Tag Archives: Sovereignty

The Sovereignty of God in the Genealogy of Jesus

which he [God] promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh
(Romans 1:2–3 ESV)

“But in Jeremiah 22:30, in the chapter just before the one prophesying “a righteous Branch” that would arise in David’s line, a harsh curse is pronounced on a king named Jehoiachin, the last of the actual reigning kings descended from King Solomon: “Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime: for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.” Because of God’s curse, no king descended in that line could reign legitimately.

There was another strong line of descent, however. King Solomon had an older brother, Nathan, who would have been king if God had not given the throne to Solomon. Nathan had also produced descendants, but any descendant of this line who claimed inheritance of the promises made to King David would have been challenged immediately be descendants in the line that had actually reigned. How could such a dilemma be solved? There was a lack of reigning kings in one line and a curse on the other.

The way God solved the issue was so simple that it confounds the wisest skeptics. The line of Solomon ran on through the centuries until it eventually produced Joseph, who was betrothed to the Virgin Mary and eventually became her husband, though not until after she had conceived and given birth to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was not descended from Joseph; otherwise he would have inherited the curse on that line. But when Joseph took Mary under his protection and thus became the adoptive father of her divine child, he passed the right of royalty to him. And since Jesus was also descended from Mary – who, as it turns out, was a descendant of David through the line of Nathan – Jesus combined the claims of the two lines in his unique personhood and thereby eliminated the possibility of there ever being any other legitimate claimant to the throne. In other words, if Jesus is not the Messiah who has descended from David according to the Old Testament prophecies, there will never be a Messiah. For Jesus had no human children, and each of his brothers (who are the only other possibilities through whom another Messiah might descend) had the curse on him and would have passed it on to his children.”

An Expositional Commentary on Romans by James Montgomery Boice, pages 41-42.

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John Owen on Romans

John Owen writes in the Introduction to Calvin’s Commentary on Romans:

“We have set before us in this Epistle especially two things, which it behoves us all rightly to understand — the righteousness of man and the righteousness of God — merit and grace, or salvation by works and salvation by faith. The light in which they are exhibited here is clearer and brighter than what we find in any other portion of Scripture, with the exception, perhaps, of the Epistle to the Galatians. Hence the great value which has in every age been attached to this Epistle by all really enlightened Christians; and hence also the strenuous efforts which have often been made to darken and wrest its meaning by men, though acute and learned, yet destitute of spiritual light. But let not the simple Christian conclude from the contrariety that is often found in the expositions on these two points, that there is no certainty in what is taught respecting them. There are no contrary views given of them by spiritually-minded men. Though on other subjects discussed here, such men have had their differences, yet on these they have ever been found unanimous: that salvation is from first to last by grace, and not by works, has ever been the conviction of really enlightened men in every age, however their opinion may have varied in other respects. It may seem very strange, when we consider the plain and decisive language, especially of this Epistle, and the clear and conclusive reasoning which it exhibits, that any attempt should ever be made by a reasonable being, acknowledging the authority of Scripture, to pervert what it plainly teaches, and to evade what it clearly proves. But a right view of what human nature is, when unrenewed, as exhibited in God’s Word, and as proved by history and made evident by observation, enables us fully to account for what would otherwise remain an enigma. No truth is more fully confirmed by facts (and it ought ever to be remembered) than that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” and that he “cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” This declaration clearly accounts for the fact, that men of great learning have often misunderstood many things in Scripture, and such things as are plain enough even to the unlettered when spiritually enlightened. The learned Scribes and Rabbins were blind leaders of the blind, when even babes understood the mysteries of the kingdom of God: and no better then the Scribes are many learned men, professing Christianity, in our day.

There is indeed a special reason why, on these points, unenlightened men should contrive means to evade the obvious meaning of Scripture; for they are such things as come in constant contact with a principle, the strongest that belongs to human nature in its fallen state. Other doctrines may be held as speculations, and kept, as it were, at a distance; but when we come to merit and grace, to work and faith, man’s pride is touched; and as long as under he is its prevailing influence, he will be certain, in some way or another, direct or evasive, to support merit in opposition to grace, or works in opposition to faith. When the authority of tradition supplanted the authority of Scripture, the doctrine of merit so prevailed, that the preposterous idea, that merits were a salable and a transferable commodity, gained ground in the world. A notion of this kind is too gross and absurd to be entertained by any who acknowledge God’s Word as the only umpire in religion; and yet what is not essentially different has often been maintained; for to say that salvation is partly by faith and partly by works, is really the same thing, inasmuch as the principle of merit is thereby admitted. Man naturally cleaves to his own righteousness; all those who are ignorant are self-righteous, and all the learned who understand not the gospel; and it is wonderful what ingenious evasions and learned subtleties men will have recourse to in order to resist the plain testimony of Scripture. When they cannot maintain their ground as advocates of salvation alone by merits, they will attempt to maintain it as advocates of a system, which allows a part to grace and a part to works — an amalgamation which Paul expressly repudiates, Romans 11:6.

But it is remarkable how the innate disposition of man has displayed itself in this respect. Conscious, as it were, in some measure of moral imperfections, he has been striving for the most part to merit his salvation by ceremonial works. This has been the case in all ages with heathens: their scarifies, austerities, and mechanical devotions were their merits; they were the works by which they expected to obtain happiness. God favored the people of Israel with the rituals of religion, which were designed merely as aids and means to attain and preserve true religion; but they converted them to another purpose, and, like the heathens, regarded them as meritorious performances, and expected God’s acceptance for the very religious acts which they exercised: and in order to make up, as it were, a sufficient quantity of merit, they made additions to those services which God had appointed, as though to multiply acts of this kind was to render their salvation more certain. The very same evil crept early into the Christian Church, and still continues to exist. The accumulation of ceremonies is of itself a sufficient proof, that salvation by faith was in a great measure lost sight of: we want no other evidence; it is what has been ever done whenever the light of truth has become dim and obscure. We see the same evil in the present day. Outward privileges and outward acts of worship are in effect too often substituted for that grace which changes the heart, and for that living faith which unites us to the Savior, which works by love and overcomes the world. The very disposition to over-value external privileges and the mere performances of religious duties, is an unequivocal evidence, that salvation by faith is not understood, or very imperfectly understood, and not really embraced.

The only remedy, as means for this evil, is that which we find employed by Paul in this Epistle. He begins by showing what every man, Jew and Gentile, is by nature; he proves by the clearest evidence, that all have sinned and become guilty before God. And having done this, he discloses the way of salvation which God himself has planned and revealed; and he teaches us, that it is altogether by grace and through faith that we can be saved, and not by works. In order cordially to embrace this latter truth, it is necessary to know the first, that we are sinners under condemnation. It is impossible, according to the very constitution of man’s mind, that he should really and truly accede to the one, without a real and deep knowledge of the other. The whole need not a physician, but the sick. It is only he who is really convinced of sin and who feels its guilt and its burden intolerable, that ever will, or indeed ever can, really lay hold on that free salvation which God has provided. And when this free salvation is really known, all other things compared with it will be deemed as nothing; and then all outward privileges will be viewed only as means, and all outward acts of religion only as aids and helps; and then also all our works, however great and self-denying, will be regarded in no way meritorious, but imperfect and defective, and acceptable only through the merits of our High Priest at God’s right hand.

-John Owen

The Providence of God

he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.” (John 4:3–5 ESV)

Seven words form a short sentence that we often read right over in order to get to the “real story.” When we do so, we miss a beautiful truth that will stir our affections for the Almighty.  Jesus did not physically “have” to travel through Samaria.  It was the most direct route between Judea and Galilee, but no respectable Jew would travel that route.  Devout Jews would go around Samaria by crossing the Jordan and going up the east side in order to avoid becoming unclean or defiled by coming in contact with a Samaritan.

The Samaritans were a people that resulted from the intermarrying between Jews and people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva and Hamath that the king of Assyria brought in to settle the region (2 Kings 17:24–31). The Samaritans had their own version of the Pentateuch and worshiped on Mount Gerizim instead of in Jerusalem.  They were half breeds that were despised by both the Jews and the Gentiles.  They didn’t fit in anywhere, they were alone.

Jesus had to pass through Samaria because of the providential call of God.  The Greek word used here (see also John: 3:7, 14, 30; 9:4; 10:16; 12:34; 20:9) means that it was necessary, it was a divine mandate or requirement – it was part of God’s plan.  He had to travel through a land that would make Him unclean, but one of the beautiful realities of the messiah is that He cannot be made unclean by interacting with defiled people.  Quite the opposite, He makes dirty people clean.  Religious Jews would go around this region.  Religion always blinds us and makes us self righteous and avoidant of those we deem to be unworthy – as if we are worthy because of our own doing (1 Corinthians 4:7).

We must ask the question, “why?”  Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria?  Why did God’s providence lead Him there?  Could it be that He is showing us that no one is too unreachable, too unworthy or too unclean?  Could it be that He was demonstrating that the gospel is for all ethnicities, genders, socio economic classes and moral type of people?  Jesus had to go through Samaria because He came to seek and save His lost sheep and apparently there were quite a number of lost sheep in Samaria because many of them believed (John 4:39-43).

The Samaritans asked Him to stay two extra days and He obliged them – I can only imagine what the disciples were thinking!  Many believed in Jesus based upon the woman’s testimony alone.  Jesus stays with a group of outcasts two extra days! Jesus loves those who are unloveable by the world’s standards.  We often times seek to be loveable – that is to bring something of merit before the Almighty – instead of resting in the love that He has for us.

These unclean, outcasts profess Jesus as the Savior of the World.  He is not only the Savior of the Jews, but the Savior of the world.  He saves all people – from every nation, tribe and tongue!  First to the Jews (Nicodemus in John 3:1-15), then to the Samaritans (John 4:1-42) and then to the Gentiles (the official at Capernaum in John 4:46-54). This is the mission of the church.

What does this providential appointment mean to us today?  The Word, Creator, Almighty condescends Himself to a defiled, unclean, unholy place & people in order to redeem.  The Creator serving the created is backwards, but that is what it took to undo the effects of the fall (John 4:30-34, Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28).  God providentially invades the world of His lost sheep.  God’s redemption means that He makes lost sheep forgiven, acceptable, clean and holy. He makes unclean outcasts clean.  He makes clean people holy.  He makes us family.  In God’s kingdom, the unwanted outcasts are welcomed with open arms.  Jesus’ good words of forgiveness & redemption are only spoken to those who feel unworthy, alone and dirty because  good people see no need for grace.  The grace of God has adopted you and made you His son – perfectly acceptable.  You are no longer on the outside looking in and this was done because He “had to” go through Samaria and He “had to” come to you.  You didn’t seek Him, He sought you.  You were lost and He found you, redeemed you and adopted you according to His plan which He determined before He breathed a star into the heavens.

The Consequences of Sin

““Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”

And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.””  (2 Samuel 12:10–12, 14-23 ESV)

Despite the fact that David was eventually repentant, there were still very real consequences as a result of his sin.  Confession and Repentance don’t negate the consequences for our sinful actions.  David’s house would be wrought with internal struggles and destruction from then onward (Amnon, Absalom & Adonijah all die by the sword).

We tend to believe that if we are repentant that we won’t have to deal with the consequences of our sinful behavior.  Being repentant does not mean that we will be spared the consequences of our sinful behavior.  Walking through the consequences while remaining contrite and even joyful is a sign that the heart is really repentant.  Worldly sorrow just wants to be spared from the consequences, but true repentance is willing to accept the consequences for our sinfulness.  The consequences for David were very real, his sin scorned the Lord and as a result the baby that he and Bathsheba conceived would die.

The sovereignty of God is so boldly on display here that it is striking.  “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’””  (2 Samuel 12:11–12 ESV).  Absalom rebels against David and takes over his throne and has sex with his concubines on the rooftop.  This is reminiscent of Job 42:1:  “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2 ESV)

The Lord afflicted the child and he became sick; God is in sovereign control.  Innocent people suffer as a result of our sin – a sad, but true reality.  David steadfastly petitioned the Lord to spare his child from death; He pressed into God and appealed to His mercy.  But, ultimately, the child died.  Only death could pay the price for adultery and murder and the death of this child is a picture of a truly innocent Son, who was not the result of a defiled union, that would die to bear the penalty of our sin.

David responds to the death of his son by worshipping (v20) – He was truly free.  There were still painful consequences as a result of his sin, but he was free.  It was a grace that he could go into the house of the Lord and worship because there was no acceptable sacrifice for adultery & murder, but the Lord had put away his sin (v13) and spared him from death.  This is one of the most beautiful pictures of grace in the Old Testament and it doesn’t sit lightly on David.  David realizes that he has been forgiven much so he definitely loves much.  There is no hint of bitterness or anger at God for Him not healing his child.  When we try to justify ourselves we become bitter and angry, not free.  David accepts God’s decision and marvels at the grace that has been extended to him in the midst of his total depravity.  

Lord, help us marvel at the undeserved amazing grace that has been extended to us.

Confronting Sin

“And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” (2 Samuel 12:1–9 ESV)

The Lord sends Nathan to David in order to confront him on his sin. The strength it took for Nathan to confront the king is incredible.  His hope was not in David’s response or even in the hope that He was a man after God’s own heart.  He could have been killed for confronting David.  Nathan feared God more than He feared man.

Nathan started by telling David a story of a poor man who had a prized lamb and a rich man who took it, killed it and served it for dinner for a guest.  It’s a tearjerker.  We, like David, can have so much empathy for others and be so blind to the ones close to us that we have offended; sin always blinds us.  David’s empathy and zeal for justice is real, but he is blinded to the parallel in his own life.  Sin always blinds us.  David starts rolling out how to make restitution.  David took Bathsheba just like the rich man who took the poor man’s lamb.

Nathan is not afraid to call sin what it is – SIN!  He boldly confronts David, proclaiming that David is the man who did this thing!  We don’t like to call sin, sin.  We have more sophisticated words for it today – like dysfunction – words that are less offensive and harsh so that we won’t feel bad about ourselves.  By doing this, we dumb down the justice of God and make His grace less than amazing.  In order for grace to be amazing, we must feel the crushing weight of our sin under the perfect standard of God’s law.

In verses 7 & 8, God reviews His grace to David.  God anointed David king, delivered him from Saul, gave him Saul’s house, wives & kingdom.  And God adds a comment on the end:  “And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.”  God had been good to David.  Remembering God’s grace and goodness is important in walking uprightly.  We have nothing that we have not been given (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Nathan calls out David’s sin for what it was – murder and adultery.  How did Nathan know this?  Was there a group of people who gathered together to strategize how to confront David?  No, there is profound rest in believing that Yahweh sees all, knows all and rules over all so we don’t have to.  The specifics of David’s sin is no match for the Sovereign eye of the Almighty.

When we are called to approach a brother or sister in sin, we normally experience uncertainty, doubt or fear.  In these moments, we must learn to rest in God’s goodness and His sovereignty; we must fear Him more than we fear man – this is easier said than done!  As we approach another, we must do it boldly, but with grace – never self righteously because except for God’s grace towards us, we would walk the same path.  We don’t love others well if we are not willing to help them see their blind spots and we are not loved well if we don’t have people in our lives who are willing to point out our blind spots. 

Lord, help us to see you as the greatest treasure in the world so that other things pale in comparison to knowing and following you.

Real Faith

“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”” (Luke 8:22–25 ESV).

There are things that happen in our lives – things that God ordains – that may make us feel like God is distant, disinterested or unconcerned.  We know, in our minds, that this is not true, however, if we are honest this is what we often times believe.  This is where our faith gets tested – this is where our true beliefs are revealed.  Beliefs are the narratives of our hearts; the bible views the heart as the central part of a person which directs all thoughts, emotions, and from which all of actions spring.  Indeed, the unregenerate, hardened “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)?  However, this is not true of the Christian to whom God has written His law upon their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, 32:40; Ezekiel 36:26; Romans 5:5, 6:17; Hebrews 10:22; 1 John 3:21).

We know that our work is to believe in Jesus (John 6:29), and as a friend of mine says, “it sure does feel like work!”  We all have beliefs, the core values that drive our hearts; it is just that they are often times not biblical or God glorifying – they are man exalting and self protective.  Faith is not some passive, fuzzy, ethereal thing.  True biblical faith is unbelief kept quiet, faith is active, faith takes work, faith is not automatic.  Faith is not primarily a feeling – it can’t be because we know that our feelings change.  Faith includes and envelopes our feelings, but it is more – it involves our minds, our wills and our understanding.  Faith is our response to what we believe is true.  Developing Christian faith is an activity that must be exercised, it is not an automatic or passive thing.  This is why Jesus calls it work (John 6:29) and why we are all recovering unbelievers.  Growing in biblical faith involves displacing our false beliefs with true, biblical beliefs.  Here is what is true about biblical faith:

1.  Faith refuses to be controlled by circumstances.  The disciples in the boat were afraid of the storm around them.  That is understandable, but it revealed what they really believed.  Jesus rebuked them saying, “where is your faith” (verse 25)?  They had faith – it just wasn’t set on the right things.  Their false faith, drove their response to the situation.  Biblical faith refuses to be controlled by the circumstances of life.  This is not saying that we should be robotic stoics!  We are influenced and impacted by our circumstances; we hurt, cry, beg and plead with God to deliver, redeem & restore in the midst of adversity, but ultimately we can’t be controlled by the circumstances around us.  We are affected by circumstances, but we can’t be controlled by them.  This is why Paul can say that he has learned the secret of being content in any situation in his life (Philippians 4:12).  Dr. Martin Loyd Jones says that “faith is a refusal to panic…faith means perpetual unbelief kept quiet.”  That is not what happened with the disciples in this situation, they panicked.  Biblical faith involves keeping ourselves under control so that we don’t respond to the circumstances of life out of our fear, anxiety & our feelings.  Faith keeps us under control.  

2.  Faith rests in what is true – it works to remember, recite and rest in God’s promises.  Refusing to be controlled by our circumstances is not enough – we may be able to muster that on our own.  True biblical faith must then run to the promises of God that are revealed to us in the bible.  Faith works to remember, recite and rest in what God says is true.  This is where so much of the wrestling takes place and where so many fail.  This involves trusting that what God says really is true instead of relying on what we think, feel, see or experience (2 Corinthians 5:7).  We must remember that God’s love for us is so great that He was willing to die to have us (John 3:16), and that He did this while we were still dead & disobedient (Ephesians 2).  We must remember that we are adopted children of the Almighty (Romans 5:10) and that He has granted us His precious and very great promises (2 Peter 1:4).  Remember that He who began the good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).  We must work to remember to cast all of our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), that sin truly is deceitful (Hebrews 3:12-13), that every hair on our head has been numbered (Luke 12:7), that we are His beloved child (1 John 3:2), that we have been bought with a great price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and that He works all things for good (Romans 8:28).  Perhaps the greatest and most encouraging declaration of scripture is that “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).  God has never once been caught off guard by anything, nothing has ever happened that He did not ordain.  He is intimately involved in all of the details of this world and your life (Colossians 1:17).  Believing these things really are work.  It takes time to remember these things, to preach them to ourselves and to beg God to have them take root in our hearts.

You must realize that no one talks to you more than you do.  The question is, what are you saying to yourself?  What are you dwelling on?  What are you turning over in your mind?  What things are you saying about, “if I only had this, or if that would only work out then life would be ok?”  Developing real biblical faith that transforms us works to remember what God says is true and then preaches that to oneself.  What are you preaching to yourself in your mind?

3.  Faith apples what is true and walks in obedience to what God reveals.  There is no replacement for walking in obedience to the commands of God.  We should pray, then we should obey.  Faith always applies what is revealed, indeed “it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” (James 4:17 NLT-SE).  To sit passively by and say “I’m praying,” or “I’m hoping,” but to never walk in obedience to the revealed will of God is not biblical faith.  We must bring all that we know to bear on the situation at hand and then we must apply it!  This obedience flows from a heart that understands that obedience doesn’t earn anything from God; your obedience doesn’t keep God from punishing you.  Obedience is not part of a secret formula to protect you from crisis.  No, true biblical obedience flows from a heart that knows and embraces that God is happy with you and that you are blessed based on the perfect obedience of Jesus alone.  You don’t obey for acceptance, you obey because you’re already accepted.  True obedience flows from a heart that embraces the amazing grace that has been extended to you and it becomes a joy to obey.  Joyful obedience flows from a grateful heart and it always leads to greater joy.  God created the universe and knows how it works so when He says, “do this,” or “walk like that,” it is not because He is oppressive, it is because He knows it will lead to your joy.  God is not after any kind of obedience – our begrudging submission does not glorify God – God is after joyful obedience.  Joyful obedience is always rooted in the unconditional acceptance God has given you in Christ and is fueled by marveling at His ongoing sustaining grace towards you.

Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones addresses this in more detail in chapter four of the free book, A Vision for a Gospel Centered Life.  Faith always acknowledges the situation and circumstances, however it always puts up a “but…”  It might feel like you’re all alone, but you know that God says that He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).  It may feel like all things are lost and hopeless, but He who began the good work in you will be faithful to complete it in you (Philippians 1:6).  Remember that God has not held you this long, just to abandon you.  He has not forgotten or forsaken you.  It is work to rest in these beliefs when our minds want to believe otherwise, but if you want to walk freely in life this is the work that you must do.  All of this is fueled by the ongoing amazement that God would love a wicked, hard hearted sinners like us.  It should shock and amaze us that God would give us soft hearts of flesh instead of our natural hard hearts of stone (Ezekiel 36:26).  When our hearts are ruled by the majesty of how unworthy we really are and how much we don’t deserve His grace, we are forever changed.  There is a shift in us from saying, “I don’t deserve this trouble or struggle,” to “I don’t deserve His unconditional love – all that I deserve is bad and yet He gives me good.”  

Thoughts from Jude (part 2)

“These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.” (Jude 1:16 ESV)

These people are grumblers – those who are discontent and complain against God.  These people have a low view of the Almighty, as if He existed to sprinkle them with fairy dusted blessings.  This brings to mind the generation that died in the wilderness for their complaining and grumbling.  Jude goes further calling these people malcontents.  Malcontents are “finding fault or being discontented with one’s lot, querulous; a discontented, querulous person, a complainer”  Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament.  These people follow their own sinful desires instead of subduing them into obedience with the Scriptures.  They boast loudly and manipulate to get what they want.  Wicked people!  How often do we find ourselves complaining, grumbling, finding fault, being discontent?  These attitudes are rooted in an extremely low view of God – as if He owes us anything.

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”  (Jude 1:17–19 ESV)

Jude uses Beloved.  We are God’s beloved.  That is something that we should sit in and marvel over.  How could a perfectly holy and loving God shower us with love and affection?  The better question is why would He?  Just because He wants to.  What glory it heaps on Him to love the truly unloveable – like me.  There are scoffers who are evil & divisive that only desire to follow their ungodly passions.  These people are not redeemed – these are wolves in sheep’s clothing that were false teachers within the church.  We must fight against this in our midsts!

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”  (Jude 1:20–21 ESV)

 

Pursue Christ!  That is the best defense against these ungodly scoffers!  Pursue an abiding relationship with the risen Christ that is fueled by the Spirit!  God, help us.  Keep yourselves in the love of God.  This means to cherish, to think on, to pursue, to understand more fully how much God loves us and to be deeply moved by that truth.  If it weren’t for the grace of God, we too would be lost!  We should yield to the Spirit’s leading in accordance with His revealed will in the scriptures.  Let us pursue doctrinal soundness, Spirit wrought dependance and worship laden love.

“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”  (Jude 1:22–23 ESV)

Be merciful to those who doubt the promises of God. How beautiful is that? Be patient with those who waiver – help them, love them, walk with them. I do believe, help me with my unbelief!  This is a powerful passage on hating sin and its consequences, but mercifully engaging those who are wrapped up in it. Hate the sin, love the sinner. This is really only possible when one knows how deeply depraved they really are and how close they are to the same sin – except for God’s restraining grace. God help us!

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”  (Jude 1:24–25 ESV)

God is the One who keeps me from stumbling.  He is the One Who is able to present me blameless before Him.  He does this for His glory and our joy.  He is over all things!  Praise God that my salvation & growth are not up to my faithful obedience, but are the result of His faithful obedience on my behalf!

Thoughts from Jude (part 1)

“To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” (Jude 1:1–2 ESV)

Jude writes to those who are called – “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30 ESV).  Don’t miss the string here – or elsewhere in scripture – there are no human fingerprints on it!  God called us to be His BELOVED (those are familial words) and He will KEEP US in Christ Jesus.  He predestines, He calls, He justifies, He keeps & He glorifies.  We are along for the ride as we ACTIVELY contend for the faith.

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4 ESV)

Ungodly people had crept in and perverted the truth.  These were designated for destruction – they did not catch God off guard and they did not cause God to have to figure out what He was going to do!  They were unnoticed because they acted like Christians, but were not.  They talked it, but did not walk it.  They perverted grace and made it cheap grace, which is no grace at all.  Cheap grace always produces license – sensuality.  They ultimately denied Christ by their actions and unwillingness to submit to His commands and obey Him.  We may be able to talk a good talk, quote bible verses, walk aisles & pray prayers, but ultimately if we are not willing to walk in joyful obedience to Christ and submit to Him then we prove ourselves to be on shifting sand.  This is perhaps the greatest risk in our modern evangelical churches.  We don’t know what we believe, we don’t teach it and people have a very weak view of God and His grace.  God is nice, but He is not compelling.  Unless one has been deeply moved by the sovereign majesty of God, he will not understand the grace that has been given to him – He will not be moved to worship or obey.
  This is why Jude starts with God calling, God loving & God keeping.  Most in our midsts today would not deny Jesus explicitly, but deny Him by the way that they live.  He is not important to them, He is not the hub that their lives revolve around, He is not adored or served, He is just One of many gods in our lives.  This should scare us all!

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 1:5 ESV)

Jesus saved a people out Egypt.  Wow, Jude is saying that Jesus is God!  Powerful.  Those who did not believe were destroyed in the desert – that should really scare us.  These were people that experienced the miraculous deliverance God had provided them from Egypt, His commands at Sinai and His ongoing deliverance and guidance.  And yet they did not believe and were destroyed for their unbelief.  Our battle is for belief!  Those who did not endure in belief did not see the Promised Land (1 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 3:16–19) – and neither will we unless we endure.  Judgement awaits those who persist in unbelief!

“Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” (Jude 1:8–10 ESV)

These false teachers had come to rely on the subjectivity of their dreams instead of the objectivity of the scriptures.  Revelatory dreams still happen, but they should always be subjected to the authority of scripture. These people pollute the flesh and defy authority. They blaspheme the glorious One.

We do not know what Jude is referring to in verse 10, it has been lost in history. Won’t it be a glorious day when we can see more fully what we only see in part now!?  Michael understood his place in God’s created order so he did not tread on God’s authority. Lord, help us to learn from your authority!  Michael left the devil to God’s authority.

These false teachers operated on their instincts (like an animal) instead of on the authority of scripture.  We must subdue our instincts, feelings and sinful thoughts – they must be engaged by the grace of God and wrestled into submission by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  All that these people knew was how to follow their instincts and feelings regardless of whether they adhered to God’s moral decrees or not. This is dangerous – this is how people end up in the weeds and destroy their lives and the lives of others.

“Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 1:11–13 ESV)

These false teachers were motivated by coveting and greed because they were dissatisfied with the position that they currently occupied. He uses examples of Cain (Genesis 4:5-8), Balaam (Numbers 22:5-7, 2 Peter 2:15) and Korah (Numbers 16:1-3, 31-35). How often do we get derailed by being dissatisfied with where we are in life? We need believe that our deepest satisfaction in life is found in an abiding relationship with Jesus alone.  It is not found in the next accomplishment, relationship or position in life.

These false teachers are like hidden reefs because they are suffering no immediate consequences for their sinful behavior. This is sad! Like a ship sailing on the open water thinking that things are OK until they strike the reef just below the surface. These people live openly depraved lives and experience no consequences for their sinful behavior. They do what they want and are largely unchecked. Why is this? One can only speculate, but I wonder if this is because we don’t like conflict or because we feel like we are being ungracious by judging or confronting someone else?  It is not ungracious or unloving to confront people in their sin – it is what is required to help people see the light of day, though it is incredibly difficult!

Day After Day

The sovereign rule and reign of God provides a ballast for our souls on the sea of uncertainty in life.  Knowing that nothing happens by chance, catches Him off guard or has not first been filtered through His loving hands is profoundly hopeful.  He is in control of all things and does good to His children.

Men will try to rule the world You made
But we know power is Yours alone to give and take
A day will come when every knee will bow
And every tongue confess that You are Lord both now and forever

Day after day our God is reigning
He’s never shaken, my hope is in the Lord
Time after time our God is faithful
Trustworthy Savior, my hope is in the Lord

The fear of man and what they plan will fade
But we know You alone are God of every day
Like the flowers, man will rise and fall
But You are everlasting, never ending God eternal

Day after day our God is reigning
He’s never shaken, my hope is in the Lord
Time after time our God is faithful
Trustworthy Savior, my hope is in the Lord

Let the songs of adoration rise, our God is reigning up on high
He’s worthy to receive The praise and the glory
Let the songs of adoration rise, our God is reigning up on high
He’s worthy to receive The praise and the glory
Oh, the glory

Day after day our God is reigning
He’s never shaken, my hope is in the Lord
Time after time our God is faithful
Trustworthy Savior, my hope is in the Lord

Day after day our God is reigning
He’s never shaken, my hope is in the Lord
Time after time our God is faithful
Trustworthy Savior, my hope is in the Lord

When Wrestling gives way to Worshipping

“A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.   O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power. Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels. He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. Was your wrath against the rivers, O LORD? Was your anger against the rivers, or your indignation against the sea, when you rode on your horses, on your chariot of salvation? You stripped the sheath from your bow, calling for many arrows. Selah You split the earth with rivers. The mountains saw you and writhed; the raging waters swept on; the deep gave forth its voice; it lifted its hands on high. The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped, at the flash of your glittering spear. You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger. You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret. You trampled the sea with your horses, the surging of mighty waters.

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.”

(Habakkuk 3:1–19 ESV)

This section sounds so much like Job who had heard of God, but now sees Him (Job 42:5).  Habakkuk had heard of God and knew His laws and commands, but now he was asking that God remember mercy when His justice provokes His wrath.  Habakkuk remembers how God’s mighty, sovereign saving power had been displayed in the past – at the Nile, the Jordan & the Red Sea and in the desert during the Exodus.  He is an all powerful deliverer.

Majestic power is on display here.  As God measures the earth (I envision a couple of small steps), He shakes the nations (like in a brown lunch sack), then the eternal mountains were scattered (only God can shake what they viewed as a foundation to the world).  His ways are eternal.  Habakkuk is doing in these verses what we must do – we must recite and remember who God is and the truths about Him – when we do this, things come in to perspective.  Apart from this perspective, you will always struggle and wrestle because you have no real perspective on things.  Like Asaph, the Psalmist you will be able to say, “but when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” (Psalms 73:16–17 ESV)

The majestic power of God is seen in the spectacular display of lightning & flash flooding in thunderstorms.  Mountains quake at His power (earthquakes) and He causes even the sun & moon to stand still (Joshua 10:12-13).  This God is all powerful, unequaled & sovereignly ruling.  When difficulty and hardship comes, knowing that our God is ruling and reigning in all power is a comforting thing.  And not just that He is sovereign, but He does good to His people.  Habakkuk is calling to recollection that.  God had protected and miraculously delivered His people before.  He will indeed do it again – but they were needing punishment for their wickedness.  God delivered them from Pharaoh and from Canaanite kings.  God is willing and able to deliver; He is the great Deliverer.

Habakkuk physically responds with a trembling body and quivering lips to the impending judgement that is coming, but he will wait for God to finish His judgement and then judge the invaders.  Habakkuk is finished wrestling, complaining & accusing God.  He is now resting on the sweet sovereignty of God.  The battle in his soul is over and he is beginning to worship and rest.  He does not have all of His questions answered, but He sees God and that is enough for him.  Oh, that we would land in the same spot.  When we wrestle, complain & accuse God of injustice or of silence – we need to be looking to get to this place.  A place where we are done wrestling and we begin worshipping.  Worship is the only thing that will satiate the wrestler’s soul.  God satiates Habakkuk’s soul by giving him a grander view of Himself – God gives Habakkuk God, and it proves to be enough.

Habakkuk concludes that if there is absolute famine in the land and hardship – no figs, no fruit, olives, food or live stock – he will still praise the Lord his God.  He will take joy in the God of His salvation.  He trusts in God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness, what a place to rest your feet in the midst of adversity.  Trusting God leads to joy.  Faith that God is in control and working all things out for His kid’s good is profoundly comforting and joyful, despite the physical hardships that may come our way.  In verse 19, Habakkuk clarifies that it is the LORD (Yahweh, the personal covenant keeping God) that is His strength.  Whether deliverance, comfort & prosperity come or not – God is Habakkuk’s strength.  There are struggles to be had, tears to be cried and doubts to wrestle through, but when we find that God alone is enough to satisfy joy ensues.  When we still believe that anything created can satisfy the longings in our soul, unrest & discontentedness are not far behind.

We want to accuse God of not running His world the way that we think is right.  It’s His world and He gets to run it the way that He wants.  And we must always rest on the fact that He is good and is doing good – even when we can’t see it.  This is walking by faith and not by sight (feelings, emotions or current experiences).  There comes a time (or many times) in our lives, if God is gracious, that we press and ask questions seeking to understand, but where the questions no longer matter because we see God and trust Him – regardless of the circumstances of life.  God, alone, is enough.  Regardless of where you find yourself today, remember that the eternal God of the universe set His saving affections on you before a star was breathed into space.  Why?  For His glory and YOUR JOY.  Meditate on this truth, mull it over, think about it and see if it doesn’t move your heart.