Weekend Reading: June 6, 2014

To readers and interested parties, we are beginning a new effort today called ‘Weekend Reading’ here at the DFL blog. The idea is to provide you with a few interesting articles from around the web/news world so that whether you’re at an all day swim meat, sipping on Saturday morning coffee, or can’t sleep Friday night, you’ll have a few articles of interest to fill you in on what’s new.

Because of the nature of my own interests and background, the articles will be mostly a mix of political, theological, christian, with a mix of fun or off the wall items from time to time.  This isn’t a comprehensive list, but rather a few interesting items to check out or bookmark for later reading as you skim the headlines Saturday morning.  I expect to get help from multiple sources and friends, and want to say “thanks” in advance for those who will help keep this effort going.  Now, without further ado, here are your weekend links:

Gay Marriage and Civil Disobedience: Pastor Peter Jones has an insightful post about how Christians should be thinking and responding to the quickly evolving issue of Gay marriage and Gay rights.

 Bob Dole is WWI Vets ‘Man in DC’ – a short video about how former US Senator and GOP Presidential Nominee Bob Dole has been spending his time at the WWII memorial with vets.

The Bible Meets the Modern Age – Al Mohler has a conversation with former President Jimmy Carter about his faith, his sunday school teaching, and a few other things. This is a long read, but the audio is also available.

Fox News has some disturbing information about Bowe Bergdahl, and the Wall Street Journal has a terrifying story about the 5 Taliban captives the US set free in the Bergdahl exchange.

ChristianAudio.com is having their twice yearly sale on audiobooks – great sale to check out, many books are only $7.49. If you travel a lot or love audiobooks then this is something you won’t want to miss.

What is a Photocopier? – Hilarious new video project by the New York Times that employs actors to reenact real life depositions.  If you’re at all familiar with what deposition are normally like, then this will make you laugh out loud.

National Senate/Political Landscape – Last Sunday I gave a rundown of the national political landscape on a Cincinnati Radio program. 

Forgiveness and the Gospel

Forgiveness: Seeking Him Study Week 9

Introduction

During the course of my lifetime, I have had some very cruel and dastardly people try to destroy my livelihood. The nature of politics is that sometimes you evoke the powerful hatred of enemies who will stop at nothing to see your demise. In the midst of these storms I have found that the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the realities entailed upon me by the cross He bore, to be great sources of comfort and perspective for me. In fact, all throughout the Bible we have rich testimony of the lives that God has miraculously changed. Hearts have been softened and people have been forgiven.

And it is to this subject of ‘forgiveness’ that we are turning our attention to this week.

C.H. Spurgeon said, “To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison with it. But yet there is one thing sweeter still, and that is to forgive.”

Forgiveness is a major part of what it means to walk the Christian path, and there are four main points I want to cover this morning:

  • God’s Sovereignty in Forgiveness
  • Remembering Sin No More
  • Forgiveness and the Gospel
  • We Don’t Do This Alone: The Power of the Spirit in Forgiveness

For anyone who has lived even a short time upon this earth you know that there will come times when you will be or have been wronged. Furthermore, if you are a Christian, you know that how you respond to these situations says a lot about who you are, and what Christ is doing and has done in your life.

The study we are currently engaged in has focused our attention on personal revival. I think that at this point in the study (9 weeks in) we probably all recognize the importance forgiveness plays in having a right relationship to God and others. When we haven’t forgiven others, we end up obsessing about them and what they have done to us. Our lives are dominated by their actions and not our own purpose for living, which is undoubtedly to love and glorify God and love our fellow man.

God’s Sovereignty in Forgiveness

Joseph

On page 176 of our study guide, the story of Joseph is given as an example of how one should live life without dwelling on the past sins of others. Joseph’s motivation for forgiving his brothers was that he didn’t consider himself worthy to be their judge (Gen. 50:20). Certainly he had a proper fear of the Lord, and it is evident that the Spirit of God had softened his heart to be able to (really miraculously) forgive his brothers. Joseph had one bad thing happen to him after another during his lifetime, yet because he feared God, and understood that God was sovereign, he could rest in the knowledge that God would take care of him – even as he languished in prison.

David

Perhaps the best example of forgiveness and acting with a godly heart in the Old Testament was David. His story has personally meant a great deal to me in recent days as I have gone through my own very painful battles of being wronged.

Here is a man who did nothing wrong, yet a crazy man who was filled with jealousy and hatred decided to make it his personal mission in life to crush David. He hunted him down like a dog. Can you imagine what David had to be thinking? Of course you can, because we have Scripture to tell us! Here’s what David wrote during his time on the run from Saul:

[1] Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
[2] my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
[3] When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
[4] In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
[5] All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
[6] They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
[7] For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
[8] You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
[9] Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
[10] In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
[11] in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
[12] I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
[13] For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
(Psalm 56 ESV)

David felt that even though his enemies surrounded him on all sides, and he had done nothing to deserve this, yet the Lord would deliver him. He felt what it was like to be stripped down of all hope in his own power. He felt helpless. And yet his strength and hope was the Lord.

But not only did David draw strength from the Lord, he also found in God the wisdom he needed and the power to forgive the sin of Saul. David was given a special indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, not everyone had this gift, but the Lord was with David and gave him the ability to forgive Saul – a truly supernatural gift.

David had faithful friends to help him and encourage him (1 Sam. 23:16), but it was the power of the Spirit working in his heart that stayed David’s hand from murdering Saul. Here is one such example from 1 Samuel:

When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” [2] Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks. [3] And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. [4] And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. [5] And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. [6] He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD’s anointed.” [7] So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way. (1 Samuel 24:1-7 ESV)

This is how God works – he softens our hearts to spare even the most vile and horrible people who have wronged us greatly. In that moment, David chose not to “remember” Saul’s sins against him, and not to take vengeance into his own hands.

Remembering Sin No More

The biggest difference between us and our Creator when it comes to forgiveness is that He chooses not to remember (bring to mind) our sins once He has forgiven us. Listen to what He says through His prophet Isaiah:

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25 ESV)

We, however, remember people’s sins against them. In fact, in our study guide there’s an indication that if we remember people’s sins and bring them up again verbally or mentally etc. then its possible that we never really forgave that person in the first place. In fact, they go so far as to say that if we can’t “thank God” for these people then we haven’t forgiven them.

I am not sure I’d go quite that far, but I think we need to be sure to truly forgive someone before just “moving on” and putting the matter behind us.

But also, if we find that we have sinful thoughts or slanderous words cropping up about people who we had forgiven years ago, it isn’t necessarily the case that we hadn’t forgiven them, but that perhaps we are “remembering” their sins against them again, and have opened up the wound. We need to forgive them all over again, it seems. This is the weakness of our human flesh – but its also the reason why we need the gospel and the clear teachings of our Lord.

Forgiveness and the Gospel

This brings us to final and most important point. Radical forgiveness is really only possible for us in light of the gospel and the Holy Spirit’s work within us. David relied on God’s character and sovereignty, but he saw veiled what we see plainly, namely the overflowing mercy of the Lord toward sinners.

When David was judged to have committed multiple sins, his reaction upon being confronted by them was to beg for forgiveness and praise God for His infinite mercy (ps. 51).

When we see what Christ has done for us at Calvary, it gives context to His command to forgive. Listen to what he told Peter:

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)

Jesus went on to tell the parable of the king who forgave much and the servant who didn’t pass along that same forgiveness to a fellow servant – even though the amount was a pittance compared to what the king had forgiven him. This is what He said:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. [24] When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. [25] And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. [26] So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ [27] And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. [28] But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ [29] So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ [30] He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. [31] When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. [32] Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. [33] And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ [34] And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. [35] So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:23-35 ESV)

It is not easy to forgive people who have done you so much wrong, and yet we are called to do just that and more. As I’ve dealt with my own trials as of late, I’ve found that forgiveness is just step one. Step two is to love your enemies. I’m not saying that I’m there yet, just forgiving feels as though its been an amazing feat, but I know that by the power of God working in me I can one day not only forgive, but love my enemies the way Christ did as he hung from the cross.

Listen to our Lord’s words:

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. [33] And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [34] And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. [35] And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” [36] The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine [37] and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” [38] There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” (Luke 23:32-38 ESV)

I can’t even begin to imagine the agony He was in at this moment. Set aside the physical agony for a moment, and think about the kind of love this man’s heart had to have to repel the fiery darts of the evil one at this moment.

In the acclaimed epic movie ‘The Robe’, which I recently saw for the first time, the protagonist is a Roman official named Marcellus, who was given the task of crucifying Christ. He was sort of thrown into the situation; in fact he was on his way out of Israel the next day to see his beloved. But something happened to him that day that would not let him go. Eventually, through a series of torments and trials, he finds himself back in the Promised Land and face to face with Peter the great apostle. He begins to see that Christ had transformed the lives of so many people, that genuine love flowed among them, and when he saw the forgiveness of those people for others he surrendered his heart to a new Captain. This is the exchange they had when Peter asked Marcellus to come with him on his next missionary journey:

Peter:…the night Jesus needed my most I denied him…not once but three times. I swore I never knew him…

Marcellus: I…crucified him…

Peter: I know. Demetrius told me.

Marcellus: Then you can forgive me?

Peter: He forgave you from the cross! Can I do less? Now does anything stand in your way? Can you be one of us?

Marcellus: From this day on, I’m enlisted in His service! I offer Him my sword, my fortune and my life. And this I pledge you on my honor as a Roman!

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “I say to the glory of God and in utter humility that whenever I see myself before God and realize even something of what my blessed Lord has done for me, I am ready to forgive anybody anything.”

My own heart has been pierced through by many of the enemies flamed arrows because I failed to hold up the shield of faith. I trusted in my own mind and intellect to get me through it. I say to myself “just push through” or “just ignore it” or “this won’t last long”…but then my thoughts turn south…my mind conceives of all that I would do to my enemy if he were in my presence.

Look how Christ was mocked to come down “if” He could. They had forgotten the words of Christ as He was healing:

And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23 ESV)

Therefore it wasn’t outside of His power to come down from that cross. But instead He stayed where He was and took the insults and the pain for you and for me in order that we could be forgiven for the insults and pain we hurl at others.

Lastly, I would ask you to look at the world now that you’ve looked at the cross…

The world tells you that you deserve to have your rights intact. The cross tells you to lay down your rights for the gospel.

The world tells you to take revenge and make sure people get what’s coming to them. The cross tells you that God is sovereign and will judge all men according to their deeds (in fact He judged Christ for your sins).

The world tells you that you’re a victim and that you deserve to be heard. Christ tells you to come and lay your burdens down at His feet and beckons you to be strong and courageous, fearing no man, and to live a victorious life!

The world ignores the depravity of all men and tells you that you’re better than those who hurt you and that some people are past being forgiven. The cross bears witness that your sins were so hideous and so heinous that the very Son of God had to be beaten, battered, and killed in a bloody mess because YOU slandered, murdered, thought evil thoughts, said evil things, and upheld your pride through it all.

One more thing…the world tells you that you are the one who was wronged. They’re right. Our Lord knows your pain and sorrow. But the cross tells you that we have ALL fallen short and by the mercy of God we have been saved from what we all deserve – namely hell and eternal punishment. Yet because of the cross, and because of the resurrection, you have been forgiven. Given the fact that your sins murdered the eternal Son of God, don’t you think it’s a good idea to forgive the people who have wronged you?

We Don’t Do This Alone: The Power of the Spirit in Forgiveness

So how is it possible, practically speaking, to forgive the way that Christ forgave us? Well the answer is by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to do anything without His help. He is the One conforming us to the image of Christ. He uses the Word to renew our minds, and convict us, and bring us into “all truth.” Listen to how Christ described the coming of the Spirit:

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. [26] But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. [27] Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:25-27 ESV)

It doesn’t make it easy, but it makes it possible. The power of God is an amazing thing. Trusting Him to do His work within us is the first step. We need to surrender our lives to His power, and place our faith in Him fully, trusting that He will complete that good work He started within us (Phil. 1:6) – that includes helping us to forgive others as He forgave us.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, [13] bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. [14] And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17 ESV)

Finally, a personal note about this lesson…I have gone through some fiery great trials as of late. I have had my own personal “Saul” hounding me, hunting me down, though I have done nothing unrighteous. The process of forgiving this man has taken me through an excruciatingly painful month or so now, but by God’s grace He is working an amazing work in my heart. I appreciate the prayers and encouragement and wisdom that many of your have lavished upon me. This week I went from despairing of ever feeling love or praise for God or others, to recovering my joy as I forgave my offender. I say “I” but it was most certainly God who worked within me. And just this morning (Saturday) as I was singing a hymn with the kids did I realize fully what God had wrought in my hardened heart. The hymn was ‘Praise to the Lord, the Almighty’ and the verse was this:

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

 

When I read, “ponder anew what the Almighty can do” my heart soared again, realizing that God had done a miraculous thing inside of me, and that He still had more plans for my life. He has helped me forgive, and start to love my enemies, and as my heart pondered these things anew, I once again began to rejoice in the sovereign, powerful, efficacious work of the Lord in my life.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Study Notes 2-17-13

11:45-48 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, [46] but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. [47] So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. [48] If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

The reaction to the miracles of Christ is always of interest to me. It amazes me that some who were eyewitnesses of people being healed, and others, like Lazarus, being raised from the dead can cause such different reactions.

Morris comments, “The result of the miracle, as always, is division. Because Jesus is who and he is he inevitably divides people.”

Specifically, it is interesting that some people ran to the Pharisees…Carson says, “One might charitably hope that the motive of at least some of them was to win the Pharisees to the truth, but the contrast set up between those who believe and those who go to the Pharisees suggest that their intent was more malicious.”

Ryle says that these people who ran to the Pharisees had been hardened in heart, “Instead of being softened and convinced, they were hardened and enraged. They were vexed to see even more unanswerable proofs that Jesus was the Christ, and irritated to feel that their own unbelief was more than ever inexcusable.”

This only serves to reiterate the tension Christ was causing within the Jewish establishment.

A False Assumption

It’s emblematic of the kind of thinking we find in the Jewish leadership of the day that fear governed their thoughts.  And when fear governs your thinking, it’s very difficult to make wise discerning spiritual decisions.  For instance, here they make the false assumption that if Jesus would have continued His ministry that “everyone (would) believe in him.”  This is simply not the case – for even those who saw and witnessed His miracles first hand did not believe – even in verse 46 we see that several went to the Pharisees. The truth is that unless God does a supernatural work in your heart you will always be dead in your sin and will always rebel against God.  Earlier in John we read Jesus’ words to Nicodemus:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 ESV)

Earlier this week I was teaching through Acts 8 and in that chapter we read the case of Simon Magus who was amazed by the miracles being wrought by the disciples of Jesus – so he “believed” in Jesus.  But seeing and intellectually assenting to the reality of God’s power doesn’t make you a child of God. What is missing?  The heart change that only comes by new birth.  Only the Holy Spirit can effect that change in a man’s heart.

Ryle says, “The amazing wickedness of human nature is strikingly illustrated in this verse. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that seeing miracles will necessarily convert souls. Here is a plan proof that it does not.”

Political Problems

Once the Jews learn of this latest miracle, their main concern seems to be a political one.  They said, “The Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”  They were concerned that the Roman leadership would be disturbed by the commotion of the Jewish citizenry and the potential consolidation of power behind a rebel leader (namely Jesus).  If the Romans, they calculated, thought that there was an uprising among the people, they would move to squash it immediately – perhaps even scatter the Jews and drive them from the land in order to save them the headache of dealing with them as a nation.

What is amazing here, and Sinclair Ferguson talks about this a little, is that we see the Pharisees and Sadducees saying what are “we” going to do about this.  This is the situation, that even though these two groups hated each other, they felt like they had to work together on this.  “They felt like they had to crucify Jesus in order to keep their place in society” Ferguson says.

11:49-53 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. [50] Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” [51] He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, [52] and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. [53] So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

The opening blast from Caiaphas is (according to Carson) the ancient equivalent of saying “You don’t know what you are talking about!”  Both Carson and MacArthur note how rude this is and Carson is funny here:

“Even so, it is certainly not a reflection of the Dale Carnegie school of diplomacy, and it nicely confirms the judgment of Josephus that the Sadducees were barbarous and wild even toward those of their own party…”

But as Caiaphas gets their attention, he continues on with an idea that is devious and characteristic of his political acumen (he lasted 18 years as high priest which was quite a feet during that time – was deposed at the same time as Pontius Pilate in AD 36).  But what Caiaphas meant to say, and what God used Caiaphas to say here were obviously two different things, and perhaps a little more than irony.

Caiaphas was more astute politically than those around him, and what he was trying to explain here was that if they (the Jewish leadership) played their cards right, they could sacrifice Jesus on the alter of politics and have for themselves a scapegoat to be able to show to the Romans – as if to say to them “hey this man is the one responsible for all the hubbub around Jerusalem, if you get rid of him we’ll all be a lot better off and you won’t have to worry about anyone causing disruptions.” In this way Caiaphas figured he could satiate the Roman authorities growing unrest with the disruptions among the Jewish people.

As Sproul points out though, Caiaphas must have forgotten Proverbs 17:15, which says, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.”

Caiaphas’ cold political reasoning seemed shrewd – the ends justified the means. But what Caiaphas didn’t realize (in his “unconscious prophecy” as Morris aptly puts it) is that it was indeed expedient for one man to die for the nation – a scapegoat covered not with the political excuses of sinful men, but with the weight of their sins upon Him.  For as Paul tells us:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—[13] for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. [14] Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. [15] But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. [16] And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. [17] For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. [18] Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. [19] For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. [20] Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, [21] so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21 ESV)

It is amazing how God uses the mouths of even the ungodly to proclaim the great plan He has for His people.  His sovereignty led even a pagan king to bring the Jewish people out of exile several hundred years earlier.  Listen to what God put in the mouth of Cyrus:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: [23] “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23 ESV)

Furthermore, God’s plans were bigger than just the Jewish nation, for John tells us, “not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”  That is to say that it was God’s plan that through the death of Jesus the promise of Abraham might be fulfilled:

“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. [5] No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. [6] I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. [7] And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. [8] And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:4-8 ESV)

 And…

And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven [16] and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, [17] I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, [18] and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”(Genesis 22:15-18)

Therefore God used His Son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of His people – His chosen people, a holy nation, a people called after His own name. And in so doing He was not simply dying for a Jewish people, but for a people He had chosen from the foundation of the world.  He was going to use His disciples to proclaim this gospel of peace to all the nations in order that He might “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

This process of spreading the gospel and blessing the nations through the spread of the gospel is the same as gathering into one the children of God, because when a person believes in Christ they are united with Christ and are adopted into His family. Sproul says, “It was a blessing that Jesus died, because His death was necessary for the salvation, not only of Jews, but of the elect of the whole world.”

Resorting to Death

It is emblematic of the hand of Satan on these men that their best plan is to find a way to put Jesus to death. For that is the way of Satan.  When all else fails, kill the person who stands in his way.

Make no mistake, Satan desire nothing more than to kill you (Gen. 3:15 speaks of enmity between us and Satan), though his spiritual power is significantly limited now that the gospel has been unleashed upon the nations, he still rules this world.  John tells us of this later:

…and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. (Revelation 20:3 ESV)

Therefore, because he no longer has the power of the last word spiritually, he will do everything he can to make your life miserable and ultimately rejoices in your death – for that is all he has left.  It is a testament to the grace and power of God that we are protected from the wiles of the Devil and that is why your prayers of intercession for each other are so crucial, for God works through your prayers to thwart the enemy.

11:54-57 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples. [55] Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. [56] They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” [57] Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

John MacArthur tells us that Ephraim “was located about four miles northeast of Bethel on the edge of the wilderness, and about a dozen miles from Jerusalem.”

The people prepared for the Passover, and many wondered if there’d be anymore drama – they were looking for the fireworks, they didn’t truly care about Jesus for just a short time later they would shout for His crucifixion.

So Jesus withdrew for a time in order to prepare for the final chapter in His ministry, where He would once again enter Jerusalem, this time for the last time before His grand passion that would serve as the atoning sacrifice for millions and millions of His followers for generations to come, effectively changing the world forever.

Election 2012 Aftermath

Most of you know how deeply I am involved in politics.  It’s my livelihood, and I’ve made a career out of helping candidates get elected and then helping them communicate with their constituents. As a Christian working in politics, I’ve always had a lot of thinking to do on the issues that face our country, and how exactly I ought to prioritize my efforts on these issues.

I’m more convinced than ever that the number one issue facing our nation is spiritual and moral bankruptcy. The only solution for this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As Al Mohler points out this morning:

Evangelical Christians must see the 2012 election as a catastrophe for crucial moral concerns. The election of President Obama returns a radically pro-abortion President to the White House, soon after he had endorsed same-sex marriage. President Obama is likely to have the opportunity to appoint one or more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they are almost sure to agree with his constitutional philosophy.

I’m in a reflective mood this morning and I’m recalling how many people have said to me “you’re really involved in an important line of work!” After all, I know important people, and I help shape the campaigns and outreach efforts of some of the most powerful people in our nation. But as I consider all that I’m involved with day-to-day, I have come to believe that my work in politics is secondary to the most important work one can be involved in, and that’s the spread of the Gospel. That is the reality – and the sooner that we conform our lives to that reality, the sooner we’ll be able to make a difference in this fallen world.

“Conforming” to this reality means conforming our minds and how we spend our time and energy to the image of Christ. Can you honestly say that you are more concerned with those dying without the Gospel than you are about whether Republicans or Democrats won or lost last night? Does your speech reflect this? Does your attitude reflect this?

If I didn’t have these truths as the anchor of my life and soul, then I would be devastated, because I’d look around and see a country on the decline, a nation which glorifies the immoral, a people who love sin with a passion that exalts man over God. And indeed I am sad, and distressed for our nation – and I intend on continuing to fight for what is right and good and moral so long as I draw breath. But my hope is not grounded in the outcome of an election. I know that these things will soon pass away. Our nation will pass into history eventually, but the things that are eternal will remain: the Word of the Lord, His Kingdom, and our faith upheld by the power of His grace, and of course, the glorious purposes of God for the consummation of all things in His Son Jesus Christ.

I’d commend anyone interested in reading more about this election and its consequences to Al Mohler’s latest blog entry.  You can read that here.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Is. 40:8)