The Atonement: The Fall and Rise.

“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)

“Atonement is secured, not by any value inherent in the sacrificial victim, but because sacrifice is the divinely appointed way of securing atonement.” J.I. Packer

“The first physical deaths should have been the man and his wife, but it was an animal—a shadow of the reality that God would someday kill a substitute to redeem sinners.” John MacArthur

Why was it necessary for God to provide garments of skin for Adam and his wife?  The answer is found within the context of Genesis 3:1-7. God prohibited by a solemn command the man and his wife from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17). He warned them that in the day they ate from it, they would surely die. Tragically, they did not obey the LORD.

Genesis 3:1-7 says, Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

Sin commonly occurs in several ways. Therefore, believers must always be on their guard (I Peter 5:8-9).

Sin occurs by questioning what God has commanded. The serpent asked the woman, ““Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” How crafty the question was regarding what God actually commanded. God did not say that the man and the woman were not to eat of “any” tree in the garden, but to not eat of only “one” tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17).

Sin also occurs by adding to what God has said. God never offered a command saying the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not to be touched. The woman added that stipulation. We are never to either add to, or take away, from the revealed Word of God (Revelation 22:18-19).

Sin finally occurs by the outright denial of what God has said. “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Not only was there a denial of what God said, there was also the failure to explain the consequences the couple would face in knowing good and evil. They, who had been good, would now know what evil was by having become evil themselves.

Giving into temptation then becomes sin (James 1:12-15). Temptation, resulting in sin, involves the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life (I John 2:15-17). The person tempted sees the object of their lust and justifies wanting what they want by their craving of it, their gazing at it, and their sense of entitlement for it. In other words, the sinner sees something, wants what they see and convinces themselves they deserve what they see and want. The sinner questions what God has said, adds or takes away from what God has said and then outright denies what God has said.

When the man and the woman took and ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they then understood they had disobeyed God and were filled with a sense of guilt and shame. Consequently, they sought to cover their guilt and shame, along with their bodies, with man-made loincloths from leaves. Even today, mankind seeks to cover its and shame because of their sin by a self-righteous works based system of penance or atonement.

Genesis 3:21 is the first allusion in Scripture of what would become known as the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Granted, the doctrine is not completely explained, as it would be in Romans 3:21-26, but it is demonstrated as God provided coverings for the man and his wife following their act of disobedience against Him. God alone would efficiently cover and forgive the man and woman’s sin by coverings He would Himself provided through the death of innocent animals. The guiltless would die in place of the guilty.

“And the LORD God.” Two names are mentioned: LORD and God. LORD is the English rendering for the Hebrew word Yahweh. This is the most personal name for God. It means self-sufficient One or I Am Who I Am (Exodus 3:1-14). The name God means mighty and powerful.

“Made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins.” The Hebrew word “made” means to manufacture. God manufactured garments for Adam and his wife. The garments were shirt-like tunics. They were made from animal skins, perhaps leather, although the text does not specifically say what kind of animal. Symbolically, the animal skins represented an atonement for sin, which was not accomplished through some man made effort but rather by a God provided substitute.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, An animal was sacrificed to provide garments of skin, and later all Israel’s animal sacrifices would be part of God’s provision to remedy the curse—a life for a life. The sinner shall die! (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23) Yet he will live if he places his faith in the Lord, who has provided a Substitute. The skin with which God clothed Adam and Eve perpetually reminded them of God’s provision.”

Puritan Matthew Henry writes, “These sacrifices were divided between God and man, in token of reconciliation: the flesh was offered to God, a whole burnt-offering; the skins were given to man for clothing, signifying that, Jesus Christ having offered himself to God a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour, we are to clothe ourselves with his righteousness as with a garment, that the shame of our nakedness may not appear. Adam and Eve made for themselves aprons of fig-leaves, a covering too narrow for them to wrap themselves in, Isaiah\ 28:20. Such are all the rags of our own righteousness. But God made them coats of skins; large, and strong, and durable, and fit for them; such is the righteousness of Christ.”

Take time today to thank God for covering your sin with the righteousness of Christ. I encourage you to read Zechariah 3:1-5.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

The Atonement: The Need for an Atonement.

“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,” (Romans 3:9)

 “The need for atonement is brought about by three things, the universality of sin, the seriousness of sin and man’s inability to deal with sin.” J.I. Packer

The universality of sin is taught throughout the Scriptures. “There is no man who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46); “there is none that does good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3); “there is not a righteous man on earth, who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Jesus told the rich young ruler, “No one is good but God alone” (Mark. 10:18), and the Apostle Paul wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

The seriousness of sin is also taught throughout the Scriptures. Ephesians 2:1-3 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Colossians 1:21 says, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.”

Man’s sin problem is not just in what he does, or does not do, but rather who and what he is in his soul: sinful. A human being does not become a sinner when they sin. Rather, they sin because they are a sinner by nature. This natural propensity to sin is evidenced by the sinner’s behavior, thinking and speech.

Man’s inability to remedy his sinful condition is likewise proclaimed throughout the Scriptures. The sinner is not able to keep his sin hidden (Numbers 32:23). The sinner cannot cleanse himself of his sin (Proverbs 20:9). There are no good works which the sinner may do which will ever enable him to stand righteous and justified before God (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16).

The truth of the universality and seriousness of sin is first set forth in the Book of Genesis. Following God’s creation of the world and all contained therein, including man, Genesis 2:15-17 says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Notice that God’s statement to the man was not a suggestion but rather a command: a command to be obeyed. God gave everything to the man in the garden, with one exception. The man must not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Were man to do so, then God said the man would surely die. This was a serious command by God, as are all of His commands.

It is within this background context that Genesis 3:1-7 unfolds. We will examine this particular text when next we meet.

Are you personally aware of the universality to sin, the seriousness of your sin and your inability to efficiently solve the problem of your sin before God? Take this moment right now to repent of your sin and ask God to save you from the penalty of your sin. If you are a believer in Christ, ask God to deliver you from the ongoing power of sin in your life.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!   

 

The Atonement: What and Why?

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

What exactly is meant by the word atonement? Atonement, of and by Jesus Christ, is the act by which God and man are brought together into a reconciled relationship. When once man was God’s enemy (Romans 5:10a), by virtue of Jesus Christ’s virgin birth, sinless life and death, burial and resurrection, the sinner is now justified by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone (Romans 5:10b-11).

The term “atonement” originates from the Anglo-Saxon phrase meaning “making at one,” or “at-one-ment.” It sets forth the biblical truth that sinners are spiritually separated or alienated from God and that this alienation must be overcome if sinners are to be delivered from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin. Atonement is synonymous with other biblical words such as reconciliation and forgiveness.

As one commentator explains, “The idea of atonement is one of the fundamental concepts of Scripture. God is seen as taking the initiative in man’s salvation; thus atonement is the work of God. For the sinner, who cannot know God, who cannot bridge the gap between himself and God, a “new and living way” is opened up by God.”

Why do sinners need an atonement from God in the first place? The prevailing cultural perspective is that mankind is basically good, so why the need for such a doctrine like atonement? The Bible says the need for an atonement is two-fold.

First, atonement from and by God is necessary because of man’s sinfulness. Fallen man is a radical sinner. In other words, the sinner is totally depraved. This does not mean that every sinner is as bad as they could possibly be, but rather that sin has affected every part of the soul: intellect, emotions and will.

The prophet Isaiah stated, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). According to the Prophet Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). David wrote, “There is none that does good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3).

The Apostle Paul described sin’s effects preceded by the sinner’s disobedience and idolatry (Rom 1:18–32). Following a summation of man’s inability to come to God (Romans 3:10-20), the apostle concluded that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Additionally. Paul described men as enemies of God (Romans 5:10), “hostile to God” (Rom 8:7), as “estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21). Furthermore, sinners are dead in their trespasses and sins and objects of God’s just and righteous wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Romans 5:12).

Second, atonement from and by God is necessary because of God’s holiness. When the Prophet Isaiah saw the holy God in the temple, he was undone because of his own sinfulness (Isaiah 6:1–5). When Isaiah saw God for who He truly was, holy, holy, holy, then Isaiah saw himself for who he really was: sinful.

Not only is man terribly sinful, but God is fearfully holy. Consequently, man dreads God and can do nothing to change this situation. He is lost, helpless, standing under the awful judgment of God. He cannot justify himself before God and cannot merit God’s love. Therefore, the reality of atonement rests entirely with God. This is the sinner’s only hope: that God, by His grace and grace alone, provides a solution to the problem between sinful man and the holy, biblical God.

As we will see next time, the nature of that atonement, as proclaimed and illustrated in biblical history, affirms both the holy nature of God and the sinful nature of man.

Has God brought you to the biblical understanding of how truly sinful you are and how truly holy He is? If so, rejoice that He has made you His child. If not, then repent of your sins today and receive forgiveness from the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Atonement: The Cornerstone of all Theology.

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:10-11)

As we anticipate and prepare for Easter 2019, I thought it wise that I prepare my heart, and hopefully yours also, for this remembrance and celebration of the Lord Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection by studying the biblical doctrine of the atonement. One theologian called the atonement “the cornerstone of all theology.” Dr. Leon Morris said, “The atonement is the crucial doctrine of the faith. Unless we are right here, it matters not, it seems to me, what we are like elsewhere.”

It must be made clear at the outset that the atonement in question is particularly referred to in Scripture as the substitutionary atonement by Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners. It is the preaching of the cross. It involves such biblical words as redemption, propitiation, expiation, reconciliation and justification.

Aside from today’s text, where else does the Bible affirm the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ?

I Corinthians 15:1-3 says, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.”

Romans 5:6-8 says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 says, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

I Peter 2:21-25 says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Meditate upon these Scriptural references today. Take time to thank the Lord for dying in your place on the cross.

Hymn writer Isaac Watts expressed the truth of the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross as follows:

  1. When I survey the wondrous cross
    On which the Prince of glory died,
    My richest gain I count but loss,
    And pour contempt on all my pride.
  2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    Save in the death of Christ my God!
    All the vain things that charm me most,
    I sacrifice them to His blood.
  3. See from His head, His hands, His feet,
    Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
    Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
    Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
  4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were a present far too small;
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all.

May each of us be strengthened in our faith by our survey of the wondrous cross.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Conclusion of John’s Gospel.

“This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:24-25)

We have arrived at our destination. We have arrived at the conclusion of John’s Gospel. Uniquely different in tone and content from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, John presents Jesus as the eternal God: the Word. By his accounts of not only Jesus’ discourses (John 6; 8; 9; 10; 11; 14; 15; 13:1-17:26) but also His miracles (John 5; 6; 9; 11; 20), John testifies that Jesus is the eternal Word which became flesh and dwelt among sinful humanity (John 1:14).

John testifies that all which He has written concerning Jesus is true. He also acknowledges that he has not written everything which could have been written about Jesus. This statement by John acknowledges that ancient biographies did not chronicle every event in a particular subject’s life, but rather only those events which coincided with the author’s thesis statement. John, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, presented those events and discourses which testified that Jesus was, and is, God.

Dr. John MacArthur concludes by saying, “John is a personal witness of the truth of the events that he recorded. The “we” most likely is an editorial device referring only to John (see 1:141 John 1:1–43 John 12), or it may include the collective witness of his apostolic colleagues. John explained that he had been selective rather than exhaustive in his testimony. Although selective, the truth revealed in John’s Gospel is sufficient to bring anyone to faith in the Messiah and Son of God (14:26; 16:13).”

Have you placed your faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ? He alone is the Bread of Life (John 6), the Light of the World (John 8-9), the Door or Gateway to heaven (John 10), the Good Shepherd (John 10), the Resurrection and the Life (John 11), the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14), and the One, True Vine (John 15). He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Receive Him today as your Lord and Savior. As John 1:12-13 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

LORD’S DAY 12, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will display 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 12 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer. The theme for the next several weeks concerns the subject of God the Son.

Q. Why is he called “Christ,” meaning “anointed”?

A. Because he has been ordained by God the Father
and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief prophet and teacher who fully reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our deliverance; our only high priest who has delivered us by the one sacrifice of his body,and who continually pleads our cause with the Father;6 and our eternal king who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who guards us and keeps us in the freedom he has won for us.8

1 Luke 3:21-224:14-19 (Isa. 61:1); Heb. 1:9 (Ps. 45:7)
2 Acts 3:22 (Deut. 18:15)
3 John 1:1815:15
4 Heb. 7:17 (Ps. 110:4)
5 Heb. 9:1210:11-14
6 Rom. 8:34Heb. 9:24
7 Matt. 21:5 (Zech. 9:9)
8 Matt. 28:18-20John 10:28Rev. 12:10-11

Q. But why are you called a Christian?

A. Because by faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in his anointing.I am anointed to confess his name,to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks,4
to strive with a free conscience against sin and the devil in this life,and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for eternity.6

1 1 Cor. 12:12-27.
2 Acts 2:17 (Joel 2:28); 1 John 2:27.
3 Matt. 10:32Rom. 10:9-10Heb. 13:15.
4 Rom. 12:11 Pet. 2:5, 9.
5 Gal. 5:16-17Eph. 6:111 Tim. 1:18-19.
6 Matt. 25:342 Tim. 2:12. 

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: You follow Me!

“Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:20-23)

As often as we desire to know God’s will for ourselves, we also want to know God’s will for others. If God is leading us in a certain direction, we often are curious as to whether He will lead others in the same direction. We are not only concerned with what God is doing in our own lives but also what He is doing, and will do, in the lives of others.

Upon hearing from Jesus that martyrdom was his destiny, Peter wanted to know if the Apostle John would encounter the same destiny. Peter asked, in reference to John, “What about this man?”

Jesus clearly and firmly told Peter, ““If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” In other words, Jesus was telling Peter to mind his own business. What Jesus’ plans for John entailed were to be of no concern for Peter. Peter was to follow the Lord. Whatever John’s destiny was, was between John and Jesus, not Peter.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Jesus’ prophecy regarding Peter’s martyrdom prompted Peter to ask what would happen to John (“the disciple whom Jesus loved”—see 13:23). He may have asked this because of his deep concern for John’s future, since he was an intimate friend. Jesus’ reply, “You follow me!,” signified that his primary concern must not be John but his continued devotion to the Lord and his service, i.e., Christ’s service must be his all-consuming passion and nothing must detract from it.”

Another commentator explains Peter’s motivation this way. “The law against coveting reflects, among other things, a broader truth about human nature, namely, that we are very interested in what other people have and what other people are doing. This can be positive when we are looking out for the welfare of others, but it is negative when we want what other people own in such a way that we are envious of them and wish that they did not have it. Our interest in other people is also negative when we take our focus off of the calling that God has given us and start inserting ourselves in others’ concerns. It is for good reason that the Apostle Paul tells us to mind our own affairs (1 Thess. 4:11). He knows that we are often more interested in what others are doing than what God has given us to do.”

Let us resolve today to focus our concern upon God’s will for our own lives and not to be preoccupied with God’s will in the lives of others. While genuine love and concern for one another is biblical (I John 4:7-8), we must not become distracted regarding what God has given us to do by being overly concerned with what He is given others to do.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!   

 

The Gospel of John: The Martyrdom of Peter.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19)

Of all the similes and metaphors contained in the Scriptures, arguably the most familiar is the comparison of God as our Shepherd and we,  His children and disciples, as His sheep (Psalm 23; Psalm 95:1-7; John 10:10-18; John 21:15-17). The reason being is that much like sheep, we need a Shepherd to guide and lead us. Why? The reason is because sheep are naturally dumb, lacking discernment and wisdom. Sheep need a wise Shepherd.

One commentator writes, “We must admit that we are lost apart from the Lord’s shepherding, just as sheep are lost without a shepherd. This is true not only of laypeople in the church but also of the church’s leaders. And it was true even of the Apostles. As we see in today’s passage, Peter was likewise entreated by our Savior to follow Him (John 21:19). Peter and the other Apostles had to humble themselves like sheep and follow Jesus no less than the rest of us do.”

As Psalm 23 reminds us, the Lord, our Shepherd, leads us not only into green pastures and beside still waters, but also through the valley of the shadow of death. Regardless of where we are, or where the Lord leads us, we are not to fear. This is because the Lord our Shepherd is with us as our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1-7).

Jesus told Peter this truth. He prophesied to Peter that he would meet a martyrs death; most likely by crucifixion. The phrase “but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go” found in today’s text conveys the image of crucifixion. The phrase “stretch out your hands” was a common way of speaking about crucifixion in the ancient world.  Therefore, we can conclude that Jesus was predicting that Peter would eventually die by crucifixion. Tradition holds that Peter was crucified upside down during the reign of Nero sometime in the early to mid-60s AD. While we may not be 100% certain Peter was crucified upside down, it is certain that he was crucified given the evidence that we have both from texts such as John 21:18 and from ancient historical documents.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “Jesus’ call of devotion to him would also mean that Peter’s devotion would entail his own death (Matt. 10:37–39). Whenever any Christian follows Christ, he must be prepared to suffer and die (Matt. 16:24–26). Peter lived three decades serving the Lord and anticipating the death that was before him (2 Pet. 1:12–15), but he wrote that such suffering and death for the Lord brings praise to God (1 Pet. 4:14–16). Church tradition records that Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero (c. A.D. 67–68), being crucified upside down, because he refused to be crucified like his Lord.”

How has the Lord led you like a shepherd in your life? Do you recall the so-called green pastures of prosperity and comfort? What about the dark times as He led you through the valley of the shadow of death?

Savior, like a shepherd lead us
Much we need Thy tender care
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us
For our use Thy folds prepare.

Chorus

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.

We are Thine, who Thou befriend us
Be the guardian of our way
Keep Thy flock from sin defend us
Seek us when we go astray.

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus
Hear Thy children when we pray
Blessed Jesus, oh blessed Jesus
Hear Thy children when we pray.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: A New Chapter.

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

Isn’t it interesting how each of our lives resembles the basic elements of a story or a book? Those basic elements include the following: (1) Plot; (2) Setting; (3) Characters; and (4) Theme.

The Lord is the author of each of our lives. He created us, saved us, and is preparing an eternal home for us to be with Him. In the midst of our birth, life and death, He creates and crafts various plots, comprising our life. Instead of our lives being our story, in reality it is God’s story and how He places each of us in His unfolding drama of redemption.

The plot or story of each life contains characters of family, friends, enemies or opponents, teachers, employers, mentors and detractors. Each person the Lord brings into our lives shapes and molds us to grow and mature. Lessons, sometimes painful, are learned in order for each of us to be holy as the Lord is holy (I Peter 1:16) and to be content in all things (Philippians 4:11).

The settings of our lives includes the homes we live(d) in, the schools we attended as children, the colleges we attended as we pursued an education, and the places of employment where we worked and earned a living. Do you remember your childhood home? What about your elementary school? What college did you attend? What was your first job? When were you married? Have you ever been married? How many children, or grandchildren, nieces and nephews do you have?

The theme of our life can be summed up in many different ways. For me, my life’s theme is found in Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

What do these introductory thoughts have to do with today’s text in general, and the Apostle Peter in particular? Simply this: Peter was about to embark upon a new chapter in his life. He was about to leave much of what he had known, e.g. fishing, in order to be a fisher of men and to feed the Lord’s lambs and sheep as an apostle of the living God. He would cease to be a man of business and instead become a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He would no longer be a man who depended upon himself but rather become a man dependent upon the Lord. He would become the first leader of the New Testament church.

Following their breakfast with Jesus, the Lord asked Peter three times whether he loved Him more than fish. I believe it is significant that Jesus called Peter “Simon” each time. It alluded to the probability that at this moment in the apostle’s life, he truly considered returning to his life of fishing which was what he had known prior to meeting Jesus. Jesus could restore Peter to ministry, following his denial of Christ, but only if Peter’s profession of love for Jesus was true or real.

One commentator says, “Three times Jesus posed the question to Peter, most likely to parallel the Apostle’s three earlier denials (see 18:15–27). Just as Peter rejected Jesus three times, he would have to confess Jesus three times to be restored to his place among the disciples. Some preachers have made much of the fact that Jesus uses two different Greek words for “love” in interrogating Peter, but it does not seem that we should find significance in this fact. The words are used interchangeably throughout John’s gospel. What we should take note of is that Jesus tells Peter in three different ways to feed and take care of His sheep. Jesus gave Peter the duty of shepherding His people, of teaching them the truth that feeds their souls.”

The new chapter in Peter’s life would involve preaching the gospel, leading the church, healing the sick, being imprisoned, and testifying to the truth of the gospel while publicly affirming His love for Jesus when facing persecution. Peter, at times, would still make mistakes (Galatians 2) but would increasingly become an instrument for God’s noble purposes. He would eventually author two New Testament Epistles which bear his name.

Where do you fit in the story of God’s redemption? Are you nearing the final chapter? Or are you in the midst of His story for you with exciting events occurring each day? Or, is God’s story in your life just beginning with God’s salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone?

Wherever you may be in the Lord’s unfolding drama of redemption, take great joy that God is writing each chapter of your life for His glory.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: Breakfast with Jesus, Part Two.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.” (John 21:9-14)

Jesus meets our needs on so many levels and in so many ways. Whether it be our physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, financial, societal, and even occupational needs, He is there and He provides. Such was the case as today’s text from John testifies.

Commentator Robert Rothwell writes, “Today’s passage tells us that the disciples ate breakfast with Jesus after coming ashore (vv. 9–14), and we read here again of the remarkable willingness of Jesus to serve His disciples by meeting their needs. No doubt the disciples were tired and hungry from a night of labor, and our Lord took the time to prepare fish and bread for them to eat (vv. 9, 13). Though Jesus had been exalted in His resurrection, He did not think it beneath Him to serve others, providing another example of how believers are to care for one another (see also 13:14–15; Phil. 2:5–7).”

There is no special significance to the number of fish which the disciples caught. John didn’t have to provide this particular detail, but he did. It is another evidence to the eyewitness account, and Spirit inspired, record which the Gospel of John provides.

What are your particular needs today? Do you, and have you taken the time to thank the Lord Jesus for how He faithfully meets your needs? This morning, prior to completing this article, I just so happened to receive an email devotional containing a particular prayer by the late preacher and pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The prayer is as follows.

“The apostle’s words are, “To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity” (2 Peter 3:18). Will you not today make it your prayer? Lord, help me to glorify You. I am poor; help me to glorify You by contentment. I am sick; help me to give You honor by patience. I have talents; help me to extol You by spending them for You. I have time, Lord; help me to redeem it, that I may serve You. I have a heart to feel; Lord, let that heart feel no love but Yours, and glow with no flame but affection for You. I have a mind to think, Lord; help me to think of You and for You. You have put me in this world for something. Lord, show me what that is, and help me to work out my life-purpose. I cannot do much, but as the widow put in her two copper coins, which were all her living, so, Lord, I cast my time and eternity too into Your treasury. I am all Yours; take me, and enable me to glorify You now, in all that I say, in all that I do, and with all that I have.”

Do not miss the final part of Spurgeon’s prayer: “Enable me to glorify You now; in all that I say, in all that I do, and with all that I have.” In effect, we need the Lord’s empowerment, aid, assistance, and support to serve Him in whatever we do for Him and in how we live for Him. He has proven time and again to provide the support we need in our physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, financial, societal, and even occupational areas of life.

The hymn writer, Annie Hawks (1836 -1918) expressed it this way.

I need thee every hour
Most gracious Lord
No tender voice like thine
Can peace afford

Chorus:

I need thee oh I need thee
Every hour I need thee
Oh bless me now my savior
I come to thee

I need thee every hour
Stay thou nearby
Temptations lose their power
When thou art nigh

I need thee every hour
Most holy one
Oh make me thine indeed
Thou blessed son

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!