Christianity 201

January 22, 2021

Another Plague Which Covered the Whole Earth

Today another new writer to introduce. Rolain Peterson is a writer who lives in Harare, Zimbabwe and currently is involved with children’s ministry. His blog, which he’s been writing since January, 2012, is called Kingspeech. He is the author of the 31-day digital devotional, Rise Above Fear. Send some love across the ocean to Rolain by reading this at his site, not here. Click the header which immediately follows…

In the darkness, God has a plan

I was encouraged today as I read the story of Joseph. With all that is going on with the pandemic, it’s easy to get discouraged but I was reminded that God is working in our lives in the midst of intense darkness.

So let’s get into it.

We all know the time Pharaoh had dreams and when no one could interpret the dreams someone remembered Joseph and he was summoned to interpret them. He told Pharaoh seven years of plenty would come followed by seven years of famine.

The seven years of plenty came and Joseph who had been promoted to second in charge stored away grain. He stored away so much that it became impossible to keep track of how much they were storing.

Then the seven years of famine arrived and this is what I want to focus on. The famine didn’t just affect Egypt but the whole world.

“And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.”

Genesis 41:57

It was a difficult time for the world but in that dark time God had a plan. There were some very important and key things that God was doing in that seven year famine period. I want to highlight two things.

  1. Israel reunited with Joseph, who he presumed had died.

Since the famine affected the whole world, Israel was affected too and had to send his sons to buy grain which in turn led to the discovery of Joseph. That is important because it leads us to the next key thing that happened.

       2. Israel’s entire family relocated to Egypt because of Joseph.

Joseph made plans for his whole family to move to Egypt so they would be provided for during the famine. And that is also important because it was a fulfillment of what God told Abraham,

“Then the Lord said to him, know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.

But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”

Genesis 15:13, 14

We know God was talking about Moses and the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.

So do you see?

In the seven year famine period, God was working and setting some big things up. And the famine had a part to play in the grand scheme of things.

God was setting pieces in place for Israel’s next chapter and that encouraged me because in this season of Covid-19, God has a plan too.

You may not see it or understand but He is working. You don’t need to stay discouraged or hopeless because He is in total control.

His plans and purposes for your life are working out in the midst of the darkness.

And that’s my encouragement to you. He will fulfill what He has promised you and this season will end.


Second Helping: About a month ago I bookmarked another article from Rolain; take a minute to read Patiently Endure, a short look at a verse in Numbers 21.

February 13, 2020

Starving to Do God’s Will

Today we’re returning to Biblical Diagnosis which today reminds us that we will never feel satisfied if we are not living in the will of God and doing the will of God; it will be something we hunger for. Click the header below to read this at its original site.

The Hunger of Doing God’s Will

May the Lord open our spiritual eyes, that we may understand His Will. Allow me to dig into the well-known story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob, as it relates to God’s children being spiritually fed by carrying the Will of God through good works.

We understand indeed from the scriptures that we have been created to do good works, as the Apostles, and most notably Jesus Himself have expressed in so many different ways. Doing good works is our purpose, our very reason for existing:

Ephesians 2:10 …we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.

Matthew 5:13You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Matthew 5:14You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.”

But arguably the most expressive and forceful way of conveying this truth is by labeling the performance of good works as our food!

John 4:34,35“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work”

Now, our life itself is tied to doing the will of God. Food is not optional. One must eat. While we may choose not to eat, the consequences – the discomfort of hunger – are anything but a choice. And if left to persist, starvation will ensue.

This truth was vividly displayed at the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Jesus was desperate to eat…He was desperate to do the Will of God: to save souls, to recover the lost sheep.

1. Jesus and the Samaritan woman

As recorded in John 4, Jesus, was resting at Jacob’s well from his travel to Galilee from Judea, when a Samaritan woman came to draw some water. Jesus was exhausted, thirsty and hungry from the trip, and His disciples had gone into town to buy some food.

When they came back, they found Him right in the middle of something: He just had an exchange with the woman in which He showed her that He was the Christ, and that He could offer her the living water that leads to eternal life.

John 4:27-29Just then his disciples arrived, and they were amazed that he was talking with a woman. Yet no one said, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar, went into town, and told the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

2. The hunger to do God’s Will

Note that the disciples were already amazed to see Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman. That alone was peculiar, but what followed was far more disturbing for the disciples: they were about to witness the extent of Jesus’ hunger to do the Will of God, in ways they had never seen before. Although He was hungry, He refused to eat!

John 4:28-33Then the woman left her water jar, went into town, and told the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”  They left the town and made their way to him. In the meantime the disciples kept urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”  The disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?”

Although His disciples insisted, Jesus refused to eat. And the reason He gave was that He already had food to eat…

John 4:34My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work,” Jesus told them.

Jesus was starving to do God’s Will, and the disciples found Him right in the midst of having this hunger satisfied.

Please note that the woman left the jar. She was to return, and she did indeed return, and this time, with many people!

This is the meal Jesus was waiting for. One soul (the Samaritan woman) and many more with her about to be saved. He saw a harvest, and that was an opportunity He could not pass.

3. But why was Jesus starving to do God’s Will in the first place?

While we could simply say that Jesus always did the Will of His Father, the reason Jesus was traveling in the first place is revealing.

John 4:1-3When Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard he was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were), he left Judea and went again to Galilee.

Jesus was traveling by constraint, because the Pharisees had learned about the expansion of His ministry, and that He was even making more disciples than John the Baptist. He had to stop doing the Will of God in Judea and leave town.

Then, just like an oasis in the middle of the desert, he saw a single person, even if it was just a woman, and a Samaritan at that. Everyone would have passed by, but Jesus was hungry, Jesus was starving to do the Will of God. While his disciples contemplated his physical hunger, He was eagerly waiting the return of the woman, and not just herself, but an entire crowd…a true feast!!

John 4:39Now many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of what the woman said when she testified, “He told me everything I ever did.”

No wonder Jesus had said to His disciples…

John 4:32“I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”

4. Our discomfort when we do not do His Will

This state of discomfort resulting from not doing God’s Will is akin to the discomfort one feels when hungry. It is not a choice, it just is, because just as it is a basic necessity to eat, it is a basic necessity for God’s children to do His Will.

This discomfort may manifest itself in various ways. But one of the common ways is for us to feel unfulfilled. Christians who habitually resist the Will of the Spirit carry with them the heavy burden of feeling unfulfilled.

Another way is when feels saturated, when one keeps learning but does not release that Spiritual water erupting from their inner spring.

Your prayers are not like what they used to be, they lack intensity, connection, and passion. Your learning makes little progress, you open the Bible but you are unsettled, the drive to devour the scriptures is nowhere to be found, and no matter what you do, and how many times you pray, that overall discomfort is there and it grows…

…until you start releasing…until you start “doing” – not just learning – the Will of God…until you start eating!

John 4:34,35“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” 

My friends; I exhort you to recognize when you are hungry, when you are starving. Release, Release, Release! Do the Will of God, believe in Jesus and do not resist His Will.

December 25, 2016

Rejoice, O World! Rejoice! A Savior Has Been Born!

by Russell Young

Today is Christmas! It is a celebration of the revelation of God’s grace and mercy to humankind. For millennia the human condition had been one that had brought grief to the Creator through the rebellion and intransigent hearts (Gen 6:6) of those whom he had created for his good pleasure and purpose. The mandate of the One born as a baby was to rescue or redeem the world from its depravity so that it might please God once again. It was and is the Creator’s desire to fellowship with those who had been formed in his image. For this purpose, the babe in the manger was born, lived his life and died among us.

John wrote: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it through him.” (Jn 3:16─17 NIV) He did not come to condemn the world to destruction but to rescue it and it not just humankind that was his mandate, it was the world—all that had been created. The Lord came to complete God’s creation so that it would accomplish their (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) purposes. He came to “save” it.

The world had become a place worthy only of destruction; it was not worth preserving given its state of evil. The minds of people had allowed them sovereignty over the world’s affairs. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work,” (1 Jn 3:8 NIV) which includes recognition of the sovereignty of the One who created all that is.

Part of the Lord’s ministry was to make people “acceptable” to God once again (Rom 15:16) and all creation is waiting expectantly for that to happen. (Rom 8:19–22) When the ministry of Jesus is completed there will be no more wars or hostility and he will reign in peace. It is in the hope of the restoration of God’s kingdom and our place in it that we rejoice.

Isaiah has presented his victory and the hope available to all of those “in him” upon his return as king.

“The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and power,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD—
And he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
Or decide by what he hears with his ears;
But with righteousness he will judge the needy,
With justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
The leopard will lie down with the goat,
The calf and the lion and the yearling together;
And a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together;
and the lion will eat straw like an ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child will put his hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

(Isaiah 11:2─9 NIV)

Rejoice and celebrate the hope, love, and promises provided through the One whose birth is honoured today, the One who has been provided for the salvation of man and of God’s creation, the One who has been faithful to the Father and to his promises. In the child whose birth is celebrated today rests the hope of humankind and of all creation.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngCheck out Russell Young’s book now in print and eBook — Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

April 7, 2014

What Glory Looks Like

Ruth Boven serves as minister of pastoral care at Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI.  She writes today in the devotional booklet Today (I don’t get to write that sentence often) about What Glory Looks Like. You can follow this series each day at this link. (There isn’t an archive page link, but Ruth will be writing this series throughout April. This one is from April 7th)

John 13:31When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines glory as great “praise, honor, or distinction.” Christians use the word glory often, especially in worship. In the church I serve, we sometimes sing these words: “We will glorify the King of kings. We will glorify the Lamb. We will glorify the Lord of lords, who is the great I AM.” Giving glory to God lifts our hearts upward toward the reigning King. We praise him for his greatness, power, and majesty.

But Jesus gives us another angle on glory in our text today. Remember that Jesus is on the brink of his brutal march to the cross. “Now the Son of Man is glorified,” he said. Jesus’ glory is first of all about the fulfillment of his Father’s purposes. Jesus’ obedience to his Father’s plan would be his glory, even though it meant suffering and death on a cross. Jesus showed us that glory comes through sacrificial love and obedience to God.

How do you and I think about glory? Our world would like us to think glory comes through achievement and status. Sacrificial obedience to someone else’s plan would not seem to be the path to glory. But, truly, that’s what it takes. Our submission and obedience to God’s loving plan for this world is the only achievement worthy of praise, honor, and distinction.

To God be the glory!

God of glory, help us to realize that glory comes through sacrificial obedience to your loving plan for this world. Through Jesus we pray. Amen.

 

Elsewhere on the web:

At the blog of New Hope Bible Church in Kenab, Utah:

…Ex. 15:11 speaks of God’s Glory: “Who is like you–majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? Listen to the definition of  “glory” (“doxa” GR): “opinion, estimate, a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honour, splendour, brightness, magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace, majesty, a thing belonging to God, the kingly majesty which belongs to him as supreme ruler, absolute perfection, the absolutely perfect inward or personal excellency of Christ.”

From Watnal Road Baptist Church in the UK:

…Now, all of this might seem a bit strange until we realise that in John’s gospel Jesus’ glorification is in the cross. Judas’ departure means that Jesus’ betrayal has come that much closer. So Jesus, the Son of Man, is being glorified by the Father in his coming death. Jesus can thus speak of both betrayal and death as the means by which we are to understand his love. Complicating things for the disciples is that where Jesus is about to go they cannot come with him, though unlike the times when Jesus said this to the Jews in [John] 7:34 and 8:21 this is not a word of judgement where they will die in their sin. It is a simple fact that Jesus’ impending death means they cannot follow him…

Finally, from the blog A Dollar Three Eighty:

[The previous] passage ended on the poignant note “And it was night.”

…But Jesus is talking GLORY! Glory – the polar opposite of night if you ask me. Think radiance – you know not just sunglasses bright but warm, shiny golden stuff, brilliance… well, LIGHT…

The real meaning of this word “glorified” is to make renowned, render illustrious, i.e. to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged. It’s a version of the word not found in secular writings (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).

What is happening, Jesus is telling them, is His mission is on track, in motion and headed for victory. He is the Light and if there was any confusion about God or what He’s about – well, it’s out in the open now!

March 30, 2014

They Did Not See, And Yet Believed

Hebrews 11 39

 

This morning I was struck by the verse that appears at the end of Hebrews 11, the passage sometimes referred to as “God’s Hall of Faith” or “God’s Gallery of Faith.”  After the long list of names,

 
Heb. 11:39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised

The Reformation Study Bible highlights a progression of thought that is also running through Hebrews 11 that might get overlooked in the list of people. Here are the verses, with the notes:

 

8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Abraham’s faith regarding the promise of a homeland was demonstrated: (a) when he obeyed God’s voice, leaving Ur for a future inheritance, the location of which he did not know (v. 8); (b) when he lived as a stranger in the land promised to him (vv. 9, 13); and (c) when he looked beyond Canaan to a lasting, heavenly country and city, designed and built by God Himself (vv. 10, 14–16; 13:14).

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

The inheritance on which the patriarchs’ faith was fixed was invisible for two reasons: it was heavenly, not earthly; and future, not present.

33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,

That is, they saw answers to particular promises along the way. For the promise of Christ’s coming they still waited in faith (v. 39). The promises made to Abraham were partly fulfilled in this world, as his descendants multiplied (v. 12) and lived in the Promised Land (vv. 9, 33). But to the extent that these promises referred to the heavenly reality, “his rest” (4:10), they could not be fulfilled until Christ came.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised

Although some Old Testament promises were fulfilled, their true hope (the promise of the coming Messiah) was yet to come.

The passage then goes on,

40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

This verse asserts both the redemptive-historical difference between the Old Testament and New Testament periods, and the unity of the people of God in both eras. Though the Old Testament believers lived by faith (10:38), they were not privileged to witness on earth the fulfillment of the great promise of God. Nevertheless, they too participate in the benefits of Christ’s high-priestly work, and, along with new covenant saints, they are “made perfect.” Those of the old and new eras together await the perfection that will appear only at the Second Coming (12:26; 13:14; Rom. 8:18; Eph. 1:9, 10).

This latter note is more than just on these verses or this chapter; it really summarizes a lot of the mega-theme in all of the book of Hebrews.

Go Deeper: From the website Berith Road:

In the plan of God, “God foresaw something better for us” (Heb 11:40), i.e., God had in mind that the full realization of his promise of blessing and life would be experienced by us, the new covenant believers. Hebrews 11:40 acknowledges that God’s plan of salvation is worked out in stages that lead to an eschatological climax. Believers under the old covenant by definition could not receive the fullness of blessing and salvation, because the fullness of blessing and salvation is something that was going to be achieved as part of the new covenant. It is for this reason that the ancient heroes of faith did not receive in full the promise of eternal life in their lifetime, “lest they be perfected without us” (Heb 11:40).

Through faith, and ultimately by way of resurrection, old covenant believers and new covenant believers alike will experience together the reward of faith, the fullness of the blessing of eternal life.

Today’s graphic is from the website Re-Ver(Sing) Verses; which also has a study on this passage, concluding:

Have you ever wondered why only the Biblical Characters from the Old Testament were mentioned? By the time the book of Hebrews was written, there would have been many many New Testament characters whose faith would have made them a convincing entry into the Hall of Faith. People like Stephen – immense, immense faith, seriously. Apostles like Paul, Peter, John, James – though most of them were probably not dead yet; and what about Christ? How can you leave Christ out of a Hall of Faith? That doesn’t quite make sense, does it? I believe that Hebrews 11:39 explains this for us. This Hall of Faith was inducted for those whose faith is commended despite them not receiving the promise of the Messiah. They lived out the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 – being sure of what they hope for and certain of what they did not see.

Even today, there’s no guarantee that our faith will result in earthly rewards that we can see in our lifetime. Our faithful perseverance may only result in unending misery. Our faith may cost us our lives. But even so, even if we will not receive our deliverance, and even if we do not see the second coming of Jesus, the examples of the ancients who were inducted into the Hall of Faith show us that this faith is worth every effort.

It doesn’t matter if at the end of the day, our faith results in nothing earthly. Our assets are in heaven.

 

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 ESV)

all other quotations NIV

December 3, 2013

Despite My Disobedience and Failures, Who I Am

Today’s thoughts are from Joel Spencer at the blog, The Double-Edged Sword. There is much good Bible study material here, so be sure to click through to read this at source, where it appeared under the title, The Mind Set On The Carnality Of The Flesh.

Romans 8:6For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”

STRONGS HEBREW/GREEK ORIGINS

For the mind (phronema: thoughts and purposes) set on the flesh (sarx: carnally minded, the body, sensuous nature of man) is death (thanatos: misery of the soul arising from sin; figuratively, a region enveloped in the darkness of ignorance and sin), but the mind set on the Spirit (pneuma: Holy Spirit, Spirit of God, Spirit of Jesus Christ) is life (zoe: vitality, fullness, active and vigorous devoted to God) and peace (eirene: rest, quietness, tranquility, tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ).”

SUMMARY

For the thoughts and purposes of man that are of the carnal, sensuous nature are misery and darkness, but the mind set on the Holy Spirit is a life of vitality and rest, assured of its salvation in Christ.

MEDITATION

Some people are fascinated with the goings on of the flesh. Indulgences and pleasures are front and center throughout every corner of the globe, perhaps none more tangible and present than here in the US. Many a Christian, with great pleasure I might add, will woefully point a finger at the carnality of the world. But what of us (those called according to Christ)? Are we, the Body of Christ not also riddled with a different set of carnal pleasures often disguised as religious exercise or super-spiritualness? It should be of no surprise that carnal gratification can be found wrapped in religious performance. Have we not learned from Jesus’ confrontations with the religious elite of His day?

But that’s not what I’d like to delve into today. I’d like to pose a question. What if this verse could encapsulate a two-fold message? The first being the obvious – in Christ, we’re to forsake the carnality of our flesh and pursue the things of the Spirit. Although this is, and forever will be, an ongoing task, it’s quite elementary. Secondly, and perhaps missed entirely, is what I’d like to pose as a possibility. I like to call it “failure fascination”. This second message is that a Believer in Christ can actually be captivated with the existence of their carnality. This person is always consumed with their shortcomings and sin. Please don‘t get me wrong, there obviously needs to be a constant awareness of our need to pursue holiness and spiritual maturity.

That being said, I don’t believe it’s spiritually healthy whatsoever to have a mind entirely set on my carnality and sin.

With the obvious instruction of this verse to be setting one’s mind on the Spirit, can that be done when one is always enamored with their personal failures and sin? I don’t think that it can. In an underlying sense of translation of this verse, I think that this too is a mind set on the things of the flesh (fixated on shortcomings and sin). As I’ve stated a lot over the last year or so, I’ve come to terms with the reality of my carnality. I’m OK with the fact that sin will be a certainty for me until the day that this body breathes its last breath. Now this in no way excuses me to sin or live a voluntary life of disobedience, excused away by this carnality. As Paul said, the fact that I have a proneness to sin and God’s forgiveness of it is absolutely not a license to excuse it. In fact, I still loathe my wretchedness apart from Christ. But…. but! In Him I’m being conformed more and more into His image. I no longer spend my days dwelling on my sin and offenses. Quite simply, I’ve embraced that they will always be a part of my physical state. It is a simple fact that my Heavenly Father is very well aware of.

So with this approach in action, I choose to set my mind on who I am in Christ. I meditate on who He is creating me to be, despite all of my disobedience and failures. I no longer walk in a lifestyle of willful sin. I just don’t. So I’ve moved out of that mindset to one of going to my Father in the midst of it all – my victories and my transgressions. Now I choose to delve deeper into cultivating my relationship with my Father, free from the distractions of my sin which will always be present.

God, in His superior design and handiwork, set in motion a plan before time that would leave me in my physical body post-salvation for a reason.  

God’s blueprint was obviously never to remove us from our natural state upon surrendering our life to the Son. With this in mind, I rejoice over my current condition as one given to me by God Himself. So do I, as Paul did, groan and long for my heavenly dwelling? You’d better believe it! There are days when I literally cry out longing to be free from this body of flesh so that so I can interact with my Father unencumbered by the limitations of this body. I hate the sin that entangles me! But there is a beauty within this journey. Without my sin and disobedience, I would never see the beauty that is the forgiveness and longsuffering of my Father. I would never see my need for the sacrificial gift of my Saviour Who laid down His life for me despite knowing I would fall even after surrendering my life to Him. It’s my brokenness as I keep my gaze set upon the things of the Spirit that leads me back to the place of absolution.

So my constant challenge is this – am I walking in a place where I’m captivated by and fixated on my carnality? Or am I free to be me, in Christ, as I go about my day to day activities? Is my mind consumed with walking according to the Spirit or am I riddled with a failure fascination?

I just don’t desire to sit around and discuss how much of a mess I am anymore.

I’m not saying that there’s not a time to delve into one’s sin and divulge in conversation about it – in a group setting or in one’s own mind. But it should never be a constant theme that overshadows all other spiritual matters and crowds out our awe of the LORD. I want to talk about how awesome my LORD is. I want to meditate on His goodness and mercy. I want to be obsessed with Him to the point of absolute fascination. In His presence, all that opposes His plan for my spiritual growth into Christ-likeness goes. His light easily drives out my darkness so I have no fear that I might somehow miss “working out my salvation” as my passage from one age (natural) to another (spiritual) continues. As the light of Christ shines within the darkest crevices of my innermost being, I can choose to give Him access and address those places or I can remain in darkness. Of course the choice is mine and it will be ongoing until my new/eternal body is inhabited. But I long to walk in absolute freedom to be me – my Christ-identity! I’m a mess, I get that. Of this there’s absolutely no debate. But my Jesus is OK with that. He’s the washer of the feet of the betrayers. He’s the guest at the tables of sinners. He’s the lover of the diseased and afflicted. He pardons the murderers.  He alone is my hope and anticipation of being freed from this natural state. I rejoice over this journey. I’m in need of saving. I’m in need of redemption. I’m in need of lovingkindness and mercy – daily! Thank You LORD that You are all of these and more. Praise be to the only One entirely capable of accepting me just as I am.

January 29, 2012

The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached – Part Two

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is a sermon written by American Christian theologian Jonathan Edwards, preached on July 8, 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut. Like Edwards’ other sermons and writings, it combines vivid imagery of Hell with observations of the world and citations of scripture. It remains Edwards’ most famous written work, and is widely studied by Christians and historians, providing a glimpse into the theology of the Great Awakening of c. 1730–1755… 

Edwards was interrupted many times before finishing the sermon by people moaning and crying out, “What shall I do to be saved?”. Jonathan Edwards’ sermon continues to be the leading example of a Great Awakening sermon and is still used in religious and academic studies. Although the sermon has received criticism, Edwards words have endured and is still read to this day, over 270 years later.~ Wikipedia

This is the second half of a page devoted to Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God on Dane Gardow’s website, TruthSource.  Be sure to read part one first.  The language is different, so take it slowly.


Application

The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ. — That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.

You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God’s enemies. God’s creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are the black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff on the summer threshing floor.

The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.

The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. — And consider here more particularly,

  1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. Prov. 20:2. “The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: Whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against his own soul.” The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs, as his majesty is greater. Luke 12:4-5. “And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
  2. It is the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Isa. 59:18. “According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries.” So Isa. 66:15. “For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.” And in many other places. So, Rev. 19:15, we read of “the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, “the wrath of God,” the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is “the fierceness and wrath of God.” The fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful that must be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also “the fierceness and wrath of almighty God.” As though there would be a very great manifestation of his almighty power in what the fierceness of his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall be the subject of this! Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. Ezek. 8:18. “Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.” Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only “laugh and mock,” Prov. 1:25-26, etc. How awful are those words, Isa. 63:3, which are the words of the great God. “I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.” It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, viz. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that instead of that, he will only tread you under foot. And though he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you in the utmost contempt: no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.
  3. The misery you are exposed to is that which God will inflict to that end, that he might show what that wrath of Jehovah is. God hath had it on his heart to show to angels and men, both how excellent his love is, and also how terrible his wrath is. Sometimes earthly kings have a mind to show how terrible their wrath is, by the extreme punishments they would execute on those that would provoke them. Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty monarch of the Chaldean empire, was willing to show his wrath when enraged with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; and accordingly gave orders that the burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than it was before; doubtless, it was raised to the utmost degree of fierceness that human art could raise it. But the great God is also willing to show his wrath, and magnify his awful majesty and mighty power in the extreme sufferings of his enemies. Rom. 9:22. “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?” And seeing this is his design, and what he has determined, even to show how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness of Jehovah is, he will do it to effect. There will be something accomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful with a witness. When the great and angry God hath risen up and executed his awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, then will God call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. Isa. 33:12-14. “And the people shall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites,” etc. Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. Isa. 66:23-24. “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
  4. It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For “who knows the power of God’s anger?”

How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now sit here, in some seats of this meeting-house, in health, quiet and secure, should be there before tomorrow morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell longest will be there in a little time! your damnation does not slumber; it will come swiftly, and, in all probability, very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell. It is doubtless the case of some whom you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you. Their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living and in the house of God, and have an opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned hopeless souls give for one day’s opportunity such as you now enjoy!

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?

Are there not many here who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day born again? and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have done nothing ever since they have lived, but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath? Oh, sirs, your case, in an especial manner, is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Do you not see how generality persons of your years are passed over and left, in the present remarkable and wonderful dispensation of God’s mercy? You had need to consider yourselves, and awake thoroughly out of sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God. — And you, young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity; but if you neglect it, it will soon be with you as with those persons who spent all the precious days of youth in sin, and are now come to such a dreadful pass in blindness and hardness. — And you, children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted, and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?

And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favour to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men’s hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls; and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to hardness of heart and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land; and probably the greater part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on the great out-pouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles’ days; the election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and will curse the day that ever you was born, to see such a season of the pouring out of God’s Spirit, and will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire. Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”