Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
After the death of Charles Spurgeon, his son Thomas became pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. But like his father, he suffered greatly from ill health. He soon realized he could not manage the massive church and all its ministries alone. He turned to one of his father's dear friends, Archibald Brown who had been saved and baptized at the Metropolitan Tabernacle as a teenager, and asked him to come and co-pastor the church. Brown did so, continuing a life that had been devoted to service to Jesus Christ. Late in his life, someone asked Brown how he had been able to accomplish so much for God. “The answer is very simple,” he responded. “Fifty years ago Archibald Brown was joined up to the main, and the tap has been running ever since.”
No work that we do for God in our own strength and power can possibly succeed. Only when we are dwelling in Him and walking in the Spirit will we see the fruit of the harvest. Even after three years of His personal instruction, the Lord told the disciples they were not ready to launch into their ministry until the Holy Spirit had empowered them. We are just as much in need of His power in our lives. The devil whispers in our ears that we can do it on our own. This message appeals to our pride, and we find it easy to listen to such temptations. But only God's power working in us can overcome the world and bring the victory.
The impact of our work for God is directly determined by the working of the Holy Spirit in and through our lives.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
It is not uncommon for visitors to popular tourist sites to be targeted by pickpockets. For example, if you have the opportunity to visit the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, it is likely that your guide will warn you to be very careful about purses and wallets, as that is a prime hunting ground for thieves. Their goal is to take away what is valuable and precious, using the skills of deception and distraction which they have perfected. In the same way, Satan attempts to spoil us—to steal what God has given to us—using the teaching and philosophy of the world to distract us from the truth.
It is vital that we be careful students of the Word of God, so that the philosophies and doctrines of the world do not deceive us. We cannot afford to blindly accept something just because it sounds good and makes sense to us. Often that is the tool that the devil uses, presenting us with something that fits with our own ideas and desires, but subtly is drawing us away from God. We will not maintain the truth unless we make it a priority. Jude wrote, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
The key to identifying deceptive ideas and teachings is to be so familiar with the truth that error is quickly revealed. The only sure and certain source of truth is the Word of God, and that is the ultimate guide we should follow in determining what we will believe and how we will live. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
The clear light of the Bible reveals traps and false doctrines the devil tries to use to steal us away from the truth.
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
When Secretariat went to the starting line at Belmont on June 9, 1973, virtually everyone expected him to win the race. Secretariat had already won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, the first two races in the Triple Crown. In fact, only four other horses even entered the race against him. Despite the high expectations, no one had ever seen a performance like the one “Big Red” put on that day. The record time that Secretariat set over the mile and a half long track still stands almost fifty years later, and no other horse has even come within two seconds of matching it. The second place horse was 31 lengths—about 250 feet—behind when Secretariat crossed the finish line. It was a dominating performance that left no doubt at all about the winner.
Sometimes as we face the very real battles of this world, we are tempted to forget that Jesus has already won an overwhelming victory, completely and totally defeating Satan, just as God promised to Adam and Eve so long ago. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Jesus does not need to call on extra power or ask for backup or reinforcements. His power is unlimited, and His glory stands above any other—past, present or future. There is no need to fear the final outcome. Instead, we simply trust in our glorious and victorious Lord and trust Him to work in our lives.
Jesus has already overcome all of the opponents we will face, and we can fully rely on Him for victory.
And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.
Once the work on the Tabernacle was completed, Moses was instructed to place the Ark of the Covenant inside the Holy of Holies—a special room separated from the rest of the Tabernacle by a massive curtain. No one was allowed in this room or in the presence of the Ark except for the high priest, and he could only do it once a year. The Ark was never to be touched by human hands. When it needed to be moved, it was covered and then poles were inserted into the rings placed at each corner. When David went to bring the Ark to Jerusalem after the Philistines had captured and then returned it, a young man named Uzzah tried to steady it when the cart carrying the Ark hit a bump. “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:7).
No one could take the place of the high priest there in the presence of God's glory. No one else was even allowed to be inside the Tabernacle at all. The high priest represented the people before God in a beautiful picture of the work Jesus would do for us. But it was only a shadow of what Christ Himself would do. Jesus did not make continual offerings year after year. He shed His blood once, and that was all that was needed. His work of redemption was done. “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12).
God graciously provides us the means to become part of His family through the precious blood of Jesus.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
Jesus Christ came into the world, born to Mary in Bethlehem just as God had promised hundreds of years before. He was human in every way. Yet at the same time, He was also fully God. And while He set aside His glory and honor to accept the limitations of a physical body, He was still the King of kings. Jesus had then and has now all of the attributes and nature of God the Father. The night before His crucifixion, Jesus declared the importance of seeing the Father. Philip immediately asked to see Him, showing that he had not fully grasped what Jesus was teaching. “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9).
In Jesus Christ we have everything we could ever need for every part of life. His wisdom guides us through our decisions. His power enables us to serve Him. His love motivates us to live for Him. His presence is the comfort that we are never abandoned or alone. He is to be the greatest love in our lives. He is the beginning and the end of what we believe, what we experience, and what we expect as part of His family. Jesus is wonderful beyond the ability of human words to describe. He is our hope and our help in every trial and victory. Many of us learned a little chorus when we were children that sums up this beautiful truth:
Christ is all I need,
Christ is all I need,
All, all I need.
Christ is all I need,
Christ is all I need,
All, all I need.
He was crucified,
For me He died,
This is why I know
That He loves me so,
Christ is all I need.
Our matchless Lord lovingly provides us with everything we need both for this life and the next.
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
Under the Old Testament law, there were many things the Jewish people were not allowed to eat. Alongside the law God had given Moses, a whole body of tradition grew up around the actual law which soon obscured the point. The Pharisees had elaborate rituals for washing their hands and anything that would hold their food. There is certainly nothing wrong with eating with clean hands off clean dishes, but they had elevated that tradition to the point where they thought they were improving their standing in God's eyes by their outward cleansing. When they critiqued the disciples for not following their rituals, Jesus used the opportunity to highlight the difference between inward and outward cleanliness.
Jesus' primary point was that even those who have all the outward appearances of godliness still have a sinful nature and still need forgiveness from God. We can only be made holy on the inside through the blood Jesus shed to forgive our sins.
But Jesus' point can extend beyond salvation to our daily lifestyle. Even as forgiven children of God, we can get caught up in thinking that outward manifestations of holiness impress God while neglecting sins of the heart. Because the outside is what people can see, it can easily become our only focus. We find it easy to neglect care for our internal cleansing, but God calls us to address the heart. James wrote, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8). The biggest problem we have with sin is not external. Temptations come from outside, but they find room to grow from our inward desires that are not cleansed. We must ask God to search our hearts and surrender every aspect of our lives to His rule.
Outward appearances can never be a substitute for inward cleansing.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
We live in a pressure-packed, hectic, fast-paced world filled with people hurrying to meet deadlines and check off everything on their to-do lists. It can be hard not to feel pressured by the swift passage of time. There is always one more thing to do, and rest can be hard to find. But that is not unique to our day. It is believed to have been the Roman playwright and poet Plautus, born 250 years before the birth of Christ, who so eloquently complained about the pressures of time he faced.
The gods confound the man who first found out
How to distinguish hours! Confound him too
Who in this place set up a sundial
To cut and hack my days so wretchedly
Into small portions!
As Christians we are not immune to the pressures of the world, but we have a resource that the world does not. We have access to the peace and rest Jesus promises to give those who trust in Him. The fact that too often we take matters into our own hands and try to solve our problems without God's help greatly contributes to our stresses, worries, doubts, and fears. We can trust Jesus because He always keeps His promises, and there is rest promised for believers. “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). But we cannot experience and enjoy that peace and rest unless we have first come to Him in faith. Charles Spurgeon said, “How many of our sleepless hours might be traced to our untrusting and disordered minds. They slumber sweetly whom faith rocks to sleep. No pillow so soft as a promise; no coverlet so warm as an assured interest in Christ.”
No matter how busy or burdened we may be, there is always rest for those who come to Jesus for it.
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
When Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, it marked the end of his influence and power. The man who had once ruled over vast nations spent the final six years of his life in exile on the tiny Atlantic island of St. Helena. In interviews on the island, he reflected back on the fateful battle which at the time he had expected to win. One of the key factors Napoleon identified in his defeat was the failure of his subordinates to carry out their assignments. He told an interviewer, “I made a great mistake in employing Ney. I should have placed Soult on my left. I ought not to have employed Vandamme. I ought to have given Suchet the command I gave to Grouchy. My ordnance officers were too young. I ought to have had in their place men of experience. The men of 1815 were not the same as those of 1792. My generals were fainthearted men.”
Any time that we depend on people we are likely to be disappointed. While we are grateful for the help we do receive, only God is worthy of our dependence. “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8). Only God can supply all that we need both for this life and the next. Only God can provide power to accomplish any task that is set before us. Only God can make up what is lacking in our lives. Sometimes the people we count on most let us down. Sometimes those who feel for us lack the ability to do anything about it. Sometimes the places we turn for help to make up what is lacking prove unable to provide. God never fails. He will keep His promises to provide if we come to Him as He directs. Then we can truly say, “My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).
God has all we lack, and He will freely provide for those who come to Him in faith to claim it.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
There was no question in the minds of those who knew the disciples what the greatest influence on their lives was. They were like Jesus after spending time with Him. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). The more we become like Christ, the more influence we will have on the world around us. Being godly, not in the sense of false piety or showy religion, but literally living and responding like Him, changes everything about the way we live.
A. W. Tozer wrote, “He talks familiarly every day to someone he cannot see, expects to go to Heaven on the virtue of another, empties himself in order that he might be full, admits that he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up. He is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passeth knowledge.”
The measurement of growth in the Christian life is not found in methods or techniques or rituals, but in becoming more and more like Jesus. We do this the same way the disciples did—by spending time with Him through His Word and by surrendering to the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
The more like Jesus we become, the more powerful and effective our work for Him will be.
So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
1 Corinthians 14:9-12
When people stand out in any endeavor, it draws attention. Whether in business or sports or education or anything else, those who excel are looked up to by others who want to do the same. The book In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, Jr. was a publishing success story. It sold three million copies in just four years, and remains one of the better selling business books of all time. People wanted to know the traits and procedures that made excellent companies stand out. Yet when it comes to God's work, sometimes that drive for excellence is missing.
God is looking for people who are excellent, not to win fame and applause or financial rewards, but to serve Him and build up His church. God gives gifts to every believer to be used, not for ourselves, but for others. A gift that is casually treated or poorly exercised is not likely to make any positive impact. But a gift that is used in the power of the Holy Spirit to build and strengthen the work of God will change lives. It should be the desire of our hearts to be excellent in building up God's church by building up those around us. Not everyone has gifts for preaching or teaching or singing, but anyone can be an encouragement to others. The strongest churches are filled with people who are excellent in edifying.
God deserves our very best as we use what He has given us for the benefit of others.
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
As an outward expression of his covenant with God, Abraham was given the sign of circumcision. This physical mark was a distinguishing sign to Abraham and his descendants. “And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him” (Genesis 17:23). Through the centuries that followed, physical circumcision was practiced by the Israelites. But long before the birth of Christ, they had been told that the practice they were commanded to follow was only a token and that God Himself would perform the change that was needed for them to live. “And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live” (Deuteronomy 30:6).
By the time of Paul, many Jewish religious leaders taught and believed that simply being a circumcised Israelite meant that their standing with God was secure. But nothing we do can gain us merit with God. No matter who our ancestors are, they cannot grant us salvation as an inheritance. We must come to God ourselves, trusting in Him alone to change, not our outward bodies, but our hearts. Only when that is done can we stand before Him accepted. Only when that is done can we find peace with Him. Jesus did all the work for our salvation. His death, burial and resurrection provide the hope for us to have our sins redeemed and become part of God's family. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
When you trusted Christ as your Savior, He began a process of change, not just of your actions, but of your heart.
According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness. Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments. Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.
During his lifetime, Charles Wesley wrote more than three thousand hymns, many of which are still being sung today. He served God faithfully for more than fifty years. While he was on his deathbed, Wesley dictated one final poem to his wife Sally:
In age and feebleness extreme,
Who shall a helpless worm redeem?
Jesus, my only hope Thou art,
Strength of my failing flesh and heart,
Oh, could I catch a smile from Thee,
And drop into eternity.
God is not a part-time, fickle, changing deity. He is our salvation, our defense, and our guide—not just for a day or two, but as long as we live, and then into eternity. In Him we have a loving Father who never fails, who never turns away from His children. We can trust Him when things are going well, and we can trust Him when we do not see any hope for the future. We can rely on His faithfulness to keep all of His promises.
People we trust can let us down. People we believed in can fail to keep their promises. People we love can get sick and die. God is eternal. His presence with us all the days of our lives is our strength, our hope and our confidence. Even when we reach the end of this life, we will still find Him faithful. Paul described death as our last enemy, but then he rejoiced that Christ has already conquered death. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
We can safely trust in God every day of our lives, secure in the knowledge that we will spend eternity with Him.
And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
The decision of whether we will do right and resist or give in and yield is not really made in the moment of temptation. It is made in the time that leads up to that moment. If we have developed a close personal relationship with God, spending time in His presence through His Word and in prayer, our perception of and ability to respond quickly to temptation will be different than if we have been casual in our relationship toward Him. Jesus warned Peter, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Peter did not heed the warning, going back to sleep while Jesus prayed. When the temptation to deny the Lord came, he yielded, despite his early protests that he would remain faithful.
F. B. Meyer said, “The supreme test is not in the greater but in the smaller incidents of our character and practice; not what we are when standing in the searchlight of public scrutiny, but when we reach the firelight flicker of our homes; not what we are when some clarion-call rings through the air, summoning us to fight for life and liberty, but our attitude when we are called to sentry-duty in the gray morning, when the watch-fire is burning low. It is impossible to be our best at the supreme moment if character is corroded and eaten into by daily inconsistency, unfaithfulness, and besetting sin.”
The more closely we walk with God, the less alluring temptations to sin become.
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
Because of Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden, every person born into the world has been born under the penalty of sin, which is death. Whether someone lives a few days or many decades, death is still the end result. People take all kinds of medicines and vitamins and eat certain foods while avoiding others in an attempt to extend their lives. In every case, sooner or later, every life comes to an end. The story goes that on her deathbed Queen Elizabeth I said, “All my possessions for a moment of time.” Yet all of her power and wealth could not command even one more second of life.
Fear of dying is so common that it has an official name: thanatophobia. For those of us who have become part of God's family through faith in Jesus Christ, physical death will still be a reality, unless the Lord returns during our lives. But it is no longer something we must face with dread. The Holy Spirit that lives within each believer is the guarantee of God's promise of eternal life. Paul wrote, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11).
The resurrection of Jesus was the final demonstration of God's power overcoming every enemy. The inability of death and the grave to hold the Lord shows He is victorious. We claim and enjoy that victory when we walk in God's Spirit and live in His power. We face real enemies. We fight real battles. But we already know the final outcome. We have complete confidence that both in this life and in eternity we will never be forsaken by God. Jesus did not stay in the grave, and neither will we.
God's resurrection power is not just for the end of our lives, but for each and every day of our lives.
And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD. For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.
1 Samuel 1:26-28
When A. B. Simpson was still very young, he demonstrated a gift for Bible preaching and teaching. Word of his ability spread, and he began receiving invitations to speak in various places. But he was unsure if that was God's direction for his life. Torn between a call to preach and the need to take care of his widowed mother, he struggled to determine what course he should take. Finally he went to his mother to talk about it. Rather than trying to hold him back, she said, “My son, I have been looking for this hour ever since you were born.” For more than fifty years Simpson would preach and teach, write books and hymns, and impact the lives of thousands of people.
Serving God always requires sacrifices. Sometimes those sacrifices are very great, but they are always worth it. Rather than resenting what we give up for Him, we should regard it as a privilege. Giving God everything that we have is not some kind of outrageous demand He makes of us. As Paul pointed out, it is both right and logical: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). We should never cling to something God asks us to give to Him. If we do, we reveal that our love for Him is not what it should be. It is often good things given too much weight that keep us from serving Him as we should.
God is worthy of any sacrifice which He calls us to make as part of His service.
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
Because of His love for us, God chastens us when we disobey Him. His goal is always to bring us back into close fellowship with Him. This process, however, can be very painful, as all of us who are God's children have experienced. There are times when people who are undergoing God's chastening become discouraged. They may want to give up because things seem so hard. That is the time they need encouragement the most. This is when we want to be a voice of hope for those who are trying to take steps on the path to God.
When a fellow Christian is experiencing chastening due to an obvious, public sin, there is a temptation for those who are watching to criticize or judge the person rather than encouraging them. But if we look down on them, we place ourselves at risk. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). It's easy to think we are superior, but instead, we must realize that we are subject to the same faults and failings as others.
Often our critiques of others reveal that we do not fully understand the situation. When Jesus met a man who had been blind all of his life, His followers assumed they knew what the reason was. “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:2-3). The reality is that everyone needs encouragement. Rather than being quick to judge, we should be quick to encourage.
We should take advantage of every opportunity to encourage those around us, no matter why they are having a hard time.
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
For much of history, justice was dispensed by individual rulers. Whatever they thought about the guilt or innocence of the accused was the verdict. Starting in the twelfth century in England, the concept of a jury trial came into being. Rather than one person issuing a judgment, now a group would deliberate and render a verdict. One of the abuses of that system was that if the verdict was “wrong” in the eyes of authorities, they would simply charge the person again, hoping for a conviction in the second trial. To prevent that, the US Constitution forbids “double jeopardy.” The Fifth Amendment says, “Nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” Once someone has been acquitted of an offense, they cannot be tried again for the same charge. From a legal standpoint, it can never be held against them again.
All of us had offenses against God on our record. All of us are sinners. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, we have complete and total forgiveness. Every sin, whether past, present, or future, was placed on His account, and His perfect righteousness was placed on ours. As a result, our sins are not just forgiven, but they will never be held against us again. Paul wrote, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). God's forgiveness is complete and permanent. We are called to holiness, but even when we fall short, the Lord is still for us. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Jesus finished the work of salvation on the cross, but He continues to intercede on our behalf.
We should never be afraid of God holding sins against us which we have repented and forsaken.
And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD.
One of the most devastating lies of the devil is that we can let little things slip without any consequence, but instead stay in control of what follows. That is completely false. Charles Spurgeon said, “If you begin to slip on the side of a mountain of ice, the first slip may not hurt if you can stop and slide no further. But alas, you cannot so regulate sin! When your feet begin to slide, the rate of the descent increases, and the difficulty of arresting this motion is incessantly becoming greater. It is dangerous to backslide in any degree, for we know not to what it may lead.” The first step we take away from God will inevitably lead to another and then another.
The prodigal son had no intention of living with the pigs and longing for their food when he left home with his inheritance, but that is where he ended up. The devil tries to hide the consequences of sin, getting us to focus on the present moment rather than the future results. When we are not living in close fellowship with God, there is always a sin somewhere, because that separates us from God. Like Adam, instead of longing for God's presence, we try to hide from Him. Yet while God hates sin, He is merciful and gracious to sinners who come to Him. The process of restoration begins with that first step back as we turn toward Him.
A single step away from God leads to ruin while a single step back toward Him leads to restoration.
For the ships of Chittim shall come against him: therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant: so shall he do; he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant. And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.
It's easy for us to look around and be discouraged by the opposition and attacks we face from the world. Yet no matter how mighty or determined the enemy may be, we know that God will ultimately be victorious. And we know that He has a role for us to play in His work. God does not need our help to triumph, but He calls us to be part of His work. In the face of rising opposition, we should view it as an opportunity to see God at work through us. Our relationship with God strengthens us to do great things for Him. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).
We don't need to worry that we are attempting to do too much for Him. He delights in equipping and empowering us to accomplish things the world views as impossible. D. L. Moody said, “A big God does not make small plans.” We do not do great things for God to bring us glory or gain the attention of others, but to glorify Him and accomplish His purposes for our lives. We should never allow opposition to determine the scope of our work for God. We should instead trust in His power and promises, and do all that He leads us to do.
A worsening world provides us with opportunities to see God do greater works.
Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath. Also I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the LORD.
In King Lear, one of Shakespeare's great tragic plays, the aged king plans to step down from the throne and divide the land between his three daughters. Two of them prove to be unworthy, scheming against him and against each other, while his one loyal daughter suffers his misplaced anger and is compelled to leave the country. Forced to flee into the countryside, Lear proclaims, “How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!”
God is often depicted in the Bible as a parent. He likened Himself to a father holding a child's hand while teaching him to walk when He said, “I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them” (Hosea 11:3). Yet sadly God often faces ungrateful, thankless living from His children. He has given us so much, all because of His grace and not because we earned it or deserved it. He loads us down with benefits worthy of praise and thanks, but too often does not receive them.
There is no way for us to thank God as much as He deserves, but there is a way for us to be grateful children who thank Him and tell others about Him. When we refuse to take His blessings and goodness for granted, we honor Him with grateful hearts. “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:8).
May it never be said of us that we are not thankful for all God has done for and given to us.
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
God gave Moses the law which governed the way the Israelites were to live. Their standing with God came, not from keeping the law but from believing that God's promises of salvation and forgiveness were true. No one could ever fully keep the law, and even if that were possible, it still would not have been sufficient. Paul wrote, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16). The law's greatest purpose is to show people their need for a Savior.
Yet rather than learning that lesson, many Israelites over the years decided that keeping the law was too much trouble. And it was not just the little details that they let slip. Even major events like the Feast of Passover stopped being observed. When Hezekiah held a nationwide Passover observance, it was the first time in more than two hundred years. “So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 30:26).
Every person born into this world is born with a sin nature. All of us have made willful choices to break God's law. Without Christ, we stand guilty before God. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, however, is the full payment for our sin and removed the law's judgment for those who have trusted in Christ. The guilt of the past is gone, nailed to the cross. The penalty of our sin is gone, nailed to the cross. The way to forgiveness and salvation has been opened, and we have hope for eternity.
Christ died to set us free from sin and the law so we could walk in freedom to glorify Him.
And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
When George Croly was appointed to pastor in London in 1835, the small parish was in dire circumstances, but that quickly changed. Croly would spend the next twenty-five years as pastor there, and his ministry had a great impact. Years later Croly's son Frederick would write, “The church of St Stephen's, previously almost deserted, soon became filled, under the influence of this powerful attraction, with a large and attentive congregation, most of whom came from a considerable distance.” Through Croly was a gifted preacher and a noted author, his gifts were not the secret of his success. Instead he relied on the power of God, as described in his most famous hymn:
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the Heav’n-descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.
When we work in our strength, talents, and abilities, we only get what we are able to accomplish. But when we live and work and minister and serve in the power of the Holy Spirit, we get what God can accomplish, and there is no limit to what He can do. Our world urgently needs Christians who have God's power on their lives. Nothing less will have the impact that is required to truly change things for the better.
We must have God's power to do His work in an effective and meaningful way.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
The noted poet and diplomat James Russell Lowell used his considerable talents to advocate for the abolition of slavery in America. He devoted many years of his life to that cause, editing abolitionist newspapers, printing magazines and writing poems calling attention to the plight of slaves. But even after all he had done, he still recognized the frailty and weakness of his flesh. It is said that Lowell told a friend this phrase should be inscribed on his tombstone: “Here lies that part of James Russell Lowell which hindered him from doing well.”
Each one of us has a weak, fleshly nature that constantly fights against doing what is right. As long as we live on this earth, we will have to contend against our flesh which constantly tempts us to satisfy our desires apart from God. When we yield to the flesh, we will fall short of what God has for us to do. Paul wrote, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8). Victorious Christian living requires a consistent and dedicated effort to do what God says rather than what appeals to our sinful nature. If we love Him more than anything else, we will set aside our desires for His glory.
God has given us the power to fight and win in the battle against the flesh as we die to self to live to Christ.
And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
When Domitian became emperor of the Roman Empire after the death of his brother Titus, he commissioned a great arch to honor his brother's being elevated to “divine” status by the Roman Senate. The Arch of Titus built around 81 AD still stands in Rome today. It depicts the victory celebration following Titus' defeat of Jerusalem ten years before, and shows the great menorah and other objects from the Temple being carried away by Roman soldiers. The Latin inscription on the arch reads, “The Senate and the Roman people [dedicate this] to the deified Titus Vespasian Augustus, son of the deified Vespasian.”
The spoils captured from defeated enemies played a crucial role in the military and economic life of ancient nations. Frequently the bulk of the pay for soldiers consisted of what they could loot. What Achan did in taking gold and silver and clothing from Jericho was the normal practice, and it would have been fine had not God commanded everything in the city to be reserved for Him alone. “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff” (Joshua 7:11).
When Jesus defeated Satan on the cross, He provided for our salvation and our freedom. Once we were in bondage to sin and held captive by Satan. "And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will" (2 Timothy 2:26). Like prisoners of war being held by an enemy are freed when the war is worn, we find our release in Jesus Christ. In God's grace, we are a prize He claimed as His own at great cost to Himself.
The high cost of our salvation is the measure of the value God places on our lives.
So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive. Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
Solomon had a unique combination of wealth and power. There was nothing that was beyond his ability to get. Merchants came from far away bringing exotic animals, spices, clothing, and treasures. He ruled over a kingdom at peace, without having to fear any attacks or invasions. Solomon was given great wisdom by God when he was a young man, and because he asked for wisdom, God gave him a great deal more. But Solomon did not spend his life wisely. He became focused only on what is “under the sun” rather than what is eternal and lasting. Despite all that he had, Solomon was miserable. He came to view life as empty and worthless. "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
In truth, the best that this world has to offer will never provide lasting peace and contentment. All of its pleasures are temporary. But we are not meant just for this life. This is not where we are meant to focus our efforts and energy. Paul reminds us, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). We need to keep eternity in view in all that we do. That will determine what we do, what we value, and how we live. Our hearts belong to God first and foremost. Rather than looking for hope and happiness in this world, we should look to Him for all we need both in this life and the next.
Only the eternal things really matter, and only the pursuit of eternal things will give our lives purpose and meaning.
Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
It's easy to see that we live in an increasingly wicked culture. However, this is certainly not a new experience for God's people. Through the centuries, Christians have been surrounded by wickedness and evil. Yet darkness can never overcome the light. There is a temptation for us to get focused on the problems of the world around us, but that is not the main issue. Instead, we should be focused on our own hearts and lives, and ensure that we are prepared to be effective witnesses to those around us. When we are in a close relationship with God, we are ready to speak His truth to the world.
We often think of revival in terms of a number of people getting saved. But revival is first and foremost a work among God's people. The evangelist Gipsy Smith was once asked how to start a revival. Smith replied, “Brother, go back home, lock yourself up in a private room. Take a piece of chalk and mark a circle on the floor, get down on your knees inside the circle, pray God to start a revival inside this circle. When this prayer is answered, the revival will be on.”
When Christians are not living as they should, they will have little impact on a sinful world. Lot knew God through his uncle Abraham, yet when he moved to Sodom he did not reach others with the truth. There were not even ten righteous people to be found, not because the city was wicked, but because the Christians were weak.
When we are more concerned with our own relationship with God than what others are doing, we are prepared for His service.
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Ever since Adam tried to shift the blame for his sin to Eve, people have been looking for ways to feel superior to others. Sometimes that takes the form of downplaying our own contributions to problems. Sometimes it takes the form of judging others for what they are doing or not doing. It's always possible to find something about even the greatest people to criticize if we choose to live that way, but it is a foolish approach to life. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
There were people in the church in Colosse who were observing the commandments of the Mosaic law in respect to diet, holidays, and observances. There were also people there who were not. Neither position was a valid cause for judgment or condemnation. It's important for us not to judge others unfairly, but it is also important for us not to accept false judgments from others. We can and should learn from criticism if it is valid, but we should not allow improper judgments from others to make us feel like we have fallen short. “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth” (Romans 14:22).
We are one day going to give an account to God for our service to Him, and how we used the talents and abilities He gave to us. His evaluation will not be based on what anyone else thinks, but on what He has said. We do not need to fear that the judgments of others will persuade Him to adopt their views. We should be more concerned about obeying and honoring God than we are about anything else.
God is looking for people who are more concerned with doing what He says than they are with impressing others.
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
Barnabas was one of the most important figures of the early church. At great personal expense and effort, he donated a large sum of money for the needs of church members. When no one else would accept Paul's conversion as genuine, Barnabas vouched for him and insisted the church welcome him. When Paul did not want to take Mark on what would have been their second missionary trip, Barnabas found a way to give the young man a second chance. His plan worked, and later Paul would ask for him specifically. “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
There was great dissension in the early church between the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers. Those who had grown up as Jews were accustomed to doing things according to the law of Moses—or more accurately to doing things according to the traditions that had grown up around the law through centuries of the teaching of rabbis. As a result, they sometimes separated themselves even within the church. In Antioch, this came to a head when Peter ate with the Gentiles when other Jews were not present, but would not do so when they were. This is the hypocrisy that also ensnared Barnabas.
No matter how long we have been saved, no matter how much good influence we have shown, no matter how many people we have helped, we never become infallible. We need to constantly stay on guard to make sure what we are saying and doing is in line with the truth of God's Word.
To keep serving God faithfully, we must continue to evaluate everything in our lives by His Word above all else.