Feed My Sheep 1: The Love of God For His People

“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ “(John 21:17).

You cannot appreciate this passage until you see it in the light of the dereliction and wreckage of the eleven remaining members of the apostolic “flock” before, during and after the passion of Christ.

They were prayer-less and clueless.

By the time Christ the Great Shepherd is hanging on the cross, the sheep, his disciples were spiritually bankrupt, afraid and lost. Christ the good shepherd laid down his life for his scattered sheep and would gather them in his awesome redemption.

They were as sheep going astray (1 Pet. 2:25). Isaiah prophesied not only of his original apostles but, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6a). The idea of sheep going astray sounds so innocuous and cute, but the brutal truth is that because of our wandering far from God, “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa. 53:6b). While sheep can represent the people of God, sheep also represent the repulsion we have for God and his ways and that the desire to sin can be so strong that even after one is a child of God we can wander in the wrong direction and must be brought home time and again.

Yet the Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20), says to his people, “I have loved you, saith the LORD.” (Mal. 1:2).  Why? Why does he love the sheep? He explains, “God wasn’t attracted to you and didn’t choose you because you were big and important—the fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love…” (Deut. 7:7-8Message).

Christ loves his people. It is an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). It is a love from eternity and a love that lasts for an eternity.  This is because God’s love is a Trinitarian love, a love that preexisted veiled in such mystery in the Godhead- that theologian’s pen runs out of ink, the best worshippers run out of words, and angels run out of tears when you attempt to describe it. Jesus says, “For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24).  Jesus said, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” (John 15:9). We share in a love that is as eternal as God himself, a quality of love that is the same love the Eternal Father has for the Eternal Son and there is no end to it. “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love! Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” (Eph 1:4-5). Ceaseless praise for eternity could not fathom such love!

It is an undying love, yet a love that died for us. The Bible says he loved them to the end (John 13:1) and he proved that love by his death on the cross (Rom 5:8).  It is a complete love and his relationship with his disciples was one characterized as love, “love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:34).  Imagine a life described as Divine Love. Imagine being around Christ in whom is God’s love expressed! Jesus says again, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” (John 16:27). His people are defenseless to his love. They melt and are wooed by it!

It is an otherworldly love. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” (1 John 3:1). The phrase “manner of love” (potapēn agapēn) refers to country or race. So it can be asked, “What foreign kind of love is this” (Wuest).  It cannot be found in any nation, tongue, kindred, or tribe. It is heavens love! It is a foreign kind of love, as foreign as heaven shores are to earth’s oceans. Fpor us to understand this love it had to be translated for us to understand and there only language or anaology that could capture it was in the cross of Jesus. It was God’s love interpreted to us!  If you would understand God’s foreign love, you must understand the alien truth of justification by faith in Jesus Christ and his saving work on the cross.

“Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see, the very dying form of One who suffered there for me! And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess: the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.”

God calls his true shepherds to focus on the real covenant love of God found in their Shepherd Christ that has predestined a people, His sheep to come home.  It is that wonderful, yet terrible cross that keeps our hearts warmed with gratitude and affection! How the rod and staff of the cross should comfort and lead God’s people!  Jude says to, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 1:21).  How wonderful is his love, may it have over our being absolute sway! May we be encouraged to constantly look for his mercy and saty in the sphere of  his love by those who claim to feed the sheep of God!  The people of God in their hearts and their pastors from their pulpits should, “set it always before them, to keep it constantly in view, to exercise faith on it, firmly believing their interest in it; as also to meditate on it, give themselves up wholly to the contemplation of it, and employ their thoughts constantly about it, which is the foundation of all grace here, and glory hereafter…” (Gill).

(c) 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care Ministries

Feel free to reproduce and distribute for edification but just let others know we wrote it.

God’s Statutes: Loving God’s Law

“The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart…”

AMONG church attendees there are two kinds of people, those who see God’s law as constraining, others which see it as liberating.  That is because they make a distinction between God’s Word and God’s Law that the Bible never makes.  God’s law reveals God’s will and nature. We do not make up our own standard of obedience once we are saved by grace. That standard has never changed, nor will it ever.

The human heart by nature is opposed and hostile to God’s laws (Rom. 8:7). After regeneration the laws that they once hated are written upon their heart by the flaming pen of the Holy Spirit and He ignites a love for God’s written Word that they did not have before (2 Cor. 3:3). God’s law before and after salvation reveals sin in our lives (Rom. 3:20), but we come to love the law of God because when it exposes our sin, it leads us to Christ over and over again.  The same external law that led us as a schoolmaster to Christ for salvation (Gal. 3:24), acts now as the internal law that reveals his perfect will and leads us to Him as the Lover of our souls (Rom. 7:22; 8:2)! 

When God exposes our error and sin, the Bible promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). The word “confess” or homologeo according to Dr. Ken Wuest is not just to freely admit our sins but  in the Greek it is in the  “present subjunctive, meaning continuous action. This teaches the constant attitude of the saint toward sin should be one of a contrite heart, ever eager to have any sin in the life discovered for him by the Holy Spirit and ever eager to confess it and put it out by the power of that same Holy Spirit.”   We are liberated to confess our sins, repent and with tearful joy knowing that our fellowship with Christ is growing each time as he delights to forgive us. Glory to God!

Now the word statutes in today’s culture refers to the policy that prohibits something or permits something.  In the Hebrew language in Psalm 19:8 statutes comes from a root word which teaches that God is paying attention and overseeing how He wants things ordered. His Sovereign grace is at work in our becoming more holy and Christlike. This verse teaches that God orders and oversees his law in all of it facets especially those of the heart and our relationship to Him. He is tending and gardening the soil of our hearts through the sharp blade of his Word (Heb 4:12). He plants the seed of the Word (Mt 13:37) and sustains it by the water of the Word (Eph 5:26) and that makes our hearts fertile and productive for him (1 Cor 3:6-7).

These statutes are right. What He says, He has every right to say because He is Creator and King. God is God. Those who believe his Word are orthodox, those who do not are heterodox.  Simply put one is right and one is wrong. As Christians we believe the Bible is right, it is the settled and established policy of heaven. It is the rule that rules our lives. Unlike relativists or humanists we believe that God has given us those rules as our absolute truth and sole authority.

These statutes are so right and just and equal that obeying them brings great joy to the heart.  A person who is a Christian does have a fear of God, for sure, yet they need not live under the threat of penalties for not doing God’s will. Instead, they trust in the law of God as a prescription for health. He provides through his statutes the internal understanding and motivation to do God’s will as he directly communicates with us, “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” (Heb. 8:10). When the Word is in the heart it affects the thoughts and emotions.  Because they are written on our heart they provide the desire and the ability to act upon God’s will (Phil 2:12, 13). They bring rejoicing of heart, a joy of heart that has a clear conscience knowing we are going the right way, heading in the right direction.

God calls us to serve him for his own sake. He is our motivation and we love his laws. We serve Christ for Christ. We love and serve God because he is worthy and has given us worthy laws that propel us to be zealous of good works (Titus 2:14). 

More Loving Than God?

I have shared with some of you, that I believe there are some people who think they love others more than God does. They see themselves as generous, hospitable and kind. They bristle at people whom they see as harsh and straightforward with scripture. To them that is so unloving.
 
Now of course they would never say that but I would like to test their approach. Scripture says this:
 
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth.  Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures. Love never ends.” (1 Cor 13:4-8NCV).
 
These wonderful virtues are in list form and if you see yourself as placing a check to any or all of these-there is one word that buries all of us and should bring us to our knees in a realization of failure:
 
Always.
 

HELP IS ON THE WAY!

Help is on the way! What a sigh of relief that gives the Christian who can bodly say, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Heb 13:6). I think this is good news-don’t you? I know these are difficult times, you look at the mess you are in and all you feel is alone,  bewildered or perplexed constantly thinking, “Where did I go wrong?”  There is guilt for past sins and bad decisions and you feel alone or like you are being punished.  There are some reading this article that are staring at some insurmountable problem that is testing the very heart of their faith in God. Others have to deal with the perfunctory day-to-day issues eating away at their souls. But God who does not sleep or slumber will preserve your soul from evil and you go about your daily life.  Your,  “help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:2).

What is worse is other people you trusted and depended on are not there. “My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.” (Ps 38:11NIV). Some people just become cold and aloof to others who have issues. You were there for them, prayed for them and wept with them but now they are nowhere to be found. People do not know what to say, they do not know what to do for you, so they stay away.

Sometimes people become vicious toward us. “They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.” (Ps 35:12). It is pretty sick the way we human beings treat each other especially when people pay others back with evil instead of good. There are people who are just envious and miserable and they love company. They are jaded, thinking everyone has some hidden hypocrisy and when bad things happen they see it as God’s disfavor.  Notice what the scripture says, “they do it to the spoiling of our souls.”  They seem to rob our faith and plunder our victory, maliciously waiting to see your failure. This is not paranoia, but it seems since they can’t attack God they use you for target practice. David has people saying about him,  “There is no help for him in God.” (Ps. 3:2).   They look and say, “Wow they have really blown it this time, even their God will not rescue them out of this mess.”  The deep dark trials that some Christians have endured have made others think God has left them. In the time of trial, weakness our brothers and sisters need help not condemnation and accusation. But help is on the way!!!

Your God has always proved to be “a very present help in time of trouble.” (Ps. 46:1).  A very present help.  The word “very” here means above average, out of the ordinary, exceeding and in the extreme. Trouble is a problem in the extreme. You need an extreme God and an  incredible Savior.  Life is no longer ordinary it has taken a dangerous turn. You profess a faith that sees God in control every day as the one by who things all things consist, who makes everything stable, everything nominal. But the speed of life can be dizzying  and out of control, so this is why you need to see God as the Lord over problems no matter how extreme. You will see that your difficulty is no match for your Savior God Almighty! He is nearer than the trouble. Notice he does not just send you a letter or a check, He will come himself. He will help you, run at the first cry of distress.  William Gurnall in his classic The Christian in Complete Armor writes: 

“How much more will God, who is the Father of such dispositions in his creature, stir up his whole strength to defend his children?  ‘He said, They are my people, so he became their Saviour,’ Isa. 63:8.  As if God had said, Shall I sit still with my hand in my bosom, while my own people are thus misused before my face?  I cannot bear it.  The mother as she sits in her house hears one shriek, and knowing the voice, cries out, ‘O it is my child.’  Away she throws all, and runs to him.  Thus God takes the alarm of his children’s cry: ‘I heard Ephraim bemoaning himself, saith the Lord;’ his cry pierced his ear, and his ear affected his bowels, and his bowels called up his power to the rescue of him.” He is more present than the difficulty, closer than the pain of a broken heart and  nearer to the one who is distressed and wounded. Help is on the way!

When will God help his church? “God will help her right early.” (Ps. 46:5). He will be the early! What a promise! “Make no tarrying Oh my God.” (Ps 40:7).  You may lie down with tears on your face but the sun will open your eyes with joy. He has heard your cry, “Help me LORD! I am needy, broken and hurting!”  Yes, help us Lord early! We need your help!  “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up! (Ps 5:3). This darkness will pass and morning will break with glorious light!  Like Spurgeon says,  “As soon as the first ray of light proclaims the coming day, at the turning of the morning God’s right arm shall be outstretched for his people.” Amen and amen. This is the day that the Lord has made and in a time of salvation he is helping you! Notice a time of trouble is seen as a time of salvation in the scriptures. It is trials savings time! Like the first light of the dawn rushes over the horizon may the Spirit of God help us. Help is on the way!

My wife and I were in a large church in New Jersey looking at a giant mural of Peter and Christ in the famous walking on the water story. In fact, the caption under the picture said, “Come and walk on the water with me.” But both my wife and I saw it differently. We remembered what the scripture said of Peter said, at that moment when he yelled, “Lord save me!”  Oh dear christian although he invites you to walk on the water, it is safe to say, you may not do it perfectly. There are times you will feel the water coming upon you up to your face and all you can do is cry for help! Yes you must have faith that  His help can uphold you, but on the other hand if you falter you shall not drown either.  THIS IS THE LORD WE ARE TALKING ABOUT!  The mighty Savior, the God of the armies of the heavens. This is the One who, “gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment…” (Prov 8:29).  He will help! You will not drown. You have one of his exceeding great and precious promises: Thus says the Lord in Isaiah 43:2: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee…”  Help is on the way!

Don’t be afraid, I know your anxiety beats your heart like a drum in your ears, your brow is furrowed with confusion and your body trembles with fear, but can you even at this moment feel the strength of the nail scarred hand of Christ grab your hand and as you “look and live” you will see the most tender loving eyes of Jesus ask you, “Wherefore didst thou doubt?” Don’t feel condemned. He must ask this question. Your doubts will melt away as he shows you how ridiculous your fears were as the Lord Jesus escorts you through the raging sea of trouble. See how big, how wonderful, how powerful Jesus our Master really is! He is not bringing you back to safety for HE is your safety as much on the water as in the boat or on the shore. The sinewy arm of the carpenter of Nazareth is no other than the  Lord who has made bare his arm in the sight of all the nations and he will save. Your help in his righteousness not your own! “Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.” (Ps 69: 14). Help is on the way!

He saves you as though you and he were on dry ground. The water, “under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone.” (Ex 24:10). What once almost drowned you becomes a place that you walk on. People will be amazed and some even ashamed because of the invisible power of Christ upholds you.  

It becomes like a precious jewel.  The time of trial is like refining gold in fire (1 Pet 1:7) and becomes a priceless time of learning and sparkles with God’s glory and presence. Heavenly Jerusalem’s streets are, “pure gold, as it were transparent glass.” (Rev 21:21).   What should have made you sink now is a firm foundation beneath your feet. 

It should also be noted that it is “paved with love.” (Song 3:10).  You will find that what you thought were bitter steps was actually God was leading you in his love closer to him! Every step you took in the trial was ordered by the Lord and lined with his affection for you.  What people saw as God’s abandonment has now made a major turn around. Do not doubt. Do not be afraid! Help is on the way!

We must note finally that man was in extreme sin, radically depraved. “How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water.” (Job 15:16). Men and women are described as the wicked who are like “the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. ” (Isa 57:20).   All people are “without strength” (Rom. 5:6) and the sinner is helpless to save himself. The Bible says, “God was in Christ” and he became his people’s very present, extreme help!  There he stepped out in front of Pilate’s ” judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.” (John 19:13).  Before Golgotha there was Gabbatha. There in the ocean of man’s criminal acts and God’s wrath against sinners,  he stepped out on the waters and walked God’s justice like no other could all the way to Calvary. There his steps were paved with an everlasting love and there on the Cross with a superhuman strength he stretched out those same arms that saved Peter and gathered his elect people in salvation to himself.  Through the gospel he calls them from death to life. There he says I will “uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee!” (Isa. 41:10, 13). Only God by his grace can help us. He  is he only One who can rescue us from the danger of dying in our sins.  

I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore, very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more. But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry, from the waters lifted me, now safe am I…Souls in danger look above, Jesus completely saves, He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves. He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey, He your Savior wants to be, be saved today. Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else could help Love lifted me!

Help is on the way!

Afraid of the World?

ss-090427-swine-mw06_ss_fullRecent comments from our Vice President about the swine flu or A1-N1 caught my attention as I am sure it did yours.  The Whitehouse had to rephrase his comments (of which I am sure they will do again)  about avoiding subways planes, or any close areas and head for an open field and calm the fears of people when it came to this flu which has hit the world in  pandemic proportions. Now it seems that the swine flu is old news and we hardly hear about it.  But I saw the analogy in many Christians relationship with the world, meaning the people of this world.

You always have to be careful to the way you define the world. The world can be the actual planet on which we live which the Bible teaches belongs to the Lord (Ps. 24:1; Isaiah 66:1-2).  The word “world” also can be translated age or a time period. The  Bible calls this present evil age  in which the the small “g” god of this age Satan, rules over the minds of unbelievers  (Gal 1:4; 2 Cor 4:4).  In fact, the world can also refer to the order and arrangement of the system of evil or the “age of this world” that seeks to seduce people away from God and attempt to hinder the cause of Christ (Eph 2:2-3).

It is obvious that it is the world system that is controlled by Satan and his lies that with which we should be concerned. Although, people who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior are living lives controlled by sin, we are to love them and lead them to the Savior, not to be afraid of them or catching something from them.

Because such were some of you… 

In these areas I see people who say they are Christians going to several extremes.  Either they feel they can have one foot in the world and one foot in the church, meaning that they want to be able to say they are Christians and believe at least some of the tenet’s of the Christian faith. But they have made a grave error which is submitting to the “world system” that is controlled by Satan and his lies (Eph 2:2-3).  You cannot ally yourself with this world system or you end up being an enemy of God (James 4:4). But the Bible makes it clear that we need to stop acting like people who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior (Jer 10:2; 1 John 2:14-16).

Then there are those who act so afraid of the world  they seem monastic and pietistic in their approach to it.  They even develop an attitude which says, “I am holier than you” (Isa. 65:5). I think at times we treat unconverted people  as though they were going to infect us with a virus of  sin.   This kind of Christianity is anemic and weak and they need to reexamine their lives in light of scripture.  We forget that we are still tainted with sin ourselves and were it not for Christ we would be in slavery to its power.

Jesus said that he overcame the world. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).  He did not say that we would be free from trouble and suffering. Bright sunshine and hard rain still falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. The scripture insists and that we must go through “much tribulation” before we reach our heavenly home (Acts 14:22).

It is only “in Christ” and in his his words that we can have peace. There is a rest that comes to us knowing that the welfare of our souls are in the hands of the one who said,  “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29). 

This phrase “in me” is a loaded phrase. We are “in Christ”  the last Adam, the new life we have because of him as opposed to “in Adam” or the old man, the previous way of the sinful life.  The word “in” means a location or position. We are in Christ spiritually. What could this mean? We are positionally in Christ, God has saved us in Christ before the world began. That means that we were in him, together in him, joined to him before the very foundation of the world. That gives me peace in the midst of the storm.  What seems bad or what seems good to us does not matter when we know God in his sovereignty and providence is causing all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28).

What does the Lord require? Faith and trust in him. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). Through the eyes of faith we see Christ as Victor seated at God right hand far above everything in this age and the age to come! We are in the victors seat with him and we do not have to be afraid of the world.

Your Wandering is Over

Wandering

“Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.” (Song 1:7-8).

I realize you have been wandering, dear one. The many buildings or places that are called churches are places where you can lose your way. I know you are looking for Jesus, so I hope you will pay attention for a few brief moments. Previously in this chapter, the Shulamite woman is awakened, convinced and longs in her heart for her beloved to, “kiss her with the kisses of his mouth for thy love is better than wine.” She has never experienced this before and she desires his affectionate kiss. She insists in so many words if anything is going to happen in their relationship he must kiss her first. In her eyes, the first act of love must be his right from the beginning because not every girl can kiss the King.

Is this not true of Christ and his bride? God has loved us as he loves Christ and that love was before the foundation of the world (John 17:23-24). That is the love of God that chooses us to be his own. His foreknowledge is not his omniscience alone, it is not based on what he sees is going to happen and bases his choice on the choices people make. He did not see us choosing him, we could not and would not (Rom 3:10-12)! Sin made us slaves without strength to reach out to the only one who could save us (Rom. 5:6). But Jesus saw us, he took pity on us! He loved us first! He fore-loved his people in Christ. “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19).  It also is reminiscent of  the cry of Augustine who said, “My whole hope is in thy exceeding great mercy and that alone. Give what thou commandest and command what thou wilt.”  (Confessions, Book 10, Ch. 24:40).  How we must pray, “Lord, you must start the work in my heart or I will be lost, wandering forever in a far more confusing place than the world, but religion which has no power or truth!”

Like Israel who he found abandoned in the wilderness, he desires to take us from being infants in peril and nurture and clothe us with security and then develop us into “exceeding beautiful” womanhood so we are ready to mature ”into the time of love.”  (Ezekiel 16:1-13). There is a certain turning point in a persons life after regeneration where we begin to understand the Sovereignty of God in our lives as far as our sanctification is concerned. I am not speaking of another class of Christian but one who is growing in Christ.  The scripture teaches this is a point of maturity that develops in the life of a Christian where the milk of the Word is not enough, they must have meat, solid food (Heb 5:12-14). They also put away childish things because they are growing up. They become stable. Everything changes from babyhoodto adulthood (1 Cor 13:11). This woman is ready to know Christ as the lover of her soul and Christ hears her cry and will show her great and mighty things that she has not known! (Jer. 33:3).

She calls him, “O thou whom my soul loveth…” This is where wandering screeches to a halt. This kind of love is is so beyond any human love because it is birthed by the Spirit of God.  It is a love where any rival or competition to Christ begins to be put down by the increase of his government that is conquering the heart (Isaiah 9:6-7). Christ is loved by the Christian with their very heart, soul, mind and strength (Deut 6:4-5) but like the conquering of Cannan sanctification takes time. The child of God wants to love God more as they mature and this love must come from the deepest part of us. It is God who loves us first, and in turn we love him and that love makes us want to be near him and we learn to love him with the love he loves us with in some small measure.

She asks him, “where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon.”  She looks for the place where her soul can rest and she can eat “the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:3-4). God requires us to have faith in his provision and not wandering around attempting to find other secondary or tertiary sources rather than from Christ himself. Sadly, this is a common practice among people who profess to be Christians. “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jer 2:13). Christ offers them the children’s bread and to eat from the food off of the Masters table. He calls us to come and dine! Christ is a good shepherd (John 10:11) who feeds his sheep and those who love him are only satisfied with him and the authentic spiritual food he offers! That is the whole mystery of John chapter 6. Christ offers himself as food for the soul, only he can satisfy.

Mature believers recognize how much they need the guidance and protection of God because they are more aware of the dangers around them, wandering is not an option. Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8) and he feasts on wanderers. While Jesus is the tender shepherd that carries his little lambs in his arms (Isaiah 40:11) the person who desires the meat of the Word needs more. The Bible says, “And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.” (Micah 5:4).  God allows the soul to go through greater trials and snares-sometimes we are at our wits end. So the greater the test, the greater the care and power God places at our disposal. His great Sovereign power is shown by his provison for his people. He never grows faint or weary in doing this! 

When a believer matures they stop their wandering in the emptiness of performing mere external service to God they will begin to seek out a place where the LORD feeds his flock and gives “a rest for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9). This woman labored under the harsh rules of her mothers brethren and almost withered under the blistering hot sun and their constant anger farming their fields and neglecting her own vineyard. She left them behind for love of her King and now she does not want to be seen as one wandering aimlessly.

“For why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?” This is where the idea of protection from evil comes into play. Maturity results in the senses being able to discern between both good and evil. This scripture shows how much she hates the idea of being seen as a wandering woman. We should also hate the idea of being carried away by our own desires. Like her we should say “Why?” It makes no sense when I belong to the King and I am supposed to be under his care. Why should we substitute that relationship by looking even to his close companions when we can say “I am my beloved’s and he is mine!”  I have the One himself? Why?  WHY?

These companions of the Lord could fall into two classes: they could be true men of God who people look to rather than directly to Christ.  Like the Corinthians they divide into parties that say, “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:12). People have their preferences and their tastes and each on of these men preached the gospel but people separated and created division in the churches based on these men’s distinct ministries. They may have loved the down home values of Peter, the writing abilities of Paul had or the eloquent speaking ability of Apollos. These is a subtle idolatry. But people became distracted from Christ and were on their way back to the house of their mothers brethren because man centered religion is a cruel taskmaster.In these days we will hear many different religious authors, churches, movements, ministries, saying, ”Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not.”  (Mk 13:21). He is in that church, that revival, or this movement. No, he is always where he has been- in his Word.

“For thy love is better than wine.”I wanted to complete the verse we started with. She loves her beloved with all her soul because his love is makes earth’s sweetest substance inferior to his love. It is actually plural or loves. He constantly lavishes and demonstrates his love for his own. Paul speaks of the mercies of God  (Rom. 12:1) or his many mercies (Psalm 51:1).  His compassions never fail (Lam 3:22).  Jesus is all you need and he satisfies you souls need for rest and refreshment. How sweet is the love of Christ for his people. It is like wine. The bread of his body and the wine of his blood are real food for the soul (John 6:35-63). The spiritual presence of Christ that we celebrate in the Lord’s supper is where we can lift up our hearts to the Lord and seek those things which are above where Christ sits at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1). Do not waste your time, money and energy on religious products that attempt to sell you a better, deeper relationship with God but enslave you to condemnation and guilt. God offers you the free wine and milk that is offered to those who are thirsting for Christ (Isa. 55:1). All Christ offers us for free is also better than those who sell us religion. He has found you dear soul, desring to feed and care for you and your heart cannot rest until it rests in him

Your wandering is over. 

Good Friday According to the Confessions of the Church

XIR16014THE 1563 HEIDELBERG CATECHISM ASKS AND ANSWERS:  What dost thou understand by the words, “He suffered”?  That he, all the time that he lived on earth, but especially at the end of his life, sustained in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sins of all mankind: that so by his passion, as the only propitiatory sacrifice,  he might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the favour of God, righteousness and eternal life.

THE 1619 BELGIC CONFESSION STATES: We believe that God– who is perfectly merciful and also very just– sent his Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death. So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of damnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.

THE 1646 WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH: This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which, that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and perfectly fulfilled it; endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified and died; was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels, at the end of the world. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, has fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father has given unto him. 

THE 1560 SCOTS CONFESSION: [So we confess, and most undoubtedly believe] That our Lord Jesus Christ offered himself a voluntary sacrifice unto his Father for us, that he suffered contradiction of sinners, that he was wounded and plagued for our transgressions, that he, the clean innocent Lamb of God, was condemned in the presence of an earthly judge, that we should be absolved before the judgment seat of our God; that he suffered not only the cruel death of the cross, which was accursed by the sentence of God, but also that he suffered for a season the wrath of his Father, which sinners had deserved. But yet we avow that he remained the only, well beloved, and blessed Son of his Father even in the midst of his anguish and torment which he suffered in body and soul to make full atonement for the sins of the people. From this we confess and avow that there remains no other sacrifice for sin; if any affirm so, we do not hesitate to say that they are blasphemers against Christ’s death and the everlasting atonement thereby purchased for us.

THE 1742 PHILADELPHIA CONFESSION OF FAITH SAYS: This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which that he might discharge he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered, being made sin and a curse for us; enduring most grievous sorrows in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption: on the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which he also ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.

Tales From the Furnace Part 2

furnace3It is no comfort to know that everyone goes through trials (1 Cor 10:13; 1 Peter 5:8-9) unless you see that those trials melt us together to become one golden masterpiece. I love those who have melted in him, with me. The fellowship of his sufferings bring us together as Jesus prayed, “that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:21-23).

 

You will be at your very worst and very best in trial. But when the futility of my own works is clearly seen I begin to feel after these trials as Job, “my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.” (Job 7:15KJV). I have grown weary with the ineffectiveness of my ministry. But I realize that God is doing a very deep work of humiliation and holiness in me. I hate these times. I do repent that I have despised the chastening of the Lord because if I despise it I deem him unjust and He is not. It is just everything is fire, smoke and I can hardly breathe.

 

I realize that the three Hebrew boys thrown into the furnace came out with no smoke, but they did have a flavor in them that they did not before. I cough, gasp, struggle for breath and cry for help. I am like a burning piece of wood, when will I be plucked from the flames (Amos 4:11)? All my pride is worthless, my heart naked, the varnish of my reputation stripped. All I hear and feel is a spiritual burning! My soul, mind and body melt in the crucible of God!

 

My soul is in prison and one can deliver me from his hands (Psalm 142:7). I am incarcerated, sentenced to these flames-he pours the liquor of heaven on me and set me afire so that somehow the taste of the brazen altar and its savor is in me! No one can remove me from this inferno, this purgatory! He looks the other way as I give my prayer performance in order to cause a diversion in his heart from being in this fire!

 

He has no regard to my Bible reading in hopes, reminding him of his promises and profession of faith in order to escape. I must go through the molten sanctification. The time has come that, “I must think of my sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get my own way. Then I’ll be able to live out my days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what I want.” (1 Peter 4:1-2 MSG).

 

“Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:13NASB). All the prayers of my friends leave me untouched, I am invulnerable to my enemies I am in the fearful place, in the hands of the Sovereign God-the all consuming fire. He has swallowed me up in the belly of his fire, to separate the useless things from me. The thing I cannot use, should not use and will not use. Because they are burned! Useless, worthless, there is so much in me that desecrates the temple, defiling pollution!

 

Before I am transfigured it seems I must be disfigured. Or have I always been disfigured? All the comeliness, the perfect beauty God bestows upon me (Ezekiel 16:14) is removed. “For my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.” (Daniel 10:8).  It is a deathly pallor, or a face pale with death to self weakness, cowardice! There is only burning instead of beauty (Isaiah 3:24).

 

God is not an irresponsible parent. He beats me with his rod to deliver my soul from hell (Prov 23:14). Obedience is for my spiritual health and operating in wisdom to his intention and design in creating us and all around us we must use those things in the context he gave. If God sees an area in my life that refuses to respond in obedience and there are many he will resort to other measures that will cause “a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Heb. 12:11NLT).

 

God will not fight for me (Psalm 44:9) while he is fighting with me (Acts 5:39)! I try to fight him but he has beaten my resolve, my ability to fight as he turns my swords in to shovels, my spears into hoes-gardening tools (Isaiah 2:4). He uses that fight in me against me to accomplish his work of husbandry and farming! My life pours out of me like blood that he holds in his hands and absorbs like a cup.  I am like a sacrifice, a burnt offering on his burning altar (Rom. 12:1). Flesh and blood cannot inherit his kingdom! My flesh, my blood cannot do what his spirit and life can do! (John 6:63).

 

He does the deliberate work of sanctification exterminating the compound uselessness from my soul and unscrambling the useless wasteful abilities of my life-the ore of my life; refining, producing purity a nearly uncontaminated and a state suitable for his use. My filth pours out of me by this spirit of judgment and burning (Isaiah 4:4).

 

I cannot stand it any longer. “But who can endure the day of His coming and who can stand when He appears? For, He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:2-3NKJV). Don’t sing to me of this fire! There is nothing quixotic or romantic about it! “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.” (Prov. 17:3).

 

The crucible is not just the furnace-but the bottom of the furnace! It is why he must lift me up out of the scum and excrement of self will, rebellion for it is ugly and vile. It is the only way I can have hope of being a vessel useful for God. It is all dross. That archaic word means Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. (Prov 25:4KJV). In another version it says, “Remove impurities from the silver and the silversmith can craft a fine chalice.” (Prov 25:4). A chalice, an extraordinary vessel in my Lord’s eyes, a cup of communion! Oh I long to be lifted to the Lord’s lips as such! He communed with his Father and I was a horrible prospect (Rev 17:4). In a state where I desire not purity and embrace this fire he would rightly says over and over again, “Father let this cup pass from me!” (Mk 14: 36-39). But instead the Crucified one drinks from this weary cup as part of his Father’s will, the wrath of God against sinners, for my sake and drains it of all its impurity for he himself took on my diseased nature, sin sick nature and gave me his righteousness (Isaiah 53:4-5).

 

Now let him lift me to his lips as a chalice-a cup that the glorified Christ would drink from! He took the cup and if not mans eyes! Don’t preach to me theology about me difference between salvation and sanctification because if I am not cleansed eventually I would be lost-if I am his, really his I will bear fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Romans 6:22). Do not interfere with my beloved and I (Song 2:7; 8:4)

 

I must be holy in all I am and do! A life energetic and blazing with holiness! (1 Peter 1:15). He must make me holy even if he must teach me to resist sin with the surrender of my own life (Heb 12:4). To live is Christ to die is gain (Phil 1:21)! I cannot love my life, family, friends and dreams more than him or I will lose my life to sin and self’s destructive grasp (Mt 10:39)!

 

I know of his grace of his imputed righteousness but forgiveness is not enough I must find my fulfillment in doing the will of God, after that I have done the will of God I might receive the promise (Heb 10:36). Oh God strengthen me complete and perfect me and make me what I ought to be and equip me with everything good that I may carry out Your will while You Yourself work in me and accomplishes that which is pleasing in Your sight, through Jesus Christ! (Heb 13:21).

 

I can only rest in the Crucified One and somehow believe that, “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song 2:6).  It is amazing.  After a long study on the Song of Solomon and in the first chapter the Shulamite says, “I am weathered but still elegant, oh, dear sisters in Jerusalem, Weather–darkened like Kedar desert tents, time-softened like Solomon’s Temple hangings.” (Song 1:5MESSAGE).

 

Weathered- that is it! Weather beaten is more like it. How the trials of life can make us elegant is hard to comprehend. I feel ugly and useless. God erodes all our substances and our beauty (what we think is our beauty or righteousness) and softens us. It is when your heart is bruised, sore when you feel the stitches-God attempts to heal us after these spiritual surgeries. But like anything you have to be careful in your movements, if you do not rest or let it heal it bleeds all over again.  

 

If you find another way than by all means take it, though it I say that with much reservation. We all have a love hate relationship with the pressures of life and the squeezing of GOD’s hand to bring forth the juice of the fruit of the Spirit in us. When Paul visited Lystra, Iconium and Antioch he was “putting muscle and sinew in the lives of the disciples, urging them to stick with what they had begun to believe and not quit, making it clear to them that it wouldn’t be easy: “Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times.” (Acts 14:22Message).