Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
“Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.”
Though the Bible does not tell us a great deal about Heaven where we will spend eternity, the glimpses we are given reveal a place filled with praise and worship. The fact that we will be in the very presence of God, in a place of perfection, is almost impossible for us to imagine; for it is so different from all that we have known. In Heaven, we will not be spectators, but active participants in the worship of our worthy and beautiful Lord.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Another holy offering is adoration—the adoring of Jesus. Do we not too often forget this adoration in our assemblies, or thrust it into a corner? The best part of all our public engagements is the worship—the direct worship; and in this the first place should be given to the worship of the Lord Jesus.”
There is no reason we should wait for Heaven to begin this worship—in fact, we are commanded to praise and glorify God here on Earth. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:23). The Christian who does not have both a heart and a mouth filled with praise and gratitude for God is a disobedient and ungrateful child of the King.
“But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.”
There are many beautiful pictures and types of salvation in the Old Testament that illustrate the love and grace of God in action. But there may not be any clearer picture than the cities of refuge. Under the Law of Moses, vengeance for many crimes was to be carried out by the family of the victim. In the case of an accidental death, what we would today call manslaughter, God knew that there might be rage and a demand for vengeance even though there had been no intention of wrongdoing. So He commanded Moses to establish six cities scattered throughout the land to which people could flee for safety.
As long as the hunted party remained inside the city of refuge, the family of the victim was not allowed to take action against them. They were completely safe. They were allowed to remain in the city of refuge as long as the high priest lived, which would give time for anger and rage to abate. “And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil” (Numbers 35:25). Our high priest, Jesus Christ, is alive forever, and we remain safe in His care for eternity.
“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
In our society, religion is often looked on as an optional choice for life. Some people choose to follow a religion while others do not, and it all comes down to a matter of preference. But while that may be a common concept, it is false. All roads do not lead to Heaven. There is a God, and we will one day stand before Him to give an account of our lives. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
When the disciples, who followed Jesus most closely and knew the most about His teaching, began to talk to others after His death and resurrection, they did not present the truth for debate. Instead, they echoed what Jesus had taught them—that He is the only hope of Heaven. Thus Peter stood, in the face of opposition and persecution and even the threat of death, and fearlessly declared that all people “must be saved.”
There are many divisions and categories into which the world places different people, but in God’s eyes there are only two kinds: those who have accepted His free offer of salvation by grace through faith alone, and those who have not. Those who have trusted Jesus have their sins covered by His blood. Those who do not will pay the price for their own sins. We must be saved.
“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”
I read a story from the early days of train travel in America. There was only one traveler on the train, and he was very upset to be going so slowly. Then the train came to a complete stop. The man asked the conductor what the problem was only to be told, “Nothing to be concerned about, sir. There's a cow on the tracks.” After a few minutes the train started once again slowly down the track. But after a few minutes it stopped again. “This is just a brief delay,” said the conductor. “We'll get going again soon.” The frustrated passenger asked, “What is it this time? Did we catch up to the cow?”
It seems like the faster things move in our world, the more impatient people become. We do not want to wait for anything and quickly get upset if we get held up even for a moment. The fast lanes aren't fast enough. Express shipping needs to be upgraded. We want what we want, and we want it right away. Yet despite the increasing pace of the world, things still get delayed—held up when we want them to be moving forward.
Patience matters in our spiritual lives even more than in our physical lives. God is not working on our timetable, and if we insist on getting our own way, we will regret it. “And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul” (Psalm 106:15). We must be willing to trust God's knowledge and love.
“Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
Though Benjamin Franklin believed there was a God, he was far from being a Christian. Rather than placing his faith in Jesus, he planned to accomplish moral improvement on his own. In his Autobiography Franklin wrote, “It was about this time that I conceiv’d the bold and arduous Project of arriving at moral Perfection. I wish’d to live without committing any Fault at any time; I would conquer all that either Natural Inclination, Custom, or Company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a Task of more Difficulty than I had imagined. While my Attention was taken up in guarding against one Fault, I was often surpris’d by another.”
No amount of willpower, moral determination, or self reliance can change our innate sinful nature. Though of course this is true for the lost, it is just as true for Christians. It is not our strength that wins victories over sin and temptation and produces fruit from our efforts. It is God’s power alone that flows from our connection to Him that allows us to become what He intends for us to be. David said, “God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect” (2 Samuel 22:33). We must be living in His strength if we are to fulfill His plan and purpose for our lives.
“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”
2 Corinthians 11:2–4
In the final years of his life, after decades of highly praised work in the scientific field, Isaac Newton was appointed Master of the Royal Mint in London. Though the post had largely been symbolic in the past, Newton took the responsibilities of the post seriously, especially with the rise in counterfeiting coins that was undermining people’s confidence in the government and the economy. Newton instituted new guidelines, including placing ridges around the edge of coins to make them hard to copy. He gave people confidence that the money in circulation was good.
Just as many people have made fake copies of money over the years, Satan offers many false counterfeits of Christ to deceive people. He does not care what people believe or how sincerely they believe it as long as they are believing a lie. In fact, the more sincerely people believe something that is false, the better the devil likes it. Since the Garden of Eden, his main tactic has been to undermine people’s faith and confidence in what God has spoken.
Just as with counterfeit money, the best tool to detect false doctrine is a close familiarity with the truth. The more we know about what is real, the easier it is for us to detect what is false. It should not be any surprise to us when we encounter false doctrine.
“All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Stéphane Breitwieser has spent more time visiting art museums than almost anyone else in the world. Though under the terms of his release from prison he is not supposed to enter any museum, the man known as the most prolific art thief in history continues to don disguises and pay visit to view priceless works of art—including many that he once stole. Most of his thefts were carried out in the middle of the day when the guards were distracted. Breitwieser’s stealing became almost a compulsion. Once in Belgium he saw an empty museum display case with a card inside that read “Objects removed for study” and he stole the card! Breitwieser confessed to nearly two hundred robberies across Europe, and in February of 2019 was arrested yet again on suspicion of a museum robbery in France.
Jesus described Satan as a thief who delights in taking what is precious to others and claiming it for himself, leaving destruction and death behind. The devil may be portrayed as a comical figure by the world, but he is a real, serious, and deadly foe to every child of God. Yet like a museum without adequate security to protect the treasures inside, many Christians leave the doors of their lives open and unguarded. If we do that, we should not be surprised when Satan takes advantage of our inattention to bring destruction and steal what is most precious to us. There are no “off days” when we can let down our guard.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
We don’t know exactly how many Hebrew young men were taken to Babylon during the captivity and enrolled in the training program designed to change their beliefs and practices. What we do know is that when three of them were presented with a choice between bowing down to a golden idol set up by Nebuchadnezzar or being thrown into a fiery furnace, they did not hesitate. Others might choose to make small compromises to avoid conflict, but they would not. Even the threat of a painful death could not deter them from standing for what was right.
Charles Spurgeon described an early churchman of England who had no backbone this way: “The gross example of the Vicar of Bray comes at once to one’s mind, who had been a papist under Henry VIII, then a protestant under a Protestant reign, then a papist under Mary, then again a Protestant under Elizabeth; and he declared he had always been consistent with his principle, for his principle was to continue as the Vicar of Bray.”
There will always be promises of pleasure and threats of punishment to induce people to bow down rather than stand for the truth. The key to overcoming those temptations is found in our own hearts rather than the circumstances. If we love God supremely as we should and care most for His approval, nothing others may do will cause us to abandon the truth.
“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
2 Timothy 3:10–12
Most of us have had the experience of being disappointed by people we thought were one thing, but who turned out to be something very different. Paul was able to say to Timothy, knowing that the younger man had traveled with him, heard him preach, seen him persecuted, and been with him in private as well as public, that his life had been marked by consistent godly characteristics and conduct. He was not bragging, but rather telling Timothy that what he had seen in Paul’s life needed to be in his life as well.
While none of us are perfect, we should strive to live in such a way that we would not be ashamed if our deeds were brought to light. If we must put on a front to keep people from seeing what we really are, what we are is in desperate need of a change. It is possible for someone to play a role, even over an extended period of time, without anyone else suspecting what is really inside. For instance, Judas was trusted by the disciples to the extent that they placed him in charge of their money, not realizing he was a thief.
We are called to consistent holy living, not just in public but in private. There should be no distinction between the way we act in church and the way we live at home. We should not be ashamed or afraid to be truly transparent. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
“And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him? And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.”
1 Kings 22:7–8
As a godly king, Jehoshaphat should not have made a military alliance with the wicked king Ahab, but he did. He did retain enough wisdom, however, to recognize that the prophets Ahab had gathered around him were not speaking for God. They were delivering the message Ahab wanted to hear, but they were not telling the truth. When Micaiah was called to stand before the kings, he was warned to say only good things so that his words would match the other prophets and please Ahab. Instead, he boldly proclaimed God’s judgment, willing to be hated and pay the price for the sake of the truth.
Charles Spurgeon said, “God gave me this great book to preach from, and if He has put anything in it you think is not fit, go and complain to Him, not to me. I am simply his servant, and if His errand that I am to tell is objectionable, I cannot help it. Let me tell you, the reason why many of our churches are declining is just because this doctrine has not been preached.”
In our day, faithfully proclaiming what God has said is becoming less and less popular. But while we should certainly be kind to others, our purpose is not for them to like us, but to be warned. Jesus said, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Do not allow a desire to be well thought of keep you from speaking the truth.
“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.”
The most famous sermon in American history is no doubt Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” With its vivid description of the peril and the horrors of the judgment awaiting those who were lost, the sermon is a masterful use of Scripture to call men and women to salvation. Certainly very few other sermons from 1741 are still widely available to be read and studied today. Although Edwards first preached it in his own pulpit in Northampton, Massachusetts, it is not that event that people remember.
Edwards was invited to speak at a church in Enfield, Connecticut, which had not been touched by the revival known as the Great Awakening. When Edwards preached there, people began to cry out even before the sermon was finished, asking, “What shall I do to be saved?” The sermon was basically the same message. Edwards had not become a more skilled orator. In fact, he read the entire sermon in what was described as a monotone voice. The difference was in the hearers.
While there are some churches where the Bible is not faithfully preached and taught, there are also cases where the problem is not with the speaker but with the hearer. Each time we approach the Word of God, whether in public or private, we need to be sure our hearts are willing to hear what it says.
“On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
From ancient times, the palm tree was a symbol of victory. In Greek mythology, Nike, the goddess of victory, was often pictured with a palm tree. In Rome, returning generals who had won a great victory were given a parade known as a triumph. According to the Roman poet Martial, whose writings give us much of what we know about life there, those conquering heroes who had already received this honor once were given a special distinction for a second triumph. The toga palmata was a robe decorated with palm branches. Combining the symbols for victory and peace indicated that the victor was ready to lay down his weapons and enjoy the fruits of his triumph.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He was greeted with palm branches and hailed as a king. Though He had not yet gone to the cross and risen from the grave as evidence of His complete victory over Satan, it was only fitting for Jesus to be honored and recognized in this way. He is our eternal Saviour, and He alone deserves our praise and honor. This was just as true before the crucifixion as it was after it. And for eternity in Heaven, we will be praising our triumphant Lord. “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:12). But this praise is not meant to be for the future—our lives today should be filled with praise for Jesus. His victory gives us our assurance of a peaceful eternity with Him.
“For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”
Early in his presidency, Ronald Reagan was facing a key issue in the Senate, and was having trouble getting the votes he needed for passage of a bill. He called one Republican senator who had spoken against the bill to the White House for a conversation. The senator laid out his opposition and then said to the president, “Sir, I’d jump out of an airplane without a parachute if you said to, but...” Reagan interrupted with one word: “Jump!” The senator changed his position and the measure passed.
The test of our loyalty to Christ is not found in what we say, but in what we do. There are many more people who are willing to say that Jesus is Lord than there are who are willing to live like it. The Lord who saved us has every right to expect obedience from us. God’s commands are unchanging and apply to everyone. Satan tries to get us to substitute right words for right actions.
Jesus told a parable about a man with two sons who commanded them to go work in the vineyard. One said he would not, but then repented and went. The other said he would, but didn’t. Then Jesus asked the pointed question: “Whether of them twain did the will of his father?” (Matthew 21:31). No matter our excuse or rationale, we are not doing what God wants unless we are doing what He says.
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
1 Corinthians 9:25–27
At the IAAF World Indoor Championship held in England in 2018, the third qualifying race in the 400-meter event had five entrants. The top two finishers were to advance to the next round of competition. After one runner was disqualified for a false start, the remaining four began their dash around the track. Because the track is oval, the runners start at staggered distances, each in a separate lane in which they must stay until they reach a certain distance. All four of the competitors were disqualified for running out of their lanes too early, leaving no one to go on to the next race.
There are guidelines and markers laid down for us in the Bible that are meant to be followed. They are not suggestions, but requirements. Because the “lanes” are clearly established for us, we have no excuse for wavering uncertainly through life. We are not left to grope through the darkness. God lights the way for those who are committed to following Him. “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).
Paul recognized the danger that even after years of ministry, if he did not keep to a certain course, he would fall. There are no exceptions to the commands of God. He does not give permission to sin because of past service to Him. We must stay on the certain course all the days of our lives.
“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.”
In 1856, Charles Spurgeon was one of the best-known and popular preachers in England with his church filled to overflowing week after week. When the church needed to build a larger building, they temporarily moved to the Surrey Gardens Music Hall during construction. On the first Sunday at Surrey Gardens, the crowd that gathered was estimated at 14,000 which far exceeded the building’s capacity. Early in the service, someone shouted “Fire!” and the panicked crowd rushed for the exits. Eight people were trampled to death in the chaos. Spurgeon, who was just twenty-five years old, carried that grief with him for the rest of his life. He later confided to friends that he sometimes burst into tears for no apparent reason. On the wall of Spurgeon’s bedroom was a plaque with Isaiah 48:10 on it: “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”
Things do not always go the way we want them to. There is pain, suffering, sickness, betrayal, tears, and heartache in every life. Many times these trials are outside of our control, and sometimes, they are even caused by other people. But faith looks at those events through the lens of trust in God’s overall plan for our lives. Such trials can be part of the purifying process by which God makes us more like His Son. But if we become bitter or lose our faith in Him, the benefit of the trial will be lost.
“But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 2:4–6
Many of us either have personally done the job or know someone who has been asked to serve as a trustee, whether for a business or an individual. It is a position of responsibility, requiring the person who holds it to exercise judgment and show integrity as they manage the duties of the task. The key concept of being a trustee is this—what you are doing is not for your own sake, but for someone else. The things trusted to you are not your own to do with as you see fit, but rather belong to someone else, and must be handled for their benefit.
The gospel is life changing for us. It takes us from Satan’s family and places us in God’s family. It changes our eternal destiny from Hell to Heaven. But while it greatly benefits us, it is not given to us just for our own sake. When Jesus cast the demons out of the man living in the cemetery near Gadera his life changed. He wanted to go with the other disciples wherever Jesus went, but God had other plans. “Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (Mark 5:19). If we take the trust of the gospel seriously, we will not fail to share the good news with those around us.
“Ye shall not fear them: for the LORD your God he shall fight for you. And I besought the LORD at that time, saying, O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might?”
There was a beautiful story D. L. Moody liked to tell about a wealthy man in England who wanted to help one of his fellow church members who was very poor. He did not want what he was doing to become public knowledge, so he entrusted a large sum of money to an officer of the church to give to the man. Knowing the situation, the officer sent the poor man five pounds along with a note: “More to follow.” Every few weeks, he would send another five pounds with the same note. The recipient of the gift could be confident that the resources were there to help supply his needs.
When Moses looked back near the end of his life as Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, he made the amazing statement that God had “begun to shew...thy greatness.” Thinking about all that Moses had seen—the burning bush, the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the manna from Heaven and so much more—we would normally think that was a lot. But compared to the infinite power of God, Moses realized that all those miracles didn’t even scratch the surface of what God could do.
Many Christians live like they are afraid God is going to run out of resources. They would never say that, but they do not tap into the promises He has given us. We tend to limit God in our thinking to what we can figure out, but He is beyond our conception. Nothing is impossible for Him. And we can fully trust Him to meet our needs.