By other men’s sins, a holy man is put in mind of the badness of his own heart. Bernard makes mention of an old man, who, when he saw any man sin, lamented and wept for him. Being asked why he grieved so, for other men’s sins, answered, “He fell today, and I may fall tomorrow!”
The falls of others puts a holy man in mind of the roots of sinfulness which are in himself. Other men’s actual sins are as so many looking-glasses, through which a holy man comes to see the manifold seeds of sin which are in his own heart, and such a sight as this cannot but humble him.
A holy heart knows that the best way to keep himself pure from other men’s sins, is to mourn for other men’s sins. He who makes conscience of weeping over other men’s sins will rarely be defiled with other men’s sins.
A holy heart looks upon other men’s sins as their bonds and chains, and this makes him mourn. Ah, how can tears but trickle down a Christian’s cheeks, when he sees multitudes fast bound with the cords of their iniquity, trooping to Hell? Who can look upon a lost sinner as a bound prisoner to the prince of darkness and not bemoan him?
If holy people thus mourn for the wickedness of others, then certainly those who take pleasure in the wickedness of others, who laugh and joy, who can make a sport of other men’s sins are rather monsters than men! There are none so nearly allied to Satan as these, nor any so resemble Satan as much as these! (The devil always joys most—when sinners sin most!) To applaud them, and take pleasure in those who take pleasure in sin, is the highest degree of ungodliness!
Something seemed off from the beginning. There were four of us lined up in the back of the church to help serve the Lord’s Supper. Our church is not large, so I was surprised that I did not really know the other three. I recognized them, and I knew they were members of either the youth or college group, but I could not place them.
The music began, and we started walking down the center aisle toward the pastor who was leading the service. We walked passed approximately 100 people sitting on each side of us and reached the table. The pastor proceeded with the service and handed us the elements to distribute. This was all standard fare. There would be two of us for each side of the congregation. I took the plate of bread and started down to the first row on the south side, and my partner was already missing.
I managed to make the first couple rows work by myself, thanks to accommodating church-goers. That is when I looked to the back, and my fellow server was at the last row. He handed all the elements in the trays to them and walked out leaving the congregation on our side of the church to pass around the bread and cups themselves. I proceeded to serve at the front of the church while congregants at the back continued to pass the plates through the pews working their way forward.
By the time I was at the middle of the church, most of the bread was gone, and I saw some people even sharing their own tiny cups. The other two servers did slightly better, but it was all done without reverence. I was livid. Every passion of disgust and anger in by body was turned up to ten.
When I had finished attempting to salvage the situation, and my job was done, I went to look for them. I found them sitting on the counter in the bathroom laughing and clowning around. You can bet that I laid into them with every theological argument for the importance and seriousness of the Lord’s table that has ever been made. It was all at a fever pitch, and their indifference only lengthened the lecture. In the end, I had dispensed the facts just like the elements of communion. Everything I said was true, but my anger had made a mess of it.
After a few minutes of cooling down, I went to find them to apologize for my rage, but I also wanted to reiterate what a blessing the Lord ’s Table is to us as believers. I could only find one of them, and I saw pain in his eyes. It was the pain of longing that comes from wanting to be loved and have someone be proud of him, and he had partially hidden it behind a mask of unfazed rebellion. My heart began to break.
I told him, I was sorry for the anger in my tone, but I still believed every word I had said. He said his grandmother had asked him what had happened, and he told her, “Doug is way too serious to do any good in this church, just like you had said.” I immediately felt a tinge of offense at the thought that his grandmother had said that about me, but I also knew that this was his way of striking back. That is also when the knowledge that his parents had abandoned him came flooding back to me from somewhere in the recesses of my mind.
I knew I had done right and wrong all at the same time, so I launched into my second discourse. I let him know that I realized I had said some hard things to him, and biggest problem is that he did not know me enough to know that I only wanted what is best for him. Hard words rarely ever carry any weight unless you know they are given to you from a heart of love. So, I spent a few minutes getting to know him. It was a rough morning, but when it was all said and done, we had been through something difficult together. All the ice had been broken, and we were able to speak candidly with each other; without masks.
That is when I felt the pillow on the side of my face. My bleary eyes began to open, and I saw the clock reading 2:23 p.m. My Sunday afternoon nap had come to an end. As I lay there enjoying the breeze of the ceiling fan on my skin, still feeling the passion stirring in my soul from the events of the dream, I thought, “Maybe I was a little too focused on the wrong details of communion.”
Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last, the Ever-living One! I died — but see, I am alive forevermore! And I hold the keys of death and Hades (the realm of the dead). – Revelation 1:17-18
If death is in our cup, that cup has been put into our hands at the time fixed by unerring wisdom and infinite love! When it is affirmed that Jesus holds “the key of death,” it is plainly implied that none can pass out of this present world without His appointment. And, more generally, that He is lord of the living not less than of the dead, and has a thorough control over everything that can in any way affect the lives of men. An absolute power over death, necessarily presupposes a corresponding power over life and its affairs. And it is by the exercise of His providence in sustaining life that He fulfills His purpose as to the time and mode of their departure hence.
Has the Redeemer the keys of death? Then this should mitigate the anxiety which often preys upon the mind when we look forward into the future, and contemplate the prospect of our own death. We should remember, that as the Redeemer alone has the keys of death. Nothing can happen to send us forth from the world before the time which He has appointed for our departure. Neither man nor devils can abridge the term of probation assigned to us by our gracious Master. Nor, until He is pleased to call us away, shall any power on earth or in Hell prevail against us. The Redeemer is possessed of absolute power over the course of our lives on earth and over the time and manner of our departure out of the world.
No accident, no hostile violence, no insidious snare, no dark conspiracy — can touch our life but by His command. And surely, when we reflect on the numerous dangers to which human life is exposed, the frailty of our frame, the diseases to which it is subject, our constant exposure to fatal accidents, the malice of open or concealed enemies, it must be consolatory to know, that the key of Death is in the Savior’s hands, and that, come what may, we cannot be forced out of the world, until He opens the door and bids us to come to Him.
More especially, when we are visited with disease, and threatened with a speedy termination of life, the Savior’s power over the keys of death should repress or assuage those violent anxieties as to the probability of death or of recovery, and those disquieting speculations as to the outcome of disease, and the mode of its treatment. For disease cannot kill, nor can medicine cure — without the appointment of Him who holds in His own hands the keys of life and of death! And if He has fixed the outcome of this disease, then why should we be anxious?
If the door of death is opening for our departure, it is because the tender Savior, whom we love and trust, is summoning us to be forever with Him!
Shall we, then, rebel against His appointment? Shall we doubt the love and wisdom of His determination? Or, as ignorant as we are of what is before us in this world, and of what really concerns our best interests, can we entertain the wish, that the power of determining the time of our death were wrested out of His hands and placed in our own?
True, we may have many ties that attach us to this world. We may be young, and, with the optimistic hope of youth, may cleave to life. We may be prosperous, and surrounded with many comforts. We may have a young and engaging family, whom we are loath to leave behind us to the cold charities of the world. We may have many dependents on our industry or bounty, who will bitterly lament our loss. But do we imagine that these considerations are not known to the Redeemer, or that He has not weighed them all? And if, notwithstanding, it is His will to summon us home, are we not prepared to yield up our faulty judgment to his unerring wisdom?
The duration of each man’s existence on earth is determined by the Redeemer. It belongs to Him to appoint a longer or shorter period to each, as He wills. And in doing so, we have reason to be satisfied, that He determines according to the dictates of His infallible wisdom, although the reasons of His procedure must necessarily be to us, for the present, inscrutable.
We cannot tell why one dies in infancy, another in childhood, a third in the prime of manly vigor, and a fourth reserved to the period of old age. But suffice it for us, that this happens not by chance, neither is it the result of caprice or carelessness, but flows from that unerring wisdom, whose counsels are formed on a view of all possible relations and consequences. The power of death being in the hands of the Redeemer, the duration of human life is, in every instance, determined by Him. And none, therefore, ought to entertain the thought, either that death is, in one case, unduly premature, or, in another, unduly delayed. None live, either for a longer or for a shorter period, than infinite wisdom has assigned to them. Reason teaches, that to His appointment we must submit, however unwilling, it being irresistible, and far beyond our control. So, as Christians, we should learn to acquiesce in it cheerfully, as the appointment of one who cannot err.
This morning I had the privilege of preaching at First Artesia Christian Reformed Church. We took some time to look at the Cities of Refuge found in the Old Testament and the amazing picture of Jesus they paint for us.
He is gone! Jesus is no longer here because He has ascended. There are tensions in the Christian life we are meant to feel, and the ascension presents us with one of them. It is true that Jesus said He would be with us always, even to the end of the age, but He did not mean that He would always be with us bodily. Though He is with us in one sense, His absence is something with which every believer must wrestle.
We feel His absence daily as we look at this world. He has left us with His word which speaks authoritatively to everything we need to know regarding faith and practice, but if we could see Him, some of our concerns would begin to fade. Though there are those who claim to have taken His place while He is gone, their fraudulent claims are evident by how far they fall short.
While we are left to wrestle with the truth of His absence, we begin to get a glimpse of how important the ascension is to Christian life and doctrine, and while His absence is painful, we must also remember that it is good. Jesus Himself said it was to our benefit that He go away.
Why is the ascension important, and how does it benefit us? Here are four reasons it is good that Jesus has left us.
1.) We receive the Holy Spirit.
After the ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). Though we are consciously aware of the absence of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comforts us in our distress. The Spirit continually points us to Jesus and His word. He guides, convicts, and keeps us at all times. It is the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our salvation. He never leaves us. In this way, we are never truly alone, even while we long for Christ’s return.
2.) We see Jesus properly crowned as king.
When He took on flesh and came to walk among us, He emptied Himself of His rightful glory to do so. The ascension returns Him to His glorious state, seated at His Father’s right hand. From there He rules and reigns over all things until His enemies are made his footstool (Hebrews 10:12-13). We live during the time when the Kingdom has been established but not yet fulfilled, and we are to march on with the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, and as we march as citizens of His kingdom, the gates of hell will not prevail. Our King is on His throne and will reign forever.
3.) We see our acceptance with the Father.
We long to be with the Father, and through the ascension, Jesus enters the presence of His Father on our behalf. We see this in the fact that Jesus is seated with the Father. His sitting down shows us that the atonement He made for our sins is complete, for no other high-priest in the old covenant was ever allowed to sit in the holy place. Since we are in Christ, we see our acceptance before the Father as well.
4.) He is preparing a place for us.
He has gone to prepare a place for us, and He will come back for us as well. At that point all things will be set right, the kingdom will reach its full expression, and we will spend eternity with our Savior. Though His absence has its difficulties, those difficulties find their comfort in the Holy spirit and they cannot outweigh the glory that awaits. As believers, this tension should move us to worship. We glory in His ascension while longing for His return.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” – Acts 1:6-11
“Then the crowds who went ahead of Him and those who followed kept shouting: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Matthew 21:9
It was only five days before the crucifixion. This day Jesus was the people’s idol. Was He Himself deceived by this popular outpouring and acclaim? Did He suppose that at last, after their rejection of Him for so long—they were now going to accept Him as their Messiah? No! He knew it was only the outburst of a day. He knew this was but the first stage of His last journey to the cross. As he heard the cries of the throng, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” there was an undertone ringing in His ear, and the words of the undertone were—
“Ride on, ride on in majesty, In lowly pomp—ride on to die!”
There must have been a deep spiritual meaning in the triumphal entry, since Jesus Himself planned it! It was a declaration of His Messiahship. The prophet had foretold that the Messiah would come in this very way. “Behold, your King comes unto you: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, riding upon an donkey.” In thus claiming that He was the person to whom the prophet referred, and in thus bringing about the fulfillment in Himself, Jesus clearly proclaimed to the rulers that He was the Messiah!
There was also in the manner of this triumphal entry—an announcement of the character of His kingdom. If it had been an earthly royalty that He was proclaiming, He would have come riding in a war chariot.The donkey suggested lowliness and peace. He was the king of love—not of strife. He came to fill the world with blessing—not with carnage!
As we look at the people in their enthusiasm and hear their rejoicings, we cannot forget that in five days the Passover throngs cried “Crucify Him!” and we learn how fickle worldly enthusiasm is. A picture by Tintoretto gives the scene of the Crucifixion after all was over. It is evening. The multitude has dispersed. The crown of thorns is lying near by. Then in the background an donkey is nibbling at some withered palm leaves. That tells the story of the fickleness of the world’s honor.
The Palm Sunday pageant was but a day’s spectacle. Jesus went to a cross—and not to an earthly throne. But in its deeper meaning His entry into Jerusalem was a triumph indeed. The cross was the way to His true glory. Now He is our King—and His people are with Him in His triumph.
Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed behind cried out, saying; Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!Matt. 21:9
Why is Palm Sunday important? When we celebrate the Triumphal Entry, we are celebrating a monumental occasion. As we see Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey and allow the people to praise Him as king, there are many things that stand out. Here are three of the most significant things we should keep in mind.
1. Jesus was setting his crucifixion in motion
It is important to realize that the Triumphal Entry is the first time Jesus allowed the people to praise him as King. Every time before this he had forbidden them to do so because his time had not yet come. In allowing the people to praise him, he was bringing the wrath of both the Jewish and Roman leaders upon himself. He was not being pushed around by the principalities and powers; he was orchestrating them and setting things in motion for the passion week. He was coming to save us as prophesied by Zechariah.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. – Zechariah 9:9
2. Jesus was being selected as the Passover lamb according to Old Testament law
Jesus said he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it, and he does this in many ways. One fascinating detail he fulfilled has to do with Passover. Matthew Henry points out, “The Passover was on the fourteenth day of the month, and this [the triumphal entry] was the tenth.” The tenth day of the month was significant concerning Passover. We read this in Exodus 12:3,5-6
“Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house….Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.”
As Jesus was riding in and the people were crying “Hosanna in the highest,” unbeknownst to them they were selecting the paschal lamb for sacrifice; the one and only sacrifice that can take away sin and cause death to pass over us.
3. Jesus was marching to his death, and he knew it
Jesus was not merely riding into the city, but riding towards his death on the cross. He knew by the end of the week he would be spit upon, beaten, and crucified, but the thought of this torturous death was not the most grueling image he would have foreseen. It would have been thoughts of that final moment when he was to take on the sins of us who call him Lord, and his Father, whom he had obeyed perfectly, would turn his face away from his Son and pour out the justice and wrath for our sins upon him. In anguish, Jesus knew, he would cry out “Father why have you forsaken me.”
On the way to the cross, the entry must have been bittersweet. As we consider this moment, we know that nothing could have hindered him from reaching his goal because he had set his face like flint toward Jerusalem. As he rode, his mind would have first and foremost been focused on glorifying his Father. Secondarily his thoughts would have been directed to those he came to save. Maybe he saw our faces, knowing that without his death, he would have to watch us die. For we were born sinners, hopeless, and condemned already. Maybe he looked at us as a man who would look into the eyes of a child as disease steals her away. Whatever he was thinking, he was not going to let anything stand between him and his children
His desire to see his Father glorified and his love for us drove him forward, and when the time of the crucifixion arrived, he had reached his destination. Upright, between two thieves, nailed to the cross, and having a spear thrust into his side, the cleansing blood and water flowed. His final cry was “It is finished.” The purchase had been made, and the powers of hell had been broken. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “No sin of the believer can now be an arrow to mortally wound him.” All of us who have faith in Jesus and have been cleansed by his precious blood have every reason to sing,
Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed Be the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!
“This is the best clarifying juxtaposition of truth and prosperity preaching I know of. I pray millions of people around the world will watch this for the glory of Christ and his Good News.” -John Piper
American Gospel will stir even the most devout Christian to repent of not resting entirely in Jesus. For even the most sanctified among us, indwelling sin is working to turn our eyes from Christ and toward the lust of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life, and the gospel is the only answer.
American Gospel is masterfully crafted and lays out the gospel with such clarity that everyone should take note. From the interviews to the beautiful artwork and graphics, all of it is calculated to communicate the truth of the word of God. The first part of the documentary focuses on accomplishing this goal, then it moves into exposing the counterfeit gospel of the prosperity movement.
Anyone who has been told that if you are suffering, it is because you do not have enough faith, needs to hear the message of the film. Several stories of people whose lives have been harmed by such a theology appear in the documentary, but not merely to expose the errors and the harm that it caused, but, more importantly, to point people to our true hope in Jesus Christ.
I have spoken against the dangerous heresies of the prosperity preachers for quite some time, so the information presented in the film was not new to me, but what I was not expecting, was how much the Holy Spirit used the film to stir my heart to repentance. Christ is our everything, yet too often, the American Gospel of health, wealth, notoriety, and prosperity seeps into the hearts of us all. American Gospel is indeed a must-see film.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,” that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.-Acts 3:19
Has your life grown dim and stale because you are no longer walking closely with the Lord? Our God is so gracious that even after we have rebelled against him, he not only wipes out our sins, but he also goes on to give us times of refreshing. This phrase, “times of refreshing,” encompasses quite a bit, including the return of our Lord, but it also seems to include a sense of spiritual refreshment that comes to the individual believer. Think back to when you first came to know the Lord. The burden of your sin was heavy upon you as you felt the curse and judgment it demanded. Then someone pointed you to Christ, and through faith, your sins were washed away. Then, do you remember what followed? Do you remember being refreshed as the Joy of the Lord became your strength? The world was just a little brighter, the mountains where a bit more majestic, and the burdens of the world seemed lighter, because you knew nothing could separate you from his love.
What we experienced during these times was the Holy Spirit’s work, as he bore witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). As Paul told us, even if the outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16) because even in this fallen world, the Spirit has been given to us as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor. 5:5). As he works in our lives, our spirits are refreshed knowing that our sins can no longer condemn us because of Christ’s work, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever when this life is through.
There are, however, times in the believer’s life when this refreshing may fade. If we begin to turn our focus to the things of this world, whether its vanities or trials, there is an intimacy with Christ that can be lost; much like when Peter was walking on the water and turned his eyes away from Jesus. Maybe you are finding yourself in that place right now. Something has caught your eye that is luring you away from the Lord and seeking first the kingdom of God is no longer your main desire. Maybe the straight and narrow is not as appealing to you anymore because some lesser light has stolen your heart as it offers you more than it can actually provide. The problem with this is that you are being tempted by your own evil desires, and when it is conceived it will give birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown gives birth to death (James 1:15). As this process is taking place the Holy Spirit grieves within you, and there can be a dimness that can come back to your eyes as you once again try to shoulder the weight of this world without Christ’s abiding presence. So much so, that at times you can begin to wonder if you were ever a child of God to begin with.
It is at this point, that the enemy begins to mock you for taking the bait, and begins to tell you that you’ve gone too far and that you have never been his child. But the Spirit of God, who has never left you, has many ways of stirring you to a remembrance of the times of refreshing you once had. He moves you to recall the former times for at least two reasons. First, to remind you that you are his child and give you strength as you deal with the sin in which you now find yourself entangled, and second, to call you to repentance because the times of refreshing can be experienced again.
If you find yourself in this situation, and the joy of your salvation has been eclipsed by the cares and sins of this life, remember the times you once had with your Savior. By doing so you can be confirmed that you are his child, and you will hear the call to repentance saying, come back to your First Love, and as you “draw near to me and I will draw near to you” (James 4:8). And if you have never come to Christ for the forgiveness of sins, you too can have your sins wiped out, that times of refreshing may come.
“Set up waymarks, make guideposts–set your heart toward the highway, even the way which you went–turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these your cities.” –Jeremiah 31:21
To look at the past is often a blessed encouragement for the future. If we are travelers in the way Zionward, we shall have our various waymarks. A conspicuous call, or a signal deliverance, or a gracious manifestation of Christ; a promise applied here, or a marked answer to prayer there; a special blessing under the preached word; a soft and unexpected assurance of an interest in the blood of the Lamb; a breaking in of divine light when walking in great darkness; a sweet sip of consolation in a season of sorrow and trouble; a calming down of the winds and waves without and within by, “It is I, be not afraid”–such and similar waymarks it is most blessed to be able to set up as evidences that we are in the road.
And if many who really fear God cannot set up these conspicuous waymarks, yet they are not without their testimonies equally sure, if not equally satisfying. The fear of God in a tender conscience, the spirit of grace and of supplications in their breast, their cleaving to the people of God in warm affection, their love for the truth in its purity and power, their earnest desires, their budding hopes, their anxious fears, their honesty and simplicity making them jealous over themselves lest they be deceived or deluded, their separation from the world, their humility, meekness, quietness, and general consistency often putting to shame louder profession and higher pretensions–these and similar evidences mark many as children of God who cannot read their title clear to such a privilege and such a blessing.
But whether the waymarks be high or low, shining in the sun or obscure in the dawn, the virgin of Israel is still bidden to “set them up,” and to “set also her heart toward the highway, even the way by which she came.”