Ultimate Wisdom

Last week I posted a quote on some of my social media channels that simply stated: “Our opinions don’t matter if they don’t square with God’s Word on the matter.” This seemed to me to be a fairly uncontroversial statement, but one anonymous reader really took me to task for using the hashtag #objectivetruth. Apparently, he thinks there is no such thing. 

But don’t we all rely on objective, external standards all the time? For instance, a gallon of gasoline is a gallon regardless of where you buy it, or whether you feel like it’s a gallon or not. And when you go to pay for your gasoline, the price isn’t based on how the gas station attendant is feeling at that moment, but on the objective amount posted. 

Psalm 49 is somewhat unusual in that it is a “wisdom psalm.” This psalm feels a lot more like something we would read in Proverbs or Ecclesiastes than it does a prayer or song in the Psalms. 

For instance, the first four verses of this Psalm sound a lot like the opening verses of the Book of Proverbs. And verses 5-13 of the Psalm echo what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 2. 

This psalmist—like Solomon—wants us to understand how important it is to get wisdom. So we are urged to listen intently to those who have hard-won insight, to those who have “been there, done that” so that we don’t have to repeat their folly. 

What is that wisdom? It can be broken down into two profound statements:

(1) Everyone dies. 

That can be a really depressing truth IF your focus is building your own kingdom. If all there is to life is what you can earn and build before you die, only to realize that your “kingdom” ends at your last breath, that can be very depressing. 

However, this realization that everyone dies can be a very liberating truth IF your focus is on the eternal kingdom that is awaiting you in Heaven. When you realize that Jesus is preparing a place for you to experience ultimate joy and unending pleasure forever and ever, then you will live here for what’s coming next! 

(2) Our eternal destination after we die is determined before we die.

If someone told me that he had discovered the secret to immortality, and then he died and came back to this life to tell me that his theory was correct, I would be wise listen to him. 

That’s exactly what Jesus did for us!

He told us that He would die on a Cross and that He would be raised back to life. AND HE DID IT! His hard-won insight, His “been there, done that” wise words to us are this—“Believe in Me. I died to pay the penalty for the sins that will keep you out of Paradise. So place your faith in what I did, and ask my Father to forgive your sins. Then I promise you that you will spend forever and ever with Me in Paradise!” 

THIS objective truth determines everything else about our lives. 

So I’ll repeat it again—

“Our opinions don’t matter if they don’t square with God’s Word on the matter.” —Craig T. Owens

Join me next Sunday as we continue our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms. 

Supernatural Interference

The foundational claim of Christianity is Jesus died AND rose to life again. The Apostle Paul says that if the resurrection didn’t happen, anyone who claims to be a Christian is in a world of hurt (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 14, 17-20).  

“But resurrected from the dead?! Really? I believe in facts. I believe in the laws of science.” Me too! But I also believe that the supernatural is not the opposite of belief in the natural. Just like Paul said, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). 

Noted astronomer Allan Rex Sandage said, “It is my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It was only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”

And C.S. Lewis added, “How can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? … Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary. Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known.”  

Let me give you a simple example. Suppose I divide $5 evenly between two of my buddies. The laws of mathematics dictate that both of them will have $2.50. But what if one of my friends, through some sleight of hand, steals some of my other friend’s money? The fact that one of them now has more than half doesn’t change that mathematical law that $5 divided evenly is two sets of $2.50. 

The mathematician as a mathematician doesn’t know how likely one friend is to steal some of the other friend’s money. For that answer, he has to ask someone else. The changing of the outcome does not negate the laws. In fact, the more certain we are of the laws of mathematics the more clearly we know that something outside of them “interfered.” 

Concerning Jesus, there are three undeniable facts—

  1. Jesus died (John 19:28-34, 38-42; Mark 15:44-45; Matthew 27:62-66) 
  2. Death is irreversible
  3. Jesus is alive (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

It appears the laws of biology have been interfered with, that a supernatural miracle has occurred. The supernatural fact that Jesus was resurrected does not change the biological fact that death is irreversible. We just didn’t expect the outside influence. Just like we didn’t expect one friend to steal money from another friend.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that you can trust God’s word. All of it! Jesus told us that He would die by crucifixion and that He would be resurrected three days later (John 10:18; Matthew 20:19). 

If that word came true, we can also trust this word: We can have our sins forgiven and receive God’s gift of eternal life—just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4). 

The law of sin says: All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. The unbreakable law of sin is that the penalty for unforgiven sin is eternal death. That law cannot be broken, unless there is a Supernatural interference—a miracle!

Jesus interfered. He took our sins upon Himself. He supernaturally switched places with us and let the death penalty fall on Himself. And if we believe in that, we can have our sins forgiven and receive what we didn’t expect—eternal life with God! 

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have Him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG & NLT)

Resurrection Appearances

The appearances of Jesus after His resurrection aren’t just limited to the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), but also in the books of Acts and 1 Corinthians. Check out this infographic from The Infographic Bible by Karen Sawrey. 

(click the image to zoom in)

Jesus appeared at…

  • A—an empty tomb in the Garden at Golgotha in Jerusalem (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:9-11; John 20:1-18)
  • B—on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32)
  • C—in Jerusalem (Luke 24:33-35; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
  • D—at a house in Jerusalem (Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:36-53; John 20:19-23; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
  • E—at a house in Jerusalem (John 20:26-29)
  • F—by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23)
  • G—on the Mount of Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-20)
  • H—location unknown (1 Corinthians 15:6)
  • I—location unknown (1 Corinthians 15:7)
  • J—location unknown (1 Corinthians 15:7)
  • K—on a road to Damascus (Acts 19:1-9, 22:6-11, 26:12-18; 1 Corinthians 15:8-9)

He Chose The Nails (book review)

Max Lucado has an inimitable style of writing that immediately draws us into his subject—in this book the focal point is what Jesus did for us on the Cross—gets us to look at it in a new light, and then helps us walk away with a fuller understanding. The title of this book is really the answer to the sub-title—Q: What did God do to win your heart? A: He Chose The Nails.

In keeping with the theme of God answering the book’s question of how He won your heart, all but two of the chapters use statements from God as their title. Statements like “I will bear your dark side,” and “I forgive you,” and “I understand your pain,” and “I will love you forever.” In each chapter, Max takes us nearer to the Cross and to the Savior who bled and died there to show us how much God loves us. 

This is a book that can easily be read together with your family or a group of friends; especially if you then utilize the study guide questions for each chapter at the back of the book. This is a book that could be read rather quickly, but because Max paints such a vivid picture of God’s unexpected love you will want to read slowly and savoringly. This is a book that could be read at any time, but I would recommend you read it during the days and weeks approaching Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. 

Whether reading alone or with friends, reading quickly or slowly, reading it during the Lenten season or at another time, I can promise you that your heart will beat more strongly with the assurance of God’s overwhelming, mind-blowing love for you. 

Weeping And Rejoicing

“First, I would bid you stand and see the place where the Lord lay with emotions of deep sorrow. O come, my beloved brother, thy Jesus once lay there. He was a murdered man, my soul, and thou the murderer.

‘Ah, you, my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormentors were,
Each of my crimes became a nail,
And unbelief the spear.’
‘Alas! and did my Saviour bleed?
And did my Sov’reign die?’

“I slew Him—this right hand struck the dagger to His heart. My deeds slew Christ. Alas! I slew my best beloved: I killed Him who loved me with an everlasting love. Ye eyes, why do ye refuse to weep when ye see Jesus’ body mangled and torn? Oh! give vent to your sorrow, Christians, for ye have good reason to do so…. My soul was drowning. From heaven’s high portals He saw me sinking in the depths of hell. He plunged in.

‘He SANK beneath His heavy woes,
To raise me to a crown;
There’s ne’er a gift His hand bestows.
But cost His heart a groan.’

“Ah! we may indeed regret our sin, since it slew Jesus.

“Now, Christian, change thy note a moment. ‘Come, see the place where the Lord lay,’ with joy and gladness. He does not lie there now. Weep, when ye see the tomb of Christ, but rejoice because it is empty. Thy sin slew Him, but His divinity raised Him up. Thy guilt hath murdered Him, but His righteousness hath restored Him. Oh! He hath burst the bonds of death; He hath ungirt the cerements of the tomb, and hath come out more than conqueror, crushing death beneath His feet. Rejoice, O Christian, for He is not there—He is risen.” —Charles Spurgeon 

Unmistakable

…I tell you before it comes… (John 13:19)

Jesus made His passion, crucifixion, and resurrection unmistakable. 

He told us the Scriptures that He would fulfill (v. 18). 

He told us the details of His crucifixion and resurrection (v. 19).

And He received the “stamp of approval” from His Father (vv. 31, 32).

When Jesus came into Jerusalem, was arrested by the religious leaders, condemned by Pilate, crucified by Roman soldiers, and resurrected three days after His death, no one should have been surprised because Jesus made it unmistakable! 

Jesus also told us how to make our belief in all He did for us unmistakable too—“By this will all know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (v. 35). 

Q—How unmistakeable is my belief in Jesus Christ? 

A—It’s directly tied to how evident my love for others is!

11 Quotes On The Gospel Of John

Alongside my daily Bible study time in the Gospels of the New Testament, I have been reading J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts On The Gospels. You can check out my review of this book by clicking here. 

These are a few of the quotes I especially appreciated from Ryle’s comments on the Gospel of John.

“Ignorance of Scripture is the root of every error in religion and the source of every heresy. To be allowed to remove a few grains of ignorance, and to throw a few rays of light on God’s precious Word is, in my opinion, the greatest honor that can be put on a Christian.” 

“It is a real misfortune to Christianity when a Christian cannot smile. A merry heart and a readiness to take part in all innocent mirth are gifts of inestimable value. They go far to soften the prejudices, to take up stumbling blocks out of the way, and to make way for Christ and the Gospel.” 

“We must maintain firmly that God hates wickedness, and that the end of all who persist in wickedness will be destruction. It is not true that God’s love is lower than hell. It is not true that God so loved the world that all mankind will be finally saved, but that He so loved the world that He gave His Son to be the Savior of all who believe. His love is offered to all men freely, fully, honestly, and unreservedly, but it is only through the one channel of Christ’s redemption.” 

“Nothing so defiles Christianity and gives the enemies of truth such occasion to blaspheme as jealousy and party-spirit among Christians. Wherever there is real grace, we should be ready and willing to acknowledge it, even though it may be outside our own pale. We should strive to say with the apostle, ‘If Christ be preached, I rejoice, yes! and will rejoice’ (Philippians 1:18). If good is done, we are to be thankful, though it even may not be done in what we think the best way. If souls are saved, we ought to be glad, whatever be the means that God may think fit to employ.” 

“Well may we be told to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom! Well may we be told to long for the Second Advent of Jesus Christ! Then, and not until then, shall there be no more curse on the earth, no more suffering, no more sorrow, and no more sin. Tears shall be wiped from the faces of all who love Christ’s appearing, when their Master returns. Weakness and infirmity shall all pass away. Hope deferred shall no longer make hearts sick. There will be no chronic invalids and incurable cases when Christ has renewed this earth.” 

“The ‘Scriptures’ of which our Lord speaks are of course the Old Testament. And His words show the important truth which too many are apt to overlook, that every part of our Bibles is meant to teach us about Christ. Christ is not merely in the Gospels and Epistles. Christ is to be found directly and indirectly in the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets. In the promises to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and David; in the types and emblems of the ceremonial law; in the predictions of Isaiah and the other prophets—Jesus, the Messiah, is everywhere to be found in the Old Testament. How is it that men see these things so little? The answer is plain: they do not ‘search the Scriptures.’ They do not dig into that wondrous mine of wisdom and knowledge, and seek to become acquainted with its contents. Simple, regular reading of our Bibles is the grand secret of establishment in the faith. Ignorance of the Scriptures is the root of all error.” 

“Trial, we must distinctly understand, is part of the diet which all true Christians must expect. It is one of the means by which their grace is proved and by which they find out what there is in themselves. Winter as well as summer—cold as well as heat—clouds as well as sunshine—are all necessary to bring the fruit of the Spirit to ripeness and maturity.” 

“Well would it be for men if they would act upon the truth they know. Instead of saying, as some do, ‘I must first know everything clearly and then I will act,’ we should say, ‘I will diligently use such knowledge as I possess and believe that in the using fresh knowledge will be given to me.’ How many mysteries this simple plan would solve! How many hard things would soon become plain if men would honestly live up to their light and ‘follow on to know the Lord’ (Hosea 6:3). … The plain things in religion are undeniably very many. Let a man honestly attend to them and he shall be taught the deep things of God.” 

“Happy is he who never stifles his conscience, but strives to keep it tender! Still happier is he who prays to have it enlightened by the Holy Spirit and sprinkled with Christ’s blood.” 

“Let us resist procrastination as we would resist the devil. Whatever our hand finds to do, let us do it with our might. ‘The night comes when no man can work.’” 

“It is noteworthy that the resurrection of our Lord in some places is attributed to His Father’s act (Acts 2:24-32), once, at least, to the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 3:18), and here [John 10:18] and in John 2:19 to Christ Himself. All leads to the same great conclusion—that the resurrection of our Lord, as well as every part of His mediatorial work, was an act in which all three Persons of the Trinity concurred and cooperated.” 

You can read Ryle’s quote on The Gospel of Matthew here, on the Gospel of Mark here, and on the Gospel of Luke here.

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