The LORD’s Light

“Come and let’s walk in the LORD’s light” (Isaiah 2.5).

The light of the LORD is available in this present darkness. This invitation is not only a future promise for Israel. It is our daily privilege to walk in the LORD’s light. Primarily, the light of the LORD is the truth of His Word. It is reality while the world is living a fantasy. “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2.8). We would do well to pay attention to the Word of God. It is “a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in [our] hearts” (2 Peter 1.19).

So, come and let’s walk in the LORD’s light today. Jesus commands us to walk while we have this light, lest the darkness overtake us. “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (see John 12.35-36).

“For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light” (Psalm 36.9). May God’s glory shine forth in fuller measure through my character and conduct. May people see His light in me. May believers come with me so that we may speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs – singing together and making a melody in our hearts to the LORD. “Let the word of Christ dwell richly among [us]” (Colossians 3.16). Come and let’s walk in the LORD’s light!

Religiously Sinful

“Hear the word of the LORD …listen to the instruction of our God … ‘What are your sacrifices to me?’ asks the LORD. ‘Stop bringing useless offerings …When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered in blood. Wash yourselves …Remove your evil deeds from my sight …Learn to do what is good. Pursue justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause’” (Selected, Isaiah 1.10-17).

Perhaps all of our religious activity and countless prayers are merely self-justifying behaviors. God is not pleased with religious activity from me while I hold onto life dominating sins. This is truly self-righteous, legalistic behavior. Perhaps we seek God daily, delight to know His ways, and still strike with the fist of wickedness (see Isaiah 58.2-4).

What is truly required of a child of God? Certainly, it is required that we live a life of victory over sin by walking in the Spirit. So, why are we living lives filled with anger, lust, discontentment, envy, and impurity? Why are we lazy and covetous? Why are we conceited and arrogant? Skeptical and unfaithful? A major reason we struggle with sin is we seek to change our behavior while not changing our hearts and lives.

We must wash ourselves and remove all of this evil from God’s sight. We must do good, pursue justice, correct the oppressors, and defend the rights of the fatherless and widow. Jesus went about doing good. So must His disciples. Don’t be deceived. Religious activity for God devoid of a heart for Him is a betrayal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news of the Gospel is that “Though your sins are scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are crimson red, they will be like wool” (v. 18). May God bless us with a willing obedience and a tender heart for Him!

Never Alone

I will bring the blind by a way they did not know;

I will lead them in paths they have not known.

I will make darkness light before them,

And crooked places straight.

These things I will do for them,

And not forsake them.

Isaiah 42:16

I don’t know the way ahead. I don’t see the various routes available for me. I’m in the dark when it comes to the future, but I am not alone nor forsaken. I cling to the promise that the Lord Jesus is with me. His Spirit dwells in me. His return to “bring forth justice for truth” (Isaiah 42.3). and “justice in the earth” (v. 4) brings great hope not only for Israel but also for the church. 

Contentment and hope in this life are supported by the facts the Jesus “Himself said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me’ (Hebrews 13.5-6)?” 

Since I am limited and cannot know the future, I ought to check myself when I’m tempted to complain. God is most certainly in control. I simply must remain steadfast and patient. Also, I must be a wise steward of my time here. It is wise for me to “commit my way to the LORD” to also “trust in Him” while knowing that “He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37.5). What shall He bring to pass? All that He has promised. 

Our God will indeed bring the blind by a way they did not know. He will lead them in paths they have not known. God will make darkness light, crooked paths straight, and forsaken people His own children. 

Steadfastly

“Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

How am I to continue in prayer? Steadfastly. Yet, steadfastness characterizes all three main thoughts in this verse. Hope must be steadfast in order for me to rejoice in life. Tribulation is patiently endured steadfastly in prayer. So, I see this triad tied together with the ideas of steadfastness or persistence – keep on keeping on. 

I am able to rejoice in trying times because I know trying times will end. This is what hope is all about. Hope confidently sees the end of all things. If hope departs, joy departs as well. If I want joy in my life today, I will focus on eternal hope not temporal hype. 

Hope is foundational for patience in tribulation. Romans 5 illustrates how important hope is when it comes to tribulations. Since I have been justified by faith, I have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Along with justification comes access to grace in which believers stand.  It is then that we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope” (Romans 5.3-4). 

Steadfastness is indicative of a transforming love within me. Romans 5.5 says that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Hope and patience increase as I continue steadfastly in prayer.  Prayer is critical. The number one characteristic of good prayer is that it continues steadfastly. It persists. It doesn’t happen naturally. Prayer is something I must do consciously and deliberately. It is real work. Transforming love is a love that rejoices in hope, endures patiently in tribulation, and continues steadfastly in prayer. 

Hope to the Hopeless

God gives faith, hope, and love. However, He does not believe, hope, and love for anyone. The believer must believe. The faithful must lived confidently expecting that God will keep His promises. Those conformed to Christ must love God supremely and love others as they love themselves. Psalm 130 speaks of our responsibility to hope in the Lord:

“O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (Psalm 130:7–8)

The psalmist locates the source of hope from the depths of despair. That is the nature of hope. If our greatest joys are realized, what need is there for hope? “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD” (Psalm 130.1)!

Verse 3 demonstrates how fearful it is to recognize one’s own sinfulness. None are able to stand if the LORD should mark our iniquities. While this ought to make people tremble, there is forgiveness and mercy with the LORD (v. 4). He shall redeem those who put their hope in Him. His redemption is complete. It is from all iniquities (v. 7). Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more. That is fuel for hope. Still, acting us these profound truths are a discipline and a responsibility rising up to meet us daily.

Hope is Your Responsibility

Do not ever get the idea that hope is what people often think of the word today. Moderns tend to believe that hope is a hope-so/maybe-so proposition. There is much doubt loaded into the common conception of hope today. Bible hope is the confident expectation that God will definitively do as He has promised. There is absolutely no doubt about it. Therefore, Bible hope leads to confidence in prayer as long as we are patient and persistent. Prayer, patience, and persistence are all responsibilities or disciplines belonging to those who trust in God.

Confident Prayer

Even out of the depths we must cry, “Lord, hear us …hear our supplications.” Jesus said,…

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7–8)

Who asks? Who seeks? Who knocks? Believers do. Jesus is teaching us to be confident or hope-filled in our prayer. Why? He does so because the Father gives and opens. He will be found if we are patient and persistent.

We say our hope is in the LORD, but do we pray like our hope is in the LORD? The worst thing we could do in life is to pretend we have hope and fail to pray confidently. Anemic prayer is fueled by an inaccurate understanding of who God is and what He desires for you. Christians are His. They have the promises. They are the loved like no others are loved in this world. We do not deserve it. We do not earn it. Yet, God freely gives to His children. So, confidently cry out from the depths of your life and put those promises to the test!

However, those who cultivate biblical hope must develop patience and persistence. This is your responsibility before God.

Confident Patience

The hopeful child of God is willing to wait for the LORD. It is in His word that we hope. We yearn for the morning light to flood into our terrified night (vv. 5-6). Paul writes, “If we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Romans 8.25).

If we are impatient in the depths, we are spiritually immature, unbelieving, and/or despairing. The day will surely come. God will make all things right. You may not see it, but faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11.1). God blesses those who are willing to wait.

Supplementing patience is the idea of persistence. Only the patient persist.

Confident Persistence

The patient persist. They cling to God and hope in Him (v. 5). They understand that nothing is too hard for the LORD. Circumstances and people tend to sap strength and hope. So, when all is contrary to hope, in hope we believe even as Abraham did. He became the father of many nations according to the spoken word (promise) of God (Romans 4.18). Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13.15a). Persistence is key because patience is stretched thin at times.

Hope is my responsibility. Hope is a confident expectation that God will do as He has promised. This brings confidence to my prayer, patience to my character, and persistence to my daily walk.

But don’t look at what you’re going through. Don’t focus on the pit you’re in. Instead, focus on these three assurances found in Psalm 130:

  1. God’s character is merciful.
  2. God’s work is redemptive.
  3. God’s word is certain.

God’s character is merciful.

“With the LORD there is mercy” (v. 7). Hope-filled and yet flawed believers know the mercy of God firsthand. He saves the broken, contrite heart. God delights in mercy (Micah 7.18). The Lord is rich to all who call upon Him (Romans 10.12). God doesn’t look at how miserable you are or how wonderful. He looks to see if you are broken and crying out to Him from the depths.

God’s work is redemptive.

The text says, “With Him is abundant redemption” (v. 7). We have greater promise than the psalmist had. Jesus paid it all! There is grace in Christ Jesus. It’s unending in its supply. We hope in this redemption.

God’s word is certain.

“He shall” (v. 8) because He has spoken. Not one word He has spoken has failed. Therefore, we hope in God. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1.18).

Today, Israel as a nation needs to relearn these great truths. We should make certain we protect them and pass them on to the next generation. If we don’t, our children may need to relearn them too.

“…Hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem [us] from all [our] iniquities.” (Psalm 130:7–8)

An Unthinkable Hypothetical

Philosophies and religions in our world cannot explain what happens to the human soul when the death of the body occurs. They guess. Some speak of reincarnation. Others imagine a bodiless, ethereal existence. Still others speak of a circle of life. Scientists posit that matter might be eternal while denying that the eternal God exists.

Christianity is unique. A future, bodily resurrection of people to be judged for their works or according to their works is the clear teaching of Scripture. The former are judged for their works because Christ paid for their sin debt. The latter are judged according to their works because this is what they choose. They won’t come to Christ on the basis of His work; they come defiantly in their own self-righteous works.

Most in our world cannot imagine that our current bodily forms would ever undergo a resurrection event. We are so well acquainted with death, and decay. Most people think it absurd that graves would empty and resurrected, physical bodies will be reunited with the souls which once inhabited them.

The Corinthian believers had believed in the gospel that included the resurrection of Christ, but they were now preaching a “resurrection-less” gospel. The resurrection was becoming a metaphor. Perhaps it was an event that had already taken place. Paul said that the certainty of Christ’s resurrection leads to the conclusion that Christians will rise in like manner. The resurrection of Christ is a pattern for the future resurrection of all believers. If not, our faith is empty, we are still in our sins, and those who precede us in death have perished eternally. Let’s think through an unthinkable hypothetical with Paul. Let’s examine three consequences of a “resurrection-less” gospel:

  1. Our faith is futile.
  2. Our sins remain.
  3. The dead have perished.

Your Faith is Futile.

We walk by faith and not by sight. To the best of my knowledge, I have never seen a physical manifestation of God or the Lord Jesus. Still, I do not doubt that God the Father supplies my every need through Christ alone. There are three important conclusions I’ve reached by faith alone.

  • Conclusion #1: Jesus satisfies my debt for sin. By faith Jesus died for me and paid my debt for sin in full. His death paid for my sins. But if Jesus is not risen, what evidence remains that the debt is paid? An unthinkable hypothetical to be sure. He may have shed His blood for my sins, but are the demands of the Law met? Is the justice of God fully satisfied? If Jesus remains in a grave, how can we affirm He has victory over sin and death? If Jesus remains in the grave and I continue to maintain faith in Him, I am deluded.
  • Conclusion #2: Jesus intercedes for me at the right hand of God. By faith Jesus pleads my case to the Father. I still sin each day in many ways. But the Bible promises that I am reconciled with God through Jesus Christ. I have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is right now interceding for me at the right hand of God. He is in Heaven at God’s right hand and not in the grave. He is advocating for me. He is not an inanimate corpse outside of Jerusalem somewhere. My hope rests in the resurrected Christ.
  • Conclusion#3: Jesus is Head over His church right now. By faith, Jesus is working through the Church as its Head. He is the Head; we are the Body of Christ. Jesus opens the way for the flow of grace and peace daily. He is the Vine; we are the branches. We are nothing without him. So, if Christ is not risen, where is the eternal quality of my life? What can I receive from a dead savior? This would be an unthinkable hypothetical.

Transition: Jesus justifies us, intercedes for us, and moves us forward as the Head of His Body, the Church. Our faith is in a living Savior, a living Advocate, and a living Head. So, if Christ is not risen, our faith is futile. But, also,…

Our sins remain.

I am free from sin. I have the privilege of coming before the Father in prayer. I enjoy His favor and presence. I am accepted in the Beloved One. All of this is possible through the resurrection of Christ. How so?

  • Jesus taught that His resurrection would attest to the truth of what He came to do for us. The resurrection would verify that He spoke the truth. This is why His enemies wanted to do anything possible to prevent news of His resurrection from spreading. They knew that if the resurrection were true, His authority would be fully established. His Word would be true. If Christ is not risen, then He deceived those who followed Him. Our guilt is still with us. We are yet in our sins – an unthinkable hypothetical.
  • Jesus taught that sins are removed when we trust in His sacrifice. We have eternal life because we accepted this sacrificial work of Christ which the Father received as a sweet-smelling offering. If the Father has not accepted Christ’s offering, we are without hope. How do we know that the Father accepts the work of Christ? Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me?” We cannot imagine that the Father was satisfied merely with the death of Christ. No, the Father was satisfied with the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of His Son. We would not have proof of the Father’s acceptance of the Son’s sacrifice apart from His resurrection. The resurrection is necessary for the removal of our sins.
  • Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King. As prophet, He taught us the will and way of the Father. He gave us His Spirit to enlighten or give us knowledge. The Spirit also enables us with the truth of His words. As priest, Jesus opened the way to the Father through His blood. The blood of Christ carries with it the life of Christ. It is based on His life’s blood that He continually makes intercession for us as the Great High Priest. As King, He is sovereign and has all authority from the Father. He had authority over death to ascend to the right hand of power. As prophet, priest, and king, Jesus has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west so that they will be remembered no more. But if He is not the risen prophet, priest, and king, we are still in our sins – an unthinkable hypothetical.

Transition: We have thought through two consequences of a resurrection-less gospel: 1) Our faith is futile and 2) we remain in our sins. There is a third consequence in our text:

The dead have perished.

Paul writes that those who believe and yet have died have “fallen asleep in Christ” (v. 18). Why is death called sleep for believers? It is because death has lost its sting. That is, it is not permanent for a believer. God is protecting us and our physical bodies. I may fall asleep tonight and my spirit may go to be with my Savior. Those left behind will put my body in the ground or even cremate it. Dust or ash, it matters not. My spirit is with Christ. But if Christ is not risen, I perish after my death.

Why would I say that? Because I have lived my whole life trusting in the resurrection of Christ. If He is not risen, my foundation is built upon sand. Everything in Christianity falls without the resurrection of Christ. If Christ is not risen, I take my last breath commending myself to a savior who cannot lead the way through the valley of the shadow of death.

If Christ is not risen, the dead have perished. It will not matter how good we were or how much good we did. Our works cannot justify us before God. Abraham left everything behind for nothing. David praised God for nothing. Stephen died as the first martyr of the church for nothing. If Christ is not risen, then all of these people have perished. They are still transgressors. They are still under the curse and condemnation of the Law. Past believers prayed in vain through the years. They labored and fought in vain. They vainly attempted to do the inaccessible and impossible will of God. They vainly put themselves in harm’s way for Christ’s sake. Christ is not their Savior if He be not risen. Therefore, every dead believer has perished without exception – an unthinkable hypothetical.

Conclusion:

  1. Salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done. It all boils down to two words: do or done. Most people in our world today believe much remains to be done and they intend to do it. They belittle those of us who believe that salvation comes to us only by grace through faith alone. Works-oriented people consider themselves to be wiser than even martyrs who gave their very bodies to be burned for Christ but never thought such acts would earn them Heaven. All true believers know they need the blood of Christ to cleanse them from sin. They need the crucified and resurrected Savior of mankind. You cannot justify yourself before God. Renounce self-righteous, works-oriented religion. Place your hope in the crucified and resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ.
  2. Unbelieving people face inevitable and eternal misery. Who are unbelieving people? They are people who reject the work of Christ for sin. This is true. But there are also people who never think of Christ. For such people, it is as if He is not risen. You might call yourself a person of faith, but the object of that faith is what is important. It cannot be your understanding of who Jesus is but who Jesus is as revealed in the Word of God. Those most miserable are those who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. Where is that power? It is in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I know whom I have believed. Do you?
  3. Believing people have eternal life. The resurrection of Christ is the hope of my own resurrection. There is no disputing His resurrection – at least no serious disputation. Since He lives, my life has eternal value. Since He lives, I will live forevermore. Jesus once said to Mary just before He raised her brother Lazarus from the dead: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Do you?

An Anchor of Authority

Sermon on 1 Corinthians 14.1-5 preached 7/18/21 at HBC.

Paul emphasized diversity in Chapter 12 because the Corinthians coveted certain gifts, particularly the gift of tongues. Many different gifts are given for the church to work together effectively. We must have diversity for the sake of unity. Chapter 13 emphasized the need for love. A person might be very gifted and “spiritual” but without love, it is nothing. Now, Paul takes the general statements in Chapter 12 and narrows his focus on speaking in tongues here in Chapter 14. If we look at a broad skeleton outline of Chapter 14, here is what we find:

  • Prophecy is superior to speaking in tongues (14.1-5).
  • Speaking in tongues is vapid without understanding (14.6-19).
  • Speaking in tongues is sign for unbelievers (14.20-25).
  • Speaking in tongues must lead to edification and order in the church (14.26-40).

Paul begins with a summary of Chapters 12 and 13:

1 Corinthians 14:1 (NKJV)

1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.

Remember how he closed Chapter 12:

1 Corinthians 12:31 (NKJV)

31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

Pursue love because it is the more excellent way. Still, desire the best gifts, desire spiritual gifts. Among the best gifts is the gift of prophecy. Why is Paul telling them to desire to prophesy above all gifts, particularly speaking in tongues?

1 Corinthians 14:2 (NKJV)

2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.

Those speaking in a tongue do not speak to men but to God. Why? No one understands him. Now, we must understand what characterized speaking in tongues for the Corinthians during the first century. Whatever is happening in our text seems to be different from what happened when Peter preached on Pentecost in Acts 2. Why different? Here, an interpreter was needed. There was no interpreter in Acts 2. Peter preached and everyone heard him in their own language. This is the miracle of Acts 2.

However, here a person speaks in a tongue, and it is not directed to men but to God. That is, no one understands what the person speaking is actually saying except for God. Even the person speaking doesn’t understand. He speaks mysteries in the spirit. Perhaps this eludes to a heavenly language. This may be why Paul distinguished between the tongues of men and of angels (13.1). If this were an angelic language, no person on earth would understand it. Therefore, an interpretation would be needed.

This is why Paul elevates the gift of prophecy over speaking in tongues in the next three verses:

1 Corinthians 14:3–5 (NKJV)

3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.

  • Prophecy edifies believers.
  • Prophecy exhorts believers.
  • Prophecy comforts believers.

Those who prophesy edify the church. However, those who speak in tongues edify themselves (4). Still, Paul doesn’t denigrate speaking in tongues. He simply puts the gift in its place. Those who prophesy are greater than those who speak in tongues. The exception is when the speaking in tongues is interpreted and intelligible. This excludes the senseless rambling we hear in some movements today.

Why is prophecy greater? It is greater because it communicated new revelation from the mind of God to the minds of believers in the first century. While the active work of prophesying edified, exhorted, and comforted believers in the first century (individuals did not have completed Bibles), it does not take place today. Yet, we are edified, exhorted, and comforted by prophecy now revealed to us not by the direct agency of man but by the work of the Holy Spirit. He illumines and ignites the words of God in our spirits.

The Revealed Word of God Edifies

Explanation: The word edify means to build up. One man wrote, “The church is not a gallery where we exhibit the finest of Christians. No, it is a school where we educate and encourage imperfect Christians.” We do this with the revealed Word of God. Verse 3 states that prophecy is for edification. Verse 4 says that prophecies edified the first century church. The only way that the church is edified through speaking in tongues is when an interpreter is present (v. 5). Paul will say that if the Corinthians are eager for spiritual gifts, then it should be for the edification of the church so that it might excel (v. 12). If speaking in tongues is uninterpreted, the experience may lead the gifted tongue-speaker to give thanks, but the others who don’t understand aren’t edified (v. 17). Paul’s dual emphasis in this chapter is clearly stated in v. 26: “Let all things be done for edification.” And also in v. 40: “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

Yet, we must remember that revelation at the knowledge level makes believers arrogant (8.1); love edifies. The apostles and prophets of the first century along with the evangelists, pastors, and teachers of the 21st century are themselves gifted to the Church by the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4.11). Why? All these men are charged with edifying the Church with the revealed Word of God. This is their primary duty. Why is preaching the revealed words of God so important? The answer is that God’s words will equip all the saints of God for the work of ministry. God’s words will also edify the body of Christ (Ep 4.12). This will continue so that the Church will grow and mature into the fullness of Christ (v. 13). It protects the Church from novelty, trickery, cunning craftiness, and deceitful plotting of false teachers (v. 14). We must speak the truth of God’s revealed words in love to truly edify the Church (v. 15). The objective is to mature in all ways so that we are conformed to Christ and glorify Him as the head of the Church. We are the body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share. This causes growth of the Church for the edifying of itself in love (v. 16). The revealed Word of God edifies as an anchoring authority.

Illustration: When geese migrate, they can be seen flying in a V-shaped formation. While to us on the ground it is a thing of beauty, to the geese it is an essential for survival. If you watch them, you will observe that at certain intervals, relative to the strength of the head wind, the lead bird—who was doing the most work by breaking the force of wind—will drop off and fly at the end of the formation.

The reason for this is that the V-formation is much more efficient than flying loose; up to 60 percent less work is required! It has been discovered that the flapping wings create an uplift of air, an effect that is greater at the rear of the formation. So, the geese take turns “uplifting” one another. By cooperating—working together—the geese can achieve long migrations that would otherwise be exceedingly difficult for the strongest and deadly for the others.

Application: Likewise, when we as believers in Christ actively uplift one another through prayer, sharing material means, and heart-to-heart friendship and caring, we can go further into godliness than if we attempt our pilgrimage alone.[1] We receive our uplift from the revealed words of God.

If you remain unskilled in the use of God’s revealed words, you are building your house on the sand. If you are in a weakened state, you will turn aside from the Word of God to the ways of the world. People are pulling you and tempting you to leave your only hope. Be built up in the Word of God. The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. Go on the offensive by arming yourself with it. When the world attacks you with bad reasoning and false teaching, when you are lured by contemporary philosophy or intellectual arrogance, when modern day Pharisees appeal to the pride of self-righteous moralism, strike back with “Thus says the LORD!” Determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” The revealed Word of God edifies as an anchoring authority.

The Revealed Word of God Exhorts

Explanation: Secondly, “He who prophesies [in the first century] speaks exhortation” to people of the 21st century (v. 3). When Paul preached the gospel during his missionary journeys, he would return to newly converted believers and strengthen their souls by exhorting them to continue in the faith (Acts 14.22). Even though we have many members in one body as a church, all of us don’t have the same function. Our gifts differ according to the grace God gives each of us. So, we must use what we have. Some people have the gift of exhortation (Romans 12.8). They must use this gift to strengthen the souls of believers around them. Think of exhortation as strengthening people with words of hope from the Word of God.

Illustration: One caution here. This doesn’t mean that my exhortations will always succeed in the short-term. However, ultimately, they will. They will lead people either to repentance or judgment. [Copernicus illustration is adapted from Spurgeon’s illustration collection] Copernicus kept bucking against the authority of the scientific world by declaring the truth that the earth and the other planets of our solar system revolve around the sun. One argument brought against him involved Venus. Venus would have to present the same phases as the moon if she revolved around the sun. Copernicus could not see those phases. No one could. Still, he stuck to his guns. He couldn’t reply to his opponents but believed an answer would be found one day. Copernicus died with his views unproven.

Then came Galileo with his telescope. He looked at Venus and demonstrated that she did pass through exactly the same changes as the moon. So, wisdom is justified by her children. Are you a child of wisdom? The truth and authority of God’s Word will prevail. It might not be today or tomorrow, but faith will be made sight and hope will be realized. I exhort you with hope and faith today. I do so from the revealed, authoritative anchor of God’s Word.

Application: Good exhorters bring hope into the darkest days of the lives of believers. When we bring hope to believers in the church, we dispel unbelief. Remember that it is possible that an evil heart of unbelief resides in someone’s heart today. They are about to depart from the living God. How do we stop them? “Exhort one another daily [give hope through God’s revealed Word], while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrew 3.13). This is why we must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. We must exhort one another as we see the day approaching (Hebrews 10.25). The revealed Word of God brings hope. We must know it and use it as a gift of exhortation to bring hope to one another. It keeps us from departing in unbelief. It is an anchoring authority.

Truth may not prevail in our culture today or even tomorrow. However, be assured. Truth wins. People all over are denying the authority behind God’s Word. They claim it is irrelevant. They twist and pervert it to their own ends. They even say that God’s Word is hurtful to certain segments of our society. You might feel backed into a corner with no answer for your critics. Don’t trouble yourself about it. Don’t be anxious. You don’t have to answer a fool according to his folly. Wait for the truth to prevail.

Transition: The revealed Word of God is an authority that edifies and exhorts. Third,…

The Revealed Word of God Comforts

Explanation: Comfort carries the idea of encouragement. Paul will say in v. 31 of this chapter: “For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” Encourage mean to pour courage within. This week, I thought about Joshua’s long day. This was a day when God made the sun stand still and the moon in the valley of Ajalon. God did something that could not be done. He made the sun stand still for an entire day so that Joshua could win the battle. Joshua had a penchant toward fear. God encouraged Him. I faced something beyond me this week, but God reminded me that it was not beyond Him. This brought real courage when I was afraid. The revealed Word of God comforted me and provided for me an anchoring authority.

Paul tells us to comfort the fainthearted and uphold the weak (1 Thessalonians 5.14). He will say to these same Corinthian believers in his second preserved epistle:

2 Corinthians 1:3–7 (NKJV)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.

Illustration: I had Stage IV Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2010. My life could have ended in my mid-40s. It didn’t, but I suffered from the disease. I still suffer from it in some ways. But suffering helps me to identify with Christ. It also intensified and sweetened the revealed words of God in ways that are indescribable and so comforting. God’s presence was so real and special to me.

God comforted me by lighting up and energizing His Word. My illness drove me to pray like I never have. It motivated others to go to the throne of grace for me. It brought me back to a place of unreserved obedience and humility. It developed patience and endurance in me. It matured me. It heightened my desire for Heaven. It gave me opportunity to witness to others. Ultimately, my cancer glorified God. It even gives me the ability to empathize with and comfort others who are going through the same trial.

Application: We might feel like we are constantly taking one step forward to only be knocked back two. Actually, we are pressing on. We are not going back. Every trial, temptation, and soul-crushing adversity is part of the sufferings of Christ. They abound in us so that we might experience comfort from God and then bring comfort to others. The revealed Word of God is an anchoring authority because it comforts us. It pours courage within our fearful, unbelieving spirits. This brings comfort.

Conclusion: I hope you leave this morning anchored to the authority of God’s revealed Word. The prophecies of the 1st Century inform the proclamation and preaching of the 21st Century. I am here for you. I am here to edify, exhort, and comfort you. May God help you to glorify Him and be here for one another.


[1] Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989).

Manifestation and Mastery of the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church

Are the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12.7-10 for every generation in the church age? More importantly, what does it mean to be a spiritual person. The great desire of faithful believers is to make certain we do not quench or grieve the Holy Spirit when we meet together. Any genuine manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our midst is something all of us should desire. The operative word is genuine. God the Holy Spirit distributes gifts as He wills. Some gifts were more common in the formative years of the first century church and some are no longer operative today. That is, there were gifts manifest in the first century that were used to confirm apostolic teaching. God used both signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit to testify of the great salvation delivered to the church (Hebrews 2.3-4).

Whatever gifts the Corinthians had, we know that they neglected some, coveted others, and abused one. Pride, strife, and disorder resulted. Envy, superiority, and inferiority were promoted. Paul sought to correct matters by pointing up the divine origin of their gifts. The sovereignty of the Holy Spirit is in view as you read 1 Corinthians 12. “One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (12.11). It’s not about peer pressure or psychological pressure to perform in a way that will be accepted. It’s about a genuine manifestation of the Holy Spirit in church life. A manifestation that leads to mastery.

The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 12.18 states, “God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” God determines what is needed for both the first century church and the 21st century church. It’s all in accordance with His pleasure. Everything He does in and through every age is good because He is good. We are all one body in Christ. We have talents and gifts from the Holy Spirit. They may not be the same as the those of the Corinthian church in the first century, but they are manifestations of the Holy Spirit nonetheless.

The Holy Spirit manifests Himself in the transforming love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control we see in one another. If we live in the Spirit, we manifest the fruit of the Spirit and walk in the Spirit. We are not conceited and provoking one another or envying one another (see Galatians 5.22-26).

He is one and the same Spirit working all these things (1 Cor 12.11). We are currently being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor 3.18). The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Romans 8.16-17). Once we believed, the Holy Spirit of promise sealed us. He is presently the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1.13-14).

The Mastery of the Holy Spirit

The Spirit is sovereign God. This means He has mastery over the distribution of gifts to individuals in the church as He wills and pleases. Paul says in another place that “to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4.7). All of us are enabled to live godly lives by the grace of God. But the Holy Spirit gives differing enabling abilities to different individuals. It is as He wills. By the grace of God Paul was who He was. God’s grace toward him was not in vain (15.10). May that be said of each of us even though that grace and its manifestation differs in us. May the Spirit of God manifest Himself in our lives and gain mastery over those lives day by day. What does this look like today?

When Jesus departed, He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us. If we lie to the Holy Spirit, we lie to God as Ananias and Sapphira found out. But if we do not quench or grieve the Holy Spirit, He is able to transform us because He is God.

We need our Helper and Comforter because we cannot help our comfort ourselves. The Holy Spirit still has the power behind Pentecost in Acts 2. He can revive the church. He can revive you and me. Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon us as He was poured out upon the first century church. Let the word be preached in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

All glory to God. Great things He has done for us and in us. God works all in all so that He may be glorified in all things through the person and work of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit illumines and ignites His church.

“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many” (1 Cor 12.12-14). Paul uses the metaphor of a body for the church. A human body is made up of many elements: sinew, blood, bone, muscle, eye, fingers, toes, etc. These elements are called members in Paul’s metaphor. The body has many members, but all the constituent parts make up one body.

We are baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Some of us are Jewish but most of us are Gentiles (Greeks in this text). Some of us are slaves and others are free. We are all made to drink into one Spirit. That is, we thrive and grow because of the water of the Word is illumined and ignited by the Spirit’s sovereign pleasure and will. Still, our one body is made up of many members. We find diversity within the constituent parts of the church of Christ.

A Kept Promise

“The LORD will perfect [complete] that which concerns me” (Psalm 138.8a). I cannot help myself; the LORD will help me. I cannot comfort myself; the LORD will comfort me. I cannot bring my plans and aspirations to fruition; therefore, the LORD will perfect that which concerns me. It is a promise good as kept. The promises of God are backed by the honor of His name (v. 2).

I need help but not on my own terms. I need confidence, hope, and strength, but not on my terms. I receive all I need from the LORD but my circumstances may not necessarily change. God doesn’t always change my situation in life. Instead, He changes me to meet each situation. It’s not the way I want it; it’s the way I need it.

The temporal world is a dark valley. The light from above penetrates that dark valley and puts everything in perspective. It gives me an eternal perspective. I must adjust my perspective by cultivating the expectation of God’s activity in my life. I must cling to His promises with an expectation that He will perfect that which concerns me.

I might not expect God to act, but He will.  So, it’s better I expect it and adjust accordingly.  The LORD will regard the lowly; He will know the proud from afar.  These are two eternal and unalterable facts.  It’s true now.  It will be true at the judgment.  God will act.

Those who are lowly will be exalted and reign with Christ forever.  Those who are proud will be separated from God in the Lake of Fire forever.  Sinners who will not be brought low will be be put down for all eternity.  They’ve yearned for independence, and they shall have it.  They have mocked, scorned, and hated righteousness; so, they shall find no mercy.  I must pray that the proud people in my life find this out before it’s too late.  “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28.13). 

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me. This is a promise good as kept.

The Narrow Way

Choosing the Narrow Way (Mark 8.34)


“When [Jesus] had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me,

  • Let him deny himself,
  • And take up his cross,
  • And follow Me.”

Jesus calls the people with His disciples. The way of discipleship was not exclusively an apostolic way. It is the way for all faithful believers across every culture and generation. It is the way as in it is the only way. It is the truth. It is the life. If I am to enter the narrow gate and traverse the narrow way, I must be saved. Then, I must choose to become a disciple of Jesus. He tells me what that choice looks like in Mark 8.34.

  1. I must deny myself. This means no more narcissism. Choosing the narrow means choosing a path that continually leads me away from the idolatry of being self-centered.
  2. I must take up my cross. This means I will not deny Jesus or deny the suffering and shame that characterize daily discipleship. I am willing to suffer for Jesus and for others.
  3. I must follow Jesus. This means I follow on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. I must press on in my follow-ship under His leadership. He is heading toward Jerusalem and death in Mark 8. If I would follow Jesus, I must also face death figuratively speaking. I must experience death to self. I follow Jesus and depart from my own path. This is a daily choice I make.

Facing the Consequences (Mark 8.35 – 38)

Jesus now lists three consequences of accepting or rejecting the narrow way of discipleship.

  1. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
  2. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
  3. For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Whoever desires to save his physical life will lose the true meaning and essence of life. His life will not have an eternal quality to it. Conversely, whoever loses his physical life for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s sake will find the true meaning and essence of life. That is, he will live a life that has eternal quality to it.

  1. Unbelievers will lose eternal life in the sense of experiencing ultimate separation from God in Hell.
  2. Believers will lose out in the sense of a loss of eternal rewards. They will miss out on the full inheritance God intends for them and Jesus won for them.

If I want to control of my life, I must be prepared to suffer loss of something far more valuable in the future. That’s the consequence of living for the here and now. However, if I give up control to follow the path God has for me now, I will gain something far more valuable in the future.

There is no profit in gaining all the world has to offer and lose my soul in the process. It is unfathomable that I would exchange my soul for possessions, position, power, and pleasure in this life. However, if I do, then it is because I have made this choice. I will not be able to reverse course once Jesus returns or I die. I alone am responsible.

Whoever, believer or unbeliever, is ashamed of Jesus and His words, of Him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.

  1. Unbelievers will know acute shame for rejecting Jesus. They will be finally and ultimately rejected.
  2. Believers will be ashamed and suffer loss of reward.

Either I am genuine with a faith that follows the narrow way of the cross or I live a life concerned only with my goals, dreams, and aspirations. Jesus is the Suffering Servant that will occupy the throne of judgment in power and glory with the Father. I am His disciple. It would be good for me to come to grips with that and bear my own cross daily.


The way of faith believes and then sees. The way of the world sees and then believes. There is the gentle, gradual progression of faith for which I owe gratitude to Jesus, my merciful and loving Savior. There is the way of cross-bearing as it develops a faith that truly follows. It is a way of suffering. It is not comfortable. It is the way of discipleship. It gives my life eternal purpose and quality. I trust that God will teach me to exchange my priorities in life for His. True satisfaction belongs to a faith that chooses the narrow way and faces the consequences of that choice.

Jesus, And Shall It Ever Be – Joseph Grigg, 1765


Jesus, and shall it ever be,
A mortal man ashamed of Thee?
Ashamed of Thee, whom angels praise,
Whose glories shine through endless days?

Ashamed of Jesus! sooner far
Let evening blush to own a star:
He sheds the beams of light divine
O’er this benighted soul of mine.

Ashamed of Jesus! just as soon
Let midnight be ashamed of noon;
‘Tis midnight with my soul till He,
Bright, Morning Star, bid darkness flee.

Ashamed of Jesus! that dear Friend
On whom my hopes of heaven depend!
No; when I blush, be this my shame,
That I no more revere His name.