Monday, February 27, 2023

No Image Engraved or in Mind

 By Alistair Begg

No Image Engraved or in Mind

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Exodus 20:4

If the first commandment—“You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3)—deals with the object of our worship, the second commandment deals with the manner of our worship. What the second commandment tells us is that it is not enough that we worship the correct God; we must also worship Him correctly.

The clear and immediate meaning of the command is that God is to be worshiped without any visual symbols of Him. Why the prohibition? Because God is spirit: infinite and unfathomably great. No physical representation could ever do justice to His glory and grandeur. The problem with statues, shrines, and pictures is not that they don’t look good but that no matter how good they look, they will inevitably blur the truth about God’s nature and character. Such images tend to distract men and women from worshiping the true and living God, instead leading them to worship whatever representation is before them.

Yet the second commandment takes us beyond mere images and idol-making and into our own thought life. Our hands may be innocent of making graven images, but our imaginations seldom are. Any conception of God in our minds and hearts that is not derived from Scripture runs foul of this command.

When God gave instructions for the building of the temple, He ordered that the ark of the covenant, on which His presence would dwell, should reside in the Most Holy Place (Exodus 26:34). What was inside the ark? Perhaps most significant is what was not in it: it contained no visible representation of God. Instead, there were the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. It was as if God was saying to His people, as He says to us, Don’t look for Me in shrines, paintings, or statues. I’m not there. Look for Me in My word.

And so we take our cues from God. If we want to worship Him—if we want to meet with Him and know what He is like—we must conform our minds to His word. Our own attempts to conceive of God apart from divine revelation will invariably fail. He has published His truth in His word, and so we are to tether ourselves to what is revealed there.

What’s at stake in this is the integrity not only of our worship but also of our lives—because when people go wrong in their worship, they end up wrong in their living. Anything and anyone that encourages us to worship the correct God incorrectly will prove to be a detriment to our spiritual growth. What a tragedy it would be to embrace an image and miss the person of Christ, to sit at a shrine and miss the Savior, to worship a misconception and fail to know Jesus. Instead, resist the urge to modify God in your mind or conform Him to your own image, and be sure to know Him as He has revealed Himself.

Do Not Take His Name in Vain

 By Alistair Begg

Do Not Take His Name in Vain

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Exodus 20:7

If we were to take a poll asking people which of the Ten Commandments they regard as the least significant, I wonder if the “winner” would be the third. When compared to false gods and graven images, the third command doesn’t seem like such a serious offense. But if the one who wrongly uses the name of God incurs guilt, then it must be important—and we need to understand why.

Scripture is clear that God’s name is precious and powerful. One place where we see this is in the encounters between God and Moses. In Exodus 33, Moses asks God to reveal His glory. His request invites a death sentence because it is not possible to see God’s glory and live. But God graciously grants the request in a way that prevents Moses’ demise, for He demonstrates His glory not by a physical manifestation but by revealing His name: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious” (Exodus 34:6; emphasis added). His name reveals His character, which in turn reveals His glory.

Earlier, in Exodus 3, God had revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush. Moses had been tasked with a weighty mission and wanted to know what to say when people asked who had sent him. God told Moses to say, “I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). By using a form of the verb to be to name Himself, God declared that He is self-existent, self-sufficient, and sovereign, depending on no one and nothing. Who else can claim such a name?

In declaring and disclosing Himself, God does not merely identify Himself; He reveals the wonder of who He is. So to misuse God’s name is to misunderstand His greatness and glory. Only when we grasp this can we understand why the third commandment is so significant.

In what ways, then, might we break this commandment? For one, we break it every time we use God’s name to strengthen our vows and promises, bringing down the name of divinity in order to make ourselves sound more believable (James 5:12). We also blaspheme God when we use His name in anger, in arrogance, or in defiance of who He is. We misuse His name when we utter falsehoods and use it to back them up. Perhaps closer to home, in every worship service we attend where we worship God with our lips only and not from our heart, we break the third commandment.

Only when we see the glory of God’s name and when we use it in praise, love, prayer, obedience, and gratitude do we understand why our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9, KJV, emphasis added). His name is to be hallowed because it proclaims who He is, reveals His character, and is a strong refuge for all who call on it (Proverbs 18:10). And it is to be hallowed in the lives of His people—including in your life, as you bear the name of Christ and take it on your lips with reverence and love.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Storm of God’s Wrath

 By Charles Spurgeon

The Storm of God’s Wrath

… The wrath to come.

Matthew 3:7

It is pleasant to pass over a country after a storm has spent itself—to smell the freshness of the herbs after the rain has passed away, and to note the drops while they glisten like purest diamonds in the sunlight.

That is the position of a Christian. He is going through a land where the storm has spent itself upon His Savior’s head, and if there be a few drops of sorrow falling, they distill from clouds of mercy, and Jesus cheers him by the assurance that they are not for his destruction.

But how terrible it is to witness the approach of a tempest—to note the forewarnings of the storm; to mark the birds of heaven as they droop their wings; to see the cattle as they lay their heads low in terror; to discern the face of the sky as it grows black, and to find the sun obscured, and the heavens angry and frowning! How terrible to await the dread advance of a hurricane, to wait in terrible apprehension till the wind rushes forth in fury, tearing up trees from their roots, forcing rocks from their pedestals, and hurling down all the dwelling-places of man!

And yet, sinner, this is your present position. No hot drops have fallen as yet, but a shower of fire is coming. No terrible winds howl around you, but God’s tempest is gathering its dread artillery. So far the water-floods are dammed up by mercy, but the floodgates will soon be opened: The thunderbolts of God are still in His storehouse, the tempest is coming, and how awful will that moment be when God, robed in vengeance, shall march forth in fury!

Where will you hide your head, or where will you run to? May the hand of mercy lead you now to Christ! He is freely set before you in the Gospel: His pierced side is the place of shelter. You know your need of Him; believe in Him, cast yourself upon Him, and then the fury shall be past forever.

The Giver of Law and Liberty

 By Alistair Begg

The Giver of Law and Liberty

God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Exodus 20:1-2

To faithfully read and respond to the Ten Commandments, we must first understand what they are and are not. We find clarity in the truth that lies at their head: “I am the LORDyour God.” This reminder of who God is precedes the instructions that follow. In other words, the I am of God’s person grounds the you shall of His commands. He can command us because of who He is. The psalmist further expresses this: “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his” (Psalm 100:3). God created us, and His being our Creator grants Him rights and authority over His creation. Regardless of the efforts of our world to reject the creational handiwork of God and thus His authority over our lives, His role as our Ruler remains unthreatened. He has made us; we are His.

When we remember who spoke the law, we are in a position to grasp the purpose of the Ten Commandments as well as to understand what they are not.

First, the commandments are not a formal list of dos and don’ts given to restrict our personal freedoms. God is not some cosmic killjoy. In fact, if you wanted to provide a heading for the Ten Commandments, you could call them “Guidelines to Freedom.” They do not restrict our freedom but rather give us a blueprint for joy, showing us how life works best. Second, the commandments are not intended as a ladder up which we climb to attain acceptance with God. No such ladder has ever existed! God brought His people out of slavery—from Egypt in the exodus, and from sin and death at the cross—before He called us to obey Him. So we obey because we’ve been “brought out,” not in order to persuade Him to do so. Rather than being rules that save us, the Ten Commandments serve as a mirror in which we see ourselves, revealing the depth of our sin and our need for a Savior—and they show how we can live to please our Savior. Third, the Ten Commandments have not been rendered obsolete by the coming of Christ. When Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and love our neighbor, He was summarizing the Ten Commandments (Mark 12:28-31). What does it mean to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength? The first four commandments tell us. What does it look like to love our neighbor as ourselves? The final six commandments flesh that out. Jesus, master teacher that He was, summed up the ten with the two.

When you see all this, you are ready to read the Ten Commandments and let them transform your life. You must see the sin that the commandments reveal and respond in repentance and faith in the one who fulfilled the law and offers Himself as your Savior. He, the Lord Jesus Christ, will ensure that this law is not merely etched into your conscience but also inscribed on your heart. Give yourself to the Lord and His ways, and you’ll find everlasting joy and liberty.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Hearing, Believing, and Acting

 By Alistair Begg

Hearing, Believing, and Acting

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.

Hebrews 11:30

If we desire to see fortresses fall, to see the gates of hell unhinged and laid in the dirt, to see pagan philosophies dismantled and the rampages of evil in our world torn down, we need to hear God’s word, believe it, and act in obedience to it. In other words, we need to learn from Joshua and the Israelites at the walls of Jericho.

When God’s people crossed into the promised land and reached the strategically vital city of Jericho, it was “shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in” (Joshua 6:1). Jericho was an impenetrable city. But the Lord came to Joshua and said, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor” (v 2). The means by which He would deliver the city to His people were detailed, and peculiar: they were to march round the city for six days and then seven times more on the seventh day, this time with the priests blowing their trumpets. In response to God’s promise, Joshua called the priests and armed men of Israel before him and conveyed the Lord’s word to the people, who then “went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the LORD following them” as they marched around the city (v 8).

Why would anybody in their right mind do such a thing? The only plausible explanation is that the people had heard the word of the Lord spoken, believed that it was true, and acted in obedience. If this plan had been absent the word of God, it would have been nonsensical. If it had been heard by people who lacked real belief, they would never have carried it out. Because, and only because, Joshua and his men heard God’s message and put their faith in Him, they responded in obedience.

God’s way so often is to make a promise and then issue a command that makes no sense without that promise. He promised Noah that a flood was coming and commanded him to build the ark. He promised Abram that He would give him a family and land and commanded him to leave almost everything he had ever known. He promised Moses that He would rescue the people from Egypt and commanded him to make demands of the most powerful monarch in the world. Faith hears the promise, hears the command, believes both, and acts in obedience.

If we want to exercise faith on a daily basis in order that, like a muscle, it may grow to maturity, we have to abide in God’s word. We have to read it and ask, “What am I being promised? What am I being commanded? What will obedience look like in my life today?” This kind of daily communion with the Lord through His word strengthens our faith and produces steadfast obedience so that as we live our Christian lives, as we persevere through trials, as we obey God simply and only because we believe His promises to us, God says, I’ll bring the walls down.

Dwelling in God’s Presence

 By Charles Spurgeon

Dwelling in God’s Presence

Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi.

Genesis 25:11

Hagar had once found deliverance there, and Ishmael had drunk from the water so graciously revealed by the God who lives and sees the sons of men; but that was a merely casual visit, such as unbelievers pay to the Lord in times of need, when it suits them. They cry to Him in trouble but forsake Him in prosperity. Isaac dwelt there and made the well of the living and all-seeing God his constant source of supply.

The usual tenor of a man’s life, the dwelling of his soul, is the true test of his state. Perhaps the providential visitation experienced by Hagar struck Isaac’s mind and led him to revere the place. Its mystical name endeared it to him; his frequent musings at its brim at evening made him familiar with the well. Meeting Rebecca there had made his spirit feel at home near the spot; but best of all, the fact that there he enjoyed fellowship with the living God had made him select that hallowed ground for his dwelling.

Let us learn to live in the presence of the living God; let us ask the Holy Spirit that this day, and every other day, we may sense, ”God, You see me.” May the Lord be as a well to us, delightful, comforting, unfailing, springing up unto eternal life. The bottle of the creature cracks and dries up, but the well of the Creator never fails; happy is he who dwells at the well and as a result has abundant and constant supplies at hand.

The Lord has been a sure helper to others: His name is Shaddai, God All-sufficient. Our hearts have often had most delightful communion with Him; through Him our soul has found her glorious Husband, the Lord Jesus; and in Him this day we live and move and have our being. Let us, then, dwell in closest fellowship with Him. Glorious Lord, constrain us, that we may never leave You but dwell by the well of the living God.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

The College of Contentment

 By Charles Spurgeon

The College of Contentment

For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Philippians 4:11

These words show us that contentment is not a natural propensity of man. Weeds grow easily. Covetousness, discontent, and murmuring are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil. We do not need to sow thistles and brambles; they come up naturally enough, because they are indigenous to earth. And so we do not need to teach men to complain; they complain fast enough without any education.

But the precious things of the earth must be cultivated. In order to have wheat, we must plow and sow; if we want flowers, there must be the garden, and all the gardener's care.

Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated; it will not grow in us by nature. It is the new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be specially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace that God has sown in us. Paul says, "I have learned . . . to be content," as much as to say he did not know how at one time. It cost him some pains to discover that great truth. No doubt he sometimes thought he had learned, and then broke down. And when at last he had attained to it and could say, "I have learned in whatsoever situation I am to be content," he was an old, gray-headed man, upon the borders of the grave--a poor prisoner shut up in Nero's dungeon at Rome.

We might well be willing to endure Paul's infirmities and share the cold dungeon with him, if we also might by some means attain to his good stature. Do not indulge the notion that you can be contented with learning or learn without discipline. It is not a power that may be exercised naturally but a science to be acquired gradually. We know this from experience. Christian, hush that murmur, even though it is natural, and continue as a diligent pupil in the College of Contentment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Growing in Boldness

 By Alistair Begg

Growing in Boldness

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Philippians 1:12-14

What must have looked like a tragedy turned out to be just the opposite.

When the Philippian church learned that Paul had been imprisoned in Rome, they were surely greatly concerned. Some may have even panicked, worrying that the gospel’s influence would decline because its great teacher and apologist was shut away, unable to travel. It was a disaster for the gospel—wasn’t it?

Paul himself had a radically different perspective on his imprisonment. Underpinning all that he wrote was an unshakable confidence in God’s providence, for, as he wrote to the church in Rome, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Understanding that he had been placed in prison according to God’s plan (Philippians 1:16), Paul was able to be an optimistic prisoner and a joyful servant, looking to the well-being of the church and not to his own predicament.

For Paul, it was imperative for the church to understand that his imprisonment was not hindering the gospel but furthering it. Being a prisoner was simply another opportunity to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. What had happened had “really served to advance the gospel.” Roman soldiers were unlikely to seek out a converted Jew who was gathering crowds with his preaching—yet God wanted His good news to reach them. He therefore prepared a different method of ministry and sent Paul to them, albeit in chains. As a result, the good news spread among the entire guard and even went on to break into the very household of the Roman emperor himself. And the news of Paul’s success in turn emboldened other believers. As they realized that God was able to provide for Paul in his circumstance, they grew in their trust that God could provide for them in their own circumstances. And so they became “much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

Perhaps we, too, need the confidence that comes from remembering that God is in control. We tend to assume that circumstances have to be right if we’re going to be effective Christians. But God’s thinking is different from ours. He’s not waiting for the circumstances to be right. He’s committed to using His people for His glory, even when the circumstances appear less than ideal. And He’s able to use those circumstances to further the cause of the gospel.

We would do well to spend less time trying to change our circumstances and more time growing in boldness and speaking the word without fear. We would do well to consider how we might be in danger of using our circumstances as an excuse not to speak rather than as an opportunity to do so. Perhaps then the good news of Jesus Christ will spread through us in some strange and wonderful way, just as it did through Paul.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

It’s Jesus, Not Me

 By Alistair Begg

It’s Jesus, Not Me

I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath.

Lamentations 3:1

In the popular series of British children’s books Where’s Wally? (or, as it’s known in North America, Where’s Waldo?), readers find themselves scurrying all over the page looking for a funny-looking fellow wearing red-and-white striped clothes who nonetheless is hard to spot in his suspiciously similarly-colored surroundings. In a similar manner, when we read our Bibles, we can find ourselves doing a comparable exercise, only instead of searching for a man in a red-and-white striped sweater and glasses, we ask ourselves, “Where am I?” We wonder which character we are like, or how a verse speaks directly of us and about us.

Yet the real question we should be asking is “Where’s Jesus?”—for He is the primary focus of the Bible.

The truth is that if we really want to find ourselves in Scripture, we will discover that a large part of the story is about us. Yet that part is not very flattering. The Bible reveals us to be wretched sinners, who need a Savior. This is why we must train our eyes to look for that Savior when we read our Bibles. As has been said, in the Old Testament Jesus is expected, in the Gospels He’s revealed, in Acts He’s preached, in the Epistles He’s explained, and in the book of Revelation He’s anticipated.

When we read Lamentations 3 with Jesus as our focus, seeking Him rather than looking for ourselves, we will discover that He is clearly present. The chapter opens with the prophet Jeremiah declaring, “I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath” (Lamentations 3:1). Who is more fit to utter those words than Jesus? On the cross, Jesus bore the wrath of God so that those of us who rightly deserved God’s condemnation might be saved through the judgment that He endured in our place. That’s the story of the gospel: another has done for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. In truth, then, as you read this verse, you do not see yourself here at all, even though you should—for you do see Christ here. He “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). Whatever trials you face as a Christian in this life and however inexplicable they feel, of one thing you can be sure: God is not punishing you in His wrath. All that was poured out upon another, on the cross.

As you read of God’s persevering faithfulness to His downtrodden people in Lamentations 3, remember that “he who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” is also the one who will “graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32). And as you read of the man who saw affliction under the rod of God’s wrath, rejoice that this verse speaks not of you but of Him.

Monday, February 13, 2023

For the Sake of the Gospel

 Alistair Begg

For the Sake of the Gospel

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

Philippians 1:12-13

Follow Paul through Acts and he leaves you breathless. He’s constantly on the move, going from place to place. One moment he’s stitching tents together, then he’s bringing Eutychus back to life, and then he survives a snakebite and heals the sick on Malta. It’s almost as if you can’t imagine ever being able to keep up with him.

Surely the worst thing that could ever happen to someone like Paul is to be stuck in one house for two years. But at the conclusion of Acts, that’s exactly how we find him (Acts 28:30-31).

You can just imagine the devil’s response to Paul’s imprisonment: Now I’ve shut him down! That’ll get rid of him. He won’t be able to go anywhere for a long while. He’ll just shrivel up and die a prisoner. Not a chance! It was during Paul’s imprisonment that he penned some of his most noteworthy letters under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—letters that God is still using to transform lives 2,000 years later. And, remarkably, the gospel advanced not only despite Paul’s chains but because of them.

Paul was likely very different from other prisoners. The soldiers who guarded him would have probably said to one another, He is the most remarkable person we’ve ever had. We’re used to people constantly cussing, screaming, agitating, and complaining. But this Paul has joy and purpose, and he just preaches!

As a result of Paul’s daily ministry among these soldiers, word began to spread throughout the entire palace guard: The reason this guy is a prisoner is because of Jesus. They got the point: He’s chained to us, he says, because he’s chained to this man Jesus Christ. And it appears that some of these guards not only heard the gospel but responded to it. As they were then redeployed throughout the Roman Empire, arriving at their new posts as new men, the gospel would advance to different places through them. And so Paul’s imprisonment, which at first appeared to be diametrically opposed to the spread of the gospel, actually proved to be essential to it.

You do not need to be a prisoner, a missionary, or an apostle to be used by God in spreading the gospel, nor do you need to wait for all the circumstances in your life to line up just as you want them to before you talk about Jesus. Whether you are in prison, a hospital, an office, a field, or wherever, and whether you realize it or not, you are never far from someone who needs to hear the amazing story of God’s grace. What are the situations you face that you naturally see as obstacles to sharing the gospel, and how might they in fact be opportunities? Who are the lost and longing people that God has placed in your life today? They need your God. And they might only meet Him through your loving boldness.

God’s Children Now

By Charles Spurgeon 

God’s Children Now

See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now.

1 John 3:1-2

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us.” Consider who we were and what we feel ourselves to be even now when corruption is at work within us, and you will wonder at our adoption. Yet we are called God’s children. What a high relationship is that of a son, and what privileges it brings! What care and tenderness the son expects from his father, and what love the father feels toward the son! But all that, and more than that, we now have through Christ.

As for the temporary drawback of suffering with the elder brother, this we accept as an honor: “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” We are content to be unknown with Him in His humiliation, for we are to be exalted with Him.

Beloved, we are God’s children now.” That is easy to read, but it is not so easy to feel. How is it with your heart this morning? Are you in the lowest depths of sorrow? Does corruption rise within your spirit, and grace seem like a poor spark trampled underfoot? Does your faith almost fail you? Fear not, it is neither your graces nor feelings on which you are to live: you must live simply by faith in Christ.

With all these things against us, now—in the very depths of our sorrow, wherever we may be—now, as much in the valley as on the mountain, “Beloved, we are God’s children now.” “Ah, but,” you say, “look at my condition! My graces are not bright; my righteousness does not shine with apparent glory.” But read the next: “What we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him.” The Holy Spirit shall purify our minds, and divine power shall refine our bodies, and then we shall see Him as He is.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Comfort in Trial


Comfort in Trial

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

2 Corinthians 1:5

There is a perfect balance in this. God in His providence operates the scales; on one side He puts His people's trials, and on the other He puts their consolations. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition; and when the scale of trials is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy. When the dark clouds gather, the light is more brightly revealed to us. When night falls and the storm is brewing, the Heavenly Captain is always closest to His crew.

It is a blessed thing that when we are most downcast, then we are most lifted up by the consolations of the Spirit. One reason is, trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart--He finds it full--He begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man is, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it.

Another reason why we are often happiest in our troubles is this--then we have the closest dealings with God. When the barn is full, man can live without God: When the purse is bursting with gold, we try to do without so much prayer. But when our shelter is removed, then we want our God; when the house is purged of idols, then we are compelled to honor the Lord. "Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!"1

There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains, no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. They bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, do not fret over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

On a Fool’s Errand?

 By Alistair Begg

On a Fool’s Errand?

And when David inquired of the Lord …

2 Samuel 5:23

When David made this inquiry, he had just fought the Philistines and gained a classic victory. The Philistines came up in great numbers, but, by the help of God, David had easily put them to flight. Note, however, that when they came a second time, David did not go up to fight them without inquiring of the Lord. Once he had been victorious, and he might have said, as many have in other cases, "I shall be victorious again. I may rest quite sure that if I have conquered once I shall triumph yet again. Why should I delay by seeking God?"

Not so David. He had gained one battle by the strength of the Lord; he would not venture upon another until he had ensured the same. He inquired, "Shall I go up against them?" He waited until God's sign was given.

Learn from David to take no step without God. If you would know the path of duty, take God for your compass; if you would steer your ship through the dark billows, put the tiller into the hand of the Almighty. Many a rock might be escaped if we would let our Father take the helm; many a shoal or quicksand we might well avoid if we would leave it to His sovereign will to choose and to command.

It's been said, "As sure as ever a Christian carves for himself, he'll cut his own fingers." This is a great truth. Another once said, "He that goes before the cloud of God's providence goes on a fool's errand," and so he does. We must mark God's providence leading us; and if providence delays, wait until providence comes. He who goes before providence will be very glad to retreat.

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go,"1 is God's promise to His people. Let us, then, take all our perplexities to Him and say, "Lord, what will you have me do?" Do not leave your house this morning without inquiring of the Lord.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

A Life of Urgency

 By Alistair Begg

A Life of Urgency

I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Acts 20:24

As he took his leave of the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, the apostle Paul felt an urgent compulsion from the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. He had no idea what would happen to him when he got there, but he had a clear sense that hard times and imprisonment awaited him. Then he made this staggering statement: “I do not account my life of any value.”

This was not masochism—some strange hatred of happiness, health, or physical life. So what, then, did Paul mean by declaring his life valueless? Simply this: that he did not regard his life as so precious a possession as to be held on to at all costs.

People often say, “Well, as long as you’ve got your health, that’s all that matters!” But that is not all that matters! Our bodies are passing away. We’re crumbling even as we live and breathe. We may have our health today, but a day will come when we do not. Unless we’re able to say with Paul, “To live is Christ,” we cannot legitimately affirm with him, “and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). The only way that death can be gain is if Christ is everything. And if Christ is everything, as Paul says He is, then we can declare with him, My life is not ultimate. I don’t need to protect it as the most precious thing I have. I want to spend it for the most precious person I know.

What mattered most to Paul was that he finished his life trusting Christ and carried out to the best of his abilities the ministry Christ had given him. He felt a compelling resolve to complete the task of testifying to “the gospel of the grace of God” everywhere he could reach. There’s a task! There’s a purpose, significance, an agenda, a calling! And this is a task that has been entrusted to all of us—the commission to let everyone we meet know the good news of God’s amazing grace.

How are you, like Paul, to live a life of urgency so that you might keep going until the end? You must run your race with all your might, with the finish line in view. Don’t look for an opportunity to bow out or slow down before the final lap is over. Run with all your strength and run right through the tape, gripped by Christ’s love, energized by God’s Spirit, and guided by God’s word.

Our Final Journey

 By Charles Spurgeon

Our Final Journey

Arise and go.

Micah 2:10

The hour is approaching when the message will come to us, as it comes to all, “Arise, and leave the home in which you lived, from the city in which you have done your business, from your family, from your friends. Arise, and take your final journey.”

And what do we know of the journey? And what do we know of the country to which we are going? We have read a little about it, and part has been revealed to us by the Spirit; but how little do we know of the realms of the future! We know that there is a black and stormy river called Death. God bids us cross it, promising to be with us.

And after death, what comes? What wonder-world will open upon our astonished sight? What scene of glory will be unfolded to our view? No traveler has ever returned to tell. But we know enough of the heavenly land to make us welcome our summons there with joy and gladness.

The journey of death may be dark, but we may face it fearlessly, knowing that God is with us as we walk through the gloomy valley, and therefore we need fear no evil. We shall be departing from all we have known and loved here, but we shall be going to our Father's house—to our Father's home, where Jesus is—to that royal “city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”1 This will be our last relocation, to live forever with Him we love, in the midst of His people, in the presence of God.

Christian, meditate much on heaven; it will help you to press on and to forget the difficulty of the journey. This vale of tears is but the pathway to the better country: This world of woe is but the stepping-stone to a world of bliss.

Prepare us, Lord, by grace divine, 
For Thy bright courts on high;
Then bid our spirits rise, and join
The chorus of the sky.