Faith + Works = Bondage

Those who teach works must be added to faith as a condition for salvation can never tell you when you have done enough. This fact alone exposes the reason why you will never find assurance of salvation in their systems. The problems with believing our right standing before God is a result of Christ’s work plus our merit are innumerable and damning, but the inability of its proponents to answer the question, “How much work is enough?” exposes its corrupting effect on the hearts of those that adhere to it.

The reason why I refer to it as a corrupting effect is that there are only two possible responses to imbibing this theology and neither are edifying. The first is bondage to pride. Someone who is blind to their sinfulness will begin to rejoice in their goodness. After all, they are contributing some merit to their salvation. Jesus has not done it all, so there is room for boasting. To do this, they must either under-estimate their sinfulness or lower God’s righteous standard. The second response is bondage to constant anxiety. Anyone awake to his or her corruption will tend in this direction. They will strive and struggle but will never find themselves able to rest in Christ because, as long as they live, Christ’s work will never be sufficient, and their work will never be complete.

Works do play a role in salvation, but they are the result of our salvation in Jesus, not the cause of it. When we stand before the Lord, there is only one to whom we will point for our acceptance before God, and that is Jesus Christ. He fulfilled the law that we could not, he paid our debt on the cross, and he credits his righteousness to us. We will never point to ourselves. Remember, even the Pharisee gave God the credit for his assumed righteousness and all the works he did, yet he walked away unjustified (Luke 18-9-14). When we point to ourselves in any way, we point to our own condemnation. It is only when we beat our breast like the tax collector and look outside of ourselves to Jesus Christ that we find the righteousness we need.

There is no “It is finished” in faith plus works theological systems, and because of that, there is only bondage. If we want to be free in Christ, we must reject the notion that our righteousness is anything other than Christ’s perfect righteousness accounted as ours. We are justified by faith apart from works of the law (Romans 3:28). Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28).”

-D. Eaton

When Pain and Faith Collide

When pain and faith collide
The one absorbs the other.
But not without a shock
That shakes us to the core.

We trust in our own strength
Forgetting we are frail.
Until that unplanned hour
We’re broken, hurt, and sore.

It comes in many ways,
But always ends the same.
With perfect strategy,
It brings us to our knees.

Our minds become unclear
When hit while unaware.
And surveys all our sins,
Then tells us we are through.

Then in our shaken voice
Our faith lets out a groan.
Thunders cross the heavens,
For by Him it’s supplied.

For faith is the power
That overcomes the world.
One absorbs the other
When pain and faith collide.

-D. Eaton

Confronting the Chaos of Our Culture with the Love of Christ

Our culture seems to be described perfectly in 2 Timothy 3:2-4. It says, “Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

As Christians, what is more important than the description of the culture is how scripture calls believers to respond in times like this. The righteous are not to be afraid of bad news; their heart is to be firm, trusting in the Lord (Psalm 112:7). Yet, many churchgoers seem to be at their whit’s end as they watch it all unfold. It is as if they believe this fiery trial is something strange (1 Peter 4:12). It seems we have had it so good for so long that we have forgotten what the Bible promised us. It says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim. 3-12).” In the west, Christians need to remember that the persecution of the church was not put to death; it was only made sick, and it is beginning to recover.

If you asked many believers if they would be willing to die for Jesus, they would say “yes,” yet the sad reality is more and more church members are indicating that even after COVID is no longer a threat, they would prefer to keep watching church online. Their couch and their coffee seem to be too much to sacrifice. Besides, with the world raging around us, our home feels safer, but being safe is not our calling.

If the troubles of 2020 are causing you to lose your spiritual nerve, it would be helpful to recall Paul’s words to Timothy in light of his fallen culture. Paul encouraged Timothy by telling him to “kindle afresh the gift of God that is in you (2 Tim. 1:6). That gift is the faith God has given us through the Holy Spirit. Our lives are to be marked by his presence. Instead of cowering in the corner, we are to remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7).

Now is not the time to be ashamed of our faith, we must be willing to stand with those who are persecuted, and be ready to join them in their suffering if called to do so (2 Tim. 1:8): even as a criminal (2 Tim. 2:9). Remember, when the world comes after you, they will not say it is because you are a Christian, they will make up some other charge, and they will be charges of unlawfulness which will have accompanying penal codes. Countless Christians throughout history have been locked up and even put to death in such a manner.

However, there is no reason for us to fear. Jesus has abolished death, so be strong (2 Tim. 1-10). If we are unable to look at the attacks on biblical truth in our culture through the lens of the resurrection, then it is proof that we need to kindle our faith afresh. Are you spiritually minded enough that you would be willing to suffer hardship like a good soldier (2 Tim. 2:3)?

Repentance starts at home. The Lord knows who are his, and everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness (2 Tim. 2:19). Even if the world calls us a danger to society for doing it. If we cleanse ourselves from these things, we will be a vessel of honor, sanctified, useful to the Lord (2 Tim. 2:21). As we see what appears to be the slow collapse of the culture around us, it is time for the church to be a city on a hill. It is time for Christians to be salt and light. The way we do that is not by following the world’s pattern of grasping for power. We are to confront the culture with the love of Christ. This means to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, be meek, humble of heart, and be willing to be persecuted for his name’s sake.

Why would we do that? The love of Jesus. We love our great Savior, and we love the ungodly. We understand them because we used to be them. We have been lovers of self, unholy, ungrateful, and unloving. We know that the sexually immoral, the idolater, the adulterer, and those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). More than that, we understand that such were some of us, but we were washed, we were sanctified. The wrath of God that stood over us for our sins, Christ bore on the cross as our substitute. We have been justified in the name of Jesus (1 Cor. 6:11).

Jesus has blotted out our iniquities and removed our death sentence. What else could we need? What else could we want? What else do we have to fear? Because of his great love for us, we deny ourselves, take up or cross, and follow him (Matt. 16:24). We are no longer debtors to the flesh to live according to its dictates (Romans 8:12). By the spirit, we resist our sinful desires because we have a greater love: Jesus Christ. The world is living according to the flesh, and those who live according to the flesh will die (Rom. 8:13). The wages of sin still hangs over them. We cannot, and we will not participate in their ways. We will not go back to the bondage now that Christ has set us free.

We will call the lost world to salvation in Jesus, even if many in this world hate us for it. We will continue to the point the way because it is what they need more than anything. If they must go to hell, let us make them leap over our dead bodies to get there (C. Spurgeon). Greater love has no one but this, that someone would be willing to lay down their life for them (John 15:13). As we share in the suffering of Christ, our pain will be a present reality of how much he loves them. There is no wrath or torment that man can throw our way to make us move. There is no peace this world can offer that can compare to the peace of God and the eternal glory that awaits.

The world may do terrible things to the Church, but, in a fallen world, times of trial and persecution are often when the gospel shines the brightest. Persecution will indeed blow away the tares among us. I fear many professing Christians have forgotten our calling. They have lost the plot and traded it in for a life of pursuing earthly pleasures. In times of trouble, we will see many go out from us because they were never really of us (1 John 2:19). At that point, we will not hate them for their betrayal; we will see their lost spiritual condition, love them, and call them to find salvation in Jesus in the same way we do for all the lost. The chaos of our culture is not a threat to our witness; it is a prime opportunity for it. Indeed, all who desire to live for Jesus will be persecuted, and through it, our great God will be glorified as we confront the world with the love of Christ.

-D. Eaton

Is Guiltlessness the Same as Righteousness?

I recently had the privilege of preaching at First Artesia Christian Reformed Church. In this clip from the sermon, we take a look at how Christ’s righteousness imputed to us is better than the guiltlessness that Adam lost. Below is the transcript of the video with a few edits to better fit this format.

When we talk about justification, the biblical and theological term of justification, we are talking about two imputations. First, as I already mentioned, our sins are imputed to Jesus. He bears our punishment on the cross, but the second part is that his righteousness is imputed to us and, we are counted righteous in Jesus.

Now some may say, “Well, isn’t guiltlessness the same as righteousness? I mean, if I haven’t sinned, am I not righteous? Well, it is much deeper than that. Let me give you an analogy.

Let us say a mom walks into her son’s room, and her son’s room is a mess. It’s been a mess for a week, and she is kind of getting tired of it. It is morning time, and she says, “Son, you will clean this room by five o’clock today. If you have it clean by five o’clock today, I am going to give you movie tickets for you and your two friends so you can go see that movie you have been wanting to see. If you do not have it cleaned, you’ll be grounded for a week.

Get the analogy here. Here is the law. There are blessings if you do it, and cursings if you do not. Now, imagine the mom comes back at five o’clock, and he hasn’t even started on it. The room is still a mess. She would say, “Okay, you are grounded for a week.”

Now imagine a week goes by, and he has paid his penalty. The son comes back to the mom and says, “Mom, I have paid my penalty. You can no longer punish me for this act.” The mom would say, “That is correct, that was the agreement. Imagine the son then saying, “Now give me my movie tickets.” You would say, “Wait a minute, you never did what was required to get the reward. I cannot punish you anymore, but you do not get the reward.”

Now think about Christ on the cross. We are not just in a place where we cannot be punished anymore. Christ lived the perfect life. He fulfilled all the requirements of the law. He has justly received the reward, and his righteousness is now counted as ours. We are co-heirs with him. That is the beauty of the holiness and the righteousness of Christ. Take that to heart. We are declared righteous in Christ as if we have fulfilled the law.

Thomas Brooks, a great Puritan, said this, “Christ provides a better righteousness than Adam lost.

To view the entire sermon, click here.

-D. Eaton

5 Signs Sin Has a Powerful Grip on Your Life

As believers, we struggle against sin and temptation. There will never be a time in our lives when we will not be striving against it. However, fighting against sin is one thing; sin having control is quite another. Sin can quickly gain power in our lives if we are not diligent. This is why John Owen said, ‘Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” In his book, The Mortification of Sin, Owen does us an excellent service by providing us with five signs that sin has a stronghold on us. Take a minute to look through the following list. If you recognize any of these patterns in your life, be sure that you are in a dangerous condition of sin.

1. You have a besetting sin that is constant and unlikely to change.

I will not bother to give examples of besetting sins. If you have one, your mind went to it the minute you read the heading. Look over the past five years. As you think about your struggle with this sin, can you see any improvement at all? Sanctification may be slow work at times, but it does happen. If you cannot see any change in your relationship to that sin, and it looks as if it is unlikely to change in the near future, you need to see your condition as serious; especially if the pattern of sin is getting worse.

2. You have secret pleas of the heart to approve of your sin.

As you think about the desire for the sin in your life, have you ever thought, “I could do this whenever I wanted if I did not take this Christian thing so seriously.” Or perhaps you have asked yourself, “Is my interpretation of scripture too ridged? Certainly, something so natural cannot be so bad.” Maybe it has progressed to the point where you are thinking, “Maybe you need to change churches, other, more liberal, congregations see this as normal, and they let their people enjoy it.” If these thoughts are crossing your mind, realize that sin at work, and it is attempting to move you away from Christ. This could be the beginning of a drift toward apostasy. Most people who have left the faith have done so for this reason. They have listened to the secret cries of sin in their heart.

3. You indulge and delight in the sin even after you have attempted to kill it.

Perhaps you have grown sick of this sin and have even tried to put it to death. You go through periods in your life where you try to put it away, and maybe you see some success for short periods, but after a short time, you find yourself back in the mire. If this is the case, it is time to recognize how much strength this sin has in your life.

4. You find that your distress surrounding the sin focuses more on the fear of getting caught more than being right with God.

The sin in your life may cause you genuine anxiety that you assume is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The problem is that you are more concerned about your reputation than you are about your relationship with God. This misdirected concern is what the Bible calls worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow has a different focus. This reality reveals how deep the deceitfulness of sin runs in your heart. If this is you, your sin has deadened you to the point where you care little for your relationship with Christ.

5. God sends warning shots of chastisement across your bow, and you still resist.

If this sin has been with you for some time, you have probably experienced difficulties in your life, and you know God is dealing with you. It is as if he is warning you to repent because if you do not, he will lay his heavy hand on you because he loves you. You may have even backed off for a time, cried out for God’s forgiveness, but as soon as the danger passed, you went right back. When you do this, sin is causing you to resist the Holy Spirit and you need to deal with it.

If any of these five signs apply to your current situation, no matter how involved you are in your church, or how Godly the people around you think you are, you are not in the will of God, and sin is controlling you. It is time to draw up under your Savior.

The one good thing about experiencing any of these five situations is you finally realize that your indwelling sin nature is more than you can handle on your own. It is stronger than you, and it always has been. You are just now beginning to realize it. It is not until you come to this point that you can properly bring it to Jesus and lay it at his feet. From there, you need to apply all the means of grace in our life, Bible reading, prayer, corporate worship, the Lord’s supper, and a close relationship with a body of believers who can help keep you accountable.

In the end, remember this. Jesus died for you, he has been faithful to you even as you wandered, and he will not leave you in your time of need. Call upon him in the day of trouble; He will deliver you, and you shall glorify him (Psalm 50:15). 

-D. Eaton

What do we Fight in the Fight of Faith?

The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death, he is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security, He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and dose along the way to heaven, like one travelling in an easy carriage.  If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world he may be content with such notions, but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God.  If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his lines laid down very plainly in this matter.  He must “fight.”

With whom is the Christian soldier meant to fight? Not with other Christians.  Wretched indeed is that man’s idea of religion who fancies that it consists in perpetual controversy.  He who is never satisfied unless he is engaged in some strife between church and church, chapel and chapel, sect and sect, party and party, knows nothing yet as he ought to know.  Never is the cause of sin so helped as when Christians waste their strength in quarreling with one another, and spend their time in petty squabbles.

No, indeed!  The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil.  These are his never-dying foes.  These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war.  Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain.  If he had a nature like an angel, and was not a fallen creature, the warfare would not be so essential.  But with a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, he must either “fight” or be lost.

He must fight the flesh Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water.  To keep that heart from going astray, there is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer.  “I keep under my body,” cries St. Paul, “and bring it into subjection.”  “I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity.”  “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  .… They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”  “Mortify your members which are upon the earth” (1 Cor. ix. 27; Rom. vii. 23, 24; Gal. v. 24; Coloss. iii. 5).

He must fight the world.  The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted, and without a daily battle can never be overcome.  The love of the world’s good things, the fear of the world’s laughter or blame, the secret desire to keep in with the world, the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes—all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to heaven, and must be conquered.  “The friendship of the world is enmity with God: whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God.”  “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  “The world is crucified unto Me, and I unto the world.”  “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.”  “Be not conformed to this world” (James iv. 4; 1 John ii. 15; Gal. vi. 4; 1 John v. 4; Rom. xii. 2).

He must fight the devil That old enemy of mankind is not dead.  Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve he has been going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it, and striving to compass one great end—the ruin of man’s soul.  Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour.  An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out ail our ways.  A murderer and a liar from the beginning, he labors night and day to cast us down to hell.  Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactics and sometimes by another, he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls.  “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.”  This mighty adversary must be daily resisted if we wish to be saved.  But “this kind goeth not out” but by watching and praying, and putting on the whole armour of God.  The strong man armed will never be kept out of our hearts without a daily battle.  (Job i. 7; 1 Peter v. 8; John viii. 44; Luke xxii. 31; Ephes. vi. 11).

Reader, perhaps you think these statements too strong.  You fancy that I am going too far, and laying on the colours too thickly.  You are secretly saying to yourself, that men and women in England may surely get to heaven without all this trouble and warfare and fighting.  Listen to me for a few minutes, and I will show you that I have something to say on God’s behalf.  Remember the maxim of the wisest general that ever lived in England: “In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and try to make a little war.”  This Christian warfare is no light matter.  Give me your attention and consider what I say.

What saith the Scripture? “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.  .… Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”  “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.”  “Labour for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life.”  “Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”  “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”  “War a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience” (1 Tim. vi. 12; 2 Tim. ii. 8; Ephes. vi. 11-13; Luke xiii. 24; John vi. 27; Matt. x. 84; Luke xxii. 36; 1 Cor. xvi. 18; 1 Tim. i. 18, 19).  Words such as these appear to me clear, plain and unmistakable.  They all teach one and the same great lesson, if we are willing to receive it.  That lesson is, that true Christianity is a struggle, a fight, and a warfare.

-J.C. Ryle

I Have Been Praying 15 Years for Faith

A stranger to the life of faith makes a snuffle at believing, and thinks no work so easy, or so trifling. He wonders why such gentle business should be called the fight of faith, and why the chosen twelve should pray for faith, when, as they believe, every human brain might quickly furnish out a handsome dose.

For my own part, since first my unbelief was felt, I have been praying fifteen years for faith, and praying with some earnestness, and am not yet possessed of more than half a grain. You smile, Sir, I perceive, at the smallness of the quantity; but you would not, if you knew its efficacy. Jesus, who knew it well, assures you that a single grain, and a grain as small as mustard-seed, would remove a mountain; remove a mountain-load of guilt from the conscience, a mountain-lust from the heart, and any mountain-load of trouble from the mind.

The Saviour’s word to his people is, Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of God. (Exodus 14:13). In quietness and confidence shall be your strength (Isaiah. 30:15). Cast thy burden on the Lord, and he shall support thee (Psalm 55:22). Look to me for salvation, all the ends of the earth (Isaiah 14:22). Call on me in time of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me (Psalm 50:15).

-John Berridge

The Problem with Treating Crime Like a Disease

Many people believe the punishment of a crime should not be viewed as a penalty the criminal deserves; it should be understood as rehabilitation that works to cure the criminal. These people believe this way is more humane and will keep people from being treated unjustly. However, it is important to remember that if you remove the idea of penalty from the corrective action, you also remove the possibility of justice. In treating criminals as patients, any treatment can be justified, as long as necessary, in the name of a cure provided it is done with the “best interest” of the offender in mind.

Another belief is that this theory tends to be more merciful, but in reality, just as it destroys the concept of justice, it also destroys the possibility of mercy. For if a just penalty was deserved, then an actual pardon or mercy could be given, but if we view the criminal as ill, then it would never be merciful to withhold treatment.

The following quote by C.S. Lewis also provides us with a glimpse of how quickly this theory can spiral downward. “If crimes are diseases, why should diseases be treated any differently from crimes? And who but the experts can define disease? One school of psychology regards my religion as a neurosis. If this neurosis ever becomes inconvenient to Government, what is to prevent my being subjected to a compulsory ‘cure’? It may be painful; treatments sometimes are. But it will be no use asking, ‘what have I done to deserve this?’ The Straightener will reply: ‘But, my dear fellow, no one’s blaming you. We no longer believe in retributive justice. We’re healing you.”

Secular ideas like this rarely stay in the political realm. They either originate from bad theology or find there way there. In denying a just penalty for crime, most people will also deny a just penalty for sin, thus denying the gospel. Jesus was our substitute. On the cross, he bore just penalty for our sins, the wrath of God. Yes, it is true that he also heals us, but the healing of our sin-sick soul is not the basis of our salvation. The atoning work of Christ on the cross is the root, and our new life in Christ is the fruit. Since our Father is a just God, our sanctification would not be possible had his wrath not been satisfied.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5

-D. Eaton

Related: Either God must punish sin, or there is no need for forgiveness.

4 Ways Incense is a Picture of Prayer in the Bible

May my prayer be set before you like incense. – Psalm 141:2

Throughout the Old Testament, we see incense playing a significant role in the worship God had prescribed for his people. It was so essential that there was an altar of incense in the Holy Place. As we consider this topic, it is important to remember the ceremonies of the old covenant were pictures and shadows of what Christ would accomplish in His atoning work on the cross, and incense is part of that picture. Ultimately, incense is a picture of the sacrifice of Christ, which is the sweet aroma that goes before the Father on our behalf. Still, in another sense, incense also typifies prayer. John Owen, in his commentary on Hebrews, lays out four ways incense is like prayer.

1. The incense was beaten and pounded before it could be used.  Likewise, acceptable prayer proceeds from a broken and contrite heart. 

Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Elsewhere we are told that God “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” For our prayers to be as incense, we must approach the Throne of Grace in poverty of spirit, knowing that our sinfulness has separated us from God and that only through Christ our mediator do we have peace with Him. This is biblical brokenness. If we approach God in any other way, we are like the tax collector trusting on our own righteousness, and he went away unjustified. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.

2. Incense rises toward heaven, and the point of prayer is that it ascends to the throne of God.

One of the significant points made in the book of Hebrews is that Christ is exalted and sitting at the right hand of the Father. Yet, we are encouraged to approach the Throne of Grace with confidence. When we pray, we are doing precisely that. We are bringing our praises and petitions to the throne of God. Though we have no merit of our own, God still embraces us with love because of the merit of Jesus and His righteousness. For our prayers to be as incense, we need to be aware of the great heights they are reaching as we commune with the exalted Christ. This goes hand in hand with our brokenness. Pray with confidence. Despite your sinfulness, your prayers rise to the Most High, maker of heaven and earth, and there is no one above Him.

3.  Incense requires fire for it to be useful, and prayer has no virtue unless it is set on fire by the power of the Holy Spirit.

By this, we are not referring to some mystical experience. The fact that a believer desires to go to the Lord in prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is not the natural man’s disposition. The only prayer that can take place without the Spirit is prayer that is not in accord with the Word of God. For example, prayers to false gods, and ritualistic prayers by those who believe they will be heard because of mere formality and many words. We must pray in accordance with the Word of God. When this happens, it is because the Spirit is moving. When you feel the urge to pray, do not neglect that desire because your incense is being set on fire by the power of the Holy Spirit.

4.   Incense yields a sweet aroma, and our prayers are a sweet fragrance to the Lord.

This seems to be at the heart of the Psalmist’s cry.  “May my prayer be as incense,” means, may it be a sweet aroma to the Lord.  In Revelation 8:4, we see that the smoke of incense rose with the prayers of the saints. This seems to signify that there is a sweet fragrance associated with our prayers, and the sweet scent is because we approach the Lord in Christ’s name. Our prayers are pleasing to the Lord, and the fact we can bring pleasure to God is something that should cause us to drop to our knees with joy. Pray boldly in Jesus’ name, because it brings pleasure to God almighty.

May this short study encourage you to spend more time on your knees this week. You may not feel worthy to approach him, but that is the only proper way to draw near to the Throne of Grace. From there, your lowly supplications will rise to the heavens where Christ is exalted. If this encourages you to pray, know that it is the Holy Spirit who is encouraging you to do so. Finally, as you pray, you will bring pleasure to the only King of Heaven as the offering Jesus made for sin is presented to the Father on your behalf.

D. Eaton

Social Media and Isolation: A Toxic Combination

Chances are you feel less safe today than you did four months ago, and it has little to do with COVID-19. If you have been spending most of your time at home with little interaction with people you do not know, and have been spending significant amounts of time on social media, you probably have a distorted picture of the outside world.

These days, you cannot spend time on social media without seeing videos of vandalism, domestic abuse, beatings, and even shootings. They flood your feed, and people you love and trust put them there. Posts that cause anger or outrage are the posts most likely to receive likes, comments, and shares, and that is what most people on these platforms are seeking. Social media was supposed to give a voice to the people, but it has become a megaphone for ignorance, and we are the ones spreading it.

If you spend enough time viewing acts of idiocy and downright evil while being isolated, you will begin to have anxiety about what is outside your door. You will become much more suspicious of people who want nothing more than to go about their day and be polite. If more and more people begin to feel this suspicion, there will be more and more distrust and conflicts.

If you are a Christian, and anything in these first three paragraphs resonated with your current experience, here are three things you should do to calm the anxiety clear up the distorted view of the world around you.

1. Get off social media, or at least reduce your time significantly.

In the U.S. violent crime has fallen sharply over the past 25 years, but because we see so many videos of criminal acts online, we feel less safe than when the crime rate was higher. From package thieves robbing front porches, to scam warnings, and attempted kidnappings, it is all right there for you to watch. In the past, when you would hear about a murder on the news, they would never actually show you the killing. Now you can watch it all unfold right in the palm of your hand on repeat, and your life is undoubtedly worse off because of it.

It is time to silence the input in your life that causes you anger and fear, especially in aspects of your life where you have no control. This is not a bury your head in the sand mentality; we should know what is going on in our world, but we do not need to know at such a granular level every time someone is robbed or beaten, and we certainly do not need to watch it all online. On top of that, we do not need to know every ridiculous idea that floats around online that strikes right at the heart of civilized society.

2. Be around people, especially people you do not know.

Practice social distancing and be cautious, but go to parks, take a short day trip and interact with people. What you will find is the picture of our world painted for you on Twitter and Facebook does not match reality. Most people are quite friendly and ready to share the world with you. They will have their own beliefs, but they will not try to manipulate or bully you into their worldview. Even disagreements can be civil and beneficial. The ability of people to care for each other has not changed much since the lock down began in March. Most people are quite pleasant.

3. Spend time in the Bible daily.

The word of God will do two things. First, it will give us a solid footing in a world where everyone on social media to trying to tell you what to think and how to believe. Views on sexuality, race, and human nature come at us with threats of cancel culture. There are even views contrary to scripture that come with the endorsement of the Supreme Court of the United States. It is not easy to take every thought captive to Christ in a world like this, but regular time in the word of God is a necessary step in the right direction. The second thing the Bible will do is calm our fears. We will see that God is still in control, and even the hardships we face work for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes. In the end, the Holy Spirit uses scripture to empower us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us. Instead of fearing the people around us, we will love them and desire to be with them and share the good news of salvation. We will find joy in the Lord as we act as salt and light in a fallen world, and the joy of the Lord will be our strength. Even in a world like ours, there is a peace that passes all understanding as we stand upon the rock of Christ Jesus.

-D. Eaton