Right Obedience = Genuine Happiness

In studying Mark 12:1-12 and the Parable of the Vineyard (some might also call it the Parable of the Tenants) I did what I normally do when studying a particular passage and read what Spurgeon preached. On March 6, 1887 C.H. Spurgeon preached a message from Mark 12 entitled The Pleading of the Last Messenger. The encouragement I received in reading that sermon compels me to share an excerpt here.

Do not refuse Him [Jesus]! If you reject Him, He answers you with tears. If you wound Him, He bleeds out cleansing. if you kill Him, He dies to redeem. If you bury Him, He rises again to bring us resurrection. Jesus is Love made manifest.

He does not urge us to anything which will be for our loss and detriment—obedience to Him is happiness for ourselves. He does not urge us to follow a life of misery, nor to begin a course which will end in our destruction. Far from it! The ways in which He would have us run are ways of pleasantness. And all the paths in which He would lead us are paths of peace. Even repentance is charming sorrow, far more sweet than the joy of sin. They that repent and turn to God through Jesus Christ find such joy, such happiness, that earth becomes to them the vestibule of Heaven! The joy-bells ring within the Father’s house when a soul returns to its home! The great Father leads the joy and all the household rejoice with Him! To persuade you to be holy is to induce you to be happy! To urge you to seek God is to urge you to seek your own best welfare! To urge you to lay down the weapons of rebellion and be reconciled to the Most High is to set before you the wisest, safest and best course that you can follow. Therefore, hear Him! The Lord God out of Heaven cries to you—“This is My beloved Son; hear Him!” Well may you hear Him, when every word that He speaks intends your salvation!

Happiness and holiness are not mutually exclusive. Just the opposite is true. One’s happiness directly corresponds to one’s holiness. Stated another way, right obedience  – being conformed to Christ alone – equals genuine happiness – enjoying this life and the one to come.

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Jesus Christ – Our Consolation

Pastor David Stone of Lakeway Baptist Church in Humble, TX writes a daily devotional as well as a personal blog. Both may be found at the church website to which I have linked. The devotional – Morning Manna – is sometimes culled from other devotional works; such as today’s edition.

Pastor Stone says, “This article by Charles Spurgeon is one of those you need to read slowly–again and again.” He is right, and after reading this biblical exhortation slowly, again and again I decided to share it on this blog as well.

“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:5

There is a blessed proportion. The Ruler of Providence bears a pair of scales—in this side he puts his people’s trials, and in that he puts their consolations. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition; and when the scale of trials is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy. When the black clouds gather most, the light is the more brightly revealed to us. When the night lowers and the tempest is coming on, the Heavenly Captain is always closest to his crew. It is a blessed thing, that when we are most cast down, then it is that we are most lifted up by the consolations of the Spirit. One reason is, because trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it. Another reason why we are often most happy in our troubles, is this—then we have the closest dealings with God. When the barn is full, man can live without God: when the purse is bursting with gold, we try to do without so much prayer. But once take our gourds away, and we want our God; once cleanse the idols out of the house, then we are compelled to honour Jehovah. “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains; no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.

This is from the February 12 morning reading of Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotional.

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Gospel Transformation

Only the gospel truth is able bring about a gospel transformation. By believing the gospel an individual is saved. John 1:11-12: “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. 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.” Salvation is given to those who believe and receive the Risen Lord as their Savior. Faith means trust. To believe means to put your trust in Jesus. It’s more than just believing the facts in your head, it’s receiving those facts in your heart. It means you receive Him as the one who saves you.

The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:2, “if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” This is not a warning against true believers losing their salvation. This is a warning against a non-saving faith. It is only by God’s power that anyone is saved, and it is only by God’s power that anyone is kept saved. A believer’s salvation is secure because Christ is holding fast to the believer, not because the believer is holding on to Christ. There are many people who acknowledge Christ. They believe in the historicity of Jesus, but they do not receive Him as Lord and Savior. Therefore, they are still lost in their sins. You believe in Jesus? That’s good, but even the demons believe in God (James 2:19).

The scary truth is that not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Not all who claim to believe the gospel have saving faith. Jesus repeatedly spoke of bogus believers. In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23), Jesus spoke of seed falling on stony soil and at first it appeared that something was growing, but before long the plant dried up and withered away. In other words, there are those who have an immediate, emotional response to the gospel at some point in their lives but they do not produce fruit. They have a non-saving faith. Jesus said that among the wheat (real believers) there are tares (false professors) (Matthew 13:24-30; 34-43). Jesus spoke of houses without foundations (Matthew 7:24-27), of virgins without oil for their lamps, and of gates and paths that seem right but that ultimately lead to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). There is a faith that is not genuine; there is a faith that is vain (empty).

The key to knowing whether faith is genuine or vain is by perseverance. The truly saved are not only saved by faith but they continue to “live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38). Obedience and continuous faithfulness are markers of genuine saving faith. Those who forsake Christ and His church prove that they never really belonged to Him or it. 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not all of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all us.” Those who continue with the Lord, prove the genuineness of their faith. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31).

Back in 1 Corinthians 15:2 Paul says that those who “keep in memory” are those who have saving faith. The Greek word translated “keep” means “to hold fast; to hold firmly”. Holding on to God, holding on to the gospel is not what saves or keeps an individual saved, but it is what proves genuine salvation. Holding firmly gives evidence that one is firmly held.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. – John 10:27-30…For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. – Isaiah 41:13

A believer holds on to Christ, because Christ is holding on to him, and genuine saving faith is marked, not by perfect obedience or faithfulness, but by a general pattern of obedience and continuous faithfulness. On this side of glory the gospel transformation does not bring about perfection but it does change the direction of one’s life and actions.

The Gospel Changes Everything

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Lord, Revive Us!

cross-and-fireSpurgeon prayed, preached, and called for his church to seek God for revival. Here is one example. A sermon delivered on November 9th, 1859, at New Park Street Chapel entitled “One Antidote for Many Ills.” The sermon text was Psalm 80:19 – “Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.”

This morning’s sermon, then will be especially addressed to my own church, on the absolute necessity of true religion in our midst, and of revival from all apathy and indifference. We may ask of God multitudes of other things, but amongst them all, let this be our chief prayer: “Lord, revive us; Lord, revive us!” We have uttered it in song; let me stir up your pure minds, by way of remembrance, to utter it in your secret prayers, and make it the daily aspiration of your souls. I feel, beloved, that notwithstanding all opposition, God will help us to be “more than conquerors, through him that loved us,” if we are true to ourselves, and true to him. But though all things should go smoothly, and the sun should always shine upon our heads, we should have no prosperity if our own godliness failed; if we only maintained the form of religion, instead of having the very power of the Holy Spirit manifested in our midst.

The benefits of revival to any church in the world will be a lasting blessing. I do not mean that false and spurious kind of revival which was so common a few years ago. I do not mean all that excitement attendant upon religion, which has brought men into a kind of spasmodic godliness and translated them from sensible beings, into such as could only rave about a religion they did not understand. I do not think that is a real and true revival. God’s revivals, whilst they are attended with a great heat and warmth of piety, yet have with them knowledge as well as life, understanding as well as power. The revivals that we may consider to have been genuine, were such as those wrought by the instrumentality of such men as President Edwards in America, and Whitfield in this country, who preached a free-grace gospel in all its fullness. Such revivals I consider to be genuine, and such revivals, I repeat again, would be a benefit to any church under heaven. There is no church, however good it is, which might not be better; and there are many churches sunken so low, that they have abundant need, if they would prevent spiritual death, to cry aloud, “Lord, revive us.”

Spurgeon desired for himself and his church not a “revival” of religious enthusiasm or superficial activism, but genuine, Biblical renewal. Should God’s people today be any different? Lord, revive me, revive us!

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Jesus Christ was Dead, BUT Now He is ALIVE!

The-Empty-TombJesus Christ was dead. He had, in fact, been murdered. Betrayed by one of His close associates and brought before the rulers of His day, He should have received a fair trial and justice according to the law and customs of the Jews. Instead, He was immediately put on trial in the middle of the night and was faced with trumped up charges and bribed witnesses. The entire trial was a mockery of justice; one which was illegal and produced an unjust verdict.

Long before this immoral death sentence was announced, the religious rulers had begun to plot this very moment. After healing a man with a maimed hand in a synagogue on the Sabbath we read in Mark’s gospel: “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him,” (3:6).

That wicked plot had intensified when, just a little over a week before His crucifixion, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. This undeniable miracle led some to naturally and rightfully believe that Jesus was the Christ; their Savior and King. This same miracle caused the willfully ignorant hearts of others to be hardened. So we read in John 11:53 that, “from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.”

Put Him to death they did. Wrongfully convicted by His enemies, the Roman authorities  sentenced Him to death for the sake of political expediency. Jesus Christ was mercilessly mocked, brutally tortured and crucified by hardened Roman soldiers, and then, while He hung on the cross, was taunted by those same people who had plotted against Him. Mark’s gospel records their sadistic jeers: (15:29-32)

“And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest [it] in three days, Save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.”

These men so hated Jesus, and they felt victorious because their plans had finally come together. Jesus was about to die; defeated by their cunning maneuvers and manipulations. That is what they thought. They were mistaken.

We know from sacred scripture that Jesus made seven statements from the cross during the six hours of His crucifixion. The final two statements were made in quick succession. The penultimate statement from the cross was made with a loud voice. Jesus shouted, “It is finished!”

This was no final whimper from a man tired of being tortured. This was a triumphant victory shout of the God-Man. Christ’s life was over because His work was finished. He was not the pathetic victim He appeared to be as He hung on that cruel tree. His work was accomplished. The redemption for sinners was complete. He was triumphant. Therefore, He finally uttered, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus he gave up the ghost,” Luke 23:46.

Jesus Christ was dead. He died as no other man has ever died. In one sense, He was murdered. In another sense, it was God the Father who sent God the Son to the cross. “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief,” Isaiah 53:10a (c.f. Acts 2:23). In still another sense no one took Jesus’ life. He willingly offered it for those whom He loved. As He said in John 10:17b-18a:

“I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”

Mankind’s sin required a perfect, sinless, blood sacrifice. God’s eternal plan of redemption, to satisfy His righteous justice and pay the penalty for man’s sins was for Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God to be scarified. Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, was the willing sacrifice who freely offered Himself as the Substitute who made atonement for our sin. The cross is where that all took place, and the gruesome sacrifice of Jesus on the cross seemed to all who loved Him to be a supreme tragedy.

Jesus Christ was dead, but death had not conquered Him! What appeared to be a tragedy to all who loved Him was actually the greatest moment of victory in the history of redemption; a history that began when Adam and Eve were clothed – covered – by the skins of an innocent sacrifice; a history that was pictured by every blood sacrifice offered by God’s people until this moment. Christ would make that victory gloriously clear when, on the first day of the week and the third day after His substitutionary sacrifice, He burst forth triumphantly from the grave!

Following His passion the resurrected Jesus showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs (Acts 1:3). He appeared to the faithful women who had arrived that morning at His now empty tomb. He appeared to Peter and to the other apostles. He walked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and talked with them “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). He would be seen by over 500 people at once. He was seen by his half-brother James, and by the Apostle Paul. The tomb which had been sealed and guarded by the Romans was empty. A body could not be produced because the glorified, resurrected body of Christ was busy appearing to and interacting with others for forty days. After which, in the presence of His disciples, He ascended into Heaven. Now He is at the Father’s right hand, making intercession for the saints, and awaiting the time for His second coming.

On the cross Jesus atoned for our sins. In the Resurrection He demonstrated His victory over death. As Paul put it, this victory “is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” (2 Timothy 1:10). To celebrate the Resurrection, we must first understand the crucifixion.

Jesus Christ was dead. Now He is alive! He has risen, just like He said. Death could not keep Him in the ground. The tomb could not hold Him. The weak explanations fabricated in an attempt to disprove His resurrection were proven to be false then, just as their modern formulations have been today. The blessed fact of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection confronts each of us in this life. Try to roll the stone of philosophy or science or unbelief or any other excuse in front of the tomb. No stone will keep Him away from you. He said to Martha, and says to all of us: (John 11:25-26)

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

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Being Faith-focused and Cross-centered

We are creatures of habit, and our habits reflect our true selves because we all build our daily lives around our priorities and passions. We make time for what we truly value, building habits and routines around the things that really matter to us. As believers we should lead lives that are faith-focused and cross-centered. A faith-focused, cross-centered life is made of faith-focused, cross-centered days.

How do we apply our faith in every area of life? The answer is to preach the Gospel – the unshakable faith foundation – to yourself. Here is what matters most to a believer: We’re forgiven! We have hope! Our hope is based on Jesus’ sacrifice. May today – and every day – be governed by this one defining truth.

Here are five practical ways to do that.

1. Memorize the Gospel – Store up God’s Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11). Then, no matter where we are or what we’re doing, we may pull them out and be strengthened by their truth. Not good at memorization? That’s no problem. Don’t give up. Work at it. God isn’t keeping score. It may take some longer than others, but it’s worth the effort. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 2:20-21; Romans 3:23-26; 5:6-11; 8:31-34; Isaiah 53:3-6)

2. Pray the Gospel – The Gospel should be at the center of our prayer lives. We may boldly approach God only because we are accepted in God’s beloved Son, through His work on the cross. Thank God for saving and sustaining grace. Be thankful that because of the cross we are reconciled to God, and have been given the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, lead us, guide us, and empower us to follow after Christ.

3. Sing the Gospel – It doesn’t matter how well or how poorly we sing (some would say my best singing is done softly and tenderly on a hill far away), a Christian’s heart should be overflowing every day with songs of praise to our Lord and Savior. But not all worship songs are created equal. Many are more centered on ourselves than on Christ. Sing songs that focus more on what Jesus has already done, is doing, and will do than on what we need or want God to do. Here is an example of what I mean. It’s the hymn Cross of Jesus by Keith and Kristyn Getty:

Cross of Jesus cross of sorrow
Where our sinfulness was laid
Perfect love on you was broken
As the way to God was paved

Cross of love – the scar of heaven
Cross of love – that heals my soul
Let me not forget such mercy
Let me give the life I owe

O what language shall I borrow
As I praise You faithful friend
How for us You bore our suffering
In Your love which has no end

Died that I might be forgiven
By a power not my own
With His glory set before me
Cross of Jesus lead me home

Make the gospel the sound track of your day.

4. Review the Gospel – Always remember how the Gospel has changed you, is changing you, and will one day complete that change (2 Corinthians 1:10). Be reminded of how marvelous God’s salvation is. Remember and be encouraged that God is faithful! (Philippians 1:6)

5. Study the Gospel – To grow in our passion for what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do, we should increase our understanding of Him. The Gospel is life-changing, world-altering truth. We’ll never exhaust its depths. Let’s read the Bible with our eyes peeled for Jesus!

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. A faithful life is made of faith-filled days. Keep drawing near one day at a time by memorizing, praying, singing, reviewing, studying, and living the good news of Jesus Christ.

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(The above list was gleaned from the book The Cross-Centered Life.)

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The Precious Blood of Jesus Christ!

“…The precious blood of Christ,” 1 Peter 1:19

Standing at the foot of the cross, we see hands and feet and side all distilling crimson streams of “precious blood.” It is “precious” because of its redeeming and atoning efficacy. Only His shed blood could make atonement for our sins. Only by His shed blood may we be redeemed from under the law. Only by His shed blood may we be reconciled to God and made one with Him.

Christ’s blood is also “precious” in its cleansing power; it cleanses from all sin. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Through Jesus’ blood there is not a spot left upon any believer; no wrinkle nor any such thing remains. O precious blood that makes us clean, removing the stains of our iniquity and permitting us to stand accepted in the Beloved despite the many ways in which we have rebelled against our God.

The blood of Christ is also “precious” in its preserving power. We are safe from the destroying angel under the sprinkled blood. Remember, it is God’s seeing the blood that is the true reason for believers’ being spared. Here is comfort for us when the eye of faith is dim, for God’s eye is still the same. The blood of Christ is “precious” also in its sanctifying influence.

The same blood that justifies by taking away sin also quickens the new nature and leads it onward to subdue sin and to obey the commands of God. There is no greater motive for holiness than that which streams from the veins of Jesus. And “precious,” unspeakably precious, is this blood because it has an overcoming power. It is written, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11) How could they do otherwise? He who fights with the precious blood of Jesus fights with a weapon that cannot know defeat.

The blood of Jesus! Sin dies at its presence; death ceases to be death: Heaven’s gates are opened. The blood of Jesus! We shall march on, conquering and to conquer, so long as we can trust its power!

(Taken and adapted from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional.)

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Go First to the Cross

One of my favorite books is the classic Pilgrim’s Progress written by the Puritan John Bunyan. I’ve read the book more than once. I have read it to my children, and had them read it for themselves. References from the book regularly creep into my sermons, often extemporaneously. I recommend the book to all, but that does not mean I’m in agreement with all parts of the book. My former pastor – Darrell W. Sparks – was fond of comparing the reading of books to the eating of fish. “You have to spit out the bones,” he says. The great thing about Pilgrim’s Progress is that the bones are few and the meat is substantial. There is, however, a bone or two.

I also appreciate the ministry and legacy of C.H. Spurgeon, and he was an admirer of John Bunyan as well. He was especially fond of the Puritan’s most famous work, but he did have one qualm with the great book. Here are Spurgeon’s comments concerning one of the few bones from Pilgrim’s Progress, which are taken from his sermon “The Dumb become Singers”:

I am a great lover of John Bunyan, but I do not believe him infallible; and the other day I met with a story about him which I think a very good one.

There was a young man, in Edinburgh, who wished to be a missionary. He was a wise young man; he thought—”If I am to be a missionary, there is no need for me to transport myself far away from home; I may as well be a missionary in Edinburgh.” . . .

Well, this young man started, and determined to speak to the first person he met. He met one of those old fishwives; those of us who have seen them can never forget them, they are extraordinary women indeed. So, stepping up to her, he said, “Here you are, coming along with your burden on your back; let me ask you if you have got another burden, a spiritual burden.”

“What!” she asked; “do you mean that burden in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress? Because, if you do, young man, I got rid of that many years ago, probably before you were born. But I went a better way to work than the pilgrim did. The evangelist that John Bunyan talks about was one of your parsons that do not preach the gospel; for he said, ‘Keep that light in thine eye, and run to the wicket-gate.’ Why—man alive!—that was not the place for him to run to. He should have said, ‘Do you see that cross? Run there at once!’ But, instead of that, he sent the poor pilgrim to the wicket-gate first; and much good he got by going there! He got tumbling into the slough, and was like to have been killed by it.”

“But did not you,” the young man asked, “go through any Slough of Despond?”

“Yes, I did; but I found it a great deal easier going through with my burden off than with it on my back.”

The old woman was quite right. John Bunyan put the getting rid of the burden too far off from the commencement of the pilgrimage. If he meant to show what usually happens, he was right; but if he meant to show what ought to have happened, he was wrong.

We must not say to the sinner, “Now, sinner, if thou wilt be saved, go to the baptismal pool; go to the wicket-gate; go to the church; do this or that.”

No, the cross should be right in front of the wicket-gate; and we should say to the sinner, “Throw thyself down there, and thou art safe; but thou are not safe till thou canst cast off thy burden, and lie at the foot of the cross, and find peace in Jesus.”

Spurgeon is correct. The cross must be front and center. This is a great reminder to me. Go to and point others to the cross first and foremost, because, as the Scottish lady rightly said, it’s better to wade through the slough of despond with the weight off your back than on it.

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Walking by Faith

John G. Paton

“Life is a highway. I’m gonna ride it all night long.” That is the chorus to a popular song from the early ‘90s. The song had it partially right. Life is a highway. Since it is, we will “ride it” all lifelong. We are, all of us, on a journey. Perhaps you have heard the familiar adage: “Life is not a destination. Life is a journey.” That is true. Sort of. This life is a journey, but as with all journeys, this life will come to an end. At that end, the most important thing will not be where you have walked, or even how you have walked. The most important thing come journey’s end is with whom you have walked. The where and how you walk are both meaningless if you are not walking with the right person. Jesus Christ is that person.

Apart from Jesus Christ, a person’s walk is “according to the course of this world,” and that is a death walk – “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1-2). But God is rich in mercy, great in love, and His grace is amazing! By His grace and through faith in His Son, we may be saved (vv. 4-9). All who are saved “are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them(v. 10).

Believers are to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). We are to walk like our Savior and Lord (1 John 2:6). Ephesians has much to say about the believer’s faith walk. Our walk should be consistent (Ephesians 4:1) and distinct from this world (Ephesians 4:17). Our faith walk should imitate Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2), testify to a watching world (Ephesians 5:8-11), and we should walk wisely (Ephesians 5:15). Of course, this is only possible if we share the attitude of David, who wrote in Psalm 86:11, “Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.”

John G. Paton exemplified this kind of walk. He resolved to go as a Missionary to the unreached tribes of the South Sea Islands in 1856. A Christian friend objected, “You’ll be eaten by cannibals!” To this Paton responded:

Your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer. (HT: Thanksgiving for the Lives of Flawed Saints)

Do not think of Paton as a “super-Christian.” As with all of Christ’s followers he was a flawed saint, but he was also a faith-filled saint. We pray that his example, and others like him, will spur us all on to continue (or maybe to begin) walking by faith. We are all flawed, but may we also walk as faith-filled saints.

All of us are on a journey, and every journey ends, sooner or later, at a destination. With whom and for whom are you walking? Trust God to lead you on your journey, and may we run all the way to the end, finishing our course, having kept the faith.

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The Cross of Christ

Branding ExpertsBranding. It’s a big deal. Experts will diligently work to brand you or your organization according to “the way you want folks to perceive you.” Hopefully, the way you want folks to perceive you is the way in which you should be perceived.

Ours is a society that likes its symbols and logos. Athletic gear with the logos of college and pro sports teams is popular and expensive. The United States has several symbols: “Old Glory,” “Uncle Sam,” and the American eagle. Through the years even the cross of Jesus Christ has become a popular and familiar icon. The cross has long been a popular symbol for the Christian community, used to decorate church facilities and Christian paraphernalia. However, in recent times the cross has become trendy and fashionable. What was once viewed as the most cruel and shameful of all punishments, meant to brutally punish offenders and vividly intimidate others, is now merely a fashion accessory for most people. Many see the cross as just another religious trinket, no different from the Star of David or a Buddha statue or the Islamic crescent. Do people have any idea what the cross represents?

In his book Cries from the Cross pastor and writer Erwin Lutzer writes about meeting a “thirty-something” lady during a flight. He noticed she was wearing a cross on her necklace so he commented,

“We really do have a wonderful Savior don’t we?” The lady rolled her eyes, and said that she “understood” the cross differently than he did. Then she showed him two other religious symbols that were dangling behind her cross. “I’m in social work.” She explained. “The people I work with find God in different ways. Christianity is just one way to the divine.”

Obviously, this lady misunderstood the cross, because it can never be united with other religions, philosophies, or human ideas. It stands alone. The message of the cross is offensive and despised by a culture that is tolerant of everything except the truth. The truth is that we are sinners, unable to reconcile ourselves to God. Our sin pays wages: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23; running up a debt only the shed blood of Christ on the cross can cover.

  • “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” – Matthew 26:28
  • “[Jesus Christ] was once offered to bear the sins of many” – Hebrews 9:28
  • “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” – 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

The central message of Christianity is the cross. The cross is the point to which all roads in the past converge and roads to the future diverge. The Old Testament writers prophesied about the cross and the New Testament Christians proclaimed the cross! The cross is evidence of God’s holiness and unfathomable love for us while also revealing our uncleanness. The message of the cross is the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:17).

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” 1 Peter 1:19-21 (cf. Isaiah 53:10)

The cross is so much more than a symbol. It is how the perfect, sinless Son of God was offered up, completing the foreordained plan of redemption. Praise God for His amazing grace and love, seen most clearly on the cross and the finished work accomplished by Jesus Christ on the cross.

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