISE YOU IN THE STORM by Casting Crowns
I was sure by now
God you would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining.
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as You mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God Who gives
And takes away
I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I WILL PRAISE YOU IN THIS STORM