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Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Note to Self: Jesus is Enough

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” ~Philippians 4:11-13~

Dear Self,

Are you satisfied? It is pretty obvious that the answer is often no.  I am not saying it is wrong to want things in this life, but why do you find yourself so frustrated with the absence of those things? The problem is not that you want evil things.  The things you want are generally good, or at least harmless in themselves.  But more than wanting, you become frustrated by not having. You beome jealous, envious, and discontented with your life.  It is true; you need what you lack, but what you lack is satisfaction in Jesus.

When you find your deepest satisfaction in jesus, you are protected from bitterness in times of want and pride in times of abundance.  The world and all good gifts within it are temporal blessings.  For you, Christian, their presence should remind you of the Giver, and their absence should remind you of that which never fades nor can be taken away.

Paul models this well for you. He knows the secret of being content whether he has abundance or nothing at all, for he has found his ultimate satisfaction in Jesus.  On the one hand, you know what it is like to have an abundance and then struggle with the extremes of guilt and greed.  Both of these responses stem from your focus on the worldly gifts themselves instead of on the generosity of the Giver of such gifts.  False guilt rises up in times of abundance as you focus on your unworthiness. But this gift only leads you deeper into an unhealthy kind of spiritual navel-gazing that ignores the goodness and generosity of God. He gives lavishly in many ways–in this life and the life to come–and all forms of his goodness to you are grounded in your union with Jesus.  Greed rises up in times of abundance as you develop a sense of entitlement.

Both guilt and greed in times of abundance are the responses of your heart when Jesus is not more glorious to you than the worldly gifts God has also given. If Jesus is your greatest treasure, you respond to God’s generosity in all areas of life with great joy and the desires to share what God has given you–both the worldly goods and the heavenly gospel.

On the other hand, you know what it is like to have little in this world and then struggle with jealousy and bitterness. But the root of the problem is the same–Jesus is not your greatest treasure. Jesus is enough. Do you believe that? Can you say, with the author of Hebrews, that you can be content with whatever you have because God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)? This is a promise made to us in Jesus. Jesus is enough, but what kind of satisfaction is only experienced when we understand our greatest needs to be redemption and restoration.  God in Christ has reconciled us to himself, is renewing our minds, and promises to raise us from the dead, and we will dwell in righteousness and peace forever.  If you have this, what more do you need?

From A Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn

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Posted by on December 31, 2011 in Edification, Encouragement

 

Psalm 23 verse 1 Exposition

A psalm by David (see pp. 87–90). The comparison of I AM to a shepherd fits the early years of Israel’s shepherd-king, who was called from leading a flock of sheep to leading the flock of Israel (Ps. 78:70–72), but this does not prove Davidic authorship. Sheep were a central part of the Israelite economy and other famous leaders were also at one time shepherds: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and also Moses.

As ancient Israelites parsed their life experiences in terms of their shepherd-king par excellence, Jihadist Muslims use the prophet Muhammad as their model for world conquest, and Christians look to Jesus as their pattern for their lives. Nevertheless, as Calvin saw, David’s psalms serve for all God’s covenant children as a paradigm to evaluate and interpret their lives

The bold confession, “I AM is my shepherd(Yhwh rōʽî), establishes an intimate I-Thou relationship between I AM and the individual Israelite; asserts the individual’s total dependence upon God’s goodness and kindness to care for him; and entails that his relationship is based on loving trust. “So close is the connection between shepherd and sheep that to this day Middle Eastern shepherds can divide flocks that have mingled at a well or during the night simply by calling their sheep, whereupon they follow their shepherd’s voice. Shepherds are inseparable from their flocks, and their work is demanding, solitary and sometimes dangerous (Gen. 31:38–40; 1 Sam. 17:34–35).”76 If a sheep becomes lost, the faithful shepherd leaves the others in the open country to find it, and when he finds it he calls his friends to celebrate with him because he has found his one lost sheep (Luke 15:3–7).

Conditions of shepherding in ancient Israel, however, differed from most modern practices: “Sheep were not fenced in and left to fend for themselves. Instead they were totally dependent on shepherds for protection, grazing, watering, shelter and tending to injuries. In fact, sheep would not survive long without a shepherd.”77

The relationship of I AM to the individual believer is elaborated by a “catalogue of provisions [that] is both marvelously inclusive and fashioned with loving attention to the literal details of a shepherd’s life”78 in order to explicate that the faithful Israelite does not want (lōʼ ʼeḥsār).79 The lexeme ḥāsar is often inchoative for the transition to this condition (i.e., “comes to lack”). The faithful does not lack ample food and renewing water (v. 2), or guidance (v. 3) with assured protection (v. 4). The psalmist validates his trust by his experience. When a person lacks essentials for living, such as rest, food, guidance, and protection, his or her life becomes marginalized and unless remedied dies. The Mosaic catechism teaches that complete harmony reigns between the Giver of every good gift and his covenant partner as long as the human is faithful to his covenant obligations (Lev. 25:19; 26:3–5). A lack of provisions signifies a failed relationship (Deut. 28:48, 57; Jer. 44:18; Ezek. 4:17). However, this absolute judgment applies to a comprehensive view of a believer’s eternal life. Before the end of clinical life people live in an upside-down world, where the wicked are full and the righteous are hungry; Israel, David, and the Lord Jesus all hungered in their wildernesses (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:2; 12:1, 3; Mark 2:25; Luke 6:3, 25). A song of trust, like the literary genre of the Book of Proverbs, by faith sees and enjoys the present in light of God’s promised blessed end, beyond the time when the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (1 Sam. 2:5; Ps. 107:5, 9, 36; 146:7; Luke 6:25; 1 Cor. 4:11; Phil. 4:12).80 “But at that time,” says Bridges, “how intolerable will be this conscious want through all eternity, when a drop of water to cool the tormented tongue shall be denied! (Luke 16:24).

~ Bruce K. Waltke, James M. Houston and Erika Moore, The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 437-38. ~

In studying the first verse of Psalm 23, several important notes can be observed from this passage.

1. As the commentary shows in the first bold section, sheep were completely dependent upon their shepherd to provide for every single need from food to protection to dangerous animals and even from nature.  The establishment of Yahweh (the Lord) as our Shepherd shows His sheep are to be completely reliant upon God for every single need.  Just as a good shepherd would tend for and provide for the sheep he is watching, even so far as give his own life to protect the sheep, even more Jesus calls Himself the “good shepherd”, laying down His life to save men from sin. Our Shepherd has provided the greatest need we have as wicked, sinful men in that He gave His life to save His sheep.  Even further, Jesus goes on to claim in verse 14 of John 10 how the sheep know the voice of their shepherd and follow it! How wonderful it is to know Christians are able to follow the Good Shepherd, the One who was not only willing to give His life but indeed did give His very life to save His sheep.  The first verse in psalm 23 is rich with the provision of God not only in their area of physical needs but even greater to be saved by God’s rich love, mercy, and grace through the finished work of the cross.

2. As the first paragraph establishes, there is an intimate relationship and covenant established between God and the Israelite.  However this covenant also applies to any believer today who has a relationship with God.  While it seems like the ungodly prosper and receive blessings while at times the godly suffer persecution, hardships, and various trials, the time spent here on earth is “a vapor” as James 4 says.  The ungodly will have nothing to stand on in the day when they are judged by the Lord, everything they spent their life living for will all be gone and they will suffer an eternity of God’s wrath.  On the other hand, the believer may not receive as many physical blessings (although God certainly does bless some believers richly, as Job, Abraham, David, and others were) but will instead be living for the glory and service to the Messiah, the great “I AM” of the Bible.  Through the first verse in psalm 23, every believer can hold fast to the covenant between him and God. No longer are we slaves to sin (Romans 6) but now we are freed from the bondage of sin and the law, separated unto Christ our Lord!  For the believer, verse 1 offers encouragement in knowing God is our Provider, Sustainer, and Shepherd.  Additionally, we have a relationship with the very One who came as a man, humbled Himself, and died bearing our sins so that we might have life.  Psalm 23:1 features Christ as the pinnacle, both as a caring, loving Shepherd and as our only hope; our Redeemer.  As Christians may we be challenged to find comfort in what Christ has accomplished on the cross.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2011 in Encouragement

 

Why do people hate Jesus?

In this devotional by D.A. Carson, the question of why people hate Jesus is clearly answered.  While many would say it is because they just do not want to accept Him or they are afraid they will no longer have fun if they become a Christian, the reality is the contrast between God and man, His holiness which exposes our sinful and wicked state.

 

Rather naively, some of us think that if Jesus were alive today, our tolerant culture would not give him a really rough time, much less crucify him. We would simply marginalize him, treat him as if he were a harmless eccentric. Is that true?

Not according to John. The issues are bound up with the nature of fallenness and its response to holiness.

Nowhere is this clearer than in John 7:7. Jesus’ brothers have been egging him on to return to Jerusalem. If he wishes to become a celebrity, they argue, he must show himself in the capital city on the high feast days. They are thinking like politicians: what will bring you public notice? But Jesus says that the “right time” for him has not yet come. They can follow their own timetable; he does and says only what the Father gives him to do and say (7:6; cf. 5:19ff.). Eventually he will go up to the Feast, but not yet (7:8). And when he does go, he goes quietly, without fanfare (7:10), refusing to draw attention to himself, with all the political fuss that would make. One important reason for this self-restraint is provided in 7:7: “The world cannot hate you,” Jesus tells his brothers, “but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.”

Four brief reflections. (a) The “because” clause is both disturbing and revealing. The assumption, of course, is that the world is not only evil, but desperately hates to have its evil exposed, shown up for what it is. Both by his flawless character and by his candid speech, Jesus makes “the world” horribly uncomfortable. How long would Jesus have lasted in Stalin’s Russia? In Hitler’s Germany? Or in Northern Ireland? Or the Balkans? Or in the United States? The least we would do, I imagine, is have him committed for psychiatric evaluation. (b) But I doubt that it would end there. Consider just one small arena: Some of my friends have had their lives repeatedly threatened because they publicly oppose homosexual marriages. These are not homophobes or gay bashers. Some of them have proven wonderfully fruitful and loving in their ministries to gays and straights alike. Were Jesus ministering among us today, I have no doubt that such death threats would have become assassination. (c) The implication of 7:7 is that Jesus’ brothers belong to the world. That is why they fit in so well. Are we being faithful if no one hates us? (d) This candid exposure of the world is not smug one-upmanship, disgusting self-righteousness. Jesus is righteous; he is holy. Where sin and holiness collide, there will always be an explosion. And we sinners must come to recognize our deep sinfulness, or we will never turn to the Savior for help.

~D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Volume 2, December 17th devotion~

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2011 in Edification

 
 
In Christ Jesus

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus