Eternally Satisfied

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We see a pattern throughout the history of the Israelites in the Old Testament: They wanted to have all their bases covered, so they kept up the pretense of worshiping Jehovah, but they also added the idolatrous practices of the nations around them. It got pretty vile (see Jeremiah 2:23-25 as an example). 

These cravings for more than God had provided led to their punishment. As we quoted last week from Isaiah, they lost their “matchless, unbroken companionship” with God (Isaiah 30:18 AMP).

Craving for our self-created idols creates anxiety in our hearts that shows up in three nagging questions. 

(1) What will others think of me if they have things I don’t have?

Worrying about what others think of us has always been a trap. We play games, posture, and frequently hide the truth so that we “look right” to others. But this dishonesty only hurts us in the long run.

Dr. Tony Evans noted, “satan uses our legitimate need for acceptance in an illegitimate way that can result in us living under a false identity.” Jesus warned us not to show off to try to get others to think well of us (Matthew 6:1) and He lived this out in His own life. He said, “I receive not glory from men—I crave no human honor, I look for no mortal fame” (John 5:41 AMP). 

To avoid this trap remember: Recognition from God > Recognition from men. We should be living to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21, 23). 

(2) Will I have enough to survive?

Because the things of this earth pass away, it is natural to think that our supply may just <poof!> be gone in an instant. So we can crave the security of having our shelves fully stocked for the future. 

Jesus twice tells us that our Heavenly Father knows what we need (Matthew 6:8, 32). Then over a span of ten verses, Jesus tells us four times, “Do not worry” (Matthew 6:25-34). He can assure us of this because of this rock-solid reality: Heaven’s provisions > Earth’s provisions. 

(3) Will God accept me?

Just as satan tried to get Jesus to doubt that He was the Son of God, the devil will also try to get you to doubt whether or not you measure up in God’s sight. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasizes the Fatherhood of God thirteen times—usually calling Him “your Father.” 

This tells me that we can cling to this: Being accepted by your Father > Being accepted by anyone else. Paul uses a wonderful description in Ephesians when he tells us we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV). 

Isaiah told us that God longs to be gracious to us, and Jesus emphasizes that idea when He says, “Only aim at and strive for and seek His kingdom, and all these things shall be supplied to you also. Do not be seized with alarm and struck with fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” (Luke 12:31-32 AMP) 

Just as God craves to bless you, so you are to crave your fulfillment in what He alone can supply. You must crave the only One Who can eternally satisfy you, Who longs to reward you, and Who delights to give you the inestimable rewards of His kingdom! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Craving series, check them out by clicking here. 

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Growing The Wrong Thing

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In a recent teaching time with some ministry interns, I discussed the two main metrics that we can use to measure growth: quantity and quality. Sadly, too many churches and ministries have gotten so caught up in the “numbers game” of more-more-more being the only metric of success, that they’ve forgotten about quality. Or maybe they do focus on quality, but only as a means to the end of more-more-more. 

This is never a metric of success that is discussed in the Bible. Check this out…

In the chapter entitled ‘Don’t Try to Grow Your Ministry’ in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter I wrote this—

Businesses think in terms of quantitative gains—things they can count—but churches and nonprofits should be thinking in terms of qualitative gains—a quality improvement that isn’t as easily counted. I think we all know this, and yet we still persist in wanting to define success in a church or a nonprofit by those quantitative standards such as attendance growth, donations, and the like. When we think qualitative over quantitative, suddenly what seemed “small” is so significant and so valuable that it cannot be calculated! What if one of those babies that weren’t aborted discovers a cure for cancer, or deciphers a dialect to take the Gospel to an unreached people group, or becomes the loving next-door neighbor that leads your son or daughter to a relationship with Jesus? 

Just as you cannot put a price tag on a life, you cannot put a price tag on a sheep. Make no mistake about it, God views His sheep—every single one of them—as invaluable. Because His valuation is so high, we can understand why He gets so angry at those who are more concerned about their success than they are about the health of the sheep. When God uses the word “Woe!” we should definitely take that seriously. He uses that very word to warn shepherd leaders who were shirking their responsibility when He said, “Woe to those shepherds who only take care of themselves” (Ezekiel 34:2). 

When we map out our plan for success, or when we try to define success solely by quantitative measurements, we ultimately become more committed to our plans than to God’s sheep. God pulls no punches when He calls leaders with this attitude evil, mere hired hands, or even thieves (Jeremiah 23:3; John 10:8, 12). And most sobering of all, God says, “I will hold them accountable” (Ezekiel 34:10). 

Friends, let’s make sure we are focused on the metrics that really matter. Recently, a pastor shared honestly with me about his frustration with the “numbers game,” and purchased five copies of my book to use as a discussion starter with his church staff. I hope you will consider using Shepherd Leadership in a similar way. If I can be of assistance, please let me know. 

Shepherd Leadership is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

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Unexpected Response

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I’m a bit of a nut about the exactness of words, so one of my pet peeves is the incorrect use of imply and infer. “Imply” is something I do as the speaker; “infer” is something you do as the listener. Or you might say implying is like throwing and inferring is like catching. 

A big problem arises when I infer something that you didn’t imply. Or even worse, when I infer something based on something you didn’t say. People will often say something like this, “Since Jesus didn’t specifically talk about ________ then it must be okay.” In logic, this would be called an argument from ignorance: concluding that an action must be acceptable because it has not been specifically stated to be unacceptable. 

Statement #10 in our series asking “Is that in the Bible?” is—Love your neighbor. Is that in the Bible? Yes!  

Remember Jesus called “Scripture” all of the words we would now call “Old Testament.” So in Matthew 5:43 Jesus quoted Scripture: Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:18). 

Later on, Jesus would add to this Deuteronomy 6:5—Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength—to answer the question about the greatest commandment of all. 

In Leviticus 19, the Hebrew word for love means love in the broadest sense of the word, and neighbor means a friend or a fellow citizen. Unfortunately, the rabbis inferred that someone not a Jew was therefore an enemy and therefore not worthy of love. They further inferred that the opposite of love was hate. 

Matthew Henry commented, “They were willing to infer what God never designed.” 

Statement #11 is—Hate your enemy. Is that in the Bible? Yes, in the fact that it appears in print in Matthew 5:43, but it doesn’t appear in the Scripture that Jesus knew. It had become so ingrained in the thinking of people that they now assumed it was in the Bible. 

In many ways, the Old Testament laws were easier to live out because they were all external and easy to measure, like don’t murder or don’t sleep with someone who isn’t your spouse. But Jesus made it a heart issue—He said lust is the same as adultery and hate is the same as murder. 

Jesus also made love for enemies a heart issue. The word He used for love in the Greek is agape—the same word describing God’s love for His enemies in John 3:16—For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life. 

Jesus said our enemies were really our neighbors and were worthy of sacrificial love because they, too, were loved by God. 

Matthew 5:44 is shortened in the NIV and has a footnote explaining that the longer verse was not seen in the earlier manuscripts. But given the fact that Jesus demonstrated everything found in the longer version of this verse, I think we are safe in using it. So let’s look at the response Jesus calls us to from the NKJV: But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. 

Here’s what Jesus says it means for us to love our enemies:

(1) Bless the cursers. We’ve all been “cursed out” with nasty, hateful words. When that happens, Jesus wants to bless that neighbor. The word He used for bless literally means to say good words. 

(2) Help the haters. Jesus said we are to do those things that are beautiful and excellent—like the good Good Samaritan did for his enemy-turned-neighbor (see Luke 10:25-37).  

(3) Pray for the persecutors. Talk to God about them; don’t talk to others about them. 

This response from Christians toward people whom others would call an enemy is totally unexpected by the world. This unexpected response will begin to draw enemies toward Jesus (1 Peter 2:12). If we will treat enemies and neighbors, they may soon become brothers and sisters in the family of God! 

When the world hits us Christians out of hate, let’s respond with unexpected love: blessing those who curse us, helping those who hurt us, and praying for those who persecute us. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Is That In The Bible? series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Directed Steps

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Jesus was constantly cognizant of His mission. We see it at the beginning of His ministry and all the way through to the very end. At the beginning, He makes a decision where to live and base His ministry “to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 4:12-16). At the end, He knows “that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled” He makes a final request (John 19:28). 

So “when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He withdrew to Galilee…and lived in Capernaum…in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali.” This residency fulfilled Isaiah’s prophetic word. 

Jesus knew He had to go to this region. The event of John’s imprisonment prompted His move to Capernaum. 

My sovereign God makes no mistakes; nothing is random nor inconsequential. I should develop the habit of praying, “Now that this has happened, what would You have me do?” I believe this is how Jesus lived. 

My life, just like Jesus’ life, has a purpose. Just as the Holy Spirit directed the movements of Jesus, He will direct my steps as well, if I will only listen for His voice.

I think we would be wise to form a daily prayer something along these lines—

Father, in my heart I may have planned a course for today, but I trust You to direct my steps. I will not stubbornly nor thoughtlessly lean on my own understanding, but at every moment I will listen for Your wise and perfect counsel. Jesus, just as You lived dependent on the Holy Spirit, I want to live this way as well. In Jesus’ name, Amen. (see Proverbs 16:9, 3:5-6; James 4:13-15) 

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God Loves Wicked People

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The first two Selah pauses we see in Psalm 140 are pauses to remember two things: 

  1. There, but for the grace of God, go I. 
  2. God is doing something in me through wicked people and evil times. 

But there is one more Selah in this chapter that we need to consider—Do not grant the wicked their desires, O Lord; do not let their plans succeed, or they will become proud. Selah. (v. 8) 

Most of  us would probably agree with Abraham Kuyper who said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” 

But the amazing thing here is that God allows David—and you and me—to call Him mine! “O LORD, I say to You, ‘You are MY God’” (v. 6). David goes on to say that God is my strong deliverer who shields me against evildoers (v. 7). 

But isn’t David’s God also the God of the wicked? Aren’t they a part of “the whole domain of human existence” that is His? Yes! 

So that must mean that God wants even wicked people to call Him, “My God”! 

This is exactly what Jesus told us: For God so loved the world [including wicked people] that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever [including wicked people] believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world [including wicked people] through Him (John 3:16-17). 

Just before this third Selah in verse 8 David prays that the plans of the wicked might be thwarted so that proud people don’t become even more proud. That seems okay. But after the Selah David seems to be asking God to let everything that wicked people have planned to boomerang back on them (vv. 9-11).  

Isn’t that hateful? Not if we understand “hate” correctly. 

Hate isn’t the opposite of love, but apathy is the opposite of love. Hate is a very strong emotion that usually comes out when something we love or desire is thwarted or kept from us. 

Just as we learned last week that God allows evil people and their slander and wickedness to prune us and make us more fruitful, can’t God give back to evil people exactly what they need to get their attention? Can’t He use their own evil plans for them just as He used them for us? Yes! 

If God loves us—and He does—then He must hate anything that keeps us from Him. 

If God loves wicked people—and He does—then He must also hate anything that keeps them from accepting the atoning work Jesus did for them on the Cross. 

God is love. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more. There is nothing an evil person can do to make God love them any less. 

David’s third Selah is really his reminder that he must leave evil people to the only One who can discipline them in perfect measure. We have to leave evil people to God’s care—the only One who can rescue them. That’s why Jesus told us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). 

David’s prayer in verses 9-13 does leave evil people in God’s hands, and it’s a prayer you and I can personalize for those whom we desire to know Jesus as their Savior. 

It’s not God’s desire that any should perish. So let’s Selah to call God, “My God,” but to also pray that even the wicked people around us will come to the realization that through faith in Jesus, they too can cry out, “My God!” 

God gave me a unique story when I was walking through a challenging time with a friend that I needed to leave to God’s care. I called the story The Parable of the Lifeguard. You can watch it in the video below, or you can read it by clicking here. 

If you have missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find a list of all of those messages by clicking here. 

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Protected To Be Fruitful 

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We just finished a 2-week look at Psalm 88 & Psalm 89 which reminded us of the reality of temporary darkness and the certainty of eternal light. We said our dark days are meant to get our attention to rely on God’s covenant promise. 

Something else we should be aware of: Whenever we run to or return to Jesus, the enemy of our souls prepares an attack (1 Samuel 7:3-10; 1 Peter 5:8). 

The next psalm with a Selah is David’s prayer in Psalm 140. Selah appears 3 times in this short, 13-verse psalm. 

We’ve said that Selah can mean a pause to carefully consider, a pause to observe the contrasts, or a pause to prepare for a crescendo. The Selahs after verses 3 and 5 don’t appear to fit the second or third definitions, but why would David ask us to pause to consider what wicked men are doing? I believe it is because we need to pause to contemplate two vital things, which I’ll share with you in a moment. 

But first, notice the wicked men and evil times that David is confronting. He speaks of evildoers, violent people, wicked men, arrogant people, and slanderers (vv. 1, 4-5, 8, 11). 

Surrounding the first two Selahs, check out David’s prayer for God to…

  • …rescue me (v. 1a)—get me out of here, or take the evil away from me  
  • protect me (v. 1b, 5b)—don’t let me be defeated or even diminished  
  • keep me (v. 4a)—we might say David is asking God to “watch my six” or guard the places I cannot see (notice the words net and traps in v. 5b) 

The first Selah lesson we should take away is: There, but for the grace of God, go I. 

If I hadn’t accepted Jesus as my Savior and had a new nature imparted to me, I would be doing exactly what these wicked people are doing. Paul tells Timothy what evil people will do, and he tells the Corinthian Christians that they used to be those same kinds of people (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 1 Corinthians 6:11). 

When I see evil men, men of violence, and wicked people who are proud and slandering, I need to Selah to pray that the light and love of Jesus will be revealed to them. 

The second Selah lesson we should take away is: God is doing something in my life through wicked men and evil times. 

The words the Holy Spirit prompted David to pen have a richer definition than what I previously shared with you. Check this out…

  • rescue me (v. 1a) also means make me strong and well-armed for battle  
  • …protect me (v. 1b, 5b) envisions a gardener carefully watching over his vineyard to bring the plants to fruitful maturity (like in John 15:1-2)  
  • keep me (v. 4a) can mean “fight for me”  

Sometimes God protects me from violence. Sometimes God protects me through violence. Whatever the case, I can be assured that I will be rescued and He will be glorified. This prayer in Psalm 140 is a prayer for protection so that we can be fruitful for God’s kingdom.

We need to Selah during the evil times we live in and whenever we have to endure wicked attacks. 

  1. Selah to thank God that you have been redeemed from that evil lifestyle by your faith in Jesus, and then pray for your attackers (Matthew 5:44). 
  2. Selah to thank God that He is using even evil people to make you more fruitful, to arm you for battle, and to glorify His name (Mark 13:9). 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can check them all out by clicking here. 

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…The Certainty Of Eternal Light

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Even though Jesus explicitly told His followers about His crucifixion, it was clear on that Friday on Golgotha that they didn’t fully grasp what was going on. 

We see the same thing in Heman’s maskil of Psalm 88: The faint hope that his Savior would rescue him from death, but still not fully grasping what was happening. Just as Jesus cried out, “It is finished” and His disciples thought the darkness had fallen, Heman ends his psalm with, “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:18). 

There is the reality of darkness in this world—but it is only temporary darkness. This is why I entitled our look at Psalm 88 as “The reality of temporary darkness” because, in the second part of this couplet of maskil psalms, Ethan moves right into the light of Resurrection Sunday: “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever” (Psalm 89:1). 

Consider this Good Friday-to-Resurrection Sunday thought from Jesus: “…In the world you will have tribulation; BUT be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This tells us of both the temporary darkness and the conquering Light. But also notice that Jesus said our peace would come from knowing that both darkness and light are realities: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.” Whether we are in temporary darkness or looking forward to the eternal light, our peace is only found in Jesus. 

When the followers of Jesus came to His tomb on Sunday morning, the angels asked them a penetrating question, “Why are you looking for a living Person in a place where there are dead people?” Then they began to stimulate their memory to get them to recall Christ’s words. Finally, we read, “THEN they remembered” (Luke 24:5-8). Then they had to choose to obey the word of God. 

Ethan recalls God’s words and uses his “will” three in the opening two verses. 

The disciples also could bank on Christ’s words, just as Ethan chose to bank on Jehovah’s words. The central part of Psalm 89 is God speaking: Check out His assurance in the “I will” statements within the quotation marks in verses 19-37. Then we are called to Selah to let that soak in. 

Notice what radiates out from this foundational assurance:

  • Ethan uses the pronouns You/Your 20 times in reference to God to assure us that God is in sovereign control (vv. 8b-14). Then he tells us of the blessings of God’s favor on our obedience to His word (vv. 15-18). 
  • On the other side of the central quotation from God, Ethan again uses the pronouns You/Your 13 times in vv. 38-45, but then he tells us of the blessing of God’s discipline on our disobedience.
  • Radiating out further, Ethan asks seven questions—much like his brother Heman did in Psalm 88—in verses 5-8 and 46-48. 
  • Finally, we see the psalm both opening and closing with praising God as we remember His covenant word (vv. 1-4, 49-52). 

Remember we said the darkness cannot prevail. The darkness is temporary (Romans 8:18) but Ethan repeatedly reminds us of God’s foreverness (vv. 1, 2, 4, 29, 52). 

  • The Selah after v. 4 is to pause in wonder at God’s words and break into rejoicing!
  • The Selah after v. 37 is again to pause after remembering God’s covenant, and to reflect on our own obedience or disobedience. 
  • The Selah after v. 45 is a pause to mourn and repent from our disobedience. 
  • The Selah after v. 48 is to pause to reflect on the forgiveness purchased on Calvary and the eternal light and life that bought. 
  • Finally, v. 52 harkens back to v. 1 as the praise is restored and the cycle begins all over again. In fact, the praise of God’s light continues forever! 

Heman and Ethan both remind us of this important truth—

My dark days are meant to get my attention. Are they dark because I live in an evil world, or because I have sinned? In either case, my only remedy is to rely on God’s covenant promise fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find a complete list by clicking here.

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The Reality Of Temporary Darkness…

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A father came home from work and noticed a note addressed to him taped to his teenage son’s door:

Dear Dad, 

Jason and I borrowed Mom’s car to go to Taco Bell. I know I didn’t have permission, but I thought we’d be back before you and Mom got home. Unfortunately, I hit a pothole and blew out the front right tire. 

We jacked up the car to put on a spare tire, but the jack slipped and the car rolled backward into the ditch. 

Bill came with his pickup to pull us out, but the tow strap pulled off the front bumper and the car rolled further down the hill and sunk in the pond. 

I bought a bus ticket to get out of town and go enlist in the Army. Give Mom a hug and I’ll see you both in about 2 years. 

Love, your son

P.S. None of the above is true. Mom took her car to Aunt Jan’s house and I rode my bike to Jason’s house. However, I hope the fact that none of these bad things actually happened will help you put in perspective the D+ on my report card. 

We like to manage expectations, don’t we? We frequently deliver bad news with the good news close by. 

Psalms 88 and 89 are written by brothers: both of them are called Ezrahite, and both of them were worship leaders in the tabernacle. And until Solomon, these guys were considered the wisest in the land (1 Chronicles 2:6; 15:19; 1 Kings 4:29-34). 

I believe these two psalms form a couplet. They make up the last two psalms of Book III in the Psalter, with Psalm 89 ending with, “Amen and Amen.” Both of them label their psalms a maskil which means “a poem of contemplation” (NKJV). And look how Psalm 88 leaves us in the dark, while Psalm 89 shines a light in the dark.

In Psalm 88, Heman soberly prepares us for his two-Selah psalm in his introductory remarks. He uses a phase mahalath leannoth which means someone who is so physically weak from emotional grief that they are now battling depression. The NLT calls it “the suffering of affliction.”  

Heman is describing a reality: We will all experience pain in this life. Maybe even for our entire earthly life—from my youth I have been afflicted and close to death (v. 15). Heman’s reality is seen in his words in the first five verses of this psalm. 

His first Selah is breathtaking because he wants us to pause to realize that God has allowed all of this (notice the pronoun You in vv. 6-8, 16-18). But still, Heman knows God saves because he has made a decision to continue to praise Him even in the dark times (vv. 1-2, 9, 13).  

Heman’s second Selah comes in the middle of a series of five questions (vv. 10-14) that sound a lot like both questions Jesus asked in Gethsemane and from the Cross, and the reality of the temporary darkness He was facing (Psalm 22:1-2; Luke 22:53; John 19:11). 

Even the way Heman closes his psalm foreshadows the darkness surrounding the death of Jesus: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? 

Jesus tasted all of this darkness for us so that He could be our perfect and empathetic High Priest (Hebrews 5:7, 4:15-16). 

Psalm 88 shows us the reality of temporary darkness (like Good Friday), but Psalm 89 points us to the certainty of eternal light (like Resurrection Sunday)! 

So when you are battling your dark times, let me give you these assurances: 

  1. This darkness is only temporary (Romans 8:18) 
  2. Jesus walks with us in our dark times (Romans 8:26-39)
  3. The darkness cannot prevail—Jesus tasted all of this temporary darkness for us so that He could be our eternal High Priest!

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can check them out by clicking here. Please join me on Sunday when we will look at Ethan’s words in Psalm 89 about the certainty of the eternal light. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Means What He Says

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

God Means What He Says

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     You talk about God as being ‘love,’ and if you mean by this that He is not severe in the punishment of sin, I ask you what you make of the destruction of Jerusalem? Remember that the Jews were His chosen nation and that the city of Jerusalem was the place where His temple had been glorified with His presence. Brethren, if you roam from Edom to Zion and from Zion to Sidon and from Sidon to Moab, you will find, amid ruined cities, the tokens that God’s words of judgment are sure. Depend on it, then, when Jesus says, ‘These will go away into everlasting punishment’ (Matthew 25:46), it will be so. When He says, ‘If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins’ (John 8:24), it will be so. … 

     It is of no avail to sit down and draw inferences from the nature of God and to argue, ‘God is love, and therefore He will not execute the sentence upon the impenitent.’ He knows what He will do better than you can infer. He has not left us to inferences, for He has spoken pointedly and plainly. He says, ‘He that believes not shall be damned’ (Mark 16:16), and it will be so, ‘for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ Infer what you like from His nature. But if you draw an inference contrary to what He has spoken, you have inferred a lie and you will find it so. …

     I know why you do not believe in the terrible threats. It is because you want to be easy in your sins. … Yet if you do not believe its loving warnings nor regard its just sentences, they are true all the same. If you dare its thunders, if you trample on its promises, and even if you burn it in your rage, the Holy Book still stands unaltered and unalterable. ‘The mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ Therefore, I pray you, treat the sacred Scriptures with respect and remember that ‘these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life through His name’ (John 20:31).

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

Spurgeon delivered this sermon on March 11, 1888. Nearly 2000 years earlier, Asaph delivered a similar message from God—

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes. Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver: Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:15-23) 

Commenting on this passage from Psalm 50, T.M. Moore wrote, “Surely, this is the most fundamental error of thinking humans ever make: To think of God, spiritual things, worship, human life, the world, and everything else from our vantage point rather than His. … Asaph could see what was happening. And even though the nation was safe, strong, and surfeited with wealth, he knew that, spiritually, things were going awry. The people had persuaded themselves that God was just like them, that He thought like they did, and so was agreeable to their doing things their own way, indulging all their base desires, and pursuing their schemes for success—all the while continuing an outward show of faith.”

Let us take the Bible as what it truly is: Words the mouth of God has spoken. Let us not play games with them, changing the message to words we like. But if the Word of the Lord makes us uncomfortable, let us repent and return to Him. It is those who accept God’s Word as His Word, and obey it, that will see the salvation of God.

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The Path To Revival

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

As we rejoin our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms, let me remind you of the definition of Selah: (a) a pause to reflect—or “pause, and calmly think of that,” as the Amplified Bible says; (b) notice the contrasts; or (c) get ready for a crescendo. 

Psalm 85 is a longing for revival. Not only longing for it but giving us the path to revival. 

Many Christians say they want revival, but I’m not so certain they have the biblical definition in mind. When most people define revival, they use descriptions about exuberant worship, manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the church reenergized for ministry, and non-believers flocking to see what’s happening and then accepting Jesus into their hearts as a result. 

But those are actually the results of revival, not the revival itself. 

Take a look at this overview of Psalm 85: 

  • a look back (vv. 1-3) 
  • a look around (vv. 4-6) 
  • a look ahead (vv. 8-13) 

I am aware that I skipped verse 7 in that overview. That is the middle verse of this psalm, so it is presenting us with the main idea. It’s a longing to see the path forward, the path to revival. It’s not about “getting saved” again because verses 1-3 already thank God for His salvation. 

But let’s notice the Selah. It seems to come mid-thought in the backward look. I think this is both a pause to consider deeply, and also a pause to look at the contrasts. It’s almost as if the sons of Korah, who wrote this psalm, have their breath taken away as they consider the immensity of God’s love that covers our sins! 

That word “cover” means to cover our nakedness, conceal our shame, and hide us from our forgiven sins. The alternative is to live in fear of God’s righteous judgment on our unforgiven sin. 

The sons of Korah long for this again. They long for a crescendo of righteousness, which is why in the “look around” section we see the phrases “restore us again” (v. 4) and “revive us again” (v. 6). 

This Hebrew word for “restore” always means a turning:

  • men turning back from God (apostasy) 
  • men turning away from God (backsliding) 
  • men turning away from evil (repentance) 
  • men turning back to God (revival) 

The ball is in our court. God has remained faithful; we are the ones who have sinned and turned away from Him. God hasn’t gone anywhere; we have! 

So revival begins with the recognition of our sin and profound repentance from that sin. Revival is a recognition that I have turned back from God, and now I need to turn away from evil and turn wholeheartedly back to God. 

Immediately following that middle verse notice the personal, singular pronoun “I” in verse 8. Revival starts with my recognition of my sin and then my repentance of that sin quickly follows. 

The “show us the way” prayer of verse 7 is answered in verse 13: “Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway” (NKJV). God Himself shows us the way! His footsteps mark the path for us to walk! 

Just as Jesus told us He was the way (John 14:6). 

When we repent from following any other path, revival and restoration happen. The fruit of revival is then a life sustained, quickened, and equipped by God’s presence that will draw others to Him too! 

Let us SELAH—pause and consider the forgiving love of God, the need for my repentance, and then let us enjoy the crescendo of living in daily revival! 

If you have missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find all of those messages by clicking here. 

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