Monthly Archives: December 2010

THE COMPASSION OF JESUS


After reading several friends posts about God’s compassion I felt really inspired to do the same.  The Holidays were especially difficult for me this year. I think for the first time I realized completely what an empty, vain practice Christmas can be when our hearts are not focused on Christ and His gift to us of salvation, and when instead we often let this celebration become about gifts and food and temporary pleasure. This morning while thinking about all of these things and the idea of entering the New year with a joyful spirit, I was reading devotionals and thinking about joy even in times of difficulty and I came across this article. I hope it blesses you as much as it did me this morning! The Lord is in control, He’s on His throne and He is indeed the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but He cares for us….what an amazing thing often taken for granted that is dear reader! Be blessed!

Teresa

John MacDuff

“This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this is the place of repose”—

“When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, ‘Don’t cry.'” Luke 7:13

The fronds of the desert palm-tree are never so beautiful, as when seen thickly gemmed with the dews of the Eastern night—nature’s teardrops.

With reverence may we say the same of the Heavenly Palm. Jesus is never so gracious or attractive as when we are called, as here, to note His look of compassion—His tears of sympathy—denoting the tenderness of divine human affection. Observe, it was the sight of woe (the contemplation of human misery) which at Nain stirred to its depths that Heart of hearts.

“Forth from the city gate,
As evening shadows lengthen o’er the plain,
And the hushed crowd in reverent silence wait,
Passed out a funeral train.

“Chief of the mourners there,
Slow following, with feeble steps, the dead,
In the sad travail of the soul’s despair,
Bowed down her stricken head.

“For him she wept forlorn,
Of care the solace, and of age the stay,
Whose silver cord was broken, ere the morn
Had brightened into day.”

It would seem as if the Lord of Love could not look upon grief, without that grief becoming His own. In the similar case of Lazarus, it was not the bitter thought of a lost and dead friend which opened the fountain of His own tears. This it could not be; because four days previously He had spoken in calm composure of his departure; and when He stood in the graveyard, He knew that in a few moments the victim of death would have his eyes rekindled with living luster. At Bethany (as here at Nain), it was simply the spectacle of human suffering that made its irresistible appeal to His emotional nature. The rod of human compassion touched the Rock of Ages, and the streams of tenderness gushed forth. “When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews weeping which came with her…Jesus wept.” “When the Lord saw” this poor widow, “He had compassion on her.” He hears her bitter, heart-rending weeping in the midst of the mourners, and it is worthy of observation—utters the soothing, sympathetic word, before He utters the Godlike mandate.

Nor should we overlook the fact that it was but a word He uttered. This reveals an exquisite and touching feature in the Savior’s humanity. It attests how intensely delicate and sensitive, as well as true, that humanity was. When we meet a mourner after a severe trial, we shrink from the meeting; glad, perhaps, when a sad and dreaded call of courtesy is over. There is a studied reserve in making reference to the loss; or, if that reference is made, it is short, in a passing word. The press of the hand often expresses what the lips shrink from uttering.

In that vivid picture we have of patriarchal grief, Job’s friends and mourners sat for seven days at his side, and not a syllable was spoken. It was so here with Jesus. He (even He) does not intrude with a long utterance of sympathy. With a tear in His eye, and a suppressed sob, all He says is, “Weep not.” It was the same afterwards with Mary at Bethany. There was not even the one word; nothing but the significant tears.

Behold, then, the beautiful and heartfelt condolence of a Fellow-mourner—”the Brother born for adversity.” “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her!” That weeping, forlorn woman had no lack of other sorrowing friends. Her case seemed to be matter of notoriety. Many went out to mingle their tears with hers; but the sympathy of all these could only go a certain way. They could not be expected to enter into the peculiarities of her woe. Human sympathy is, at best, imperfect; sometimes selfish, always finite and temporary.

Not so the sympathy of Him who joined the funeral procession. He could say, as none else can, “I know your sorrows.” The condolence of the kindest friend on earth knows a limit—that of Jesus knows none. Who knows but in that gentle utterance of tender feeling, and in the deep compassion which dictated it, the Son of Man, the virgin-born, may have had in view another “Mother,” whose hour of similar bereavement was now at hand; when His own death was to be “the sword” which was to “pierce her soul.” The calming word, doubtless, further pointed onwards to a happier time, when in a sorrowless world, “God shall wipe away all tears from off all faces.”

Remember the Savior and sympathizer of Nain is now the same! He had compassion—He has compassion still. He who stopped the funeral casket on that summer’s night in the plains of Jezreel ever lives, and loves, and supports, and pities; and will continue to pity, until pity be no longer needed, in a world of light and purity and peace.

“And thus He always stands,
Friend of the mourner, wiping tears away;
Wherever sorrow lifts her suppliant hands,
And faith remains to pray.

“Wherever the woe-worn flee
From the rude conflict of this world distrest,
Consoling words He whispers, ‘Come to Me,
And I will give you rest!'”

“It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.”

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Will our Friends be Like Christ’s and Desert us When In Most Need?


From a Puritan at Heart.

On Psalm 38

It is some comfort to men in misery when they have their friends about them, if not to relieve them, yet at least to pity them ; for even pity is a comfort to men in misery ; but so miserable am I, that I am left alone as one utterly forsaken, for even my lovers and friends stand aloof from me, and my kinsmen stand afar off [ver. 11]. They are all pieces that recoil and fly back at the first voice of the powder. Yet it is not so much me they stand aloof from as my sore ; for if it were not for my sore, I should have enough of their company easily enough ; but they cannot abide sores ; their eyes are too tender to endure to see them, and yet hard enough not to relieve them. Or is it they stand aloof—that is, so near as to show they are willing enough to see them, but yet so far off as to show they have no meaning to come and help them? But call you these lovers and friends,—men that flutter about us like flies in the summer of prosperity, but vanish and are gone in the winter of adversity? Are friends but painted flowers, only for show, and nothing at all for use? or if true flowers, yet only to make nosegays of, and never to make medicine of? Is there use of physicians but when there are sores, and when sores come will not they be gotten to come? Is there use of friends but in time of need, and when need comes will they then be gone ? But alas, Ο Lord, was it not so with Christ himself?—company enough, friends enough, when there was no need; but as soon as Judas comes with a band of men, scarce a man found that will be gotten to tarry; and if they used the Master so, can I that am a servant look to be better used?
—Sir Richard Baker “Meditations and Disquisitions Upon Certain Psalms”

 

 

 

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The Family of God


With Christmas soon upon us I often think as a single person how difficult this season might be if I did not have my extended family to celebrate the blessings of this Season with. More importantly I rejoice that I now belong to the family of God. No matter the circumstance or situation I know that I am never alone and that there are many people who find this season incredibly trying and even sad. Death, disease, financial problems and loneliness can bring intense despair to many people this time of year, it’s important to be thankful to God for our blessings, most of all for the birth of His son, the Lord Jesus Christ who came into this world as a sacrifice for our sin. He is the greatest gift, and honoring that above all else, even our families is of the utmost importance. We need to be ever mindful of this, and keep praying for the hurting and the lost this Christmas, loving them and reaching out to them with the love of God, in the true Christmas spirit.

This is a wonderful article on this subject and I thought it would be nice to share it with you dear reader. May it bless you today.

THE FAMILY OF GOD

by J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)

His whole family in heaven and on earth.” [Ephesians 3:15]

The words which form the title of this paper ought to always stir some feelings in our minds. There is not a man or woman on this earth who is not a member of some “family.” The poorest as well as the richest has his relative and kin, and can tell you something of his “family.”

We all know, that family gatherings at certain times of the year, such as Christmas, are very common. Thousands of homes are crowded then, if at no other time of the year. The young man in town snatches a few days away from business, and takes a run down to visit his parents at home. The young woman gets a short holiday, and comes to visit her father and mother. Brothers and sisters meet for a few hours. Parents and children look one another in the face. There is so much to talk about! So many questions to be asked! So many interesting things to be told! It is indeed a happy home which sees “the whole family” gathered in it at Christmas.

Family gatherings are natural, and right, and good. I approve of them with all my heart. It does me good to see them kept up. They are one of the very pleasant things which has survived the fall of man. Next to the grace of God, I see no principle which unites people so much in this sinful world as family sentiments. Community of blood is a most powerful tie. It was a fine saying of an American naval officer, when his men insisted on helping the English sailors in fighting the Taku forts in China, “I cannot help it: blood is thicker than water.” I have often observed that people will stand up for their relatives, merely because they are their relatives, and refuse to hear a word against them, even when they have no sympathy with their tastes and ways. Anything which helps to keep up the family sentiment ought to be commended. It is a wise thing, when it can be done, to gather “the whole family” together at Christmas.

Family gatherings, nevertheless, are often sorrowful things. It would be strange indeed, in such a world as this, if they were not. Few are the family circles which do not show gaps and vacant places as years pass away. Changes and deaths make sad havoc as time goes on. Thoughts will rise up within us, as we grow older, about faces and voices no longer with us, which no Christmas merriment can entirely keep down. When the young members of the family have once began to launch forth into the world, the old heads may long survive the scattering of the nest; but after a certain time, it seldom happens that you see “the whole family” together.

There is one great family to which I want all the readers of this paper to belong. It is a family despised by many, and not even known by some. But it is a family of far more importance than any family on earth. To belong to it entitles a man to far greater privileges than to be the son of a king. It is the family of which Paul speaks to the Ephesians, when he tells them of the “whole family in heaven and earth.” It is the family of God.

I ask for the attention of every reader of this paper while I try to describe this family, and recommend it to his notice. I want to tell you of the amazing benefits which membership of this family conveys. I want you to be found as a member of this family, when it is finally gathered together in the end–a gathering without separation, or sorrow, or tears. Hear me while, as a minister of Christ, and friend to your soul, I speak to you for a few minutes about “His whole family in heaven and on earth:”

I. First of all, what is this family?

II. Secondly, what is its present position?

III. Thirdly, what are its future prospects?

I wish to unfold these three things before you, and I invite that you seriously consider them. Our family gatherings on earth must one day come to an end. Our last earthly Christmas must come. Happy indeed is that Christmas which finds us prepared to meet God!

I. What is that family which the Bible calls “His whole family in heaven and on earth”? Of whom does it consist?

The family before us consists of all real Christians–all who have the Holy Spirit living within them–all true believers in Christ–all the saints of every age, and Church, and nation, and language. It includes the blessed company of all faithful people. It is the same as the Elect of God–the household of faith–the mystical body of Christ–the bride–the living temple–the sheep that never perish–the Church of the firstborn–the holy universal Church. All these expressions are “the family of God” only using other names.

Membership in “the family of God,” does not depend on any earthly connection. It does not come by natural birth, but by new birth. Ministers cannot impart it to their hearers. Parents cannot give it to their children. You may be born in the godliest family in the land, and enjoy the sweetest fellowship of grace that any Church can supply, and yet never belong to the family of God. To belong to it you must be born again. No one but the Holy Spirit can make you a living member of this family. It is His special function and prerogative to bring into the true Church all those who will be saved. Those who are born again are born, “not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” [John 1:13]

Do you want to know the reason that the Bible gives this name to all true Christians? Would you like to know why they are called “a family”? Listen and I will tell you.

(a) True Christians are called “a family” because they all have one Father.

They are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. They are all born of one Spirit. They are all sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. They have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, “Abba Father.” [Galatians 3:26; John 3:8; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Romans 8:15] They do not regard God with a cringing kind of fear, as they would to a harsh Being, that is always ready to punish them. They look up to Him with tender confidence, as a reconciled and loving parent–as one forgiving evil and sin, to all who believe in Jesus–and full of pity even to the least and feeblest. The words, “Our Father in heaven,” are no mere form of prayer in the mouth of true Christians. No wonder they are called God’s “family.”

(b) True Christians are called “a family,” because they all rejoice in one name.

That name is the name of their great Head and Elder Brother, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Just as a common family name is the uniting link to all the members of a clan, so does the name of Jesus tie all believers together in one vast family. As members of outward visible Churches they have various names and distinguishing classifications. As living members of Christ, they all, with one heart and mind, rejoice in one Savior. Every heart among them feels drawn to Jesus as the only object of hope. Every tongue among them would tell you that “Christ is all.” Sweet to them all is the thought of Christ’s death for them on the cross. Sweet is the thought of Christ’s intercession for them at the right hand of God. Sweet is the thought of Christ’s coming again to unite them to Himself in one glorified fellowship forever. In fact, you might as well take away the sun out of heaven, as take away the name of Christ from believers. To the world His Name may not mean much, but to believers, it is full of comfort, hope, rest, and peace. No wonder they are called “a family.”

(c) True Christians, above all, are called “a family” because there is so strong a family resemblance among them.

They are all led by one Spirit, and are marked by the same general features of life, heart, taste, and character. Just as there is a general bodily resemblance among the brothers and sisters of a family, so there is a general spiritual resemblance among all the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. They all hate sin and love God. They all rest their hope of salvation on Christ, and have no confidence in themselves. They all endeavor to “come out and be separate” from the ways of the world, and to set their affections on things above. They all naturally turn to the same Bible, as the only food for their souls and the only sure guide in their pilgrimage toward heaven: they find it “a lamp to their feet and a light for their path.” [Psalm 119:105] They all go to the same throne of grace in prayer, and find it as needful to speak to God as to breathe. They all live by the same rule, the Word of God, and strive to conform their daily life to its precepts. They all have the same inward experience. They all are, in varying degrees, acquainted with repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, and inward conflict. No wonder they are called “a family.”

This family likeness among true believers is a thing that deserves special attention. To my own mind it is one of the strongest indirect evidences of the truth of Christianity. It is one of the greatest proofs of the reality of the work of the Holy Spirit. Some true Christians live in civilized countries, and some in the midst of heathen lands. Some are highly educated, and some are unable to read a single letter of the alphabet. Some are rich and some are poor. Some are old and some are young. And yet, despite all these differences, there is a marvelous oneness of heart and character among them. Their joys and their sorrows, their love and their hatred, their likes and their dislikes, their preferences and their aversions, their hopes and their fears, are all most curiously alike. Let others think what they please, I see in all this the finger of God. His handiwork is always one and the same. No wonder that true Christians are compared to “a family.”

Take a converted Englishman and a converted Hindu, and let them suddenly meet for the first time. I will ensure you, if they can understand one another’s language, they will soon find common ground between them, and feel at home. The one may have been brought up at Oxford, and enjoyed every privilege of English civilization. The other may have been trained in the midst of gross heathenism, and accustomed to habits, ways, and manners as unlike the Englishman’s as darkness compared to light. And yet now in half an hour they feel that they are friends! The Englishman finds that he has more in common with this Hindu brother than he has with many of his old college companions. Who can account for this? How can it be explained? Nothing can account for it but the unity of the Holy Spirit’s teaching. It is “one touch” of grace (not nature) “that makes the whole world family.” God’s people are in the brightest sense “a family.”

This is the family to which I wish to direct the attention of my readers in this paper. This is the family to which I want you to belong. I ask you this day to consider it carefully, if you never considered it before. I have shown you the Father of the family–the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I have shown you the Head and Elder Brother of the family–the Lord Jesus Himself. I have shown you the features and characteristics of the family. All its members have great marks of resemblance. Once more I say, consider it well.

Outside this family, remember, there is no salvation. No one but those who belong to it, according to the Bible, are on the road that leads to heaven. The salvation of our souls does not depend on union with one Church or separation from another. They are miserably deceived who think that it does, and will find it out to their loss one day, unless they wake up. No! the life of our souls depends on something far more important. This is eternal life, to be a member of “the whole family in heaven and earth.”

II. I will now pass on to the second thing which I promised to consider. What is the present position of the whole family in heaven and earth?

The family to which I am directing the attention of my readers this day is divided into two great parts. Each part has its own residence or dwelling place. Part of the family is in heaven, and part is on earth. For the present the two parts are entirely separated from one another. But they form one body in the sight of God, though resident in two places; and their union is sure to take place one day.

Remember, two places, and only two, contain the family of God. The Bible tells us of no third habitation. There is no such thing as Purgatory, despite what some may falsely teach! There is no house of purifying, training, or probation for those who are not true Christians when they die. Oh no! There are only two parts of the family–the part that is seen and the part that is unseen, the part that is in “heaven” and the part that is on “earth.” The members of the family that are not in heaven are on earth, and those that are not on the earth are in heaven. Two parts, and only two! Two places, and only two! Let this never be forgotten.

Some of God’s family are safe in heaven. They are at rest in that place which the Lord Jesus expressly calls “Paradise.” [Luke 23:43] They have finished their course. They have fought their battle. They have finished their appointed work. They have learned their lessons. They have carried their cross. They have passed through the waves of this troublesome world and have reached the harbor. As little as we know about them, we know that they are happy. They are no longer troubled by sin and temptation. They have said goodbye forever to poverty and anxiety, to pain and sickness, to sorrow and tears. They are with Christ Himself, who loved them and gave Himself up for them, and in His company they are indeed very happy. [Philippians 1:23] They have nothing to fear in looking back to the past. They have nothing to dread in looking forward to things to come. There are only three things lacking that would make their happiness complete. These three are the Second Coming of Christ in glory, the resurrection of their own bodies, and the gathering together of all believers.

Some of God’s family are still on the earth. They are scattered everywhere in the midst of a wicked world, a few in one place and a few in another. All are more or less occupied in the same way, according to the measure of their grace given them. All are running a race, doing a work, fighting a warfare, carrying a cross, striving against sin, resisting the devil, crucifying the flesh, struggling against the world, witnessing for Christ, mourning over their own hearts, hearing, reading, and praying, however feebly, for the life of their souls. Each is often disposed to think no cross is so heavy as his own, no work so difficult, no heart so hard. But each and everyone is steadfast in their way–a wonder to the ignorant world around them, and often a wonder to themselves.

But, however divided God’s family may be at the present time, on the earth, it is still one family. Both parts of it are still one in character, one in possessions, and one in relation to God. The part in heaven does not have as much superiority over the part on earth as at first sight may appear. The difference between the two is only one of degree.

(a) Both parts of the family love the same Savior, and delight in the same perfect will of God. But the part on earth loves with much imperfection and weakness, and lives by faith, not by sight. The part in heaven loves without weakness, or doubt, or distraction. It walks by sight and not by faith, and sees what it once believed.

(b) Both parts of the family are saints. But the saints on earth are often poor weary pilgrims, who find that the “sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that they do not do what they want.” [Galatians 5:17] They live in the midst of an evil world, and are often sick of themselves and of the sin they see around them. The saints in heaven, on the contrary, are delivered from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and enjoy glorious liberty. They are called “the spirits of righteous men made perfect.” [Hebrews 12:23]

(c) Both parts of the family are equally God’s children. But the children in heaven have learned all their lessons, have finished their appointed tasks, have begun an eternal holiday. The children on earth are still in school. They are daily learning wisdom, though slowly and with much trouble, and often needing to be reminded of their past lessons by chastisement and the rod. Their graduation day is yet to come.

(d) Both parts of the family are equally God’s soldiers. But the soldiers on earth are still engaged in the battle. Their fight is not over. Every day they need to put on the whole armor of God. The soldiers in heaven are all triumphant. No enemy can hurt them now. No fiery dart of Satan can reach them. They have laid aside both helmet and shield. They can at last say to the sword of the Spirit, “Rest and be still.” They can finally sit down, and not have to watch and stand on their guard.

(e) Last, but not least, both parts of the family are equally safe and secure. As wonderful as this may sound, it is true. Christ cares as much for His family members on earth as His family members in heaven. You might as well think to pluck the stars out of heaven, as to pluck one saint, however feeble, out of Christ’s hand. Both parts of the family are equally secure by “an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part?” [2 Samuel 23:5] The members on earth, through the weakness of their flesh and the smallness of their faith, may neither see, nor know, nor feel their own safety. But they are safe, though they may not see it. The whole family is “shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation.” [1 Peter 1:5] The family members still on the road to the Father’s house are as secure as the members who have already made it home. On the last day no one will be found missing. The words of the Christian poet will be proved true:

“More happy, but not more secure,

The glorified saints in heaven.”

Now before I leave this part of my subject, I ask every reader of this paper to thoroughly understand the present situation of God’s family, and to form an accurate estimate of it. Do not measure its numbers nor its privileges by what you see with your eyes. You see only a small body of believers at the present time. But you must not forget that a great number has already made it safely to heaven, and that when all are assembled at the last day, there will be a great multitude that no one could count.” [Revelation 7:9]

You only see that part of the family which is struggling on earth. You must never forget that the greater part of the family has already made it home and is resting in heaven. You see the militant part, but not the triumphant. You see the part that is carrying the cross, but not the part that is safe in Paradise. The family of God is far more rich and glorious than you suppose. Believe me, it is no small thing to belong to the “whole family in heaven and on earth.”

III. I will now move on to the last thing which I promised to consider—What are the future prospects of the whole family in heaven and on earth?

The future prospects of a family! What a vast amount of uncertainty these words open up when we look at any family we now see in the world! How little we can tell of the things coming on any of us! What a mercy it is that we do not know the sorrows and trials and separations which our beloved children may have to experience, after we have left the world! It is a mercy that we do not know “what a day may bring forth,” and a far greater mercy that we do not know what may happen in the next twenty years. [Proverbs 27:1] Surely, foreknowledge of the future prospects of our household would spoil many a family gathering, and fill the whole party with gloom!

Think how many a fine boy, who is now the delight of his parents, will in time follow the path of a reckless son, and never return home! Think how many a fair daughter, the joy of a mother’s heart, will in a few years follow her own stubborn will, and insist on some miserably mistaken marriage! Think how disease and pain will often lay low the loveliest of a family circle, and make her life a burden and wearisome to herself, if not to others! Think of the endless disagreements and divisions that will arise out of money matters! Yes, there is many a life-long quarrel over a small sum of money, between those who once played joyfully together in the same nursery! Think of these things. The “future prospects” of many a family which meets together every Christmas are a solemn and serious subject. Hundreds, to say the least, are gathering together for the last time: when they part they will never meet again.

But, thank God, there is one great family whose “prospects” are very different. It is a family of which I am speaking in this paper, and commending your attention. The future prospects of the family of God are not uncertain. They are good, and only good; happy and only happy. Listen to me, and I will try to set them in order before you.

(a) The members of God’s family will all be brought safely home one day.

Here on earth they may be scattered, tried, tossed with storms of life, and bowed down with afflictions. But not one of them will perish. [John 10:28] The weakest lamb will not be left to perish in the wilderness: the feeblest child will not be missing when the roll call is called out at the last day. In spite of the world, the flesh, and the devil, the whole family will get home. “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!” [Romans 5:10]

(b) The members of God’s family will one day all have glorious bodies.

When the Lord Jesus Christ comes the second time, the dead saints will all be raised and the living will all be changed. They will no longer have a vile mortal body, full of weaknesses and infirmities: they will have a body like that of their risen Lord, without the slightest vulnerability to sickness and pain. They will no longer be clogged and hindered by an aching frame, when they want to serve God: they will be able to serve Him night and day without any weariness, and to attend to Him without any distraction. The former things will have passed away. That word will be fulfilled, “I am making everything new!” [Revelation 21:5]

(c) One day, the members of God’s family will all be gathered into one company.

It does not matter where they have lived or where they have died. They may have been separated from one another both by time and space. One may have lived in tents, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and another traveled by the modern transportation of our day. One may have his bones laid to rest in an Australian desert, and another may have been buried in an English churchyard. It makes no difference. All will be gathered together from north and south, and east and west, and meet in one happy assembly, never to part again. The earthly partings of God’s family are only for a few days. Their meeting is for eternity. Little does it matter where we live. It is a time of scattering now, not of gathering. Little does it matter where we die. All grave are equally near to Paradise. But it does matter whether we belong to God’s family. If we do we are sure to meet again in the end.

(d) One day the members of God’s family will all be united in mind and judgment.

They are so divided now about many little things. About the things needful to salvation there is a marvelous unity among them. About many speculative points in religion, about forms of worship and church government, they often sadly disagree. But one day there will be no disagreement among them at all. Ephraim will no longer disturb Judah, nor Judah Ephraim. Partial knowledge and dim vision will be ended forever. Divisions and separations, misunderstandings and misinterpretations, will all be buried and forgotten. Since there will only be one language, so there also will be only one opinion. At last, after thousands of years of strife and clashing, perfect unity and harmony will be found. A family will finally be shown to angels and men in which all are of one mind.

(e) One day the members of God’s family will all be perfected in holiness.

They are not now literally perfect, although they “have been given fullness in Christ.” [Colossians 2:10] Though they are born again, and renewed after the image of Christ, they stumble and fall short in many things. [James 3:2] No one knows it better than they do themselves. It is their grief and sorrow that they do not love God more heartily and serve Him more faithfully. But one day they will be completely freed from all corruption. They will rise again at Christ’s Second Coming without any of the disorders and sicknesses which now cleave to them in their lives. Not a single evil temper or corrupt inclination will be found in them. They will be presented by their Lord and Husband to the Father, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing—perfectly holy and without blemish—fair as the moon, and clear as the sun. [Ephesians 5:27, Song of Solomon 5:10]

Grace, even now, is a beautiful thing, when it lives, and shines, and flourishes in the midst of imperfection. But how much more beautiful will grace appear when it is seen pure, unmixed, unmingled, and alone! And it will be seen so when Christ comes to be glorified in His saints at the last day.

(f) Last, but not least, one day, the members of God’s family will be eternally provided for.

When the affairs of this sinful world are finally wound up and settled, there will be an everlasting reward for all the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. Not even the weakest of them will be overlooked and forgotten. There will be something for everyone, according to their faithfulness. The smallest vessel of grace, as well as the greatest, will be filled to the brim with glory. It would be pure folly to pretend to describe the precise nature of that glory and reward. It is a thing which “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has conceived.” [1 Corinthians 2:9] It is enough for us to know that each member of God’s family, when he awakes from the grave to his Master’s likeness, will be “satisfied.” [Psalm 17:15] Above all, it will be enough to know that their joy, and glory, and reward will be forever. They will never lose what they will receive in the day of the Lord. The inheritance reserved for them, when they come of age, is “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” [1 Peter 1:4]

These prospects of God’s family are great realities. They are not vague shadowy talk of man’s invention. They are real true things, and will be seen as such before long. They deserve your serious consideration. Examine them well.

Look around the families of earth with which you are acquainted, the richest, the greatest, the noblest, and the happiest. Where will you find one among them all which can show prospects to compare with those of which you have just heard? The earthly riches, in many a case, will be gone in a hundred years or so. The noble blood, in many a case, will not prevent some disgraceful deed from staining the family name. The happiness, in many a case, will be found hollow and illusive. Few, indeed, are the homes that do not have a secret sorrow, or a “skeleton in the closet.” Whether for present possessions or future prospects, there is no family so well off as “the whole family of God in heaven and earth.” Whether you look at what they now have, or what they will have in heaven, there is no family like the family of God.

My task is done. My paper is drawing to a close. It only remains to close it with a few words of practical application. Give me your attention for the last time. May God bless what I am going to say for the good of your soul!

(1) I ask you a simple question. Take it with you to every family gathering which you join at any season of the year. Take it with you, and amidst all your happiness make time for thinking about it. It is a simple question, but a solemn one, Do you really belong to the family of God?

To the family of God, remember! This is the point of my question. It is no answer to say that you are a Protestant, or belong to so-and-so denomination, or are an Evangelical. I want to hear of something more and better than that. I want you to have some soul-satisfying and soul-saving religion. A religion that will give you peace while you live, and hope when you die. To have such peace and hope you must be something more than a Protestant, or a member of so-and-so denomination, or an Evangelical. You must belong to “the family of God.” I firmly believe that thousands around you do not belong to the family. But that is no reason why you should not.

If you do not yet belong to God’s family, I invite you this day to join it without delay. Open your eyes to see the value of your soul, the sinfulness of sin, the holiness of God, and the present danger of your present condition, the absolute necessity of a mighty change. Open your eyes to see these things, and repent this very day. Open your eyes to see the great head of God’s family, even Christ Jesus, waiting to save your soul. See how he has loved you, lived for you, died for you, risen again for you, and obtained complete redemption for you. See how he offers you free, full, immediate pardon, if you will only believe in Him. Open your eyes to see these things. Seek Christ at once. Come and believe in Him, and commit your soul to His keeping this very day.

I know nothing of your family or past history. I do not know where you go to spend your holidays, or what company you are going to be in. But I am bold to say, that if you join the family of God you will find it the best and happiest family in the world.

(2) If you really belong to the whole family in heaven and earth, count up your privileges, and learn to be more thankful. Remember what a mercy it is to have something which the world can neither give nor take away—something which makes you independent of sickness and poverty–something which is your own forevermore. The old family home will soon be empty and up for sale. The old family gatherings will soon be past and gone forever. The loving faces we now delight to gaze on are rapidly leaving us. The cheerful voices which now welcome us will be silent in the grave. But, thank God, if we belong to Christ’s family there is a better gathering yet to come. Let us often think of it, and be thankful!

The family gathering of all God’s people will make up for all that their religion now costs them. A meeting where none are missing—a meeting where there are no gaps and empty places—a meeting where there are no tears—a meeting where there is no parting—such a meeting as this is worth a fight and a struggle. And such a meeting is yet to come to “the whole family in heaven and earth.”

In the meantime let us strive to live worthy of the family to which we belong. Let us labor to do nothing that may cause our Father’s house to be spoken against. Let us endeavor to make our Master’s name beautiful by our disposition, conduct, and conversation. Let us love as brethren, and abhor all quarrels. Let us behave as if the honor of “the family” depended on our behavior.

So living, by the grace of God, we will make our calling and election sure, both to ourselves and others. So living, “we will have the sure hope of receiving a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” [2 Peter 1:11] So living, we will recommend our Father’s family to others, and perhaps by God’s blessing induce them to say, “We will go with you.”

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The Offense of the Cross


Wonderful article from Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure.

The Offense of the Cross

December 13, 2010 — Mike Ratliff

by Mike Ratliff

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”  (Romans 9:30-33 ESV)

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ must always be offensive to the unregenerate. It is that offense that makes it clear to people that they have nothing with which to bargain with God. They are sinners lost with nothing to offer the one condemning them. The Gospel, the real Gospel preached with the Law, makes it clear that there is none righteous, no not one, but the Gospel shows that there is one and only one way to be reconciled to God, to be justified before Him. This is the Good News and that one way is via the Lord Jesus Christ alone. No one can work to earn or deserve salvation. No, this salvation is by God’s grace alone according to His divine election, according to His way alone. This is offensive. Let us look at Galatians 5:7-12 in which Paul makes the argument very clear to believers at Galatia who were being victimized by Judiazers making the claim that true salvation was not by Grace alone, but through Grace plus keeping the Jewish law.

ετρεχετε καλως τις υμας ενεκοψεν αληθεια μη πειθεσθαι  η πεισμονη ουκ εκ του καλουντος υμας  μικρα ζυμη ολον το φυραμα ζυμοι  εγω πεποιθα εις υμας εν κυριω οτι ουδεν αλλο φρονησετε ο δε ταρασσων υμας βαστασει το κριμα οστις εαν η  εγω δε αδελφοι ει περιτομην ετι κηρυσσω τι ετι διωκομαι αρα κατηργηται το σκανδαλον του σταυρου  οφελον και αποκοψονται οι αναστατουντες υμας (Galatians 5:7-12 WHNU)

You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have been persuaded in the Lord that you will hold no other view than mine; but the one who is troubling you will bear the judgment, whoever he is. But if I, brethren, still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? If so, the offense of the cross has been removed. I desire that those who are upsetting you would also emasculate themsleves. (a personal translation of Galatians 5:7-12 from the Greek text)

In v7 Paul compare the Galatians’ life of faith with a race, which he does elsewhere in other examples such as Romans 9:16 and 1 Corinthians 9:24. They began well because they received the Gospel message by faith and had begun to live their Christian lives by faith. Notice that the genuine way Christians “run this race” is by “obeying the truth.” The Judiazers were hindering them from doing this. This “obeying the truth” is the true believers response to the true gospel in salvation and their consequent response to obey the Word of God in sanctification. The interference from the Judiazers was two-fold. It prevented the unsaved from responding in faith to the Gospel of grace and true believers from living by faith. Their teaching was all about legalism.

The word “persuasion” translates the word πεισμονη or peismone, “a yielding to persuasion.” Notice that Paul makes it clear that this does not come from Christ. Why do you think Paul threw in that saying about a little leaven leavening the whole lump in v9 right after he said that the persuasion to follow the Judaizers did not come from Christ? Perhaps it is as simple to understand as, what these false teachers were teaching did not seem that “far out there” to these people. It looked like simple stuff like circumcision, but Paul’s point is that there can be no compromise with sin. Leaven is used in Sacred Scripture to denote sin because its permeating power is like yeast in a lump of dough. It starts as small influence, but it takes over causing heresy and often apostasy. The focus away from Grace to works in our salvation is sin.

Notice the clarity of Paul’s stance on the Gospel. There is no room for compromise. There is no wiggle room for other “persuasions” when it comes to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He says the he πεποιθα, “has been persuaded” in the Lord that the Galatians would return to hold the same pure view of the Gospel that Paul held. Πεποιθα, in this context, would mean that Paul had been “made confident.” The text tells us that this persuasion came from the Lord Himself. Paul also makes it clear that the one teaching works over grace to these people is a false teacher who will bear God’s judgment.

In v11 Paul tells us that the Judaizers had accused him of teaching the same thing they taught, that circumcision was necessary for salvation, which he denied by accusing them of persecuting him. If he taught the same as them then they should not be attacking him. Right? Then he says something vital for the Church to hear, “αρα κατηργηται το σκανδαλον του σταυρου” or “if so, the offense of the cross has been removed.” If Paul taught works righteousness then the offense of the cross had been abolished. The offense of the cross must stay intact for it to have its power. The word “offense” translates σκανδαλον or skandalon,”the trigger in the trap on which the bait is placed and springs the trap when it is touched by the animal, causing the trap to close.” It always denotes the enticement or occasion leading to conduct that brings with it the ruin of the person in question. In the New Testament, the concept of σκανδαλον is concerned mainly with the fact that it incites certain behavior that leads to ruin and rarely denotes merely a hidden, unexpected cause of ruin. In most cases, however, it is something that gives occasion to conduct leading to ruin; the course of sin leading to ruin or to a fall. What does all that mean? What is Paul referring to with the necessity of the σκανδαλον of the Cross being essential to the Gospel?

The Gospel, when preached correctly, as obviously Paul did, uses the Law to show people the dire need of a Saviour and then He gave them the Good News, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which included the Offense of the Cross. Those who wanted their own way, not THE WAY, were scandalized by it, turned from it to their ruin. On the other hand, those broken by it, regenerated, reborn by it, by God’s grace, turned in repentance to Christ as Lord and Saviour and by Grace through Faith were saved. Nothing has changed. This same Gospel saves today. So, why aren’t we preaching it? Paul said at the end of the passage above that those who preached something else, he desired that they go emasculate themselves.

Do you see it my brethren? This σκανδαλον of the Cross must be there or you really have nothing but some religious act or self-help program. When the Gospel is given to the Lost, they must see that the only way is Christ and no other way can dare call itself “Christian.” Oh sure, there are plenty of “alternatives” out there nowadays, but nothing has really changed. They are really nothing but a bunch of σκύβαλον. On the other hand, let us focus on the recovery of this glorious Gospel that is worthy of our suffering.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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