Saturday, October 28, 2017

Reflections on God in Psalm 44

             Yet You have rejected us and brought us to dishonor,
And do not go out with our armies.

 You cause us to turn back from the adversary;
                        And those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves.

 You give us as sheep to be eaten
                                And have scattered us among the nations. (Ps. 44:9-11)

 These verses sound like charges, even accusations against the Lord but notice this - it is only by such an intimate relationship that such a volley of statements could be made. If the psalmist had not learned what a good God and what a gracious God he had, he could have no platform for complaint, nor any confidence that his complaint would be addressed much less heard.
We do indeed serve and love a living and gracious God! For though everything be against us - God is for us. Though we see all hell break loose against us, like Job in the first two chapters of his book, let us resolve to trust Him regardless.  If I were to put a structure to the whole song I would say:

Part A - Our good God
   1 – 3: You have been good in the past.
                4 – 8: I trust you to be good now.
Part B - Our difficult God

9 – 16: Accusations to our God
              17 – 22: Defense of our allegations
              23 – 26: A call – a plea – To the goodness of our merciful God.

There is only one musical pause [Selah] in this psalm. It breaks up the song into its two component parts. We look at the second part from verses 9 through 26 and read a strong complaint against the God of Grace. It’s not a complaint with no validity, but its validity is only due to the limitations of our human estate, for our God is Lord of all – even the evil which comes our way is by the permissive hand of God – but always for our good.

What is the characterization of these accusations (vs. 9-16)? First of all, they are not against His decision to treat them this way. How do I know this? Verse 12 tells me.

               You have sold your people for a trifle, And have not profited by their sale. (Ps. 44:12)

We see the psalmist seeking to reason it out. Why has God allowed all this hard way? In other words, the psalmist knows God is indeed good, which we see in Part A, yet he trusts God to be just in spite of seeming injustices.

And yet he never calls God unjust. He only records what God has allowed and his (the psalmist’s) thoughts concerning these events. Verses 12 and 15 show a little of the psalmist’s reasoning on these events.

In all this he never doubts God’s goodness. He is a man simply seeking to reason out the apparently unreasonable. But apparent circumstances are not the whole of the matter.

We do not know the mind of our God in all things. We do know that He is good and never changes and we do know He is for us. At times we must rest in such as these.
Lord, Help me to trust in your perfect unchanging love. And may I never rebut you in character or actions while I wait upon you.

Monday, October 23, 2017

To God be the Glory!

Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. (Acts 9:32-35)

It was 38 A. D. Aeneas had been sick – paralyzed in bed for years – 8 years according to Acts 9:33. Which tells us that from the very beginning of the Christ’s earthly ministry healing and preaching – Aeneas was waiting. Lydda, where he was, was only 32 miles from Jerusalem. He had heard of this healer. All men were talking about him – so much was going on that even the Scribes and Pharisees sent down delegations to see this teacher and healer from Galilee.

But this was now years ago. He had waited over 3 years when he heard about the crucifixion. It hadn't made sense to him – but his own troubles kept him from thinking about the incongruity of it all.

Enter Peter. This disciple of the Savior who was not. Peter said some astounding things – things which had given Aeneas new hope. He had once lived in hope that the Savior would visit Lydda and he’d find healing and redemption. But for 5 years such hope had been quelled.

Yet in 1 sentence Peter revives that hope!

And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.” Then he arose immediately. (Acts 9:34)

Not only was the Savior alive – he was still healing and his disciples were preaching the gospel!

He arose immediately. The result of this was amazing. All who saw Aeneas healed turned to Jesus the Christ - the Healer whose power was not abated.

Lord, let us not forget how your healing power is still able to heal. And thank you that it is not restricted to physical maladies – but you heal the hearts of dead men - bringing them to new life in Christ.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Means of Grace to prevent unbelief

(This message was preached at Covenant Reformed Baptist Church on Wed. eve, 10/4/2017)

THESIS: Unbelief makes fools out of the very most learned of men – seek Christ and be truly wise!

This evening we’ll be considering Mark 3:19b-35

And they went into a house. 20 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.”

23 So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. 27 No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.

28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”—30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.”

33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”[1]

This evening we are presented with a literary tool that Mark uses quite regularly. You might have noted that the lengthy passage I intend to handle this evening. Fifteen verses is by far the largest grouping so far which I have attempted to tackle. But it is the way Mark handles the text that drives me to consider so large a passage. We will likely be visiting this passage 1 or 2 more times before we move on.

The literary tool Mark uses is called by a variety of terms (Chiasm or Intercalation), but I like the simple term insertion.  Mark takes one account and inserts it into another account. In our case the first account is of his own people seeking to take hold of Him. And the second account is of the Scribes who accuse Him of being in league with Satan. As for the meaning of insertion, there was some variation, but the intent was generally to tie the two seemingly distinct events together theologically. So what that means for us is that tonight we will be considering that theological base and what emphases it brings to the two accounts. In later sermons we’ll deal specifically with the Scribes and their accusation and also the sin of Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

But what do these two accounts share theologically? Consider the fact that Jesus was accused in both accounts. His family thought he had lost His mind, and the Scribes thought He was in league with Satan! Neither accusation was flattering. In both accounts, Jesus ably defends himself and even shows the weakness of their arguments.

The fact that Jesus was not at all out of His mind, is shown in his clear logical response to the Scribes. So the one account informs us on the other account. Jesus’ own family didn’t even know Him! They couldn’t grasp his purpose or plan. What most struck me is that fact that earlier in Jesus life, first while in the womb, and later at the temple when He was 12, Mary seemed to show to that of an understanding heart – however we see that it was not at all a clear matter to her. Who this son of hers was, and why He came was still a great enigma. We read that in response to the angel’s announcement in Luke 1:29 she was troubled and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be? When the shepherds came to worship the baby, we are told that she ‘kept all these things and pondered them in her heart’ (Luke 2:19).  After Simeon came and blessed the child we read in Luke 2:34, “And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him.[2]” Also when he was 12 and had been left behind in Jerusalem we read that his earthly parents didn’t understand him when he told them, Did you not know that I must be about my Fathers business? (Luke 2:49)

And by the way, what is so upsetting about his being in a crowd that He couldn’t eat? Let me remind you of the culture and place Jesus was ministering in. The darkness of Galilee – the demonic possession and great many illnesses people bore. Into this dark backwater place Jesus erupts on the scene with literal healing in his hands and even in the hem of his clothing. He made what seemed to be outlandish claims that prophecy was being fulfilled in their presence. He was identified as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world by his cousin, John. And this drew crowds. But these were not those who knew him. What about those who knew him? What happened in Nazareth?

We read in Matt. 13:54 – 58,

When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” 57 So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” 58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.[3]

Unbelief had hardened them to the truth. Listen to the almost mocking way that his brothers speak to Him in John 7,

Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For even His brothers did not believe in Him.[4]

So is it any wonder at all that his family thinks he is going mad? They lived with him as a pious Jewish carpenter for 30 years. And even though there were some great and significant events in his arrival 30 years earlier, they were not reckoned as significant any longer – even in Mary’s heart and mind.

His family came to ‘lay hold of Him’ we read in verse 21. The Greek word κρατέω kratĕō here is a strong word often translated ‘to arrest’ or ‘to seize’.  They were coming for him – to do what a family might do – Let’s get Him out of there before he does something really crazy! In fact the next significant Greek word, ἐξίστημι ĕxistēmi means exactly that – they were afraid he’d gone insane! He’s bewitched by his own power and now isn’t even eating!

This is the backdrop Mark paints as he now begins to insert the Scribes and their accusation. And if the family paints a picture of Christ as insane – the Scribes go a step further and declare him to be the demoniac! By the prince of demons you cast out demons!

Do you see how much more sinister the accusation made by the Scribes was? Here we have the very Son of God – the Anointed One of Israel in the flesh – and they can’t see the works as pointing out Messiah. But they see them as pointing out the Devil!  If the family was deceived by unbelief, how much more these Scribes by evil intent make their accusations!

It’s important to see the Scribes in this passage for what they were. These men had no excuse whatsoever for making their claims. As a matter of fact – the evidence of Jesus’ miracles, sight to the blind, healing of the lame, raising the dead – these very things – were to be the identifiers of the Messiah! I know that I tend to beat a dead horse on this but don’t forget what John the Baptizer was told when he inquired of Christ, Are you the One, or should we look for another? We read in Luke 7,

 And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. 22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”[5]

These are the very same things he had been doing all over Galilee! It was this activity to which he referred when he declared in the Synagogue in Nazareth that Isa. 49:8-9 was being fulfilled in their hearing! 30 years earlier – WITHOUT all this evidence Simeon and Anna were waiting for Him in expectation. They knew what to look for!

That’s why I say these Scribes were without excuse! They had the prophecies, and the evidence was laid before them! They not only rejected it in unbelief, but they went further than that – they called him out as antichrist! You cast out devils by the prince of devils!

In the parallel account which we find in Matthew 12:27 Christ not only uses logic to destroy their accusation, he exposes their hypocrisy:

And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.[6]

Why did they make such a foolish accusation? What drove such learned men to be such fools as to actually accuse the very Christ of God to be in league with Satan? Consider the following passages – John 7,

And many of the people believed in Him, and said, “When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?”[7]

Matt. 12:22-24:

Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23 And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” 24 Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

Do you see how the multitudes easily connected such a healing by Jesus to the Christ of God? They got it right. This teaching was not new. The Scribes themselves taught it!

Matt. 12:24 begins, Now when the Pharisees heard…They heard the multitudes reasoning out the matter and pointing to Jesus as the Christ. Then they made their blasphemous accusation. It was out of envy. It was out of malice. It was spite that drove them to such irrational accusations.
Folks – Don’t you see – His family came to get him because they said He is out of his mind, yet it was the very Scribes and Pharisees who were out of their mind! They were the insane ones. They were the ones to accuse God incarnate of being in league with Satan!

I began this message referencing a literary tool called insertion. Let’s now look at verses 31 – 35, and return to the primary or first account.

Jesus’ earthly family arrived but due to the crowd couldn’t even get close to him. Remember, they were there to arrest him as it were – to lay hands on him. But the crowd was actually Christ’s best defense!

So they send word through the crowd and Jesus’ response should actually warm your heart – if you are a believer. You see him look around at those seated at his feet – Behold my mother and brothers! Whoever does the will of God, He is my brother and sister and mother.

This leads me to my challenge to you this evening. Are you doing the will of God? And what – of all the things we could be doing for Him – is most important?

Look at the very familiar account of Mary and Martha. Both were busy about the Lord. One was seated at his feet studying Him, and one was serving Him. And we do tend to discount service sometimes because of Martha’s impetuousness. But remember, Christ never rebuked her work, he rather exalted Mary by stating that in His Kingdom – knowing the King was more important than serving the King.

In fact when I learned the answer to the first Catechism question, What is the chief end of man? I marveled at the answer, Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. I marveled because in my mind I had answered the question like this, Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to serve him forever. Do you see the subtle way we move into works and deeds?

And isn’t this reality of relationship put into great relief when we think of the Scribes and Pharisees and how of all men, they should have recognized him! They should have been at his feet! They should have been willing to be in the position of humility.

Brothers & Sisters – Can I ask you, Do you spend more time learning from and studying the Saviour – or is your hallmark staying busy for the Lord in service? Mary has chosen the better portion. Do you look intently into the Word of God, regularly or is something always sidetracking you? How’s your prayer life? Is it vital and living? Do you find it something you long to do, or is it a difficult matter? You see, a relationship takes work. And it is a two way street. We must listen to the Lord, and let the Word examine us – and we also must go to the Lord of that Word, to praise, adore and petition him.

What are some of the ways you can use to establish a better relationship with the King? I would like to point you to 3 ways you can know our Lord better. Truthfully these are just some of the means of Grace.

1.      We have the Word itself. Read it. Study it. Search it out – live in it! Make the Scriptures the most precious thing you have! Think of how it would be if you had a friend who never let you get in a word? Doesn’t that frustrate the relationship? Yet God has spoken – all we need do, is listen.

2.      We have prayer itself. Tonight is the prayer meeting. Are you ready to call out to the Lord? Do you trust the Lord to hear your burdens and bear them for you? Or is your relationship to Him so thin that you don’t feel comfortable calling on Him. Brethren - If we can’t call on the Lord for help, we have no one else to turn to. I realize that some matters aren’t for the public prayer meeting, but you do have a time of prayer don’t you? The old KJV called it a prayer closet – a place where you can privately call upon the Lord. (Matt. 6:6)

3.      And 3rd we have the fellowship of the Saints. Do you make it your passion to seek out brothers and sisters to bless and be blessed by them? Do you try to make the attendance at Church a major priority in your life? You see, we have within this very body the ability to sharpen one another’s relationship to the King – but only if you seek it out. 1 John 1:7 tells us But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.[8]  Fellowship is tied to walking in the light – that is how it can be a means of grace.  Paul tells us in Colossians, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.[9]

Fellowship with one another is a means of grace to get to know the Saviour more intimately.

i)       In my last message we considered the selection of the 12 Apostles. And do you remember how I pointed out that the important factor in these men wasn’t so much their Apostleship, but that they were the foundation stones – Christ being the cornerstone and that we are the living stones, as we build the Spiritual house of God? Well, living stones in a building have communication with one another. To stretch the analogy a bit, a square brick has 6 sides and at least 4 of them are mortared to 4 other bricks. Do you have a few significant brothers or sisters to which you can share and fellowship in the faith? This can foster the relationship we have with the Saviour! Hebrews 10 tells us this in familiar words, And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another[10]

ii)   We ourselves practice this in our Lords Day morning worship service – every time we have our Praise and Testimony time. We give place and time in the service that we can minister to one another as we share with one another how the Lord is teaching us, or answering our prayers. (See also Eph 5:15; 1 Thes. 5:11; Rom. 1:12)

I have given you 3 means to help you in your relation to the Lord. If we are about knowing the Lord, we need to study the Word, we need to be in regular prayer, and we need each other in fellowship. There are more but these may be considered the chief means. Each of you may find certain of these 3 easier than others.

Let me request of you a bit of help – if there was one that for me was most difficult – it is this matter of prayer. I do not like to rush into the Lords presence without adequate preparation…but the result of this is that I do not so often avail myself of this very means of grace.

If I struggle with one – then surely so do you. Let’s exhort one another and not let ourselves fall into the error of unbelief! Such unbelief can even lead to a blasphemous end as we have seen with the Scribes and Pharisees. As much as I have excoriated these rulers because of their evil accusations, I would remind you that they surely started out better. But they left off true piety for the works of religion and ended up in accusing the Christ of being the devils tool!

The message I am trying to convey is that unbelief makes fools out of the very most learned of men – The essence of spiritual wisdom is found in knowledge of the Lord. As I close I can think of no other admonition to point to but that of the Apostle Paul in Philippians,

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Phil 3:8-10)

Make knowing the Lord your chief concern!!!


[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 3:20–35.
[2] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Lk 2:33.
[3] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mt 13:54–58.
[4] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jn 7:2–5.
[5] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Lk 7:21–23.
[6] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mt 12:27.
[7] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jn 7:31.
[8] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 1 Jn 1:7.
[9] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Col 3:16.
[10] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Heb 10:24–25.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Calling out my son.

Why do I feel like such a heel after calling out my son? 

Of course to ask the question is good, for it shows that I recognize a problem.  Usually when this happens, it’s due to a lack of sleep.  I do feel emotionally lousy.  It could also be living in the north.  We have to take vitamin a D3 supplement or we’ll be deficient (and such deficiencies do precipitate depression). 

...but I did sleep OK (at least I think I did) and I’ve been faithfully taking 5000 IU capsules of vitamin D3 for months now - nearly a year.

Of course, also, it goes without saying, when calling out anyone, as we reflect upon the incident, we see our own sinful heart and attitudes, and perhaps the fact that we aren't as perfect as we’d hope we were, indeed as we expected of our son, causes us a grief that is perhaps out of place.

I long for the day when we will sin no more - and when sin no longer will stain our various relationships.  But we live in the here & now, and right now sinful men and women must contend together in a cursed world. 

Such a dark scenario.  Is there no way out?

I say that there is - as we look to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Here we have a man, but also God, who loved us so much he willingly laid down his life for us.  Not as an example - but as a substitute for the very sinners who hated him - indeed he did this WHILE they hated him (See Rom. 5:8).

I need to remember this kind of love when I call out my son or daughter.  This means I really do call them out, but that as I do so, a compassion for them shows - so that they see the same love Christ had for me, is what drives me to call them out.

A while ago while in another ‘calling out’ session, my son called me out, “Why are you so hard on me?” and it was a good question.  At that time I had a ready answer - Because I really love him.  It is my love that drives me to care for his practices and habits - that he will not be captured by them. 

I think I know why I feel like such a heel right now…Perhaps I didn’t show enough love.  I’ll be making that correction, as soon as I am able. 


But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” (Acts 8:20-24)

Dr. MacArthur does not believe Simon was willing to repent, despite the request of Simon here, and looking strictly at the text it does seem to be the case.

Nevertheless, if Simon was truly becoming repentant and desirous of more than escaping judgment, then indeed he has hope.

As believers, we should always be willing to seek the Lord on behalf of others, and as much as possible extend Grace. But sometimes grace and love look very difficult. The call to repentance is like that. To the unbeliever it is most harsh – since turning from sin – apart from God, is completely impossible. Yet we read in Romans that faith comes by hearing (Rom 10:17). We do not know if said sinner will repent, but apart from the command to repent most likely they won't.

I have hope that those behind me after I am gone on to Glory will repent of their sin. I long to see my loved ones cease striving and know the Living God (Psalm 46:10-11). He is better than any sinful pleasure one may seek. He also knows and understands all your struggles whatever they are and no matter the distance they put between you and him. (1 Cor. 10:13; Heb. 4:15)

Repent therefore, trust the Lord with all your heart, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Real Power - the Rebuke of Simon

Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. (Acts 8:9-21)

Only two or three years have passed since our Lord was crucified, when here we meet up with Simon the Sorcerer. Simon’s sin was so outlandish it has created a whole category of sin, Simony: the act of selling Church offices or rules, the ecclesiastical privileges, or even pardons for sin.

And yet, do we not see this in action officially in many churches today?

Peter dealt with Simon is very strong words

Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! (Acts 8:20)

I once read a commentator who suggested that what Peter said was akin to an exclamation, “Your money be damned along with you!”

Peter then identifies a need for him to repent and ask God to release him from such iniquity.

The bond of iniquity comes with the gall of bitterness.

Sin may be sweet at the first but it is bitter in the end. Simon's sin was sorcery and such sin causes one to seek to manipulate all possible circumstances, to one's benefit. In the old King James Version it was called witchcraft. And this 'craft' has little to do with potions or cauldrons or spells. Its root is to control people and circumstances to your own benefit. This was Simon's chief sin. All the 'magic arts' he performed was to this end, that Simon get power – either a higher station in life or a better reputation. He was called by all the great power of God. So his bondage to this way of life led him to ask the blasphemous question, “Give me this power also…”

Power is the great end of sorcery, that one may control the outcome.

May we never fall to this line of reasoning, but – putting God in His proper place – may we humble ourselves and let him lift us up. (James 4:10)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Peresecution is a Blessing!

At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. (Acts 8:1-3)

It’s interesting the Stephens’ witness in death lead to a great persecution. Yet let us not believe that Holy witness always leads to persecution.
God brings about persecution for his purposes. Our responsibility is obedience to the spirit without particular regard for our circumstances. We may indeed be placed in a hard place, but it is to the glory of God.
Years ago when I was a student at MBI, Mr. Hanna was my teacher for the book of Acts. And one of the points made was how the book was structured geographically. First in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and lastly to the end of the Earth – all based on Acts 1:8.
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Acts 8:1 is the first point of transition from one geographic sphere to the next. And what grows this change?
It was God's plan from the beginning to have the church as witnesses in ever-increasing geographic circles – But in Acts 1:8 we are not told any means except the Holy Spirit. Now we see external means of another sort. Persecution of the church – spreads influence and also cleanses the church from false pretenders and bad doctrine.
Persecution is not bad - it may be intended as bad by the persecutor (Gen. 50:20), but God uses such for his purposes. Romans 8:28 is not simply a platitude, its reality!
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)
It's a great blessing to remember Joseph, Job, Daniel, and all the rest who suffered for their trust in the all-powerful God! Just as they also trusted God, so ought we! God indeed means all things are for us if we are the called. And while all people encounter some difficulty in this life – it is the believer who can rightly esteem God’s intent, even when we do not know that intent. How so?
We know the One whose intentions are true and good and right. His intentions do not simply hang like a hopeful expectation – but rather God is able to make the outcome, exactly what he desires, using means that we cannot now see. But we who know our God – and who are known by him can have a hope that will not disappoint! (Rom. 5:5; Heb. 11:1)
There is a great cloud of witnesses in heaven who surround us to remind us to stand fast! (Heb. 12:1-2) See and remember their struggles and when you are troubled on every side – pressed down to the dust, recall we are not alone!
Read II Corinthians 4:8-18, Hebrews 11, Genesis 37-50. Be encouraged Brothers and Sisters! We have a great High Priest who is familiar with our weaknesses and cares for us! (II Cor. 4:9-11; Heb. 4:14-16; 1 Pet. 5:7)
Can I encourage you, who do not know the Lord to call upon Him? He says that “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37)

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