Shall We Look Back? Some Reflections on the Upcoming Year

rearview mirrorI know, I sound confused.  How can one reflect upon that which hasn’t happened yet?  Is looking back upon 2013 any guide to 2014?  The new year is a good time for healthy reflection, for sitting down and taking time to think about what is now behind us.  I’m not talking about that kind of navel-gazing which is likely to be a detriment to assurance, but the intentional and wise consideration of God’s providence and our responses to what He has brought us through.

God always exhorts His people to remember His great acts in history.  To look back and consider what He has done for us and then look to the future without trepidation.  Remember the Red Sea (Ex. 14)?  Yahweh wants us to look back at that great deliverance and not to fear what may seem like an insurmountable difficulty.  Even greater, let’s remember the cross.  Look back at that great deliverance regularly and your troubles will be put into their proper perspective.  God has, in the past, done things in time and space, with each one of us in mind (and upon His heart).  If He has acted in history for us before, will He not do so again?

All right, so the events of your life are not so grand.  Those acts of redemption and deliverance were not for you only, they were for God’s people and by His grace you happen to be one of them.  Has God not delivered you from some difficulty before?  Has He not provided a job, supplied a need, so arranged the events of your life to keep you safe?  Don’t you have anything from 2013 that you can look back on and bless God for?  Yes, brother or sister, you do!  Therefore, “reflect” upon the upcoming year with confidence in God.  Look ahead and fear not!

C.M. Granger

 

The Secret Key to the Christian Life is…

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Christians yearn to be better Christians, that is, more like Christ. We would like to have greater victory over our sins, we’d like to pray more (often, and fervently), we’d like to “do” more in service to God and His purposes in the world. We want to be more faithful and diligent in our devotion to Christ.

Therefore, many books are published with titles that reflect this inner desire. “The Keys to Passing Your Spiritual Tests”, “The Secret of the Lord: the Simple Key That Will Revive Your Spiritual Power”, etc., etc. I don’t mean to make too much of this language, but it brings up the question, “Is there a secret key to the Christian life?” Is the Christian life “locked”, and only some Christians have the “key”?

No, not really. Conceptually, it would be nice if there were simply such a key. It would make the Christian life a lot easier. Perhaps that is what makes such books so popular. If we just had more knowledge, the right facts, following Jesus wouldn’t be quite so difficult.

However, I have found no easy way to deny myself, to take up a cross, and follow Him. No easy way, but a joyful way. The “secret” of the Christian life is really no secret at all. It is expressed throughout the Scriptures. It is our union with Christ by faith that we become better Christians, have greater victory over our sins, and accomplish more for the kingdom of God. All Christians have this “key”, so use it!

C.M. Granger

Abiding: A Rich Theological Concept

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“Abide in Me…..abide in my word…..abide in my love”  (Jn. 15:4,7,9)

Certainly these words of Jesus are worthy of quiet and thoughtful meditation.  I have heard the concept illustrated by the example of staying under an umbrella during a storm.  God’s wrath against sin falls like rain upon the unbeliever, but the one who puts his faith and trust in Jesus abides under the protection of the only Savior and Redeemer.  This is a popular way of presenting the gospel, but is it accurate?

Not exactly.  Perhaps it’s a useful illustration, as far as it goes, but the biblical concept of abiding in Jesus is much more profound.  As believers, we are united to Him.  The scriptural imagery is that of the vine and the branch, not the rain and the umbrella.  It is vibrant, organic. living, deeply intimate.  

Abiding in Jesus means abiding in a relationship.  When used with the preposition “in” and a personal object, it points to the relationship of mutual indwelling of the Father, the Son, and the believer.  Just as the Father has loved Jesus, so Jesus has loved his disciples, and they are to abide in his love.  His life will manifest itself in their lives as they bear fruit, even as his works were the work of his Father.  Apart from him the disciples can do nothing, just as Jesus could do nothing apart from the Father (5:19, 30).  Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, pg. 2

We could put it this way, now that you’re in Christ as a believer… stay there.  We shouldn’t look back and forth as if something or someone better may come along.  We should be supremely satisfied with our Savior and find our peace resting in him.

Secondly, abiding in Jesus means abiding in what he has revealed.  We should stay in his word.  Never let the Bible become a dull book.  Never let the words of Jesus become distant memory.  Scripture is not simply words on paper, it is living and active.  It is a book that weaves knowledge and experience together, i.e. we gain additional light as God works in our hearts and lives to better understand the text.  Reading the Psalms as a new believer is a much different experience from reading them as a tried and tested saint, for example.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a verse over and over, only to come to a trial in my life in which I understand the same verse like I never have before. 

Thirdly, abiding in Jesus means abiding in the love with which he has loved us. That sacrificial love which the world cannot understand, and the believer cannot fully comprehend. Stay in that love which is so beautifully displayed in the cross, is characterized by self-denial, and shines forth in service to others. Rainy days and umbrellas are too mundane to illustrate such glorious concepts!

C.M. Granger

Important Information for Infants in the Faith

I did not study Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians for the first fifteen years of my Christian life.   Of course I used some of the classic proof text passages like 4:17, to prove the rapture of the church; 5:23, to prove that man is made of three parts; and the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians to try and figure out the identity of the Man of lawlessness.  Oh, if I knew then what I know now, I would have devoured the contents of this book and spent the rest of my years marveling at how the Holy Spirit used the contents to establish my faith upon the Rock of Christ!

The apostle Paul came to the city of Thessalonica after he was beaten at Philippi.  He taught for three Sabbaths and then started preaching to the Gentiles.  It was recorded that he was there for at least three weeks and then the leaders of that city ran him out of town.  Paul left some brand new believers in Thessalonica.  These believers were newly born – infants in the faith.  So what did Paul teach them?  Did he expound on man being a tri-part being?  Did he spend a huge amount of text on the man of lawlessness?  No.  Paul began his letter with the doctrine of election (v. 4).  These new believers were suffering persecution, and Paul wanted to reassure them that suffering was an essential part of the Christian life. He informed them that though they were still infants in the faith, God had used their suffering as an example of true faith.  They had received the Holy Spirit and proof of that gift was perseverance in the midst of suffering.  He referred to the theme of comfort at least twelve times in these two short letters.  He wanted those infants to know that God called them for salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14) and they could find comfort in the hope of Christ’s return.

Though they were doing well, these infants could have gotten discouraged by all that suffering, so Paul admonishes them not to grow weary of doing good (2 T 3:14).

If I would have focused the first fifteen years of my Christian walk on understanding these truths, instead of trying to avoid negative confessions, claiming God’s promises so that I could get rich and healthy, and attempting to convince everyone that the Bible teaches divine health, my faith would have been firmly planted on the solid rock of Christ.  Now I spend my time meditating on the truth that God called me for salvation and the sufferings of this present age cannot be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.  I was under-nourished, now I am getting the spiritual vitamins and essential nutrients from the milk of the Word so that I may grow up into full maturity.  Come join me.  Taste and see that the Lord is good!

 

Brian L. Spivey

“My Time is Not Yet…” Some Reflections on John 7:2-6

     While driving down some winding mountain roads in the Adirondacks last August with my family (I remember the clear blue sunny day well), I noticed an enormous rectangle-shaped wooden sign at the front of a Summer camp which read “Jesus is Lord”.  That was actually the name of the camp.  I mentioned to my wife that it’s amazing a man who never left the small environs of Galilee and Judea is named in every corner of the Earth.  His Lordship is even proclaimed from the top of two Cedars in the Adirondack Park (which, by the way, is no where near Palestine).

     What makes it even more remarkable is that Jesus didn’t seek such recognition for himself, at least not in the manner it was sought by the religious and political rulers of his day.  In John 7, the Jewish Feast of Booths was soon to take place.  His brothers offered him what seems like some very sensible PR advice.  They say to him in verse 3, “Depart from here, and go into Judea, that your disciples also may behold your works which you are doing.  For no one does anything in secret, when he himself seeks to be known publicly.  If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”  To put it in more modern language, “Jesus, don’t stay here.  Go into Judea during the feast when everyone, including your disciples, will be there.  Then show your power.  Everyone will see you!”  Then this comment is added at the end, “If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”  If…. a conditional statement, right after Jesus’ brothers tell him to get out there in front of the crowds and perform.  For, the text goes on to say, “…not even his brothers were believing in him.”

Why do you think that Jesus didn’t heed his brothers’ advice?  We know from the text (v. 1) that the Jewish leaders were seeking to kill him, but Jesus himself answers this question in v. 6, “My time is not yet at hand, but your time is always opportune.”  That is, “you can go to the Feast any time you wish, however I must not go up until the time appointed for me”.  The Lord isn’t operating according to what the world considers to be conventional wisdom.  His exhaltation is not the result of a campaign for glory.  It was through the valley of humiliation, through the weakness of the cradle and the cross, that Jesus obtained the crown.  He “emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men…..he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore also God highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…(Phil. 2:7-10).

As followers of Christ, we should make faithfulness our aim.  God will exhalt those who are His in due time.  Even Jesus didn’t seek a name in this world, yet there is practically no place in it where the Son of God is not proclaimed.  Ironic, isn’t it?  And still amazing.

 

C.M. Granger