Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Esther 3:3-6 - Suffering for Christ's Sake

Then the king’s servants who were within the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king’s command?” Now it happened, when they spoke to him daily and he would not listen to them, that they told it to Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s words would stand; for Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew. When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him of the people of Mordecai. Instead, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus—the people of Mordecai.
Esther 3:3-6

This reminded me of a recent interchange between an American Senator and a Christian man. The Senator was castigating the man for believing something that is central to the gospel. In a series of attacks, formed as questions, the believer kept responding, "Well, I'm a Christian, and..." Several consecutive times, he would be interrupted and silenced at that point.

Well, here is something similar. Mordecai could worship no mere man. When the king's servants challenged him on it, Mordecai's answer was that he is a Jew. It is interesting that, in v4, it seems that the king's servants at least considered the possibility that he might be given a religious exception. Even by the common grace light of nature, they seemed to know that Mordecai ought to be permitted an exemption, but they apparently knew something of Haman's nature as well.

Sure enough, Haman was so far from willing to grant an exemption that he concluded that if following the religion of the one true and living God meant that they would not bow to him, then he would simply destroy all followers of that religion.

This is the mindset that is developing against genuine, biblical Christianity in America. Never mind that these true disciples of Christ love their enemies and are even willing to sacrifice themselves for those who hate them. Unless Christians are willing to approve that which is wicked and immoral, and unless they are willing to bow and worship as soon as those in the current positions of cultural power appear, they can expect the fiercest responses. There are no religious exemptions, except perhaps for those whose religion it actually is to hate and kill us. Instead, Christians can expect that their quiet and conscientious devotion to Christ and His Word may sooner or later result in a determination to expunge us all.

Are we ready for this? Do we love our enemies precisely because we love Christ? And are we willing to be hated and hunted for His sake? We can be comforted that no one can ever take us from His and the Father's hand. We can be sure that nothing that He has earned for us can ever be lost. And, as is the main doctrine of the book of Esther, we can know that God is ruling and overruling everything for the good of His people, for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Ezra 4:1-2 - Unity Not Always Desirable

"Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the LORD God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers' houses, and said to them, 'Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here."
Ezra 4:1-2

Sometimes, opposition to Reformation presents itself not as direct resistance, but as a "Unity Party," trying to join with the faithful in a way that will hinder them, dilute them, or slow them down.

"Unity without the Gospel is a worthless unity; it is the very unity of hell." - J.C. Ryle

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Matt 21:1-5 - Beholding Our King

"All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying"
Matt 21:4

Here, we see that Scripture must always be fulfilled.

It is impossible that God should lie. Whatever He has predicted or promised is absolutely certain to happen. Let us have confidence in every single thing that the Bible says.

    “Tell the daughter of Zion,
    ‘Behold, your King is coming to you,
    Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
    A colt, the foal of a donkey.’
Matt 21:5

Here, the prophecy that Christ fulfilled shows Him in both His kingship and His humility.

He is our King.

He subdues us to Himself, so let us yield to Him first head and heart, and then indeed all that we are, all that we have, and all that we do.

He provides for us, protects us, and defends us, so let us commit ourselves to His care. Literally, "by all means," let us make diligent and zealous use of all the means that He has given us, but let us always rest our confidence upon Him, rather than upon the means that He has given us.

He restrains and conquers all of His and our enemies, so let us never grumble, whine, or complain, but know that even the devil can only do what Jesus has planned for our good. And then, Jesus will punish every last wrong done to us--which He already used for our good!

And He has humbled Himself for us.

He became a man, and that in a low condition. Even as our King, He rode at first not on a great white horse, but on a donkey--and an adolescent donkey at that. He came lowly. And went so low as the cursed death of the cross. Such is the distance to which our God, Lord, Creator, and King stooped for our poor sake.

Let us behold here His love, and dwell upon it, that it might kindle in our hearts the flames of love toward Him. If we love Him because He first loved us, then let us drink deeply of these displays of His love to stir up our own reciprocal love!

And let us be glad to stoop and go low ourselves, for this path has been made beautiful, having been taken first by our Redeemer. Let us consider it an honor to stoop ever so low, to perform the lowest tasks, to receive the lowest gifts, to suffer those conditions and positions that worldlings consider to be far beneath them. They were not beneath our King, and we shall follow Him in them!

2Chr 36:15-16 - The Great Mercy (and Potential Danger) of Hearing Biblical Preaching

"And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy."
2Chr 36:15-16

Surely, we ought to pray that God would grant that His servant would preach His Word faithfully in each of our churches. Here, He describes such preaching as an act of His compassion. Indeed, those who wish for less preaching, or less biblical preaching, or no preaching at all... are actually asking that God would not have compassion upon them. This is a horrifying thought!

But, let us seek more than just this compassion from Him. For, if the preacher is mocked, and the words are considered of little value or importance, we shall find that we have made God's display of His compassion the occasion by which we have stirred up great wrath against His church.

O, the greatness of the mercy, and potential danger in hearing biblical preaching!

2Chr 32:1-8 - A Biblical Confidence in God's Sovereign Action Leads to Believers' Vigorous Action

Sometimes, I have heard it said of confidence in God's sovereign action that it will stifle believers' activity.

And indeed, I have heard believers describe their laziness or passiveness as "giving the situation over to God"--as if their acting was somehow preventing Him from doing so, or an indication that they did not trust Him to do so.

While it is perhaps true that believers who speak like this were not trusting God previously, their newfound passivity and inaction does not mean that they have now begun to trust Him.

Look at the flurry of Hezekiah's action here:
"And he strengthened himself, built up all the wall that was broken, raised it up to the towers, and built another wall outside; also he repaired the Millo in the City of David, and made weapons and shields in abundance. Then he set military captains over the people, gathered them together to him in the open square of the city gate, and gave them encouragement, saying" (vv5-6)

What drove such a frenzy of action? Was it because he was not "trusting God to work"? By no means! Notice the very next verses:
"“Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah" (vv7-8)

Simply put, when Christian's believe it in a biblical way, they do not do less, but rather more, when they possess the certainty that the Lord is working and will continue to work.

Do I believe this about the Lord, according to His promises and character? Then it will not be demonstrated merely by a warm, ethereal feeling while I fold my hands. Rather, it will be seen by my vigorously pursuing all of the means that God has placed at my disposal. After all, if our Father is working, then so shall we!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Jn 14:31 - O how Christ loves the Father!

"But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here."
John 14:31

If we are not amazed at Christ's love for the Father, we have not fully understood the cross.

And it is this love that is reckoned to us through faith in Christ, as if we ourselves had so kept the first great commandment!

Jn 14:8-9 - O that we would see Christ, by faith, in the preaching of the Word!

"Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?"
John 14:8-9

How glorious it is to see Christ! So exactly and completely is He the imprint of the Father that, once having seen Him, there is nothing more of the Father that we may see! Indeed there is nothing un-Christlike in the Father.

But what of us? Coming so long after Philip, have we missed our opportunity in this world for this glorious vision? By no means. For when the apostle Paul defends plain preaching and teaching as his strategem for ministry, he​ argues that it is God's means for doing something that no device of man could ever do:

"Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
2Co 4:1-6

O, let us wrestle at the throne of grace for this: that God the Holy Spirit would attend the preaching in our churches, granting to us to see Christ Himself by faith!

2Chr 19:6-7 - How the godly approach government jobs

Romans 13 makes it plain that this holds up for all governments in every age.

and said to the judges, “Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment. Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.”

While v11 makes clear that the "general equity principle" is how this must operate, that principle itself means that the godly magistrate will be seeking biblical instruction for how he is to rule.

God grant, in every nation, men who govern thus, by grace in Christ!

Friday, June 2, 2017

John 13:34 - Lay your life down for the church

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?”
Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.”
Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.”
John 13:34-37

Peter thought that he would outdo Christ. He thought that Christ had merely washed their feet, but Peter was determined to love Him back by laying down his life. By the end of that evening, and especially the next afternoon, Peter would realize just how backwards he had it.

But when Christ restored the apostle, He brought him back to this conversation, reminding him (and us with him) of the chief way in which we are to "love Him because He first loved us": love one another as He has loved us.

Do you love Him, dear Christian readers? Love one another! This, most of all, is how our Redeemer tells us to reciprocate His love to us.

2Chronicles 12:14 - Preparation of the Heart

Truly, reading through the flawed kings of Judah makes one to confess that Christ alone is King of kings and Lord of lords.

And the Lord holds before us in 2Ch 12:14 how it was that Rheoboam's sinful flesh maintained the upper hand with him, "And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the LORD."

(See also 2Chr 19:3, "Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God." ... and 2Chr 30:18b-19a But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement for everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers" ... and Ezra 7:10 "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel" ... and 1Sam 7:3 "Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the LORD, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines")

The word means to prepare or make ready, with a connotation of strengthening, establishing, and steeling the heart in a particular posture or attitude. God knows our dullness, and He has provided us this instruction: hearts such as ours must be intentionally conditioned to know and love and obey Him. Our hearts will not naturally do so merely because we wish they would. Moreover, He warns us of what we are wont to do if we do not prepare our hearts to seek Him. We are likely to end up rejecting all sound wisdom and indulging the folly and sin of our original, fleshly nature.

We who long that kings would be righteous, and that we ourselves would be upright in all that we do... Here is a biblical prescription for us: we must prepare our hearts to seek the Lord!

Let us be eager at the Word, sacraments, and prayer... these means through which we have Christ's own heart by grace.

2Chronicles 9:8 - One Greater than Solomon

How have you responded to Christ? There are many who demand something from Christ  before they will believe.

Of those Pharisees that insisted that Jesus satisfy their demands, He said, "The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here." (Mt 12:42)

And how had she responded?

"Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on His throne to be king for the Lord your God! Because your God has loved Israel, to establish them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness." (2Ch 9:8)

The Lord grant to you, dear reader, that this is how you respond to encountering Jesus Christ in His Word! Truly, He is the one greater than Solomon.