Monthly Archives: December 2013

A GLANCE BACK AND A LOOK FORWARD

103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

“A popular French writer once suggested that it takes intellectual powers approaching genius to escape from the illusion of anniversaries.

Not possessing such powers I can only look wistfully at the mental giant who dwells in such timeless tranquillity and make what terms I can with the circling of the spheres. I know well enough that at midnight, December 31, nothing unusual will actually happen except in my head and the heads of others like me. I will think a new year that is new only because men have arbitrarily called it so, and feel myself passing over a line that is not really there. The whole thing will be imaginary and yet I cannot quite escape the fascination of it.

The Jews start the New Year on one date, and the Christians on another, and we cannot forget that the calendar has been pushed around quite a bit since men began to count time by years. Still the observation of the New Year is useful if it persuades us to slow down and let our souls catch up. And I think that is the real value of watch night services. We might do the same thing any night, but it is not likely that we will, so we may profit by taking advantage of the New Year service to examine our lives and ask of God strength to do better in the future than we have done in the past.

While the backward look should be searching and realistic, it should also be brief, for as a Black minister said in my hearing recently, “It’s difficult to climb a mountain looking back.” A quick glance over our shoulder is good, for it will sober us and remind us that we must some day give an account of the deeds done in the body.

For some of us last year was one in which we did not acquit ourselves very nobly as Christians, considering the infinite power available to us through the indwelling Spirit. But through the goodness of God we may go to the school of our failures. The man of illuminated mind will learn from his mistakes, yes even from his sins. If his heart is trusting and penitent, he can be a better man next year for last year’s fault—but let him not return again to folly. Repentance should be radical and thorough, and the best repentance for a wrong act, as Fenelon said, is not to do it again. Charles Wesley called Pharaoh “a penitent in vain” because he repented under the pressure of each plague and went back to sinning as soon as the plague was removed.

In seeking to evaluate our conduct over the past year, we must be careful to avoid two opposite errors: the first is being too easy on ourselves and the second is being too hard.

Contrary to what we hear constantly, especially from certain enthusiastic brethren determinedly bent on revival according to their particular idea of it, we do not always do God service by scourging ourselves. The evangelical flagellant who thinks to please God by punishing himself is as far from the truth, though in the other direction, as the rabbi who in all seriousness declared, “If there are two righteous men in the world they are myself and my son; if one, it is myself.”

To demand too much of ourselves is to admit tacitly that we have at least some degree of confidence in our native moral ability, and of course it is also to admit that our confidence in God is correspondingly weak. The man who knows himself deeply will not expect anything of himself and will not be disappointed when he fails to produce.

Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter. Meister Eckhart said that when we rise above sin and turn away from it, God will act as if we had never sinned at all and will never let our past sins count against us, for He is a God of the present and takes a man as He finds him without regard to his past. Of course this all presupposes true repentance and faith and is written not to minimize sin but to magnify grace.

So much for last year; but what about the year ahead? Well, there are said to be three thousand promises in the Holy Scriptures and they are all ours if we know what to do with them. For the Christian there is no unexplored territory. “When he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them.” The footprint of the obedient sheep is always found within the larger footprint of the Shepherd.

It is wholly impossible for us to know what lies before us, but it is possible to know something vastly more important. A quaint but godly American preacher of a generation past said it for us. “Abraham went out not knowing whither he went,” said he, “but he knew Who was going with him.” We cannot know for certain the what and the whither of our earthly pilgrimage, but we can be sure of the Who. And nothing else really matters.” A. W. Tozer, A Glance Back and a Look Forward

Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given;
While angels sing with tender mirth,
A glad new year to all the earth. Martin Luther

Standing at the portal
Of the opening year,
Words of comfort meet us,
Hushing every fear;
Spoken thru the silence
By our Savior’s voice,
Tender, strong and faithful,
Making us rejoice.

Refrain

Onward, then, and fear not,
Children of the day;
For His Word shall never,
Never pass away.

“I, the Lord, am with thee,
Be thou not afraid;
I will help and strengthen
Be thou not dismayed.
Yea, I will uphold thee
With My own right hand;
Thou art called and chosen
In My sight to stand.”

Refrain

For the year before us,
O what rich supplies!
For the poor and needy
Living streams shall rise;
For the sad and sinful
Shall His grace abound;
For the faint and feeble
Perfect strength be found.

Refrain

He will never fail us,
He will not forsake;
His eternal covenant
He will never break.
Resting on the promise,
What have we to fear?
God is all sufficient
For the coming year.

Refrain

Frances R. Havergal

WRESTLING FOR THE BLESSING, George Fox

Genesis 32:24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

“How many of us want our blessings without
the struggle! If God is our loving
Father, we fondly say, then he will surely
give us what we need for our spiritual development
without any strenuous exertion on our
part. Hold up the cup, as the lily does for
the dew, and it will be graciously filled. But
no one can fail to find in the experiences of
great spiritual souls something quite different
from this—even the Captain of our salvation
is made perfect through suffering and struggle.
No, the spiritual stature does not come with
folded hands and calm content and peaceful
ease. When Jacob is to be transformed to
Israel, the prince—when he is to rise to a new
spiritual self—he finds that the divine form
which confronts him in the dark will give no
blessing until he wrestles for it.

Two of the Master’s great parables embody
the truth that God gives his blessings to those
who show persistence and even importunity
in making their desires known. Not that
God must be teased as weak human parents
often are before they grant favors to their
children, but it is surely best for us, for our
spiritual development that all the virility and
force and earnestness of our nature should go
into our prayers for spiritual blessings, and
that we should ask as though we meant to
receive. There was once a poor heathen
woman who met Jesus, the only time He ever
crossed over the border of the little country
which He called His earthly fatherland, and her
heart was heavy with trouble. She had faith
enough to come to this traveling Teacher, and
to ask Him to cure her daughter. She poured
out her request as a mother can. “And He
answered her not a word.” There was no
sign of any help from Him. But here was a
woman who would not go away without a
blessing, though it might consist only of
crumbs. She got not only her heart’s desire,
but also the beautiful words: “O woman,
great is thy faith, be it unto thee as thou
wishest.”

It is, we believe, a mistake to suppose that
the heart worships best when it is passive.
The highest worship is reached when the soul
goes out actively to wrestle with God in silence,
it may be, in groanings that cannot be uttered,
or in loud cryings for a truer, noblier, worthier,
holier self, for the higher spiritual stature. This
is what Gladstone once called “the holy work
of worship.”

God cannot be worshipped idly, sluggishly,
lazily, and we need to realize that the great
reason for failure in spiritual development
comes from the lack of earnest, valiant wrestling
for the highest good our soul can see.” George Fox

“The average Christian is so cold and contented with his wretched condition that there is no vacuum of desire into which the blessed Spirit can rush in satisfying fullness.” A.W. Tozer

Song of Solomon 3:1-4
By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth:
I sought him, but I found him not.
I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.
The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?
It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.

PSALM 91

Psalm 91
1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

CHRIST CAME BECAUSE OF GOD’S MERCY

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

“…take first of all this word mercy. What does it mean? You notice that the Apostle repeats this. “I have obtained mercy” says Paul. “If I hadn’t I’d still be there where I was hopeless, but I obtained mercy. What is mercy? Mercy is undoubtably pity. Pity for those who are suffering and enduring. That’s the first element and quality in mercy. It goes on of course to forgiveness. But it’s the thing that leads to forgiveness, it’s the thing in a sense that produces the forgiveness. The first element the first quality in mercy is that of pity. That your sorry for people and the astounding thing the Apostle here emphasizes and as I say is the theme in which the Bible ever works out everywhere from beginning to end is just this; That God has pity on us.

Why did the Son of God come on earth. Why did Christ Jesus come into the world? The answer is if I may so put it by a kind of anthropomorphism that the great eternal God looked down on the ramparts of heaven to earth and saw mankind in sin and in shame and in misery. And though it’s almost incredible what this word tells us about God is He looked down upon the world was that He felt sorry for it. Sorry for a world that was in that condition because of its own foolishness. The world is as it is because of man himself. God didn’t make the world like this. God made the world perfect. There was perfect harmony in the world as God made it. It was called paradise. There was no disease, there was no sin, there was no unhappiness, there was no wrong it was perfect bliss, paradise. And the world is as it is because of the action of man.

My dear friend, I don’t invite you here to sing carols or to indulge in some sentimentalism because I say you don’t understand Christmas unless you understand sin. It’s a time for preaching. There is no meaning to the incarnation finally unless we see the problem of man in sin. And there he is; he’s wretched, he’s miserable, he’s warring, he’s unhappy. Why? Well it’s entirely his own fault; it’s his pride, his arrogance, he’s setting his will against the will of God. And there he is in his misery which he has brought upon himself and which he richly deserves. But the incredible thing is that God has looked down upon us and He feels sorry for us. He has pity upon us.

As you remember He looked down upon the captivity of the children of Israel in Egypt and He was sorry for them and He said “I will come down amongst them.” Well it’s exactly the same with the sending of His Son. Though man is in his present condition because he stood up against God in his arrogance and pride and folly and deliberately disobeyed Him and thereby as it where spat in the face of God and has btrought all of this upon himself yet God is sorry for men. He has pity upon men as he sees him groaning in wretchedness and unhappiness and struggling in sin. God has had pity. Thats mercy.” Dr. Marin Lloyd-Jones, Mercy, Immense and Free

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”

“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes…and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent. ” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view;

The work which His goodness began, the arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen, and never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now, nor all things below or above,
Can make Him His purpose forgo, or sever my soul from His love.

My name from the palms of His hands eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in Heav’n.
Augustus Toplady 1740–1778

Psalm 136:23 Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:

THE BIRTH OF JESUS

Today’s post is simply the scriptures related to the birth and infancy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

An Angel Tells Mary About Jesus

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary Visits Elizabeth

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (Luke 1:39-56)

An Angel Tells Joseph About Jesus

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

Jesus Is Born

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

Shepherds Visit Jesus

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:8-20)

Jesus And Mary Presented At The Temple In Jerusalem

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. (Luke 2:21-39)

Magi Visit Jesus

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ” ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (Matthew 2:1-12)

The Escape To Egypt

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:12-23)

GOD IS COME TO EARTH IN THE FORM OF MAN

Today we look again at the meaning of Christmas with A. W. Tozer and look at a less familiar Charles Wesley Advent hymn.

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

“Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!”—Phillips Brooks.

“That there were in the world multiplied millions who had never heard of Christmas did not matter to our poet for the purpose of his poem. He was expressing an emotional fact, not a statistical one.

Throughout the Western world we tend to follow the poet and approach Christmas emotionally instead of factually. It is the romance of Christmas that gives it its extraordinary appeal to that relatively small number of persons of the earth’s population who regularly celebrate it.

So completely are we carried away by the excitement of this midwinter festival that we are apt to forget that its romantic appeal is the least significant thing about it. The theology of Christmas too easily gets lost under the gay wrappings, yet apart from its theological meaning it really has none at all. A half dozen doctrinally sound carols serve to keep alive the great deep truth of the Incarnation, but aside from these, popular Christmas music is void of any real lasting truth. The English mouse that was not even stirring, the German Tannenbaum so fair and lovely and the American red-nosed reindeer that has nothing to recommend it have pretty well taken over in Christmas poetry and song. These along with merry old St. Nicholas have about displaced Christian theology.

We must not forget that the Church is the custodian of a truth so grave and urgent that its importance can not be overemphasized, and so vast and incomprehensible that even an apostle did not try to explain it; rather it burst forth from him as an astonished exclamation:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16) This is what the Church is trying to say to mankind but her voice these days is thin and weak and scarcely heard amid the commercialized clangor of “Silent Night.”

It does seem strange that so many persons become excited about Christmas and so few stop to inquire into its meaning; but I suppose this odd phenomenon is quite in harmony with our unfortunate human habit of magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import. The same man who will check his tires and consult his road map with utmost care before starting on a journey may travel for a lifetime on the way that knows no return and never once pause to ask whether or not he is headed in the right direction.

The Christmas message, when stripped of its pagan overtones, is relatively simple: God is come to earth in the form of man. Around this one dogma the whole question of meaning revolves. God did come or He did not; He is come or He is not, and the vast accumulation of sentimental notions and romantic practices that go to make up our modern Christmas cannot give evidence on one side or the other.

Certain religious teachers in apostolic times refused to believe that Jesus was actually God come in the flesh. They were willing to exhaust the language of unctuous flattery to describe His glorious manhood, but they would have none of His deity. Their basic philosophy forbade them to believe that there could ever be a union of God and human flesh. Matter, they said, is essentially evil. God who is impeccably holy could never allow Himself contact with evil. Human flesh is matter, therefore God is not come in the flesh.

Certainly it would not be difficult to refute this negative teaching. One would only need to demonstrate the error of the major premise, the essential sinfulness of matter, and the whole thing would collapse. But that would be to match reason against reason and take the mystery of godliness out of the realm of faith and make of it merely another religious philosophy. Then we would have rationalism with a thin Christian veneer. How long before the veneer wore off and we had only rationalism?

While faith contains an element of reason, it is essentially moral rather than intellectual. In the New Testament unbelief is a sin, and this could not be so if belief were no more than a verdict based upon evidence. There is nothing unreasonable about the Christian message, but its appeal is not primarily to reason. At a specific time in a certain place God became flesh, but the transcendence of Christ over the human conscience is not historic; it is intimate, direct and personal.

Christ’s coming to Bethlehem’s manger was in harmony with the primary fact of His secret presence in the world in preincarnate times as the Light that lighteth every man. The sum of the New Testament teaching about this is that Christ’s claims are self-validating and will be rejected only by those who love evil. Whenever Christ is preached in the power of the Spirit, a judgment seat is erected and each hearer stands to be judged by his response to the message. His moral responsibility is not to a lesson in religious history but to the divine Person who now confronts him.

“Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.” But Christmas either means more than is popularly supposed or it means nothing. We had better decide.” A. W. Tozer, The Warfare of the Spirit, book

“The immense step from the Babe at Bethlehem to the living, reigning triumphant Lord Jesus, returning to earth for His own people – that is the glorious truth proclaimed throughout Scripture. As the bells ring out the joys of Christmas, may we also be alert for the final trumpet that will announce His return, when we shall always be with Him.” Alan Redpath

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
Charles Wesley, 1707-1788

Psalm 110:1 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

CHRIST’S BIRTH WAS REAL

It’s Christmas week and although I don’t celebrate Christmas it is a time that the birth of our Savior is focused on by those who normally would not consider it. Christ’s birth declared several things and Dr Tozer points out four of them in his article below and if you have never sang or read all the verses of “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” (which shouldn’t just be sang during the Christmas season) please consider reading it devotionally.

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us).

“The birth of Christ was a divine declaration, an eternal statement to a race of fallen men and women. The Advent of Christ clearly established: First, that God is real. The heavens were opened and another world than this came into view. Second, that human life is essentially spiritual. With the emergence into human flesh of the Eternal Word of the Father, the fact of man’s divine origin is confirmed. Third, that God indeed had spoken by the prophets. The coming of the Messiah-Savior into the world confirmed the veracity of the Old Testament Scripture. Fourth, that man is lost but not abandoned. Had men not been lost no Savior would have been required. Had they been abandoned no Savior would have come. Finally, that this world is not the end. We are made for two worlds and as surely as we now inhabit the one we shall also inhabit the other!” A. W. Tozer

“Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.” Corrie Ten Boom

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Charles Wesley, 1707-1788

Luke 2:1-7 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

REDEMPTION THROUGH HIS BLOOD

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace

“Only look to Jesus. He died for you, died in your place, died under the frowns of heaven, that we might die under its smile. Regard neither unbelief nor doubt. Fear neither sin nor hell. Choose neither life nor death. All these are swallowed up in the immensity of Christ and are triumphed over in His cross.” John Fletcher

“What is this “forgiveness of sins”? Too often, in popular talk, it is supposed that the chief and main thought of the forgiven sinner is that he has escaped from hell. Salvation means much more than this; and what it further means is too much kept in the background, but yet I will begin with rescue from punishment; for if sin be pardoned, the penalty is extinguished. It would not be possible for God to forgive, and yet to punish. That would be a forgiveness quite unworthy of God. It would, indeed, be no forgiveness at all. We are certain that the everlasting punishment of sin declared in Scripture, will never happen to the man who is forgiven. When transgression is removed the soul stands clear at the bar of God, and there can be no further penalty. “I absolve thee,” says the great Judge; and that carries with it weight, so that a man that is forgiven is cleared of the punishment which he must otherwise have borne. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”

Yet divine favor restored is a still brighter result of forgiveness to many. Speaking from my own experience, while I was under conviction of sin I had less apprehension of the punishment of sin than I had of sin itself. I do not know that I very frequently trembled at the thought of hell: I did so whenever it came before my mind; but when I was in the hand of the Holy Ghost, as a Spirit of bondage convincing me of sin, my great trouble was that God was angry with me-properly and rightly so. I mourned that I had offended my Maker, that I had grieved the living God, that I had sinned against his righteous will, and that I could not rejoice in his favor, nor sun myself in his smile. I felt that it was right on the part of the holy God to be displeased with me. I believe that the great joy of forgiveness, to the believer, is that God has taken away his anger from him. That sweet hymn, which we often sing, is a paraphrase of a passage in Isaiah- (see hymn below) ” C. H. Spurgeon Redemption Through Blood, the Gracious Forgiveness of Sins

I Will praise thee every day
Now thine anger’s turned away!
Comfortable thoughts arise
From the bleeding sacrifice.

Here in the fair gospel field,
Wells of free salvation yield
Streams of life, a plenteous store,
And my soul shall thirst no more.

Jesus is become at length
My salvation and my strength;
And his praises shall prolong,
While I live, my pleasant song.

Praise ye, then, his glorious name,
Publish his exalted fame!
Still his worth your praise exceeds,
Excellent are all his deeds.

Raise again the joyful sound,
Let the nations roll it round!
Zion shout, for this is he,
God the Savior dwells in thee.

William Cowper 1731 – 1800

“Christ did not die that God might love us, but He died because God loved us.”Charles Hodge

THE BLOOD OF JESUS TAKES AWAY OUR SINS

Today I’m working on site modification and other too-technical-for-me stuff so I’ll be reposting a chapter from the book “The Blood of Jesus” by William Reid that was originally posted back in October. Tomorrow there will quite possibly be no post.

The Blood of Jesus
by The Rev. William Reid, M.A.

Chapter 2

Jesus The Taker-Away Of Sin

THERE IS EVERY REASON why you should now intelligently and believingly behold the Lamb of God, “which taketh away the sin of the world.” You are not directed in this passage to a Saviour who has already ” taken away the sin of the world,” but to Him who “taketh away the sin of the world.” The meaning plainly is, that Jesus is the God appointed Taker-away of sin for the world. We find him asserting this, when He says, The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins”; “All power” (or authority) “is given me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus is the only and the all-sufficient, as He is the authorised Taker-away of sin, for the world at large. The whole world is brought in guilty before God, “for all have sinned,” and the true gospel of God is, that when any one belonging to our sinful world feels his sin to be oppressive, and comes straight to “the Lamb of God” with it, and frankly acknowledges it, and tells out his anxieties regarding it, and his desire to get rid of it, he will find that Jesus has both the power and the will to take it away; and on seeing it removed from him by “the blood of His cross,” “as far as the east is from the west,” be will be enabled to sing with a grateful heart and “joyful lips:”

“I lay my sins on Jesus,
The spotless Lamb of God;
He bears them all, and frees us
From the accursed load.”
Ho­ra­ti­us Bo­nar,

You can never make an atonement for your past sins, nor by personal obedience procure a title to the inheritance of glory; but Jesus is willing to take away all your sins, and to give you His own title to the glorious kingdom, if you will only consent to intrust Him alone with your salvation.
“Well,” you may perhaps resolve, “I will go to Him, and cast myself upon His mercy, and if I perish, I perish.” Ah, but you need not go to Him in that spirit, for it throws a doubt upon the all-sufficiency of His completed atonement for sin, and His perfect, spotless life of obedience.

Jesus himself says, ” God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” These being the ” true sayings of God,” where, O friend, is there the least cause for you saying, with hesitancy and doubt “If I perish, I perish?” The proper thought you ought to have in reference to the glorious Gospel is this – God has so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son to die for sinners, and He assures me that if I, a perishing sinner, believe in Him, I shall not perish, but have everlasting life; I believe His Word, and reckon that if He gave His Son to die for us when we were yet sinners, He will with Him also freely give us all such things as pardon and purity, grace and glory; and if, in accordance with His own gracious invitation, I rest my soul upon His manifested love in Christ Jesus, I believe that it will be as impossible for me to perish, as for God to change His nature, or to cancel the word of grace and truth, that the ” blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”

God the Father loved sinners so much as to send Jesus to die for them. Jesus loved sinners so much as to lay down His life for their redemption. The Holy Spirit loves sinners so much that He has written a record of God’s manifested love to them in Jesus Christ, and He Himself has come down in person, to reveal that love to their souls, that they may be saved. And if you, O anxious one, will now agree to God’s method of transferring all that Divine justice demands of you to Jesus, “who was made of a woman, made under the law,” who perfectly obeyed and pleased the Father in His holy life, and in death endured and exhausted the penalty due to sin, you will obtain pardon, peace, grace, and holiness; the full tide of the love of God, which passeth knowledge, will flow into your soul, and, in the spirit of adoption, you will cry, “Abba, Father,” feel the constraining influence of the love of Christ, and live to the glory of “Him who died for us and rose again.”

That I may make the method of a sinner’s salvation so “plain, that he that readeth it” may have his mind’s eye so full of its meaning, “that he may run” at once to Jesus Christ, as his Divine sin-bearer, I will present the following homely and unmistakable illustration :-While standing, one day on the platform of the Aberdeen Station of the North-Eastern Railway, I observed a carriage with a board on it intimating that it ran all the way from Aberdeen to London. The doors of it were open, the porters were putting passengers’ luggage on the top of it, and a few individuals were entering, or about to enter, its different compartments. They looked for this particular carriage as soon as they had passed through the ticket-office, and on seeing “London” on it, they threw in their traveling-rugs, entered, and, seating themselves, prepared for the journey.

Having furnished themselves with tickets and railway guides, and satisfied themselves that they were in the right carriage, they felt the utmost confidence and I did not observe any one of them coming out of the carriage, and running about in a state of excitement, calling to those around them, “Am I right? am I right?”
Nor did I see any one refusing to enter, because the carriage provided for only a limited number to proceed by that train. There might be 80,000 inhabitants in and around the city; but still there was not one who talked of it as absurd to provide accommodation for only about twenty persons, for practically it was found to he perfectly sufficient. Trains leave the city several times a-day, and it is found that one carriage for London in the train is quite sufficient for the number of passengers; and on the particular day to which I now refer, I noticed, that so ample was the accommodation, that one of the passengers had a whole compartment to himself. The carriage is for the whole city and neighbourhood, but carries only such of the inhabitants as come and seat themselves in it from day to day.
God, in His infinite wisdom, has made provision of a similar kind for our lost world. He has provided a train of grace to carry as many of its inhabitants to heaven, the great metropolis of the universe, as are willing to avail themselves of the gracious provision.

When we call you by the preaching of the gospel, the meaning is, that all who will may come, and, passing through the booking-office of justification by faith alone, seat themselves in a carriage marked, “From Guilt to Glory.” Whenever you hear the free and general offer of salvation, you need not stand revolving the question in your own mind, “Is it for me ?” for just as the railway company carry all who comply with their printed regulations, irrespective of moral character, so if you come to the station of grace at the advertised time, which is ” now,”-for “Behold now is the accepted time,” you will find the train of salvation ready; and the only regulation to be complied with by you, in order to your being carried by it, is that you consent to let the Lord Jesus Christ charge Himself with paying for your seat, – which cannot surely be anything but an easy and desirable arrangement, seeing you have no means of paying for yourself.

Were you coming to the railway-station with no money in your pocket, and anxious to travel by a train about to start, in order to be put in possession of a valuable inheritance left to you by a friend; and were any one to meet you at the door of the ticket-office, and say, “I will pay your fare for you,” you would not feel anything but the utmost satisfaction in complying with such a regulation; and is it not an easy matter for you on coming to the station of mercy to submit to the regulation of the gospel, to let Jesus pay your fare for the train of grace, that you may take your seat with confidence, and be carried alone, the new and living way to everlasting glory?

If we want to know the gospel and be saved, we must know Jesus as our Sin-bearer; for “Christ crucified is the sum of the gospel and the richness of it. Paul was so taken with Jesus that nothing sweeter than Jesus could drop from his pen and lips. It is observed that he hath the word Jesus five hundred times in his epistles “(Charnock 1684) “Jesus” was his constant subject of meditation, and out of the good treasure of the heart his mouth spoke and his pen wrote. He felt that Christ was made of God unto him “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” and glorying in the Lord and in His cross, he determined not to know anything among those to whom he preached and wrote, ” save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” That faith which is not built on a dying Christ is but a perilous dream: God awaken all from it that are in it!

Christ alone is our salvation-
Christ the rock on which we stand;
Other than this sure foundation
Will be found but sinking sand.

Christ, His cross and resurrection,
Is alone the sinner’s plea;
At the throne of Gods perfection,
Nothing else will set him free.

“We have all things, Christ possessing;
Life eternal, second birth;
Present pardon, peace, and blessing,
While we tarry here on earth;

And by faith’s anticipation,
Foretastes of the joy above,
Freely given us with salvation,
By the Father in His love.

“When we perfect joy shall enter,
‘Tis in Him our bliss will rise;
He’s the essence, soul, and centre
Of the glory in the skies:

In redemption’s wondrous story,
Plannd before our parents’ fall,
From the Cross unto the Glory.
Jesus Christ is all in all”
Anonymous

JESUS PAID IT ALL

Psalm 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Romans 4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

“You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: “Him that justifieth the ungodly.” I do not wonder that you are surprised; for with all my familiarity with the great grace of God, I never cease to wonder at it. It does sound surprising, does it not, that it should be possible for a holy God to justify an unholy man? We, according to the natural legality of our hearts, are always talking about our own goodness and our own worthiness, and we stubbornly hold to it that there must be somewhat in us in order to win the notice of God. Now, God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatever in us. He says that “there is none righteous, no not one.” He knows that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” and, therefore the Lord Jesus did not come into the world to look after goodness and righteousness with him, and to bestow them upon persons who have none of them. He comes, not because we are just, but to make us so: he justifieth the ungodly.

God has devised ways and means of making the ungodly man to stand justly accepted before Him: He has set up a system by which with perfect justice He can treat the guilty as if he had been all his life free from offence, yea, can treat him as if he were wholly free from sin. He justifieth the ungodly.” C. H. Spurgeon, excerpts from “All Of Grace”

“Then how are we born again? What do we have to do to be born again? Well, in the first place, it is by acknowledging the fact of our sinful nature. No, it is not an acknowledging that we have done some wrong things, that we have committed sins — that is not good enough. A lot of people think that if you are going to become a Christian, it is a matter of confessing that you have done this, or that, or the other which is not right, and asking God to forgive and saying you will not do it again. That is not it. It is not sins but sin, it is not what we do or do not do, it is what we are. And no one ever gets through with God by acknowledging a certain number of sins even though they might make a mountain of them that is a countless number that they would confess. That is not the way through with God, because God knows a great deal more than we can count about ourselves. What He calls for is acknowledgment of the fact of a sinful nature, what we are in ourselves, and then, in the light of that, the acknowledgment of Christ as God’s Son.” T. A. sparks, The New Birth

Romans 3:23 KJV For all have sinned , and come short of the glory of God;

“Salvation is from our side a choice, from the divine side it is a seizing upon, an apprehending, a conquest by the Most High God. Our “accepting” and “willing” are reactions rather than actions. The right of determination must always remain with God.”
- A.W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

REFRAIN:
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

And now complete in Him
My robe His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.

When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down
All down at Jesus’ feet.
Elvina M. Hall (1822-1889)

Psalm 3:4 I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

“My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things; That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.” John Newton