The Gospel of John: The Lord’s Prayer.

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,” (John 17:1).

Growing up I learned and memorized a portion of Scripture commonly referred to as The Lord’s Prayer. Recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4, it is a series of statements Jesus gave His disciples instructing them, and eventually all disciples of Jesus, regarding how to pray. It has even been memorably set to music. The prayer is as follows:

“Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9-13)

Now, not wanting to be overly technical or just plain picky, I should point out that while this portion of Scripture is called The Lord’s Prayer, it is in reality the disciples’ prayer. It is what we are to pray. Since this is so, is there truly a prayer in the Bible we can call The Lord’s Prayer? A specific prayer which originated from the heart and soul of Jesus? Yes, there is and it is found in John 17.

John 17 contains what is commonly called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. It is a prayer in which Jesus not only prays for Himself but also for His disciples: then and in the future. It is filled with soaring biblical truth.

We identify Jesus’ words as a prayer in light of John 17:1 which says, ““When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said.” Jesus had just concluded His Upper Room Discourse with His disciples. He then looked to heaven and began to speak a prayer. It should be noted that it is most likely that His disciples heard Him speak this prayer.

John Calvin comments that, “Christ prayed, lifting up His eyes to heaven. It was an indication of uncommon ardor and vehemence; for by this attitude Christ  testified that in the affections of His mind, he was rather in heaven than in earth. He looked towards heaven, not as if God’s presence were confined to heaven, for He fills the earth (Jeremiah 23:24), but because it is there chiefly that His majesty is displayed.” 

Jesus said, “Father.” This address to God the Father certainly parallels how we should begin our prayers and to whom our prayers should be addressed: to God the Father. In using the term “Father” Jesus was acknowledging, as should we, that God the Father possesses supernatural authority and supreme love and affection for His children.

Jesus then said, “The hour has come.” This is a phrase we have seen many times thus far in John’s Gospel. It occurs as early as John 2:4. It refers to the time of Jesus crucifixion and death on behalf of sinners. (See John 12:23; 13:1). Jesus acknowledged to the Father that this specific time had arrived.

Jesus then prayed, “glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,” In the strongest possible terms, Jesus prays that the Father will honor and praise Him. This is in order that Jesus may in like manner honor and praise the Father. There is a mutual connection between the two.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “The very event that would glorify the Son was his death. By it, he has received the adoration, worship, and love of millions whose sins he bore. He accepted this path to glory, knowing that by it he would be exalted to the Father. The goal is that the Father may be glorified for his redemptive plan in the Son. So he sought by his own glory the glory of his Father (13:31–32).”

Jesus’ words remind me of the angelic praise declared in the presence of the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)

Jesus would certainly bring God the Father glory by His death, burial and resurrection. We ought to pursue the same goal: to glorify God. I Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: In This World, You will Have Trouble.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

I recently visited a friend of mine. At the time, she was residing at a local rehabilitation center (i.e. nursing home) following a recent fall in her home resulting in a broken hip and the subsequent surgery to repair the break. While her body was battered, bruised and recovering from being broken, her spirit remains strong and resolute.

I’m sure you recently read about missionary John Allen Chau, 26. He perished on November 16, 2018 in a deadly bow and arrow attack by tribesmen desperate to keep him off their remote North Sentinel Island home off the coast of India.

Both my friend’s physical injuries, and a missionary’s death, illustrate in part what Jesus said to His disciples in the upper room just hours before His crucifixion. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” The only lasting source of peace and tranquility we may possess in this world is in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

Jesus made a truthful statement to the disciples. It is a statement which continues to ring true for disciples of Jesus today. The truth is this: “In the world you will have tribulation.”

The word “world” (κόσμος; kosmos) in this context refers not only to living on this planet. Rather, Jesus spoke more significantly of living as a Christian in the midst of a fallen world system of thought and behavior which constantly expresses a hatred for God and a rebellion against His Word.

Jesus said that in this fallen world, His disciples would face tribulation. Jesus did not say that His disciples might have tribulation, or could have tribulation, but rather would have tribulation. Jesus did not speak about a possibility of tribulation but rather the probability and even more accurately, the certainty of tribulation. This is a promise from God that we don’t often think of but which is just as certain as every other promise God has given.

The word tribulation (θλῖψις; thlipsis) may refer to suffering, distress, affliction or persecution. It may concern physical suffering, emotional distress, and even spiritual and physical persecution for one’s faith in Christ. It is a rock your world kind of trouble.

Have you ever experienced such trouble? I’m sure you have. I know many people who have and who are experiencing such tribulation. What are believers to do “when” such tribulation occurs?

Jesus’ answer to this question hinges on the singly conjunction “but.” The word invokes a contrasting idea to what has previously been stated or said. Jesus told His disciples “But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

To take heart (θαρσέω; tharseo) means to presently and actively be courageous and to be bold. Jesus issued a command and not a suggestion or a request. He commanded the disciples to be people of strength and fearlessness. His words echo Joshua 1:1-9.

The reason for such courage and strength is because Jesus has overcome the world. Notice that Jesus did not say “I will overcome the world” though He would. Rather, He said “I have overcome the world” because He already had. The word “overcome (νικάω; nikao) means to conquer and to be a victor. Jesus has come and ruined Satan’s kingdom (Matthew 12:25-29) by His substitutionary atonement on the cross and His bodily resurrection from the dead.

One commentator explains that, “Jesus’ confidence that the Father would be with Him, we see in today’s passage, led Him to encourage the disciples that their upcoming failure to stand with Him would not be the end. Jesus was about to overcome the world, so He called the disciples to “take heart”—be confident and encouraged—in the midst of tribulation (John 16:33). When they would fail, they would be able to repent and return to God and be pardoned, for Christ would have overcome the world. When the world would assault them mercilessly, they would be able to escape total despair, for Christ’s overcoming the world would mean that nothing would finally be able to destroy them. The same is true for us today. When we face tribulations because of our own sin or the hostility of others, we are sustained by knowing that Christ has overcome the fallen world, including our own fallen selves.”

John Calvin writes, “As our sluggishness must be corrected by various afflictions, and as we must be awakened to seek a remedy for our distress, so the Lord does not intend that our minds shall be cast down, but rather that we shall fight keenly, which is impossible if we are not certain of success. For if we must fight, while we are uncertain of the result, all our zeal will quickly vanish. When, therefore, Christ calls us to the contest, He arms us with assured confidence of victory, though still we must toil hard.”

What, you may be thinking, are the weapons of our warfare? 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”

John Calvin concludes, “We are beyond all danger, even in the midst of the combat.”

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

                                                         

LORD’S DAY 2, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will examine the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 2 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer.

Q. How do you come to know your misery?

A. The law of God tells me.1

1 Rom. 3:207:7-25.

Q. What does God’s law require of us?

A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22:37-40:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your mind.’1
This is the greatest and first commandment.

“And a second is like it:
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’2

“On these two commandments hang
all the law and the prophets.”

1 Deut. 6:5.
2 Lev. 19:18.

Q. Can you live up to all this perfectly?

A. No.1

I have a natural tendency
to hate God and my neighbor.2

1 Rom. 3:9-20, 231 John 1:8, 10.
2 Gen. 6:5Jer. 17:9Rom. 7:23-248:7Eph. 2:1-3Titus 3:3.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Do You Now Believe?

His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” (John 16:28-32)

Self-assurance in our own abilities to both come to God and be saved or to understand all which God is doing in our lives as believers is a fool’s errand. It is a task of activity which has no hope of success.

Self-assurance refers to confidence in one’s own ability or character. As believers in Christ, we must place our confidence in God’s ability to draw us to Himself (John 6:35-66) and His never changing holy character (Isaiah 6:1-7). This was a lesson the disciples took a long time to understand. Perhaps, we as well.

The disciples correctly acknowledged that Jesus was God in that He knew all things (divine omniscience) and that He came from God the Father (divine origin). However, Jesus knew their limitations far better than they did.

Jesus predicted, hours before it actually occurred, that these very same disciples who so assuredly expressed their belief in Christ in the upper room, would soon flee from Him in the Garden of Gethsemane and at the foot of the cross. The only exceptions being the Apostle John and possibly Peter (18:15-27; 19:25-27; I Peter 2:21-25).

Robert Rothwell writes, “During most of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we see that the disciples misunderstood the nature of our Savior’s work. Even Peter, who before Christ’s resurrection understood Jesus perhaps better than did any of the other disciples, did not grasp the necessity of the atonement (Matt. 16:13–23). This failure to accept Jesus’ declarations regarding the purpose of His work betrayed their ignorance not only about Jesus but also about the Father. After all, not to see the necessity of the atonement evidences confusion about God’s holiness and what He demands to be reconciled to His creatures.”

The only one Jesus could truly rely upon was God the Father. However, how often do we humbly come to the Father for reliance instead of relying upon our own strength and understanding of life’s situations? It is easy for us to presume to know more than God does. How ironic it is for us to criticize the eleven disciples for such hubris when we often are guilty of the same sin.

May we humbly strive to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) and resolve never to think that we have learned all which God would have us to know and understand. Our Lord’s classroom is still in session.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Figurative Language.

“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” (John 16:25-28)

What did Jesus mean when He used the phrase “figurative language” (NKJV) or as used in the ESV “figures of speech?” The phrase is from the Greek word παροιμία (paraoimia) meaning a parable, an allegory or a proverb. It also may refer to use of obscure words which are full of veiled or hidden meanings. John Bunyan’s masterful work Pilgrim’s Progress would qualify as an allegory or a parable, specifically concerning salvation.

Jesus had used figurative language to describe His person and work. Examples would include His seven “I Am” statements comparing Himself to bread, light, a gate, a shepherd, resurrection and life, the way, the truth and the life and a vine. (See respectively John 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14 and 15). These figures of speech were hard for the disciples to understand while Jesus was with them (Mark 4:10-20). The disciples would understand these allegories following His death, burial and resurrection and with the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-14; Acts 2).

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “They (the disciples) would actually understand the ministry of Christ better than they had while they were with him, as the Spirit inspired them to write the Gospels and epistles and ministered in and through them.”

The phrase “in that day” again refers to the Day of Pentecost (16:23) and the arrival of the Holy Spirit. It would be the initiation of the church age and the Spirit would enable each believer in Christ to boldly approach God the Father in prayer (Hebrews 4:14-16). Answered prayer from the Father would be based solely upon the imputed righteousness of Christ to the believer and the resulting glory and honor and praise of God the Son.

Theologian Robert Rothwell writes, With the outpouring of the Spirit, the disciples will enjoy a greater understanding of our Savior’s person and work. We can see this in the history of the Apostolic period. The same disciples who once could not accept that Jesus would die became mighty preachers of the cross (Matt. 16:21–23Acts 2). In fulfillment of today’s passage, they finally understood. Jesus spoke to them plainly.”

Can you recall in times past when you didn’t or couldn’t understand the Bible? However, when God saved you the doctrines and teachings of Scripture same alive and clear. Thank God at this moment for the illuminating ministry by the Holy Spirit on behalf of believers in Christ.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: Asking and Receiving

“In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23-24)

The day to which Jesus referred to was the Day of Pentecost. It would become a day in which the disciples’ hearts would rejoice and their joy would never go away (John 16:22) because they would become permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13; Romans 8:1-9). The Day of Pentecost would also inaugurate what is biblically known as the “last days”  which follow the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s arrival (Acts 2:17; 2 Timothy 3:1; Hebrews 1:2; James 5:1-3; 2 Peter 3:1-3; I John 2:18).

Jesus said that on that Day of Pentecost the disciples would ask nothing of Him. This would be the case because Jesus would no longer be with them physically. However, the object of their prayers would be God the Father as Jesus taught in Matthew 6:9-13.

Jesus then invoked His familiar statement revealing His own authority as God: “Truly, truly, I say to you.” What is the true truth Jesus gave His disciples then and now? “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”

Jesus’ statement was a cause and effect declaration. It would involve His disciples’ responsibilities as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). To do the ministry God called them to do, all disciples of Jesus would have the privilege of calling upon God the Father in prayer in order to accomplish His work.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “They would be His ambassadors and therefore had the right to ask the Father for whatever they needed to accomplish His will. The words in My name are not a magical formula which enable the user to get his will done; instead those words tied the requests to the work of the Son in doing the Father’s will (cf. “in My name” in 14:13–14; 15:16; 16:24, 26). Up to this point the disciples had not prayed in the name of Jesus. Now they are to do this since Jesus’ death and the Spirit’s coming would enable them to enter into God’s new program of the Church Age. Answered prayer brings complete joy (cf. 15:11; 16:22) because God is at work in them.”

What was true for the disciples of Jesus then is equally true today. We pray to God the Father, in the name of God the Son, and in the power of God the Holy Spirit. The purpose of such a discipline and privilege is to hallow God’s name and character, to display His authority in our lives and to do His will. This brings lasting joy.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Precious Promises While in the Depths of Despair.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:20-22)

When God’s Word gives us particular and specific promises, it is very wise to pay attention to what God says. Such is the case in today’s text when Jesus gave His disciples, the night prior to His crucifixion, several precious promises. What makes these promises that much more significant to observe is that they are given in the anticipated reality of the disciples’ deep despair because of Jesus’ death on the cross.

First, let us make sure we observe that once again Jesus invoked His own authority when He spoke these words to the eleven. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you.” He spoke with the authority of God, for so He is.

Jesus then told the disciples that they would weep and lament. To weep means to cry and to lament means to mourn for the dead. The weeping and lamenting by the disciples would specifically be because of Jesus’ death.  However, by contrast Jesus said the world would rejoice. The fallen world system, which hates God and rebels against Him and His Word anytime it will and can, would be glad that Jesus would die.

The disciples would be sorrowful and distressed by the crucifixion, but their sorrow would turn into gladness and great happiness. In other words, joy! We know this is true because of the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave.

Jesus used the illustration of a woman giving birth to a child. While in labor, a woman experiences labor pains. They can be quite painful. However, the pain while giving birth to her child is soon replaced by the birth of her child. Whatever pain and sorrow she felt is exchanged by the great joy and happiness of a living and healthy baby.

Jesus acknowledged the disciples were sorrowful in the present but also that they would soon rejoice within their souls in the future. They would see Jesus alive again. Their joy would soon replace their sorrow and no one would take their joy away.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “Today’s passage records for us what our Savior said about the disciples’ grief. First, Christ told them their sorrow would be temporary. They would lament and weep for a time, but then they would be joyful (vv. 20–21). Why? Because while He would leave them temporarily in His death, He would be restored to them in His resurrection. They would see Him again and experience a joy that no one would be able to take away (v. 22). Of course, Jesus did not mean that they would never experience sorrow again. His point was that they would have an abiding joy because they would know Jesus had conquered death and hell. We can endure every trial knowing that we will live eternally in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 21).”

Whatever sorrow we have experienced, whether due to the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or friendship, or pain because of illness, Jesus gives us a lasting joy which no one can take away. Hallelujah!

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: Understanding Difficult Truths.

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? ” (John 16:16-19).

A riddle is a statement or question or phrase having a double or veiled meaning, put forth as a puzzle to be solved. Upon hearing Jesus’ statements, which the Apostle John records in today’s text, the disciples were confused. To them, Jesus was speaking in riddles or nonsense. They did not understand what Jesus meant by what He said.

One of the evidences the Bible is the Word of God is that it accurately presents biblical characters as real human beings. The Bible describes people who follow the Lord as people who sometimes lie (Genesis 12:10-20), commit adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11), become furious in their anger (Nehemiah 5:1-6) and are sometimes confused when God communicates truth to them as today’s text reveals.

One commentator writes, “Among the many evidences that the four Gospels are accurate historical records is the Gospel writers’ willingness to describe the confusion of the disciples. If the Evangelists—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—had wanted to invent history for the Christian church, they undoubtedly would have portrayed the original disciples of Jesus in the best possible light. After all, these men would be heroes of sorts to Christian believers, and if the Gospels were fictional works, it would be in the interest of the authors to paint the best picture of the disciples and their faith and understanding that they could. A failure to believe on the part of the original disciples makes them less admirable as models of faith, so the only reason to include examples of their confusion is to tell the truth about Jesus and His ministry. That we find many examples of the disciples’ being confused (for instance, Mark 6:45-52) or not believing Jesus lends credibility to the Gospels as historical records.”

Jesus was not only speaking of His death and burial but also His resurrection and ascension. Jesus was telling the disciples that they would see Him alive following His resurrection and ascension. In fact, the only people who did witness the resurrection and ascension were Jesus’ disciples and apostles (Acts 1:1-11; I Corinthians 15:1-8).

The source of the disciples’ confusion lay not in Jesus being unclear about what was about to happen to Him, but rather by the disciples’ unwillingness to believe that it would happen. Sometimes we might want to refrain from telling someone the truth in order to spare them, and us, pain in the immediate. However, whatever discomfort we avoid by failing to tell someone the truth they need to hear only delays the inevitable reality they will eventually experience.

Jesus did not shy away from telling His disciples hard truths. Neither should we.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: The Work of the Holy Spirit, Part 2.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-15)

The Holy Spirit not only convicts the world of its sin, of righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11), but He also accomplishes a number of other ministries. Jesus stated to the eleven disciples that He had many more things to tell and teach them but that they could not bear or understand them at that particular moment. Jesus then introduced another series of statements regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Notice that Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit in the masculine gender. He refers to the Spirit of truth as He. The Holy Spirit is never referred to in Scripture as “it.” What is it that the Spirit of truth will do on behalf of all of Jesus’ disciples through these men who Jesus would call apostles?

First, the Holy Spirit will guide the apostles into all the truth. This refers to the Spirit’s ministry of producing through the apostles the New Testament Scriptures. See 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21. The complete canon of Scripture will be a product of the Spirit’s ministry but not the Spirit alone. The New Testament reflects the authority of the entire Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God the Father will tell God the Spirit what He will teach about God the Son.

Second, the Holy Spirit will declare to the apostles the things that are to come. The things that are to come, in this particular context, include the substitutionary atonement by Christ on the cross, the resurrection, the ascension and the soon return of Christ. The New Testament Scriptures are the fulfillment of this promise.

Third, the Holy Spirit will glorify the Son. This would occur as the Spirit illuminated the minds of the apostles in order to produce inerrant and inspired writings concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ. As one pastor explains, The Spirit worked in the apostles’ minds so that they could perceive, understand, and teach about the Savior.”

One commentator writes, Jesus was not promising that new special revelation would continue until His return, for that would miss the uniqueness of the Apostolic office. The Apostles were directly appointed by Christ to speak in His name, bearing His authority. And plainly, the Apostles understood themselves to have an authority that other disciples of Jesus do not. (All followers of Jesus can be called disciples—even us—but not all followers can be called Apostles. All Apostles are disciples but not all disciples are Apostles.)”

Take the opportunity today, as you read the Scriptures, to give praise and thanks to God for the Word of God which the Holy Spirit of God wrought through the prophets and the apostles of God.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

LORD’S DAY 1, 2019.

Welcome to the first Sunday of 2019. On each Lord’s Day this year, we will examine the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity. As one author describes the catechism, “It is a remarkably warm-hearted and personalized confession of faith, eminently deserving of its popularity among Reformed churches to the present day.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 1 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer.

Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own,1
but belong—body and soul,
in life and in death—2 to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.3

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,4
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.5
He also watches over me in such a way6
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;7
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.8

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life9
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.10

1 1 Cor. 6:19-20.
2 Rom. 14:7-9.
3 1 Cor. 3:23Titus 2:14.
4 1 Pet. 1:18-191 John 1:7-92:2.
5 John 8:34-36Heb. 2:14-151 John 3:1-11.
6 John 6:39-4010:27-302 Thess. 3:31 Pet. 1:5.
7 Matt. 10:29-31Luke 21:16-18.
8 Rom. 8:28.
9 Rom. 8:15-162 Cor. 1:21-225:5Eph. 1:13-14.
10 Rom. 8:1-17.

Q. What must you know to
live and die in the joy of this comfort?

A. Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are;1
second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;2
third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.3

1 Rom. 3:9-101 John 1:10.
2 John 17:3Acts 4:1210:43.
3 Matt. 5:16Rom. 6:13Eph. 5:8-102 Tim. 2:151 Pet. 2:9-10.

 May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Work of the Holy Spirit.

“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. Concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;” (John 16:8-11)

The Word of God, and specifically the New Testament, reveals many works of the Holy Spirit. We may be most familiar with the Spirit’s work among believers. This includes regeneration, sealing, indwelling, gifting, baptizing, and filling.

However, He not only works among believers in Christ but also among unbelievers. Today’s text gives us three specific areas in which the Holy Spirit works upon the lost. He convicts the world of sin, He convicts the world of its lack of righteousness and He convicts the world in judgment.

First, He convicts the world of its sin. The word convict (ἐλέγχω; elencho) refers to a rebuke, a reproving and a reproach. The word world (κόσμος; kosmos) in this context means the fallen world system of thoughts and behavior which are rebelliously anti-God. The word sin (ἁμαρτία; hamartia) means to engage in wrongdoing and evil.

The Holy Spirit points out to sinful people when they have done wrong or how they have sinned against God. The reason the fallen world sins is because it does do not believe in Jesus. The world is not committed to, dependent upon, trusting in or worshiping Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior.

Second, He convicts the world of righteousness. The Holy Spirit not only points out to sinners what they have done wrong, but He also shows them what God requires. The word righteousness (δικαιοσύνη; dikaiosyne) means doing what God says is right or righteous from His Word.

More than being a source of moralistic, therapeutic deism, the Holy Spirit brings sinners to an understanding that their self-righteousness before God is comparable to a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6).

Thirdly, the Spirit convicts the world concerning judgment. This refers to the Spirit’s evaluation of a person’s standing before God. The word judgment (κρίσις; krisis) is a legal decision handed down from a judge. As Satan, the ruler of this world, stands condemned before God, so too are those who reject Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

As one theologian explains, The death and resurrection of Jesus were a condemnation of Satan (12:31; Col. 2:15), the prince of this world (cf. John 14:30). By Jesus’ death, He defeated the devil, who held “the power of death” (Heb. 2:14). (Though defeated at the Cross, Satan is still active [1 Peter 5:8]. But, like a condemned criminal, his “execution” is coming [Rev. 20:2, 7–10]. People in rebellion should take note of Satan’s defeat and fear the Lord who holds the power to judge. As the fact of coming judgment (both Satan’s and man’s) is proclaimed, the Spirit convicts people and prepares them for salvation (cf. Acts 17:30–31).”

Immediately prior to my conversion, the Holy Spirit convicted me in all three areas. He convicted me that I was a sinner. He convicted me that my righteousness fell far short of God’s righteousness. He convicted me that I was destined for hell.

It was in His sovereignty that God by His grace regenerated me by the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8). He made me spiritually alive (Ephesians 2:4). He clothed me in the righteousness of Christ (Zechariah 3:1-5). I no longer stood condemned before God.

Do you have this assurance that your sins are forgiven? Do you know that you are no longer condemned? Is the Holy Spirit convicting you of sin, righteousness and judgment even at this moment in time?

If so, repent of your sin and trust in Jesus as your Savior and Lord. May the Holy Spirit regenerate and enable you to become a child of God.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: If I Go, I will Send.

“But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:5-7)

For the fourth time in His Upper Room Discourse Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Helper sent from God the Father and Himself. See John 14:15-18, 14:25-28, 15:26-27. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Helper because He encourages, intercedes and is an advocate on behalf of each believer in Christ.

The disciples were filled with sorrow because Jesus was soon leaving them (John 14:13:36-14:7). However, Jesus wanted them to know that it was to their advantage that He leave them and return to heaven. Jesus’ return to heaven would coincide with the Holy Spirit’s coming down to earth.

This is a wonderful truth because as a follower of Christ, I am in need of the Spirit’s help. I am most grateful for the Spirit’s encouragement through the Scriptures. I am also blessed by the Holy Spirit’s promptings to do what is biblical, regardless of the situation. I trust that you are as well.

Ephesians 4:1-2 says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” Specifically, to be patient means to not be irritated by circumstances or by individuals.

Recently, I became irritated by a co-worker who without permission removed some equipment from my department in order for him to accomplish work in his department. His behavior left me without the necessary tools to accomplish to work that I needed to accomplish.

As I began to simmer with resentment towards this individual and to consider what I might do to correct this situation, the Holy Spirit brought to my memory Ephesians 4:1-2 about being patient. I gladly submitted to the Lord and prayed that He would forgive me of my lack of patience and to give me a spirit of humility and gentleness towards this other individual.

Immediately upon praying, one of the store’s managers came into my work area bringing with her the equipment taken from my department by my aforementioned fellow employee. How did she know? What, of Who, prompted her to return my department’s tools. I didn’t ask but simply thanked her. It was then that I looked up to heaven and thanked the Lord for not only His promptings in my own heart but also His providence.

Pastor Burk Parsons explains that, In terms of God’s larger plan of redemption, Jesus’ return to heaven would mean that the Helper, the Holy Spirit, would come (v. 7). Jesus had to die, be raised from the dead, and ascend to heaven before the Spirit could come, and the coming of the Spirit would mark the new covenant era as a time of powerful ministry on the part of God’s people and the rapid growth of the kingdom of God among the nations (Acts 2:33; see Ezek. 36:22–38Joel 2:28–32). That is because the Holy Spirit would minister powerfully outside of Israel; He would be newly active in the world to convict people of their sin and call them to repentance, convict people that they cannot trust in their own righteousness, and convict the world that Jesus has defeated sin and Satan (John 16:8–11).”

Are you sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings through Scripture? Ask the Lord at this moment to give you a sensitive soul to the Spirit Who is within your soul.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Be Prepared!

“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.” (John 16:1-4)

Jesus gave the provocative warnings to His disciples in John 15:18-25 in order to prepare them for the eventual conflict they would encounter as followers of Christ. He wanted to protect them from falling away. The phrase “keep you from falling away” is one word in the Greek: σκανδαλίζω; skandalizo. It is where we derive our English word scandal or scandalize. It means to experience anger or shock regarding what has been said or done.

Jesus wanted His disciples, at that time and for all time, to know that conflict and persecution should be expected if one is truly committed to the Gospel of Christ. Jesus even gave some examples of what that persecution would look like: being put out of the synagogue and suffering death due to those who believe they are serving God by killing Christians. Perhaps this is a veiled reference by Jesus of Saul of Tarsus who would later become the Apostle Paul (Acts 8-9; 22:1-21; 26:1-23). Those who persecute believers of Christ do so because they do not know Christ or God the Father.

Jesus stated these truths prior to their occurrence so the disciples would remember that Jesus said these things would indeed happen. Jesus His disciples to be prepared for conflict. He did not want them to be surprised when persecution occurred. In fact, one of the Bible’s recurring themes is that God uses conflict to develop men and women to become the leaders He desires and uses.

As one pastor has written, “Early church history shows that Jesus’ predictions came true. For example, the entire purpose of the epistle to the Hebrews is to warn Christians from a Jewish background not to deny Christ under pressure from the Jews to do so. Prior to his conversion, Paul—then known as Saul the Pharisee—was looking to stamp out the early Christian movement (Acts 9:1–2). After Paul came to Christ and began preaching the gospel, Jews incited opposition to his ministry (13:50–51). To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and Jesus, as our wise Shepherd, told His disciples the hard truth that such persecution was coming in order to keep them from committing apostasy—falling away fully and finally from a profession of faith in Christ. None of the original disciples—and none of His later followers, by extension—would be able to say that they had no idea what they were getting into when they resolved to follow Christ.”

I Peter 4:12-16 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”

 May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Witnesses.

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:26-27)

Jesus once again mentions the Holy Spirit and His ministry. He does so in the immediate aftermath of having just informed the disciples that the fallen world will hate them as its hated Jesus. But the Holy Spirit will be their Helper.

The word “Helper” (παράκλητος; parakletos) means an encourager, intercessor, mediator and advocate. The Holy Spirit is one who specifically consoles the followers of Jesus. This is the third time Jesus has referred to the Holy Spirit as a Helper (John 14:15-17, 26).

The word “witness” (μαρτυρέω; martyreo) means an individual who provides truthful knowledge and information of which the speaker in question has firsthand knowledge. Believers in Christ possess firsthand knowledge of the truth of the Gospel.

Jesus stated that (1) the Holy Spirit would come and proceed to the disciples from God the Father; (2) The Holy Spirit would be known as the Spirit of truth; (3) The Holy Spirit will bear witness about Jesus; (4) The Holy Spirit will enable the disciples to also bear witness about Jesus.

What was true when Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit’s ministry continues to be true today. The Holy Spirit indwells each disciple and follower of Jesus (Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 6:19-20). The Holy Spirit continues to be the Spirit of truth for He breathed out the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21). The Holy Spirit also enables believers to witness to others about Christ (Acts 1:8).

As one commentator explains, “Note that today’s passage, as throughout the Farewell Discourse, applies first to the original disciples. The disciples had a special role in bearing witness to Jesus and a unique authority to deliver to the church what He taught. But we who come after the Apostles are also witnesses to Christ, and the Spirit enables us to hold fast to the prophetic and Apostolic witness to Jesus—the Holy Scriptures.”

As this New Year begins to unfold, how and where may you be a witness for Christ? At work, at home, at school, or by your involvement in extracurricular activities and hobbies? All of these places and more afford each believer an opportunity to patiently and faithfully share the love of God to those who need to hear such a message of truth.

May God be glorified in each one of us as He works through us by the Holy Spirit who is within us.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

Happy New Year.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Another holiday season has come and gone with today being the conclusion, at least by singer Andy Williams’ perspective, of “the most wonderful time of the year.” Following today’s festive parades, family gatherings, holiday meals and assorted college football bowl games, the Christmas decorations will eventually come down and be put away for another year. The Hallmark Channel, and the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel, will conclude its Countdown to Christmas holiday programming. I may even cease listening to Christmas music for a while but that is highly suspect. Just ask my family.

What of this New Year (2019) which is now here? What are your goals, dreams and aspirations? What trips do you plan on taking? What resolutions do you plan on making? What books of the Bible do you plan on reading and studying? What exercise routines do you plan on beginning? Sorry, I just had to include that one.

Here’s a challenge for all of us who are followers of Jesus Christ and God’s children by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Christ alone. The challenge is set forth in today’s text. It is the biblical response to the magnificent and gracious salvation the Apostle Paul wrote about in Romans 1:1-11:36.

The response is for each disciple of Jesus to be a living sacrifice. This is our response to the many mercies of God and involves our daily yielding to the Word and will of God in our minds, emotions and wills. It is a striving with all our being, and with God’s strength, to be holy as He is holy (I Peter 1:16). This is our true, spiritual worship.

At the same time we are yielding, we are also not conforming to the fallen world’s system of rebelliousness against God and His Word. Rather, the Lord calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our minds are renewed by the Word of God (Psalm 1). Our souls are sanctified by the Word of God (John 17:17). This is the only way to know God’s will which is good, acceptable and perfect.

When the last college football bowl game today is completed, when the last piece of holiday baking is eaten and the final number of friends and family members have left for their homes, let us remember what still needs to be done. No, I’m not talking about cleaning the kitchen before going to bed in preparation for tomorrow’s work day.

Let us remember that each new day of each New Year gives each believer in Christ another opportunity to bring Him glory. Let us resolve that this year we will consistently do just that by being a living sacrifice.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

Retrospective on a Year Soon Past.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Happy New Year’s Eve! Can you believe another year has come and gone so quickly as 2018? It seems it was just January 1 of this year as we are less than 24 hours away from January 1 of next year. Once every 365 days we stand poised to complete another annual seasonal cycle of winter, spring, summer, and fall before we begin another annual cycle of the same.

I am sure that you can look back upon 2018 and recall joys and sorrows, laughter and tears, accomplishments and defeats, along with various conclusions coupled with new beginnings. As one author wrote, Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Perhaps you find yourself on this New Year’s Eve in what is sometimes referred to as “God’s waiting room.” God’s waiting room is that time, or times, in your life when God calls you to patiently wait on Him before the next chapter of His plans for you to begin. Psalm 27:14 says, Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”

You may be waiting for your unborn child to be born, for a new job to begin or an old one to end, or perhaps for tat all too often taken for granted health to return. I recently discovered this poem by Deborah Ann Belka entitled God’s Waiting Room.

 In God’s waiting room . . .
I sometimes have to stay
at first I don’t understand
the reasons for His delay.

But while I am in there,
it becomes obvious to me
and He shows me why
I have to wait and see.

He wants me to learn,
how to depend just on Him
and my pride and conceit
He has to pare and trim.

He uses this waiting time,
for me to focus on His face
so that I can experience
the full measure of His grace.

He wants my every thought,
to be centered on His peace
though He takes His time
His love for me doesn’t cease.

He wants me to understand,
that waiting has its due season
and soon I will gather and reap
the answers to His reason.

In God’s waiting room . . .
I’ve learned about delay
and now I understand
how to trust Him every day!

 I so appreciate the New American Standard Bible translation of Romans 8:28. It is the only English translation, that I know of, that includes the phrase, “And we know that God causes…” The incidents we encountered this year, both good and bad, are ultimately due to a prior sovereign causality: God. He and He alone is in sovereign and in providential control of everything which happens in our lives. This certainly includes the experiences in which we understand what God is doing but especially those experiences in which we do not understand what His purpose is.

However, we can take comfort in knowing that everything which occurs in our lives, God causes to work together for good for those who are in Christ Jesus. Even when those good things involve waiting upon the Lord.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The World’s Hatred.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18-21)

Of the many truthful promises and statements Jesus made, and were recorded in all four gospels, the one’s contained in today’s text are certainly some of the most thought provoking. It should cause us to pause when evaluating our efforts to minister to those belonging to the fallen culture and their responses to the gospel.

There have been times when in seeking to do good for those in need, the responses by unbelievers to the church’s efforts are less than appreciative. I recall when several churches covenanted together to provide meals for families who had recently lost jobs due to a downturn in the economy. The meals were provided free of cost although a donation was graciously accepted if provided. Various people from several church volunteered to cook, serve and clean up after the dinners were served. One church even provided their fellowship hall for the weekly gathering.

Of those who were fed each week, there were some who became rude because they did not receive as much food as they wanted. These were not the previously mentioned families for they proved truly grateful. Rather, these were those who were regular church visitors looking for a handout. For example, they wanted seconds while others had yet to receive firsts and they became angry because their demands were not met. Unfortunately, this was a frequent occurrence and several workers became discouraged that their efforts to minister to those outside the church was met with less than a grateful attitude.

While these examples pale in comparison to the persecution of believers in various parts of the world, it provides a fitting illustration of what Jesus said in today’s text. Believers should expect hatred from the world rather than gratitude.

When Jesus referred to the world, He spoke of the fallen, ungodly world system of thought and behavior which expresses hatred for God and His servants. Jesus said that if, or since, the world hates believers, it is because the world ultimately hates Him.

Jesus wanted His followers to always remember that His servants were not above their Master. If the world hated Jesus, then remember that the world will hate us. If the world persecuted Jesus, then remember that the world will persecute us. Conversely, those who love Jesus will love, and be loved, by us.

The real reason that the world hates Jesus and His servants, is because at the core of their souls they do not know God. Pastor Burk Parsons writes, “The world cannot help but hate us, because those who are in rebellion against God hate everything that is not also in rebellion against Him. Jesus notes that we should not be surprised when the world hates us for following Him, for they hated Him first. If they hated Him and love us, then we would be greater than Him, but since the servants are not greater than the Master, the world’s hatred of Him guarantees it will hate us (John 15:20–21). We will be despised in many circles for keeping the commandments of Christ.”

This despising may occur at work, at home, at school or even in commentary by panelists on a daily, or late night, talk show. The despising of Christ and His followers is frequent, fervent and sometimes even furious.

John Calvin wrote that, “The gospel cannot be published without instantly driving the world to rage.”

Do you want the world to love you? Then belong to the world and its philosophy of life and living. Otherwise, expect opposition, hostility and hatred because you belong to Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!