Grace and MORE GRACE 2

May 29, 2020

Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. 7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; 8 just as it is written, “GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.” 9 And David says, “LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP, AND A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM. 10 “LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT, AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER.”

The sweetness of grace is seen in this passage if God gives a person the eyes to see and ears to hear. This passage is not for the faint of heart, but for those whom He has given eyes to see. We can see the beauty of grace, yet we can see what happens when people do not receive grace as well. Oh how human beings love their own efforts and works, though indeed their Bibles and Creeds teach quite the opposite. Oh how human beings love their own wills and efforts and good intentions, though they may be blinded to their love of those things.

In a sense grace and hardening are the opposites in this text. God either gives grace or He gives a spirit of stupor and eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear. Grace and works are also opposites in this text. Grace is the basis of the Gospel and works are not and cannot be any basis at all. The glory of Christ is seen so beautifully in this text when we see that it is in Christ that all spiritual blessings are given (Eph 1:4). All grace is in Christ and in Christ all that is grace is located. There is no place for grace but in Christ and there is no place in Christ but to give grace to His children. In a sense Christ is grace to the children of God and is the very glory of grace put on display.

The text above tells us that if the Gospel is of Christ alone, then it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise Christ is no longer Christ. Oh the glory of the Gospel of Christ alone and grace alone. “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Gal 2:21). We can also say that if grace comes through the Law and if the Gospel is through the Law (or any part of the Law), then Christ lived and died needlessly. God saves sinners to the glory of His grace and not because of any law they have kept or because of anything found in them. As the sovereign of the universe He can give grace to whom He is pleased to give grace and He can harden those whom He pleases. Grace is high above the works and efforts of man and cannot be touched by all the so-called merits and works of all men put together for all history. Grace, then, is not about the worth and efforts of men, it is all about the glory of God. Grace is not about the worth and efforts of men, but about the glory of God as seen in the worth and efforts of Christ.

The Gospel is of Christ alone and grace alone. If we try to add one work of man to the Gospel, even one work of faith, we have made grace to no longer be grace. If we try to add one work of man (however slight) to the Gospel, we have made the Savior Christ no longer to be the Savior Christ. It is no small thing to add something to the Gospel, but instead it is an enormity of evil that we cannot comprehend. Adding the slightest work to the Gospel is like adding a drop of deadly poison to a drink of pure water. It is no longer pure water, but instead it will now kill. A Gospel with one work added is no longer the pure Gospel of grace alone and Christ alone, but instead it is a false gospel that does not have life but will work death.

We read and hear so many messages today that may speak of Christ and speak of grace, but they also add just a little of this and a little of that. A Gospel message adds nothing of man and his works, but instead it is always about the glory of God in the face of Christ. Israel sought salvation by zeal and works rather than by grace alone. The Pharisees believed in the sovereignty of God and yet they sought salvation by a life of “holiness” which they thought of as trying not to sin. Modern Pharisees seek salvation by correct theology, by efforts at holiness, and by religion and rites. Modern Pharisees seek to evangelize and make others twice the sons of hell as themselves. Modern Pharisees send missionaries all over the world, but that is to travel on land and sea to make one proselyte and make that person twice the son of hell as they are. The Gospel of grace alone and Christ alone is really a true Gospel, but those who add the smallest work to the Gospel of Christ alone and grace alone are being used to harden men to the true Gospel and men get lost in the darkness of religion and of so-called good works.

Grace and MORE GRACE 7

July 25, 2020

Psalm 51:14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise. 16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

In His great mercy God broke the heart of David and delivered him from his spiritual blindness and pride. David was blinded to his sin of adultery and murder, and that because he did things in a way that hid his sin from his eyes. God sent the prophet Nathan to him and Nathan was used to deliver David by showing David what a sinner he was. David had sinned against God and his sin was directly against God. We can see from Psalm 51 that David was deeply broken and even broken the point that this king of Israel saw his utter inability to do anything to make up for his sin. He could not open his lips to praise God. Even under the sacrificial system he could not offer a sacrifice that would please God. He was devastated and convicted of his sin and was completely and utterly helpless before God as a spiritual pauper in need of grace. Nothing else would do.

We can try to imagine being under a system where sacrifices were offered to please God. Then we can try to imagine being convicted of sin and sin that would require our death. There is nothing we can do to overcome God and win our righteousness of our freedom back. There was no sacrifice we could turn to. What is it that David could do? He could do nothing. What can we do when we see the depths of our own sinful hearts? We can do nothing at all. We are utterly helpless and have no ability to help ourselves. We cannot change our circumstances and we cannot change our hearts. We can only seek the LORD to change our hearts and grant us a deep repentance from our love of self and service for self. But again, self will never cast out self and cannot cast out self. We are helpless in our love and service of self. Christ must deal with self or it will not be truly dealt with.

David saw what a true sacrifice was. He saw that a true sacrifice was not in giving up things or denying things to himself. He saw that a true sacrifice was not offering animals or things to God because those things could not pay for the sin of his soul. He saw that the only true sacrifice was the giving up of self. When a person came to a priest in the Old Testament, the animal that was being brought was supposed to be the best animal and it was to be irrevocably given over. Nothing was to be saved or held back. The animal was to be given to the priest and the one who brought it had no rights over it at all. It was to be slaughtered and offered to God, both the insides and the outside. It was all laid bare and offered up in the place of the sinner.

What we must see at this point is to know and feel that in one sense this points to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. He was the perfect sacrifice that bowed to God as the sacrificial lamb and the sins of His people were laid upon Him and He was sacrificed for the sins of His people. He bore the wrath of God in both body and soul. He did not hold anything back, but instead it was the will of the Father and not His that was carried out. He gave Himself into the hands of the Roman soldiers and became the sacrifice that did not give up just a little, but instead He was given over body and soul to the wrath of God.

Sinners are to see themselves in this as well. We are to be so broken that it should be said of us (not by us, and of us by God) that we have a broken and contrite heart. Our hearts are to be broken of pride, broken of all the strength of self, and have some contrition of spirit for our sin. When God works these things in the heart, the heart becomes crushed and becomes like soft clay in the hands of the Potter. This is a heart that is totally and irrevocably given over to God and it is His to do with as He pleases. The broken and contrite heart does not claim any rights for itself to God. The broken and contrite heart does not serve self, but serves the Master. The broken and contrite no longer has any rights to self, but now ownership has passed to the King of Kings. While this sounds hard, it is not. It is impossible for a human. It is only God who can do this as the work of sovereign and glorious grace.

We do not deserve to have our hearts broken and softened, but instead judgment by hardening. But God is gracious to whom He will be gracious. How poor sinners must look to grace alone to give them a broken heart. How we should seek the LORD and ask Him to break our hearts from pride and self. But we must seek it from Him knowing that our seeking is not meritorious in any way, but instead He must do this by grace alone. We can only truly seek Him when we seek Him by grace and for grace. We are only seeking self when we do things thinking they will move Him to give us something. How narrow is the gate and how narrow is that path.

Grace and MORE GRACE 6

July 23, 2020

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise. 16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

In the passage above we see the work of God in the human soul. While David had committed the physical sins of adultery and murder, he saw the real problem of sin. It was a sinful heart. His real problem was his sinful heart which was a heart that sought the things of self and then tried to justify self in the sin. What is it that David really needed? The same thing as any truly broken sinner truly needs. We first need a broken heart that sees how spiritually bankrupt it is. Then we need a clean heart.

Once the LORD has opened our eyes to see our sinful hearts, we see our need of a clean heart. Our sins must be forgiven and we must be restored to a right relation to God and with God. Oh how David realized how grace his situation was. He did not want the presence of God to depart from Him. This shows how David was a man after God’s heart. He longed for the presence of God. It is here we see the great need of a believer. The believer wants to be in the presence of God and fears that the presence of God will depart from him or her as the greatest fear. It is God who is our joy and our greatest good, so the absence of the presence of God is the greatest fear for those who truly love Him. The heart that truly loves God knows that if it is going to glorify Him in any way it must have the presence of His glory in order to do that. Look upon the awakened and broken heart. It loves God and seeks for God Himself as the hunger and thirst of the soul.

Notice the spiritual helplessness of David. He does not promise God that he will teach transgressors His ways and he does not promise to praise God by singing joyfully of His righteousness. Instead, He cries out for God restore to him the joy of his salvation. He cries out to God to sustain him with a willing spirit. He asks of God to open his lips that his mouth can declare His praise. He knows that God does not delight in sacrifice, but instead God wants a broken and a contrite heart.

We must always ask the question, however, as to where those things can possibly come from? Does God give His presence because we deserve it or is it by His grace alone? Does God restore the joy of His salvation (the salvation He works and gives) for any reason in the sinner or because of His grace alone? Does God deliver from blood guiltiness because of what we do or because of His grace alone? How are we to approach this God who does all of these things that we so desperately need whether we recognize it or not that we may have those things?

We should also ask our hearts if we long for a pure and clean heart because we long for God or because we want something from God? Do we really want to praise God from the heart or do we want to say great things about Him in order to obtain something from Him? Do we desire forgiveness because we long for Him and His presence or because we want fire insurance from Him? The Gospel of grace alone teaches us that we must stop working to be saved and rest in grace alone. We are to abandon all hope for salvation and the presence of God if we are to work for it in the slightest way or try to add to what Christ has done in the slightest way.

Oh sinners, we are to look to Christ alone for Him to help us to know God and to love God. It is the lovely and beautiful Jesus who takes sinners and gives them clean hearts and opens their lips that they may praise the God of all glory. It is Christ alone who can cleanse our filthy hearts by His own blood that He shed on the cross and He does not need the slightest help from us. He saves sinners for the glory of His name and for the glory of His grace. David needed grace for all things and so do unbelieving sinners now as well as believing sinners. Our hearts are so prone to wonder into thinking we can do some work or some little thing to add to what Christ has done. On no, sinner, if you want Christ plead with Him to take all your hope in self away. He saves by His grace in Christ alone.

Grace and MORE GRACE 5

July 22, 2020

Grace points us into the character of God and why God does what He does. He saves sinners because of Himself and He saves sinners because of who He is. When sinners try to find some religious acts to justify themselves before Him, He hates this. He does not need our efforts or our religion to save us, but instead all He needs is Himself in order to save by grace alone.

Mourn for your unbelief, which is a setting up of guilt in the conscience above Christ, and undervaluing the merits of Christ, accounting His blood an unholy, a common, and unsatisfying thing. Thomas Willcox

Unbelief is a horrid sin as it does look to either the righteousness of self in the soul or the amount of guilt we have rather than Christ. It is utterly impossible for the strength of man to overcome this drive of self in the soul. Oh how the Pharisees wanted to be righteous in their own works and strength, but they would not come to Christ for a true righteousness. Oh how they hated the Lord Jesus because He spoke to them as sinners, even vile sinners. Oh how they hated the Lord of glory because He was brighter than their own supposed glory that they had worked up. They would not look to grace alone because they were blinded by their own righteousness. They did not need Christ to help them as they could do it by themselves. Who needs the Christ when you have Moses and the laws that they had worked on in history?

What did David do when he was confronted with his sin of adultery and murder by Nathan the prophet? He knew that he had sinned for greater than he could be forgiven for in and of himself. How do you make up for sinning against God? We see his agonizing and his confession in Psalm 51. His sin, he said, was against God and Him alone. But in noting that, he looked to God to show mercy because of God alone as well.

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. 4 Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge. Psa 51:1-4

Where would David go? What could he do to make up for his sins? The God He had sinned against is the same God that He went to and plead with God to forgive him “according to the greatness of your compassion” and “according to Your lovingkindness.” What is David doing here? He was asking for forgiveness based on the character of God and asking God to forgive Him for His name’s sake. Our sin is so great there is no name by which we can be saved but the name of Christ. Our sin is so great that there is nothing we can do to make up for our sin, and in fact in trying to make up for it we are sinning even more.

On the other hand, while some try to make up for their sin by what they do, there are others who drop into deep despair when they see the depth of their sins. As an older author said, we are to despair of any help from ourselves but we are not to despair of God being able to save us. We must know that to set out to work in order to make up for our sins AND to despair of God is really the same sin. It is to devalue the work of Christ on the cross and to devalue His perfect righteousness. For both sides the great need is for both to be humbled under the hand of God and to behold the greatness of the value of the life and blood of Christ.

Behold, poor sinner, the blood of Christ can fully satisfy the wrath of God in your place. What wickedness it is and unbelief on your part to think that puny little you can possibly sin enough and make yourself beyond the infinite grace of God. What wickedness it is to think that His righteousness is not enough to fully satisfy God. What makes you think that His grace is not enough? Have you not discovered the riches of His grace? Have you not seen the overflowing and abundant grace of God that far exceeds your sin? What, do you think that He cannot save you because of Himself and His own glory if He is pleased to do so? Why do you despair when a God of such grace is on the throne of the universe? Why do you set out to work to make up for anything when God alone can do it by grace alone? Do you think your works or your despair can earn anything but His displeasure? Cease and desist from both. There is grace sufficient for the worst of sinners, even a grace that merits far more than your sin unmerited.

Grace and MORE GRACE 4

July 21, 2020

Grace is that which pours out of God freely and without cost or cause in the sinner from God and it always (always) comes through Jesus Christ. The only thing that moves God to show grace is Himself. Sinners have no ability to move God or be a cause for God to show them good. He is, in the language of Aquinas and from a different context, the unmoved mover. God is not moved by sinners to show grace, but instead He is moved from within Himself and His own character to show grace. Oh how we must learn to trace the wickedness of our own hearts in how we think of God showing mercy to us because we are something or because of something we have done or refrained from doing. Oh how we must beware of how evil our religion can be and of it is more wicked than anything we can think of to trust in our own righteousness.

In all the scripture there is not an ill word against a poor sinner stripped of self-righteousness         (Thomas Willcox)

The Scriptures are replete with warnings and judgments upon sinners, but we must be very, very careful at this point. The sinners judgment came upon were those who were proud and unrepentant. The sinners that judgment came on were those who were not sorry for their sin as against God. But despite all the warnings that God said and threats He carried out upon sinners, there was never a single word against the humbled and broken sinner. Not one single word against those who were stripped of their own self-righteousness. This is why we see Scripture telling us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. This is why the Gospel is said to be preached to the poor (poor in spirit). This is why we are told in the Beatitudes that those who are poor (impoverished) in spirit are the blessed.

We must be crystal clear if we are to preach the Gospel of grace alone and Christ alone. God hates sin and He does judge sinners, but each and every person who has been born after Adam (other than Christ) was and is a sinner. We cannot escape being sinners, but to those who have been brought to see their sin and sorrow for their sin, they are blessed of God by grace alone. The self-righteous sinners, whether religious or not, have great judgments spoken against them. Broken and humbled sinners who have been stripped of all hope in their own supposed self-righteousness have not one word spoken against them.

Take heart, poor sinner. You that God has stripped of all your self-righteousness have grace shown to you. You who have no self-righteousness have the righteousness of Christ to lean on. Those who have a lot of self-righteousness down to even a smidgen of it do not have Christ alone and His grace alone to lean on. You who are broken of heart and see nothing in yourself that is good have a true view of yourself. You are the one that Christ has poured out His grace and Himself upon. The poor sinner who sees how great his or her imperfections are is the sinner who is desperate to lean on grace alone and Christ alone. This means that the sinner who bemoans his or her sin is favored above the self-righteous who see little sin in themselves. The poor sinner who sees how little love s/he has in his or her heart is the one who mourns, but the proud think that they love God and see a lot of love in themselves. The proud do not understand that they have a lot of self-love and think that there is no reason for God not to love them. The poor in spirit sees no love or almost no love in him or herself and knows that there is no reason for God to love them, so this person looks to grace alone.

Poor and broken sinners who have been deeply humbled have great reason for hope. Those who have been broken from their pride and see nothing in themselves worth saving have great reason for hope. Those who think that they are not smart or rich or don’t have enough education or anything to commend themselves to God have reason for hope. Who did Jesus say was the greatest among them in His day? He said it was the most humble. It is true today as well. We should reckon those blessed that God says are blessed. While many who are full of themselves think they are humble, those who are truly humble may see remaining pride. The broken and the needy (spiritually) are those that the eyes of God are upon. In them He beholds the glory of His grace, while in the proud all He sees is their own supposed glory and self-righteousness. Take heart, poor sinners, God saves by grace alone.

Grace and MORE GRACE 3

July 15, 2020

A word of advice to my own heart and yours. If you are a professor of the Christian faith and partaker of all the ordinances of the church, you do well, for they are glorious privileges. But if you have not the blood of Christ at the root of your profession, then your profession will wither and prove only to be a cheap decorative suit to wear as you enter into hell.            Thomas Wilcox

What we must see regarding the Christian faith is that it is not about performances and duties as such, but instead it is all about the glory of God shining in and through Christ and His people. God only does this by grace. There is absolutely nothing a professing believer (whether true or false) can do to move God to show him or her grace. One can believe all the doctrines of grace, yet that is not the same thing as having and tasting grace. One can do all the ordinances of the church which were originally meant to teach us of Christ and grace, but if we approach them as if we are earning something or deserving something we have yet to understand grace from the depths of the heart.

A man can be a preacher and even a “successful” preacher in the eyes of the world and even the professing Church, but apart from truly having Christ and preaching in the strength of grace all that man does is to grease the path to hell for himself. An eloquent tongue combined with some truth can draw a crowd of religious people and perhaps be famous, but those with Christ in the soul and feed upon Him by grace will long for a man of grace whether he is of simple of words or eloquent. A preacher with fire in his soul may be just a man that has the fire of self-love in the soul, but this is far different than a man who loves the grace of God in truth.

It is one thing to preach an outward gospel of grace, but it is quite another to have the power of grace in the soul and to reach the souls of those who love Christ and His grace. It is one thing to hear eloquent words and even truthful words fall from the lips of a preacher, but it is quite another thing to hear the words of a man taught by grace and speaking by the power and unction of grace. Humility is necessary to have grace, so a proud preacher is really a contradiction in terms and of the Gospel of grace alone. The truth of the matter is that only Christ can break a man of pride and teach the man his utter need of grace each and every moment. Preachers are only sinners in need of grace to save them and then to teach them to walk by grace each moment.

Now if this is true of preachers, and it is, some people will think this is not necessary for them. That is an enormous mistake. It is not enough for any person to be satisfied with doctrinal truth and outward morality. It is not enough for any person to be satisfied with the outward ordinances and church attendance. A profession of faith is not enough, in fact it is not even a start. A person must have Christ from the very first step for any of the steps to be for Him.

The blood of Christ points to our great need for a Savior and it points to our desperate need for a great Savior who saves by grace alone. The blood of Christ shows us how great the wrath of God is for our sin and how we need Christ as our propitiation, not our own efforts or religion. The blood of Christ points to how Christ took human flesh and blood in order to deliver the children from the power of death, which again points us to grace alone. The blood of Christ shows us our great neglect of the glory of God and what it took for Christ to glorify God in our place. This was, again, by grace alone.

Our faith is not at the root of our profession, but Christ is. Our faith is not what we worked up to please God, but instead it too is a gift of grace. As Paul said in Romans 4:16, “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace.” Faith is not a work we do or an effort we put forth in order to obtain grace, but it must come to us by grace as well or grace is no longer grace. We cannot bring one thing to Christ to assist Him in His saving of us, but instead we come as empty beggars with nothing but the leprosy of sin on us from head to toe. We come to Him without anything in our hands and no ability or worth to move Him to save us. In fact, not only are we unable to do these things but He hates them if we try. We look to Him alone and we look to Him to be motivated to save us because of who He is and what He has done rather than who we are and what we have done. Grace and grace alone is our song and our love.

GRACE and more GRACE

May 1, 2020

Why does God forgive sinners?

Ephesians 1: 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight.

God does not forgive us because we are worthy
God does not forgive us because we turn our lives around
God does not forgive us because we have repented. Our sins still make us guilty even if we turn from them.
God is not moved to forgive us based on what we have done or will do. All we can do is sin.
God does not forgive us based on anything in us.
If God did forgive us based on who we are or what we have done, then He would not do it for Himself and HIs own glory.
God forgives to the praise of the glory of His grace. He is moved to forgive by Himself.
God forgives because He freely bestows grace on us in the Beloved.
God for gives because of His love for Himself.
God forgives in accordance with the riches of His grace, not to the degree of our repentance or goodness.

If God forgives because of who He is and not because of who we are or what we become or will become, then why do we think so harshly of Him to think He needs our weak efforts and our weak faith or our weak repentance? Oh no, our faith and our repentance are works of His grace rather than what comes from us. Why do we think God is moved to forgive us based on something we do rather than because of what He does? Why do we think God forgives us based on who we are rather than on who He is?

Sinners should come to the point and rest in the fact that they are not saved because of what they do nor because of what they have done (sin). Sinners are saved by His grace alone and for the sake of His grace alone. Sinners are saved in accordance with the immeasurable riches of His grace which is to say His grace that is lavished on His children is far greater than their sin. Why do we think that our sin, which is so great in one sense, but so little as compared to His grace can overpower His grace? Sinners must simply cry out to Him for grace which alone can turn their hearts to Him. We are in His hands as the Divine Potter and He can do with us as He is pleased to do. Yes, we tend to think of that in the negative. But that is also true in the positive sense. His grace is so great He can forgive the vilest sinner and He can turn the greatest sinner to be a humble and holy person.

Where are sinners to go for a new heart? They must go to Christ and plead with Him to give them a new heart in accordance with His grace.

Where are sinners to go to have their sins be washed in His blood? They must go to Christ who will only do this by grace alone.

Where can sinners go to be sanctified? They must go to Christ who is their sanctification.

Where can sinners to for holiness? They must go to Christ for any true holiness.

Where can sinners go when have so little love for God? They must go to Christ who alone can work this true love in their hearts by the fruit of His Spirit.

Where can sinners go and how can them go when they feel that death in themselves and they have no power to go? They must look to Christ for the slightest good motive and for the energy to go to Him by the power He alone can give them.

Sinners have no power in themselves and all the commands that they are given can only be kept by the strength of His might.

Sinners must have Christ for the whole of their lives and the whole of eternity.

Sinners must not look to themselves for any help or hope, but even that Christ must work in them.

Christ Alone. Grace Alone. What a Gospel of glory? What a Gospel fitted for dead and helpless sinners?

The Virus and God 3

April 5, 2020

Who is regulating affairs on this earth today–God, or the Devil? That God reigns supreme in Heaven, is generally conceded; that He does so over this world, is almost universally denied—if not directly, then indirectly. More and more are men in their philosophizings and theorisings, relegating God to the background. Take the material realm. Not only is it denied that God created everything, by personal and direct action, but few believe that He has any immediate concern in regulating the works of His own hands. Everything is supposed to be ordered according to the (impersonal and abstract) “laws of nature.” Thus is the Creator banished from His own creation. Therefore we need not be surprised that men, in their degrading conceptions, exclude Him from the realm of human affairs. Throughout Christendom, with an almost negligible exception, the theory is held that man is a “free agent,” and therefore, lord of his fortunes and the determiner of his destiny. That Satan is to be blamed for much of the evil which is in the world, is freely affirmed by those who, though having so much to say about “the responsibility of man”, often deny their own responsibility, by attributing to the Devil what, in fact, proceeds from their own evil hearts (Mark 7:21-23).

But who is regulating affairs on this earth today—God, or the devil? Attempt to take a serious and comprehensive view of the world. What a sense of confusion and chaos confronts us on every side! Sin is rampant; lawlessness abounds; evil men and seducers are waxing “worse and worse” (2 Tim 3:13). Today, everything appears out of joint. Thrones are creaking and tottering, ancient dynasties are being overturned, democracies are revolting, civilization is a demonstrated failure; half of Christendom was but recently locked-together in a death grapple…Unrest, discontent, and lawlessness are rife every where, and none can say how soon another great war will be set in motion. Statesmen are perplexed and staggered. Men’s hearts are “failing them for fear, and looking after those things which are coming on the earth” (Luke 21:26). Do those things look as though God had full control? (The Sovereignty of God, Arthur W. Pink)

Pink wrote his book in the late 1920’s, but with a few changes regarding circumstances it is very descriptive of what is going on today. It is so easy to look to scientists, medical people, and politicians as our hope. People are running around blaming people for political gain. While there may be enough blame to go around, that is not the biggest issue and it is not the biggest problem. People are running around with great fear and in general looking to their governments as those having the answers.

If we truly believed in the sovereignty of God over all things, we would know the source of our problem and the answer for the problem as well. Back in the day when people really believed in the sovereignty of God, they knew that in all things God was in full control though He was hidden behind a dark cloud of events. This is nothing more than practical atheism. If the virus that has taken over the attention of the world is sovereign and God is not, then we are in far more trouble than we think. However, if God is sovereign and the virus is not, we should know where the real answer is. While fear and events cannot change the hearts of men from the spiritual death they are born with as that is the sole prerogative of God, yet this should move men to seek Him if perhaps He would grant them repentance.

Some people are indeed driven to some form of religion out of fear of the virus, but being driven to religious activities can harden a heart. Each and every aspect of the virus is under the full sovereignty of God. We must seek Him during this time. Many will be hardened against God and His sovereign rights over human beings, but perhaps some will be softened. The greatest problem of our time is not the virus; it is our rejection of God as sovereign over us. The virus is in His hands and not in the wisdom of scientists, medical people, and politicians. Sure enough we are to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves from the virus, but that does not mean we are to trust in those things. God is sovereign and not the experts. While the Bible states that the hearts of all rulers are in His hands and He turns them as He pleases, let us not think that the scientists and medical experts are removed from His sovereignty. Treatment for this virus and a vaccine for this virus are in His sovereign hands too. Even at the molecular level the virus itself is in His sovereign hands and it is passed on to those whom He pleases and those whom He desires will not get it. But again, He uses means and we are not to be foolish and turn our backs on the means or methods He uses to protect. The point is that these are methods God uses, but His hands are not tied by using these means.

This can be illustrated by the Gospel and the preaching of the Gospel. Preachers preach from the Bible, but we are not saved by preaching in and of itself and we are not saved by the Bible. It is Christ alone who is the only Savior of men. Preachers are one method God uses, but He is not bound by that method. The Bible gives us objective truth, but the Holy Spirit must open our eyes to that truth and the truth is about Christ. It is Christ alone who saves. As such we use methods to protect ourselves from the virus, but we are to know that God is the real Protector who protects as He pleases. He is not bound to the means. It is also true that He may use scientists and medical people to discover a treatment for the virus, but He is not obligated to do so. He must open the eyes of the scientists and medical people for the treatment. We must seek Him and His good pleasure.

God is not standing in heaven pacing back and forth nervously hoping that someone will come up with a cure or a treatment for this virus. No, He is still showing forth His wrath every day. He is also showing grace and mercy each and every day. He is sovereign over each and every thing each and every moment. Our hearts are not to fear, but instead they are to look to His sovereign hand for all good and yet with contentment with what He is pleased to do. We should seek Him for any good and seek Him for protection. However, if He is not pleased to protect us, we are in His hands as clay is in the hands of the potter. It is true that this is far easier to write and read than it is to do it. However, all spiritual blessings come to us by grace alone. Our contentment and our level of anxiousness are also in His sovereign hands. We are to seek Him for those things too. He is sovereign over each and every thing in the physical realm, but He is also sovereign over each and every thing in the spiritual realm. All things come from His hand. By His grace let us rest in that.

The Virus and God 2

March 25, 2020

I heard and my inward parts trembled, At the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, And in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, For the people to arise who will invade us. 17 Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, 18 Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places. For the choir director, on my stringed instruments (Habakkuk 3:16-19)

The LORD promised the prophet that He was going to destroy the nation. The prophet finally got the message and his response is listed above. But what we must note is that the nation thought they were the special people of God and they did not expect to be destroyed by a people more wicked than they were. This astonished Habakkuk in chapter 1 and he could not believe it. But the LORD told him differently. The things in the list that Habakkuk knew was going to happen are awful things alone, but much more so in combination. Their economy was going to be ruined. Their food supply was going to be ruined. They were going to be invaded by a cruel nation and taken off into captivity. This vision of Habakkuk told him what was going to happen in what is known as the Babylonian siege and capture of Jerusalem, or the Babylonian captivity of 586 BC.

Imagine what would happen to your heart if the LORD told you this was going to happen in the nation you lived in. Imagine what would happen to your mindset if this was going to be carried out by a wicked people and you were part of a nation you thought of as the people of God. How would we respond to that? Perhaps it is much like people responding to things that are going on now. They are hoarding things and acting quite selfishly. They are looking to the government and to men (self) for all of their help. Their real thought of religion is only what it can do for them. Their prayers are only to God for His help to deliver them from hard things or from what is uncomfortable in life now.

But how did the prophet respond? First of all, it was not pleasant news for him to hear and he trembled. However, he said that “I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places.” Even if all else failed, he was going to exult in God and rejoice in Him. He did not look to men for his strength, but to the LORD. Here is the heart of a regenerate soul that is set upon God and loves Him above selfish things and worldly things. Here is a soul that God had delivered from self so that the man was more concerned about God and His glory than all the things of the world. Here was a soul that grace had brought the man to a point where his personal concern and ease of life were not his primary concern. This is simply an incredible passage that shows a heart that the infinite God had worked in. Nothing can explain a heart like this but the work of God in the soul.

It appears that the LORD is wreaking havoc in virtually the entire world though this virus, but the United States may feel this quite heavily in many ways that correspond with what the LORD did with Israel. The economy will be shaken to its very roots. The food supply may not be as plentiful as usual. The laws may change to reflect a new reality. As people are without work and without apparent hope, true Christians must learn to point to the true Hope. But before they point, they must learn to rest and rely upon Christ from their own hearts. It is far easier to have a professed hope in Christ when things are going well and we have a lot of comfort, but when those things are removed our hearts will be stripped to their core beliefs.

Do we want Christ regardless of our outward circumstances? Do we want the glory of God to shine through us regardless of the level of our comforts? Do we pray for our physical comforts or for our hearts to be bowed to Him regardless of how He works? What is the chief love of our hearts? We are clearly told that we cannot love God and wealth since we can only have one lord (Matthew 6:24). Truly we can only be truly devoted to one or the other. One will always be subservient to the other in terms of our true treasure and our true love. Our hearts are very deceitful and our pride blinds us to the true nature of our hearts. During this time of great trial, it would be wise for us to try our own hearts and pray that God will show us our true lord.

The Virus and God 1

March 21, 2020

The news on the televisions and newspapers are full of stories on COVID-19. Businesses are closed and churches are closed as well. All people can seemingly talk about is the spread of the virus and who is to be blamed for it. While the virus should not be sneered at, if it truly is in the hands of an intelligent agent who has all power over it and all things, then perhaps we should at least be as concerned about the One who has this virus in His hands and does with it as He pleases. God is sovereign over each and every thing.

If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it? Amos 3:6

The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. Isaiah 45:7

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know– 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (Acts 2:22-23)

Luke 13:1 Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3 “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

We should not be timid about knowing that the ultimate sovereign is over this virus. It can go no further than what pleases Him and it cannot do any less than what pleases Him. Is one nation worse than another? We can tell from the words of Jesus in Luke 13 that this is not always the case. Is one person more wicked than another when s/he is struck with the disease or dies because of the disease? No, this is in the hands of God. Should true believers not use things to kill germs on their hands or avoid large gatherings? No, this does not mean that. It simply means that despite our best efforts God will bring this to those whom He pleases and protect those whom He pleases so when we use soap or antibacterial wipes, we are to look to Him in all of this.

Now while we are to use outward things to kill germs, we should beware that the most serious issue is with our hearts. The fact that COVID-19 has arrived in our land does not negate that the Greatest Commandment which is still to love God with all of our being. We are still to rest in Christ as Lord of all. We are still commanded to be anxious for nothing. We are still commanded to rejoice in the Lord. Why are we commanded to be anxious for nothing? It is because the Lord is near and because the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. But of course that is for true believers and not just those who make a religious profession. It is in Christ that a person has his or her heart and mind guarded with the peace of God.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).

Without arguing about the dangers of the virus or any actions we are to take toward it, a greater danger lurks. That greater danger is in trusting things rather than God. Should we have more fear of the virus or of the God who has the virus in His hands to do with as He pleases? Should we be more concerned with our physical well-being in this time or of our spiritual state? Can this virus jump out of the hands of the sovereign God and be out of His control even for one moment? Can this virus do anything apart from the will of the one and only sovereign God? In Isaiah 40 we are told of the greatness of God as compared with creation: “All the nations are as nothing before Him, They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless” (v. 17).
This virus and all others are as nothing before Him and all of them together are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless. We are not in the hands of an infinite virus; we are in the hands of a sovereign God who is infinite. The virus can do no more than kill us, so we are not to fear it (in this sense) but we are to fear Him who can cast us into hell both body and soul (Matthew 10:28 and Luke 12:5). While the news is full of stories about how awful this virus is and how much damage it can do, it is ignoring the real truth behind the virus. It is also ignoring the real threat to every human being.

When the pagan people and king of Nineveh (in Jonah) heard that judgment was coming upon them, they sought the LORD concerning the calamity that was coming. The king decreed that man and beast not eat and drink and instead they were to seek God. While fasting may not be the best for all, seeking the LORD is best for all. But we must always remember that we cannot come to God unless we go to Him through Christ and by grace. We are to go to the throne of grace to seek grace. Coming to God in these times does not excuse us from loving Him more than we love our health and safety. This is to say that we cannot seek Him truly apart from His giving us grace to do so. We cannot love Him truly apart from His shedding that love abroad in our hearts. We cannot be before Him without being anxious unless He gives us hearts that rest in Christ alone and His sovereign hand alone.

Our bodies and our souls are always in complete dependence upon Him whether we recognize it or not. We must seek Him for all things out of love for Him and His glory, yet we must seek those things from His hand and knowing that they come by grace alone. We must seek Him for true humility and the emptying of self and pride from our hearts. A great trial has come upon us and it should not drive us away from resting in Him alone, but should drive us to Him for the grace to rest in Him alone. Our hopes must not be in vaccinations, inoculations, and cures for the disease; but instead our hope is to be in Him and Him alone. He alone can work those things in the hearts of scientists and doctors but He can also blind them to those things. Truly we are in His hands and why should we want to be anywhere else? We are sheep to be slaughtered if He is pleased to do so, but we also know that to be absent from the body is to be with Christ. May He grant us a true seeking of Him and a true spiritual awakening during this time.