Justice And Holiness

Whether partisan or not, no observer of our country’s political turmoil thinks that justice has been sought, much less attained. This is bothersome to us because desiring justice is inherent in us, imprinted on us, as those made in the image of the one who self-declared, “I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isa. 43:3). 

Through the corruption of sin, we’ve learned to lie and seek our own advantage. But we still feel injustices against us. In moral confusion, we even think the justice of the Holy One will vindicate us, rather than condemn. So Amos warned, “Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, For what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness and not light,” he said (Amos 5:18).

God’s judicial justice will come. Maybe we’ll have been eagerly waiting for it like the martyrs who said, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging?” (Rev. 6:10), or maybe it will come after the “terrifying expectation of judgment” (Heb. 10:17) that the profane must live with—but ultimate true justice and holiness will come from heaven as promised.  

Let us prepare for that day in God’s way, as the prophet said, “What does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

Eternity In Our Hearts

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon said God made a time for everything in life and “set eternity in the hearts” of men (Eccl. 3:11). 

So we know within us that all the times of life that He gives—of “birth and death,” “planting and uprooting,” “tearing down and building up,” “weeping and laughing,” “mourning and dancing,” “love and hate,” “war and peace,” and every other “purpose and event under heaven”should mean something. 

This “eternity in our hearts,” makes us crave lasting purpose and seek fulfillment. And it can’t be faked. We need it to be authentic. 

But living in a fallen world “subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:20), where “all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2,14; 3:19; 12:8). Even things that should be good and comforting to us are often just additional sources of frustration. 

Augustine, summarized this great yearning within us, thwarted by life's futilities, as a “restlessness,” saying, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

Only in God and the things He gives—used properly for the purposes He gave them—can we hope to find the satisfaction, fulfillment, and contentment that our souls ache for.  

A Ransom For Us All

Matthew and Mark record Jesus’ wonderful statement, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45). 

Ransom is paid when one is held in captivity or bondage. In modern times ransom is almost exclusively given to illegitimate takers like kidnappers. In ancient times, ransoms were commonly used to retrieve important people or family members who were taken in war or other misfortunes. 

The 49th Psalm discusses who would ransom and redeem those who were taken hold of by death. Redemption then will be God’s alone. 

Ps. 49:7   No man can by any means redeem his brother, 

Or give to God a ransom for him—

8 For the redemption of his soul is costly, 

And he should cease trying forever—

14 As sheep they are appointed for Sheol; 

Death shall be their shepherd…

their form shall be for Sheol to consume…

15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; 

For He will receive me. Selah.

Living in a time of physical security, and in the gospel time of abundant grace and hope, we can forget how tenuous a grasp we have on freedom and life. But death is the ultimate reminder of our need of all that was accomplished in Jesus, “Who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). 

Even Samson Was Strongest When He Was Weak

Samson and the other servants of God mentioned in Hebrews 11, “gained approval through their faith” (vs. 39), but man, is he a complicated character. Most of us know him from childhood Bible stories. His superhero-like strength and outlandish exploits—breaking ropes, carrying off city gates and fighting bad guys—easily lend themselves to the youthful imaginations. 

But there’s a lot of darkness in his story—lust, gambling, murder, arson, lies, and fornication. Samson didn’t deliver Israel from their troubles, instead, he was Israel in all their troubles. He had a unique birth, a special mission, help and blessings from God and yet nothing seemed to improve much. Finally, worn down and in a relationship with a harlot, he lost his strength and was captured by the enemy. 

In his humiliation and weakness, he turned to God and was heard one more time, gaining a great final victory (Judg. 16:30). He learned the same lesson that the Lord taught the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor. 11:9) 

Let’s learn something from this man who had such a messy life, and depended too much for too long on physical strength. 

Let’s learn of God’s grace to those who seek Him, even in the midst of, or towards the end of, a messy life.

God Is Opposed To The Proud

“Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” Those aren’t my words, they’re God’s (Prov. 26:12). God repeatedly says that He hates pride. He warned, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).

God resists the proud because they resist Him. Haughty hearts don’t admit to sin. They won’t confess it and cannot repent of what they deny. Pride won’t admit to weakness and wrong so it can’t ask for help or forgiveness.  

Pride comes at a high price. It costs us relationships and opportunities alike.  It can even cost us our souls and yet we often still stubbornly prefer it to humility. 

God blesses humility because it will quickly do what pride will not. The humble heart serves God and others. It will stoop to help and bow before God. 

Humility will confess, to men and God alike, the wrongs that pride so stubbornly refuses to acknowledge. 

So we can stand on our pride and ultimately fall on our face, or we can fall on our knees and stand where God lifts us up. Truly, “God gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” (Jas. 4:6).

“In The Image Of God”

In beautifully concise, almost sparse, language Moses tells how God made the world and all things in it (Gen. 1). He slowed down when telling how humanity was specifically crafted in God’s image.

Sin corrupted us and still does, but God in Christ—who took on the fulness of man and possessed the fulness of God without compromising either—came to redeem us from our lawless deeds. In this great rescue, the dignity of everyone for whom He died is reaffirmed.

We must learn to view ourselves and others as image-bearers of God with a great purpose to fulfill—and in Christ, the way to fulfill it. We have not created ourselves, nor redeemed ourselves, nor do we successfully direct ourselves. Our creator always has better ideas for us than we have for ourselves. 

Being made thus by Him, we are not just what we have, buy, or even what we do. Nor are we the sum of our thoughts, desires, or struggles. There’s always more to us. We are always body, soul, and spirit as God gave.

Let us seek to fulfill the hope of the apostle Paul: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).

“In The Image Of God”

In beautifully concise, almost sparse, language Moses tells how God made the world and all things in it (Gen. 1). He slowed down when telling how humanity was specifically crafted in God’s image.

Sin corrupted us and still does, but God in Christ—who took on the fulness of man and possessed the fulness of God without compromising either—came to redeem us from our lawless deeds. In this great rescue, the dignity of everyone for whom He died is reaffirmed.

We must learn to view ourselves and others as image-bearers of God with a great purpose to fulfill—and in Christ, the way to fulfill it. We have not created ourselves, nor redeemed ourselves, nor do we successfully direct ourselves. Our creator always has better ideas for us than we have for ourselves. 

Being made thus by Him, we are not just what we have, buy, or even what we do. Nor are we the sum of our thoughts, desires, or struggles. There’s always more to us. We are always body, soul, and spirit as God gave.

Let us seek to fulfill the hope of the apostle Paul: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).

Clothe Yourself With Christ

The Bible talks a lot about clothes. Sometimes it’s literal clothing, like the “attire of a harlot” (Prov. 7:10) or “a bride” (Jer. 2:32), or the “fine clothes” of the rich (Jas. 2:3) contrasted with the “dirty” and insufficient clothing of the poor (Jas. 2:2; Job 24:10, 31:19). And the Bible teaches that our clothing should not be ostentatious (1 Pet. 3:3), but “proper, modest and discreet” (1 Tim. 2:9).

But the greatest Bibles lessons about clothes aren’t literal. Rather clothes are used as a metaphor for spiritual life. Our life of sin is described as “polluted garments or filthy rags” (Zech. 3:4; Isa. 64:9). Like changing out of dirty clothes, we are to “lay aside” sin, “put on” what is proper (Col. 3:8,11; Eph. 4:22,24) and “clothe ourselves with humility” (1 Pet. 5:5). 

Christians are to clothe themselves in the virtues taught and shown by Christ, until the blessed day when it will be: “Given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19:8), for, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14).

Until then, let us follow the admonition of the apostle Paul: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).

Who Did His Father’s Will?

Jesus told a story about a man who had two sons, both of whom were somewhat rebellious. He said, “He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered and said, ‘I will, sir’; and he did not go. And he came to the second and said the same thing. But he answered and said, ‘I will not’; yet he afterward regretted it and went” (Matt. 21:28-32).

Jesus asked His hearers to decide, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” It was obvious which one did, even if he got off to a bad start. So Jesus said that those who heard the gospel and repented, even though their sins were great, followed God’s will much more than those who respectfully said they’d follow—but didn’t. 

The gospel teaches us a great deal of “doing.” Doing as Christ did. Doing “unto others.” Doing when we don’t feel like it—until we do. Psychologists call this the “Behavioral Model.” You might not feel like doing it, but start doing it and your feelings follow your behavior. 

What did Yoda say when Luke Skywalker whined, “All right, I'll give it a try.” Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” 

More seriously, Jesus said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (Jn. 13:17) and His brother James warned, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

Yielding With Humility 

Too many people make sure they get their own way. They don’t care if you get what you want or need—just so long as they can get theirs. So such people can appear considerate, letting others go first—but only when they’re sure that they’ll get theirs too. 

They might let you have the first, and maybe even the last, piece of cake; but would never give up the final seat on the lifeboat.

How do we move from this to true humility and a true spirit of putting others first? 

The answer revealed and shown to Christians is be like Christ. 

The apostle Paul taught: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourself which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:3-5).

Is this hard? Yes. Self-denial always is. So start practicing it in in small ways first. Then be resolute in putting others first in more meaningful ways. 

Yielding with humility is the road to true Christ-likeness, following the one who left heaven, “not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45).

Psalm 88 — A Psalm We Need

God’s word is an armory with defenses and weapons for every kind of occasion. Just like your gun safe has things you never want to use in anger, God’s revelation has equipment for dark (Amos 8:9) and evil days (Eph. 6:13) that we hope never come—but eventually do.

Ps. 88 is never listed as anyone’s favorite Bible reading. It’s the song of one whose, “Soul has had enough troubles, Forsaken…Whom You remember no more.” (v. 3-5) The one who asks, “Lord, why do you reject me? Why do you hide…?” saying, “I suffer…I am desperate. You have distanced loved one and neighbor from me; darkness is my only friend.” (vs. 14-18) Yes, “Hello, darkness my old friend,” indeed.

We need to know how to react in faith in dark times of difficulty and tragedy. When injuries, long-term illnesses beset us. When our spouses, parents or children are given a terminal diagnosis. When there’s separation, longing, and loneliness. or depression, despairing, and bereavement. These come in life. And God’s word has the answer. 

Just like I’m glad to know that in the event of a water landing, my airplane seat can be used as a floatation device, I’m glad to know such psalms are here. I pray I’ll never have to use them for real. But knowing how life is, I’m afraid some day, I just might. I’m also glad someone went over the emergency instructions ahead of time, even if I didn’t pay as much attention as I probably should have.

“Become Such As I Am…” (Acts 26:29)

In the year 59 A.D. in Caesarea, Judea, a new administration took over. The apostle Paul was given a hearing after the previous governor had kept him in jail for 2 years. In Acts 26:1, the new governor and visiting royal dignitaries told him he was free to, “Speak for yourself.”

After years of bad treatment and facing serious charges, most people would defend themselves or make charges against those who’d wronged them. Some might seek sympathy by telling how badly they’d been mistreated. Many of us like to tell our tales of woe—some of us live for such a chance. 

But not Paul. He didn’t strive for sympathy or vindication—he lived for Christ. So he confidently told of his conversion, of seeing the risen Lord and how he had not ceased to preach him since. 

The governor, like many secular people, thought it all nonsense and acknowledged that Paul seemed like a bright, but crazy, fellow. But the king recognized what Paul was doing — he was trying to convert them to Christ. “Nice try,” he says, “you almost converted me.” 

Paul agreed, saying, “I would to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains” (vs. 29). Like Paul, let us all clearly and boldly use our every opportunity to make people Christians, even if some think we’re crazy and other don’t believe.

Christ-Centered—Cross-Centered

Theologians and scripture expositors have often said, “Christ and the cross are the center of the Bible” — that everything before looks forward to this, and everything after it looks back to it. 

For Christians, Christ isn’t just the center of our Bibles, He’s the focal point of all history—we even count time as the years before and after His birth. He’s to be the center of all our thinking, “we’re taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). 

When Christ is our center, He’s what we come to know and speak most about. Paul also told the Corinthians, he came “proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1,2). In a culture that is increasingly Christ-averse, we still “sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts” (1 Pet. 3:15). 

Why is this so? Why are we so dedicated to, so enlivened through, and animated by, One who lived so long ago? Because Christ died for our sins before He’d let us die in them. Thus He gave Himself for us all. John the apostle said, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2).

His death for me, and for you, and the new life that brings makes me want to center all things on Him, as so many have done before. Would you make Him your center too?

Come, Let All Unite To Sing

The 95th psalm says, “O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (vs. 1 & 2).

God’s people have always been singers. In the Old Testament, David appointed Levites to sing and “raise sounds of joy” to the Lord. (1 Chron. 15:16), and another psalm says, “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD” (Ps. 104:33,34).

God’s people are still singing today. The churches were told to engage in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with [our] heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19), and “sing with the spirit and the mind” (1 Cor. 14:15).

James said, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises.” (Jas. 5:13). In Jesus, we have so much to be cheerful and thankful for. So singing is the easiest instruction that God ever gave. As the prophet Zechariah said so long ago, “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the Lord.”

Interrupted By Greed

A man once interrupted Jesus because of his greed. In Luke 12 Jesus was talking about God’s wonderful care and provision for us, “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? And yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows” (vs. 6,7).

Jesus went on to speak of God’s care even in the midst of persecution and how the Holy Spirit would help them. Just then, the greedy fellow spoke up, “And someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me’” (vs. 13). Never mind what Jesus was teaching, he wanted the Savior to help him get his money. 

The worldly and carnal life is one of infinite dissatisfaction, always wanting more, and taking from or before others to get it. J.D. Rockefeller was once asked how much money it took to satisfy. He reportedly said, “Just a little more.” 

We should never consult our greed when considering what to do, what to take, what to buy, what to share, or what we think others should do for us. Greed is a terrible career counselor, family counselor, relationship coach, and pastor. So Jesus said, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (vs. 15).

Represent The Father Well

What a blessing to be identified with God.  John said, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him” (1 Jn. 3:1). 

The world does not understand Christians because they don’t know our Father. But when unbelievers see wrong in us, they'll think they know more than enough about us, and Him, already. 

The apostle Paul’s soberly warned that when you break the law, you dishonor God—and can cause unbelievers to speak ill of Him as well. Quoting Isa. 52:5, he says, “‘THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written” (Rom. 2:24). And Ezekiel said, “You have profaned My holy name among the nations where you have gone” (Ezek. 36:22).

Have ever you heard someone say, “If that’s Christianity, I want no part of it”? Believers face reproach enough in doing right in a wicked world. But doing wrong reflects especially poorly on our Father. Christian, if you are maligned, make sure it’s only for doing right. 

Sometimes, we need Nehemiah’s words again: “The thing which you are doing is not go

What Will You Do With Jesus?

A website devoted to Christian hymns (hymnary.org) lists more than 15 songs with “What Will You Do With Jesus?” as their title or the first line of their refrain. This echoes Pilate’s question when the Jews demanded Barabbas be freed instead of Jesus. “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matt. 27:22). This is a good question for us all.

Jesus’ opponents did a lot with Him. They argued with Him, opposed Him, plotted against Him and crucified Him. These are bad ways to deal with Jesus.

His friends usually did better, as they listened to Him, worshipped, followed, thanked and loved Him. But they were also confused by Him, disappointed Him, argued with Him and they denied Him. 

When the gospel of Jesus was preached after His death and resurrection some still rejected Him and persecuted His followers. Others hesitated to make a decision about Him or tried to stay neutral. 

Those who believed became Christians and confessed and they obeyed Him. They proclaimed Him. They worshiped Him. Loved Him, adored Him and glorified Him. 

Our response to Jesus is largely an emotional one. Realizing that the son of God died to save us from our sins makes us choose between Him and our sins. So, what will you do with Jesus?

A Happy Man

A government official going home after a long trip is not usually how stories of great joy begin. But it’s how a happy story in Acts 8 does.

An Ethiopian official was traveling home reading the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. He read, “He was led as a sheep to slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he does not open his mouth…His life is removed from the earth.” (Isa. 53:7,8). Like so many prophecies in Isaiah, it’s confusing and the official didn’t know who it was talking about.

He asked an evangelist named Philip whom God had sent to meet him, “How can I, understand unless someone guides me?”  

Philip told him the prophecy was about Jesus. So, “Beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:35) Learning that Jesus was the lamb of God who was slain, but was risen again, the official asked what else he need to do before being baptized. The preacher told him he could if he believed. So,“He ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him. And then they came up out of the water, …he went on his way rejoicing” (vss. 38,39).

Here is the joy of the baptized believer, united with Christ and forgiven of sin. No wonder he went home rejoicing. 

Joy in Jesus is still found by learning about Him in the scripture, believing in Him and being baptized. Happiness in Christ is a blessing made new in every believer who heeds the gospel call.

Come, Let All Unite To Sing

The 95th psalm says, “O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” (vs. 1 & 2)

God’s people have always been singers. In the Old Testament, David appointed Levites to sing and “raise sounds of joy” to the Lord. (1 Chron. 15:16), and another psalm says, “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD.”  (Ps. 104:33,34)

God’s people are still singing today. The churches were told to engage in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with [our] heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19), and “sing with the spirit and the mind” (1 Cor. 14:15).

James said, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises.” (Jas. 5:13) In Jesus we have so much to be cheerful and thankful for. So singing is the easiest instruction that God ever gave. As the prophet Zechariah said so long ago, “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the Lord.”

We invite you to our congregational hymn singing this Friday, July 13, at 7:30 pm, at the Pix Community Center in downtown Mulvane. 

The Gospel: The Good News We Need

The good news: God made you in His image, dearly loves you, wants you to be reconciled to Him, to live a life of spiritual peace and joy, and to be saved eternally. 

The bad news: If you need to be reconciled, and saved, that means the state of man is alienation, loss, and condemnation. This is the result of sin. 

Back to the good news: Jesus is the cure for sin and the only way back to God. He made our reconciliation with God—and with others—His business. To do this, He made Himself the sacrifice for our sin. Through belief in Him, repentance of sin, baptism to wash away sin, and faithfulness to Him, salvation is promised.