Daily Light – July 31, 2020

You Will Regret Giving In 

What to Do When Tempted 

Article by Garrett Kell, Pastor, Alexandria, Virginia

Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a man who was hunting deer in the Tehama Wildlife Area of Northern California. As he climbed through a rocky gorge, he lifted his head to look over a ledge and saw something move next to his face. Before he knew it, a rattlesnake struck, just missing him. The strike was so close, however, that the snake’s fangs became snagged in the neck of his sweater. 

As the snake coiled around the man’s neck, he grabbed it just behind its head. A mixture of hissing and rattling filled his ear as he felt warm venom run down his neck. He tried to dislodge the fangs from his sweater but fell backward and slid down the embankment. Using his rifle, he untangled the fangs, freeing the snake to strike repeatedly at his face. The man later explained, “I had to choke him to death. It was the only way out” (The Quest for Character, 17–18).

When you face temptation, you enter a battle even more dangerous than having a rattler striking at your face. The Scriptures liken Satan not only to a snake but a crouching lion who is provoking passions within us that war against our souls (Genesis 3:1–64:71 Peter 2:115:8). We must choke temptation to death. It is the only way out.

What follows are four ways to fight when temptation strikes. 

1. Pray to God. 

As the dark hour of temptation fell upon Jesus’s disciples, he told them twice to “pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:4046). He knew the pressure they were about to face, and so he reminded them, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). 

If Jesus told his disciples to pray before temptation comes, how much more do we need to pray once it arrives? When temptation calls, you must pray. You need divine intervention to deliver you from the venom of the tempter. You do not need elaborate prayers, just desperate prayers delivered in faith. The Scriptures provide an abundance of examples: 

“Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). 

“Lord, help me” (Matthew 15:25). 

“Jesus, have mercy” (Luke 17:13). 

“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” (Psalm 116:4). 

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1–2). 

“Lead [me] not into temptation but deliver [me] from evil” (Matthew 6:13). 

Lord, you promised not to “let [me] be tempted beyond [my] ability,” but to “provide the way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Show me the escape! 

“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). 

Prayer lifts our eyes off of sin’s disorienting offer and places them on Jesus. Through prayer, we “resist the devil” and “draw near to God” (James 4:7–8). Through it, we confess our desire to sin and plead for help to resist it. We ask God to give us strength to choke out the temptation so that sin cannot strike us. When you are tempted, pray to God. He is the one who helps us and will keep us from falling (Psalm 121:3).

2. Flee right away. 

Joseph was handsome, and his master’s wife took notice. As lust burned in her heart, she offered him an opportunity for a secret affair. But Joseph resisted. He was loyal to his master and, beyond that, said, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Yet her advances continued “day after day” until she finally cornered him alone. She seized him by his garment and said, “Lie with me.” Rather than entertain her offer, “he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house” (Genesis 39:6–12). 

Joseph ran because he had no other option. He knew he was too weak to resist temptation as long as he was alone with his master’s wife. So, he choked the temptation — not by staying and fighting, but by fleeing. We must do the same. When temptation corners you, don’t flirt with it — flee from it. 

Sin wants to convince you that one more click online, or one more minute on the couch, or one more round of inappropriate conversation is manageable. But entertained temptation is like kryptonite to our sinful flesh. The longer we let it linger, the weaker our resolve becomes. 

This is why Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” (2 Timothy 2:22). Do whatever is necessary to get away from what is tempting you. Close the computer. Delete the app. Turn off the phone. Run outside. Get in the car and drive. Do whatever you need to do to flee the voice of temptation. 

3. Call a friend. 

Emily felt overwhelmed by temptation’s onslaught. Being alone in her house for the weekend offered so many ways to sin. But rather than fight alone, she called a sister from church. She explained how weak she felt and asked for help. Her friend told her to pack a bag and stay with her for the weekend. Emily agreed and, with her friend’s help, avoided Satan’s snare. 

You cannot fight sin by yourself. God commands us to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Sin assures us that asking for help is weak, shameful, and unnecessary. But this is just one more lie from Satan, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). 

When temptation strikes, reach out to a friend and plead for help. Do not make excuses. Send a text, or make a call immediately. Tell your friend that you need help. Say something like, “Would you pray for me? I’m feeling weak toward temptation, and I need your help.” 

Sin cannot live in the light. Drag the temptation into the light of fellowship, and enlist others for help. If the person you called doesn’t take you seriously, plead more urgently, or call someone else. Don’t give into discouragement. Keep fighting, but don’t fight alone.

4. Develop a long-term plan. 

When I was young, my father and I often took walks in the woods near our house, which were known to be inhabited by poisonous snakes. During our first walk, he taught me an important lesson: when you come to a fallen tree on the path, step on it, and then step over it. He explained that snakes often rest under trees, so if we stepped right over a tree, we might startle the snake and get bitten. But if we stepped on the tree and then over it, we’d create enough distance to evade the strike of most snakes. Today I can’t walk along a path in the woods without remembering this lesson. 

Avoiding a snake’s strike once is good. Developing a pattern to avoid strikes is even better. We cannot, of course, keep the tempter from tempting, but we must develop a plan not to go near his den (Proverbs 5:8). Over the years, I have developed an intentional plan to “make no provision for the flesh” in order to guard my walk with Jesus (Romans 13:14). 

Jesus exhorted us to cut off whatever might lead us to sin against God (Matthew 5:28–30). Over the years, I have set up numerous barbwire-like protections to make acting out sinful desires difficult. I encourage you to grab a friend, and develop a similar strategy. The following questions might help you get started. 

How are you cultivating hope and delight in Jesus? 

What joy-stealing sins are you most prone to give in to? 

If Satan were to tempt you, how might he do it? 

If you were going to access sin, how would you find it? 

How can you dumb down your electronic devices to make sinning in certain ways an impossibility? 

Are there subscriptions you need to cancel? Phone numbers you need to delete? 

Are there accountability subscriptions you should set up? 

When are you most susceptible to temptation? How can you prepare for these times? 

What passages of Scripture have you memorized or marked to quickly access in times of temptation? 

What lies are you most prone to believe, and what passages of Scripture can you fight them with? 

Whom are you regularly confessing your sins to? Whom can you call when you are feeling tempted?

No Regrets 

God rarely touches our lives in such a way that we stop loving some long-ingrained sin immediately. But as we fight sin and pursue him, he changes our affections. We begin to love what he loves, and hate what he hates. Our confidence in willpower fades, and our hope focuses on Jesus, who was tempted and yet resisted in all the ways we have not (Hebrews 4:15). 

You will not regret resisting sin. You will regret giving in. Choke temptation by taking refuge in Jesus and the means of grace he provides: pray to God, flee the scene, call a friend, and make a plan. As you begin to fight afresh, remember that what sin promises so much now will only steal your joy in God. 

Garrett Kell (@pastorjgkell) is married to Carrie, and together they have five children. He serves as pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. 

Daily Light – July 30, 2020

4 Reasons to Wear a Mask, Even if You Hate It

By Brett McCracken, Senior Editor at TGC, and Author

I don’t like wearing face masks. They fog up my sunglasses and make my beard itch. It’s hard to talk intelligibly through them and nearly impossible to pick up nonverbal facial expressions that add vital texture to conversation. I have a growing collection of masks, but none of them fits great, I don’t know where to store them, and even the most stylish ones are still pretty awkward. Masks also make it impossible to forget the depressing reality that COVID-19 is still around; they’re an ever-present reminder that the world we knew in February is long gone.

I also hate that the mask has become such a divisive political symbol, with the masked and the masked-nots assuming the worst about each other: that mask-wearers are fearful, cosmopolitan elites or that mask-avoiders are science-hating MAGA bumpkins who prefer their freedom over Grandma’s life. It’s silly that it’s come to this: politicizing masks. But I’m not surprised. Everything in our world today is politicized: ice creamrazorsHarry Potter. So of course protective face masks would be politicized, especially when the president himself makes masks political

I understand, however, why we so quickly politicize things like masks. Faced with an avalanche of information (too much to ever sufficiently wade through), conflicting voices of “expertise,” and no shortage of inconsistency and hypocrisy from government leaders, we default to siding with whatever partisan camp we’re already in. I suspect rising tribalism across the world has a lot to do with the mental exhaustion of living in a time of information gluttony, where it’s easier to just fall in line with one group or another. For most of us, independent, nuanced appraisal of a litany of complex issues is unrealistic for our already taxed brains.

For Christians, though, it’s important to rise above the political partisanship and think through what our faith would call us to with regard to wearing or not wearing masks. What if our view on masks were shaped more by our Christian identity than our American political identity? As much as I dislike wearing masks, sympathize with some skepticism about them, and cringe at attempts to shame people into wearing them, my Christian faith leads me to wear one when I’m in indoor public places.

When I look at Scripture I don’t see a mandate about masks, of course, but I see an invitation—to do at least four things.

1. To Love Your Neighbor (Matt. 22:39) 

I’m frustrated that the science on masks during COVID-19 has been inconsistent. It’s maddening that everyone from the U.S. surgeon general to the CDC and the WHO have flip-flopped on their mask guidance. But it’s not surprising. This is a brand-new virus and a fast-moving crisis. We probably won’t know for years what was right and wrong in our efforts to stop COVID-19. But consensus is emerging that wearing masks does slow the virus’s spread and, thus, can save lives. 

What if our view on masks were shaped more by our Christian identity than our American political identity? 

For Christians called to love our neighbors as ourselves, wearing a mask in public—particularly indoor spaces where social distance cannot be guaranteed—seems like a relatively easy way to practice neighbor love. Even if it’s annoying to wear one, and even if you aren’t convinced by the science behind it, why not wear one anyway? Given the enduring uncertainty about the way COVID-19 spreads, shouldn’t we err on the side of more protective measures rather than less, for the sake of the neighbor we might—even if it’s a slim chance—unknowingly infect? 

2. To Respect Authorities (Rom. 13:1–7) 

It’s easy to blame leaders these days, and certainly many are making lots of mistakes. But let’s show them grace. COVID-19 is just one of several complex and fast-evolving issues authorities everywhere are facing. Instead of rushing to criticize leaders, what if we gave them the benefit of the doubt—honoring and respecting their authority and believing they are working hard and trying their best? Further, it seems clear from Romans 13 (among other passages, such as Titus 3:1 or 1 Peter 2:13–14) that Christians ought to respect the human governments to which they are subject, as long as submission to those governments doesn’t contradict our submission to the lordship of Christ and his ultimate authority.

When it comes to mask-wearing for Christians, then, if your city or state is mandating masks in certain circumstances right now (as mine is), shouldn’t you obey those directives? Likewise if your church has instituted a “mandatory masks” policy for physical gatherings: go ahead and wear that mask happily—embracing the opportunity to practice Hebrews 13:17.

3. To Honor the Weak in Our Midst (Rom. 14) 

Mask-wearing has sadly become divisive in churches where masks are not mandatory. Some churchgoers will wear them; some won’t. Predictably, the groups will start assuming the worst about each other—that mask-avoiders are reckless and see themselves as stronger and braver; and that mask-wearers are cowardly and fear-stricken, needing a nudge in the direction of risk. 

In Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, Paul argues that in matters of freedom, it’s important that “stronger” Christians don’t flaunt their freedom in ways that become stumbling blocks to the weak. When a mask-wearing “weaker” brother enters a church gathering full of mask-free “stronger” brothers, the mask-wearer naturally feels pressure to remove it—but that’s exactly the sort of wounding of the weak conscience Paul says is a “sin against Christ” (1 Cor. 8:12). 

4. To Use Freedom for the Sake of the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:19–23) 

American Christians are sometimes prone to understanding “freedom” in a way more shaped by the U.S. Constitution rather than by the Bible. But it’s no knock on the beauty and legitimacy of manmade freedoms to suggest that Scripture sometimes calls us to give up these freedoms for the sake of the gospel.

Paul, for example, seems happy to give up his freedom for the sake of loving others (1 Cor. 8:13). “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them,” he writes (1 Cor. 9:19). “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:22–23). There is such missional power in this posture. Few things are more beautiful to witness than someone giving up their rights and freedom for the sake of another.

There’s a lot at stake for Christian witness during COVID-19. Do we want the non-believing world to look at Christians as reckless virus super-spreaders who put their own freedoms (to gather in person as soon as possible, to not wear masks unless absolutely mandated) ahead of the health of their larger community? Or do we want them to look at Christians as “servants to all,” willing to forego their freedoms out of Christlike neighbor love? 

If the small annoyance of wearing masks can help not only save lives but also souls, winning more to the gospel, isn’t it worth it?

Brett McCracken is a senior editor at The Gospel Coalition and author of Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian CommunityGray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty, and Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. Brett and his wife, Kira, live in Santa Ana, California, with their son Chet. They belong to Southlands Church, where Brett serves as an elder. You can follow him on Twitter

Daily Light – July 29, 2020

Why tithe?

Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor and Teacher, Evansville, IN., from his continued study in Deuteronomy. David uses the S.O.A.P method in his morning devotional time.  (study, observe, apply, pray).

Deuteronomy 14:22-29    

14:22  “You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. 23 Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored—and eat it there in his presence. This applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn males of your flocks and herds. Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God. 24  “Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest, the place of worship he chooses for his name to be honored might be too far for you to bring the tithe. 25 If so, you may sell the tithe portion of your crops and herds, put the money in a pouch, and go to the place the Lord your God has chosen. 26 When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household. 27 And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you. 28  “At the end of every third year, bring the entire tithe of that year’s harvest and store it in the nearest town. 29 Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all your work. NLT 

Most American Christians aren’t concerned about tithing, and since we are no longer under the Law (of Moses) that is OK. But we should understand why God gave these commands long ago. First, a tithe is 10%. It was to be given “off the top” before anything else was spent, and it was a “faith statement”. God said in effect, “If you give Me the top 10% I will bless the rest of your income more than you could if you kept 100%.”

In :23 Yahweh said if they did this it would “teach you always to fear Me.” Tithing teaches us something. Tithing showed respect for God. It showed they believed He had the right to command them anything, and that He was good and would provide for His people who loved and trusted Him. The ongoing practice of tithing would produce ongoing growth in their love and appreciation of Yahweh because it would repeatedly show His greatness. Tithing did not leave them poorer, it demonstrated He would “bless you in all your work”. On the other hand, if they did not trust and obey they Lord, they would not experience His power and love and they would grow more cynical and distant.

:27 said “Do not neglect the Levites”. Tithing not only blessed those who gave the tithes, it provided the necessary income for the priests. And since all the people were sinners, they always needed priests to offer sacrifices and intercede for them. There was no other way a sinner could be made right with God without the shedding of blood, and only the priests could do that. Priests were indispensable.

Lord Jesus, thank You that You are our high priest and that You Yourself were the final sacrifice for our sin (Heb 9:11-12) and that You still intercede for us at the right hand of the Father. (Rom 8:34)  We don’t need priests today to offer sacrifices on our behalf. Not only that, but we all have the privilege of interceding for one another. So we have more reason to give to You now than Israel did then. We have the joy of acceptance without the mess and expense of animals. And thank You that even though we are not required to give 10% of our income, when we trust You and love You, we experience Your wonderful presence and provision time and again. Thank You for the many, many times You have surprised me with Your fantastic provision as fresh demonstrations of Your love. As I reflect on that, I can see it really has taught me the beauty of “the fear of the Lord”. I don’t think I would have had the same understanding of that phrase if I had not tithed all these years, and experienced Your power and Your love. Hallelujah!  Amen 

Daily Light – July 28, 2020

Faithfulness in Forgotten Places

Why Small Obedience Matters to God

Article by Scott Hubbard, Editor, desiringGod.org

When the Holy Spirit cultivates his fruit in our lives, he often works in ways we would never pray for (Galatians 5:22–23). To grow the fruit of love in us, he may give us an enemy; to grow the fruit of peace, he may allow conflict to come near. And to grow the fruit of faithfulness, he may send us to forgotten places.

Forgotten places are those corners of the world where no one seems to be watching, where our efforts go unseen, unthanked. Perhaps we labor among diapers and dishes, cubicles and emails. Or maybe, more painfully, among unfruitful mission fields, rebellious children, or spouses whose love has cooled. All of us live in forgotten places sometimes; some live there all the time.

Drudgery as a Disciple

We should beware of underestimating the spiritual strain of such monotonous and seemingly unrewarded toil. The daily duties in forgotten places may be small, but pile them up over months, years, or decades, and you may start to sympathize with Oswald Chambers when he writes,

We do not need the grace of God to stand crises, human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strain magnificently; but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus.

Chambers may overstate his case — but not by much. In truth, the forgotten places can feel like a wilderness, and many days come when we find ourselves searching for something to keep us going, some water from the rock to sustain us in this desert (Psalm 105:41).

We will find it, not in the forgotten places themselves, but in the God who sent us here, who is with us here, and who promises to reward us here.

God’s Providence

At times, we may stare at the responsibilities in front of us and wonder how we landed here. How did we wander into this wilderness of drab days and hidden obedience? We have become familiar with the backward glance, wondering if we missed a turn somewhere. How clarifying, then, to remember that our life situation is not ultimately a matter of chance, nor of any mistakes we have made, nor even of the string of events leading up to the present, but of God’s providence. The tasks in front of us are, at least for today, God’s assignment to us.

To be sure, God’s providence does not nullify the decisions — and perhaps the mistakes or sins — that led us to this station in life, nor does it discourage us from striving after better circumstances: we are more than twigs in the stream of God’s purposes. But God’s providence does teach us to see, as the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, that “leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.” No matter how we got here, the forgotten places are ultimately from our Father’s hand.

Over and again, God describes our own plans and efforts as significant, but his as decisive — even over the most personal matters of life. He determines when and where we live (Acts 17:26). He assigns to us a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). He apportions spiritual gifts as he wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). He entrusts to us a number of talents — whether five, two, or just one (Matthew 25:15). He gives us a specific ministry (Colossians 4:17). He even calls us to a particular life (1 Corinthians 7:17).

In time, this forgotten place may give way to somewhere different — and depending on the circumstances, we may be wise to seek that change. But for now, we can look at the responsibilities in front of us and say with relief, “My Father’s hand has led me here.”

God’s Pleasure

God not only sends us to the forgotten places, however; he also meets us there. When we labor in obscurity, he is near (Psalm 139:5). When our work escapes the notice of every human eye, it does not escape his (Luke 12:7). He catches every whispered prayer, every Godward groan. He stands ready at every moment to mark the smallest tasks we perform in faith.

The wise man tells us why: “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22). God delights not mainly in the greatness of the work, but in the faithfulness of the worker. What else could explain the New Testament’s insistence that even the lowest, most invisible members of society are “serving the Lord Christ” when they walk faithfully in their callings (Colossians 3:24)? The smallest duties done in faith become duties done for Christ.

The missionary Hudson Taylor was fond of saying, “A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in little things is a great thing.” Cooking a meal, filling a spreadsheet, buying groceries, wiping a child’s nose — these are little things. But if done faithfully for Christ’s sake, they become greater than all the triumphs and trophies of an unbelieving world. They become the delight of our watching Lord.

God’s Promise

Once we have traced God’s providence in the past and felt his pleasure in the present, he would have us consider the future, when all our obedience will be rewarded.

When many Christians imagine judgment day, we assume the spotlight will fall on the grand acts of sin and righteousness. And surely it will — but not only. Remarkably, when Jesus and the apostles speak of that day, they often focus on life’s ordinary moments.

“On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,” Jesus tells us (Matthew 12:36). On the other hand, God will reward his people for the smallest good works they do by his grace: for giving to the needy (Matthew 6:4), for praying in the closet (Matthew 6:6), for fasting in secret (Matthew 6:18), even for giving a cup of cold water to one of Christ’s disciples (Matthew 10:42).

The apostle Paul similarly writes that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). But then in Ephesians he clarifies the kind of good he has in mind: not just extravagant good, impressive good, or above-average good, but “whatever good” (Ephesians 6:8). Come judgment day, every scrap of unseen obedience will find its fitting reward.

Living and dying in forgotten places, then, is no infallible index of our labor in God’s eyes. Many saints, in fact, will not know the true worth of what they’ve done for Christ until Christ himself tells them (Matthew 25:37–40).

Exceptional in the Ordinary

Chambers, after remarking on the grace required to endure drudgery as a disciple, goes on to write, “It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.”

Again, Chambers may slightly overstate his case. God sometimes does call us to do exceptional things for him: to adopt children, to launch ministries, to plant churches, to move overseas. But the point still holds, because none of us will do anything exceptional unless we have first learned, through ten thousand steps of faithfulness, to be exceptional in the ordinary.

We are not on our own here. Faithfulness, remember, is a fruit of the Spirit. And to bear that fruit in us, he would have us treasure up the providence, the pleasure, and the promises of God that hem us in behind and before, and follow us into every forgotten place.

Scott Hubbard is a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary and an editor for desiringGod.org. He and his wife, Bethany, live with their son in Minneapolis.

Daily Light – July 27, 2020

There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood 

Costly, Offensive, Beautiful Forgiveness

Article by Greg Morse, Staff writer, desiringGod.org

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. —Hebrews 9:22

Christianity is unlike anything man can imagine on his own. 

It is perhaps natural to imagine a religion that functions like a swimming pool — a hobby that may have benefits, but of course, swimming is not for everyone. Others might conceive of religion as a medicinal pool used to strengthen people who have sprained their hope and need some rehab to get them back on their feet. 

But Christianity is different. It is not primarily a swimming pool to enjoy nor a hot tub to fix a midlife crisis. Christianity is about a pool filled with blood. It is graphic. It is gory. It is not a pristine pond found next to our manicured lawns. It is a crimson tide in which we must be submerged. 

Drawn from His Veins 

So, whose blood is it? Where it ought to have been the blood of God’s enemies, it was, almost unimaginably, the blood of his own Son. The God-man revealed to us as Jesus of Nazareth was not spared what others in God’s great story were. 

The Red Sea did not part for him. The Father struck him with Abraham’s flint knife. He drowned in Noah’s flood. Daniel’s lions devoured him. The fiery furnace of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego consumed him. The spear that missed David impaled his Lord. He was cast overboard and swallowed by Jonah’s beast. He was crushed for David’s adultery, Abraham’s cowardice, Noah’s drunkenness. The squeals of every sacrificed animal that ever bled on the altar were in anticipation of his cry. 

We, like all of God’s people since, were only spared because Christ was not. 

There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins.
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. 

God passed over former sins until the day of reckoning came. The debt had accrued for God’s chosen. Man could not pay for his crime with money, time, or life-change. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And on a hill outside of Jerusalem, where Rome crucified criminals and burned their garbage, Jesus paid every awful debt we had, and he did so with the only acceptable currency: blood.

Plunged Beneath That Flood 

Christianity is unlike any other religion. Not merely because it is true, but because it is beautiful. Yet it offends a man before it can save him. It tells him that he is dead in sin. It tells him that he’s a rebel. It tells him that unless he plunges himself underneath the flood of Christ’s blood by faith, he will die and never live. That his blood will be upon his own head forever. 

But as plainly as it tells a man that he is condemned before God, it commands him to draw near and receive mercy. 

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
     call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
     and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
     and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6–7

God calls criminals near that he might have compassion on them. He threatens us with everlasting ruin — what your many sins deserve — but offers us everlasting fellowship with him, if we would turn from our evil and receive his crimson pardon. The Great Husband calls his adulterous bride to return to him and find complete forgiveness and unending love. No pity will be offered the one who insists on rejecting the blood-soaked offer of the cross. 

You Would Not Forgive You 

But what if you are the worst person you know? Why should you be confident to draw near to this God? Why should you have any hope to be an object of his love? 

Not because your case isn’t as bad as you think, but because his greatness is higher than you can imagine. Because his thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Often, this verse is used to prove God’s omniscience. But it’s more specifically about his mercy and compassion towards repentant sinners. Read it in context: 

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
     call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
     and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
     and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
     neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:6–8

Why should you return to the Lord? Why should you go as you are to Christ and hope to be received? Because his grace is above your grace. His ways of mercy are not like ours. If you or I were God, the world would have been crushed ages ago. You would not forgive you; but he will. You wouldn’t pour out wrath on your own Son for rebels; but he did. This God displayed his love by sending his Son into the world to fill a fountain with his own blood. No man could conceive of it, unless God revealed it.

Rejoiced to See 

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day.
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away. 

One of the first to take the plunge under the flood of Christ’s blood in the Gospels is the dying thief who died beside him. Crucified at the same time as Christ, he initially began ridiculing him (Matthew 27:44). But after hearing the crowd, hearing Jesus’s words and his prayers, watching him die as the sun fled in shame, he, by the mercy of God, saw Jesus for who he was: the King of heaven (Luke 23:42). With his dying breaths, this criminal, stained in the consequences of his own sin and dying as a vile man with nothing to commend him, found the fountain being filled next to him. He trusted in those wounds, and has now been with him for two thousand years. 

Christianity is unlike any religion. The Father is unlike any god. Christ is unlike any savior. And the Spirit is unlike any helper. Seek the Lord while he may be found — because there is now a fountain filled with blood.

Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul with their daughter. 

Daily Light – July 24, 2020

How Do I Wage War on My Self-Pity?

From an Interview with John Piper, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

How do I wage war against my self-pity? Michael, from Portland, wants help in the battle he’s facing. “Pastor John, thank you for this podcast. I struggle with self-pity, and often self-justify my self-pity by rationalizing it in my own head. Have you experienced this too? If so, what are the best arguments you have made from your flesh to justify your own self-pity? And what biblical arguments do you use to make war against those selfish arguments?”

Well, Michael asked, “Have you ever experienced this?” So, let me put my answer to his question in an autobiographical form. Ten years ago this year, I took a leave of absence from my then pastoral ministry. And the reason I asked the elders and the church quite openly for this leave was to do what I called a “soul check.” And during that leave, I tried to be very specific in identifying my own characteristic, besetting sins. It became evident that they were an ugly cluster of selfishness, proneness to anger, self-pity, quickness to blame, sullenness. That’s the cluster.

Wretched Reflexes

At the root of that was what I called selfishness. And selfishness had five reflexes that I could discern very clearly. I’ll tell you in a minute why I call them reflexes.

The reflex of expecting that I be served

The reflex of feeling I am owed

The reflex of wanting praise

The reflex of expecting that things will go my way

The reflex of feeling that I have the right to react negatively to being crossed in my desires

Now, the reason I call those five things reflexes of selfishness is because I don’t premeditate any of them. They just happen in my head, in my heart. I didn’t decide for any of those to happen; they just are there. That’s how rooted our unmortified corruption and remaining, indwelling sin and selfishness is. And I noticed, as I kept my sin before my own eyes, that these selfish reflexes gave rise to four characteristic things that were manifest for others to see — not just in my head, but obvious to everyone.

Anger — the strong emotional opposition to the obstacle that just got in my way

Self-pity — a desire that others feel my woundedness and admire me for being so mistreated (and that’s the one Michael is asking about)

Quickness to blame — a reflex to attribute to others the cause of my frustrating situations

Sullenness — a sinking discouragement, moodiness, hopelessness, unresponsiveness, withdrawn, deadness of emotion

That’s the cluster of John Piper’s besetting sins as I identified them ten years ago.

No Passivity in Pursuing Holiness

So, what did I learn about the defeat of these monsters in that leave, which has, I believe (you’d have to ask my wife, probably), gotten me more victory in the last ten years than I had before?

What the Bible showed me was that there was a disconnect between Christ’s cancelation of my sins on the cross and my conscious, willed opposition and conquering of my own sins through blood-bought, Spirit-empowered effort; there was a disconnect. In other words, God blasted a pattern of passivity that had developed in me toward that particular cluster of sins. He forced into my face the biblical reality that canceled sins — that is, blood-covered sins — must be killed consciously with effort, by faith, in the Spirit — not coddled. And one of the ways God forced this discovery on me was to expose the inconsistency between the very active way that I fought sexual temptation and the fairly passive way that I handled the temptation to self-pity.

Now, right there is the nub of the matter: I had the unspoken assumption that sexual lust must be attacked directly, consciously, forcefully, with effort of my mind and my will, since Jesus said, “Tear out your eye, Piper. Cut off your hand if you have to when it comes to the temptation of lust” (see Matthew 5:29–30). But for some crazy, demonic reason, I assumed I could not attack these other besetting sins in the same vicious way, and they would somehow just dry up and disappear by some inner, unconscious work of the Holy Spirit, without any Spirit-empowered, conscious, ruthless, vicious, angry, “Get outta my life, devil!” effort to cut my hand off or gouge my eye out.

But it became increasingly clear during this leave of absence that the link between the cancelation of my sin on the cross and the conquering of my sin was sanctified effort. Now, to be sure, the only effort that avails is blood-bought effort, Spirit-wrought effort; but it is, nevertheless, a conscious effort of the sanctified will. Passivity in the pursuit of holiness is not what the Bible teaches. I knew that in relation to sexual temptations; I was playing like it didn’t exist in relationship to self-pity temptations. Oh my goodness.

Kill Sin — Consciously and Intentionally

Here are the texts of what I mean; I mean, there are lots of them. I’ll just mention two to show the connection between cancelation and conquering.

In the death of Christ, we died to sin, Paul says (Romans 6:2). Therefore, put sin to death (Romans 8:13).

In the death of Christ, we were forgiven. Therefore, now, forgive others, just like you’ve been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32Colossians 3:13).

Clearly, if you just take those two cases, victory over sin in the death of Christ for my sin is decisive. But they’re followed immediately not by the minimizing of human effort, but by the empowering of the will: Don’t let sin reign in your mortal body. You have died to it; don’t let it reign (Romans 6:12). Forgive one another.

In other words, God intends for my sanctification to include conscious, willed opposition to specific sins in my life. I had applied that to sexual temptation, and I think with significant success over the last forty years or so, but for some reason, I failed to apply the same brutal intentionality of sin-killing to my selfishness and anger and self-pity and quickness to blame and sullenness. So, I began to use the same strategy toward self-pity that I was using toward lust. Let me give you an example.

‘I Beat It Down’

I came home one Lord’s Day evening, and I was tired. I was hoping to do something with my wife and daughter, Talitha, who was still at home. And my wife and my daughter were on the couch with the computer, watching something together. They announced, “We’re watching this, and we’re going to watch this.” They didn’t say anything about me — poor me, poor hardworking pastor me, right? They just said, “We’re enjoying this. Welcome home; do what you want.” My reflexes were immediate: frustration, anger, and especially self-pity.

With my new, God-given resolve, I did with that temptation what I do with sexual temptation regularly: I said, “No. No, self-pity. No, get out of my head. Get back to hell, where you belong.” And I went upstairs to my study, and I waged war for maybe ten or fifteen minutes. I waged war — effort. I turned my mind and my heart toward the promises of God, and the surety of the cross, and the love of my Father, and the wealth of my inheritance in Christ, and the blessings of the Lord’s Day that had just gone by, and the patience of Jesus. And I held them there in front of my mind, where I could see them. I cried out to the Lord for blood-bought help. And I consciously, intentionally — not passively — beat it down. I beat it down, the anger and self-pity and blaming and sullenness, as utterly out of character with who I am in Jesus. And I kept beating until they were effectively dead.

So, Michael, there you have it. You asked, “Do you ever experience this?” Oh my, yes, I have shared your experience. And that’s what the Lord taught me ten years ago. I think if you were to ask my wife today, “Is Johnny different in that regard from, say, twenty years ago?” I think she’d say yes. And I give God great glory.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Coronavirus and Christ.

Daily Light – July 23, 2020

If God Approves, Let Men Condemn

Charles Spurgeon (1834 – 1892)


Article by Greg Morse, Staff writer, desiringGod.org

It may appear, at first glance, to be an odd text to hang in your bedroom:

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12 KJV)

Whereas others might draw from a thousand wells before this one, Susannah Spurgeon framed Jesus’s words to remind her husband, Charles, of Jesus’s upside-down perspective. When his disciples face bitter opposition for his name’s sake, the proper response should be joy.

When we consider this Baptist giant, when we read his stirring sermons, when we remember that his life’s work rivaled that of one hundred men, when we read of the revival and the winning of countless souls to Christ, we can imagine the Prince of Preachers encountering little but unbroken success. Compared with so many of our ministries, his seemed to soar high in the clouds. We rarely consider, as Iain Murray contendsThe Forgotten Spurgeon — the Spurgeon who needed Matthew 5:11–12 hanging on his wall.

Forgotten Prince

The forgotten Spurgeon stood among the tornadoes of several great controversies in his day. His protestation against Arminianism, his disgust at baptismal regeneration, and his resistance to an evangelical unity founded upon fragments of Christian doctrine (known as the Downgrade Controversy) made him the target for many arrows.

This Spurgeon, especially at the beginning and end of his ministry, had reason to reckon himself as “the scum of the earth” (24–25). The name Spurgeon, which we regard fondly, was, by estimation of its owner, “kicked about the street like a football” (28). He had occasion to remark in a sermon, “Scarce a day rolls over my head in which the most villainous abuse, the most fearful slander is not uttered against me both privately and by the public press; every engine is employed to put down God’s minister — every lie that man can invent is hurled at me” (63).

This Spurgeon was slandered in the newspapers, ridiculed by his opponents, and censured by many evangelical ministers who he anticipated would be his allies. This Spurgeon was a living example of the happy — but often hated — man of God to whom Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount.

Fleeing Compromise

What can we learn from this forgotten Spurgeon?

This Spurgeon can teach us to handle controversy manfully and without compromising. His convictions, which he held to his dying day, cost him dearly. He did not practice that vice he so clearly preached against: “I think there is scarcely a Christian man or woman that has been able to go all the way to heaven and yet quietly hide himself and run from bush to bush, skulking into glory. Christianity and cowardice? What a contradiction in terms!” (“Speak for Yourself — a Challenge”).

If we would cast away the temptation to tiptoe into glory, and be of real benefit for Christ’s name in this world, Spurgeon teaches us that we would do well to resist loving our own names, be comfortable in the minority, and recognize (and reject) false unity.

1. Don’t fall in love with your own name.

“Let my name perish, but let Christ’s name last forever! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Crown him Lord of all!” (43)

Spurgeon warns us of falling in love with our own reputations and influence. This self-love, he identified, is a main ingredient in the undoing of the best of us. He exposes the steps to compromise of the person initially used by God:

The temptation comes to be careful of the position he has gained, and to do nothing to endanger it. The man, so lately a faithful man of God, compromises with worldlings, and to quiet his own conscience invents a theory by which such compromises are justified and even commended. He receives the praises of “the judicious”; he has, in truth, gone over to the enemy. The whole force of his former life now tells upon the wrong side. (170)

How many times have we seen or experienced this drift?

First, we are somehow exalted for special use. Then we quietly begin to notice it and relish the attention. Falling in love with recognition, we tighten our grip around our platforms in fear of losing them. We then calculate what we say, filtering out anything that may weaken our influence — including the unfavorable truths of Scripture. And finally, faced with the thing we used to call compromise, we invent reasons to support what we’ve become — why we’ve beaten the sword into a plowshare.

Fierce loves fixed on unworthy objects mold Christians into cowards. If we have begun to love the music of our own name, manage our brand, or consider our popularity as necessary to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, we have begun building our own kingdoms. May we say with Spurgeon, “I count my own character, popularity, and usefulness to be as the small dust of the balance compared with fidelity to the Lord Jesus” (219). It is Christ we proclaim, not ourselves (2 Corinthians 4:5).

2. Be comfortable in the minority.

“Long ago I ceased to count heads. Truth is usually in the minority in this evil world. I have faith in the Lord Jesus for myself, a faith burned into me as with a hot iron. I thank God, what I believe I shall believe, even if I believe it alone.” (146)

Have you ever felt the temptation to count heads — or followers, likes, and shares — to see what you should or should not say? I have. When we begin sharing truth based on how well that truth will be received, we are halfway to compromise. Spurgeon counsels us to consider the cost beforehand: truth is often in the minority; to stand with it means you may stand alone.

Yet those who stand for Christ’s truth never truly stand alone. You may go as Esther before the king without kin beside you, resolved that if you perish, you perish; you may preach like Stephen, as crowds press in around you, shutting their ears and hurling stones; you may rebuke King Herod’s adultery alone or say with Paul, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me” (2 Timothy 4:16) — but Christ shall be with you, even until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). And if your cause is true, you will find, like Elijah, you are not the only one not to bow the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:1418).

3. Recognize false unity.

“It is, of course, the most easy to flesh and blood to deal in generalities, to denounce sectarianism, and claim to be of an ultra-catholic spirit; but though rough and rugged, it is required of the loyal servant of King Jesus to maintain all his crown rights and stand up for every word of his laws. Friends chide us and foes abhor us when we are very jealous for the Lord God of Israel, but what do these things matter if the Master approves?” (18)

Error loves vagueness.

As in Spurgeon’s day, the temptation to tolerate all positions and accept all perspectives on truth is strong in ours. We are told it is prejudiced, narrow, and even unchristian to draw lines. But to Spurgeon, promoting a type of “Christian unity” whose common denominator sinks lower than genuine Christianity in the first place is unacceptable. Unity of Jew and Gentile into one new man is bought with the blood of Christ; unity of gospel truth and gospel untruth is unity brought about by Satan.

Orthodox Christianity, he argued, is distinct. Not all views can be true. When the only standard left is for all in the flock to have four legs, wolves and goats stand at ease among us. The trend toward an undoctrinal, atheological, shapeless evangelicalism, beginning in Spurgeon’s day and seemingly ripening in ours, is one of the quickest ways to compromise our fidelity to Christ and witness in the world.

In saying this, Spurgeon did not intend to divide over every possible theological difference — lest every man be an island unto himself. But Spurgeon chafed at minimizing Christian zeal and truth in order to bring together contrasting theologies and to mix liberalism with historic Christianity. We may be called particular or dogmatic, but what do we care if what we promote is the Master’s truth?

Though the Heavens Fall

“It is yours and mine to do the right though the heavens fall, and follow the command of Christ whatever the consequence may be. “That is strong meat,” do you say? Be strong men, then, and feed thereon.” (171)

His beloved wife, who hung Matthew 5:11–12 in their bedroom, said after his death at the age of 57, “His fight for the faith . . . cost him his life.” He fought the good fight of faith, he kept the faith, he finished the race (2 Timothy 4:7), claiming before his death, “My work is done” (173). He lived for his Lord, and now he basks in his presence.

To those of us who lag behind him, traversing our own times with all of their challenges and opportunities, temptations and labors, take up his oft-quoted hymn as we continue on in our race of faith:

Must I be carried to the skies
     On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
     And sailed through bloody seas?

Since I must fight if I would reign,
     Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
     Supported by thy word.

Though the heavens fall, though the earth gives way, though controversy and temptations of spiritual compromise stand before us, may we heed this forgotten Spurgeon, hang Matthew 5:11–12 in our hearts, and live before men and devils with the courage and hope that only Christ supplies.

Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul with their daughter.

Daily Light – July 22, 2020

5 Christian Clichés that Need to Die

Article by Matt Smethurst

“Books don’t change people,” John Piper once observed. “Paragraphs do. Sometimes even sentences.”

A good sentence is a gift. We love finding complex truth shrinkwrapped in clear, simple, memorable form. It’s why Charles Spurgeon and C. S. Lewis are dominating a newsfeed near you. Even God likes pithy statements—at least enough to breathe out a whole book of them.

But one-liners aren’t always helpful. Sometimes, in our desire to simplify truth, we can trivialize and even obscure it. And to obscure the truth is to tell a lie.

Here are five popular Christian clichés that are not biblical, and therefore need a memorial service.

1. “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

I appreciate the heart behind this statement. It’s true, after all, that God can do anything he pleases (Jer. 32:27), that he sometimes redirects our course (Prov. 16:9), and that he never abandons his own (Heb. 13:5).

But if God closes a door in your life, there’s no guarantee he’ll open a window. He may not open anything. He may want you to realize you have the wrong address.

Scripture is filled with examples of the Spirit closing doors, windows, and any other conceivable entrance to keep one from heading in the wrong direction or at the wrong time (e.g., Prov. 16:9; 19:21Acts 16:6–7).

If God closes a door in your life, there’s no guarantee he’ll open a window. He may not open anything. He may want you to realize you have the wrong address.

I once heard “calling” described as the trifecta of affinity, ability, and opportunity. Do you like it, can you do it, and is there an open door? Now there are rare times when, if the third piece isn’t in place, God may want you to break down the door. Missionary martyr Jim Elliott once said that a lot of folks are sitting around waiting for a “call” when what they need is a kick in the pants.

But what if God has something else for you entirely? What if he doesn’t want you to move to that city, or take that job, or enter that relationship—whether by door or window?

Maybe he wants you to re-evaluate in light of affinity, ability, and opportunity—your internal desires, your confirmed giftings, and your actual options.

2. “You’re never more safe than when you’re in God’s will.”

Insofar as the safety here is eternal, or means something like “in the right place,” this maxim is gloriously true. Almost every time I hear it, though, the person is referring to physical safety.

Years ago, as I was preparing to become a missionary in a closed country, a few well-meaning believers assured me God would protect me from harm since he had called me.

Jesus seems to disagree:

You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. (Luke 21:16–18)

Some of you they’ll slaughter. You’ll be entirely safe. Huh?

These promises sound contradictory, but they’re not. Justin Martyr (AD 100–165) was almost certainly reflecting on this passage when he said, “They can kill us, but they cannot harm us.”

I love that. Only a Christian could say something so crazy.

God has promised us many wonderful things; physical safety is not one of them. Brutal life circumstances are normal in a fallen world. Pursuing God may even lead you into greater physical danger. But you will be spiritually alive and eternally secure.

3. “Let go and let God.”

At its best, this phrase highlights the value of surrender. God is God and you are not, so lay down your résumé, your excuses, your fears.

All too often, though, the phrase is wielded as if the symbol of Christianity is not a cross but a couch. It’s subtly used to put the brakes on striving, on working, on effort.

Now, if “let go and let God” solely referenced the moment of justification, it would be fine. But it typically refers to the process of sanctification, which is anything but passive.

The Christian life is grueling. When Paul reflects on it he doesn’t think of sunsets and naps but of soldiers and athletes and farmers (2 Tim. 2:3–6). He thinks of running tracks and boxing rings (1 Cor. 9:24–27).

‘The Christian’s motto should not be “Let go and let God” but “Trust God and get going.”’

We’re called to work out what God has already worked in us, laboring not for our salvation but from it (Phil. 2:12–13). This dynamic of restful vigilance (Matt. 11:28­–30; 16:24)—what the Puritans called “holy sweat”—lies at the heart of Christian experience.

As J. I. Packer once put it, “The Christian’s motto should not be ‘Let go and let God’ but ‘Trust God and get going.’”

4. “God will not give you more than you can handle.”

In a culture that tells us we can be anything we desire, this motivational slogan is meant to encourage, to reassure us that life won’t be too hard. There will be challenges, sure, but God knows my limits. He won’t overdo it.

The problem, however, is that God will give you more than you can handle. He’ll do it to make you lean on him. He’ll do it because he loves you.

Over the past few years, few things have encouraged my soul more than the letters of John Newton (1725–1807), the former slave trader who penned “Amazing Grace.” In one letter to a widow fearing death, Newton writes:

Though our frames and perceptions may vary, the report of faith concerning [the time of death] is the same. The Lord usually reserves dying strength for a dying hour. . . . When the time shall arrive which he has appointed for your dismissal, I make no doubt but that he will overpower all your fears, silence all your enemies, and give you a comfortable, triumphant entrance into his kingdom. You have nothing to fear from death; for Jesus, by dying, has disarmed it of its sting, has perfumed the grave, and opened the gates of glory for his believing people.

The good news is not that God won’t give us more than we can handle; it’s that he won’t give us more than he can handle.

The good news is not that God won’t give us more than we can handle; it’s that he won’t give us more than he can handle.

5. “God helps those who help themselves.”

I’m not aware of a statement more commonly misidentified as a Bible verse. And the fact that it originates from Benjamin Franklin—not God’s Word—is the best news you will encounter today.

If God only helps those who help themselves, we’re all sunk. But he didn’t come for moral standouts; he came for moral failures (Matt. 9:12–13Luke 19:10). He came for us.

While this slogan may be a fine summary of the teaching of other religions, the entire message of Christianity hinges on the fact that, as Charles Spurgeon once quipped, “God helps those who cannot help themselves.” Indeed, he helps those who humble themselves, who repent and rely on Jesus alone.

Truth Is Loving

While the heart behind these five mantras is often genuine, they are all unhelpful for one overriding reason: they are unbiblical.

Speaking biblically isn’t just a matter of truth; it’s an issue of love. God’s words, after all, aren’t just true; they’re also good for the world. May we love our neighbors by stewarding our words, and steward our words by speaking what’s true. For love rejoices with the truth (1 Cor. 13:6).

Matt Smethurst is managing editor of The Gospel Coalition and author of Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures for Approaching God’s Word (10ofThose, 2019), 1–2 Thessalonians: A 12-Week Study (Crossway, 2017), and Deacons: How They Serve and Strengthen the Church (Crossway, forthcoming). He and his wife, Maghan, have three children and live in Louisville, Kentucky. They belong to Third Avenue Baptist Church, where Matt serves as an elder. You can follow him on Twitter.

Daily Light – July 21, 2020


Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

Christians do not settle in with injustice in this age. Even as it surrounds us. Even as we find its impulses within us. In Christ, we aim and act for genuine justice. We do not pretend that the anger of man will work the justice of God (James 1:20), or that fallen humans can execute full and final justice, but still we make justice our aim.

Yet in Christ, we also know that full and final Justice is coming. Just as Grace incarnate came in him, so also Justice will come with his return.

Glory of the Great Judge

It is precious to know Jesus as our advocate (1 John 2:1). And so he is for us by faith. Few of us ponder this glory nearly enough. It is worth daily reflection and enjoyment. This is at the very heart of the Christian faith.

But our gospel not only acknowledges Jesus as our advocate. He is also our judge. Indeed, the Judge, of all the earth and of all history. One day soon, the man Christ Jesus will sit on the very judgment seat of God, and execute full and final justice for all mankind and for all time.

One of the great glories of Christ is that God will judge the world through him. “According to my gospel,” writes the apostle Paul, “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16).

Early Church Preached It

That God will judge the world through Jesus Christ is not only a stunning reality to acknowledge, but a glory to embrace. It is not just fact; it is good news. The early church not only received it; they rejoiced in it. The apostles proclaimed the coming Justice as a warning to Christ’s opponents, and preached it as gospel to his people.

When Peter opens his mouth to proclaim the message of Christ to the Gentiles for the first time, he not only recounts Christ’s death and resurrection and the witnesses “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:39–41). He also says that Jesus

commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:42)

As Christians, we not only celebrate that “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name,” but we also declare, and delight in, the glory of our Christ as “the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.”

So also, the apostle Paul, proclaiming the good news in the public market in Athens, preaches that God

has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)

Yet how often today do we linger over the glory of Christ as Judge? Do our simple hearts and minds tend to reduce our Lord merely to the Lamb who gave his own neck to the knife, and rose again (hallelujah!), and forget that he is coming again, with the very omnipotence of God, to judge the living and the dead?

He Comes to Bring Justice

The glory of Christ as the judge of all nations goes back to God’s first-covenant people. Buffeted and embattled as they were, a constant refrain in their worship was that their God was indeed the “God who judges on earth” (Psalm 58:1182:8). When he comes to judge, he will save the humble (Psalm 76:9) and repay the proud (Psalm 94:1–2). He is Lord far beyond Israel and will “judge the peoples with equity” (Psalm 67:4).

Psalm 96, in particular (and then Psalm 98, which echoes its final stanza), praises Yahweh as judge of all peoples (Psalm 96:10) and, like Psalm 9, culminates with the coming of God, in the fullness of divine power, as judge of the nations:

     He comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
     and the peoples in his faithfulness. (Psalm 96:13)

For centuries, the great hope of God’s faithful people was that he would come in judgment — to rescue and vindicate his own, and to execute justice on all who had assaulted and threated them. As God said through the prophet Joel,

I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel. (Joel 3:2)

Grace Came, So Will Judgment

Then God did come. But not as his people expected. He came as a baby, and as Grace incarnate (Titus 2:11). Despite the hopes of his cousin John, he came not (yet) to lay the axe to the tree, but first to lay down his own life to cover sin, beginning with the sins of his own people — and then, offering beyond expectation, reprieve to the Gentiles, love to his people’s enemies. Yet in that same first coming, he promised he would come again:

The Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31–32)

First he came to offer salvation to a world under condemnation. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Yet he will come again to put the axe to the root of the tree. First he came to sow. Then he will come to reap.

As the Christian gospel shows us the glory of Christ not only as sovereign and sacrifice, but also as final judge, we might identify at least five distinct aspects of this coming Justice.

1. He will come in glory.

First and foremost, this second coming, as final judge, is very much about the glory of Christ.

As we’ve seen, “The Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father” (Matthew 16:27), and “the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him” (Matthew 25:31). In his glory. In the glory of his Father. Augmented by “his angels” — “all the angels.” No eye will miss this (Revelation 1:7). No corner of the earth will be unaware. All else will stop. All other pursuits will cease. It will be the end of the world as we know it, and every eye will see him — in his glory.

2. All will stand before him.

But not only will every eye see him. Every person will stand before him. “Each person,” says Jesus (Matthew 16:27). “Each one,” says the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 5:10). And not just those alive at the time but “the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42Romans 14:92 Timothy 4:11 Peter 4:5).

“We will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10). And whom will we see seated on that throne? “Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1). “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

3. He will separate wheat and weeds.

Then, for those who are in him by faith, there will come a glorious and perfect discrimination:

Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:32)

This discrimination will not fall along ethnic lines, political lines, class lines, educational lines, or earthly achievement lines. In this glorious and horrifying moment, all other pretenses and illusions to identity will be stripped away, and one thing will matter: Are you wheat or weed? As the Judge had said in his first coming, “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matthew 13:30).

4. He will redress every wrong.

First the weeds, he said, will be bundled and burned. And in that day, every just cry for justice will be answered, and far more fully and finally than we are able to answer pleas for justice in this age. We will put our hands over our mouths as the risen, omnipotent Lamb exacts perfect justice in his perfect righteousness, with no excess and no compromise.

As the 24 elders in heaven declare in worship, he will “destroy the destroyers of the earth” (Revelation 11:18). He will repay the wicked. And he will settle every dispute: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples” (Isaiah 2:4Micah 4:3). How many seemingly irreconcilable conflicts in this age, which our judges and judicial systems stumble over again and again, await the day when the Judge finally comes and sets all to rights? And we will marvel at Justice.

5. He will reward the righteous.

Then, finally, he will gather the wheat into his barn. Having redressed every wrong, he will reward every cup of cold water given in his name (Matthew 10:42). As the elders declare in worship, the time will come for “rewarding [his] servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear [his] name, both small and great” (Revelation 11:18). He will reward the righteous — those who are righteous ultimately by faith but also in true measure by the Spirit.

In his extravagant generosity, grace, and mercy, he will lavish his people not only with entrance to “his barn,” a new heavens and new earth, where righteousness dwells, but on top of it all, he will reward his people for what good they have done “in the body” (2 Corinthians 5:10). As Paul approaches the end of his race, the time of his departure, he writes, “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). “Not only to me,” he says, but “to all who have loved his appearing.”

Marvel at the Final Judge

On that great day, we will see it with our own eyes — and feel its full effects as recipients of his great mercy by faith: our advocate will stand supreme as final judge and complete the arc of his glories as the God-man.

Not only was he in the beginning (John 1:1), not only were all things made through him and for him (John 1:3Colossians 1:16), not only did he preexist Abraham (John 8:58), not only did he rescue a people out of Egypt (Jude 5) and give them water in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4), not only did Isaiah see him (John 12:41), not only did he come as one of us and do signs and wonders (Acts 2:2210:38) and all things well (Mark 7:37), not only did he give his own throat to the knife, as the Lamb, for the sins of his people, and conquer death, and ascend to God’s right hand, and pour out his Spirit, and rule the church age on heaven’s throne with all authority in heaven and on earth, but he comes again to judge the world.

In the end, we marvel at the glory of Christ, our brother, the God-man, “the righteous judge” (2 Timothy 4:8), in the wisdom, purity, and power he has, as God, in glorified human flesh, to judge all nations and all history and each and every person. And why does the Father do it this way, “giving all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22)? “That all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).

It is good news, in a world of evil like ours, that Justice, full and final, perfect and complete, is coming. His name is Jesus. Oh, how sweet to be hidden in him.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

Daily Light – July 20, 2020

God gave you the ability

Devotional study from David Niednagel, pastor/teacher, Evansville, IN.  David uses the S.O.A.P method for his morning devotional time.  (study, observe, apply, pray)

Deuteronomy 8:6-20  

8:6  “So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. 8 It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. 9 It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. 10 When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. 12 For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, 13 and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! 14 Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. 15 Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock! 16 He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good. 17 He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ 18 Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath. 19 “But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed. 20 Just as the Lord has destroyed other nations in your path, you also will be destroyed if you refuse to obey the Lord your God.   NLT

The most dangerous enemies are the ones you don’t see. They could see snakes and scorpions, and giants and weapons. Moses was warning them of a bigger danger – prosperity. God was giving them a land with resources they didn’t prepare – houses, wells, crops – and they would work hard and make them even more productive. And it would be natural after their toil and sweat to feel good about their labor and say “Look what my hand has accomplished!” And they would drift from dependence and gratitude to pride and less worship. Moses reminded them that no one in the world ever had manna before. God did a huge miracle every day for 40 years! Would they remember He was real and worship Him, or would they gradually forget?

And true, they would work hard and improve their farms, etc, but they needed to remember it was Yahweh who not only gave them the land, but the ability to work the land. He gave them life, breath, strength, and everything else. (Acts 17:25) In America many people pride themselves on their hard work and what they have accomplished, and rightfully so. But I have seen children in Africa and India who did not have enough protein when they were little for their brains to develop, and they did not have the opportunity for school. It reminds me that except for the grace of God I/we would be just like them and that every blessing I have, even those that are the result of my hard work, are gifts from God. He gave me/us the ability to work!

Lord, just as in Moses’ day, the more we have the more likely that we will drift from gratitude and allegiance to You. We become less generous, not more generous. We become more demanding of comfort and privilege. Help me always be aware of Your merciful provisions and help me be a good steward of them all. As the world economy suffers, use me to call believers to acknowledge You as the giver of all our resources, and to manage them for Your glory. Amen