Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Be a Soldier of the Cross

Am I a Soldier of the Cross

Am I a soldier of the cross,
a follower of the Lamb, and
shall I fear to own his cause,
or blush to speak His name?

Must I be carried to the skies
on flow'ry beds of ease, while
others fought to win the prize,
and sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes to for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend of grace,
to help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign;
increase my courage, Lord;  I'll
bear the toil, endure the pain,
supported  by Thy Word.

Thy saints, in all this glorious war, 
shall conquer though they die;
they view the triumph from afar,
and seize it with their eye.

When that illustrious day shall rise,
and all Thine armies shine in robes
of vict'ry through the skies,
the glory shall be Thine.

Isaac Watts

This hymn was written circa 1721-24 while Watts was preaching on I Corinthians 16:13, and was appended to Watts sermons published during this period , "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong." is the admonition in this verse.  In the time when the persecution of Christians is global and increasing, the timelessness of this hymn is a vital reminder to us all of the challenge and cost and glory of taking up our cross and fighting the good fight of faith.  

Since Genesis 3 those who follow the Lord have been embroiled in a long war against the truth, and this war is also against those who love the truth, speak the truth, and live the truth. So, in a very real sense all who name the name of Christ enter into the battle in some way.  May this hymn encourage and strengthen us all to be strong and be soldiers of the cross.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Working the Work of God

In John 6, after Jesus had fed the multitudes, the next day the crowd came after Him on foot and in boats, all the way across the sea of Galilee. Jesus rebuked them for following after Him only to have their stomachs filled. Picking up in verse 27 and starting with Jesus, let's look at the interchange that took place at that point. "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father has set His seal." Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent."

The question posed to Jesus was legitimate for the religious environment at that time. Israel was under the influence of the Pharisees who had reduced the Law to a system of works. They had their religious works honed finer than a gnat's eyelash, and were very zealous in the protection and promotion of their system of works righteousness. The whole system was based on works, many of which were mutations of the Law, which led them to a state of spiritual bankruptcy where they were like white washed tombs, clean and pristine on the outside, but full of death and decay on the inside. This is why Christ told the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount that their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees, as it is not the external accomplishment of a set of religious duties, but doing the will of God from the heart that constitutes the work of God. This is what Christ expressed when he told them that the work of God was to believe in the One whom God had sent, Christ Himself.  

What then does it mean to believe in the One whom God has sent? Saving faith has two components, and both are centered in Christ. First there is the belief in the person of Christ, that He is all that the Bible says that He is; and the Bible tells us that He is fully both God and man, the Savior, and the only way to God (in fact, these were things that Christ actually said about Himself).  

The other component or element of saving faith is to believe on the finished work of Christ. This entails believing (accepting and not rejecting) that Christ lived a perfect and sinless life in our stead before God by always doing the will of God, not in a perfunctory way, but from the heart. Read through the gospel of John and see how this is laid out for us to see, and is culminated in John 14:31. This pure sinless life qualified Christ to be the sacrifice for our sins in our stead, a sinless man suffering the eternal wrath of God for all the sins of those who would place their faith in Him as the Savior, and believe in the completeness of His sacrifice for those sins. This means that we trust Christ's work and not our own.

You cannot work your way to God, no matter how sincere you are nor how hard you try. The only acceptable work before God is what Christ accomplished by living the life he lived and by the death that He died. We must accept who He is and trust in what He has done. This is what is behind the exclusivity of the Christian faith. There is only One who lived the sinless life, there is only One who qualified to be the one time for all time sacrifice for sins, and that is the God-man Jesus Christ. Christ is the One whom God sent to be the Savior for all mankind, for all of those who would turn to Him and Him alone to be their Savior.

This is the work of God, my friends, to believe in the One whom God has sent, for on Him God has set His seal of approval for the works He accomplished on behalf of all that will come to Him in repentance and faith. Don't delay any longer, cease from trying to work your own way into heaven and accept the work that Christ has done on your behalf.

Monday, May 04, 2015

A Prayer for the Day

Lord, cause me to walk blamelessly before You,
by the power of Your Spirit and the knowledge of Your Word.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Ignorance of the Scriptures

Ignorance of the Scriptures has given rise to thousands of evils.
From this seed the great corruption of heresies has blossomed;
from this spring have flowed careless living and wasted labors.
Just as anyone deprived of the light of this world cannot walk 
straight, so those who do not see the rays of the divine Scriptures
walk in thick darkness. They regularly and inevitably fall into many sins.

John Chrysostom 
Early Church Father

As it was then, so it is now.