Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Jesus, full of compassion and tenderness, wept over His enemies, and prayed for His actual murderers! A feeling of this kind seems essential to that new nature which characterizes the children of God; and where itis not in habitual exercise, it is a sufficient evidence that the soul, if truly alive to God at all—is at least in a lean and distempered state.


When we look at the ungodly, we are not to hate them—but to pity them, mourn over them, and pray for them. Nor have we any right to boast over them; for, by nature, and of ourselves, we are no better than they.


    "For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" 1 Corinthians 4:7


From The Letters of John Newton 

 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

THE MAGNIFICAT - LUKE 1:39-56

Mary’s Visit To Elizabeth
Luke 1:39-45

In the last passage we saw that the angel gave Mary assurance of her miraculous pregnancy by telling her that her relative, Elizabeth, was pregnant in her old age.



This news evidently prompted Mary to visit Elizabeth and share the joy. So she traveled from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah, anywhere from 60 to 80 miles. That is adventurous for a young, pregnant woman.

An unusual thing happened when Mary arrived and greeted Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s baby, John, leaped in her womb. The baby who was predestined to be the forerunner and herald of Jesus leaped upon coming into the presence of the baby Jesus. This could happen because John was filled with the Holy Spirit from conception and the Holy Spirit always points to Jesus.

Elizabeth was then filled with the Holy Spirit and led to cry out at blessing. She blessed Mary and she blessed Jesus. Then she remarked at her own blessing that she should be visited by the mother of her Lord. This is Elizabeth’s confession of faith, brought about by the Holy Spirit.

How did Elizabeth know Mary’s baby was the Lord? Her husband, Zechariah could not speak to tell her what the angel said to him. Again, it must have been the Holy Spirit pointing to Jesus through Elizabeth.

The last point of Elizabeth’s blessing was to bless Mary for believing the Lord’s message to her, through the angel, that she would give birth to the Son of God. Her words reflect God’s promise to Israel in Deuteronomy 28 that he would bless them for obedience. In 28:4, he specifically said the fruit of your womb will be blessed, as Elizabeth does here.

The faith of these two women is on display. They both believe the word of the Lord. They both believe Mary carried the Messiah.



This is a sweet picture of joy in the Lord. Both mothers rejoiced. Mary said “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”. Baby John also rejoiced. The coming of Jesus to bring salvation is the cause of great joy for all who believe in him.  This reminds me of the first question of the Westminster Catechism, which says the chief aim of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

The Magnificat
Luke 1:46-56

Mary responded to Elizabeth’s blessing with a praise to the Lord. This is often called the Magnificat. That title comes from the words of verse 46 in the Latin Vulgate: “magnificat animus mea Dominum". In English it is “my soul magnifies the Lord”.

Her words remind us of Psalm 34. It says:
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!.
(Ps. 34:1-3)

Mary magnified the Lord by praising his attributes, making large of his character and work.

First, Mary praised the Lord’s gift to her because he looked upon her for the blessing of being Jesus’ mother though she was poor (of humble estate). (48) She repeated the words of the angel, that all generations would call her blessed. He did great things for her, blessing her with the baby Jesus.

But Mary looked beyond the gift to praise the giver. She magnified God, not herself. She rejoiced in the character of God.

She praised God for being holy. Saying his name is holy is a way of saying he is holy. She praised his power for bringing forth the virgin conception.

Yet, though God is holy, he shows mercy to generations of men and women who are not holy. Those who fear him, who believe in the salvation he provides through Jesus, receive mercy instead of justice.

And his mercy is not based on the social status of men and women. In fact, he shows his strength by scattering the proud thinkers, by bringing down mighty rulers like Herod, and exalting instead the humble. He brought down Nebuchadnezzar and exalted Daniel. He defeated the powerful Pharaoh to deliver a bunch of powerless slaves. He humbled the proud to show mercy to Israel.

He will feed the hungry while sending away the rich. God abhors pride because pride is man lifting himself up against God. It means taking credit for what God has done, robbing him of his glory. In contrast, humility is submission to God, keeping man and God in their proper positions, resulting in glory to God.

These are all things Jesus did in his ministry. He opposed the Pharisees who were proud in their self righteousness. But he ate with tax collectors and sinners. He healed Gentiles, cast demons from the poor, and fed the hungry.

Mary concluded her praise with a theological statement. She proclaimed that God was showing mercy and helping Israel by bringing the Messiah in fulfillment of his word to Abraham.

His word to Abraham was blessing not only his offspring, but all nations. He said “in you (Abraham) all the families of the earth shall be blessed”. (Genesis 12:3) God’s plan was never to limit salvation to the Jews. He intended all along to bring salvation to all races of people, starting with the Jews.

This is a praise of God’s faithfulness. He made a covenant with Abraham and he kept it.

Mary’s praise reminds us of Hannah’s praise when Samuel was born. (1 Samuel  2:1 and following) She exulted in the Lord as Mary rejoiced in the Lord. She proclaimed the holiness of the Lord. She proclaimed God’s disdain for the proud and his mercy on the humble. That theme runs all through the Bible. James 4:10 says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you”.

Jesus came to establish his rule and his kingdom. He started the process of overthrowing every proud person, leader and nation. He will end it, as we saw in Revelation, in overthrowing the proud fallen angel, Satan.

Some people missed that because Jesus himself was humble. That was seen as weakness instead of power. He exalted those who were humble. He condemned those who were proud.

We would say he turned the world system on its head. That was necessary because the world system operates in opposition to God and God’s values. In this sense, not in a political sense, Jesus was a revolutionary.

We must come to Christ humbly, repenting of sin and desiring his salvation and lordship. If so, he will give it to us as he feeds the hungry. If not, if we are swelled with pride and self sufficiency, he will send us away empty, as Mary said he did to the rich.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Receiving Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King
by Thomas Brooks

The terms upon which Christ is offered in the gospel are these: that we shall accept of a whole Christ with a whole heart. Now, mark—a whole Christ includes all His offices; and a whole heart includes all our faculties.

Christ as mediator is prophet, priest, and king.
Christ as a prophet instructs us.
Christ as a priest redeems us and intercedes for us.
Christ as a king sanctifies and rules us.

A hypocrite may be willing to embrace Christ as a priest to save him from wrath, from the curse, from hell, from everlasting burning—but he is never sincerely willing to embrace Christ as a prophet to teach and instruct him, and as a king to rule and reign over him. 

Many hypocrites are willing to embrace a saving Christ—but they are not willing to embrace a ruling Christ, a commanding Christ. "But those enemies of Mine who did not want Me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of Me!'" Luke 19:27
Hypocrites love to share with Christ in His happiness—but they don't love to share with Christ in His holiness. They are willing to be redeemed by Christ—but they are not cordially willing to submit to the laws and government of Christ. They are willing to be saved by His blood—but they are not willing to submit to His scepter.

But a true Christian receives Christ in all His offices. He accepts Him, not only as a saving Jesus—but also as a Lord Jesus. He embraces Him, not only as a saving Christ—but also as a ruling Christ. He received Christ as a king upon His throne, as well as an atoning sacrifice upon His cross.

A hypocrite is all for a saving Christ, for a sin-pardoning Christ, for a soul-saving Christ—but has no regard for a ruling Christ, a reigning Christ, a commanding Christ, a sanctifying Christ; and this at last will prove his damning sin.
 
 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Holy Bible, Book divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine;

Mine to tell me whence I came; Mine to teach me what I am.

Mine to chide me when I rove; Mine to show a Savior's love;

Mine thou art to guide and guard; Mine to punish or reward.

Mine to comfort in distress; Suffering in this wilderness;

Mine to show, by living faith, Man can triumph over death.

Mine to tell of joys to come, And the rebel sinner's doom;

O thou Holy Book divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine.


Hymn by John Burton

Monday, August 22, 2016

 

This Man Receives Sinners!

by Octavius Winslow

 

Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law murmur, saying, "This man receives sinners, and eats with them!"  Luke 15:1-2

 

The beings whom Jesus sought out,

and drew around Him, were . . . .

 the burdened,

 the bowed down,

 the disconsolate,

 the poor,

 the friendless,

 the helpless,

 the ignorant,

 the weary.

 

He loved to lavish upon such the fullness of His benevolent heart, and to exert upon such the skill of His wonder working power.

 

Earth's weary sons repaired to His outstretched arms for shelter, and the world's ignorant and despised clustered around His feet, to be taught and blessed.

 

Sinners of every character, and the disconsolate of every grade, attracted by His renown, pressed upon Him from every side. "This man receives sinners" was the character and the mission by which He was known.

 

It was new and strange.

Uttered by the lip of the proud and disdainful Pharisee, it was an epithet of reproach, and an expression of ridicule.

 

But upon the ear of the poor and wretched outcast, the sons and daughters of sorrow, ignorance, and woe, it fell with sweet music.  It passed from lip to lip, it echoed from shore to shore, "This man receives sinners!"

 

It found its way into the abodes of misery and poverty; it penetrated the dungeon of the prisoner and the cell of the maniac; and it kindled a celestial light in the solitary dwelling of the widow and the orphan, the unpitied and the friendless.

 

Thousands came, faint, weary, and sad; and sat down beneath His shadow; and thousands more since then have pressed to their wounded hearts the balsam that exuded from His bleeding body, and have been healed.

 

Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law murmur, saying, "This man receives sinners, and eats with them!"  Luke 15:1-2

 

----

 

From Octavius Winslow "Evening Thoughts"

Sunday, August 21, 2016

FORETELLING THE BIRTH OF JESUS - LUKE 1:26-37




Last week we studied the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist. This week Luke shows us the foretelling of the birth of Jesus.

Both of these messages were brought by Gabriel, the angel who stands in the presence of God. He is one of only two angels who are named in the Bible.

Gabriel was sent by God to tell about the birth of Jesus, as he had been to Zechariah. He was sent in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. (Luke 1:26)


Who did Gabriel go to with his message? He went to a virgin. (27) This is the first thing told to us about the recipient of the message. Luke did that for emphasis. It is important that she was a virgin.

This virgin was “betrothed” to a man named Joseph. “Betrothed” means she was pledged to marry him. It is similar to being “engaged to be married”, but more restrictive. The betrothal could only be broken by divorce. Joseph was a descendant of King David.The last thing we are told is that the virgin’s name was Mary. It was not as important as the other things.

The emphasis is not on Mary, but on the manner of the conception of Jesus. This is not a slight of Mary. She obviously was a Godly young woman. But, again, the most important item for Luke is the conception of Jesus.

She lived in a small city named Nazareth. It was located in Galilee, the northern part of the country. Nazareth was a small place, a village, devoted to agriculture.



The angel appeared to Mary and said “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you”. (28) In other words, the Lord bestowed favor on her and was with her.

Anyone would like to hear that message. But, most people would ask “why are you telling me this now?” Mary, likewise, was troubled. Verse 29 says she tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. She wondered why this message was brought to her.

So, the angel told her why. He began, however, by reassuring her that she did not need to be afraid and that God favored her. The Greek word for “favor” comes from the word translated “grace”.   It means to be treated with undeserved kindness.

MartinLuther said it was like the angel said “O Mary, you are blessed. You have a gracious God. No woman has ever lived on earth to whom God has shown such grace.”

Because of this favor, she would conceive and give birth to a son. She was to call the son “Jesus”. That name means “God saves”. Mary received grace from God. Scripture does not portray her as the dispenser of grace. She shows us that God gives grace to even the most insignificant people.

The angel went on to tell Mary some things about her son. First, he would be great. Zechariah was told that John would be great before the Lord. But Jesus is great without reservation because he is the Lord. In the Old Testament, greatness is often attributed to God. Jesus, as deity, as God, would also be great.

It is an interesting paradox, isn’t it? Jesus would be born to humble people in humble circumstances, yet he would be great. He would be humble on earth, but exalted by God. He was an example for us in this. We are to be humble. In fact, Jesus said the one who is the least among us is great. (Luke 9:48)

Second, he would be called “Son of the Most High”. This is a way of saying “Son of God”. Third, God the Father would give Jesus the throne of his father, David. “Father” here means ancestor. Fourth, Jesus would reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) forever. His kingdom will never end.

These titles are important. We saw in our study of the book of Hebrews, that Son of God is an exalted title. It puts Jesus above everyone else other than the Father. As the Son, Jesus is the heir of all things. He is the exact imprint of the nature of the Father. That is why he has the ability to lead us to the Father. He is above angels, all men and women and all creation. In fact, it was through Jesus that the creation was created. (Hebrews 1) He is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity.

The giving of the throne of David refers us back to God’s promise to David that he would have an heir, or son, on the throne forever. That promise is recorded for us in 2 Samuel 7:16. God fulfilled his promise in Jesus. The Jews understood that the person who came to fulfill that promise was the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ. This kingdom of the Messiah is eternal. It never ends.  

The first contrast we see between Zechariah and Mary is status. Zechariah was an elderly priest and ministered at the temple. He was married to a woman whose ancestors were priests. He was a somewhat important person.

Mary, on the other hand, appears as insignificant. She was a young woman, maybe a teenager. Historians say that women were betrothed between 12 and 13 years of age at that time in Israel. She was poor and uneducated.

She lived in a small town far away from Jerusalem. Her town was not thought well of. Nathaniel, upon hearing Christ came from Nazareth, said “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)

By choosing Mary, poor and insignificant, God also began to show us the humiliation Jesus would experience in order to bring salvation to us. Jesus would be humbled from his birth to his death on the cross.

The second contrast is in the way the two received the message of the angel. Zechariah, though much older and a priest, doubted the message of the angel. Mary, though young, with no important position, believed the angel. As world changing as the message was, Mary accepted it. She accepted it because it was the word of God. She may also have thought of God’s promise in Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel”. Matthew specifically applied this verse to Jesus. (Matthew 1:21-23)

Mary’s only question was the mechanics of the event. She asked how she could conceive a child since she was a virgin. (34) Gabriel, the angel, gave her an answer. The child would be put into her, conceived, by the power of God (the Most High) through the Holy Spirit. This would be a supernatural conception.

Because his birth would be a supernatural act of God, Jesus would be called holy and the Son of God. He would be holy for he would not inherit the sin nature passed on to all of us by our parents. He would not have the guilt of “original sin”. He would literally be the Son of God, not just by title granted to him, but because of the manner of his conception.

The doctrine of Jesus’ virgin birth would later be a problem for some of the Pharisees. It is a problem for many today. Some people always want to explain away the supernatural events of the Bible and replace them with natural explanations. This was an emphasis in 19th century theological liberalism.

We who believe the Bible is true believe the virgin birth is true because the Bible tells us it is. But, also, God is a supernatural being. He is above the rules of nature. He made those rules to govern us and this creation. But, as God, he transcends them. If God did not transcend the natural, he would not be God.

To further show Mary that the miraculous was involved, the angel told her that her relative, Elizabeth, was pregnant in her old age, after a lifetime of barrenness.

Another contrast between Zechariah and Mary is that Zechariah asked for a sign because he did not believe. Mary believed and did not ask for a sign, but God gave her one for reassurance. He pointed her to the miracle he had already performed.

To sum it all up, the angel reminded her that “nothing will be impossible with God”. (35) We should remember this also.

Mary’s reaction to this fantastic message was one of faith and obedience. She said “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word”. In other words, since I serve the Lord, he may do with me as he pleases.

This statement is neither casual nor insignificant. Pregnancy for Mary could have had grave consequences. Getting pregnant before marriage would mark Mary for life with her Jewish neighbors. Sex before marriage was considered a grievous sin. She would be shunned. Her children would be marked as well.

Not only could Mary be shunned, she could be killed. The Old Testament punishment for adultery was death by stoning. Remember how Jesus saved the woman caught in adultery from being stoned by the Pharisees.

Even if not killed, pregnancy could also cause her to lose her husband to be. She would be considered an adulterer. Joseph could divorce her and shame her.

Knowing these possible outcomes, Mary accepted the message of the Lord in obedience.

We should all strive to be like Mary: hear the word of the Lord and obey it.

Friday, August 19, 2016

John Stott said, “The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history.”