The Promise of Love

“Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed.  But You are the same, and Your years will have no end.  The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You” (Psalm 102.25-28).

6A7FE51A-DD06-46E3-8CA7-F1C8E2A4C826The author of these words was overwhelmed and afflicted. He calls upon God to hear him quickly. His cry is one of anguish. Verses 3-11 describe that anguish:

  • He is skin and bones because he forgets to eat. Perhaps this is due to a raging fever.
  • He is isolated and alone and emotionally spent.
  • He believes that he is receiving God’s indignation and wrath for sin in his life.

Verses 12-22 are the hinge-point of the psalm. “But You, O LORD, shall endure forever” (v. 12). God continues forever even though the psalmist’s life is brief. If the psalm is written during the exile, then he believed God would restore Jerusalem or Zion once again. God “shall regard the prayer of the destitute and shall not despise their prayer” (v. 17). Future generations would declare the name of the LORD in Zion and His praise in Jerusalem (v. 21). The people will gather together once again. The kingdoms shall serve the LORD (v. 22). While this happened when Israel came back to rebuild after the exile, the psalmist is also looking forward to this happening on a worldwide scale during the Millennial reign of Christ.

The psalmist prayed that the Lord would not take his life away in the midst of his days. He didn’t want to die too soon.  The psalmist then writes of God’s eternal existence. God was present at creation. He is present now. He will be present when the first heaven and the first earth pass away, and a new heaven and a new earth take their place. God outlasts creation. He has no beginning and no end. Psalm 102.25-28 are quoted by the writer of Hebrews as well (Hebrews 1.10-12).

“…You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed.  But You are the same, and Your years will not fail” (Hebrews 1.10-12).  

The fact that Psalm 102 obviously refers to the LORD God and that Hebrews 1 is referring to God the Son demonstrates that Jesus is the LORD. There are two aspects of the character of Christ highlighted in both Hebrews 1 and Psalm 102: His eternality and His immutability.

Christ is eternal.

“By Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers” (Colossians 1.16). Jesus Christ is “before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1.17).  If Jesus created all things, then He Himself cannot be created.  He is the eternal creator God.  He was with God in the beginning. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1.3). Yet He was robed in flesh and came out of Bethlehem Ephrathah. He came forth from the Father to be the Ruler in Israel. He is the One “whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5.2). He is everlasting God.

Christ is immutable.

He laid the foundation of the earth that will perish. Yet He endures. The creation is changed, but He does not change. “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3.10-11). The creation will change but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13.8).

Hezekiah thought just like the psalmist is thinking. He thought he would die in the prime of his life. He believed that he would be deprived the remainder of his years. His life span was gone. But as frail and as fleeting as our lives are, we find hope in the eternal and immutable Christ.  Verse 28 says that the children of the Lord Jesus’ servants will continue. Their descendants will be established before Him. He is referring to Israel, but what was true of them is also true of us. God’s eternal and changeless character brings comfort to all God’s people.

Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life. Those that believe in Him, though they may die, yet they shall live. He will never leave us or forsake us. He keeps us from falling. All that the Father has given Him will never be lost. “The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You.”

Among us are people who are overwhelmed and afflicted. But there is not a reason that a Christian should be without hope. The Lord Jesus lives.  He is our anchor and refuge. His grace is sufficient for us in our weakness.

Perhaps others are resting confidently in Christ. They must remember to direct their praise and thanksgiving to the One who has given them access, hope, and confidence. Imagine what life would be like without Christ. We would be lost and undone. But thanks be to God that we rest our confidence in Christ. He is our unchanging Savior in our ever-changing world.

Praying Psalm 102

Lord Jesus,

I know You hear me. Help me to listen to You. Life is brief and often filled with pain and sorrow. You know this better than I ever could. I may feel as if Your indignation and wrath have isolated me from You, but Your Word makes it clear that You will never leave nor forsake me. You drained the cup of the Father’s indignation for me. I cannot pay for my sins. I could not endure His wrath. You were forgotten and forsaken for my sins. Though I am often sick, overwhelmed, exhausted, and broken emotionally, I know it is temporary. My days here are as smoke, but my hope is restored and set on eternity.

The time is coming when the world shall be made whole. The kingdoms of men will be subdued by You as the King of all kings. You shall bring all things under Your dominion. The Father shall be all in all. My prayer comes before You at the right hand of God. You shall regard it and not despise it. This is the promise of love. Restore my hope. Revive my joy. Strengthen me to redeem the days I have before me.

I am so grateful for Your Word. I am part of the generation that would yet praise You from the Psalmist’s perspective. Both his days, my days, and all those intervening days of long-forgotten saints are as smoke. But You haven’t forgotten them. You haven’t forgotten me.

Everything is changing in the world around me. So much uncertainty. So much pressure. So much opportunity. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Your years have no end. But You have become the first fruits of those who sleep. My temporal life fades. Sleep comes enveloped in darkness, but joy comes when the never-ending dawn breaks. This is why I remain in hope. Though I may die, I shall live. I believe this. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.

There shall be showers of blessing –
Precious reviving again;
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain.

There shall be showers of blessing:
Send them upon us, O Lord;
Grant to us now a refreshing;
Come and now honor Thy Word.

There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!

Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need;
Mercy drops ’round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

D. W. Whittle, 1863

 

Air Mass Formation

I was watching a science class with my boys. The topic was elements necessary for an air mass to form. One necessary characteristic is that they form in a place with stationary air. Then movement takes place. I may have learned that but have long since forgotten it.

75731457-07BD-4AB8-9893-AFFC38EA6E41_4_5005_cPsalm 46.10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” This act of being still reminds me of who is in control. My goal is to know Him and to know what He is doing. Then, hopefully I move throughout my day in the wake of His grace.

This is the most challenging aspect of prayer. It is the act of opening your mouth wide and receiving all the fullness of God (Psalm 81.10). Perhaps I’ve learned and forgotten this too many times

Contention at the Cross

One of the reasons we have contention in the church is that we tend to believe what is right in our own eyes. We don’t allow God to dictate to us in His Word; we dictate to Him. Often this dramatically and deleteriously affects church conduct. Once our church begins to take polls and surveys to find out what people like and then strive to give them that, we fail in our mandate from God as a church. We see this in our powerfully taught in 1 Corinthians 1.18-25.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. – 1 Corinthians 1.18-25

Two groups of people are explicitly mentioned in this passage: Jews and Greeks. The Jews request a sign and Greeks seek after wisdom. The Jews want another powerful exodus from God. The Greeks treasure human wisdom and philosophy. There is nothing wrong with a desire for power and wisdom. The trouble is that the Jews wanted power and the Greeks desired wisdom on their own terms. They wanted to define the works of God on their own. They wanted their own limited expectations to come to pass.

There are two groups of people in our present age according to v. 18: 1) those who are perishing and 2) those who are being saved. Those who are being saved are those who rely on the cross as a manifestation of God’s powerful deliverance from sin. We understand that we live in the present because Christ died and rose again in the past. Those who stumble at the cross reject the crucified Christ. Such a thing is a manifestation of weakness and foolishness to them. Therefore, they are perishing while we are living.

Paul quotes Isaiah in v. 19 of our text (see Isaiah 29.14). He will methodically bring six Old Testament quotations forward to buttress his argumentation for the good of the Corinthian believers. The idea behind this particular quotation is plain: Don’t try to match wits with God. We need this reminder. A great reversal is coming. God will destroy the wisdom of the worldly wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent in this world.

The flurry of four rhetorical questions in v. 20 tell us that worldly wisdom is already rendered foolish in this present age. Where are they? Where is this great human wisdom and power? God makes it all foolish in the crucified Christ. This is the great reversal. What many in this world consider foolish is presently the wisdom of God, but it is veiled to so many who are perishing.

The world cannot know God through human wisdom. If it could, this would mean that the world is somehow deserving. We are undeserving. God is known only through His wisdom, and Christ is the Wisdom of God (see v. 24). God’s wisdom is the opposite of the human wisdom so highly prized in our world today (see 2.6-16). It is the message that is important and emphasized in verse 21. Why preach the message of Christ crucified? To save those who are believing in this world! God is pleased to save believing people through a message the world considers to be foolish.

The Jews look for another powerful exodus. The Greeks look for human wisdom and reason, the pursuit of philosophical ideas. Jesus refused to give a sign to those who remained adamantly opposed to Him. The Jews only wanted a sign that would not contradict their idea of a powerful Messiah delivering them from Rome. They want a powerful warrior not a Lamb of God who would take away their sin. The Greeks wanted to constantly learn but never come closer to the truth. God must conform to their ever-shifting ideas and reasonings. They want a wise philosopher to challenge and change their thinking. They don’t want stability; they want upheaval.

There is a third group of people in verse 23: those who preach Christ crucified. Christ crucified contradicts the message of Jews and Greeks. The Jews stumble at the cross and the Greeks scorn at the cross. But we submit at the cross. What is considered weakness, folly, and defective is actually “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v. 24).

God is calling both Jews and Gentiles to believe. But He calls them from His perspective of power and wisdom. We must conform to Him and not the other way around. This is the message believers preach today. It still contradicts the world’s message of power and wisdom. But for us Christ is the effectual power of God for salvation to all who believe, Jew or Gentile. Why? “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (v. 25).

God is neither foolish nor weak. Paul is simply continuing with a literary theme in this paragraph. The idea of the foolishness and weakness of God are hypothetical ideas used to highlight the great reversal and contrast of this paragraph. The supposed weakness of God would still be superior to any human concept of power. The supposed foolishness of God would still be superior to any human concept of wisdom. But obviously, there is no foolishness or weakness in God.

This paragraph of Scripture is a contrast. The Jews request a sign, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to them. The Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, foolishness to them. There will always be those who stumble at the cross, scorn the cross, and submit at the cross.

Stumbling at the Cross

The Jewish people stumbled at the cross because they were looking for power and great glory. They only saw shame and weakness at the cross. Deuteronomy 21.23 and Galatians 3.13 indicate that everyone who hangs on a tree is cursed. This is how the Jewish people saw it. They could not reconcile their understanding of Messiah with passages like Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53. They stumbled at the cross.

Scorning at the Cross

The Greeks scorned at the cross because they were lovers of knowledge. This was utter foolishness to them. They didn’t see wisdom at the cross. They didn’t see God’s great plan for redemption. They scorn the cross and prove they are perishing.

Submitting at the Cross

But to us who are being saved, we preach Christ crucified because we are submitting at the cross. We are those who are called. We are both Jews and Greeks in the Church of God. For us, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God! We have been called and we have believed. We preach Christ crucified. The death of Christ reveals the foolishness of our wisdom and the weakness of our power. Jesus died for us!

  1. The Power of God – Christ crucified is the power of God. We see God’s power in the conversion of many since the cross. We see God’s power in our own conversion. God powerfully transforms shattered lives.
  2. The Wisdom of God – Christ crucified is the wisdom of God. He is the supreme revelation of God. He is the Word, and to know Him is eternal life. He is THE wisdom of God not a wisdom suited for a particular culture with itching ears.

As we submit at the cross, we preach Christ crucified. He is the greatest good that has ever come out of the greatest evil perpetuated on a man. We count all things loss for the excellency of this knowledge.

  • The cross of Christ is not a stumbling block to us. Christ is the Light. The god of this age has blinded religious moralists and those seeking a sign or some miracle. He blinds those who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. We preach Christ crucified and not ourselves (see 2 Corinthians 4.4-5).
  • The cross of Christ is not foolishness to us. We certainly have the ability to reason and think. God blesses us with a strong intellect. But this must be submitted to Him to be of any use for us. We cannot know anything completely or perfectly. We will never know as God knows. The wisest among us will become as little children are. God destroys the wisdom of the wise and brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent (v. 19). Our greatest need is to be taught by God.
  • The cross of Chris is the power of God and the wisdom of God to us! We desire to identify more and more with the cross of Christ. We don’t want it to be a stumbling block or foolishness through misapprehension and misapplication of the truth. True wisdom and true power will always be considered foolishness and weakness in this present age. But the true perspective is that God is both wiser and stronger than all of us. We submit to Him.

 

The Beauty of the Lord

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Photo: Sue Oesterwind

“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us!” This is a wonderful and blessed thought for the present moments of our temporal lives. Psalm 90 contains eternal blessings for the temporal lives in which we live, move, and have our being. We yearn to be satisfied early with God’s mercy so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days (90.14). Visible demonstrations of God’s mercy and lovingkindness convey His gracious presence when He seems so far away. When the beauty of the Lord our God is upon us, we look toward that eternal Day when we shall truly see Him unfettered by the sin demanding His mercy each and every day within the temporal realm.

The Beauty of the LORD Our God

Whole volumes are given over to the study of God’s character in the pages of Scripture. It is a pursuit that accomplishes what seem to be two opposing goals: drawing us closer to the Lord while at the same time letting us know that we’ve only scratched the surface of our understanding of His immensity. The fool denies eternity within in his heart. He will worship none other than himself. Therefore, God gives him over to his obstinate folly, and he remains without excuse.

Design, variety, pleasure, and beauty within God’s creation point to the glory of God (Psalm 19). The creation demonstrates that God is all-wise and all-powerful. Those looking for answers to ultimate questions will not find them by ruminating over dead poets and philosophers. These answers come from the illuminating work of God through His Spirit. Those of us viewed as fools by the world have a wondrous revelation of God in His Word. Those deemed as wise by the world have these things hidden from them. It’s quite sad. They grope aimlessly for some new twist or turn in the meanderings of men.

But God is not manifested within the creative order alone. We see Him in the pages of mankind’s history. He is sovereign. Everything is rushing toward the Day when He shall be all in all (1 Corinthians 15.28). We see Him beautifully weaving and stitching together not only history in general but also our very lives. This is the beauty of the Lord our God! He has redeemed us for His glory and so we worship Him in the beauty of His holiness and for His glory. The greatest goal of all creation is to bring glory to the Creator. And the Lord Jesus Christ has made this possible. Jesus is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power (1 Timothy 6.14-15).

We see the unseen Father in the Son who is “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1.3). The beauty of the Lord our God is found in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. His painstaking work of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, His redemptive work upon the Cross of Calvary, and even His work of judgment from His glorious throne represent the beauty of the Lord our God in perfection. Men journey with us and hear whispers of God, but we see what they cannot see. That is why it seems that the myriads of people who hear the same words from the Scripture we do remain deaf and dumb toward them while we are humbled, and our faith deepened by the very same words.

Be Upon Us

The Lord’s beauty is conveyed through light shining out of darkness into our very hearts in order to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Jesus mediates the beauty of the Lord God. He has shown us light that the world cannot see. Not only this, but He has given to us the opportunity to reflect that light and thereby glorify God.

The primary reason for gathering for worship on Sunday is so that we may behold the beauty of the Lord. “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). Our yearning, broken, contrite, and dependent hearts expect satisfaction in the beauty of the Lord. The venue of our idea of a sanctuary has changed. But we still desire to see God’s power and glory (Psalm 63.2).

Second, mankind is created in the image of God (Genesis 1.26-27). But that image is much maligned. We must experience a new birth so that we might “put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4.24). It is the beauty of the Lord that we behold with unveiled face. It is the beauty and glory of the Lord that shines forth and reflects or radiates from our lives as a mirror reflects the image of a man. What happens inside of us is the transformation from glory to even greater glory and so on. It is the sanctifying work of the Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 3.18). This verse communicates a continual process until we are made perfect as our Father is perfect.

We look toward the Day as we press toward the mark until “we come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4.13). May the Lord grant that His beauty be upon us today and to a greater degree tomorrow. Let us grow in grace and flourish in holiness! Let us comprehend what is the love of Christ and be filled with all the fullness of God!

Building an Eternal Mindset

Let us pray that we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18–19). The goal is that nothing in our temporal life affects our pursuit of this fullness. Even tribulation works patience, experience, and eventually a deep and abiding hope – a confident expectation that God will make good on His promises. Trials reveal deeper problems within us. They refine us. So, we bear up underneath them knowing that God will use them to show us His glory in greater detail and to conform us to the image of His Son.

Our pursuit of holiness is our pursuit of God. Our pursuit of mercy is our pursuit of God. Time spent in Scripture and in prayer keeps us balanced and growing. May the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us!

Abide Satisfied!

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Photo: Sue Oesterwind

“Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4.8). Wisdom’s “ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3.17). Moses lived with a generation of men and women who did not believe those two verses. Our own generation is like the generation of Moses’ day. Even many Christians remain unsatisfied today. There is no gladness only disillusionment and despair. But it need not be this way. Moses writes, “Oh, satisfy us early with your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!”

There are two precious truths related to one another in this verse. First, satisfaction is found in God’s mercy. Second, those who find this satisfaction are glad and rejoice all their days. So, the verse explains to us how satisfaction and joy come into our lives.

How to Abide Satisfied

“Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy.” David asked, ”
“Who will show us any good?” He concluded, “LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us. You have put gladness in my heart.” – Psalm 4.6-7

There is no satisfaction in life apart from Christ.

The Book of Ecclesiastes attests to this when Solomon wrote, “All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1.1). Work for the sake of work leads to despair. Our eyes are never satisfied with seeing, nor our ears with hearing (1.8). There is nothing new under the sun (1.9). Solomon had the gold, the girls, and the glamor. But none of the things on this earth are meant to bring satisfaction to our lives. Wealth and prestige mean little on your deathbed. If we had it all, we would still want more. Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard. Haman wanted the honor Mordecai had. It’s the same old story. Nothing on this earth will satisfy because it isn’t meant to satisfy. The things of this world are tools to reach the people of this world for the true God of Heaven and earth. They were never meant to satisfy or to be an end in and of themselves.

There is no satisfaction in religion apart from Christ.

All religions and religious activity are vain when performed by self-righteous people. Self-righteousness drains life from people. It turns us into duty-oriented slaves of whatever religious or secular system. Self-righteousness always leads to despair. We are left asking, “Have I done enough to atone for my sin? Will God be finally pleased with me and bring me to Heaven?” There is no assurance in that kind of life. The self-righteous person will be unsettled in the end. Death and judgment loom largely, and the self-righteous person will see the futility of it all. A self-righteous person will grow jaded, hypocritical, and very legalistic in his or her outlook on life. Such people will be very surprised when they cry out, “Lord! Lord!” And Jesus will say, “I never knew you.”

There is only satisfaction in the LORD’s mercy.

All of us have sinned a fall short of the glory of God. We will give an account of our lives to God. Those who trust in Christ alone for eternal life are ready to enter into God’s presence. We need not be ashamed at judgment because we “know whom we have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what we have committed to Him until that Day” of judgment (2 Timothy 1.12). We will be accepted into God’s presence when we die because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our acceptance and hope are found in Him alone. Our physical bodies are likened to tents that will one day be destroyed only to be given a house not made with hands (a glorified, resurrected body), eternal in the heavens. We want a heavenly, eternal body in Heaven. This awaits us because and only because of the mercy of God (2 Corinthians 5.1ff.).

We will not be eternally condemned so we ought not participate in temporal activity and thinking that will be (Romans 8.1). I have not seen Christ with my physical eyes. Yet, believing, I rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1.8). This will lead to the end of faith – the salvation of my soul. That is true satisfaction. Mercy satisfies and leads to abiding joy.

How to Abide with Joy

This kind of joy benefits a person early on in life. When we seek the mercy of God early in life, we find great blessing and joy. We are reaping what we sow. Relieved from sin’s burden and offered the clarity and discernment to live eternal life, we experience satisfaction that cannot be found in any other earthly pleasure. Even if we get swept away by the things of this world, we come to a crisis point and long for the old paths of mercy once again. The wonder of wonders is that we find these paths every single time.

We grow through seasons of affliction. Circumstances don’t roll out in the way we expect them to. We are born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward. Yet, even so, we know that God loves us. His love is poured out in our hearts in such measure that it overwhelms the deepest miseries of life.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in 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 5.1-4).

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? The Lord’s voice cries to the city— Wisdom shall see Your name: “Hear the rod! Who has appointed it” (Micah 6.8-9).

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8.28).

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4.17).

I have not reached my death bed. I’ve come close. But I am confident when I do that a crown of righteousness is waiting for me. I know this because God has had mercy upon me. His mercy pardoned my soul and took away the sting of death. If we grab hold of this truth by knowing and believing it, if we consider it as a truth to be lived out practically in our lives, and if we present ourselves and all we have to God for His service, our obedience will be rewarded. We indeed will be hard-pressed between two desires: 1) to depart and be with Christ through death; or 2) to remain here in continual service for the Lord and His people. See Philippians 1.23.

It’s never too early to pursue God’s mercy. Seek satisfaction and happiness in spiritual things not material things. Be satisfied with God’s goodness.

“Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion,
Streaming to the goodness of the Lord
For wheat and new wine and oil,
For the young of the flock and the herd;
Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden,
And they shall sorrow no more at all.
Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance,
And the young men and the old, together;
For I will turn their mourning to joy,
Will comfort them,
And make them rejoice rather than sorrow.
I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance,
And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the Lord.”

– Jeremiah 31:12–14

We have to work and provide for our families. But our zeal and fervency for God must be evident in all we do. We don’t labor for food that rots or cars that rust. We look for enduring, everlasting life. We look forward to the kingdom and glory of God.

When we grow old, much of our time on earth is done. But while we live, we must lose no time. We redeem the time we have because the days are evil. We still must cry out for God’s daily mercy. We shall have it. We shall abide satisfied with the joy of the LORD as our strength!

Wisdom and Wrath

God’s anger is not like man’s anger. God’s anger is righteous, controlled, well-deserved, and well-directed. Moses, the man of God, wrote Psalm 90. Verses 3 and 5-7 indicate that God’s anger is terrifying and powerful when directed against rebellious people.

Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90.11-12).

God’s Anger and Wrath

God’s anger is directed at fallen humanity and fallen angels in the Bible.

God’s Anger Against Fallen People

Creation was once very good and is now very evil. Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come” (Romans 5.12-14). Man deserves the wrath of God due to his sin and rebellion.

There are many negative examples designed to warn us about God’s disposition against sin and wickedness (1 Corinthians 10.6-8). We know the indignation of God firsthand through the warnings of a guilty conscience and an inexplicable distressing fear (Psalm 38.2-3, 6, 8). Once the hope of salvation is withdrawn from a person, he or she is hardened but also inconsolable when confronted by the anger of God. Judas, the son of perdition, serves as an example of this in Matthew 27.3-5. But later in this chapter, we learn that no one knows the power of God’s wrath like Jesus. He was forsaken by the Father as God’s wrath for sin was poured out on Him (Matthew 27.46).

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God’s Anger Against Fallen Angels

All of God’s angels were once filled with joy as they ministered in His presence. Lucifer, the covering cherub over the throne of God, drew a third of the angels away from God in rebellion and pride (Luke 10.18; Revelation 12.4). These angels are fallen and now reserved for judgment (2 Peter 2.4). Those who follow their rebellion will find the full strength and potency of God’s anger in His cup of indignation and wrath (Revelation 14.9-10).

It is impossible to comprehend withering under God’s everlasting anger. As Moses wrote, “Who knows the power of His anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.” The terror within a person who is facing God’s indignation is constantly at work within that person.

God’s Hope and Wisdom

Moses writes, “Teach us …that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” God is not willing that any person wither and perish under His wrath. He desires the repentance and reconciliation of His creation. While fallen angels are unable to repent, fallen people are.

God’s directive through Moses is clear: 1) Be reconciled to God and 2) Gain a heart of wisdom.

Be Reconciled to God

We find mercy that fallen angels will never experience. God the Father “made [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (see 2 Corinthians 5.20-21).

Gain a Heart of Wisdom

Christ “became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1.30). Moses speaks of gaining a heart of wisdom in our brief lifespans. There is no need to wither under God’s indignation when God has offered a full and free pardon to all who will come to Him through Jesus Christ. But we must not delay; we must number our days. Today is the day of salvation for all those in the valley of decision.

But we all need God to teach us the true wisdom of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. This very night, the soul you pamper may meet its Maker (Luke 12.19-20). “Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion [when Moses wrote Psalm 90], in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest’” (Hebrews 3.8-11).

Gain a heart of wisdom. Jesus said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13.24). The narrow gate is narrow because it is unpopular and difficult to enter it. Most are on the broad and open way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7.13). The narrow way is the way Jesus taught, the way of true wisdom. It contradicted what the religious leaders of His day taught. Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10.9).

Sneering at God

There will always be people who mock the idea of God and His wrath upon the world. “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts. His ways are always prospering; Your judgements are far above, out of his sight; as for all his enemies, he sneers at them” (Psalm 10.4-5).

Complacent with God

People who do not believe in God “are settled in complacency.” They “say in their heart, ‘The LORD will not do good, nor will He do evil’” (Zephaniah 1.12). What will happen when you die and meet your Creator? Will you face His anger because you rejected His true wisdom in Christ Jesus? “Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him” (Nahum 1.6).

Learn Wisdom from the Work of Christ

Number your days and find a heart of wisdom. Ask the LORD to teach you. Jesus said, “Learn of Me!” Live each day as if it was your last. Flee from the wrath to come by finding refuge in Jesus Christ. He absorbed the wrath of God for you. He died for your sins. He is risen so that God’s righteousness would be given to you. Stand in Christ before your Creator or face His wrath for sin.

Believers Do Not Face the Wrath of God for Sin

If you are a Christian, then you are reconciled to God. You have found peace. Our testimony as believers is found in drawing water from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12.3). “O LORD, I will praise You; though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me” (Isaiah 12.1). How do we look at Psalm 90.11 today? We say, “Who knows the power of God’s love? For as the hope in You, so is Your mercy.”

Ours is an eternal state of joy. Compare that to those who are even now dying and lifting up their eyes to behold their eternal torment in Hell. Live life today exploring the height, depth, length, and width of God’s incomprehensible love for you. You are no longer under His wrath if you are in Christ. He is the true wisdom of God. Be grateful and glorify Him.

Contention in the Church

One issue dominates the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians. It’s contention in the church. The Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli wrote:

How does it happen that we Christians who are united by such powerful agencies have much greater quarrels than unbelievers? And how does it happen that in a Confederacy in which until now a fraternal love prevailed, for the sake of foreign lords violent quarrel has arisen? Answer: Real piety, by which is meant true worship and prayer to God, has disappeared among us.

We could simply state this by saying contention arises when we major on minors and minor on the majors. There are contentions among the Corinthian believers (1.10-12; 3.3-9, 21; 4.1-2). These contentions develop in the name of a human form of wisdom familiar to citizens of Corinth in the first century. The Corinthians do not understand wisdom the way Paul does. So, he takes the first three chapters to explain this to them. It’s like the character Vizzini using the word inconceivable in The Princess Bride. Paul could say with Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word wisdom. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Corinthian contentions are fueled by Corinthian boasting (1.29-31; 3.21; 4.7). They are puffed up (4.6, 18-19). They boast over the leaders of their factions in order to really boast about themselves and their so-called wisdom theories. So, Paul defends past ministry among the Corinthians (1.16-17; 2.1; 3.4) to reinforce his present relationship with them (4.1-21).

Why is the church divided? It is because the Corinthians were immersed in Greek thought and culture. They were enamored with knowledge as an end in and of itself. They deified philosophy. They were intrigued with so-called wisdom speakers. These speakers were all about presentation and form. Content was not as significant as delivery.

So, 1 Corinthians 1.10-17 paragraph is divided around four personalities. But it’s the novel expression of so-called wisdom that attracts the Corinthians. Each faction boasts in its own expression of human wisdom. So, with this in mind, let’s look at the text:

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. – 1 Corinthians 1:10–17

Paul makes his plea for peace to accomplish two objectives: 1) to combat a declaration of contention; 2) to more effectively preach the Gospel of the Cross of Christ.

A Plea for Peace (1.10)

Paul’s authority comes by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. He pleads with believers on the basis of this authority. Still, he is pleading with them and not demanding them. He wants these believers to respond to the grace of God found in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The name of Jesus represents all Jesus is and all He has done for us. Paul’s authority rests on His name and not any other name – not even his own name as an apostle.

  • Positively, Paul wants the Corinthians to speak the same thing, be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and have the same judgment or opinion of things.
  • Negatively, he does not want divisions to exist among them. They ought to be of the same mind and judgment when it comes to the gospel. He doesn’t want uniformity, but he does want unity. We need a diversity of people and gifts in the church, but we don’t need factions tearing the church apart over a misunderstanding of the gospel, the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What will this plea for unity accomplish? First, it will lead them to combat a declaration of contention charged by those of Chloe’s household.

Combatting a Declaration of Contention (1.11-16)

The Report of Contention (11)

Paul knows about the factions in the church from those of Chloe’s household. We don’t know who these informants are. Some think that it was a contingent of believers from the church in Ephesus. Paul wrote Corinthians from Ephesus. These believers went to Corinth on business and visited the Christian community there. They returned to Ephesus and consequently tell Paul what’s going on in Corinth.

Whoever these informants are, Paul now knows what is going on in Corinth. He is beginning to understand the true nature of the opposition he faces there.

The Nature of the Contention (12-16)

Some Corinthian believers set up these factions that the supposed leaders of each would reject (v.12). We don’t know why or how this was happening. We don’t even know to what extent it spread through the church. Paul gives us more about the nature of this contention in Chapter 3:

For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. – 1 Corinthians 3.4-9

They are all on the same team. We might well-imagine the Corinthians lining up behind these different personalities. We see it in churches today. But to line up under Christ? To say, “I am of Christ”? Isn’t that a good thing? Not the way the Corinthians were doing it. It’s just that we don’t know what they meant when they said, “I am of Christ”.

I’ve always looked at it as a form of spiritual elitism. Kind of like saying, “While all you other people are following mere human leaders, we are the only ones actually following Jesus!” We’ve seen this a lot! It’s a form of boasting.

The factions are simply developing because the Corinthians love to debate and verbally spar with one another. That’s the real issue here. They are after their own form of wisdom. They believe that their own form of wisdom is manifested in one of their choice leaders or even in Christ Himself.

These questions in verse 13 are meant to gently bring the Corinthians to see the absurdity of what was going on among them.

  • Is Christ divided? It’s absurd to think so. Jesus cannot be apportioned out so that only one group within the church has Him.
  • Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? If you’re parceling out Christ as One among the others, logic demands that you would think that Paul had been crucified for you or that you were baptized in Paul’s name instead of Jesus’ name. He simply wants them to see how foolish this position is.

We shouldn’t read too much into verse 14-15. Paul isn’t teaching about baptism nor is he downplaying baptism. So, why is he thankful to God that he didn’t baptize any of them except for the few mentioned? By not baptizing them, they can’t say they were baptized into Paul and form some faction in his name. That’s why he is thankful. That’s the only reason.

Verse 16 demonstrates the human element behind the letter. Paul’s memory is jogged. He remembers baptizing the household of Stephanas but doesn’t remember if he baptized anyone else. This fits nicely with the idea of downplaying his role in actually doing the baptizing. This is not what is important when it comes to this local church ordinance.

So, Paul makes his plea for unity to combat the declaration of contention from Chloe’s household. Second, Paul also made this plea to emphasize the importance of preaching powerfully the Gospel of the Cross of Christ!

Preach the Gospel of the Cross of Christ (1.17)

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. – 1 Corinthians 1.7

It’s not Paul’s calling to baptize and create factions. Paul is called to preach the gospel! And he was not doing it with the “wisdom of words” or the Corinthian human wisdom found in wisdom cults. Eloquence and intricate argumentation might be fine in the college classroom, but it takes away from the clear, simple message of the Gospel in the Christian pulpit. Paul speaks of the gospel by aligning it with the cross of Christ.

It’s interesting that by saying that Christ did not send him to baptize but preach the Gospel means that baptism is not a part of the effectual Gospel message: to trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for salvation.

However, we shouldn’t take that so far that we make baptism unimportant. Baptism is a part of the Great Commission and the first step of obedience in my relationship with Jesus. Baptism comes after salvation and is not necessary for salvation, but it is important. It is a way to identify with what Christ did for me and the church He promised to build. It is a unifying ordinance.

Wisdom is not a bad thing. We need wisdom, persuasion, and eloquence when communicating the Gospel. But the “wisdom” of the Corinthians is the wisdom of this world, not the wisdom of God.

Corinthian wisdom was limited because it relegated wisdom to mere human understanding and debating or rhetorical skill. God’s wisdom is so much more. Paul will make this clear at the outset of Chapter 2:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 2.1-5

The wisdom, persuasiveness, and power of God’s words as demonstration of the Spirit will not empty the cross of Christ of all of its glory and power.

Churches today profit greatly from 1 Corinthians 1.10-17. Not just because of the arguing that goes on within our own local church, but also because of the deep factions and fragmentation on every level of the worldwide church of Jesus Christ. There are many sects and denominations.

Visible unity of the true church of God won’t happen until Jesus returns. This ought to provoke shame and repentance in the body of Christ. The way forward won’t be found in bashing denominationalism either. The way forward is more positive than that. Paul tells us to focus on the preaching of the cross. This is the great contrast to human ways of doing church. How can we obey Paul’s plea for unity? I think in four ways…

  1. Believe the Best
  2. Major on the Majors
  3. Keep Christ Preeminent
  4. Keep It Simple

Believe the Best

If factions were a problem developing in Paul’s day, they are a problem coming to fruition in our day. Are you so devoted to particular Bible teachers or denominations that it causes conflict in our local church? If we don’t cross our theological “t’s” or dot our theological “i’s” the same way, should we at least not impugn one another’s motives? Shouldn’t we believe the best about one another? Doesn’t love demand this? Why are we so quick to charge one another with dishonesty or insincerity? Do we assume that we have a corner on the truth and no one else has it? We should be able to still love one another even when we have a difference of opinion when it comes to inconsequential things like politics or the theological finer points that have been disputed for centuries.

Major on the Majors

We need to major on the majors of Christianity. What is more major than the Gospel or the Cross of Christ? So many people are causing conflict over non-essential things. Loving others as Christ loved the church and unifying on the major doctrines of the Christian faith are what’s important. Of course, we need discernment. Some doctrinal defections are worth dividing over. We must be uncompromising when it comes to false teaching. We must be firm defenders of the Truth. We must be on guard against those who seek to undermine it. However, this firmness comes from a love for our God and for the narrow way to holiness – without which no one will see the Lord.

Keep Christ Preeminent

Be careful of saying, “I am a follower of so-and-so when it comes to this particular issue.” It’s not bad to follow the teaching of a godly person. But what motivates you to do so? Also, are you seeking to defend the person to the point of absurdity? Are you putting him in the place that only Christ deserves? Examine your motives and attitudes when following your favorite Bible teacher.

Keep It Simple

The Gospel is simple and clear. Don’t empty it of its power with histrionics or ‘high-falutin’ terms. The Gospel doesn’t need dramatic, theatrical presentations. The Gospel will never please the world. Those who hold to the true Gospel will not be considered academically respectable. The desire for a dialogue with academics has led to the downfall of many once great churches and Christian institutions in our country. Instead of intellectualism and philosophy, let’s get back to sound reasoning and the Scriptures.

Let’s believe the best about one another when it comes to our disagreements. Let’s major on the majors by obeying the Great Commission by keeping the Great Commandments. Let’s make sure everyone else decreases as Christ increases in our lives. And finally, let’s keep it simple yet powerful. Let’s make certain that we preach the cross of Christ! D.L. Moody wrote:

Our failure now is that preachers ignore the cross and veil Christ with sapless sermons and superfine language. They don’t just present Him to the people plainly … What we need is to preach Christ and present Him to a perishing world. The world can get on very well without you and me, but the world cannot get on without Christ.